Posts Tagged ‘Book Three: Recruits’

~~~

The trek from the rear of Ollie’s Oasis, heading north and away from the marketplace district and into the amusement park ruins just south of the lake, was absolutely terrifying. Nine led the group of shocked New Cleveland citizens into the aftermath of an area that looked like it had been ripped apart and gutted by the savage dead. Every trailer and plywood constructed shop door had been partially torn from hinges or removed entirely. Windows had been shattered. Bloody footprints ranging from bare feet to boots and sneakers were scattered around every entrance, staining every porch like wild muddy animal tracks after a storm. Trails of blood exited every shop, leading into the center of streets where thicker pools of blood lay congealing in the late morning sun. There were no bodies left behind, at least, nothing resembling human corpses. Arms, limbs, organs, heads… all were scattered everywhere like unwanted leftovers tossed out after feasting.

They had been fortunate to slip through this ravaged area undetected while bombarded by screams from fresh kills, sporadic gunfire and the raging howls of the dead coming from adjacent streets. Nine could see trails of black smoke spiraling up toward the sky as parts of New Cleveland burned indifferently.

When they cleared the last street, ducking in between two blood covered trailers, the survivors stepped down into a small field of waist-high tall grass and weeds hiding various rusted amusement park debris where only the imagined screams from the long deceased could reach their ears.

Nine squinting at every disfigured shape in between swaying reeds, expecting it to move, and then discovering another rusted attraction. They’d passed an ancient bumper car, an overturned rollercoaster chair, and a disturbing clown caricature statue that was missing half its face, revealing an exaggerated smile full of dirty teeth. The statue had a hand raised, appearing to wave between the blowing weeds —its smile made it look insane. In its other hand was an old sign, barely legible, which read: ALL YOU CAN EAT FRIDAYS! COME ON DOWN TO BOBO’S BARBECUE PIT AND EAT AND LAUGH ‘TILL YOUR STOMACH’S BURST!

Nine let out a nervous laugh, “That’s fucked-up,” he muttered, leading the others away from the disturbingly appropriate clown.

The lake came into view. Nine started for the shore, then motioned for everyone to get down.

Fred grabbed his wife’s hand and pulled the nervous woman down behind Nine.

Greta looked around, shaking constantly.

Harold, John and Missy squatted in the grass.

Asshole Mike took up the rear, looking back anxiously. “What are we waiting for?” he said. “You got us out here… let’s move it!”

Nine glared at the man and then pointed toward the lake.

Two dead women and a teenage boy were crouched down on the beach, their backs turned. They were eating someone.

Greta covered her mouth. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered.

Harold gave her a stern look.

Nine studied the area around the yellow-eyed trio. There were no other dead things around. He turned and motioned the others to come in close. “We’re fortunate the wind is at our backs and those things are… preoccupied,” he said. “We should back up and stay in the field, then cut left and-”

“Fuck all that,” Asshole Mike said. “I’m not going back there. Everyone knows this place is full of… you know… spirits and shit.”

“We’re surround by the dead and your worried about Halloween stories?” Nine said.

“Look!” Fred hissed, pointing toward the beach.

They all turned.

The two women and the teenager were gone… and so was their meal.

“Where did they go?” Greta asked frantically. “Are they… do they know we’re here?”

“Calm down,” Nine said. “They’re probably heading up the beach to catch up with their-”

To their right, the tall grass started to shake. Something howled nearby in a gravely feminine voice.

They’re headed back toward town, Nine thought. That was too close. He signaled the others to remain still. Nine looked back toward the shore. He spotted a rowboat turned over and sitting near a small broken dock off to their left. The boat looked old as dirt, but undamaged. Shit, we could use that to get out on the lake and follow the shore up to Harper’s Run. It’s gotta be safer than what we’re doing.

Before Nine could point out the boat, everything went to hell.

“Run!” Asshole Mike shouted, standing up.

All three zombies stopped and started hissing nearby.

Fucking idiot! They were almost past us!

The reeds shook violently as all three zombies stormed toward them, howling and growling.

The New Cleveland survivors started to panic. They all got up and started bolting in different directions.

“Wait!” Nine yelled. “Head for the shore! There’s a boat!”

Too late.

Fred and his Wife got so turned around that instead of running away from the dead… they turned right toward them. A woman with long grey hair wearing what looked like a torn nightgown jumped on Greta’s back. The woman’s eyes blazed yellow, her veins bulging on the surface of her pale skin. It bit into the back of Greta’s neck, causing her to scream and fall forward, disappearing into the reeds. Before Fred reached his wife, the monster splattered Greta’s blood across his face. Nine could hear Greta making choking sounds as the zombie woman bit into her face.

Before Fred had time to register what just happened, the teenage boy pulled him to the ground. Fred screamed in agony.

“Fuck!” Nine said, backing up toward the beach while trying to locate the others in the tall grass. The third zombie was still unaccounted for.

I can’t tell who’s who!

Harold, John and Missy had bolted to the left, running parallel to the beach but losing each other in the field overgrowth.

Nine wanted to call out, but the other two zombies were feeding on the older couple right near his position.

Then there was more movement… a lot more movement… coming from town. The tall grass came alive with the terrifying screams of the dead as they turned toward the fleeing survivors. Nine listened in horror as Harold, John and Missy were hunted down and slaughtered.

It’s too late for them, Nine thought. They drew the dead away from the beach. You have to go! Move your ass!

A new sound caught his attention from behind him. Nine turned. “Sonabitch!” he hissed.

Asshole Mike had just flipped the old rowboat over. He was pushing it into the lake.

He fucking saw it, too! He saw the boat and then caused a panic… just so he could lure the dead toward us while he stole it!

Nine balled up his fists and started toward the beach.

The reeds exploded off to his right as the grey-haired woman and the teenage boy were racing toward the rowboat. The third zombie, a woman with short black hair wearing a ripped bloody blouse came out of the grass from Nine’s left.

Nine ducked back down before they saw him.

Asshole Mike was already in the lake crawling into the boat. He was ten feet away from shore.

He’s going to make it, Nine thought, shaking his head.

The three zombies stopped at the shoreline and then stared down at the water. They started hissing at the missed meal in the boat.

Mike was now in the rowboat, twenty feet from the shore. Out of breath, he still had time to point and laugh in the zombie’s faces when he realized they wouldn’t enter the water. “Fuck you, pricks!” he shouted at them. “I beat you! I fucking beat you!”

The woman with gray hair cocked her head at the mocking man.

“Go on!” Mike yelled at it, reaching down and retrieving an oar that was attached to the interior of the boat. “Go find someone else to munch on you hideous looking bitch!”

Nine turned away. Time to go. At least the dead are distracted by that piece of shit. He decided to stay near the shore, just inside of the tall grass as he turned west. He suddenly stopped to the sound of a large splash behind him.

“Hey! Stop that! What the hell are you doing?” Mike yelled.

Nine turned back and raised his eyebrows in surprise.

The two dead women and the teen had moved to the broken dock. They were tearing off pieces of wood and throwing them out at the rowboat. Some of the pieces were large as they splashed near the small vessel, causing Asshole Mike to move about and nearly drop his oar in the water.

They’re trying to knock him out of the boat! Nine thought. He was initially awed by the dead’s cleverness, which quickly turned to fear. They’re starting to reason. What else can these scary bastards do now?

Mike was struck in the head by a long piece of wood. Every time he tried to row the boat away, he had to raise his hands to deflect more flying debris. “Cut it the fuck out!” he yelled, wiping blood off the side of his face.

The sight of Mike’s blood just made the monsters more crazed and determined, as they continued to throw pieces of wood while screeching toward their floating meal.

Mike made a fatal error. The rowboat started to spin the wrong direction due to his jerky movements. He stood up and attempted to turn around too fast and started to lose his balance.

The dead waited in anticipation for the man to fall into the water, but Mike regained his balance and instead of falling over the side, he stepped forward, falling to his knees at the bow of the boat. The impact was too much for the old boat to take as Mike’s left knee penetrated the bottom of the vessel. “Shit!” he hissed. While trying to remove his knee, his whole leg fell through the bottom instead. The rowboat quickly filled with water.

The dead seemed excited… if that was still possible. They were waving their hands at the small boat and jumping around at the water’s edge in some sort of… Victory dance?

Nine watched as Asshole Mike tried to pull himself up into the boat, but the hole just got worse. His other leg fell through the bottom as more pieces of the old vessel started collapsing in on itself. Mike fell completely through the bottom of the boat and struggled to stay above water as more pieces of the rowboat broke off on top of him. That’s when Nine realized that the boat was going to drag him beneath.

“Help… Help me!” Mike desperately cried. He may have escaped the dead’s reach… but not the depths of the lake as the frantic man reached for anything to stay afloat and found nothing.

The three dead things stood on the shore and watched the flailing man slowly drown.

I should help him, a voice within Nine protested. He thought about Joe hanging from the rollercoaster and dismissed the voice. Instead, the young man watched from the tall grass, along with the dead on the shore, as the desperate man started sinking with the boat wreckage, coughing and gasping for air.

Either Asshole Mike couldn’t swim, or he couldn’t escape the sinking rowboat. He went underwater three times… and never resurfaced after the third time.

Nine stared at the dead who were staring out at the last of Mike’s air bubbles striking the surface. They were either contemplating entering the water to retrieve the remains, or they were waiting for the lake current to provide it for them. That was when Nine became aware of his own sickening, satisfying smile.

I wonder if the dead feed off the act of dying as much as the blood itself? he thought with a chill, realizing that he had just enjoyed watching Asshole Mike drown to death.

Nine turned away in disgust and pushed west through the tall grass.

~~~

“Diane!” Sergeant Hash managed to shout. “Get away from her! She’s not… she’s not Wendy anymore!” Hash tried to move but fell over, his limbs becoming lead. The exertion pushed him over the edge as the sedative was on the verge of knocking him out.

Tony struggled to move toward Diane but fell sideways in a clumsy mess. He reached over and tried to grab the hunter’s foot but missed. The big man opened his mouth to speak but started to black out.

Diane stared at the young woman. She couldn’t move.

Wendy started to convulse violently. She started scratching at the air as if a thousand invisible demons were assaulting her mind. Wendy opened her mouth and let out a gut-wrenching scream.

The scream of the dead.

Diane tried to pull herself away from the poor girl. “Wendy,” she whispered as a tear fell from the corner of her eye. “Wendy… I’m so… I’m so sorry.” Diane fell on her side. She felt the entire room spin. Her eyes started to close. Every time she managed to partially open them, she could see Wendy, panting like a rabid dog with drool dripping down from the corners of her mouth as she leaned forward, hunched over and crawling… crawling toward her.

Wendy stared at her with those dead eyes.

Diane found no recognition in them.

Only hunger.

Diane let her eyes close and gave up fighting. She let out a deep cry and slammed her fist on the ground, failing to stay conscious.

This is how it ends, she thought. My God! This is unbearable! Please… please God… let it be quick.

She could hear Wendy approach… growling… panting… gone.

From behind them, someone was frantically attempting to unlock the lab door.

Wendy grabbed at her feet and pulled until she was on top of the hunter.

At least you’re not here, my love, Diane thought. I couldn’t stand to watch you die… not like this. And you won’t have to see what happens next.

Diane felt the probing hands of her dead friend reaching toward her neck.

Those cold hands.

The door to the lab opened.

Footsteps.

Wendy had Diane’s throat in her hands.

The hunter refused to open her eyes.

Wendy opened her mouth to feed.

A single gunshot resounded in the lab.

Diane felt Wendy’s hands relax… and then depart her throat.

Can’t… do it… can’t fight it… anymore.

The hunter lost consciousness…

~~~

Briana loaded her handguns with the remaining rounds from her pockets. The six-cylinder revolvers were still hot, but her fingers moved with such practiced efficiency that she barely noticed the burn marks on the tips of her fingers. Her sweaty black hair hung over her face, sticking to the smeared white paint on her cheeks.

She stared out from the second-floor balcony of Candyman’s trailer, into the courtyard. Her remaining ten Lunatics formed a horseshoe pattern in front of the trailer. They were all armed with assault rifles aimed out toward the courtyard, ready to destroy anything that moved into the area.

Briana stared at the blood-soaked ground enclosed by the glorified trailer park. The front of every trailer was splattered red like a bad paint job or some prank on Hell Night. Except this was not a prank… and that was not red paint.

“Relax,” came the foolish man’s voice from behind her. “Everything is under control.”

Briana turned. Candyman was sitting on the edge of his ridiculously large bed wearing a turtleneck and sipping on a glass of vodka. He simply sat there staring at one of his stupid city scene paintings on the wall.

Briana could still hear the screams of the living mixed with the howls of the dead riding on the warm breeze that offered no relief. “We shouldn’t be here,” she said. “The only reason we’re not dead yet is because those yellow-eyed assholes hit this area first.”

“We will be fine,” he assured her in his ‘way too calm’ voice. “Clearly the numbers of the dead were greatly exaggerated.”

Briana laughed and shook her head. “Are you trying to convince me… or yourself?”

“I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“Okay,” she said, staring back out at the courtyard. She didn’t like what she wasn’t hearing anymore. The sound of Lunatic gunfire throughout the town had diminished. Now, there was only the occasional gunshot resounding around New Cleveland, which sounded more like the last worthless efforts of scattered Lunatics either firing their final rounds into the dead before being consumed… or ending their own lives. “New Cleveland’s lost,” Briana announced, more to herself than anything else. Surprisingly, the admission didn’t bother her too much.

“That’s not the kind of talk I expect from the head of my security force,” Candyman cautioned. “Put your fear in check before the men see it on your ridiculous face.”

Briana turned back and laughed. “Come on! Seriously? Can’t you hear the obvious? Hell… even the screams of the living are starting to die down. Pretty soon all we’re going to hear is the dead chomping down on a bunch of corpses like a bunch of feral dogs roaming the streets. New Cleveland’s full of ghosts and monsters now. We need to get back into that fucking tunnel and get the hell out of here.”

Candyman glared at her from the bed. After evacuating the lab with thirty men, they emerged from the secret tunnel beneath an unused trailer with a hatch build into the floor, several blocks from the courtyard. The tunnels were the primary means Candyman used to get around town unseen, but it was also the unofficial escape route. After fighting their way through packs of the dead and losing two thirds of their forces in the process, they finally arrived at Candyman’s courtyard and secured the area. “I’m not giving up my damn town!” he snapped at her. “So, get you head on straight and do your fucking job!”

“The town’s gone!” she fired back. “We’re probably all that’s left. How long do you think it’s going to take for those men outside to figure that out and bail on us?”

“They wouldn’t dare,” he said.

She smiled. “If I’m considering it… then I know they are, too.”

Candyman stood up. “You leave. I’ll have you executed. When order is restored, there will be nowhere you can hide that I won’t find you… eventually.”

Briana aimed her guns at him. “I could just shoot you dead right now. No one downstairs will say anything. And there won’t be anything left of your body by sundown in the way of evidence. Those critters like to eat as they go, if you haven’t noticed.”

Candyman continued to stare at her with an intensity that Briana still found unnerving. “I want you to remember who led us out of that fucking mess Downtown when we were all alone in that prison. The odds were against us then, too. No one gave a damn about us when the world fell apart… they just left us to rot… remember?”

“Yeah,” she said, lowering her guns. “I remember.”

“And who got us out?”

“You did.”

“That’s right,” he said. “When we fought our way out of the prison, when several of the other inmates wanted to just run, I went back to free the rest of you in Women’s Detention. I was the one who kept the others from losing their shit.”

Briana looked away.

“If not for me, you would’ve rotted away in a cell like forgotten leftovers in the back of the fridge with the dead hovering around your cage. Do you think this chaos is any different?”

She nodded. “Okay. I hear you. But what do we do now?”

Candyman smiled. “Do you really think I haven’t prepared a contingency plan for something like this? Knowing how fragile our arrangement is with those monsters out at Mosquito Creek, do you really believe I haven’t planned for this?”

Briana gave him a curious look.

“Why do you think I wanted us to come here… hmm?” he said.

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I thought it was stupid at the time. There’s several places we could’ve gone that are easier to defend.”

Candyman smiled. “Consider what we’ve learned from earlier this morning.”

Briana rolled her eyes. “Let’s not. Why don’t you just speak plainly for once.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll put it another way. Was the dynamite used to blow up the theater smuggled in from outside… or was it already here?”

She raised her eyebrows.

“That’s right,” he said. “Now, where do you suppose the rest of that dynamite is?”

Briana was catching on. She looked down and smiled. “That’s why we came back here!”

“Yes,” he said with a smile, taking a sip from his drink. “I’ve rigged the courtyard with enough explosives to blow up half of New Cleveland—everything on the south side of the lake.”

She nodded with a smile. “That’s why you didn’t run. You want to blow those fuckers up and solve our Mosquito Creek problem… permanently.”

“Yes,” he said. “Losing half the town is a hefty price to pay… but we can rebuild again… and make this place better.” He stepped up to a large painting on the wall beside his bed. It was a picture of several dogs playing poker in a smoke-filled casino. Candyman grabbed the sides of the painting and removed it from the wall, revealing a safe with a combination dial. He started turning the dial. “I’ve been aware of certain threats since the beginning. Long before our arrangement with those monsters attacking the town, I had another arrangement… with the Shadow Dead. They’re the reason we have this town… and they’ve never given up control of it. I’ve always known they’ve been here, watching from the shadows, and reporting back to their masters. So… when our original scavenger parties discovered a rather large supply of explosives in a mine, I took advantage of it.” There was a loud click. Candyman opened the safe.

Briana stepped inside for a better view. She could see what looked like some large lit-up stereo. Candyman picked up a remote control sitting on top of it.

Briana nodded. “You originally thought the Shadow Dead were coming back… and you were ready to blow up half the town if they invaded.”

“Yes, and when they didn’t come back… I let my guard down.” Candyman turned with the remote.

“That’s why that Alysa bitch freaked you out so much,” Briana said. “You thought they were finally coming back and she was their first spy.”

“No, not the first. I’m certain of it. But Alysa confirmed that they were here all along.”

Briana laughed. “So, this ‘explosive’ plan of yours has become a ‘kill two birds’ scenario, is that right?”

“Precisely,” he said. “I’ve since considered the possibility that Mosquito Creek would violate the truce, regardless of our deal. And if they did, I imagined something like this happening. So, now… we’ll purge the town of Mosquito Creek and the fucking Shadow Dead infiltrators in one big… Ka-Boom.”

“But… the dead are everywhere. How are you going to get them all to come here?”

Candyman smiled, pointed the remote at the stereo, and then clicked a button. Moments later, the sound of trumpets started blaring from the elaborate sound system.

“What the fuck?” Briana said, turning back toward the balcony. From all around the courtyard, from beneath every trailer, the same song with a trumpets intro started blaring.

The Lunatics below stared around in confusion.

“It’s Ring of Fire, Candyman said with a wicked smile as the voice of Johnny Cash resounded across the courtyard. “Appropriate, don’t you think?”

Briana looked around in alarm. “Shit,” she said. “A little warning would’ve been nice.”

“Time to go,” Candyman said.

“Go? Go fucking where?”

“Signal your men to come in. We haven’t much time. The song’s not that long and I expect the dead will arrive before the finale.” Candyman started downstairs.

Briana stared at the man in shock, then looked down at her Lunatics from the balcony.

They all gave her confused shrugs.

She shook her head at them and then waved them inside.

Downstairs, Candyman was dancing to the chorus of the song, his vodka glass in one hand, the remote in the other. He stepped up to the coffee table in front of his favorite chair and then pushed it forward with one foot until the tacky ‘70’s style area rug beneath was clear.

Briana and the others stood near the door watching the courtyard and Candyman. They could all hear the rising screams of the dead drowning out the song. They were coming.

“What the fuck are we doing?” Briana said, trying to stay calm and failing.

Candyman threw his vodka glass against the wall, then grabbed a corner of the carpet and rolled it back, revealing a hatch door leading beneath the trailer. He reached for a handle and then pulled up the hatch revealing a rope ladder descending into the darkness. He turned back and said. “I’d understand if you wanted to stay and hear the rest of the song… it’s a classic… but I recommend you stop standing there and follow me.”

“Follow you where?” Briana said, her head spinning from the doorway back to Candyman. By the sound of it, the dead would storm the courtyard in minutes.

Candyman smiled. “Come and see. There’s not really any time to explain.” He disappeared into the hatch.

Briana and her men followed the leader of New Cleveland into the darkness. The last Lunatic closed the hatch behind him.

~~~

Chapter 52 continues on Friday…

Previous Episode 52-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-9: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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.

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~~~

Nine had never seen anything like it. The dead started pouring over the top of the walls like flood water. The scattered Lunatics who had stood their ground along the perimeter were overwhelmed in moments. The sound of frantic rifle fire was replaced by horrendous screams as the yellow-eyed demons violently ripped into the face-painted soldiers, tearing their limbs from their bodies and feasting on the remains like wild dogs fighting over unattended turkeys on Thanksgiving. While the first rank of the dead fed on the soldiers, the second, third, and fourth ranks spilling over the walls stormed toward the crowded streets.

And more kept coming over the walls.

Panicked citizens went insane with fear as they trampled over one another, screaming and shouting, but having nowhere to run due to the large crowds congesting the streets.

Nine had made it as far as the eastern end of the marketplace district when the gunfire started. He’d been driven by an irrational compulsion to locate Diane, but had no idea where to begin, so he’d searched every face in the crowd, hoping he’d see her… or any of his friends.

When the dead arrived, he was turned back around by the frenzied crowd running north and west to get away from the main entrance into New Cleveland from the south.

After clearing the walls, the yellow-eyed beasts invaded the town, seeming to strike out at the living from everywhere.

Nine did all he could just to stay afloat in the center of the manic crowd.

The dead were not only slaughtering unfortunate citizens caught at the outer edges of the crowd, but they were also using the crowd as concealment to avoid being shot down by Lunatics high up on the coaster. The blood-thirsty savages maneuvered in smaller packs, moving in and out among the sheep and disappearing down alleyways and barging into storefronts.

Nine was shoved and assaulted repeatedly by terrified citizens just trying to get away and was pushed into an alley by the scattering crowd. He was knocked down in front of a trailer as several feet kicked him in the face, stepped on his hands and legs—someone even jumped on his back. The young man, with the wind knocked out of him, had managed to roll beneath the trailer crawlspace. As he attempted to breathe, Nine saw frantic feet running by, as well as filthy and bloody bare feet accompanied by the raw inhuman groans of hunger as the dead lashed out at the living. He watched bodies fall in bloody heaps as more citizens trampled over the corpses to get away. Nine moved as far back beneath the small trailer as he could.

A woman suddenly fell in front of the trailer, turned, and saw Nine hiding. To Nine she looked half-dead already. The woman’s face was bloody. Patches of her long brown hair had been ripped out. But it was her eyes—her large bulging eyes—that captured the woman’s terrifying plight from the dead. Nine had a chilling thought: All our eyes will look like that before the end of the day… recording each of our unspoken horror stories as we lie dead in our own blood.

Nine waved a shaky hand toward the woman. “Come on!” he whispered. “Get in here before they see you!”

The woman seemed unresponsive at first, on the verge of either crying or screaming… or both. Then she started to crawl beneath the trailer.

Nine reached out his hands to her. “Come on! Hurry!”

The woman reached for his hands.

Something grabbed the woman’s legs and forcefully dragged her out from beneath the trailer.

Nine could do nothing but listen to the woman’s chilling screams as three dead savages tore the woman to pieces in front of the trailer. Two ran off after the crowd and one stayed behind to feed, slowly dragging the woman’s corpse behind it.

Nine could see the woman’s eyes before she was gutted.

Her dead, horrific eyes.

The screams from the living mixed with the cries of the dead continued. They were too much. Nine closed his eyes and covered his ears, bringing his legs up to his chest beneath the small space like a frightened child.

He started to wonder what story his dead eyes would tell by the end of that bloody day.

~~~

“What the fuck are you talking about, Brianna? ‘Leave the city’? I will do no such thing!” Candyman was irate.

The Lunatic leader was frantic. “You don’t get it! You haven’t seen what’s happening up there! It’s a fucking blood-fest!”

Candyman collected himself and ran a hand through his slicked-back hair. “Accompany me to my trailer,” he told her.

Briana laughed. “You’re fucking kidding, right? Have you not-”

“Say one more word about abandoning your post… or suggesting I do the same… and I’ll have your fucking head. Are we clear?”

Briana raised an eyebrow and put her hands to her hips. “Okay… but we could get out right now-”

“Are we clear?” Candyman’s face left no room for debate.

The Lunatic gunslinger threw her hands in the air. “Fine! You wanna go see the show for yourself? Let’s go, then.”

“How many men do we have available?”

“As many as you still have down here,” she answered, leading Candyman and his two Lunatic escorts out of the lab.

Briana turned back and stared at the sedated prisoners lying on the floor and barely hanging on to consciousness. “Want me to execute them?”

Candyman turned back, stared into their faces, and then frowned like a sulking child robbed of his playtime. “No,” he said. “Just leave them here and lock the door.” He smiled and finished, “They’re dead already.”

~~~

They’re dead already.

Sergeant Hash could still hear Candyman’s final words echoing through his skull long after the madman departed. Every part of him wanted to give up—just close his eyes and embrace a permanent sleep. But he refused to give the prick the final words… even if they were true.

Move, you soft little bitch! After everything you’ve been through down here, a fucking sleeping pill’s going to be your end? I don’t think so.

It took incredible effort, but the tortured man sat up. He focused on his fading friends.

“Hey,” he meant to shout, but it came out as a whisper. “Hey! Wake the fuck up!” A little louder that time.

He saw the big man stir from the prone position and turn his head. “Still here,” Tony whispered.

Hash nodded. He looked at Diane.

She’d managed to maintain a kneeling position, resting her head on the floor. She raised her only hand… slightly… but enough to let him know that she, too, was not done yet.

“Good on both of you,” Hash said. “Now keep your damn eyes open. If we die… you want to look Death in the eyes. Remember that.”

He looked over at Wendy. She was still sitting up, her head tilted forward and resting on her chest. The girl hadn’t said a word or moved since receiving the sedative. “Hey! Wendy! Get up! You don’t get to check out… not after you just murdered a man in cold blood.”

His words struck hard, as intended. Wendy partially opened her eyes.

“There you go,” he said. “Welcome back. Now… stay awake. You don’t get to sleep that guilty conscience away. Trust me… I’ve been trying for years.”

Wendy opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.

“It’s okay,” Hash said, shaking his head to fight the tidal wave of exhaustion multiplied by the sedative. “You don’t have to say anything, little lady. Just… just try to hold on.”

She was staring at him now. Her eyes revealed a defeated young woman who was ready to die. Hash knew that faraway stare very well. He’d seen the same on so many survivors’ faces the first few months after escaping the power plant.

They’re dead already.

The words reminded him of how very little time they had left.

One of them was going to turn. It didn’t matter who. But it did matter that they face it… together.

Tony and Diane understood this as much as he did. But the young woman… she was checking out early.

“Wendy,” he said, noticing the girl starting to slip away again.

She opened her eyes.

“You asked if God can forgive you… for what you’ve done. Well, I can’t speak for the Big Man… but I forgive you.”

She continued to stare.

Hash closed his eyes and then forced them back open. “I’ve killed a lot of people… and I’ve been paying for it ever since. But you… It’s not too late for you. You still feel that horrible rotting pain in your heart from a single regrettable action. You’re already paying for what you’ve done… suffering for it… But you can still turn this around.”

“I forgive… forgive you, Wendy,” Tony said.

“Me, too,” Diane said.

“See?” Hash said, with a laugh. “If they can forgive you, and I can forgive you… then all you have to do is forgive yourself.”

Wendy closed her eyes.

“And I bet,” Hash continued, “that the Big Man has already forgiven you. You just don’t feel… forgiven… not yet. But you will.”

Hash stopped. Shit, maybe I needed to hear that, too.

“Wendy?” Tony said. “Stay with us.”

The young woman’s eyes stayed closed.

Diane managed to turn herself around She attempted to kick the girl next to her, but only brushed against her shoe. “Wake up,” she said.

Nothing.

Diane tried to kick her again. She hit Wendy in the leg.

Wendy’s eyes shot open.

They were black as night.

~~~

Nine had no idea how he was still alive. He just continued to keep moving, following the closest path of the dead that had stormed through the alleyways leaving a massacre of blood and screams in their wake. He’d pushed down each narrow street until the alarming sounds of fleeing citizens approached, and then he’d rushed into whatever broken down doorways were closest and hid within structures already ravaged by the dead until the sounds of panic were replaced by more screams. He waited in agony as the yellow-eyed monsters hunted the living, selfishly grateful that it wasn’t him each time.

Every sound threatened to betray his position. From the frantic footfalls of the living trying to pull together in small groups, to the moans and groans of the savage dead consuming the flesh of the slain—even his own rapid heartbeat threatened to give him away at every turn.

He cut through destroyed buildings, exited shattered windows, sprinted down exposed alleys until reaching the next structure, barely avoiding notice each time as the dead spread their violence and bloodshed all over New Cleveland with a fresh coat of fatal crimson.

At one point, he’d hid between two large tractor trailers as a horde of the dead rushed past his position, dragging ripped apart corpses behind them like game hunters collecting their spoils. Nine noticed this trend throughout the town. The dead would slaughter and claim their kills while the rest continued to hunt, leaving nothing behind.

They won’t let them turn, Nine had thought. They’re devouring them as soon as the living go down… or they’re ripping them to pieces… to save for later. The thought chilled him to the core. He’d seen this pattern again and again out in the world. The yellow-eyed haters never wasted anything… and their appetite for human flesh bordered gluttony and was the reason why they hunted and consumed continuously until they were full, and finally went dormant.

Nine’s last thought motived him to move with more urgency: How long does it take to fill the bellies of five-thousand monsters?

After pressing his luck for over an hour, Nine found himself at the back door of Ollie’s Oasis. The door was wide open.

Wendy?

The move was futile. She had to be long gone by now, captured… or dead already. But he had to know. Besides, he was exhausted and Nine needed somewhere he could rest for longer than a few minutes while he tried to figure out his next move.

The weary young man rushed toward the back door, waiting to be jumped by the dead at any moment. He made it inside and quickly closed the door. Before turning, he shook his head at his own stupidity and slowly opened the door, leaving it the way he found it.

Keep it looking like they’ve already hit the place, dumbass, he scolded himself.

He turned around. The backroom of Ollie’s was a mess. Barrels were overturned, shelves tipped over, and the stale smell of beer permeated the air. He stepped forward into the gloomy space as light from outside spilled in from the open door and between cracks in the walls, helping him to identify the shadows lurking all around him. So far, the bar was empty.

When he exited the backroom and entered the bar, he was astounded by the brutality and destructive level of the savages. The long bar counter had been completely tipped over. There were broken bottles and glass scattered across the floor. Bloody tables and chairs were overturned and shattered. The walls were streaked in blood. Toward the back, the dancefloor looked like someone had splattered mutilated human organs all over it.

But again, no bodies.

The horror show made Nine gag and cover his mouth.

A lot of people died in here, he thought. They thought they were hiding… and then became lunch.

Nine fell to one knee. He felt faint, fatigued, and overwhelmed by a sudden wave of hopelessness. “We’re all going to die in this All-You-Can-Eat buffet,” he whispered without his usual humor.

From one of the back corners of the bar, he heard something shift from behind what looked like a pile of overturned tables.

Nine saw a broken bottle and grabbed it. He slowly rose to his feet and stared into the dark corner. If that’s even one of those fucking things… I’m dead. “Who’s… Who’s in here?” he dared to raise his voice.

No response.

From outside he heard a muffled woman’s scream from close by, causing him to duck.

A chair fell over making him jump.

He turned back toward the dark corner. “Whoever’s back there, you better speak up and let me know you’re human… or I’m gonna light this bar up right before I leave.”

“Alright,” someone hissed, raising their hands from behind a table. It was a man’s voice. “We just had to make sure… make sure you were… one of us.”

Nine raised the bottle threateningly. “Who is ‘we’?”

A man, along with three other men, and two women stood up from a makeshift hiding space from the back of the bar. The first man continued to speak, “We… we were just hiding. Please… either get the hell out of here… or come back and join us.”

A woman spoke up in a terrified voice. “They’re going to see you standing there… or smell you… or whatever they do… and then they’ll find us, too.”

Nine considered the woman’s words, lowering the bottle. “Were you all here when they attacked this place?”

“No,” another man said. “We just came in like you and saw the door open. We thought they might not come back in here… you know… a second time.”

Nine nodded, still trying to make out the figures in the back of the bar. “Any of you armed?”

“Hell, no,” a third man said. “Only Lunatics have weapons. All we’ve got is our wits.”

Nine thought he recognized the third man’s voice.

“Did you leave the door open?” the second woman asked. “If they see it closed, they’ll know someone’s in here. That’s what they’ve been doing to mark off the places they’ve already searched.”

“They’re smart,” the first man said, “and organized. No one’s ever seen the dead act like this before.”

Nine nodded. “I agree. They’re even cleaning up as they go… taking the dead with them to make sure they don’t leave anyone infected behind.”

“That’s well and good, but how about you stop flapping your jaws out in the open, and either leave or get the hell out.” The third man again.

Nine frowned. He now knew who that voice belonged to.

“Mike?” he said. “Mike from the casino?”

At first the man didn’t answer.

“I know the sound of your asshole voice anywhere,” Nine continued. “That’s you, isn’t it?”

“Fuck… me,” Asshole Mike said. “Of all the people I could get stuck with… this damn day just went from bad to worse.”

Nine didn’t move. He felt his hand get tighter around the bottle neck. “She’s dead… but I don’t suppose that surprises you.”

“Huh?” Mike said. The others standing around him were getting anxious as Nine watched him make calming gestures with his hands. “As usual, I don’t have a fucking clue what you’re talking about?”

“Joe!” Nine snapped, no longer caring how loud he was getting. “You know… the girl you turned in… the one hanging from your fucking roller coaster!”

“Look,” said the first man. “Please… you’re being too loud. I don’t know what beef you have with this guy. But we’re just trying to stay alive here.”

The first woman started to weep. “They’re going to hear you,” she said through tears, making Nine settle down.

He looked around the bar and shook his head. Stay cool, he thought to himself. They’re right. You’re going to get them all killed if you don’t calm down. “Okay,” Nine said, returning to a milder voice. “Sorry. I’m coming over.”

“Hurry,” the first woman said. They were all waving him back anxiously… except Asshole Mike.

Nine reached the corner and shot Mike a menacing look.

The card shark just frowned and nodded his head.

“Hey,” the first man said, gaining Nine’s attention. He was an older man with grey hair. “What’s it like out there? Are they… are they moving away from this area?”

Nine shook his head. “They’re everywhere. I barely made it here.”

The older man looked to a short plump woman with brown hair tied up in a bun and whispered, “Relax.” He then went back to Nine. “My name’s Fred, this is my wife, Greta. We’re merchants that just arrived two days ago.”

“Sorry for your bad timing,” Nine said.

“Yeah,” Fred said. “Anyway, we ran into Harold, John and Missy in the middle of all this madness.” He pointed to two middle-aged men and a tall blond-haired woman who looked like a soccer mom. “And I guess you already know Mike.”

Nine glared at the card shark then looked away. “Yeah. We’re acquainted.”

“Anyway, we were trying to get back to our vehicles at the south gate but it’s a slaughterhouse down there. So, we ran… and somehow made it here. We’ve been hiding out, waiting for the dead to move on.”

Nine looked at their ridiculous hiding spot. They’d turned two bigger tables on their sides, leaving a rectangular crawl space behind them, and piled debris around them. “How long do you intend to wait here?”

“You heard the man,” Asshole Mike said. “After the dead are done in this area, we’ll make our next move.”

“Which is?”

They all looked at each other with uncertainty.

“That’s what I thought,” Nine said. “Look, you can’t stay here. They’ll figure out you’re here eventually.”

Fred sighed. “We’ve been out of New Cleveland more than most around here… me and Greta… and we’ve seen all sorts of strange shit out there, including a handful of these yellow-eyed devils. But they’ve never acted like this before.”

Nine nodded. “I… me and my people… we’ve seen them acting differently on our way here. I think they’ve evolving and getting smarter. The ones we encountered even had a woman zombie leading them.”

“Bullshit,” Mike said.

The sound of distant gunfire caught their attention.

Fred continued, “This woman zombie… are you talking about the ‘Alpha’ we’ve heard about?”

Nine shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know anything about that. The woman, her name was Helen, she’s dead now—I mean, dead for real. But she was leading them at the time… if that’s what you want to call it. Anyway, they were acting a lot smarter back then. Who knows what they’re capable of now.”

Fred nodded. “So… they won’t just leave when they’ve… eaten? They usually keep moving after they feed. At least, the ones we’ve come across.”

“I don’t think they have any intention of leaving,” Nine said. “That’s an army out there. They’ll probably make this place the next spot they go dormant in… after they’ve eaten everyone in this damn town.”

“What… what do we do then?” the blond woman said.

“We can’t stay here, hiding behind a few flimsy tables,” Nine said. The smell of that piss-poor beer spilled all over the back room is what’s keeping them away for now… but they will catch your scent, eventually. We need to keep moving and find a way out of here.”

“No,” Mike said. “We’re better off staying put. The dead have already been here. I say we just wait this out. Candyman’s going to restore order. You’ll see.”

Nine ignored him. He focused on Fred. “You’ve been out there. So have I. Don’t listen to this institutionalized prick. He’s already responsible for the death of a young girl… a friend of mine. I’m telling you, if you stay, you’re all going to die in this shitty bar. New Cleveland is gone.”

Fred nodded. “He’s right,” he told the others. “We should get out of here.”

The others looked split on what to do.

Nine shook his head. “I’m headed for the Harper’s Run,” he told them. “There’s an access door at the top, leading below the ride. I’m almost certain there’s an exit out of town down there. If nothing else, it’s probably safer getting underground then staying up here. I remember a ladder they used to bring us back down after the Run.”

“Can we get to it?” another man asked.

“Hell, no, we can’t get to it!” Mike protested. “This guy’s going to get us killed! Harper’s Run is a death trap! We’d have to cut back through the casino pavilion to reach it… and that’s completely exposed.”

“We can move up around the lake, follow the shoreline, and come at Harper’s Run directly from the east,” Nine said. “All we have to do is go north and get the hell off these streets and into the fields on the other side.”

“It’s suicide!” Mike said. “This fucker’s trying to get us killed so he can take our spot! There’s nothing at Harper’s Run but death! That door he mentioned… I know it… it leads down to Candyman’s secret lab! It’s heavily guarded and full of monsters!”

“Did you just say something about a lab?” Nine asked.

“Yeah… I know things… more than I should… but that’s Candyman’s lab under that damn ride. We’ve no business messing around down there.”

Nine smiled. How about that. This asshole might have just told me where my friends are.

“Fuck your damn spot, you can have it!” Nine hissed. “You just don’t want to die alone, which is what you’re asking these people to do by staying here with you. Maybe you should stay here. When the dead find you, that might buy the rest of us a little time to get away.”

Mike was about to speak, then remained silent, running out of argument.

“Give us a minute,” Fred implored.

Nine nodded.

The others stepped aside and were talking among themselves.

Asshole Mike remained where he was. He was glaring at Nine.

Nine leaned in and said, “I don’t know if you intended on getting that girl strung up on that fucking coaster, and if I thought you did, I’d shove this glass into your throat right now.”

Mike shifted uncomfortably, looking over at the others.

“All I know is that you killed that little girl. That’s on you, you fucking worthless piece of shit!” Nine hissed. “Say one more word to scare these people into staying here, and I’ll throw you the fuck outside for bait.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Mike said. “You’re not that kind of person. You’re the kind of moron that gets himself entered into a death race to save a worthless girl’s life. You’ve got some kind of stupid hero complex or something. Regardless, people like you can’t hurt people like me… and live with themselves afterwards.”

Nine smiled like the devil. “Push me, and we’ll see if you’re right. You want to bet on it, asshole? Go ahead. But I swear to you, say one more word to keep these people here, and I will drag your ass outside, then stab you in the leg so you can’t run. The dead will hear you scream, because that’s what bitches like you do, and when they’re munching on your flesh, we’ll use your death to get away.” Nine stood back and smiled. “I guess that would make you the hero, sacrificing his life to save the rest of us. I like the irony in that.”

They others were coming back. Mike could already tell what they’d decided. He shook his head at Nine. His face was beat red. “You’re going to get us all killed,” he hissed.

“Hopefully, just you,” he said with a wink.

~~~

Next Episode 52-9

Previous Episode 52-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-8: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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.

~~~

Mid-morning in New Cleveland. For ten long life-altering seconds, not one disgruntled citizen exchanged an angry word among the mobs that had been forming since the explosion. No one was pushing or shoving another in frustration. There were no tears brought on by uncertainty or from the loss of loved ones arrested or now hanging high above their heads. There were no outspoken voices in the streets—once whispers in the alleys—spreading fear and discontent. And there was certainly no shopping being conducted in the busy marketplace district. Business-as-usual had just been obliterated.

From one crowded corner to the next, heads turned in all directions, looking toward the sky as if it were about to collapse upon their heads. The most terrifying sound anyone had ever heard echoed down the streets.

New Cleveland went suddenly silent for ten chilling seconds.

When the chorus of more than five-thousand yellow-eyed haters of Mankind ceased, New Cleveland fell into chaos. Citizens started running everywhere, seeking shelter from what could only be described as… The End.

In the middle of the panicked crowd, Nine was nearly trampled to death as he managed to get to his feet and was pushed forward for several blocks and then off toward the right of the street, where he was slammed against a closed storefront wall. He managed to crawl into the front door alcove, avoiding being swept back up into the rushing crowd and overwhelmed by the raging river of terrified humanity.

He looked around for the Lunatic patrol that had attempted to seize him before the audible nightmare, but they were gone. He raised his head and noticed several Lunatics up in their phone booth sized lookout stations, high up on the rollercoaster, scanning the walls of New Cleveland with binoculars. Several of them were shouting across to other stations. Lunatics were frantically moving along the makeshift bridges built along the tracks, relaying communications via messengers. From what he could observe, it was clear the panic had reached them, too.

Nine was still in shock. His body was banged up, bloodied and bruised from the manic crowd. His mind and heart felt useless. The beyond exhausted young man sat down in the alcove and closed his eyes, putting his hands over his face. He wanted to sleep and escape to a different dream in which his friends were not captured or dead and Diane would be there lying beside him, far from this horrible place, when he finally awoke.

Diane.

Nine opened his eyes. He didn’t care about the crowds, the Lunatic patrols, or the approaching monsters from Mosquito Creek. “I’ll find you,” he whispered. “I’m coming.” He forced his heavy limbs to move, rose to his feet, and found a break in the crowd. Nine stepped into the moving mass of citizens and pushed his weary legs to keep up, searching desperately for anything that might help him find Diane.

Don’t think about the rest, he thought. Put it away. Put all the damn pain away. Nothing else matters until you find her… or until someone or something finally kills you.

~~~

One Lunatic approached him with the syringe while the second kept his rifle raised. Tony yanked hard on the handcuffs binding his arms behind his back and to the ring along the wall. He stared at the first Lunatic and promised, “You come any closer with that thing and I’ll bite your fucking face off!”

The Lunatic holding the syringe stopped and looked back at Candyman.

The leader of new Cleveland sighed impatiently from his chair and rolled his eyes. “Aim the gun at the woman next to him,” he ordered.

The Lunatic holding the rifle aimed at Diane.

Tony turned to her and saw the fear and frustration in the hunter’s eyes.

“Now,” Candyman continued, as if instructing children, “if Tony doesn’t cooperate, shoot his friend.”

Diane turned to the one holding the syringe. “Stay the fuck away from him, asshole!” She tugged on the handcuffs binding her one arm to the ring.

“Diane,” Tony said calmly. “It’s okay.” He relaxed and glared at the Lunatic holding the syringe. “Do it,” he said. “Just lower the damn gun from my friend.”

She turned to him. “No… this isn’t okay!” She glared at Candyman. “You’re a fucking coward! Big man playing games! If your people saw you like this, they’d remove you immediately for the monster that you are!”

Candyman laughed. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “But don’t underestimate the power of a good illusion. Those… sheep… feel safe here. They feel protected. You might be surprised at how much they’d be willing to tolerate as long as they could remain within these walls.”

“Diane, look at me.”

She turned to Tony.

He smiled. “You’re one of the bravest people I’ve ever met. It’s been an honor fighting alongside you. I mean that.”

The Lunatic approached Tony’s right arm and injected him with the syringe.

Tony winced and closed his eyes as he felt the fluid enter his veins.

Tears started streaming down the hunter’s eyes. “This is bullshit!” she hissed.

The Lunatic stepped away to retrieve another syringe.

Tony opened his eyes. “I’m sorry I kept the truth from you about Taven. I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”

“It’s okay,” she said, forcing a smile. “We’ve all made some bad calls in this place.”

The Lunatic returned with another syringe. It was Diane’s turn.

She didn’t fight it.

“I trusted Nadia,” she continued, keeping her eyes on the big man. “She gave us up.”

The Lunatic injected her with the syringe.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Tony assured her. “You took a chance on someone, someone who’s help we needed. I would’ve done the same. If we don’t try to trust people in this damaged world… well… then what’s the fucking point, right?”

She nodded, letting more tears fall.

“That was… touching,” Candyman mocked. “In your defense, Diane, Nadia is one of the best actors I know. She almost had me convinced once that she actually cared about me.”

Diane turned to the despicable man. “Go fuck yourself,” she said. “You’re going to get what’s coming. Maybe not today… but you will.”

Candyman’s face changed.

“You might manage to survive for a while, surrounded by your bullshit empire, but you’ve already lost anything that matters,” Tony added, refusing to look at the man.

“Well, that’s enlightening, coming from someone who will die in this room,” Candyman said.

“Yeah, but you’re going to die alone,” Tony said. He turned and smiled at the man. “There’s nothing worse than that.”

Candyman shot him a puzzled look.

The Lunatic with the syringe just injected Sergeant Hash. He put up no fight. He was staring at the pompous man in the chair. “I tried to tell him, Tony,” he said. “Trust me, this prick’s afraid of his own damn shadow… or the things hiding within them.”

Candyman turned to the good sergeant.

Hash winked at him with a smile.

Candyman wasn’t smiling.

Wendy had no reaction when the Lunatic approached her with the last syringe and injected her. She didn’t even look up as she stared despondently at the floor.

“You okay?” Tony asked her.

“No, Tony,” she said, slowly meeting his gaze. “I feel like… I feel like I’m already dead.”

The Lunatics returned to their leader. He whispered something to them, and they stepped back along the wall behind him. “Now,” he said. “We wait and see what happens!”

Tony took a deep breath. He scanned the exhausted faces of his friends. He closed his eyes for a moment and was startled to discover how hard he had to struggle to open them again.

~~~

The Lunatic leader stood on the upper level of the parking garage staring north over the wall. She held a pair of binoculars to her eyes and searched the area beyond an overgrown field that stretched out for a quarter mile, and into the outskirts of the abandoned suburbs. Briana waited impatiently for reports from the lookouts up on the coaster for any signs of movement in those dead neighborhoods. So far, aside from hearing what sounded like a massive build-up of the dead, no one had seen a fucking thing.

She lowered the binos and handed them to one of the twenty Lunatics arming up on the garage roof. “This is bullshit,” she hissed.

“Something, Boss?” the Lunatic taking the binos said.

Briana shook her head and stared at the face-painted man, making him avert his gaze immediately. “I said this is BULLSHIT!” she spat in his face. “Someone’s playing games with us out there, trying to get us all riled up.”

“Could be,” the man said. “What are you orders?”

Briana stared back out at the deceptively quiet rooftops and empty streets. “I should go the fuck out there and flush out whoever’s fucking with us,” she said. “This is probably some elaborate set-up designed to freak us the fuck out and get us unhinged.” She looked back at the Lunatic. “Are you freaked the fuck out, soldier?” she teased.

“No… I mean… maybe a little,” the man said.

Briana smiled at him. “Good answer, asshole. We should all be a little on edge… but not too much. Just tell the men to stay sharp. If anyone sees anything moving down there, especially in that open field, light ‘em up.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the Lunatic said with a smile.

“Not get the fuck out of my face.”

The Lunatic departed with relief.

Briana sighed heavily, then reached into her leather coat and retrieved a cigarette. She lit it up and then stared back toward the houses.

With her cigarette hanging from her mouth, the Lunatic leader drew both her handguns, lightning fast, and aimed at the rooftops. She pretending to shoot each house. “Phew! Phew! Phew!” she whispered, sounding like a small child to amuse herself.

The other Lunatics watched her out of the corner of their eyes while setting up their weapons. They were accustomed to her crazy antics and gained confidence by the woman’s unaffected demeanor.

Briana lowered her aim toward the field. “Come on,” she whispered. “Please… something fucking move out there… anything!”

But there was nothing.

She smiled, blowing a puff of smoke out of her nose. “This if fucking stupid,” she said, holstering her guns. “Someone’s playing games,” she repeated to herself. Briana raised a gloved hand to retrieve her cigarette and stopped. Her hand was shaking. She quickly lowered it and then glared back toward the others to see if they were watching.

Not one Lunatic was staring.

She laughed and turned back toward the field. Calm down, bitch, she thought. Don’t let them see how fucking unnerved you are. She grabbed the cigarette from her mouth and tossed it over the roof. She immediately lit up another one.

The sound of two M-60 machine guns erupted from the south.

Briana dropped her cigarette and drew her guns.

All the Lunatics stopped and stared toward the southern entrance.

“It’s the front gate!” someone stated. “That’s the big guns!”

“No shit, moron,” she hissed, pushing her way through the Lunatics to the southern edge of the parking garage roof. She could see nothing. They were too far north.

Suddenly, other guns were going off to the east, near the woods at the edge of the lake.

More gunfire sounded to the west.

The rooftop Lunatics were coming undone.

“Keep your shit together, shitbags!” she ordered. Briana turned back to the north and pointed. “I want every one of you watching that fucking field to the north! So, get your heads out of you asses, grow a pair, and watch the fucking perim-”

Before she could finish, Briana gazed north into the field and gasped.

A moment before, she was staring at an empty field. Now… there were hundreds of them—men, women, children—sprinting across the field and toward the northern wall. They were already half-way across the field.

“What the fuck!” she whispered. She’d never seen so many of the yellow-eyed bastards all at once… or this organized. The beasts were not running scattered… but in single file rows to hide their numbers, hovering low in the tall grass to make themselves smaller targets.

They timed that shit perfectly! she thought. It’s like they waited… waited until we looked away… waited until we focused south… then charged!

From elsewhere along the north wall, gunfire was already going off.

Every time one of the savages went down, two more seemed to come out of the tall grass to replace it.

The dead would reach the wall in less than twenty seconds.

Where the fuck did they all just come from? The Lunatic leader was gripping the holsters of her handguns too tightly, causing her hands to shake.

Briana turned toward the rooftop Lunatics who had not moved. “What are you waiting for? Get over here and kill those dead fuckers!” she shouted at her confused and terrified soldiers. She raised her guns at them. “Don’t make me repeat myself! I’ll give you something to be afraid of fuckers! Do you hear me? Now get over here and kill something! Do it… DO IT NOW!”

~~~

“Tony!” Diane yelled.

The big man had just fallen over. He was sweating profusely, forcing himself to take big breaths. Tony struggled to keep his eyes open and attempted to get back up. “FUCK YOU!” he shouted into the air.

Candyman was laughing and applauding from his chair. “Bravo, Tony! Bravo! I must confess, the sedative dosage for your specific cocktail was doubled on my request. Damn! That shit would’ve knocked out a horse by now.”

Diane turned toward Candyman and shouted, “You’re fucking dead!” She yanked so hard on her restraint she nearly dislocated her shoulder attempting to reach the seated leader of New Cleveland. Suddenly, she felt dizzy. Her eyes started to close involuntarily. “Mother fuck-” She fell over, hanging from her chain.

“Stay awake, Diane!” Tony shouted. “Stay awake!”

The hunter shook her head violently and then bit herself in the arm. The pain ripped through her and make her scream… but it helped her fight the effects of the sedative a little longer.

Candyman stood up and laughed. “This is far more entertaining than I imagined.” He stared over at the good sergeant and then back over at Wendy. Both were still feeling no effects from their injections. “Looks like we have a couple of winners!” Candyman announced in his game-show voice. “It would appear that Tony and Diane have not been infected! Unless, of course, I’ve mixed sedatives in with this particular strain.”

Tony set his murderous gaze on Candyman. “You’re out of your fucking mind!” he shouted. The big man managed to sit up, let loose a frustrated cry, and then yanked against his restraints so hard that it looked like the ring on the wall was about to come loose.

Both Lunatics behind Candyman stepped up beside their leader, about to raise their weapons.

Candyman waved them off. “Relax, gentlemen,” he said. “You have to admire the man’s determination. Damn! Now I understand how you became the Champion of New Cleveland!”

“Fuck you… monster,” Tony spat, and then fell back down. The extra exertion on his system was catching up with him as the sedative started to win.

“Stay with me, Tony,” Diane said. “Just… stay…with…” She started to pass out.

Sergeant Hash nearly fell forward on his face. “Shit,” he hissed. “You’ll need to do better than that, asshole. I’ve had stronger drinks fail to take me down.”

Wendy started to nod off. She put up no fight.

Candyman nodded with satisfaction. “Yes… yes… I do believe the sedatives are working all the way around.” He turned toward one of the Lunatics and finished, “Now… hurry up and release the slack on their chains. I want them to be able to reach each other… especially when the lucky one turns.”

The Lunatic moved over to a winch along the wall and unlocked a lever. The sound of chains running slack through the rings behind them roused them all back to the edge of consciousness.

Tony and Diane both tried to move but it took all they had just to stay awake.

“Don’t bother trying to fight it, my friends,” Candyman said. “We’re almost there. Once you all go under, we should find out which one of you feels the effects of something much stronger than the sedative. In all our research, the only thing we’ve managed to do is slow down the infection rate by the heavy use of sedatives. But in all cases, the infection eventually wins.” He stood up. “One of you will turn and tear the others to pieces. I’m looking forward to sharing that experience with you… well… not the being ‘eaten alive’ part. Just know that I will be here to watch the look of shock and fear cross your faces when one of your own comes to end your pitiful existences. I can’t imagine who it will be worse for: The one who turns and then devours his or her friends… or being devoured. Either way, I shall enjoy this moment. And as you betrayed my trust… I will watch as your trust in each other is equally betrayed.” Candyman watched as all four contestants struggled to hold on. He shook his head and finished, “Now… as they say at the end of the final round-”

Just then, Briana burst into the room, looking terrified and out of breath. She was about to speak and then noticed the four prisoners on the floor.

“Briana?” he said, trying to stay calm. “Have you ever heard of knocking before entering a fucking room?”

She gave the leader of New Cleveland a disbelieving look. “I would’ve sent a messenger… but I need every gun I have… so I came myself. From the looks of it, you don’t have a clue what’s going on topside, do you?”

Candyman sighed and glared at her. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something? I said no interruptions until-”

“The fucking town’s under attack!” she said. “Haven’t you heard the fucking gunfire?”

“Excuse me?”

Briana stepped forward. “It’s Mosquito Creek… they’re here.”

Candyman’s face changed. “What do you mean ‘they’re here’?”

Briana shook her head impatiently and shouted, “All of them! And they’ve just breached the fucking city walls!”

~~~

Next Episode 52-8

Previous Episode 52-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-7: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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.

~~~

Tony opened his eyes in the darkness. He was sitting. The hood over his head made him feel like he was suffocating, and he immediately tensed up, yanking on the handcuffs that secured his arms behind his back and through the tight chain that was attached to a metallic ring mounted into the wall.

“Tony is that you?”

It was Diane, whispering from his right side. The shame was immediate. She was there because of his impulsive, stupid plan. They all were.

“Yeah,” he said. “Sorry, I passed out.”

“We’re all exhausted,” she said. Diane paused. “Wendy? You still there?”

“Yes,” came a weak voice from Diane’s right. She said nothing else.

Tony turned to his left. “Sergeant?”

Hash’s voice sounded like gravel. “Still here. Think they’ll ever turn the damn lights back on?”

“They’re trying to intimidate us,” Tony said.

“Yeah, they’ve done worse things in this place,” Hash added with a cough. “Different room, same shitty accommodations. Feel like I’ve been living down here forever.”

“Herbie’s not back,” Wendy said in a defeated tone. “I’ve been waiting… but I don’t think he’s coming back.”

“Try not to think about it,” Tony advised. “They’re probably questioning him first to see what he’ll tell them. They’ll probably do the same with the rest of us… eventually.”

“So, there’s a good chance they haven’t found him yet,” Diane said, more to herself.

“Looks that way,” Tony added. “Nine’s resourceful. I’m sure he found somewhere to hide once he figured out what happened.”

“Assuming he’s not already dead… and Herbie, too,” Wendy said.

Silence in the darkness.

“Sorry,” she added. “That comment didn’t help anyone.”

“How are you fairing, Sergeant?” Tony asked, listening to the man cough several more times.

Hash laughed. They could all hear his pain in doing so. “They’ve beat me more times than I can count. This last one was the worst. I pissed off Mr. Candy-pants last time we had a chat.”

“Can you move if there’s a chance to-”

“There’s no escaping this place,” Hash interrupted. “Believe me, I’ve tried. Wherever this is, it’s underground and guarded well.”

“What is this place?” Diane said.

“I think it’s this madman’s lab… you know… the one he mentioned when we first got here? I was in a cell down the hall… at least… that’s where I think it is. All I ever heard was screaming coming from somewhere nearby. When I asked that asshole about it, he pretty much gave it away by what he didn’t say.”

“So, is this room… one of the labs?” Wendy said.

“Don’t know,” Hash admitted. “But this cold-ass linoleum floor and that strong odor of bleach we keep smelling makes me believe that it is. Add this convenient little row of rings along the wall they’ve got us all fastened to, and I’d say that this was one of the rooms I’d heard those screams coming from.” They could all hear him shifting in the dark space. “Okay,” he added with frustration, “so, it’s lights out. What the fuck’s the purpose of the damn hoods, then?”

No one bothered answering.

After their arrest in the parking garage, Tony, Wendy, Diane and Herbie had all been hooded and escorted to this room. The lights had been on long enough for the Lunatics to secure them to the wall, but afterwards, the lights had remained off. The hoods had remained on. After a time, they’d figured out who was in the room, including Hash, and had brought each other up to speed on recent events.

Aside from Herbie being violently escorted from the room a few hours ago, no one else had visited them.

“Hurry up and wait,” Hash had said with a laugh. “That’s Candyman’s favorite game. Get you all riled up like you’re about to get taken before a firing squad, then just have you sit there and wait while your mind has too much time to consider all the horrible ways you could die.”

“Did… did a woman ever come down to see you?” Diane asked. “A tall blond-haired woman?”

“I wish,” Hash said with a laugh. “No… they just moved me from my cell and placed me in this one… without a word.”

Diane said nothing more.

Tony hated the long silences in the dark. It gave him too much time to consider how much he’d failed them. “I think it was Taven,” he announced.

“Come again?’ Diane said.

“As much as I hate to admit it, I think Taven set us up. I was wrong to trust him. He used us to distract the Lunatics long enough to blow up that theater… with everyone in it. He never wanted us to succeed. All we did was buy him the time he needed to plant the explosives…” Tony looked toward the floor and finished, “… and kill Orosco and the others.”

“So… he told Candyman about our plans?” Wendy said.

“No,” Diane said. “Nadia did.”

“Are they working together, then? This Taven and Nadia?” Hash said.

“I don’t think so,” Tony said. “Somehow, Taven knew what would happen when everything fell into place. Don’t ask me how… I’ve no damn clue… about much of anything, apparently.” He sighed heavily. “But I did know something else. Taven was infected.”

“What do you mean, ‘infected’?” Diane said.

“He wore those sunglasses to hide his silver eyes,” Tony said. “He was a… half-dead.”

Diane wanted to look into Tony’s eyes more than anything. She couldn’t believe her ears. “And… and you kept that from us? Why?”

“Because I thought if you all knew… you wouldn’t help me,” he said. “I was so desperate for a way out of this mess, and I was out of options. Taven came along at the perfect time, when I was about to give up hope… and I foolishly fell right into his trap.”

Diane was furious. She wanted to speak… she wanted to scream in Tony’s face… but a part of her understood why he did it—the desperate part of herself. “You should have trusted us,” she spat.

“Yes,” Tony admitted. “Yes, I should have.”

More silence.

Hash shifted in the dark. “I don’t mean to be all doom-and-gloomy here… but… whatever happens next, you better believe Candyman will be bringing his games with him.”

“He’s absolutely correct,” Diane said. “That fucker loves his games.”

“Yeah,” Hash continued, “he certainly does. Anyway, when he comes… and he will… I suggest you all make your peace with God and be prepared to die.”

Tony wanted to object but stopped himself. The man’s right. Who am I kidding? We’re going to die in this room.

Hash continued. “He’ll use whatever he can to get under your skin and get you to talk… including using each of us against the other. So… if you want to keep Nine out of that lunatic’s grasp… be prepared to watch everyone in this room die in front of you.”

Wendy stated to cry in the dark.

“Wendy,” Tony said. “You okay? The sergeant was just trying to prepare us for the worst-case-scenario. Doesn’t mean it will happen.”

“Mark is dead,” she said. “That asshole from the bar, the one who got us into all that trouble—he’s the one who told us that Mark was in the Murder Shop.”

Silence.

“We… we went there… me, Herbie, a co-worker at the bar named Sheila—she’s dead now. Anyway, Herbie set it all up. Mr. Silver, that’s what we called him, he was already in the room with Sheila, strapped into this horrible torture machine. Herbie arranged for us to do to Mr. Silver what he’d boasted he’d done to Mark if he didn’t tell us the truth.” Wendy paused, and took a deep breath. “Eventually, he did tell us the truth. He didn’t torture anyone, but he’d watched it happen. He watched Mark die. He told us everything, but we hurt him… we hurt him and made that man scream and scream until he did. No one, not even Mr. Silver, deserved what we did to him… the amount of suffering we inflicted. Sheila took it too far… and I didn’t stop her. When that evil man started telling us everything… I was so… so enraged! After he told us all the horrible things that Mark suffered and how long he was kept him alive just so it could happen again… I… I lost it! Herbie was going to make Sheila put that monster down, but I stopped him. I wanted him to suffer… like Mark suffered… so, I let Sheila torture him. And… and I watched!” She took another moment to collect herself. “I enjoyed watching that man in pain!”

“Wendy,” Tony said gently. “It’s okay. We’ve… we’ve just been in this town too damn long. I think… I think we’ve all gotten a little bit lost in this place.”

“What I did to Mr. Silver was unspeakable… even sitting here in the dark,” she said. “I just… I just wanted to say it, to someone, anyone, so that I could be held accountable… you know… in case this is the end. And… I’m truly sorry for what I did. What happened to Mark was wrong… but what I did was no different than what was done to him!”

Tony had no idea what to say.

“Sheila eventually killed him. That was always the intention after we were finished.”

No one said anything.

“Can God forgive me, Tony? If I’m truly sorry, in my heart, for what I did… do you think it’s still forgivable?”

No one sitting in the darkness felt qualified to answer that loaded question.

Fortunately, the lights finally came back on.

~~~

Candyman sat in a fold up chair along the opposite wall with his legs crossed. He had his reading glasses on and was writing something in his notebook. He ignored the heated gazes of his four chained-up prisoners, who now had their hoods off.

Both Tony and Diane were covered in blood with their Lunatic face paint smeared by sweat. Wendy looked like she’d been silently weeping. Sergeant Hash looked the worst of all of them. He was much thinner and paler, wearing what looked like bloody hospital pajamas.

The room’s former white walls were covered in smeared blood stains from regular use, but the linoleum floor looked recently mopped and clean. The rest of the room was bare. Two large luminescent lights hung down from the ceiling. There wasn’t anything resembling a laboratory, other than the strong odor of bleach and the brightness of the room.

After five minutes, Wendy could not stop herself. “Where’s Herbie?” she demanded.

The leader of New Cleveland stopped scribbling in his notebook, looked up, and gazed at the young woman over his reading glasses. He smiled at her, took a deep breath, then closed his notebook. He then purposefully dropped it on the floor, letting the snapping sound bring them all to attention. He scanned their tired faces then rested his gaze on Tony. “Do you know what that is?” he asked, pointing down toward his notebook.

Tony glanced at the notebook then back into the man’s eyes and sighed. “Look, if this is some game that I’m supposed to play, I can tell you right fucking now… I’m not in the mood.”

Candyman’s eyebrows shot up. “Game? What game? I asked a simple question.”

“Answer Wendy’s first,” Tony said. “What did you do with Herbie?”

“Fine,” Candyman said. “He’s dead.”

Wendy gasped.

Everyone else shifted uncomfortably.

“There. You see how easy that was? A simple question. A simple answer.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Tony said. “He wasn’t involved in any of this.”

Candyman looked impatient. His usual jovial demeanor was absent. “He’s dead, along with nineteen other people I hung this morning,” he said. “Do you know why?”

Tony waited.

“Of course, you don’t,” Candyman said. “Twenty people are hanging from that hideous wooden monstrosity in the center of my town because you killed them.”

“Don’t put that shit on me!” Tony snapped.

“I most certainly will!” Candyman pushed back. “Now. Ask me how many people you killed when you blew up my theater?”

Tony looked away.

“Okay. I’ll tell you. One-hundred and twenty-five people… all documented in this notebook.”

Tony looked back up.

“That’s right,” Candyman said with a nod. He pointed in Tony’s face. “That’s all on you. Plus the twenty this morning… and five of my men from the parking garage. You know what that would make you back in the old world? A fucking mass-murderer! Perhaps a domestic terrorist, even!”

“Go fuck yourself!” Tony spat.

“What I don’t understand is the ‘why’?” he continued. “Did the Ama Eskua put you up to it? Are they trying to sabotage my efforts to keep the peace?”

“As I told that bitch with the guns when she was bringing us here,” Tony stated, “you need to talk to Taven. He’s a creepy half-dead man who’s been wandering around your town for God-knows how long. He set this whole thing up… and set us up in the process. You should be out looking for him.”

“Yes, Briana told me about that. I find it hard to believe that one man, dressed in a bath robe and sunglasses has the means to pull something like this off… not without a lot of help on the inside.” Candyman calmed down and smiled. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. He stared at each of them and shook his head. “Well, I’ll get to the bottom of it eventually. Relax. I’m not here to torture you until you tell me where your missing friend is. Frankly, I don’t care this morning. We’ll find him eventually… and anyone else involved. I’ve enough to deal with today in the aftermath of the shitstorm you’ve created in my town.”

They all remained silent.

“Do you have any idea what ‘shitstorm’ I’m talking about, Tony?”

Tony stared back defiantly, refusing to answer.

“That’s how it’s going to be? Fine!” Candyman said, rising to his feet. He started pacing in front of them. “Thanks to you and your friends, I’ve had to send a lot of men and extra resources to my border towns to redirect the re-animated away from here after that explosion. And on top of that, I’ve had to turn my town upside down, arresting everyone and their mother, until I’ve enough people gathered to replace the ones you blew up. The hangings were intended to remind the people who was in control… but it’s only made things worse!”

“I’m not interested in your problems out at Mosquito Creek,” Tony said. “That’s a deal you never should’ve made to begin with.”

“So, you do understand,” Candyman said. “Well, then understand this: If I don’t continue to deliver shipments, and maintain the peace, then New Cleveland and everyone in it is in jeopardy. And that’s more deaths that will fall on your head. How do you feel about that?”

Tony smiled. “I’ll sleep like a fucking baby tonight. Fuck you, this town, and everyone in it,” he growled.

The others turned and gave him a surprised look.

Candyman laughed. “Look there. Even your friends are shocked by your cold response.”

Tony looked away.

“Doesn’t matter,” Candyman said. “No… I’m not here to interrogate. We are long past the point of questions.”

“Then what comes next?” Tony said.

“Oh, that’s a simple one,” Candyman said, sitting back down. “In a few minutes, I’m going to enjoy my lunch, and watch you all die.”

They all looked at each other, except for Tony, who glared at Candyman.

“Another game of yours?” he asked.

“No games,” Candyman said. “There’s just no damn time, I’m afraid. Too much to do today. But… I have set aside this part of the day to enjoy ‘what comes next’… as you say.” Candyman snapped his fingers.

Two Lunatics entered the room. One was armed, the other was carrying a surgical tray.

There were four loaded syringes placed on the tray. The dark fluid within them resembled blood.

Hash sighed heavily at the sight of the syringes. “Shit. You said I wouldn’t end up dead like one of your rats in this lab, remember? I thought we were buds and all.”

Candyman smiled at him. “I am sorry, Sergeant. Yes, we’ve had some delightful conversations down here… and I will miss your company. I had not intended for you to die in this fashion… but your friends have brought me to this.”

Tony watched one of the Lunatics prepare the syringes. He turned to Hash. “What is this?”

The good sergeant frowned at him. “This is the place he tests infection rates on people with whatever cocktails he’s whipped up. From all the screaming I’ve heard in here from down the hall… it never ends well.”

Candyman laughed. “Why Sergeant, don’t be so gloomy. There’s always a first time. Perhaps my new batch will take much longer to earn a reaction than previous ones.”

“You’re one sick sonofabitch,” Hash said absently.

Candyman dismissed the insult and turned toward the Lunatic with the tray. He picked up a syringe. “Just as you’ve turned these friends of yours into murderous monsters, like yourself, Tony. I too, can create monsters down here.”

Tony listened to his friends shift uncomfortably but he continued to stare at Candyman. “This won’t give you the results you seek,” Tony said. “If it’s some kind of payback or revenge you’re after-”

“Shh!” Candyman said, putting a finger to his mouth. He shook his head at Tony and said, “Stop trying to spin a new deal, Tony. This is the end… I assure you. All that remains is finding out which ending will occur.”

“‘Which ending’?”

“Yes,” Candyman said with a smile, putting the syringe back on the tray. “As you all have already deduced, I am fond of my games. But what good is a game without the elements of surprise and suspense?” Candyman turned to face them. “I’m not much of a game show host, but I’ll give it my best go.” He held up his hands for dramatic effect and cleared his throat.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Diane said. “If you intend to kill us… then get it over with!”

Candyman frowned at the interruption and continued. “Ladies and gentlemen…”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Hash said.

Candyman turned to the Lunatic holding the rifle. “The next one who speaks… shoot him or her in the face.”

The Lunatic smiled and raised his rifle.

No one else said a word.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Candyman restarted. “Behind me, I have four syringes. One of them contains a very potent dose of the infection. The other three syringes contain a very strong sedative. For our next game, I shall have all four contestants injected randomly… just like The Change. One will start to turn while the other three begin to get sleepy and start to lose all motor function and cognitive abilities. What will happen first? Can our contestants fight off the effects of the sedative before one of them turns on the others? Will they all go nighty-night before one of their own changes and feeds on them in their sleep? Will the others be able to kill their infected friend before they are killed? Stay tuned…”

“You are the worst kind of evil,” Tony hissed.

The Lunatic raised his gun to fire.

Candyman waved him off. “No. It’s alright. Let’s save it for the game.”

The Lunatic lowered his rifle.

Candyman wrapped his arms around his chest and smiled at himself. To Tony, he looked like a sadistic school kid about to set a bag of cats on fire. “This is exciting!” he said. “Is everyone ready to play?”

~~~

Next Episode 52-7

Previous Episode 52-5

~~~

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

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-6: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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 52: Sodom will run eleven episodes. Working on the last episode now. Friday’s episode will be posted later this afternoon.

If you’ve been reading Don’t Feed The Dark online and want to help support the cause, the best thing you could do to show your appreciation and let me know you’ve been enjoying this series is to help spread the word so that more readers find out about this long, dark apocalyptic series.

Here’s an easy way to do so:

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Anything you can do to help me get Don’t Feed The Dark to the readers is appreciated. Be sure to spread the word on all your social media sites as well.

Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

~~~

Nine woke beneath an overturned rusted merry-go-round buried in tall weeds near the eastern shore of Geauga Lake, somewhere to the southeast of the fight pits. He felt sluggish, disoriented, and every muscle in his body ached from pushing hard to avoid being captured before dawn.

The morning light stung his eyes. He lifted his muck-covered hands to cover his face. The smell of the heavily polluted lake made his stomach turn. Get up… and move! he scolded himself. You’re still alive. That’s still gotta count for something.

He reluctantly crawled out from beneath the merry-go-round, expecting to be shot the moment he was exposed. Nothing happened. Nine sat up and scanned his surroundings. On the far east side of New Cleveland, between the shoreline and the perimeter wall about fifty yards farther east, there was nothing but swamp and a small forest where the tree canopy above concealed all beneath. Mother Nature had reclaimed this small strip of land, not worth developing due to flooding during the winter months. It was probably the most remote section of town, and unfortunately for Nine, the farthest away from where he needed to be.

Nine sat on a small sand dune surrounded by knee-high water and tall grass. He could see other pieces of old playground equipment half submerged in water and weeds. Behind him, beneath the trees, a few rotted out picnic tables lay in ruins, scattered about the area. Clearly, this was once some beachside oasis placed in a remote corner of the former amusement park where families could get away from the more congested areas and enjoy swimming in the lake, perhaps have a picnic and regain their sanity before returning to the main hub of continuous activity and noise that had once dominated the rest of the park.

Nine had followed an old trail around the north side of the lake, which brought him here. He’d only intended on resting a few minutes, giving him time to formulate a plan to get back to the others, but had collapsed from exhaustion instead.

He peeked out between the tall reeds swaying in a light breeze and gazed at the old lake. Despite the smell, the view from where he sat seemed serene and out of place. He felt like a man viewing a forgotten paradise, out of sync with time, hidden in between two worlds—the former amusement park of the past, and the notorious post-apocalyptic New Cleveland of today. It made him smile, despite his grim circumstances, giving him a much-needed boost. Nine closed his eyes and listened to the wind rustle the surrounding leaves and tall grasses. I could almost forget I’m still inside this fucking town if I stayed right here long enough. A part of him wanted to do just that. The prospect of returning to the chaos that awaited, terrified him.

He opened his eyes and sighed heavily. “I’m all they have left,” he reminded himself. “It’s up to me now to figure this shit out.” The spoken declaration brought the truth crashing home. Last night before dawn, and everything that happened after, was a nightmare he couldn’t wake from.

Nine thought back to last night, trying to process everything that had happened: After parting ways with Joe, he’d attempted to reach the parking garage to warn Tony and Diane of Taven’s treachery. He’d never even made it to the First-Aid Station.

The Lunatics had been quietly moving in and surrounding the area. Nine had come in behind them, watching everything play out from a distance. The Lunatics had hidden patrols near the station and at every approach toward the parking garage. There was no way Nine could get close. Instead, he was forced to watch the whole scene play out. He’d heard gunfire from the garage. He’d watched the Lunatics rush in like a large hand slowly closing. He’d even seen that horrible woman, Briana, orchestrating events outside, before the gunfire started. The worst part was that he didn’t know if they were already dead, not until he caught a glimpse of Tony and Diane being escorted up the ramp to the roof.

After that, everything had become a blur. That was when the theater exploded.

He remembered being spotted trying to backtrack and get to Joe. The Lunatics had chased him all over the place, forcing him to run down alleys, through fields, and finally pinning him in toward the lake. Everywhere he’d turned, another patrol was moments from spotting him. He’d managed to avoid notice and make it around the northern end of the lake. The farther east he’d traveled, the less patrols there were. Nine attributed that to the theater explosion and the rush to get patrols over on the west side to put out the fire and police the area. From there, he’d found a drunk man sleeping beneath a boardwalk. He’d stolen the passed-out man’s filthy long coat, which had a hood attached. Adequately disguised, he’d continued along the shore of the lake, trying to avoid being spotted by Lunatics perched along the wall and up in the rollercoaster towers, until finally arriving in this forest.

It was midmorning. It had been hours since Tony and Diane’s capture. He had no idea where Wendy, Sergeant Hash, or Joe were, or what awaited him once he started back west.

“I told her to wait for me near the pavilion,” he said. “Just find Joe. Maybe by then, if you haven’t been caught yet, some wonderful, brilliant plan will materialize to help me with the rest.” Determined to keep his promise to Joe, and not let everything else overwhelm him, Nine gathered himself, pulling the hood up over his head, and decided to keep following the lake around to the south, headed west. If I can get to the marketplace district without being seen, maybe I can hide in plain sight among the crowds.

The young man, momentarily displaced from time, departed the ancient summer picnic area from a deceased world and reentered the danger zone of New Cleveland—a world about to be ripped apart.

~~~

The marketplace district of New Cleveland was in chaos. Everywhere, people were gathering in groups, like gangs, suspiciously guarding their territories after the explosion of the theater. Distrust toward each other and especially toward the authorities who were viewed as failing to maintain the security and comfort they’d grown accustomed to, permeated the air. Tempers flared, fights ignited in the streets, and most businesses refused to open in fear of looters and the sudden increase in violent activities.

Lunatic patrols, usually monitoring daily affairs from a distance, now penetrated the crowds in force, adding more fuel to the fire by arresting citizens for the slightest offences. Anyone raising their voices in protest or even staring too long in the Lunatics’ direction were immediately seized and dragged away. In some cases, the Lunatics even provoked confrontations just to have an excuse to make more arrests.

No one was whispering any longer. Dark rumors ran wild around town concerning the leader of New Cleveland losing control of his town and no longer able to maintain order. This caused a fresh surge of fear and panic, as citizens started packing up their few belongings, looking to depart New Cleveland and lining up outside the front gates with wagons and carts, like a medieval traffic jam.

Nine maneuvered through the fearful crowd, avoiding all skirmishes between the Lunatics and the people, and taking advantage of the distractions to escape notice.

Finally, he arrived at the casino pavilion, looking for a reprieve from the madness that had taken hold of the town, only to discover more disruption in the flow of normal business activities. The pavilion was packed with people looking for anywhere safe to gather where the anger and violence hadn’t infected yet.

Nine glanced into the faces of frightened and confused citizens in passing who saw him approach and immediately tensed up, got quiet, and tried not to make eye-contact. He lowered his hood over her face, hoping to avoid being recognized, and scanned tired faces for his friends, especially Joe. He hadn’t needed to stop by Ollie’s Oasis, which was on the way. All he had to do was glance toward the long line of pissed off patrons waiting outside Herbie’s front door to understand that the bar had not opened for business. Wendy and Herbie had either been arrested or they were already in hiding after discovering what had happened. And if the Lunatics wanted to set another trap, the Oasis was the perfect place to hide a patrol waiting inside.

Nine arrived at the crowded Black Jack tables, but no one was playing cards. He searched everywhere he could think of, excluding his own small trailer, which was surely another trap. Still, no Joe.

Where the hell are you? he thought. Nine could see the entrance to Harper’s Run at the back of another sheep-like crowd. No one would be racing today. He stopped and stared up at the course. Could she already be in there? Maybe she had no choice but to make a run for that door by herself? The thought scared him senseless, like a parent concerned for his child left all alone.

“Ho… ly… shit! Is that you smelling up the place, pansy?”

Nine tensed up at the voice coming from behind him, then rolled his eyes. Not now. He turned around.

Asshole Mike stood in front of him, his hands to his side, and smiling like a damn idiot.

Nine flashed him a crooked smile. “What do you want?” he said. “Aren’t you on the wrong side of casino? I thought Black Jack was small potatoes to you.”

“Damn… that is you!” he said. “What the hell are you wearing? Shit… you really do smell horrendous!”

“Fuck off, Mike,” Nine said. “This is not a good time for your bullshit.”

“Obviously,” he said. “Town’s all screwed up on account of that explosion last night. Hell, I can’t get a game started to save my life! No one wants to play cards. They all just want to bitch and cry like babies. Then I saw you, and thought, ‘Hell… might as well have a little fun.’”

“Gee, I’m flattered you consider time with me… fun,” Nine said sarcastically.

Mike laughed. “Seriously, though, what the fuck? You look like someone trying to hide?”

“Leave it alone,” Nine warned. “I’m in no mood for this… not today.”

Mike raised his hands. “Okay. Okay. I understand. Everyone’s on edge today. It’s crazy shit. I’ve heard all kinds of talk that you wouldn’t believe.”

Nine stared at him suspiciously. “What have you heard?”

“Well, for starters, Candyman’s authorized his patrols to go around town and arrest tons of people. Doesn’t matter what for, just as long as it’s being done.”

“Why’s that?”

Mike laughed. “Something about that theater blowing up has got the boss all anxious about replenishing supplies… if you know what I mean.”

Nine was stone. “No… what the hell do you mean?”

Mike’s eyebrows shot up. “Seriously? You’ve never heard the stories? Fuck me, you really are a clueless wonder, aren’t you?”

“Perhaps. Why don’t you just tell me.”

Mike looked around nervously, then leaned in. “Okay… well… there’s an old tale about how Candyman’s been sending human shipments over to some lake outside of here. It’s said that there’s a fucking horde over there that’s so large you can’t even count ‘em. Anyway, the story goes, he made a deal with those freaks to keep them from attacking New Cleveland. He sends them trucks full of people and in exchange, the monsters stay away from here. Not that I believe any of that shit, of course. It’s just a story. I’m really surprised you don’t know that one.”

“What do you mean he’s ‘anxious about replenishing supplies’?” Nine pushed

“I was getting to that,” Mike said, looking around again. “I’ve got sources that tell me that the theater that blew up last night, was anything but a fucking theater.”

Nine waited.

“I’m told that, if those silly stories are true, then the theater was where Candyman was keeping the… you know… ‘merchandise’.”

“‘Merchandise’?”

“Come on! Do I have to spell it out for you? That’s where he’s been keeping all the people that get shipped out!”

Nine was stunned. “You mean… at the theater?”

“Yeah, dipshit! Whoever blew that place up last night, blew up a shit load of people being stored there… or so I’ve heard.”

Nine felt dizzy. Fucking Taven! That’s what he was after all along! And we heard them! Me and Joe fucking heard them moaning from that fucking hole!

“You okay, pansy? You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine,” Nine said. “So, you’re telling me Candyman’s been rounding up people all morning for another shipment?”

“I didn’t say that,” he said with a wink. “And if you say I did, I’ll deny it. Not that anyone would believe your sorry ass. It’s just a fucking rumor.”

Nine nodded. “Okay. Are you done having fun with me? Because I’ve got shit to-”

“Hold on,” Mike said. “I get that everything’s all fucked-up today, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve got business to conclude. I figured you would’ve brought it up by now.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Wow… really? The girl… dumb ass. You know, the one you’re so hung up on? We we’re supposed to meet this morning and seal the deal about me selling her to you… unless you’ve changed your mind.”

Nine’s head was spinning. Then he remembered. “Shit… that deal. Yeah… with all this crazy shit happening today, I totally forgot. Let’s discuss this later, once things settle down.”

Mike shook his head, his face filled with mock concern. “Wow, you couldn’t wait yesterday, and now, you’re all different. Well, I guess that works for me since what I really had to tell you was that the deal’s off.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m afraid things have changed that will greatly affect me selling you the runner.”

Nine waited.

“You see,” Mike continued, “I may not own for much longer.”

Nine stepped closer to the asshole. “You sold her to someone else?”

“No… no… I wouldn’t do that. We had a deal, and I intended on keeping it. It’s just that Candyman’s been earnest about arresting people for anything, and I thought, ‘Shit, what if it gets around that that little runt was stealing for me on the side? Would he arrest me, too?’ So, I did the only respectable thing a man in my position could do under the circumstances… since, technically, she is still my property.” He smiled at Nine, like a man who just won a sweet bet.

Nine took another threatening step toward the man. “Have you seen her? What have you done to Joe?”

Mike took a step back. “Back off!” he said, becoming uncomfortable. “I had her arrested for thievery! Turned her in myself after I ran into her early this morning.”

“You did what?” Nine balled his fists.

Mike laughed. “Didn’t see that coming, did you? I was looking for a way to get back at you, but when I heard about the arrests, and then that girl just showed up in the pavilion… I couldn’t refuse such a perfect opportunity.”

“So, you had her arrested… for thievery… when you were the one making her steal shit?”

“Yes,” he said. “And the timing for it couldn’t be any more fitting. I get to finally rid myself of that little runt… and get back at you, too! And I never breached our agreement. She was still mine this morning, and it was within my rights to protect myself. Everyone knows that when a runner starts a streak of bad luck for the owner, that streak continues. So, I took care of it. But, if they release her, then I’ll still sell her to you… as agreed. But I can’t imagine that happening, not with everything going on today… especially after the hangings.”

“I’m sorry… did you just say… ‘hangings’?”

Mike’s smile faded. He saw something in Nine’s face that disturbed him. He took another step back, losing all motivation to gloat. “Yeah. With the explosion last night, and then the replenishing detail with all the arrests, Candyman knew he needed to deal with all the unrest in town. So, as he’s done in the past to get the people back in line, he ordered a public hanging earlier this morning, although I think it just made matters worse. I’m surprised you didn’t see them on the way over here, swinging from that fucking coaster. From what I understand, it’s the most he’s ever done at once. At least twenty people.”

Nine was boiling over with anger… no… rage. It took all he had to turn from the vindictive asshole and walk away, but if Mike had spoken one more word, Nine was certain he would’ve turned back around and beat him to death, right there in the pavilion.

Asshole Mike sensed something off about the young man’s demeanor and stopped talking as he watched Nine abruptly leave and rush out of the pavilion. Remaining silent was the best bet he’d made all morning.

~~~

As Nine pushed his way through the indifferent and uneasy crowd, he could already make out the serpent’s largest hump, rising over the marketplace district. He could see twenty indistinguishable bodies, swaying from lines suspended down from the top of the Big Dipper.

I never even noticed, he thought. I came in from the lake, on the opposite side of the coaster… I was so afraid of getting caught… I never even looked up!

A chill seized him as he maneuvered around citizens to get a closer view, reminded of one his first impressions of New Cleveland, sitting in the back of a truck with Diane when they were first escorted into town.

Diane.

He tried desperately to deny what his fears wanted him to believe.

No! No fucking way! My fucking friends are ‘not’ hanging up there!

He needed his eyes to confirm it… and yet… a part of him was afraid to get any closer.

Nine stopped in the center of a busy street. He stared upward and could make them all out now—men and women, suspended upside down from the coaster like an offering to the beast above. He quickly looked away, closing his eyes and shaking his head.

You need to look, asshole, he reminded himself. You need to know for sure.

Nine took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and started scanning the suspended bodies from left to right.

Relief mixed with guilt started to slowly fill him as he glanced into each dead and unfamiliar face.

No Tony. No Diane. No Wendy…

Nine gasped as he neared the end of the horrific display and gazed into the face of a familiar overweight man, spinning upside down in the breeze.

Fuck me! That’s Herbie!

Then his eyes went wide as he noticed a much smaller form initially obscured by the dead bartender.

“No…” he whispered.

As Herbie spun and swayed to the left, a young girl wearing a camo jacket appeared. Her shoulder-length blue hair blew wildly in the wind, mercifully covering most of her pale, dead face.

Nine dropped to his knees and put his hands over his mouth. He couldn’t look away from Joe, suspended from the coaster—couldn’t believe his eyes. But his heart was way ahead of him. Nine felt something break within as he lost control, fell forward in the dirt, and starting sobbing in the middle of the street.

Citizens maneuvered around him with annoyance, oblivious to the young man’s grief.

Nine didn’t care about the attention he was attracting, or about being captured.

He only thought about Joe.

A small Lunatic patrol was headed toward him from the opposite direction.

Someone stepped up to them, said words, then pointed toward Nine.

The leader of the patrol looked annoyed but ordered the others to follow him and check on this newest disturbance.

Nine never saw them approach.

Joe… I’m so fucking sorry…

The patrol could see the young man now. To them, Nine appeared to be praying in the middle of the damn roadway.

The Lunatic leader shook his head, pointed to Nine, then ordered, “Take this one, too. He’ll complete our quota for the day.”

Four face-painted men rudely pushed their way through the crowd as they moved in to arrest the grieving man.

That was when the sky erupted with the most horrific sound anyone in New Cleveland had ever heard.

The Lunatics stopped. The crowd became silent.

From all around them, somewhere outside New Cleveland’s walls, it sounded like the moans and howls of a million maniacs had just merged into one terrifying scream that went on for ten long seconds.

And then all went silent.

Sergeant Hash would have recognized it immediately.

It was the war cry of the dead.

~~~

Next Episode 52-6

Previous Episode 52-4

~~~

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

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-5: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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.

~~~

Tony watched two of the face-painted Lunatics near the back of the trucks walk off toward the upper level ramp. The other three were separated, the trucks sitting between them.

He smiled. They’re switching out with the ones upstairs. That leaves three. He turned to Diane and pointed toward the two that were rotating.

She watched them walk off and nodded.

They both understood that the odds wouldn’t get any better.

Tony took the lead, stepping out from behind the pylon with his crowbar down along his side. Diane followed, single file, using the big man as concealment.

They approached the first Lunatic at the front of the trucks. A man in a leather vest, wearing a Yankees ball cap was leaning against the grill, his assault rifle lying on the hood beside him. The man’s face paint completed his look of some sport’s fanatic.

As Tony approached, trying to appear bored, the man looked up and did a double-take, almost knocking his rifle off the truck rushing to reach for it.

“Whoa!” Tony said, raising his free hand. He kept coming. “It’s just us.”

For a moment, the Lunatic looked confused. He didn’t recognize the big man, but his face paint threw him off. He raised his rifle, then lowered it slightly. “Who the fuck are you?” he said in a younger voice.

By now the other two were moving toward the front.

Tony laughed, trying to play the part. “Wow. Don’t shoot me. I don’t want to do this shit either. But the Boss sent us to relieve you.” He kept moving.

The young Lunatic lowered the gun a little more and sighed. “No one’s supposed to relieve us for hours,” he said. “Where the fuck did you come from?”

Another Lunatic, a woman with dark hair tied to the sides in ponytails, stepped around one side of the trucks to join the Yankees fan. She was equally confused, but also kept her rifle lowered, grateful that she didn’t have to do the talking.

The third Lunatic was still somewhere near the back of the convoy and out of sight.

“Got fucking turned around trying to get in here,” Tony said. “This place is dark as shit.” He was within five feet now.

The face-painted ponytail girl gasped. “I know this dude!” she said. “He’s that fighter in the pits!”

Yankees Fan shot her a confused look.

Tony’s heart was racing. He tried not to think about how young both these Lunatics were. They clearly were just following orders and not happy about it. He tightened his grip around the crowbar. They were close enough now.

Let the anger loose. Fight quick. Fight hard. Forget just as quickly. Repeat.

“What?” Yankees Fan said. “This guy? No fucking way.”

“I’m telling you… he’s the damn Champion!” Ponytail Girl said, starting to raise her rifle. “He’s not one of us!”

“Hey, who’s that with you?” Yankees Fan also started to raise his weapon, noticing Diane’s feet behind Tony’s.

Diane stepped out from Tony’s left side, her crossbow raised over her right shoulder causing her to twist her head all the way back around to line up the shot. She was quick… and accurate.

The Ponytail Girl dropped her rifle. The crossbow bolt struck her right between the eyes. She managed to scream once before falling forward.

“Shit! Fuck!” Yankees Fan was out of time. Tony brought the crowbar down on top of his ball cap three times, crushing the young Lunatic’s skull. He collapsed to the ground, beside the girl.

They could hear footfalls echoing across the concrete, coming from farther off. The other two were coming back.

“Tony! Down!” Diane yelled. She’d already grabbed the fallen woman’s rifle.

Tony had just enough time to spot the third Lunatic, an older man with balding hair. His face paint made him look like a retired clown. The man was peering out from the back of the first truck, trying to get a clear shot.

Tony dropped to the ground as the sound of automatic rifle fire ripped across the garage, missing Tony and striking a concrete pylon in the dark.

They could hear running now. Shouting.

The balding man moved around the side of the first truck, trying to get a clear shot on the big man.

Tony was moving around the other side of the truck.

Shit! This is not going to end well! he thought.

The balding man caught up to him. “Gotcha!” he said with a shit-eating grin. He aimed at Tony’s head.

Diane fired the rifle from beneath the front of the truck, shredding the man’s legs.

The man fell to his knees, shouting out in pain.

Tony got up, let out a guttural cry, and swung the crowbar to the side, crushing the man’s jaw into the grill of the truck.

Diane rolled out from beneath the truck and immediately followed the sound of the approaching Lunatics coming up from one side of the trucks. From the prone position, and with no way to brace the front of the rifle, she tucked the butt stock into her shoulder and opened fire on two fast-moving Lunatics, making them scatter back toward the rear of the convoy.

Tony was already moving along the other side of the trucks. He surprised one Lunatic, a tall man with long hair, who nearly collided with him. Tony grabbed the barrel of the man’s rifle and ripped it from his hands. He swung the crowbar along the man’s right knee, causing him to cry out and fall back. The Lunatic stared up in horror as the big insane man’s shadow fell upon him. “Please…” he begged, staggering off toward the darkness. “Just let me go! I… I won’t tell anyone!”

There was no compromise in Tony’s blood-thirsty eyes.

The man stumbled into the dark.

Tony raised the crowbar and let it fall repeatedly on the screaming Lunatic’s flesh, splattering himself with the man’s blood.

Diane was up and moving along the other side of the trucks, trying to make herself as small as possible. She’d drawn a hunting knife she’d selected from Taven’s stash and held it out in front of her. The second man, a chubby out-of-shape Lunatic, was trying to catch his breath. Diane rushed toward the gasping man who attempted to blindly shoot from around the back of the convoy. She stabbed him in the arm, causing him to drop the weapon. The man stumbled back away from the trucks as Diane retracted the blade.

“Wait!” the man yelled at the crazy one-armed woman. He raised his hands defensively.

Diane swept the knife at them, cutting two of the man’s fingers clean off.

The man yelled out in pain as Diane stepped in under his arms and sent the hunting knife up into his rib cage. The man collapsed, falling on his back. Diane jumped on top of him and stabbed him four more times in the chest. She stopped and wiped the blood off her smeared painted face.

“Diane,” Tony said from behind her.

She turned and saw her bloody friend and was horrified. There was still blood dripping from Tony’s crowbar. What did we just do? She stared into the dead man’s open eyes that she just butchered. They said it all. She raised her bloody hands and stared at them.

“Diane!” Tony said again. “We gotta go. They’ll be more of them coming after hearing the gunshots.”

She nodded and got up off the dead man, leaving the blade in his chest.

Tony was already moving toward the back of the last box truck. He opened the door and stopped.

It was empty.

“What the fuck?” Diane said, stepping beside him.

“No,” Tony said, shaking his head. “No… no… NO!” He ran up to the second box truck and opened the door.

It too, was empty.

“No…” Tony’s arms felt heavy. He dropped the crowbar and let his shoulders fall.

From out in the dark parking garage, the sound of a single person clapping half-heartedly filled the silent space.

Tony and Diane backed away from the trucks and scanned the darkness.

“God damn!” came a familiar voice. “That was some brutally savage shit!” A long-haired woman in a long leather coat stepped out of the dark, both her guns drawn, her arms to her side. “I’m glad I let that play out. Those poor fucks didn’t even know you were coming.”

Before Tony could react, the leader of the Lunatics raised one gun and said, “Don’t even. This was over a long time ago, big guy.”

From all around them, twenty Lunatics crept out of the darkness, guns raised and aimed at the two bloody imposters. The trucks were surrounded.

Diane looked to Tony.

Tony closed his eyes and clenched his fists. What have I done?

Briana stepped up and started pacing around them, shaking her head and laughing. “Shit… you two really impressed the hell out of me… I mean that. You may not have been Lunatics when you put that shit on your faces… but you certainly look like Lunatics now. Fuck… me.”

Tony opened his eyes and stared down at the bloody crowbar. He looked up and caught Briana’s glare.

“Yeah,” she said. “You still feel it, don’t you? You want to pick that bloody stick up and ram it into my face. Don’t deny it. I can see the murder in your eyes… I can almost smell it coming off you.”

Tony didn’t move.

Briana holstered her guns and stepped within Tony’s grasp. She sized him up and smiled. “I can’t tell you how much I’m… aroused… in this moment. Seeing you all fucked-up with all that blood on you… hell… I’d fuck you right now.”

“You’re crazy,” he said. “Just shut up and kill us already.”

She laughed. “Oh… I’m not going to do that… not yet, anyway. We’ve just started this fucking shit-show.” Briana glanced at Diane. “And you! Fuck! Not bad for a gimp. I’ve clearly underestimated your… ferocity.”

“Go to hell,” Diane spat, locking eyes with the Lunatic Leader.

Briana raised her eyebrows. “Wow! There’s just no holding back from either of you. No fucking fear… at all! I like it!”

“Who tipped you off?” Tony said. “Was it Herbie?”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said, walking off. “None of it matters.” She made a rolling gesture with her gloved right hand as she started walking toward the upper level ramp.

On cue, the Lunatics moved in and seized them.

Tony tensed up but let them bind his hands behind his back. He looked over at Diane. She refused to look at him.

The Lunatics pushed them forward after Briana, who led them toward the upper deck.

On the second level roof, there were at least a dozen more Lunatics.

Tony sighed as unspoken questions were answered.

He saw Wendy and Herbie, bound and on their knees. They’d been beaten up and gagged.

“Fucking bitch,” he cursed.

Briana laughed. “That’s right. Caught these two earlier in the evening. Been watching them since they entered the Murder Shops—nasty place. We’re just gonna have you and Diane wait up here with your friends while we wait for the rest of your crew to show up… assuming we don’t catch them at Splash Landing.”

Wendy and Herbie stared up at them looking terrified and defeated.

The Lunatics placed Tony and Diane next to the others.

“I don’t suppose you want to tell me where your other friends went?” Briana said, lighting up a cigarette. “Devil’s in the details… and we just didn’t get all of it from our source.”

Diane’s eyes went wide. They don’t know where Nine, Joe and Taven went because I didn’t know about the rest of the plan when I told her!

Briana saw Diane’s surprise. She smiled. “That’s right… you know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you, Diane?”

Tony turned to the hunter.

Diane said nothing.

Briana laughed and took a drag off her cigarette. “Gotta watch who you trust in this town, girl. You just learned that the hard way.”

Diane closed her eyes and whispered, “Nadia.”

Tony nodded. He looked over at Herbie. The fat bartender just stared at the ground like a man who already knew he was dead. “Hey,” he said, getting Herbie’s attention.

The bartender looked at him.

“Thank you,” Tony said. “I was wrong about you.”

Herbie attempted a half-smile and nodded.

“Oh… isn’t that fucking touching,” Briana said. She came over and kicked Herbie in the side of the head, knocking him over.

Tony tensed up and started to rise.

“Don’t!” Briana warned, pointing in Tony’s face. “The rest of you I still need. But this one… this fat fuck… I could kill him right now… If you push me.”

Tony eased up.

“Again,” she said. “Anyone want to save us some time and tell me where the others are hiding? No? Well… I guess I’ll just have to shoot the bartender anyway.” She drew her gun and aimed it at Herbie.

“Wait!” Wendy said. “Don’t shoot him!”

Briana flashed a wicked smile over the sites of her handgun. “Got something to tell me, girl?”

Wendy looked over at Tony and Diane with uncertainty.

Tony didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t say anything, Wendy,” Herbie gasped. “She’ll just shoot me anyway. Bitch has been wanting to for a long, long time.”

Briana rolled her eyes at Herbie and sighed. She smiled at Wendy. “Sorry, girl. He’s right. Had to try, though.” She aimed the gun.

“Don’t!” Wendy cried out.

Just then, the parking garage shook as an explosion from somewhere south boomed across the night.

All the Lunatics looked at each other nervously.

Briana raised her weapon. “What… the… fuck…was that?” she said.

One of the Lunatics pointed toward an old building, up in flames to the southwest.

Briana holstered her weapon and walked over to that side of the roof to investigate.

“I think it’s the theater,” one of them told her.

“Of course, it’s the fucking theater,” she hissed. Briana turned and stormed back over to Tony. She leaned over and yelled in his face, “Why the fuck would your asshole friends do that?”

Tony smiled. “Distraction,” he said. “A little late, though.”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked where my friends were. There’s your answer,” he said.

Briana stood up and balled her fists. She let out a heavy sigh and said, “Do you have any fucking idea what you’ve just done?”

Tony gave her a confused glance.

She laughed at his bewildered expression. “You really don’t know, do you?”

Tony just stared. “We needed a storage building to blow up to get your attention off the garage,” he volunteered. “Doesn’t matter now.”

“A storage building,” she said with a sneer. “Just who the fuck is running your shit-show of a plan? That was no storage building.”

Tony waited.

“For someone who wanted to rescue trucks full of people… you certainly picked the worst target to blow up.”

“What does that mean?” Tony said.

“It means, asshole, that the theater is where we keep them all, locked in cages, until we ship them to Mosquito Creek. Those friends of yours that you just came to save… you just blew them the hell up.”

Tony looked over his shoulder at the burning building. “What the fuck?”

“What the fuck is right, Tony,” Briana said. “You just blew up our current shipment… and then some. You have no fucking clue what this means… and the trouble you’ve caused!”

Tony was in shock. Then understanding dawned on him. “How many Lunatics did you pull from the theater to be here?”

“Enough to leave that place vulnerable,” she said. “Why?”

Taven! This is what he wanted all along! He looked at his friends then back at Briana. “The theater wasn’t the distraction… we were.”

~~~

After the theater exploded shortly before dawn, citizens of New Cleveland awoke with panic written all over their faces. Lunatics scrambled from everywhere, headed to the source of the explosion, while fear mongers filled the streets, lighting their own fires with exaggerated conversations ranging from an outside attack on the town to looters causing havoc from within. Everywhere, people glared at each other with suspicion, trying to protect what was theirs and looking desperately to anyone for answers.

The blue-haired girl in the camo jacket weaved in and out of the crowd, trying to stay hidden and keep moving. Every time another Lunatic patrol raced by, she fled into another dark alley, expecting to be arrested or shot down at any moment.

Joe had reached Ollie’s Oasis when the explosion went off. After finding no one at the bar, she continued toward the pavilion near Harper’s Run, hoping Nine would be there to explain what was happening in all the confusing hell that enveloped the town.

When she finally reached the Black Jack tables, Joe imagined seeing the odd young man waiting for her. Instead, all she saw were more terrified faces gathered beneath the pavilion as if the place offered some sort of protection. She searched the crowded pavilion for Nine or any of his friends but found no one.

Joe felt incredibly alone.

Everything’s going bad, she thought, trying to hold in her tears and stop acting like a baby. After they capture the others and find out what we did to that theater, someone will mention me and they’ll hunt me down, too! She stopped near Nine’s favorite table and tried to calm herself down. Get it together. You know this town. You know where to hide if it comes to that. Just stay cool.

Someone grabbed her shoulder from behind.

Joe jumped and turned, half-expecting to see the monstrous Taven with the sharp teeth who had finally tracked her down to devour her.

“There you are!” came a familiar voice.

Joe’s eyes went wide with surprise as recognition set in.

~~~

Next Episode 52-5

Previous Episode 52-3

~~~

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

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-4: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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 52: Sodom, will continue on Friday.

If you’ve been reading Don’t Feed The Dark online and want to help support the cause, the best thing you could do to show your appreciation and let me know you’ve been enjoying this series is to help spread the word so that more readers find out about this long, dark apocalyptic series.

Here’s an easy way to do so:

Please consider voting for DFTD over at topwebfiction No registration is required. just click and vote. You can vote for DFTD every seven days to help keep it listed.

Anything you can do to help me get Don’t Feed The Dark to the readers is appreciated. Be sure to spread the word on all your social media sites as well.

Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

~~~

“Something’s wrong,” Diane whispered. “It’s too close to dawn. They should have blown it up by now.”

Tony nodded from behind the pylon that hid them. His face was a stone as he continued to stare at the trucks from the shadows. “We need to move… now,” he said, keeping his voice low.

“They’ll see us coming. Without the distraction, we’ll never get close enough.”

“We’ll play the part,” he said, holding a hand up to her face. “Hopefully they won’t realize the ruse until we’re in close.”

“It’s risky.”

“Yeah. But it’s all we have left.”

“We could just… leave.”

“No.”

“But… what about the explosion?”

“What about it?”

“Aren’t you concerned? Maybe they’ve been captured… or maybe that shady fucker, Taven, isn’t with us, after all.”

Tony sighed, trying to reign in his temper. “I’m not leaving here without those trucks,” he said. “I can’t.”

Diane stared at him. “Are you hearing yourself? Something’s clearly wrong. First, no Wendy. Then no Nadia and Hash. Now… we’ve got no explosion. None of this adds up to anything good.”

“Go back if it bothers you that much,” Tony snapped under his breath. “This is the last chance we have to save Orosco and the others. We don’t do this now… they’re dead. Then, everything we’ve suffered through to get here means fucking nothing.”

Diane took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m just… worried.”

“I am, too,” he said. “But we’ll just have to improvise now. The damn trucks are right… there! And there’s only five of those fuckers. We can do this… even without the distraction.”

She nodded. “Okay. Let’s do it, then.”

Tony turned to the hunter and smiled like the devil. He said, “Let the anger loose. Fight quick. Fight hard. Forget just as quickly. Repeat.”

Diane just stared.

“Understand?” he said.

“Yeah,” she said sadly. “I understand.”

~~~

Midnight.

Wendy, Herbie and Sheila returned to The Oasis. They entered through the back door leading into the storeroom to avoid notice. Herbie had closed the bar last night at 7 pm, to the grumbling of many customers, claiming that he was out of stock. This was not unheard of, but very unusual for Herbie who always made sure the taps were running.

Wendy sat down on a keg as Herbie lit a lamp, choosing not to turn on the bar lights.

Sheila leaned against a wall and yawned. “That was exhausting,” she said. “I expect a full night’s pay, Ollie.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “You would. Don’t worry, you’ll get your wages.”

Wendy stared at her blood-stained shaky hands. She had cleaned them several times since exiting the murder room, but the reddish residue wouldn’t come off and just made her hands looked swollen.

“Don’t think you’re going to sleep in after this,” Herbie told Sheila. “I expect everything to return to normal tomorrow evening. It’s bad enough I had to close early. I can already hear all the bitching I’m going get for that one. And now with Wendy leaving us-”

Sheila laughed. “Well… I’m not stripping if you expect me to open this shit-hole again.”

Herbie shook his head and said to himself, “What I wouldn’t give to have an appreciative employee or two.”

“Stop it,” Wendy said, interrupting their indifferent behavior.

They both stared at her.

“Just… shut up,” she said, in a deflated voice. “You two act like we didn’t just kill a man an hour ago. Well… we did.”

Herbie sighed and scratched his head.

Sheila lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, and then shook her head at her. “You’re welcome,” she said, sarcastically.

Wendy glared at her. “Oh… I’m sorry. Did I forget to thank you for helping me torture him first?”

The stripper waved a dismissive hand at her and turned. “You’ll never understand this place, Wendy. Get with the program… or just slit your own wrists already.”

“Alright,” Herbie said. “Enough of that. Wendy’s upset… and she’s right. We did just kill a man-”

“You mean I just killed a man,” Sheila corrected. “I’m the one who stabbed him in the chest when we got that confession… you two just sat there and watched.”

“How can you… how does that not bother you?” Wendy said, staring at the young woman’s back.

Sheila took another drag off her cigarette, staring at her own elongated shadow on the wall. “You got what you needed, didn’t you?” she said, refusing to turn and meet Wendy’s gaze.

Wendy looked away, and back at her hands. “Yes,” she said, closing her eyes.

“Then leave it at that,” she said, crossly. “Don’t turn this into anything else… and don’t you lose a wink of sleep over that prick, either. I know I won’t.”

Wendy looked back up at the woman, then over at Herbie. “Don’t either of you feel responsible for that man’s death?”

Herbie sighed, looking increasingly uncomfortable. “Look, Wendy, we did what we had to do… and now it’s over. Make your peace with our end of it and just let it the fuck go.”

“Is it really that easy?” she said, wiping tears from her face. “And if it is… then I’ve been in this horrible town too long… and so have both of you.”

“Just give it a rest, bitch!” Sheila protested.

Wendy couldn’t stop. She closed her eyes and said, “He… he didn’t even do it. Silver paid to watch… that was what he finally admitted. He just sat in one of those filthy chairs, staring through a peephole, while a handful of strangers in masks just ripped apart my friend. Silver didn’t know them. They didn’t know Mark. And Mark… poor Mark… he had no idea what was happening to him.” She covered her face and sat on the floor. “And now we’re no damn different than those beasts who killed my friend.”

Sheila was about to speak, then remained silent, puffing on her cigarette instead.

Herbie threw his hands into the air. “Screw it. I need a damn drink. We all do… especially after tonight.”

“You picking up the tab or are you going to take it out of our non-existent paychecks?” Sheila kidded.

“Just shut your pie-hole,” he grumbled, stepping out of the storeroom and out behind the long dark bar. The overweight bartender tried to use the lamp light coming from the back to find a bottle of anything strong. He ducked his head and struck a corner. “Sonofabitch!” he called out.

“Now there’s a mouth any mother would love,” came an amused female’s voice from out among the dark tables.

Herbie recognized the voice. He stood straight up and closed his eyes with a heavy sigh. “Shit,” he hissed.

Sheila and Wendy stepped out into the dark bar. Wendy was holding the lamp.

“What the hell’s taking you so long?” Sheila snapped.

“Not now,” he said. “We’ve got company.”

Before either woman could register his words, someone sparked a lighter, then lit a cigarette.

Wendy gasped as the bar was momentarily lit up, revealing several face-painted individuals spread out across the bar, sitting casually at random tables and sipping drinks in the dark.

At the back of the room, Briana had her boots kicked up on a table. She finished lighting her cigarette then kept the lighter lit a few moments longer, allowing the looks of surprise and horror to sink in on all their faces. She flashed them an amused smile. “Boo,” she said, letting the lighter go out.

Someone near the front door hit a light switch. The bar came to life, revealing in disturbing detail, a much larger number of Lunatics… and every one of them carrying guns.

“Briana,” Herbie greeted, wiping sweat from his brow.

The long-haired leader of the Lunatics raised an eyebrow. “Ollie,” she mockingly responded, and said nothing else. She just stared at the three of them standing behind the bar, taking a few more drags off her cigarette, and acting as if they were the ones who were trespassing.

“Um… Briana,” Herbie tried again. “As much as I enjoy you and your people’s patronage… I would prefer if you stopped by when I was open. Not that I’m telling you what to do or how to run-”

“Herbie,” she interrupted.

“Y-yes?”

“It’s time to shut up now.”

The bartender nodded.

Briana removed her boots from the table and leaned forward on her knees, still smoking her cigarette. “And I suppose you three are wondering what me and my men are doing here… just sitting in the dark… hmm?”

No one dared to answer.

Wendy was too terrified to move.

As was Herbie.

Sheila turned to the barkeep and said, “What the hell is this?”

“Sheila… not now,” Herbie cautioned.

“I don’t care who she is! It doesn’t give her the right to break into places and scare the fuck out of citizens! We still have rights here, protected by Candyman himself!”

Briana laughed at the sudden display of anger, blowing smoke out of her nose. “You tell ‘em, girl!” she encouraged the stripper. “It’s nice to see someone with a pair of balls around here… even on a dumb girl such as yourself.”

Sheila flashed the Lunatic leader a nasty glance.

“Don’t!” Herbie sternly said.

Too late.

Before Sheila had a chance to turn her foolish gaze elsewhere, the sound of two bullets blared across the bar. One stuck the stripper in the forehead, the other ripped open her chest.

Sheila turned her pale, stunned, and bloody face toward Herbie, then collapsed to the floor like a marionette with its strings just snipped.

Wendy screamed.

“Stop that shit,” Briana warned, aiming her handguns at her.

Herbie quickly moved in and put a hand over Wendy’s mouth. “It’s… it’s all good,” he said. “I’ve got this.” He was nodding and trying to hold back his own tears—still trying to process that Sheila was dead.

“Okay, then,” Briana said, flashing the bartender a wicked smile. She holstered her weapons as fast as she’d drawn them. The Lunatic leader rose to her feet letting her long coat fall over her gun belt. “Now that I’ve got your complete attention. Let’s try not to piss me off again, alright?”

“Any… anything you say, Briana,” Herbie said.

He let go of Wendy’s mouth. She took several deep breathes and regained control.

Briana laughed at the two of them, putting her hands to her sides. “If it’s not obvious by now… I’m here, with all my friends behind me, because you three… sorry… you two are in deep fucking shit.”

Herbie and Wendy remained silent.

“Now… if it were up to me… I would mow you both down right now, then me and my boys would finish our drinks, burn this shithole to the ground, and then be on our way. But… it’s not up to me. Unless either of you want to disrespect me again… like your stupid friend lying in her own piss and blood next to you.” She waited for them to take the bait. “No? You two are just going to let me shit all over your dead friend… and do nothing?”

Herbie closed his eyes. “No, Briana. We aren’t going to do anything.”

The Lunatic leader looked disappointed and shook her head.

“This… this is about me, isn’t it?” Wendy dared. Please… just spare Herbie. This has nothing to do with him.”

Herbie gave her a surprised glance.

Briana stared at the barkeep. “Herbie? Ollie? Hell… who the hell are you, anyway?” she joked. She turned to the girl. “Yeah… this is all about you and your wonderful friends… and all the dumb-asses who have decided to help you and your wonderful friends.”

Wendy nodded submissively.

“Everything’s changed, you little nerd,” Briana said. “We know all about you and your friend’s plans for later this evening and we’re in the process of collecting the rest of them. But… for starters… there’s the two of you.” The Lunatic leader pointed a gloved finger for effect. “Now,” Briana started, sitting back down, “come and tell me where your friends are-”

“I’m not telling you anything,” Wendy said.

Herbie closed his eyes.

The Lunatic leader frowned. She growled, “Sit… down!”

Herbie grabbed Wendy’s arm and dragged her over to Briana’s table. They sat.

“Now… that’s much better.” Briana stretched her arms back behind her seat and smiled. When she was finished, the face-painted woman reached into her coat for another cigarette and lit it up. She blew smoke into their faces and then addressed Wendy. “Let’s try this again. Where are you friends?”

Wendy closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then repeated, “I’m not telling you anything.”

Briana glared at the short woman. Finally, she laughed and said to Herbie, “This one’s got some balls, too. Where do you find these courageously stupid bitches?”

Herbie said nothing.

Briana turned her attention back to Wendy. “Well, that’s okay. You just sit back and protect your friends. I can respect that. Truth is, I don’t really need you to tell me anything. I know all that I need.” She winked at them and finished, “I’m just enjoying fucking with you before I arrest you both.”

~~~

An hour before dawn.

Several flashlight beams shot out of the tall grass surrounding Splash Landing, lighting up what was left of the night. Harsh, commanding voices filled the air. There was the occasional glimmer of automatic weapons as artificial lights crossed paths. Men and women wearing painted faces and murderous expressions were everywhere.

Nine and Joe lay prone beneath a trailer on the eastern edge of the former water playground, watching in horror as the Lunatics hunted the weeds for their friends.

“What do we do?” Joe whispered, still out of breath from pushing hard to get back through the labyrinth of alleys and back streets that had turned them around several times.

Nine’s mind was reeling. They’d almost been caught three times as Lunatic patrols had run past their hiding spots in route to the north end of New Cleveland. He suspected Taven had betrayed them, somehow alerting the authorities on their plans, since he still hadn’t blown up the storage facility. But now, it didn’t matter. He’d hoped to reach Splash Landing in time to intercept Wendy, Diane’s friend, Nadia, and hopefully, the good sergeant. But that possibility was gone.

He looked to the young girl. She was clearly terrified. I have to get her away from all this, he thought. They’re looking for us… not her. “Joe,” he said.

She turned toward him. “Can you make it back to the pavilion?”

“You mean without you? Screw that!”

“I’m being serious now,” he said. “Whatever plans we had are screwed. I’ve got to get to the parking garage. Maybe I can still reach Tony and Diane before the Lunatics do… maybe not… but I need to try.”

“I’m going with you.”

“The hell you are. I need you to find us a way into Harper’s Run undetected. If I can get to my friends, we’ll be hauling ass back there.”

“You mean… the door at the top?”

“That’s all we have left,” he said. “I still believe that door will take us outside. But I need you there to get us in once we arrive. It shouldn’t be a problem, not with all this activity going on tonight. You’ll have to hurry. Stop by Ollie’s Oasis on the way and ask for the owner, Herbie. He’ll know what happened to Wendy. If you can, bring her with you.”

“But… what about you? What if you get caught?”

Nine smiled and ruffled the girl’s blue hair. “You’re a good kid… a smart kid. You deserve way better than this fucking place. Get Wendy to Harper’s run if you find her. Locate a way in and meet me back at the Black Jack tables. I’ll be there… with or without the others. And then we’ll get out of here before daybreak while the Lunatics are distracted.”

“You promise?”

Nine hated lying to the girl. But there was no more time. He smiled. “I promise. Can you do this for me?”

She frowned, then nodded. “I’ll do it.”

“You be careful… and stay hidden,” he said.

“You, too,” she said, then added, “I like you a little better than that jacket… and I already miss that dirty old thing.”

He smiled, feeling his throat tighten up with emotion. He nodded. “I understand. You mean a lot to me, too. Now get out of here before we both turn into blubbering idiots.”

She laughed lightly. “See you soon.”

He nodded and watched the blue-haired girl sneak away. Well, there’s that, at least. Can’t have her mixed up in any more of our shit.

Nine turned his attention north, focusing on the parking garage.

This is probably a death sentence going there, he thought. It no longer mattered. He had to try. For Tony… for Diane.

Nine moved as quickly and as quietly as he could toward the garage.

~~~

Next Episode 52-4

Previous Episode 52-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-3: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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.

~~~

So, here’s the latest: I am currently wrapping up the last chapter in this middle arc. Chapter 52: Sodom is expected to run nine or ten episodes. No spoilers… but it will get ugly.

Afterwards, I will get started with the final arc of Book Six. We will be returning to Meredith and friends roughly six weeks later (which catches up their timeline). We’ll find out what they’ve been up to while trying to stay off the radar and keep Meredith safe. The first chapter’s going to slow things down and give me a chance to tell a long awaited story showing the connection Meredith has with Frank Carman that was hinted at all the way back in Book One. We will also get a glimpse into the developing relationship between Meredith and Megan, who has become Meredith’s bodyguard during this time.

I don’t want to say much else about this last arc, but it will be called: Island. That should be your clue that we will also hear from Gina and Clementine in this last arc.

I’ve got the last part slated for four chapters, but that’s not set in stone. I’ll know more after I delve deep into this last storyline.

As far as what’s coming after. I’m already prepping for Book Seven and Eight, which will be the final two books of the series (Yes, Don’t Feed The Dark actually has a finish line… lol). I’m not getting into any of that right now because we’ve got quite a lot left to cover in this final arc of Book Six, but I will say that I’m looking forward to jumping right into these last two books. There are stories that I’ve been waiting to tell since Book One that will finally get told in these last two books.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll keep you updated as the story progresses.

-Scott

~~~

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