The ringing is what brought him back. He forgot he had ears up until then. Like when you’re about to fall asleep and something wakes you up, everything comes rushing back. He could feel the scrapes and cuts all over his body, and the warm concrete on his cheek. Atticus opened his eyes and saw the mushroom cloud out in the distant south. It looked like downtown Manhattan; he wasn’t even in the city.
Atticus got to his feet. He was in a neighborhood, a plain American suburban nightmare. Housewives with their faces falling off came rushing at him. Atticus went for his gun, but his holster was empty. Despite his pounding headache, Atticus made himself run away. He turned the corner and the coast was clear for the time being.
He continued running up the street, when behind him zombies collided at the crossroads. He was making too much noise. A horde was brewing, if Atticus didn’t lose them, he would not be able to safely barricade himself in time for fallout. And the clock was ticking; he had about five more minutes left to get inside. He stood under a traffic light and looked down both roads. One way led to a train station, and the other way led up a hill.
Atticus wanted to go to the train station. His instinct told him the train station. But something stopped him; something lied to him under the guise of needing to find his crashed ship. Atticus surveyed the sky around him for smoke. He could not make out the difference between smoke from the burning wreckage of his War Bird and the rotten grey clouds accumulating up above from the burning city. Atticus had to get inside. As he was looking up the hill at the crest before the grey sky, a boy with long blond hair peeking out of his baseball cap was waving and yelling out to him. Atticus ran closer, “OVER HERE!” he was saying, “THIS WAY!”
Atticus ran back up the street to get to the top of the hill when the approaching zombies cut him off. He turned down an adjacent alleyway. It could have been a bum in an ordinary day, but today it went for his flesh. Atticus fell back with his hands on the zombie's shoulders, keeping it out of biting range. He kicked it off him and swiped a busted pipe from under a dumpster. Atticus plunged the pipe into the zombie's gut. It was not fazed. Atticus kicked the pipe through and through, tossing the undead bum to the floor. The noise from Atticus bashing the brains of the bum in with the pipe attracted the rest of the horde down the alleyway. To the Captain's avail he hopped a fence ending the alleyway. Once he jumped enough fences, ditching the undead, he caught up with the kid at the top of the hill
“Hey kid! Where are we going!?”
The kid did not answer but brought him to a man who was waiting behind the wheel of a pick-up truck.
“We’re going to a shelter…a bomb shelter…it’s my Dad’s”
“Simon that’s enough!” yelled the guy as they got into the truck.
“Wait, I have friends…”
“We’ve got her too,” The boy smiled as he showed Atticus a girl who was already in the back of the pick-up truck. Atticus had a look for himself, and the kid was right…it was Rebecca. Once he grabbed her hand she opened her eyes. “Atticus!”
“I don’t know. But we have to go; it might be our only chance at surviving.” Atticus put the blanket on her tighter and turned around. He tapped on the window and slid it open, “PICK UP THE PACE, WE GOT ABOUT TWO MINUTES TIL FALLOUT RADIATION!”
The truck took the corner on two wheels and Atticus compensated with a lean; standing strong and checking all the streets they passed for Dr. Chase. “Maybe Samuel has the guns too…”
“I have the guns.” Rebecca said casually.
“You…what?” Atticus turned around.
“I grabbed both guns while you were fighting and tucked them down my pants so you wouldn’t find them.” She explained, “When you strapped me in I thought I was going to get blown in half.” She took the blanket off and pulled her shirt up. The cold steel pressed upon her boney hips. Atticus pulled his Desert Eagle out of her waistband, cocked, and loaded it. Rebecca was not expecting that. When he tucked the gun into the middle of his waistband instead of his holster, he said, “You can hold onto the Doctor’s until he gets back,” and then covered the gun with his tan dirt-torn army-issued undershirt.
They arrived at the abandoned building. It looked like an apartment building. The boy and what turned out to be his uncle led them down the walkway and stairs to the basement shelter. Sure enough, there was the yellow and black fallout stencil spray painted on the wall. When they got to the lead-metal door it was closed, but visibly unlocked. The uncle tried to push it in when an alarm went off.
“GOD DAMMIT ED!” yelled a guy from inside.
“Sorry Clark,” the uncle apologized to his brother.
The door opened and Simon brought Atticus and Rebecca in to meet everyone.
“Luther’s gonna be pissed…”
“This is my Uncle Ed and my Uncle Clark,” Simon proceeded, “Guys this is Captain Atticus Ross and Doctor Rebecca Pratt.” Simon bowed and ran inside. Rebecca must have told them their names, pretty quick for a kid who couldn’t have been older than eight or nine.
“Ed, what are you doing? Luther won’t let more in.”
“He said it himself, the place can hold up to thirty people, we’re not even twenty…this is a doctor and a soldier…”
“It doesn’t matter now, come on!” Clark led Ed along with Atticus and Rebecca farther in.
Simon was hugging his father. He was a tall, stout-chested man with short blonde hair who intimidated his brothers and family merely with his presence. His name was Luther and he was king and ruler of his family as the oldest brother and owner of the bomb shelter. Once he was told about Atticus and Rebecca he greeted them with open arms.
“There is still one more!” Rebecca shouted at him in a dire rebound of subtly.
“We still have loved ones out there as well.”
“So you will wait before you seal the door?”
“The door can always be unlocked if need be,” Luther reassured them, “But in…one minute and twenty-seven seconds…I will close it permanently.”
“OR ELSE WE COULD ALL BE CONTAMINATED AND DIE!” His temper trampled anything else and everyone else in the room.
Atticus took Rebecca away, avoiding confrontation, as they met the other people in the shelter. There was Clark’s wife Brook, and their twenty year old daughter Nora. There was also their family friend Walter who was waiting for his father and son. He was pacing back and forth as Brook tried to calm him, “They should have been here by now…That crazy bastard is going to seal the doors on them…I just know it…”
“No he isn’t,” Brook reassured him, “They’ll be okay. They’ll make it in time.”
Walter settled down when he saw Atticus and Rebecca, something about them made him gather his frantic anxieties. He cooled off and met everyone along with Brook and the rest of the kids. The final seconds Luther counted down for everyone to hear. Walter pushed his fingers through his hair as he watched Luther seal the door after zero. His family was still nowhere to be found. Everyone’s cellphones were dead after the blast, along with almost everything else electronic.
Through the window of the door, Walter could see the rising dust from the tires. The clouds were all around them and dropping quickly, soaked in gamma radiation, toxic to human flesh. The car crashed through the apartment building, into the walls, as they jumped out and ran down to the door.
“It’s Frank and Wheeler!”
Walter was devastated… What were the odds?
“They have Mr. Summers and Walter’s boy!”
“And some other guy with glasses!” Clark yelled out from the door.
“That has to be him!” Rebecca grabbed Atticus’ arm. He didn’t want to crush her hopes so he smiled. But he also didn’t want her to get her hopes up. Atticus knew what kind of guy Luther was, he was the kind that never goes back on his word, and would do anything to keep his son safe, including letting other people die. He was not opening that door for anyone. Walter got in his face immediately; it took Clark and Ed to hold them back. Luther got free and punched Walter across the face, lifting him up off the floor, and throwing him back down on his ass.
Clark and Ed both went at Luther for resorting to violence so quickly. While Walter jumped up and unlocked the door. After that, everyone knew Luther would kill Walter. Even Atticus joined in to restrain Luther as Walter opened the door and let them in. The old man and the boy rushed by, hugging Walter. Frank and Wheeler carried the guy with the glasses in and the three brothers closed and sealed the door. Luther grabbed Simon and ran into the shower room to scrub themselves clean of fallout radiation. As he ran away he yelled, “YOU JUST KILLED US!” YOU JUST KILLED US ALL!”
Frank and Wheeler carried the guy past Rebecca and she cried out in joy. It was Dr. Chase. Samuel in the flesh, he had a gushing blow to the head and was unconscious but he seemed to be okay other than that. Atticus ran over and examined him, “Was he awake at all?”
“When we first found him…”
“…Crazy bastard wouldn’t let go of his seat…” Wheeler grinned.
“He was still in his seat?” Rebecca never would have thought.
“Looked like some sort of alien space ship if you ask me…” Frank theorized.
Rebecca shook her head up and down and pretended she had no idea what he was talking about. She looked over at Atticus who was wrapping Samuel’s head and covertly smiling. For the time being Atticus was relieved to see Samuel alive, but he knew the shelter would not escape fallout, nuclear or otherwise.