Thursday, March 21, 2013

2.5.4 The Home of Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase

They rose from deep under the corner of the park, inside the railway graveyard. The fallout city cross-section now stood more crowded than ever between Atticus and Samuel's door. He took out his gun and utility knife and tried to finish the objective. The first contact was a clear shot in the head with the knife. The tango dropped stone-dead, back to being a corpse. 

Atticus used the knife to trip the next one while two more walkers closed in on him. He knew if they were radiated he was dead, but it looked like these specific zombies avoided the nuclear blast in the subway stations. Atticus made a mental note of this experience, there are now two different kinds of zombies... nukes and walkers; and kept running, bashing in the door after Samuel. 

There were no signs of blood or struggle. Atticus gave the rest of them the okay to follow him in. Rebecca ran through the threshold of the doorway followed by Ed, Nora, Frank, and Wheeler, before Atticus closed it and locked it on the uprising subway station horde. Atticus checked the front windows; they were already barricaded by wooden planks, dinner tables, broken chairs and desks.
“Ed, Rebecca, go find Samuel. Frank and Nora make sure there are no other ways in that are open or unlocked.”
“What about me?” Wheeler asked.
“Stay here with me and lean on the door while I find something to push in front of it.” 
They all ran throughout the house and did the jobs Atticus provided for them. The kitchen was empty and practically untouched with the exception of the refrigerator pushed in front of the backdoor. Rebecca walked through the kitchen and into the living room as Ed searched upstairs. Atticus braced the front doors with everything he could find and move with Wheeler in front of the door. Frank and Nora came down the stairs and into the front hall, and they reported back to him that the rest of the house was clear. Atticus knew Samuel had to be in the living room or kitchen with Rebecca.
After running into the house Samuel chased the man straight through to the living room. A dog was barking and the room was torn to shreds from the inside out. Atticus joined everyone in the living room and could not find a way to convey his condolences for Samuel. Everything else in the house was clean. The living room was painted in blood and the dog just would not stop barking.
“Samuel…I’m sorry…” the dog-owner said.
Samuel dropped down to his knees beside the bodies. “What…no...." he cried, " them....Why...why wasn't god...I...What happened?”
Samuel appeared to know the man, and he was getting ready to tell Samuel everything, no matter how horrible it could be, “I tried, man. I really tried to get them to leave with me. I was packing my car when I heard the screams... When I ran outside people everywhere were getting evacuating…I knew what it was when I opened the doors. I had been watching the news. I was able to put it together, man...reports of fires...homeless getting shot multiple times in the chest and still on their feet. I also knew you were away, Samuel. ….I had to…I should have forced myself to…I...I...”

“Corey!” Samuel shook his neighbor by the shoulders, “What happened?”
“I was too late. Your daughters…were…eating…” Corey could not bring himself to say the rest, but he knew he had to for Samuel’s sake, “…your wife-”

Samuel collapsed next to the bodies. All good will, hope, optimistic resolve that he had maintained during all of this burnt up inside him while he lie between the ashes of his family. Samuel wanted to join the lost, something that would never change. Now he was a member of those who everyone they knew were either infected or dead. That is when a thought sparked the genesis of Samuel's salvation. He looked around, searching for something as if...

Tossing and turning in the gross pile had Samuel covered in infected blood and dead flesh. Rebecca could not take it anymore. Quietly everyone watched Samuel in his grief. After the dog stopped barking it did not seem to matter. Now people mixed with random strangers witnessed Samuel in the most intimate and raw of human emotion; losing your mind after losing your family. She grabbed Samuel in his grief and forcibly pulled him away. "Wait!" he scrambled. 

"There's no evidence of Warren...and Corey didn't say anything about-"

“Christ..." Corey incredulously retreated, not ready to handle the burden, "you don’t know...”
“…Know what…” Samuel sighed with a slight cry. 

Samuel knew, somewhere deep down Samuel knew his boy was just like him, and would stop at nothing to get him back to save the family…
“You’re boy went looking for you weeks ago…somewhere called the Cheyenne Mountain Complex…”
Samuel stood up and wiped the tears away. He looked around at everyone. Strangers standing in the red remains of his former life, his girls dead at his feet, his boy out lost in the wastelands; and all Samuel could think was…’what a mirror world this had become.’ This could not be real. He could never be comfortable accepting that. He thought of the three devices that he had created and wanted them to be more than just movie-quality props, he wanted them to be the key to saving humanity and his family from this abysmal end.

He wanted to go back in time and save his family.
Samuel remembered when he first started taking time travel seriously. He wrote down one rule that he repeatedly acknowledged as unbreakable during his research and development. That rule was you can never meddle with your life in the past. This was a well-known ancient time-traveling proverb common in science fiction. This was the first time Samuel was ever tempted to break that rule. He had to go back. He had to make all of this right, but how? 

That was impossible right now. Samuel could only do one thing. One more function before his life resembled the rest of this wasted world. He must find his son. If he did not have that, along with the rest of the group, he would be just as dead as the city around him.
Everyone was in the kitchen except for Corey and Rebecca who were putting blankets over the bodies. Rebecca got up and walked over to Samuel; she waited for a second, not sure what to do and then she hugged him.

“I’m so sorry, Samuel…”
Corey stood up and took his baseball cap off as Samuel walked by him and into the kitchen. There Atticus had a map of the city out on the counter as everyone was helping themselves to the leftover food and drinks. “God bless Gatorade,” Frank gasped as he took another gulp.
“We can look for the boy here in New York…Hopefully he didn’t make it far enough before he turned back.”
Samuel listened in as he approached.
“How do you know he turned back?”
“If his boy was worried enough to go out there and get you, then I’m bettin’ once he finds out the bomb has dropped on New York he’ll be back for his mother and his sisters.”
“There’s no alternative. If they proceed with the rest of Project Clean Sweep that means the Ohio Valley is next…Either he's close or...” Ed trailed off, avoiding Samuel's stare.
“He only left a couple of days ago…” Corey said now in the kitchen along with Rebecca.
“He has to still be in New York!” Nora exclaimed.
“New York or New Jersey,” Ed corrected her.
“Sam,” Frank asked, “you got a picture of him for us to see?”
“Listen…I appreciate what you’re all doing…but-”

Something had changed inside of Samuel, and for him the grief of the living room scene was still all too new to just pretend nothing had happened. So he called them off...
“I don’t need anybody risking their lives for the possibility that my son is still alive. If I do ever find him…it won’t be because we were looking for him. You all need to worry about surviving and getting out of the city alive before the winds turn.”

"What are you saying, Samuel?"

"I'm staying."

"You can't stay here." Atticus told him off, "Those barricades won't hold with the hornet's nest we stirred up out there."

"I can't leave and risk not being here if Warren comes back."

"You just said-" Atticus was cut off before arguing any further. 

"We can't talk him out of it, Atticus" ...we have to go on without him."

Samuel wanted to thank Rebecca for being so understanding but she walked away from him, broken-hearted that he was basically giving up.
“What are we going to do?” Nora begged the group.
“North, West, or South for starters…”
“We also need to know how we’re leaving the city…bridge or tunnel…”
“There’s no way I’m going in a tunnel.”
“I agree with, Nora.” Wheeler admitted.
“I say we just concentrate on gathering supplies and getting to Jersey, we can decide North, West, or South along the way…”
“And as for the way out, we’re just about the same distance away from the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel; I say we take the George Washington Bridge…” Ed suggested.
“…If it’s still in one piece.”
“Atticus is right,” Rebecca mediated, “The tunnel has a better chance of surviving the nuclear blast.”
“Not necessarily,” Corey spoke up from the corner of the room, officially inserting himself into the group, “The Bridge was farther from the blast than the tunnel, like us. I hid in the basement for four days in a concrete closet and survived. I’m sure you all have a similar story.”
“If you can survive in a closet, I’m sure a city tunnel will be okay.”
“And all the zombies trapped inside of it?” Atticus had the final word.
The matter was settled after that. They would go to the George Washington Bridge, “…and if we can’t cross it we’ll try the tunnel…” Atticus compromised and they all agreed. Samuel told them to take whatever they needed. Unfortunately, the water was off, but the fresh clothes and food were a nice accommodation. 
“If you guys need, there are some knives in the kitchen and bats in the closet for weapons.”
Samuel and Atticus still had their pistols. Atticus also had his tactical knife from his utility belt. Ed and Frank both grabbed eight inch chef knives, and Wheeler grabbed a butcher’s knife.
“What are you going to do with that, asshole?” Frank made fun of Wheeler, “It’s square, its got no tip.”
“Gonna chop some fuckin’ heads off, son!” 
Atticus took the knife out of Wheeler’s hand and gave him a baseball bat. Frank, Ed, and Nora all laughed at Wheeler making a fool out of himself. Once everyone was refreshed, resupplied, and properly armed, they decided to leave. Samuel took them to the garage where his Lincoln SUV was sitting there, as clean as the day Samuel bought it, with a full tank of gas. It must have been off during the nuke. They all piled in the car. Samuel stood in the garage while Atticus got in the drivers seat and Rebecca and Nora shared the passenger seat. Ed, Frank, and Wheeler all squeezed in the middle bench as Corey sat in the back with his American bulldog.
“Are you okay back there, Corey?” Samuel made sure before closing the hatch on him.
“I’m good!” Corey gave him a thumbs-up, "I just wish you would come with us, man.."
"You know I can't. Not after what I've already missed."

Atticus clicked the door-opener and Samuel closed the door and locked it from the inside. Atticus put it in reverse and backed out of the driveway. They were on their way to the George Washington Bridge. They had to soldier on without Samuel. 

They traveled north up the Henry Hudson Parkway. Out of all the streets in the city, the Henry Hudson was the least jam-packed full of cars. Everybody wondered why… Nothing could stop them now; nothing except one sight, one empty landscape out in the distance sweeping the state border with the Hudson River. The George Washington Bridge was gone. All that was left were two ruined high-beams stabbing the riverbed and poking out of the water bent and burnt. 
Atticus threw the car into reverse and turned around on the parkway. They were going ahead with Plan B, the Lincoln Tunnel. Atticus dodged the cars at a quicker pace, like he was trying to make up for the time they had lost. This was going to be they’re most dangerous task yet. “It’s too close to ground zero…”
“It’s a tunnel, we can make it…”
“We have no other choice.”
“We can always go north, or even back out the way we came…The Third Avenue bridge, back to the shelter even…” Ed yelled.
“We should go up through Yonkers and cross the Hudson higher up…”
Atticus didn’t know which way to go now.
“What are we going to do!?”  

As much as Atticus had always thought he would make the perfect leader, as much as he wanted to resent Samuel for everyone looking to him in times of need, now was the precise moment that he felt inept, and took back any harsh feelings ever dealt towards Samuel. Atticus did not want the responsibility of making people's decisions for them. In case he was ever wrong, he would not be able to handle the blame of losing people or failing to survive. He was comfortable being the leader's adviser. Atticus headed back the same way they came for a shot at the Lincoln Tunnel, but Atticus had ulterior motives in mind.

The sun was setting. The house was getting dark. Samuel sat in the living room, alone with only the company of haunted memories and the bitter dead. He could only blame himself for their fate. If they hadn't have waited for him and left with Corey, Samuel's girls would still be alive. There was no avoiding it.  Samuel killed his family. 

Now the only things that can bring them back are what caused his abandonment in the first place. 

And there was Warren...

The claws from the outside, slow-cooked bone prodding through rotten flesh against the splintering oak door. The barricades were breaking. Samuel was running out of time.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2.5.3 Fallout & Walkabout

The sky spun back together into a dark spool, "Did anybody else see that?" before unraveling again.  He remembered it like it was yesterday but he knew this hadn't happened yet. Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase wandered the frozen dark alone.

Or was he just losing his mind?

Samuel was somewhere else the entire ride, when a hiccup of awareness threw him back into reality. It was not until then that he had a look around... and a grave look it was.

What a nightmare everything had become. The faded fray of civilization, haunted and hollowed out homes, ghosts of families, neighbors and strangers all gone, dead or worse... The fallout had a strange effect on the undead, turning them from rabid dogs to the meandering dead and rendering them twice as harmful. Anyone could outrun them but if just one touched you chances are... you’re dead.

Only Atticus and Samuel had guns. This was not what Atticus had in mind when he wondered about the future still piloting safely above the apocalypse in his War Bird, which was also not what Atticus anticipated when they arrived at the wreck.
The entire hull was broken in half, fractured apart and stacked together next to each other. Everything inside the ship was in pieces except for the center console and Samuel’s seat. Atticus had no idea how they survived. Like a detective searching for clues he uncovered an assault rifle, threw it over to Ed and uncovered the center console. Ed examined the assault rifle. It was cracked down the magazine and only had one bullet inside of it. Ed threw the rifle away; it was garbage.
“What is that?” Rebecca asked as Atticus pulled something out.
“You know how every plane has a black box…”
Atticus got up and looked around; there was nothing they could do. Nobody left to report to, no safe ship to fly over the wretched earth, they were finally on their own. He threw the War Bird's black box on the floor.

The first thing they needed to do was start gathering supplies, and prevent themselves from being eaten or caught in the fallout winds. Other than that, Atticus knew they would need an arbitrary reason to keep going, so for now it continued to be getting to Samuel’s house.

“Doctor, let's go find your family.”
“Right, can you take us, Ed?”
“Where are they?”
“Uptown, near the park, off Madison…” Samuel kept forgetting he wasn’t in the city, “You know…in Manhattan…”
“Yeah, I know, hop in.”
“Are you sure you-”   
“Central Park North, right?” Ed said unflatteringly.
“Exactly.” Samuel’s old colors as a detached professor shined for a brief second, glossing over Ed’s contempt and proceeding none-the-wiser, “Atticus!” Samuel yelled from the truck, but when he turned around Atticus was not getting in the truck with them.  “We got a ride!”
“We got one too.” Atticus was already over next to a black mustang under the hood with Frank and Wheeler. He looked back as Wheeler started the car after Atticus hotwired the engine.
Samuel and Rebecca rode in the pick-up with Ed and Nora; and Atticus, Frank, and Wheeler were in the mustang. They moved slowly around all the parked cars, some were empty, some were tombs if they didn’t cruise at a slow enough speed it would cause too much of a stir and the local horde could gather and trap them in.
This was not an easy feat, Atticus was the only one who could navigate and maneuver against the wreckage. And there was some serious wreckage. Entire stores and gas stations, super markets and skyscrapers torn down against the road, against the chaos and the odds, only one was able to guide them.  Just because the War Bird was grounded didn’t mean he couldn’t travel in style anymore. The black mustang led the convoy towards Central Park. Even though Ed knew how to get there and it was Samuel’s home, Atticus was still leading them.
They got well enough through the shattered highways and city streets outside of Manhattan. Until they hit the east side Samuel had no idea where they were; a blasted grey landscape. He couldn’t find anything familiar; his landmarks were either demolished or buried in the ruin. Tight turns wrapping up clustered city parkways made things difficult to maneuver. Atticus was carving a perfect path out of the wreck, never having to turn around, never having to double back or stop…
Samuel knew it, this bridge was too small to be anything else; it was the 3rd Avenue Bridge…and they were almost there. Samuel turned around in his seat, “Only about ten more blocks!” but when they were slowed down almost to a halt around a stubborn Prius sticking out of a coffee shop the doors were opened on Ed, Nora, and Samuel as three hooded guys attacked them inside the truck.

Ed and Samuel were punched in the face repeatedly and Nora was accosted, by the time they found Rebecca and before Nora was forced to do something she'd never be able to come back from the black mustang rolled up on them. Atticus lowered the window with his gun sticking out. He pulled the e-break and whipped the car around so he was face to face with the rioters. They exchanged rounds as most of the hooded hostiles were aiming at the gas tank. Meanwhile only one remained after Atticus picked off both his wing-men and was now hunting the last man on foot.

Frank and Wheeler joined Atticus when he returned from disposal and soon enough the other group, for the cars were packed so tightly together and abandoned there was only one option... Completing the rest of the trip on foot.

"Those guys were assholes."

“Where are all of the zombies?” Nora tried to get her mind off of the attack.

"Are we really using that word now?"
“Whatever we're calling them, the nuclear blast must have driven them out of the city. If it wasn’t for the fallout radiation…Manhattan would probably be the safest place in the world right now.” Ed gave his explanation as he wrapped his wound, tightly stopping the bleeding.
They crossed another street and turned the corner all crouched over and moving gently through the debris. Rebecca followed Samuel with Atticus behind her, Nora behind him, Ed behind her, and Frank and Wheeler bringing up the rear. They got to the other side of the corner and the uptown skyscraper was fractured off its base above them. Its grind echoed through the glass city walls, its whines and moans like a great oak tree.
“We have to run…” Atticus warned them, “We have to run…NOW!”
The fractured skyscraper succumbs to the pressure and finishes cracking through horizontally. The structure slides off the slanted angle; its edge comes barreling towards them. It collides with the row of parked cars running parallel with them as they escape to the park. Just at the corner of Central Park is a circle, beyond that circle is Samuel’s townhouse. He was finally home. Samuel abandoned the group and made a dead sprint for his door. Rebecca screamed and Atticus ran after him.
She screamed as the door opened itself. Atticus had a flash back to Maryland. He stopped running and tried to swallow the lump in his throat, and was caught off-guard by the sight of it. The door opened and there was something standing in the shadow of the house. Samuel went right in and the door slammed shut behind him. Atticus was shaken back to reality as he ran for the door. He saw Ed and Rebecca’s faces and looked behind them. The stone-titan Geronimo…Rebecca’s scream…the slamming door… what could only be next but groans and moans from the subway station entrance...

The zombies still had Manhattan.