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Don’t Feed The Dark Updates 5/16/16

Posted: May 16, 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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Well, we are one episode away from wrapping up Chapter 27: The Stand. Just three more chapters remaining until we reach the end of Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Three: Recruits. That leaves us with exactly 12 episodes left staring on Wednesday. I won’t make the mistake I made on the initial serial run by making it very clear right now that this is not the end of the series, just the end of the latest arc in the series. There is much more to tell before The Dark comes to an end. Here’s the latest itinerary wrapping up what’s left for this part of our journey so far:

Chapter 27-4: The Stand (finishes up on Wednesday)
Chapter 28: The Den (4 episodes)
Chapter 29: War of the Gods (6 episodes)
Chapter 30: Aftermath (1 long finale episode)

I’m expecting the final episode of Book Three to conclude on Friday, June 10th.

So the question remains: Where does DFTD go from there?

Well, here’s the good news. I’m already neck deep into writing Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. In fact, I just did a word count and discovered that I’ve written more than 75,000 words already!

More good news. I have decided to go ahead and serialize Book Four and keep this series running online for as long as the readers want to keep reading it. So that means for those who have been following this series since its first serial run that started back in February 2014, you will finally get to find out what happened after the conclusion of Book Three.

The only bad news is that I can’t officially announce a release date yet for the upcoming fourth installment to the serial until I’ve written enough of it. Now, you might be saying, “Hey, you’ve already written more than 75,000 words! Why not go with that for starters?”

And the answer: What I’ve written so far is out of sequence. I have chapters 1, 3, and 7 nearly completed. But I need to have at least the first seven chapters done before I feel I can start serializing the new stuff, and that’s not including time to polish the rough drafts enough to post an initial run of the material. So I’ll keep you posted on the time frame, but I feel confident that the new story arc should be ready to post sometime this summer.

As I’ve said before, there is a lot happening in Book Four (highly Top Secret, of course) but I’m confident from what I’ve already written that you will be more than satisfied with the new story arc. It will delve into new places and challenges our survivors have not faced yet, introduce new characters alongside some very familiar characters, and this arc will bring us much closer to some long awaited answers that have been touched upon all throughout this series. And that’s all you’re gonna get.

~~~

WANTED: Looking for Writer’s Forums Around the Web

Moving on to other news. I’ve recently been trying to spend more time online searching for new places to promote The Dark (devoting a strong focus on finding writer’s forums to interact better with potential readers). As a result, I’ve found a handful so far that I’m still exploring. Some are very limiting in what I can post due to the mature content nature of my story. Others just have far too many rules in place requiring more involvement in said forums while offering very little in return. But some, as Baby Bear might say, are just right.

One website in particular that has been very receptive to my long serial, is a place called Royal Road which hosts many serial novels and an abundance of eager readers. I’ve been posting episodes over there for one month now in the hope of generating new readership, and the results have been very promising. In just one month I’ve had over 9,600 views, and that traffic has trickled over to my site as well since new readers have found their way here from there. I want to send a special thank you to all the readers of Royal Road who are some die-hard fans when they like your story. I am truly fortunate to have found this website. DFTD is not the usual fanfare over there so just the fact that even my oddball story can still attract great readers there is a testament to the quality of readership on that site.

If anyone is interested, you can go check out my fiction page at Royal Road in the link above, join the site, and then feel free to support the cause by leaving ratings, reviews and comments if you are so moved to do so (please… pretty please with sugar on top… okay, enough with my pathetic begging). Seriously though, every little bit helps in getting The Dark to more and more readers.

If anyone knows of any other forums that you either heard of or are an active part of, that might be a good place for me to bring DFTD to reader’s attention, I would appreciate any links along with tips to those websites.

One other tidbit, now that I’m thinking about it. What do you all think of the artwork at the top of this post? I’m attempting to get a hold of the artist, Rondell Melling, for permission to use it as the cover for Book Four. I think it’s perfect.

And that’s about it for now (man this update was longer than most). As always, thanks for reading and for helping me promote this massive tale in any way you can. Thank you for sharing The Dark on your own social media pages, websites, etc., and for simply encouraging me to continue posting this epic tale.

Talk to you soon,

-Scott

~~~

Chapter 27-3: The Stand

Posted: May 16, 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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~~~

Marcus followed them from a distance, staying well clear of the road and blending into the woods as he crept along silently. He’d already found several traps once entering the forest surrounding the wilderness preserve, but he managed to maneuver around them.

He lay prone beneath a large pine, watching as Frank and Gina followed the narrow road. They made no attempt to remain unseen, as was their risky plan.

Marcus’s well-tuned senses were on high alert by the time he moved within visual range of the dead things fastened to the trees along both sides of the road. He watched as Gina and Frank hesitated, discussing how to proceed.

Marcus relocated behind an overturned dead tree with one end still connected to the trunk. He slithered within a small gap beneath the tree and the trunk and remained motionless in a tall patch of weeds. As the others focused on the zombies in the road, Marcus’s attention was on the quiet woods ahead of them. They were not alone anymore and he wouldn’t dare move any closer. He could not see them or hear them, but the unnatural behavior of the forest itself was what betrayed the stealthy intruders. Marcus was stunned by how well they hid and could move about without being detected. He’d almost missed the signs. If there had been only one or two, Marcus was convinced that he would not have detected them. But there were many and they were close. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do when the intruders decided to reveal themselves.

If these are the Shadow Dead, Marcus mused, then we are in a lot of trouble.

Marcus turned to watch Gina and Frank walk in between the frenzied dead. Frank found a trip wire and crawled beneath it. Gina started to do the same as one of the more rotted dead split itself in half on the tight chain and began to crawl after her. She made it to the other side. Frank killed the pitiful creature…

The woods were suddenly filled with the moans and shrieks of a thousand maniacs as Marcus nearly gave up his position, fearing that he was being attacked from above. He rolled on his back and looked up into the tree tops. There were no monsters. By the time he rolled back on his stomach and looked over at the zombies, the moaning and screaming had ceased as both Frank and Gina’s unconscious bodies were being dragged away into the woods by strange looking brutes with large heads and exposed skulls. He only caught a glimpse of them as they disappeared among the trees. There were at least ten of them.

Damn… they are fast!

He didn’t know how to proceed… and worse… one of them had stayed behind. He couldn’t see it, but Marcus felt its hideous presence watching the rear of their pack.

They know… just as I knew they were there… they can sense me, too!

Marcus quietly retrieved a hunting knife from his belt and waited… five minutes… ten… fifteen…

After twenty agonizing minutes, a large shadow bolted out from behind a large tree and sped off in the direction of his pack… and it never made a sound.

Marcus rolled over on his back with his knife at the ready. He remained there, staring up into the trees tops for another thirty minutes before deciding it was safe to move. He got out from under the tree and crouched down, knife retracted like a viper getting ready to strike. He scanned the woods for movement until he believed he was alone.

This… them… all of it feels so damn familiar. He couldn’t place it yet but that wasn’t the only thing which troubled him. Instead of following after Gina and Frank’s abductors, Marcus crept back over to the fallen tree and looked up. Something is not right… about any of this. Marcus thought about their screams and how it sounded like they were coming down from the trees. But their attack came from the ground. And then he saw something.

Marcus walked up to a tall, slender oak tree with branches dangling half way down from the top. He was able to wrap his arms and legs around the base of the tree and shimmy his way up to the lowest branch. From there, he climbed the branches up toward the object which caught his eye: a large squirrel’s nest. He reached up and shook the nest until it fell to the ground.

Marcus ignored the nest and smiled at the brown-painted speaker attached to the tree. The nest had been concealing it. And what’s this?

He took advantage of his elevated position to scan the surrounding tree tops. He found several more squirrel nests spread out across the whole area… enough of them to make the Shadow Dead sound like they were everywhere at once. Very interesting.

Before climbing back down, Marcus stared out in the direction the Shadow Dead had gone until he saw the tops of several man-made structures surrounded by a chain-link fence.

Once back on the ground, Marcus understood why these monsters felt familiar to him:

They reminded him of the assassin, Donovan.

Very, very interesting… indeed.

Marcus cautiously crept back out of the wilderness preserve to get some rest and plan his next move. He would wait for nightfall—the only disguise he could wear to get by the Shadow Dead unseen and infiltrate the camp of Micom and Micolad… the camp of manufactured monsters and lies.

~~~

As soon as there was enough light to enter into the northern woods safely, Tony grabbed his pack and told the others to follow Diane back to the lake.

“I can’t ask anything else from any of you,” he said. “You all risked your lives last night to save the others, and for this, you are already heroes in my book. As for me, I have to save my girl. If I don’t get to Gina in time, then I’ll have to find a way into that preserve we always warned you to stay the hell away from… and for good reasons. Go back. You’ve all done enough.”

All seven of them respectfully disobeyed.

Diane had summed it up the best: “After calling us heroes, how the hell can you expect us to turn back now and let you do this crazy thing alone? Let’s go get your girlfriend while we have the light on our side for a change.”

Tony had no words. He watched them all gather their things as fast as possible and they were ready to leave fifteen minutes later. “I won’t forget this,” he promised them as he quickly turned away to wipe a speck of dust from his eye.

“None of us are fooled by his size,” Diane whispered to Meredith. “We all know he’s just a big damn teddy bear underneath all that macho-bullshit. Speck of dust… my ass.”

Meredith laughed and stepped up beside Stephen. “Are you ready for this?”

“What? If you mean stepping back into the heart of darkness where all the odds are stacked against us again… well… I wasn’t aware we ever stopped doing that,” he said with a wink.

“I’m starting to like the ‘new you’, Stephen,” she said with a laugh.

They all entered the northern woods feeling a bit lighter as they left the frying pan of Andover behind them, but were not yet close enough to feel the fire which waited in the distance.

Tony marched ahead, setting a steady but deliberate pace through the woods as he hoped that Gina and Frank had lingered just long enough for them to catch up.

~~~

“I’m sorry, Tony,” one of the hunters said, examining the remains of a small fire pit. His name was Paul. “The coals have been out for hours.” Paul stood up and looked around the ruins of the burned down house. “If this was where they stayed the night, I’d say by the looks of it that your friends left early this morning. Maybe three-four hours ago.”

Tony frowned and nodded. “Thank you, Paul.” They’d pushed hard but it was almost noon by the time they’d made it this far. He looked back toward the road as his shoulders fell, speaking volumes. They were too late. The preserve was just a few miles up ahead of them. Gina was either captured by now, or she was wandering within the preserve.

“Do you think they tried to enter through the southern gate?” a hunter named Gorman asked. “Sam spoke ill of that entrance. I remember she told us that a group once tried to escape through the south gate… and that it didn’t turn out so well for them.”

Tony nodded. “You’re right, Gorman. That entrance is patrolled… by the Shadow Dead. Same with the northern road in.” He started pacing, his frustration evident.

“Gina had Orosco’s map,” Stephen offered. “She would’ve known this, too. Maybe they went around and entered from the west… like you did. Maybe we can catch them along the river.”

Tony stopped and shook his head. “No. I think they went in from the south… God only knows why.” He started pacing again. “They wouldn’t have stayed overnight in this spot if they were planning on going around. They stayed near the road so they could keep an eye on it. If they were going to do something else, they could’ve moved much farther into the woods and closer to the western edge of the preserve. I just don’t understand why they would risk it… Damn!” Tony looked like he wanted to punch a tree.

“Frank’s a clever man,” Meredith said. “If they entered the south gate, then I’m betting they had a good reason to do so… probably something Frank concocted.”

“Maybe they wanted to get caught,” Stephen said, drawing all eyes toward him. “That would surely be the fastest way into their camp.”

“That’s crazy!” Tony snapped. “Why the hell would she do that?”

“Regardless of the reason,” Meredith said, “they’re in there now. We only need to worry about how we’re going to proceed from here.”

“No matter what we do, sooner or later we’re going to have to face those fucking things,” Tony said. “The camp itself has never been the issue. Sure, Micom has his own personal militia, but his real power has always been the Shadow Dead. Sam was convinced that they were working together all along. That all this was some elaborate game that was being played out every night at their fucking nightly Gatherings. They had everyone inside so terrified that they actually believed some talking machine was protecting them. Whatever’s going on in there, and if Gina and Frank are already in trouble, then there’s nothing we can do without dealing with the real problem first.”

“If you’re suggesting we fight the Shadow Dead, Tony,” Diane said, “then you’re asking us to die. There’s only eight of us with a few guns. I remember the stories… they gave me nightmares. But what I remember most was that no one even saw these damn things coming before it was too late.”

He turned and snapped, “I’ve seen them, and lived to talk about it! So whatever else they are, I don’t believe they’re the phantoms our fears make them out to be. There has to be a way to outsmart them and get the upper hand. All we need is an advantage that they don’t have. In the end, they’re just fucking zombies, right?”

No one knew what to say. What Tony was asking them to do seemed like a guaranteed death sentence.

Meredith finally broke the silence. “Can you get us back there, Tony? Back to the waterfall?

“Yes, I can.”

“And do you really believe they can be stopped by the eight of us if you had… an advantage?”

“I do.”

Meredith sighed heavily and finished, “Then I may be able to provide you with that advantage. The only problem is, the advantage may be just as dangerous for us.”

Tony stared into the older woman’s eyes and finally said, “I want to hear all about your ‘advantage’. But first, we need to get the hell out of here and over to the western side of the preserve well before dark. It’s going to take a few hours and I have a plan which might just work… if your advantage supports it.”

“What plan?” Diane asked, voicing the same question for everyone.

Tony started moving. “Ask me when we get around to the other side. If I haven’t talked myself out of it on the hike over, then I’ll tell you all about it.”

~~~

Next Episode 27-4

Previous Episode 27-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 27-3: The Stand” Copyright © 2014, 2016 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Three: Recruits”.

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 22-11: Almost Dead

Posted: February 8, 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 third floor barricade at the stairwell landing came down with a crash as the dead stormed the landing with incredible ferocity and speed.

“Shoot the damn bastards down!” Rusty shouted from behind the last barrier as the yellow-eyed monsters began splitting up into three groups as the ones toward the rear pushed the others forward into the hall and into the open rooms.

All five rifles exploded down the hall as rotted brains splattered the walls, knocking the first row of savages back into the next row. But the dead continued forward, climbing over corpses and howling at their prey behind the barricade.

They managed to get off five volleys before the dead crashed up against the barrier and tried to claw their way through.

“Use your handguns at this range!” Rusty shouted. “Keep them off the barricade or we’re done!”

Tommy and Brian shot at the monsters with their handguns, preparing to use their rifles as clubs to knock them off the barricade.

One of the two adults, who had stayed downstairs with Rusty, moved in too close as a dead tattooed bald man reached over the top of the barricade and grabbed him by the hair. It was over in seconds as the bald zombie reached around his neck and pulled him up and back over the barrier. Five zombies descended upon the man and tore him to pieces.

Brian swung his rifle toward a teenage girl wearing a bloody high school football jersey. Her long blond hair was wet and sticky with thick blood as she scaled the barrier with surprising speed. The girl’s jaw collapsed inward on her face as the butt of Brian’s rifle connected, just managing to knock her back off the barrier. The image of the dead girl, about his own age, would stain Brian’s thoughts for whatever remained of his life.

Tommy and Rusty were moving along the barrier, firing rounds into the faces of the dead as they popped up over the barrier.

The last adult was reloading his rifle when a young boy, no older than his child hiding on the roof, jumped down on their side of the barricade and charged the man. The man aimed his rifle at the bloody child but couldn’t pull the trigger. He turned to avoid the child-thing but struck a wall as the little monster leaped up on his shoulders and ripped the back of the man’s neck out with its teeth.

Rusty quickly reacted and placed his handgun against the child-thing’s temple and fired, sending what was left of its rotted brains splattering up against the wall. Rusty wanted to vomit but he had to finish the job. He walked over to the man and placed a bullet in the back of his head. “Rest in peace, brother,” he said, and turned back toward the battle.

Now they were three and the dead continued to attack the barricade.

“I don’t see any more coming up the stairs!” Tommy yelled. But the hallway was still full of the dead… more than they could hold back.

“I’m out!” Brian yelled as he dropped his handgun and shoved the barrel of his rifle through the eye of another zombie scaling the barrier.

Tommy went back to firing his rifle from three feet away until it clicked. “Me, too!”

Rusty reached behind his back and pulled out a long hunting knife. “Your knives, boys! Just like I taught you! Don’t let them grab at you from the front. Keep them off-balance and to the side. As soon as they jump the barrier, stab them behind the ear!”

The remaining dead in the hallway we’re scaling the barrier now.

They all had their knives out as Rusty fired what was left of his handgun magazine into the falling zombies.

Dear, God, please… please help us stop them from reaching the roof, Rusty prayed. Grant us your mercy this day and help us keep them from reaching the children!

“Alright then,” Rusty shouted at the beasts. “You want us! You think you can come in our home and kill our loved ones!”

The dead were oblivious to the talking fresh meat.

“Boys, this is it! Make them pay for every fucking inch and let them know that this is our town! Our family!”

They armed themselves with fire from the forge of knowing that the last of who they were—family, friends, community, perhaps humanity—were huddled in the dark up on a defenseless rooftop. This was unacceptable.

The monsters fell off the top of the barricade and landed on their side. Rusty, Tommy and Brian charged the first line of the dead with a savageness which almost rivaled the yellow-eyed demons.

~~~

“They’ve breached the barrier,” Frank called back. He was standing just to the side of the hole which led back into the second apartment. “Remember the plan, two at a time, you snipe the first one, I’ll get the second from behind, and you shoot the fucker coming in behind him. Keep that fucking pattern or it’s going to get tight in here.”

Greg was lying prone in the hole which led into the fourth apartment. He held the hunting rifle steady, aiming across the third apartment at the entrance hole into the second room. “I should just shoot you, let ‘em nibble on you a bit, and the taste should make ‘em all turn around and go home.”

Frank smiled and asked, “You talk to your God with that mouth?”

The dead had quickly found the hole into the second room. They could hear them pushing aside the furniture which Frank and Greg had stacked toward the center of the room to slow their progress.

Frank nodded to Greg.

Greg wiped his brow and nodded back. “Dear, Jesus, let my aim be true,” he whispered.

“Amen, to that,” Frank said, leaning up against the wall with a handgun in each hand. His hunting knife was at the ready, tucked into the front of his belt.

A low growl was their only warning before two small and naked zombies shot through the opening with surprising speed.

Greg had just enough time to shoot the first one in the head while the second one crawled over it and to the right.

“Fuck!” Frank cursed as he aimed his gun toward the small one while Greg was already firing at two more which were crawling through the hole. “Too fast!”

Another dodged right and bolted toward Frank just as he managed to put four holes into the smaller zombie, his last shot going straight through its temple as it collapsed two feet in front of Greg’s position, blocking his field of fire.

Frank slammed the handgun into the approaching creature’s face and emptied half his magazine into it.

“I have no shot at the hole, Frank!” Greg called, trying to cover him as four more creatures charged toward Frank. He shot two of them on the move, shattering their skulls with the powerful rifle.

Frank kicked a frenzied woman in the stomach while firing his other gun over her shoulder into the left eye of a taller zombie wearing coveralls.

The dead were pouring through the gap now, quickly becoming unmanageable.

Greg fired at anything he could get his sights on, trying to keep Frank out of the corner. “Frank! You need to get over here!”

Frank was now firing at point-blank range, his size giving him his only advantage as he was able to see over their heads and prepare fast enough for the next attack. There were now ten in the room as more continued to enter the gap. Frank was screaming like a madman as he emptied both magazines and pushed his way back toward the center of the room.

Greg found his rhythm and made accurate head shots, allowing Frank a brief respite to make it to his position.

“Move!” Frank yelled as he bolted for the hole into the fourth room.

Greg backed in, stood up, and managed to reload his rifle just as Frank crawled through the hole, barely avoiding the sickly looking pale limbs which trailed after him.

As soon as Frank was clear, Greg aimed toward the hole and fired until his magazine was empty as the hole was temporarily blocked up by the bodies of the dead.

Frank had one magazine left as he quickly reloaded one of the handguns, tossing the other toward the hole. “Mother-fuckers!”

The dead were pushing through the bodies. Nothing could dissuade them. They would not tire. They would not stop… ever.

Greg reloaded his rifle with his last magazine. “That’s it.”

Frank was breathing hard. “These fuckers are on crack!”

Greg started firing toward the hole again as the dead began to poke their heads through. “Should we make for the last apartment while we can?”

“I’m starting to understand how Custard felt,” Frank said, staring at the couch which hid the final hole in the wall. He retrieved his knife and led Greg back toward the couch. Together they pushed it toward the previous hole to buy them a few seconds and crawled through the wall into the fifth and final apartment.

They could already hear the sofa being pushed aside as the dead invaded the fourth apartment with blood-chilling screams.

~~~

Gina and Marcus were less prepared when the dead stormed the first apartment on their side of the hall. They tried to use the existing furniture in the room as cover, hoping to take them down as they entered, but the dead rushed over and around the apartment debris, stumbling forward while Gina and Marcus opened fire standing near the opening in the wall. They managed to take down five but the other dead maniacs simply rushed over top of the fallen using their bullet-filled brethren as shielding to push through the furniture. They had just enough time to slip through the hole into the second apartment.

Marcus used up the last of his handgun rounds firing into the hole, allowing Gina time to reload the shotgun. He dropped his gun, pulled out his machete and a long knife and began dodging the swinging arms of the dead while landing critical blows with his melee weapons.

Gina was caught off guard by the sheer ferocity and accuracy in which Marcus moved in and cut, sliced, and kicked at the dead as they crawled out of the hole and invaded the room. He was covered with the dark blood of the monsters as he hacked away, refusing to give up ground as he descended on the beasts like a beast himself.

“Marcus! Move out of the way!” Gina fired the shotgun into the side of a tall man with half its face burnt off. The man came for Marcus from behind and almost had its black and rotting teeth planted in his shoulder. Instead the beast split in half at the torso, its upper body toppling sideways while guts rained down on the back of Marcus’s shirt.

Marcus had just decapitated a crazed teenage girl and kicked its headless corpse back into three others causing them to fall down, before realizing what Gina had done. “Get out of here!” he shouted toward her. “I’m fast but these things are faster!”

She spun toward three zombies that were lurking along the wall, trying to get behind her, and fired the rest of her rounds. Their heads exploded up against the wall. She had just enough time to turn the other direction and swing the empty shotgun in the face of another zombie, knocking it to the ground. Two more were coming straight at her with arms outstretched.

Suddenly four limbs fell to the ground as Marcus came in low between them, swinging the machete lightning fast. He sprung up from beneath them, stabbing one under the chin and into its brain while pulling it into the other, causing the second zombie to lose its balance.

The dead continued to pour in through the apartment hole with incredible speed and spilt off into different directions.

Gina drew her handgun, having just enough time to point and shoot as a large zombie reached for her throat. She blew its face clean off but was knocked over by the large creature’s momentum as it fell on top of her, pinning her legs to the ground.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Gina used one arm to support herself on the floor while firing one-handed at point-blank-range into the heads of three more zombies which crawled toward her face. She continued firing, spinning around to her left and right, as she tried to get out from under the heavy zombie.

A tall woman with long red hair, wearing the ripped remains of transparent black lingerie charged at her from across the apartment, weaving through the dead until Gina almost missed seeing her. The woman, with ghastly pale skin highlighting her bulging veins, came at her with fierce yellow eyes and long fingernails extended like claws. Gina aimed her gun toward the woman’s filthy chest, which was covered with dried up blood and dirt, and almost failed to notice the tattoo of a dragon, wings fully extended, perched just above the once desirable woman’s breasts as if guarding its seductive treasure.

Fire and Ice?

Her dead doppelganger opened its mouth revealing bloody teeth.

“No…” Gina whispered.

The red-headed monster was knocked down by another zombie. It fell to the floor but never lost sight of Gina as it slithered toward her face, pulling the remains of the lingerie down past its waist, dangling its rotting dead flesh toward her, its blood-matted hair sticking to its shoulders, its whorish make-up smeared and mixed with ancient tears and new blood.

Not that one! her mind shouted. Let anything else bite me except that fucking one!

“Die, you fucking bitch!” Gina shouted, reestablishing her aim.

Gina pulled the trigger with an insane smile on her face.

Click

The gun was empty.

~~~

Death. We see her coming… the dreadful storm which overtakes us. We refuse to look into her eyes until there is nowhere left to run, for fear of losing all that suddenly becomes irrelevant. The storm comes and the house of time is immediately destroyed. The camouflage of life, which we invent to hide her, is as temporal as our denial. We act as if our destined appointment with the Lady of the Dark can be postponed by forgetfulness, like an illusion of immortality which can only exist if we continue to erase the future—while drowning in the sea of only now, only now… there is only now…

…Rusty was spent; his old body could no longer keep up with his will to fight, forged by years of hardship and experience long before the apocalypse. Tommy and Brian had fought like caged animals and stood their ground in front of the old man as all three were finally forced back toward the end of the hallway.

The remainder of the dead had just destroyed the barricade. Twenty tireless monsters began their final charge toward the end of the hall to finish off their prey.

Rusty focused on the two boys who were covered with the blood of their enemies… and he was proud. They had grown into men in the last few minutes, fighting with all they had to keep their family safe. But now, it was over. Twenty to three. They had no chance of surviving the next few seconds.

Tommy and Brian gave each other a farewell nod and prepared to face the end.

“You fought well, boys,” Rusty said weakly. “Damn… we made a go of it, didn’t we?”

The old man laughed fondly making Tommy and Brian smile.

The dead closed in for the kill…

…Will she find us worthy? Will she pause, impressed by our resolve to meet her in the open, naked and unafraid, eyes forward, chin up—fear slain and lying before our feet like yesterday’s carcass? It is her intent… it has always been her intent… to bring the best out of us, to make us fitting suitors before the sting of her blade has hit home, forever stopping the perishing heart which beats within. Will we be adequate representation of what it means to truly be alive? Will the living and the dead, at last, stand as equals before the end? We strive forward now with eyes finally open, the mystery of what lies beyond, waiting patiently to meet us just beyond the last breath…

…Frank and Greg expended all their rounds and continued to swing knives and anything else they could grab to push back the yellow-eyed demons and hold the final apartment.

Just when it looked like Greg could no longer find the strength to resist, he thought of Ashley, he thought of his great God, and by a grace beyond his own ability, he continued to fight back although the end was inevitable.

Frank had turned into a street brawler; the last man standing on the losing side of a fierce and lethal rumble. His knife struck at dead flesh like a viper while he bloodied the knuckles on his punching hand again… and again. He screamed into the faces of the dead with an anger equivalent to a tempest, while the monsters howled in frustration at his inability to let them feast upon his bones…

…These misunderstood creatures are simply symbolic instruments of Death’s limitless control over the living. They are a repulsive anomaly of ceaseless flesh and bone, void of self-awareness on this side of the crossing. They are neither pitied nor hated. They are the chosen means to an end; efficient as the weapon of pestilence. Death is not bound by the limits of the living. Death withholds her true agenda and we only see her hand manifested through these infected ones. We fight back but they will outlast frail flesh because Death is persistent. Should I let her die? Of course not. She is not ready… she has not reached a fraction of her true potential. But Death will make that final call in the next few moments. I will fight for her until Death has decided otherwise…

…Marcus moved quickly and drove his knife into the back of the red-haired monster’s head. It fell limp a foot from Gina’s location.

He managed to push the large zombie off of her before turning to face more of the relentless beasts.

By then it was all over.

The room fell quiet as the remaining yellow-eyed monsters stopped, looked up toward the ceiling, and then suddenly collapsed as if broken.

“What the fuck?” Gina rose to her feet.

She looked down at the beasts. They appeared… asleep.

Marcus sat down near Gina, feeling the full effects of his exhaustion. He was equally stunned and sighed heavily.

She looked at Marcus and asked in disbelief, “Did we… win?”

“No,” he quickly responded with a heavy sigh. He returned to his thoughts…

…The Lady of the Dark has made a surprising move. She has opted to spare our lives… tonight, at least. We have been tested and found wanting. Unfortunately, it would appear that we are not yet worthy enough to die.

~~~

Next Episode 22-12

Previous Episode 22-10

~~~

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 22-11: Almost Dead” 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.

anger-794699_640

~~~

They walked the rest of the night, heading northeast on Route 307 out of Harpersfield, wanting as much distance as possible before considering shelter. The dismal two-lane road into the unknown, littered with abandoned cars and the devoured remains of the living, was the first time Gina had diverted them from the relative safety of the Grand River and its woodland cover. Traveling out in the open was risky, especially in the dark, but they stayed quiet, approaching each new obstacle in the road as a potential death sentence should the undead reach out and surprise any of them with a fatal bite. Fortunately, they encountered no one, as they were once again made to feel like the last of the living in a long dead world.

As morning twilight slit the horizon open, spilling out a pink and red dawn, they came across a large vineyard with a ranch home set back off the highway. After ensuring the area was clear of danger and that no one inhabited the house, they settled in and ate what little they had with what they found in the pantry. Meredith discovered a small first-aid kit and tended their injuries before Gina and Meredith took the first watch. Within an hour, everyone else was sleeping like the dead.

Gina felt surprising calm as she stared out the sliding glass door from her kitchen table perch, which overlooked the vineyard out back. The rising sun dominated the early morning as its majestic display reminded her that there was still some beauty left to behold. She opened up her battered area map with Doug’s scribbled path toward the cabin in the mountains. In that moment, after the hell of Harpersfield and everything which had come before, she believed that they just might make it if nothing else happened.

“How are you holding up, honey?” Meredith took a seat across the table from her. She winced at the scar on Gina’s face which ran down just under her right eye and ended at the base of her cheek. “I wish there had been something more I could’ve done for that. Does it hurt?”

“Only when I smile,” she said absently, getting lost in her map. “That shouldn’t pose a problem at the moment.”

Meredith couldn’t tell if she was joking. “You look beat. Why don’t you get some rest. I can stand watch. I’m doing much better now that we’re away from town.”

“In a little bit. I just want to explore our options before we have to face another day out there.”

“How’s the arm?”

“Hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. I’ll live.”

Meredith waited, studying Gina’s blank expression.

Gina felt her probing stare. “Was there anything else, Meredith? Sorry… I don’t mean to be short. I’m just not feeling talkative right now.”

The older woman nodded and then sighed. “Two things. But they can both wait until you’ve had some sleep.”

Gina laughed and looked at her. “Now that just sounds like prep for bad news. You might as well tell me now so I don’t have to go to sleep worrying about one more fucking thing.”

“I feel them again—the yellow-eyed ones. I believe we’re heading right for them. I didn’t start sensing them until we traveled far enough away from Harpersfield… but I’ve been feeling them steadily all night as we continued in our present direction.”

Gina sighed heavily. “How long do we have?”

“They’re still distant, like a low hum in my skull, but it’s getting louder.”

“So basically if we keep heading for the Ashtabula group of survivors, we’re going to run right into them. Is that what you’re telling me?”

Meredith frowned. “I’m sorry, Gina.”

Gina stared at the map and then pushed it off the table. “Shit. Are we ever going to catch a fucking break? Chances are, the Ashtabula group’s been attacked… probably all dead.”

“You’re tired. Go get some rest and things will look better when you’re refreshed.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, Meredith? Better? Nothing’s getting better! Every time we stick our heads out of the sand to catch a breath, something wants a bite out of it! I was just starting to believe… never mind.”

Meredith said nothing.

“Sorry, Meredith… I’m… I don’t mean to take my shit out on you.” Gina sunk in the chair. “You’re right. I’m too tired to think straight right now.”

Meredith stood up and helped her out of the chair. “It’s alright, honey. Just go get a nap in and we’ll talk later.”

Gina let Meredith lead her to a small couch. It looked heavenly. “Wake me if there’s a hint of trouble, okay?”

“Will do.” Meredith picked up Gina’s map and placed it on the table. She then sat down in Gina’s spot and took in the view. “Well… would you look at that. Beautiful.”

Gina lied down and stared at the older woman. “What was the other thing you wanted to tell me?”

“It can wait,” Meredith said.

“Tell me so I can sleep already.”

Meredith hesitated, letting out a deep breath as her shoulders drooped. She turned and said, “The world we live in now is dark and ugly. We both know this on many levels. We can’t control the wind of circumstances, but we can control how we deal with them. Do you believe that, Gina?”

Gina waited, not trusting any answer she could give to that question anymore.

“I’m saying this for your own good, honey. It’s never too late to choose another way.”

“Just spit it out, Meredith.”

“You are becoming cold, Gina. Very cold.”

~~~

He can’t get free of the heavy plastic curtain. Charlie is crying out for help but no one is there. They’re dragging him out the front door of the mock toy store. His knees strike the asphalt hard as they continue to drag him down the street.

He’s suddenly free of the plastic as a grey-eyed man with blond hair kicks him hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him.

Charlie is begging them to spare his life while struggling for air. They pick him up and drag him around a corner, then down an alley and out the other side on to another street.

He’s in tears by the time they throw him up against a brick wall and begin kicking him. They raise blunt objects to bash his skull in as Charlie lifts his hands to defend himself.

“Please,” he begs, “please… don’t do this. I’ll do anything you want.”

They are not interested in his words… only his blood splattered across the sidewalk.

As they are about to strike, Charlie screams, “GET AWAY FROM ME!”

They hesitate.

There are guttural sounds coming from nearby store fronts. Pounding. Windows are shattering.

The grey-eyed monsters are distracted now. They look at one another confused. They are afraid.

One of them shouts while pointing at a window, “Unclean!”

The others are backing up into the street.

Charlie can’t see them yet—can’t see the famished undead going bat-shit crazy trying to get out of the quarantined buildings. He doesn’t understand that they are responding to his voice—responding to the maddening command to ‘get away’. Two have already broken out. They spot Charlie’s would-be murderers and attack, seeing only flesh to feed upon. Five more break out into the street.

The grey-eyed men and women are deathly afraid. They can’t understand how this is happening.

Charlie finally sees the source of what saved his life. They are coming for him now. They are coming for his flesh.

“GET BACK!” he yells, just before the bare-bone remains of a woman in a dirty nightgown is about to fall upon him. The sickly woman recoils as if struck, gnashing her large teeth at him. Her skin is stretched so thin across her rotted frame that she resembles a mummy.

That’s when Charlie understands what’s happened.

He looks over at his group of attackers, now fending off the undead. Charlie is laughing now—laughing like a madman.

More of the undead are coming.

“COME TO ME!” he shouts while getting to his feet.

They slowly turn to him, responding to the sound of his voice.

Charlie wonders how much they can comprehend from their former lives—if they can comply with other commands. He points to the grey-eyed devils and shouts, “ATTACK!”

The undead follow his finger toward the flesh with grey eyes. They are more than happy to oblige. They charge Charlie’s attackers viciously.

“KILL THEM ALL!” Charlie shouts between fits of laughter. “EAT THEM PIECE BY PIECE… MAKE THEM SUFFER!”

The grey-eyed men and women turn to look at Charlie. They are the ones pleading now. They cannot hold back the Unclean. There are too many.

Charlie folds his arms and smiles with satisfaction as the first of the undead bite into the throat of the blond-haired man who kicked him in the stomach.

“FEED… FEED… FEED!” Charlie screams, sending the twenty undead monsters into a frenzy as they devour the pale fools.

He stays long enough to watch their blood stain the street, as the dead tear them to pieces.

Charlie closes his eyes, savoring the sound of their screams.

“Die,” he hisses. “Every last one of you fucking…

~~~

…DIE!” Charlie bolted upward from his makeshift bed of sweaty sheets to find Frank sitting in a wooden chair with his arms folded over the back, staring at him.

“Morning, sunshine,” he said. “Sleeping in during the Apocalypse… now, that has to be a first.”

“What the fuck… what time… why are you sitting there?” Charlie was flustered.

“Did you know you talk in your sleep? It’s very cute.”

Charlie wanted to slice the shit-eating grin off the big man’s face. “What do you want? Or do you get off on watching people sleep?”

“Only when they’re having the kind of dreams you’re having. Must have been a doozy. Sounds like you had a hell of a time back in Crazy-ville. Which reminds me, I’d love to know how you got away back at the toy store? You didn’t happen to see the fucker who stole my rifle did you? Greg’s been giving me shit about it. He keeps going on and on with jokes about me trading it for a mannequin arm—long story, don’t ask.”

“Look, Mr. Creepy, save the twenty questions with a side of Chatty Kathy for later. Unless you have something important to say, and I’ll be as polite as I can be, could you please just go and fuck off!”

Frank laughed. “My, I almost missed your charming sarcasm. We’ll have to talk more about those twenty questions later, after you’ve had your morning coffee, breakfast in bed, and a glance at the Sunday paper. In any case, I’m glad you made it out of there. It might have gotten really boring around here without you.”

“Well, aren’t you Mr. Sentimental this morning… It is still morning… right?”

Frank snickered. “The boss has called a meeting. You should get dressed.”

“Stop calling that bitch ‘the boss’.”

“Okay, but only around everybody else.”

“I’m glad to see that someone is still upholding the standards of Asshole around here. We’ve lost too much already.” Charlie pretended to wipe a tear from his eye.

Frank got up and exited, laughing all the way out of the bedroom.

“You know… everyone still likes me a little better than you!” Charlie called after him. “Fucking creepy-crawly son-of-a-bitch!”

When Charlie was alone again, he thought back to last night. I killed all of those people! He knew he should feel horrified by his actions—at the very least, sickened by the ease in which he used his ability to turn the dead against his attackers. But he felt fine… just fine.

Charlie quickly got dressed, unable to hold back the wicked smile of satisfaction which dominated his face.

~~~

Next Episode 21-2

Previous Episode 20-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 21-1: Goodbye Charlie” 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.

Unknown225

~~~

Tony opened his left eye; the right was swollen shut. He saw a young woman with shoulder-length black hair and a permanent frown tattooed across her face. She looked worn down and older than her years. The woman stopped attending his wounds when she realized he was conscious. “He’s awake,” she nearly whispered over her shoulder.

He tried to get up but it hurt to move his head.

“Easy, big guy,” the black man said, coming into view and holding a rifle. “Don’t want to waste Mary’s fine efforts to clean you up because of another… misunderstanding.”

Tony, realizing his hands were no longer bound, raised an arm and said, “Relax, I’m not going to be any trouble.”

The black man nodded and lowered the rifle.

Tony looked back at the woman.

She seemed unsure of what to do next.

“Thank you,” he said.

Mary smiled weakly and backed away.

“There we go,” the black man said, pulling up a chair. “I’m glad to see there’s still some civility left in the world. Name’s Orosco. We met in the woods briefly. And you are Tony… right?”

Tony nodded, reaching up to touch his swollen face. “That cop punches pretty good for a fucking psycho.”

“Oh, Sam didn’t mean anything by it. I don’t agree with her methods at times, but she probably saved your life… bought you another night, at least. Mr. Crazy came by earlier to fetch you, but when he saw the mess you were making all over the table, he decided to wait ‘till you were more talkative.”

Tony managed to sit up. He looked around the dome-shaped room and said, “I see the shitty scenery hasn’t changed much. So can I ask you where the hell I am, who you’re talking about, and why I just took a beating, or are you sworn to secrecy, too?”

“Ask away,” Orosco said. He motioned to Mary. “Sam’s given us the green light to fill you in. I guess you passed the test. She’ll want talk to you when she gets back and I highly recommend you start telling her what she needs to know ‘cause she’s the only friend you have in this place.”

Tony was about to object but was distracted by the sight of food.

Mary came over with a plate of what looked like meatloaf, corn and mashed potatoes. She also brought a bottle of water and a plastic spoon. She placed them near Tony and backed away again.

Tony reached for the plate and then stopped before his savage hunger took over.

“Go on, Tony,” Orosco said. “This isn’t a trick. Go on and eat and we’ll talk for a spell. See if we can’t undo all this misunderstanding. ”

“So where’s your buddy, Jenkins?” Tony asked.

“Oh, he’s outside, discouraging anyone from stopping by unannounced.”

“And to keep me from having any ideas about leaving, right?”

Orosco smiled. “I kept telling them you were smarter than you looked.”

Tony looked at the meal. He could hardly think of anything else. Fuck it. He snatched up the plate and began inhaling the food.

Orosco started walking around the room. “How about you let me tell you a story while you eat? If you still have questions after, I’ll try to answer them.”

Tony simply nodded.

“Myself, chatty Mary over there, Jenkins, Sam, and a whole lot of other fine folks found this place at the beginning—when all those dead things started jumping out of the living, out the ground, out of our fucking nightmares and everywhere else they came from,” Orosco began. He then reached into his pocket and retrieved Sam’s flyer. He handed it to Tony and continued, “Most of us remembered these flyers, which were posted before the shit hit the fan. They were strange at the time, like someone’s idea of a bad joke. But as it turned out, someone knew what was coming and they were prepared for it. From what we’ve gathered, whoever posted them picked the right spots to put them—on the other side of the bigger cities, to the east, out where there were fewer folks spread out over larger distances in the smaller towns. That was the only reason we had a chance at all. Most folks were trying for the freeways or heading for the power plant ‘cause the media said it was safe there. But we headed here instead.”

Tony read the flyer with the strange symbol at the top:

YOU ARE NOT SAFE.
THE GOVERNMENT IS DYING
THE DEAD ARE COMING.

PAWNS OF THE APOCALYPSE
HAVE BEEN ACTIVATED.
DO NOT BECOME PREY,
STAY VIGILANT,
THE LIONS ARE LOOSE.

WHEN YOU WAKE IN HELL
COME FIND US.
WE HAVE ANSWERS.
WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WATCHING.
WE WILL KEEP YOU SAFE.

At the very bottom of the flyer in small print were recommended routes coming from the north and the south to an obscure location titled, WP #27, EVACUATION CENTER.

“Don’t bother asking me who wrote it, Tony, or what it means. None of us have come close to figuring that out or what that damn symbol is all about,” Orosco said. “At first, everything was great. Mr. Crazy… that is, Micom, he met us at the front gate, rolled out the carpet and let us all in. He had this place already up and running, like it had been here for a while. He made us feel safe here ‘cause he had food, water, shelter, and his own small private army. Then he closed the gates when things got worse out there and he said we needed to stay put and wait for further instructions. He fed us a bunch of bullshit about how this camp was a state-of-the-art experimental emergency facility being tested by the government. We didn’t care at the time. At that point, we just wanted to feel safe and that’s why we never saw the cage door close all around us until it was too damn late.

By the end of the second day, folks started feeling helpless and cut off from everything. They wanted to leave and go find their missing loved ones. That’s when everything changed. That was the first night we were attacked by the fucking Shadow Dead.”

“Shadow Dead?” Tony asked. “You mean those yellow-eyed monsters, right?”

Orosco frowned. “No… no… we saw them yellow-eyed beasts for sure, before we got here, but the Shadow Dead is something else. They’re smart and they know how to stay hidden. They started attacking our camp when folks were itching to leave.”

Orosco looked to Mary.

She refused to meet his gaze.

“And the ones who tried to leave anyway… well… let’s just say they never made it,” he finished.

“So what are you saying?” Tony said. “Are we all trapped in this place?”

“Some would say that. Others might say that we’re protected here.” Orosco shook his head. “Those things killed a lot of people in the beginning… scared the hell out of everybody. That’s when Micom activated the machine. He said a bunch of scientists came up with a way to communicate with the dead… I still can’t believe I’m saying that out loud. Anyway, Micom activated the machine on our fourth night here and suddenly the Shadow Dead stopped killing people. We call the machine, Micolad.”

Tony shook his head. “Somebody please wake me up. You’re telling me that we’re stuck here and that some machine which can… negotiate with the dead has kept you all alive? Do you realize how crazy you sound?”

Orosco laughed. “Tony, my man, after the dead started rising and feasting on the living, there’s a lot more things I’m willing to believe now. I’ve seen crazier shit out there in the streets… so have you. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our little protector-bot is calling the shots around here… and anyone who doesn’t comply is dealt with severely.”

“That’s all the more reason to get out of Crazy Town, don’t you think?”

“Agreed,” Orosco said. “A few of us our working on that very thing. When there were still a few folks left with some backbone who didn’t want to take orders from Micom and his toy, that’s when things got worse around here… that’s when the children were taken. Afterwards, people simply gave up.”

Just then, the night exploded with animal-like groans and howls causing the hair to stand on Tony’s neck. “What the hell is that?”

Orosco and Mary both looked grave. “That’s them, Tony. That’s the Shadow Dead. They come calling for blood every night. That’s what the Gathering is all about… mostly. Micolad translates what they want and then makes arrangements to satisfy their requests. But it always ends in blood.”

Tony could not think straight while the monsters outside made him want to wet himself. “My God, it sounds like they’re everywhere!”

“They’re just outside the fences. They’re waiting for us to decide who dies tonight… or more accurately, who Micolad chooses and how.”

The noises finally ceased.

Tony waited for the sky to come crashing down. “That’s it? They won’t attack?”

Orosco shook his head. “No, they won’t attack… but they won’t go away either, not until we’ve given them what they want. That’s the survival game we play here in Crazy Town. There’s a lot more I could tell you, which would make you never want to sleep again, but there’s just no time. If you want to help yourself, then you need to help us.”

“What do you need from me?” Tony asked. “I just wandered into this fucking place to keep from being torn to pieces, and now it seems I’m worse off for it.”

“That’s just it, Tony. You see, no one’s managed to find a way out of here. But somehow, you managed to find your way in. That means you’re either the luckiest son-of-a-bitch, or, the Shadow Dead wasn’t looking your way because you found a blind spot. And if you can tell us exactly how you did that, we might be able to get out the same way, undetected.”

Tony looked at the flyer again and let out a deep breath. “For all I know, everything you just told me is bullshit; you feed me, treat me humanely, crack a few jokes and tell me just enough to get me to lower my guard so I lay my cards down on the table.”

Orosco smiled. “Damn, you are a lot smarter than you look. Everything you’re saying could be true, my man, but if I’m telling the truth, then you have everything to lose by not helping us.”

“And if I tell you how I got in here, I risk becoming expendable very quickly.”

Orosco raised his hands and laughed. “Shit, if I were in your shoes right now, I’d be holding out, too. All I can ask, Tony, is that you think hard about what I’m saying… think very hard. Sam will be back shortly and she can be very… unreasonable.”

“No shit.”

“Please help us, Tony,” Mary chimed in, surprising them both. “Everything he told you is the truth. There was a time when I thought this place was everything it appeared to be, and I paid dearly for believing in the lies which surround this place. I know you don’t trust us, and after what Samantha did to you, I don’t blame you for being reluctant. But please help us get out of here. People… good people who have lost their way… are dying in this place every day. There’s only a few of us left who are willing to fight for a chance just to make it out there beyond the camp, even though we know that we’ll be all alone and that the monsters will be pursuing us no matter where we go. We’re all dead here, it’s just a matter of time. We may be just as dead out there, but at least we’ll die on our own terms and not chosen to die by a heartless machine.” She looked away, feeling self-conscious for speaking so much.

Tony looked at the frail girl and was reminded of Lydia, before she’d given up in that basement. He looked at Orosco and said, “I’ve seen them… your Shadow Dead. I saw a group of them along the river that I hiked in from.”

Orosco raised his eyebrows in surprise.

Just then, Samantha and Jenkins barged into the room, quickly closing the door behind them.

Tony immediately tensed up and got to his feet.

“Why are his cuffs off?” Jenkins shouted, drawing his gun and moving toward the prisoner.

Tony raised his fists. Here we go.

Mary backed into a corner, unsure of what to say. She looked to Orosco.

Orosco moved in between them and raised a finger to Jenkins. “Stop that shit right now! Everything was going fine ‘till you two stormed the place. So just chill!”

Jenkins looked back at Sam.

Sam stood with her back against the door, oblivious to everyone in the room. She ran her hand through her hair and looked up at the ceiling. “Fuck,” she finally said.

“What’s up, Sam? You look awfully white… even for a cracker.” Orosco’s smile quickly faded when he saw the look of fear on the cop’s face.

“They know,” she said. “They know about everything. Micolad has a list. All our names are on it.”

Jenkins started pacing the room. “What? How? We were careful!”

Sam raised her arms and said, “Fuck if I know how… damn it!” She punched the door three times.

Tony looked to Orosco. “Look, I don’t know and I don’t care what the fuck’s going on with you crazy people. Just stand aside and I’ll take my chances outside. Sounds like you have other things to worry about.”

“Tony, my man, I’ve enjoyed our discussion. But right now you need to shut your honky-ass up.” Orosco said to Sam, “Alright, so we’re on the shit list. What’s the plan, Sam?”

Sam was staring at Tony.

To Tony, she looked a wild bull on the verge of charging.

“Has he said anything yet?” she asked.

“He’s told me a little bit,” Orosco said. “We were just getting into it when you barged in.”

Sam nodded. She looked to Jenkins. “Give me your gun.”

Jenkins gave her a puzzled look.

“Just fucking give it to me!”

Jenkins reluctantly handed over his sidearm.

Sam took the pistol and walked over to Tony.

“Now, Sam, there’s no need to-”

“Can it, Orosco!” she said, pushing him aside to face Tony.

Tony took a deep breath and said, “Are we really going to do this again, officer? My hands are free this time and I haven’t a qualm in the world about busting your teeth out right now.”

She ignored him and handed Tony the gun. “Take it.”

Tony shook his head. “Hell no! What… do you think I’m stupid? I take that and you and your boys shoot me down and say I was armed.”

Sam laughed. “You’ve watched too many dirty cop B-movies. Just take the fucking thing before I beat you senseless with it!”

Tony took the gun and immediately pointed it at her. “There. Is that what you wanted?”

Sam smiled. “Almost. Now pull the fucking trigger.”

“Sam!” Jenkins protested. “What the hell are you doing?”

“SHUT… THE… FUCK… UP!” she shouted over her shoulder. She drew her own gun and dropped it on the floor. “Do it, Tony. Jenkins isn’t armed now and Orosco’s a fucking pussy behind all that talk, so he’s not going to stop you—no offense Orosco.”

“If you say so.” Orosco was scratching his head.

“There,” Sam said. “Now just shoot me and walk the fuck out of here.”

Tony lifted the gun to her head. “Lady, I just killed two men yesterday with a crowbar… and they didn’t tie me up and beat my face in. If you think this sick game you’re playing is going to end well… just get the fuck away from me… all of you.”

“No… can’t do that,” she said. “We’re all fucked anyway, unless you start cooperating. So either help me, help you… or just shoot me. Either way, we’re fucking out of time!”

Tony’s hands were shaking. “Did you kill them… all those people in the river? Some of them were just kids, you sick bitch!”

“Wait,” Jenkins started, “are you saying that you came in from the river? No fucking way!” He started pacing again. “Sam… what the hell is he talking about? Bodies?”

“Shut up!” Sam said. “So that’s it… you followed the river in?”

“That’s what my man just got done telling me, Sam,” Orosco said. “Hell, he’s seen them!”

“Bullshit!” Jenkins said. “He’d be dead if he had.”

“Is this true?” she asked.

“Fuck you. Talk to me about those murdered people in the river!”

Sam looked confused. Finally she said, “Tony, this is the first I’ve heard about any bodies. No… I didn’t kill them.”

Tony wasn’t convinced. Part of him wanted to pull the trigger.

“So, let me get this straight,” Sam said, “you followed the river here?”

Tony was done taking orders. He just wanted out. “I’m finished talking, lady. Now get the hell out of my way!”

“It’s fucking empty, dip-shit,” she said. “All the guns are empty. We were never in charge of anything. It’s all just a show to make the general population think they had a real sheriff in town keeping the peace. Micom’s idea. He gave us the guns but kept the bullets. Get it? He made everyone feel like they still had some choice in being here rather than being held against their will by his private militia. They see me while his goons stand back and everyone believes they still have control. And now, Tony, the powers-to-be have decided that I’m no longer necessary, as well as my associates, so they’ve scheduled our executions.”

Tony didn’t know what to say.

Sam took a deep breath. “I know you don’t have a clue what’s going on, but trust me, if you don’t listen to me now… we’re all dead.”

Tony shook his head and pulled out the handgun magazine. It was empty. “And what about those dead people in the river? Who did that?”

“Indirectly, the man in charge of this fucked-up camp… and his fucking machine. I can only speculate, but I believe those bodies you stumbled upon is where the Shadow Dead… store their kills”

Tony felt the color leave his face. He lowered the empty gun. “This is all too fucking much.”

“How did you get in here… specifically… which way did you come from?” Sam asked.

“It was dark when I wandered into these woods,” Tony said. “It was hard to keep my bearings, but I thought I was travelling east from the freeway. I climbed a cliff and found… dead things tied to trees like some kind of warning wall which ran the whole cliff side.”

“That has to be the western perimeter,” Jenkins said. “It makes sense if he came down the river after that.”

“Agreed,” Sam said. She noticed Tony’s puzzled look and said, “Those dead people tied to the trees came from this camp. We only know about them because of the first group of refugees who tried to sneak out of here. They tried to head for the main gate to the south, thinking they could just leave the way they came in. Well, they failed. Fucking Shadow Dead caught them, infected them and then tied them to the trees to warn off others. They left one girl alive to come back and tell us all about it.”

Tony noticed all of them go uncomfortably quiet for a moment. “What?”

“That girl,” Jenkins started, “was barely alive when she came back—died shortly after, too. Those… things… ripped out her eyes. We found her screaming just outside the fences.”

“Tell him the rest,” Orosco said. “He needs to know what we’re dealing with.”

Jenkins looked pale. “When the girl died a few hours later, we stuck a fucking screwdriver through her ear to kill the brain, just in case… she came back. We wrapped her body up for burial in the morning and tried like hell to sleep that night. Next morning, her body was missing. But they left her torn out eyes behind like a fucking calling card.”

“They always return a body part,” Sam added. “That way, no one starts believing escape is possible. But they always keep the bodies.”

More uncomfortable silence.

Tony shuddered involuntarily. “Why the fuck would any of you stay here? I’m sure if you all banded together you could beat these fucking shadow things and get out of here. Hell, I got in without them knowing, so maybe there’s a whole lot less of them than you think.”

“Agreed,” Sam said. “That’s not the problem, Tony.”

“What… that fucking Micom asshole and his goon squad? Is that what you’re worried about?”

“We don’t have the numbers Mister Know-It-All!” Jenkins said impatiently. “No matter what we do, we can’t get enough people to revolt. They’ve seen Micom’s magic bullshit and how that damn machine keeps the monsters back. They’re scared shitless and are convinced that Micolad is the only thing keeping us from being slaughtered in our sleep.”

Tony shook his head.

“Tony, my man,” Orosco started, “the Shadow Dead are like fucking ghosts. They come and go as they please and take whatever and whoever they want. When they started stealing the kids, whatever was left of this camp’s backbone got ripped away. Now, Micom has complete control.”

“I don’t understand,” Tony said. “Are you trying to tell me that these dead things are intelligent enough to sneak into your camp without anyone knowing about it?”

“Tony, with the exception of yourself and the girl who had her eyes ripped out, no one else has made it back alive to give us anything to go on,” Jenkins said.

“It was Sam who figured out how they were sneaking into the camp, and Mary confirmed it by telling us where the first hole was,” Orosco said.

Sam gave him a weary look and then addressed Tony. “They’re using the domes to get in. There’s a network of tunnels beneath this death-trap camp. We’ve found five access holes so far. They’re located beneath the beds in vacant shelters. We suspect this was pre-staged a long time ago and that it’s no accident that these Shadow Dead are here.”

“Sam thinks we’re damn guinea pigs in some fucked-up experiment,” Orosco said.

“Who the hell would have the time to play these fucking games? And to what end?” Tony was tired, tired of all the crazy bullshit.

Sam saw the flyer in Tony’s hand and pointed at the symbol. “It’s those mother-fuckers! I don’t know who they are but I’m convinced that this ‘camp’ has a single objective and Micom, Micolad and the Shadow Dead are all part of it.”

“And what’s that?” Tony asked.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” Sam said with a heavy sigh. “But I’m convinced that nothing is what it seems here… nothing. Everything in my gut tells me that we have it all wrong.”

Tony growled in frustration, grabbed the sides of his head, and said, “This is all fucking nuts! Okay… fuck the rest right now. If you know about these tunnels, why don’t you just leave?”

“That’s where you come in, my man,” Orosco said. “Up until now, we had no clear direction to try for. We know the tunnels run in all directions but what good would it do if we chose the wrong one and ended up coming out right in the middle of their den while they fed. We’ve been waiting for a clue—something to tell us which direction to take.”

“We know it’s a gamble using the tunnels,” Jenkins said. “We’ve just been waiting for enough credible information on what’s ‘out there’ to increase our odds.”

“The blind spot,” Tony said and looked to Orosco.

“We’ve been trying to expose a weakness in their defenses, using our patrols outside the fences to locate one,” Sam said. “Up until you came along, we were starting to believe that there weren’t any vulnerabilities. But you being here proves that they aren’t watching everything out there—at least, not all of the time. If we’re going to sneak twenty people out of this mad house, and not get them slaughtered, we need to find that blind spot.”

Tony was in deep thought. Rather than trying to process the increasing strangeness around him, he focused on his terrifying journey into these woods. “As I told Orosco, I saw a group of them traveling up the river when I wandered into their area. Fortunately, I was up on a cliff and they hadn’t seen me. I watched them head for a waterfall and then disappear behind it. They never came out again. I think they have a cave. Maybe your tunnels lead there?”

Sam considered this. “Everything points to the river. That’s our out.”

“Are you fucking insane?” Jenkins asked. “You want to ‘walk the river’? Hell… just wait another day for Micolad to sentence you and you’ll have it!”

Sam’s eyes lit up. “That’s it! That’s the weak spot! Think about it. What’s the one direction we’re all too damn terrified to consider? The one place they don’t need to watch?”

“And the only tunnels we haven’t found yet,” Orosco added.

“That’s right!” Sam said. “We’ve been scoping out these fucking domes for days now and we still haven’t found one northern tunnel. Why is that? If they’re using the tunnels then how come we haven’t found one which leads from the river?”

“But we’ve checked the northern domes,” Jenkins said. “We found nothing.”

“Not all of them,” Sam corrected. “Copperfield’s dome is on the north side, remember?”

“Oh, that’s just fucking crazy!” Jenkins was pacing again. “Even if we could get close without him knowing it, you don’t even know if it’s there!”

Sam was nodding. “True. But tell me why that little prick is the only one of Micom’s people who has a dome when the rest of them are snug as fucking bugs in the barracks?”

Jenkins had no answer.

“That’s all well and good, Sam, and your logic is sound, but Jenkins is right. How would we get in there without that creepy son-of-a-bitch finding out?” Orosco asked.

Sam was thinking of Ralph Emerson. “We’d need one hell of a diversion which would send Copperfield running to the center of camp.”

“You’re not thinking… Sam… that’s fucking crazy!” Jenkins was waving his arms around. “There’s no way anyone could get close to that fucking machine… not after what Ralph tried.”

“I can. I’m the fucking sheriff of this camp, remember?” Sam said. “In fact, we’ll do it tonight. Micom would never expect it. I don’t have to attack Micolad. I just need to get behind the platform and set it on fire. That will keep Micom and his men busy while I slip out of there in a hurry. We leave during the commotion, take the north tunnel under Copperfield’s dome, and follow the damn river out of here.”

Orosco was laughing. “Aren’t you forgetting the Shadow Dead? We’d be walking right up on them.”

“I don’t think so,” Sam said. “No, every time someone’s tried to escape, it’s been during the day and away from the river and toward the south. That’s what they’d expect us to do and that’s what they’re watching for. Tony got in undetected because no one in their right mind would walk the damn river. That’s suicide. But no one was watching the river.”

“Well, we’re in agreement on the suicide part,” Jenkins said.

Sam was getting frustrated. “No, I’m right about this. I can’t explain it, but I know this is our only way out! As crazy as it sounds, it’s the crazy way that’s going to save us.”

“That’s a hell of a big risk,” Orosco said. “But I think you’re right, Sam. The crazy plan is the only plan that might work. It’s like playing chess with someone who can anticipate every move you make because even the lesser opponent’s moves are still based on what a rational person would do with knowledge of the game. If Micom and the Shadow Dead are all in this together, they’ll be anticipating flight in any direction but toward the north. They won’t see this coming because it’s like trying to escape a burning building by heading straight into the fire.”

Sam laughed. “That’s an interesting way to put it.”

“This is fucking insane,” Jenkins said shaking his head.

“Count me in, for what it’s worth,” Tony said.

They all looked at him.

“I’m the only one who has seen what we’re dealing with out there. It turns out that you still need me… and it looks like I need you.”

“What about your miraculous diversion, Sam?” Jenkins said. “What happens if you get caught?”

“I can do it,” Mary said.

They all turned to the quiet girl.

“Micom trusts me and I’m easy to overlook. The guards are used to seeing me about. No one will give me a second thought.”

“Mary, I can’t ask you to do that,” Sam said.

“You didn’t ask, I volunteered,” she said. “Was I on Ralph’s list?”

“No, you weren’t,” Sam said.

Mary nodded. “Well… you are, so that means they’ll be watching for you. I’m the only one who can do this. Besides, they’ll need you out in those woods. Not me.”

Sam could find nothing to counter Mary’s argument.

“You aren’t seriously going to let this girl sacrifice herself, are you?” Tony asked.

Sam ignored him.

Orosco said, “Are you sure, Mary? It’s very dangerous. If you’re caught…”

Mary frowned, stared at her feet, and then looked up at them with a surprising fire burning in her eyes. “I’ll be your distraction. I can do this. I need to do this. I’m going to kill Micolad.”

~~~

Next Episode 18-4

Previous Episode 18-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 18-3: Micom and Micolad” 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.