Posts Tagged ‘Phantoms’


…Russell stopped speaking and closed his eyes. For a moment he forgot about Alysa staring in shocked silence beside him as he tried to shut out the confusion of that day in the junkyard, and the ancient memories of his youth that came out with it. He risked betraying his partial story if he couldn’t reclaim his usual detachment.

That damn girl made you soft, boss. It was good she died when she did. And you know it. Fuckin’ kids have always been your kryptonite.

Russell let it go.

“He was training them,” Alysa finally said with a heavy sigh.

Russell opened his eyes and stared at her.

“Your friend, this Frank guy, he was trying to prepare them to protect themselves.”

“He was trying to turn them into killers,” Russell sternly corrected. “There’s a difference.”

“Is there?” Alysa looked away and leaned back in her chair.

To Russell, she seemed lost in her own memories. “Have you… killed?”

Her eyes came up quickly, fiercely, and then softened. “I’ve put down my share of those creepy bastards… sure. I think anyone who’s still around today has had to at some point. Haven’t you?”

Russell took it further. “I wasn’t referring to those dead things.”

Alysa’s face went blank. She wouldn’t offer anything.

Russell smiled. “Okay… me first. I’ve killed people. People who tried to hurt us… we lost one of our own in an unprovoked attack. Sniper on a roof top.”

“But you were defending yourself… your group.”

Russell laughed and shook his head. “No… we were in the clear. We could’ve escaped, but we chose not to.”

Alysa raised her eyebrows. “So it’s an ‘Eye for an Eye’, then? You don’t strike me as the revenge type.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“True.” She folded her hands in her lap. “But you don’t strike me as the killer type.”

Now that’s some funny shit, boss.

“So you believe there’s no blood on my hands? Do I come off as someone who would lie about something as serious as killing a human being?” Russell said.

“What I mean is,” she elaborated, “I believe you’re capable of taking another life, and that you have, but not for something as pointless as revenge. I think you’re far too complex a person to settle for that.”

Russell was caught off guard. “And what would you know of my motivations?”

Alysa smiled and leaned forward, placing her chin in her hands. “You strike me as someone who weighs everything and then decides to commit to an action only if it’s important. Killing seems… well… beneath you. Someone must have made you commit, someone important enough to kill for.”

She can see right through you, boss. Like a fuckin’ open book. Who is this bitch? Maybe she really is a damn witch.

Who indeed.

Alysa leaned back and laughed. “Sorry… there I go again getting way too personal. Believe it or not, in a morbid-as-hell sort of way, that was intended as a compliment.”

Russell scrutinized the woman with his intense gaze. He needed to know what she was hiding… and she was definitely holding something back. He decided to offer a bit more. “You’re right. I don’t care for revenge and I don’t take killing lightly. I was forced to retaliate-”

“Who did you kill for?” she cut in.

Careful, boss. She’s baiting you again.

Russell smiled and deflected. “I think we’re getting off track here. I’ve been honest enough on the matter. Now why don’t you tell me who you killed… but more importantly, why?”

Alysa feigned disappointment and laughed. “Almost had you there. Fair enough. Yes, I’ve killed people. But only because I had to.” She picked up her soup cup and took a sip. “It’s another reason I’ve chosen to stay the hell away from everyone.”

“You’re being annoyingly vague.”

“And you’re being equally persistent,” she countered. She frowned and said, “Truth is, I’ve only killed one person. But he had it coming. He had every opportunity to stay my hand, but he pushed me to the brink… pushed me to the point where my life was in danger if I didn’t stop him. And so I did.”

“But there’s more to it, isn’t there?”

She smiled and said, “There’s always more, Marcus. But let’s get back to your story before it gets any later. I was beginning to sense that you all were close to finding that marina.”

Russell gave up. It was clear that Alysa would volunteer nothing more.

She’s like a fuckin’ bad phone trace, boss. You know, like the ones in every thriller where the cops have the psycho on the line and need just another few seconds to locate the bitch… but then she hangs up every time.

Russell smiled at the fitting analogy.

“What was that?” she said, noticing his face. “Inside joke?”

“You could say that,” he finished. “After the junkyard, we cleared the tracks and made it to the river. From there, we found a boathouse to hide out in for the night. And then it rained like a bad omen. Everything quickly went to shit the following day.”

“The dead found you?” she asked.

“Another group went to great lengths to set up a trap when we neared the marina. All along the river, every boat had been destroyed. That should have been our first clue to turn around. But our leader had summit fever by then.”

“Summit fever?”

“It’s a term mountain climbers use to describe people who don’t have enough oxygen or strength to make it to the top. They see the peak and abandon reason, and their lives, obsessed to finish the climb.”

“And you were a mountain climber back in the day?”

“Not quite,” he laughed. “Discovery Channel.”

“Of course. Ahh… the good old days.”

“Anyway, reaching the boat had blinded Doug from seeing the danger all around us. We were so close but never had a chance. There were these large hangars that were loaded with the dead. When we reached the center of the hangars, they opened the doors and let them all out. That was when we lost Doug and everything went to shit.”

“And who were they?”

Russell shook his head. “There were symbols spray-painted on the hangar doors. A three-pronged symbol with an eye at the top. Later, we discovered the meaning of the symbol. It meant Mother. But that’s a much longer story and I’m way too tired to get into it.”

“So what happened after Doug’s death?”

“We got separated by the horde. Eventually we found each other again along the river. But it wasn’t a happy reunion.” Russell paused, his eyes going distant as the memory of that last tragic and glorious day surfaced. He continued. “We lost one more person. Everyone took it hard.”

“Was it… Gina?”

Russell looked at her. He detected a hint of hopefulness in her tone. “No. It was Greg’s daughter, Ashley. She’d been bitten by one of those dark-eyed beasts… the reanimated ones. She passed very quickly and Greg finished what needed to be done.”

Alysa looked away. “Yes… there was that to deal with. Like it wasn’t bad enough to watch them die, but then to watch them… come back. She quickly shifted gears. “Thirsty?”

“Yes, please.” Russell watched her leave to retrieve water. He appreciated the moment alone.

Try it again, boss.

Well… almost alone.

Russell looked down at his right arm and began to lift it. He was able to raise it a few inches and clench his fist before he started to perspire from the effort. It took all he had to exert any effort into moving, but it was getting easier.

Alysa was returning.

He tried his best to look calm and tired rather than a man who just felt like he’d come back from sprinting five miles. Whatever fever this is, it’s kicking my ass. Perhaps all the normal bugs from the old world have mutated into something much worse since The Change. He found the irony comical since it probably wouldn’t be the dead which finished off the human race… but a zombie version of the common cold.

She stopped before his bed with a plastic cup, noticing beads of perspiration on his forehead. She frowned. “You should stop being so damn stubborn, Marcus.” Alysa leaned in and helped him take a sip of water from the cup.

The water tasted luke-warm and old. “Excuse me?” he said.

“I wish I understood better what’s happening inside of you, but I don’t,” she said. “All I can deduce is that your body is working overtime to fight off some nasty infection from the fall. That’s why you have no strength. But every time you ignore my advice to let it run its course and let your body take care of it by getting lots of rest, I believe you’re just making it worse.”

Russell smiled. “Sorry, Doc. I’m a horrible patient, aren’t I?”

She helped him drink the rest of the water and then put the cup on the nightstand. She sat back down and smiled. “No… you’re just frustrated. I completely get it. I’d hate to be dependent on anyone, too. Especially these days. But I’d like to think that I’ve earned your trust by now.”

Russell saw an opportunity and seized it. “I want to trust you, Alysa. But this new world has made me suspicious of everyone and everything. It’s how I’ve survived this long. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

She looked puzzled. “Yes… but… we are friends, aren’t we? I mean, I’m not Gina or Amanda, and we certainly haven’t known each other that long, but haven’t I been good to you? We’ve talked. We’ve laughed. We’ve overcome the occasional spat along the way…” She trailed off and laughed at herself. “Listen to me, I’m starting to sound like we’re in a relationship or something. You must find me very foolish.”

There it is, boss. There’s your angle. She’s not only crazy from all that alone time… she’s wants your dick! Even a woman has needs and you fit the fucking bill. It’s a simple fuckin’ equation: Prolonged isolation + animalistic desires suppressed = one horny toad. It’s human nature to fuck, boss. Why don’t you cut to the chase and ask how often she mastur-

“I don’t think you’re foolish, Alysa,” he said gently. “I just think you’ve been alone for far too long and that’s made you… guarded. I’ve done everything to remain open. I’ve been telling you my story. But every time I try to get to know you, you shut the door on me whenever I start asking the hard questions. It would go a long way toward me trusting you if you’d start trusting me, too.”

Realizing she’d left herself vulnerable, Alysa started to raise her shields. She wrapped her arms around her coat and said, “I can’t ever shake this damn cold. Anyway, I should let you finish. So what happened after the girl died?”

Missed your chance, boss. Now she’ll keep the goods locked up tight. She’s only wearin’ that damn cloak to keep ya’ from seein’ her built in lie detectors from giving her away. I bet her damn nipples are pointin’ at you right now like a fuckin’ junk-hungry divining rod.

You really are disgusting, Russell thought back.

The other one laughed.

“After Ashley’s death, it was clear that we needed a new leader; someone who could keep us focused and working together toward whatever came next.”

“And that’s when you took charge,” she said confidently.

Russell smiled. “I’m flattered… but no. I’m not the ‘leader’ type. We all agreed that it should be Gina.”

Alysa made no effort to hide rolling her eyes. “And that’s why I’m alone now. When people get desperate, they’ll look to anyone to tell them what to do. Let me guess, since she obviously had Doug in her pocket, Gina figured she was entitled to the position. Is that about right?”

“Hardly.” Russell was amused. “In fact, Gina didn’t want anything to do with it. That’s why, I believe, she made a great leader. She genuinely cared for the group and brought us all together as a… family… for lack of a better term. She didn’t consider herself worthy to lead but her actions since then have proven otherwise.”

Alysa wisely remained silent.

Russell got lost in the moment. He remembered that day when she stood up and gave a brief speech. It wasn’t so much what she said that moved him, but it was the conviction he saw in her eyes. That was the moment everything changed and he began to see her finally move toward her destiny… and he had vowed to do everything in his power to make sure Gina became that woman, no matter what the cost. That day, Russell had seen his new purpose revealed as the fiery red-head took over leadership. He had believed it was his purpose to make her rise up out of the ashes of her former self and stand up, unafraid… as a worthy offering to Death herself. But after that moment, Russell understood that he was staring at a future queen of the new world. It was a glorious revelation and a humbling honor the Lady had bestowed upon him. Eventually, he would remove her from this life and deliver Gina to the other side, but not until the Lady’s purposes were fulfilled.

She had been anointed by Death to rule before the glorious end.

“She can’t love you,” Alysa said, noticing his illuminated face.

Russell turned. “What was that?”

“Gina… she can’t give you what you want in return, no matter how high a pedestal you place her on.”

You’re a damn fool, boss! You risk everything by exposing the only thing you fuckin’ care about to this crazy bitch. All our hard work, and my longsuffering patience, put at risk because you can’t hide your fascination for the fuckin’ Golden Goddess.

Doesn’t matter, Russell thought. Gina is far from here and this ‘thing’ pretending to live and breathe while rotting away in this tomb, will never leave this forest. And that was assured long before we ever arrived.

You just make sure, boss. If Gina is so fuckin’ important, then you make sure this bitch’s blood is spilled before we ever leave this place. Because now, she knows how to get to you.

Russell smiled. When we get our strength back, I will let you do whatever you wish to Alysa. Call it compensation for your cooperation all these long months.

You mean that, boss? I can have this one?

Russell turned to Alysa, making her uncomfortable with his lingering stare, and thought back, I would not have it any other way.

He could feel the other one’s savage excitement.

“Sorry,” Alysa said. “Again, I’m overstepping, aren’t I?”

“That’s alright,” he said. “You don’t know Gina as I do. You could never know.”

Alysa was puzzled by the comment.

He realized why he despised this woman. She was nothing but a fraud, pretending to show strength while living in a perpetual state of fear. Even now, she lavished in the illusion of control over a man who she thought she could manipulate due to his injuries. Alysa was nothing more than a vulture within this place, and a frightened child running from the world outside of these walls. This was who Gina could become if Russell allowed her to wallow in her pain.

Gina was Alysa… if he failed.

“You do love her, right?” Alysa pushed.

Russell had never considered the question before. Love, in the sense that so many of these fools understood it to be, was insignificant and the useless byproduct of emotional and physical impulses… nothing more. He would not reduce what he held for Gina to the same standard. What the sheep called ‘Love’, he called dung. However, he did love her. Russell loved Gina more than anything in this life, except for the Lady. He loved her as the Lady also loved her. And that was something he would never be able to convey to the animals of this world.

“No,” he finally said. “I do not love Gina. She means a great deal to me… but not in the way you think.”

Alysa didn’t know how to take the comment. “Well, that’s good to hear because, like I said, she can’t love you back.”

“Why do you keep saying that?’

Alysa’s face turned hard again. She stared at him and finished, “Because love is dead. I know this more than I know anything else about this fucked-up new world.”

“That seems a bit harsh.”

“It’s the truth, Marcus. And the sooner you accept it… nothing… and I mean nothing… will ever be a threat to you.”


Next Episode 37-10

Previous Episode 37-8


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“Chapter 37-9: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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



It once had a name, a life–a purpose–in the world where people once held jobs and status, invested money in the future and tried not to drink too much on weekends while watching sport’s events and flirting with girls they would never have. When The Change struck, the man and his team were responding to reports of a house fire. They were the first to capture the grim scenes below as they flew over the chaos of panicked citizens in cars or on foot, fleeing for their lives. People were being slaughtered indiscriminately by what was then… unknown.

The man in the Channel 5 News chopper had been broadcasting live everything they witnessed from above. The fear was evident in his shaky voice as he had tried to remain professional, tried not to think about his family down there, hiding in the blood-splattered madness below.

And then the man stopped broadcasting as he stared absently down into the darkness.

To the other passengers, it appeared as through the man had simply shut down. They assumed it was shock. As one tried to see if he was alright, the man had turned suddenly and attacked… slaughtering everyone in the helicopter including the pilot. The chopper started spinning wildly out of control, launching the crazed man out the open doorway. The helicopter spun out over the lake, before crashing into the water.

The man had fallen to the ground, landing hard on a metallic sculpture of a spider, reducing the impact of the fall. He’d impaled himself on a long metallic spider leg. The man did not care about surviving the fall or killing his crew in the chopper. The man did not think about his family or his responsibility to inform the public of the grisly deaths he’d seen from above. The man was dead. The man was hungry… and nothing else had mattered.

When the strangers entered the heart of the junkyard and ran toward it, the former News anchor with the fancy airman’s jacket and emblem, turned its face toward the approaching blood bags and snapped its teeth violently in the air. Its face was pale and bloody. Veins that wanted to burst through skin ran down the sides of his cheeks. It tried to break free but was held in place by the spider’s leg. Never had it wanted anything more than to rip the strangers into pieces and eat their flesh. Its new ambition dominated him. Its intense gaze fell upon Charlie, Amanda and Stephen. Its yellow eyes promised no quarter, no mercy, and no backing down… ever… because it absolutely needed them.


Amanda came within five feet of the yellow-eyed beast and fell backwards right into Charlie. They both hit the ground and Amanda screamed.

Charlie tried to free himself and run but Amanda’s full weight was on his legs.

Stephen fell to his knees and placed his hands over his ears to block out Amanda’s screams. He closed his eyes and waited for the beast to put him out of his misery.

The once sluggish creature was immediately aroused into a frenzy as it struggled to free itself from the steel pole, reaching its dead arms out toward Amanda.

Greg arrived behind Meredith and Ashley. He quickly grabbed his daughter and pulled her back.

Gina came next, reaching Meredith who looked like she was about to pass out.

“Frank!” Doug yelled, arriving too late to stop what he’d sanctioned. “Stop this!”

Frank turned and said, “We agreed to this, so stop your second-guessing and help me! Look at them! They’re already acting like they’re dead and just lying on the ground like fucking dinner!”

Russell arrived and stopped in his tracks, unsure of how to proceed. He looked to Doug and saw his own hesitation mirrored there. He had his machete out and wondered if he should kill the horrid creature. He moved within striking range and looked to Doug.

Doug reluctantly shook his head. “Let this play out,” he said weakly.

Russell briefly met Frank’s distrusting gaze before the big man turned away and continued with his dangerous game. Russell saw a hint of the familiar in Frank, understanding that this man either was or once was … a killer.

He recognizes us too, boss. Enough to pay attention. Mind your steps around this volatile one.

No shit. Frank was on the verge of screwing everything up with this dangerous ‘push’. He could not know what he would release in each of these people and they all had the potential to crack.

Frank crawled up between them and challenged Amanda, “Is this all you’ve got! All that bullshit tough talk and you’re ready to lie down and feed this fucking thing!”

Amanda looked into Frank’s face like a whimpering child.

“Get up and fight!” Frank said. He looked at all of them. “What are you so fucking afraid of? Look at it.”

They refused.


At last, Stephen, Charlie and Amanda dared a glance into its feverish eyes.

“That’s right! Look at it. See how much it hates you?” Frank asked. “Damn thing’s rotting away on a pole but it still fights to feed on your fucking souls!” Frank continued goading the cowering three. “It’s relentless, even now. Dumb fuck doesn’t even know when it’s beat. But you’re all more pathetic than this pitiful thing is! I should put you on that fucking pole and let that thing loose! It’s fucking dead and it still has more life than all of you!”

Russell gazed at the offensive beast. It lashed out, desperately trying to reach them with useless limbs and futile screams. There’s nothing to gain by stirring up the bees’ nest, Russell thought. He will get them all killed trying to turn them hard. He shook his head. The dead thing won’t care either way if it is destroyed or continues to feed.

Yes, boss, but look at all the fun they’re having, the other one mocked. Can’t you just picture the long term results of all this mind-fucking that fool is doin’ now? No matter how this turns out, they’ll be destroyed, too.

Russell looked at Charlie, Amanda and Stephen. They were broken vessels before this beast and Frank intended to light them on fire. To what end? Russell wondered. One could be taught to defend themselves easily enough against these things without driving them to the brink. Besides, the monster’s blood will not satisfy anyone. It is a pointless killing machine that feels nothing other than an impulse to feed.

You’re missing the big picture, boss. This is not about killing the beast. Frank’s trying to help them let the beasts out within each of them. It’s the way of the world now, boss. They’ll all be giving in to their savage sides eventually. This is simply the accelerated crash course.

Russell would not accept that.

You’ll see, boss. You’ll see that it takes a savage to survive in a world of savages. The dead, the living… doesn’t fuckin’ matter. Everything’s goin’ south and blood’s the new currency of exchange if anybody’s lookin’ to purchase another day on this shit-hole planet.


You just watch, boss. Today… it’s these three. Tomorrow, or the next day, the others will turn, too. It’s a dead-eats-dead world out there full of monsters waitin’ to be born. And your kind… well… you had your time, boss. But now it’s time to let go and let the savage loose.

Frank could see the fires begin to blaze in their eyes. They were close. He had to keep pushing. “How does it feel to be so fucking cowardly? So fucking worthless? Was this what you did when that thing came and tore your families and friends to pieces? Did you hide and watch your loved ones die?”

“Make him stop,” Gina pleaded to Doug. Meredith was weeping in her arms. “He’s taking this too far.”

Russell looked into her deep, compassionate eyes and was encouraged. Your world will not break her, savage… and there must be others like her.

What? You mean others worthy of salvation, boss? Please… wake… up! They’re all damned now… just like you. And just like that yellow-eyed freaky thing over there. We’re all the same… just in different stages of devolving.

Russell was forced to consider this.

Doug refused to acknowledge Gina. He couldn’t. He walked over to where they had placed the three steel pipes he and Frank had salvaged earlier and repositioned them within reach of the sheep.

Stephen, Charlie and Amanda were staring at Frank. They hated him. He used it.

“That’s right. You feel that, don’t you? Hits home where all that anger lives—all that fire just waiting to come out of you. Fucking rage!” he pushed. “Well, do something about it!” He got up and pointed at the creature. “There’s the fucking murderer of your families! There’s the soulless bastard who ate your friends right in front of you! There’s the demon who’s laughing at you while you piss yourselves in front of everybody! It mocks you still… even after everything that it’s taken from you… your loved ones, your lives¬—your fucking self-respect! And it’s going to keep coming after you until it has devoured everything you have… along with everything else you’ll never have again!”

Stephen let loose a gut-wrenching cry and looked the monster in the eye. He could see it reflected in those hideous yellow orbs—all he’d lost. And he wanted payback! He reached over and grabbed the pipe, got to his feet, and approached the beast head on.

It reached for him excitedly, the hunger blazing in its decrepit bones.

Frank had his gun out, aimed at the monster’s temple.

Russell raised his machete, prepared to chop its arms off if Stephen got any closer. He was caught off guard by the look of pure hatred mixed with madness that dominated Stephen’s face. It was ugly… it was undeniable.

You see, boss! Are ‘ya watching? You were there once.

Shut up, he fought back.

When the boy died inside, this was how you looked before you checked out, boss.

SHUT UP! Russell wanted to destroy the beast, Stephen, Frank… all of them. Just to keep the madness that was about to be unleashed away.

Stephen stopped just out of its reach of the creature and shouted, “I fucking hate you! You did this to me!”

The dead thing showed no remorse, no guilt, no pain, no fear… just hunger. Stephen envied it and hated it more because it could possess such indifference… such bliss… such freedom… and still spill so much blood.

He raised the pipe up over his head and brought it down on the creature’s skull, transferring all his rage into the swing. “I WANT IT BACK!” he yelled, striking once… twice… “I WANT IT ALL BACK!”… three… four times… he kept swinging.

By now, Charlie and Amanda were emboldened by Stephen’s charge. They quickly grabbed the remaining pipes and joined in, striking the beast until those heart-piercing eyes bulged out of its head. They continued to beat the thing, long after it went slack and still.

Russell stood back and lowered his machete, completely stunned.

Doug turned away in disgust, unable to watch as they continued to swing their blood-drenched pipes like wild animals, getting soaked in the process.

Look at ‘em, boss! Look at the monsters of the new fuckin’ world! They’re swimming in all that hate, all that blood, all that butchery… everything they’ve been suppressing and savin’ for the feast is comin’ out of these magnificent creatures!

Russell looked away. The part of him which tried to divine meaning and a higher purpose through selective and merciful kills, was repulsed by the insane brutality. Another part, a primal part… wanted to hack into their faces to keep from staring at Charlie, Amanda and Stephen’s inner monsters. The savage on hold, could feel what they felt, relishing in the freedom of the kill, the deep sadistic satisfaction of murder, the taste of fear in the blood as it splattered… splattered… splattered… oh, that wonderful liberation and free-fall into unfathomable madness!

Russell winced at the sounds of their pipes mutilating flesh. It was seductive music which taunted him to bathe in the pool of the barbaric, as he once did when the other one held sway in his life, long ago. And why not? If the other one was correct, then there was no point… to anything. All life’s meaning had been reduced to a steak thrown among the wolves to see who could claim the biggest portion. Why resist? He looked from the blood-drenched savages to the horrified onlookers and he suddenly wanted them all! He wanted his blade to rip rapidly into their flesh until their blood was raining down on top of him.

Yes, boss! FINALLY! You feel it! You know it! You fuckin’ want it!

Yes. He did. Russell slowly lifted the machete. His hand shook as he felt the blade become heavy, demanding flesh.

Frank turned to Doug, who refused to look at him, and said, “You asked for my help. Well… there it is. I just saved their pathetic lives. Maybe now we stand a chance of making it to your fucking boat.” He walked off toward the fence, climbed it, and went to wait by the tracks.

Greg tried to shield his daughter from the endless hate-born mutilation of the beast, but she refused to turn away.

Russell was about to feast. He looked at the blood drenched maniacs. He would kill them first in the most violent ways he could think of. The others would watch. The others would run. The others would die, one by one, as he hunted each of them, maimed them… and then took his time before finishing them off!

Do it, boss! Fuckin’ FEED!

“Get him!” Ashley cried out. “Kill it!”

Russell faltered, confused, and turned to the girl. Was she speaking to him?

The girl broke free of her shocked father’s grasp and moved closer to get a better view. All Greg could do was watch with a broken heart as this cruel new world robbed Ashley of her innocence.

Finally, Charlie, Amanda and Stephen stopped swinging at the bloody mess, which was once a human being like them, now, just the remains of a monster, as they collapsed in silence, struggling to keep their sanity while catching their breath.

Russell froze, moments from letting the maniac loose. He was staring at Ashley, staring into the monster which crept behind her eyes. The monster that did not belong.

What the fuck am I doing? he thought. Seeing the girl… like this… was like looking into a murky mirror from the past. That was me, a long time ago. Russell took a deep breath and slowly lowered the machete. He then let it slip from his shaking hand and stepped prudently away from it. That was too fucking close!

On the inside, the other one was having the equivalent of a demonic temper-tantrum.

Nearby, Gina held Meredith tight as the weeping woman tried to hide her face in her arms.

She watched as Ashley walked through the bloody scene, past the three blood drenched savages—formerly sheep—who sat exhausted on the ground, and she picked up a bloody pipe.

Russell lifted his arm toward the girl and wanted to say… anything… to stop her present course of action. Instead, he could say nothing.

Before Ashley could swing at the corpse, Gina yelled, “ENOUGH!!!”

Ashley dropped the pipe as if coming out of a trance and ran back to her father in tears when she realized what she was about to do.

Russell gazed at the distracted red-head who looked like she was about to have a breakdown. Thank you, Gina. Thank you for stopping her. He looked at the girl and finished, And thank you, Ashley, for stopping me…


Next Episode 37-9

Previous Episode 37-7


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

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“Chapter 37-8: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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


“… It was shortly after we left that woman down in the ravine when Greg and Frank returned. They found the boxcar and that’s where we spent the evening. Later that night we were attacked by your red-eyed hounds, but we fought as one and outlasted them as dawn rescued us. Apparently they don’t like light.” Russell needed to urinate. He tried to move again but was still too weak.

Alysa, coming out of some heavy thoughts, noticed his discomfort, smiled, and then gave him a pouty face. “Aw… do we need another potty break?”

“When you put it like that you make me want to throw something at you.”

She laughed lightly. “Sorry… it’s that damn humor of mine again.” She reached beneath the bed and retrieved the bed pan. “Ready?”

Russell nodded begrudgingly.

Alysa helped him turn over enough to lower his underpants and place the pan beneath him.

“This is ridiculous.” He feigned frustration. “Why am I still unable to move? I’m starting to think my condition is much worse than you claimed?”

She didn’t answer. “I’ll go get us some food while you… take care of business.” Alysa quickly departed toward the fireplace.

She’s enjoying this, boss. The bitch is payin’ you back for the cheap shot earlier. She likes reminding you how fuckin’ helpless you are.

Russell relieved his bladder while keeping an eye on Alysa. She pretended not to notice him for the sake of privacy, but her smile betrayed her amusement.

Yes, she was enjoying her illusion of control. Russell would allow it for now, until she needed to be put back in check again. As useless as his limbs were at the moment, Russell understood that there were other weapons which cut just as deep. If she became too comfortable with that control, he would bite her again with his words to keep her off-balanced.

Alysa returned with more chicken soup.

Boss, when we rid the world of this twat, I suggest we boil her face in that fuckin’ pot first.

Russell had no objections.

She placed the soup down on the nightstand and repeated the ritual, removing the bed pan this time and pulling his pants back up. “I’ll be right back.” She carefully walked the bedpan over to the front door of the cabin. She then placed it down near the door and then opened the door nonchalantly, letting in the cool night air. She bundled up her cloak and shook from the cold before tossing the contents of the bedpan outside.

She shows no caution, Russell thought, wishing he had a better angle to see outside. Anything could have been on the other side of that door.

The bitch has forgotten how dangerous the world is, boss. That’s what happens to fools like her who suck on the titty of safety. They get full and then they fuckin’ die. Good old Complacency’s been slipping her the dick for far too long.

Indeed. If their situation had been different, Russell, or anyone else he’d traveled with, would have scolded her for such stupidity. Anyone who had been ‘out there’ had learned to live with a healthy amount of paranoia and distrust, enough to keep them alive another day.

Enough not to open doors without checking out a window first, Russell concluded.

Alysa finally closed the door and came back, returning the bedpan beneath the bed. She sat down again and smiled at him. “Feel better now?”

I’d feel fun-tastic, bitch, it you’d be so kind and impale yourself on that fire poker over there, the other one suggested.

“Yes,” Russell said. “Thank you.”

Before he could inquire further on his injuries, Alysa folded her arms and began to scowl. She then said, “So… you never found out what happened to that woman… right?”

He could already tell where this was headed. Sarah had perished that same night before the red-eyed beasts attacked them at the boxcar. They all remembered hearing her scream. “No,” he lied. “I believe she died from whatever injuries she sustained.”

“But you don’t know that,” Alysa pressed. “And yet… none of you lifted a finger to help that poor girl.”

Russell frowned. “It was decided that we couldn’t reach her before nightfall and that there was nothing we could do for her… not without risking someone else.”

Alysa’s eyes lit up. “And that’s exactly why you did the right thing!”

“I wouldn’t call it the ‘right’ thing, simply the necessary thing.”

She wouldn’t let it go. “No… if that idiot, Gina, had her way, it sounds like she would’ve risked your entire group trying to rescue that girl. Maybe you would’ve found her in time to do something to help, but then the hounds would’ve found all of you down in that valley.”


“And that’s exactly why you don’t help people anymore,” she said. “It’s not that we’re evil and lack compassion, it’s just not beneficial to survival any longer to step up and save… everyone. Some people put themselves precisely where they’re supposed to be, sooner or later. The ones not fit to survive will eventually get themselves killed… and anyone else around them.”

“I see.” Russell refused to feed this line of thinking.

Alysa was getting irritated. She stood up and started pacing. “No, Marcus, you really don’t see. The world is different now… much more harsh. There’s no room in it for the weak and foolish. Anyone still expecting their televisions and phones to work one day all deserve what they get in this life. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should perish with them. It’s the new natural selection.”

“So,” Russell began, “the woman who called out for our help, she deserved to die?”


“Because she got injured? How do you know she wasn’t thrown from that cliff by a blood-thirsty killer or rapist who would sooner come in here and do the same to you?”

Boss, you’re killing me.

Alysa frowned. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, you and I know nothing about that woman,” he lied. “Who she was, what she did, what she could’ve become… and yet, you say, she got exactly what she deserved. How do we know she wasn’t playing it safe… just like you… until the wrong people finally found her?”

“If she was foolish enough to surround herself with bad company, then that’s her own fault. Survival doesn’t mean we should align ourselves with just anyone. There were plenty of bad people before the world fell. It should be no surprise to find them in abundance out there today.”

“And what about the bad people who prey upon the weak? Do they deserve to live?”

Alysa shook her head. “You’re speaking in extremes and missing the point.”

“I don’t believe that I am, Alysa. You said it yourself: ‘natural selection’. To me that means that the criminals, who have always been better at adapting to their environments out of necessity, would rise up and devour those who no longer have a system in place to protect them. The killers and rapists would no longer have any moral or legal hindrances to stop them from doing anything while the rest are still governed by their consciences. That would make them the ‘weak’ ones.”

“You’re being overdramatic,” Alysa said. “Besides, there is no clear cut black or white anymore. No right or wrong. There’s only survival.”

Russell smiled like the devil. “Okay. Let’s say, hypothetically of course, that I want everything you have here. You have food, shelter, relative safety in the woods…” He eyeballed her from the coat down. “… everything that I need for survival.”

Alysa appeared uncomfortable.

“What if I were faking my injuries and I was just waiting for the right opportunity to sneak up behind you and slit your throat? Am I justified in taking what I want, when I want it, no matter what the price… to ensure my survival? Or does your world of ‘grey’ boundaries have its limits?”

Alysa’s face was stone. After a few moments, she released a wicked smile, leaned forward, and said, “If I was foolish enough to let the kind of man that you described into my home, after taking care of him, feeding him, encouraging him as best I could… just to find out that he was lying to me the whole time in order to ‘take’ from me… then absolutely… I deserve whatever’s coming for being so fucking stupid and unfit for survival of any kind.”

Russell didn’t like what he saw in Alysa’s eyes.

“However,” Alysa continued, leaning back in her seat, “let’s assume that I’ve already anticipated everything such a man was scheming, and I, in turn, wanted to ‘take’ everything he had by slowly learning about his travels, but more importantly, the location of the people in his stories, so that I could go find them, dispose of them, and take all of their things of value, to ensure my survival… well, that would make such a man very stupid for underestimating his host.”

Boss… something’s ‘off’ here.

Alysa smiled. “Hypothetically speaking, of course.” She met his probing gaze with a cool, unconcerned look. She then lost it and laughed. “I’m sorry… I had to do it. You were taking this conversation WAY too seriously. I couldn’t resist fucking with you again, Marcus.” She started rolling in her seat.

Russell let out an uncomfortable laugh.

The bitch be crazy, boss!

Alysa calmed down and took a sip from her soup cup. “To answer your question, Marcus. I don’t have an answer. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps I haven’t thought this philosophy through. All I know is that the rules have changed now, and I’m learning them as I go. Could we agree on that point?”

Russell smiled. “Yes… I suppose that’s fair.”

“It was still the right move, no matter how you choose to swallow it.”

“What’s that?” Russell asked.

“The girl in the ravine… there’s was nothing to do except what you all did.”

Russell let the matter rest. He needed to move them away from this toxic topic. “Should I continue with my story? Or is that getting as old as the chicken noodle soup?”

She waved her hand at him. “No, please, continue. Your adventures have been the highlight of my isolation. I find it fascinating how you’ve all survived this long, considering how diverse you all are. I’m surprised you didn’t kill each other at some point.”

“I have long wondered that, myself,” Russell added.

“But seriously, you have all experienced so much out there. I find it very… informative… and humbling. The more I listen, the more I realize just how much I haven’t a clue about. You’ve given me a lot to consider, Marcus, so please continue.”

I smell bullshit, boss.

Yes. Russell would have to reassess a few things. He had grossly underestimated this woman.

“So… what happened after the boxcar incident?” she asked.

Russell remembered very vividly what came next. It was the moment he nearly lost complete control of the other one, and the moment that almost destroyed his faith in everything he’d done in the name of the Lady.

He took a deep breath and said, “Doug and Frank found a junkyard near the end of the tracks. One of the yellow-eyed monsters was trapped there. Instead of passing it up, as we should have, Frank had talked Doug into a very reckless and risky plan that nearly ended our journey.”

He had Alysa’s attention. “What happened at this junkyard?”

Russell looked at her sadly and said, “That was the day we all had to face a formidable enemy. We had to face ourselves…”


Next Episode 37-8

Previous Episode 37-6


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“Chapter 37-7: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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



The bearded man, Greg, and that suspicious brute, Frank, had just departed the railroad tracks to explore a possible shelter for the night. Russell watched as Greg’s daughter looked as though she would follow her father into the unknown forest rather than stay with strangers. And then Russell observed Gina move in to comfort her.

She forgets herself immediately to help the child while everyone else is made oblivious by their own fear-driven concerns. Russell unknowingly smiled as he watched her work. The child offers nothing to the survival of the group. She is a liability. And yet… Gina shines in Ashley’s presence. Her strength continues to surprise me.

I see weakness, boss. Your golden girl’s gonna get herself killed trying to save this piglet. This ‘ain’t no place for children anymore.

This world was never fit for children, before or now, Russell thought back. Gina gives the child a light in a dark place. If only every child had one such as this who genuinely tried to care for them before it was too late. Russell was surprised by his own thoughts as he wondered which child he was really thinking about.

Them dreams are catching up with you, boss. Best you kill them from your thoughts before they make your knife edge dull. We should put the child down… call it a mercy skinning.

Russell tensed up. Don’t you ever suggest that again! You know the rules: No children!

The other one laughed. Got it, boss. Just don’t you forget what they are… what they eventually grow up to be. You know that more than most. Hell, every one of those pigs you’ve slaughtered started off like that little girl.

Russell frowned. He could think of no better example and justification for the old world, which was quickly rotting away, to perish. That old monster swallowed children whole and spit out their remains across an infinity of broken homes where abuse was king. And those original monsters, more heinous than the dead, more savage than he could ever be, had once walked around freely in the daylight pretending to be something acceptable called ‘Parents’. But in the darkness, they hunted their own offspring. Russell would never need the prompting of the other one to brutally destroy one of these old beasts. He hoped that most of them were gone now… the ones like his own parents.

Russell overheard the girl say something that reminded him of an item he’d brought along. He searched his pack until he found it.

I was wondering why you took that, boss.

Russell smiled as an opportunity to finally speak with Gina presented itself… and he had the child to thank for it.

So now ya’ think your Jesus, boss? Instead of turnin’ water into wine, you’re gonna turn them worthless piggies into somethin’ useful?

Just watch and learn, savage. Russell moved toward Gina and Ashley.

“And just what do we have here… smiles? Why that’s unheard of in these dire times,” Russell said in a theatrical voice. He sat down right in front of them, crossing his legs and waving his hands. “No, don’t say a word, it’s perfectly alright. Simply allow me to amaze you with my woodland magic, taught to me by the fairies themselves from the faraway land of Lollapalooza!”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. Did he just say, Lollapalooza?” Ashley asked.

Gina smirked, stared at Ashley, and raised her arms with a, ‘I’ve no idea what planet this guy just came from’ look.

“Now,” Russell continued, “as you can see, my hands are empty… I’ve nothing up my sleeves… I assure you, this is no trick.”

Ashley laughed as Russell waved his arms in the air like a swimmer out of water.

“Now, by the magic entrusted in me by the sacred fairies of the woods-”

“From Lollapalooza!” Ashley injected.

“Yes, indeed! I will now pull from your mind your heart’s desire and make it materialize from the very air!”

“Oh, this ought to be good,” Gina said with a wink, rubbing arms with Ashley.

“Now, concentrate little lady and let the fairies grant your request!”

Ashley gave Russell her best crunched up face.

Russell laughed and said, “This requires concentration… not constipation.”

Both women laughed.

“Here it comes now… I can sense your thoughts… and presto!” Seeming to appear from above, something fell right into Russell’s hands.

“No way!” Ashley said.

Russell handed her a pink iPod, another item acquired from the recently departed scientist, Sarah. “For you, my lady. The fairies have heard and answered your request!”

Ashley grabbed at it greedily and began to fumble with the buttons. She stopped abruptly and said, “It’s loaded with songs! How did you-”

“Oh, no, my young lady. It’s forbidden to inquire of woodland magic. Simply take this gift and offer your praise to the fairies of Lollapalooza!”

“Lollapalooza!” Ashley said, feeling foolish for doing so. She started giggling uncontrollably.

“I couldn’t help overhearing and remembered that I had acquired this gizmo on my travels toward the power plant,” Russell said. “I’m glad I held on to it.”

“Thank you,” Ashley said, feeling the tears rise up in her again.

“You are very welcome, Ashley.”

She spotted Meredith nearby and said excitedly, “I have to show Meredith, she’ll never believe the luck!” She got up and quickly hugged Russell before heading over to Meredith.

Russell was surprised by an old emotion which struck him. One he refused to name which he believed long deceased. He quickly suppressed it and forced a laugh as she ran off.

“Your magic act was probably a little better than my singing would’ve been,” Gina said. “That was very kind of you to do that for her. I think you made a friend for life.”

Russell moved into Ashley’s spot next to Gina and waved off the compliment. “Oh, that was easy. What was hard was seeing that girl’s sad face all the time. She’s far too young to be that miserable. Misery is an occupation best suited for the old who have abandoned the adventures of youth for stagnant stations in life… or I should say, what used to be this life.” Russell’s acting skills did not miss a beat, even after the girl nearly made him stumble.

Gina immediately moved over to create some space between them. “Well, I don’t know about all that… Marcus. But I know that you just helped Ashley immensely.” Then she took a deep breath and changed the subject. “I suppose this would be a good time to thank you for saving my life yesterday.”

Russell, dismissing her discomfort, folded his hands and stared at the tracks. “You are welcome. I’m just trying to earn my keep here. I never imagined it would come to doing something like that, but I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time to intervene.”

“Ditto,” she said. Gina rolled her eyes.

Russell smiled at the woman’s transparency. She was clearly nervous but genuine. Beneath the dirt and grime of their travels, Gina was unquestionably a beautiful woman, but that was not the beauty which captured Russell’s attention. Surprisingly, he found something in the red head’s demeanor that reminded him of the girl, Ashley. Yes, there was an untainted innocence buried deep within her eyes, something not yet breached by the rest of her jaded life. He looked forward to their next conversation, once he was no longer under the scrutinizing eyes of the jealous Amanda Howard. But for now, he basked in her innocence. And like a child, Russell knew that, as Gina was a light for Ashley, he too, could be a light for Gina. He looked forward to guiding this beautiful woman into all she was intended to become.

Then… and only then… would he show her salvation.


The afternoon dragged on, the rain continued, and the sky refused to release the sun from its cloudy prison. Moods plummeted quickly as the promise of evening approached and all they had found was more unrelenting and tedious tracks into nowhere.

There had been no sign of Greg and Frank for hours which just added fuel to the fire of hopelessness which threatened to spread like a wildfire in their exhausted thoughts. Hearing the faint sound of gunfire, only made things worse.

Doug had told them about the boxcar to give them something to aim towards, but even that seemed lost among the endless old railroad ties which mocked their every step.

Russell watched Gina move back beside Doug who was watching the rear and keeping an eye on the groups condition since progress along the tracks had slowed considerably.

Can smell it again, boss. They reek of fear like a shitty diaper on a toddler.

Russell was taking notes. Finding the dead man in the woods a few hours ago had reminded these fools of their mortality. When the dead man came back and attacked Gina, everything they ever understood about death had been challenged… destroyed. None of them, including Russell, had actually ever seen the transformation take place. While everyone else stood horrified, Russell was in awe as he watched the corpse return. The Lady had chosen death itself to deal out death to the lost in this new world. He had tried to get a good look into the dead man’s eyes before he was put down by the strange older woman with the knife. What he saw were two dark pools of nothingness. It disturbed him.

And what about the ones that I saved over the years? Did they come back, too? Was all my effort for nothing if they’re all here… now? Russell struggled to understand this. He did not question the Lady, only his service to her cause.

Don’t worry, boss. The one you just saw was marked. He’d been branded by Death, destined to return. I don’t think ya’ need to worry about being invited to the reunion party. Although, it might be interestin’ to attend and kill all those little piggies… again.

Branded. Yes, that was a good word. He could kill any one of his travelling companions right now and he believed that they would stay… deceased. But if one of the soulless beasts with the dark, empty eyes were to bite them first, they would return like the corpse in the woods. But what about the ones who attacked him in the forest outside the Schuler house? They had come from the graveyard. Many of them had been dead longer than Russell had been alive. Were they ‘branded’ long ago? Were they somehow destined to return many years later to serve the Lady’s purpose… now? Questions such as these were mind boggling and beyond Russell’s limited imagination.

He turned his focus on Gina and felt his equilibrium return. She had become his constant in a world now riddled with inconsistencies and mysteries from the beyond. Perhaps they could explore these mysteries together, as Russell helped her find enlightenment. Yes, she would have to be enough until the Lady revealed the bigger picture which remained clouded to him.

Russell looked back. Gina and Doug were talking again. He had no idea what the woman saw in the big man with the crude weapon. Russell knew that Doug wore his filthy rags of fear as clearly as the rest and that he just hid them better, buried beneath his overcoat of false bravado and the convenient title of ‘leader’. Doug would eventually lead them all to their deaths if allowed to stay in charge. Russell would have to remedy that before too long. Doug was no good for Gina and would only hinder her growth.

He turned to the older woman, Meredith. Speaking of mysteries he could not fathom, Russell immediately recognized how dangerous Meredith truly was. She did not wear her fear of the dead like the others… she owned it somehow. This was another one who Gina found comfort in. But unlike Doug, he believed Meredith could help her and inadvertently aid in helping him tap into Gina’s true potential. He would have to find a way to make an ally out of Meredith without tipping his hand. For now, he would keep his distance and observe.

Hey, boss. Feel like takin’ a trip down memory lane?

Russell was puzzled by the comment until he realized where they were.

Sarah, the scientist, had died near this portion of the tracks.

Russell discreetly looked over toward the right, away from the tracks, where the land rose upward, hiding a steep cliff just on the other side.

Just then, a brief but high-pitched, labored scream came from the woods to the right.

Russell nearly stumbled.

“Everyone, down! Now!” Doug barked. “No one move! No one make a sound!”

Gina’s heart was tap dancing outside of her chest. “Is… is it one of them?” she whispered.

Doug simply shook his head and scanned the wood line. He had his bat out.

Gina drew her handgun.

Then they heard it again. This time, there were words: “HELP ME! SOMEBODY… PLEASE… HELP!” It was a woman’s voice. She sounded like she was in great pain.

Holy shit, boss! She’s still alive!

Russell’s face was stone. He squeezed the handle of the machete, as if it were a comforting talisman to ward off evil spirits that had suddenly invaded the area.

“Fuck me,” Gina said. “She sounds bad. We have to do something.”

“Hold on,” Doug said.

Gina looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“There’s a valley on that side of the woods. Sounds carry. Whoever that is could be miles away.”

“Or she’s right fucking over there,” Gina said pointing toward where she thought the voice came from.


Russell ducked down lower as if expecting the woman to step over the top of the wood line and see him.

It’s been days, boss. How is that bitch still alive?

If not for the others’ clear reaction to the screaming woman, Russell would have believed that it was all in his own mind. He still wasn’t convinced that she wasn’t a phantom.

“Fuck this!” Gina got up and started across the tracks and toward the woods.

“Gina! No!” Doug could do nothing but follow.

“Where the hell is she going?” Charlie asked.

This is not good, boss. If they somehow reach that woman-


Gina ignored him. She started into the woods and Doug followed right after her. They both disappeared over the top of the hill. The others followed after leaving Russell standing there. He didn’t know what to do. Should he flee? Should he kill them all? From his left the answer came. Someone took his free hand. It was the child.

“Please… stay with me,” Ashley said. She was weeping. “I’m… I’m afraid of ghosts.”

Russell stared into the child’s eyes and saw an earlier version of himself there. He smiled and said, “It’s alright, Ashley. We’ll wait here.”

She looked relieved… as did he.

They could hear the others arguing. Gina was clearly upset.

Russell was calculating.

“Who is that?” Ashley asked. “Who’s down there?”

Russell turned to her and struggled for an answer.

She saw it in his face. “It’s alright, Marcus. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ll look after you. The others will make the monster go away.”

Russell was floored. For the first time, in a very long time, he felt it… he felt the fear. Apparently there were things in this new world which could terrify even him. Dependent on if he survived the next few minutes, and that an evil presence hadn’t come back to claim him, Russell would have to meditate on this.

He smiled at Ashley and felt surprisingly at ease by her company. “Thanks for waiting here with me,” he said. “You’re right. The others will fix this and everything will be okay. You’re a brave girl.”

She looked away. “Not really. But… thanks.”

A few long minutes passed.

They’re gonna rescue the woman, boss. And when she gets up here, she’ll ruin everything. We need to run! Take the girl as insurance and let’s get the fuck out of here!

No. Russell felt the fear depart. And then he understood what this was. He was being tested.

If you’re worried that the little brat will betray our position, boss, we can always end her on the way. The scientists’ camp isn’t far from here. We could head there, restock our supplies and dispose of the little piggy after.

Russell looked back at Ashley. She was also no longer afraid.

I said ‘no’, savage. Calm down. This will work itself out. Yes. Russell was certain of this now. The Lady would deliver them from this situation and they would learn something important from the experience.

The other one fled anyway, back into the dark recesses of Russell’s mind.

“Good riddance,” he said.

“What was that?” Ashley asked.

Russell smiled. “Good riddance to all that pointless fear. Everything will be okay… can’t you feel it?”

Surprisingly, she did. “And the monster?”

“We’ve already defeated the monster, Ashley. We haven’t run off into the woods, we’re still standing our ground. That means we’ve won, no matter what comes down over the top of that hill.”

Ashley smiled. “I do feel a little more ‘bad-ass’ than I did a few minutes ago.”

Russell laughed.

Charlie and Amanda returned first, followed shortly after by Stephen. While the first two were clearly upset, Stephen appeared ashamed.

They weren’t able to get to her, boss! Maybe she’s dead… for real this time.

Welcome back, chicken-shit. Russell fired back.

The voice of the ghost woman returned. Much weaker this time. “ANYBODY THERE? PLEASE… HELP… I’M ALL ALONE OUT HERE…”

And then Gina answered the ghost loud enough for them all to hear. “You’re not alone! You hearing me, girl! Help’s on the way! Just hold on! Help’s coming!”

Russell was grinning from ear to ear. She’s defeated her fear! Gina has stood up to the phantom!

Doug and Meredith were coming down now with Gina reluctantly in tow. They wore the same shame-filled faces as Stephen. But not Gina. What Russell saw was a raging goddess who refused to back down from the abyss… who refused to give up on the girl.

And then understanding came. Russell looked into all their faces for his answer. They had decided to leave the woman down there… to perish.

Didn’t see that one coming, boss. Looks like they all finished the job for us. What a cruel way to kill someone. Feed ‘em false hope and then leave ‘em to die slowly. Poor, poor, Sarah. Maybe I was wrong about these pigs… perhaps they’re the savage ones. My kind of peeps. The other one was laughing at the irony.

Russell looked into Gina’s eyes. She was heartbroken.

Not Gina, he quickly corrected. This was not her decision.

No… never your precious golden girl, boss, the other one mocked. Not yet anyway…


Next Episode 37-7

Previous Episode 37-5


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

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“Chapter 37-6: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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


He is falling… falling… falling into the abyss of memory. Once more the madhouse of dreams has swallowed him whole, forcing him into the prison of youth.

Russell is ten years old. He is standing in the fenced-in backyard surrounded by everything dead. There is an ancient Harley Davidson his father had salvaged from a junkyard sitting next to a once silver Mustang, both infected by rust and neglect. There is a half assembled swing-set, tipped over and shoved off to the side. A small swimming pool sits toward the back of the yard, filled with green, murky water that hasn’t been cleaned in years. It is now home to the mosquitoes that visit every summer. There are numerous discarded tools, a broken lawnmower, an abandoned refrigerator and an old television set laying sporadically across the tall un-cut grass. Everywhere he looks Russell discovers the relics of his long-dead childhood and the remains of his father’s failed projects.

Young Russell remembers the strong smell of garbage as he looks to the right where a small shed stores black trash bags full of trash. His parents haven’t paid the bill for trash pick-up in months.

His father currently resides in there, dismembered, bagged up, and lying near the front of the pile.

Russell smells his mother’s Virginia Slims cigarette before hearing her approach. “Dig, you fucking brat!” She swats him in the back of the head… hard.

He stirs from his daze, realizing that he’s still holding the garden spade. He stares down at the two-foot deep hole, wishing that the monster would go back inside. He refuses to look at her.

“You disrespectful shit! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” She pushes him this time.

Russell turns. His mother looks ancient and worn-down. She’s been crying again as her hastily applied make-up runs down her face like a failed oil-painting. He knows that she isn’t crying for her father. He knows that she only cries for her fucked-up life… even now, after murdering her husband… she is still the victim.

“Stop staring at me like that, you fucking shit!” she threatens with her bony outstretched arm, still yielding the cigarette. “You think you’re better than me? Well… do you?”

Russell doesn’t answer. He knows there is nothing he can say that won’t cause a beating. He turns back toward the hole.

“You finish digging that hole right, or you’ll be digging yours next. Damn thing needs to be four feet.”

Russell resumes digging.

She doesn’t say another word for ten minutes. Russell starts to believe she’s left until he hears the man approach… the man who he must never ask about… the man who cut his father up with the chainsaw after his mother murdered him.

“He still isn’t finished?” the man asks.

“He’s useless… like his father,” his mother says.

Russell is not hurt by her words. He has learned how to disconnect from his emotions… from the pain… something he learned from his father first. Sometimes, when the violence was excessive, Russell would crawl deep within himself and talk to his friend while his mother, father, or even the man beat him.

Sometimes his friend would talk back and help him forget his pain. Sometimes his friend showed him how to harness it and turn the pain into something else entirely.

“We should take care of him, too,” the man suggests. “You know, before he tells someone.”

“He won’t say shit,” his mother says. “He knows that I’m all he has left in this rotting world and that no one will want a crazy child like him around if he talks to the cops.” His mother laughs. “Isn’t that right, you crazy shit? You wouldn’t ever think of telling on your Momma, would you? Because if you do, they’ll put you in the nuthouse, just like your father.”

Russell shakes his head.

“Good. That’s what I thought,” she says.

Russell knows that she will try to kill him again… with the poison. It’s just a matter of time. And if not that, she will find some other way.

“I think it’s deep enough,” the man says. “Let’s go get him.”

Russell stops and watches the man and his mother approach the shed.

They retrieve the black bags… the bags containing his father.

The man and Russell’s mother spend the next half an hour burying Russell’s father in the hole. Then the man covers the hole with another junker car.

That is when his mother grabs him by the shoulders and threatens, “Now remember, you little shit, if you do decide to tell anyone what happened here, they’ll take you away, too… put you in that nuthouse. Because you killed your father, too, when you dug that hole and helped us. Understand?”

Russell nods. Yes, he understands a lot. He understands that his father is dead in the ground. He understands that his mother and the man are also dead above the ground. And lastly, he understands that his emotions are dead since he feels nothing… nothing at all…


…When Russell woke, it was still dark. Alysa was once again tending to her pot by the fireplace. And he was still stuck in bed.

Did I sleep the whole day away? Russell wondered. Or was I only asleep a few minutes? He felt exhausted physically and assumed his body was repairing itself with some long overdue rest.

That would explain the fantastic dreams you’ve been havin’, boss. You’ve been fishin’ deep in the archives as of late.

Indeed. Russell seldom remembered his dreams, and when he did, they were brief and savage, usually involving lots of blood. It seemed that the dreamscape was the one place Russell had no control as the other one often reenacted previous kills there. But he had been returning to his childhood as of late and the dreams were so vivid that they felt more like memories than dreams. No matter. Russell had long since dismissed such trivial matters. Dreams meant nothing. They were places where fears tormented the living… if allowed to fester.

Alysa was coming. She was still wearing her large hooded robe. She was carrying two cups of what Russell assumed were full of soup.

“Welcome back,” she said, placing the cups on the nightstand. “I was starting to think you were dead since you slept so long.”

“I feel like I slept for five minutes,” he said.

Alysa smiled. “That’s your body being greedy for more sleep than you’re probably used to. That’s how you’re going to get well. Takes time.”

Russell nodded. “What time is it?”

“A little after midnight… not that time matters much these days.” She laughed and sat down. “I still keep a watch around and check it occasionally. I act as though I’m waiting for my favorite television show to come on or wondering how much time I have before returning to that meaningless day job. Force of habit, I suppose. Everything is much simpler now: There’s just day and then there’s night. Everything else that required us to count off the hours of our lives is gone now.”

“And you don’t miss it?”

Alysa’s face looked radiant this evening. She seemed more relaxed and not the despondent, depressing woman from last night. Russell suspected that she sensed the tension between them and decided to guard her thoughts this time rather than spew them on a stranger. She picked up a cup of soup, removed the spoon, and stared at it. “I miss… well, hell… I miss pizza.”

Russell laughed. “That’s the repetitious soup talking. Chicken noodle again?”

Alysa pretended to pout. “Yes… yes… chicken noodle… again. But at least it’s hot.”

“Because you just love the cold.”

Alysa smiled. “I’m just an open book to you now, aren’t I?” she teased. She held up the cup. “Ready for another monotonous meal?”

“Only if it’s pizza.”

She shook her head. “You’re just mean.” She began feeding him.

Russell took a bite and then asked, “So how long do you think before I can leave? Not that I’m complaining, but I really need to get back to my group. I assumed you were a nurse of some sort in your previous life by the way you patched me up and by how confidently you assessed my injuries. I’m wagering that you could give me a fair estimate.”

“You thought I was a nurse? Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.” She continued to feed him. “Truth is, I’ve had a lot of time to read. I don’t know what people value these days since money is worthless, but I value literature. Whenever I get the chance to move inland for supplies, I always check for books. Just so happens I read a medical book a few months back. Good for you that I did, too.”

“Well, it certainly paid off. I’m already feeling better than I did yesterday,” he lied.

Alysa was now grinning from ear to ear. “Why, thank you. I really appreciate that. And… don’t be fooled, you may feel okay right now, but you could relapse at any time. It’s hard to say right now when you’ll be able to move. But I’m sure it won’t be too long.”

“Anything you say, Doc.” Russell needed to take advantage of the woman’s better mood and get on her good side. Especially after last night’s outburst. If he could gain some common ground with Alysa, he might be able to win her trust. Once she trusted him, Russell could persuade her into either helping him get back to Gina, or to lower her guard enough for him to have an opportunity to kill the bitch. He preferred the second option. He took another bite of soup from her spoon, wishing he had the strength to lift his arm enough to grab it and shove it into her eye.

“So,” she started, after he was done eating. “You’ve told me about the scientists who helped you reach the power plant. Then how you met a new group and barely escaped down the railroad tracks. Where did you go after that? And I’m curious about these new friends of yours.” She sat back in her chair and began eating her own soup.

Russell had given her the generic version of his travels, carefully omitting his own thoughts and actions and anything else that revealed him as Russell Bower, a stone-cold killer. He gave her Marcus Dempsey, the same persona he’d fed Gina and the others.

Story time again, boss? This is gonna get old. I think the bitch needs to get out more.

Agreed. Russell did not relish spending every evening telling watered-down bed time stories. But, he needed to win her over and so he continued to oblige.

“Well, we traveled the tracks, as you already know. We saw a lot of what was left of Percy. I’ll spare you the details. We found an abandoned house near the tracks before nightfall-”

“Were you and Amanda… together… at that point?” Alysa asked.

Russell raised his eyebrows. Yes, he’d spoken about how he’d met Amanda… but excluded the graphic parts.

Alysa laughed at his surprise. “It’s not what you told me that has me curious about her. It’s what your eyes told me when you spoke about her… or rather… when you didn’t speak about her. A woman can sense things when it comes to men and I caught that their might have been a bit more.”

Russell smiled and said, “You are a perceptive woman, Alysa.”

“Not really. I’m just a woman who can read a man as easily as any of my books when it comes to certain things.”

She’s pokin’ at the pricker bush, boss. Probably misses her daytime soaps. Why don’t ‘cha give her somethin’ juicy to nibble on? Could go a long way to makin’ her your best friend.

Russell laughed. “Okay, we did have a… brief fling. But it didn’t work out.”

“That’s too bad,” Alysa said. “Did you tap it?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know… was there sex involved?”

“That’s really none of your-”

Alysa laughed hard and waved a hand at him. “Sorry… I was just playing. A little joke at your discomfort.”

Russell wasn’t amused.

Lighten’ up, boss. I think this strange bitch is testin’ her boundaries again. Tryin’ to see if you’ll bite back.

Alysa calmed down. “I’ve been told on more than one occasional that my sense of humor’s a bit crude. I apologize.” She took a sip from her cup.

“That’s alright,” Russell said and then smiled. “And for the record, my ‘tapper’ was working just fine.”

Alysa spit out her soup. She started keeling over with laughter.

Russell joined in, taking advantage of the moment.

Well played, boss.

When Alysa regained herself, she wiped tears from eyes and said, “I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. You’re alright, Marcus. At first, I had my doubts, but I’m glad I was wrong.”

“Ditto. Seems we got off on the wrong foot yesterday. I’m grateful that there’s still something left to laugh about.”

“You said it.” Alysa was nodding. “In fact, a lot of the books I read claimed that laughter has healing properties. Powerful stuff, I say.” She got back on track. “So, please, go on. Continue your story. You said something about a house?”

“Yes, we were exhausted and needed a place to hide out for the night-”

“What went wrong?”


“With you and Amanda… why didn’t it work out?”

Russell was puzzled by the push on the subject.

Alysa explained. “Call me curious, but I’ve always been interested in knowing what makes relationships tick… or not. Especially now. Do you mind? I promise I’ll let the matter rest afterwards.”

“Answer me one question first,” Russell said.

“Fair enough. Ask away.”

“Who broke your heart after the outbreak? I assume he didn’t die… but left you.”

Alysa’s face went dark.

Now you’ve done it, boss. So much for being cuddle buddies.

Alysa gently put her cup down, leaned back in her chair, and folded her hands in her lap. She stared at him as if trying to figure out what Russell was.

To Russell, it looked like she was about to explode.

He held her gaze a moment and then smiled. “Just kidding. That was a mean question to ask. I take it back. Sometimes my sense of humor is a bit warped as well.”

Alysa continued to state at him. Finally she smiled and said, “I guess I had that coming.”

Russell could tell that she was still trying to put out the fire within. He’d found a vulnerability to exploit. Now, he had to turn things back around. He chose to be completely honest. “The reason why Amanda and I didn’t work out was because she was already dead when we were together. Breathing, laughing, fucking… didn’t matter. She was pretending to be alive… and then eventually she really did… die.” He broke away from Alysa’s gaze to appear remorseful and was surprised by the genuine hint of sadness that struck him.

What was that, boss?

Russell did not know. But he believed Marcus might.

Alysa looked away, feeling uncomfortable by the whole exchange. She quickly re-routed the conversation. “So when your group found this house by the tracks, what happened next?”

Russell was equally grateful for the distraction. “We hunkered down for the night. Some stood watch while others tried to sleep. The dead eventually found us and we tried to become invisible. It was a very long night…”



Russell found the dark and silent house very comforting… very familiar. As he crept from room to room, peeking in on his sleeping travel companions, he smiled in wonder at the series of events which had brought him into this group. From meeting Amanda which led to eventually discovering Gina, he praised the Lady for his good fortune. Then by a turn of events, he was given the opportunity to save Gina’s life exiting the plant, winning him a seat of respect. And now, because of The Change and all the violence and bloodshed that accompanied this bizarre event, ten strangers had been brought together on a mutual quest for survival. No questions asked. It was all too… perfect.

He stopped at the base of the stairs and blended into the shadows. He marveled at the moonlight that invaded the dark home like graceful fingers of soft light which gently caressed various dark spaces. Russell found Mother Nature’s evening attire strange and believed she possessed mystical qualities far beyond his comprehension. It was human nature he understood: the mutual coexistence and denial of Man vs. Beast trapped in fragile flesh… and the tiresome struggle which always followed.

It’s just like old times, boss. Seems like we never stop creepin’ around these dark ass houses. Too bad we can’t sneak up on a few of these sleepin’ beauties and make the snore monsters go away.

Russell ignored him. His thoughts drifted to earlier. Stephen, the school teacher, had been sitting on the steps reading a book of some importance. As Russell had observed from the dark hallway, the teacher appeared to be speaking to the night by name. And he had called it… Nicole.

He’s a strange fucker, boss, the other one chimed in. Can’t quite put my finger on it yet… but, something feels awfully familiar about that egghead.

Russell would have to pay more attention to the strange young teacher. Perhaps the book was something they could use… perhaps it was something they could exploit. Time would tell.

Something stirred in the darkness just outside the porch door. Two figures. They stepped just inside, entering the moonlight where Russell could plainly see Amanda’s naked flesh. The obnoxious one, Charlie, was also there, clumsily trying to remove his clothing. Amanda immediately took control of the little man, forcing him to the floor. She aggressively mounted him. Amanda fucked him so hard that Russell swore he heard Charlie ask her to stop. She ignored him… and made Charlie her bitch.

Man, that fucking crazy sex addict needs some therapy, boss. Wanna join in? I’m game if we can include a little S & M… the painful kind.

“Where… where are you going?” Charlie called out.

Russell watched as Amanda stepped over him and grabbed her bottled poison. “I’m done with you. I’m going to bed.” She walked off without another word, heading straight for the downstairs bathroom to wash up, leaving Charlie alone in the dark.

Russell watched this whole dirty scene play out, not because it aroused him, but because of what Amanda was doing to Charlie’s pride. Within a few brief minutes, Amanda had made short work of Charlie as she used him until she was satisfied, and then rejected him outright.

That’s the kind of behavior that could cause a man to murder a woman, he thought. If Charlie, was indeed, a man, then he would not stand for Amanda’s abuse. The humiliation alone would smolder until something reignited the embers. If pushed the right way, Charlie’s temper could be made useful at some point. If Amanda continued to draw unwanted attention to him, like she almost did earlier on the stairs with her childish drama, perhaps he could get Charlie to take care of this drunk nuisance for him. Russell was concerned that Amanda would eventually jeopardize his efforts to win over Gina’s trust if she continued with her distracting outbursts. And he would kill her himself before letting that happen.

Boss, you’re about to play games, aren’t ya’? You know how much I love it when ya’ fuck with their heads.

Indeed, Russell knew very well how much the other one enjoyed the foreplay before the kill… in fact… he was counting on it to help him stall the beast. And if he couldn’t find a way to keep the animal entertained, Russell would eventually have to cave and give in to the blood lust. His control over the other one had its limits.

Charlie got up and slowly put his clothes back on, looking back repeatedly to see if anyone was watching. His pants irritated his bruised inner thighs making it difficult to sit. He hobbled out on to the porch feeling confused, and surprisingly… violated.

From the corner, just at the base of the stairs, Russell’s smile was shrouded in shadow. He turned and headed back up the stairs. He’d seen enough…


Next Episode 37-6

Previous Episode 37-4


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“Chapter 37-5: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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



“Stephen, Amanda, over here!” Charlie was headed toward them. He was almost running by the time he reached the trio. He wiped his sweaty head with his forearm. “Thank God. Some sensible people have arrived.” He noticed Marcus. “Who’s the new guy?”

“Marcus Dempsey,” Russell said, reaching out his hand. “I’m… a friend of Amanda’s.”

Charlie gave the extended hand a distrustful glance and said, “Yeah, whatever. Just stay out of the way, alright? Lots of shit going on right now.”

Russell smiled back, nodded, and then lowered his hand. He turned to Amanda and whispered, “Nice friends.”

“Charlie, stop being a dick!” Amanda said. “What’s got you all spun up?”

Can we gut this one, boss? Sounds like the others would thank us.

“Amanda, they’re getting ready to leave,” Charlie stammered. “Fucking goody-two-shoes goes bonkers and starts screaming about zombies coming and suddenly everyone wants to split!”

Russell, overhearing the conversation, wanted to laugh out loud. This was all working out so much better than he’d planned. He silently thanked the Lady for this tremendous opportunity.

“Zombies?” Amanda looked at Stephen who simply shrugged his shoulders. She rolled her eyes and said, “Why the fuck would they want to go out there? Did everyone lose their fucking minds since I was here last?”

“Exactly!” Charlie said. “That’s why you and Stephen need to come back and talk them out of it. There’s nothing coming. That fucking woman is losing it, screaming about how they’re coming and we have to leave now. The rest of them are buying her bullshit!”

“We really need to get back,” Stephen reminded them. He started toward the camp.

“Not you, too,” Charlie called after him. “I thought you were an educated man!”

“I believe Meredith,” was all he said.

“Fucking moron.” Charlie turned to Amanda and Russell. “Please come and talk to that big fucking idiot. They’re talking about using some abandoned train tracks near the south end of the plant—something stupid like that.”

“Train tracks?” Russell asked, feigning ignorance. “That’s smart. Fewer people near the tracks.”

Charlie dismissed him with a wave. “Let’s go. They might already be headed there.” Charlie impatiently prodded them along with hand gestures like a pudgy out-of-breath kid trying to catch the ice cream truck.

That obnoxious prick reeks of it, boss. You can smell the fear on him a mile away.

Amanda sighed and said to Russell, “See what I have to deal with here? Is it any wonder I left these losers.”

Russell was amused but hid it beneath his false concern. He began taking mental notes on Amanda’s so-called ‘loser’ friends.

When they reached the camp, Doug and the others were finishing up stuffing their small packs and distributing their collective of camping gear, water bottles and MRE’s. Doug was in the process of hammering something. Without looking up, he directed his inquiry toward Stephen. “It’s about time. Was about to give up on you two. Did you have to sober her up first?”

“Fuck you, Mr. Charming-As-Ever,” Amanda said.

This awarded her the finger. “I’d hurry up and pack. We’re leaving shortly.” Douglas continued hammering.

Amanda assessed the situation. Greg and his daughter were finishing packing. Meredith was napping and being looked after by a new girl she assumed was a nurse. Frank sat in his spot, watching nearby survivors with a hawk-like intensity—just being his usual anti-social self. Charlie continued to make his annoying presence known.

“And there he goes again,” Charlie said, dramatically throwing his arms in the air. “There’s no reasoning with this rock… and would you please stop hammering!”

Doug smiled and continued to hammer a little harder.

“Just where are we going exactly after we abandon this place we fought so hard to get to?” Amanda asked the rock. “Do you think we’ll just move back to our homes and wait this out?”

Doug continued hammering.

“Hey! Fuck Face! I’m talking to you. Build your bullshit later and answer my questions,” Amanda said.

Doug was finished. He lifted the baseball bat lined with long nails like a strange talisman. “That will do it. Pretty savage, I’ll admit, but better than bashing up my last good bat on those things’ skulls. I’ll need less force this way.”

Russell raised his eyebrows at the sight of the strange bat. He wanted to laugh out loud.

I think I like the look of things if that fuckin’ bat is any indication, boss. Maybe we can keep Doug around long enough to build some more toys. Seems like he wants to inflict some pain… my type a guy.

The bat is absurd, Russell thought back. Damn thing will get him killed the moment it gets stuck in bone.

Yeah, boss, I know… I know… but it sure looks scary, don’t it?

Amanda looked at the grotesque bat. “What the fuck’s that for?”

Doug looked at her finally and said, “To answer your questions, we’re going to take the tracks southwest out of Percy and into the neighboring forest, which runs as far away from people as we can get. With any luck we’ll make it to Fairport Harbor in a couple of days, catch a boat, and wait this out on one of the islands north of Port Clinton.”

“But you’ll still need someone to drive the boat,” Charlie reminded him. “Since you haven’t convinced me to go along on your suicide mission, I guess you’re shit out of-”

“Frank has informed me that he also knows how to navigate a boat. So just shut your pie-hole and pack, little man.”

Frank snickered, while continuing to monitor the surrounding survivors’ camps.

Charlie murdered him a thousand times with his eyes.

For a moment, Frank’s eyes fell on the stranger and lingered.

Russell smiled at the big man and nodded.

Frank was a stone. He stared a moment longer, sizing up the new guy, and then focused on the camps.

Don’t like the looks of that one, boss. He’s the type that pays attention… to everything.

Yes, Russell would have to tread carefully around the big man. Frank had the look of a man who was hiding something. And men who knew how to hide things could find things hidden in others.

“Anything else?” Doug was tired of talking. He held the bat across his large arms and remembered, “Oh, and this beauty is to stop any of those fuckers from keeping us from arriving at the marina. Hated to do this to my last stick—my favorite one, too—but I don’t imagine I’ll be playing ball for a while. I recommend you both arm yourselves with something other than words and get packing.”

“Fuck that! I’m not going out there!” Amanda held her ground. “Why don’t you put that bravado shit to rest and realize what you’re asking us to do! You came across a handful of those… zombies on the freeway, but you didn’t see the shit we saw in Willoughby and Mentor… There were hundreds of those fucking things killing people and we barely made it out of there! I lost my fucking daughter out there just a few days ago!”

This brought immediate silence.

Doug didn’t know how to respond. He chose to end the conversation. “Stay if you want, both of you. But if Meredith is right, we’re all going to die here. I’m not doing that. Choice is yours.”

Amanda turned to Russell. “Let’s get away from these fucking losers.”

You’re gonna have to think of somethin’ quick, boss. Without this bitch on board, the others might not let you play with them.

Russell was calculating.

“It’s Amanda, right? You should listen to him,” Gina said, stopping Amanda from storming off. “You weren’t here when Meredith… well… let’s just say that she was very convincing.”

Russell was distracted by the new voice as he turned his attention toward the red haired woman with the sad, and yet, compassionate green eyes. She was obviously afraid, but beneath the fear, Russell discovered gold.

This one has a strength about her that I’ve never seen before! he thought.

The other one sighed. Give it a fucking rest, boss. Stop looking for someone to save! They’re all ridiculous! If this group’s any indication of the quality of cattle left in the world… well… they’ll probably talk each other to death long before your blade reaches ‘em.

No, Russell continued. This one’s different. There’s a fire there, just behind her eyes. She’s the one we’ve been waiting for our whole lives! You can’t see it because you only know butchery… but I’m the artist, remember? I have the gift, and I’m telling you, she is The One.

You’re not fuckin’ with me, are you, boss? Are you certain this time?

Yes. He was certain. And the other one knew it… felt it.

Amanda looked up and caught Russell staring a little too long at the red-headed woman. She turned and glared at the stranger. “Will someone please tell me who this bossy bitch is? She your twin sister, Doug?”

A noise erupted from the woods to the east destroying all conversations. It sounded like a thousand maniacs riding on the wind. Ten seconds later it ceased.

She’s comin’, boss! Can ya’ feel it?

Yes. Russell could feel it. Death had just announced her arrival. He retrieved his machete. The beast within wanted to go on an immediate killing spree, starting with the fools in this dysfunctional group. But Russell held him back… barely. His heart raced. He never felt more alive.

“Holy shit!” Charlie fell on his ass. “What in Christ’s name was that?”

Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Go! We need to go! Quickly!”

Gina began to help her up and was surprised to find Frank on Meredith’s other side. “Keep your gun handy, girl,” he said to Gina. “Things are about to get ugly.”

Gina nodded to the big man and said without thinking, “I damn near wet myself after hearing that.”

“Me too,” Frank said with a wink.

Doug was up, staring toward the east with his insane looking bat drawn back to the swinging position. He looked terrified. After a moment, he took a breath and whispered to the air, “What are these demons?”

Greg and Ashley were huddled close. He had his axe in hand. “I reckon’ we should get while the gettin’s good, folks. Follow me.”

Charlie, Amanda and Russell watched the others depart.

“Fuck,” was all Charlie could say. “I can’t stop shaking long enough to think. Maybe we should just go.” He didn’t wait for a reply and scurried after the others.

Amanda couldn’t look away from the wood line without fearing something would rip her heart out as soon as she moved. She wanted to hide. She wanted to run. She was incapable of either.

Russell was there, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He whispered in her ear, “You can do this. Just focus on following the others and move your feet one step at a time. Don’t think. Just act. We’ll figure out what to do when we get away from here.” After a long pause, he added, “Don’t let the fear get you killed today.”

Amanda looked back at Russell, trembling, and said, “I’m so fucking afraid.”

“Can you feel it?” he asked.

“Feel what?”

“Can you feel your heartbeat racing to keep up with all this uncertainty—never knowing what waits just beyond the corner, or what stalks from the very next shadow? If you can still feel it, you’re still alive. Use it to move away from the fear. Being afraid is to know you’re still alive. Giving in to fear are the last remaining breaths before death. So choose, Amanda, for it sounds like we’re almost out of time.”

Amanda nodded and stepped forward. “Okay, let’s do this fucking crazy thing.”

Russell smiled. “We’ll have to hurry.”

Well played, boss. Now we get to have some fun.

Russell’s only concern was catching up to the red haired woman. If not for needing Amanda as his ticket into the group, he would’ve snapped her neck and left her body for the vultures. The blood lust had almost overwhelmed him anyway as he fought against it and won… this time. He knew that he would have to put the other one on notice. Now was not the time to go savage. Never had he been so close to achieving his dream. Gina was the key to achieving it. But things would have to change… he would have to evolve… and the other one would have to submit.

Russell gave Amanda an encouraging nod.

They ran off together to join the others before fear could devour their souls…



“…The dead came like a storm and devastated the power plant. We watched the slaughter on the way out from a train trestle,” Russell was finishing. “There was so much blood and destruction. It was… overwhelming.”

That’s the fuckin’ understatement of the year, boss. You almost couldn’t hold me down that day. Was a good thing you let me loose to kill a few of those dead things or I would’ve gutted all of them… including your precious prize, Gina.

Alysa was sitting down again. She placed her hands over her mouth as Russell had described in detail the events of that day, including in graphic detail… the slaughter.

To Russell, she seemed on the edge of breaking down. He had hoped to use the carnage committed at the power plant to rip open the scab and expose the woman’s wounded heart. It was evident that Russell’s story had made her revisit an equal tragedy buried in the young woman’s thoughts. However, she would not break.

“What was that you told Amanda? Something about not letting the fear kill you today?”

“Yes,” Russell said. “I had to wake her up and get her to see the cage for what it was. And the irony is that once you see the damn cage, you realize it isn’t a cage at all since the door stands wide open.”

“And what cage is that?”

“Safety… seclusion… isolation…” he said this while staring about the cabin to emphasize the point. “It’s all a slow working poison intended to kill from the inside out.”

Alysa’s face hardened. “I see. And what possessed you to save that woman near the trestle… Gina, right? I’m sure that if the situation had been reversed, she would’ve left you to die when the dead attacked, especially since you were nothing more than a stranger in her eyes.”

Russell paused. He found the question odd only because he’d never considered it before now. Yes, his motivations for saving Gina a number of times since that day were beyond anything anyone in his group, let alone this coward, could understand, but was Alysa correct? Would Gina let him die?

Your golden girl was in no hurry to come look for you when the woods caught fire, boss.

And then he remembered the tree. Gina had been stripped and beaten within an inch of her life, barely hanging on when Russell found her in Micom’s strange camp. But then she had distracted the swordsman by firing a gun at him, long enough for Russell to survive that vicious attack. Russell was not a slave to pride, he was clearly outmatched by the one called Copperfield. But then, Gina had saved him.

We have come so far, her and I, he thought. I never considered the possibility that while it’s my responsibility to bring Gina to her fullest potential, to one day present her before the Lady unblemished and worthy of the word ‘Alive’, I never considered what it meant for her to risk all of this… for me.

He felt extremely humbled… and confused. After killing this smug, worthless woman and getting away from her cabin of death, he would need to reflect upon this.

Stop it, boss! The other one was also confused, for different reasons. Gina is not your friend, your one-true-love, or anything else of consequence. She is a means to a fuckin’ end and the moment you forget that… the moment you forget that you are not Marcus… you and I will be revisiting our little arrangement. You know, the one where I behave only because you’ve promised a bloodbath like no other with this woman when the time has come?

Be still! Russell thought back.

Then don’t make me… angry… boss. Don’t you dare forget what we are… what we really are!

Russell was disturbed at how much resistance the other one was showing. He’d never done that before.

He turned to Alysa and said, “What concern is it of yours why I do the things I do? You’ve obviously chosen to forsake what it means to be ‘alive’ in exchange for your ghostly existence… here… in this graveyard you call a cabin. You look down at me for saving others. You think I’m being foolish to forsake safety in exchange for sacrifice, but it’s you who have no idea what living means because you sit here, unchallenged, untested, and very much full of yourself, believing that you aren’t acting out of fear, but out of ‘survival’. You are no damn different than the sheep I watched get slaughtered at the power plant! You play it safe and remove yourself from humanity, and give up your own claim on humanity in the process! That is not living, that is the definition of dying. And your kind have been doing that long before this world changed!”

Careful, boss. You’re tellin’ the bitch too much! Just stick to the story, entertain the piggy’s questions until you’re able to move, and then be done with this sickening mess of a woman. Afterwards, we’ll hang her carcass on the front door and burn this place to the ground.

Russell regained control. The other one was right. He almost screwed up and revealed himself to this stranger. If Alysa suspected for a moment just how much danger she was in, she could distance herself from him, maybe even leave him here to perish in this bed, while she went to find another hole to crawl into.

Alysa was surprisingly calm after the outburst. She picked up her soup cup and took a long sip of broth.

For a moment, Russell swore he saw the hint of a smile behind that cup as she stared at him from deep within her hood.

She put the cup down. Her face was unreadable again. “I’ve always hated the cold,” she said. “Worst thing about this new world for me was the long-ass winter we just had. No matter what I did, I could never shake the chill… it’s rather unpleasant. I will miss things like central heat, snow plow trucks, and updated weather forecasts that always told me when to dress warmer. Now, the winters will be longer than before, even after spring arrives, because we can’t help remove it like we once did. That’s something I’m going to have to get used to.”

Russell waited for the point.

Alysa smiled. “I’m sorry I upset you. I’ve been away from people too long and I’ve forgotten what the boundaries were between strangers. But I feel I must clarify a couple of things: Apart from what I’ve just told you, I will not miss anything from the old world. Of that, you can be certain about me. Also, I’m not here cowering from the world out there… I’m preparing… like you… but in my own way.”

Russell did not know how to respond.

She took over. “But enough about that. I’ll tread more carefully with my questions next time. If you’re still willing, I’d love to hear a little more about your adventures while we’re forced to share each other’s company. But first things first, let’s get you some more soup while it’s still hot. After that, I’ll let you rest and we can talk again tomorrow.”


Next Episode 37-5

Previous Episode 37-3


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“Chapter 37-4: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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




The middle-aged viper with long brown hair had a body that was more lethal than any hunting knife Russell had ever owned. Women like this, who had been mastering the minds of the weak since the beginning of time, could slit the throat of man’s entire domestic illusion–the blood of fidelity and integrity oozing out from the fatal wound–until only a dead dog remained. Yes, Russell had once frequented the dens of these destroyers of marriages and self-respect, had once hunted them down in their local watering holes and nightclubs believing he was answering the call. But he had discovered that they, like himself, were agents by Death’s design used to weed out the tarnished souls who could not help but fall victim to a depraved world in need of salvation… his salvation.

The woman danced, flirted, and manipulated until she received whatever she desired, offering a temporal fantasy in return; each man giving in to sexual gratification, trading in all they once claimed valuable for a few minutes of pleasure.

In light of recent events, Russell admired this woman’s ability to remain oblivious to Death’s march across Northeast Ohio, which had forced all these useless sheep to pen themselves in behind a cage called ‘Safety’. The National Guard had made promises they could not keep behind the fences of the Percy Power Plant. Death was coming for all these fools… and she always kept her promises.

Russell sat toward the back of the large community camp fire, observing the seductress work her magic on several men who offered up bottles of spirits and camping supplies in exchange for the further degradation of their souls.

You wanna tap that fine piece, don’t cha’, boss? the other one chimed in. Rip her up the middle while she’s got those fine ass legs wrapped around ya’? They never see it comin’… never see their own death stormin’ in when they think they be the ones doin’ the killin’.

“Be silent, dog,” Russell whispered. “We don’t deal with their kind any more. You know this.”

You used ta’ enjoy it, boss. You used ta’ love stealin’ all that power back and watchin’ them realize it when the fear glazed over their eyes.

Russell refused to gratify that with a response. Most times, when ignored long enough, the other one would return to that primitive cave buried deep within the savage part of his dark mind.

But not tonight.

You ‘ain’t seein’ the big picture yet, boss. You still tryin’ to play by the old rules that had us workin’ in the shadows of a civilized world. Take a good look around. Civilized just got devoured by the shadows… and all these piggies are fair game now. There’s nothin’ stopping ya’ from indulging in the blood bath anymore. It’s open season on anyone, anywhere, any damn time!

“Be still.”

It’s time to come the fuck out of the shadows, boss. This brand new world’s ripe for the takin’. Anything is possible now.

Russell could not argue against the point. Since the dead had come, no one cared any longer about tracking down his kind in order to maintain the lie that the day remained safe. There were other monsters to contend with now.

Just look at her, boss. She’s hidin’ from the same damn thing they’re all hidin’ from. She may be wrappin’ those fine legs around the masses, laughin’ and drinkin’ and fuckin’ like she’s still got control, but inside she’s afraid… afraid of the night that’s come to rip all the power she ever had away. There is no more control! There’s only Death…

“Yes… there’s only Death.” Russell found that thought exhilarating… liberating.

Fuckin’ intoxicating, boss! Can’t ya’ feel it yet?

The seductress with long brown hair pulled herself away from the advances of the latest dog with a teasing laugh. She stumbled toward the community fire and emptied the remains of a bottle of bourbon down her throat. She stared at the empty bottle as if it had spoken the worst news imaginable and then she looked up. Her eyes met Russell’s stare.

Ya’ see it, boss? Do ya’ see it now?

Russell did. The woman was terrified… but she continued to fight back. Perhaps this one was different? Perhaps she could still be saved?

The woman flashed him an inviting smile.

Russell smiled back and waved her over.

That’s the way, boss. You have yourself some fun with that hot little fuck-machine and then… we get really nasty! And you won’t even have to clean up the mess when you’re done ‘cause the maid’s on a permanent vacation and no one’s gonna be around to check out the bloodwork, anyhow.

The woman sat down next to Russell, deliberately moving in close. “Hey stranger,” she said. “You keep staring at me like we know each other from somewhere.”

“Was I?” Russell smiled.

The woman laughed. “It’s kind of hard not to notice with those intense eyes of yours. You should work on being less obvious.”

“My apologies. I guess I was being obvious. You’ll have to forgive me, but since the shit hit the fan, you are by far the best thing I’ve seen since arriving here.”

“I see subtle isn’t your thing,” she teased. “I’ll take that as a compliment… a bit creepy… but I’m not picky these days.”

Russell laughed. “All I meant was that it’s refreshing to find someone who isn’t letting everything steal their spirit away. You seem to be having a good time in a place where so many people look like they’re just waiting to die. I find your attitude… encouraging.”

“I know… right?” the woman said. “I’ve been saying the same thing since I got here. I mean, yeah, it’s terrible what’s going on, but we’re here now, safe and sound. Everything will eventually work out. In the meantime, what’s the harm in having some fun. Know what I mean?”

Russell nodded. “I know exactly what you mean. My name’s… Marcus Dempsey.” He held out his hand.

The woman looked at the outstretched hand, amused by his strange gesture. She took it, laughed, and said, “Amanda… Amanda Howard.”

“It’s wonderful to meet you, Amanda Howard.”

She looked into his eyes, trying to read the strange man’s intent, and was surprised that she couldn’t. She shifted gears. “Well… Marcus…” She lifted up the empty bottle. “It seems like the party around here is getting stale. I’d love to stick around and talk to you, but I should get back to my people.” She sighed heavily. “And they’re about as much fun as surgery.”

Russell laughed and then mocked disappointment. “That’s really too bad.”

Amanda gave him an amused look. “How so?”

“Well… I have this tent just around the corner and-”

She feigned surprise and lightly elbowed him. “Wow! Again, subtle is not your thing is it?”

Russell lifted his hands. “All I meant was that I happen to have a bottle of vodka… and I’m not a fan of drinking alone. We could continue ‘talking’ over a shot or two… unless you wanted to get back to that surgery?”

Amanda laughed. “Hell… no!” She studied the strange man again. “Well, as long as we’re just talking, I guess I could join you. Would be a shame to drink that bottle all by yourself.”

“Yes it would.”

“Just to let you know,” she cautioned. “I’m not that kind of girl, so don’t get any ideas, alright?”

Russell shook his head. “Just your company is all I require. No funny stuff… I promise.”

She gave the man one last cautious look and then stood up. “Alright, Marcus, let’s move this party to your place.”

“Sounds like a great idea.” Russell led the way back to his tent.

Here… piggy… piggy… piggy… the other one mocked.


The sex had been… overwhelming. Russell had never been with a woman who tried as hard as Amanda to suppress the darkness which raged within. Once the damaged woman began sucking down the vodka, she gave in to her primitive side, releasing her raw and unmanageable emotions into every thrust, every moan, forging the pain of memories, which tormented her like a thousand demons, until her flesh became a pliable weapon of pleasure to combat those memories. Amanda had attacked him with her insatiable need to forget, forcing Russell to oblige by penetrating her in various positions until the manic woman finally climaxed and collapsed from exhaustion; the sexual presence which possessed her–now exorcized.

It took all Russell had not to give in to the savage who demanded blood as he fought against the urge to reach into his pack and retrieve his hunting knife. Amanda had reduced him to an animal the moment she had wrapped her legs around him, demanding Russell to commit to her bestiality. Her idea of pleasure sickened him… but aroused the other one.

After she was done using him, Amanda had retrieved the bottle and spewed her horrible past all over him: Her dead daughter, dead marriage, dead self-respect… dead soul.

Russell had lost the desire to carry out the act of salvation. The other one had coerced him into believing that Amanda was ready, but the truth was evident: Amanda was beyond saving.

When the woman finally passed out, Russell dressed and stormed out into the night, leaving the nylon tomb behind, but needing to vent his frustration on something… living.

He walked away from the tent community, being mindful to avoid the notice of the patrols, until finding a vacant space dominated by late-night shadows. He could smell them now, all of them. The camp refugees all reeked of fear like carcasses left out for days in the hot sun, filling the void left behind by the vultures which now circled this world and… like himself… were looking for something fresh to kill…

…to save.

Russell felt nauseated and uncertain.

“Where do I belong in this disease-inflicted world where fear has already destroyed my purpose?” he asked the night.

The night had no response.

Should’ve gutted the slut, boss.

Of course. He always had something to add.

You ain’t Mr. Scary anymore, boss. These pathetic piggies can’t stop wettin’ themselves thinkin’ ‘bout those nasty fuckers with a hunger for flesh. They’ve put you and your brand of terror out of business.

“Shut up.”

Just sayin’ what you already know, boss. There’s nothin’ left to save. They’re all fucked now.

“There was Janet Schuler. She could still see me… she could still understand-”

She didn’t see you, boss, the other one said. She was already dead to fear when ya’ brought her out of those woods. Should’ve bled her in the van.

“Bullshit. She could still see me! Janet tasted salvation-”

The other one laughed.

“You’re no different from the Dead! You’re a mindless dog that only knows slaughter! Who are you to tell me anything?”

I’m you’re last fucking chance, boss. Let me loose on this world and I’ll show them what ‘terrifying’ looks like. I’ll make ‘em all remember what real fear is when they’re wearin’ their insides to stay warm at night. I’ll make ‘em scream and scream just like those three you met on the way in…


The other one was still.

Russell dropped to his knees and stared into the night. “My Lady… what would you have me do now? I see that you have moved your hand across this pathetic world and removed the blindfold of lies from their eyes. They now know that nothing they believed in was real… was safe. They now know they are hunted by fear… and yet… they succumb to it. They lie down and wait for it! What would you have me do? How can I save them… how can I prepare them for your embrace when they worship the fear and wait for it to claim them?”

Still no answer.

He closed his eyes. Since the deliverance of Janet Schuler, he had killed three more people. Their deaths felt bland and meaningless… savage. Was that all there was now? Was he supposed to join the ranks of the oblivious dead which fed upon the living indiscriminately and with no other reason to exist? Was he destined to become a beast driven by the same base calling of blood as his sole purpose?

“No,” he whispered. “There must be more.”

Russell stared down at his right hand and noticed the hunting knife for the first time. He’d acquired it from Sarah’s stolen supplies and kept it as a reminder of the woman’s struggle to get away from him, to survive. He regretted not reaching the woman in time to capture that look of freedom in her eyes before rescuing her from this life. But was he just fooling himself into believing he was anything other than a mundane killer now? Sarah’s untimely fall off the cliff seemed to leave the question hanging unanswered forever. If only he could’ve seen her eyes… and then he’d tried to find it in Amanda’s eyes… and found nothing.

Russell was gripping the knife so tightly that his hand shook. He opened his hand and let the knife fall to the ground. Russell stared at it. He could feel it taunting him to turn its single sharp tooth to crimson…

…and feed.

The other one laughed inside his head.


In the morning, Russell had made a decision to leave the Percy Power Plant in the hope of finding clarity out in the ‘free’ world where Death made her presence felt among those who still valued their lives… wherever they were. He wanted… no… he absolutely needed to feel his heart race, preferring to stay just out of the Lady’s reach, where one could truly ‘feel’ alive inches away from being devoured, as opposed to rotting away in this cesspool of fear. He had decided to take Amanda with him, believing that his judgment of her as a lost cause might have been premature since the stench of fear dominated everyone in the camp. Maybe out there, he could help her find something genuine.

You’re being foolish, boss. Nothin’ can bring these piggies back. They’re all fodder now. Just another food source, like chickens with their fuckin’ heads removed that still hop around not realizing they’re dead yet.

“We’ll see,” Russell had said, feeling much lighter knowing that he was evacuating this death camp.

The bitch won’t wake up, boss. Fear’s got her all spread-eagle on the buffet table of this new world, while she just waits there for the hordes to gang-rape her ass before finishin’ the feast. She won’t come with you… but that doesn’t mean we can’t slice and dice her up before we head out.

Russell had wasted no more time addressing the animal.


They dressed in the morning-after-silence as Russell listened to the camp’s activity just on the other side of his tent flap. He stole occasional glances at Amanda as she continued to eyeball the remains of his vodka.

The whore’s got it bad, boss. I bet she’d let you cut out her tongue for another bottle. We could always hope anyway.

Russell ignored him. He rushed to get his clothes on before Amanda wanted more sex.

“Rushing back to your wife on the other side of camp?” she teased.

“You got it. She doesn’t mind me seeing other women as long as I check in on occasion. Sometimes she wants to… how do I put this… participate? She has a thing for big-breasted woman.” Russell continued to play off of Amanda’s adventurous sexual practices. He’d hoped the joke would lighten the mood.

Amanda looked at the vodka again. She forced a laugh, then got up and punched him in the shoulder. “It’s a good thing you’re full of shit. If you had a wife, I’d have your nuts in my hand right now and I’d take them to her myself!”

“My, you’re a feisty one. No hidden wives in my pocket.”

No… but we would love to stick our hidden machete right in your-

“You know, this is going to sound crazy, and I know we’ve only just met, but this apocalypse is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.” Russell went fishing.

“That is crazy.” She reached for the bottle and took a sip.

“I don’t mean to sound selfish and horrible, considering everyone who’s died, but if none of this had happened I would never have met you.”

“Well, isn’t that some romantic shit.” She rolled her eyes and finished off the bottle.

Try somethin’ else, boss. This crazy bitch ain’t the Valentine’s Day type. Just give her somethin’ to suck on and she’ll eat razor blades out of your hand.

Russell began to pack his gear. “In any case, I’m not trying to get all lovey-dovey on you. I just wanted to say I had a great time last night and I like you, Amanda. I hope we’ll get a chance to know each other better when all this blows over.”

“Finally, someone who isn’t looking all gloom and doom right now! You should talk to the losers I came in with. You would think the world was ending and that we should be searching for razor blades after listening to them.”

Now that’s funny, boss. She must have heard me talking about razor blades. Maybe I possess the power of suggestion. Let’s try it: Hey, crazy bitch… lay down and slit your own throat!

“They fear the worst. That’s natural,” Russell said. “Fear keeps us in cages. I try not to focus on it and look for the positive slant instead.”

“Which is?” Amanda asked.

He kissed her.

“Good answer.”

Smooth, boss.

Russell pulled away and stood by the tent exit. “It’s beautiful out there today. People are using the good weather to help them forget.”

“Well sure they are. Anything’s better than dwelling on… what’s been lost.”

Russell smiled. “They’re trying to forget how afraid they are. You can almost smell their fear. I bet those predators out there can smell it, too.”

“Let’s not bring them up.”

Russell paused to gain her complete attention. He finally said, “Once you lose everything and survive it, there’s really nothing left to fear.”

Amanda said nothing. She nodded politely instead.

“I lost my family, my loved ones, long before this outbreak,” he continued. “I had to face that in order to survive. Once you face the emptiness, Amanda, as I was forced to do at an early age, fear loses its power. And from there, a whole new world rises up from the broken one. Everything becomes fresh again; new choices, opportunities… freedom. Know what I mean?”

“No, I don’t know what you mean,” she said. “When you lose a child it’s like the whole world just becomes a lie and nothing feels the same again. You talk about emptiness, well, that’s the place where my soul used to be and it fucking died with my daughter. There’s no way to face that kind of loss.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry, Amanda. I know your life has been hard. First, losing your husband and then your reputation… and now your daughter-”

“You don’t know shit about me!”

Careful, boss. Watch where you’re cutting… and how deep, the other one teased.

Russell looked confused. “You told me quite a bit last night. In fact, after we had sex, I didn’t think you would ever stop talking. You even broke down into tears.”

“That was just the alcohol talking,” she defended. “It tends to get me into trouble in more ways than one. Whatever I told you last night about my life… well, you just forget you heard it!”

“Fair enough. I thought sharing a little in return would put you at ease. Either way, we both now have a tremendous opportunity to break free of our prisons of fear. That’s why I’m leaving tomorrow… and I want you to come with me.”

“To go where? Out there among your fucking predators!? Why on earth would we leave now? It’s unsafe.”

I told ‘ya she wouldn’t come, boss. The only comin’ she’s interested in-

“But I thought you didn’t subscribe to the doom and gloom theories?” he said.

“I don’t… I mean… I believe law and order will eventually be restored—it’s just a matter of time. But we’re safe here until it is. There’s nothing out there but death!”

“And there’s nothing within these fences but fear—fear kept under control by a few flimsy barricades and the presence of some guards with guns. Out there is providence. Out there is a new beginning. Out there anyone can wipe the slate clean and start again; be anything they want, have anything—sky’s the limit, Amanda.”

Now we’re talkin’, boss. Let’s leave this skank and get out there and kill something!

“Why are you trying to sell me on the idea of suicide? You make it sound like it’s a choice between fear and death, and you would say choose death.”

Russell looked excited. Could there be hope for this one? If Amanda could already see the choices, might he be able to help her choose correctly, to choose Death and fight the fear? There was a chance he could save her out there. He could help her rise to her true potential and find herself, and then, at the moment she mastered her fears… when she was ready to look the Lady in the eye with confidence… he would introduce her to Death. “Now you’re starting to see it! Out there, Death is nipping at your heels on a daily basis, reminding you that you’re still alive. But in here, Fear is slowly eating away your one true chance to be free. It’s too much like the old days in here.”

Safety… the oldest illusion and an ancient poison still infecting so many in this new world, he thought.

Amanda was getting livid. “You sound like you don’t want things back to normal. That’s fucked-up. You know what, enough with all this philosophical tree-hugging crap. We were having a good time here, and now you’re about to ruin it with all your deep-thinking bullshit! If you just wanted to get rid of me you didn’t have to go to all this trouble. You know damn well I can’t go with you ‘out there’ so you’re trying to scare me off—make me think you’re nuts so I’ll just leave!”

Oh, what a shame, boss. Even I was gettin’ excited for a minute. All that glorious blood at the moment of departure… there’s nothing like it when you’ve prepped them for the journey.

Indeed, Russell thought. He tried hard not to let his disappointment show.

“Please come with me, Amanda,” he said. “We both need to do this.”

“You don’t know what I need!”

The shadow of a man appeared at the tent entrance. “Amanda, it’s Stephen. May I please talk to you? It’s urgent.”

She rolled her eyes at Russell and threw her hands in the air. “Now what?”

“Amanda, are you decent? May I come in?”

“Sure. Come on in,” she called out.

Stephen entered dripping with sweat. He noticed Russell in a corner collecting some things and simply nodded in his direction.

Russell ignored him.

Not this annoying fucker again. Can we kill this one, boss?

Stephen spoke with labored breaths. “Doug wants us all back at the camp site. We’re trying to get everything packed up as quickly and as quietly as possible.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Stephen? Start making some sense!” Amanda was alarmed.

“We have to go. Right now! There’s no time for me to explain.”

“Well, you better make some fucking time! Besides, I’m with Marcus now.”

Russell raised his eyes in surprise and she quickly shot him a dirty look.

“Just go back and tell that stupid steroid-pumping freak that I’m off the damn team!” she said.

“You never fucking listen, you self-important bitch!” Stephen broke in. “Stop trying to be the queen-shit bound and determined to ruin my life and listen to me for once!”

Woah, boss. What just happened?

Russell was just as surprised. For a moment he considered stepping in on Amanda’s behalf to play the role of overprotective boyfriend, but chose to watch this scene play out instead.

Amanda was shocked into silence.

Stephen looked confused, and then calmed down and finished, “Sorry… Amanda. I don’t know what came over me.”

Amanda raised her eyebrows, still stunned by the outburst. “Just say what you came to say.”

“It’s Meredith. She lost it… had some sort of episode. She’s convinced they’re coming. Hell, we all believe her. Besides, the camp’s turning on us. They tried to kill her a little while ago.”

“Kill Meredith? Why would they do that? Who’s coming?”

Stephen was shaking his head. “Them… those things… Meredith said they’re coming! Doug said we’re leaving now. He doesn’t care if you come or not. I had to almost beg him to wait long enough for me to get you.”

Russell was listening intently.

“Did they breach the fence? What do you mean, ‘leaving’?” Amanda was beside herself.

“Something about abandoned railroad tracks… doesn’t matter… we have to get back.”

You hear that, boss? They know about the tracks.

Russell tried real hard to hide his amusement as well as his excitement, sensing that the Lady had just presented him with an incredible opportunity.

Amanda looked to Russell. She swore she saw the hint of a smile crack the surface of his concerned face.

Stephen was already half-way outside the tent. “Are you coming or not? I can’t wait.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to hear what they have to say,” Russell offered.

“Fuck me,” she said, putting her shoes on. She addressed Russell without looking at him, “Are you coming or should I expect your tent to be moved by the time I get back?”

Stephen gave the stranger a puzzled look, neither seconding nor protesting the invite.

“I’ll grab my things,” was all he said.

Finally, boss! We’re gettin’ the hell out of here! Maybe we can kill a few of these piggies on the way.

Russell could sense that the Lady was coming. He didn’t know how or when, but death was about to invade this prison of fear. And for that, he was excited. Nothing gave him more pleasure than knowing that the dead would slaughter every living thing in this camp, giving these fear-infested souls a fitting end. None of them were worthy to taste his salvation. And only darkness waited for those who served their own fears.

I hope you all choke on your poison of Safety, Russell thought, right before the dead rip your throats out with their teeth…


Next Episode 37-4

Previous Episode 37-2


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

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

“Chapter 37-3: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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




Russell sat close to the campfire trying to stay warm. The night was ominous and alive, like a stalking predator waiting to pounce on anything with a heartbeat. He immediately thought of the monsters which had haunted the woods just outside of the Schuler residence. Russell was prepared to strike back at the night like a viper should anything step out of the shadows. He stole quick glances at the three idiots who looked like doctors or scientists, judging by the amount of gadgets they lugged around. They had foolishly made camp in the middle of nowhere and Russell did not understand why they didn’t fathom that their campfire was a beacon for anything lurking in the dark. He was surprised they had lasted this long.

To the others, Russell appeared despondent and afraid as they tried to imagine the unspoken horrors he’d faced to make it this far. None of them knew what to say to console the desperate man as they were still battling their own disbelief and terror at the nightmares which recently came to life and fed upon the living.

“Thank you for sharing your fire,” Russell said, attempting to break the tension. “I was starting to think that I was the only one left out here.”

A robust man wearing a parka, readjusted the frames above his nose for the third time as he struggled to speak.

Russell had quickly deduced that he was the acting spokesman for this small band of fools who had no clue what to do outside of the Emergency Room or whatever lab they crawled out of.

“Like I was telling my colleagues earlier… John… right?”

Russell nodded.

“Well, John,” Mr. Robust continued, “like I was telling them, it’s good to have any help we can get right now because it’s imperative that we reach the power plant. We were part of a military convoy that got attacked on a back road near here. The soldiers fought off the attackers and directed us into woods. They told us to follow the tracks into Percy. Fortunately we still had our gear and equipment in order to set up a modified lab on arrival.”

Eggheads, boss. I fuckin’ knew it.

“Anyway, long story short, John, our survival is critical. We have information vital to understanding the virus that has affected the population. Not that I can discuss the details with you in any way that you can understand… I mean no offense… but what this is, is just not something we can put into layman’s terms. Also, the particulars of this outbreak are of a sensitive nature and considered classified. We would be remiss in our responsibilities if we discussed what we know with the general public. In fact, we could be prosecuted for discussing anything in relation to the outbreak-”

“Give it a rest, Dempsey!” the female of the group interrupted. “Can’t you see that this man’s not interested in what you have to say right now? He’s scared to death. We all are.”

Dempsey readjusted his frames again, feeling flustered. “Sarah, I was only trying to explain to the man why we’re out here, and why it’s imperative that we reach the power plant.”

“And this gentleman, I’m sure, could give a shit right now, Doctor Dempsey,” the third member of the group chimed in. “With all due respect, just leave the man be. You’re just lying to him anyway.”

“I most certainly am not!” Dempsey was indignant. “We do possess the means to cure this thing… and we will!”

The third man turned to Russell. “Please excuse my colleague. Doctor Dempsey is the very winded but unfailing optimist of our little group. Truth is, we’re shooting in the dark. No one knows what this is yet… maybe we never will.”

Russell simply nodded. “It’s alright. I’m just glad to be here and still in one piece.”

Sarah took over. “Thank you once again, Doctor Conner, for reminding us all of your endless supply of sarcasm and pessimism.”

Conner dismissed her with a wave.

Sarah turned to Russell. “Are you warm enough, John? Hungry?”

“Yes… and yes. Thank you.” Russell shifted gears. “So, it sounds like you three know something about what’s happening. I heard a cure mentioned. Do you think that’s possible?”

“Absolutely,” Dempsey quickly chimed in.

“You and your wild theories will probably just make it worse,” Conner added. “We’ve let a bug loose this time that’s bigger than we can contain. And that’s what we’re going to discover in the end.”

“Humbug!” Dempsey said.

“Boys… please… just settle down.” Sarah returned to Russell. “What my colleagues and I are attempting to do is assess the nature of this strain and stop it, if we can. Cure it? Well… we’re going to try.”

“Do you really believe that?” Russell asked.

“We’ve had some promising initial findings,” Sarah said. “That’s why we were being rushed over to the power plant. They wanted us somewhere safe so we could continue our research. Our facility was breached.”

“And now we’re stuck out here with all this equipment, no tech support, no soldiers, and no God damn idea what we’re really doing!” Conner was clearly frustrated. “We’ll probably be dead by dawn when this thing goes airborne.”

“Shut your mouth!” Dempsey was furious. “No one said anything about that! Your fearmongering will get us nowhere!”

Sarah rolled her eyes at Russell as the two men continued arguing. “Excuse me, John. I need to calm them down before they wake the whole forest. We are usually a lot more… professional… than this.”

Russell smiled and leaned in. “You seem to be the true brains of this outfit. I’ll trust your judgment.” He finished with a wink.

Sarah let out a weak smile. “Just stay warm, John. We’ll all get to the plant in the morning. I promise.”

Russell watched the woman scientist attempt to break up the dispute.

And there you have it, boss. Even the brainiacs are one short rung away from killen’ each other. It’s gonna be one glorious blood-fest when they all snap and join the cause.

And what cause are you referring to? Russell thought back.

The other one laughed. You really haven’t been payin’ attention, have you, boss? While you’re missin’ out on the endless opportunities to finally indulge… and out in the open… you’re still lookin’ for someone to save.

Nothing’s changed, savage. I answer to the Lady… not to your blood lust. Russell shifted uncomfortably. And I certainly won’t reduce myself to the meaningless brutality of these dead things walking about. Even you, with your base motivations, should understand that every kill should still mean… something.

And they do, boss… they do! To you and me every death is beautiful… and savage. And now the world has revealed its savage side, but you still won’t LET ME LOOSE!!! It’s not fair that you continue to suppress us!

And now you’re acting as childish as these scientists. Speaking about fairness as if that were an actual thing. Russell shook his head. Go to your room and pout, if you must, but I am an instrument of grace… not destruction.

You are a damn fool, boss! Just look around you. The animals are all comin’ out of the cages… and I’m not just talkin’ ‘bout your dead friends. Pretty soon, every dark thought and inclination that these piggies have ever had when they were strokin’ themselves in the dark, all safe and sound in their beds, are gonna come out into the open. When they were pretendin’ to be all civilized by day, but coveted their monstrous thoughts when no one was lookin’, when no one could see them hidin’ in the darkness… that’s what’s comin’ out now, boss.

Russell did not like where this was heading. He had to admit, since the monsters showed up, which hunted the day as well as the night, indiscriminately, there seemed to be no limits and no rules in place to govern Death’s hand any longer. In light of this, Russell did not know his place. Once, he operated under the guise of daylight, pretending to be like everyone else, while he searched out his next mission, planned, and made himself ready to purge another lost soul from this false world. Then, he would come out from the shadows to deliver them. But now, the shadows had engulfed the day… and they were occupied by these self-serving perverse creatures that only hunted to… feed.

You feel it, don’t you, boss? You know I’m right. If nothin’ else, you have ta’ admit, this new world we’ve found ourselves in… is fuckin’ liberating!

Indeed, Russell could not argue against that point. As uncertain as he was about his place in the new world, he was still equally certain that this world was destined to be… and it was glorious! Gone were all the lies and pretention of the previous ways Mankind lived… which was no life at all. Now, they would have to choose between truly living for the first time, or, succumbing to the fear in which they previously served.

Russell stared at the squabbling scientists. Even now, they were oblivious to the dark, only concerned about preserving such obsolete notions as primitive as ‘I am right, you are wrong’. There was no place for foolish pride now.

Perhaps you could remind them of a thing or two, boss. Or at least, test the waters. Let your hair down a little and take a taste. If I’m wrong, you can still go back to your noble quest.

Russell shook his head. You are single-minded and predictable. You think you can tempt me with this line of thinking?

The other one laughed. Can’t fool you, boss. Can’t blame me for tryin’. How about another angle? They spoke of curing this thing. Well… what if they can? I don’t know about those other two fools, but the woman… well, hell… she’s strong. Do you really want them to succeed?

No. He certainly did not.

Just a taste, boss. Besides, their blood would further the cause of this new world. And you and I know that we don’t want to get in the way of that!

No. Russell did not.

Looky over there, boss. Do you see what I see?

Russell turned toward a pile of camping gear. A machete, their only weapon, lay propped up against the gear.

He started calculating.

“…And furthermore, I don’t appreciate your negative commentary when all I’m trying to do is solve this crises, Conner!” Dempsey was red in the face. “Does it bring you some perverse joy to scare people with your doom-and-gloom outlook?”

Conner was equally upset. “Nothing changes with you, does it? Even now, you’ve managed to twist a global epidemic so that it somehow revolves around you, the center of the damn universe! Frankly, it’s that kind of arrogance that probably let the superbug out to begin with!”

“How dare you!”

“Gentlemen, please!” Sarah pleaded. “This is getting us nowhere. What we need right now is to calm down. Lack of sleep is clearly affecting our judgment. Let’s just get to the power plant in one piece before we do the work of this outbreak for it by killing each other.”

Both men huffed at their female colleague, neither one appreciating being scolded like children. But in the end, reason finally won and they settled down.

“Now, let’s keep it together and work out a watch rotation for the evening. God only knows what’s out there in the dark and we need to stay vigilant.” Sarah let out a deep breath and smiled at them. “Okay?”

Both men, now feeling foolish for their outburst, simply nodded and started looking for anything to occupy themselves for a few minutes.

Sarah turned toward Russell. He was still sitting by the fire, pretending not to overhear their foolishness. She walked over and knelt down beside him. “Sorry about that. Emotions are running high right now.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Russell said.

Sarah was exhausted. “Can I get you anything? We’re going to set a watch tonight and-”

“Sarah,” Russell interrupted. “Do you really believe there’s a cure?”

The woman hesitated before answering and then her weary face lit up with sincere optimism. “Yes, John, I believe if given enough time, we can beat this thing. It may not look it right now, but we are probably the best qualified people in Northeast Ohio to understand this… virus. Once we get it up under a microscope and study it further, we’ll figure out how to stop it. You can count on it.”

Russell bowed his head, closed his eyes, and let out a deep sigh.

“Are you alright, John?”

“I need you to do something for me.”

“Sure. If I can. What is it?”

Russell looked into her eyes. “I need you to run, Sarah.”

“Excuse me?”

He retrieved the machete from behind his back and placed her reflection within the blade.

Sarah looked at the weapon with concern. “John, what… what are you doing with that?”

He stood up suddenly, causing Sarah to fall backwards into the dirt. He quickly assessed the other two, who were presently distracted by their own futile thoughts. Russell looked down at the shocked woman. “If you really believe that you can save your obsolete world, Sarah, then fight for it.”

She looked back. “Dempsey! Conner! We have a little problem here!”

Both men stopped and stared at the strange man holding the machete. Russell no longer resembled the broken soul who shared their fire a few moments before. Both men looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed next.

Russell said to Sarah, “Because I believe you may have some steel left in you, Sarah, I will come for you last. I offer you one last chance, on this side of life, to do something you’ve never had to do before.”

Sarah was terrified. She lifted her hands defensively. “Whatever you say, John. Just please calm down and put that away… please!”

Russell lifted the blade. “One more chance, Sarah. Will you take it?”

“One more chance for what?”

Russell smiled. “To learn what it means to be alive.”



“John, wait a minute-”


Sarah screamed as the maniac with the machete stormed past her.

Conner stepped forward to confront the man. He raised his arm. “Hold on! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Russell was quick. The man’s outstretched arm fell to the ground.

Conner simply stared at it, unable to process what just happened. He looked at the blood flowing from where his arm used to be and started to scream.

Russell pushed the man to the ground and started stabbing him in the chest… five… seven… eleven times… The maniac’s face was covered in the sarcastic scientist’s blood.

“Dear God! What have you… what have you done?” Dempsey’s face went pale. He turned to run and stumbled over gear.

Sarah somehow managed to get up and force her lethargic legs to move. The killer’s attention was focused on Dempsey now.

Sarah, I will come for you last.

She turned and fled into the night, unable to scream because she struggled to breathe. She could hear her heart race in her ears, the dead leaves crunching beneath her panic-driven feet, the unseen low branches snapping across her face as she sprinted blindly through the dark. Something snagged a piece of her hair and ripped it out. Something else tried to trip her as she stumbled, just managing to stay on her feet as her momentum pushed her forward.

Dempsey’s tortured screams chased behind her as he tried to plead for his life… and then begged for a merciful death. After the maniac was done indulging in the kill, she knew he would be coming after her.

Sarah pushed harder than she’d ever pushed in her life. She felt like her lungs were about to burst as blood dripped down her face and into her eyes from several gashes on her forehead… and still… she ran…

Suddenly, the sky opened up. She’d cleared the trees and started slipping on what felt like a low hill of rocks as she was propelled upward. She reached the top and her left foot struck steel. Sarah lost control and fell forward on the train tracks, lacerating both her hands trying to brace for the impact. She cried out when she felt her right wrist snap.

Get up! Get Up! GET UP!!!

She somehow wobbled to her feet. Her knees were shredded by the rocks in between the ties. Sarah foolishly looked back and saw her death approaching, illuminated by the moonlight which betrayed her position.

Russell, covered in blood, cleared the trees and looked up at her with a smile.

She could see that he was holding the bloody machete in one hand… and Dempsey’s head in the other.

Sarah turned and fell down the other side of the tracks. Her head struck the ground… hard. She started to lose consciousness. She could hear him ascending the rock pile. Sarah got up again and ran. She was moving upward… upward… and then the ground gave way beneath her feet as she fell down the steep cliff… tumbling… tumbling… her left leg broke as she collided with a tree… and kept tumbling… until she reached the bottom of the valley, landing on a jagged piece of a dead tree that went clear through her left thigh. She cried out once and then passed out from the pain.

Russell stood at the edge of the cliff, looking down into the dark abyss. He waited, listening for the woman to cry out. She never did.

Convinced the woman had perished from the fall, he went back to their camp. Russell retrieved a towel from Dempsey’s personal items and discovered the man’s wallet. He sat down next to the fire, wiped the blood from his face with the towel and then examined the contents of the wallet. Other than the man’s driver’s license and a couple hundred dollars, the arrogant scientist’s wallet contained a single photo of himself embracing another man in a very intimate way.

Russell read the man’s name on the license and laughed. “Well… well… Marcus Dempsey, it would seem that we share at least one thing in common. We both have our dark secrets.”

He threw the wallet over his shoulder, along with the bloody towel. Russell picked up Dempsey’s head, tossed it into the flames, and then watched it burn…



“…So I ate with those scientists and we decided to travel together at first light.” Russell was finishing his fabricated story. “We followed the tracks north until arriving at the plant.” Russell paused to collect himself, forcing his eyes to water up.

Alysa leaned in with a strip of gauze and gently wiped the wetness from his face.

“Thank you,” he said. Russell took a deep breath and finished. “If it wasn’t for those three kind souls, especially Sarah, I don’t think I would’ve made it.”

Bravo, boss. Tears were a nice touch. You almost had me convinced.

Alysa’s face was unreadable. She leaned back in her chair. “And your friends… these scientists… where are they now?”

Russell frowned. “You already know the answer to that.”

“They’re dead.” Alysa seemed strangely satisfied by the declaration.

“Not necessarily.” Russell would not let her have it. “I never saw them again when we arrived at the plant. They had a cure to find and I had to discover… myself. They gave me their camping gear and they were escorted into the main facility. I remained outside at the refugee camp. The place was eventually attacked by those… yellow-eyed things… but I managed to escape. It’s possible they did, too.”

Alysa laughed. “You don’t believe that.”

Russell smiled. “No… I don’t. But maybe you needed to hear it.”

Alysa studied the man’s face. “You think I’ve given up hope, don’t you? That I hide away from the world… maybe even ‘the fight’ by choosing to remain here in relative safety?”

Russell let the questions hang. You’re not worth my words on the matter, he thought.

Alysa turned away and shook her head. “And yet, you’re the one lying in this bed, broken. While people like me are still here to clean up the mess. You would be dead, too, if not for me… if I hadn’t made the choices I made that placed me here.”

“And I’m grateful.” Russell spat the words out and looked away.

Alysa got up and started pacing.

Watch it, boss. We still need this sheltered bitch… at least until a weapon becomes available. After that… well… we’ll decorate this cabin with a fresh shade of cowardly red.

Yes. We will.

“My things,” Russell attempted to switch gears, “I assume you have them?”

“I’ve encountered those yellow-eyed demons before arriving here. They’re vicious. How did you escape the plant?” Alysa had put her large cloak back on and moved toward a window. She seemed to be examining the darkness. Whether it was outside or her own haunted memories within, Russell couldn’t tell.

“I refused to be alone. I knew that was a death sentence.”

Alysa turned and glared at him.

The other one was laughing. My… oh… my, boss. You certainly know how to get their attention. I prefer your more brutal approach, of course.

“I met other people at the camp,” Russell explained. “It took people to get me there… and more people to help me escape when the plant was overrun.”

“And what happened to them? Are they dead now, too?”

She’s just a regular fuckin’ fountain of cheer, isn’t she, boss? After you gut this pig, she’ll probably have the nerve to interrupt the final thrust of your blade and say, ‘See, I told you!’

“I was feeling down after I reached the refugee camp. There was so much pain and uncertainty there. Everyone was constantly staring over their shoulders as if the Devil was chasing them. I started to feel like I was better off outside. And then I met her…”


Next Episode 37-3

Previous Episode


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“Chapter 37-2: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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



Hell is not a place decorated with fire and brimstone, where one is greeted by a funny, red-colored beast with pointy ears and a long tail. Hell is where the traumatic memories of youth come out into the open, like a morbid museum of moments put on display exclusively for you. It’s where the theme of your step-by-step demise is highlighted by a bright-red neon sign that hangs over the entrance to the pit and screams:


He is moving forward through the scenes of his youth, and not by choice.

Scene one, through the eyes of repressed childhood: He is still a boy, although not for much longer. The ten-year-old comes home early from school. He is sick, and not for the first time since his mother started poisoning his food in small dosages two months ago.

The school nurse had called his house, but the phone bill hasn’t been paid and was now disconnected. He knows this, but lets the nurse call anyway. The boy makes up a lie, says he’s feeling better and wants to go back to class.

The nurse hates her job, and is just glad to have the kid out of her hair.

He is excused to go back to class, but leaves school instead, believing he can make the walk home before vomiting again.

The boy is now standing in the street in front of his small, run-down ranch home. The grass hasn’t been cut for weeks and the weeds have now grown tall enough to hide the front porch and the rolled up newspapers that have rotted there. The house was once white, but is now gray with neglect. Most of his neighbors’ homes show similar traits, but the boy knows that the difference between their homes and his is that life still resides within them.

He is oblivious to the house, to the neighbors, to the hot, oppressive May sun which makes his clothes stick to his skin, adding to his discomfort. The pain feels like a knife sticking in his stomach and continues to pang.

The boy is only focused on the sound of his father’s chainsaw coming from the garage.

He’s moving again, but not by choice. He’s looking in through one of the small garage windows, the one not completely covered by black trash bags. He sees the back of a man he knows is not his father. It’s the other man—the one his mother makes the ugly sounds with in her bedroom late at night when his father is away.

The boy is not supposed to know about the other man. His mother never talks about him, or those late night visits. He always knows better than to ask because his mother gets mean when the boy asks questions about things he’s not supposed to know about. The marks on his flesh are reminders of that fact.

The boy watches as the other man is using his father’s chainsaw. He can’t see what he’s working on because the other man’s back is blocking his view.

But he does see the blood… lots and lots of blood.

He wants to turn away, but is drawn, not by the normal curiosity of a young boy, but by the crimson pool on the cement slab between the man’s legs.

It is when the other man picks up the severed forearm that the boy no longer wants to look. That is when he no longer wants to be alive. As the other man places the arm into a trash bag, it’s the class ring on the hand of the severed limb that the boy will always remember.

It is his father’s ring.

He steps back from the garage window. His legs fail beneath him and he falls to the ground.

He is still looking up at that window when someone completely pulls back the trash bag and stares down at him.

It is his mother.

Russell tries to get up but he has difficulty breathing. The shock is setting in.

His father’s dead. His father’s dead. Ding, dong, his father’s dead…

Russell doesn’t know whether to cry of laugh. Instead, he smiles.

He can hear the footsteps approaching.

It is the man.

“Get up, you little fucking spy!” the man yells. He grabs Russell by the back of his shirt and drags him toward the side door… the side door into the garage.

The man is covered in blood, but Russell doesn’t think about that. He is headed toward the garage, but he doesn’t think about that, either.

Out of breath, the man says, “Why didn’t you just… die? You can’t even do that right! Now she’s gonna be pissed off all damn day!”

Russell doesn’t know how to answer a question like that.

He knows that his mother will beat him… for spying.

He can already feel the new lashes across his back from the belt buckle. His mother will beat him with the belt until he passes out again. Maybe this time she won’t stop until he’s dead.

Young Russell can only hope.

He is in the garage. It’s dark.

His mother is there, stuffing garbage bags with pieces of his father. She stops and gives him a hateful look. “Why are you not in school?”

The question would be ridiculous anywhere else… but not here. Russell says nothing.

His crazy mother looks like she’s about to get up and start beating him with whatever piece of his father she’s holding. Russell can’t tell which piece it is.

Instead, she manages to calm down. “Well… explain yourself!”

“Let’s just kill the brat and be done with it,” the man says.

“Shut up!” she snaps. “I’ll take care of this!” She turns back to Russell. “Your wicked father is dead. I killed him. Mommy killed him. Now… what do you say to that?”

Russell is still in shock. He doesn’t say anything.

His mother shakes her head. “Ungrateful little shit!” she screams. “I never get a ‘thank you’ for anything I do around here! You’re just like him. JUST LIKE HIM!”

Russell looks at his dead father and says, “Thank you.”

She nods. “Well… that’s better. Now, go to your room and wait. You’ll be lucky if you can still walk by dinner.”

Russell says nothing. Russell feels… nothing. He starts to head toward his room, being mindful to step over the remaining pieces of his father…


…Russell opened his eyes. He was staring up at a ceiling illuminated by the flickering light of a fire crackling somewhere off to his left. He was lying in a bed. Russell tried to move his arms; they felt like they weighed a thousand pounds each. His whole body ached as he tried to move anything… and then he remembered the fall.

It’s about damn time you showed up, boss.

Russell shook his head slowly at the nagging return of his vocal curse. His head throbbed like a sonofabitch. He was able to lift it enough to notice that his right leg had been splinted. He felt the bandage wrapped around his head although he couldn’t move his arms to touch it.


He could smell food now. Russell managed to turn his head to the left and toward a large fireplace in what appeared to be a large one-room cabin.

A shadowy figure dressed in a robe was stirring a large pot that was placed in the fire pit. The stranger pulled down the hood, revealing a head that looked much too small for the large robe.

It’s a woman, Russell thought.

She leaned in toward the fire to take a sip from a ladle.

Now you’ve done it, boss. You’ve managed to get yourself caught by Broom fuckin’ Hilda and she’s got a hankering for dumb-ass soup. How does it feel to be someone’s missin’ ingredient? You better check to see if you’re nuts are intact, ‘cause I suspect they’re already in the stew.

“Shut up,” Russell said.

The sound of his voice caused the woman to drop the ladle back in the pot. She turned and looked at him.

Shit, boss. If she starts cackling… I’ll never be able to stop fuckin’ laughing.

The woman put her hood back up and then rushed to a nearby sofa to retrieve an item. She approached him, her shadow moving before her making the woman look far more menacing.

Russell tried to move his arms again. No dice.

If you know any clever incantations with mediocre rhymes that will make her head explode, now would be a good time, Harry Potter.

You’re not helping, he thought back as Russell desperately tried to will his body to move. Nothing.

The witch was almost to him. She stopped near a small table and lit a lantern.

You could always show her your wand, boss… well… assuming it’s not already in the soup.

“Stop right there,” he meant to shout, but it came out hoarse.

The witch stopped. She was holding the lantern in one hand and a first-aid kit in the other.

“It’s alright,” the witch said in a calm, melodic voice. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She slowly approached a nightstand near the bed and put the lantern down. “I just need to check your wounds, in case you hurt yourself trying to move.” She removed her hood again and placed the first-aid kit down near the lantern. She then lifted her hands and asked, “May I?”

Russell got a better look at her in the lantern light. Nothing hideous; no wart-infested nose or long scraggly white hair, just an attractive young woman with brown eyes and long brown hair tied back into an elaborate braid. Her skin was dark, not tan, but neither black nor white. She was either Hispanic or the mix-breed product of different parents. If he had to guess, Russell placed her in her early twenties.

“Who are you?” he asked.

The woman flashed him a smile that would disarm most, but he was far from lowering his guard.

“My name’s Alysa. I need you to trust me. I’m a friend. I would love to answer all of your questions, but none of it will matter if you’re bleeding internally. Please… let me look at you first.”

Russell reluctantly nodded.

“Okay.” Alysa took off the large robe for easier access to her patient. She was less intimidating now that the heavy-looking outer garment was removed. She was a short, petite woman who wore a white cotton shirt and jeans. Alysa crossed her arms up against her chest and shivered. “Damn. No matter how hot I get that fire I can never shake off the cold. I hate winter.” She leaned in over Russell and began assessing his wounds.

Russell could smell her: Coconut oil.

Doesn’t this pretty little thing make you yearn for some tropical island, boss? Bet you’d love to lie her down in the sand and get all… native.

He ignored him. Russell was more curious about the glimmer of gold coming from her nostrils. It was some kind of small nose piercing with two balled pieces forming a disconnected ring centered at the base of her nose.

“It’s called a septum,” she said, noticing his gaze.

“Excuse me?” Russell watched her pull down his bed sheet to finish examining him. He was wearing only his boxers.

“I know… I know… there’s nothing practical about cosmetic accessorizing these days… but I’ve grown attached to it,” she clarified. Satisfied that Russell was alright, she quickly pulled his sheet back up. “I think you’ll live. Although, after finding all those old scars on your back, I think you’ve been through much worse than this.”

Russell ignored the baited comment.

She stepped back and started rubbing her hands nervously. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for the leg. I set the bone as best I could. As long as you stay off it for a little while, I think you’ll be able to walk on it again.”

“Thank you.” Russell was at a loss. His throat was beginning to hurt. “Water?”

Alysa shook her head. “Of course. What was I thinking?” She left briefly and then returned with a bottle of water. She then helped him raise his head and placed the bottle to his mouth.

Russell inhaled it.

How long? he wondered. How long have I been here?

“Where are we?” he asked.

Alysa put the water bottle down on the nightstand and then sat in a fold-up chair Russell hadn’t noticed before. “I found you at the base of a large pine tree down by the river. As near as I could tell, judging from the broken branches, it looked like you fell off the cliff just above the river. I think the tree broke your fall… as well as your leg. You also had a nasty bump on your head. The fall must have knocked you right out. You’re damn lucky to be alive. You would’ve had to jump out from the cliff to reach that pine tree on the other side of the river. Slipping off the cliff would’ve killed you, so that leaves me wondering, why the hell would you jump? Do you have some kind of death wish?”

I can fuckin’ fly, bitch. What’s it to you? the other one mocked.

“You’re very perceptive… Alysa. Yes… I did jump off, but not because I wanted to die. What was chasing me reduced my options in a hurry.”

Alysa nodded. “Was it the red-eyed hounds? That’s what I call them. I know they’re not animals… not really… but it helps me sleep better if I think of them as animals. I found you at dawn and those things only come out in the dark.”

“Yes,” Russell said. “Your… hounds…were very persistent. They seemed to disagree with my desire to survive the night.”

Alysa laughed. “You have a name?”

“You mean you didn’t check my clothes for a wallet when you undressed me?” Russell smiled.

Alysa relaxed. “Busted. I did look… but you weren’t carrying much. Most people are still lugging around their wallets or purses. The money, the credit cards, the laminated memberships to the gym… all of that is next to useless now, but the pictures have become gold.” She looked down with a somber expression and finished, “For most of us, that’s all we have left are the memories.”

“Marcus… My name’s Marcus.”

Alysa’s face softened. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Marcus. I don’t get too many visitors these days. In fact, you’re the first.”

“What about the monsters? They must know you’re here.”

Alysa shrugged off the question. “You hungry yet? The one thing I have in abundance is canned foods. Chicken noodle soup is on the menu this evening.”

“I could eat.

Alysa rose and said, “I’ll fetch you a cup and get you fed. Then we can talk a bit more.” She moved toward the pot near the fireplace before Russell could ask anything else.

Russell tried to move his arms again. He managed to lift them slightly, but it required incredible effort. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I move? He started to suspect that his wounds were far more serious then Alysa was letting on. Is she trying to protect me from the truth?

Truth is pretty fucking subjective, wouldn’t ‘ya agree, boss? I noticed that you’re still clinging to that fuckin’ name, for example. Sometimes I think you’ve been wearin’ that damn mask for so long that you’ve forgotten which side you’re on. You know… the side where ‘ya ‘aint still suppressing all those deep, dark tendencies.

“I’m on my side, savage,” Russell whispered.

And when that nice young piggy comes back with her soup are ‘ya gonna explain to her how wonderful her blood would make you feel, smeared across your chest?

Russell ignored this. For the moment, just like when he leapt from the cliff, his options were limited. He needed to get up from this bed.

Alysa returned with a cup of soup and a spoon. “I’ll have to feed you until you regain your strength. You’re running a bit of a fever and it’s left you weak. Normally, I think your body would be doing better by now but we’re all a bit malnourished and fatigued these days. Doesn’t take much now to shut us down.”

“How long have I been here?”

“Three days.” She moved in close and began to spoon feed him.

Marcus took a bite. “And how did you end up out here… wherever here is?”

Alysa paused and laughed. “I’ve been hiding here for so long. Didn’t even realize just how long until you asked. I found this place before the first serious snow hit. Been here ever since.”

Russell took another bite. “And you’ve been alone this whole time?”

“Since I found the cabin… yes. But I was with other people when it all started. They’re all gone now.”

“I’m sorry.”

Alysa finished feeding him and put the cup down. “Better?”

“Yes, thank you. Much better.” He started to fish before the woman got up again. “So, Alysa, how did you manage by yourself out here all winter without the dead finding you? In my experience, no one who stays in one place for too long makes it.”

She paused and considered the question. “I’ve just been very careful… very patient. Hell, probably very lucky, too. I only go out during the day, and not for very long. At night, I keep this place locked up real tight. There’s nothing but woods around here so I’ve come to believe this location is fairly hidden from the rest of the world.”

“And those… hounds?”

“They leave me alone. I don’t know exactly why. But they’ve never bothered me here.” She laughed again. “Once I speculated that they thought this old place was haunted and that I was some ghost who lurked the woods. Maybe that was enough to scare them away. I don’t know. That’s assuming those creatures can still remember things. Maybe they think I’m dead, too. Sometimes it feels that way… you know? When you’re by yourself long enough, you start to have all kinds of strange thoughts…” She trailed off, staring into some remote space that only the long-term effects of loneliness and prolonged isolation could create.

She’s a few cards short of the full deck, boss. Your kind of people.

Russell searched the woman’s sad eyes for the truth he always found there. He was left puzzled. Russell could not read this woman… at all. Those two deep portals into her soul were dark and vacant… unreachable.

Maybe she is dead, boss. She’s been alone for too long.

Perhaps, but Russell suspected there was more to it. He was intrigued. “When I am able to walk, maybe you should come with me. I’m part of a larger group.”

Alysa came back. She looked at him and said, “I was part of a group once, too. They thought they were safer in numbers. It made them… complacent. Got them all killed. After that… well… after that, I decided that being alone was easier. You only have to look out for yourself.”

“And you’ve been out here hiding from the world ever since,” Russell stated.

She looked offended but tried to play it off. “I wouldn’t call it ‘hiding’. I just came to the understanding early on that living in this world now required sacrifices. Watching people die all around you after getting invested in relationships was too painful… too distracting. When you’re alone, you only have to be concerned with your own mistakes… and if I make them… then the consequences are mine alone. There’s no guilt. No pain. And if I die out of my own stupidity… well… I’ve come to accept that. There’s nothing more that can happen to you once you’ve nothing left to fear… except death, of course.”

Russell was deeply disturbed by the strange woman’s words which, in part, echoed his own beliefs. But somehow, instead of embracing life… she had decided to be a hoarder of living, hidden away on the edges of the world. She had perverted his doctrine of facing fears and turned it into a lonely, pathetic existence… which was no existence at all. Alysa had willingly chosen to live as an exile from the living because it was easier, safer… cowardly. Russell took great offence to this ‘ghost’ of a woman before him. He started to understand why he couldn’t read her–there was nothing left to read. She was essentially dead already, under the guise of ‘living’.

Now, now, boss. Take it easy. Truth fuckin’ hurts. Maybe this little piggy bothers you so much because she’s where you’re headed. I’ve been tryin’ to tell ‘ya all along. You need to let yourself loose on this damaged world made ripe for the takin’ and join me in the bloodbath. You will never be like this sad bitch if you give in to the primal need to rip them all to pieces. They’re all just dumb fuckin’ cattle now… hell, they always were… and they’re only purpose is to line up for the slaughter. The dead know this already. You’re just too fucked-up to see it… and enjoy it while it lasts.

BE SILENT! Russell fired back.

The other one said no more.

“Sorry,” Alysa said. “I didn’t mean to unload my baggage on you. Enough about me. There’s really nothing more to tell anyway.”

“That’s okay,” Russell said. “You’ve probably needed someone–anyone–to talk to for a long time now.”

Alysa looked away. She didn’t know how to take that comment. “So what about you?” she asked.

To Russell the question sounded accusatory.

She lightened up and smiled. “I mean, how did you end up out in these woods by yourself? And where are your people? Are they all dead?”

Russell sensed that she would love for him to say ‘yes’ to validate her existence. He would do no such thing… even if they were.

“We were traveling together and got caught out after dark. Your red-eyed beasts found us and I decided to lead them away so the others could get back safely. I didn’t anticipate cliff diving… and that’s how I ended up here.”

“So you’re some kind of hero.” Alysa’s tone was flat. She was clearly unimpressed by his selfless act.

“As are you,” Russell reminded her. “You could’ve left me out there to die… but you didn’t.”

Touche, boss! Suck on that one you self-servin’ misanthrope!

Alysa was quiet for a moment. She had not considered her own actions until now. “Like I told you, Marcus, the mistakes I make are mine alone. The risks I take and the pain I’m willing to bear are also of my own choosing.”

Ouch, boss. You must have struck a nerve.

She smiled again and said, “Maybe by saving you, I betray my own weakness: the need to still reach out to others. That is hardly heroic. Simply necessary.”

It was Russell’s turn to tread cautiously.

She shifted gears. “So now that you’re here, why don’t you tell me your story?”

“Excuse me?”

“If I’m going to share my cabin with another human being, at least until you’re able to leave, then I need to know more about you. Start from the beginning and tell me what you’ve been doing since the outbreak.”

Russell sighed. “That is a long story, I’m afraid.”

She pointed toward his leg and said, “Looks like we’ve got some time to kill.”

And I’m going to kill you before I leave this fucking hell-hole, Russell thought. You are a blemish to all I believe, not worthy to stand in the Lady’s presence with your cowardice.

Easy, boss. Easy now… The other one was enjoying himself.

And I will bring back the fear you dismiss so easily and make you very fucking afraid before I send you into the darkness, Russell finished.

Now we’re talking, boss! You bring that appetite and I’ll bring the cutlery to this fuckin’ pig roast.

Russell smiled at the repulsive woman. “Where would you like me to begin?”

Alysa got comfortable. “How about the beginning? Where were you when it all started?”

“I was with a… friend,” Russell began, going back and remembering his flight with Janet Schuler on the night he murdered her. “We were on the run from the dead. My friend, Janet, she perished before dawn, leaving me all alone.”

That was a beautiful moment, boss.

Yes. It certainly was.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Alysa added.

Russell sensed that she meant it. He paused long enough to appear remorseful, and then continued. “After Janet died, I tried to get to my vehicle. Everything was chaotic by then. I caught someone trying to steal my van. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the dead swarmed the vehicle and killed the thief. From there, I ran, hid, and continued to move from to place… whatever it took to survive.”

Alysa nodded. “Yes, we all share the same page when it came to survival that first few days. Please, go on.”

Russell would have to fabricate his history by using partial truths… and leaving out the grisly bits. “I heard a radio broadcast directing survivors to seek shelter at the Percy Power Plant. I eventually made it into the woods south of Percy, found an old, abandoned railroad track, and then met three kind people who were camped out near the tracks. I was very exhausted by then, confused, afraid, and completely lost. But they welcomed me into their camp and told me they were also headed to the power plant…”


Next Episode 37-2

Previous Episode 36-7


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“Chapter 37-1: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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



Stephen sat at the control console staring at the blank page of his journal. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stay focused long enough to write a single sentence detailing the past several hours of the darkest day since their community beneath the Wasteland had formed.

He looked up from the large book, searched for Nicole, and was relieved to still find her absent. Stephen knew they had to talk eventually, but he was grateful to be left alone for a few minutes.

Logan had insisted that Bear and Barney remain with him at all times, but Stephen was adamant about his privacy in the control room, so his two appointed body guards remained down the hall, and out of sight.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then spoke into the low-lit control room, “Today was the day our community nearly destroyed itself…” He let the words hang, wondering how they would sound if he started his speech with those words. No, I can’t focus on the bad. I have to somehow bring something good out of this tragic experience.

He finally put his pen to the page and wrote:

It’s been six hours since Carl Lannister was taken into custody. Everyone involved in his uprising has been temporarily placed in the mess hall under guard while the rest of the community are waiting for me to join them in Cubicle City to discuss the immediate future. Logan is distracting them as best he can while I work up the nerve to speak to these people and offer them… what? Hope?

He paused, not relishing writing the rest. Stephen continued…

Quick summary of the darker points of the day because it pains me to write anything else in too much detail:

Gina was relieved of command. She’s currently being held under guard for murder and attempted murder charges in one of the storage rooms. So far Gina has been cooperative. She hasn’t said a word to anyone since she was arrested. It sickens me to think that she is being treated the same as Lannister, who is also being held in a similar room just a few doors down in the same hall.

Logan, our resident preacher, had to kill a man. Sabastian Reed, an assassin sent by Lannister, almost succeeded in killing Meredith, Megan and Dr. Cooper. Logan arrived just in time to shoot the man in the head. On a positive note, Dr. Cooper’s injuries weren’t serious and he is recovering from a minor concussion.

Meredith, who takes sole responsibility for transporting Megan away from the clinic, for the time being, is confined to the clinic. Her only crime was trying to save Megan but her actions by almost letting Megan get loose could not be dismissed.

And finally, the scariest part of the whole day for me was when Tony came to me in private a few hours ago and stepped down from his current position as leader of the Wasteland community. The only reason he would give was that he felt that his relationship with Gina was a conflict of interest. I could tell there was more but I didn’t press the matter. And with his and Logan’s persuasion, the community has wholeheartedly agreed that I, Stephen Eddington, former history teacher, am now the acting leader of this broken community until an appropriate election can occur.

Stephen stopped and slammed the book close. “Enough,” he said, shaking his tired head. He stared at the big book and felt disgusted by it. This was intended to chronicle our dark past to show and teach the future what got us here… except that we are all still living in that darkness. For the first time he wondered if any of them would be left to read ridiculous books like this. Does it really matter… now?

On top of everything else, there was the matter of Marcus’s death outside the Wasteland that was overshadowed by Lannister’s mess. Stephen felt his absence harder than anyone. “Gina’s a criminal. Tony’s given up. Meredith’s considered a witch… and now Marcus is dead! I’m the last one left from our sad little inner circle. A man left in charge who currently feels betrayed by the dead woman he loves.” He laughed at the absurdity of his statement and looked once more for Nicole to share the joke.

But Nicole remained absent.

“Yes,” he whispered. “I am alone now.” He knocked the book off the control console feeling a hint of satisfaction when the heavy thing struck the floor. “No more stories. No more hiding in books, behind phantoms, or under the thumb of guilt. I can do something here… if I’m brave enough to try it.” He thought of something he’d never had a chance to resolve. Now… he was going to get his chance.

In a few minutes, Stephen would find out just what kind of leader he would be.


When Stephen arrived at Cubicle City, the gymnasium-sized living quarters of the community was already buzzing with angry voices, fearful whispers, and looks of disdain and distrust. Logan did his best to keep everyone calm, but the community’s patience was at an all-time low.

Stephen stepped up to the make-shift podium next to Logan, nodded at the big man, and then looked out into the smaller-than-usual crowd. This won’t work, he thought. This won’t work unless everyone is here.

“Hello, Stephen,” Logan said, pulling the teacher aside and putting a big hand on his shoulder. “Are you ready for this?”

Stephen smiled. “Thanks for… stalling. I just needed a little time to process.”

Logan laughed. “Understandable. I’ve been doing a lot of stalling in this room today.”

“How are you holding up?” Stephen asked, clearly referring to the shooting.

Logan simply nodded and said, “I’ll get through it, Stephen… with God’s help.”

Stephen nodded, took a deep breath, and said, “I need you to do one more thing for me, Logan. And I need you not to question me about it.”

Logan waited.

Here we go. “I need you to bring everyone here… the rest of the community.”

Logan’s eyebrows shot up. “You mean… everyone?”

Stephen thought for a moment and then quoted scripture. “‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’ I believe your man, Jesus, said that, did he not?”

Logan laughed in surprise. “Why, yes, he certainly did… and I understand… but some might not, especially today.”

Stephen nodded. “Logan, today might be all we have left. It has to be now.”

Logan shook his head. “Consider it done, my friend. This will be an exciting meeting if nothing else.”

“Thanks, Logan. I’ll start talking. Just bring the others in, separate them accordingly, and keep them toward the back. I just need them all here. I’m not expecting cake and kisses afterwards.”

Logan walked off, laughing hard. “He said, ‘cake and kisses’, praise God! That’s the funniest damn thing I’ve heard all day!”

Stephen watched the big man leave with a smile. Well, I’m not completely alone… yet. He stepped up to the podium and felt everyone’s eyes on him immediately.

Okay, if I picture them all naked… I’ll never get through this. Take a breath, Eddington. You’ve seen enough presidential speeches in your lifetime to know that all of them began with confidence… so start there.

Stephen scanned the room and smiled. He placed his nervous hands on top of the podium and started speaking. “Hello everyone. Most of you know me, but for the sake of being official, I’ll just start by saying that my name is Stephen Eddington, and due to unfortunate recent events, it’s been decided by the community that I step in as acting leader while we get through the difficult days ahead. Once we regain our bearings as a community, it is my intention to push for a public election, as I once promised you in the mess hall, as soon as possible.”

This was met by silence.

Stephen laughed and said. “Like all of you, I’m just as much in shock by today’s events, but I believe we will find a way to move past today and on toward the future… together.” He shuffled his feet. “If this were the old world, and I were a politician, I would’ve had someone much more skilled than I, prepare me an eloquent sounding speech to inspire and motivate all of you. But I am not a politician. I’m just a school teacher, and we live in a different world today… a more hostile world. That’s why I need your help in making the best decisions I can for this community.” He scanned their faces and felt their sadness and anger. Give them something real, Eddington. “In a few minutes, some of you… hell… maybe all of you… might start regretting putting me in charge. I’m going to be transparent with all of you right now. I’m terrified. I’m standing here, hoping that I won’t screw things up or make matters worse by my first actions as your leader. In fact, as I speak, Logan is gathering up the rest of the community to make sure we address our uncertain future together… as it should be. That means, Lannister and all those who followed him, along with Gina… and even Meredith… will be joining us.”

This was met with cries of outrage and disgust as it appeared as though everyone in Cubicle City was ready to remove Stephen from office… immediately.

To add fuel to the fire, all of Lannister’s traitors from the mess hall started filing in toward the back and off to the right, along with Lannister himself. Logan was careful to keep them under guard and as far away from the rest of the community as possible. The crowd protested immediately.

Logan followed after, escorting Gina, who refused to look at anyone. They quietly took a seat along the wall to the left. She was equally received by the community.

Meredith was the last to enter, escorted by Dr. Cooper and two guards. They remained close to the entrance in case Logan needed to get her out of there quickly. She looked terrified as the community emphatically voiced their disapproval at the witch’s attendance.

For a moment, Stephen was simply appalled as he watched how fast the community crumbled, turning hateful and abusive with their words.

I should just open the hatch, announce our presence with trumpets, and let the dead in and have at us!

“When did we become… MONSTERS!!!” Stephen shouted above the mob.

This got the community’s attention. They turned back toward Stephen.

“That’s right! The only thing that’s ever been able to keep us from tearing each other apart, is the threat of something much worse! In fact, it’s probably the only thing that’s managed to keep us together… AT ALL!” He tried to calm down, unsuccessfully. “Is this what you want? IS THIS ALL WE HAVE LEFT?! Shame on all of us!” He started pacing in front of the podium. “Maybe we deserve to be eliminated from the world! Maybe humanity is not worth saving! If it means being reduced to… THIS… then what the hell does it matter?”

The crowd was quieting down.

Stephen wasn’t finished. He stared into their faces and said, “You are all fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers… titles that mean something, titles that share one thing in common even if every one of you are different! Did we all leave this behind when we moved down here? Did we leave our fucking humanity out in the cold all winter for the dead to feast on? If so… then what are we now? Are we already… DEAD!? If the answer is yes… and by the looks of things in this room… we’re very close… then I’ll just have Logan hand out weapons and we can just shoot each other and be done with it! Is that what you want?”

Some of the crowd murmured, “No!”

Stephen raised his voice. “Not good enough! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?”

The community roared back more enthusiastically this time, “NO!”

“Good!” Stephen said, managing to calm down… a little. “I’m glad to hear it! Because aside from letting you kill each other, or letting the dead inside to finish us off… I was wondering if I was ever going to get around to leading a ‘community’, a ‘family’… or a pack of wild animals!”

Some nodded toward Stephen. Some laughed uncomfortably. Some stewed silently. Some appreciated the boldness of their new leader.

“For as long as I’m your leader… and if that’s only until everyone leaves this room… so be it. But while I have the floor, I’m going to make a few changes immediately. Are you ready for some bold changes? Or do you want to keep on hating each other and everything until you can’t stand to look at yourselves in the mirror any longer?”

The community yelled, “Hell yes!”

“Are you ready to do the hardest thing you’ve ever done if it means that we can be more than just fucking survivors stuck down here in this shit-hole? Well… ARE YOU?”

“HELL YES!!!” The community agreed. Even some of Lannister’s men were chiming in.

“Well that’s good news,” Stephen said, lowering his voice. “It’s good to know that there are still a few human beings residing down here… and not monsters. There’s enough of those in the world without having to live down here with them, too.” Stephen took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “We’ve all been victimized and made hard by this merciless world. We’ve all done terrible, terrible things in the name of survival, desperation, whatever you want to call it. Doesn’t matter now. But before I can continue… before ‘we’ can continue… we all have to go back to our previous titles. We can’t become the decent men and women we’re going to be if we forget the best parts of who we were… and the families that made us, and keep us, strong. We are not savages, zombies… monsters. But we’ve all earned a new title since we’ve been thrown into this hostile world. A title that must be addressed… now… and removed from our lives if we’re even going to stand a chance… or be worthy of one.” He stared hard into their faces. “Let’s look at our new title: Murderers.”

This caused Gina to finally look up.

Lannister hung his head and tried to hide behind the other traitors.

The crowd started turning their attention back on Lannister and Gina, raising their voices and spewing obscenities at them.

“I wasn’t finished!” Stephen said, causing the community to quiet back down. He pointed his finger, sweeping it across everyone in attendance. “I was talking about ALL OF US! So as long as we continue to harbor hatred in our hearts… then we’re all murderers!”

Logan crossed his arms. He was smiling.

Stephen continued. “Look… let’s be completely honest in this place. We’ve all failed people we care about out there. You know what I’m talking about. When The Change happened, we all ran, hid… survived… in any way we could. We lost loved ones… and we blamed ourselves. Then we packed up all of our guilt and brought it down here! After a while, it got easier to simply turn away from our own disgusting reflections and find anyone else to blame. We hated Meredith because she’s different; Megan, because she’s more like ‘one of them’; Gina because she wouldn’t let us leave and die with those we failed… and now we can go on hating because of Lannister’s rebellion.” Stephen shook his head. “We will continue to keep finding someone else to target for our own guilt until there’s no one left to hate… or blame. Then we’ll just go back to hating ourselves again. Please… let that sink in.” Stephen started pacing again. “The simple truth is that none of us feel like we deserve to be alive… and we don’t. We’re no better than the people who perished. But that’s not our fault. We didn’t start this thing. But we have a responsibility to do better… ‘be’ better people than we were before. We shame the memory of all those we’ve lost by our hateful actions down here… in the dark. But that has to stop right now! We’ve had to fight for every breath in this new world… and we will continue to fight! But we will die like this! We will fail all those people we lost… again… if we can’t figure out how to fight together… and not against each other!”

Several in the community voiced their agreement.

“Preach the truth, brother!” Logan yelled with an encouraging nod.

Stephen smiled at the big man. Then his thoughts drifted elsewhere, his face twisting into a frown, his eyes–faraway. “Now… there have been crimes committed against our community. People have died. That can’t be ignored. But we can show leniency since we, ourselves, have all done bad things to stay alive when we were alone ‘out there’. Things we’re not proud of. Unspeakable things that we left topside when we came down here.” Stephen raised his open hands, palms forward, and continued. “Maybe your hands aren’t stained with blood by actually killing someone else in the name of survival… or maybe they are. Maybe you fought someone in desperation for that last can of food which would have fed a hungry child for one more day. Or maybe you let someone, a stranger perhaps, die, when you could have helped, but chose to save yourselves. Either way, the stains remain on our hands.”

Stephen lowered his arms, let his shoulders slouch, and released a tired breath. “When everything went bad on that first night, I was at my job, hiding from my wife when I should’ve been home. To this day, I don’t know if she’s alive or dead. The kids at the boarding school I taught at… they started to change… and attack each other. I was terrified. I ran to one of the dorms to find a particular student. Her name was Nicole Howard… someone I care about very much.”

Gina and Meredith stared wide-eyed at the school teacher.

“Don’t do it, Stephen,” came the voice of the dead girl from behind him.

Stephen refused to turn around.

“If you tell them about us… I’ll never forgive you… and neither will they.”

Stephen gripped the sides of the podium, trying to find the strength to continue.

“I mean it, Stephen,” she said, in a voice that sounded grave. “Hate me if you must, but don’t you dare tell them about our love! I will go away and never come back if you do.”

Stephen closed his eyes and fought through the pain. “I found several girls… slaughtered. But none of them was Nicole. I ended up in the kitchen. I grabbed a large knife to defend myself when I heard… violent sounds… from upstairs. Someone put a hand on my shoulder and startled me. I turned around and swung that knife, thinking only about those slaughtered girls… and believing I was about to join them. I stabbed my attacker in the eye… and it was Nicole.” Stephen wiped tears from his face.

Several members of the community were stunned.

Both Meredith and Gina were also crying.

“I hated myself for a very long time for that day… and everything that led up to that moment… and I have never forgotten the look on that girl’s face, that living girl’s face, when I turned and murdered her with that knife because I was so afraid for my own life… that I didn’t realize… that I didn’t recognize that Nicole was just a terrified girl, and not the monster I first thought she was, who was just trying to reach out to me… another living soul… and I stabbed her in the face and watched her die.”

The room was filled with silence.

Stephen managed to look up. “So you see… I’m a murderer, too. Some of you will say that it was an accident, but if the law had still been in place then, I’d be in prison for killing that girl, accidentally or not. I’ve lived with that burden ever since the beginning… and this is the first time I’ve shared my dark secret… with anyone.”

“Please… Stephen,” Nicole pleaded from behind him. “I can’t bear this. They don’t need to know anything else… please… stop.”

Stephen was troubled by the faintness in Nicole’s voice. He almost turned around, but was afraid he’d find her standing there, looking ghastly like she was on that dreadful day, with a knife sticking out of her eye. He wouldn’t be able to hold it together if he saw her like that now.

“I mean it, my love. You have to stop now. You’re killing me all over again!”

Stephen wanted to turn around and embrace the dead woman… but that was impossible. His emotions were getting the best of him. Pull it together, Eddington. You’ve made your point. Move on.

He took a deep breath. “I’m glad I shared that with all of you. I’m a different man than I was at the beginning. But I still live with that death on my conscience… as I will until the day that I die… but I have forgiven myself for it, because I know that Nicole would want me to move on… to live and honor her memory by being a better man, a man not driven by fear, like I was on that day. I know that she has forgiven me… don’t ask me how… I just know.”

From behind him, Nicole went silent. Stephen started to panic, wondering if that was the last time he would ever hear from her again. Nicole?

He soldiered on. “So… my big secret is out. If you all want to remove me from command for the accidental killing of the poor girl… then I’ll understand. I only share it now to be as transparent as I can be… and to make you all realize that none of us are guiltless in this crazy world. We’ve all done horrible things to stay alive… or to keep others alive. That’s why I believe mercy trumps hatred… more now, than it ever has before. It has to… or we’re doomed.”

Stephen waited for the crowd to turn on him. Surprisingly, he was received by sad eyes and tears. Several in the community couldn’t even meet his gaze, choosing to stare down at their feet, possibly reliving their own personal hells from those beginning days when lawlessness and desperation ruled… and all actions were justified in the name of that fickle and compassionless god, ‘Survival’.

Stephen needed to take advantage of this vulnerable moment to address the rest. He looked toward Lannister and said, “Carl Lannister, you effectively poisoned many members of our community into believing that a hostile takeover was the only action left to resolve difference in our community. I know for a fact after talking with Logan that many of the men you swayed already regret joining your resistance, and like myself and others, they’re just thankful that no one else, except for your man Sabastian, got killed. That’s very fortunate for you and the men standing with you today.”

Carl looked up at Stephen, not expecting to be called out, and then he met several angry eyes glaring back at him, many from the men who had followed him. He didn’t know what to say.

“I didn’t have you or the others brought here to call you out in front of the community,” Stephen continued. “I still consider all of you part of this community, regardless of your poor choices. That’s mostly why everyone is here today. Right or wrong, we are all part of this community… and we need to learn how to work together.”

Carl simply nodded.

“I hold you responsible for the attempted murder of Meredith, Megan, and Dr. Cooper. I know you only gave Sabastian the order to kill what this community has shamefully called, ‘The Wasteland Witch’ and her pet zombie, and that Sabastian’s attempt on Dr. Cooper was his own choice, but I still hold you responsible for all three. We can’t just assassinate people we don’t understand. You thought you were doing the community a favor. Get rid of the witch and the dead thing, and they’ll thank you for it. As long as they didn’t know how you did it… who cares, right?” He turned toward the community and addressed them, “Right? Just kill whoever makes us afraid down here… and you’re all fine with it.”

The community didn’t know how to respond.

“Well… that shit’s going to change right now. My next action as acting leader will be one of mercy… because we need each other.” He turned back to the traitors. “I hereby pardon all the men who chose to join Lannister’s rebellion on the condition that they no longer serve in a security position in any way, restricting their access from certain areas of the compound. Furthermore, each man has a choice to either join us as constructive members of the community… or you can leave immediately.”

Many in the community looked at each other, shocked by the decision.

Gina looked back down at her feet. Her face was expressionless.

“As for you, Carl Lannister. I hold you responsible for this mess. You will be held under guard until we can figure out what course of action to take… but I’ll be pushing for a trial by your peers.” He turned to the community. “Are these actions fair? Merciful? Will you accept them? Or will we be just like them and continue their brand of hatred until there’s no one left to call a community?”

After talking among themselves, the community reluctantly agreed.

And now comes the hard part. Stephen turned toward Gina. “Gina, it pains me to say this, but your actions, although not as widespread as Lannister’s, are equally unacceptable.”

Gina refused to meet Stephen’s gaze. “Stephen,” she said. “I trust your judgment. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Do you deny the charges against you? Did you take Brannigan and Tyler outside under the pretense of banishment… just to execute them?” Stephen hoped she would refute the charges, forcing a trial… and a little more time to decide what to do about it.

Gina looked up at Stephen. The pitiful expression on her face was hard to endure. She finally said, “No, Stephen. I don’t deny what I did. I took those men topside… to kill them.”

This got the crowd stirred up again.

Stephen immediately searched for Tony who was surprisingly absent.

Gina continued. “I did it fearing they would come back and harm us at another time… and I wouldn’t allow them to come back, even when they asked for… mercy. What I did was wrong, but at the time, I thought I was doing it for the greater good of the community. They got a girl killed on my watch. She was just trying to break up their fight, and died for it. It’s hard to know what to do when people die down here. I tried to make examples out of them. And that’s all I’ve left to say about it.” She looked down again.

Many in the community raised their voices against her, calling her a murderer among other things.

Stephen swallowed hard. Shit! They’ll want justice for those deaths… and I’ll have to provide it. “Gina, since you admit your… crimes… I have no choice but to hold you until we have decided as a community how best to answer those crimes. As for the matter of your… breakdown… in the hall outside the hatch, I’ve decided to pardon your actions based on your injuries. You were feverish and not yourself.”

Gina simply nodded.

Stephen turned to the crowd. “We will have a trial for both Lannister and Gina. Are these actions fair?”

Again, they grumbled a bit, but decided Stephen’s actions were acceptable.

“And now for the rest of it,” Stephen said, regaining their attention. “I’ve already spoken with Meredith about removing Megan from the clinic. She takes full responsibility for violating the rules and placing the community in jeopardy, even though Megan was drugged and supervised by Dr. Cooper. She assures me she will never do it again. In fact, she was on her way to securing Megan in another location until Sabastian’s attempt on their lives. Which leads me to the real crime. If Meredith hadn’t felt that her life was threatened by this community to begin with… she never would’ve attempted to move Megan. So I hold this community responsible for the unfair discrimination and hatred of one of our own. She has had to endure your contempt for far too long! I am a first-hand witness to what this remarkable woman has done for people, at the risk of her own life, to bring us this far. None of us would be alive right now if she hadn’t done the things she did to protect people… whether you or I understand it, or not.” He stared defiantly into all their faces and finished. “I will not tolerate any further prejudices against any member of this community for being… different! Meredith is not a witch, or a demon, or a zombie-lover, or any of the other horrid names I’ve heard her called! She is a woman who deserves our respect! And I will fight for it with everything in my power from here on out! Are we clear on this?”

More reluctant nods.


They added a little more enthusiasm this time.

Stephen found Meredith.

She was wiping tears from her eyes.

Dr. Cooper put his arms around her and smiled.

When did that happen? Stephen wondered, staring at the odd couple. He felt shame for not spending enough time with his old friend… or fighting for her much sooner.

“Now, it’s been a long damn day,” Stephen said. “Let’s get some rest and we’ll talk again tomorrow. I’ve heard many of your concerns down here over the past few months and I will address each and every one of them.” He pointed up toward the ceiling. “We will start with how we’re going to get everyone out of this damn grave now that winter is over! There’s a much bigger world than this, one we can make for ourselves… and we need to get topside and start finding it!”

This was met with standing applause and roars of approval.

Gina looked up at Stephen with a mixture of horror and surprise.

She raised her voice for all to hear, “You have no idea what’s up there, Stephen! The world is dead, we’ve seen it. This grave, as you say, is our best shot.”

Stephen nodded at her with respect. “Yes, Gina, you may be right. But I know that death has already found us down here. We can’t hide from it any longer. Better to die with the sun in our faces, than living down here in the darkness, cowering in the shadows of fear.” He then looked out at all their faces and finished, “It’s not enough to merely survive. It’s time to live.”

The community roared their approval.

Stephen felt empowered by their enthusiasm as he raised his arms and smiled.

Gina lowered her head and closed her eyes.


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“Chapter 36-7: Uprising” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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