Posts Tagged ‘A Higher Education’

Chapter 35-6: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 19, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

megan

~~~

Doctor Arnold Cooper stared into the microscope with a heavy sigh. He looked back up and leaned back in his chair, ran a hand through his messy gray hair and then rubbed his eyes. “No matter how many times I look into that damn thing at those damn dead cells, I always come up with the same damn conclusion.”

Meredith came over with a cup of Cooper’s coffee and handed it to him. “And what ‘damn’ conclusion is that?” she asked with a teasing smile.

“Number one: I need a cigarette. Two: There’s nothing in that girl’s blood that makes a lick of sense. She should be dead… and yet, there she is, moving around in that observation room like a really bad joke.”

“Maybe you just need to take a break, Coop. Come back at it with a fresh set of eyes.” Meredith
sat down in the chair across from him. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until we come across something we’ve overlooked.”

Cooper laughed and dramatically waved his hands above his head. “And there you go again spilling that extra-large cup of optimism all over my damn ‘bitch-fest’! Frankly, Meredith, I don’t know how you keep on doing it.”

“Doing what?”

He got up and walked over to glass window of his lab and stared across into the observation room. Megan was sitting on her mattress with her knees up, head buried into her crossed arms while she rocked back and forth. “You keep trying to reach out to her, hoping that she’ll come back from that savage place, while everything I know about medical science says that we’re looking at a dead woman… and I mean… D E A D… as in, the lights are out in that brain of hers and never going to come back on again.”

“I refuse to believe that,” Meredith said. “Besides, I got a good look at this sickness when I was in Harpersfield and I know that this poor girl is still in there… somewhere… behind all that death and violence.”

“You keep telling me that, Meredith. But I find it hard to believe. Hell… I’m still having trouble believing that you can do all the things I keep hearing about.”

She smiled. “You mean my witchcraft?”

“Now don’t go putting words into my mouth,” the doctor defended. “You know I think the world of you and I don’t give two shits what anyone in this bunker says. It’s just that I’ve never seen you use your super powers in here so any hypothesis based on your… abilities… has no bearing now. All we have is one unresponsive girl and a blood sample full of dead cells. What’s left that we haven’t tried?”

“Are you saying we should give up then?” Meredith was getting frustrated. “Just place a bullet in Megan’s head and put her down like a rabid dog?”

“There are more humane ways to put that poor girl out of her misery,” he suggested.

The fierce look she flashed him could melt steel.

He raised his hands. “All I’m saying is that we don’t know what hell that girl is going through… and that it might be time to give her some peace. If it were me in there, I’d hope that someone would end the madness and let me go.”

Meredith turned away. Maybe he’s right. Perhaps we’re just prolonging the inevitable. And even if Megan could come back, what kind of life could she possibly have… like this?

Cooper came back and sat down in front of the tired woman. “From what you’ve told me about this strain of the infection, I’ve heard you describe it as being ‘half dead’. They are not completely gone, but they’re not exactly alive anymore either. So what can we possibly do for this poor girl? And what kind of life could she have if she had to constantly suppress her need to feed… on us?”

Meredith nodded, hearing her own thoughts echoed. “I know what you’re saying. Believe me, I’ve spent many nights thinking about what Megan would do if she ever did come back. Would she hate us for keeping her alive? Would she blame herself for losing the child and curse life? Would she ever be allowed to live freely outside this cage and out among the population? Every perplexing question I come up with leads to fifty more questions… and so on. Bottom line, we just don’t know what Megan would want. And until she can tell us, we need to make every effort to try and bring her back to us. Hope is all there is now.”

Cooper sighed heavily and shook his head. “You are one stubborn and remarkable woman, Miss Montgomery.”

She smiled. “I know.”

“Wait, I said that wrong. I think I meant remarkably stubborn,” he added with a wink.

Meredith lightly punched him in the shoulder. “Thanks for not giving up on me, old man.”

“Well… you’re going to owe me big time for this.”

“I’ll buy you a carton of cigarettes,” she said.

He sat back and folded his arms. “Hmm… sounds good for starters. But I was thinking, you still owe me that damn drink.”

Meredith leaned forward and said, “When Megan comes back, I’ll be your date to the prom.”

“Promises… promises…” he said with a laugh. “Now, let’s go over it again. Like you said, maybe we’re missing something.”

“Alright.”

Cooper stood up and started pacing. “We know this all started with The Change. We know that the dead and the living were affected in different ways.”

“Yes,” Meredith continued. “It struck randomly among the living causing many people to turn into those yellow-eyed haters.”

“And at the same time, the already deceased were re-animated, which accounts for all those dark-eyed sluggish drunkards roaming the countryside. And then throw in the rare red-eyed monsters, which we have concluded came from a small number of animals which turned and infected people before said animals mysteriously died off. Perhaps they’re smaller bodies could not keep up with the ravenous command to feed. So that just leaves the half-deads. As far as we know, those silver-eyed creatures were created through infection by the yellow-eyed haters. Correct?”

Meredith nodded. “The yellow-eyed haters infect the living and create the silver-eyed half-deads. The dark-eyed re-animated infect the living and create more like themselves. And as far as anyone knows, the red-eyed beasts slaughter everything they kill so it’s not known whether they can infect the living. But I think it’s safe to assume that they can create more like themselves, especially since they have a ‘pack’ mentally like wolves.”

“Which means,” Cooper finished, “that we have no idea what would happen if Megan were to bite one of us?”

“That’s true,” Meredith said. “I haven’t heard one story from anyone about half-deads infecting the living. So we have no idea what would happen.”

Cooper paced some more and then said, “Maybe we’re going at this all wrong. Perhaps instead of studying the psychology and behaviors of the dead, we should be looking more at the living. This whole ‘random’ thing is very interesting.”

“How so?”

“Well, was The Change really random or are certain human beings simply immune to it? I think I should start taking blood samples from our group and try to find the common variable in all of us. Perhaps by comparing samples I might find a clue that could help us understand this outbreak better. Maybe even develop an antidote of some kind.” He stopped, noticing Meredith’s million-miles away stare. “What is it?”

Meredith shook her head. “Just ghosts. I’ve been visited by a lot of phantoms from the past as of late. Just listening to you get excited about studying the dead reminded me of someone else I once knew. Even Megan reminds me of the past.”

Cooper sat back down and sighed. “You know I’ve tried not to press. Lord knows, Gina’s done all but torture you to get you to tell her what you’re hiding-”

“I’m not hiding anything!” Meredith snapped. “I’m protecting everyone, Coop! What I know isn’t going to help us bring back Megan or answer any other questions we have. What I know will get people killed. I’ve made my decision, for better or worse, and I’m going to do what I must to keep people alive. If that means keeping my past to myself… well… then just believe me when I say that I’ve got my reasons!”

Cooper raised his hands and laughed. “Calm down, before you set me on fire with those intense eyes. All I was getting at was that maybe there is something in your past that could help us with that girl… something you’re not connecting the dots to yet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… think about it. This group… Mother… didn’t they abduct Megan to begin with? If so, they must have had a real good reason. If we can figure out what that reason was, maybe we can shed some light on how to help her now. That’s all I was trying to say before you shot my damn head off.”

Meredith eased up. “I see. Well, I’m sorry for yelling at you. It’s just… I’ve spent my whole life trying to forget my ties with these people, and that was long before they went by Mother. And then after The Change… I started seeing things out in the open that used to be nowhere but in my nightmares… and I’m not talking about the dead.”

“You’re talking about that strange three-pronged symbol,” Coop stated.

“Yes. When I first started seeing that symbol again, I knew right away that something was dreadfully wrong… something more than just the dead roaming the world. And like a frightened child, I just hid from the truth, hoping that it would just go away… but it’s not going away.”

“And you figure we’re close enough to the Devil without making it worse by knocking right on his damn door, right?”

Meredith smiled. “More or less. Truthfully, if there had been another option at the time, I never would have attempted accessing the security door into this place. I would’ve done everything in my power to steer us miles away from here.”

“It’s that bad?”

Meredith leaned in close and whispered. “This place and all those evil men protecting it before the explosion… I fear they are just the beginning of something far worse… something we won’t be able to control or stop if they figure out what to do with us.”

“So you’re saying that Mother is well aware that we’ve been living in their fancy bomb shelter? Why would they let us do that? Why not take the place away from us?”

Meredith frowned and stared at her shaking hands. She clasped them together to keep them still. “Because Mother likes games. Mother likes to observe… everything.” She let out a deep breath. “It took me years to believe that I’d liberated myself from them. I’d started a new life…” She stopped as the painful memory of losing Hannah threatened. “But when I put my hand in that access port leading into this facility… and that I was granted access… I knew how wrong I’d been in that one devastating moment. It was like Mother had left the door wide open for me to come back anytime, even after all those years running and lying to myself.” She gave Cooper a grave look and finished. “And just like when I thought I was free… that’s where we all are now. No one is ever ‘free’ of Mother. There is only the illusion of freedom.”

Cooper nodded. “So… are you saying Mother let us in here by using you to do it? Was that Mother’s intent all along?”

Meredith shook her head. “I don’t know, Coop. God… I hope not. The implications would be… terrifying. All I do know is that I was never really free… and that Mother has probably had her eyes on me for a very long time.”

Coop shook his head and laughed. “So we’re either the luckiest S.O.B.’s for landing this place before everything went ‘ka-boom’, or… Mother has us exactly where she wants us.”

“Precisely,” Meredith said.

“And that’s why you don’t mess around with that mystery door at the end of the hall?”

Meredith smiled. “I’ve already opened one door I didn’t want to open, and now we’re all here. I’m not about to open Pandora’s Box a second time. I’ll die first before I do that. Besides, opening that door is probably exactly what they want me to do. God only knows what we’ll find beyond that door.”

“Maybe we’ll just find more resources?” Coop offered. “Maybe even some advanced medications and equipment that we could use to help Megan?”

“Maybe,” Meredith said. “Or maybe we’ll find an even smaller prison than the one Mother’s already assigned us to.”

Cooper had no response. Finally he stood up and said, “I’ll go check on Megan on my way out. You get some rest.”

“Where are you going?”

“That’s enough conspiracy theories for one day. I’m gonna go see if I can’t kill someone for a cigarette.”

Meredith smiled. “See you later, Coop.”

After she was alone again, Meredith couldn’t stop thinking about that unlocked door which took her back to the age of thirteen. There was so much she’d forgotten about. Maybe I needed to forget for a reason, she considered. Or maybe Cooper was right. Perhaps if she looked hard enough into the past she might find some way to help Megan… or at least uncover some definitive answers for herself involving her ties to Mother.

She closed her eyes and let the ghosts back in…

~~~

Next Episode 35-7

Previous Episode 35-5

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-6: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 35-5: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

doll1

~~~

After the strangest class she’d ever attended, Meredith was required to visit the house clinic before she could hide away in her temporary bedroom and collapse beneath the blankets. She was emotionally exhausted… and extremely embarrassed by her public breakdown.

The clinic looked like any other clinic. Various posters displaying the human anatomy lined the walls. There was a standard ‘eye’ chart, weight and height scale, and a long uncomfortable bed surrounded by various medical gizmos. The small room gave off a faint latex/bleach aroma.

A small woman wearing a lab coat introduced herself as Dr. Candice Forrester, resident physician and psychologist. She wore glasses, had a tightly braided brown ponytail, and the typical demeanor of a school nurse who was just polite enough to make you feel a little better than a lab rat.

Doctor Forrester had conducted a routine physical, completing Meredith’s uncomfortable day. After getting dressed, Forrester had told her to take a seat in her much larger office while the good doctor cleaned up.

Meredith sat in a chair before a large oak desk, which seemed much too big for the room. There was a file cabinet in one corner and various certificates decorated the walls.

Forrester entered with a clipboard in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The small woman moved behind the large desk and sat down, completing the absurdness of the goliath desk, making the woman look comical. She took a sip from her cup and set it down, along with the clipboard. Then she started looking through a file on her cluttered desk, appearing to forget that Meredith was there.

“Well, young lady,” she finally said. “Everything checks out. I have nothing to report. You’re a healthy girl.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Forrester removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and then replaced them. She then laughed and said, “All you girls are so well-behaved. None of that ‘Ma’am’ stuff with me, alright? You can call me Candice.”

“Alright… Candice.”

Candice folded her hands and looked her in the eyes. “So, Meredith, let’s get right down to it. How are you adjusting so far? Any concerns? Questions?”

Meredith had a millions questions, but now that she was put on the spot, she struggled to think of just one. Finally she asked, “I’m told this isn’t an orphanage. I don’t know what to call this place. Does it have a name?”

Candice smirked as if her question were an old one. “To answer that, Meredith, I need to ask you a question first. Did your previous foster home have a name… and I’m very sorry for your loss, by the way?”

“Thank you… and… no.”

“So what did you call it?”

Meredith found the question strange. She’d never really thought about it. “I guess… home?”

“Precisely,” Candice said. “Miss Evans took great care in not giving this house a name for the very same reason. She wanted to create a ‘home’ for her girls that was defined by what was inside of it… the people. If you asked any of the girls who have been with us for a while, they’d call this place their home, too.”

Meredith shook her head. “Makes sense. I guess I never thought of it that way. I’ve just never been in a place quite like this one before.”

“Yes… I feel very much the same, Meredith. This… home… is unique. Maybe in time, you’ll come to feel the same way as many of the girls do.”

Meredith nodded, as the questions started flooding her mind. “Are all the girls… well… like me?” She winced at the last part, expecting Forrester to give her that strange ‘you are a freak’ look she’d grown accustomed to when addressing her own abnormalities.

Candice leaned back in her chair, smiled, and nodded. “Now that is a very astute question, Meredith. I’m afraid the answer is much more complicated. But I will tell you that you’re not the only girl here who has ever shared a difficult and unusual story in Miss Evan’s class before.”

“Oh, you know about that?”

Candice kept going. “It’s not by chance that you’re here, Meredith. In time, you’ll discover that for yourself.”

Meredith laughed. “You sound like Clem. She won’t tell me anything either.”

“Let’s just say that some things are best answered through… self-discovery. What else do you have for me?”

Meredith treaded carefully. “What’s with the lions?”

Candice laughed. “Ah… the pictures in your room.”

“That’s not what I-”

“I assure you, Meredith. Everything here has a purpose… like those pictures in the guest room. They’re not hanging on the wall to frighten you… more to stimulate the creative process.”

Meredith considered her words and then raised her eyebrows. “You’re responsible for the pictures! You wanted me to dream about them?”

Candice looked please. “You are a very intelligent young lady,” she said. “Part of what I do here involves what I can retrieve from your… dreams. We process new experiences in different ways. Sometimes dreams unlock doors that we otherwise couldn’t or simply don’t know how to open when awake. That’s why we put new arrivals in the guest room for their first couple of nights. Have you had any dreams, Meredith?”

Meredith shut down. “Nothing I can remember clearly,” she lied, and then wondered what else Forrester knew. Did Clem tell her about my dream? In truth, she didn’t know why she was holding back other than a feeling which made her believe that speaking about Toby might be a bad idea. Besides, if they wanted to keep secrets, she could keep a few, as well.

Candice waited with a look of expectation. When Meredith had nothing else to add, she sighed. “Okay, we’ll talk about that another time… maybe when you feel more comfortable-”

“What’s in the basement?” Meredith blurted out.

Candice pretended not to hear the question. She started shuffling paperwork on her desk. “Well, that’s enough for one day, Meredith. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that my door is always open. Whenever you wish to talk, please feel free to come speak with me.”

Meredith thought she sensed a little attitude, as if the good doctor was saying, If you won’t talk about what I want to know… then I won’t talk about what you want to know. She decided to let the basement matter go, remembering what Miss Evans said about knowing when to ask a question.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Meredith.” The doctor got up, putting on her professional mask again.

Meredith got up and put her own mask back on. “Thank you, Ma’am… I mean… Candice.”

“I’ll check in on you in a little bit,” Candice concluded. “Get some rest and enjoy your first weekend. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to talk about later.” The doctor winked with a smile and walked her out of the clinic.

What was that wink all about? Meredith thought after Candice left her in the hallway. For a moment she believed the doctor had somehow read her mind, but then dismissed her suspicions as just her own guilt manifesting itself.

She hadn’t told anyone that she planned to sneak a peek into the basement that night.

~~~

Meredith lay in her bed watching the moonlit shadows of a large tree dancing upon the wall opposite her small window. She stared at her watch: 1:15am. She was positive that everyone was asleep by now. She’d made occasional trips down to the large community bathroom at the end of the hall, listening for silence coming from the other bedrooms where the girls slept. One by one, the voices had went away and lights were reduced to provide only what was necessary to keep someone from stumbling in the darkness.

She was still trying to work up the nerve to wander the large house, rehearsing in her mind what she would say if anyone caught her sneaking around, and then started to panic when she considered it. Finally, she ignored the excuses and the fear, took a deep breath, and got out of bed.

Stop acting like such a baby, she thought. You’re just taking a walk to the basement, not robbing a bank. Relax!

She started to feel silly as she opened her door a crack to peek out into the hallway again.

No one said there was a bed curfew, she tried to rationalize, although she suspected there was one but they just hadn’t told the new girl about it yet. They probably think you’re just a frightened little girl in a strange new place, and that you’d never think twice about sneaking around in the dark.

“I’ll show them,” she whispered. “If they didn’t want people to be so darn curious, they should never have made such a big deal about the basement in the first place.”

With that, her resolve was set. Meredith stepped out into the hall, slowly closed her door, and then crept toward the second floor landing. She quickly descended the stairs and tried to ignore the loud pounding of her heart in her chest.

Relax… they’re all asleep. You just came down to get a drink of water if anyone finds you. What’s the harm in that?

The house looked so different at night. She was used to it being filled with activity, but now, the large old home took on a life of its own.

What are you doing down here, little girl? her over-active imagination asked.

Her shoulders tensed up when she reached the dark kitchen. She was close.

You shouldn’t be down here all by yourself, little girl, the house warned. Bad things happen to little girls who sneak out of their beds… very bad things…

By the time she saw the basement door near the laundry room, Meredith had to stop and breathe after successfully giving herself the creeps.

“Meredith Montgomery,” she scolded herself. “You are being ridiculous!”

She pushed the fear out and focused on the basement door. Just a quick look and then we head back to bed. No one will ever know I was down there.

Meredith started toward the door and felt every hair on her body stand up by the time she was half-way to it. She shook involuntarily from a chill that seized her and crossed her arms across her chest.

What is this? She felt that same strange, unidentifiable feeling she’d felt earlier. Whatever it was made her want to crawl out of her own skin.

You’re doing it again, chicken. Stop being so afraid of nothing!

She dismissed her discomfort and slowly reached for the door knob. For a moment she imagined the knob changing into a large monstrous hand, reaching out to grab her extended arm just before she could turn and run.

Meredith quickly tapped the door knob and rolled her eyes when nothing ‘scary’ happened. And then a thought struck her: What if it’s locked?

She’d never even considered that until now. She turned the knob and the door opened inward toward the dark stairs. She retracted her hand quickly and took a step back.

Nothing happened as she stared at the partially opened door, but the strange unknown sensation that crawled over her body intensified. She could only compare the feeling to an electrical charge one might experience just before a bolt of lightning struck nearby.

She almost turned around right then… almost.

Oh not you don’t! You’ve come this far now get this over with! She frowned and stepped back to the door and pushed it all the way open. Again, nothing happened.

The stairs looked like any other set of old wooden basement steps. There were no monsters charging, no alarms going off… nothing.

She shook her head at her own cowardice and saw the light bulb with the chain attached to it. She reached across the basement landing, and pulled the chain until the bulb came to life.

Before she had second thoughts, Meredith forced herself down the creaky steps until her bare feet met the carpeted basement floor. To her immediate left, she could see a large open space full of boxes neatly stacked along the walls. Some larger objects, such as covered furniture, a couple of bicycles, and several long racks of old clothes were scattered about the center of the space. There was an old furnace toward the back… just your typical basement full of junk with a strong aroma of mothballs and what she could only describe as an ‘old’ smell.

Some secret basement this is, she thought with both relief and a hint of disappointment.

She looked to her right and saw another storage room across a hall that ran back behind the stairs. Meredith peeked inside the room, found a light switch, and turned it on revealing shelves full of paint supplies, tools, cleaning supplies, etc.

Meredith turned toward the dark hallway and immediately felt that strange creepy-crawly sensation again. Whatever it was had to be coming from back there. She saw another hanging light bulb further down the hall. Meredith crept toward it and quickly pulled the chain. The light revealed an open door to her right. She looked inside and found a small half bathroom. She looked dead ahead and saw another large open space at the end of the hall. Meredith moved toward the space, found a light switch along the closest wall, and turned it on.

Meredith’s eyes went wide with surprise. Before her was a large room full of discarded toys lying in a large half-circle across a padded floor with letters of the alphabet imprinted on it. There were numerous stuffed animals of various sizes and colors, toy cars, a train set, puzzles, building blocks for toddlers, old board games, and a jack-in-the-box. But what caught Meredith’s attention immediately were four large glass cabinets lined up along a paneled back wall with four porcelain dolls standing inside them. The dolls appeared to be the centerpiece of this strange basement playroom that looked long neglected… abandoned.

She smiled as a funny thought struck her. “I’ve discovered the big secret,” she whispered. “I’ve uncovered the Island of Misfit Toys… or the basement they ended up in.”

Her jovial mood did not last long as she felt that intense feeling again, making her squirm uncomfortably. She felt suddenly anxious for no reason. She rubbed her forearms and took a cautious step forward toward the toys. When she stepped upon the padded mat, she stopped abruptly. The air felt suddenly heavy, making her feel like a giant hand had just come down on top of her head and was trying to crush her. Another thing she noticed was how quiet it became. She could hear her own labored breaths due to the overwhelming silence that surrounded her.

What is this? It’s like all my senses are… confused.

She finally had words to describe the strange sensation wreaking havoc on her emotions. Meredith felt like she was being pulled further into the playroom, but not in the physical sense… something was strongly pulling at her mind. She understood now that it wasn’t her curiosity that drove her to come down here… she was being compelled on a mental level that was completely foreign to her.

She stood before the doll cabinets and knew right away that they were the reason she was drawn here.

Meredith took a closer look at the dolls and shuddered. The one on the far left was of a girl in a blue and white dress. She had long blond curls and penetrating blue eyes. Meredith quickly turned away, intimidated by the intensity captured in its stony expression. The next one was a young boy clown with red straw-like hair beneath a colorful hat and matching coveralls. Its painted clown face captured a pouty frown and deep sad eyes that made the doll look as though it were on the verge of tears. Was the intent to make its owner feel sorry for it or was it simply showing her the expression of a long-time prisoner, locked within that case? Meredith didn’t care much for it either way. The next one was a child dressed up in a cat outfit with brown, black and red face paint, whiskers, and large inquisitive eyes.

Meredith turned to the last doll and stared at it as though it were an old friend. It was the smallest and least intimidating of the group. She had wild long brown hair and a baby’s head that seemed much too small for its body. Its eyes were gentle with black rings around them, giving it a tired expression. The longer Meredith stared at her the more it seemed as if that child’s face had captured the many years it had been in existence, easily the oldest doll of the lot. She immediately felt a connection to the doll, a connection that couldn’t be described in words. In a way, Meredith felt like she was looking into a mirror.

She heard it speak within her mind… not with words… but with images that Meredith was easily able to interpret.

Meredith smiled after a long moment and said, “Well, it’s finally nice to meet you, too.” She laughed at a joke only she could hear. “No… I’m not making fun of you… it’s just… well… for a girl doll, that’s a very funny name… Toby.”

Toby continued to speak to the human girl.

“You want to show me something?” Meredith asked. “Something important?’

Toby did not so much as bat an eye, but continued to stare back at Meredith, somehow inviting her to move closer to the case.

Meredith moved closer…

~~~

Next Episode 35-6

Previous Episode 35-4

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-5: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 35-4: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 11, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

heaven-and-hell

~~~

After breakfast, Meredith changed into a sundress provided by Miss Evans and then helped Clem clear the table and wash the dishes as all the girls scattered to go about their assigned duties. Several of them had come up and briefly introduced themselves, making Meredith feel self-conscious, and yet, she started to feel more and more comfortable as the morning moved on.

Clem poked fun at her several times when Meredith stiffened up at each new encounter. “You’re not much of a people person, are you?”

Meredith took the defensive. “It’s not like that. I do like people… usually. It’s just overwhelming. Normally, people are trying to stay clear of me. But here, they all want to know me. I’m not used to that.”

“Is it because you’re a freak?”

“What do you mean by that?”

Clem laughed. “Come on, Meredith. In a house full of unusual girls, you don’t stand out, you’re actually quite normal.”

“That’s because they don’t know what I do… what I’ve done.”

“Because you’re gifted?” Clem asked. “Because you can do things normal people can’t do?”

Meredith looked shocked. “Who told you that?’

“No one. It’s just that you’re not alone, Meredith. All the girls possess ‘special’ talents that are a bit strange. Some of the younger girls are just finding out what they’re capable of… but you and me… we’ve experienced a few things.”

“Like what?”

Clem shook her head. “Nice try, but I can’t tell you that yet.”

“But I thought we were best friends. Best friends don’t keep secrets.”

“My, you are persistent,” Clem said. “I’m not keeping secrets, Meredith. It’s just that you’re not ready to hear the rest yet. Just be patient and I’ll spill the beans, alright?’

Meredith frowned. “Okay. But I’m holding you to it.”

“I’m sure you will. Now let me take you on the five minute tour before class.”

“Class?”

“Did you think by being all the way out here in the country that you’d be free of school? Monday through Friday we go to class for a few hours. Different subjects on different days of the week. It just so happens that the best class of the week is today… and you don’t want to miss this one.”

“But you’re not going to tell me anything about it, right?” Meredith asked.

Clem winked. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Let’s go before someone thinks we’re waiting for something else to do.”

The tour was nothing special: There were five bedrooms on the second floor; four were split up among the girls, and the guest bedroom where Meredith was currently staying… and of course… one master bath that all twelve girls had to share (what a nightmare). What Meredith had originally mistaken as a third floor from outside was actually a large musty attic filled with relics from another time. It had two large windows, one facing out the front of the house and the other toward the rear of the house. Both afforded spectacular views of how vast the property was. Clem told her that occasionally, Miss Evans allowed them to explore the attic and rifle through old clothes, pictures, etc., to find objects to research for their history reports. Most of the items in the attic had been there long before any of them had moved into the home, and since the house was very old, there were tons of items to investigate and look up in the books shelved in the large den on the first floor.

On the main floor was your standard dining room, living room, a large kitchen, and what used to be the large den, which housed a modest library of books. There were also many other additional rooms that had been modified to meet the home’s needs, such as a small clinic and an additional bedroom where Miss Evans slept.

When they neared a lone door at the end of a dark hallway at the farthest end of the house, just past the laundry room, Meredith stopped as a chill ran up her backside. “Do you feel that?” she asked without thinking. “It got really cold all of a sudden.”

Clem stood next to her and stared at the door. “That leads to the basement. The tour ends here, I’m afraid. The basement is strictly off-limits.”

“Why? What’s down there?”

Clem gave her an apologetic look and shrugged her shoulders. “Like I said, you’re not ready to hear everything yet. Especially about what’s down there.”

Meredith couldn’t look away from the door. She was strangely fascinated by it. No. She felt an unusual compulsion to proceed down the hall and open it, as if the house itself were summoning her to the cellar. She finally turned away and gave Clem an annoying look. “All you’ve done so far is show me all the old boring stuff.” Meredith stared at the door and finished, “Down there is probably where all the cool stuff is… and I can feel it, too. Some best friend you’re turning out to be!” She suddenly realized her tone had been harsher than intended as Clem recoiled as if she’d just slapped her. “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean that.”

Clem shook her head and smiled. “It’s alright. I get it.” She looked toward the cellar door and finished. “You’re not the first person that’s ever felt what you’re feeling now. You really want to go down there, don’t you? And I bet you don’t even know why.”

Meredith felt surprisingly defensive but caught herself in time. “It’s just a natural reaction, is all. Anytime a kid is told he or she can’t do something or go somewhere… they immediately want to do the opposite.”

Clem laughed and put her hand on Meredith’s shoulder. “You keep telling yourself that. Now… let’s stop hovering around this silly door and get to class.”

Meredith frowned again. “No matter what changes in my life, that’s the one thing that never does.”

“Not a fan of school, I take it?” Clem laughed.

Meredith rolled her eyes. “I’d rather wash more dishes.”

Clem gently turned her around and said, “Well… I won’t lie to you. Most of the time school here is as boring as anywhere else… but today… well… today is the exception. Friday’s are the best. You’ll see.”

Meredith gave up her resistance. “Well… at least it’s the last day of the week. I guess I can suffer a couple of hours. But if I have to stand at the front of the class and talk about myself… I’m going to punch you.”

Clem laughed all the way to the classroom.

~~~

The large den at the back of the house had been converted into an all-purpose school room. Four large round tables were placed at the center of the room where all the girls currently sat facing one wall, which held a large chalk board behind a podium. Miss Evans was writing something on the board, but due to her large girth, no one could see what she was writing.

Meredith sat next to Clem at a table with three other girls, presumably the oldest in the house. She couldn’t stop staring around the room. This was nothing like any classroom she’d ever been in. Due to the large amount of books that lined several tall book shelves, the school resembled more of a library than anything else.

In between the shelves, every inch of wall space was covered in crayon drawings, paintings, poems, and other various arts and crafts projects–all presumably created by the students. Meredith couldn’t help staring at the pictures. What she’d originally dismissed as typical kid drawings, such as rainbows, butterflies, and cute poorly drawn animals, upon closer inspection, she noticed that many of the pictures displayed grim scenes of destruction. There was a crayon-drawn picture of a city skyline on fire, another of what looked like a bomb falling on a house. In a another drawing, several cars were lined up on a road with sad-faced stick figures pressed up against the car windows while other stick figures jumped up and down on the cars with crayon blood falling from their eyes. There were also several pictures of lions–in all of them, they were devouring people. Meredith looked away from the disturbing drawings, reminded of the artwork in her temporary bedroom–especially the painting of the broken stairway between heaven and hell. She was about to lean in and ask Clem about the pictures, but Clem shook her off, nodding toward the chalk board.

Miss Evans turned around and approached the podium. She took a long, deliberate moment to glance at each of the girls, taking an especially long time gazing at Meredith who squirmed in her seat until Miss Evans finally looked elsewhere.

Finch was right, she thought. She doesn’t look like a teacher as much as she looks like she just ate the teacher. She covered her smile with her hand, hoping to escape notice.

“Good morning, girls.” Miss Evan’s words carried in the large space making her voice seem ominous.

“Good morning, Miss Evans,” they all answered together. Meredith simply mouthed the words, trying to oblige with protocol.

“I want to thank you all for that fine, fine breakfast this morning and for cleaning up so efficiently afterwards.” She beamed with pride as she smiled at the girls. “As you know, the weekend is upon us and this is our final class for the week. So, as always, I expect you to continue to be on your best behavior, participate in all discussions, and let’s make this a fitting end to a very good week. Alright?”

Some nodded while several girls, including Clem, replied with, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Very well,” Miss Evan said, placing her hands together. “As you all know, we won’t be doing any written exercises today… Although I know how much you all love Math and Grammar classwork.” She added a wink.

The girls laughed.

“But since we have a new arrival with us today, I just wanted to make it clear what is expected from this very special class.” Miss Evans pointed to a younger girl from the table to Meredith’s left. “Sonya?”

A red-haired girl, who looked to Meredith to be no older than ten, stood up, straightened her sundress, and said, “When we are not expected to do written work, we are expected to participate in any and all discussions with enthusiasm and honesty.”

“Very good, Sonya. Please be seated.”

Sonya took her seat.

Miss Evans turned to Meredith’s table and pointed to an older girl with curly blond hair. “Claudia, please remind the class what happens if participation is found wanting.”

Claudia got up, looked right at Meredith with a sigh, and said, “If anyone doesn’t participate… we all spend the weekend writing an essay… so please… don’t mess this up, new girl.”

Some of the girls laughed.

Meredith wanted to disappear.

Miss Evans shook her head. “Thank you, Claudia, for your… brutal honestly. But let’s not single anyone out in the future, alright?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Claudia said, sitting down. She refused to look at Meredith again.

Clem elbowed Meredith under the table and gave her a ‘don’t worry about it’ look.

Meredith tried to relax.

“Okay, now that we’ve had a healthy reminder of the ground rules, let’s begin with today’s discussion.” Miss Evans stepped to her right, allowing everyone to see what she wrote on the chalk board.

Written in big bold letters was the question:

WHAT IS AT THE END OF THE ROAD?

Miss Evans folded her arms and appeared to study her own question.

The class had grown quiet. After reading the strange question, Meredith looked around and noticed that all the girls appeared to be staring at the chalk board. She turned back and read the question again. To her, it sounded like a riddle.

Miss Evans mercifully broke the silence. “Would anyone like to share their thoughts on what I’ve written on the board?”

If this had been one of many public schools Meredith had attended, she would’ve expected the class clown to speak up by now and say, “The mall,” or, “Another road,” or the classic, “A question mark”, which would surely elicit a round of laugher and lighten the mood. But like everything else she’d experienced at this strange orphanage, which was not called an orphanage, Meredith did not expect the usual response.

Oh, please, please, please… just don’t call on the new girl, she thought. Meredith dared a glance at Miss Evans. She was looking right at her.

It was Clem who rescued her. She stood up and said, “Miss Evans, I have a thought I’d like to share.”

Miss Evans smiled and turned her uncomfortable gaze away from Meredith. “Clementine, it’s been a while since you’ve started the discussion. Please continue.”

Clem confidently raised her chin and said, “It’s a trick question, Ma’am. Since the road is eternal, there is no end. The only answer has to be… endlessness… eternity.”

“Well, that’s a fascinating thought, Clementine. Thank you for sharing.”

Clem nodded and sat back down. She could feel the eyes of several girls, including Meredith’s, gawking at her.

Meredith smiled and gave her a ‘That was awesome’ look.

Clem nodded as if to say, ‘I know’.

Miss Evans turned toward the others. “Clementine has offered an engaging response, class. Would anyone like to add another perspective into this question? Is she right? Is endlessness the answer?”

The blond, Claudia, stood up and said, “Clementine is right… and wrong.” She looked over at Clem with a wicked grin.

Clem scowled back in return, not appreciating being called out.

“Claudia,” Miss Evans said. “Do you have something to add?”

“Yes. The question is a trick. It’s a trick to lure the impulsive into a quick answer. But without the proper context, I could just as easily say that Maple Street’s at the end of the road, or, a white barn, or, an airport. It’s the answers that are endless… not endlessness.”

Miss Evans laughed. “Well done, Claudia. Another great response. Thank you.”

Claudia sat down with a smug smile on her face.

Meredith turned to her best friend. Clem was staring at the blond girl like she was trying to melt her with her eyes.

She elbowed Clem beneath the table and gave her a ‘stupid know-it-all’ look.

Clem turned those eyes on her and Meredith was suddenly afraid. The tempest barely contained behind her eyes made Meredith very uncomfortable.

Clem’s face suddenly softened. She smiled and rolled her eyes.

Miss Evans continued. “Both Clementine and Claudia have shared two interesting perspectives, girls… and that is the point of this question… perspective. Any good question requires careful consideration. Sometimes, we may think we know the answer, but in truth, an answer is only as good as the situation we find ourselves in, as Claudia pointed out.”

Claudia turned to Clem and mockingly blew her a kiss.

Clem wanted to rip her face off.

“Life is full of questions like this one. For some of you, the answer might be easily obtained, for others… it might take a lifetime to discover.” Miss Evans took a moment to pause and let her words sink in. “For us, the answers to the most difficult questions will not be readily accepted by most. It requires an open mind and a special insight that few possess. And sometimes those answers we know deep down in our bones… can produce disastrous responses if shared with the wrong audience. As perplexing as a question might be… there is nothing worse than a poorly timed answer. Do you understand?”

Most of the girls nodded their heads, including Meredith.

Miss Evans walked toward Clem and Claudia, stared at them both, and repeated, “Do you understand?”

Both girls caught the hint and nodded, choosing to temporarily put their mutual disdain on hold.

“So… there can be a question with multiple right answers, but the wisest answer is the one that waits for the right opportunity.” Miss Evans turned and headed back toward the podium. She smiled at them all and said, “Each of you are an elusive question, much like this one on the board. In a world not ready for the question you would create about yourselves… well… let’s just say that sometimes it’s just as wise not to become that question before an audience which isn’t ready to perceive it. You are all very special, very unique, and because of this, the questions you would create about yourselves might provoke a fearful response… and an answer prompted by fear is always the wrong answer. Do you understand?”

All the girls nodded.

“For the sake of context, let’s pursue Clementine’s answer for a moment. If the ‘road’ is life, and the ‘end’ is death, then does she make a valid point, considering where you are, but more importantly, who you all are?”

Meredith suddenly felt like she was trying to stay afloat in a vast ocean of thought. She had never considered such things in light of her abilities. To most people, what Meredith sensed and said about death frightened them so much that she considered it taboo to even speak of it again after an incident occurred. She could always see the fear in their faces and how uncomfortable they’d become when she spoke of what she’d seen. If she’d learned anything, it was that death terrified people because of how little they truly understood it. That fact did not make her ‘special’ to most people, it made her despised. But now, it seemed like she was free to discuss such a forbidden topic, to openly entertain the possibilities for the first time–but her own fear made her reluctant.

“Meredith?” Miss Evan had finally targeted her. “Any thoughts on what we’ve discussed so far?”

She could feel all eyes on her, making her feel like a ten-foot tall freak that no one could dismiss. Even Clem was staring at her with an encouraging look that still made Meredith feel like a condemned prisoner about to face the gallows. What could she possibly say about death that wouldn’t make her stand out in a world where dying meant funerals and goodbyes with some sort of afterlife thrown in to give the grieving hope in something more, since death would one day claim them, too?

Before the weight of the question crushed her, Meredith managed to stand up, her newly acquired sundress damp with nervous sweat. She didn’t have the strength to meet Miss Evan’s probing gaze, choosing to stare at her feet instead. She opened her mouth, unsure of what damning words would come out. “I… I once met a young boy sitting by himself at school. While all the other kids were playing, he just sat there. He was so very sad.” She paused as the memory came crashing to the surface. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. She tried to quickly wipe them away.

“Please go on, Meredith,” Miss Evans said in a surprisingly gentle tone. “You don’t have to be afraid here.”

Meredith looked into the woman’s eyes and saw that she meant it. In fact, all the girls shared a sympathetic look. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t alone this time. She felt empowered to continue. “At first, I thought… I thought I was just feeling bad for him… you know… because he looked so sad all by himself. But then I… I felt it… I felt his sadness. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn away from him. I suddenly didn’t want to play anymore… I wanted to weep. It was like the pain I felt was making me cry on the inside because it was so… intense.” She was shaking. Meredith tried to steady herself by taking deep breaths. Someone put their hand on her shoulder. She turned. It was Clem. She was crying, too.

Meredith smiled at her and continued. “I couldn’t stand it anymore… all that pain. I… I had to go to him… the boy. I felt like the pain wouldn’t leave until I went to him. So I walked over to the boy and saw that he was holding a toy… a toy soldier… you know, like those ones that come in a pack of a hundred that you try to stand up on the kitchen floor but some always fell over no matter what you did?”

Miss Evans nodded.

“Anyway, I knew right away when he got the soldier… I saw it. I could see him and his father… I could feel that whole day when the boy and his father were setting them up… I could feel the joy, the laughter… the sadness… all rolled into one moment. I could smell his father’s aftershave–he was there, right there with me. It was so… real. It was like, I wasn’t even there anymore. The boy… he looked up at me… and I could hardly stand the pain anymore. It felt like my heart was… dying. When he looked at me, I knew, I just knew what his father wanted to say to him. So I said, ‘Johnathan, don’t be sad, son. Daddy misses you and will always love you.’ And then the pain went away.”

Miss Evans had moved in beside her and knelt down. When did she do that? Meredith thought. Clem was still there. She could feel her trembling hand on her shoulder. In that moment, when she looked into Clem’s compassionate face, Meredith knew that she felt it, she felt it all–everything Meredith was reliving from that memory when her gift first manifested. And in the moment, she loved her for bearing the pain with her.

“Go on, Meredith.” Miss Evan’s was holding her hand. “Get the rest of it out. It’s important that you finish.”

Meredith nodded. “After I told the boy, Johnathan, what his dead father wanted him to know, and it wasn’t that he told me… I just knew from the pictures in my head, and the feelings that I felt… I knew that what I said was true… that’s when the boy’s face changed. He wasn’t sad anymore… he was terrified… of me. He ran from me like I was a… a monster. Then adults came and yelled at me, questioned me… made me feel like the lowest piece of dirt on the planet for making the boy feel bad. But… but I didn’t do anything wrong?”

“Of course you didn’t, dear,” Miss Evans said, patting her hand.

Meredith took a deep breath. “After that, word got around. Kids were afraid of me. They teased me and some hurt me. Eventually, I was taken away and put in another foster home for being a freak.” Meredith couldn’t finish. She was openly weeping. She turned and met Clem’s embrace as her best friend held her tight.

“That’s okay, Meredith. You’ve shared enough. Thank you for your honesty, dear.” Miss Evan’s started walking away.

Meredith released Clem, giving her an appreciative look. She turned and said, “May… may I answer the question, Miss Evans?”

Miss Evans, genuinely surprised, smiled and said, “Of course.”

Meredith wiped tears from her eyes and said, “I know that there’s no such thing as dying… not if you love someone hard enough and if you’re strong enough and if you’re brave enough… so death can’t be the end, and it is certainly not at the end of any road… but love might be. That’s my answer.”

It was Clem’s turn to be astonished.

Even Claudia’s jaw dropped at Meredith’s response.

Many of the girls were talking excitedly among themselves.

Miss Evans stared at Meredith for a very long time with an unreadable look of stone on her face. Finally she said, “Thanks for sharing, Meredith. You may be seated.”

Meredith nodded and gratefully melted into her seat. She looked over at Clem.

Clementine was staring off toward one of the walls. She seemed distracted… distant.

“Alright, everyone, quiet down please,” Miss Evans returned to the podium. “I think that’s enough for today. I believe we’ve had a very enlightening discussion. I want you all to reflect on today’s thoughts and you will all be excited to know that there will be no essay this weekend.”

The girls all applauded and laughed.

“Now, what do we always need to remember?” she asked.

As one, the girls chanted enthusiastically, “THE LIONS ARE SLEEPING, BUT WE ALWAYS STAND GUARD!”

Meredith gave Clem a puzzled look, but Clem was elsewhere.

“That’s right,” Miss Evans said. “Because one day…”

“THE LIONS WILL BE LOOSE, AND THEN LIFE WILL GET HARD!”

“Very good!” Miss Evans said. “And who are the Lions?”

“THE LIONS ARE LIARS THAT ROAM EVERY BREATH!”

“And what will they do?”

“FOR THE UNWORTHY, THE LIONS BRING DEATH!”

~~~

Next Episode 35-5

Previous Episode 35-3

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-4: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Don’t Feed The Dark Updates: 1/10/17

Posted: January 10, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

the dead

~~~

Happy New Year Everyone!

I just wanted to keep you updated on what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve just completed writing the current chapter, Dead Dolls, which is actually the first part of a much larger story that will be continued in Book Five, scheduled to be serialized later this year. This current part ended up being a long one (aren’t they all these days… lol) and will run until the end of the month.

In February, Chapter 36: Uprising will begin and cover what happens when the Wasteland community turns against itself. Also, we’ll get a deeper look into the community preacher, Logan, and find out whose side he’s really on…. and that’s all I’m going to give you.

Chapter 37: Through the Eyes of a Devil, will begin immediately after and it’s the longest chapter I’ve written in the series to date. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, this chapter is the long-awaited Russell Bower story (yes… he survived the fall off the cliff) and we will be making up for lost time with our resident serial killer. You definitely won’t want to miss this one.

Finally, Chapter 38: Healing will finish up Book Four, which I estimate should conclude early May. All I’ve got left to write is Chapters 36 and 38 and then I’ll begin writing Book Five (not currently titled).

I can’t give anything away, but I will say that I’m already looking forward to writing Book Five and I have a tentative outline already slated. What I will say is that it’s going to be HUGE!!! Damn… and we’re not even finished with Phantoms yet! This apocalyptic ride is about to get really wild and crazy… lol.

As far as the present, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the latest spin-off story, titled, Hangar Six because it’s not only a spin-off of Chapter 14, but it’s also a spin-off of the current chapter, Dead Dolls.

The tenth episode of my DFTD talk show, After The Dark, is also out if you missed it. The topic is: Confessions. After the conclusion of Dead Dolls Part One, a brand new episode will be released featuring our special guest, Meredith Montgomery. So if you’ve been dying to ask her a shit-load of questions, that will be your chance.

Well that’s it for now. As always, thanks for reading and for your encouraging comments along the way.

I would ask that you please continue to keep supporting the cause and help me get Don’t Feed The Dark known to more and more readers by spreading the word via social media, and especially by voting for it every seven days at topwebfiction to keep me listed.

More to come,
-Scott

Chapter 35-3: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 8, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

nightmare-605933_640

~~~

Meredith sat up. “Who… Who’s there?” she called out. She attempted to reach for the lamp when she heard someone whisper.

“Why are you here, Meredith?” a creepy voice asked.

It sounded like it was coming from the nightstand, making Meredith retract her hand.

“Please… leave me alone,” Meredith whimpered. “You’re not real!”

“Oh… I am real, Meredith. And I’m coming for you,” the whispering voice continued. This time it sounded like it originated from the other side of the bed. “I have been with you ever since you turned out the lights,” the voice continued. “I live in the darkness.” The last word sounded like a hissing snake.

“What… what do you want?”

The voice did not respond. Meredith felt something crawl over the foot of the bed and onto the mattress. She rolled her feet up toward her chest and tried to crawl through the wall behind her. “Please… leave me alone! You’re not real! I’m… still dreaming!”

Suddenly, a light came on, illuminating a pale face. “Boo!”

Meredith gasped, covered her eyes with her hands, and began to rock. She wanted to scream but was too terrified. She started to sob instead.

“Oh, shit… don’t do that,” a girl’s voice pleaded. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.” The girl sat back and crossed her legs. “Look, it’s just a flashlight, is all. I’m not a ghost.”

Meredith lowered her hands and saw a young woman holding up a light to her face. She had long black hair with an odd streak of white that ran down across her long bangs. The young woman laughed. “See, I’m just like you.”

“You’re not… you’re not dead?” Meredith asked.

The girl gave her a puzzled look. “That’s a strange question… well… I guess that would normally be a strange question anywhere else but here. But, no, I’m not dead. I’m Clementine.”

Meredith’s fear started to fade. In its place came anger and embarrassment. “What kind of girl are you, then? Coming into my room in the dead of night and scaring me like that?”

“I’m really sorry,” Clementine said, shocked by Meredith’s tone. “I only wanted to play a little prank… you know… to break the ice.” Clementine looked embarrassed now. She started to get up. “I’ll leave you alone… again… I’m really sorry. Everyone says I’m kind of weird… I guess they have a point.”

“Wait,” Meredith said. “You don’t have to go. I was just… mad.”

Clementine looked relieved. She sat back down and smiled. “Miss Evans told me to stop by and introduce myself since we were going to be hanging out together in the morning. I just couldn’t wait to meet you already… so I came early.”

“Just to scare the life out of me?” Meredith said.

Clementine smiled. “You mean ‘shit’.”

“Huh?”

“You said ‘life’. What you meant to say was ‘scare the shit out of me’.”

Meredith looked around the room as if any adult within a hundred miles would hear them and come running. “You can’t say… well… you can’t swear!” she said.

Clementine laughed. “You can’t, but I can.”

“How so?”

“Well, you’re too young to understand these things, but when you get older, you can say cuss words.”

Meredith suspiciously looked at the young girl again, and said, “How old are you?”

“I’m fifteen,” Clementine said with a note of pride in her voice. “That’s just three years away from being a full adult, you know.”

“You’re just two years older than me!”

“Yeah, well, fifteen is a long way from being thirteen. You’re just going to have to trust me. Fifteen is old enough to swear.” Clementine folded her arms and pouted, ending the matter.

Meredith laughed at the sight.

“What’s so funny?”

“You.”

Clementine cracked a smile. “I think I like you, new girl. Me might be best friends if you play your cards right.”

Meredith’s eyes went wide. “Cool. I’ve never had a best friend before.”

“So… I know your name is Meredith. Is there anything else I should know before tomorrow morning?”

Meredith gave this some thought. “My last name’s Montgomery. When my foster parents died, I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep it, but Finch told me it’s okay to keep their name if I want to.”

Clementine nodded. “That sounds fair.” She jumped tracks. “Finch is a good guy. He’s makes us all laugh. When I get a few years older, I think I might marry him.”

“Gross!” Meredith said.

Clementine rolled her eyes. “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

Meredith started imagining herself kissing Finch like she’d seen her foster parents do to each other. “Double gross!” she said.

Clementine laughed. “So… you’ve never had a best friend before?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well… that’s okay. I’ve never had a last name before.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. I’ve lived here as long as I can remember.”

Meredith didn’t know how to respond to that.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I consider myself a professional orphan. That’s why Miss Evans always turns to me to help the new arrivals. She always says to me, ‘Clem (that’s me), if you want a job done right, then only trust the best’. So that’s why you’re with me tomorrow, Meredith.”

“That sounds awesome… you know… for an adult to say something like that about you. You must be the best orphan in the county.”

“In the state,” Clem corrected with a wink.

“Maybe in the whole country,” Meredith teased.

“Or in the whole wide world,” Clem retorted.

Both girls paused and said at the same time, “In the whole universe!” They both doubled over with laughter.

After they regained control, Clem asked, “So what were you dreaming about? You were tossing and turning all intense-like. Must have been a whopper.”

Meredith raised her shields and frowned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“How come?’

“Because it was scary.”

Clem nodded and said, “I completely understand.” She started repositioning Meredith’s blanket. “Come with me.”

Meredith raised her eyebrows. “Come with you where?”

“To the Not-So-Scary Place.” Clem pulled the blanket up over her head, leaving the flashlight on beneath.

Meredith giggled and joined her beneath the make-shift blanket tent.

“There,” Clem said. “Isn’t this much better?”

“Yes.”

“Anyone who’s anyone knows that getting up under your blanket is the best defense against scary stuff,” Clem said with an air of authority. “But it only works if you have a flashlight. Luckily, I came prepared.”

Meredith giggled again. “I feel silly.”

“This is no laughing matter,” Clem said, trying not to laugh. “Now then, on to the matter at hand. If we’re going to be best friends, we have to tell each other stuff… even the bad stuff… especially the scary stuff. Best friends can’t have secrets.”

Meredith looked concerned. She had too many secrets.

“Don’t worry, Meredith. You don’t have to tell me everything. We’re not best friends yet. But I have a good feeling that we could be. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, definitely. But… do I have to tell you all my secrets?”

“Not right away… but eventually. We’ll just start with one secret tonight, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Now… what we’re you dreaming about? And don’t forget, we’re completely safe under here.”

Meredith let out a heavy sigh and told her what she could remember about the strange dream.

Clem laughed when Meredith finished. “You know it was those creepy pictures on the wall that made you dream that, right?”

“I figured,” Meredith said. “But it was the young man who terrified me the most. He said something to me right before I woke.”

“What did he say?”

“I can’t remember all of it, but he told me that this was a bad place… not that I think it is… but that’s what he told me.”

Clem nodded. Her face started to change as if thinking about something far, far away.

“Is everything alright?” Meredith asked. “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. My dreams scare people sometimes. That’s usually when people start looking at me funny.”

“No, it’s alright, Meredith,” Clem said. “You just reminded me of something. It’s not important. Did this mystery man tell you who he was?”

She hadn’t thought so when she woke from the dream, but the young man’s name came to her now. “I think his name was… Toby.”

Clem looked at her hard as though Meredith had just slapped her.

Meredith looked away from that uncomfortable gaze. “Did… did I say something wrong?”

Clem turned, her face had become an unreadable stone. Finally, she smiled and said, “I need to get going. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow and I’m not helping either of us by keeping us awake all night.”

“Okay.” Meredith still felt uneasy as Clem removed the blanket and jumped out of the bed.

She held out the flashlight. “Here, you can borrow this to get you through the night.”

“Thank you.” Meredith took the light. “I’ll take good care of it.”

“Alright, then. Goodnight, Meredith.”

“Goodnight.”

Clem started toward the bedroom door, stopped, and turned back. “Let’s make it official.”

“Excuse me?”

“Best friends… assuming you’re still interested.”

Meredith smiled. “Absolutely.”

Clem nodded with a smile. “Then it’s a done deal. See you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.”

When Clementine departed, Meredith stayed awake for another half an hour with the flashlight on and a stupid grin plastered on her face.

My first real friend, she thought as she drifted back to sleep.

~~~

The next morning was chaos.

Meredith was handed a plate of waffles as she stood in the large kitchen watching the other girls go about their morning rituals. Miss Evans was at the center of it all, orchestrating the buzz of activity surrounding what appeared to Meredith to be some sort of breakfast event.

“What’s the matter?” Clementine said, leaning in beside her. “Haven’t you ever had breakfast before?”

Meredith smiled weakly. “There’s… there’s a lot of people here. Do you all normally have such… exciting breakfasts?”

Clem laughed. “No. But whenever we get a new girl, Miss Evans likes to pull out all the stops. This is all for you.”

“For me?”

“Yep. She’s big on first impressions and we don’t mind because whenever someone new comes along, we get to eat like kings for one morning.” Clem looked at the plate Meredith was holding. “You gonna eat all those right here, or can we share them?”

Meredith looked at the plate of waffles and giggled. “Where should I-”

“Come on, newbie,” Clem said, taking the waffles from her. “We’re eating breakfast in the dining room today.”

Meredith followed after Clem, dodging and weaving in between several girls who buzzed by.

Clem led her into a large dining room where a long table was set on display with more food than Meredith had ever seen at one time. The room itself was lit up by a large chandelier. There were several old-looking pictures on the walls displaying various nature paintings. Several smaller antique tables lined the walls with various trinkets on display, all of which looked far too expensive to touch.

“Sit here,” Clem said, leading her to a large wooden chair at one end of the table.

Meredith sat down in the chair and felt like she’d shrunk. Clem sat down in the open seat to her left.

All the girls were taking their seats now.

Miss Evans sat at the other end of the table. To her right was a woman Meredith had not met yet. The remaining ten girls of various ages raced to their seats as if the music had just ceased to a game of musical chairs.

Meredith stared down at her table settings. Before her was a large china plate with ornate designs running around the rim. Her fork, spoon and knife were neatly placed on an intricately folded napkin. A young girl came along and filled her glass with orange juice. “Thank you,” she whispered long after the girl had moved on.

“Overwhelmed yet?” Clem asked with a wicked little smile.

Meredith simply nodded. That was when she noticed that Clem, as well as several of the girls, were all wearing beautiful sundresses. She looked down at her own attire. Meredith was still wearing her nightgown.

“What’s the matter?” Clem asked.

“I feel… a bit underdressed.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re new. That means you get away with everything on day one. Remember that,” she added with a wink.

Meredith smiled back, unsure of what to make of that comment.

Miss Evans stood, tapping the side of her glass with a spoon to get everyone’s attention.

“Well done girls. You all did a fine job with breakfast arrangements this morning. As you all know, we have a new sister living among us.”

Sister? Meredith immediately wanted to slide off her chair and hide beneath the table when all eyes fell on her.

“Young lady,” Miss Evans continued, “would you please introduce yourself to your new sisters.”

Oh no, she means me!

Clem kicked her beneath the table and gave her an encouraging nod.

Meredith stood up, rubbing her hands together nervously and staring at her plate. “My… My name is Meredith. It’s… it’s nice to meet all of you.”

“You can sit down, dear. Thank you for introducing yourself.”

Meredith quickly sank into her chair.

Miss Evans lifted her glass and said, “Let’s give Meredith a warm welcome, girls! To Meredith! May she find rest for her soul… nourishment for her body…”

All the girls lifted their glasses and finished, “… and enlightenment for her mind!” Then they all began to clap and cheer for Meredith.

Meredith smiled like an idiot and looked to Clem.

Clem was trying not to laugh. “You should see your face,” she whispered. “Don’t worry, it will all be over the moment they start eating.”

Meredith discovered that Clem was correct. As soon as the attention was off of her, Miss Evan waved her arms toward the food and the girls feasted.

She felt fortunate when she could fill her plate and sit down in silence. All the girls were preoccupied by the majestic breakfast. There was bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, grits, cereal, biscuits and gravy, French toast, and several variations of eggs. By the time Meredith had wolfed down her second plate of food, she felt like she’d merged with her chair… permanently.

“When you’re finished,” Clem said, spearing a piece of sausage with her fork and drowning it in maple syrup, “I get to take you on the tour. You won’t have to do much today. Just be a sponge and soak in everything.”

“You mean like how I just soaked up all that food?” Meredith said. “You might have to roll me out of this chair first. I’ve never eaten a breakfast like that before.”

Clem laughed. “We want you to want to be here, Meredith. This is just the beginning. You’ll see. This place is… well… this place is special.”

“Finch said that, too,” Meredith said, noticing his absence. “What does that mean?”

“All in good time,” Clem said with a wink. “You’ll feel it better than I could ever explain it.”

Meredith let the strange comment go. She looked around the table at all these strange young girls, presumably orphans like herself. They were laughing and talking and acting like one big happy family. Most of them were a few years younger than her, and a couple of them looked her age or Clem’s age. At the other end of the table, Miss Evans and the other adult were talking adult stuff. For a brief moment, Meredith was tempted to embrace all of this. But then she remembered her small suitcase upstairs, as reality came crashing down, causing her to frown.

“What’s the matter?” Clem asked. “Too many pancakes?”

“No, it’s not that,” Meredith said. “It’s… It’s just that all of this… these people… yourself… I’m used to all of it going away so fast… I’ve moved around most of my life.”

Clem nodded. “I get it. I really do. You’re afraid to let this place in because you might be shipped off somewhere new tomorrow, right?”

Meredith’s shoulders sank. “Exactly. Strangers have been moving me around from place to place my whole life. That’s how I ended up here. I can’t afford to like anything or anyone for too long… no offense.”

“That’s cool,” Clem said. She placed her hand on her shoulder. “Well, you’re luck is about to change. Do you want to know why?”

Meredith nodded.

“I don’t just let anyone become my best friend. And since you are, then I won’t allow anyone to take you away… ever again.”

“You promise?”

“Promise,” Clem said with a smile. “Didn’t you hear what Miss Evans said? We’re sisters now… and that means something here. But more than that, you and I are best friends, too. That’s a double bond that I will not allow anyone to take from us.”

Meredith smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. “Sorry. I am overwhelmed.”

“That’s okay. You’re here to stay, Meredith.” She then gave her a serious look and finished, “And if anyone tries to take my best friend away from me… well… they’ll be sorry… very, very sorry.”

~~~

Next Episode 35-4

Previous Episode 35-2

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-3: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 35-2: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 4, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

lion-picture

~~~

Summer 1973:

Endless rows of corn sped past her passenger window, broken up by intermittent grassy hills owned by oblivious cows or the occasional horse wandering an open field, casting the illusion of roaming free until she saw the wooden fences which imprisoned it.

Meredith Montgomery watched it all pass her by, wondering briefly what it might be like to live out here, in these remote places far from people, and then dismissed it all entirely as each redundant change of scenery replaced the previous. It all reminded her of her own life: everything was always moving–changing–never allowing her to have anything consistent or lasting. Nothing she could call home.

“What do you think of our long drive out into the countryside so far, Meredith?”

The young girl of thirteen, still wearing her funeral dress, turned toward the driver. His name was Michael. She could tell that he meant well and he had a kind face, but aside from this, he was simply another stranger thrown into her life by laws which demanded that children be taken care of, especially after their foster parents died in tragic house fires.

She faked her best smile and then turned back despondently toward the window as she absently pulled on her long black ponytail.

Michael Finch watched his passenger through the rearview mirror. “I take it you aren’t having a good time out here? Understandable. But if it makes you feel any better, the place where we’re headed is nothing like anywhere you’ve ever been before. I think you’ll like it… eventually.”

Meredith had nothing to say. Everything she owned sat beside her in a small suitcase. She’d become really good a packing over the last few years, reducing her necessities to clothes and a hairbrush–no memorabilia. She’d only been with the Montgomery family for a year and a half, but that was the longest she’d been allowed to live anywhere. She knew she would miss her foster parents after she allowed herself to feel the loss, but that would take time. Meredith needed to keep her guard up, especially now, since that cruel master of her life, Change, was meddling once more.

“I’m very sorry for everything that’s happened. Damn shame about your folks. But if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, I would really appreciate it if you’d talk to me every now and then, at least while I’m driving down the most boring road on the surface of the planet.”

Meredith turned back and gave the strange red-haired man with the ponytail an exhausted look. “Do you always talk so much?”

Michael laughed. “There we go! Another human voice at last! Did I tell you my name was Michael?”

“Several times,” she answered curtly.

“Well… I guess I did, didn’t I. My friends call me Finch, that’s my last name.”

“Like the bird?”

“Yes… exactly.”

“That’s a stupid last name.”

Finch laughed again. “Maybe so. But considering the many other birds I could’ve been named after, I think I did alright. I mean, I could’ve been Michael Crow… Michael Sparrow… or even Michael Woodpecker… now that would’ve been silly, don’t you think?”

Meredith snorted at the last and let a brief smile break free.

“I know, right? Now that would’ve been a stupid last name for sure. Not to mention all the Woody jokes I would’ve grown up with. Can you imagine?”

“Can we stop talking now… please?”

“Sure… sure… but don’t yell at me if I fall asleep, okay?”

“You can’t fall asleep. You’re driving.”

“Well… maybe you could drive and I’ll go back there and take a nap. What do you think?”

“I’m just a kid. I can’t drive.”

“Well then you’re just going to have to keep talking to me. You see, we Finches are notorious for sleeping at all the wrong times. Just the other day I was washing dishes and I suddenly fell asleep…” Finch lowered his head.

After a long pause, Meredith leaned in toward the front. The strange man appeared to have his eyes closed. “Finch?”

Finch started snoring.

“That’s not funny… at all.” Meredith looked toward the road. “Finch?”

Finch suddenly lifted his head. “What just happened? Did I just fall asleep?”

“You’re messing with me.”

Finch laughed. “You figured me out, kid. But seriously, could you please keep talking to me? It’s been a very long ride and I could really use your help.”

Meredith sighed. “I don’t have anything to talk about.”

“Let’s talk about your cool name. Meredith Montgomery, right?”

“That was my foster parents’ name. They’re dead now. I’m just… I’m just Meredith.”

Finch paused. “Yeah, again, I’m real sorry about that. Shit happens… and it sucks when it does.”

“You’re not supposed to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Swear in front of kids.”

“You’re absolutely right. Tell you what, if you don’t tell on me, I’ll let you say it… just this one time.”

“Excuse me?”

“Go ahead! Let it out! It will make you feel better… trust me.”

Meredith looked confused. “You want me to… swear?”

“There’s no one else out here but us and the cows. Go for it. Any swear you want. Hell, after everything that’s happened, you deserve it.”

“You’re being serious?”

“Go for it, kid.”

Meredith sat back and thought a moment.

“You got one picked out?” Finch asked.

“Yes.”

“Okay… just one time… as loud as you can… let her rip!”

Meredith took a deep breath and shouted, “SHIT! SHIT! SHITTY SHIT SHIT!”

Finch was rolling in laughter. “That’s it! How do you feel?”

Meredith covered her mouth and laughed. “That felt… good. Can I do it again?”

“No, sorry. It wouldn’t mean as much the second time anyway. Trust me.”

“You’re a very strange man.”

“Well, I’ll take that as a compliment. So are you going to keep it?”

“What?”

“Your last name? Montgomery?”

“I can do that?”

“Why not? It’s a great last name, so much better than any bird-brain last name I’ve ever had. Did you love them?”

Meredith was caught off guard by the question. Her shields went up immediately. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Okay. Okay. But just so you know, we honor the ones we care about by remembering them, even after they’re gone. I can’t think of any better way to honor your folks than by keeping their name alive… with you.”

Meredith remained quiet.

“I’m just saying, you could still keep your last name if you wanted to. That’s all.”

“I… I’ll think about it,” was all she would volunteer. “How far away are we from the orphanage? That is where we’re headed, right?”

“An orphanage? Really?” Michael laughed. “Who told you that?”

“I heard some grown-ups talking about it when they didn’t think I was listening.”

“Well, maybe that’s what they’d call it. But I assure you, Meredith, this place we’re going to is special. There’s nothing like it.”

“Special?”

“Uh-huh. In fact, you’ll be there with other girls like yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” Meredith was getting defensive. “Do you mean other freaks like me?”

“I never said that.”

“Great! An orphanage full of freakish girls! I can hardly wait!” When she thought about what she just said, Meredith started giggling uncontrollably.

Finch laughed with her. “Well… I’ve never heard it described like that before. But again, I wouldn’t call it an orphanage.”

“So what is this place, then?”

“All I can tell you is that it’s a very special place,” he said, winking at her through the rearview mirror.

~~~

Meredith could see the old house from a distance as Michael turned right down a long winding dirt road. The large house sat alone on a hillside surrounded by more never-ending fields. “Odd place to find an orphanage,” she said.

“The woman who runs the place, Miss Evans, picked the location several years ago,” Michael said. “Said she saw the house and knew right away that it was the perfect place for the school.”

“School? Who puts a school way out here in the middle of nowhere?”

Michael laughed. “It’s not just a school. Think of it as more like being home schooled. You get a classroom and a bedroom all rolled into one.”

Meredith lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “Does this school… whatever… have a name?”

Michael shrugged his shoulders. “Not one I’ve ever heard.”

The old Georgian-style house came into full view as they neared a large front porch surrounded by elaborately decorated stone pillars. From what Meredith could see, this was the largest house she’d ever been relocated to. It appeared to have three floors, judging by the amount of windows. “How many people live here?” she asked.

“Not counting the staff, I believe there’s twelve of you now. Twelve very special girls.”

“You keep saying that. What’s so special about this place, or a bunch of orphan girls?”

Michael just smiled, pulled the car up to the front, and parked. “Finally! I have never needed to stretch my legs so much in all my life.” Before she could inquire more, Finch was already getting out of the car.

Meredith frowned and then looked out her window once more at the massive house. “Home sweet home… again,” she muttered to herself with a heavy sigh.

Michael opened her door. “Ready?”

She nodded and grabbed her small suitcase. She started going through the routine in her mind: Be polite. Speak when spoken to. Maintain eye contact. ‘Yes Sir or Ma’am’…

The sound of a squeaky screen door interrupted her train of thought. A large woman wearing glasses and with brown hair tied up into a tight bun approached. She was drying her hands on an apron she wore over her sundress. “What have you brought me this time, Michael?” Her voice was as large as her girth, causing Meredith to take an unconscious step backwards. “I hope this one can cook better than the last girl.”

Meredith looked up at Finch and whispered, “Cook?”

Michael gave her a wink.

The big woman towered over her as she stopped three feet in front of Meredith and gave her a scrutinizing look. “Hmm. Hmm, hmm, hmm,” she said. “I don’t think she’s got the aptitude for cooking. Probably better off putting her in the stew. Not much meat on her, though.”

Meredith’s eyes went wide.

Michael couldn’t hold back his laughter.

The woman smiled and said, “Don’t you worry, child. Just playing a little prank on the new girl. It’s always fun watching all your faces change, just like yours did.”

Meredith let out a deep breath.

“Meredith,” Michael began, “I would like to introduce you to Miss Evans. Among her many hats, this charming old gal fancies herself a jokester.”

Meredith forced herself to look up at the big woman, smiled, and said, “Pleasure… pleasure to meet you.”

“My… this one came with manners,” Miss Evans said with a wink. “It’s very nice to meet you, too.”

Meredith looked down at her shoes.

“We took the scenic route here,” Michael said. “Figured our new house guest needed some time to herself. We came straight from the funeral.”

Miss Evans gave Meredith an understanding look. “I see. Well… enough of this chatter.” She then bent down to Meredith’s eye level. “Look here, child.”

Meredith looked up.

“I know you’re feeling sad, confused, and out-of-place right now, but things will get better. I promise you.”

Meredith could only respond with a half-hearted smile.

Miss Evans gave her a long probing look which made Meredith look back down at her feet. “How about we get you up to your room right away, let you have some time to get settled, get some food in you, followed by a good night’s sleep for a fresh start in the morning. How’s that sound right now, child?”

“That would be great,” Meredith said. “Thank… thank you.”

Miss Evans laughed and then reached in and gently lifted Meredith’s head by the chin. “I wish I could take that pain you’re bravely bearing right out of you, child, honestly I do. But our pain is part of who we are… who we’ll be… but you will feel better in time. Do you believe that, child?”

“I want to,” Meredith whispered.

“Good enough for now. That’s a start.” Miss Evans stood back up and turned to Michael. “Young man, please take our new tenant up to her room and then get you both something to eat from the kitchen. It’s already getting late so Meredith can join us tomorrow morning for breakfast.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Michael teased.

“Don’t you ‘Ma’am’ me,” she scolded playfully, causing Michael to laugh. Then Miss Evans abruptly turned, as if forgetting all about them, and entered the house mumbling to herself about the million things she still had left to do before dark.

When she was gone, Finch leaned down and whispered, “Whew! I thought she’d never leave. Before I met that big lady for the first time, they told me she would look like every mean old school teacher I ever had. But after I met her I thought she looked like someone who just ate every mean old school teacher I ever had.”

Meredith let out a loud nervous laugh and then quickly covered her mouth. She looked up and Finch gave her a mischievous wink. She smiled and said, “You are the strangest man, Finch.”

Finch said, “Seriously though, she’s a great old gal once you get to know her… or so they keep telling me.” He then bowed dramatically and offered his arm. “May I escort you to your room, ma’ lady?”

Meredith laughed, took his arm, and mustered up her best regal voice imitation. “You may.”

They entered the house.

~~~

The small, unremarkable bedroom was just big enough for a single-sized bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. Before leaving, Michael had explained that this was the spare guest room and that once other arrangements were made in a few days, she would be moved into one of four larger rooms split up among the other girls living in the house.

Meredith was just grateful to have a night of privacy and some alone time to let her guard down and breathe, as she needed time to figure out this strange new place.

When Michael had excused himself to get them something to eat, Meredith sat down on the bed and let out a heavy sigh as she took in the rest of her tight surroundings. Aside from a single window, the boring beige-painted walls and a small desk lamp which barely provided enough light in the room, she noticed four paintings centered on each of the four walls. One was of a large green lion roaming a grassy field beneath overcast clouds; the next one was a picture of floating theater masks displaying different emotions on a blue background; the third one showed a broken staircase hovering over a pit of flames, leading up toward what appeared to be the gates of heaven; the last, and most disturbing picture, was of some kind of creepy monster with sharp teeth and huge yellow eyes. Meredith shook her head when she realized that the monster painting was the one she would be staring directly at after she settled in for bed.

“They seriously need a better decorator,” she announced as she turned away from the disturbing paintings to unpack her few possessions.

Michael returned a few minutes later with a tray holding a ham and cheese sandwich and some potato chips. “I know it’s not much,” he started, “but you’ll be impressed by breakfast in the morning. The girls all pitch in for the new arrivals… first impressions, and all that jazz.”

“Thank you,” Meredith said, accepting the sandwich. “I’m not that hungry. This will work just fine.”

“Well, then, I’ll leave you in peace and let you get a good night’s sleep,” Michael said, starting for the door.

“Have you ever slept in this room?” Meredith asked, looking toward the pictures.

Michael turned toward the walls and laughed. “Yeah… I’ve spent a few nights in here. Not exactly the best scenery, I know. I think this was once an office… or something.”

“Maybe they just don’t want the new girl going AWOL on her first night here by trying to scare me into never leaving my bed,” Meredith said.

Michael gave her a surprising look.

Meredith broke out a smile. “Sorry… I was just trying to be funny.”

“Well… now you know the truth,” he said. “If those creepy pictures don’t do the trick than nothing will. Hell, who can sleep looking at some of these. Talk about nightmare central. Would you like me to take them down before I go?”

“That’s okay,” Meredith said. “They’re not as bad as some of the images I’ve seen in my head when…” she trailed off, realizing her tired mind was making her talk too much.

“What was that?”

“Never mind. I’m just babbling. You can leave the pictures up. I’m probably going to pass out as soon as I lie down.”

“Okay, then,” Michael said, shaking his head at the yellow-eyed creature with the sharp teeth. “I really have to talk to Miss Evans about her art choices.”

Meredith cracked a smile and said, “Maybe she painted it.”

“Now wouldn’t that be hysterical,” he said with a laugh. “A bit scary, too, if it were true. Do you think it’s a self-portrait? Looks a little like her in the mornings.”

Meredith laughed and covered her mouth. “Goodnight, Finch.”

He gave her a mock salute. “Goodnight, kid.”

After Finch departed, Meredith finished her meal. Then she changed into a nightgown and buried herself in blankets. If nothing else, the bed was very comfortable.

Meredith reached for the nightstand lamp, stopped, and took one more look at the monster on the wall. “Goodnight, Miss Evans,” she said with a laugh, turning out the lamp. The darkness immediately added another layer of comfort as she closed her eyes and tried to forget everything. Please… no more nightmares, she thought as she quickly drifted into the treacherous realm of sleep.

~~~

Meredith is standing in a large grassy field. Storm clouds hover overhead making her feel exposed. She is incredibly small compared to her vast surroundings. To her, the field covers the entire earth and she begins to panic, wondering which way she should walk… or if it even matters.

At the edge of visibility, Meredith makes out a small indistinguishable shape. She wonders if it is another human being or just some landmark in the distance. Either way, the shape gives her something to aim towards as thunder begins to rumble directly above, motivating her to move with purpose.

She walks at first. Then, fearing the shape will simply disappear, she begins to run towards it. She is almost out of breath by the time she realizes that the shape is of a person… a young man.

The young man is frantically waving towards her.

She waves back, delighted to find someone else out here in this strange, endless field.

It begins to rain as the thunder is now accompanied by flashes of terrifying light that illuminate the dark clouds, exposing a yellowish sky behind them. To Meredith, the sky looks unnatural… it looks sick.

The young man is calling out to her now. She is so close.

Meredith stops twenty feet from the young man, who is simply standing there with his arms to his side. At first she wonders if he’s real, but then remembers that he called out. He’s wearing a dirty red and white football uniform, minus the pads and helmet. His face is as pale as a ghost beneath a disheveled mess of black hair. His long bangs hide his eyes. If she had to guess, Meredith would say that he was in his late teens.

“Hello,” she says, noticing her own voice sounding heavy, as if the words barely had enough strength to reach the young man before crumbling away to the ground.

The young man smiles, or attempts to. His teeth are black and rotted away.

Meredith takes an uneasy step back.

“Do not be afraid,” the young man says. “I’ve been waiting for you, Meredith. I’ve been waiting to talk to you for such a long, long time.” His voice sounds… wrong. That’s when she realizes that the young man isn’t moving his lips… but she can still hear him.

“You’re not safe, Meredith. None of the girls are. This place is bad… very bad. Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain, Meredith. That’s where the truth is. Come find me and I’ll show you the truth… but then you must leave.”

“Who… who are you?” Meredith asks.

“My name is Toby. Please listen to me, Meredith. There isn’t much time. There is so much you need to know, so much-” Toby stops and stares over Meredith’s head. “Too late. Time to go.”

Before she turns around, a large roar nearly knocks her over. She turns and sees a large emerald lion beginning to circle her and Toby. It does not look pleased that they are here.

Meredith tries to scream but no sound escapes her mouth. She turns back to Toby.

A gust of warm wind blows against Toby’s face, causing his bangs to part and revealing his deep, dark, sunken eyes. He looks more like a skeleton than a man, she thinks, while taking another step back.

The emerald lion roars at her again, causing Meredith to jump.

“Go back, Meredith,” Toby says. “You can’t be here.”

Meredith is about to turn, but the beast charges straight for her.

The lion’s eyes are a blazing yellow color… she can feel such intense hatred coming from those unnatural eyes.

She falls to the grass, placing her hands in front of her face. She can’t hear her own screams as the lion leaps directly towards her…

~~~

…Meredith opened her eyes in the darkness. Where am I? Am I dead? Before the panic overwhelmed her, she took deep breaths until the traces of the dream faded away and then she started to remember where she was. I’m at the orphanage that’s not an orphanage… in the small room with the weird pictures on the walls… just another nightmare, that’s all.

Something shifted in the darkness near the foot of the bed.

She immediately thought of the emerald lion with the hate-filled yellow eyes.

It followed me!

~~~

Next Episode 35-3

Previous Episode 35-1

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-2: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 35-1: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 1, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

megan

~~~

Meredith is staring through the glass doorway, into the observation room. There is a fresh trail of blood running from the door to the back of the room.

The sick girl is there, back turned, crouched down… feeding.

Meredith sighs at the mess Megan has made. Her hospital gown is spattered in blood. Her blond hair is wet and sticky with it. Her arms from the elbows down are covered in it.

She doesn’t understand how Megan can be so oblivious to her own savage behavior. Meredith knows that a part of the girl remains… even if no one else believes it.

The older woman tries to view what Megan is eating, but the girl is hovering over it, protectively.

Meredith decides to open the glass door, although she’s been forbidden to do so. She starts walking toward the girl. “Megan,” she calls out gently.

Megan does not respond.

“Megan… it’s Meredith, honey. Are you alright?”

Megan continues to dig her face into the bloody mess in front of her.

She moves in closer. “Megan, what have you gotten into? Has someone been feeding you something they’re not supposed to?”

The girl stops. She turns her head slightly to the right, just enough to watch the older woman invade her space.

Meredith can see that her face is covered in thick blood. Whatever she had, it was fresh… perhaps even alive. Somewhere in the back of her mind Meredith knows that approaching the girl like this is incredibly dangerous. She also knows that Megan should not be eating anything with blood in it. That was also declared forbidden months ago. But against her better judgment, she continues to move closer to the girl.

Megan turns away from the older woman. She starts to surround her kill with her arms, placing more of her frail body over it, fearing that the woman has come to take it away.

“Megan. It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Megan begins to growl like a dog with a raw steak. She is unwilling to give up her meal and wants the woman to clearly understand that her trespass is not appreciated.

Meredith continues to move closer… closer…

“What have you got there, Megan? Has someone given you a rat or a squirrel? No… there’s too much blood for that. Perhaps a raccoon?”

Megan turns her bloody face toward the intruder, revealing her gritted teeth as she snarls threateningly at the woman.

Meredith is overwhelmed by the monstrous looking woman, covered in blood, her eyes–her dark silver eyes–already tearing into her flesh.

“Me… Megan?” Meredith whispers. Finally she realizes that coming into the room and interfering with the young woman’s meal will be the last thing she ever does.

Meredith puts her hands out in front. “Megan… it’s okay. I didn’t mean to get you upset.” She starts to slowly back out of the room. “We can talk later… if you like. Just… just let me leave. Alright?”

Megan turns her whole body toward the woman. She does not recognize the woman’s words, only that the woman is a far more tempting target. She lets out a primal scream and charges toward Meredith.

Meredith turns to run but falls on her stomach. Before she can get up, Megan pounces on her back and starts scratching into her flesh.

Meredith screams but there is no sound escaping her lips.

Megan roughly flips the blood bag over.

Meredith tries to defend her face with her arms, but the surprisingly strong young woman pins both her arms to the floor. There is nothing between them now except Megan’s blood-dripping teeth and those silver alien orbs staring back at her.

Meredith turns her head to the right, unwilling to stare into the bloody face of the lifeless beast any longer.

Her eyes find Megan’s meal and go wide with horror.

It is the remains of Megan’s baby…

~~~

…Her eyes shot open. Meredith let out a strangled cry as she quickly sat up from the cot in the corner of the infirmary. After a dreadful three seconds, her disorientation lifted and understanding arrived like a sunrise over an eternally dark place. She let out a nervous laugh and quickly covered her mouth. You old fool. It was just a dream… just another terrifying dream.

She took in the dimly-lit space that served as her sleeping quarters. She was surrounded by various medical ‘do-dads’ (as the abnormal Doctor Cooper liked to call them). There were boxes of first-aid supplies and equipment, a wheelchair, a few spare cots lined up against the wall, and a small round table with four wooden chairs which seemed oddly out of place in this underground clinic.

She let out a deep sigh. This little corner of the compound had been her home for almost five months. She seldom frequented any other area of the facility, unless it was late at night, choosing to enforce her ‘out of sight, out of mind’ lifestyle.

Most of the community, Gina included, despised her. She was simply ‘the traitor’ to some, as exaggerations had spread of her ancient affiliations with the group known as Mother. Others had heard of her supernatural exploits prior to seeking refuge below, and had dubbed her the Wasteland Witch. And still others whispered to one another late at night about how Meredith communed with the zombie girl, preferring the company of the dead over the living. Meredith still hadn’t decided which fiction story she liked the best, but it was clear that very few people felt comfortable whenever she was around.

It was Gina who had called it ‘house arrest’. Technically, Meredith was their ‘prisoner’, but Gina was not willing to lock her old friend up, no matter how furious she was with her. She had instructed Logan to inform his men to keep an eye on her, but not to restrict her from freely moving about public areas. And of course, she was forbidden to go topside where she would have access to her ‘abilities’ again.

To this day, she had not figured out why her abilities didn’t work in this place, but she was grateful. If she could no longer sense the dead, then they couldn’t sense her either. And she was truly enjoying her liberation from that curse which had tormented her for so long.

She slowly got up and walked over to the small bathroom. Fortunately, the clinic was the only space that had its own bathroom, allowing her less time among the rest of the community. She looked into the mirror mounted above the sink. She frowned at the haunted woman who stared back at her in the unmerciful half-light. It was hard to believe that she was once a younger woman celebrating her fiftieth year just before The Change struck. Her long black hair was streaked with an abundance of gray. Her once sunny face, replaced with sad eyes and dark patches beneath them to forever mark her exhausted state. “You are old,” she declared to the mirror and quickly turned away. Six months ago she had been approaching a healthy fifty. But after the hell which followed, Meredith felt and looked like she’d aged ten years. And this was the price for wielding her damn ‘gift’.

I’d stay down here forever if it meant never feeling ‘them’ rotting in my mind ever again.

And Meredith meant it.

She thought about the community and sighed. Initially, Meredith had tried to atone for her secrets, and help in any way she could. But no one would allow her to move on. So, she committed herself to the infirmary as Cooper’s assistant, while she spent the remainder of her time trying to bring Megan back.

Aside from the good doctor, who still maintained his crush for her, Stephen, Marcus and Tony were the only people who would come to see her, when time allowed.

Gina refused to come see her, no matter how hard Meredith tried to make peace.

It’s all about the damned door. That’s all she cares about. When she looks at me, she knows I’m holding back and won’t tell her things… and she hates me for it. Even when I hold back for her own good… for all their sake.

She splashed water in her face and then tied her long hair back into a ponytail. Meredith considered getting dressed but it was still far too early to get anything accomplished yet, so she decided to sit at the table instead and finish off the rest of Cooper’s coffee from last night that he’d left for her in a small thermos.

After getting comfortable, coffee in hand, Meredith soaked in the late night silence and slowly looked about the rest of the partially lit area. Her table sat directly in front of the lone hallway that exited the clinic. On both sides of the hall were two large observation rooms with walls made of a very thick glass. The room on her left was Megan’s room. On the right was Doctor Cooper’s all-purpose medical room. Meredith lived and worked in the top portion of the ‘T’ shaped wing at the opposite end of the exit.

She closed her eyes and took a sip of the warm beverage as she tuned in to the low hum of the machinery behind the walls. Meredith suspected that whatever was creating those sounds had something to do with why her ability to sense the dead was blocked. But she could only theorize.

Meredith let her mind drift freely, something she still had difficulty getting used to since she’d spent so much time guarding her thoughts from the dead and the living. She thought of Gina. She remembered the first time she’d met that frightened young woman at the power plant and how full of pain her eyes had been. She’d wanted to reach out and embrace her, tell her that everything would be alright… but even then, Meredith had known better than to support such lies. They had bonded and laughed and cried together before the dead came and slaughtered everyone… and there had been so much more pain ever since. Meredith truly missed her friend, almost as much as she missed her beloved Hannah.

Her eyes watered up and her hands shook. She could feel the surge of so much pain creeping up the shoreline of her waning strength and beginning to flood her heart. She thought of Douglas, Ashley, Amanda, Greg, Frank… even Charlie. She thought of all of them, all who had died since the madness consumed the world and it was too much to bear any longer.

She put the coffee cup down, took a deep breath, and tried to hold it all in… all the sorrow which had remained with her long after the haunted voices of the dead were severed from her mind. She lowered her head into her hands and wept.

It’s alright… you go ahead and cry you foolish woman. There’s no one left who will question you afterwards while you sit here in the dark and simply let go… just for a little while.

Her soft weeping turned to sobs as she felt the long awaited breakdown crush her in that vulnerable moment. She didn’t care. She let it happen. She needed to mourn so… very… much.

A shadow shifted into view causing Meredith to look up toward the young woman’s observation room.

Megan was there, standing before the glass door, staring out at her. The young woman’s blond hair hung wildly over her face. She lifted her scrawny arms and placed her hands on the glass.

“Me…Megan?” Meredith called out, wiping tears from her face. She quickly collected herself. This was the first time since they had started drugging the poor girl to keep her from being violent and hurting herself that Megan had shown any response at all, other than the lethargic, despondent motions of an injured wild animal who simply waited to die.

Between her and Cooper, they’d tried everything they could think of to reach out to the woman and bring her back from that dark, hellish place that Meredith had seen in these poor souls when she still had her abilities. Meredith believed that this particular brand of zombie was not beyond reach. They were neither dead nor alive, but trapped in a horrible place where she could only describe it as a place where ‘the soul slowly rots away’. Meredith remembered all too well what being in close proximity to these ‘half-dead’ individuals did to her and how sick she became when she reached out and let them into her mind. Fortunately, Meredith didn’t need to worry about that here, but it did limit what she could do to help the poor girl who suffered with what Meredith called the Silver Sickness.

Meredith got up and slowly approached the door, afraid that she’d scare Megan off long before she got there. “What is it, honey? Are you alright?”

Megan did not respond. She remained standing against the glass, watching the woman approach.

She doesn’t appear agitated, Meredith thought. It’s far too early for the tranquilizers to be wearing off. She’s supposed to sleep through the night. She’s never done this before! Meredith allowed herself this moment of optimism. She had to. She was all Megan had now since even Cooper appeared to give up, but continued to support Meredith in her pointless cause for her sake.

Meredith stopped before the glass door and was delighted that Megan had not withdrawn yet. She could not get a good look at her face due to her hair and the low lighting, but it did appear as if Megan was aware of her this time.

“Hello, Megan,” Meredith said through the door. There were open vents all around the observation room that allowed sound to pass in and out of the room. They could also close the vents when Megan went wild and started screaming, cutting off all sound. Fortunately, they hadn’t had to do that in a good long while.

Megan continued to stare at Meredith as if trying to understand what she was.

“My name’s Meredith, honey. I’ve been here with you for quite some time. Do you remember me?”

No response.

Meredith smiled and shook her head. “That’s okay. We will take this one step at a time. This is a big step right now. It’s so good to see you up and about and… coherent. Maybe in the morning we can-”

Meredith stopped short when Megan put a finger on the glass, pointing toward her.

“What? What are you trying to say, honey?”

Megan started tapping her finger on the glass… hard. She was getting angry again.

Meredith desperately wanted to understand. Think, you foolish woman. She’s pointing at you! What’s she trying to say? Meredith dared to move closer to the glass door, hoping she could narrow down what Megan was pointing at.

When the older woman was almost touching the glass, Megan appeared to get excited as she lowered her arms, took a step back, and started breathing heavily.

Meredith almost backed away until the young woman pointed again, this time at her face.

Meredith stopped and caught a glimpse of Megan’s face behind all that hair; she saw two metallic eyes with what looked like… tears… beneath them.

And then Meredith understood. She reached up and touched her own cheek, discovering wetness she had not wiped away. She raised her eyebrows and said, “Did… did you hear me… crying? Is that what brought you over?”

Megan lowered her arms and appeared to calm down. She looked at the woman one last time and then turned and retreated to her mattress, the only item in the bare white room. She laid down and turned toward the wall.

Meredith watched her go with wonder. She reacted to my sadness? She heard me crying and came over to find out… what? Was she… concerned?

She smiled and whispered to the sleeping woman, “I’m alright, Megan. Thanks for asking.” She had no idea if Megan could feel sympathetic any longer, not in her present state, but the possibility excited her. She turned away and headed back toward her table and then stopped when another thought struck:

Maybe she didn’t hear you crying at all. Maybe she sensed your sorrow and responded without understanding why.

Meredith turned back and stared into the observation room.

Megan was still lying down, facing the wall.

Meredith was caught off guard when an old memory struck her. Megan, in a lot of ways, reminded her of a time when she herself was just another lost girl trapped in a cage of sorts, being observed, just as Meredith was observing Megan.

“We’re not so different, you and I,” Meredith whispered through the glass. “In fact, it’s what makes us different from everyone else that has brought us together… here… now.”

Megan continued to appear unresponsive.

Meredith closed her eyes and allowed the past to surface in her thoughts. Again, she had worked relentlessly at keeping everything out of her mind for so long that she felt overwhelmed at times by this new sense of inner vulnerability.

And just like her blocked off abilities, her reconnection to those ancient days of youth were both a blessing and a curse…

~~~

Next Episode 35-2

Previous Episode 34-6

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-1: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

After The Dark (#10) – Confessions

Posted: December 29, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, Interviews/Reviews, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombie Talk Show, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After the Dark1 (2)

~~~

“Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of After The Dark. I’m your host, John Ecko, and this is the Don’t Feed The Dark after-show that will attempt to answer your burning questions while we shine a light into some of the darkest corners of this chilling apocalyptic serial to see what we can uncover.

Each episode we will explore a diverse range of topics as we sit down with our featured special guests who have come right out of the pages of this dark serial novel to enlighten us and hopefully give us some additional insights into their characters, as well as what we can expect in the days ahead.

***SPOILER ALERT***

At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read the first 34 chapters of Don’t Feed The Dark, I strongly suggest that you don’t continue on with us until after you’ve caught up. Consider yourself warned.”

John stands up before a live studio audience and is met with applause. Seated behind him on a large couch is Gina Melborn, Tony Marcuchi, Diane Conley and Nine Lives. He raises his arms to quiet the crowd. “Welcome back everyone to another informative episode of After The Dark! I’m excited to have all four of our special guests here today. How about another round of applause for Gina, Tony, Diane and Nine!”

(The crowd is on their feet as the studio erupts in another round of applause.)

John sits down in a chair across from his guests as the audience takes their seats. “Wow, it’s great to have all of you here… and what’s better is that you’re all still alive.”

(The audience laughs.)

“It’s been a wild run so far and we’re already twenty-four episodes into this new story arc. I’m going to just jump right in because I know we have a lot to cover.” John turns to Gina. “Welcome back, Gina. How’s my favorite bad ass doing?”

Gina laughs. “I’m doing okay, all things considering.”

“So… we’ve already discussed your current state-of-mind in a previous episode. I guess one of the big burning questions at the moment is, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?'”

Gina gives Tony a suspicious glance.

Tony sheepishly scoots a little farther away from her on the couch causing everyone to laugh.

“Why, John, whatever do you mean?” Gina jokes, feigning her restrained anger.

John shakes his head and says, “It’s confession time, Gina. You’ve suddenly gone from heroine to borderline villain since your time spent in the compound. Are we finally seeing your character pushed passed her limits?”

Gina nods. “As I’m sure you’ve already discussed, I’m at a very fragile place at the moment. I think what my character is experiencing is due in part to an accumulative amount of bullshit since the beginning of all this madness. I think losing Frank and Megan, as well as being betrayed by Meredith, has put me in a very volatile place, somewhere between wanting to go on an all-out killing spree and drowning in my own deep, dark self-loathing.”

“It seems very apparent that you murdered those two men who accidentally killed another community member who tried to break up their fight. Can you confirm this?” John asks.

Gina frowns. “Yes. I executed them. It was always my intent to do so. I just wanted them to give me a reason so I provoked their escape attempt, but they caught on to what I was doing, laid down their arms… and I shot them anyway.”

(The audience is unusually silent.)

John nods solemnly. “Ironically, it was Frank, the convict, who stopped you in the past from killing Megan, the pregnant girl. But now, his death has also set you back on a similar path, with no one to stay your shooting arm this time. Would you say that you’re having a tough time distinguishing who the enemy is?”

Gina folds her hands in her lap. “All is can say is that my character is in a very dark place. There’s a pain ripping away at her from the inside out and she’s losing a vital battle within. Tony is perhaps the only thing keeping her from plunging completely into the dark, but at the same time, my desperate need to keep him alive no matter what, is also contributing to some really bad decision making.”

John turns to Tony. “It would appear that you are also nearing a breaking point, Tony. You’ve been covering for her all winter long while the community has grown weary of Gina. And now we find out that you concealed her crime out in those frozen woods.”

“Yes,” Tony begins. “My frustration with Gina, and with myself, is reaching a boiling point. I think I’m starting to realize, as was evident near the end of the last chapter, that I can’t keep continuing to bail Gina out of her messes… not without losing myself. Something’s about to break within me if I don’t find a way to reach her.”

“Indeed,” John agrees. “So… Gina has essentially crossed the line with you, with the community, hell… even with Orosco, since he left the group early because of her. What’s all this going to mean when you all get back to the compound?”

Tony smiles and shares a secretive smile with Gina. “John, we’re just going to have to wait and see… and that’s all we’re allowed to say about it.”

“Fair enough,” John says. He turns to Diane. “And you, young lady, it’s nice to see another side to your character. All we knew of you from Book Three was that you were the good and faithful soldier character. Seemed like nothing could get to you, until that young man next to you came along.”

Diane looks to Nine and laughs. “What can I say? The heart wants what the heart friggin’ wants.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Seriously, though,” she continues, “I was delighted to find out that I would be playing a more central character in this story arc and I look forward to discovering, along with all the readers out there, just who Diane really is beneath all that armor.”

“Well, I’ve been enjoying how your relationship with Nine is developing. It’s good to see that young love can still find a place in this crazy, dark world.”

Nine puffs up and nods. “Yeah, she wants me.”

Diane gives him a playful jab to the ribs with her elbow.

(The audience laughs.)

John shakes his head with a smile. “So first off, Nine, welcome to The Dark. It’s great to meet new people in these storylines… hell… we’ve already lost too many.”

“Glad to be here,” he says. “I’d like to think that my character brings ‘cool’ back to the table.”

All four of them look to Nine disbelievingly, causing the crowd to laugh.

“So what’s with that crazy name?” John asks. “It’s because you’re real name is Bartholomew or something equally nerdish, isn’t it?”

(The audience laughs.)

Nine shakes his head. “No… nothing like that. It’s all about my luck with numbers, mostly.”

“Yeah… you say that,” John starts. “But I still think you’re just some kind of math nerd stuck in the 80’s.”

Nine lifts his hand. “No… I’m much too cool for math-”

“Math nerd. Just admit it,” John presses.

“Nope.”

The others nod their heads making the audience laugh. Nine turns to the others as they all turn away, trying not to laugh.

“You see what I have to put up with?” Nine says. “It’s a wonder how they’ve gotten by this long without me.”

John laughs and says, “Seriously, though, either you really have some understanding of how to use numbers in your favor, or, you’ve just been extremely lucky so far. Which is it?”

“I’ve always been good at the numbers game,” Nine says. “Without getting too much into it right now, let’s just say that the numbers are my character’s comfort zone. If I didn’t have them to rely upon, I’d probably be hiding under a bed until the apocalypse ended.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Fair enough,” John says. “I think we’d all be hiding under our beds if we each didn’t have something to fall back on. I’m looking forward to discovering how your character develops in the days ahead… and finding out a lot more about your ‘number system’.”

“Oh, well that’s easy,” Nine starts excitedly. “First you have-”

“Don’t get him going, John, or we’ll be here all night,” Gina interrupts, giving Nine a warning glance.

“Another time, then.” John looks through his notes and then turns to Tony. “So we’ve finally dealt with the Bad Man… and Helen. What was it like finding out that our favorite yellow-eyed monsters seemed to get smarter? Are the dead evolving over time like our characters or was Helen and her horde simply a fluke?”

“I believe we’re going to discover a whole lot of new things to deal with as we get farther out and away from our hole in the ground,” Tony says. “But it would definitely appear that at least some of the dead have… changed. What that will mean for us is still a mystery. But the implications are frightening.”

“Indeed. So did putting down Helen near the end of the last chapter give you some sense of closure, Tony?”

“I think so. It was rather sad… but in the end, Walter got what was coming to him and I think Helen and I both got a little retribution for the suffering we received from that evil man.”

“What’s really interesting about the last chapter,” Gina chimes in, “is that it was an unplanned chapter that came to the author late as he was nearing the completion of ‘Detour’. We were supposed to confront Walter at the end of the third chapter, but then the author saw an awesome opportunity to share with the readers what it was like being in Walter and Helen’s shoes before The Change happened. I think the bonus backstory between them really gave both those characters more depth and made events much more interesting by the time we confronted the Bad Man in the fourth chapter.”

“That is interesting,” John agrees. “I guess that’s why stories take on a life of their own and occasionally drift off course. Even writers can be caught off guard when a tale takes an unexpected ‘detour’ from the story line… pardon the pun.”

(The audience laughs.)

“So, we’re almost out of time,” John states. “I wanted to ask what we can expect from the next chapter. Gina?”

“Well… all I can say about it is that it’s Meredith’s turn to take the spotlight and Chapter 35 centers entirely around her storyline.”

“Fair enough,” John says. “I also understand that we have our third spin-off story that was posted on Monday, introducing us to a new character while taking us all the way back to the marina incident back in Chapter 14. Any additional comments on this, Tony?”

Tony smiles and says, “Again, we can’t say too much about it… but… it does tie in to the next chapter. Not only is it a Chapter 14 spin-off story, but it’s a Chapter 35 spin-off story as well… and it bit more than that.”

“That’s all you’re going to give us, isn’t it?”

“Yep,” Tony confirms.

“Damn it,” John shakes his head. “Well, on that note, we’ll just have to look forward to the next chapter and see where we land next.” John takes them all in and says, “I want to thank you all for joining us today and I’m sure we all hope to see you alive and kicking in the days to come.” He turns to the crowd. “How about a big hand for our guests!”

(The audience rises to their feet and applauds.)

Gina, Tony, Diane and Nine all wave and nod to the audience.

“And that’s all the time we have today,” John finishes. “If anyone wishes to ask any of our special guests a question about their characters or just about the story in general, we shall endeavor to answer your questions here… if possible.”

“Aside from that, be sure to check out the brand new spin-off story, Hangar Six and don’t forget that Don’t Feed The Dark returns on Monday, January 2nd for a brand new episode. As for us, I have been informed by the author that new episodes of After The Dark will now be posted at the conclusion of each new chapter. See you next time on After The Dark!”

~~~

Next Episode:
After The Dark (#11) – Outcast

~~~

Please show your support for Don’t Feed The Dark by voting for it at topwebfiction. Just click and vote. Nothing else required. You can vote every seven days to help me keep this series listed.

Thank you,
-Scott

~~~

Don’t Feed The Dark Updates: 12/5/16

Posted: December 5, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Giveaways, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombie Talk Show, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

the living

~~~

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to check in a final time before the holidays to let you knew what’s brewing behind the scenes while we wait for Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms to resume on Monday, January 2nd.

Sometime later this week, a new episode of After The Dark (The DFTD talk show) will be posted. Our host, John Ecko, will sit down with Gina, Tony, Diane and Nine to discuss where we are so far and perhaps get some further insights into this new story arc. Be sure to stop by with any burning questions you may have for any of our special guests and we will try to field them on the show, if possible.

Later this month, time permitting, I’m hoping to have my third spin-off story available, titled, Hangar Six. This short story will take us all the way back to Chapter 14 and give us some additional insights into the strange happenings surrounding Fairport Harbor Marina. This story will also tie in to the upcoming chapter due out in January.

As mentioned, Chapter 35: Deal Dolls (Part One), will start us off in January. It will be a Meredith centered chapter which will show us what she’s been up to in the present as well as delve into her mysterious past and hopefully shed some light on her connections to the notorious group known only as Mother.

Chapter 36: Uprising , will take us back beneath the Wasteland compound and will tell the story of what happens after a dissatisfied faction of survivors decide to take over leadership… and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Chapter 37: Through the Eyes of a Devil, will be the long awaited chapter that so many of you have been waiting for. That’s right, it will all be centered around our resident serial killer, Russell Bower… and yes, he survived the fall off the cliff. This chapter is already written and not only is it the longest chapter to date, I think it’s going to blow you away (how’s that for a teaser?).

Lastly, Chapter 38: Healing, will be the last chapter for this latest book and it will take place about three weeks after Chapter 36. And that’s all I can tell you about it without spoiling anything.

Just to add, I’ve already begun plotting for Book Five… and it’s going to be crazy as hell.

That’s all I have for now. I look forward to catching up with all of you again after the break. Hope you all have a great Christmas and an awesome New Year.

-Scott

~~~

Chapter 34-6: Secrets

Posted: November 18, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, Interviews/Reviews, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

night-storm

~~~

“This is so very fucking stupid and reckless!”

Diane’s last words to him echoed in his head like an omen. Nine continued to walk deeper into the forest, trying to pretend that he was unaware of the yellow-eyed beast’s presence just a hundred feet off to his left. The creature was using the trees as cover, inching closer and closer to its intended prey.

When the hell did these things get so damn smart? he wondered. She’s supposed to charge right for me like Tony on meth… not act all ninja-like with all this lurking crap.

Nine dared another glance over his left shoulder, just long enough to spot Helen’s shadow creeping toward him. “I think she’s right,” he mumbled to himself. “‘Stupid and reckless’, but with a light sprinkling of heroism if this actually works.”

Helen had closed the gap between them. She would attack at any moment.

Nine stared directly ahead, rehearsing his numbered steps in his head.

It was Diane who had discovered that they were being followed after Tony departed and they’d headed back downstream to figure out what to do next. She almost missed her tracks… almost. By the time they’d finished deliberately circling the area, Diane had located the bad man’s dead wife. At first, it seemed content to watch them from deeper in the woods, as if it were waiting for something.

That’s when Nine had opened his big mouth and whispered, “We can save them both if we catch this thing.”

Diane had given him ‘the look’.

“I mean it. We capture Helen, threaten to shoot his zombie lover’s brains out, and then arrange a prisoner exchange.”

“A fucking what?”

“You know… a prisoner exchange… like what they do in all those cheesy action flicks when-”

“Nine.”

“Yes, my angel.”

“Shut up.”

From there, he’d actually talked her into attempting it… and now… he was the bait.

Think I got the short straw on this one. Nine was about to glance back once more.

The brush suddenly came alive behind him as Helen charged.

Nine sprinted through the trees like his ass had just caught fire.

Diane had gone ahead and circled around behind the creature, allowing her time to prepare her part of Nine’s foolhardy plan. They’d decided on setting the trap in between two tall trees they’d spotted on their first trip around the area. The two trees had bowed toward each other near their tops, seeming to join in what looked like an arch. They’d both agreed that it was easy to spot from a distance. All Nine had to do was circle around and lead the beast between them.

Nine counted his steps as he ran.

One, two, three! He sidestepped left just in time to avoid Helen’s swing.

…Five, six, seven! He ducked to the right and then back to the left causing Helen to run into a tree.

He continued to count his manic strides, reacting to various numbers as if they somehow afforded him mathematical insight as he avoided being cornered by the surprisingly fast dead woman several times.

Nine could see the arch. Come on, Diane. I can’t keep this up. Please be ready!

He sprinted toward the gap between the trees.

One, two…

Helen was right on his heels, howling in frustration at her elusive prey.

…Three, four…

All he had to do was jump within the arch. Diane would handle the trap.

…Five, six… jump… wait! Not fucking six!

Nine sprinted through the arch just as Diane pulled back hard on the black nylon cord she’d tied to the opposite tree. It went tight, a foot above the ground. Nine struck it and tripped, falling forward on his forearms.

Fuck… it definitely works as intended, he thought.

A moment later Helen stormed through the arch and tripped over Nine, falling over and ahead of him.

“Shit!” Diane yelled, quickly getting to her feet.

Nine and Helen both got to their knees at the same time. She turned quickly and hissed at him, like a tiger getting ready to pounce.

“Ah… sorry about the trip… lady… Ma’am… whatever you are,” Nine slowly backed away on hands and knees. “Just… just take it easy. This has all been one big misunderstanding.”

The woman formerly known as Helen Gorman slowly crawled toward Nine. Her once long blond hair, now dark and damp with blood and dirt, hung over her face and down her tattered and soiled nightgown. Her face was a mask of mud and madness as her bloody teeth seemed to form a distorted smile. Her demoralizing hate-filled eyes dominated all else, making it hard for Nine to remember breathing.

The hideous witch-like monster lifted its scarecrow arms to reach in for him, the dark nails on her long fingers seeming like mini-daggers.

Nine raised his arms defensively. “Now… just hold on…”

Helen opened her mouth wide, a syrupy strand of crimson saliva dripped down her chin. She let loose an agonizing scream that made Nine want to crawl into a hole and die.

I’m so fucked, Nine thought.

Just as Helen thrusted forward for the kill, a black rope appeared around her neck. Diane pulled back and down on the cord with all her might, dragging the dead thing back and away from Nine. She continued to pull until the creature was suspended from a thick branch she thrown the rope over. Diane continued pull down on the rope as it struggled to get free of the noose, its feet dangling just a couple of inches off the ground.

Nine simply watched, awestruck by Diane’s overpowering of the creature.

“Get… off… your… ass… and… HELP ME!” she shouted at him.

“Fuck… right!” Nine got up and grabbed the end of the rope alongside Diane.

“Keep pulling!” she barked. “Don’t let that thing have any slack.”

Nine nodded.

Diane quickly took the end of the nylon cord and got beneath the creature’s swinging arms. She tied Helen’s feet together. “Now when I tell you to let go-”

“Let go? Are you sure?”

“Wait!”

Nine released the line causing the creature to fall over on its face.

Diane, who had just managed to get out of the way, shot Nine a murderous look.

“Sorry,” he mouthed.

The young hunter got up and kicked Helen’s rising arms out from under her as it tried to get up. She then got on the creature’s back to keep it down. She turned to Nine. “Pull the rope back until it’s tight, then run it through the slip knot I left binding its feet. Hurry! I don’t want these flailing arms anywhere near my skin.”

Nine did as instructed and then handed Diane what was left of the rope.

She carefully grabbed one of Helen’s boney wrists and brought her arm back. She quickly secured the hand with the rope. She then did the same to the other, being mindful of the monster’s infectious long nails. Once the creature’s hands were tied together, she quickly got up and moved away, struggling for breath. “Fucking thing’s ripe as hell,” she said, covering her mouth.

Nine looked at Diane’s handiwork. Helen’s hands, feet and neck were securely pinned behind the creature’s back. The more it struggled, the tighter its bindings became.

“Damn,” Nine said. “We did it!”

I did it,” she quickly corrected. “You almost got yourself killed! Why the hell didn’t you fucking jump!”

Nine looked away. “The count was wrong,” he mumbled.

“What was that?”

“I couldn’t jump on six… nothing good would have come out of it if I had.”

Diane raised her arms wide. “What the hell does that mean, Nine? Speak fucking English?”

“Doesn’t matter. Point is, the plan worked. We have our hostage.”

“And she fucking stinks! When we get back, I’ll be needing a two-hour shower… minimum.”

Nine watched as Diane removed his brother’s jacket, revealing a rare glimpse of her slender form contained within the tank top beneath. “Perhaps we could share that shower… you know… for the sake of water conservation and all.”

She glared at him.

“Never mind… just my nerves talking… I crack jokes after stressful situations. Unless, you think it’s a good idea… well, then-”

“Shut up.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Diane put Nine’s jacket back on to his displeasure, grabbed her gear and rifle, and then picked up what was left of the rope. “Now comes the hard labor. We still need to drag this thing upriver.”

Nine looked at Helen. The crazed beast continued to fight against its restraints. “That looks uncomfortable as hell.”

“I don’t think it cares. It’s dead.”

“Good point. Too bad we didn’t have a car. We could’ve just dragged her from the bumper.”

Diane sighed. “Unbelievable.” She held out the rope. “You gonna keep dreaming about me in my tank top, or are you going to help me drag her?”

“Well… considering the choices you’ve presented, I’m going to have to say-”

“Nine?”

“Yes, my angel?”

“Rope… now!”

Nine moved in beside her and grabbed the rope.

“I hope this plan works,” Diane said.

“It will,” Nine said. “It has to… right?”

She smiled half-heartedly. “Let’s go.”

~~~

Nine and Diane approached the cottage. The silence felt frightening, threatening to kill off they’re fragile hope like a noose around their necks as both of them expected the worst. They dragged Helen in front of the bad man’s van and Diane tied the end of the rope around one of the rear tires.

Diane held her rifle toward the dead woman, expecting the seemingly submissive thing to charge them at any moment. But Helen only stared at the hunter, her arms and legs still firmly secured behind her.

Nine, out of breath, quickly took in their surroundings, noticing Tony’s gear along with the hand-held radio laying in a pile on the front porch. “Tony’s inside,” he said. “God only knows what that maniac’s doing to them right now.” He turned toward Diane.

The hunter was becoming unnerved by the staring creature. “I wish it would stop that,” she whispered. “I feel like it’s sizing me up, trying to look for an advantage.”

“You give it too much credit,” Nine said coming over. He gazed into the creature’s eyes. “It just wants to eat you… same as all the rest.”

Helen turned her head toward Nine and continued to stare.

“Yeah… I know that look,” he said. “I have the same damn look when the pizza delivery guy shows up and pulls that steaming pie out of the-”

“Nine.”

“Yes.”

“Please shut up.”

Nine looked at her pleading face and nodded.

“Now what?” Diane said.

Nine cautiously walked back toward the porch and retrieved Tony’s gear and the radio. “He’s made this a lot easier for us with this.” He held up the hand-held and finished. “Now… we make contact and state our demands.”

Diane frowned. “You’ve seen one too many spy films. Nothing’s ever that easy.”

Nine swallowed hard. “Easy? Damn… I’m scared shitless right now. I’ve never seen anyone in those films about to wet themselves.”

“Thanks for sharing. Do you really think Gina’s dead?”

“I don’t know. Only one way to find out.” Nine took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and then hit the transmit button on the radio. “Attention, attention. To the fucking lunatic who has my friends and insists on broadcasting messages with the words ‘Waffle House’ in it, causing me to constantly crave pancakes I can’t have… stop what you’re doing and fucking listen.” He stopped transmitting for dramatic effect.

“Are you fucking serious?” Diane said. “All those movies and that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Sorry… I babble when I’m nervous.” He hit the transmit button again and spoke in a deeper voice, hoping to sound more threatening. “I have your zombie. You have exactly five minute to release my friends.”

Diane rolled her eyes and shook her head. “‘I have your zombie’? Really?” she whispered.

“Cut me some slack!” he hissed. He then continued to broadcast. “If I don’t see them both on the Sampson’s front porch, alive and well… I’m going to put a bullet in Helen’s head.”

Nine winced, releasing the transmit button. “I sounded ridiculous,” he scolded himself. “Was it enough?”

“If you were going for ‘let’s see if I can make him laugh himself to death’, then yes… you did wonderful.”

“You’re sarcasm isn’t making this any easier,” Nine snipped.

“Sorry… you babble… I bite. This fucking thing keeps eye-balling me like I’m a rare steak.”

Suddenly, the radio came to life. “I gave you and your woman a chance to run. If I were you, I would take a long look at the meat you love and try to imagine the skin stripped from her flesh, hanging from my stables. That’s what I’m going to do to her when I come up… and I’ll make you watch me do it. Last chance. Leave now, and you both may still make it out of here before I hunt you down.”

Nine was terrified. He transmitted with as much bravado as he could muster. “Time’s ticking asshole. Bring my friends up… now!”

The bad man did not respond.

Nine started pacing.

“What do we do?” Diane asked, nervously swinging her rifle from Helen to the cabin front windows. “He knows we’re here now and he’s armed. This isn’t going to work.”

Nine looked at Helen and then at Diane’s rifle. “You’re… you’re going to have to shoot it.”

“What? After we dragged this thing all the way up here?”

“Don’t kill it! I mean… you know… make it scream.” Nine held the radio up and nodded. “Wait for me to transmit. Three… Two… One… ”

Diane gave him a weary look and nodded. She aimed for the creature’s right leg and fired two silenced rounds into its flesh as Nine transmitted.

Neither of them knew if the dead could feel pain, but the rounds successfully roused the creature as it screamed at Diane and pulled so hard against its restraints that Diane backed up, believing it might break free. “Shit!” she said. “I liked her better before.”

The dead thing’s glare was as penetrating as a bloody set of teeth. She’d never seen so much hatred… in anything… directed toward her.

“If you hurt her… there’s no end to the suffering I will put you through,” came the bad man’s reply, sending chills up Nine’s spine.

“He sounded scared! I could hear it in his voice,” Nine said.

Diane nodded, keeping the scope of her rifle on Helen’s forehead. “Just get on with it… and hurry.”

Nine transmitted. “No more bullshit. Get out here, or we kill Helen. Final warning.”

After another long pause, the bad man responded. “I’m coming up. Just… just leave her alone.”

“Get ready,” Nine told Diane. He retrieved the handgun she’d given him, moved just behind the dead things legs, and then held the gun aimed at Helen’s head. He squatted down trying to use as much of the zombie’s body as cover.

Diane took her cue, and got into the prone position behind the van, exposing just enough of herself to cover the front porch and windows of the cottage. “Don’t get too close to that thing,” she cautioned. “It’s clever if nothing else.”

Nine nodded.

A few minutes later, the front door of the cabin burst open.

Tony came out, wearing only his pants. Gina’s arm was around his shoulder as he helped her walk out onto the porch. They both looked terrible. Gina’s leg looked like some wild animal had torn it up.

The bad man, anticipating a trap, was crouched down behind them, using his captives as cover. He stopped them at the edge of the porch.

“I don’t have a clear shot,” Diane said in frustration.

“Understand. So much for plan A.” Nine yelled over to the porch. “Alright… we see you back there! Step out into the open or I waste this bitch!”

“Drop your weapons,” the bad man said. “If you don’t, I’ll kill one of them right now!”

Nine refused to budge. “Don’t do it! If you care about this… woman… then let my friends go! We’ll all just walk away and never come back!”

“I mean it!” The bad man yelled. “I only need one of them!”

Tony shouted, “Nine… Diane… if this fucker shoots either one of us… you kill Helen immediately… no matter what!”

“Understood!” Diane yelled back, making sure the bad man could see her rifle aimed toward the porch.

The bad man pressed the barrel of his rifle into Tony’s back. He could see Helen bound like an animal with the young meat holding a gun to her head. He could also see the woman with the rifle trying to get a clear shot. He was in agony. Part of him, the man trapped within the monster, wanted to simply run out to Helen and keep her safe, but the madness dominated him. The creature who Walter had become wanted to tear into his hostages’ flesh and rip them apart with his teeth… feeding the ravenous hunger… even if it meant his and Helen’s immediate death.

Tony felt the warning nudge of the rifle. He looked over at Gina. She was in great pain, but the anger behind her eyes kept her from acknowledging her condition. She needed to get her leg tended to before she lost any more blood. He looked out at Nine and Diane and smiled. Should have known that if you wanted today’s youth to do what they’re told, you have to tell them the opposite. His eyes connected with the yellow-eyed savage, who seemed to calm down considerably when it noticed him. You poor woman. All you wanted to do was help me… and now all this.

Tony spoke softly over his shoulder. “Walter, are you still in there?”

The bad man said nothing.

“You know now what you did,” Tony pressed. “You know what you did to Helen. Look at her. Is this what you want? Hasn’t she been through enough?”

“I did everything for her. EVERYTHING!” The bad man was losing it. “Of course I don’t want this! I want her to be happy. I want… what’s best for my Helen. She… she needs me now more than she ever did. I take care of her… I make the pain go away when she screams and screams and fucking screams for the blood! I feed her and it all goes away. That’s all I ever wanted.”

“Then fight it,” Tony said. “Fight the madness and do right by your wife. This can all end right now if you surrender peacefully. No one else has to get hurt.”

Gina gave him a puzzled look.

“Bullshit!” The bad man fought back. “There’s nothing but the blood now. I can’t… I can’t stop it! Best thing to do is just… just give it what it wants.”

“Then your wife will die,” Tony said. “She’ll die like a pig all tied up, lying face down in the dirt with a bullet through her brain. No one to mourn her. No one to bury her. No one to remember her.” He looked at the pitiful creature and finished. “She saved my life, Walter. Believe me, I hate to see her like this. Just let us go and I give you my word that I’ll let the two of you leave. You can find a new place to live, and take care of her.”

The bad man remained silent.

Tony looked to Gina. She was frowning at him with a look of confusion, fire, and hatred all rolled together plastered upon her face. My God, even now, her anger consumes all else. He had to keep trying. “Walter, are you still there?”

“Yes… yes.”

“She needs you, Walter. Who else will care for her if you’re gone? No one will understand. They’ll just see another monster and shoot her down. But they don’t see… they don’t know what we know.”

“What do we know?”

“We know that this poor woman is Helen Gorman, and she deserves better than this.”

“Yes… she does.”

“If she can forgive you for what you did to her, Walter, and I assume she still remembers you because in all this time since she escaped, she hasn’t come back to kill you, then I can forgive you, too. For Helen’s sake.”

“For Helen?”

“That’s right…for Helen.”

Silence.

“I think you know what to do, Walter. Please… don’t make Helen suffer any more. She’s had enough.”

“She… she needs me,” Walter said. “She needs me to… let you go. She’s always had a soft spot for you… Tony. Even after she… changed. I could tell. I could always tell that you were… special to her. I just couldn’t remember why. There’s so many things… I couldn’t remember.”

We might still get out of this, Tony thought.

“This is all my fault,” Walter said, lowering the rifle.

Tony heard Walter drop the gun. He turned toward Nine and Diane and shouted. “Lower the weapons. It’s over.”

Diane and Nine exchanged confused looks.

“I’m walking away now, Walter. Just… let me fix this.” Tony started moving Gina off the porch, half expecting to hear the sound of a gun followed by their deaths. Nothing happened.

The bad man sat down on the front porch steps, and rested his arms on his knees. He was staring at Helen, already forgetting about Tony and the others. When Helen met his gaze, he put his mangled face into his hands and began to weep. “I’m sorry… I’m so very sorry…”

Diane was tempted to take the shot.

“No!” Tony said. “It’s over, Diane. Help me with Gina.”

“What are you fucking doing?” Gina asked. “After everything he did… you’re going to just let him live?” She tried to break free from Tony but was surprised at how weak she felt. The blood loss was taking its toll.

“Gina, you need to let me handle this now,” Tony said.

She turned away in disgust.

Nine and Diane came over and grabbed Gina’s arms. Tony let them have her and gave them both a grateful look. “Next time I tell you to do something-”

“Sorry, Tony,” Nine chimed in. “You can’t be the hero all the damn time.”

“That’s right,” Diane said. “We just saved the fucking day.” She added a wink and a smile.

Tony laughed and ruffled the hair on both their heads. “Take her in the house and look for a first-aid kit–anything to stop the bleeding and patch up her leg” he advised them.

They nodded and started back toward the porch. Gina spit on the bad man as they passed.

Walter didn’t flinch.

When they reached the door, Nine turned when Tony didn’t follow. “You coming?”

“Just get her inside. I’ve got this. We have things to discuss.”

Nine nodded and they went into the house.

Tony retrieved Walter’s rifle and stopped. He no longer saw a monster, just a broken man being consumed by something stronger than the blood lust: his guilt.

He looked toward the van and then to Helen. Tony turned back to Walter and said, “I should kill you, promise or not, I should shoot you down right here and now.”

Walter looked up, shielding his sensitive, water streaked eyes from the sun. “I’m already damned, in more ways the one, slowly dying from the inside out. If my death means something for you, than have at it. You’d only be doing me a favor. Nothing’s worse than this… not even death.”

Tony looked back at Helen. Just as she seemed to recognize him in the woods, she also appeared to recognize her husband. I don’t know what all this means, but it can’t be good for whoever’s left of the living, Tony thought. But he would think about this another day. For now, he had to finish what he started.

Tony walked over to the dead thing and crouched down in front of her. “I don’t know if you can understand me, Helen. I don’t pretend to even understand how you’re still functioning in that dead body. But, part of me believes that you remember… maybe just a little bit. You might not remember me the way your old self used to, but still, there’s something there behind those hate-filled eyes that registers who I am to you.”

Helen stared at him, a blank expression on her dead face. Her eyes clearly spoke volumes, those eyes that demanded Tony’s blood all over her face as something foreign was barely holding back the beast from consuming flesh and blood and bone.

“Maybe that’s it,” Tony said. “Maybe the fact that I know you see me as something other than food right now, is all there is. Maybe you don’t even understand it. But it tells me that there has to be something of Helen Gorman still there, even if it’s just an impulse not to kill.” He stood up and located his gear. Tony went to his pack and retrieved his handgun with the silencer and a knife. He walked back to Helen and said, “I’m going to do something really stupid right now. When I do, I’m going to hope that I’m not wrong. But just in case I am, I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life that night. You didn’t have to stop. You could’ve just left me on the side of the road to die. But you didn’t. And it cost you everything. For that, I am grateful… and I’m truly sorry this happened to you.” Tony wiped a tear from his eye.

The dead thing continued to stare.

Tony went behind her, took a deep breath, and then cut the cord binding her legs to her neck which also freed her hands.

The yellow-eyed beast immediately struggled to its feet as Tony backed up, gun raised.

Helen turned to charge, but then stopped, locking eyes with Tony.

Walter was also up on his feet. “Don’t hurt her!” he pleaded. “You promised!”

Helen heard Walter’s voice and whipped her head around toward him. She hissed at him and then stormed toward Walter. Just when it looked like she was about to attack, she stopped right in front of him and stared into the familiar madness she found in his eyes.

Walter had his hands up. He lowered them and smiled. “You… you remember, don’t you, my love?”

The monster did not respond. She was panting heavily as if struggling with some inner turmoil that prevented her from slaughtering anything with a pulse.

Tony cautiously approached, his gun held much lower as to not appear threatening.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked Walter. “Does she… remember you?”

Walter smiled. “That night you escaped, she could’ve devoured me, but she didn’t. I’d lied to myself and said that she’d done it before… and that she’d infected me. The lie made me stupid… overconfident. She let me live after she attacked, after she tasted my flesh… and remembered me.”

Tony was stunned to silence as he watched Helen stare into Walter’s eyes as if caught in a trance she couldn’t comprehend.

“Now I understand,” Walter continued. “I did the same thing when I attacked her. I was able to stop myself from consuming my Helen because I tasted her and remembered.”

“So… are you saying there’s something in our blood that triggers… familiarity?”

“Yes… there has to be,” Walter said. “Something that made her stop because, on some level, she recognized me as her husband.”

“And she let you feed her,” Tony finished, remembering who the real monster standing before him was.

“Yes,” Walter said with a fond smile. “For the first time, Helen needed me to take care of her. So I did. And in her own special way, she has loved me ever since.”

Tony looked at his feet. “You murder people and feed them to your dead wife. How is this love?”

Walter turned to him. “What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?” He looked back at the zombie. “Just look at her! See how she resists the almost overwhelming desire to kill? What else could stop something like that, if not love?”

“You’re fucking sick,” Tony said. “That’s the madness inside of you talking.”

“Maybe,” Walter conceded. “But it’s what we have left… what we share in common.”

“The blood lust?”

“Love.”

“I promised I’d let you both leave,” Tony said. “But that doesn’t get you off the hook.”

“What does that mean?”

Tony looked to Helen. “Your fate’s in her hands now.”

Before Walter could inquire further, Tony reached into his back pocket and retrieved the city photograph of Helen and Brian. He unfolded it and held it up in front of Helen.

“What are you doing?” Walter asked with fear in his voice.

Tony ignored him. The yellow-eyed beast stared at the photo. “Remember, Helen,” Tony said. “Whatever part of you that can… remember everything that this monster in front of you did.”

Helen raised her eyes and met Tony’s sad expression.

For a moment, Tony swore he saw a hint of recognition and horror strike that pale, dead face.

Helen turned to Walter and screamed in his face.

“Now… wait, my love!” Walter started backing up. “I know what I did to you… but… we’re passed that now!”

Tony slowly backed away.

Before the bad man could speak another word, Helen pounced on top of him, knocking him to the ground. She immediately leaned in and tore the other side of his face off with her teeth.

The bad man began screaming as Tony turned away, unable to stomach the gruesome sight.

Diane and Nine ran out on to the porch.

“What the hell?” Nine said, stunned by the bloody mess that was once Walter Gorman.

Diane lowered her rifle with a smile. “That’s my girl,” she whispered.

Helen continued to feed on her former maniac husband, oblivious to everyone else, covered in Walter’s blood.

Tony cautiously walked over with his gun raised to the back of Helen’s head. “I promised I would let you leave,” he told her. “You’ve been a prisoner long enough.”

Helen turned and howled at Tony, all recognition absent from her savage glare as the blood lust consumed her.

Tony sighed and then fired one round into her forehead.

Helen fell still atop the unrecognizable pile that was her husband.

The big man lowered the gun as his shoulders sank. He felt a wave of deep sadness strike him as tears fell freely from his eyes. “Now… you’re free, Helen,” he whispered. “Now you’re finally free.”

Gina had watched everything play out from the living room window. Her face was an expressionless mask.

Diane and Nine came over.

“You okay, Tony?” Nine asked.

Tony smiled at them through tears. “We came all the way out here to free prisoners. That sonofabitch held Helen in captivity longer than the rest of us.” He looked at the dead woman, finally at rest. “Mission accomplished.”

~~~

They located the bad man’s van keys. Diane drove while Nine sat shotgun to help navigate. Tony sat beside Gina in the back of the van as they tried to make her as comfortable as possible. They’d managed to stop the bleeding in her leg but she had developed a fever, falling in and out of consciousness–her body working overtime to fight off an infection.

After finding a main road, they headed south, weaving around stranded vehicles. They were fortunate that the road remained clear enough for most of the drive toward the western border of the Wasteland. From there, they would have to hike in on foot.

Diane ran over a long deteriorated dead-head which felt like hitting a pothole to Tony. He yelled over his shoulder, “Take it easy up there!”

“All my fault, Tony,” Nine called back. “I forgot to tell this crazy hunter chick that we weren’t trying to hit the damn dead things on purpose. She may be able to shoot, but she drives like shit.”

Diane gave him the finger.

“Promises… promises…” Nine mumbled, which earned him a punch to the shoulder.

“Sorry, Tony,” Diane added. “I’ll drive around it next time.”

Tony looked back down at Gina.

Her eyes were wide open.

“How you feeling?” he asked.

“Better. Where are we?”

Tony scratched his messy hair. “Maybe half-way back to the western woods.”

She nodded.

Tony looked toward the back of the van, struggling to find something to say.

“Just spit it out,” she said. “What’s the problem?”

He frowned. “I’m glad you’re alright, Gina. But you bailed on us. What the hell were you thinking?”

Gina turned away. “You know what I was thinking.”

“I think you damn near got us both killed with your recklessness.”

She turned back. “It was my call and I made it. I chose to protect you and Diane… but I had no idea what I was getting into. I see that now. I fucked up.”

“Together, Gina. That was the deal. We fight together and that’s how we get to go home.”

She didn’t respond.

Tony wasn’t finished. “You put everyone at risk. You’re supposed to lead us, not fucking lie to us.”

Gina felt the sting. “You were playing right into that maniac’s hands,” she defended. “If I hadn’t made another play, he would’ve had you in the basement instead of me, demanding your life for Nine’s. I wasn’t going to allow that.”

Tony let the matter go before his anger level rose any higher.

“Speaking of plays,” she said, attempting to change the subject. “I saw how you handled things outside, how you turned Helen into a weapon against him. That was gutsy… and a little stupid… but it worked. I imagine that was very satisfying.”

Tony gave her a puzzled look. “‘Satisfying’?”

“You know… letting Helen get a little payback, too. After carrying around that horrible experience all this time, after what the both of you experienced, I bet that felt good. Seeing that asshole get what was coming… and from his own wife, not that’s perfect.”

“I didn’t do it for ‘payback’, Gina. I gave Helen a choice and helped her remember what that sick man did. Honestly, I didn’t know what she would do, or if she’d even remember… but she did. I think justice is a better word here.”

“Justice, revenge, whatever… I’m just glad she gave that asshole what he deserved.”

“And if she had chosen to let him go, even after I showed her the picture, what would you have thought then?”

It was Gina’s turn to look confused. “‘Let him go’? Seriously? That never would’ve happened. I would’ve shot them both down before I let them walk out of here. That’s why I’m glad it all worked out.”

Tony turned away again. Her words reminded him of the memory he’d had earlier. “I wonder what we deserve?”

“What was that?”

“Never mind.”

“We’ll need to destroy Megan now,” Gina said. “I don’t care what Meredith is trying to do… that thing cannot be allowed to exist.”

“Megan’s no threat to anyone. Meredith and Dr. Cooper are always careful.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Gina said. “Those silver-eyed half-deads can infect the living… they can bring back The Change all over again with just a single bite. We’d never considered this before because it’s never happened. Usually those sick fucks just eat the living, go crazy and die, or pretend they’re still human for a while. But now we know how dangerous they really are. Megan can’t be allowed-”

“What do you want to do?” Tony interrupted. “Do you want to escort her into the woods and just put her down like a dog?” His tone was harsher than intended.

“What are you getting at?” she bit back. “Sounds like you’re mad at me for something else now.”

He tried to calm down, but now he was hearing Walter’s words in his head:

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

“Go on,” she pushed. “What are you so pissed about?”

He looked her dead in the eyes and said, “Tell me again what you told me that night after the first storm. Tell me what happened when you walked those two men out into the cold and then came back alone.”

Gina retreated immediately. Her shields went up. “Why are you bringing that up… now? We’ve already talked about it, and you know it still bothers me.”

“You let them go… right? They wanted to come back, but you made them keep going?”

She nodded, a terrifying look surfaced on her face.

“And that’s it?” Tony challenged.

“I don’t want to talk about this right now,” she said. “We’ve got more than enough things to worry about-”

“Just tell me what you told me then. Is that so damn hard to do now?”

Gina was shocked and deeply hurt by his words. How long has he been holding on to this? she wondered. Gina took a deep breath and said, “Like I told you before, I watched them disappear into the snowstorm, watched them head west until I couldn’t stand the cold any longer. Then I turned around and came back. You know I feel bad about leaving them out there, but I couldn’t bring them back… not after what they did to that girl.”

Tony shook his head. “What they did was wrong, Gina. No one questions that. That poor girl got in the way trying to keep the peace, and then got stabbed. But those men were remorseful.”

“So now you question my decision to kick them out. Is that it? Why now? Why bring this up after all this time?”

Tony looked away.

Gina sighed. “What are you holding back, Tony?”

He closed his eyes and thought of those damning words again:

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

“You’re right,” he finally said. “Now’s not the time. I’m sorry I brought it up. I’m just… really tired right now.”

She didn’t believe him but was more than eager to let the matter rest. “You will talk to me, later… right?”

He nodded with a smile. “Sure. I’m just glad you’re alright. It’s been a rough mission.”

Gina frowned and thought of the others who hadn’t made it. “Marcus has saved my life so many times…” She started to softly weep.

Tony lied down next to her and held her close.

“I’m tired of all this death, Tony. So fucking tired,” she said.

“I know. We all are.”

“I’m really starting to believe there’s nothing else,” she confessed. “And the only thing I’m getting really good at is accelerating the process…”

He chose to let her strange comment go as Gina fell back to sleep.

Tony’s thoughts drifted back to the night after the first winter storm…

~~~

THEN:

…His exhausted mind started to wander as Tony felt a sudden chill travel up his spine after considering how deep the snow was… and how anything could be hiding beneath it. He imagined a horde of the rotting dead buried beneath the ice, stirring, as Tony’s feet sunk deep enough for frozen limbs to reach up and grab him. He purposefully increased his speed.

Tony heard the sound of the river, muffled by layers of ice above it, as it continued to flow, not yet cold enough for winter to claim its vitality.

He was almost there.

Just before he cleared the last of the frozen forest on his side of the river, Tony abruptly stopped and gasped, feeling all the blood leave his face.

Sticking up out of the snow were two frozen distorted limbs, their black and blue hands permanently reaching out for him. For a second, he swore those hands were moving.

“Oh no,” he whispered. He walked toward the hand statues. When he was certain that whoever it was had not reanimated, Tony bent down and began digging up the snow around those hands.

When he revealed their frozen faces, Tony fell back and put his hands over his mouth.

Brannigan and Tyler’s faces were locked in horrific poses, their eyes wide open, their foreheads clearly revealing how they died. Tony couldn’t stop staring at the dark bullet wounds as he tried to deny what those heinous marks meant.

He forced himself to his feet and headed back toward the compound, his mind was already racing around a desperate plan which involved returning with a shovel, and the time required to relocate the bodies.

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

~~~

Next Episode 35-1

Previous Episode 34-5

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-6: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.