Posts Tagged ‘Remains’


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

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


At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read the first 39 chapters of Don’t Feed The Dark, I strongly suggest that you don’t continue on with us until after you’ve caught up. Consider yourself warned.”


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

(The audience roars their approval.)

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

(The crowd voices their agreement.)

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks for having me.”

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hell no” Tony says.

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

Tony smiles. “You know I can’t.”

“Shit… well… of course you can’t.”

(The crowd laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

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

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

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

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


“And will Alysa be joining them?”


“Anything else you can add?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The audience laughs.)

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

“Thanks for having me,” Tony says.

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

(The crowd gets to their feet and applauds.)

Tony waves enthusiastically.

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


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

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

Thank you,



Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to check in once more before the Book Five premiere. Just a quick reminder: Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains, will start next Monday, August 28th. From that point on, new episodes will be posted every Monday and Thursday until the holiday break around the middle of November.

As far as where I’m at with the new story, I’m currently finishing up Chapter 2. I’ve already written over 50,000 words in two chapters, so… yes… this is shaping up to be another long book. I can’t tell you too much, but Book Five will cover two story arcs, the first being five chapters long. The first chapter is six episodes, and the second is eight episodes. I expect chapter three to be even longer… lol. So basically, the first seven weeks of the serial are nearly completed.

Aside from that, I will continue to post new episodes of After The Dark at the conclusion of each chapter (time permitting), and I’ll let John loose to interview some new characters from the story and field any questions you may have.

For returning readers who would like a brief refresher course on the past four books before starting Book Five, I’ve updated my synopsis page and you can check it out HERE or on my sticky post.

And don’t forget to keep on voting for DFTD at Top Web Fiction to keep me listed. You can vote every seven days (more than that if you vote from different devices). I would love to see my story climb the charts for a little while. Thanks for supporting the cause and helping more readers find out about this series. Here’s the link: Vote Now. You can also vote by clicking on the kitty up in the upper left hand corner of my home page.

I can’t really talk about story details at the moment without getting into spoilers, so I’ll just stop there. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you next week.




Hello everyone! It’s almost time to embark on another horrific journey into the darkness (Now, doesn’t that sound inviting?). In just a few more weeks, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains, will commence. I can now release the premiere date: Monday, August 28th.

So, what can I share about the new story arc so far? I can tell you that the premiere chapter will pick up right where we left off at the end of Book Four, and that it’s going to be very intense right out of the gate. The Shadow Dead have come… and that is not good news for our survivors. The first chapter will be titled, Obituaries… and yes, there will be death… lots of death. The second chapter will be titled, Wick, and will tell a creepy little thriller of a tale. Sorry I can’t say more.

Looking at the new arc from a wider perspective, Book Five will take us back out into what’s left of Northeast Ohio, and give us a much bigger picture as far as what’s happened ‘out there’ since our survivors went into hiding beneath the Wasteland during the long winter. Book Five will take us into unfamiliar territory as we visit new places, meet new people, and of course, discover just what the hell the dead have been up to. Book Five will also bring us closer to understanding the mysterious forces at work in the world that led us to the horrific event, known as The Change. There will be two new additional flashback story chapters centered around the origin of the Shadow Dead, and a continuation of the strange happenings occurring at an orphanage (which is not an orphanage). We will find out what happened to Gina. We will hear strange words whispered like, ‘Alpha Zombie’ and ‘The Nomad’. There’s a lot more, but of course, I can’t talk about it… lol.

I had a lot of fun writing during the month of July, accelerating through more than 30,000 words. I intend to keep writing like a madman going into August to find out how far I can get before crashing into a highway horde… lol.

If you haven’t discovered them yet, I started a collection of stand-alone stories and poems of a dark nature that I will continue to post on occasion, located in the top tab under ‘Other Short Works’. So, if you want to read some other dark offerings I’ve written over the years, be sure to check those out.

Time permitting, I hope to have one more episode of After The Dark, my DFTD talk show, ready shortly before the premiere to help us kick off Book Five.

That’s it for now. I’ll tell you more when I can. I hope to hear from you all after the premiere.



After the Dark1 (2)


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

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


At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read the first 38 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.”


Both John and Marcus are seated before the audience. John gets up, hands raised, and begins. “Welcome back, ladies and gentleman. It’s now time for part two of our exciting, and a little unnerving, interview with our special guest, Marcus Dempsey, a.k.a. Russell Bower. Please put your hands together and let’s make Marcus feel welcome.”

(Most of the audience stand and put their hands together. The rest sink in their seats to escape notice.)

John sits. “Well, Marcus. Welcome back to the show. I’m looking forward in continuing our discussion to find out what’s in store for our resident serial killer.”

“You should probably stop calling me that, now,” Marcus says with a smile. “In this new environment, I’ve seen enough murder and mayhem by the rest of humanity to convince me that the term ‘Survivor’ is just another synonym for ‘Killer’.”

“That’s very true,” John says with a nod. “Hell, by the old standards, looking at what folks are getting away with after The Change, I guess anyone could be classified a ‘serial killer’.”

“Exactly,” Marcus says. “Besides, I think my purpose has evolved beyond the typical slice-and-dice murder crime scenes. All things considering, I think my character has shown considerable restraint. Don’t you?”

“Yes, you’re right,” John says. “With the exception of catering to the savage, or The Other One, I was starting to think that you were done with killing. In fact, it really seemed like you were staring to become one among the community of survivors. They certainly value having you around.”

Marcus laughs. “Yes, no one minds having someone around who can keep them safe. Most people don’t even care how you do it, just as long as they can keep on breathing. I guess that puts me in a very unique position. I can be both protector and predator, dependent on the circumstances.”

“But… I started to sense, especially in your latest tale, that you even shared something more with this group, or at least, the core group that you traveled with. A sense of belonging, perhaps?”

Marcus rubs his chin and takes a moment to consider the question. “‘Attachment’ is probably a better word. I think I simply got used to operating within this group, functioning on some level to address the concerns of the whole, but ultimately, serving my own agenda… which is always… The Lady. As long as one does not come into conflict with the other, I could always serve both ends.”

“Meaning, you could be both Russell and Marcus. Embracing your new persona while still holding true to the former. Is that a correct assessment?”

“Yes, and no,” Marcus says. “I believe I could entertain an alternate existence as Marcus… if not for the savage who is constantly there to remind me that it’s all a farce. Believe me, that blood-thirsty maniac is constantly challenging the confines of are delicate arrangement. For that brute, I am holding him back, or, holding us both back from truly indulging in the apocalypse… and he despises me for it.”

“But you are the one in control, correct?”

“Most of the time,” Marcus says, and then sighs heavily. “Honestly, John, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny the savage. I think he’s growing stronger within… and I sometimes wonder who will prevail in the end… and what that will mean?”

“That’s a truly disturbing thought,” John admits. “I think we are all bothered by your present character’s motives. But a Marcus Dempsey controlled by the savage… well… that would be disastrous.”

“Agreed,” Marcus says.

(For a moment everyone gets quiet.)

“Well, enough of that,” John says. “Let’s shift the topic, shall we?”


“Let’s talk about the mysterious Alysa. How does she make you feel?”

Marcus laughs. “You sound like a therapist I once killed.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Seriously though,” John continues, “that young woman seems very enamoured with you. Any thoughts?”

Marcus shifts uncomfortably in his chair, and everyone notices. “This… woman… finds me half dead after my unfortunate fall from the cliff, then pretends to be my savior as she nurses me back to health, all the while hoping to validate her worthless existence, hiding away from the world, by taking advantage of my injuries, knowing that I’m temporarily reliant upon her. Of course, this was what I thought at first… and then she pulled the rug right out from under me. My thoughts? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted someone dead more that that woman in the woods.”

“Clearly,” John says, sensing Marcus’ agitation. “So… she tries to belittle you, tries to seduce you, has been drugging you since the beginning, leading to all sorts of strange hallucinations… is there anything we can take at face value from this woman?”

“Absolutely not,” Marcus says. “If I’ve learned any one thing that is true about Alysa, it’s that she’s very dangerous.”

“You had a chance to kill her at the cabin. Why didn’t you attempt it?”

Marcus smiles. “I didn’t bother because it was a power-play. Alysa wanted me to know that she wasn’t afraid of me, so she put on a show of vulnerability to see what I’d do. Although I was no longer a prisoner in that bed, she was very much still in control. There was only one option… and that was leaving… as she intended.”

“Interesting,” John says. “How much do you think she knows about the real you?”

“I think she knows enough, and revealed just enough, to let me know that I was vulnerable.”

“Because of Gina?”


“So what do you suppose she really wanted from you if everything else was an act?”

Marcus shook his head. “That’s a very good question. Truth is, I hope I never find out. I believe Alysa understands the value of information. Anyone can learn how and where to cut someone with a sharp enough weapon to do the most damage. It takes real skill to know how deep to cut to kill quickly and how shallow to prolong pain. But only a master knows how to do the most damage to someone with nothing but your tongue. Possessing and wielding information effectively is the most devastating weapon available.”

John nods. “And that’s what you’ve done a lot of, if I’m correct. How you devastated Tony before leaving the community seems like a perfect example of what you’re talking about.”

“Precisely. Knowledge waits, like a patient predator, for the most opportune time to strike.”

“And you’re saying that Alysa understands this as much as you do?”

Marcus sighs. “She may be more deadly with it than I could ever be. I wasn’t about to stick around and find out.”

“So, she let you go, then?”

“I believe she gave me a choice. A test. Whether I passed it or not is beyond me. But either way, she was prepared for whatever I chose.”

John shakes his head. “So, what was it about you that made her go through all this trouble? Why all the games and deception?”

“I believe she acquired enough information from the drugs to arouse her curiosity. The hell if I know for sure. She was able to hide herself from me… and that is not something most can do. I usually find a crack in most people, something to exploit… but not this woman.”

“So… has Marcus Dempsey met his match?”

Marcus smiled like the devil. “I certainly hope so.”

(The audience laughs.)

“We are almost out time,” John says. “I want to ask a few more questions before we finish. Near the end of the episode, Alysa opens a large chest, presumably full of her personal belongings. What’s described to us is a bow. Beneath the bow, a dark metallic suit, two gauntlets with razors for fingers, and a large cow-skull looking helmet. I don’t have to tell my audience what all that added together sounds like.”

Marcus laughs. “It is very interesting.”

“So I’ll just ask the million dollar question: Is Alysa a Shadow Dead?”

Marcus raises his arms and says, “I was long gone before that scene. Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Damn it!” John says. “I knew you were going to say something like that. Okay, next question. Will we see Alysa again in the near future?”

“Not if I kill her first,” Marcus says, and adds nothing else.

“Okay… okay… how about we just address the elephant in the room. What can you tell us about your next encounter with Gina… assuming, of course, that you find her?”

“All I’m permitted to say is that there’s a special kind of bond between myself and Gina… and a special kind of blood, which runs within us both. One way or the other, we’ll be exploring that blood in a very intimate way.”

“I don’t like the sound of that at all,” John admits. “Well, we’re just about out of time. Is there anything else you can tell us about the next story arc found in Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains?”

Marcus consider this, and then says, “There’s going to be a lot of death… and you all know how excited that makes me.” He adds a wink.

(The audience laughs nervously.)

“Well, Marcus, it’s been great finally having you on the show. I sincerely hope you never find Gina… but if you do… I hope she’s a much faster runner than you.”

(The audience laughs.)

“It’s been a pleasure,” Marcus lies. He could really care less.

John turns to the audience. “And that’s a wrap for this episode of After The Dark. As always, if anyone has any additional questions they would like to ask Marcus about his character, story line, or anything else Don’t Feed The Dark related, we will endeavor to answer your questions, if possible. How about a big hand for our special guest!”

(The audience stands and applauds… ecstatic to see the serial killer depart.)

“Just a reminder: Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains, will begin in August. If possible, the author has informed us that we may have one more episode of After The Dark to kick off the premiere. See you all next time!”


Next Episode:
After The Dark (#14) – Remains

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,


After the Dark1 (2)


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

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


At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read the first 38 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 enters with his arms wide as the audience rises to their feet and makes a lot of noise.

“So how about that, ladies and gentlemen!” John begins. “We’ve reached the end of another exciting volume in this long, dark saga. Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms has broken the record for longest book in the series so far, clocking in at over 225,000 words and 62 more online episodes. And I have to say, this book really took a departure from the norm and opened up a lot of new developments to think about.”

(The audience voices their approval.)

“Well, let me waste no time introducing our next guest. It’s been a long time coming… but hell yes! We finally have none other than Marcus Dempsey, a.k.a. Russell Bower, here on our show today. Please put your hands together and welcome our favorite serial killer!”

(Most of the crowd roars their approval. Some boo. Others wisely choose to sit back down, hoping to escape notice.)

Marcus walks across the platform dressed in an un-tucked black button-down shirt, jeans, and wearing a pair of dark sunglasses. He ignores the audience as John motions for him to sit in the open chair. Marcus sits and John immediately follows.

When the crowd settles down, John says, “Welcome to the show, Marcus… or would you prefer Russell?”

Marcus half smiles and answers, “Marcus is fine.”

“I think I can speak for all of us here and say that we’re finally glad to snag you for the show. You are certainly a hard man to get a hold of.”

“I’ve had years of practice escaping notice… John.”

“Indeed.” John scoots his chair to the side, creating a little distance between himself and his guest. “You’ll understand if I’d like a little more… space… between us, right Marcus? It’s not everyday I get a chance to interview a serial killer.”

(John’s overdramatic motions of discomfort cause the crowd to laugh.)

Marcus adds a laugh of his own, which feels more contemptuous than accommodating.

John shifts uncomfortably. “Anyway, it’s good to have you with us, Marcus. I have a shit-load of questions to ask you, so why don’t we just jump right in. Okay?”

“Certainly,” Marcus adds, adjusting his glasses to hide his eyes.

“Is your… friend… with you today?” John asks.

“No. I gave that savage the day off,” Marcus starts. “It probably wouldn’t go well to have him here with all these fine people in attendance.”

(The audience laughs… nervously.)

John laughs and says, “Well, that puts me at ease. I’m not afraid to admit it. So, let me ask the most obvious question. Why the hell did the author choose to keep you under wraps for so damn long?”

Marcus nods. “That’s a good one. I suspect the author didn’t want me killing off most of the main cast in the first book by leaving me out in the open… especially in this new free-for-all environment.”

“That’s a good point,” John says. “But seriously, why so long?”

“From the author’s perspective, when my story started all the way back in Chapter 1, with the hunting of Janet Schuler, I was one of many characters introduced. At that time, the author wanted to create an impression with the characters, leaving the readers a glimpse into their lives before The Change in the form of mini-stories, and then he wanted to leave us all in a state of uncertainty as to ‘when’ and ‘if’ any of us would return later on. In my case, the author told and completed the story of what happened between predator and prey during that insane night the dead came to visit. With the death of Janet Schuler, the author finished that particular tale, and then wanted the readers to forget about me by getting them engrossed in other character stories, especially when some of them started finding each other, while hiding me in plain sight. The author knew that some readers would forget about me, others wouldn’t suspect the ruse but would still be waiting for me to return, and then still others would have me pegged right away… but would never really know for sure, until the author revealed who I was and how. In all cases, he wanted an insider threat within the group, sitting patiently like a timed explosion, and only the author knew when that bomb would go off.”

“Very interesting,” John says. “And with everything else going on, I can easily see how you’ve been able to escape the reader’s notice for so long. And then what? That bomb goes off with the death of Frank Carman at the end of Book Three?”

“Exactly. Even the readers who long suspected who I was by then, couldn’t see that coming.”

“And so after waiting through three volumes to finally discover who you really were, we get this one long damn chapter which is loaded with… well… everything.”

Marcus laughs. “The author calls Chapter 37, a ‘novella within a novel’. He wanted to reward the patience of the readers by giving them ample make-up time with yours truly… and one hell of a story to go with it. Through the Eyes of a Devil was the very first chapter the author wrote for Book Four, long before the premiere, and he put a lot of thought and time into it, based in part, on things he’s been seeding for a while now… and things yet to come.”

“Fascinating,” John says with a nod. “Before we dig into that awesome tale, I have to ask: How far in advance did the author know when you would be returning? Was your reveal coinciding with Frank’s death planned well in advance?”

“In many instances, the author is just as surprised by events as the readers are since the outline can change rather suddenly. But in this case, yes, Frank’s death was in the works since Marcus was born. Several times, as that moment came closer, the author entertained changing the script to keep Frank alive, only because, like so many readers, the author also fell in love with that character. But it couldn’t be changed. The author had gone through great lengths to keep my character and Frank apart, and for good reason, because Frank always suspected there was something ‘off’ about me. The closer are moment came, the more the author understood that for me to continue to exist with these survivors, one of us had to go. The author knew that keeping Frank alive would have been a betrayal to the story’s intended course, much like if he had chosen to keep Janet Schuler alive, which he debated doing for a while, just to give the readers that predictable plot dynamic between predator and prey teaming up in the apocalypse. So, we had our destined dance together by that river, and I prevailed.”

John shakes his head. “And does our author have your death planned well in advance?”

Marcus smiles. “Nice try. I won’t bite on that one.”

“Well… no offense… but I hope the author puts an end to you soon. I don’t like the thought of you killing any more of my favorite characters.”

(The audience laughs.)

“I understand completely,” Marcus says. “At least I’m nowhere near any of them right now… well… maybe just one.”

“And we’ll get into that,” John injects. “But first, let’s talk about your story. I found it interesting that we got to revisit specific chapters from back in the first book to get your perspective on events. And then we even got to go back further and find out how you ended up at the Percy Power Plant, and how you came up with your new name. Also, I found it intriguing how you met Amanda Howard, who we might not have met at all if a certain savage had been in charge.”

Marcus nods. “Yes, Amanda was the latest mission, up until my character started having doubts. And then, of course, I met Gina… and that changed everything.”

“Why Gina? What made her so special?”

“I knew right away that there was tremendous potential in her to become something beautiful born of darkness.”

John scowls. “And what the hell does that mean?”

Marcus raises an eyebrow and answers, “I could tell you… but then I’d have to kill you.”

“Next question.”

(The audience laughs.)

“So, answer me this one: Obviously, you attacked the three scientists because they boasted they could cure the epidemic. And nice twist, by the way, discovering that the woman in the ravine was your handiwork. I guess I’m trying to figure out if you really love this new zombie-infested world, or you just hate the old world more. I get the impression that you might do anything to sabotage efforts in restoring law and order, or anything associated with ‘civilized’. So which is it?”

Marcus sighs. “My character appreciates what this new hostile world has given to everyone still breathing. And that is, a second chance to live without pretense, without fear, and without dipping into the stagnant pool of dead living. Everything else related to the past… all irrelevant now. My character firmly believes that everything that’s happened since The Change is progress… maybe even an evolution of a sort. In any case, he will do his best to interfere with anything attempting to put people back to sleep, content in their automatic lives.”

John nods. “So, we’ll get more into Chapter 37 in our next segment. But let’s talk about your childhood. That was some warped shit. Were you… the serial killer… caused by your awful parents, or were you always a bit… ‘off’?”

Marcus raises an eyebrow. “Yes, I suppose my lovely home life had a little to do with my blood lust. But in truth, I think I was like this long before all that. If anything, my wonderful parents simply accelerated the process.”

“And what process is that?”

“My understanding of the liberating power of death, first for myself, and then for others.”

“And… is that who you mean when you refer to The Lady?

Marcus smiles. “She is my destiny. She is Death… but not in the limited sense that the rest of you see her as.”

John shakes his head and smiles. “Well… I guess we’ll just have to take your word on that one.” He turns and addresses the audience. “And on that note, we’ll have to conclude for the day, folks. But not to worry, our second part of this interview will continue our discussion.” He turns back to Marcus. “I want to thank you for joining us today, Marcus… and for not killing anyone… especially me.”

(The audience laughs.)

“It was my pleasure,” Marcus says. “And I look forward to sharing more with your lovely audience.” He turns and scans the crowd with a menacing stare.

(Many cower down a bit lower in their seats.)

John laughs. “Well, we’ll definitely be talking more next time.” He turns to the audience. “For now, if anyone has any burning questions they’d like to ask, please feel free to ask away and we’ll try to answer them, if possible. If not, we’ll see you next time for part two of this discussion. How about a big hand for our special guest.”

(The crowd reluctantly puts their hands together.)

John stands. “In case anyone missed it. Book Five will be starting August 2017. We hope to see you all back then!”


Next Episode:
After The Dark (#13) – The Killer Cut (Part 2)

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Thank you,




Gina was overwhelmed by flashes of sensory information her mind was too slow to process. She was vaguely aware of the cool, night air; the entrancing rhythm and roll of waves striking and pulling from the shore; the soft, luminescent glow from the full moon above—aware, and yet, comprehension eluded her. Gina felt the lake breeze making her long, red hair seem alive, dancing across her bare shoulders. She heard several voices, hushed and playful, throughout the dark; some close, some far off.

Were any of them real voices?

Gina moved, or was being moved, among elongated shadows as the house guests approached a large, lit bonfire that appeared as they cleared several large sand dunes. The flames were too bright and stung her eyes.

When all were sitting comfortably around the fire, Gina was escorted behind one of the large dunes.

“Gina,” Malcolm said. “You still with us?”

His voice echoed within her head. His face was dark and blurry.

Images were slow to process; backgrounds drifted in and out of focus. Gina’s mind was overwhelmed by stimuli… the smell of burning wood… heat from the bonfire. For a moment she thought she was standing directly in the flames. The drugs were playing havoc on all her senses.

Finally she managed, “Yes, I’m alright.”

“Good,” Malcolm said. “We will begin shortly.”

“Where is… where is Tony?” Her voice sounded strange to her own ears.

Malcolm was already gone.

Time became a liar in the dark. She couldn’t tell how long she sat in the sand.

Am I sitting or floating?

The sound of drums now—bongo drums?

Laughter erupted in the direction of the fire. To Gina it sounded like wild animals. She covered her ears to block it out, and then felt silly for doing so.

Fucking drugs! What the hell did Malcolm put in that pipe?

Someone was removing her dress.

Gina tensed up.

“Relax. It’s time to go to work,” a feminine voice laughed. It was the one-eyed captain’s wife, Madeline. Gina could just make out her face. She was wearing some sort of dark, tribal paint across her cheeks. “I’ve heard that you dance like no other,” Madeline said. “I’m looking forward to your performance.” The strange woman kissed her on the mouth.

What just happened? Gina felt uncomfortable under Madeline’s probing eyes.

Madeline laughed again, placing her hands over her mouth and falling back in the sand.

She’s as high as a fucking kite! Gina thought. So am I.

The sound of the drums intensified.

Gina looked again toward the huge bonfire. There were several house guests on their feet, jumping around in circles like wild beasts. Under the influence of the drugs, she almost thought they were beasts. Gina shielded her eyes from the flames for a better look. They were all wearing some sort of tribal paint on their faces and strange head gear. Many of them, including the women, were stripped down to the waist, wearing nothing but boxers or bikini bottoms. Even Madeline had stripped down to almost nothing, her surgically altered and well-tanned breasts hung freely like large trophies.

“All part of the show,” she said and winked, noticing Gina’s puzzlement. Madeline took her thumbs and smeared paint beneath Gina’s eyes. “Now you look the part,” she said with satisfaction.

Gina was vaguely aware that she was standing completely naked just out of the fire light. She no longer knew how long she stood there—a few minutes, hours? She listened to the beat of the tribal drums, entranced by them.

Somewhere to her left Madeline was dancing and making strange animal howls. She had dropped down on all fours like a dog.

Time elapsed… Madeline was no longer there. She was dancing with the others now. The house guests were acting likewise, each pretending to become their own animals of choice, howling with excitement and seeming to become something else entirely.

Time elapsed… She was crouched before the beast-like crowd, between them at the foot of the large fire. Someone placed a hand lightly on her head. “Not quite yet,” Malcolm said.

“My friends!” His voice boomed over the sound of the drums. “We who celebrate the inner being, the release of our true selves before the naked night, I welcome you all once more to the Awakening Ceremony.”

Like a pack of wolves, the house guests howled as one in approval. Some danced with arms raised above their heads, others rolled in the sand; still others jumped on all fours, spinning wildly in the night.

Gina no longer found this display strange, in fact, she was awed by it. Lawyers, bankers, politicians, CEO’s—it didn’t matter, they were all in touch with their animal spirits now. As the drugs distorted Gina’s perceptions, enhancing her deception, so too did the drugs enhance the other house guests’ ability to release their secret sides, their animal-selves once locked away within, now free to roam in moonlight.

“We pay tribute this night to the Lord of the Moon, he who graces us with his presence and allows us the privilege and the joy of celebrating our union with him by expressing our love through our true nature.” Malcolm patted Gina on the head and whispered, “It is time, my dear. Dance. Be at one with your true self and dance like you’ve never danced before.” To his guests he shouted, “Dance, my friends! Indulge the true essence within and give yourselves over to your passions, your cravings, your utmost desires!” Malcolm then addressed the moon and said, “To you, O’ Lord, we offer this sacrifice. May it be pleasing to you.”

Time elapsed… Gina was dancing around the bonfire like a wild woman. She could hear her own heart bursting within her chest as she spun around the fire to the manic beat of the drums. She got the house guests on their feet as Malcolm, himself, had stripped completely naked, throwing his arms out like the wings of some majestic bird as he pranced around the others. He continued to shout. “Let go, my friends! Release your inner beasts and give in to your every desire!”

The house guests roared their approval and began stripping off the remainder of their clothes.

Gina collapsed in the sand as she ran out of breath and watched the world spin rapidly around her. She laid there before the bonfire, looking out at the house guests. They were no longer dancing like beasts, but rather… fucking like them. She could hardly believe what she was seeing. Men and women, stripped entirely naked, went at it like wild animals, attacking the remains of control.

From somewhere deep, a sane Gina chimed in. I… I can’t be here. This is not going to end well.

Her alarm quickly turned to disgust as she witnessed Madeline allowing herself to be ravished by three men, not one of them her husband. Just three feet away, the one-eyed captain was deeply engaged between the legs of another. Gina was appalled… and yet, a part of her, the Fire and Ice part of her, feared she would give in and enjoy it!

No! This is not me! And then the thought came like a life preserver in a dark sea: Tony, I need you. Where the fuck are you?

It was only a matter of time before she was approached… and became one of them.

Time to go, girl. Get your ass moving before they fill every hole you own!

Gina managed to roll on her back. The drugs were making it extremely difficult to stand. Everything was spinning wildly. Her body felt like dead weight. She turned toward the massive bonfire, wanting to hide her nakedness, and noticed something in the flames. Something was burning upright in the fire. It almost looked like-

There’s someone in the fire!

Something Malcolm had said quickly surfaced: Sacrifice

Gina turned away, refusing to trust her eyes or the disturbing thoughts that came with it.

It’s just the drugs. Time to move.

She managed to get to her feet. Her legs felt wobbly beneath her. She almost puked.

Someone was there to catch her before she fell. Someone placed a bath robe over her bare shoulders and gently but firmly turned her toward the house.

“Come on, we don’t need to be here for this. It’s a little too raunchy for my taste.”


There was a pause. “A-huh.”

“Where the fuck… have you been?” She tried to focus but it made her nauseous to open her eyes.

“Let’s get you back inside so you can lie down. I think you may have smoked too much.”

“Everything’s spinning… did you see the fire?” she asked.


“Did you see the person in the fire?”



Gina heard the sound of the drums growing fainter. She could feel the cool night air upon her skin, the cold sand squishing between her toes. Her mind was still muddy. Gina had to shield her eyes from the bright Tiki torches now coming in to view. She was extremely sensitive to light.

He guided her up the porch steps in a hurry.

Gina nearly stumbled several times.

He was pulling too hard on her arm.

“Slow down, Tony…”

He did.

They went indoors.

The dim lights hurt her eyes less. She tried to focus. The room kept spinning.

There was another voice, “Hey, what are you doing in here? You’re missing the party.”

“That crazy shit’s not my style,” he said. “What about you, why are you still up here?”

To Gina, Tony sounded strange, impatient and irritated.

Someone else entered the room. A third voice asked, “Is that who I think it is?”

He let out a frustrated sigh. “Is it just the two of you then?”

“Tony?” Gina asked. “What’s going on? Who are-”

There was laughter. One asked, “You’re kidding right? Is that who she thinks-”

“Be quiet!” he hissed.

“Maybe we all better head down to the beach.” The second voice sounded serious. “Maybe Malcolm needs to know what happened to his stripper.”

There was an uncomfortable pause.

“Don’t do that,” he said. Reluctantly he suggested, “Why don’t you two join me. There’s plenty to go around.”


“Tony, what’s going on? I need to lie down. My head’s killing me.” Gina tried to focus again.

“Come on!” he whispered, pleading with the other two. “She’s already bought and paid for. Malcolm won’t mind.”

Uneasy laughter was followed by reluctant agreement.

Gina was moving again. She could hear the others following behind.

A slamming door.

He laid her on a bed that was spinning wildly in her mind.

“Hey, maybe this isn’t a good idea,” the serious one said. “She’s all fucked-up.”

Someone opened her robe. Gina felt a rough hand on her breast. She imagined it was Tony’s hand and welcomed it with a moan.

“Sounds like an invitation to me,” said the third voice.

She heard Tony laugh.

Serious again, “She doesn’t even know who you are, man! She thinks you’re this Tony guy, Gerald!”

Gerald! Gina tried to move. “Wait… stop! Who the fuck-”

“Shhh,” Gerald said, covering her mouth with a forced kiss.

Gina bit his lip.

“Get off me asshole!” she shouted.

“Fuc-king-bitch!” Gerald shouted. He backhanded her across the mouth.

Gina lay still, stunned by the blow.

“Whoa, Gerald! I didn’t agree to this!” the serious one said.

Gerald was still staring down at her. “Fucking whore,” he muttered. Spit flew from his mouth. His face filled with rage.

“Gerald?” The third voice advised, “Maybe we should just get out of here-”

“Hold her arms down. Now! Or I swear to God, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you both right where you stand!” he shouted.

Third voice placed his vodka glass on the floor and reluctantly held her arms down.

“Come here,” Gerald commanded the serious one.


“Do it.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“I… I won’t.”

“Do it right now. Or you won’t leave this room alive.”

Serious saw a crazy look in Gerald’s eyes.

Gina’s eyes went wide with horror as she was violated. She tried to move, she tried to scream.

Gerald punched her in the mouth.

She laid still.

When the serious one was finished, Gerald made him trade places with the other.

Gina was still reeling from the blow to the mouth when she was assaulted again.

Gerald said, “You tell a fucking soul about this, you both go down with me. Understand?”

The others nodded shamefully.

“Now, get the fuck out of here!”

They left.

Gerald got up and locked the door.

He walked over to a dresser, opened it, and removed a set of handcuffs. He was familiar with this room.

Gerald roughly flipped Gina on her stomach and handcuffed her hands behind her back.

“Now, you’re going to get what’s coming to you, whore!” he hissed. “Fucking, dirty whore!”

Gerald pulled down his pants and aggressively invaded her from behind.

Gina couldn’t stop screaming.

“How do you like them apples, bitch!” he shouted as he emptied his fluid rage into her. Gina no longer existed, there was only Janet. When he’d brought the others in here it was always the same… it was always that bitch he thought of.

Gina fell into a dark, dark place before Gerald’s anger subsided.

He finally removed himself from her torn up lower half, gasping for breath and sweating profusely. Only then did he consider that he might have killed the stripper.

There was a moment of fear, followed by cold indifference.

If she dies, she dies, he thought.

Gerald had never let his anger get so out of hand. In the past, the girls he seduced at Malcolm’s parties had all been willing participants, being either too drunk, too stoned or just too damn horny to realize what they were getting in to. They would wake the next morning with little to no memory of the night before, let alone who they slept with, and they went their way, too embarrassed to speak up or cursing themselves for getting so wasted.

But this whore had resisted, causing Gerald’s anger to flare up and resort to violence. He had never hurt the previous girls this bad—never had a reason to. They were all like his stupid wife, so eager to please, so eager to bend to his all-powerful might. And he rode them all, branding them with each thrust, marking his conquests and stealing their dignity by reducing them to inner ashes.

But not this one… and she paid for her defiance.

Gerald was vaguely aware of the sound of keys rattling on the other side of the door. He began to feel something he’d never felt before, a strange sensation that went well beyond his rage; a foreign sensation.

“Gerald?” Malcolm said from the open doorway.

The serious one stood beside him. Fearing for Gina’s life (and for any further implications beyond rape) he and the other attacker had gone down to the beach to get Malcolm.

“Gerald Schuler, what have you fucking done?” Malcolm tried to reach Gina, but Gerald stopped him by grabbing his arm.

“Leave her be,” he said absently. “I’m… I’m not done with her yet.”

Gerald couldn’t explain it, but the odd sensation that possessed him made him tremble fiercely. There was a new hunger burning within him. It went beyond penetrating flesh… it longed for the flesh itself, stealing over him like a tidal wave until he was consumed by it.

Gerald became completely still as the new hunger destroyed him faster than he was destroying Gina.

“Gerald… what the hell is wrong with you. You look… ill.” Malcolm watched in horror as his house guest changed.

“Get Gina out of here,” he told Serious. “I’ve got a mess to clean-” Malcolm felt Gerald’s grip on his arm increase. He looked back at the lawyer. “That hurts! Let go.”

Gerald turned to look at him.

“What’s wrong with his eyes?” Serious asked.

The thing, once called Gerald Schuler, lunged toward Malcolm.

“Have you lost your fucking mind?!” Malcolm tried to back away but Gerald would not let go of his arm. “Gerald?” he whispered, staring into the yellow-eyed beast before him.

Gerald let loose a guttural sound before tearing a large piece of Hathaway’s arm off with his teeth.


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“Chapter 2-4: Dinner and a Movie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.



Dinner was already in progress as they entered the glass-enclosed back porch. The view of the shimmering lake and rising moon were breathtaking. A large dining room table ran the length of the porch. It was covered from one end to the other with several exotic foods on silver trays, rivaling any five-star feast. The Tiki torches filled the room with soft, dancing orange light.

Malcolm stood before a vacant seat at the head of the table, motioning for Tony and Gina to stand on either side of him.

There were several characters in attendance, drinking and eating heartily, laughing and carrying on several conversations at once.

Malcolm had to raise his voice above the ruckus to be heard. “Doesn’t anyone show consideration to their host anymore? You’re all a pack of rude savages!”

Several of the men, dressed in fine attire, lifted their wine glasses and shouted, “Savages!” Others pounded enthusiastically upon the table for effect. The ladies laughed loudly, the wine helping them along.

Gina and Tony gave each other a bemused look, obviously not understanding the inside joke.

To Gina, they reminded her of well-dressed Vikings at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. She covered her mouth to keep a smile from escaping at the thought of this image.

Several got up and greeted Malcolm, Gina and Tony with hugs, kisses and hearty handshakes before returning to their seats. Gina and Tony were confused by the ease in which these odd strangers welcomed them to their table.

“Well, well, look who finally decided to show up!” roared a robust looking gentleman from the other end of the table. The man was bald with a well-trimmed grey beard and a black eye patch over one eye. He wore a naval officer’s dress uniform several sizes too small, his chest loaded with ribbons of service and accomplishments. “The man considers the term ‘host’ to mean ‘late as hell’,” he added loudly, speaking to the petite woman on his left.

The woman with long, jet-black hair, and breasts too large for such a small body hanging half out of the stunning gold dress she barely wore, whispered something into the man’s ear causing him to blush. She was easily half his age and could be mistaken for his daughter.

Malcolm bowed gracefully to the one-eyed man and responded, “Welcome, my good Captain Bellington, I never tire of hearing those sweet sounds of rich sarcasm filling my ears with joy!” He then added to the woman on his left, “And to you, Mrs. Bellington, you are as ravishing and enigmatic as ever.”

Mrs. Bellington reached for her wine glass, leaned back revealing a grander view of her high-priced cleavage, and then took a long seductive sip, finishing with a mischievous wink that found Tony.

Gina shifted uncomfortably.

Captain Bellington dismissed Malcolm’s flirtatious banter with the wave of his hand. “Save your theatrical tongue for the ladies,” he said. “As you can see, neither I nor Madeline, fit that bill.” He laughed, earning him a sharp look from his wife.

This scene caused a fresh round of laughter about the table.

“My friends, I want to thank you all for coming. As the captain has pointed out, I am sorry for my less-than-punctual arrival, but I assure you… I had just cause.” Malcolm motioned toward Gina and Tony and finished, “Ladies and gentleman, I would like to introduce you to my guests: Tony Marcuchi and the sensational Gina Melborn. You may know her better as the alluring, Fire and Ice.”

This caught the attention of several men, who were quick to feign ignorance before their surprised recognition rewarded them suspicious glares from their wives.

“I have to hand it to you, Malcolm,” a man midway down the table started, “I didn’t believe you when you said she would be performing tonight. This is one time it pays to be wrong.”

“Why thank you, Gerald. I’m glad you could make it on such short notice. What happened to San Francisco?”

“My trip was canceled by… complications.” Gerald’s irritation was easily apparent. He quickly added, while undressing the stripper with his eyes, “But it would seem that my canceled trip was a blessing in disguise.”

Gina caught Gerald’s glance and his subtle intent. Instantly transformed in to meat, she hated the man.

Looking away from Gina’s cold stare, Gerald drank some wine and then toasted his host. “To you, Malcolm. Thanks for the open-ended invitation, and for salvaging what would’ve been a tragic weekend for me.”

“You are most welcome,” Malcolm said.

“You hear that slithering tongue? Sounds like lawyer talking.” Captain Bellington laughed, taking a shot at Gerald.

Gerald laughed in return, raising his glass to the captain, “You got me there, sir. Guilty as charged.” The wine was numbing his volatile temper this evening. However, Gerald still wanted to take the base of his wine glass and poke out that fat fuck’s other eye.

Malcolm took his two guests on a tour around the table, exposing them to some of North East Ohio’s upper class citizens. They met a couple of doctors, two college deans, various CEO’s of companies who will remain nameless, several politicians, a motivational speaker, two established book authors, a television producer, a marketing executive, a professional soccer player, and several others from various professions. Gina suspected that no one in attendance used their real names, no one except Captain Bellington, who was retired from the Navy. Even the despicable lawyer, Gerald, used a fictitious last name that Malcolm confirmed.

“Yes, my dear, most of my guests prefer the ease of incognito,” Malcolm said. “It makes them feel like they can let it all hang out without being under scrutiny of the public eye. Not to mention, due to the unique nature of our gatherings, I’ve found it’s best to protect the privacy of all my guests. Very few outside this room would understand our unified celebration of spirit.”

“And what exactly does that mean?” Gina asked.

Malcolm simply smiled and said, “Soon, my dear… very soon.”

After being ambushed by the males in attendance, each trying to impress Gina by their long list of successes (translating into an upscale version of ‘who’s cock was the biggest’), Gina rescued Tony from the half-intoxicated females who looked for any excuse to fondle his muscles.

By 2:30 am, Gina and Tony were finally allowed to sit, feeling less on display, as they were given a moment’s peace to eat as conversations from around the table picked up where they had left off before arriving.

Malcolm whispered to Gina from between them, “My dear, I think they are intimidated by your… fame, which is fortunately keeping their interrogations at bay. Well done to you both. I think they like you.” He quickly left them to mingle with his other guests.

“And here I thought it was my big fucking muscles that scared them off,” Tony said, shaking his head in mock disappointment.

Gina shot him a look. “I can’t take you anywhere.”

“It’s the man-boobs, isn’t it? They’re just not as perky or pretty or-”

“Shut up,” she hissed.

“Speaking of which, I’m starting to think that Malcolm’s a plastic surgeon. There’s not a single woman here with a normal set.”

“I’m starting to think you have a thing against them, you know,” Gina said while devouring a dish of calamari.

“What, these folks? No, I hate the rich equally.” Tony took a long sip of wine.

“No… I’m talking about boobs.”

“I don’t hate boobs! It’s just that you can’t talk to a single woman in here without knowing where to put your eyeballs.”

“Would you please just shut up and eat.”

“They obviously want them to be noticed. I mean… if you look, you’re a pig, right? But in this case, if you don’t, you’re likely to offend these broads. So you see… I’m screwed either way. It’s a fucking booby-trap!”

Gina choked on a piece of calamari. “Finished yet?”

“I’m just getting started, gorgeous,” he said with a wink. Tony handed her a glass. “Here, drink some water.”

She took a sip. “Asshole.”

“The plastic chicks are all over me tonight. You may have that fancy name, Gina, but I’ve got the muscles. Don’t get upset if I steal your thunder… it’s nothing personal.”

“I’m not worried. I’ve still got these,” Gina said, drawing Tony’s eyes to her cleavage. “All natural, fuck-stick.”

Tony quickly looked elsewhere. “Could you pass the salt?”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing.” Gina smiled.

Somewhere during the course of conversations, Tony noticed Malcolm discreetly walk into another room and return with an ancient looking pipe. On closer inspection, Tony observed that it was made of treated wood, roughly half a foot long, with strange markings painted all around it.

Malcolm removed a lighter from his pants pocket, lit the end of the pipe and inhaled from the other end.

Tapping Gina’s hand, Tony pointed to Malcolm and said, “Looks like the chief’s having a pow-wow.”

Gina watched Malcolm take a second hit off the pipe and then hand it to the closest guest at the table.

“Oh, this can’t be good,” Gina said.

“What, the weed? I bet it’s damn good,” Tony teased.

“Shut up, pot-head. They’re passing it around the table.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

Gina shot him a look, “Some fucking watchdog you are!”

“What? It is a party after all.”

“What do we do?”

“Take a hit and pass it on. Damn girl, didn’t you ever go to high school?”

“I’m making a big deal out of nothing, aren’t I?”


“You didn’t have to agree so fucking fast.”

“Okay, never mind. I’ll take your hit for you.”

“You will certainly not!”

“Women!” Tony said, throwing his arms into the air.

“Men!” Gina mocked.

Tony ran out of argument, and then blurted out, “Boobs!”

This briefly raised the eyes of several guests.

Tony stared at his fork as if it were the most interesting object he’d ever seen.

Gina laughed and said, “You’re an idiot.”

And there it was, offered to her by Malcolm, himself. “I assure you, my dear, you will enjoy this.”

Gina received the pipe and simply stared at it. “This is well-crafted,” she said, attempting to stall.

Tony tried to hold back a snicker.

Malcolm nodded in understanding. “It’s okay, Gina, you can just pass it on. No one will be offended if you do.” He walked away, making her feel like a child.

“That fucker,” she mumbled, taking a deep hit off the pipe. She held it in while passing it to Tony.

Tony took a deep hit and coughed fiercely.

“Amateur,” Gina said with satisfaction.

Tony handed the pipe to the marketing executive on his right. That was when both Gina and Tony noticed everyone staring at them.

Tony looked to Gina, and then back at the amused executive and said, “That’s some good shit.”

This brought roaring laughter from the entire table as Tony felt like he’d passed some silent initiation from a brief return to adolescence.

Gina placed her face in her hands and shook her head. “Oh, Tony, what am I going to do with you?” In truth, she could think of several things.

By 3:00 am, the mysterious pipe had made several revolutions around the table. Gina and Tony, intending to simply pass it each time, found themselves taking several more hits instead.

It was good shit.

As Malcolm reclaimed his position at the head of the table, he simply smiled at his guests, all of who were much more relaxed, much more liberated, much more aroused.

“Tony,” Gina said. “I think I’m stoned.”

Tony cupped his mouth and then laughed as if she’d told the funniest joke in the world.

This got Gina rolling as well.

She could feel her body reacting to the marijuana, laced with several other ingredients. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Her body pulsated with heat waves that rippled up and down her body. She felt a pleasant tickling sensation in the sensitive areas between her legs, her nipples, and warmth around her mouth. She focused on Tony, feeling all her senses stimulated, feeling as though she could reach out and embrace him fiercely just by thought alone.

In the background, Malcolm was addressing everyone. She registered his voice like someone speaking from the other end of a long tunnel.

“My friends,” he began, “the moon is nigh. It is time for us to offer our thanks to the Father of Night, the Keeper of Passion, the Breather of Dreams and Sweet Release.”

As one, the guests ushered a heart-felt, “Amen!”

She could see a look of distress on Tony’s face. There was a strange blue aura around his head. Voices in the background sounded distorted in her mind, like overlapping echoes. She felt hot. No sweat. Pulsating heat. Gina wanted him at that moment, wanted him to love her, wanted him to make love to her… endlessly.

Why are you so troubled, my love? She meant to ask.

She saw Tony stand up. There were arms on him now, guiding him gently away. He looked confused. He wanted to fight. He wanted to understand…

And then he was gone.

There was a darkness that filled her vision, it moved before her eyes like a dense fog. Gina began to panic as the hallucinations tried to overwhelm her.

There were hands on her shoulders, gently guiding her back—reassuring hands.

She looked up believing it would be Tony’s hands.

They were not.

“Rest easy, Gina. The drugs were much stronger than expected, I’m afraid. It will pass. Just relax and go with it, my dear,” Malcolm encouraged.

“Okay,” she said. “Feeling much better now. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” His voice was so calming.

“Where… where is Tony?”

“Tony is fine. He’s resting. Are you ready?”

“Ready?” she asked.

“It’s time to dance, my dear. Can you still dance?”

“Yes,” Gina said. “I can dance.”


Next Episode 2-4

Previous Episode 2-2


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 :)


“Chapter 2-3: Dinner and a Movie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.




At 12:30 am, Gina was finished for the evening. She returned to her dressing room and collapsed in the chair.

“What are you looking at, bitch?” she snapped at her sweat and ink smeared reflection, unable to stand herself any longer.

She took a long shower, put on a robe, and then sat back down. Her thoughts kept returning to Tony, which just made her angry.

Gina had struggled to complete the final two performances. Fortunately, no one seemed to care as long as they got to see the goods.

“So fucking what,” she said. “I’m sick of this shit anyway!”

Gina stared at the money on the dresser. She’d earned $1,500 this evening—$500 per performance. It was great money for her three shows, but it just wasn’t enough. She needed to get out of this business and make a better life for herself… something respectable. Gina needed a hundred-thousand dollars to make it happen. Her goal was to have enough money to go anywhere in the world she chose… and start over. With forty-five thousand in savings, she still had a long way to go.

Not even half-way there yet, she thought with a heavy sigh.

To make matters worse, Tony had avoided her the rest of the evening.

Tony Fucking Marcuchi.

“Where does he get off judging me?” she yelled at her reflection. “Who does he think he is, my fucking father? Hell, he’s not even my lover!”

“Ahem.” The voice of the devil, himself. Tony was standing in the doorway.

“Ever heard of knocking, asshole?”

“Uh… your door was wide open.”

“Well, close it next time and then fucking knock!” She refused to turn and look at him. She focused on brushing her wet, red hair, shooting her fierce green eyes at him through the mirror.

Tony said nothing, unwilling to trust words.

“Well, what do you want? I’ve got to get cleaned up and go home. I’m filling in for Sally tomorrow night and my legs are killing me. Don’t you have some perverts to toss out, or something?”

“There’s a guy at the bar who wants to meet you. Very insistent type. I told him to come back tomorrow for a lap dance-”

“Fuck you!” Gina spun her chair around to face him. “So you think I’m working the booths now, turning tricks on the side, too? I dance and get paid well to do just that… nothing else.”

“Dancing? Is that what you call what you did tonight? Looked like you were enjoying it.”

“Fuck you. I’m not a whore.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t!”

“I saw the dirty looks you gave me. What’s the deal? You know what I do here. It’s a little late to get all self-righteous about it.”

Tony shook his head and held up his hands. “Look, I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. I just wanted to tell you that the guy said he wasn’t looking for a lap dance. Then he handed me a hundred-dollar bill just to have me talk to you.”

“I guess that makes you my pimp.”

Tony was upset now. “Now look, I never called you a whore. I just don’t like what you do up there sometimes… especially tonight. I don’t like to think of you like-”

“Like what, Tony? A whore?”

Tony took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “You’re not like the other girls. You’re smart and could do anything you want to do and you’re meant for far better things than this hell-hole. I only agreed to give you the man’s message because I know you’re trying to save money and get out of here.”

Gina was silent.

“He wants to offer you a job. Just dancing, so he claims. But it sounds shady to me. Anyway, he’s offering a lot of money, enough that I needed to tell you about it.”

Gina rolled her eyes and sighed. “Give me a minute to clean the whore off me and I’ll be out.”

Tony shook his head. “I’ll stick around… you know… just to make sure he’s not a nut or something.”

“How sweet,” she said sarcastically.

“I know you’re not a whore,” Tony stated firmly. “I said what I said because… well… I care about you.”

Gina was caught off-guard. She turned in her chair to look at him.

Tony looked at his feet, feeling like the world’s biggest idiot. “So… I’ll go tell the guy you’re coming.”

“You do that,” she said, lowering her tone.

Tony nodded and started to leave.

“So… hey… we’ll have to talk more about this whole, ‘you care about me’ thing later… okay?” She finished with a smile.

Tony turned and smiled back.

Damn, that smile.


Still in her bathrobe, her hair tied back into a bun, Gina stepped behind the bar, nodding at Hal, the bartender, and fixed herself a Screwdriver.

At the other end of the bar a lone patron, dressed in an expensive black Armani suit, sat patiently, staring into his half-empty glass of bourbon.

Tony came over. “I’ll be right here, okay?”

“I’ll be right there, okay?” she mocked in a bad imitation of his gruff and tough voice.

Tony shook his head and laughed.

After mixing her drink, Gina filled another glass with bourbon and placed it before the stranger. “That’s on me for tipping the bouncer,” she said. “And just to let you know, in case you get any strange ideas, he’s a good friend of mine and is standing just within range to break your neck if he even thinks your language is offending me. Are we clear?”

The man looked over at Tony who stood at the other end of the bar with his arms crossed like an intimidating stone. Without getting up, the stranger said, “Good evening, Miss Melborn. I am Malcolm Hathaway and it’s an honor to finally meet you.” He was a short man up close, with slick, brown hair tied back into a ponytail. He picked up the glass. “Thank you very much for the drink.”

Gina examined Malcolm’s face. “So why don’t you tell me what you think your money’s going to get out of me and then I’ll give you a choice of colorful expletives to choose from as my answer.”

Malcolm had dark eyes, a hawkish nose, and a clever looking smile. He had the look of a man who was not impressed by much in the world, but amused by everything. He took a long sip from his drink, placed it back down on the bar and stared right back, without a word. After sizing her up, Malcolm smiled and asked, “So… what’s the verdict? Am I an ex-con, fresh out of jail and looking for a good time? Perhaps I’m ranked much lower among the detestable and despicable, desperately seeking to talk you into a plethora of strange sexual positions, based on my excessive amount of liquid courage and cash… hmm?”

Gina shook her head, waving her drink in his face. “Why don’t you tell me? You have until I finish this, and then I’m going home.”

“Straight to the point, I respect that,” he said. “I assure you, what I need is a dancer—no more, no less—and I’m willing to pay a substantial amount for your services.”

“I’m still listening.”

Malcolm laughed. “To seduce a man or a woman with the right words is far more challenging than flesh upon the eyes, wouldn’t you agree?”

Gina shook her head and cracked, “With men it’s simple: present a hole… they’ll come. So what’s your particular fetish? Believe me, I’ve heard them all.”

“I guess my particular fetish this evening are the holes on the side of your lovely head,” Malcolm said.

“Figures,” she said, taking a long gulp of her drink and tiring of the conversation. “Let’s say we cut through all this witty foreplay and get to the fucking—the fucking point, that is.”

“The fucking point, as you say, is that I would like to hire you to dance at a dinner event that I’m hosting.”

“Sorry, I don’t do private parties.” Gina downed the rest of her drink. “That kind of shit reeks of trouble… and this girl’s not interested.”

“Again, the monetary reward I’m offering for your time and trouble is quite substantial. Would you at least lend me your ears a bit longer and entertain my offer?”

Gina didn’t want to hear anything else. She was tired and it was late. “Thanks, but no thanks. Tell you what, ask any of these ho-bag waitresses working tonight, and they’ll do anything you want for a twenty.” She handed her empty glass to Hal and started walking away.

By the time she reached Tony, Malcolm said, “How does ten thousand dollars sound to you?”

She looked at Tony and whispered, “Did he just say, ‘ten thousand dollars’?”

Tony went wide-eyed and nodded.

Malcolm laughed and asked the bartender, “Sir, could I get another one of these, and one of whatever the lady is having.”

Hal looked to Gina and shrugged.

Gina shrugged back. To Tony, she whispered, “If he’s serious, then he wants more than just a dance… or he’s fucking crazy.”

Tony thought about it. “Hear him out. I’ll even go with you if it sounds legit.”

“You’d do that?” She was touched.

“Do you really have to ask me that?” he kidded. “Now go hear what he has to say. That’s a lot of money to ignore.”

Gina walked past Hal, who handed her another Screwdriver, and stood before Malcolm with her arms crossed. “Okay, you bought yourself a little more time. Start making some sense. Why am I worth ten thousand dollars for one night’s work?”

“I assure you, my dear, there’s no catch attached to it. A dancer is what I need… nothing more. Of course, your services are easily worth half that, but I need to conclude our business shortly and I believe ten thousand would be sufficient to ensure your commitment on short notice.”

“What’s the rush?”

“I’m afraid my dinner party is already in progress.” Malcolm looked at his Rolex. It was 1:15 a.m. “By now, my guests are arriving and will be expecting my presence within the hour. I had a last-minute cancellation with another talented woman, which leaves me without a dancer.”

“Wait… so you need a dancer… now? It’s a little late for dinner don’t you think, Hathaway?”

Malcolm smiled. “I would be happy to explain the nature of my dinner party and all details of your involvement on the way… but I need your decision. We would need to leave within the next thirty minutes.”

Gina was exhausted. Just the thought of adding on an additional performance to an already late evening made her want to climb into bed that much faster.

“I would pay you in advance, of course,” Malcolm added, sweetening the deal. “You’d have the money upon arrival at the party.”

She looked across the bar, catching Tony’s concerned gaze.

Gina couldn’t help thinking about what an extra ten thousand dollars would mean. She could bank that free and clear. It would take her weeks to save up that much money—weeks cut off in a single night. It was tempting.

As she continued to watch Tony, Gina wondered if he would come with her when she finally flew the coup. She’d always intended on asking him, if she ever worked up the nerve.

Just you and me, Tony. We’ll be able to walk away from this dive and go wherever we want and start a new life.

Some dreams required the occasional risk.

It’s just one more show… and a free dinner to boot.

“What does one wear to the way-past-midnight ball, anyway?” Gina asked.

Malcolm was ecstatic. “Very good! Don’t worry about your apparel, my dear. I just happen to have a stunning green dress in the car that would accommodate your eyes wonderfully. And I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars that it fits you perfectly.”

Gina laughed. “Are you always so sure of yourself? I’m tempted to say ‘no’ just to wipe that shit-eating grin off your face.”

“I usually get my way, if that’s what you mean,” Malcolm added with a smile. “The dress was just a calculated gamble, with good odds in my favor. Only a fool would turn down easy money.”

I’m sure there’s someone swimming at the bottom of a lake somewhere that thought the same thing once, she thought.

“One more thing,” Gina said. “It’s a two-for-one deal. If I go, so does the big guy over there. If that doesn’t work for you, then the deal’s off.”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow. “If he dances as well as you, I may have to split the fee between the both of you.”

“Very funny.”

Malcolm got up, and with the biggest shit-eating grin he could muster, added, “It just so happens, I have an extra-large suit in the car. It should fit your friend very nicely.”


At 1:45 am, Tony and Gina exited the lounge. Gina lit up the parking lot with a stunning, strapless green dress that hugged her features snugly.

Tony looked uncomfortable in a black, casual dinner suit. “I didn’t know we were going to the prom.”

Gina blew him a kiss. She pulled the front of the dress up. “This is why men have no business picking clothes for woman. I can barely breathe in this thing.”

“You look very… elegant?” Tony suggested.

Gina spit a piece of gum out into the parking lot.

“Okay, scratch that.”

Malcolm met them and offered to drive them both in his Mercedes. He wanted to discuss the details with Gina along the way.

Tony and Gina made other arrangements. It was agreed that he’d follow them in his Camaro just in case they needed to leave prematurely.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you,” Tony reassured her.

She nodded and got into Hathaway’s car.


“So where are we going?” The drive in the stranger’s Mercedes was making her nervous.

“I own a beach house fifteen minutes from here,” Malcolm said. “Dinner will be waiting for us when we get there, followed by a party on the beach. That’s where you come in. I’ll be giving a bit of a performance of my own, and you will dance to augment my narration. Can you improvise?”

“I’ve been doing that my whole life.”

“Very good. Based on what I’ve seen of your work, this will be easy for you.”

“Anything specific in mind? It’s your dime, after all.”

Malcolm turned to her and said, “I want the one you call, Fire. She will be perfect for what I have in mind.”

Of course.

After a long moment of silence, Gina said, “Okay, here come the questions: What’s so special about tonight that can’t wait for a more reasonable hour and what’s this performance you have planned?”

“Think of it as a late-night theater event. As you are well aware of your employer’s taste for the dramatic arts, I too look for similar talented individuals such as yourself to… how shall I put it… capture the crowd. May I ask you a personal question, Gina?”

She laughed. “Well, Malcolm, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, I’d be a rich girl by now.”

Malcolm quickly caught on. “Is that because you are very personable, or is it because some confuse sexuality for intimacy?”

Gina raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Spot on, Malcolm. You read between the lines fairly well.”

“I try to listen. Please continue. I’m… intrigued by your profession, and I mean that respectfully from an intellectual point of view—nudity aside. What’s it really like, Gina?”

“Well… I’ve seen them all in my line of work. Men from all walks of life come in and treat the fantasy as an invite to remove their masks, allowing them forbidden freedoms not found in the nine-to-five world. That’s how the scam works. They pay for the illusion of not only seeing what they desire acted out, but of being desirable as well. It puts them at ease. They see what they want to see from my performances, but they don’t see me. They come in, watch me dance, watch me take off all of my clothes and fall into the cleverly crafted illusion that the business provides. Men come up to me after a show and want to buy me drinks—want to get to know me. They think they’ve paid for that right by seeing me naked and that we’re instant friends. Frankly, it’s insulting. Even illusions have boundaries… and that’s usually when the line’s been crossed.”

“I see,” Malcolm said. “I’m sure you’ve had advances as well.”

“Plenty of those, but that’s to be expected. Let’s see… hand-jobs, blow-jobs, twosomes, threesomes, those who want me to masturbate and those who want me to watch them masturbate, whips, chains, pain, and my all-time favorite: shooting projectiles out my va-jay-jay.”

“Can you do that?” Malcolm asked teasingly.

“Can you?” she fired back. “Seriously, the ones that really get under my skin are the ones who want to know me. I can deal with the rude ones—it’s clear what they expect. But the ones who want the real me, get under my skin. Like, it’s not bad enough that they sat there and paid to watch me get naked, something they would never do with anyone they really cared about, but then they have the audacity to assume that I’m fine with it, and that it’s okay to get personal after that. Know what I mean?”

“Yes, I believe I do.”

Gina felt foolish babbling on to a complete stranger. “Sorry about that,” she said. “I guess I had that building up for a while.”

“No problem. That was very enlightening. Thank you.”

“So go ahead and ask your question and I’ll decide if it’s too personal or not.”

Malcolm laughed. “You’ve already answered my question… and then some.”

Gina, feeling guarded, asked, “And just what question was that?”

“I understand the nature of masks all too well,” Malcolm said. “In fact, tonight is all about removing those masks without creating an illusion to hide within. Tonight’s about removing the illusion entirely, which is the mask itself, and finding real freedom.”

Gina had no response to that. “So why don’t you spell it out for me, Malcolm. What am I getting myself into here?”

Malcolm turned, opened his mouth to answer, and then said, “Oh, I’m sorry. It looks like we’ve arrived. The rest will have to wait for dinner.”

“What convenient timing.”

Malcolm sighed. “Honestly, tonight will be better understood through the experience rather than attempting to convey it through inadequate words. It’s all harmless, I assure you. But if I’ve made you uncomfortable in any way, you’re more than welcome to terminate our arrangement and leave with your friend. I’ll be disappointed, but the show will still go on. Of course, the ten thousand dollars in my trunk will remain with me.”

“Let’s just get to it.” Gina felt the carrot being dangled over her head. “We’re already here and I’m starving.”

Malcolm gave her a wicked little smile.

He turned off the main road and onto a private drive that ran parallel with Lake Erie. Low sand dunes sprouting vegetation were scattered on both sides of the small, gravel road, which curved inland toward a modern, two-story home built on stilts. Solar panels dominated the irregular, slanted roof that faced the lake. With the exception of minimal lighting from within the house, the brightest lights were coming from torches surrounding a large glassed-in deck, overlooking the beach.

Gina was feeling more and more uneasy. Malcolm Hathaway had done a terrific job of only telling her what she needed to know, while politely dodging everything else. She looked back several times to make sure the Camaro was still following. Thankfully, Tony was still there.

As they approached the front of the beach house, Gina observed several expensive cars scattered across a large driveway.

Malcolm selected a spot at random and Tony pulled in next to him.

Gina exited the vehicle and covered her bare shoulders with a green shawl that Malcolm provided.

The air was cool on the skin, but not unpleasant for early October. Storm clouds gathered in the south and promised winds off the lake, and a chill by dawn. But for now, the humidity made it feel much warmer.

The night was deceptively still. Gina could hear waves breaking on the beach below the beach house, masking an uneasy silence. The full moon, slowly approaching its zenith, dispelled the darkness of the surrounding dunes, leaving a soft afterglow on sand and shadow.

Malcolm opened the trunk of the Mercedes, reached into a large leather satchel and handed Gina two bundles of hundred-dollar bills. “Ten thousand dollars, as agreed upon.” Malcolm quickly closed the trunk.

Gina stared at the two stacks in her hands. She was tempted to check the bills for blood stains. So this is what dirty money feels like. She almost inquired about the large bag of cash, but reconsidered, wanting to know as little as possible. Gina handed Tony the cash and he placed it in the glove box of his Camaro.

“Now that your services are paid-in-full, I hope the both of you can relax and enjoy the festivities.” Malcolm escorted them toward the house. “I must warn you, my friends can be a bit eccentric and down-right obnoxious at times. I apologize in advance for their behavior.”

“Unlike the atmosphere we’re used to at Herpies,” Tony cracked. “Nothing but quality family entertainment there.”

Gina elbowed him and whispered, “Behave yourself, Tony, or I’ll tell the boss what you called his dear love-child. And wipe that sarcasm off your chin, you’re starting to embarrass me.”

“Yes, dear.”

When they reached the front door, Malcolm turned and observed the full moon. He glanced at his watch: 2:05 am. “Plenty of time,” he said cheerfully.

He led his guests inside.


Next Episode 2-3

Previous Episode 2-1


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 :)

“Chapter 2-2: Dinner and a Movie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.