Posts Tagged ‘After the Dark’


“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.


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 47 chapters of Don’t Feed The Dark, as well as the most recent spin-off stories, The Scientist, the Salesman, and the Serpent, and Elsewhere, I strongly suggest that you don’t continue on with us until after you’ve caught up. Consider yourself warned.”

John stands up and addresses the crowd. “Welcome back ladies and gentlemen! It’s been a long while since our last episode and it’s great to be back!”

(The audience stands and applauds enthusiastically.)

“So much has happened in these first five books. I hardly know where to begin,” John says. “Let’s just start by bringing back one of our favorite guests… an original cast member who’s been with us for a very long time. Please, welcome once more, our own apocalyptic psychic-to-the-stars, Meredith Montgomery!”

(Meredith enters wearing a dark green sundress with blue flowers, her long dark hair with a few streaks of grey tied back into a tall bun atop her head. The crowd roars with delight as the older cast member blows them kisses and takes a seat next to John.)

John shakes his head and tries to calm the crowd. He turns to his guest and says, “I see your fans are still happy to see you around, young lady,” John teases. “Welcome back, Meredith.”

“Thank you, John. It’s good to be back.” Meredith crosses her legs and places her hands in her lap.

(The audience sits down and gets quiet.)

“Well, we have a lot of time to make up for, so… let’s get to it,” John says, picking up his note cards.

Meredith takes a sip of water from a glass placed on a low table beside her, and then nods. “Please… ask away. I’ll try to tell you what I can.”

“Let’s start with the obvious question. How are you fairing after the unfortunate departure of Doctor Cooper? And let me be the first to say, I believe many of us were upset that he didn’t make it. You know, we were all rooting for you two.”

(The audience claps to show their agreement.)

Meredith nods to the crowd and smiles. She turns back to John. “Thank you. Thank you all so much for your support. Yes… Coop’s death was a heavy blow, one that I’ll have a difficult time overcoming in the days ahead. He was such… he was such an incredible, wonderful man. When no one else was in my corner, he was always there.”

(The crowd falls silent.)

“Indeed,” John agrees. “I thought he was an excellent character added to the cast and I’m grateful that we had an opportunity to find out more about him after all of you relocated beneath the Wastelands for the long haul. Can you tell us what the good doctor’s death will mean for Meredith now? Will she be able to continue as the same woman we’ve come to love and cherish?”

Meredith lowers her head and stares toward the floor. “Let me just say that Coop’s death will have a permanent effect on me now. In some ways, he will always be with me as a constant source of strength. In other ways, his absence will be felt so deeply that I might question continuing on in this damaged world without him. Time will tell what the long-term effect will be. In the short term… it’s going to be a struggle.”

John nods patiently, then reaches over and places his hand on hers. “Well, we’re all with you, Meredith. It sucks that you two didn’t get to be together. I think your relationship with Cooper was a refreshing relief and a bit of light in a very dark place. Me will miss him.”

(The audience stands and respectfully applauds. Some, openly weep or nod to show their support.)

Meredith, overcome by the crowds’ emotions and support, begins to tear up. She quickly wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and nods appreciatively toward them. She turns to John. “They’re absolutely wonderful, too, aren’t they?” she teases.

(The crowd laughs. They slowly take their seats.)

“So, let’s move away from this subject, for everyone’s sake, before we run out of Kleenex,” John says with a smile.

Meredith laughs lightly and composes herself. “Alright, John. That sounds splendid.”

John leans back, pauses, then says, “Okay, since we last heard from you during the Shadow Dead attack at the beginning of Book Five, there’s been some interesting developments.”

Meredith eyes go wide in mock surprise. She smiles, rests her chin on her hands, leans in, and says, “Really? Do tell.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Apparently,” John says, smiling back, “you’ve been at the center of all this ‘Mother’ business for a good while. You… and that Candice Forrester doctor who took a keen interest in you back during your brief ‘orphanage’ stay.”

“You know… it’s not really an orphanage.”

“Got it. Been there. Done that. Let’s move on.” John adds a wink.

(The audience laughs.)

John continues, “So, we’ve discovered a bit more about your old scary friend, Clementine, at the back end of Book Five… and now we’ve got two additional spin-off stories that shed a little more light on the past. Can you connect any of these dots for us?”

Meredith leans back in her chair and lets out a heavy sigh. “Okay, I’ll give you the abridged version of events so far in chronological order: Back in the Spring of 1970, Mother approached Dr. Forrester due to her breakthrough research related to a sleep study she was conducting, or at least, that was what the grant money was for. As it turned out, she was actually trying to bring back her brain-dead brother, Toby, through her research, believing she’d uncovered the key to reaching into the minds of the clinically ‘dead’ and retrieving them through a sort of dream state. She believed that our identity was being stored on a ‘back-up’, somewhere in the part of our minds that house dreams… and that she’d found a way to tap into that place. The rest… well, that’s way over my head. Anyway, Mother, with an entirely different agenda, and a project of their own that dates back a few years prior to meeting with Forrester and Finch, needed Candice’s research to further their own.”

“Fascinating,” John says. He turns to the crowd. “And this we learned in the spin-off story, The Scientist, the Salesman, and the Serpent.”

Meredith nods her head. “So Forrester and Finch took Mother’s offer, relocated to the orphanage, where they had been for three years until little old me showed up in the Summer of ’73.”

“And that’s were the Dead Dolls chapter from Book Four starts, right?”

“Correct. Well, we know how that went down. I was led to Candice’s secret lab in the basement, drugged, and then inserted into the Mother/Forrester collaborative project, which we’ll discover more about in Book Six.”

“And at this point,” John injects, “the girls had no idea what happened to you until Clementine saw Michael Finch attempting to smuggle Meredith away from the orphanage in the Fall of that same year.”

Meredith nods. “And that’s where the rest of Clementine’s story picks up. She challenged Finch, who resisted… and it ended very badly for him, as well as the rest of the orphan girls who decided to intervene.”

“And this results in the capture and imprisonment of Clementine,” John adds, “as well as the end of the orphanage project. Meredith is relocated to the island facility, as well as the four brain-dead patients, and she’s thrown back into the experiments.”

“That’s right,” Meredith says. “And that’s where the final spin-off story, Elsewhere, sits in the timeline. It’s now the Winter of 1974, a year after the orphanage is shut down. Forrester has lost control of the project and had discovered that Mother’s agenda runs contrary to her own. That story picks up at the tail end of everything going very wrong. She decided to help Meredith escape, which is a guaranteed death sentence for Forrester. And the strange events that occur near the end of the story are how I broke free from Mother, or so it seemed at the time.”

John shakes his head in bewilderment. “Now… let’s talk about that.”

Meredith laughs. “I had a feeling you might want to discuss it.”

“Let’s start with the girl, the fifth brain-dead patient, the one you and Finch kept secret. What the hell happened?”

Meredith nods. “Her name was Michelle. Michael was instrumental in the arrangements of keeping this mystery patient quiet from Mother during his recruiting periods at the orphanage. I believe Michelle was initially the ‘back-up’ plan if Mother intended to steal Candice’s research. As it turned out, this dead girl also became my escape from Mother.”

“Yes, let’s talk more about this ‘back-up plan’,” John says.

Meredith closes her eyes and sighs. “My mother used to use this expression, ‘putting the cookies on the bottom shelf’. Are you familiar with that?”

“I believe so,” John says. “It’s what people say right before they’re about to explain something complicated and over-the-head.”

“That’s right, John. She’d put the cookies within reach so I could understand something enough to get the meaning. So, that’s what I’m going to do, now.”

John laughs and turns to the audience. “All I know is that I’m suddenly hungry… and all I want is chocolate-chip cookies.”

(The audience laughs.)

Meredith laughs. “Okay. I’m only going to say this once… and before you ask… I’m not going to elaborate any further. Got it?”

John shakes his head and laughs. “Probably not. But please… proceed.”

“The organization we’ve come to know as Mother discovered something… something very old, and very, very dangerous. They discovered the ‘Where’ and they desperately needed a way to reach ‘it’. Dr. Forrester, discovered the ‘How’. And then there’s little old me… who turned out to be the ‘Who’. Dr. Forrester was attempting to reach her brother. Mother was attempting to reach someone else entirely. So… Forrester established a bridge between myself and-”

John points a finger at her and exclaims excitedly, “Toby!”

Meredith smiles. “At some point, Forrester realized that the bridge she established led to somewhere else entirely, somewhere very frightening… but Mother knew exactly where that bridge led. This is what triggers Doctor Forrester into implementing the secondary bridge, or link, between myself and the brain-dead Michelle, a girl roughly my own age at the time, that we read about at the end of that second spin-off story.”

John slaps his forehead. “Okay, so if I’m understanding this correctly, what you’re telling me is that you essentially became Michelle? That the woman we’re all staring at today is not really Meredith… but Michelle?”

“Physically, I am Michelle, but on the inside, I’m still me. I’ve adapted the appearance of this shell over time to resemble the girl I once was… a change in clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms… but after spending most of my life, in this body, I’ve come to accept that Michelle is what I look like, since I’ve looked like her a lot longer than I looked like me… are you following all this?”

(John is dumbfounded. He looks to the crowd and they are equally stunned.)

“So… you’ve literally been having an out-of-body experience since you were a teen, does that about sum it up?”

Meredith laughs. “That’s a funny way to put it… but in a way… you’re partially correct.

John shakes his head. “That is… well… that’s new.”

(The crowd laughs.)

“We should probably move on. We’re getting to that point where I can’t tell you anything else,” Meredith says with a wink. “Less might be more in this particular instance.”

John laughs. “This is crazy. But… I suppose we’ll find out more about you, or Michelle, or… whoever you are when we jump into Book Six.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Meredith agrees.

“This… place… that Mother has discovered, does it have anything to do with the apocalyptic situation our survivors find themselves in?”

“Yes,” Meredith says.

“And that’s it? That’s all you’re going to say?” John says.

“That’s all I’m going to say,” Meredith adds with a wink.

John shakes his head. “Of course.”

(The audience laughs.)

“What I can add,” Meredith says, “is that Book Six will delve much deeper into all this strangeness, including what happened to me once that bridge between my old self and Toby was established. And I will also add that when my character discovers this for herself, since much of that time period has been hidden from her own memories, it’s going to be quite a shock… for everyone.”

“Now that’s a damn teaser if I ever heard one,” John says.

(The audience laughs and nods in agreement.)

“So, let’s move on before my head explodes,” John says. “Can you tell us what else we can expect from Book Six?”

Meredith considers the question for a moment, then says, “The first arc is aptly titled ‘Revelations’. I think that speaks for itself. Myself, Stephen, Logan and Megan will be discovering all sorts of frightening things as we move forward beyond the mystery door into the heart of some of the disturbing events that have been occurring, both presently and in the past, that have contributed to the state of our deadly new world. I can’t speak for what happens in the next two arcs, but this one will connect a lot of events that we’ve previously read about throughout this series. That’s vague, I know, but that’s all I can say.”

“What about the premiere? Is there anything you can tell us about the first chapter? What can we expect from the first few episodes?”

Meredith laughs. “Well… it is a Halloween premiere. I think this first chapter is perfectly suited for it. We’re going to be dealing with quite a few ghosts right away.”

John’s eyes go wide. “Now… are we speaking literally or figuratively here?”

Meredith takes a sip from her glass and remains silent.

John shakes his head and turns toward the audience. “And I guess that’s our answer, folks.”

(The audience laughs.)

John turns back to Meredith. “Well, that’s it for time. I want to thank you for joining us once again, Meredith. We all look forward to reading what happens next.”

“Thanks for having me,” Meredith says.

John stands. “How about a hand for her, ladies and gentlemen.”

(The crowd stands and applauds.)

“As a final reminder, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother begins in just two short days for the Halloween premiere. I’m looking forward to it as I know all of you are, as well. Again, if anyone has any questions in regards to tonight’s topics or any other DFTD questions, please feel free to ask away and we’ll try to answer what we can. Also, I want to point out once more that after the premiere, DFTD will now be posted once a week on Wednesdays until the end of the year. Until then, I look forward to seeing all of you as we embark on another terrifying journey into The Dark! See you soon!”


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,



“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.


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 39 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, hands raised, before the studio audience as the crowd applauds excitedly. “Now… how the hell was that for a premiere chapter? That was some crazy shit!”

(The audience roars their approval.)

“We’ve just finished the first chapter and already… death and mayhem abound!” John continues. “Were any of you as much on edge as I was during these first six episodes?”

(The crowd voices their agreement.)

“Well… we’ve got a whole lot to discuss this episode. So, let’s get started! Ladies and Gents, please put your hands together for returning special guest, Tony Marcuchi!”

Tony walks in to a warm reception as he waves and smiles at the audience before sitting down with John.

“Welcome back, Tony,” John begins. “It’s good to see that you’re still alive and kicking… although your damn name listed on the obituary says otherwise.”

Tony laughs. “Yeah… I’m glad to still be a ‘living’ guest on your show, for as long as I’m allowed.”

“We’re glad you’re back, Tony. And thanks for sitting with us once more.”

“Thanks for having me.”

John settles in. “So, speaking of that list. What the hell was that all about, anyway? I think many of us were under the impression from the very beginning, that all of you were already dead.”

Tony nods. “I can see how this chapter’s presentation would make the readers think so. I believe that the author wanted to create an immediate reaction by starting off with the reading of an obituary, listing all our names, as if everything that followed the opening paragraphs was just a flashback showing how we all died. But as we’ve just discovered, the list is not accurate… some of us survived the Shadow Dead attack.”

“So… was the gathering in the opening paragraphs near the broken waterfall actually a glimpse into the future, then? And if so, who was giving the eulogy? And who were these people?”

Tony shrugs his shoulders. “That’s out of my range of knowledge. Sorry… I just work here.”

(The audience laughs.)

John shakes his head. “Why am I not surprised by your response? I should know better by now.”

“You had to try,” Tony encourages with a smile.

John laughs. “Okay… you can’t tell us anything about that strange future encounter… if that’s what it was. Can we expect to find out more about that opening moment later on in the story.”

Tony looks like he’s about to deny an answer, laughs, and then says, “Ooh… I’m allowed to answer that one. Yes. We will find out more about that moment later.”

“Now… do you mean ‘same book’ later… or ‘several books’ later?”

(The audience laughs.)

Tony smiles and nods. “We’ll find out about that mystery eulogy later on in this book… I promise. But that’s all I can say.”

“Fair enough.” John sits back and takes a deep breath. “Okay, so, obviously you all just had your asses handed to you by the Shadow Dead. I think it’s clear at this point that they could’ve seized the compound any time they wished. So why now? What’s the motivation behind this sudden attack? And was this mysterious Toby character floating around in Meredith’s mind responsible for it all?”

Tony sits back and sighs. “If I had to guess, I would say that the powers-to-be got tired of sitting around waiting for Meredith to do what she was supposed to do… so they forced her hand.”

“You’re talking about Mother and the mystery door, right?”

Tony nods. “Yes. It’s always been strange that Meredith had access to this facility to begin with. I would guess that she was permitted to enter the compound at the end of Book Three, perhaps even by this mysterious ‘Toby’ character, with the sole purpose of using the underground facility to further Mother’s objectives. Once those objectives were met, they used the attack to force Meredith into a life or death choice, resulting in getting her exactly where they wanted her.”

John nods. “So, the attack was all about Meredith? I think this is the first time since learning about Toby from Meredith’s flashback story at the orphanage in Book Four, that we can connect him directly to Mother. Can you elaborate on this at all?”

“Hell no” Tony says.

(The audience laughs.)

“But I can say that we will start seeing more and more connections to Mother as this series draws closer to conclusion,” Tony continues. “As far as the attack, I think the rest of us were just a means-to-an-end, but putting Meredith on the other side of that door was the real objective.”

“What a mind fuck that’s going to be when Meredith realizes how badly she was played,” John says. “So, Meredith, Stephen, Logan and Megan end up on the other side of that door. Can you tell us what’s down there?”

Tony smiles. “You know I can’t.”

“Shit… well… of course you can’t.”

(The crowd laughs.)

Tony nods. “But I will add that the author originally debated on stopping what happened inside the compound long before the others made it to the door, surrounded and trapped in that hallway, and leaving the readers to wonder if anyone else did make it out alive. In the end, the author decided to give us some hope for those characters by extending the scenes just beyond some of them making it through the door… but no further.”

“So when can we expect to hear from Meredith and the others again and can we assume that Gina and Marcus made it safely away before the attack?”

Tony nods. “Yes, Gina and Marcus were long gone before the attack. But that’s all I can tell you about that, so don’t bother asking.” Tony pauses, and then adds, “But we will return to them in the next story arc to find out what happened after Marcus started hunting Gina down.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” John says. “And the others behind the door?”

Tony smiles and shakes his head. “Sorry… I’ve no information available to tell you.”

“Shit,” John says and shakes his head at the audience.

(The audience laughs.)

“So,” John continues, “it looks like our characters have now been divided up in three different directions. Is there anything you can tell us about when they might reconnect again?”

“John, I can’t even tell you if anyone will still be alive long enough for that to happen. So much is about to occur for all three groups, in their present circumstances, that a reunion might take a while.”

“That’s unfortunate and a little exciting,” John admits. “It sounds like our story is about to expand in several different directions now.”

“That would seem to be the case,” Tony confirms.

“So what about your band of survivors, +1 Shadow Dead woman? Are they headed for James Orosco’s camp on that peninsula just south of Andover?”


“And will Alysa be joining them?”


“Anything else you can add?”

Tony takes a deep breath. “The little group I end up with will be facing some challenges they haven’t had to deal with before. The winter is over. it’s been months since they had to deal with the outside world… and everything that’s changed along with them. The remainder of this first story arc will center on those challenges.”

“Damn,” John says, shaking his head. “Is there anything you can tell us about the next chapter?”

“It won’t be as chaotic as Chapter One,” Tony says. “It’s called, Wick, and the author describes it as a thriller story contained within a chapter.”

“Sounds intriguing,” John says. “We’re almost out of time. Is there anything else you can tease us with about what’s coming in the days ahead?”

Tony nods. “We all may be split up at the moment. But this story is on a collision course with Mother… that is certain. There’s just a bit more story to tell before then… and then quite a lot still left after that eventual climax. Good enough?”

John sighs. “I guess.” He turns to the studio audience. “It looks like we’re all about to jump on the crazy horse again, folks, and see where we end up.”

(The audience laughs.)

John returns to Tony. “Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing what you could. We all hope you return to this stage one day, still in one piece, to speak with us again.”

“Thanks for having me,” Tony says.

“Let’s give our special guest a big hand, folks!”

(The crowd gets to their feet and applauds.)

Tony waves enthusiastically.

“And that’s a wrap, ladies and gentlemen,” John says, standing with Tony. “Once again, before we go, if anyone out there has additional questions they’re dying to ask, please feel free to ask away in the comments section, and myself or Tony will try to answer them, if possible. Other than that, just a quick reminder that Don’t Feed The Dark will post new episodes every Monday and Thursday up until the Holiday break somewhere around mid-November. After The Dark episodes will usually follow each new chapter, time dependent. So hopefully, we’ll see you all again after Chapter Two. So long, everyone!”


Next Episode:
After The Dark (#15) – Mother

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,



Hello Everyone,

Just a quick update from behind the scenes.

I’m slowly working on the first chapter for DFTD Book 5 (currently untitled), while enjoying some much needed rest. I’m also planning on editing Book 4 over the summer, time permitting.

If you haven’t found out already, I’ve removed the “Updates” tab on the top of the main page and replaced it with the “Other Short Works” tab. This will now be the place where I post links to additional short stories I’ve written that aren’t DFTD related, as well as some dark poetry, etc., that I will update as I post more material.

Also, the newest episode of After The Dark is now available, titled: The Killer Cut (Part One). This is part one of a two part episode featuring our latest special guest, Marcus Dempsey (a.k.a. Russell Bower). I’ll be posting the second part of this intriguing interview as soon as it becomes available.

In case you missed it on the main sticky page, a special thanks goes out to author, Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz), for featuring Don’t Feed The Dark on his, 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge, which he has now completed. I encourage you all to come on over to Michael’s website and read all about it. Also, Michael is currently writing a fascinating serial novel, titled, Existential Terror and Breakfast. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far and it’s definitely worth a read.

Lastly, the latest update link, as well as any additional news, will be posted on the bottom of the sticky post on the main page from now on.

That’s all for now. I’ll check back in a little later.



Don’t Feed The Dark Updates: 2/13/17

Posted: February 13, 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Hello Everyone,

Just a quick update to where we are in the series. First, my thanks to everyone who’s been reading, voting for the series, and for spreading the word via social media. Your support is greatly appreciated and every little bit helps in getting DFTD as visible as possible.

We are currently half-way through Chapter 36: Uprising, with three episodes remaining. Time dependent, I’m hoping to get another episode of After The Dark, my DFTD talk show, released shortly after the completion of this chapter. If everything goes according to plan, John will be interviewing the strange and enigmatic preacher, Logan McCalister, to discover some additional insights into his character and what lies ahead in the series.

From there, we move on to the long awaited Chapter 37: Through the Eyes of a Devil, which will continue the story of what happened to our favorite serial killer, Russell Bower (a.k.a. Marcus Dempsey). This chapter was the first I wrote when I sat down to start Book Four and I almost made it a stand-alone novella due to its size. This next chapter will easily be the longest chapter in the series to date and it’s a wild one… sorry I can’t say more about it. I expect this chapter to take us into early April.

Finally, Chapter 38: Healing, will wrap up Book Four in this series, picking up three weeks later and returning to the Wasteland community to find out what happened after the failed insurgence. I’m estimating that chapter will take us into late April, early May for the conclusion of this story arc.

After Book Four is finished, I’ll be taking the summer off to rest and prepare for Book Five (not yet titled) which will start late August 2017… and I’ve already got one hell of an outline in place for that book. I’ve always strived to make each book in the series a little different from what came before and Book Five will be no exception. There may also be time in there to write another spin-off story. I’ve been meaning to return to the Percy Power Plant for quite some time to tell the story of what happened to Sergeant Hash (remember that guy?). If I get around to it, that tale will be titled, The Desperation Factor.

Book Six (yep… there’s already a plan for that one, too), will tentatively be titled, Mother. I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions about where that one’s headed… lol.

And that’s all I’ve got for now. As things change or develop I’ll keep you updated.



After The Dark (#11) – Outcast

Posted: February 4, 2017 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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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.


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 35 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 and addresses the audience. “After ten episodes of our show, we finally managed to corner our very own psychic to the undead stars… and she never saw it coming.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Would you please put your hands together for Meredith Montgomery!”

(The audience stands and gives Meredith a huge round of applause. Meredith enters wearing a blue and white flowered sundress, waves enthusiastically at the crowd, and then takes a seat beside our host.)

The crowd continues to cheer as John attempts to get a word in. “My, oh, my, these folks love you, Meredith!”

Meredith kisses her hand and pretends to blow it at them. “The feeling’s mutual, John,” she adds with a wink.

“I gotta tell you,” John says as the audience settles down, “I think we’ve all been dying to find out just what’s been happening on your side of this rather long tale. According to Stephen’s journal entries, you haven’t been a very popular member of the Wasteland Community. Why do you think that is?”

Meredith chuckles. “I have no idea. Everyone knows that I’m just a charming old gal who tries to get along with everyone.”

(The audience laughs.)

“You’ve been named the Wasteland Witch… I bet you’ll be a big hit around Halloween if that name continues to stick.”

“Well… I don’t have a broom, a fancy black hat, or even a cat,” Meredith says. “But it’s pretty clear that I’ve developed a rather larger-than-life reputation.”

John nods. “Obviously, the community has been passing along stories of what you did prior to the explosion in the last book. And I’m sure having Megan as your roommate in the clinic just adds fuel to the fire.”

Meredith leaned in and whispers, “Is isn’t mentioned in the story, John, but Megan started out as a cat until she started scratching up the furniture… and then ‘Poof!'”

(The audience laughs.)

“Seriously though, is it fear? They seem unable to accept what you’re capable of and would rather find any old excuse to exclude you.”

Meredith frowns. “Yes. It’s a lot like how I was treated as a young girl. It’s far easier to laugh with your friends about the freaks living with you than it is to attempt understanding someone very different from yourself. Also, being labeled an agent of Mother doesn’t help my cause much either.”

“Agreed,” John says. “So, rather than fight against what the community has turned you into, it seems like you’ve decided to embrace the role and enjoy the isolation it affords. Is that a fair assessment?”

Meredith smiles. “I’ve always tried my best to maintain the peace. I don’t like being a source of conflict, or causing discomfort. I would rather accept being their ‘witch’ and keep my distance, rather than try to join the community by forcing myself upon them. Nothing good can come of that… at least, not while people are suffering down in that dark dungeon.”

“Well, you’ve handled yourself with typical Meredith class. I suspect that very few of us could endure what you’ve had to put up with over that long winter and not lose our cool by now.” John turns to the audience. “Wouldn’t you all agree?”

(The crowd applauds.)

Meredith looks at her hands resting in her lap and says, “Well… that’s kind of you to say.” She looks to the audience. “It’s wonderful knowing that not everyone hates me for simply being different.”

(The crowd stands up and roars their approval.)

“So, let me sum this up,” John says. “Over the past several months, you’ve been trying to reach out to Megan who is essentially ‘half dead’. You’ve not be able to use your abilities to peek inside her head, and as a result, you and Dr. Cooper have been shooting in the dark.”

“Yes, that’s about right,” Meredith says. “I’m drawn to that poor girl because I know what she’s going through. I felt it once in Harpersfied. Megan’s in a very scary place… a very sad, lonely place… and I feel compelled to help her in any way I can.”

John nods. “If given the option, would you consider going topside with her and using your powers?”

Meredith carefully considers the question. “Well, John, I don’t think that I could… even if I wanted to. Last time I was around Megan’s particular illness it nearly drained me to death. There’s a black hole of hopelessness inside this particular breed of zombie that sucked the life right out of me. If Gina hadn’t shown up at that church way back in Chapter 20… well… I don’t know what would’ve happened… but it wouldn’t have ended well.”

“Considering they already had you on the menu for a sacrificial supper… I’d have to agree,” John says.

(The audience laughs.)

“So, what you’re saying is, because of the unique design of this Mother-sponsored compound, you wouldn’t last long around Megan without getting ill again?”

“I believe my resistance to her would’ve been better, now that I know what was making me ill, but ultimately… yes… if I started opening up my mind to poor Megan, it could potentially kill me.”

“Let’s move on,” John says. “So, after Gina put you under ‘house arrest’ in the compound, you’ve been able to be just Meredith for the first time. How did it feel when you realized you were cut off from your abilities?”

“Wonderful… and a little strange,” Meredith admits. “It’s like a fog suddenly lifting from your life, a fog that’s always been there, separating me from that clarity of my own life and causing me to learn how to defend my mind against it creeping in under the door cracks. It’s been an adjustment, for sure.”

“And now that you’ve been lowering your shields, so to speak, it appears as though you’re remembering a whole lot of things from your past that you haven’t had access to… until now.”

“That’s right, John. As we’ve found out from this present chapter, it’s all starting to come back… and apparently… I am more involved with Mother than I ever realized. It’s a rather frightening awakening.”

“So let’s talk about young Meredith,” John says. “You were an orphan?”

“Yes. Although I don’t think I’ve ever been told the particulars of how I entered the system, I’ve been moving around from foster home to foster home as far back as I can remember… and that’s a slippery slope at the moment.”

“Yeah… your memory’s like Swiss cheese, lady,” John says.

(The audience laughs.)

“So, you’ve been really adamant about keeping Gina out of that mysterious door. Can you tell us your theory of what the compound really is, or what the humming sound coming from beneath it is?” John asks.

“Probably not… but that doesn’t mean I won’t recall something later on in this story,” Meredith says with a wink.

“I had to try,” John laughs. “So, tell us about your old buddy, Clem? How does it feel knowing that she has survived The Change?”

“Well, my character obviously doesn’t know Clementine is alive… and I hope I never have to find out. That should tell you exactly how I feel on the matter,” Meredith answers with a smile. “But if you’re trying to get out of me whether or not I’ll be reacquainted with my old friend… well… I suppose anything’s possible.”

“Fair enough,” John says. He turns to the audience and adds, “For those of you who don’t know, Meredith’s former best friend, Clementine, makes a special appearance in the latest Don’t Feed The Dark spin-off story, Hangar Six. You’ll definitely want to give that a read and find out what Clem’s been up to.”

John turns back to Meredith. “So, let’s talk about a few things which were mentioned in this chapter.”

Meredith rubs her hands together like an eager child. “Let’s do that, John.”

(The audience laughs.)

“First… let’s talk about the damn lions. We have your dreams and the strange picture on your bedroom wall that show us the emerald lion with yellow eyes that apparently want to devour everything in its path. There are also drawings of lions on the classroom walls along with other scenes depicting death and destruction… creepy. We also learn that lions are mentioned in the children’s mantra at the end of class… that gave me a very weird cult-vibe, by the way. If I were to connect the dots, it would seem that all these lions are symbolic in nature. Then add in the fact that we have our modern day flyers that were hung shortly before the shit hit the fan, mentioning, you guessed it… lions. Are all these connected in some way?”

Meredith laughed. “If you’re asking me if I think the lions are symbolic of The Change… well, it certainly appears so. Especially when you factor in the yellow eyes.”

John leans back in his chair. “If that’s true, then it means that as far as this orphanage is concerned… they’ve known about it for a very long time. That’s mind blowing.”

Meredith nods her head. “Yes, it would seem that they knew something was definitely coming. Whether it was the girls who first saw it through their ‘gifts’ or something else… well that’s yet to be made clear.”

“Fascinating,” John says. “So let’s talk about the three-pronged symbol. You drew one in class which clearly freaked out Finch, and then found another one marking the secret door behind the doll cabinet wall. Obviously this orphanage, which is not an orphanage, is clearly another Mother-run operation. Is that right?”

Meredith smiled. “It would certainly seem so.”

“I hate it when you answer a ‘yes or no’ question like that. You sound like your saying ‘yes’ with a big ‘however…’ attached to it.”

(The audience laughs.)

Meredith leans back and folds her hands. “Questions, ask you. Answers, I may have,” she says in a bad imitation of Yoda voice.

(The audience roars with laughter.)

John shakes his head. “Meredith… you’re killing me!”

She laughs. “I’m surprised you haven’t asked about the dolls yet?”

“I was getting to that,” John says. “But let’s talk about Toby first. Is he the young man from your dream, the doll, or the sick man in the bed?”

Meredith scowls and says, “Well… I don’t know what to say to that question. But I think the better question might be, ‘What does he want from me?'”

“Agreed,” Johns says. “So… what do you think he wants?”

“I don’t know… yet.”

John feigns distress by hitting his forehead. “And what about those creepy dolls? Can you tell us anything about them?”

Meredith rubs her chin. “Well… I will say that it can’t be just a coincidence that they’re just happens to be four dolls and four patients hidden away in that secret room.”

“Interesting… but I bet you can’t tell us anything else, can you?”

“Probably not,” she says.

“Of course,” John says with a laugh. “So with all these memories crashing to the surface, what’s that mean for your character now? Do you keep what you’ve discovered about your past to yourself? Do you tell Gina and risk being alienated even further from the community?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, John,” Meredith admits. “All I know at the moment is that Meredith has a whole lot to process, while trying to keep herself and Megan safe.”

“That’s right,” John says. “After Logan’s unusual visit and veiled warning things aren’t looking very safe at the moment.”

“Agreed,” she says. “And we’ll just have to find out what happens in the next chapter… so don’t even ask.”

John threw his hands into the air.

(The audience laughs.)

“I will say,” Meredith adds, “that the next chapter will have us all back together again, and our resident preacher, Logan, will have center stage for quite a bit of the next chapter.”

“That sounds awesome!” John says. “Before we run out of time, let’s talk about Megan. After those tears, do you think she’s coming back from that black hole you mentioned? Is she remembering what happened to her?”

“I believe she might be. Which is all the more reason to keep her safe.”

“Okay,” John says. “Is there anything else you can tell us about what to expect in the days to come?”

“Well, I do know that this little flashback story from 1973 isn’t finished yet.”

“So we should expect a Dead Dolls, Part Two?” John asks.

Meredith hesitates, then answers, “Yes and no.”

“What’s that mean?”

Meredith laughs and explains, “This story from my past is definitely not finished… but it might not be continued from my thirteen-year-old perspective. A lot can happen between now and then that might make me… unable to finish that particular story.”

(The audience gasps.)

John points a finger at Meredith and says, “You’re just saying that because we don’t know what happens next chapter… right?”

Meredith smiles and shrugs her shoulders. “Folks die all the time in this series. We’re just going to have to find out what happens next.”

John shakes his head and turns toward the audience. “How’s that for a scary answer, folks?”

(The audience shouts out for more clarification.)

“Sorry,” she says sheepishly. “I can’t say anything else.”

“Well, we’ll just have to hope for the best,” John says, “and we’ll all pray that Meredith returns to us safely so we can ask more questions she’ll probably not be able to answer.”

(The audience laughs.)

“So let’s move on to a lighter subject. Is there some romance potentially brewing between yourself and the good Doctor Cooper?”

Meredith laughs. “Well, I think Coop will keep trying. Maybe he’ll wear me down eventually. But for now, we’re just really good friends.”

“Well, I’m just glad you’re still around. You seem to be at the center of a lot of things which were hinted about in the past, and now we’re starting to see what’s really going on. I have one more question for you,” John says.

“Please… ask away,” Meredith says.

“It’s about your connection with Frank Carman. Will we ever find out what was going on between you two?”

Meredith smiles. “You know, John, that’s very possible. Now that my past is free game, I wouldn’t be surprised if the author touches on our relationship at some point in the story.”

“That sounds intriguing,” John says, and leans back in his chair. “Well, I want to thank you for joining us today. It was such a pleasure to finally get you on the show.”

“Thanks for having me,” she says.

John turns toward the crowd. “Let’s give Meredith a big hand for hanging out with us so long.”

(The audience rises to their feet and applauds.)

Meredith is glowing as she blows them another kiss of appreciation.

“And that’s a wrap for this episode. Just a reminder, Chapter 36: Uprising begins tomorrow. If anyone has any additional questions they’d like to ask Meredith about her character specifically, or just about the story in general, we’ll try our best to answer your questions. If not, then we’ll see you all next time for another adventurous episode of After The Dark!”


Next Episode:
After The Dark (#12) – The Killer Cut (Part 1)

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Thank you,


Chapter 35-10: Dead Dolls

Posted: February 2, 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Meredith stared at her shaking hands holding the coffee thermos. She sat alone at the table in the low-lit clinic trying to process all these new and frightening memories that came crashing to the surface.

Why has all of this eluded me for so long? she wondered. The orphanage (which wasn’t really an orphanage), the girls, the symbol, the lions… the experiments?

She closed her eyes, not yet brave enough to let in the rest, and yet, powerless to stop these phantoms from condemning her now that her abilities were unavailable to keep her mental walls firmly in place.

Have I been using my own abilities all these years to shut out these memories? Is that when I first learned how to shut out the voices of the dead? Or, were they deliberately hidden from me? It deeply distressed her to find out that she couldn’t trust her own mind. How far back is my involvement in all of… this?

Meredith shook her head, wondering for the first time if she deserved to be shunned by the community. Perhaps Mother had been manipulating her all these years, leading her exactly to this place… now.

“No!” she said, slamming the coffee thermos hard on the table. “I won’t believe that! My heart is still my own… no matter what else has happened!”

“‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’” The deep voice startled her from down the hall, causing her to rise to her feet.

“Who’s there?” she asked, staring into the shadows at the end of the hall.

A short stocky man in a black tank top, exposing his tattooed muscular arms, slowly approached with his hands in his jeans pockets.

Meredith frowned. “Mr. Logan, this is an unexpected visit. What brings you into my neck of the woods?”

Logan smiled, stroked his bushy beard and finished, “‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve’. That was from the good book of Jeremiah chapter seventeen, praise God. Good evening, Miss Montgomery.”

Meredith nodded, ignoring his quoting of Bible scripture which felt like bait.

“Sorry for startling you,” he said with a hearty laugh. “I’d just come in and saw you there, deep in thought, and hadn’t figured out how to address you without… upsetting you. Seems I failed.”

Meredith shook her head and laughed. “Well… come on in and sit. I promise, I won’t turn you into a toad… if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Logan took a couple of steps down the hall and stopped, looking into the observation room on his right. Megan was sleeping on her mattress. “If it’s all the same to you, Miss Montgomery, I’ll just stand here for a spell… pun not intended.” He flashed her a big old grin.

Meredith rolled her eyes and then straightened up her nightgown, got up and walked toward him. “Don’t worry about her, she won’t bite.” She stopped a few feet away from the preacher, hoping to put him at ease, as she leaned against the observation room glass and took a sip of coffee from her thermos. “What can I do for you, Mr. Logan? And please… just call me Meredith.”

Logan seemed to study her for a moment and then relaxed with a laugh, running his hands through his long black hair that he hadn’t tied back. He turned toward the observation room and crossed his arms. “I’ve been meaning to stop in for quite some time. I don’t visit as often as I should, and that’s my fault.”

“Well… we wouldn’t want the local preacher to get caught conversing with the resident witch, now, would we?” she teased. “You’d have to spend a whole Sunday preaching against the sin of gossiping.”

Logan laughed and shook his head. “Well… I could always tell the congregation that you bewitched me, then pray for the Lord’s forgiveness for letting my curiosity get the better of me.”

Meredith laughed. “Seriously, what brings you out here so late to visit little ole’ me? I hope you’re not here to invite me to service again. Tried that once. Didn’t seem like a good idea.”

“Yes… your presence was a bit distracting… but for what it’s worth, I was still delighted that you tried to attend.”

Meredith waited. She had only spoken with Logan a handful of times since his arrival several months ago, and she wanted to like the man because she’d learned early on that Logan usually said exactly what was on his mind, a quality she respected very highly these days, but he also made her uncomfortable with his sideway glances. It was as if he was always trying to figure out whose side she was on, and to Logan, there was only God’s side, or the devil’s. She’d learned enough about the man to know that he wasn’t always a devoted servant of God. His tattoos clearly pointed to a very different man that she was glad to have never known. But when he spoke with her, she never detected a hint of hate, just that puzzled curiosity he always had about her, which just reminded Meredith of how different she was from everyone else. Her dear friend, Gregory, also a man of God, never looked at her that way… he was just a simple man of faith who followed his heart, and Greg’s heart had accepted her without the need to have her scrutinized by any religious dogma.

Logan finally said, “I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about you… and about what happened to this poor girl.”

“Her name is Megan,” Meredith said.

“Megan… of course.”

“Please don’t refer to her in the past tense. She’s not the monster everyone around here thinks she is. She’s still in there… I’m just… having trouble finding her.”

Logan gave her a curious look. “I was told that you no longer possess your… abilities… since we came down here.”

“That’s correct.”

“Then, forgive me for being so frank, but how do you know?”

“How do I know what?’

“How do you know that Megan… is… well… still Megan?”

Meredith was getting angry. “How do you know that your God is real?”

Logan smiled. “Well… that’s another matter entirely, that I would be happy to discuss with you some time-”

“Just answer the question.”

“Alright,” Logan said. “I know that my God is real because he speaks to my heart, because he’s changed me from the inside out. He’s saved me through his son, Jesus, and redeemed me from my hellish past.”

“So… although you’ve never seen you’re God, you can feel him in your heart?”

Logan pointed at her with a smile. He nodded and said, “I see where you’re going, Meredith. I do. I’m sure you care deeply for this girl and want to believe she’s still with us… but you and I both know that if you were to step inside this cage…”

“Yes… she would rip me to pieces,” Meredith said. “But that doesn’t mean that Megan is gone. She’s… lost… and I’m trying to help her get back. Surely you can understand that?”

Logan raised his eyebrows. He was no longer smiling. “Are you trying to save her or yourself, Meredith?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Logan looked back at the sleeping girl. “Just look at her. She’s been this way ever since we found her. Megan was infected, just like so many others, and if we released her right now, she would hurt so many more people. Do you think if Megan was really in there that she would want to remain this way? What kind of life could she have now?”

“That’s a question we are all striving to answer for ourselves,” Meredith said. “Megan deserves a chance to choose… and not have someone choose for her.”

Logan sighed. “There’s no shame, no guilt, no fault in offering Megan mercy. For all you really know that’s what she wants.”

Meredith had no response to that.

“Yes, I believe in God and a place where we can be together with him forever,” Logan pressed. “If I’m right, then poor Megan could be done with all this madness right now… and go home.”

Meredith wiped a frustrated tear from her eye and stared at Megan. “You speak of heaven with the same enthusiasm as a dear friend of mine once did. He was so convincing at times. Even after all the death we’d experienced, even after he lost his own daughter to this sick world, my friend would not be swayed. He never faltered once in his belief of your God.”

“He’s your God, too, Meredith,” Logan said with a smile. “And he’s that young woman’s God, as well. We’re all his children whether we’re still alive and kicking… or infected.”

Meredith turned. “Do you really believe that?”

“Yes… I do,” Logan said. “I struggle with this new world and all the suffering it brings… but there was always suffering long before the dead came along. I have so many questions that I can’t answer, and I pray every night for those answers. But whether I understand this world or not, God does not change. I don’t understand what’s happened to that poor girl any more than I understand what’s happened to you in your life, but I do know that the darker everything becomes, the brighter the light gets in that darkness… and that’s what keeps me going, even when I fumble around, trying to understand the present nature of things.”

“Is that why you’re really here?” Meredith asked. “Were you hoping that I had answers? That I could explain what this sickness is all about because I’ve been into the heart of that darkness and seen what’s inside the mind of the dead?”

Logan laughed. “I struggle to grasp the mind of the Lord… especially in these dire times. I’ll admit, I’m an impatient man. It’s hard to pray and wait around for answers. I’ll take the answers anyway I can get them.”

Meredith shook her head. “I can respect that… and should your God ever share them with me… I’ll be sure to let you know. Now, let’s stop beating around the bush and why don’t you tell me why you really came down here in the middle of the night to talk? Usually, I don’t have to pry it out of you.”

“You are a very perceptive woman, Meredith. Must be the witchcraft talking.”

“Stop stalling.”

Logan nodded. “Very well. Truth be told, I was working on my sermon for tomorrow and it occurred to me that I hadn’t come to a decision about something that’s been troubling me.”

Meredith waited.

Logan’s face lost all humor. “Many in the community believe that you and Megan being here is extremely dangerous. Some, like your friends, Stephen, Tony, Marcus… and even Gina, have stood up for you since day one.”

Meredith looked at her feet. “I feel a big ‘but’ coming.”

“My point is, I’ve never really come to a decision either way… never needed to until now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?’

Logan looked back at Megan. “Just stay vigilant, Meredith. Circumstances around here are changing rapidly. There are events in motion that can’t be stopped that have caused me to come down here and speak with you one last time.”

“What ‘events’ are you eluding to?”

Logan gave her a grave look. “Events that have motivated me to get off the fence and decide where I stand one way or the other.”

Meredith frowned. “And how are me and Megan’s chances fairing in your eyes?”

Logan smiled. “That’s entirely up to the will of my God.”

Meredith didn’t like the sound of any of this.

After an awkward pause, Logan started to shuffle his feet. “Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time this evening, Meredith. Thanks for speaking with me.”


“Goodnight,” he said, and started toward the exit.

“Logan,” she said.

He turned.

“You said that he was my God, too… and Megan’s.”

Logan smiled. “Yes… I did. And I meant it.”

Meredith swallowed hard and came at him directly. “Are… Megan and I… are we in danger, Logan?”

He hesitated before answering, refusing to look her in the eyes. “I sure hope not, Meredith. I really do. I suggest we both earnestly pray on it.”

She watched the preacher depart, staring at the door as if this were somehow her last chance to leave this room alive. Something’s terribly wrong. I can feel it in my bones.

Meredith just stood there, lost in thought, as her mind started to wrap itself around a very crazy and desperate plan. If they were in danger, as Logan’s visit seemed to suggest, then she needed to find a way to keep herself and Megan alive until Gina and the others returned. She could talk to Stephen, but that wouldn’t be enough. Bless his heart, he would try to help us… but only put himself in the same predicament. No, she would not do that to her old friend. She had known for a long time that there were people here who wanted her and Megan gone; persuasive people, like that snake of a man, Carl Lannister. And if someone like that ever decided to get the community riled up against them, especially while Gina was absent, who knew what they were capable of doing. Fear motivated decent people to do despicable things. Meredith thought way back to when she’d had an ‘episode’ at the Percy Power Plant, and how quickly people turned and wanted to hurt her. Could that happen again? She could not afford to be dismiss the possibility. She thought of her plan… yes… it might just work. She needed the community to see herself and Megan like them… and not monsters fear represented them as.

Something struck the glass next to Meredith.

She turned, startled, and was looking into the mercury-colored eyes of the pale faced girl. Megan had pressed her face against the glass, her tangled hair pulled back. Meredith sighed sadly, realizing how ‘alien’ this poor girl looked now. Even she shuddered at the sight of Megan. How could she ever convince the others that she was still… human?

“What is it, Megan?” she asked. Meredith didn’t expect a response… well… not in words. In the past, Megan had come up the glass, just like this, revealed her sickly looking teeth, and then started biting at it, attempting to reach warm flesh on the other side. This sort of behavior from the sick girl would certainly not help Meredith’s cause. “You don’t want to bite into me, Megan. I assure you, the taste of failure is all you would find here.”

The sick girl placed her hands up against the glass and pounded hard three times, letting loose what sounded like a frustrated scream.

Meredith was about to turn away and summon Coop to sedate the girl, but then she stopped.

Megan wasn’t trying to bite her way through the glass.

Meredith’s eyes went wide as she discovered something in the girl’s face that she had not seen before, something other than insanity-driven hunger, rage, or the cold, indifferent absence of self-awareness on any level.

The tired woman moved in close to the glass to make sure her eyes were not deceiving her.

Megan appeared surprisingly calm when the woman approached.

“Oh, my!” Meredith whispered, clutching her chest. “Megan? Is… is that you, honey?”

The half-dead girl lowered her arms and stared back through the glass… her two silver orbs reflecting the light from just outside the room in an entirely new way.

Meredith covered her mouth with both hands, a mixture of emotions rising up, putting a lump in her throat as she was unable to speak.

Megan was crying.


Next Episode 36-1

Previous Episode 35-9


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“Chapter 35-10: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter 35-9: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 30, 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Meredith decided against hiding in her room for the day, fearing a return visit by Clementine. Between that and waking up in the basement with the creepy dolls, she was more than relieved to discover that Finch’s class on creative expression was still being conducted in the school room. She needed to get her mind off of last night. She suspected Clem had something to do with her waking in the basement with the doll out of the case… but she just didn’t want to think about it right now. The implications frightened her too much.

She slipped into the school room and took a seat with six other girls who were already engrossed in various crafts. She was immediately relieved to discover that Clem was not present.

Finch noticed her and gave her a wink.

Meredith smiled back. She noticed several different colors of construction paper in front of her, as well as a community box of crayons, scissors, glue, markers, and pencils.

She grabbed a yellow piece of paper and a handful of crayons, hoping to look busy while she simply stared at the blank paper. Now what? she thought. If I had any artistic ability at all I would make an escape door and get out of this ‘special’ orphanage that isn’t an orphanage. But in truth, she had no idea where she would go. She had no family, friends, and she didn’t fit in to the world out there. She wanted to believe that she could belong here, among the misfit girls with abilities considered normal, but nothing about this place made her comfortable. There were just too many secrets.

“Are we stuck?” Finch said, startling her from behind.

Meredith turned. “Sorry. I guess I’ve never been very… artsy… if that’s a word.”

Finch smiled. “Well… you don’t have to paint a masterpiece or pen the perfect prose in here. This is more about expressing yourself, Meredith. Sometimes all you have to do is start with whatever you’re feeling, and then just let that lead you. Understand?”

“I think so.”

“Why don’t you just pick a crayon and give it a try. You may surprise yourself. I’ll come back in a bit. Just… have fun.”

Meredith smiled. “Okay.”

Finch stopped and added, “Oh… just please don’t draw any boring birds. That stuff drives me nuts.” He gave her another wink to remind her of the inside joke they’d shared about his name on the drive over.

Meredith watched Finch walk over to another table and peek over top of a younger girl to see what she was drawing. He said something encouraging and then walked on.

He almost acts like a real teacher in here… well… minus the long girlish hair, she thought with a smile. Meredith turned back toward her yellow blank paper and sighed. You heard the man… you have to feel it first… whatever ‘it’ is. She closed her eyes and tried to relax. When she opened them, she stared at the yellow paper again and thought of the sun. She picked up a black crayon and decided to draw the field out back with a large summer sun hovering above it. Sure… that was kiddie stuff… but it gave her something more pleasant to think about. If nothing else, it encouraged the idea to spend some time outdoors this afternoon and try to forget about… everything.

Meredith put the black crayon to the paper, intending to draw a large circle. What she drew instead resembled an oval… actually… it looked like an eye. She stopped and stared at it. That’s not a sun. What was I thinking about? And suddenly, she knew exactly what she wanted to draw. She put a black dot at the center of the oval. Then she added a long vertical line down from the eye followed by two short horizontal lines–one just beneath the eye and one at the bottom for a base. Then she added two curved lines midway down the vertical line until she’d drawn what looked like a fancy letter ‘U’. She stopped and stared at her creation. Rather than a sun, she’d drawn what looked like some kind of three-pronged symbol, or a strange flower–she couldn’t decide.

Before she had time to consider it further, Finch reached over and snatched the picture off the table.

“Hey!” she said, turning around. “I’m not finished yet.”

Finch ignored her and stared at her drawing. She’d never seen him look so intense. Finally, he looked over the picture at Meredith. “Who showed you this?”

Meredith noticed an alarming urgency in his voice. It made her very uncomfortable. “No one. I just… I just thought it up. Actually… I have no idea what it is yet. If you’d let me finish-”

“You are finished,” Finch said abruptly, folding the paper up and putting it into his pocket.

“What? I… I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong?”

Finch, realizing that they were attracting the attention of the other girls, smiled at Meredith and answered, “No… no, of course not. I just meant that you should try creating something else.”

“Something else?”

“Yes… yes… uh… come with me out into the hall for a moment and I’ll explain what I mean.” He was looking around nervously, reminding Meredith of a shoplifter before bolting from a store.

Finch started toward the exit, motioning for her to follow.

She got up and followed him into the hallway, feeling like she’d crossed some forbidden line with her amateurish use of crayons.

Once in the hall, Finch looked around again and then squatted down in front of her. “Listen to me, Meredith. Listen very carefully.”

She tensed up.

“It’s about your drawing. You have to promise me that you’ll never draw that symbol again… ever. Do you understand?”

“But… I don’t know why you’re so upset with me, Finch. It’s just a silly drawing. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Are you positive that no one showed you that symbol before?”

“I… no one showed me anything… I just… I just saw it in my head… and then I drew it. I don’t even know what it is.”

Finch gave her a scrutinizing look and then nodded. “Okay… that’s fine. Just don’t tell anyone about what you drew… promise me you won’t draw that again, Meredith.”


“Damn it! Just promise me!”

He was beginning to frighten her. She took a step back. “I… I promise,” she said.

Finch shook his head, trying to calm down. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to scare you. You just have to trust me right now, okay? I’m looking out for your safety and I know none of this makes any sense… but… you must never speak to anyone about this picture again.”

Meredith nodded. She didn’t know what else to do. Finally she dared, “Is it… is it bad?”

Finch’s face looked very pale. He gave her a sad look and nodded. “Yes, Meredith. It’s very bad.” He looked around to make sure they were still alone, and then lowered his voice. “There used to be more girls here, Meredith. Really cool girls, like yourself, who were here one day… and then gone the next.”

“I don’t understand.”

Finch frowned. “These girls… well, they knew about this symbol, too.”

Just then, a series of erratic agonizing screams reverberated down the hallway, causing them both to jump.

It was coming from upstairs.

“What in the holy hell?” Finch said.

The girls in the school room exited into the hallway looking terrified and confused.

One of them said, “That sounds like Claudia!”


The landing at the top of the second floor steps was crowded as Meredith managed to squeeze her way through the frightened girls standing just outside of the bathroom. She stopped and put her hands over her mouth when she saw a lot of blood streaked across the linoleum floor, walls, and countertop. It looked like a crime scene straight out of a horror movie.

Miss Evans, and the two mysterious men she had seen outside during the volleyball game yesterday, were busy trying to hold Claudia down. The bloody young woman was still screaming as she tried to break free of the grip both men had on her arms.

“Let go, Claudia!” Miss Evans shouted while trying to pry Claudia’s bloody hands open. Claudia clenched them so tightly that her hands bled.

“Get them off me! I can feel them… GET THEM OFF ME!” Claudia yelled, kicking her bare legs out at the two men.

That’s when Meredith noticed the multiple wounds bleeding from Claudia’s half-naked flesh. She was only wearing a bloody bra and panties and it looked like someone had sliced her up. Her legs, arms, stomach… her face… all displayed deeps cuts.

Finally, Claudia opened her hands and two razor blades fell to the floor.

Miss Evans quickly snatched them up just before Claudia managed to kick the large woman square in the chest, causing her to fall back against the counter.

The two men pinned Claudia down more forcibly as Miss Evans tried to catch her breath. She looked terrified. One of the men managed to turn Claudia over on her back and sit on her legs while the other appeared to be tying her hands together with a plastic band.

Claudia continued to scream as if she were on fire.

Miss Evans got to her feet and turned toward the girls standing in the hallway. She just stared for a moment, her hair disheveled and her face white with shock. Finally she said, “Girls, get to your rooms… now!” She then slammed the bathroom door shut.

Everyone stared at each other. Some of the girls were crying while others seemed so confused and frightened that they were having a hard time remembering where their rooms were.

“What… what happened?” Meredith asked anyone.

Abagail, a younger girl, managed to speak. “She said that they were crawling all over her… that they were eating their way out.”

“What do you mean… who did that to Claudia?” Meredith asked.

“She did it to herself,” another girl responded. “We saw it. She just started jumping around like something was chasing her. She ran to the bathroom screaming. She started scratching herself until she bled… then she started cutting herself up with razor blades.” The girl stopped, looking like she was about to vomit or pass out.

“What was chasing her?” Meredith asked. “Did… did someone try to hurt her?”

“No,” Abagail said, starting to cry. “It was the spiders… the spiders were attacking her.”

“Spiders?” Meredith was shocked. “I didn’t see any spiders.”

“Claudia’s deathly afraid of spiders,” another girl said. “But we didn’t see any. She had us so freaked out that we all jumped into our own beds looking for them, too.”

“Out of the way, girls!” Finch barked as he stormed past them and entered the bathroom with a first-aid kit. He immediately closed the door behind him.

Meredith made herself take a deep breath. Spiders? There aren’t any spiders.

The girls continued to speak to one another in hushed voices as Claudia finally stopped screaming. The older girls started consoling the younger ones and they all slowly retreated toward their bedrooms.

Meredith looked up through the thinning crowd and saw Clem standing just within a doorway farther down the hall. She wore a wicked smile on her face as she looked up and caught Meredith staring at her. Her face immediately changed as she frowned at Meredith, retreated into her room, and gently closed her door.

Meredith felt the blood leave her face as the truth slowly dawned on her.

There were no spiders, she thought. But Claudia believed there were… she believed they were crawling all over her body and it made her hurt herself… because someone made her believe it!

Meredith could hear sirens approaching the house.

She remembered what Clem said about Claudia… and how she invaded her mind and exposed her secrets.

“She knew!” Meredith whispered. “She knew exactly how to do it!”

Some of the girls looked back at her and gave her a fearful look.

Meredith turned away and headed back down the stairs. By the time she reached the kitchen, her heart was racing, putting her into a full scale panic. She forced herself to take deep breathes and calm down.

Finch came back down, opened the front door, and two paramedics carrying a stretcher entered the house.

Meredith watched from a distance as Finch led them up the stairs.

Clem did this! I don’t know how… but I think she… she turned Claudia’s own fears against her!

She looked around the empty kitchen, expecting Clem to show up and make her see monsters, too.

She’ll come for me next! her mind screamed. She’ll come for me because I won’t be her friend anymore! Because I made her angry last night!

Meredith wanted to be anywhere but in this madhouse. She considered bolting out the back and running across the field until she could find somewhere to hide… somewhere Clem would never find her.

She meant to run toward the back door but went the opposite direction instead, toward the other end of the house. She got confused and started to panic again. Her own fear almost overpowered her as she thought about Clem coming down the stairs and finding her all alone.

She focused on a familiar door… the forbidden door.

She won’t go down there! Meredith thought. Clem’s never told me what’s in the basement because she’s never been down there… or she’s afraid of what’s down there! She had no proof, but this felt right. She couldn’t explain it. Meredith no longer believed that Clem was capable of bringing her down to the basement last night and moving the doll to terrify her. That also felt right.

A familiar compulsion stole over her, compelling her to go to the basement… quickly. If Clem did follow her, she’d be trapped with that evil girl, down in the dark place… with the creepy dolls.

Meredith no longer cared. Something far more important was pushing her forward.

I want to show you something… something important.

Where had she heard that?


She started toward the basement door, convinced that there was no safer place to hide.


Her head began to throb again the moment she entered the toy room.

Someone had replaced the little brown-haired doll with the gentle eyes.

Meredith walked over to her cabinet and said, “Show me, Toby. Show me what was so important.”

Toby spoke with her again through images. You already know, Meredith. You’ve already seen it… remember?

Meredith stepped back, confused. What had she seen? Why couldn’t she remember? She started pacing around the toy room, frustrated by her own anxiousness at being so close to the truth… and yet, it still eluded her. She stopped abruptly and muttered, “The truth…” Then she remembered something… something the young man named Toby had told her twice in her dreams:

Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain. That’s where the truth is.

Meredith walked back over to the doll cabinets. She ignored the dolls and stared at the paneled wall they all shared. This feels… familiar, she thought, but didn’t know why.

She carefully examined the wall space between each doll cabinet, looking for something that should be there… but not knowing what that ‘something’ was.

When she reached the paneling just to the left of the first doll case, the one which held the intense looking doll with the blond curls, she found something etched into the wall. It was very small and faint, and if she hadn’t been looking, Meredith never would’ve found it: A three-pronged symbol with an eye at the top.

“I recognize this!” she said excitedly.

She lightly ran her fingers across the carved symbol… and then remembered what she’d been shown.

Meredith pushed against the strange symbol, moving it inward until a small square indentation appeared. She heard a loud clicking sound and then nearly fell forward as a narrow door opened inward.

Meredith stepped back and gasped as a rush of cool air exited the secret doorway.

I’ve… I think I’ve done this before!

She cautiously approached the doorway, now able to distinguish a faint light coming from within. Meredith stepped through the door and stopped. The room was large and smelled like the clinic. There were four hospital beds lined up in a row, surrounded by numerous monitors and gadgets performing mysterious functions. The monitors provided the only illumination in the room. There were multiple electrical wires running above the beds and along the floor. She dared a few steps closer. All four beds were occupied by people hooked up to large machines. They all wore some sort of mask that covered their nose and mouth.

As she moved closer, Meredith made out what looked like another room along the back wall. There was a brighter light, the amount produced by a desk lamp, pouring out from a door that was partially open.

Meredith looked back at the people in the beds. She was drawn immediately to the one furthest to the right. She stepped over wires and tried not to make a sound as she moved in next to what appeared to be a man… a very sick man… breathing through one of the complicated-looking masks. His eyes were closed. Other than the steady rise and fall of the man’s chest, everything else about the man made him look… cold and lifeless.

“Hello, Toby,” she whispered. Yes. She had been in here before. The man was much older now than he looked in the dream, and he certainly did not resemble the little brown-haired doll with the gentle eyes from just outside this strange room… but this definitely was the real Toby.

Toby did not respond to her voice. Aside from the machines, which appeared to aid in the man’s breathing, Toby looked dead.

“I know you’re still in there,” Meredith said. “I know you’ve been trying to find me, too. Well… I’m here now.”

Toby did not respond.

“How long have you known about this room?” a woman’s voice inquired from Meredith’s right.

She jumped back, nearly knocking over one of the machines. Meredith turned and saw Dr. Forrester standing just outside the second room. She was wearing her doctor clothes again and she did not look pleased.

“Answer me, girl!” she barked. “And get away from that respirator!”

Meredith started to move until a cold hand grabbed her wrist.

She looked back at the pale arm covered in veins that looked like they were about to burst through his skin. She tried to pull free and looked into Toby’s face. His mask had fallen off. His face was that of a ghost with more veins like trails on a map coursing up his neck and cheeks.

“What are you doing? I said get away from there! GET AWAY FROM HIM!” Dr. Forrester pressed with urgency. She started to rush toward her.

Meredith was using her free hand, trying to pry open the cold fingers tightening around her flesh.

Toby suddenly opened his eyes.

In her mind, she heard him clearly. Thank you, Meredith. I can see it now… the way out.

Meredith wanted to scream but the pounding in her skull had intensified. She felt like her head was about to implode.

Toby’s eyes were filled with yellow madness… and that’s when Meredith knew that she was staring into the eyes of the emerald lion.

Two hands grabbed her roughly from behind and whirled her around.

“Meredith?” It was Dr. Forrester. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Meredith quickly looked over her shoulder at Toby.

He was still, the mask back on his face, his eyes… closed.

What is happening to me? She turned back to Dr. Forrester, her eyes wide with terror and confusion. Before she could ask a single question, she felt a sharp pain in her right arm.

Dr. Forrester removed the syringe. “I’m sorry, Meredith. You were not supposed to find out about this room.” was all she said.

Meredith felt her eyes go blurry and then the world faded to black…


Next Episode 35-10

Previous Episode 35-8


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“Chapter 35-9: 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 35-8: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 26, 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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An uncomfortable tension lingered throughout the house after Clementine and Claudia’s fight. All the girls were unusually somber and distant during dinner. No one had seen either girl since the volleyball game, leaving too many questions hovering unanswered. Finch tried his best to get the day back on course, but even he wasn’t his usual jovial self.

After Dr. Forrester escorted Meredith back into the house, she’d converted back into ‘professional’ mode, showing a surprising amount of cool detachment when she’d announced that she would be available to anyone who needed counseling, but not until she returned on Monday morning. Then she’d departed the home without another word.

Counseling? Meredith had thought.

Miss Evans made a brief appearance later that day, but volunteered nothing, only wishing the girls a good night before disappearing herself.

When Meredith couldn’t stand the awkward vibe any longer she retreated to her bedroom and waited for Clem to show up for one of her nightly visitations. It took several hours but Clem finally showed up an hour after bedtime, looking like someone had just killed her favorite pet.

Meredith smiled and said, “I saved you a plate from dinner. Meatloaf.”

Clem stared at her for a moment as if trying to understand the strange girl’s language. She finally said, “Thank you. May I sit down?”

Meredith nodded.

Clem collapsed on to the bed beside Meredith, lying down on her back and staring up at the ceiling. “I really hate this place sometimes.”

Meredith laughed. “Sounds like your day sucked the big one. At least you found your hairbrush. Your nest looks much better than it did at breakfast.”

Clem gave her an incredulous look and then caught the joke. She smiled. “Sorry I was so bitchy with you this morning. I’m glad you were here tonight.”

“I’ve been waiting for you to show up. Figured you might need a friend right now.”

Clem covered her face with her hands. “I think I freaked everyone out today. I’ve never seen Miss Evans so… furious with me.”

“Who were those men that came outside with her? They looked… mean.”

Clem gave her a puzzled look. “Men? What are you talking about?”

“Miss Evan came outside with two men dressed in white. It looked like… well… it looked like they had weapons or something.”

Clem gave her a blank stare. “I don’t know, Meredith,” she finally said. “I believe you saw them… I just didn’t. I was… not myself today.”

“What was up with Claudia?”

“She’s just a stupid bitch who doesn’t know when to shut her fucking mouth.”

Meredith was caught off guard by Clem’s swearing. She turned toward the door half-expecting Miss Evans to come in with a bar of soap.

Clem started laughing. “I’m sorry. I keep forgetting how sensitive your ears are.”

Meredith crossed her arms in defiance. “I’m not… sensitive,” she said, and then whispered, “Fuck that Claudia bitch!”

This just made Clem laugh harder as she rolled over on her stomach and tried to quiet down.

“What’s so funny?”

“You… but that’s okay. I think I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. I needed that.”

Meredith, shaking off the laughter at her expense, shrugged her shoulders. “Well… I’m glad you’re feeling a little better… but knock it off!”

Clem waved a hand in her face. “Okay… okay… I surrender!” She sat up and took a deep breath. “Thanks for waiting. I didn’t know if I’d scared you away or not.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… most of the other girls tiptoe around me, especially when I lose my temper like that.”

“Why would they be afraid of you? Fights happen. I’m sure you and Claudia will work this mess out… right?”

Clem ignored the question and turned toward the small window. “This room is really depressing. You should move into my room. When Miss Evans cools down, I could ask her… that is… if you want to.”

“That would be great! But… what about the other girls you share the room with? Would they mind? I don’t want special treatment or any-”

“I have my own room,” Clem snapped, not meaning to be so harsh. “I mean… there used to be three of us… but the other two girls are long gone now.”

“Where did they go?”

“They left a long time ago. What’s it matter to you?”

“Calm down!” Meredith said. “I was just curious. You don’t have to bite my head off about it.”

Clem looked at her hands. “Sorry… I’m just feeling a little defensive today. Miss Evans tore into me pretty good. I don’t mean to take it out on you.”

“That’s okay.”

“Do you think the fight was my fault, Meredith? You can be honest with me. Everyone keeps looking at me like I did something wrong… everyone except you.”

Meredith smiled. “Well… I remember Claudia pushing you to the ground.”

“That’s right,” Clem said, feeling vindicated. “She did push me first… that whore!”

Meredith giggled and covered her mouth. “Sorry… you caught me off guard with that.”

Clem laughed. “Just… don’t say ‘whore’ or I’ll never stop laughing. I love you, girl, but you swear like someone trying on a new word that doesn’t fit… at all.”

“I do not!”

“Okay!” Clem raised her hands in surrender.

“Why did she call you a liar?” Meredith asked, wanting to change the subject.

“What was that?”

“I heard Claudia call you a liar right before she pushed you.”

Clem tensed up. “I don’t know what that crazy bitch was talking about.”

Meredith gave her a scrutinizing look. “Come on, best friend, no secrets… remember?”

Clem looked agitated, but gave in. “Fine! Before the game started she was bragging about some long lost older brother that was going to come here when he turned eighteen or something. She kept going on and on to the other girls about how much her precious brother, Charlie, loved her and missed her, blah, blah, blah… She said the only reason she was here was because Charlie had to wait another year before he could become her legal guardian and take her away from all of us losers.”

Meredith gasped. “She said that in front of all of you?”

“Yeah… the dumb whore bitch said that. But I knew she was full of shit. I’d already looked into her pathetic thoughts a long time ago and I knew exactly how she came to be here.”

“What do you mean, ‘looked into her-’”

“Her parents were fucking drug addicts!” Clem continued. “They used to pimp her out to strangers for drug money. There was never any damn brother! Claudia’s so fucked in the head that she’s convinced herself that some guy named Charlie, who was actually one of her parents’ regular customers, was some older brother that loved her… oh… and he loved her alright… loved her again… and again…”

“Stop it!” Meredith was covering her ears. “I don’t want to hear this anymore!”

Clem was shocked into silence. “What’s wrong?”

“Those things… those nasty things you said… there just… awful!”

“But it’s all true!” Clem defended. “I saw it! Buried deep in her mind! But whores like Claudia are easy to pick, and I saw all her dirty little secrets.”

“What do you mean, ‘pick’?”

“That’s what I do, Meredith. I can unlock mental doors within people and find out who they really are. They try to hide from themselves, like Claudia does; they put up all these barriers in their minds to keep the bad stuff away… but I can get into those rooms… I can pick the locks.”

Meredith didn’t know what to say.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Clem shifted uncomfortably. “You can do things, too! Like when you delivered that message to that boy from his dead father. We can all do things. That’s what makes us so damn special! That’s why this place is so… ‘special’.” She spat the last word out with contempt.

A horrifying thought crossed Meredith’s mind. “What did you say to Claudia?”

“What? It doesn’t matter what I said to that stupid bitch!”

“Did you tell her? Did you tell her all that nasty stuff you just told me?”

“She was lying to everyone.”

“Just answer the question.”

“No. I won’t. Not until you stop looking at me like that!”

“You did, didn’t you? You ‘picked’ that girl’s mind like tearing at an old scab. Then you ripped it off and watched it bleed when you told her those awful things!” Meredith was furious. If Clem really possessed such a frightening ability, if she could invade anyone’s mind and pull out their deepest, darkest secrets… she suddenly felt vulnerable… and she knew exactly how Claudia must have felt.

“Why are you… why are you so upset with me?” Clem was confused. “I didn’t do anything to you! I would never do anything to hurt you!”

“But you hurt Claudia when you told her who her parents really were… who Charlie really was… that’s just… wrong!”

Clem looked like Meredith just slapped her hard across the face. She started to cry. “I didn’t mean to… really, I didn’t. She was just… she was such a bitch… and I… I just wanted to hurt her a little.”

Meredith sighed and eased up. “You can’t do that to people, Clem. Sometimes the past is… horrible. We all carry a lot of pain from our broken, messed-up lives. That’s why we’re really here. If we had people who loved us, we wouldn’t be orphans. No one deserves to have all that… ugliness… thrown back in their face.”

Clem nodded silently. “You’re right. What I did was wrong. Can you forgive me, Meredith?”

“It’s not my forgiveness that matters.”

“It matters to me.”

Meredith smiled. “Yes… I forgive you. But only if you apologize to Claudia.”

Clem stared back defiantly. “Fuck that! I won’t! She’s always been mean to me! She belittles me in front of everyone!”

“But you crossed the line, Clem. You must know that. How would you feel if someone ‘picked’ your memories and did that to you?”

Clem’s face suddenly changed–her fierce eyes barely contained behind a mask of stone making Meredith extremely uncomfortable. She let loose a wicked smile and calmly said, “I would kill anyone who did that to me. I would kill them from the inside out until their eyes bled.”

Meredith wanted to be anywhere where she wasn’t alone with this… evil person. She wisely didn’t say that out loud, but Clem could see it anyway.

“You’re afraid of me now… aren’t you?” Clem asked, looking back down at her hands.

“I… I think you should leave,” Meredith managed to get out.

Clem nodded. “Sure. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so.”

Clem looked at her. “We’re still best friends… right?”

Meredith didn’t answer.

“I’ll… I’ll apologize to Claudia. I don’t want to… but if it means we can still be friends… then I will.”

“I think you need help, Clem. Maybe you should talk-”

“This is all her fault!”

Meredith shook her head. “This is no one’s fault, Clem.”

She looked at Meredith, tears of frustration and heartache breaching stone. “Claudia did this… that fucking bitch! We were just fine until… and now…” She got up and wiped the tears away as she bolted for the door.

“Clem! Wait!” Meredith stood up.

Clem stopped before the door, her back turned to Meredith. She spoke softly but clearly over her shoulder. “I’ll make her pay for this. That’s what I’m going to do, Meredith. Then you’ll see how much I love you.”

Meredith was out of words.

Clem opened the door, exited, and gently closed the door behind her.

Meredith climbed into her bed, feeling emotionally drained, and buried herself beneath the blankets. I need to get out of here, she thought, closing her eyes to keep the tears from falling.

She mercifully began to drift off into sleep, recalling familiar words she’d heard her first night:

You’re not safe, Meredith. None of the girls are. This place is bad… very bad.


Meredith is back in the grassy endless field. The storm is much louder. The winds are howling fiercely. The sky is frightening; dark ominous thunderheads hover so close as though they will fall upon her at any moment. The rain is falling erratically as gusts of wind spit it into her face.


She spins around, wiping rain from her eyes.

It’s the young man, Toby… or what’s left of him. A thin, pale figure stands directly in front of her. His deteriorated shirt has been blown away by the wind exposing his frail frame. She can see his rib cage penetrating ancient flesh. The dead skin around his face is stretched thin. Most of his black hair is gone. His eyes are sunken in so deep that she thinks they’re gone. He raises a bony arm toward her and like before, he speaks without moving his lips. He speaks within her mind. “Not safe… no time… not safe.”

“What?” she attempts to shout, unable to project her voice over the deafening wind. “I don’t understand?”

“Place… bad… pay attention, Meredith. Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain. That’s where the truth is.”

As before, the emerald lion roars. It sounds like it is all around her.

She turns just as it pounces toward her with its sickening, hateful yellow fire for eyes.

Meredith screams and ducks down.

The lion bolts past her and jumps on Toby.

Meredith turns back.

Two more lions have joined the first, attacking from behind Toby.

She tries to move but her body feels like a large immovable stone. Meredith can only watch in horror as the three emerald lions rip what’s left of Toby to pieces.

She screams but no sound escapes her mouth.

Each lion snatches a piece from the carcass and they run off, forgetting all about her.

Meredith senses something behind her.

She turns around and discovers the little porcelain doll with the head too big for her small body, standing in the grass. It speaks to her through frantic images assaulting her mind.

“What do you mean?” she shouts at the doll. “What do you want to show me? I don’t understand!”

Suddenly, the little doll’s facial expression changes into a sinister scowl. It opens its mouth, revealing bloody razors for teeth. She tries to move away but she can’t.

The doll’s face begins to crack like an egg. Pieces fall away until the true face beneath reveals itself.

Meredith tries to scream again.

It is now her face…


…Meredith woke up surrounded by children’s toys, her throat so sore that her scream was cut off. The muscles in her back and legs were sore and stiff from sleeping on the carpeted basement floor. She painfully got to her knees and started to panic when she realized where she was.

How… how did I get down here?

She looked up toward the doll cabinets and gasped when she saw that the one on the right was empty, the glass door left hanging open.

“Toby?” she whispered.

And just like the horrible dream, she knew exactly where it was.

Meredith slowly turned around and froze.

The little doll with the wild hair and gentle eyes stood three feet behind her.

“Shit!” Meredith hissed, forcing herself to her feet and backing away from the doll.

Toby didn’t move.

She waited there for what felt like eternity, just watching the doll, expecting it to charge at her the moment she looked away.

“Calm down, Meredith,” she told herself. “It’s just a stupid doll. Someone’s played a mean prank on you… that’s all this is.”

She backed away a few more steps, until she reached the hallway.

Toby didn’t move.

She took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to turn away. Meredith moved quickly toward the stairs. All the while she imagined hearing little doll footfalls chasing after her. She nearly stumbled as she raced up the steps, her heart racing in her ears. She opened the door, exited, and quickly slammed it shut behind her.

The house was dark, like the first night she snuck down to the basement.

I couldn’t have been down there very long, she reasoned. Meredith tried to remember what happened. Her head began to throb with the worst migraine imaginable. Why can’t I remember?

No longer desiring to stand between the creepy basement and the rest of the dark, silent house, Meredith only wanted to reach her bedroom, bury herself beneath the blankets, and sleep the remainder of the night with Clem’s flashlight on.


Next Episode 35-9

Previous Episode 35-7


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 :)

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“Chapter 35-8: 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 35-7: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 23, 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
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Summer 1973

Meredith sluggishly sat at the dining room table before a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice, trying to stay awake. Saturday morning breakfast was not the formal affair her first morning had been. Most of the girls who didn’t have assigned chores that morning were allowed to sleep in and serve themselves from the kitchen after they woke. Afterwards, they scattered to have what Miss Evans called, ‘Free Day’, which consisted of either hanging out in the school room to work on arts and crafts, or just to kick back and read, or go outside and play games with the other girls until lunch. Normally, Meredith would have loved to just kick back and chill outside, but not today. Her head throbbed and she had no appetite. As she stirred her soggy oats with a spoon, she tried to remember how she got back to her room last night. Her memory was foggy. She remembered her excursion to the basement and then finding the strange toy room with the porcelain dolls. But aside from that, she couldn’t remember much else.

That’s not true, and you know it! she thought. Toby was there! Toby spoke to you… through that doll! She didn’t want to think about it. Dolls couldn’t speak to people… and if they could… only crazy people could hear them.

Clementine entered carrying a plate of toast, looking like she hadn’t slept yet as she let out a big yawn and roughly sat down next to Meredith.

Meredith turned and marveled at the black bird’s nest atop Clementine’s head and couldn’t help snickering. “Lost your brush?” she kidded.

Clementine shrugged her shoulders and shoved a piece of toast in her mouth.

“Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” Meredith observed. “That’s okay. I’m not feeling great this morning either.”

Clementine didn’t respond.

Meredith tried again. “Want to go outside after breakfast? The fresh air might-”

“Where were you last night?” Clementine barked.

“Excuse me?”

“I stopped by to visit. You weren’t in your bed.”

Meredith began to panic. She took a sip of her orange juice to stall. “I went downstairs to get a drink. Maybe you just missed me coming back?”

“Stop lying to me. I waited for over an hour. You didn’t come back.” Clementine refused to look at her. She shoved another piece of toast in her mouth.

Meredith was getting irked. “Sorry. I didn’t know I had to clear my every move with you first,” she snapped. “I went… exploring.”

Clementine stared at her and finally smiled. “You went to the basement,” she accused. “Don’t deny it.”

Meredith said nothing. She took another sip from her glass.

The dark-haired girl looked like she was about to explode. “Don’t ignore me when I’m talking to you!”

“Stop ordering me around!” Meredith fired back. “Maybe I did… maybe I didn’t. What’s it matter?”

Clementine eased up. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I just… I was just upset that I waited for you and you never came back.”

Meredith gave her a puzzled look. “Did you think I took off in the middle of the night? That I ran away?”

“It crossed my mind,” she said. “Just forget it and eat your damn… whatever that is.” Clementine got up and stormed out of the dining room before Meredith could say another word.

Meredith shook her head and said, “Wow…. What a mega bitch!”

“Good morning, Meredith.”

Meredith turned around, startled to discover Dr. Forrester standing at the other end of the dining room with her arms crossed and leaning against the entranceway. She wasn’t wearing her white coat and looked a little too casual for a doctor, dressed in jeans and a blouse.

“I… uhh… hello… Dr. Forrester…” She stood up.

“Candice,” she said with an amused smile.

“Uh…yeah… Dr. Candice… I mean… Candice…”

“Relax, Meredith. You’re absolutely right… Clementine can be a bit of a mega bitch sometimes. But you didn’t hear me say that… just like I didn’t hear you say it.” She added a playful wink.

Meredith smiled and nodded. “Would you like a bowl of disgusting oatmeal? It’s about the only thing I can make.” She looked at the soggy mess and finished, “Honestly, I don’t think I can make oatmeal either.”

“No… I’ll pass. But thank you. I came by to see how you were doing.”

“I’m a little tired, but I’m okay.”

“Trouble sleeping?”

“Well… you know… new place and all. I’ll get used to it eventually.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Meredith. Sounds like you’re starting to like it here.”

“It’s okay.”

Candice ran a hand through her shoulder-length brown hair and yawned. “Excuse me. Apparently I could’ve used a little more sleep, too.”

“You’re very pretty for a doctor,” Meredith said.

Candice flashed her a surprised smile. “Well… thank you… I think.”

“Oh… I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve just never seen a doctor in regular clothes before. I mean… forget I said anything.” Meredith stared down at her feet, feeling embarrassed for speaking out of turn.

“I understand. No worries, Meredith. The word you’re looking for is ‘professional’. Usually we doctors look and act the part, with very little time for anything else.” Candice hesitated and gave her a thoughtful look. “I’m about to go off duty for the weekend but I’d love to take a walk first. Why don’t you join me? Unless you’re bound and determined to finish that delightful bowl of… what are you calling it again?”


“Okay… sure… we can call it that if you want.” Candice gave her a ‘yuk’ face, putting her finger to her mouth.

Meredith laughed and said, “No… I’m good. I’ll take you up on that walk.”

“Great. I’ll take you out back. I think some of the girls are playing volleyball this morning.”


The view from the back side of the property was breathtaking. Meredith was awed by how vast the fields were, which seemed to go on forever, reminding her of the dream with the emerald lion.

She sat down with Dr. Forrester at a picnic table as six of the older girls, including Clementine and that know-it-all girl, Claudia, from class, were picking teams. Finch was also there, supervising the game. From a distance he almost looked like one of the girls sporting that long red ponytail.

Meredith snickered at the thought.

“Something funny?” Candice asked.

She nodded at Finch. “I didn’t know he was still here.”

“You mean, Michael?”

“Yeah. I didn’t see him at breakfast yesterday. I thought he’d left.”

Candice smiled. “Michael’s here on the weekends. Among other things, he’s our activities director. All the girls love him and he keeps things light.”

“He was nice to me on the drive over. I was so mean to him.”

“Don’t worry about it, Meredith. Michael’s an easy going guy. He won’t hold it against you. If I’m not mistaken, he’ll be running crafts tomorrow afternoon in the classroom. Michael enjoys helping the girls tap into their creative sides. He firmly believes that the best way to understand ourselves is through what we create. I believe you’ll enjoy it.”

Meredith smiled. “Sounds fun. I think I will. As long as I don’t have to create anymore oatmeal.”

Candice laughed.

The girls started playing.

They watched in silence for a few moments, absorbing the sights and sounds of a beautiful summer morning. For Meredith, this almost felt normal and she relished anything that made her feel… normal… and not some freak standing out in a crowd.

“Meredith,” Candice said. “Since I have you here, I wanted to ask you about last night.”

Meredith turned to look at her. “Last night?”

“You know… when you left your room and visited the basement.”

Meredith was caught off guard. She didn’t know what to say.

Candice laughed. “It’s alright. You’re not in trouble. I just wanted to ask you about it, if that’s okay?”

“How… how did you know? Did Clem tell you?”

Candice gave her an ‘are you serious’ look and answered, “Meredith, nothing goes on in this house without someone knowing about it. It’s part of our job to look after all of you. But how I know is not important. What I want to know is why you went down there in the middle of the night?”

“I… I don’t like secrets,” Meredith confessed. “Clem made it such a big deal telling me that the basement was ‘off limits’, but she wouldn’t tell me why. It drove me nuts. So… I had to find out.”

“Of course you did,” Candice said. “I’d probably do the same thing in your shoes. So what was your impression when you visited the dolls? I assume you found them.”

“Yes, I did,” Meredith admitted, but would say nothing else. “I thought the room was strange… all those toys and those crazy dolls in the cases. Why is all that down there?”

Candice nodded. “Originally, when we first moved into the house, we’d planned on having a room for much younger children than the rest of you. But due to unforeseeable expenses, and a lack of staffing, it was decided that toddlers wouldn’t thrive here, so we moved all those toys into the basement. I think the plan was to get rid of that stuff, but then things got busy and everyone forget about the toys. So we just left them alone. The reason the basement is off limits is more for safety concerns since there’s a lot of stuff being stored down there.” Candice quickly looked away and back toward the girls.

Meredith only saw it for a brief moment, but she was certain Candice was lying… or not telling the whole truth. Besides, none of that explained why a girl doll named Toby spoke with her. Maybe it was all in your head, she thought with concern. Maybe you inhaled paint fumes or something and imagined all of it.

“So… there was nothing else?” Candice pressed.

“Excuse me?”

Candice sighed. “The dolls, Meredith. Is there anything else you can tell me about them?”

“I don’t understand the question.” Meredith could clearly sense Candice’s annoyance beneath her friendly exterior. What does she expect me to say?

“You’re a damn liar!” Claudia yelled, causing the volleyball game to come to a halt.

Meredith turned toward the girls just in time to watch the know-it-all cross over to the other side of the net and get in Clem’s face.

“What did you call me?” Clem looked like she was ready to punch the taller girl.

“Ladies… please calm down,” Finch said, taking a cautious step toward the pair. “It’s just a friendly game.” He stopped and gave Dr. Forrester a worried glance.

Meredith turned to Candice. She looked terrified. “Meredith,” she said, getting up from the picnic table. “I want you to stay right here.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Just… stay here.” Candice was frantically reaching into her purse.

Meredith turned back toward the girls.

“You heard me, bitch!” Claudia nearly spat in Clem’s face they were so close. “You’re a liar… and you know it!”

Clem gave the taller girl a frightening smile. “What are you going to do about it, Clau-di-a?” she mocked.

The taller girl shoved Clem in the chest, knocking her to the ground.

The other girls gasped and took a step back. They were all looking at Finch.

Finch appeared unsure how to proceed. “Okay… enough is enough,” he finally said. “Clem… just… just take it easy now. Claudia, stand down.”

Claudia’s angry expression changed the moment she realized what she’d done. “This is a stupid game anyway,” she said to no one, trying to save face. But Meredith could clearly see it: Claudia was terrified. She turned and headed back toward the house.

“Where are you going, Clau-di-a?” Clem taunted with a sinister little laugh. She slowly rose to her feet. “We’re not done talking yet, Clau-di-a.”

Candice retrieved a small black box from her purse. Meredith watched her push some sort of button on it repeatedly as she started moving toward the girls. She turned back when Meredith started to rise and said, “I mean it! Stay right here!”

Meredith quickly sat back down.

Clem started to follow Claudia toward the house. The other girls quickly parted, allowing her to pass. Finch simply stood there, but cautioned, “Clementine… don’t. Let it go and calm down.”

Clem ignored him and yelled at Claudia’s back, “Where are you going? Turn around and come back, you coward!”

Claudia refused to look back. She actually quickened her pace toward the rear of the house reminding Meredith of a swimmer trying to reach the shore before the shark caught up.

Candice stepped in front of Clem with her arms raised. “Clementine… please calm down.”

Clem stopped, looked into Dr. Forrester’s eyes and barked, “MOVE!”

“Candice!” Finch yelled. “What the hell are you doing? Get out of her way!”

Candice took three steps back from the enraged girl.

Meredith stood up. She had no idea what was happening but the fear was contagious. Without thinking, she yelled out to Clem. “Stop it!”

Meredith’s voice distracted Clem. She looked over at her new best friend, saw something familiar in Meredith’s face, and frowned.

Miss Evans came bursting out the back door accompanied by two big men wearing white shirts. She only saw it for a moment, but Meredith swore she saw one of the men trying to conceal what looked like a gun belt beneath his long untucked shirt.

The big woman signaled the men to stand back and then rushed toward the angry girl.

Claudia was almost in tears by the time she made it to the back door.

“Clementine!” Miss Evans voice carried like thunder. “Clementine, you stop this foolishness immediately!” She stopped ten feet from the girl.

Clem turned away from Meredith and gave Miss Evans a threatening glare.

Miss Evan’s face reminded Meredith of an approaching hurricane. “Don’t you dare look at me like that, child! You stand down this instant… before you find yourself in a world of trouble.”

Something clicked in Clem. She stopped, let her shoulders droop with a heavy sigh, and then looked away from the big woman. “She started it,” Clem added weakly.

“And I’m finishing it… right now! Do you understand me, child?” Miss Evans didn’t even flinch. To Meredith, she was like an immovable stone.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Clem responded, staring at her feet.

Miss Evans put her hands to her side and gave Clem a disapproving stare, shaking her head. “We’ve talked about this, child. We’ve talked about your… temper… and the consequences. Have we not?”

Clem simply nodded. All her anger had dissipated.

“Girls… inside!” Miss Evans ordered.

The other girls who had been too scared to move, suddenly dispersed, rushing toward the house.

The big woman gave Finch and Candice a glance and nodded to them.

They nodded back.

Finch followed the girls into the house.

Candice came back to Meredith. “Time to go, Meredith. I’m sorry our talk was cut short.”

“Is everything-”

“Not now,” Candice cut in, grabbing Meredith’s arm. “We need to let Miss Evans and Clementine have some space. Everything is alright now.”

Meredith could hear the fear in Candice’s voice. She looked back once at Clem who looked like she was receiving the scolding of her life as Miss Evans hovered over her. She could not hear what the big woman was saying but Meredith could tell Clem was not enjoying it.

Meredith looked for the two mysterious men. They had disappeared.

The only thing she knew for certain was that everything was definitely not alright.


Next Episode 35-8

Previous Episode 35-6


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

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“Chapter 35-7: 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 35-6: 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
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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.”


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…


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“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.