Posts Tagged ‘Prisoners’

Chapter 35-3: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 8, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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nightmare-605933_640

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

“What… what do you want?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clementine smiled. “You mean ‘shit’.”

“Huh?”

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

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

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

“How so?”

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith laughed at the sight.

“What’s so funny?”

“You.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Gross!” Meredith said.

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

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

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

“Uh-huh.”

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

“Seriously?”

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

Meredith didn’t know how to respond to that.

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

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

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

“Maybe in the whole country,” Meredith teased.

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

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

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

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

“How come?’

“Because it was scary.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

Meredith giggled again. “I feel silly.”

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

Meredith looked concerned. She had too many secrets.

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

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

“What did he say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alright, then. Goodnight, Meredith.”

“Goodnight.”

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

“Excuse me?”

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

Meredith smiled. “Absolutely.”

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

“Tomorrow.”

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

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

~~~

The next morning was chaos.

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

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

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

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

“For me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the girls were taking their seats now.

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

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

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

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

“What’s the matter?” Clem asked.

“I feel… a bit underdressed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh no, she means me!

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

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

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

Meredith quickly sank into her chair.

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

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

Meredith smiled like an idiot and looked to Clem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith nodded.

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

“You promise?”

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

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

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

~~~

Next Episode 35-4

Previous Episode 35-2

~~~

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

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

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

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Chapter 35-2: Dead Dolls

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

~~~

Summer 1973:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Several times,” she answered curtly.

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

“Like the bird?”

“Yes… exactly.”

“That’s a stupid last name.”

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

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

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

“Can we stop talking now… please?”

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

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

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

“I’m just a kid. I can’t drive.”

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

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

Finch started snoring.

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

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

“You’re messing with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re not supposed to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Swear in front of kids.”

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

“Excuse me?”

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

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

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

“You’re being serious?”

“Go for it, kid.”

Meredith sat back and thought a moment.

“You got one picked out?” Finch asked.

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re a very strange man.”

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

“What?”

“Your last name? Montgomery?”

“I can do that?”

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

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

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

Meredith remained quiet.

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

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

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

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

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

“Special?”

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

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

“I never said that.”

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

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

“So what is this place, then?”

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael opened her door. “Ready?”

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

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

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

Michael gave her a wink.

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

Meredith’s eyes went wide.

Michael couldn’t hold back his laughter.

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

Meredith let out a deep breath.

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

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

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

Meredith looked down at her shoes.

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

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

Meredith looked up.

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

Meredith could only respond with a half-hearted smile.

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

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

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

“I want to,” Meredith whispered.

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

“Yes, Ma’am,” Michael teased.

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

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

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

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

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

They entered the house.

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael gave her a surprising look.

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

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

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

“What was that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

The young man is frantically waving towards her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith takes an uneasy step back.

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

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

“Who… who are you?” Meredith asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

It followed me!

~~~

Next Episode 35-3

Previous Episode 35-1

~~~

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

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

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

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

Chapter 35-1: Dead Dolls

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megan does not respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith continues to move closer… closer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith screams but there is no sound escaping her lips.

Megan roughly flips the blood bag over.

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

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

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

It is the remains of Megan’s baby…

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Meredith meant it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meredith turned back and stared into the observation room.

Megan was still lying down, facing the wall.

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

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

Megan continued to appear unresponsive.

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

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

~~~

Next Episode 35-2

Previous Episode 34-6

~~~

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

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

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

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

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

After The Dark (#10) – Confessions

Posted: December 29, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, Interviews/Reviews, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombie Talk Show, Zombies
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After the Dark1 (2)

~~~

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

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

***SPOILER ALERT***

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

Gina gives Tony a suspicious glance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience is unusually silent.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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

“Yep,” Tony confirms.

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

(The audience rises to their feet and applauds.)

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

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

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

~~~

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

~~~

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

Thank you,
-Scott

~~~

Don’t Feed The Dark Updates: 12/5/16

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

~~~

Hello everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Scott

~~~

Chapter 34-6: Secrets

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

~~~

“This is so very fucking stupid and reckless!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diane had given him ‘the look’.

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

“A fucking what?”

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

“Nine.”

“Yes, my angel.”

“Shut up.”

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

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

The brush suddenly came alive behind him as Helen charged.

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

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

Nine counted his steps as he ran.

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

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

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

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

He sprinted toward the gap between the trees.

One, two…

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

…Three, four…

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

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

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

Fuck… it definitely works as intended, he thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m so fucked, Nine thought.

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

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

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

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

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

Nine nodded.

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

“Let go? Are you sure?”

“Wait!”

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

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

“Sorry,” he mouthed.

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

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

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

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

“Damn,” Nine said. “We did it!”

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

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

“What was that?”

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

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

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

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

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

She glared at him.

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

“Shut up.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

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

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

“I don’t think it cares. It’s dead.”

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

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

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

“Nine?”

“Yes, my angel?”

“Rope… now!”

Nine moved in beside her and grabbed the rope.

“I hope this plan works,” Diane said.

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

Helen turned her head toward Nine and continued to stare.

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

“Nine.”

“Yes.”

“Please shut up.”

Nine looked at her pleading face and nodded.

“Now what?” Diane said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bad man did not respond.

Nine started pacing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bad man said nothing.

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

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

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

Gina gave him a puzzled look.

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

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

The bad man remained silent.

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

“Yes… yes.”

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

“What do we know?”

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

“Yes… she does.”

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

“For Helen?”

“That’s right…for Helen.”

Silence.

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

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

We might still get out of this, Tony thought.

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

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

Diane and Nine exchanged confused looks.

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

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

Diane was tempted to take the shot.

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

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

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

She turned away in disgust.

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

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

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

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

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

Walter didn’t flinch.

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

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

Nine nodded and they went into the house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dead thing continued to stare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walter smiled. “That night you escaped, she could’ve devoured me, but she didn’t. I’d lied to myself and said that she’d done it before… and that she’d infected me. The lie made me stupid… overconfident. She let me live after she attacked, after she tasted my flesh… and remembered me.”

Tony was stunned to silence as he watched Helen stare into Walter’s eyes as if caught in a trance she couldn’t comprehend.

“Now I understand,” Walter continued. “I did the same thing when I attacked her. I was able to stop myself from consuming my Helen because I tasted her and remembered.”

“So… are you saying there’s something in our blood that triggers… familiarity?”

“Yes… there has to be,” Walter said. “Something that made her stop because, on some level, she recognized me as her husband.”

“And she let you feed her,” Tony finished, remembering who the real monster standing before him was.

“Yes,” Walter said with a fond smile. “For the first time, Helen needed me to take care of her. So I did. And in her own special way, she has loved me ever since.”

Tony looked at his feet. “You murder people and feed them to your dead wife. How is this love?”

Walter turned to him. “What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?” He looked back at the zombie. “Just look at her! See how she resists the almost overwhelming desire to kill? What else could stop something like that, if not love?”

“You’re fucking sick,” Tony said. “That’s the madness inside of you talking.”

“Maybe,” Walter conceded. “But it’s what we have left… what we share in common.”

“The blood lust?”

“Love.”

“I promised I’d let you both leave,” Tony said. “But that doesn’t get you off the hook.”

“What does that mean?”

Tony looked to Helen. “Your fate’s in her hands now.”

Before Walter could inquire further, Tony reached into his back pocket and retrieved the city photograph of Helen and Brian. He unfolded it and held it up in front of Helen.

“What are you doing?” Walter asked with fear in his voice.

Tony ignored him. The yellow-eyed beast stared at the photo. “Remember, Helen,” Tony said. “Whatever part of you that can… remember everything that this monster in front of you did.”

Helen raised her eyes and met Tony’s sad expression.

For a moment, Tony swore he saw a hint of recognition and horror strike that pale, dead face.

Helen turned to Walter and screamed in his face.

“Now… wait, my love!” Walter started backing up. “I know what I did to you… but… we’re passed that now!”

Tony slowly backed away.

Before the bad man could speak another word, Helen pounced on top of him, knocking him to the ground. She immediately leaned in and tore the other side of his face off with her teeth.

The bad man began screaming as Tony turned away, unable to stomach the gruesome sight.

Diane and Nine ran out on to the porch.

“What the hell?” Nine said, stunned by the bloody mess that was once Walter Gorman.

Diane lowered her rifle with a smile. “That’s my girl,” she whispered.

Helen continued to feed on her former maniac husband, oblivious to everyone else, covered in Walter’s blood.

Tony cautiously walked over with his gun raised to the back of Helen’s head. “I promised I would let you leave,” he told her. “You’ve been a prisoner long enough.”

Helen turned and howled at Tony, all recognition absent from her savage glare as the blood lust consumed her.

Tony sighed and then fired one round into her forehead.

Helen fell still atop the unrecognizable pile that was her husband.

The big man lowered the gun as his shoulders sank. He felt a wave of deep sadness strike him as tears fell freely from his eyes. “Now… you’re free, Helen,” he whispered. “Now you’re finally free.”

Gina had watched everything play out from the living room window. Her face was an expressionless mask.

Diane and Nine came over.

“You okay, Tony?” Nine asked.

Tony smiled at them through tears. “We came all the way out here to free prisoners. That sonofabitch held Helen in captivity longer than the rest of us.” He looked at the dead woman, finally at rest. “Mission accomplished.”

~~~

They located the bad man’s van keys. Diane drove while Nine sat shotgun to help navigate. Tony sat beside Gina in the back of the van as they tried to make her as comfortable as possible. They’d managed to stop the bleeding in her leg but she had developed a fever, falling in and out of consciousness–her body working overtime to fight off an infection.

After finding a main road, they headed south, weaving around stranded vehicles. They were fortunate that the road remained clear enough for most of the drive toward the western border of the Wasteland. From there, they would have to hike in on foot.

Diane ran over a long deteriorated dead-head which felt like hitting a pothole to Tony. He yelled over his shoulder, “Take it easy up there!”

“All my fault, Tony,” Nine called back. “I forgot to tell this crazy hunter chick that we weren’t trying to hit the damn dead things on purpose. She may be able to shoot, but she drives like shit.”

Diane gave him the finger.

“Promises… promises…” Nine mumbled, which earned him a punch to the shoulder.

“Sorry, Tony,” Diane added. “I’ll drive around it next time.”

Tony looked back down at Gina.

Her eyes were wide open.

“How you feeling?” he asked.

“Better. Where are we?”

Tony scratched his messy hair. “Maybe half-way back to the western woods.”

She nodded.

Tony looked toward the back of the van, struggling to find something to say.

“Just spit it out,” she said. “What’s the problem?”

He frowned. “I’m glad you’re alright, Gina. But you bailed on us. What the hell were you thinking?”

Gina turned away. “You know what I was thinking.”

“I think you damn near got us both killed with your recklessness.”

She turned back. “It was my call and I made it. I chose to protect you and Diane… but I had no idea what I was getting into. I see that now. I fucked up.”

“Together, Gina. That was the deal. We fight together and that’s how we get to go home.”

She didn’t respond.

Tony wasn’t finished. “You put everyone at risk. You’re supposed to lead us, not fucking lie to us.”

Gina felt the sting. “You were playing right into that maniac’s hands,” she defended. “If I hadn’t made another play, he would’ve had you in the basement instead of me, demanding your life for Nine’s. I wasn’t going to allow that.”

Tony let the matter go before his anger level rose any higher.

“Speaking of plays,” she said, attempting to change the subject. “I saw how you handled things outside, how you turned Helen into a weapon against him. That was gutsy… and a little stupid… but it worked. I imagine that was very satisfying.”

Tony gave her a puzzled look. “‘Satisfying’?”

“You know… letting Helen get a little payback, too. After carrying around that horrible experience all this time, after what the both of you experienced, I bet that felt good. Seeing that asshole get what was coming… and from his own wife, not that’s perfect.”

“I didn’t do it for ‘payback’, Gina. I gave Helen a choice and helped her remember what that sick man did. Honestly, I didn’t know what she would do, or if she’d even remember… but she did. I think justice is a better word here.”

“Justice, revenge, whatever… I’m just glad she gave that asshole what he deserved.”

“And if she had chosen to let him go, even after I showed her the picture, what would you have thought then?”

It was Gina’s turn to look confused. “‘Let him go’? Seriously? That never would’ve happened. I would’ve shot them both down before I let them walk out of here. That’s why I’m glad it all worked out.”

Tony turned away again. Her words reminded him of the memory he’d had earlier. “I wonder what we deserve?”

“What was that?”

“Never mind.”

“We’ll need to destroy Megan now,” Gina said. “I don’t care what Meredith is trying to do… that thing cannot be allowed to exist.”

“Megan’s no threat to anyone. Meredith and Dr. Cooper are always careful.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Gina said. “Those silver-eyed half-deads can infect the living… they can bring back The Change all over again with just a single bite. We’d never considered this before because it’s never happened. Usually those sick fucks just eat the living, go crazy and die, or pretend they’re still human for a while. But now we know how dangerous they really are. Megan can’t be allowed-”

“What do you want to do?” Tony interrupted. “Do you want to escort her into the woods and just put her down like a dog?” His tone was harsher than intended.

“What are you getting at?” she bit back. “Sounds like you’re mad at me for something else now.”

He tried to calm down, but now he was hearing Walter’s words in his head:

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

“Go on,” she pushed. “What are you so pissed about?”

He looked her dead in the eyes and said, “Tell me again what you told me that night after the first storm. Tell me what happened when you walked those two men out into the cold and then came back alone.”

Gina retreated immediately. Her shields went up. “Why are you bringing that up… now? We’ve already talked about it, and you know it still bothers me.”

“You let them go… right? They wanted to come back, but you made them keep going?”

She nodded, a terrifying look surfaced on her face.

“And that’s it?” Tony challenged.

“I don’t want to talk about this right now,” she said. “We’ve got more than enough things to worry about-”

“Just tell me what you told me then. Is that so damn hard to do now?”

Gina was shocked and deeply hurt by his words. How long has he been holding on to this? she wondered. Gina took a deep breath and said, “Like I told you before, I watched them disappear into the snowstorm, watched them head west until I couldn’t stand the cold any longer. Then I turned around and came back. You know I feel bad about leaving them out there, but I couldn’t bring them back… not after what they did to that girl.”

Tony shook his head. “What they did was wrong, Gina. No one questions that. That poor girl got in the way trying to keep the peace, and then got stabbed. But those men were remorseful.”

“So now you question my decision to kick them out. Is that it? Why now? Why bring this up after all this time?”

Tony looked away.

Gina sighed. “What are you holding back, Tony?”

He closed his eyes and thought of those damning words again:

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

“You’re right,” he finally said. “Now’s not the time. I’m sorry I brought it up. I’m just… really tired right now.”

She didn’t believe him but was more than eager to let the matter rest. “You will talk to me, later… right?”

He nodded with a smile. “Sure. I’m just glad you’re alright. It’s been a rough mission.”

Gina frowned and thought of the others who hadn’t made it. “Marcus has saved my life so many times…” She started to softly weep.

Tony lied down next to her and held her close.

“I’m tired of all this death, Tony. So fucking tired,” she said.

“I know. We all are.”

“I’m really starting to believe there’s nothing else,” she confessed. “And the only thing I’m getting really good at is accelerating the process…”

He chose to let her strange comment go as Gina fell back to sleep.

Tony’s thoughts drifted back to the night after the first winter storm…

~~~

THEN:

…His exhausted mind started to wander as Tony felt a sudden chill travel up his spine after considering how deep the snow was… and how anything could be hiding beneath it. He imagined a horde of the rotting dead buried beneath the ice, stirring, as Tony’s feet sunk deep enough for frozen limbs to reach up and grab him. He purposefully increased his speed.

Tony heard the sound of the river, muffled by layers of ice above it, as it continued to flow, not yet cold enough for winter to claim its vitality.

He was almost there.

Just before he cleared the last of the frozen forest on his side of the river, Tony abruptly stopped and gasped, feeling all the blood leave his face.

Sticking up out of the snow were two frozen distorted limbs, their black and blue hands permanently reaching out for him. For a second, he swore those hands were moving.

“Oh no,” he whispered. He walked toward the hand statues. When he was certain that whoever it was had not reanimated, Tony bent down and began digging up the snow around those hands.

When he revealed their frozen faces, Tony fell back and put his hands over his mouth.

Brannigan and Tyler’s faces were locked in horrific poses, their eyes wide open, their foreheads clearly revealing how they died. Tony couldn’t stop staring at the dark bullet wounds as he tried to deny what those heinous marks meant.

He forced himself to his feet and headed back toward the compound, his mind was already racing around a desperate plan which involved returning with a shovel, and the time required to relocate the bodies.

What wouldn’t you do for love, Tony?

~~~

Next Episode 35-1

Previous Episode 34-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-6: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Chapter 34-5: Secrets

Posted: November 15, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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~~~

Tony stood between the familiar van and the modern cottage, handgun in one hand, radio in the other. After waiting for an eternity for the bad man to respond to his message he started imagining what this sadistic former man had in store for him.

What if Gina’s already dead, lying cut up in the basement–the bad man long gone? Tony tried to shake such thoughts but he grew increasingly concerned. Maybe this was all just to get me here, find her body, and then leave me tormented for the rest of my days trying to track this killer down?

He shut his eyes and tried to silence the endless train of hopeless thoughts crashing through his mind.

His handheld radio squelched, followed by a devil’s voice. “Welcome back… meat. Leave your weapons, the radio, and any heroic notions you may be having on the porch and come on in. Basement’s down the hall, last door on the right before the kitchen.”

Tony was gripping the radio so tightly he thought it would break in his hand. Calm… Marcuchi… calm… He transmitted, “We go no further until I talk to Gina. I want to know she’s alright.”

“This isn’t some scene in a movie where you get to negotiate terms with me, asshole. Your woman’s either alive… or dead already. Does it really matter? You’re coming in regardless.”

“Let me speak with her,” he repeated, and then added, “please.”

The radio remained silent for what felt like an eternity.

Tony desperately looked around for anything he could use to his advantage as his gaze landed on the mailbox that read: SAMPSONS.

Tony’s heart sank as he considered the mutilated corpses they’d found in the woods.

Before he could do anything else, the radio came back to life with a chilling scream that made him drop the radio. It was Gina… and she sounded like someone had just set her on fire.

No! He picked it back up and transmitted, “Stop it! Leave her alone!” He was already moving toward the front porch of the cabin.

“Relax,” the bad man said with a laugh. “Your woman will live… for now. I just gave her a lesson in the consequences of being disobedient. You remember those lessons, don’t you, meat?”

It was all he could do to stop himself from storming into the house. He transmitted, “What… what did you do to her?”

“Just a flesh wound. Nothing permanent… not yet anyway. Now, do what I fucking told you to do before I take it out on her! Drop all your shit and get in here… now!”

“Okay… okay… I’m doing it now… just don’t hurt her anymore.” Tony put down the radio and stripped off all his gear and weapons.

Tony had no idea how he was going to save Gina. He silently prayed, God, please… spare her life. That’s all I ask. He can have me back… just please show her mercy.

He took a deep breath and entered the house.

~~~

Tony opened the basement door and looked down the dark staircase. He was immediately reminded of his past imprisonment at the hands of this lunatic.

“Come on down, meat,” the bad man said. “I can’t think of a more fitting place to have a reunion than back where we started.”

“Let me speak to her,” Tony called down, attempting to stall. “If she’s still alive… I’ll do whatever you want.”

The bad man laughed. “Tony… Tony… Tony… she’s passed out at the moment. I dug my blade pretty deep into her thigh… had to twist it a bit to get her to cooperate and cry out. She’s a fighter… well… she was a fighter. Stop fucking around and get down here before I slit her throat. I’m running out of patience with your… demands.”

Tony had no choice. Dead or alive, he would not leave Gina alone with this madman. “Alright, I’m coming down. I’m not armed… just please… leave her alone.”

“Tick, tock, Tony,” the bad man called up.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Tony was startled by the sight of Gina, unconscious, on her knees, with her hands and feet zip tied behind a metal support pole. Her face was bruised and there was a bloody wound on her right thigh. Standing beside her was the maniac with mercury eyes and half his face missing. There was also a portable CB radio, sitting just behind Gina. Aside from that, the basement was bare and dark with just enough daylight seeping in through several cellar windows to breach the gloom.

“My, oh, my,” the bad man said, holding a hunting knife near Gina’s throat. “I never imagined I would ever see you again. And yet… here we are.”

Tony raised his hands submissively. “Please, just let her go. This is between you and me. She’s no part in this.”

“Bullshit,” the bad man corrected. “She’s everything to you just as my Helen was everything to me… before you stole her from me. Gina stays. Whether she stays alive or not is entirely up to you.”

Tony lowered his arms. “What do you want? Do you want me to beg for her life? I will. Just get on with it.”

“I want you to walk over to the far side of the basement,” he said, pointing toward his left. “Over there, in front of the other support beam. Let’s start with that.”

Tony nodded and obliged as he walked to the other side and stood before a metal pole just like the one Gina was tied up to. “Now what?”

The bad man smiled. “Now we wake her up.” The bad man lowered his knife and backhanded Gina with his other hand.

“You fuck!” Tony nearly charged across the basement.

“Stop right there,” he cautioned, putting the knife back down near Gina’s throat.

Gina started to stir, coughing up blood. Her fiery gaze fell on the bad man. “I’m going to kill you… slowly,” she promised.

The bad man laughed at her and nodded toward Tony.

She turned and all the color left her bruised face.

“Tony?” she said.

“It will be alright, Gina. Just… don’t piss him off.”

“Alright!” the bad man announced. “New rule. No more fucking names. Not down here. Not ever again. From now, you both are mine, and that means that the meat no longer have names.”

Gina turned back and hissed, “Fuck you, loser!”

“Gina!” Tony said.

The bad man looked toward Tony, his face suddenly growing dark. “What did I just say?”

“Wait… I’m sorry… don’t… ”

Tony was too late. The bad man took his knife and stabbed Gina in the same injured thigh until she screamed.

Again, Tony started forward but stopped when the bad man put the knife to her throat.

“Do it!” he threatened. “Come one step closer and see what happens!”

Tony backed off and raised his hands again. “Okay. We’re cool. Just… please stop this.”

“No more fucking names!” he said. He turned to Gina and grabbed her roughly by the chin. “Next outburst and I take it out on him. You got that, meat?”

Through tears of frustration and pain, Gina bit her tongue and nodded. Her eyes screamed murder.

“Good!” The bad man moved the knife away from Gina’s throat and stepped beside her. “Now, next thing.” He reached down near him and picked up a bag. He then tossed it underhanded toward Tony’s feet. The contents of the bag rattled as metal struck the concrete.

Tony stared at the bag.

“Well… open it, meat,” the bad man said, in a scolding voice.

Tony emptied the contents of the bag and wasn’t surprised to discover a short chain with a pair of handcuffs fastened to both ends.

“There wasn’t time to bolt something more appropriate into the concrete, meat. But you’ll make do. Now… remove your clothing… and I mean all of it. Meat doesn’t need clothes or names anymore.”

Gina saw the pitiful look on Tony’s face. “I’m sorry I got you into this,” he said to her, mindful not to say her name. He began to remove his clothes.

“You can’t just make him strip and lock him back up,” Gina protested. “I thought you said you were still a man. A real man would show some fucking decency.”

“It’s okay,” Tony said. “Just let me do this.”

“No, fucking way!”

The bad man sighed his impatience. He knelt down next to Gina and said, “You are extremely stubborn… and selfish, meat. I’ll show mercy instead. That one was free. Next outburst and I’ll strip you down, too. Make him watch me do it. Do you think he’ll appreciate that, meat?”

“No… you don’t have to do that,” Tony pleaded. “I’m doing what you said.”

The bad man shook his head at Gina and said, “He understands, meat. Better start getting with the program or it’s going to get real ugly down here really fast. There’s a way you both can survive what comes next. But know that you will never be who you were… ever again. That’s the price for your lives. Tony gets to be my favorite pet once again, and Gina, well… maybe you’ll learn to behave enough one day to become my new radio voice. Doesn’t that sound… exciting?”

Gina swallowed hard and managed some control. “Sure.”

“Your lack of enthusiasm borders disobedience,” the bad man said. “I don’t pick just anyone for my radio messages. You will have to show a lot more appreciation if you expect me to extend any kindness in the future, and believe me, meat… you don’t want to get on my bad side.”

“Okay… I’ll… cooperate.” She looked over at Tony who was removing his pants. He gave her a grateful look.

Oh, God, just give me one chance at this fucker! I’ll rip his throat out with my fucking teeth if I have to! Gina silently prayed. It hurt her heart more than the leg wounds having to watch Tony humiliated in front of her.

Tony stripped off his underwear and felt the dampness of the basement on his bare flesh. He stared down at the chain. He’d never felt more helpless in all his life. When the anger started to rise up in him, all he had to do was look up and see how close to death Gina was, and his fire was immediately put out.

“And now the chain, meat,” the bad man said. “Wrap it around the pole and put the cuffs on. Place yourself in complete submission if you want to save her. And after… I want you on all fours like a good faithful dog.”

Gina glared at the bad man, who dared her to speak with an equally intense gaze.

She relented.

Tony looked at her and smiled. “I love you,” he said.

“I love you,” Gina responded.

“Enough of that,” the bad man said. “Get on with it. We’ve much to get accomplished this afternoon.”

Tony reached down to pick up the chain and noticed something that had fallen out of one of his jean pockets.

It was the photograph of Helen and the bad man, with the city in the background.

Brian… that’s his name, Tony thought initially, but now, after getting a real good look into what was left of the bad man’s face, he knew that the man in the picture couldn’t be him.

“What are you staring at, meat? Get the fucking chain on… now!”

Tony wrapped the chain around the metal pole and placed the cuffs securely around his wrists. And that’s that. Now I’m completely fucking useless.

But rather than let the despair take hold, Tony couldn’t stop thinking about the man in the photograph named Brian, specifically, why Helen had held on to it, even after she’d changed.

“Now, that looks much better, meat,” the bad man said to Tony. “Seeing you back in chains brings back… I don’t know… a little bit of nostalgia for me.”

Tony tried to shut him out as he continued to think about the photo. And then he remembered what that poor prisoner, Marvin, whispered to him before he left him dying in the dark:

“Marvin heard the bad man talkin’, yes, Marvin hears things when the bad man doesn’t think Marvin’s paying attention. The bad man was drinkin’, good and drunk he was, and Marvin heard him say something that Marvin will never forget. He cried out, ‘Helen, why’d you make me do it? Why did you leave me for him? Make me chase you down… make me… hurt you?’ That was the only time Marvin ever heard the bad man… cry, Tony!”

“Where are you, meat?” the bad man asked, getting annoyed by Tony’s distance. “If you’re trying to shut down, and tune out, I’ll make this one scream again to wake you up. What do you think of that?”

Tony felt like he was moving strange pieces of a puzzle around in his mind, trying to find the connection, and then an alarming realization began to surface. “Who is Brian?” Tony blurted out.

The bad man looked genuinely surprised by the question. “Who… who told you that name?”

“He’s in the picture… with your wife, Helen,” Tony said. “I thought it was you at first, but now I know it isn’t.”

Gina was confused. She gave Tony a ‘what the fuck are you up to?’ look.

“What fucking picture? I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, meat, but I don’t appreciate it.”

“It’s right there.” Tony nodded down toward the photo. “I found it in your house, lying on Helen’s bed. She must have been carrying it around before she…”

“Before she what, meat? Before you killed her?” Surprisingly, the bad man refused to acknowledge the photo.

“I didn’t kill your wife,” Tony defended. “I was hurt. She stopped to help me. Helen saved me.”

“Shut your fucking mouth! If she hadn’t stopped to save you, she would never have been attacked! It’s your fault!”

“Who is Brian?” Tony pressed, sensing that he had the bad man off balance.

“Brian’s nobody… fuck… why am I even talking to you about this-”

“He was the one in the car,” Tony said, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place as he searched his memory of that night so long ago. “When Helen got out of the car to help me, Brian was the one I heard calling her back… not you.”

“What the fuck are you… No… NO! You’re making shit up! Trying to confuse me! Helen stopped when she saw your worthless carcass in the road. I told her to keep going, but she wouldn’t listen. She-”

“Marvin said you chased after them… your wife… and Brian,” Tony continued. “I got the impression she was trying to get away from you… that you were trying to hurt her.”

“LIAR! All lies! That’s not what happened!”

“I remember the end much more clearly now. After she tried to help me in the road, someone else was there, someone attacked her while Brian tried to warn her.”

“Stop speaking that fucking name, meat!” The bad man was pacing nervously now. “Brian’s fucking dead!”

Gina had no idea what Tony was doing, but she played along. “Was Helen leaving you? Was that why you followed them? Is that why you killed Brian? She was running away with another man… your wife… and then you went after them.”

“Where were you?” Tony continued. “Where were you when your wife was being attacked? Why weren’t you in the car with her… to protect her?”

The bad man turned from Gina to Tony, obviously confused as the false memory of that traumatic night started to crumble and the truth began to come to the surface. “Stop! Both of you… just fucking stop! You’ve got it all wrong. I tried to save her! She attacked me! Can’t you fucking see what she did to me? Can’t you see that if you hadn’t interfered that none of this would’ve happened?”

“’Interfered’?” Tony pushed. “Interfered with what? I was dying along the side of a road and your wife decided to help me. If you were there, then why didn’t you stop her? Unless… you did stop her…”

“What did you do to your wife?” Gina accused. “Did you hurt her? You did… didn’t you?”

“And Brian tried to stop you,” Tony finished.

The bad man stepped back as the assault upon his mind continued. Are they… are they right? Walter wondered. Did I… did I hurt Helen?

“Look at the fucking picture,” Tony said. “Is that you, or is that Brian, laughing alongside your wife? Why would she still be holding on to this picture… unless she was holding it when you murdered her.”

Gina stared at Tony. What the fuck are you doing? she thought. Play this wrong and he’ll slit my throat and then beat you to death with his fucking radio!

Tony caught her glance and nodded. Trust me, his face told her.

The bad man was holding the sides of his head. He was beginning to remember… clearly… what he’d blocked out so long ago. “You’re trying to confuse me,” he said, trying to calm himself. “You think… you think that if you can mess with my head that I’ll… that I’ll break down. You think that I’ll collapse into a pile of fucking grief if you can get me to believe that I hurt my darling, Helen.” He gave Tony a look that terrified him immediately. The bad man turned to Gina and said, “I’ll give you something to grieve about. I’ll take from you what you stole from me!”

Gina braced herself as the bad man moved in, blade aimed for her face.

“WAIT!” Tony desperately yelled. “Don’t you remember the words she wrote on the photograph?”

The bad man stopped. “What words? What… what did she say?”

Tony closed his eyes. Come on! Remember, damn it!

The bad man tightened his grip on his knife. He was within one swing from ending Gina’s life. She tried to remain still… invisible… hoping this madman would forget she was there.

Tony remembered. “She wrote, ‘Was an incredible night, Brian. Miss you already.’

“Bullshit! She’d never write that. She didn’t care about him! The only reason she left-” He started to remember more. Why did she leave? She… she called him… left me behind… after what happened… what happened with… Morning Star.

The bad man closed his eyes, unable to resist the invasion of unwelcome memories brought on by a name he hadn’t thought of since before he lost his mind to the infection which consumed him.

“Morning Star,” he said to no one.

Both Tony and Gina exchanged a worried look.

“What about… ‘Morning Star’?” Tony asked. “You’re remembering something. I can tell.”

The bad man stared at Tony with a pitiful expression on his face.

For the first time, Tony could see beyond the monster.

“What did you do?” Tony asked.

The bad man stared at him for so long that Tony wondered if he’d turned to stone. Then he finally spoke. “Helen came to the stables. She saw what happened… but she didn’t understand… she never understood how much I loved her… how much I just wanted us to be happy. Morning Star made me feel… needed. She needed me and I needed someone to take care of… until I could find a way to make Helen… happy. But everything went bad… very, very bad.”

~~~

THEN:

After Helen ran from the stables, Walter managed to stand on wobbly legs. He tried to point the rifle at the dead woman as if she would come off the wall at any moment and finish him off, but he was far too weak to lift it. The blood from the wound near his neck continued to bleed as he felt his body go cold… numb.

He couldn’t take his eyes off the hideous thing that had once been Rebecca Miller… his Morning Star.

Who will speak with me now? How will I ever hear that precious voice again? His mind was drifting into oblivion. A coughing fit seized him. He nearly fell over as he covered his mouth and felt dizzy. When he looked at his hand, it was covered in blood.

You are dying, what was left of his rational mind told him.

Walter became aware of his bloody shirt… and his neck wound.

“Shit! She… she bit me!” He dropped the rifle and looked around for anything to stop the bleeding and found a roll of duct tape on a work bench. He quickly tore off several pieces and began placing them over the wound.

He violently coughed again, producing more blood.

Helen! his mind reminded him.

Walter started moving toward the stable doors. But something felt wrong… everything felt wrong. He legs felt stiff, his arms heavy, his breathing was labored as if some massive force was pushing in on his chest.

When he got outside, he noticed the full moon, heard the sirens blaring in the distance, noticed a breeze that blew his hair back but he failed to feel it on his numb flesh.

You are dying.

Walter stopped and leaned back against the stable wall, trying to regain his equilibrium and retain his sanity. He felt like everything was slipping away.

Got to… Got to fight this… Find Helen… Get to the hospital…

He almost died right there, but then he saw the headlights pulling up the driveway. Walter turned toward the light and watched a vehicle stop, and then a man got out. He saw Helen running toward the man. They embraced.

Walter raised an arm, opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He forced himself to move toward the car.

Neither the man nor Helen saw him as they quickly got in the car and started driving away.

Walter knew the man, his name was Brian. He was well aware of Helen’s adulterous affair, but in that moment he wasn’t thinking about everything that had failed in their relationship leading up to this point. He only thought of Helen leaving… and never coming back. He couldn’t let her go. She was all he had left.

The vehicle was turning around, leaving the property.

Walter turned away and saw his van. He desperately reached into his pocket and found the keys. He pushed with all he had left to reach the van, unlock the door, and then collapsed in the driver’s seat.

Walter forced his eyes to stay open, made himself ignore the burning within his flesh telling him that he was so close to death. He started the car, turned on the headlights, and then looked into the rearview mirror out of habit, and gasped.

The eyes staring back at him in the mirror were not his own. They were demon’s eyes… death’s eyes… dark, metallic orbs on a pale, cold face.

You are not dying….you are already dead.

“Stop it!” he shouted at his reflection. His voice sounded foreign in his own ears. “Stop! Stop! STOP!!!” He slammed his hand against the rearview mirror until it broke off.

The vehicle had made it to the main road. Helen was almost gone… forever.

“No!” he cried out and put the van in gear.

Walter was determined to follow them, find Helen, and bring her home.

~~~

NOW:

The bad man walked toward Tony, his eyes no longer on the meat, but rather, the photograph atop the pile of clothes. He bent over and picked it up.

Tony considered kicking the deranged man but feared what would happen if his attack only brought back the violence temporarily held beneath this man’s ocean of deep grief.

The bad man stared at the photo and said, “My name was… my name was Walter Gorman… and I tried to love her the only way I knew how. But she loved another.”

“Brian?” Tony gently asked, trying to sound as respectful as he could.

The bad man turned and smiled. It was an awful smile. “No. She was in love with the city, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never compete with that. Brian was no one. He was a part of that city life she craved… and nothing more. She wanted me to love her… there… but I couldn’t exist in the city… couldn’t breathe. So I stole Helen from the city and tried to tame her… but I never could. The city wouldn’t let her go.”

“What happened after you followed them… Walter?” Tony carefully said.

Walter hadn’t heard anyone call him by that name in so long… so long. He allowed the memories of the rest of that night to enter and surrendered to the truth.

~~~

THEN:

All major Interstates and highways were backed up for miles forcing Brian on to a spider web of back roads that pushed him much closer to Lake Erie than he’d intended. He and Helen ended up on Lake Shore Blvd in Geneva, wondering how long it would take to run out of road completely and be forced to travel on foot.

Helen stared out the passenger window at the passing beach houses scattered across sand dunes. She could see the dark outline of the lake just beyond. She had no idea where they were or where they were going as Brian continued to scan local AM radio stations for emergency updates specifically related to traffic reports.

“This is pointless,” he said in frustration. “No one knows a fucking thing! All I keep getting are random reports of widespread violence and mass hysteria. People up and killing people for no apparent reason. This is fucking madness!” He looked over at the despondent woman. “Helen, are you okay?”

She turned and looked at him as if coming out of a trance. She tried to put on her best smile, took one look into Brian’s terrified face, and then stared forward, covering her mouth. “We’re in trouble, aren’t we?”

“We’ll be alright,” he lied. “Just got to find some way off this damn road and make our way back inland.”

She nodded absently, and then reached up to bring down the visor to examine herself in the small mirror. “I must look awful,” she said. When she lowered the visor, a picture fell into her lap. She picked it up and smiled.

It was a picture of herself and Brian after their first date in the city. She flipped it over and recognized her hand writing:

Was an incredible night, Brian.
Miss you already,
-Helen

“I can’t believe you still have this.”

Brian turned and saw the picture. “Of course I still have it. That was the night I first fell for you.”

“But we’d just met.”

“I know.”

She stared at Brian with a mixture of joy and deep sadness. He deserves far better than this. I kept him around, told him just enough to believe we’d be together eventually, while I continued to stay with that horrid man.

“You can keep that. I don’t need it anymore,” he said with a confident wink.

She gave him a curious look. He really believes we’re going to be alright. That I can just forget everything that’s happened with that sonofabitch and just… run away with him…. run away from all of this mess.

For a brief moment she considered it. Why the hell not? Just keep going and never look back. It’s not like I’ve got anything left to lose… or any other reason to stay anymore.

She took the picture and stuffed it into the front pocket of her gown. She laughed at herself. “I really should’ve dressed before we left.”

“You were in no condition to do anything,” Brian said. “I wanted you the hell out of there. When we get far from all this crazy shit… maybe even across the state line… I’ll take you shopping.” He gave her a toothy smile.

She laughed and then became serious. “Brian, do you love me?”

He turned. “Of course I do… I’ve always loved you. You know this.”

She nodded. “Promise me we’ll never come back here.”

He gave her a strange look.

“I mean it,” she said. “I can never come back here again. If I do, and don’t ask me to explain it, but if I do come back, it will be the end of me. I can feel that with complete certainty. If you can promise me we will never come back, I’ll love you with all that I have left.”

He hesitated, saw the extreme fear painted across her face, and then said, “You got it, babe. I prom-”

Just then, a silver Sedan sped around them on the left, nearly going off the road because of how fast it was moving.

“Shit!” Brian said, barely managing to swerve to the right in time and avoid being side-swiped. “Fucking idiot!” he yelled out his window.

The Sedan continued to speed off, swerving on both sides of the road as if the driver were drunk… or fleeing from the Devil himself.

“Sorry, babe. I didn’t even see him coming up behind us,” Brian said. “What the hell is wrong with everyone tonight?”

Just before they lost sight of the Sedan, they watched it swerve widely toward the shoulder on the right, almost going off into the sand dunes. They heard something get struck and tires squealing as the Sedan sped off. The passenger-side mirror had been broken off and came bouncing back toward them.

“Oh my God!” Helen nearly screamed. “He hit someone! There! Look! Right by the edge of the road!”

“Shit, hold on.” Brian pulled the car over.

Helen rushed out of the car and approached a big man lying on his back. “Oh my God! Are you alright?”

The man tried but failed to respond.

“He’s hurt. Help me get him in the car.”

“What if he’s… sick like the others?” Brian asked. He hesitated by the car.

“He’s fine!” she said. “Didn’t you just see what that asshole did? He hit him and just kept going!”

“We can’t take him to the hospital,” Brian added. “I’m not going back to the city! You saw what’s happening there! Everyone’s going crazy!”

Helen looked to Brian. It was clear he didn’t know what to do. She looked back down at the man. He had a kind face. Are you just going to ignore this one, too? she thought. Turn your back and pretend this isn’t happening… like you did with Rebecca Miller?

As much as she hated the thought of turning around and going back to her house, Helen knew she had supplies there that could help this man. And there was nowhere else they could go… not anymore… perhaps not ever again.

This is your one chance to make up for what you failed to stop with Rebecca.

She looked to Brian. “We’re not leaving him! Help me get him in the car and we’ll take him home.”

Brian gave her a look which clearly said: Are you fucking out of your damn mind?

“I can patch him up there,” she finished with a pleading look upon her face. Please… do this for me, Brian.

Brian sighed and nodded. Then he looked past her and shouted, “Helen! Helen, look out!”

Walter grabbed her from behind and started dragging Helen up into the sand dunes.

Helen kicked and screamed as Brian rushed over.

“You, sonofabitch!” he shouted, almost losing his balance in the sand. “Let her fucking go!” Brian stopped suddenly as Walter turned toward him, tossing Helen into the sand.

“Fuck off!” he spat, turning his hate-filled silver eyes on him. “She’s my wife! I’m taking her home!”

Brian backed up a step, raising his hands defensively. “Look… what the fuck? Your eyes… your fucking eyes are dead! What’s wrong with you?”

Walter charged him with a monstrous roar.

Brian back peddled and tripped over a large rock, causing him to fall into the sand and on to his back. “Get the fuck away from me! You’re sick… you need help!”

Walter saw the football-sized rock and snatched it out of the sand. With more ferocity than he ever knew he possessed, he brought the rock down hard on the top of Brian’s head… again… and again… He growled as spit flew from his mouth, sweat beading down his forehead. He couldn’t stop himself as he smashed Brian’s face in, the sand beneath quickly turning to red mud.

Walter stopped, out of breath. He became aware of a new sensation as he saw the bloody pulp that was once his wife’s… whatever he was. The blood aroused him as he was both horrified and ecstatic about taking a… taste.

Helen leapt on the monster’s back and screamed, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING HIM!”

Walter could feel his wife’s warm blood coursing through her arms as she tried to choke him. He opened his mouth to dig his teeth into her flesh.

“NO!” he shouted, when he realized what he was about to do. “Get off me, Helen!” He turned violently, causing Helen to lose her grip and fall to the sand.

She turned and saw what was left of Brian. “You fucking monster!” she screamed. “Look what you’ve done!” She started to get up.

Walter raised a hand toward her. “Stay the hell back! I can’t… I can’t control this… I’m trying not to hurt you.”

Helen gave him a condemning look. “You’ve hurt me more than you’ll ever know,” she hissed. “I’m dying inside because of you!”

Walter laughed at the irony of her accusation. He, was in fact, dying. He could feel it–death slowly consuming him from the inside out. “If it wasn’t for you…” he started to say, but then stopped as he noticed the big man lying unconscious near the road. He could smell him. He could smell his blood.

Before he realized what he was about to do, Walter approached the wounded man, his new compulsion driving him, commanding him, to… FEED!

He sat down beside the man, targeting a large vein that pulsated near his neck.

What is this? he thought. What have I turned into?

Walter felt his rational mind slipping away, replaced by an overwhelming need to consume the blood. He opened his mouth, let out a savage guttural sound, and leaned in toward the unconscious man’s neck.

I am a monster.

Just before his teeth penetrated exposed flesh, Helen rammed into him with all her weight, knocking Walter back and away from the big man. She quickly got on top of him and began punching him in the face. “You leave him alone! This poor man has nothing to do with this!” And then she added, “He’s for me! Not you! He’s my chance to be free!”

Walter grabbed both of her wrists tightly, causing her to stop.

Helen looked into the madman’s alien silver eyes and saw it… the hunger.

There was nothing he could do to stop it now. I am a monster, Walter thought again. He jerked her left arm toward his mouth and bit deep into her forearm, tearing into her flesh and letting the blood fill his mouth.

Helen screamed.

He looked into her horrified face and saw a mixture of pain, fear, repulsion… and a deep sadness. This was enough to restrain him from devouring her as he pushed Helen off of him and then got up and tried to put some distance between them. He wiped the blood from his chin and shouted, “Run! Get the hell away from me!”

Walter knew the moment he turned and looked at her again that he would not be able to keep himself from feasting upon his wife. He almost tripped over what was left of Brian.

“Oh God!” he screamed, pulling on his hair and staring at the corpse. “I can’t… I can’t stop this…”

He immediately knelt down beside Brian’s body and started eating from what was left of his crushed in face. The more he tasted Brian’s flesh, the more savage he became as he ripped into Brian’s throat with his teeth.

Helen sat in the sand, cupping her wound with one hand, as she felt faint…weak… helpless to do anything but watch as the man she once loved devoured the man who once loved her.

She felt cold… very cold.

A few hours later, she felt nothing at all… except a hunger which invaded her soul and consumed it as a stranger with yellow eyes stared back at her from her bedroom prison mirror.

~~~

NOW:

The bad man fell to his knees in front of Tony. He dropped his knife and the photograph, placed his hands over his face… and began sobbing.

The truth of his actions had done more damage than anything Tony could’ve tried. For the first time, he thought they might escape this basement. Tony looked over at Gina and saw the same hope in her eyes. But he had to keep pushing. He had to keep pushing while Walter was still present, and not the bad man. “Walter… I know it hurts. I know you just want to curl up in a corner and die for what you did… for what you didn’t mean to do… to Helen. If I’d done that to Gina… I’d never be able to forgive myself. But you have a chance to make things right.”

Walter looked up into Tony’s face. “What I’ve done is unforgivable. I… I infected the only person I’ve ever loved… made her worse than what was done to me. She called me a monster. She was right.”

“Walter, please… don’t let it happen again. Don’t take away the woman I love and do to her what you did to Helen. You still possess the ability to choose, no matter what you are now. You can choose to let Gina go and not give in to the sickness gnawing away inside of you.” Tony swallowed hard. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know what you were doing… but now you do.”

Walter shook his head in disbelief. “How? How can you possibly believe that? Look at what I’ve done to you and your friends… and my wife. How can you not believe it’s all my fault?”

“Because you were not yourself when you did these bad things,” Tony lied. “You were once a better man, a man who loved his wife, but then you got sick, like so many others… but now you have a chance to fight this thing and let Walter come back.”

“Is that really possible? Can I… go back to being that man?”

“Yes, you can. And you can prove it to yourself right now by letting us go. Can you do that, Walter?” Tony was sweating profusely. He expected the bad man to resurface at any moment while he tried to reason with madness.

“I… I can do that,” Walter said. He picked his knife back up.

“Good, good. Now, just go and cut Gina loose. You can do it, Walter.”

Walter nodded, but continued to hesitate.

Tony pushed. “Come on, Walter. Do it for Helen.”

The bad man turned and glared at him. “You don’t get it… none of you do!” The bad man got to his feet. “You patronize me, try to use my grief against me, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I remember everything now and that I want to be a better man… a man that Helen could love. Because it’s still there.”

Fuck me, I’m losing him. “What’s still there, Walter?” Tony asked.

“The fucking hunger. It’s always there… always… there.” He turned away from Tony and started toward Gina.

“Just… cut her loose, Walter, and we’ll talk about it some more… okay?”

The bad man did not respond as he continued toward Gina.

Gina saw the look in the bad man’s eyes. She’d seen it before. Gerald Schuler, the man who had raped her that first hellish night so long ago, the monster who had craved her flesh afterwards, had given her the same damn look. “Tony,” she said, struggling in vain against her restraints.

“I’m here, Gina. Don’t worry. He’ll let you loose.”

“Tony,” she said with more urgency. “He’s not coming over here to let me go.”

The bad man dropped the knife to the ground.

“Walter,” Tony said. “What are you doing? Pick up the knife and cut Gina loose. You can do this.”

“Tony!” she said. “I love you, Tony. But you need to turn away now. I don’t want you to watch this.”

Tony could see the horror in her eyes and understood what Walter was about to do. “No! Walter… you don’t want to do this! Think of Helen, Walter… think of Helen!”

“I’m so hungry, Tony,” the bad man said. “Maybe if I just… take a little taste… like before… I’ll forget. Maybe I’ll forget all of it. Maybe if I taste enough… I’ll forget Helen, too. It’s hard to stay damned if you can’t remember any of it.”

Tony yanked against his chains, trying to get free. “Walter… just stop! Don’t you touch her! Do you hear me, Walter? DON’T YOU TOUCH HER!”

The bad man, formerly Walter Gorman, stopped in front of Gina. He was staring at her neck.

Gina pictured herself chained to a bed, like Helen, with yellow fire for eyes and Tony’s head in her lap as she feasted from the sea of forgetfulness. Oh fuck… fuck… FUCK!

Gina screamed as the bad men leaned in with his mouth wide open.

Tony was shouting and weeping as he pulled so hard on the handcuffs that his wrists began to bleed.

Suddenly, the CB radio came to life, squelching loudly.

The bad man stopped an inch form Gina’s throat and turned toward the radio.

“Attention, attention. To the fucking lunatic who has my friends and insists on broadcasting messages with the words ‘Waffle House’ in it, causing me to constantly crave pancakes I can’t have… stop what you’re doing and fucking listen.”

Tony and Gina stared at each other.

It was Nine.

The bad man walked over the radio and stared at it.

“I have your zombie. You have exactly five minute to release my friends,” Nine continued to broadcast. “If I don’t see them both on the Sampson’s front porch, alive and well… I’m going to put a bullet in Helen’s head.”

~~~

Next Episode 34-6

Previous Episode 34-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-5: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Chapter 34-4: Secrets

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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~~~

The first blizzard came with a ferocity fitting of this new hostile world, offering a preview of the months to follow and marking the beginning of this remnant of humanity’s long winter siege beneath the ground.

Gina could not have picked a worse evening to go topside as the winds howled around the three of them, blowing snow erratically about and creating white-out conditions that reduced visibility to five feet in all directions.

When they were half way to the river, the two bundled-up men looked back at her with a mixture of hatred and fear as they considered fleeing their captor.

“Don’t even think about it,” Gina shouted above the wind, holding the shotgun on them as a reminder of the serious shit they were in. “I don’t need a clear shot to hit either of you with this. I’ll maim you if nothing else and then let the dead finish you off… or the fucking cold.”

“This is bullshit, Gina,” one of them said, shaking from the cold. “We know what we did was wrong… but the girl… that was an accident. Everyone knows it.”

His name was Tyler, one from Tony and Orosco’s original group. “Just keep walking or there’s about to be another ‘accident’ right here,” she promised.

“Just let us come back and we’ll be cooperative,” the other one pleaded. His name was Brannigan. “You can keep us locked up… just don’t send us out here… with the monsters.”

Gina ignored this. “Keep moving. We’ve got a long way to go before we reach the western edge of these woods. Once I get you the fuck out of the Wasteland, and far from my sight, I don’t care what you do.”

“Gina, have you seen this fucking weather?” Tyler said. “We’re never gonna make it out tonight. We can hardly see a fucking thing!”

“Walk!”

The two men gave up and continued trudging through the forest as the snowfall began to accumulate on the ground.

Gina shook from the cold. Tyler was right. They’d never make it to the western edge, not in this weather. But that was irrelevant. She never had any intention of escorting them out of the Wasteland. She just needed time to think this rash plan through and work up the strength to carry out what needed done.

She understood that being the leader was an unrewarding affair on most days… and sometimes it meant being downright ruthless on occasion, making hard decisions for the greater good that would keep offenders like these two from murdering anyone else in another meaningless outburst. There were just too many things that could go wrong now, especially if they all were expected to survive the winter in the compound. If she showed leniency for Tyler and Brannigan, the rest of the community would see her as weak, allowing murderers to roam freely about the community and encouraging others like them to commit other heinous ‘acts’ when they lost control.

And she absolutely had to maintain control… or it all fell apart.

They reached the river. The water was rushing downstream as the rainy season prior to winter’s approach had filled it to maximum capacity.

Gina found a narrow gap they could cross.

This will have to be it, she thought. “We’re crossing here.”

Both men looked back confused.

“Cross… now!”

They crossed the five foot gap over icy waters and slippery rocks. Fortunately, they were all wearing well-insulated winter boots, another luxury of the compound supplies, which kept their feet dry.

Once on the other side, Tyler turned. “What is this? You said we were going west. There was no reason to cross the river.”

“Changed my mind. We’re going north,” Gina said absently.

Both Tyler and Brannigan exchanged a worried look.

“But… you’ve always said that the Shadow Dead came from the northern end of the preserve,” Brannigan reminded her.

“I know what I said, asshole. Get moving.”

Tyler protested. “Assuming you haven’t made that whole story up about these mysterious fucking monsters just to keep us all in line, why the hell would you be pointing us straight toward them? If they find out we’re here-”

“If they decide to come out on a night like this just to attack us,” Gina interrupted, “then they will be doing us all a favor.”

Tyler quickly moved in close to Brannigan and whispered, “Fucking woman has a death wish. Let’s bolt.”

Brannigan looked concerned. “She’s got the gun.”

“She’s not going to shoot us, asshole. She wants the monsters to kill us.”

“You two, step away from each other!” Gina barked.

“You ready?” Tyler said. “We’ll cut left through the trees and lose her in the storm.”

Brannigan nodded. “Let’s do it.”

“I said, get the fuck away from each other!” Gina noticed they were picking up their pace and creating distance between them. “Slow the fuck down… now!”

They weren’t listening.

Gina picked up her own pace. “Didn’t you hear me, shitheads? I said-”

Both men started running toward the left once they reached a copse of dense smaller trees. She was quickly losing them in the whiteout.

“Shit!” she shouted, running after them.

She lost visual of the two criminals, but continued to follow their erratic and clumsy stomping through the woods to stay close. They were doubling back toward the river. If the Shadow Dead were out here, these two idiots couldn’t have done any better at broadcasting their position.

Gina became aware of their trick much too late as one of the men had stopped behind a thicker tree, allowing Gina to pass long enough to slip behind her, and then struck her in the shoulder with a large broken tree limb.

She fell to the ground, dropping the shotgun.

“Got her!” Tyler yelled, scrambling for the shotgun.

Brannigan was coming back.

Gina rolled in the direction of the shotgun and then kicked Tyler in the chin just as he was reaching down for it. He fell back stunned.

Brannigan dove for the shogun, nearly landing on top of Gina. They both wrestled with the barrel.

Gina gave it up and got to her feet.

Before either men could collect themselves, Gina ran behind the closest tree. She’d already drawn her handgun.

Brannigan pointed the shotgun all around, briefly losing Gina in the storm.

Tyler came over and joined him with his hands raised. “Okay, Gina,” Tyler said. “Just… just calm down. We’ve got the gun. There’s not going to be any more trouble. We’ll just head back and let the others sort this out.”

“Shut up,” she said coldly. “See… this is what happens when I let killers live too long. You just tried to kill me. How could I possibly let you two come back?” Gina was already attaching the silencer to her weapon.

“We were… we were just trying to get away, Gina,” Brannigan defended. “You’re leading us to our deaths by heading north. Can you blame us for fighting back?”

“No,” she said. “In fact, I was counting on it.” She stepped out from behind the tree and walked toward them.

Brannigan raised the shotgun toward her, but hesitated.

Tyler noticed the handgun that she kept pointed down along her side. “Shoot her! She’s armed! Shoot this crazy bitch!”

“Fuck!” Brannigan yelled. The shotgun shook in his arms.

Gina raised her handgun at him. “What are you waiting for, asshole? Shoot!”

“Shoot, you stupid fuck!” Tyler shouted.

Brannigan put his finger to the trigger.

Gina aimed for his head, a devilish smile appearing on her face.

That’s right, she thought. Do it!

And then Brannigan lowered the weapon. “No,” he said.

Gina was confused. “What do you mean, ‘No’?”

He turned toward Tyler, dropping the gun to the ground. “This stops here. We surrender.” He turned back to Gina. “We… we didn’t mean to kill that poor girl. It just happened. We’re… We’re not killers.”

“Bullshit!” Gina yelled. “Pick it back up!”

“No!” Brannigan said.

Tyler laughed. “I guess you’re just going to have to murder us the old fashion way, Gina. Because that is what you’re trying to do… right? You wanted us to fight back so you could justify killing us in self-defense. That’s what all this is about.”

Gina’s face was stone. “Doesn’t matter. Neither one of you are coming back… not as long as I live. So either pick up the shotgun or keep walking north.”

“No,” Brannigan said, boldly stepping forward. “You don’t get to do this, Gina. We have rights! You don’t get to decide who lives and who dies! The community is bigger than you and people are sick of your bullshit. We’re going back… right now. If you want to stop us you’re going to have to shoot us in the back.”

Tyler gave the shotgun a final look and then shook his head at Gina. “I bet it’s not even loaded. We’re not killers, Gina. No matter what you want to believe. You’re the only killer here.” He turned to follow Brannigan.

“Stop… right fucking now!” Gina ordered. She aimed the gun at their backs. “Last chance. I meant what I said. You’re not going back!”

Both men refused to look at her.

Gina put her finger on the trigger…

~~~

…and woke abruptly to the sharp backhand slap across her face.

“There she is,” the bad man said with a laugh, wisely stepping back from Gina’s glare. “Defiant to the end. I admire that. Makes carving out the spirit from you much more satisfying.” He pulled out his hunting knife. “I needed you awake for what comes next. I’m very sorry you got caught up in all this but Tony’s had this coming for a long, long time. Seems like all he’s done since escaping is ensure more pain for others. Bad, bad, Tony.”

Gina ignored his words and quickly took in her surroundings. They were in a basement. She was tied up to a pole. She stared at the maniac who had removed his bandana and glasses revealing a silver-eyed monster who looked like death itself had taken hold of his face. She watched the bad man as he examined the edge of his knife.

“I haven’t had a chance to sharpen this, but it should still cut clean through the bones. I’ll be very quick about it… very precise.” He looked at her and smiled, if you could call what was left of his mauled up face, a smile. “I’ll be needing one of your hands. Any preference?”

She knew she should be terrified but she was not. Her body still ached from the effects of the Taser and her face throbbed from being punched… but she ignored it all. Even now, while it was apparent that this evil thing was about to torture her, Gina could feel absolutely nothing… except the hatred stealing over her entire body like she was standing in the middle of a bonfire, the fiery flames consuming all else.

She looked into its mercury eyes and said, “Did your wife do that to your face? Helen?”

The bad man’s smile was gone. He stared at Gina with his knife raised in a tightly clenched fist as if it took all he had to not shove the long blade into her skull. “Don’t you speak her name,” he said, managing a calmer voice than his face showed. “You don’t know what you’re fucking talking about.”

“I know she tried to stop you, you sick fuck,” Gina spat. “I know that you’re not even a man anymore. You’re just some fucked-up perversion that has no right to exist. Neither dead nor alive… you’re something much worse than this world’s shit out so far.”

The bad man stepped closer. He wanted to slit her tongue out. “You are coming dangerously close to trying my patience. Maybe I should just skip the fingers and go right for your face. I could add a few more scars to the one you already have. By the time I’m done… it will be hard for anyone to remember you were once beautiful.”

Gina laughed hard.

The bad man’s face was a mixture of rage and confusion.

“Look, asshole,” Gina managed. “I haven’t been ‘beautiful’ for a very long time. You want to cut my face up… so fucking do it! I don’t give a fuck!” She leaned forward on her restraints, trying to reach out to the bad man with a look of pure hatred on her face. “You’re a fucking animal… but so am I. I look at you and see myself… and it sickens me. I’m as grotesque as you on the inside and there’s not a fucking thing you can do to me that I haven’t already done to myself! So stop trying to scare me and get on with it. You can slice me up but you won’t get anything else from me. Count on it.”

The bad man was genuinely surprised. He’d never seen so much… darkness… spewing forth from one of his victims before. For a moment, he considered ending her quickly, just to get her burning eyes off of him. But then he smiled as understanding came. “You’re very good at this,” he said. “I suspect this isn’t the first time you’ve been the cornered animal before. You’re trying to get me to kill you. Almost worked, too.” He sheathed his knife and squatted down. “Let me tell you how this will play out.”

“Go to hell, monster. And when you get there, I’ll be there to fuck you up!”

The bad man laughed, but quickly lost all humor. He stared back into the face of this wild beast of a woman and for a moment he was reminded of Helen. Not his city-loving wife, but the yellow-eyed creature chained to a bed, staring into his soul with an incomprehensible madness which had consumed her night after night.

“You feel that you’ve nothing left to lose,” The bad man explained. “I get that… I really do. You’ve probably lost so much that losing a bit more doesn’t matter, even if it’s a pound of flesh that I carve off your bones. But you would be very wrong.”

Gina’s cold exterior faltered. What the fuck is he talking about?

“Yes… I see it now,” the bad man said. “You care very little about what happens to you… but… you still care for him.”

“I’m not playing this game, loser. You can’t frighten me with threats to the people I love. They are far from here now. I made sure of that. So why don’t we get on with this. You just take that knife and start carving and I’ll spit in your fucking face with every breath I have left!”

The bad man’s eyebrows lifted. “Do you honestly believe your ploy to fool your friends worked? You underestimate Tony’s resolve. In fact, when my little messenger reaches him and tells him where to find you, he’ll come running.”

Gina’s face changed completely. Fuck, he’s talking about Nine!

“Bullshit,” she tried. “You’re desperate to break me and you’ll make up anything to make me-”

“…want to live?” he finished. “That’s right. I know you crave death, but more than death, you need for Tony to be safe. You need for Tony to live so that you can die in this miserable shell with an ounce of peace.”

Gina remained silent. She looked away.

The bad man reached in and grabbed her by the throat, causing her to look back.

“Oh no you don’t,” he said. “You don’t get to hide now, Gina!” he spat. “I have him which means I have you, too.” He retrieved his knife. “And now that I know just where to cut the deepest, let’s start with something simple. I need a piece of you for Tony. Something he will always remember before I break him.” He started to reach in with the knife, to remove her left eye.

Gina cried out in anger and frustration, feeling completely helpless for the first time. He’s played us! He’s played us all along! Tony! Why the fuck couldn’t you just keep going? Now it’s all for nothing!

Just as the bad man was about to pluck out her eye, his portable CB radio squawked to life, followed by a familiar voice:

“Alright… I’m here.” It was Tony. “Come out and let’s deal with this man to man. You wanted me so fucking bad… well now you have me. But if you’ve hurt Gina in any way… I will make it my life’s goal to take away everything you have left… starting with what’s left of that pitiful creature, Helen.”

The bad man paused, a look of disappointment on his face. He sighed and released his grip from Gina’s throat. He backed away and sheathed his knife. “I let you distract me,” he told her over his shoulder. “And apparently my little messenger found him much quicker than expected. Your man must have figured out your little ruse and turned back toward the river. No matter. This will all play out as intended.”

“No matter what you do to me,” Gina said, “he’s going to kill you.”

The bad man looked at her as if she’d just said the strangest thing. Then he laughed hard and said, “You really don’t know him, do you? I’m very surprised, considering how much you care for him.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

He turned and leaned in with a whisper. “Before this day is through, I’ll have him chained in this basement, willing to do whatever I want him to do… just to save the pathetic life that you don’t even want. How does that feel, Gina?”

She looked away.

“And after I have him, I’ll make him just like me.”

Gina turned back, confused.

“That’s right. I’ll turn him into what you most despise, other than yourself.” He got up and went for the radio. He picked up the receiver and stopped, looking back over his shoulder. “You hate me because I’m like the monsters outside. You hate me because I’m compelled to… feed… and yet I’m still just a man, whether you want to believe that or not.”

“You are nothing but a monster,” Gina said.

He turned and smiled. “If that’s true, than what will you think of your precious Tony when I make him watch as I carve you up, and then in order to keep you alive, I make him consume your flesh, piece at a time?”

Gina fought hard against her restraints until her wrists started to bleed.

She wanted to be dead… she deserved death… but this monster forbade it.

And now… if the bad man had his way… something worse than death would push her beyond the brink of madness… forever.

Tony, she thought. Tony, you cannot be down here. I love you, but I can’t allow this. I’ll kill myself first! I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS!

~~~

Next Episode 34-5

Previous Episode 34-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-4: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Chapter 34-3: Secrets

Posted: November 7, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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snow-1788190_960_720

~~~

THEN…

…Tony slowly approached the small space behind the clinic that housed the long metal ladder leading up to the compound’s only serviceable entrance into and out of their underground haven. His sluggish movements, followed by a long yawn made Logan’s sentries give him a long amusing look.

“You lost there, Tony?” an older man said with a laugh. “I believe your bed’s in the other direction.”

Tony recognized him. His name was Barney. Good, he thought. It won’t take much convincing with this one. He smiled and responded. “Sorry. I haven’t slept for shit in the last twenty-four hours.” He didn’t even need to lie. Sleep was the farthest thing from his mind at the moment. “You know how it is. Sometimes this place just gets under your skin and makes you stir crazy to do anything.”

A taller man that Tony didn’t know laughed and said, “Yeah. Sort of like this boring ass job.”

Barney elbowed the taller man and gave him a look.

Tony noticed that neither men had their rifles strapped on them. Instead, he saw both their weapons leaning up against a small table in the corner of the tight space, a deck of cards lying on a table–their latest game of poker temporarily suspended until the bigwig turned around and left so they could continue ‘fucking off’.

Perfect, he thought. These two won’t a problem.

Tony stared at the cards and said, “Looks like you two need a break from being awake as much as I need a break from being asleep. Why don’t you let me finish your watch… and leave me that deck of cards,” he added with a wink.

Both men shifted uncomfortably and gave each other uncertain glances.

“It’s okay,” Tony reassured them. “I won’t tell Logan if you don’t. Besides, I am second in command of this place… talk about boring, by the way.”

The laughed and eased up.

“You sure, Tony?” Barney asked. “I mean… it gets pretty fucking boring in here. Every now and then we can hear that damn creature in the clinic act up, but that’s about the only action you’re gonna get.”

“I really don’t mind,” Tony said. “I like this room. I know it sounds weird but I get a lot of thinking done in here… you know… away from everyone and everything else. I welcome the peace and quiet for a change. What do you got left, a couple of hours?”

“Three,” the taller man said.

“Okay, if it makes you feel more at ease. Let me stand watch for a couple of hours. You two can stretch out, go get something to eat, whatever… then come back and finish your last hour. How does that sound?”

Both men were persuaded.

“We’ll be back promptly, Tony,” Barney said. “Two hours… and thank you.”

“No problem. Anything special I need to know about this post?”

“No,” the taller man said. “Just if you see that fucking hatch wheel spin, then sound the damn alarm. But nothing’s going to happen… nothing ever does. There’s nothing up there that even knows we’re fucking down here.”

Tony stared up at the hatch door. “How’s the weather up there? Did the storm from last night die down?”

“Yeah,” Barney said. “But it’s cold as shit up there. Not worth peeking outside and freezing your balls off. Besides, you can’t go topside alone. That’s why there’s always two of us.” Barney started looking unsure about leaving Tony alone.

Tony lifted his hands. “Relax. I’ve no intention of going out. I’m just going to sit in here and finish out your hands,” he said with a wink.

Barney laughed. “Alright then. See you in a couple of hours, Tony.”

Tony gave them a mock salute. “Consider yourself relieved, gentlemen.”

Both men departed.

He waited five minutes to make sure they didn’t come back.

Let’s go, Marcuchi. Before you have second thoughts.

Tony looked at his watch. 1:05 am. They’d be back by three to finish. He needed to move now.

He turned toward a mounted coat rack where the ready winter gear was staged. He grabbed the largest coat available, a thick dark blue coat with a furry hood that reminded him of Han Solo on that fucking ice planet, right before he gutted the damn wilderbeast with Luke’s light saber… or whatever it was.

He could already here Nine’s whiney voice correcting him in his head: It was a tauntaun, man! A fucking tauntaun!

Tony laughed and shook his head while putting on the rest of his gear. “I really need to get out more before that kid turns me into a total geek.”

Once prepared to face the cold, Tony stared up at the hatch door as doubts started to creep in.

“This is damn foolish, Marcuchi. There’s a reason no one goes out there alone, especially at night.”

But he had to know. He had to know and no one else could find out that he went outside. That would just add fuel to the fire.

“Twenty minutes. Take a look, then come back.” He could appreciate the dangers above as well as leaving the hatch unguarded. But Tony’s recklessness was fueled by a question which consumed him. If he didn’t leave now, he’d go crazy. Besides, he knew more than anyone how well hidden this entrance was.

He took a deep breath, grabbed one of the two rifles leaning against the table, and then ascended the ladder. He turned the hatch wheel, which fortunately was well-maintained, and it spun easily.

Tony pushed up on the hatch and felt the cold night air assault him.

“Okay, let’s get this over with.”

He went topside, used the light coming up through the hatch to make sure the area was safe, and then closed it.

The night felt menacing. Everything was frozen over from last night’s brutal storm causing the snow to crunch beneath his feet. The sound of his footfalls as he descended the small cliff to ground level was amplified in the silence. He stared up at scorched trees covered in layers of ice, feeling like the last man on earth.

The cold tried to penetrate every crack in his winter gear, searching for exposed skin. His hands were already starting to get cold within his thick gloves. Every inhalation hurt his lungs due to the cold. He exhaled vapors.

The snow was much deeper on the ground, sometimes piled up in drifts as much as five feet high. Fortunately, the top layer was frozen enough to keep him from sinking in up to his knees… or worse.

He took a moment to marvel at this frozen landscape which seemed to span forever in all directions.

Is it any wonder we’ve never been attacked? he thought. Just look at it. The world we knew has been buried in fucking ice!

He needed to move before the cold made it any more difficult to stay alive out here. Tony turned north and pushed through the snow. He didn’t need any tracks to follow; he knew exactly where he was headed.

Tony glanced up toward the full moon hiding behind a thin wintry veil of ice and clouds causing it to appear blurred and dull. To Tony, it looked as frozen as everything else around him. He was fortunate for the additional light and a break in the storm, not needing to retrieve his flashlight due to the luminescent quality of the snow.

He continued to crunch toward his destination as the ground beneath him sloped slightly downward. The snow was beginning to get deeper, making his legs feel heavy and tired.

His exhausted mind started to wander as Tony felt a sudden chill travel up his spine after considering how deep the snow was… and how anything could be hiding beneath it. He imagined a horde of the rotting dead buried beneath the ice, stirring, as Tony’s feet sunk deep enough for frozen limbs to reach up and grab him. He purposefully increased his speed.

Tony heard the sound of the river, muffled by layers of ice above it, as it continued to flow, not yet cold enough for winter to claim its vitality.

He was almost there.

Just before he cleared the last of the frozen forest on his side of the river, Tony abruptly stopped and gasped, feeling all the blood leave his face.

~~~

NOW…

…“Tony!” Diane nearly yelled, causing him to break away with relief from a disturbing memory. The big man looked over at the hunter who was pointing farther up the river toward someone running toward them, arms waving in all directions.

As the figure moved closer, grins lit up both their faces at the first piece of good news they’d received since leaving the compound.

Tony looked over to Diane who was shaking her head disapprovingly but was unable to hide her joy at discovering Nine was still alive. “That moron’s attracting enough attention flailing around like a damn chicken.”

“Yeah… but that’s your chicken,” Tony kidded, elbowing the hunter.

She turned to Tony, unable to hide her watered up eyes, and smiled.

“Go to him,” he pressed. “It’s alright. I won’t blow your tough girl cover.”

Diane was already moving.

Tony spotted a good flat rock to sit down on as he watched the two young lovers meet up, stare at one another for a moment, and then fiercely embraced.

Tony was overcome with emotion. Thank you, God. Thank you for this. He brushed his own watery eyes with the back of his hand as they both approached.

“Well, well, well,” Tony said with a great big grin, “How’s my favorite geek?”

Nine started to speak but was already in tears. “Hey, big guy. You know I keep telling you us nerds are gonna rule the world any second now.”

Tony got up and laughed. “It’s good to see you, Nine. Damn… stop crying before you make me bawl like a little bitch, too.”

Nine came over and hugged the big man.

Diane stood back. She was a wreck of emotions as all her pent up anxiety and relief overwhelmed her.

Nine turned to his angel and smiled. “Missed me, didn’t you? Come on… admit it.”

She smiled. “Not a chance, asshole.”

He noticed his brother’s jean jacket and walked over to her. “How did you… I mean…” He couldn’t finish as the waterworks started again.

Diane started to take the jacket off. “We… we found it. Don’t ask me about the details… ever.”

Nine stopped her from taking it off by placing his hands on her shoulders and pulling it back in place. “No… it looks awesome on you. Makes you look like a friggin’ rock star angel. No… more like a rock star goddess. First, will trade in that rifle for a flaming V-neck guitar. Add a little black eye shadow… Hell… with a little Aqua Net for that uncivilized hairstyle you keep hiding behind, we could-”

She cut him off abruptly by leaning in and placing a kiss on his lips.

Tony covered his mouth to hide his bemusement at the young man’s reaction.

“You were saying something?” she asked.

Nine just stood there, mouth hanging open like the world’s biggest idiot.

Tony noticed an unfamiliar hand-held radio in his back pocket. “I don’t mean to break up the scene, Romeo, but where the hell have you been?”

“Oh fuck!” Nine said, turning to Tony. “Fucking crisis on a cracker… I don’t know where my head goes sometimes!”

“What’s wrong?” Diane asked.

Nine took a deep breath to calm his nerves. “It’s… it’s that bad man mother fucker! He snatched me up right before I could get back to you guys. Then he brought me out here.”

“And you escaped? Where is he, Nine?” Tony asked.

The young man pulled out the radio and stared at it like he’d just learned that Barry Manilow was opening for Van Halen. “I didn’t escape, Tony. Fuck! I wish I could’ve done something but he’s got super powers compared to me.”

“Just calm down and tell us what happened,” Tony said.

Nine looked at him gravely and handed Tony the radio. “He’s got her, Tony. He’s got Gina.”

“Sonofabitch!” Diane shouted. She swung her rifle around. “Take us there.”

Nine was shaking his head. “He told me to give you that.” He shamefully stared at his feet, and finished, “He said that if I found you and delivered his fucking message, he’d leave Diane alone.”

Tony’s face was an unreadable stone. “And what else did he say?”

“Tony… I… I wanted to help her… but I couldn’t. He told me that he wanted you to come toward the house and turn that on. Said that he’d talk to you once you were in range. And then he said that we could go… but you had to come alone.”

Tony sat back down on the rock. His hands were hammers resting on his thighs. He let out a heavy sigh.

Nine and Diane took a cautious step back.

“Tell me the rest. Did he say anything else?”

“No… no, man. That was it.”

“You’re holding back,” Tony said. “Tell me.”

Nine started to cry. He pointed at the radio like it was alive and said, “The bad man wants to hurt you, Tony. I think… I think he’s already… done something to her… and he wants you to know it.”

Tony didn’t move for what felt like an eternity. Finally, he looked up at the sky and calmly said, “Nine, you’re going to tell me where this house is. After that, you two are heading back to camp. I don’t want to hear a word of protest from either of you. You’re involvement in this nightmare is finished.”

Diane and Nine looked to each other, then back to Tony.

“I mean it. Not a fucking word. You both are going home. Nine, none of this is your fault. Whatever happens next, I want you to always remember that. Diane, make sure the two of you get back safely and tell the others what’s happened.”

They were both in tears, their frustration evident.

Tony looked at them both and smiled. “Do me one favor… no… make me a promise.”

“Anything,” Diane said.

“After you get back, and if things get worse after the thaw, both of you pack your bags and get as far from all this madness as you can. Go find a place for yourselves and love each other for as long as you can. I want your word that you will both do this.”

They both nodded.

“What about you, Tony?” Nine asked. “You can’t do this alone. This is exactly what he wants.”

“I’m going to keep on believing that Gina is still alive and let that hope carry me through this mess. Because if she’s dead… God help anyone who gets in between me and destroying that monster.”

~~~

Next Episode: 34-4

Previous Episode 34-2

~~~

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

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-3: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Chapter 34-2: Secrets

Posted: November 3, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

pexels-photo-167964-large

~~~

THEN…

…Walter Gorman had assembled the CB radio as a distraction, something to redirect his anger away from Helen’s disapproval of him and provide an excuse to distance himself from his city-addicted wife, while he tried to figure out how to save his marriage.

He had once believed that moving them out into the country would finally put a stop to her constant chatter about the ‘busy nightlife’ or those pretentious assholes she called her friends who always looked down their opinionated noses at him, the country bumpkin. But nothing had changed. Helen had refused to give any of it up and become a good, supportive wife.

Walter had no idea how to take care of a woman who needed him less and less as the bright lights of the infernal city refused to let her go. He’d tried to keep up with that erratic, ever-changing lifestyle for as long as he could, but he hated it… hated all of them and their fucking cities with their constant distractions and chaos.

When Walter had realized that the woman he loved could not be grounded and insisted on returning to the city every weekend, he’d become withdrawn, frustrated and desperate. He needed something he could keep up with, maintain… control. Out there, among the neon signs, noise, and conversations convoluted with intellectual emptiness and the latest ‘trends’, which constantly were at rebellion against any notion of peace and quiet, Walter could feel his mind becoming overloaded with so much meaningless bullshit. He’d often felt exhausted after long nights spent out in various clubs while his head was filled with what felt like a hive of bees set on fire.

So, Helen went back to that crazy life on the weekends, leaving Walter to hide within the sanctuary he’d created within the stables.

At first, he’d found listening to the various truckers communicating over late-night highways amusing. They all had ‘handles’ and spoke to each other in what first appeared to Walter as gibberish. But the more he listened, trying to decipher their strange conversations, the more he realized how much they were really conveying to each other over the airwaves. On the surface, ‘trucker speak’, as he called it, seemed almost nonsensical, but then he realized that they were actually relaying a lot of information in just a few short sentences. It was as if they spoke in a code that only those who roamed the Interstates would ever truly understand. Walter had become fascinated by this wonderful language that said so much with so very little. At the time, he vowed to learn this efficient language, obtain a clever handle, and then attempt to join in on these nightly sessions.

That was the plan until he heard a new voice interrupt the airwaves, speaking as efficiently as any trucker and having conversations with several of them at the same time. In fact, Walter found her fluency with the trucker language steps above the rest. She spoke with such eloquence that he’d become captivated by her voice, often waiting for her to arrive on the air.

He’d learned that her handle was ‘Morning Star’, and from what he’d gleamed from conversations, she was a late-night courier for a computer software company that operated in two locations between her home, here in Ashtabula County, and Columbus, Ohio. She made the three-hour trip to Columbus and back every evening, four times a week. As a means to alieve her boredom from the long drives, she’d installed a CB radio in her car to talk to anyone who would listen out on the open road.

One evening, while he’d been listening to various channels, Walter was caught off guard when he’d heard Morning Star chime in on an unusually quiet evening. What really surprised him was that she didn’t speak in the usual trucker code.

“Hello… is anyone out there listening tonight? Anybody?”

Walter had waited for anyone to respond.

“Anyone at all? Sometimes this is one hell of a lonely gig? I could really use a friend this evening if anyone’s listening.”

Walter hadn’t realized he’d picked up the CB receiver until he saw it in his hand.

“He… Hello,” he’d stammered. “You’re… You’re not alone.”

There was a pause followed by Morning Star’s enthusiastic voice. “Well hello to you as well, friend. Thanks for answering up. Was starting to think I was the only one up tonight. Who am I speaking with?”

He hadn’t anticipated answering the radio. Walter had no ‘handle’. He closed his eyes and searched his mental archives for anything that wouldn’t make him sound ridiculous. He opened his eyes and hit the transmit button. “This is… Concrete Jungle (a term he often used with Helen when talking about the city). How… how are you tonight?” He stopped transmitting and shook his head. You sound like an idiot.

After a much longer pause, she answered, “Concrete Jungle… I like that. I don’t believe we’ve met, C.J., I’m Morning Star.”

Walter smiled. She’s talking to you, moron. Not to them… to you!

Feeling like he’d just attracted the attention of a celebrity, Walter began speaking again. The more he did so, the easier it became.

They had conversed quite a bit that first lonely night. It was nothing serious, but enough for Walter to hear who Morning Star really was beneath the words, beneath the code. Enough to want to talk to her again the next night, and the night after that. By the end of the week, he’d learned quite a bit about Morning Star. She’d even let slip that her real name was Rebecca.

By the next weekend, Walter had decided they needed to meet next time she was in Ashtabula. He had to know the woman behind this remarkably calming voice.

“You there, C.J.?” she’d asked.

Walter had smiled. “Yes… glad you’re back.”

“Glad to be back.”

“We should meet?” he’d thrown in abruptly.

There was a long pause. “Okay, C.J., I’m game. How do you want to play this?”

Walter had already given this some thought. “Are you familiar with the Ashtabula Waffle House at 8177 Terrance Road?”

Another pause. “Yes, I know where that is.”

“Are you free on Friday?” he’d asked, knowing Helen would be off to the city by then.

“Sure. Pick a time, C.J.”

They’d agreed to meet Friday evening. Walter had shown up at the Waffle House an hour early. He hadn’t felt this nervous and excited since he’d first approached Helen at a popular jazz club downtown. But after several hours of waiting, it appeared that Rebecca had decided not to show.

What did you really expect? he’d thought. For all she knows, you’re a psychopath, a sexual predator stalking the radio for his latest victim. He’d shook his head at the stupidity of trying to arrange this meeting, but refused to give up entirely. He’d left a note for her with the waitress, just in case Rebecca did show up after he left. He wrote down his address with a brief message that read:

Sorry I missed you. Couldn’t wait any longer.
I’ll be home all evening. You can look me up.
-C.J.

He’d placed the note in an envelope addressed to Morning Star, and then told the waitress, “If you happen to see a woman come in acting like she’s looking for someone, could you give her this for me?”

He hadn’t expected to hear from Rebecca again and assumed that he’d successfully creeped her out on the airwaves with his invitation. Walter had decided to go back to ‘listening only’ mode on his CB, in the hope that Morning Star might feel comfortable enough to transmit openly again.

What he hadn’t expected was for Rebecca to show up at his house the very next day, only to meet his wife at the front door, who had decided to stay home that weekend.

By the time he’d realized what had happened, Walter had excused himself to head into town, believing Rebecca might return to the Waffle House.

He’d been correct when he’d caught up with a young woman in the parking lot walking over to an old VW Beetle with a mounted CB antennae.

“Morning Star?” he’d asked, stepping out of his van.

The young woman had stopped, gave him an angry look, and then walked over. “At first I felt bad for standing you up,” she’d said. “But when I came over to your house and met your wife… I knew you had to be an asshole for sure.”

Walter was at a loss for words. He hadn’t been looking for anything romantic to happen between them. He wouldn’t do that to Helen. He’d just wanted to meet the woman behind the voice that he’d grown fond of. “I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I didn’t mean to give you the impression… what I mean is, I just wanted to hang out with you. Nothing more than that… really.”

Rebecca shook her head and smiled. “Now I’m starting to feel like a real jack-ass. I guess I figured this was supposed to be a date or something. Sorry.” She pointed back to the Waffle House. “You still want to talk?”

“Absolutely. I’m glad you came out.”

“And… will your wife be joining us?”

“No. Helen doesn’t care much for my friends… or anything that I’m interested in, quite frankly.”

Rebecca cautiously smiled. “Is that why you spend your late nights talking with me on the radio?”

“I enjoy talking with you. That’s why I wanted to meet you in person. I don’t get this at home.”

“And just so we’re clear,” Rebecca said. “What exactly is this supposed to be again?”

“Just a friendship… Rebecca. Honest.” He’d laughed and finished, “Besides, I’m old enough to be your father.”

“Too bad your handle wasn’t ‘Pops’. Could’ve saved a lot of misunderstanding.”

Walter laughed hard. He hadn’t enjoyed himself this much in a long time. “Shall we eat? Lunch is on me.”

They’d spend the next two hours talking… well… she did most of the talking and he’d listened.

Rebecca had been on her own since she was seventeen, doing various odd jobs to save up enough money to put herself through nursing school. She’d told him, she wanted a family some day and that she just wanted to live a simple life, unlike the erratic upbringing she’d received being the only child of a nasty and volatile marriage that had ended in divorce with her bouncing around between parents.

“I can’t believe I’m telling you all this,” Rebecca had finished. “You are an easy person to talk to, C.J., a great listener. I don’t get much of that. Most people are just in too much of a hurry to really listen. Know what I mean?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Walter had said. “Sounds like you needed someone to take care of you. When that didn’t happen, you took care of yourself. That’s very admirable.”

Rebecca blushed. “Thanks. So what about you? What’s your story? Do you have a real name or should I just keep calling you C.J.?”

Walter had smiled. “I think I like it better when you call me by my… handle. Reminds me that we have something special that no one can take away… I know that probably sounds cheesy.”

“No… I get it,” she said. “Okay, C.J. it is, then.” She suddenly dropped her shoulders. “Why couldn’t we have met months ago? You’re like the uncle I never had.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Well… it’s just that… I won’t be on the radio for a while. I quit that job and I’m going to be starting school soon. That’s why I was so adamant about finding you. You know, just in case we never talked again. Of course, at the time, I thought you might be hitting on me.” She laughed. “But I’m still glad we had this chance to really talk. It’s been great.”

Walter was distressed. “So… you won’t be on the radio anymore?”

“No. Not for a while.” She’d stood up. “So I guess this is ‘Hey, it was finally great to meet you’, followed by a bad timing, ‘Goodbye’.”

“Let me walk you out,” he’d said. “I’ll get to see you on your way one last time.”

She’d smiled. “Okay.”

When they’d returned to Rebecca’s car, she’d added, “Maybe we can still stay in touch. I have your address. We could write each other or something.”

Walter knew what that meant. “You won’t write me. You won’t call. You won’t think twice about me after all that busy school stuff gets in the way.” He’d looked at the CB antennae and said, “You’ll probably sell that thing first chance you get.”

Rebecca had given him a strange look. “Did I say something to upset you, C.J.?”

“It’s nothing,” he’d said. “Don’t mind me. I’m just an old fool that’s going to miss someone I just met. Strange, I know. But I will miss you.”

“Aww,” she’d said. “I’ll miss you, too.”

He’d opened her car door for her.

“And he’s a gentleman,” she joked, getting into the car. “Why couldn’t you have been about ten years younger?”

Walter had looked around the parking lot. No one was around.

“Well, I guess this is it, then,” she’d said. “Goodbye, C.J.”

Walter’s face had been unreadable. He’d been wearing a blue hoody. He’d reached into the front pouch pocket and said, “I can’t lose you, too. It’s not right. It’s not… fair.”

Rebecca had given him a blank look. She was obvious becoming uncomfortable. “Well… life seldom is. I guess I’ll see you when I see you.”

Walter had leaned into her window and smiled. “You just need someone to take care of you. You don’t have to worry anymore. You don’t have to strive so hard to do it all yourself.”

Rebecca’s face changed. He knew that look. It was the same look Helen gave him that always translated into: I don’t need you anymore, asshole.

“Well, I’m leaving now,” she’d said. Rebecca was reaching for her keys.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you from now on.” Walter had quickly placed his hand over the young woman’s face while reaching in through the window with his other hand until he stuck the syringe into her neck.

After a few moments of struggling, Rebecca had fallen limp and unconscious as the powerful sedative took effect.

~~~

NOW…

…The bad man finished zip-tying Gina’s hands around the basement support pole. He took a step back, readjusted the bandana around his mouth, and examined the unconscious woman.

“That will do just nicely,” he said, turning to the frightened young man who was still in shock after discovering Gina in the body bag he’d just carried down to the basement. The bad man had made Nine sit in a fold up chair he’d placed in the corner while he made his final preparations. “What’s the matter, funny man? No jokes?”

Nine turned to him with a surprising amount of boldness, and said, “You tricked me. I agreed to help you get Tony… and now this? Let her go. She’s not part of your stupid vendetta.”

The bad man ignored him and finished setting up his portable CB equipment on a small coffee table.

Nine studied the dark bare unfinished basement for anything he might use to his advantage. It appeared as though the bad man had thought ahead and removed everything from the large space that wasn’t relevant to his plans. He’s been here a while, he thought.

“So what is this? Your summer getaway cottage?” Again, his nervousness infected his mouth. He quickly counted the only useful objects worth noting. He smiled at the five slender rectangles letting in the only light to dispel the gloomy basement. There’s five! We have a chance!

The bad man finished, came over, and squatted down three feet in front of Nine. “‘Summer cottage’,” he laughed. “Actually, I had a bit of good fortune on my latest run. The Sampson family was out foraging from an abandoned vehicle near the route I use into town… and I just happened to be driving by.” He laughed louder. “You should have seen the fools, waving their arms at me as though I were the answer to all their problems.”

“Well… you’re quite the popular guy as of late,” Nine blurted out. “Seems like quite a few folks have been dying to find you.”

The bad man frowned, not appreciating the veiled threat. He dismissed it and continued. “So I pulled over and they all started talking over each other, all excited like, asking for news and if I’d heard of any other survivors, if local governments had been restored yet… blah, blah, blah… acting all like, ‘We’re saved! We’ve finally been rescued!’ So you know what I told them? Take a guess, funny man? Best joke you’ll ever hear.”

Nine felt all the humor leave his body. “You told them you were from the Ashtabula Survivor’s Group on your way to pick up survivors at the local Waffle House.”

The bad man erupted into laughter and slapped Nine hard on the shoulder. “Ain’t the irony a real sonofabitch? And I didn’t even need to make up a story. That couldn’t have worked out better for me. Don’t you think?”

Nine simply nodded. He felt sick to his stomach when he thought about the state of the Sampson house… and the missing family. If they’d just stayed home for a few more minutes…

“So after I told them all about their good fortune, that nice family insisted I come here and have lunch with them… so fucking thoughtful of them, too, because I was famished.” The bad man got up and finished, “And after we ate, they started packing all their shit. Guess what I did then, funny man?” The bad man retrieved his hunting knife for effect.

Nine closed his eyes, trying hard not to vomit on his shoes. He silently wished his older brother was here. He’d know what to do right now, know what to say to this evil man, know how to confront it… but he was the one here instead, the coward, while his brother had died saving him.

The bad man seemed satisfied as he turned to adjust some dials on his radio.

Nine stared at the bad man’s back, and finally said, “This is bullshit. Whatever you did to that poor family didn’t deserve all this, and neither does Tony. You act all pissed off at him but it was you who abducted all those people, including him. So he managed to escape… good for him! You’re lucky to still be alive, you fucking creepy piece of shit!”

He watched the bad man’s back stiffen up and expected a knife in his eye in the next few moments.

There! At least I said something! At least I tried to stand up for once. He hoped that wherever his brother was now, that he was looking down at him with pride.

The bad man slowly turned around and approached. Instead of stabbing him with the knife, he sheathed it instead and crouched down in front of him again. The bad man pulled down his bandana and removed his glasses. “This is what he did!” he hissed. “This is what your fucking Tony did to me! And to my Helen! And after that big pig escaped, I let it go and assumed he wouldn’t make it long out here. But then guess what happened next?”

Nine wisely remained silent.

“Well, since the Sampsons saved me a trip into town, papa bear decided to come home early only to find that a fucking bunch of Goldilocks had invaded his home. And while they sat in papa bear’s chair, and slept in papa bear’s bed, and ate papa bear’s fucking porridge, papa bear went back out and got ready for those stupid little Goldilock bitches! But the worst part of it all was that those little Goldilocks fuckers killed papa bear’s children and then burned down his home. So what’s a bear supposed to do after that? Hmm? Just sit idly by and let all this happen?”

Nine did not know what to say. He wasn’t aware of what went on with Gina and the others, or that they’d burned the ranch down. He’d split before then.

“So after papa bear saw that big juicy pig, Tony, again, he knew what needed done.” He looked over at Gina and smiled. “And he knows just how to do it, too.”

“I’m… I’m sorry about your home, but-”

“SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH, MEAT!”

Nine looked down at his shoes, suddenly hating every nursery rhyme he’d ever heard.

The bad man calmed down and finished calmly, “You all came to kill me. Do you deny it?”

Nine only had one response. “No… I don’t deny it.”

The bad man shook his head with a smile. “And so you tried… and failed. Now there will be consequences, funny man. Surely you can understand that?”

Nine remained silent.

The bad man glanced at Gina again. “This one here is already dead. Tony’s seen to that with this foolish plan to come back here. So you and the others have something in common with me, now.”

“And what’s that?”

He looked to Nine. “You all have Tony to blame for everything bad that’s about to happen… just like what he did to me. If you’d all stayed hiding in your little holes that have kept you alive this long, then none of this would be happening now. You do see that, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Nine said, wanting only to appease this insane asshole. But in retrospect, Nine had to admit, this was all Tony’s fault. If he hadn’t been so adamant in coming back… then Diane would be safe right now. He started to wonder if the bad man had any more mysterious body bags with friends he knew in them.

“You’re worried about her, yes?”

Nine cursed himself for leaving his emotions so wide open. “I’m worried about all my friends,” he said. “How can we end this peacefully?”

The bad man smiled. “I don’t need her… the one you care about. Do what I ask and the both of you can walk right out of here.”

“And Gina?”

“She’s mine now.”

Nine sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

The bad man let out a giddy laugh and then reached into a bag. He pulled out a hand-held radio and handed it to him.

Nine reluctantly took the radio.

“It’s really simple, funny man. All you have to do is find your friends and give this radio to Tony. Tell him to turn on the radio and come up to the house. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“That’s it?” Nine asked. “That’s all you want me to do and then me and Diane are safe?”

“Yes. Deliver the message and the radio… and then take your precious meat and go… go far away from here and never let me catch you in these woods again or I’ll make it my mission to find both of you and take turns torturing you both in front of the other. Understand?”

Nine looked from the radio to Gina and then back to the radio. He shamefully bowed his head and said, “Okay. I understand.” He could feel his brother’s disapproving glare coming down from above.

“Alright then,” the bad man said, rising to his feet. “Get the fuck out of here before I change my mind and kill all of you.”

Nine slowly got up.

The bad man immediately turned his attention toward the radio again, ignoring the young man.

Nine walked cautiously toward the basement steps and started to ascend.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” the bad man said over his shoulder.

Nine stopped. Here it comes… another trick.

“You need to tell Tony one more thing before you disappear,” he said, retrieving his hunting knife again and walking toward Gina.

Nine swallowed hard.

The bad man stopped, turned, and flashed a devilishly grotesque smile. “Tell Tony that I intend to call him on that radio and tell him exactly where Gina is… each and every piece of her.”

~~~

Next Episode 34-3

Previous Episode 34-1

~~~

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“Chapter 34-2: Secrets” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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

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