Posts Tagged ‘Feed The Dead’


Just a quick update: Don’t Feed The Dark will resume Monday, April 16th. We will be starting the second arc of Book Five, titled, The Nomad. I’m expecting it to run four chapters, finishing up the fifth book in this series. As mentioned before, we will be returning to Gina Melborn to find out what happened to her after being exiled from the Wasteland community.

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I look forward to resuming this creepy tale with all of you in a couple of weeks,



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Well, that’s it for the first long arc of Book Five. By the numbers, Part Eight: All Is Lost, is now on record as the single longest arc in the series, clocking in at over 174,000 words… wow! For those of you left wondering why I abandoned Tony and the gang in a bad way, trapped in New Cleveland with their fate unresolved, it’s because I realized a chapter or two ago, that this tale from New Cleveland is far from over and needed more than a chapter to tell it. We will return to find out what happens to Tony and the rest of the gang in a future story arc.

This particular arc surprised me on several occasions during the writing with some new unexpected developments along the way, such as, the re-introduction of Sergeant Richard Hash, who we haven’t heard from since way back in Chapter Ten. I always intended to bring him back and tell Hash’s story, but I was not expecting him until Book Seven. In addition, Alysa Monroe’s backstory, delving into her training and initiation into the Shadow Dead (a.k.a. Ama-Eskua Order) threw me for a loop several times as we discovered that Alysa has a much larger role to play than I first realized. I love it when character stories wander off the outline and go their own way… lol. I intend to talk more about Alysa’s story as she is the next special guest lined up for After The Dark, my DFTD talk show, which will air sometime later this month (time dependent).

As for the delay, I knew after this long arc, which is as long as an entire book, that I would need time to recharge and prepare for the second half of Book Five that will commence sometime in April. I apologize for the pause, but it was necessary.

Looking ahead into the second half of Book Five: Remains, the new arc will be titled, “The Nomad”, and will take us back to Gina Melborn as we find out what happened after she was exiled. We will also find out what happened when Marcus Dempsey, a.k.a. Russell Bower, caught up with her. There will also be a few surprises thrown in as well. That’s all I can say about it for now… no spoilers.

Aside from that, I look forward to resuming this series and hearing from all of you in April. When I have an exact date I’ll announce it. In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Audio Edition of Don’t Feed The Dark, I encourage you to do so. You can either click the above link or visit the tab located at the top of the main page that will take you to all the available audio episodes, narrated by Jerimiah Vega. Please show your support and encouragement for Jerimiah’s efforts by liking and commenting on his Soundcloud page where all the audio episodes are hosted. I believe he’s done a great job so far bringing these characters to life in audio format, and he continues to get better with each new episode as he gets a feel for the characters and the tone of this long dark tale.

My special thanks goes out to all of you who have faithfully been voting for DFTD each week over at topwebfiction . I’ve been holding strong with at least ten votes or more each week, which helps more people find my story. I you haven’t yet had a chance to vote this week, you can just click the link above and do so now. Again, thanks for supporting the cause.

Well, that’s all I have for now. More to come…




Briana took them all back to Candyman’s courtyard and lined them up in front of the old fountain. She placed a row of Lunatics in front of them, twenty feet back, and just outside their leader’s trailer. They were all armed, rifles lowered but at the ready.

To Tony if felt like they were all being lined up in front of a firing squad. He couldn’t tell if Briana was just being funny, or if this was the intended purpose.

The Lunatic leader paced in between her men and Tony’s people, arms behind her back, and looking bored.

“What’s this all about, Briana?” Hash broke the silence. “We have an arrangement with your boss. Gold token V.I.P.’s remember? Hell, that pretty much means we can do whatever we want around here short of causing an uprising. Why bother Candyman with a petty bar fight?”

She glared his way, then smiled. “Oh… you all were up shit creek long before that stupid fight. The brawl just made it worse.”

“Made what worse?” Tony dared. He looked around for the umpteenth time trying to locate Alysa. “And where’s my friend? I’m sure your goons would’ve located her by now.”

Briana stopped, studied the big man’s concerned face, and laughed. “You genuinely care about her, don’t you? Did any of you know who she really was, or were you just her damn pawns?”

None of them knew how to safely answer that question.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said, lighting up a cigarette. “Candyman’s pretty pissed. Your damn girlfriend made a mess of things when she showed up here with her demands.”

“‘Demands’?” Tony was beside himself. What did she do?

Briana shook her head at him. “You really are clueless. Well… you’ll find out soon enough. And when the boss takes it out on the rest of you, I’ll get a front row seat.”

Before anyone else could say anything, Candyman exited the front door of his trailer dressed in fresh khakis and a dark blue sweater. He was no longer smiling as the man ran his hands through his long gray hair.

He looks stressed the fuck out, Tony thought. That’s not good. Damn it, Alysa, what did you do here?

Candyman stopped near the Lunatic squad, placed his hands on his sides, and then scanned his guests’ faces. He waved Briana over.

Tony could just make out their conversation.

“Is it taken care of?” he asked.

“Yes,” Briana said. “The bitch is out. We gave her everything she asked for. I had my men keep an eye on her from a distance until she drove north. She didn’t double back but kept going.”

Candyman was nodding his head. “Very good. Very good. One less headache to deal with this evening.” As an afterthought, he added. “After we take care of things here, I want you to tell all your patrols to keep an extra eye on any suspicious newcomers in town… and let me know immediately.”

Briana hesitated then said, “Do you think there’s more of her kind here?”

Tony’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Candyman smiled. “I’m not taking chances. Just… just let me know if your people spot anyone acting…”

“Sneaky?” Briana finished.

Candyman nodded. He then walked over to Tony and put on a well-practiced smile. “Well, it seems you all wasted no time settling in. I understand that there was a bit of an incident over at the Oasis this evening.”

Hash quickly chimed in. “Nothing serious. We just had a few too many drinks, is all. One thing led to another-”

“Silence him,” Candyman ordered.

One of the Lunatics rushed over to Hash and slammed the butt of his rifle into the good sergeant’s belly, causing him to fall to one knee and cough.

“That’s not necessary.” Tony took a threatening step forward.

Briana stepped in, handgun drawn, causing Tony to stop. She smiled and waved the pointer finger of her free hand in the big man’s face. “Uh… uh… uh… just stand down before I get trigger happy on all your friends.”

Tony stepped back.

Candyman appeared oblivious to the situation. He stared around his courtyard, letting out a heavy sigh. “Do you know why things work in New Cleveland, Tony?”

Tony shook his head.

“Everything works in my town because everyone knows their place. Rules are adhered to and order is maintained.” He looked at the big man. “But when something comes along, threatening to disrupt that system, it’s my job to restore balance… and do so swiftly—by force if necessary.”

“I take responsibility for the bar fight,” Tony said. “Just don’t take it out on anyone else. You want to punish somebody, punish me. We’re not here to disrupt the way you run your operation.”

Candyman gave him a bemused expression. He looked to Briana and said, “Is this guy for real?”

Briana holstered her gun and shrugged with a smile. “It takes all kinds,” she said. “I suspect this one’s got a hero complex.”

This made Candyman laugh. He turned back to Tony and shook his head. “I appreciate you taking ownership for the trouble you’ve caused me… unfortunately… there was one story you should have told me long before I let you loose on my town.”

“And what story is that?” Tony asked.

“The one about your female traveling companion. I assume it was her idea to let you pose as the leader while she hid within your ranks?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Candyman’s smile faded. “Don’t make things worse by lying. She’s already told me who she is.”

“Where’s Alysa?” Tony asked.

“She… apparently having no further use for any of you… has decided to leave us. I assume she’s heading straight back to her Ama-Eskua friends.”

Shit, Tony thought.

“And by the expression on your face, I don’t suspect you had any idea she was planning on leaving you all in my custody. Is that correct?”

Tony had no reason to lie. “Yeah, you’re correct.”

“Well, Tony, you and your ‘special’ friend, have put me in a very anxious mood. I don’t like surprises, especially with people I’ve conducted business with.”

“Whatever Alysa did, she acted alone,” Tony said. “Yes, I knew who she was, but up until now, I didn’t believe it had any relevance on our arrangement.”

Candyman smiled. “I believe you, Tony. I really do. But that doesn’t change the fact that your friend has made me extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, despite her powerful position, I was able to keep the rest of you right here in New Cleveland.”

“She tried to get us out, too?” Tony asked.

Candyman ignored the question. “Due to your lack of transparency during our ‘deal’, you’ve left me no choice but to alter our original arrangement. There is no damn story you could tell me now that would intrigue, entertain, or put me at ease enough to counter the predicament… Alysa… has put me in.”

Tony turned and met the nervous gazes of his friends. She’s fucking screwed us! he thought. And worse, Alysa’s probably secured our death sentences!

“Relax… relax…” Candyman said, sensing their discomfort. “She did manage to get me to promise not to kill any of you. And as much as I’d like to dispose of all of you immediately—no offence—I just can’t risk your blood on my hands. Your friend’s friends are not people I want to make my enemies at this particular time.”

He’s terrified of the Shadow Dead, Tony thought. Well, there’s that at least.

“However,” Candyman continued. “I can’t be held responsible for what happens to any of you after I let you go. Once you leave the protection of these walls… well… anything could happen.”

“What does that mean? Are you letting us leave?” Tony said.

Hash shook his head and laughed. “It means, this shady sonofabitch has an ambush waiting for us outside the gates… probably paid some people just like me and my unit to take care of us once we’re out of New Cleveland jurisdiction.”

Another Lunatic went to strike Hash but Candyman waved him off.

“It’s alright,” he said. “The sergeant is simply stating his obvious concerns. It is a dangerous world out there, nothing like the safety found within my gates. No one has survived this long without developing a healthy sense of paranoia.”

“But you told Alysa you’d keep us safe here?” Nine chimed in.

Candyman shook his head at the young man. “No, son, I most certainly did not. I said I wouldn’t kill you, and that I’d keep you here long enough for the Ama-Eskua to be finished with you, allowing me to finish our business… but… then you all went and caused an uproar in my town. And even the Ama-Eskua would understand that I couldn’t keep you here, causing turmoil right under my nose.”

“It was a just a bar fight!” Mark chimed in. “And we didn’t even start the fucking thing!”

Candyman pretended to be shocked. He turned to Briana. “Explain it to them, please.”

Briana took an impatient drag off her cigarette and then put it out beneath her foot. “Shortly after being graciously given leave to explore our peaceful town, my men reported an incident in the streets involving the big dumb fuck over there,” she pointed at Tony. “He was seen knocking a man out, in front of several witnesses.”

Tony could already see where this was going.

“Do you deny this… Tony?” Candyman said.

“No… but we were provoked.”

“And the man who you assaulted… wasn’t he the very same man, along with his friends, that you attacked in the bar?” Candyman feigned surprise.

“It wasn’t like that,” Tony said. “They came at us and we defended ourselves.”

Briana laughed and continued. “He’s lying again. At the bar, no one came to this man’s defense when he openly admitted that he started the fight. The others were involved, sure. But it was these jerk-offs that started it long before they entered that bar. Doesn’t take a genius to add up the rest.”

Tony was glaring at her.

It was Diane who came forward. “This bitch murdered a man after naming the assholes who started the whole damn thing!” she said. “After that, it was pretty clear that she was setting us up for the fall!”

Briana was prepared for the accusation. She rolled her eyes at the silly one-armed girl. “I could go down there right now and ask anyone at the bar. None of them would corroborate this bullshit.”

Candyman’s eyebrows shot up. He looked to Tony. “More stories?”

“She’s telling the truth,” Tony said. “But I believe you know that already. So, what’s the point of all this?”

“Oh, I’m a fair man, Tony. Believe it or not.” Candyman walked up to Briana and gave her a cautious glance, all part of the show, of course. “If I suspected one of my Lunatics, especially one of my top-ranking Lunatics charged with keeping the peace, did something as heinous as shooting innocents in my town, you better believe I’d take care of it.”

Briana gave her best performance at looking humble. “Do you want me to bring in the witness now?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Briana nodded to two of her men at the back of the courtyard, behind the fountain.

The men disappeared for a moment, then returned with a very nervous looking fat man.

“Sonofabitch,” Hash mumbled under his breath.

Briana caught Tony’s gaze and winked at him.

The Lunatics brought Howard Bledsoe, a.k.a. Herbie, a.k.a. Ollie, before the leader of New Cleveland.

Herbie refused to make eye contact with Tony and the others, or with Candyman. He just stood there in his own disgusting sweat, looking like his favorite whore just died.

Candyman got to the point quickly. He addressed the slimy bartender. “Speak up now. Were you at your bar during the incident this evening?”

Herbie nodded. “Yes… yes I was.”

“And you witnessed the fight?”

Again, Herbie nodded.

“Look at this man.” Candyman pointed to Tony.

Herbie sheepishly met Tony’s hard eyes and quickly looked back toward the ground.

“Was this the man who admitted starting the brawl?”

“Yes… yes, he is.”

“Now, look at me,” Candyman demanded.

Herbie looked up.

“It’s very important that you answer this next question honestly. Did one of my Lunatics murder one of your patrons to get this man to confess to starting the fight?”

Herbie was sweating so badly Tony believed he would pass out. He almost felt sorry for him… almost.

The fat bartender finally said, “No… no, Sir. No Lunatics murdered anyone. They came and broke up the fight, asked who started it… and then… then this man confessed.” He finished with a shaking finger pointing at Tony.

“Thank you, good citizen,” Candyman said. “You may leave now.”

Two Lunatics escorted Herbie out of the courtyard, trying not to touch the sweaty man.

Candyman sighed, then turned back to Tony. “Well, there you have it. Seems like your story and the truth don’t share much in common.”

Tony looked at him and clapped his hands three times. He smiled smugly. “Bravo,” he spat. “You and that piece of shit that just left have one thing in common: You both have a fondness for theatrics. Between yourself and that cold-hearted bitch standing next to you, I don’t know which deserves the fucking Oscar more.”

Candyman waved Briana off. “It’s okay. Now we know the truth.” He scanned all their faces with a dramatic pause, then said, “Normally, I would just have you executed… but I can’t do that. But I can’t allow any of you to remain in my town, either. You are all a threat to the peace… and no matter what promises I made to your… friend… I won’t put the good citizens of New Cleveland at risk any longer. I’ll have my people escort you out within the hour.” Candyman turned to leave.

Hash moved over to Tony. “I’m serious,” he said. “They’ll kill us outside. After that, he can make up any lie he wants, or simply deny knowledge of our deaths since it happened out there.”

Tony nodded. “We’ll just have to take our chances. At least we’ll be on the other side of these walls.”

“No guns… no weapons of any kind. They’ll mow us down easily,” Hash said. “I promise you, they’ll have a plan, and these Lunatics will carry it out precisely. This is no chance at all, and that pompous fuck knows it.”

“There’s another way,” Wendy said, surprising everyone.

“What are you talking about?” Mark said.

Wendy took a breath, staring at Candyman as he approached his trailer door.

She looked pleadingly at Tony. “Will they really kill us the moment we’re outside… I mean… do you believe that, Tony?”

Tony looked to Hash, frowned, and answered, “Yes. I do. This was all a performance put on so that man could cover his own ass should Alysa’s ‘friends’ come back and find us gone.”

Wendy looked toward Candyman again. He was reaching for his trailer door. She frantically said to Tony, “Do you trust me?”

“Of course. You know I do,” Tony said. “What is it?”

“No time,” she said. “I’m sorry for this. But it might be all we have left.” Wendy took a few steps toward Candyman’s trailer, and yelled, “Wait! Please… stop!”

Candyman turned, surprised by the young woman’s outburst.

“I’ll take care of it,” Briana said, rolling her eyes at the whole affair. She signaled her men to head over and quiet the stupid girl.

“Candyman!” Wendy called out, as he was about to head into his trailer. “I… we… we owe you a debt for the trouble we’ve caused in your town!”

Candyman turned, his curiosity peaked. “Let her speak,” he said.

The Lunatics backed off.

Tony and the others stared at Wendy.

She had to finish before she lost her nerve… or her common sense kicked back in. “Please… Sir… we owe you a debt, and by the rules of your community, set forth by the mercy of your leadership and all of New Cleveland… we… we offer ourselves as payment.”

Candyman looked genuinely surprised. “I’m already allowing you all to live… to leave this place. What are you suggesting, child?”

Wendy swallowed hard and put on a performance of her own. “We’ve lived out there… Sir… and we know that it’s not really living… especially after struggling so hard to get here. You send us back out there… it’s a guaranteed death sentence.” Her words were the hammer that nailed the truth in that moment, the nails that were about to be pounded into their coffin lids. “By your mercy, we ask that you allow us to remain, and in exchange we offer ourselves… freely… voluntarily… to be placed up for auction!”

Briana looked stunned by the unexpected move. She placed her hands on her holsters, wanting to put several holes in the meddling young woman.

The Lunatics exchanged bewildered glances, then stared at their leader.

“Wendy!” Diane hissed. “Have you lost your fucking mind?”

Hash was laughing. “Damn,” he said. “That was gutsy move, young lady.”

Tony was reeling. He grabbed Wendy by the shoulders. “What are you doing? You heard what happens at those things?”

“She’s trying to improve our odds,” Nine said, smiling at the girl. “Outside, we were already dead. Although, I think I still want to shit my pants right now.”

Wendy nodded at the big man. She looked terrified. “I’m just trying… trying to give us a chance, Tony.”

He finally smiled at her and said, “She’s right.” He looked at Hash.

Hash shrugged his shoulders. “It’s the fire or the frying pan either way. But this might help us… some of us, anyway… to survive.”

Tony took in all their concerned faces. Wendy’s right. This is all we have. Damn you, Alysa, for forcing us into this. Why the hell did you do it? WHY?

Candyman stared at the group, his mind spinning at the possibilities presented after the young woman opened Pandora’s Box. Could any of this get back to the Ama-Eskua? Absolutely. He had to make his next move very carefully. “Does this young lady speak for all of you?”

Tony gave his friends one last look, fearing he might not ever see those faces again and wanting to memorize them and cherish the light provided by each one of them before being plummeted into the darkness. He turned and addressed Candyman. “Yes. She does. We all offer ourselves up… for auction.”

Candyman closed his eyes and shook his head. I could refuse this. It’s a desperate move and they know it. But if I deny them this, word will spread through the community that mercy was refused and they’ll call me a dictator, or worse, this could discredit the appearance of the auctions, altogether… and I cannot allow that to happen! He nervously wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and tried to keep his composure. Then, a smile lit up his face as the opportunist in Candyman saw how advantageous this ‘new deal’ could become. They go to auction, their lives are no longer in my hands! And… they’ll still be in the city! I’ll get to keep my deal with the fucking Ama-Eskua bitch… in a manner of speaking… and they might die anyway! Candyman tried his best to appear conflicted and torn on the idea. Finally, he let his shoulders sag and said, “Your request has been granted. All of you will be put up for auction… your fate, no longer mine to decide… and no longer your own. After which, all debts will be paid in full.”

Tony closed his eyes and prayed silently for his friends as the Lunatics took them into custody to await the next auction. Hash tried to give them some small hope as he told them that anyone in New Cleveland could purchase them… and that they could end up on the up end of a shitty situation. Of course, Tony needed no reminder of the downsides. He thought about the murder shops, trying to force the images of his mangled friend’s faces out of his mind as they cursed his name before their cruel deaths… and while they cursed his name… he cursed Alysa’s.


Alysa Monroe stopped her beat-up Toyota Corolla five miles north of New Cleveland. The last of the sunlight was fading to twilight and she needed to seek shelter for the evening and work out her next move. The two-lane highway, currently concealed beneath a canopy of tall oak trees, started to give way to more congested areas as the backdrop of meadows and farmlands were becoming more industrial.

She stepped away from the car, carrying a long black bow, a full quiver of black arrows, and a small pack full of supplies. She hopped an old fence and found a spacious field where she could observe the dead, or any other threats, approach from all directions, and then made a small camp fire.

The roadway was getting more cramped with abandoned vehicles the closer she approached the Interstate. Soon she’d have to leave the car and take her chances on foot, using stealth and cunning to avoid being noticed.

Alysa had many miles to go before she arrived at her destination, but now that she was travelling solo again, she could move much more efficiently without the constant distractions her former travelling companions afforded.

As she sat before the small fire, Alysa tried not to think of them, but once infected by friendship, it was hard to deal with the long silences the empty night provided. She was alone again, but could still hear them all in her thoughts, chattering on about some meaningless moment, or laughing at each other’s jokes that she never understood. And then, there was Tony’s constant inquiries into her old life, the woman she’d almost forgotten, and while she once believed relief was all she sought from his insistent ‘touchy-feely’ conversations—now, she craved it.

She’d tried her best to protect them before leaving (abandoning) them, but she felt conflicted—she was the woman who used to be Alysa, and the warrior who demanded that all else be put to death before moving forward.

You betrayed them, her mind accused. As a warrior, you’ve dishonored yourself. As a woman, you’ve dishonored your own heart.

Alysa forced such futile thoughts into the fire and watched them burn to embers.

She was in mission mode now. There was much she needed to consider before arriving at the dangerous destination that awaited her.

And yet, she continued to stare distractedly into the embers… remembering her brave, foolish, and only friends.


Next Episode 44-1

Previous Episode 43-8


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“Chapter 43-9: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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“Well… well… well… look who’s here,” the tall string-bean man said walking over to their table with five of his disgusting friends. Mr. Silver stood right behind Mark and looked across at Wendy. “I was just telling my friends what a nasty bunch of shitheads you were, treating me so badly in the street. And all I wanted was a piece of ass.”

Nine looked to Mark.

Mark sighed, turned to look over his shoulder, and said, “What do you want?”

Mr. Silver laughed, moving around the table to stand near Wendy. “Oh, you know damn well what I want. And after what happened earlier, you owe me big time, asshole.”

Wendy recoiled as the smelly man with the beer-stink breath moved closer.

Mark got to his feet, causing Mr. Silver’s friends to step up closer. They were all much larger than Mr. Silver.

“Shit,” Nine muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes at Diane. He also got to his feet to back Mark up.

“I’m sure you don’t want another round of what happened earlier,” Mark threatened. “So, just walk away before this gets ugly.”

Mr. Silver’s eyes went wide with surprise. He laughed, placing a hand on Wendy’s shoulder, and said, “I want what I deserve,” he said, eyeballing Wendy. “I want this little woman and I mean to have her. You just step back, sit the hell down, and me and my boys will just borrow this one for a spell. We’ll just take her out back for a half-an-hour… that’s all. Then we’ll be square for the shit you pulled earlier.”

Diane got out of her chair. “Fuck off, you creep,” she said. “Get away from her before I cut your balls off!”

This made all of Mr. Silver’s friends laugh.

“This one, too,” the creepy man said, smiling at Diane. “She may be missing parts… but I’m sure she’s still got it where it counts.”

“That’s it,” Nine said, stepping out from behind Mark. He pointed at Mr. Silver. “Get out of here, you piece-of-shit, before I shove that silver token up your ass!”

Mr. Silver looked around. “What are you going to do, smart mouth? I don’t see your big friend sitting here. No one’s gonna save you this time… and all of you are three seconds away from making me very… very… unhappy.” He stared at Mark and finished, “Last chance, tough guy. Walk away while you can still walk.”

Wendy tried to get up out of her chair, but the creep put both hands on her shoulders to keep her seated.

“Don’t touch her!” Mark shouted, stepping up to the wall of filthy goons.

One of them shoved Mark back into the next table, causing several strangers’ beers to spill.

“What the hell?” one of the stranger’s yelled.

Nine took a swing at the man who pushed Mark, hitting him in the jaw. The man stumbled back.

“Fuck… that stung,” Nine said, shaking his hand. He felt like he’d just punched a rock.

Mr. Silver’s friends moved in.

Diane quickly grabbed a beer mug off the next table and swung it hard into the side of another goon’s head who was going for Nine.

The man fell over their table.

Nine looked at her with a smile. “Nice shot, babe!”

A fist struck him in the cheek, knocking Nine to the floor.

Mark charged another goon, punching him in the face.

Diane growled like an animal, jumping on the back of the goon that just struck Nine. She hooked her one arm around the man’s neck and then bit his ear.

The man howled in pain, shrugging the one-armed woman off his back and on to another table. This caused the patrons at that table to get up and go after Mr. Silver’s men.

Mr. Silver, understanding how quickly this was going to get out of control, tried to grab Wendy to take her outside.

She turned and slapped him hard across the face, surprising herself with the violent reaction. “Get away from me!” she shouted. Wendy wanted to throw up.

Mr. Silver punched her hard in the face, knocking her out of the tall chair.

“Hey!” someone else shouted, seeing Wendy strike the ground. “You can’t do that!” The new arrival to the fight pushed Mr. Silver away from Wendy.

Mark just charged another of the goons, tackling him to the ground as more and more bar patrons either got involved with the fight, or tried to move out of the way.

“Oh, bloody hell!” Herbie cursed, staring over Hash and Tony, as the brawl escalated within twenty seconds from the first shove.

Tony and Hash turned around.

“What the fuck?” Hash said.

“That’s the third time this week!” Herbie shouted.

Tony frowned, his shoulders sagging, as he took in the out-of-control bar brawl that reminded him of his previous occupation. He quickly located his friends right in the middle of it. He rolled his eyes and hissed, “Damn it!” Tony got up just in time to catch a bar patron who was shoved right into him. He flung the man aside into the closest table.

Hash got up and ducked as someone just threw a beer mug over his head. “Oh, this is gonna be fun,” he said with a laugh.

Tony wasn’t amused. He spotted the source of the fight. The filthy tall man with the silver token he’d punched earlier was attempting to drag Wendy toward the door.

“Sonofabitch!” he shouted, pushing his way through the drunk-crazed patrons to get to her.

Hash stepped up next to him, punching someone in the face.

“Go help them!” Tony shouted, pushing someone to the left. “I’ll get the main asshole away from Wendy! Get the others the fuck out of here!”

Hash nodded, punching another man in the face, who turned out to be a rather large woman. “Oops,” he said with a laugh. Another man shoved him into a table.

Herbie tried in vain to control the crowd by shouting obscenities at them from behind the bar. Several patrons threw half-full beer mugs at him, soaking the bartender immediately. “Mother fuckers!” he shouted, using the bar as a shield. Herbie started picking up random empty glasses and hurling them out into the crowd.

By now, Ollie’s Oasis had turned into a madhouse. Patrons were randomly punching other patrons, shoving them into tables, or picking up the fallen and throwing them across the bar.

Mark was currently using a broken chair to work his way toward Mr. Silver who was dragging a kicking and screaming Wendy toward the door. He swung the chair at a stranger, knocking the man out. Someone else tackled him from behind. He shouted from the floor, “Wendy!”

Nine just kicked a large man in the back of the head who was wrestling with Diane on the floor. The pig had torn half her shirt off. The large man fell on his back with Diane’s nail marks clawed across his cheek. She got to her feet and kicked the man several times in the crotch before Nine could calm her down. Someone else grabbed Nine by the back of the shirt and flung him over another table. Diane turned toward the new attacker and head butted him in the nose, nearly knocking herself out in the process, as she heard the crunch of the man’s broken nose and saw him fall to his knees, grabbing at his face. She kicked the creature in the face.

Mr. Silver was laughing like a maniac as the struggling girl just made him more aggressive, determined to get his fiery prize outside. He backed into something hard, causing him to lose his grip on the little cock-tease. Mr. Silver turned just as Tony picked him up by the neck and flung him into the closest wall. Mr. Silver fell limp to the floor. Asshole, Tony thought, disregarding the foul man and trying to find Wendy who had crawled beneath a table. Someone else leaped on to Tony’s back, causing him to fall forward into two other men who were attempting to choke each other out. Tony howled like a bear, throwing the attacker off his back, and then grabbed the two chokers by the backs of their heads and slammed them together until they fell to the floor.

The good sergeant was trading punches with a man twice his size. In the end, Hash won the contest when he punched the man in the balls causing the bigger man to bend forward. Hash grabbed the man by his greasy hair and then kneed him in the face. The bigger man fell to the floor. Hash reached over a table to grab Nine and helped the badly beaten young man to his wobbly feet. One of Nine’s eyes was badly swollen.

Nine lifted his arms to fight, recognized the sergeant, then smiled. “Did you catch the license plate of the bus that just ran me over?” he asked.

Hash smiled at the young man and patted him on the shoulder. “No, but it was the same damn bus that hit me a couple of times.”

Nine frantically searched for Diane through the chaos.

“Relax, son,” Hash said, pointing behind him. “I think she’s good.”

Nine turned.

Diane was currently straddled over another brute, punching him repeatedly in the face with her one arm. She looked like hell.

“Let’s go gather the troops before we bleed out in this fucking place,” Hash suggested.

They found Mark on the way to Diane. He was struggling to free himself from beneath a pile of unconscious drunks. “Did you find her?”

Nine made it to Diane. She turned and smiled at him. “I think my hand might be broken,” she said.

He looked at the unconscious patron and said, “I think you broke his face.”

They all started searching for Wendy and saw Tony attempting to make his way to them, holding Wendy in his arms while using his massive shoulders to push his way through the crowd like a wild bull. Wendy looked terrified but safe as she stuffed her face into Tony’s chest.

They started toward him.

The sound of the handgun going off multiple times ended the brawl as someone murdered the boom box, interrupting the chorus to Jumpin’ Jack Flash by the Stones.

Everyone stared toward the front door. The sight of several armed face-painted Lunatics, and Brianna herself standing in the doorway like some vengeful gunslinger, provided immediate sobriety.

Tony reached his friends, out of breath, and as beat up as the others. He gently put Wendy down and got to his feet, staring across the bar at the leader of the Lunatics.

Briana was looking right at him.

We’re screwed, he thought.

“What the fuck!” Herbie shouted from behind the bar. He got up, staring at his shattered radio. “Someone’s paying for that, you better believe-” He spotted the Lunatics near the door and froze. “Shit,” he muttered under his breath, making eye contact with Briana. She never came herself to break up the bar fights… ever… and that meant bad news.

Briana shook her head in amusement at that petrified bartender, then holstered her guns with a fancy forward/reverse spin—lightning fast. She then reached into her trench coat, retrieved her cigarettes and lighter, and lit one up. She took several drags off the cigarette, before replacing her pack and lighter, and then finally scanned the silent crowd as if she were staring at a bunch of kindergarten kids left unattended at play time.

She took one last drag off her cigarette and then flicked it across the room. She put her hands to her side, smiling like a damn hall monitor catching the bad kids smoking in the boy’s room. “Well now,” she said, never losing that amused expression barely masking the maniac beneath. “Seems like we have ourselves a little situation this evening.”

Herbie was stumbling over his words. “Briana… I can explain… it’s all under control now… you know how folks get when they get to drinking-”

“Shut up, Ollie,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She continued to scan the crowd, finally resting her gaze once more on Tony. “I could line you all up outside and execute ever one of you for this bullshit… or worse… have you exiled from New Cleveland… permanently.”

Several patrons looked at each other, nervously shuffling their feet at the thought.

Tony stared at them in disbelief. They would rather die than get kicked out. We need to get out of here as fast as possible. He firmly believed that was no longer an option… not after this.

Briana started scanning the crowd again as she slowly paced back and forth in front of the door. “Fortunately, I’m feeling rather forgiving this evening. I get it… I really do. Sometimes you just need to let off a little steam. So, you come to the bar… have one too many to drink… maybe someone looks at you the wrong way on the wrong damn night and… WHAM!” She clapped her hands together causing several patrons to flinch.

She laughed at their nervousness. “I get it. Sometimes you just gotta let that damn animal loose… kill off a little of that all-restricting ‘control’ that keeps you all locked up inside and civilized. That’s some fucking boring-ass shit and I can appreciate that.” She stopped. “BUT… and there’s always a damn ‘but’… you did it in the wrong damn town. And that’s a problem. So, here’s what we’re gonna do. I only want whoever was responsible for this mess. Tell me who’s to blame for dragging me all the way down here, and we’ll call it a night.”

One of the patrons who was sitting next to Nine, Mark, Wendy and Diane and had watched Mr. Silver come over to their table and start the whole damn thing, spotted the smelly bean pole, still shaking off colliding with the wall, standing in the corner of the bar with his five chums as they tried to disappear. The patron stepped forward, pointed toward Mr. Silver and his goons, and said, “That one there, the tall scrawny one. He and his boys started the fight!”

Mr. Silver stepped out of the shadows. “That’s bullshit!” he said. He looked over at Briana. “We was minding our own business. It was probably that asshole who started it!”

Mark looked like he wanted to protest, but Tony gave him a stern look that clearly said, ‘Not a word.’

The patron started yelling back which just caused others to get hot and defend themselves. They were all pointing toward Mr. Silver now. Even Herbie seemed satisfied to hang the blame on Mr. Silver, although he had no idea who started what.

Briana sighed impatiently as the bar erupted into a ‘he did it’ frenzy. She finally said, “ENOUGH!” which immediately silenced the crowd. She took a step toward the first patron who accused Mr. Silver. “So, you’re saying that those gentleman in the back started the fight?”

“Absolutely,” the patron said. “I saw it.”

Briana nodded and said, “Wrong answer.” She quickly drew one of her guns and fired a bullet into the patron’s forehead. The man fell dead, with a shocked expression on his stupid face.

Wendy stared in horror at the dead’s man’s face. She started to cry. Mark squeezed her hand, encouraging her to be still.

“Let’s try that again,” Briana said, holstering her weapon as quickly as she’d drawn it. “Apparently none of you understand my very simple question. I’m going to keep asking it until I get the answer I want to hear… even if it means I have to shoot every damn one of you.” Again, her gaze landed on Tony.

No one else dared to speak.

Mr. Silver and his friends pushed back into the corner.

Briana turned her back. “Anybody gonna speak up and tell me the damn truth?” she said. “No?” She turned back and stared at Tony. “Do I really have to shoot someone else to make my point?”

Tony balled his fists and closed his eyes. Fucking bitch.

She turned her back again. “Okay. One more time… and I’m not gonna ask again. I’ll shoot every damn one of you I have to before this night is-”

“You’ve made your point,” Tony said, stepping forward.

Briana turned with a smile. “Do you have something to say to me?”

“You and I know what you want,” Tony said. “So, let’s cut the bullshit.”

Briana put her hands on her holsters and glared at the big man. “Tell me, who started this fight?”

Tony looked at his friends. They all understood what he had to do and that there was really no choice. He turned back to the face-painted bitch and said, “I did.”

“There,” she said, removing her hands from her holsters. “That wasn’t so hard.” She turned to her men. “Take this one, and his friends into custody.”

The Lunatics grabbed Tony, Hash, Diane, Mark, Nine and Wendy, and dragged them out of the bar.


Next Episode 43-9

Previous Episode 43-7


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“Chapter 43-8: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. 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.


Daryl Johnson, a.k.a., Candyman, stood at his second-floor window wearing a red silk bath robe, his long silver hair hanging over his shoulders, watching the evening roll in over the courtyard of trailers that made up his inner sanctum within New Cleveland. Aside from his self-made security force of Lunatics who lived and protected this area, and a handful of elite staff members, no one was allowed in the courtyard without his express permission.

Anyone who violated this sacred law was immediately put to death.

The former long-term felon of the Cuyahoga County Penitentiary, near North Royalton, smiled at his modest empire. He appreciated all he’d accomplished so far restoring civilization to this desolate new world full of predators, and the pathetic remains of humanity, rendered useless and soft—his old world had made them all that way.

He took a sip from his wine glass and laughed. And they called me a murderer in the old world? he thought. What does that make all of them—those fucking politicians and so-called leaders of the ‘free world’ who did nothing to prepare anyone for this slaughter? They created a society of lazy people too dependent on the wheels of their fragile system never breaking down, and lulled the public to sleep, turning most of them into sheep… If that’s not premeditated mass-murder, then nothing is.

He stared at his gloved right hand holding the glass, a proverbial thorn in his side, and sighed. No matter how profitable someone becomes, he thought, there’s always a debt involved to someone else.

“Hey, you,” a tired woman’s voice called. “Come back to bed.”

Candyman, grateful for the distraction, turned and smiled.

The tall, blond-haired bartender from earlier was lying seductively in his king-sized bed, naked, and sipping from her own wine glass.

Candyman marveled at the sleek form of the beautiful short-haired woman as she stretched like a cat; her large breasts, long legs, and perfect ass fluidly twisting over the silk sheets. He sipped from his wine glass and said, “You know what I love about you the most, Nadia?”

Nadia smiled. “I can think of a few things.”

“Yes, I’m sure you can. But seriously, what I love the most about you is that you know how to play your part.”

“My ‘part’?” she asked, playfully teasing the leader of New Cleveland by running the back of her hand over her left breast.

“We all have a role to play,” Candyman continued. “If everyone plays their parts, as intended, then everything falls into place the way it should. Running things in the prison was much the same way.”

“And what’s my role?” she said.

Candyman’s smile faltered. “Don’t play coy,” he said. “It doesn’t suit you. Right now, you’re nothing more than a snake that I allow into my bed. I’m aware that you could bite me because I leave myself vulnerable to you, but you’re smart enough to know that I’m aware of this… and what it would mean for you should I ever be discovered with my throat slit, or some equally unfortunate end.”

Nadia looked away, trying her best to maintain her cool composure. She took another sip from her wine glass.

“You’re a very desirable woman, and you know it… you’ve always known it,” he said. “You use what you have, make it profitable—and that’s commendable. But you also have the wisdom to know your limitations.”

“Limitations?” she asked, being careful not to insult this wretched man. She stretched seductively again and finished, “Oh, there’s no limitations on what we could do together… and I’ve got quite the imagination.”

Candyman laughed. “Of this, I’m sure. But that’s not the limits I was referring to.” He put his wine glass down on a small table near the window, and then sat down on the bed, placing his hand on her right thigh and gently caressing it. “You will bear me a son one day, when the time is right.”

Nadia was genuinely pleased at the prospect. “Can you imagine? A baby? In this world? It’s been so long since I’ve even seen a child.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “You will bear my son and become a mother.”

Nadia smiled from ear to ear.

“And when that day comes, your tits and ass will sag, your hips will expand, you’ll have a jelly belly that will never return to its former firmness, and your youthful face will melt with wrinkles as your desirable days come to an end, replaced by sleepless nights raising our child. And then, of course, I’ll have to find another pretty girl to fuck.”

Nadia frowned.

Candyman laughed at her shocked expression and playfully squeezed her thigh. “As I said, ‘limitations’.”

There was a light knock on the bedroom door.

Candyman rolled his eyes and sighed. “What is it?” he called.

“Briana caught an intruder in the courtyard,” a muffled male voice said from the other side of the door. “She just strolled on in, demanding to speak with you. Should we dispose of her?”

Candyman’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Stay there,” he called to the messenger. Forgetting Nadia even existed, he nonchalantly got up from the bed, re-wrapped his robe around his waist, and looked out his window.

Briana, as well as a dozen other armed Lunatics, stood in a tight circle around a familiar woman with braided hair.

The woman’s hands had been secured behind her back. She simply stood there, neither impatient nor afraid.

“She appears… determined to die,” Candyman said with a laugh. “Here’s a perfect example of what happens when someone doesn’t play their part.”

Briana, wearing that god-awful trench coat that always made him feel hot looking at her, appeared highly agitated as she paced around the intruder, saying things that Candyman could not overhear.

Nadia had quickly dressed in another robe and came over to the window.

“Who is that?” Candyman asked her.

“That’s the bitch Briana told you about,” Nadia said. “The mouthy one that came in with Sergeant Hash.”

He remembered her now. “Yes. She was brooding when Briana put the gun to that… what’s his name?”


“That’s right.” A curious smile formed on his face.

“You should kill her,” Nadia suggested. “I thought she looked like trouble the moment I saw her.”

Candyman gave her a disbelieving look. “Did I promote you to counsel last time we had sex?”

She wisely remained silent.

“Curious woman,” he said to no one. He walked over to the door and commanded, “Bring her in. Set the usual precautions. I’ll be down shortly to speak with our… guest.”


Nine stared over at the door as the early evening crowd started pouring into Ollie’s Oasis. From the looks of the thirsty new patrons, the bar would be packed within half-an-hour. He glanced to his right and saw Diane shifting uncomfortably in her chair. To his left, Mark looked miserable. Wendy sat directly across from him at the tall table, looking irritated that her feet dangled off the high-back stool. He smiled and said, “Now aren’t we just a fun bunch. You’d think we’d never been in a bar before, or someone’s about to come over and demand to check our ages on our I.D.’s.”

“I can feel eyes on me every time I’m not staring at this crowd,” Diane said. She looked over at Hash and Tony who were still talking to that loathsome bartender. “I wish they’d hurry up. This is not where I want to be after the sun goes down.”

“Were you hoping for a room at the Holiday Inn?” Mark sarcastically added.

She gave him a dirty look. “I’ll take a carboard box near the lake if it means a little distance from these people.”

“Come on,” Nine laughed. “They’re not that bad. At least they’re alive. And I haven’t seen a dead person walking around since we got here. That’s a bonus.”

“I don’t know how we’re going to find Orosco and the others in this place.” Wendy sounded defeated. “Everyone we’ve talked to, who didn’t tell us to rudely leave them alone, had nothing to tell us. They looked at us like we were the crazy or speaking some foreign language. They’re all so… oblivious… to whatever’s happening behind the scenes here. Just as long as they can drink, get high, have sex, and do whatever else they do here… no one seems to care about anything, or anyone.” She looked around at the new faces entering the bar. By now, Ollie’s additional help had arrived. A man and a woman—they both looked underage—were tending the bar while Ollie entertained his guests. “They all act like everything’s normal. Just another night drinking in some shitty bar while the world around them is full of monsters.”

Mark laughed. “That’s just how we were… remember? As long as we felt safe down in that compound, we could forget the rest while Gina and the others took care of the hard stuff. I feel like such a tool, looking back. We really served no purpose, just like these poor saps, while the world turned to shit.”

Wendy started to protest but stopped. She knew Mark was right. She stared at her half empty glass of booze, suddenly despising the sight of it.

One of the young bartenders placed an old boom box on the counter and hit play on the CD player. Moments later, Sympathy for the Devil, by The Rolling Stones started in with a tribal-sounding drum beat.

“Now that’s more like it.” Nine leaned back, relaxing to the music. He scanned the crowded bar full of shadowed faces barely lit up by a handful of low-wattage light fixtures along the walls. A cloud of cigarette smoke hovered, barely masking the scent of stale beer. A collective of conversations started to get louder as the booze flowed, drowning out the music which had become background noise. “I wonder what the hell they talk about now,” Nine said. “‘Hey, Johnny,’” he said in a fake voice, “‘You gonna make it to the auction tomorrow night? I hear there’s gonna be a new hanging off the Dipper on Sunday.’” He then pretended to respond in another voice. “‘Fuck that, I’ve got front row seats at the fight pits. Gonna bring that hooker I met last week, Sally Something… I hear she gets wild after a good fight, and she knows a guy that knows a guy with a deal on a good crack pipe. Afterwards, we might do a little window shopping at the local death shops-’”

Diane put her hand over his mouth and shook her head.

Mark and Wendy were laughing.

“Just trying to lighten the mood,” Nine said with a shrug.

“You’re an idiot,” Diane declared.

Nine leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, causing Diane to laugh.

“I guess this could be worse,” Wendy admitted. “At least we’re with friends.”

“You are so corny,” Mark told her. “I bet you’re one of them happy drunks that get all gushy after a couple of drinks.”

Wendy raised an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, you’d like to believe that. I’ll have you know that when it comes to drinking games, I’m always the one left standing.” She forced herself to pick up the glass of nasty whiskey and chugged the rest. A moment later she coughed, causing all of them to laugh.

“I have a great idea,” Nine said.

“No… you don’t,” Diane corrected, seeing the mischievous gleam in her boyfriend’s eyes.

“Seriously, since we’re just waiting around, I’ll go get us a pitcher of warm beer, or whatever they have here, and we can take the edge off with a New Cleveland buzz! Hell… it just might change our moods if nothing else.”

“That sounds like a horrible idea,” Diane cautioned.

“See, that’s exactly the wrong attitude I’m talking about,” Nine said.

“A little liquid courage never hurt anyone,” Mark added.

“My man! Now we’re talking.”

Wendy and Diane looked at each other, understanding they were just promoted to the ‘reasonable’ ones of this group.

“One beer?” Diane asked her.

Wendy reluctantly nodded. “Sure. It might take the taste of this horrible whiskey away, if nothing else.”

“All right!” Nine started getting up. “I’ll be right back with some brews.”

“Tony won’t like it,” Mark advised.

“Are you kidding me,” Nine said. “They’re probably already drunk. Have you seen how many shots Hash has already plowed down?”

Mark raised his hands in surrender and smiled. “Hurry back.”

Nine stood and turned toward the bar.

Several new faces just entered the front door.

He turned toward the door, stopped, and sighed. Nine then returned to his seat.

“Where’s the beers, Captain Morgan?” Diane teased.

Nine leaned toward Mark and whispered, “Look toward the entrance, but try not to be obvious about it. Is that who I think it is?”

Mark looked over his shoulder and saw a familiar man laughing with several of his pals. He turned back and looked at Wendy. “Shit.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“Mr. Silver just came in.”

“You mean that fucker who propositioned Wendy earlier?” Diane said, turning back to locate the creep.

“That’s the guy,” Mark said. “Just… ignore him. He’ll probably not even notice-”

“He’s looking right at me!” Wendy hissed, trying to lean over the table and bury her face in her arms.

“What’s he doing now?” Nine asked.

Diane never stopped staring at the man. “He’s coming over. And his friends are, too.”

“Just take it easy,” Mark said. “I’m sure he doesn’t want any trouble. Not after what Tony did to him in the street.”

Nine looked over at him in disbelief and laughed. “You don’t know much about confrontations, do you? He’s back… with his friends… and they’re all drinking. That’s all the courage he’ll need to be stupid again.”

“We’ll see,” Mark added, balling his fists beneath the table.


Alysa had departed Taven’s tube with relief. The creepy half-dead seer was no longer relevant as she’d hurried back across town to speak with Candyman. She wasn’t sure what she was getting into, but the sense of urgency in the strange homeless man’s message was apparent. She needed to leave New Cleveland immediately, and there was only one way she could pull that off.

After walking directly into the courtyard with her empty hands raised, demanding to speak with Candyman, the Lunatics seized her immediately. Briana had hurled some choice insults and threats into her face before she was granted an audience.

Briana had looked like she wanted to explode, causing the warrior to smile with delight.

They escorted her into the same trailer with the leather sofas, glass table and fake fireplace, and forced her to sit. Briana was still fuming and pacing near the back wall while she set up security within the trailer, waiting for Candyman to come down.

Briana stepped in front of her, leaned over, and pointed into her face. “As soon as he’s done with you, you’re fucking dead,” she promised, tapping the warrior hard in the forehead with her finger.

Alysa set her on fire with her eyes. “I’m going to kill you at some point.”

Briana laughed and said, “Bang, bang, bitch! I can’t wait to fill you with more holes and let my men fuck ‘em all.”

Alysa ignored the armed clown and became a stone.

Briana wasn’t done. “Oh… and after you’re dead. I’m gonna make your man… Tony… my personal sex bitch and fuck the shit out of him with your corpse in my bed with us. What do you think of that threesome? You like that? Hell, after that, maybe I’ll let him fuck your cold-ass corpse while I watch.”

Alysa stared up into the Lunatic’s eyes as if looking at a child. She smirked but said nothing.

This pissed Briana off. “I hate your face. I’m going to peel that off first before I kill you!”

Again, Alysa said nothing.

Candyman was coming down.

Briana whacked Alysa in the forehead, hard, taking one last chance to provoke her.

Alysa didn’t bite. She just stared at the pathetic clown-woman, imagining how wonderful it would be to gut her slowly, starting from the cunt’s cunt, and then continuing all the way up to her foul mouth.

“That will be all, Briana,” Candyman said, stepping out, still wearing his robe. He’d tied his hair back into a ponytail but was still carrying his wine glass.

Briana stepped back into position along the wall with the other Lunatics.

Candyman sat down in his chair, took a long deliberate time getting comfortable, and then finally addressed Alysa. “This better be good… Alysa, right?”

Alysa stared at the man but said nothing.

“Answer him, bitch!” Briana yelled. She was about to backhand Alysa in the right ear.

“Hold up,” he told the Lunatic.

Briana backed down.

“It’s okay. Let’s start again,” he said, addressing Alysa. “Would you like something to drink?”

Alysa smiled and said. “First thing you’re going to do is untie my hands. And the next time that clown-faced child touches me… I’m going to take it out on you.”

Briana drew her guns so quickly that the other Lunatics looked lethargic by the time they raised their rifles.

Candyman was laughing so hard he spit out his wine. He quickly waved Briana off. “Oh, shit! Clown-face… you should see the look Briana’s giving me right now! Priceless!”

Briana holstered her guns and quickly left the room to cool off.

“My… oh… my… I haven’t laughed that hard in a while,” he said, wiping wine off his robe. “You’ve caught me in a generous mood tonight, so I’ll just forgive the empty threat.” He stared hard at the woman. “You’ve got some real stones coming here with those intense eyes and fire shooting out your mouth. I can respect that… to a point. But don’t threaten me again.”

Alysa was ready to play her hand—the one she’d hoped to never have to use.

“How dare you speak to me like that!” she said, raising her voice sharply. “Don’t you know who I am?”

Candyman’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

The Lunatics looked confused. They didn’t know how to proceed since their boss had stopped Briana twice.

“You will untie me… NOW… or we will speak again of this incident in a place you will not like,” she promised. Before Candyman could overcome his shock, Alysa continued. “Obviously, you’ve forgotten who it was that so generously provided you with your present position, while you and your former convicts got fat on ignorance and self-indulgence!”

Candyman rose from his chair—his smile erased. His face turned beet red. He waved a finger at her. “I’m going to have your tongue ripped out if you keep pushing me!”

“You will do nothing, worm! I am Alysa Monroe of the Ama-Eskua Order! And you owe all you have to the one who owns you!”

Candyman’s legs went limp. He fell back into his chair. “No,” he hissed in disbelief.

By now, Briana had come back in. She was as confused as the rest.

“Show it to me,” Alysa demanded.

“I… I don’t know what you mean?” His nervousness betrayed him as he started scratching an itch in his right palm.

None of the Lunatics had ever seen their leader like this. It was disconcerting.

“Your mark. Show it to me… NOW!” Alysa barked. “Or so help me, I’ll have your hand removed and nailed to the other as a reminder!”

Briana stared in horror at Candyman, her hands resting on her guns, unsure of how to proceed. She turned to Alysa. It seemed like an entirely different woman on that couch now. She turned back. “What are your orders?” she asked.

Candyman didn’t hear her. He was staring at his shaking right hand. My God! They’ve come back! After all this time… why? Why now?

“Go on!” Alysa commanded. “The longer you wait, the less likely you’ll remain in charge before the end of the fucking day!”

Candyman reluctantly removed the glove from his right hand. He never took it off until now. Everyone in New Cleveland had just assumed it was an old burn wound—the glove—a vanity issue.

There was a three-pronged symbol with an eye branded across his palm.

Briana and the other Lunatics saw the mark and were shocked.

“I’ve seen that mark before,” Briana said. “There’s whispers about a secret order up north… and stories. That’s means ‘Mother’. But I’ve never seen it branded on someone.” She looked to Candyman. “Why is that on your hand?”

“Because they own me,” Candyman said in defeat, sinking back into his chair and rubbing his temples.

“What does that even me?” Briana asked.

Candyman stared at her and shook his head. “What? Did you really think I could’ve achieved all this without help?” He raised his hand to the Lunatic. “I made a deal with the Devil. Then the world went insane, and I thought-”

“You thought Mother had forgotten all about you,” Alysa finished. “You’re a fool for ever entertaining that.”

“So, they own you?” Briana asked her boss.

Alysa turned to her and corrected. “You all belong to Mother… as does New Cleveland. Now untie me.”

“Do it,” Candyman said.

Briana nodded to one of her men. The Lunatic cut Alysa’s bindings.

Alysa rubbed her wrists together then stood up. She stared down at the leader of New Cleveland who suddenly seemed much smaller than before. “There will be questions when I get back to my people. They’ll want to know what you’ve been doing out here all this time… and why.”

“You’re leaving?” he said.

“Yes. I’ve seen all I need to see here. Mother will be expecting my report.”

“And what will you… report?”

Alysa smiled. “That all depends on you, Candyman. How profitable is this place? What will Mother receive for her investments? And did Mother make a huge mistake putting you in power?”

“No… no… this place is profitable. You can tell Mother that for sure. You’ve seen this place for yourself.”

“I’m not impressed,” Alysa said.

Candyman looked offended.

“Mother will be sending more agents… like myself… to better assess this place,” she lied. Alysa knew what Mother was doing here. New Cleveland, like other places, was just another experiment. Beyond that, Mother had no interest in who or how New Cleveland was run. But she hoped to scare this pathetic man enough to secure her departure.

Candyman sighed heavily. “How many more?”

“That’s Mother’s business, worm.”

“Of course.”

“I’ll need a few things before I go,” Alysa said.

“Just name it.” Candyman looked eager to get on Alysa’s good side and get her the hell out of his town.

“I’ll need a good road map of Northeast Ohio, a vehicle, and a specialty weapon.”

Candyman stood up. “Sure. What kind of weapon are we talking about?”

She smiled. “I’ll need a good bow… the kind my people are accustomed to.”

“We can arrange for all that,” he said. “Anything else?”

She looked down at her severed boot.

Candyman looked at the boot, scratched his head, and smiled. “I won’t ask. We’ll get you some better footwear.”

“I’ll be needing to leave as soon as possible.”

“We’ll have it all for you within the hour,” he promised. “Anything else?”

Alysa turned and walked up to Briana. “Yes… I want this one’s head.”

Briana tensed up and stared at her boss.

“Excuse me?” Candyman asked nervously.

Alysa smiled at the clown woman. “Just kidding.”

Briana’s hands bore down on her pistol grips so hard, they started to go numb. The Lunatics eyes were screaming for blood as she tried not to insult the Ama-Eskua any more than she’d already done.

Alysa laughed in the Lunatic’s face. She turned to Candyman and said, “The others that I arrived with. I want them released, as well.”

Surprisingly, Candyman resisted. “No. I can’t do that. They owe me a debt, just as I owe your employer a debt. Mother must understand that. It’s a matter of honor… and all debts need to be paid.”

Alysa considered pushing the matter, but it would create suspicion. Mother would care nothing for anyone or anything one of her children needed to achieve a mission. Her defending the others would seem out of character for an Ama-Eskua warrior (and it was). “What will you do with them?”

Candyman smiled. “Well… that’s New Cleveland’s business. What does it matter to you? Are they also part of your Order?”

“Of course not,” Alysa said. “But Mother is not finished with them yet.”

“Then I’ll keep them here until Mother’s business with them is settled. Then… I’ll collect what they owe me.”

Alysa was getting nowhere fast. The more she drew attention to her friends, the tighter Candyman’s fist around them became.

“Very well,” she said. “I’ll leave them in your custody. But… you can’t kill them.”

“Eventually… I may need to.”

“You won’t,” she pushed. “And I’ll not say that again. Do you understand?”

Candyman look at her suspiciously. “Okay. I won’t kill them… if that’s what Mother wants.”

“It is,” Alysa finished. “Now… fulfill the rest of my requests so I can get the hell out of this shithole town.”

Just then, two Lunatics barged in and approached Briana. She took them to the side as they whispered their report.

“Well?” Candyman asked impatiently. “What’s this all about?”

Briana flashed Alysa a shit-eating grin, then addressed her leader. “Apparently there’s a disturbance over at the Oasis—some kind of brawl.” She deliberately left out who was involved.

Alysa did her best to hide her concern behind an indifferent glare.

Candyman seemed more annoyed by the news than anything else. “Well… handle it!” he barked. “We’ve more important matters on our plate right now.”

Briana bowed and said, “As you wish.” She then winked at Alysa and finished, “I’ll take care of it… personally.”


Next Episode 43-8

Previous Episode 43-6


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“Chapter 43-7: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. 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.


Nine, Diane, Wendy and Mark wandered around the bar, trying to gleam what they could from drunken conversations, or from anyone willing to talk with them. Hash and Tony remained at the bar with Herbie.

“Let’s talk about those disappearing folks,” Hash said, pushing his empty shot glass at Herbie.

Herbie reluctantly refilled his glass. “You drink like a damn fish. Slow down. The good stuff won’t last forever.”

“I’m a golden child, remember,” Hash added with a smile, flicking his token into the air and catching it. “Anything I want… including whiskey… and information.”

“Yeah… yeah… I got it.” Herbie turned toward Tony. “Where did you find this guy, anyway? Did he wake up hungover in the back of your car?”

Tony laughed, staring at the good sergeant. “That, too, is a long story. But we’re not here to swap tales. I’m looking for my people.”

“How do you know they came here?”

“Because that bitch with the make-up and guns attacked them, killed a lot of good people, then took the rest in their vehicles. We’ve been on the Lunatic’s trail ever since, finally leading us here.” Tony shook his head. “It’s been hell getting this far. You better have something worth telling us or I might just burn this fucking place to the ground.”

“Alright, alright!” Herbie said. “Take it easy. I can tell you what I’ve heard. Whether it’s true or not, you’re going to have to decide.”

“Let’s hear it,” Hash said, shoving his empty shot glass back at the shrewd bartender. “The longer you take to talk, the more expensive it gets.”

“Where the hell does the liquor go?” Herbie said. “The shit just goes through you like nothing.”

Hash smiled. “I was a pretty good drinker before the apocalypse. But now, I’m a damn professional.”

Tony stared into the bloodshot eyes of his friend but said nothing. He drinks all his demons away, he thought.

Hash caught him staring, shifted in his seat, and then looked back at Herbie. “Well? Tell all, barkeep?”

Herbie looked around nervously, then leaned in. “You all ever heard of a place called Mosquito Creek?”

Tony and Hash gave each other a look.

“We’ve familiar with the place,” Tony said. “What about it?”

“There’s been a lot of talk about it lately. Disturbing talk. Some folks say there’s monsters lurking in those woods; others say they’ve seen ghosts haunting the towns near there. And still others claim they’ve seen those yellow-eyed demons, hunting in smaller packs, acting all stealth-like, as if they were still alive. Shit… can you imagine? If those fucking zombies ever started getting smarter, we’d all be fucked.”

Tony didn’t say a word.

“Anyway, Candyman started hearing about that place a few months ago and started sending Lunatics into those woods to find out what the deal was. None of them ever came back.”

“Maybe they just went AWOL,” Hash said. “I’m sure some of these Lunatics would jump at a better opportunity and take off.”

“True,” Herbie said with a nod. “But all of them? I think not. Anyway, Candyman stopped sending patrols in there, thought he might be poking at the hornet’s nest or something, so he just started sending patrols near there… you know… to watch it from a distance.”

“Meanwhile,” Tony said, “they felt free to wander farther east to terrorize and murder anyone they found along the way… like my friends.”

Herbie sighed. “Everyone around here knows those Lunatics behave in the Territories, but anywhere else… they do what they please.”

“So why take prisoners back to New Cleveland?” Hash asked. “They can’t all be auctioned off… not if their prisoners.”

“That’s the loophole,” Herbie said. “You see, Candyman claims to be protecting his citizens and in return he keeps everyone happy. But survivors outside the Territories aren’t on anyone’s list. As far as New Cleveland’s concerned, if you’re not a citizen, legally registered to live within the Territories, you don’t even exist.”

“What happens to these people?” Tony asked.

“Well, some are granted citizenship if they behave and play ball. Candyman’s smart. He’ll keep the profitable ones around. But most… well… that’s the real mystery. People have seen the Lunatics bringing in prisoners, usually late at night, but no one questions it. As long as they’re kept fat, dumb and happy, who the hell cares?”

Hash gave Tony a tired look and then turned back to Herbie. “What about the murder shops? Seems like the easiest way to make folks… vanish.”

“Yeah, no. You’d think so, but if people were abducted outside the Territories and then brought in and turned over to those butchers, that might reflect badly on the auctions since they’re supposed to be voluntary. No, if you’re friends are here… and they’re still alive… then it’s for something else. Something clearly off the books and under the table. And that ‘something else’ makes me think about the other stuff I’ve been hearing lately.”

“What’s that?” Hash said.

“You heard anything about the Alpha?” Herbie nearly whispered the last word.

“Candyman asked us that,” Tony said. “What or who is this Alpha?”

“The last thing I heard coming through my bar was that the dead are flourishing at Mosquito Creek… and that they have a leader.”

“No fucking way!” Hash waved a hand in the bartender’s face. “They’re mindless savages. Last thing they’re going to do is start taking orders from one of their own.”

Tony immediately thought of Helen, the bad man’s wife. “They are getting smarter,” he said. “We’ve seen it. It was a much smaller group than what we saw at Mosquito Creek, but they were being led by a woman… who was just like them.”

Hash gave him a surprised look.

“What? You’ve been to Mosquito Creek?” Herbie was beside himself.

“So, this Alpha,” Tony continued, ignoring his question. “this Alpha is running things out at Mosquito Creek?”

“That’s the rumor. But it could all just be another scary bedtime story.”

“Candyman seems to believe it,” Tony said.

“That man takes no chances,” Herbie said. “If he hears enough about something, he wants to know all there is to know… even if it turns up bullshit. That’s how he’s been so successful with this place. Candyman takes pride in his ability to accumulate information. I think he’s intrigued at the idea of some zombie leader gathering an army of the dead… but that doesn’t mean he buys it.”

“Alpha Zombie,” Tony said. “That’s the last fucking thing anyone needs.”

“And if it were true,” Herbie continued. “And I do mean a big fucking ‘if’, then it’s reasonable to assume Candyman knows about it already.”

“So, what’s all this fiction have to do with missing people? Tony’s friends?” Hash said.

Herbie frowned. “I’m only speculating based upon the stories I’ve heard… but if there is an Alpha Zombie… that name’s gonna stick, by the way… then maybe Candyman already has an alliance with it.”

“That’s fucking nuts!” Hash said. “If that were true, and the good folks of New Cleveland caught wind of it, they’d tear this place to the ground. Candyman would be finished.”

“Indeed,” Herbie agreed. “All the more reason to keep such a horrific alliance top-secret.”

“Alright, enough,” Tony said. “I don’t care what that asshole does with his shithole town. I want to know where my friends are, get them out somehow, and never look back at this place. So, get on with it. Where do you think they are?”

“I was getting to that,” he said, scowling at the big man. “If there’s an alliance between Mosquito Creek and New Cleveland, there would have to be something in it for those dead things. Something that’s keeping them there and not storming across the countryside to devour the Territories.”

Tony looked confused. “But what could the dead possibly want from us?”

Hash beat Herbie to the chilling truth. “All those prisoners taken from outside the Territories, to the people in town who just go missing… they all end up in the same place.”

“Where?” Tony said.

“Remember those damn lobster tanks in the seafood restaurants?” Hash said. “I always thought it was cruel to keep them alive right up to the point they got boiled to death. But now I understand. They had to be fresh.”

Tony’s eyes went wide with understanding.

“I don’t know where his lobster tanks are, Tony,” Herbie said, nodding at Hash for his perfect analogy. “But if there is an alliance keeping the dead away from this place, then it has to mean that Candyman’s been feeding those bastards. Probably been doing it for a good long while, too.”


It was cramped inside the old slide tube, but Alysa managed to fit by sitting on her knees. Once inside, she stayed close to the edge so she could quickly evacuate the tube. Alysa could smell the man. Taven gave off a foul stench that came across as something long dead left out in the hot sun, mixed with the smell of damp clothing never washed. She had a hard time deciding which was worse as her senses were assaulted.

“Please, don’t come any closer,” Taven advised. There was about ten feet between them in the tube. “I can manage it fairly well under these conditions, but the scent of your blood would cause me some… discomfort.”

Alysa had no idea what to make of that. She was still trying to figure out how this old thing knew who she was… and about Ama-Eskua. “How do you know about me?” she asked. “Are you contracted by my Order?”

Taven smiled, causing Alysa to tense up. Most of his front row teeth were stained and had been filed down to look like fangs. “I know you because I’m supposed to. I can’t explain it any better than that. As far as your Order… they’ve known about me for a while now, long before I knew what I was.”

“And what are you? The message I received called you a ‘seer’.”

“I suppose some consider me such. I consider it highly-tuned intuition, or the ability to see more of what’s already happening than most. Doesn’t really matter. It’s what I see… now… when I look at you, that counts.”

Alysa studied the strange man. He carried no visible weapons. On the surface, he looked like any homeless man who’d been living anywhere he could for far too long, with a deteriorated physical appearance associated with such living conditions. But she knew a ruse when she saw one. This man, whoever he was, was very dangerous. “You’re not an assassin. I can tell my kind, and you’re definitely not of the Order. Which leaves me puzzled. If it’s not my death they seek, then why would Ama-Eskua send me to you?”

“You’ve been hiding from them. Yes?”

She didn’t know how to answer. “Not hiding. Not running. Just… not with them. I lost faith a while ago. I’ve been on my own path ever since.”

Taven laughed. “Yes. We’ve all been given a new chance at a new path. The world is not what it was… and it’s yet to reveal what it will be. But opportunity abounds for those who seek it.”

“Why don’t you stop with the fortune cookie talk and tell me why I’m here?”

“I’m going to remove these glasses. But I’ll need to turn off the flashlight to do so. Does the darkness frighten you?”

The day wasn’t over yet, but due to the overcast sky and the thick tube which blocked out most of the fading light on his end, it would be difficult to see if this man grabbed a weapon from behind his back. She decided to trust her superior night vision… and her advanced survival instincts. “No… I am the Darkness. If you know anything about my kind, then you must have already known the answer to that question.”

“Yes, I do know. But I’m not referring to the darkness you speak of. May I?”

Alysa nodded.

Taven turned off the flashlight, immediately making the tube darker at his end.

She could see that he was removing his dark sunglasses.

“That’s better. So much better,” he said. “Now I can really see you.”

Alysa noticed right away that the man’s eyes were not normal. She could not make out details or color due to the darkness, and that was expected. It was the lack of shimmer that most eyes gave off, even in the darkness when exposed to a fraction of ambient or artificial light, that revealed the truth. “Your eyes,” she said. “They’re different.”

“From your perspective, I imagine they are. But my eyes are a lot more common in the new world… as are my kind.”

Alysa’s internal alarms were immediately sounding off. She’d never really seen one of these creatures before… but had heard of them.

“Do you know me, Alysa?” Taven could hear her heartrate increase, feel the blood pumping through her veins—imagined tasting it. “Dou you really know me?”

“You’re one of the creatures stuck between two worlds,” Alysa said. “Neither living, nor dead.”

Taven laughed again. “Well… that’s one of the kinder descriptions I’ve heard. Usually it’s just some variation of… ‘Monster’.”

“I’m told that your kind, with the mercury eyes, should be considered the most dangerous of the beasts roaming the world today,” she continued.

“And what would make my kind be so dangerous?”

She shifted uncomfortably. “You are consumed by the blood lust, as all the dead are, but possess the ability to reason… like a human.”

“But I am human. You said it yourself.”

“That’s not what I said. You may appear alive… but you’re dead within.”

Taven sighed. “I possess the blessing of ‘seeing’ this world from two perspectives, Alysa.”

“Some would say it’s a curse.”

“I see what Death brings as I’m slowly rotting away at the edge of the living. Because of this, I will either cave to the insanity of the all-consuming compulsion to FEED, or, I can choose to embrace the other side, learn from its vision, and impart wisdom rather than destruction. I strive to feed the living as opposed to feeding off them.”

“And that’s what you do… here… in your dark tunnel?” Alysa asked. “I smell death here, and not just your own flesh rotting away. Others have died here.”

Taven remained silent.

“How many people have you preyed upon in this town? How many have you brought down here to satisfy your need to feed?”

“Only as many as required to keep the insanity away,” Taven confessed. “But I’m not proud of it.”

“Is that why Ama-Eskua sent me to you? Am I to be the fly in the spider’s web while you confuse me with clever words or anything else I need to hear while you inch your way closer and closer to your next meal?”


Alysa was surprised by the response.

“I suppose they thought I might find a way to lull you in and kill you. But remember, it was I who revealed myself to you.”

“Yes,” she said. “You did. Why?”

“Because, like you, I have my own agenda. To your people, I’m simply a cleverly disguised monster. But while I’m their monster, I am still something else evolving into something more… on a completely different path, my own path, just like you.”

Taven tore into the truth about her as easily as tearing away flesh. He was talking about her being Ama-Eskua’s trained beast, while she desperately fought against it to forge her own destiny. “We are not the same,” she said.

“No… but we share much in common. This I’ve already seen about you from the other side.”

“Explain that?”

“I can’t. Not in any way that you would understand. But the one Mother is after… Meredith… she is like us. She can feel the other side… comprehend its language and speak to both the living and the dead. That is why such extreme measures have been put in play to protect her all these years.”

Alysa was stunned. What this half-man knew about Mother’s designs was frightening. For this alone, she felt compelled to end this creature’s existence.

“Do you understand who I’m talking about?” Taven asked. “The woman from beneath the ground, along with the people who shun her for being different—your kind attacked and slaughtered… like monsters… just to get her free. Does any of this make sense to you?”

“Yes. I am aware of what happened.”

“Then you know that this woman… Meredith… is the key to a door that has yet to be revealed. Yes?”

“That’s above my paygrade,” Alysa said. “But… yes, I’m aware of the woman’s importance… just not the ‘why’.”

“That is what you were sent to receive from me,” Taven said. “Your masters are very clever. They expected me to persuade you to return to them by showing you the importance of their purpose… or die at my hands. Either way, you are a concern to be dealt with.”

“They are not my masters,” she hissed. “Say that again and I’ll finish your journey into the darkness.”

Taven leaned forward and flashed his sharp-toothed smile again. “Not yet… not yet… not until I’ve revealed what you have come to hear. That’s not what they expect… and that’s what I’m here to tell you, because neither you, nor I, are mastered by anything… and we make our own path.” Taven winked at her.

She frowned at him. “I don’t know whether to drown you in that muck outside, or close my ears from hearing your poison, and run from this dying place.”

Taven laughed. “You already know why you’re here. I already know why you’re here. You just don’t understand what you know yet.”

“More fucking double-talk! I should rip your tongue out and give it to Candyman. He’d probably love to know what you’ve been doing in his town.”

Taven gazed at her, into her, and said, “Ahh… you seek the Wild Woman, Fire and Ice, Goddess to One… Dark Angel. She is like you, dangling over the darkness.”

Alysa’s eyes went wide. “You’re talking about Gina… Tony’s Gina.”

Taven let loose a devious laugh. “No… no… I’m talking about the man with as many names as his victim count… I’m talking about his Gina. You know this man. Yes?”

She closed her eyes. “Yes.”

“They are together… lost in madness. She has fixed her gaze upon the masters—yours no longer. She comes for them. He comes for her… You must go for him. That is your path. But you’ve known this all along. Yes?”

Alysa took a very long time to answer. She suddenly knew that her time was up pretending to be someone she was not. She saw their faces, allowed a moment more to consider them her friends: Tony, Diane, Nine, Wendy, Mark. Then, she forced them out into the tactical cold place within her mind, where emotions and memories were left to die. Her thoughts of Tony fought the hardest to stay, but they, too, were cast away. It was time to go.

Taven was intrigued by her hesitation. He saw something else but kept it to himself. “This is your path. Yes?” he repeated.

She stared coldly at the half-dead creature. “Yes. Now, tell me… where do I find the Wild Woman?”

Taven closed his eyes, inhaled deep, and caught the former Shadow Dead’s blood scent. He opened his eyes as a fresh wave of hunger made him shake. He finally answered, quoting from the note Alysa received earlier. “‘…I miss you, wayward daughter… It’s time to come home…’”


Next Episode 43-7

Previous Episode 43-5


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“Chapter 43-6: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. 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.


Howard Bledsoe, former owner of Herbie’s House of Ladies, a high-end strip club once located in Geneva, Ohio, raised his eyebrows in surprise as the big man at the bar addressed him by that ancient name. The sweaty mess of a man took a good long look at the rude patron, recognition finally setting in. “Tony?” he said. “Fuck me sideways, is that really you?”

Tony’s facial expression remained unchanged. He wanted to rip the fat fucker’s face off. “Yeah, it’s me.”

Howard let out an annoying laugh as he raised his arms out wide, a well-practiced smile distorting his large face. “Shit… Tony Marcuchi! It’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone from… well… before! In fact, you’re the first. Forgive me for not recognizing you right away.”

“And you look exactly the same, Herbie,” Tony said coldly. “Same piece-of-shit pig who not only managed to survive the outbreak, but managed to create another disgusting den to make a profit. I shouldn’t be surprised to find you here.”

Herbie feigned being hurt by the remarks, put his arms down, and frowned. “C’mon, Tony! That’s no way to talk to your old boss! I took care of you back in the day… paid you pretty good, too. Man… the good old days.” Herbie tossed his towel over his shoulder and leaned against the bar.

What a self-absorbed little man, Tony thought. Even now, all he can do is think back on glory days when he was the King of Flesh… no matter who it hurt.

Herbie waved a few thirsty patrons away, turning his attention toward the former bouncer. “So, what have you been up to, Tony? Need a job? I could use your experience keeping this place in line. I get all sorts of characters in this place. Just today I-”

“Talk to me about Malcolm Hathaway,” Tony said.

Another ancient name. This one, striking the stupid look off Herbie’s face immediately. He looked around, alarmed. “What? Who? Is he here? Is that man with you?” Herbie’s nervousness oozed out of him, like the abundant sweat escaping though the pores of his foul body.

“Relax, asshole,” Tony said. “It’s not Malcolm you need to worry about. But I do know about your ‘off-duty’ arrangements with that man. Gina told me all about it.”

“Gina? Holy shit! She with you?”

Tony reached across the counter, grabbed the fat-fuck by the shirt collar, and pulled him half over the bar. “You gave Hathaway Gina’s name, didn’t you? That’s why he came looking for Gina that night. Do you have any idea what you put her through, you piece of slimy shit?”

Herbie put his hands up in surrender. “Just ho- hold on Tony! Give me a mo- moment to process what you’re saying! It’s been so long since I thought back to those days.”

The patrons at the bar, sensing trouble, immediately walked away, taking their half-filled beer mugs with them to any available table.

Hash and the others were already coming over.

“Think hard, asshole!” Tony spat. “I’ll help you: Late night dinner parties and drugs; fucked-up cult sex orgies on the beach; Gina getting gang raped and beaten and then left to die when the world went to hell! Do you remember what I’m talking about now?” Tony slammed the man’s head on the bar.

“Tony!” Sergeant Hash said, putting a hand on the tense man’s shoulders. “What the fuck?”

“Don’t touch me,” Tony warned over his shoulder. “Me and this prick have unfinished business.”

Herbie wiped blood from his nose. “Wait!” he said. “Fuck, Tony! Just… hold the hell on! It’s true that I provided Hathaway with dancers… but I had no idea what that strange fuck was doing at his parties! He never hurt any of the girls I referred, and he paid them well! What do you mean about Gina getting raped? If I’d known anything like that was happening-”

Tony slammed Herbie’s head against the counter again.

“Tony?” This time it was Diane. “Whatever this is… you need to stop. We need this dirt-bag, remember?”

Tony looked over at the hunter’s face and saw the monster he’d let loose reflected in her eyes. He let go of Herbie’s shirt.

The fat man shambled back into the liquor cabinet and slipped down toward the floor. He raised his arms defensively, struggling to breathe and talk at the same time. “Please… stop… Tony! I’m sorry… I’m sorry about what happened to Gina. I never knew! How could I have known? That night… that night was the end of… everything!”

Tony took a deep breath and calmed down. He knew Herbie was right. But this was the closest he’d ever come to finding someone to blame and target for that horrible night. Staring into the terrified eyes of this useless fuck who looked like he was a few moments away from a heart attack, Tony knew that Herbie had no idea what happened to Gina.

You can blame this piece of shit all you want for setting it up… but you were the one who failed to protect her. Tony’s own thoughts brought him back from the brink. “Get up,” he said.

“Fuck that!” Herbie protested.

“I won’t hurt you anymore,” Tony said. “I just… I just lost control when I saw you. It brought it all back.”

Herbie cautiously got up from the floor. He was a sweaty mess. “I get it,” he said. “I do.” He poured himself a shot of whiskey with shaky hands, consumed it, then poured himself another. He then poured Tony a shot and slid it toward the big man.

Tony reached for the shot, murdering the man with his eyes, and then downed it. His face crinkled up.

“Better?” Herbie asked.

“That’s the most disgusting whiskey I’ve ever tasted,” Tony said, tossing the shot glass at Herbie. “You’ve really stepped down in the quality department.”

The fat-fuck looked offended, by wisely took the insult. He noticed Hash for the first time. “I know you, too.”

Sergeant Hash came over and stood next to Tony. “Yeah you do. But I don’t have any grievances against you from the old days… although your whiskey is just a step up from paint thinner.”

This made Herbie laugh. He pointed at Hash with a smile. “Now I remember! We got drunk and stupid a while back.”

“Yeah, probably in the reverse order.”

Herbie laughed again. “I remember you were telling me about that girl you found in Thailand, the one with the big fun-bags who screamed like a damn banshee and made the biggest damn ‘V’ in the sky with those long legs of hers after you went down-”

“Uh… yeah… let’s not rehash that in front of the ladies.” Hash looked apologetically at Wendy and Diane who were enjoying the good sergeant’s discomfort.

Herbie started to relax as the familiar sergeant helped defuse the raging bull standing beside him. He then noticed the rest of Tony’s group, his eyes lingering the longest on Diane and her missing arm, before starting over. “So… assuming Tony still doesn’t want to snap my neck…”

Tony glared at him. “No. But it won’t take much so tread carefully.”

“Fair enough,” Herbie said, retrieving five more shot glasses and filling them with whiskey. He especially made sure to refill the big man’s glass. “This round’s on me. Any friend of Tony’s is a friend of mine.”

“Give me a break,” Tony muttered, and quickly drank the whiskey with another sour face.

The others drank as well with equal looks of disgust. All except Hash who seemed to enjoy it.

“Now, that’s on me, but I’ll have to see your token if you want to start a tab,” Herbie said with a wink.

“Screw that,” Hash said, flashing his gold token. “We’re damn super V.I.P.’s!” He winked over at Mark.

Herbie stared greedily at the gold token and smiled. “Damn, don’t see that much. Only Candyman can authorize those.” He looked suspiciously at Hash. “What did you do, get him drunk?”

Hash laughed. “Nothing like that. We’re special guests of his Majesty for the next three days.”

“Now that’s a story I want to hear,” Herbie said. He started refilling their glasses then stopped. “What the hell am I thinking.” He put the cheap whiskey away, then went to a large locked cabinet along the back wall. He pulled out a key that he wore on a chain around his neck and opened the cabinet, retrieving an unopened bottle of whiskey. “You’re all gold customers,” he said. “The best deserves the best.” He started filling their shot glasses with the top-shelf whiskey.

“Fucker,” Hash said. “All this time I thought I was drinking top-shelf. I just figured it always tasted like turpentine.”

Herbie laughed hard. “Now, why don’t you all tell me what you’re doing in New Cleveland.”

“It’s funny you ask that,” Hash said, sucking down the fresh whiskey. “We came to talk to you.”

Herbie’s good cheer faltered. “Me. What the hell for? With that gold you’re carrying around, you could get just about anything you want around here.”

“We need information,” Tony said.

Herbie looked away, becoming increasingly uncomfortable, and started wiping down his counter. “What kind of information?”

Hash laughed. “Calm down, Ollie… or can I call you-”

“No. Just stick with Ollie.” Herbie poured himself another whiskey. “We’ve already seen the trouble my old name digs ups.”

“Well, Ollie, we need to locate some missing folks,” Hash continued. “And I think you know the kind I mean.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, nervously looking around toward his other bar patrons.

Tony was out of patience. “Look, asshole, you owe me… you owe Gina… help us locate our friends, and I’ll forget all about you.”

Herbie gave him a hard look. “Is she… is Gina still alive?”

“She was several weeks ago. I haven’t seen her since then.”

The fat man smiled. “I always liked her. She was one of my best performers.”

“You mean, she made you a lot of money. Stop pretending like you give a fuck.”

Herbie frowned at him. “You may think I’m scum, Tony, but I did care for those girls… in my own way.” He nodded to himself. “No promises, but I’ll help you if I can… for Gina.” He leaned in close and lowered his voice. “I’ll need some details about your friends. I’ve seen lots of people coming in and out of my place from all over to do God-only-knows-what after they get here. Some stay awhile. Some leave. Some get auctioned off and… well… that’s a whole other matter. But these last few weeks, I’ve heard the walls whisper about a disturbing amount of people who just… disappear.”


On the way to the local bar, Alysa stopped to check her pockets after being bumped by a hooded stranger. She’d found an old folded note tucked into the front pocket of her fleece jacket. She’d immediately turned back to find the stranger, but he’d vanished into the crowd.

She’d quickly opened the note and read it:

If you’re reading this, then my eyes have finally found you. Seek the homeless old seer who sleeps outside the fight pits. His name is Taven. He will tell you the rest. I miss you, wayward daughter. I’ve tried to respect your wishes and give you space, but you’ve been absent for far too long. It’s time to come home. Mother needs you.

Alysa had closed her eyes and shook her head. Just leave me alone. Fuck Mother! She couldn’t evade them any longer. Alysa had tossed the note into her mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it.

Shortly after, she’d dismissed herself from the group to find the old seer. She’d remembered Tony’s concerned face when she’d lied about her intentions, but this was a matter she had to settle alone. None of them would understand.


Claustrophobic streets with potential threats behind every set of shady eyes finally thinned out as Alysa neared the edge of the large lake where the original park derived its name. After several careful inquiries, pointing her toward the eastern end of the park and a more discreet route along the lakefront, the former Shadow Dead was relieved to have some breathing room to consider her next move after finding this mysterious Taven.

She’d found a wooden sign with a faded map of the amusement park near an old decrepit boardwalk, one of the original features of the park that had not changed. She inspected the map, not expecting it to reflect New Cleveland, but to familiarize herself with old landmarks left over from the park that she might find traces of along the way. She got a better idea of the size of New Cleveland from the map. The biggest end of the old amusement park boundaries formed a wide smiley face hugging the southern portion of Geauga Lake. That’s where most of the streets and businesses had been built up around the southern part of the park. She was currently heading up and along the eastern end where she noticed on the map that an old wave pool called Tidal Wave Bay depicted happy children splashing in the waves. That had to be the fight pits… whatever that meant.

Alysa continued up and around the boardwalk, watching out for loose, broken or missing planks along the way. She’d only passed two people in that time. The first person, a woman who looked fried out of her mind, gave her a wide berth, never looking in her direction. The second person was very tall, wearing a long tan raincoat, Elvis-type sunglasses, and a ridiculous looking straw hat.

The man stopped five feet in front of her, blocking the narrow walkway with his size, and holding out his long arms. “My bridge!” the man said through what sounded like a swollen jaw.

“Excuse me?” Alysa had stopped, waiting for the tall man to move.

“My damn bridge! You can’t use it. Get the hell off!”

Alysa looked around, noticing for the first time that the boardwalk had moved out away from shore, forming a short bridge around a bend before joining back up with the shoreline. She tried to be patient with the strange man. “Sorry about the trespass,” she said. “I’m new here. I wasn’t aware that this was anyone’s bridge.”

Straw-hat man folded his long arms across his chest and frowned. “New. Doesn’t matter. Get off my fucking bridge!”

She considered doing just that before realizing how far she’d have to backtrack to get around this section of the park. “No,” she said. “I need to get across. So, please… stand aside.”

Straw-hat man did not like her tone. Not one bit. He pointed in her face with one long shaking finger. “Don’t push me, girl! I mean it. Turn around and get off my damn bridge… or I’ll hurt you. I’ll hurt you real bad!”

“Well, I don’t want you to do that,” she said with amusement. She assessed the strange man and thought he might be a little ‘damaged’ in the head. Apparently Straw-hat man had staked his claim in New Cleveland, and unfortunately, it was this piss-poor bridge. She suddenly thought about some old fairy tale about a troll living beneath a bridge. “Is there a special fee to use your bridge?” she tried

Straw-hat man smiled and nodded enthusiastically, his need to harm her quickly forgotten in the excitement beaming from his simple face. “Yes! Yes, there is! Most people don’t ask. Most people just use. They just take… and take… but never ask!”

Damn, this freak’s been out in the sun too long. Probably the straw hat’s fault. She tried to hide her smile, not wishing to offend this troll any longer. “Well… Sir… what’s the price for using your bridge? Apparently, I’m a ‘gold token’ customer here in town, and I guess that means something here. I’m sure we could work out some kind of arrange-”

“A finger,” Straw-hat man said.

Alysa’s eyes went wide. “I’m sorry… did you just say a-”

“You want across, then give me your finger! Chop! Chop! I take! You pass!”

She looked at her hands and then frowned at Straw-hat man. “So… I give you a finger… then you let me pass?”


“Does that give me a round trip ticket on your bridge or will I need to hand over another on the way back?”

Straw-hat man gave her a puzzled look, not catching the joke.

Alysa didn’t know what else to say. She found this whole bizarre scene hysterical. She finally asked, “Does it have to be my finger, or will any old finger do?”

Straw-hat man pointed again, stepping threateningly forward, closing the gap between them. “You’re making fun of me!”

“I’m trying not to, but… this is… crazy.”

“Don’t say that!” Straw-hat man removed his hat and glasses and started banging his bald head on the flimsy wooden rail. “I’m… not… CRAZY!”

“Okay!” she said, holding her hands up. “I didn’t mean it like that. Just… stop… or you’ll hurt yourself.”

Straw-hat man stopped, put his hat and glasses back on, and smiled. “Then… you pay now? Give me two fingers.”

“What the hell? You just said one fin-”

“Price has changed,” Straw-hat man said. “Yes. Price has changed ‘cause you called me crazy.”

“That’s fucking nuts!” Alysa said, realizing her mistake too late.

“Now three!”

She shook her head and tried not to laugh. “Okay, this has been entertaining, but I’m not going to give you three fingers. Move aside, or I’ll make you move.”

“You pay first!” he said. “Give me three fingers… NOW!” Straw-hat man quickly reached into his jacket and pulled out two large meat cleavers from pockets fashioned into holsters for his cutlery.

Alysa took three steps back. Well, at least now I know how the fingers come off. That was beginning to puzzle me. “Look, I’ll just… go back. Three fingers is way too steep a price just to use this piece-of-shit bridge… no offense.”

The man held up the meat cleavers, looking like a tall, stupid serial killer. He had a look of disappointment in his eyes. “You can’t… you can’t do that!”

“Can’t do what?”

“You can’t go back! It’s too late to go back!”

“But you said at the beginning-”

“One toe to go,” he said with a cheesy grin.

“I suppose you think that’s clever?”

Straw-hat man didn’t understand. “You waited too long. There’s a time limit for going back… and you waited too long. So, you give me three fingers to pass… or a toe to go back.”

“How about five toes up your ass if you don’t get out of my way?” she threatened.

Straw-hat man’s eyes went wide at the thought of receiving five toes. “Deal! Five toes! I’ll let you pass for five toes. But, I’ll put them in… after.”


“My… ass… I’ll put them in after.”

She shook her head in disbelief. No one could be this fucking stupid. “You’re saying that you’ll chop off my five toes and then shove them up your ass? That’s what you thought I meant?”


Alysa started rolling with laughter.

Straw-hat man was not amused. He was much quicker than he looked as the tall man lunged forward, taking a swing at Alysa’s left hand holding on to the railing. She just managed to move it away before the cleaver struck the rotted wood. With his other hand, he swung the second cleaver in a sideway arc, just missing Alysa’s throat as she leaned back.

“Now that was the dumbest thing you’ve done,” she said, her face turning to stone.

Straw-hat man freed his cleaver from the wood, tapped both cleavers together to create a metallic ‘clang’, and then charged again, yelling something inaudible with the ferociousness of a wild animal.

Playtime’s over, she thought. Alysa dodged to the left, avoiding the downward slice of the first cleaver. Now off-balanced, the warrior was able to step in, grab the tall man’s wrist holding the second cleaver. She applied pressure to the wrist until the man cried out in pain, releasing the cleaver into Alysa’s hand. She quickly elbowed the man in the face, breaking his nose, and causing Straw-hat man to drop the other cleaver to the deck.

As a desperate last move, the tall man put his long fingers around Alysa’s throat and started to choke her.

Alysa brought her knee up hard into the man’s crotch, causing him to loosen his grip around her neck. She quickly broke free and then spun around, placing a round-house kick to the side of the man’s head.

Straw-hat man fell to his hands and knees, wincing in pain.

She started past the disabled idiot. “It’s been interesting… but I have to go,” she said. “Good luck on your finger tolls. I really mean that from here on out.”

Straw-hat man, playing opossum, grabbed the cleaver from the deck and lunged toward Alysa’s left foot.

Not realizing he was aiming for her foot, she turned just as the cleaver came down over the front of her boot, chopping it clean off.

“Fuck me!” she hissed, backing away, realizing her boot had just become a sandal.

“Toll’s paid,” the broken idiot spat though a bloody grin.

She kicked Straw-hat man in the face, knocking him over.

Alysa looked down at her open-toed boot. She couldn’t feel any pain. Then, one at a time, each of her five toes popped out of the boot. There’s something to be said about a boot size too big, she thought with relief.

The troll was groaning in pain… and laughing.

Alysa’s eyes blazed as she spun the second cleaver in her hand and approached Straw-hat man.

By the time Alysa exited the other end of the bridge, resuming her trip along the boardwalk near the shore, she had paid the toll… and then some. The troll was no longer laughing. He was choking on eight of his own severed fingers. Alysa left the thumbs, not knowing if they counted.


Alysa arrived just south of the fight pits. She could hear the clamor of a crowd in that area. Standing in between her and the pits was the remains of some ancient water slide tower. Pieces of the slide tubes were still intact near the base of the tower, although partially submerged in muck water. The tower itself was mostly disassembled, the rest given over to rust and neglect as vines curled around the amusement park relic, nature slowly digesting it.

The warrior spotted a faint light coming from one of the larger slide tubes not sitting in water. It was surrounded by tall weeds. If not for the glow, Alysa might have overlooked it.

She cautiously approached the light, having to walk in two feet of swampy water to reach it, and swearing at herself for forgetting her left boot was tore open as it immediately filled with slimy wetness.

When she neared the tube entrance, she saw a man sitting at the back of the tube with a small flashlight resting in front of him, illuminating his dirt-covered face. He was surrounded in what looked like trash. The man wore thick black sunglasses, the kind that old people wore while driving to reduce glare. He had long, oily grey hair that ran over his shoulders, seeming to connect with his long untamed beard. He also wore a filthy bath robe—its former color, unknown. The man’s hands were as grimy as his face. He didn’t look ‘old as dirt’, but rather, like he’d just crawled out of it.

“Come in,” the man invited in a pleasant voice.

Alysa swore the voice had come from anyone but the old man.

He waved to her for confirmation, adding, “I’m Taven. I’ve been expecting you, Alysa Monroe of the Ama-Eskua Order.”


Next Episode 43-6

Previous Episode 43-4


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“Chapter 43-5: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. 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.


“Holy fuck!” Mark’s words were highlighted on the astonished faces of Tony’s group as they exited the castle-like lobby, passing through the portal on the left, and into the town of New Cleveland.

After their meeting with Candyman, Briana and her Lunatics had escorted them out of their leader’s courtyard, releasing them on the town with a final deadly look that promised their murders as soon as Candyman let her off his leash. From there on, they were on their own.

The sea of survivors, if you could call them that, engulfed them immediately as they stepped on to the crowded and narrow streets of New Cleveland, surrounded by the steady buzz of activity and the indifferent stares of strangers.

Erected on either side of any street stood a conglomerate of industrial-sized trailers, sheds, mobile homes, large shipping containers, abandoned tractor trailers and box trucks. There were numerous buildings made of wood or sheet metal of all shapes and sizes, which resembled tore-down tree houses or hunter’s blinds, some placed together to form bigger structures, and others with second floors. There were also various sized pavilion tents mixed in with the solid structures, adding erratic colors and patterns to the madness of mobile constructs converted into businesses that lined every street. Lastly, whatever remained of the previous amusement park rides and attractions were fused in with this jungle of pieces and parts brought in from all over to form the skeleton of New Cleveland—its people, giving this visual monstrosity life. And at its center, looming high above the town, were the remains of the previous monster, the old wooden roller coaster, like the bones of some ancient dragon long deceased.

For Tony and the others, it was all too much to absorb at once. The sights, sounds and scents of so much life surrounding them, was overwhelming. None of them had seen this many of the living gathered in one place since before the outbreak and it all felt a bit unreal—and they—like aliens arriving on a strange, new world, or a world so old that none of them understood the language or the culture any longer.

Sergeant Hash was amused by his shocked new friends. “It’s a lot to take in,” he said, having to raise his voice a bit above the crowd. “I felt the same way when we first arrived here. Didn’t even know this many people still existed.”

“It’s like a horde… of the living!” Nine said, as several pushed by him rudely. “Not very friendly, though. Feels just like home.”

Hash led them out of the center of the street and up against the wall of some plywood palace. “They may not be dead, but they can still be just as deadly if you attract the wrong attention,” he advised. “This place is a vulture’s paradise. It may seem promising on the surface, seeing so many people alive and thriving, but underneath, it’s all a big pile of shit, and you can smell it if you pay attention. We’re just a few more flies buzzing around it… that’s all.”

“We must seem like easy targets,” Wendy offered. “Like tourists standing around with our mouths hanging open.”

“Exactly,” Hash said. “It’s only because we’re in a group that these dogs haven’t tried to lure us into trouble yet.”

“Trouble is right.” Tony frowned, staring up one street, straining to read the generic signs hanging above shops. He was immediately appalled. They no longer had catchy names, clever slogans, or brightly painted colors to attract the eye. No, the peddlers in the new world had little use or patience for advertisements. They had things people needed… plain and simple… and in a world where ‘need’ was like the frantic cry of a starving baby bird screaming from an abandoned nest where predators above waited to swoop down and devour it, the suppliers of that need had all the power.

“‘Get High Cheap’ right next to ‘Sex, Any Preference’,” Tony read the signs. “‘Will Help You Find/Bury Your Loved Ones’. He stopped with a chill after reading the next one. “‘Death Assistance- Why Wait?’.” He turned to Hash. “Is this place for real? Have we really devolved that much in such a short time?”

“Yes,” Alysa answered. “Places like this do not surprise me at all. Your world crumbled in a heartbeat when the illusions died. And now, what’s left of that pathetic world is like gold for anyone who can’t live without it.”

Tony gave her a hard look. “When you say things like that, you sound like one of them.”

Alysa caught his veiled meaning. “Just because I don’t belong to the Order any longer doesn’t mean that they had it all wrong.” She nodded toward the sheep. “Look at them. Do you think they’ve all come here to ‘survive’ in this horrible place?”

Tony stared into the crowd. The men and women of New Cleveland shuffled along, huddled together wearing faded-color and soiled clothing, the knees of their pants were ripped, stitched over or patched, and then several times again. Their shoes looked worn down past the point of usefulness. They’d all seen hard times, just as Tony and his group had, but they appeared more like phantoms of their former selves. And their eyes—downcast, bloodshot red, or filled with fear or indifference—spoke volumes. To Tony, many of them had the look of people who had arrived at their final destination, just filling the time they had left until they could be free from this wretched existence.

“You see it,” Alysa said, staring into Tony’s face. “They’re already dead. You can smell it in their neglected hygiene, see it in their broken posture—taste it in the air like a thick fog of hopelessness.

“That’s a bit harsh,” Diane said. “Not everyone here has given up, as you say. Perhaps you could find a shop around here to alter your personality if you looked hard enough. Just look for the sign that probably reads, ‘Attitude Adjustments by Rusty Blade’.”

Alysa raised her eyebrow at the hunter, responding with a crooked smile.

Diane smiled back.

Nine tried real hard not to crack up at their verbal stand-off.

“Perhaps,” Alysa admitted. “But not among this crowd. I’ll ask you this, hunter. If there’s anyone here who hasn’t already decided to die… then why are they still here?”

Diane had no response.

“Well,” Hash interjected, “it’s like I told you before. The worst of the worst thrive in this town… and they know how to prey on the weak for profit. What we’re seeing is the result of folks spending too much time here, believing they’ve found safety in numbers… or ample distractions to keep their minds numb. Compared to living outside where the dead could you eat you in your sleep, they think this is better.” He looked sadly into the crowd. “Candyman knew what he was doing when he set this place up. Every kind of dark indulgence can be found somewhere in this shithole town, which explains his name. Candyman understands our dark nature and how to appeal to it. He offers sugar-coated poison—pleasure—in exchange for whatever they’ve brought… and so much more. The little bit of time that I spend here was enough to see that. I entered a state of depression while I was here last, watching humanity in self-destruct mode. But I didn’t even know it until after I got away from this place. The darkness here crawls all over your skin and then get absorbed into your soul. I swear, you actually feel yourself slowly rotting away to dust in this place.”

“How the hell did Candyman pull this off?” Tony asked.

“From what I’d learned from the locals, Candyman and his Lunatics were former inmates out of some prison south of here. When chaos erupted, the prison was abandoned. The prison’s probably what saved their lives when the outbreak first started. Eventually they got out somehow, headed away from populated areas, and ended up here. Some company had already been leasing parts of the amusement park to store a lot of those large trailers you’ve seen… and the chain-link fence was already here, keeping the dead out. Candyman apparently had some sway with the other inmates prior to escaping and got them all on his page. From there, he saw an opportunity and seized it. When the mass panic was killing off folks, that man was already adding whatever resources he could find to what already existed. It’s my understanding that he moved all those trailers inside first, then started on the larger wall, and all that before the winter. I have to hand it to the man, if he’d been one of the good guys, this place could’ve been something. But now… well… you’ll see for yourself.”

“They also have power,” Wendy said, remembering Candyman’s lit up trailer.

“Yeah,” Hash continued. “Like I said, they wasted no time sucking up whatever resources they could get their hands on, including a massive supply of generators, weapons and fuel.”

Nine noticed an old woman with a cane talking to herself as she barely managed to not get knocked over by the oblivious crowd. The old woman briefly made eye contact with him. Her eyes were wide open, dilated—insane looking. “Granny’s taken one too many hits off the crack pipe.”

“What was that?” Wendy asked.

Another middle-aged woman, in a hurry to get nowhere, pushed the old woman out of her way and off the road. “Die, you old bitch!” the harsh woman said. She never looked back.

The old woman fell on her side. Nine was about to rush over to help but stopped.

The old woman got up, turned toward the fleeing middle-aged woman, and shouted, “Fuck you, ya cunt! I’ll kill ya… come back here… I’ll kill ya!” The old woman then started heading back the other way, presumably in pursuit of the pusher. She was quickly swallowed up by the crowd.

“Never mind,” Nine said, immediately feeling bad for joking at that lost old woman’s expense.

“We should get going,” Hash urged. “If we have any chance at finding your friends, then I know where we need to start.”

“This is your show. Lead the way,” Tony said.

Hash was about to navigate through the crowd. He stopped, turned back, and said, “Thanks, by the way.”

“For what?”

“I was a dead man back there. But you took a serious risk and bought me some time.”

“Well, Sergeant, that’s how my people roll,” Tony said with a smile. “We look after each other.”

“I’m starting to get that. I’m just glad you considered me ‘your people’.”

Tony sighed. “Yeah, now I just have to figure out how to keep you alive past three days.”

“Let’s just see if we survive day number one first,” Hash added with a wink. He turned toward the others. “Watch yourselves… and everyone else. If you have anything you value in your back pockets, put them in your front pockets. Try not to make eye contact with the vendors or they’ll hound your ass. Try to look like they’re all beneath you and that you’re someone important. That will make folks nervous enough to keep their distance… hopefully.”

“Where are we going?” Mark asked.

“To the local watering hole, of course,” Hash said. “That’s are best chance at finding any information on your friends. Besides, drunks are the best talkers, if you keep them happy.”

They started walking back up the street, patiently pushing their way through the crowd.

Various shop owners gave them the stink eye or smiled greedily at the new arrivals, sensing fresh meat, but no one approached them yet.

Several times Nine felt his backside patted as people brushed against him in passing. He smiled and leaned in toward Diane. “Either I have an ass to die for… or I’ve just counted seven pick-pocket attempts.”

“First one touches anything on me, I’m hurting someone,” she promised, staring meanly back at every glance she received from the crowd.

“Not to worry,” Nine laughed. “You’re looking pretty scary right now.”


“Excuse me,” a tall, string-bean of a man said to Mark.

Mark immediately recoiled at the man’s stale beer breath. “Yeah?”

The man smiled at him and looked over at Wendy. “She yours?”

Mark looked over at Wendy, saw her worried face, then turned back, puffed his chest out, and tried to look as intimidating as possible. “Go away. We’re not interested.”

The smelly man appeared startled by the response, and then started reaching into his pocket, causing Mark to tense up. “Relax,” the man said. “I’m no trouble. I’ve got one of these here tokens.” The man pulled out a silver token that looked similar to the gold one Candyman gave Hash before they left. He held it up proudly. “I’m V.I.P., just like you… right?”

“Sure,” Mark said. “Anything you say. Just… move along.”

The man looked confused. “But… I have silver. That means I can get women… and I want that one.” The man pointed at Wendy.

Wendy crossed her arms across her chest and stepped away from the creepy man.

“Not this one, pal,” Mark said. “Put that finger away before I shove it up your ass!”

The man’s face was getting red. He pushed Mark back. “Naw… this means I get the women, any woman I want!”

By now the commotion attracted the attention of the others, as well as several people who quickly averted their eyes and gave them a wide berth.

Mark squared up with the man, then stopped as he looked over his shoulder and noticed two armed Lunatics standing next to a shop. They were looking right at him. He stared back at the creepy man. “Look… let’s not cause a scene here. The authorities are watching-”

“Fuck you!” the man shouted in his face. “I’ve got silver! I’m special today! Give me the girl… I’m entitled!”

Mark looked over the man’s shoulder again. The Lunatics were still watching. They seemed amused, whispering, laughing and pointing toward them.

To hell with it, Mark thought. He attempted to punch the creep, but the tall man slapped his fist away and then pulled his long wiry arm back to punch Mark in the face.

Tony stepped between them, the tall man’s punch striking the stone of Tony’s chest. The big man didn’t even flinch.

Tony grabbed the smelly man by the neck and pulled him close. “Look. My friends are trying not to cause trouble, you foul-fucking creature. But if you lift your hand again to strike my friend, I’ll break your fucking neck!”

The tall man raised his arms submissively. “Okay! Okay! But… I only wanted ten minutes with the girl! She looks like she could suck the-”

The man had no time to finish his sentence. Tony struck him hard in the gut, then followed it with an uppercut to the chin. The man wobbled back, then fell limp to the ground.

The crowd simply walked around or over the unconscious man.

Tony briefly looked up at the Lunatics. They were no longer laughing as they stared threateningly back, their fresh entertainment no longer available.

Tony nodded to them with a wave, then turned toward Mark.

“Sorry, Tony. The creep just-”

“Not your fault,” He quickly said. “Just keep walking. Both of you. Too many eyes on us right now.”

Mark and Wendy both nodded.

Tony walked on ahead.

Wendy reached over and grabbed Mark’s arm.

He turned.

“Thank you,” she said.

He nodded. “Yeah. No problem. Even the fucking V.I.P.’s, whatever that means, don’t get to go at my friends.”

She smiled at him, patting him on the forearm. “I suppose I should’ve felt flattered… I mean… he did have silver and all.”

He shook his head at her. “Nah. You’re worth every bit of that gold token Hash is carrying around, and then some.” He added a wink that made her laugh. They both pulled in closer behind the others, not wanting anymore V.I.P. propositions.

Alysa was doing all she could not to lash out at the people pressing in on her, invading her private space. She wasn’t used to anyone getting this close without it being a combat situation. She tried to take in her surroundings, examining every shoddy structure for an advantage, but the abundance of activity and overlapping conversations were assaulting all her senses. She studied every face she saw, trying to get a read on their intentions, but there were just too many faces to process. “How much farther?” she asked the good sergeant, who was walking just ahead with Tony.

He turned and called back. “Just a few more minutes. The place is at the other end of the park.”

She turned as a red hooded figure bumped her from the left. “Sorry,” a soft voice said in passing. Alysa watched the hooded individual disappear into the crowd behind her. She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath to calm down.

“Take it easy,” Nine said, catching up to her. “He probably just tried to pick your pocket. It’s happened to me ten times now.”

Alysa gave him a crooked smile and nodded as Nine, Diane, Wendy and Mark passed her, all looking equally overwhelmed by New Cleveland.

She suddenly had an urge to check her pockets.

Tony observed one long line in front of a makeshift storefront off to the left. The store was larger than a lot of the others with no sign above the door.

“That’s one of the murder shops,” Hash said with a frown, beating the big man to the question.

“What the fuck is that?”

“When their time runs out and they have to turn in their tokens and finally leave, lots of folks can’t bear the thought of going back outside,” Hash said. “So, they offer themselves as payment to stay.”

“Slaves?” Tony asked.

“Yeah… something like that. Candyman has an auction once a week for those who can’t afford to stay. Thinks he’s being charitable by giving them another way to live here, as long as there’s profit in it. So, people put themselves up for auction and take their chances on who buys them out.”

Tony shook his head. “This place is fucking crazy.” He looked back at the long line in front of the unmarked shop. “And how does that tie in with… murder shops?”

Hash sighed. “Once you’re bought at auction, you’re the property of the buyer. Sometimes it’s just for manual labor, other times for prostitution. Some are bought out for the fight pits on the opposite side of the park. Candyman himself might buy you out for any number of base purposes, like those experiments he mentioned—all off the books, of course, since he can’t be associated with the auctions, not directly. Regardless of what it is and who does the buying, whatever someone chooses to do with you after purchase is legal in New Cleveland, as long as it results in profits.” He nodded toward the murder shops. “I’ve never been in one of those places, never want to, but I’ve heard stories about them. If you’re bought by an owner of a murder shop, they can legally offer your flesh to any sadistic sonofabitch looking to torture or even kill someone. I’ve heard the slogans associated with those places and it makes my skin crawl thinking about it. ‘Pay to slay’.

“That’s horrendous,” Tony said. “And Candyman allows this?”

“That’s the beauty of the auctions, Tony. It’s all voluntary. If you don’t want to be a slave, then stay the hell away from the auctions and leave. Either way, Candyman isn’t responsible for you after you’ve been purchased. That’s entirely on you. Works out great for him because New Cleveland gets a major cut of everything and everyone coming in to town, and in return, the local businesses get a minor cut of everything that’s left… as long as they provide services in exchange for their cut.”

“You mean as long as they keep providing the ‘candy’?”


Tony couldn’t help staring back at the long line in front of the murder shop. “So, all those people over there are lining up to… kill people?”

“The only thing more popular here than the sex, drugs and alcohol suppliers are the murder shops.”

“That’s fucking insane.”

“Yeah, but it also helps keep the crime rate in New Cleveland at a minimum. The murder shops and the fight pits offer death as entertainment. The Lunatics take care of the rest.”

Tony had noticed plenty of Lunatics patrolling the streets and watching from the Big Dipper above. There were enough of them to remind everyone who was in charge, but they stood back, letting people do as they pleased.

Until they fucking screw up the profits, Tony thought bitterly.

“We’re here,” Hash said, nodding toward a long, two-story wooden structure.

Tony immediately looked for a sign above the door, expecting it to say, ‘Get Drunk Here’. He was surprised to discover that the bar had a name: Ollie’s Oasis.”

Hash nodded with a smile. “Now, here’s the one place in New Cleveland that is exactly what you expect it to be.”

“Sounds like you’ve been drunk a time or two in there,” Tony teased.

Hash laughed. “I’d be a damn liar if I said I didn’t.”

“Tony?” Alysa stepped up.

“What is it?”

“I’m going to check out the town and see what I can find out,” she said, staring disapprovingly at the bar. “I’d probably get into trouble in there.”

“Okay, then I’ll go with you,” Tony said. “None of us should be out here by ourselves.”

She smiled at him. “Don’t forget who I am. I can take care of myself.”


“I’m not asking,” she said with a look of stone. “Besides, the rest of you would just slow me down.”

Tony frowned. “Be careful. We’ll wait for you here.”

The warrior nodded and quickly vanished into the crowd.

“What’s her hurry?” Hash said.

Tony shook his head, staring off in the direction Alysa went. “I’ve learned not to question that woman. She has her ways, and that’s that.”

“Well, if you’re done gawking after your sweetheart, I’d like to go get a drink,” Hash said with a wink.

“She’s not my… forget it.”

They all entered Ollie’s Oasis.

“Wow,” Nine said. “Looks like your typical hole-in-the-wall bar.”

Ollie’s Oasis was about the size of any small tavern. It had one long bar off to the right, a few mismatched tables to the left, and in the back, what looked like a small dancefloor.

“What’s the point of having a dancefloor?” Wendy asked. “There’s no jukebox. No music at all.”

The bar itself was crowded, but a few tables were still available. They all took one against the wall where they could keep a clear view of the Oasis’s patrons and sat down.

Tony tried to catch a glimpse of the bartender working busily behind the bar, but the customers obscured his view.

“Now what?” Diane said. “Do we talk to people, get wasted, or ask when karaoke starts?”

Nine laughed. “I could see you singing anything by Alanis Morissette, Pat Benatar, or Joan Jett.

“Shut up, Nine,” Diane cautioned.

“I understand… you need a few drinks to get warmed up first. But after, you and I are doing a duo to Paradise by the Dashboard Lights!

“You’re such an idiot sometimes,” she said, smacking him lightly on the cheek. “But you’re my idiot.”

“Keep it up and I won’t sing any Garth Brooks for you.”

“Let’s wait for the crowd to thin out around the bar,” Hash advised. “I’ve talked to the owner before. Ollie can be difficult to deal with, but I shared some funny stories one night and made him laugh his damn head off. A few shots and a few more off-colored jokes, and I can get him talking. If he doesn’t know what we need to know, he can point us to someone else who might.”

“Well, since Candyman gave you the gold token, which I understand makes us like super V.I.P.’s, then all our drinks are on your dime,” Mark said.

“My man!” Nine said, raising his hand up to Mark for the high-five.

Mark enthusiastically reciprocated.

Tony heard obnoxious laughter coming from the bar. He turned as the Red Sea of patrons parted, allowing him a glimpse of the bartender. An overweight bald man with several chins was wiping sweat off his forehead with a rag. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“Is there a problem?” Hash said.

Tony closed his eyes and balled his fists.

“Tony, you okay?” Nine said.

Tony opened his eyes and stared out at the small vacant dance floor. “That’s for his strippers, isn’t it?”

Hash raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, but… how did you know that?” He quickly turned to Diane and Wendy and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll be out of here long before his girls start… dancing… if that’s the word for it.”

“Excuse me,” Tony said, getting up from his seat.

“Where are you going?” Hash said.

“Going to get a drink. Be right back.”

“But you’ll need the coin!” Hash started to rise then sat back down. “Shit. Is he always this impulsive?”

“No,” Diane said, staring after Tony with concern. “Only when he’s… upset.”

Tony stepped into the gap at the bar and addressed the short fat man who looked out of breath and far too old to be bartending. “I never expected to see you again… Ollie.”

Ollie briefly glanced up at the patron while stacking shot glasses on the bar. “What the hell do you want?” he said. “Beer’s already gone flat so deal with it.”

Tony just stared at the man.

Ollie was losing patience. He stopped, put his arms out wide, and said, “What are you fucking stupid? Do you want a beer or not?”

“You don’t recognize me, do you?”

“Look, pal, it’s been a long damn day. Why don’t you stop with the chit-chat bullshit and tell me what you want to drink, already.”

“I’ll take a shot of whiskey. Hopefully that numbs the pain in my fist right before I put you through that fucking wall… Herbie.”


Next Episode 43-5

Previous Episode 43-3


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“Chapter 43-4: Feed The Dead” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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