Thursday, April 18, 2013 Careless In the Fires

The necrotic streets claimed a certain hell-on-earth effect that could not be ignored, not even when distracted by the finest of human luxuries. He woke up in the bed of an expensive hotel room. Chambers felt the bandage covering his head and Rebecca hovering above him. He was not himself. Not once did he comment on his proximity to her chest. He merely asked her what had happened and Rebecca began to fill him in. 

The group of survivors were holding up in the Plaza Hotel after they fled the park. She tried telling him he had a mental break, “...We collected your arrows.” But what he told her made much more sense. He informed her of the blood spilling out of the zombie’s mouth and into his eye. How he could not let it infect him...and so on...and so forth...

Rebecca blushed and looked down, like she was embarrassed or ashamed. Something was wrong. Chambers no longer felt safe. He looked around and both his eyes moved. He ripped the bandages off and felt around. “No….no…no…no…” Chambers frantically twitched. " can't be happening..."

“Mr. Khan you should-”
“GET ME A FUCKING MIRROR DAMMIT!” he sadistically demanded. 

Rebecca handed a vanity mirror to him. He looked at his face without the bandages on. It was back. The eye was clearly dead and yet it moved in his head. However he could not see out of it and didn't have a fever. Some things cannot be explained right away... By-god... it was moving. They put it back in his head because they thought he was crazy; now his life could be at risk. He would not tell them, even if he grew sick he would just put their lives in the same unnecessary danger they just put him in.

Rebecca left the room to go tell Samuel and Atticus about Chambers, “If he gets a fever… that’s the only way to know for sure that he has it.”   
“Then it’s agreed. We go on like nothing’s wrong, Rebecca, you keep a constant eye over his condition. Notify either me or Atticus when it becomes a problem.”
“You won’t have to notify me,” Atticus protested, “And for the record I don’t agree with this. But I have a feeling that we’re going to have this argument many times to come…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Samuel could feel the growing resentment in Captain Atticus Ross’ voice.
“It means we do things your way this time…”

Samuel shook his head in phony agreement and considered the matter settled. They got him ready to get back outside.
 “Time to go!”
 They ran down the stairs of the hotel and out the back through the cafĂ© kitchen. “It’s about twenty blocks. If we move steadily and stay close we can get there in less than an hour.” Atticus instructed, “Is everybody ready?”

Chambers took his head band off. He readjusted it and put it back on over his dead eye. He finished equipping himself and followed everyone out of the hotel. They ran through the alleyways, behind Atticus and Samuel. Chambers brought up the rear. Ed’s ankle was feeling a little better, and unfortunately they had to leave Frank behind in the cage… They left food and a knife. There was nothing else they could do. There were no keys to be found.  And as long as he was in the cage he was safe… 

Nora and Rebecca were kept in the middle and Marcus carried Chamber’s fire ax. Corey and his dog were still missing. Chambers kept looking back. He kept checking the way behind them for anymore stragglers or approaching zombies.

It was hard getting used to seeing out of one eye, but it felt better to know he could still move the other one. Deep down, beneath all the fear and contempt for the people who put that dreadful thing back in his eye socket after the pain and anguish of having to rip it out, deep down there was hope that he might someday get his sight back. But would that come at a price? He knew it wouldn’t always be this unnoticeable, not having an eye; this hope in…the bliss of ignorance…would keep him going. 

Chambers felt like a pirate. Before he was mimicking a survivalist, now it was time to change it up. First thing on the list was looting an eye-patch. Even before that there was making sure that there were no signs of him being infected. His favorite role, above everything else, was being human. He followed the group as they snuck across 8th Avenue. “Not far now!” 

“We need to avoid Times Square and the bus terminal just to be safe.” Samuel suggested.
“Good call.” 

They successfully got around the sleeping hordes and there the city broke, revealing the epicenter of the explosion. It was still scorching and wretched, leaking gases into the atmosphere. Everything was falling apart around it and dying. The sleeping horde in Times Square was just reanimated flesh too radiated to stand, a mound of crumbled corpses and mangled debris. The zombies were falling apart and their flesh was burning into the air. The most epic scene you can lay eyes on and simultaneously hope to never see in person.

“Wait a second…If the zombies can be dosed with nuclear radiation than what could be said about the antithesis?”
 "Stop trying to sound smart, Uncle Ed!" Nora embarrassed him.
“Ask Sam, he’s a theoretical physicist…”
“Is that right?” everyone moaned in approval.
“It holds up to the basic laws…and I'm not gonna lie, I've thought about it before... I mean it makes sense…” Samuel admitted. “Every action has an equal and opposing reaction. But I don't know anything about the virus to be sure, or if its even a virus to begin with...”
“So what are we saying?” Chambers wanted to clarify his theory.
“The nuclear explosion might cause the virus to go airborne…”
“Good God!” Quinn reacted uncontrollably. 

“Keep it down.” Atticus warned them.         
“This is it then," Marcus deduced, "This is the end of the world."
“No, no that can’t be. God won’t let that happen.” Nora deflected.
“I don’t think God got anything to do with this rock anymore, sweetheart” Chambers winked at Nora.
“That must be why Europe or China didn’t nuke us to begin with…” Ed pointed out.
“We gotta get into that tunnel and away from the cities for good!” Atticus tried yelling over to Samuel and the rest of the group.
“What do you know?” They asked him.

Atticus plain looked guilty.
So Samuel answered for him, “It’s called Project Clean Sweep. They didn’t just nuke New York, but Boston, Philly, Baltimore, and D.C. too.”
Everyone began to squirm and freak out on the street even more. “We gotta keep it together, people…we’re almost there.” Atticus warned them again as they crossed the street that led under the rest of the streets, down to the tunnel.

“That’s not all.”          
“Sam…don’t…” Even Rebecca was beginning to break, revealing their inner circle.
But Samuel persisted, making it clear he wanted everyone to be on the same page, “If the government isn’t stopped they’re going to nuke wave after wave of cities.” 
"Aw god."
“This is a disaster.”
“We’re here.”
They all crawled past the endless rows of parked and wrecked cars leading into the tunnel. Several lanes of roads coming together to dig through the earth, under the Hudson River. 3 stagnant, isolated, cement-smooth veins carved through New York City's underbelly by the endless hours of human effort and ingenuity. Now, in the light of a new age...It was the most terrifying pass imaginable.

"I'm not going in..." Quinn exclaimed.  
“Jesus, it gets dark in there.”
“We’re gonna need flashlights.”

“Well it’s about friggin' time!” yelled a voice over by the entrance.

There was Corey, Samuel’s neighbor in the baseball cap and his dog, Jackson waiting for them by the entrance to the tunnel. He was sitting on the roof of a red old cadillac with bruises and cuts all over his face and holding a CVS bag. They all greeted him and introduced him to Marcus, Quinn, and Chambers, the newest members of their group. Upon introducing Marcus, Samuel informed Corey and the rest of the group as to where they would be going once they reached the other side of the tunnel. “We’re gonna head south for Florida, his brother is stuck in a prison down there. It’s just I-95 all the way down once we get to Jersey-”

“You mean if we get to Jersey…Especially with no lights.”
“Oh... we got lights…”

Corey held up the CVS bag. He had swiped all of the supplies he could find from the drug stores between here and the crash, including near the bus terminal and Times Square, after he landed on his face over a block away from everyone else. He could not find them when he got back, and made a run for the tunnel, the only place he knew he would definitely see them again; and he was right. Corey handed out flashlights and candy bars to everyone. He whistled and Jackson, the American bulldog, ran ahead into the tunnel.

“Jackson will be our scout."

"So…Door number one, door number two, or door number three?”

Monday, April 8, 2013

2.5.6 Some Things You Can Never Take Back

She tried to slow her breathing and let her back glide gently down the tree. Eventually her hands met the ground and she began dragging her palms along the roots and grass, but her fumbled glasses were not within reach. She would have to step out from the tree to find them.

Quinn could hear them coming. "please…. oh please.....please oh God…”she whisper-panicked.

 Her glasses were crushed by a lifeless foot. 

It moaned and dropped on top of Quinn. She screamed and attracted the others. The zombie grabbed at her arms and she kicked and squirmed, keeping its bite away. It took a hold of her wrist and would not let go. The other zombies circled and she stopped screaming. Quinn knew this was it. Everything happened so quickly. She could never escape it, now there was no denying it.

The zombie gnarled and drooled blood on top of her as she shook her head furiously to get loose. Her long hair kept it from getting in her eyes or mouth, but its hand kept grinding her wrist. Before it was able to break Quinn’s skin it was sliced from the rest of the zombie’s body, followed by its head. Only after did she see that the rest were already brought down by arrows to the head. Quinn looked around. There was a figure standing before her with a red hooded zipper sweatshirt on and a black bandanna holding an ax. He helped her up.
“Who are you!?” Quinn was baffled.           
“I’m Chambers Khan.”
“Thank you for saving me.”    
“You're the first living person I've seen in almost three days..”   
“I'm Amy…Amy Quinn...” 
“We need to keep moving now, Amy, before more come-”  
“Call me Quinn.”
“Let’s go”

They could hear someone talking. Quinn ran towards it as Chambers picked up her broken glasses and chased after her. They came upon a guy just sitting under a tree. Quinn got down next to him.

“Be careful, legs. He could be…one of them…” Chambers warned her.
“He’s not…They don’t hold letters in their hands,” Quinn reasoned "And I don't appreciate the nickname..."

Chambers laughed and Quinn asked the man sitting under the tree, “Can you move? Are you okay, sir? Can you get up?”

Chambers was preoccupied wrapping athletic tape around the broken latch and reattaching the lens on her glasses. They continued to talk below him. “I lost them all…My wife…my kids…my parents…all in the blast…Not my brother though, he’s in Florida.”
“How do you know he’s even alive?” Chambers asked, now interested.
“He’s in a maximum security prison and it's my brother, Job will survive on this earth until its just him and the cockroaches.”
Chambers eyes lit up. Quinn looked over at Chambers and back down at Marcus, before establishing, “We’re getting out of this city then?”
He finished fixing Quinn’s glasses and gave them back to her, “You bet your sweet nerdy ass.”
Quinn laughed uncomfortably at his audacity, not knowing whether or not to be offended. She put the glasses on and thanked him. “Whoa,” she said as Chambers face came into clarity. He looked about sixty years old and had long, shoulder-length, thin, dirty blonde hair pulled back from his head by the black bandanna. He had a harness on the back of his red hooded-sweatshirt with an ax, a bow, and a quiver filled with arrows, and his pants were camouflaged.
Marcus, the hysterical man sitting by the tree was quite handsome when Quinn got a look at him. Strong jaw, short brown hair, thin beard, deep dark eyes, Quinn knew who she was sticking close to. Chambers threw him the ax and took out his bow while he armed it with an arrow. He did not pull the arrow back but walked ahead of them with it armed. They crossed the woods and before they got to the edge they came across the zoo; where zombies were surrounding the cages…

...Cages filled with…people…
Rebecca yelled at the top of her lungs. It was the guy she saw from before! He was the one with the long hair and camouflage on. Chambers and Marcus ran around to the other cages. Quinn followed Marcus to where Frank was locked in the cage. They tried to get him out quietly, but the zombies could probably still smell their sweat and heard their breathing if they got any closer, so they stayed away from the other cage.
Chambers put two down with arrows, garnering the remaining few's attention. He fired two more arrows and put two more holes in the zombie’s heads before stepping out from the tree-line. He kept shooting arrows and pulled their numbers from the cage. He strategically dropped the bodies so they wouldn’t pile on top of each other and snap his arrows. 
Samuel and Atticus shot just a couple bullets each conserving their ammo and making as little noise as possible, letting these two random strangers fight off the rest of them. Marcus came rushing at the last three with the fire ax. He sliced the first zombies head off, cut the other through the jaw, lopping off its head, and came down with his finishing stroke on the third zombie, splitting its skull in half.

The final zombies were taken down by Chambers as Quinn helped Samuel, Atticus, Rebecca, Nora, and Uncle Ed out of the cage. In the other cage, Frank was beginning to panic. What happens next only he already knew the outcome to. Another pack of zombies came down on top of them from the trees. Chambers locked his bow back into his harness and pulled out a machete. He stuck the first walker through the head, pulled it out clean, and chopped the next one’s head off by the neck.

Quinn let Rebecca and Nora go before her as Chambers gave his war cry and sliced a zombie approaching the girls in the head. It fell weird and landed on top of him. He was knocked back into an intruding zombie. Chambers readjusted and pulled the machete out of the dead head, thrusting it under the chin and through the brain of the zombie.

They both fell on top of Chambers. He survived, neither bit nor scratched. Chambers exhaled. He grabbed the machete and pushed the zombie off. When he did there was another one standing over him on the pile. Chambers could not pull his machete free in time. It got down on top of him. It didn’t jump at him like a predator or claw like a monster but unenthusiastically got down like a defeated bum and grabbed his head, pinning it to the floor.
“HOLY SHIT!” he screamed, “HELP ME!”
The zombie lowered its head down and moaned, gurgling blood out of its mouth. The blood spilled down into Chamber’s right eye. He squirmed and got his arms free to grab the gun on his hip. A shot fired out. It blew the zombie off of Chambers, and let him free. Atticus and Samuel surrounded Chambers. He got to his knees and began freaking out, “I need a knife! I NEED A CLEAN KNIFE!”


Atticus popped out his tactical blade and tossed it to Chambers. Chambers poured some whiskey on the blade, took a deep breath, and looked up at Amy Quinn one last time. He plunged the knife into his right eye, twisted it, and pulled the eyeball out…all without screaming. Chambers exhaled and passed out. The knife fell to the ground and the eyeball bounced free from the blade for everyone to see.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2.5.5 Necessary Means

Next to it all, Samuel would never regret their decision. A long time from now he might even be thankful. But for now his fate seemed imminent. The walls were coming down all around him, and Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase couldn't care any less.

The undead were relentless, barely effective until time wore on, and the horde eroded the outside of the house with their rotten hands and broken limbs. The window and door barricades were giving in, as the rest of the house fell apart. Samuel was in the eye of an endless storm.

His favorite recliner throned him between his lost girls' grave, holding a fire ax and his gun in the dark. The last of the wood planks keeping the window together gave way and were quickly devoured by the hungry hands. Next the soulless heads poured through the window. As the first three walkers came at Samuel he heard the front door break behind him.

 He needed to weigh the odds and apply the rules of nature to their current predicament. One article remains above all else, survive by any and all necessary means. Through every one of Atticus' calculations the constant was always Samuel. His words echoed in Atticus' head. Find out which way the Fallout Winds blew and go the opposite. North, East, West, South, it did not matter. The winds could travel hundreds of miles over a day, track them down, get under their skin, and rot their flesh. Atticus only had one feeling left. So he said it with the up-most conviction…

“We’re going the Lincoln Tunnel," he finally decided, “It’s our safest bet.”

He drove the car down the tight city streets, and there was central park. The woods seemed safe, still clean from all the destruction and bloodshed. Rebecca was pulled towards it when she saw someone walking through the trees. He had long hair and what looked like a camouflage jacket on. The important thing to realize was she saw a man. It wasn’t a zombie. 

“Over there!” Rebecca pointed.

With Atticus distracted a flaming car came barreling down his blindside of the street crashing right into their SUV. The fortune of chaos riding as a passenger of the flaming car was flung into their car. She was on fire, screaming passionately as she scraped at them. She was one of the undead. Still awake, still squirming with the flesh burning off her skin. Everyone in the SUV was stuck as it remained pinned on its side. Corey and Jackson were gone... flung from the back, out the window. There was no sign of them.
The cut on Ed’s arm reopened as he pulled Nora out of the flaming zombie girl’s way when he slipped and twisted his ankle. He crawled and slid her out of the car along with Atticus getting Rebecca safely out as well. Frank helped himself out. “What about Wheeler?”
Dumbass never wore his seatbelt…” Frank shook his head.
Atticus checked the car; Wheeler was stuck in the windowsill, the glass of the window imbedded through his torso, cutting him in half. Nora could not look at the mess, while Rebecca had no problem examining the corpse. 
"What are you looking for?"

"Signs of re-animation..." She admitted reluctantly.

"But he wasn't bit," Ed gave his two-cents. 

"I know." Rebecca then tried to catch everyone up in a single sentence, "If Wheeler rises from the dead that means its beyond airborne or even infection, it would be something undiagnosable."

Everyone stared at Wheeler waiting for him to turn, even Nora, who had been stirred from her naive fears after Rebecca's rousing words. When nothing happened the group  walked to the circle over by Samuel’s townhouse. Atticus made sure to check his door, or what remained of it. 

"No" Atticus heard Rebecca cry out as he already was pursuing the imminent remains of Samuel Gordon Chase's estate. The zombies were still knocking and scraping at it. They caught the whiff of the survivors and started to stumble down the stoop and onto the circle.
“GO! GO! GO!”
“Into the park! Go!” Atticus yelled for the rest of them, "but try not to fire your guns unless it is absolutely necessary! The sound of the gunshot would just attract more!" 

Nora helped Ed with his twisted ankle and Frank wielded Wheeler’s bat, which was now broken and sharp at the tip like a giant wooden stake. They ran into the woods, moving out of sight from the small pack of zombies.
Meanwhile Atticus put his army knife through another unsuspecting zombie, breaking a hole in the townhouse breach. The living room looked like a battle ground. Atticus could barely make out where the remains of Samuel's family were in the mounds. He climbed through and prayed nothing reached for his arms or bite his ankles. Once through he called out for Samuel. 


 From the kitchen dark Samuel attacked Atticus with his ax. Atticus blocked the strike and pushed him away, into the light. Samuel was not dead, he was covered in blood, and delirious, but not dead. Atticus approached him passively and quickly, but more importantly calmly, disarmed him. 

"It's okay, Doctor, we're here, we're back..." Atticus holstered both their weapons and carried the ax with his arm holding Samuel up by his shoulders. 

“WE'RE HERE!” Atticus yelled, not far behind the group. 

"...." Samuel rubbed the back of his neck, now on his feet and walking by himself.

Rebecca could not be more relieved, "You're alive!"

She tried hugging him again before hearing Samuel say, "You should have left me."

 Rebecca stopped in her tracks. "What?"

"It doesn't matter anymore..." Atticus looked around.

But Rebecca had to talk some sense into him, "Samuel...if you would have stayed there, you would have died, it's overrun, your son will never go back inside. Your best chance to find him might not be looking for him, but it damn well is staying alive!"

Rebecca had finally gotten Samuel's attention, along with his eye-contact, "Now c'mon, we need you like before..."

Samuel looked around as he waited for Atticus to report back from his sweep, "It's clear for now..."

"Where are Corey and Jackson?"

"We lost them when a car crashed into us."

"We also totaled your SUV," Atticus laughed uncontrollably at the audacity of this wretched world.

Samuel wanted to laugh but knew it would be of disrespect to his lost neighbor. A man who did everything he could for Samuel's family, and was there when Samuel wasn't to do what had to be done. So he caught his breath along with everyone else while he tried accessing the same part of his brain that was keeping them alive before, "....We can go to The Central Park Zoo, it isn't far from here...There will be houses and cages" he suggested to Atticus.

"That'll do for now, let's move."

 Samuel felt better, he didn't want to, but it was true. Everything from now on would be bitter and wrong at the expense of his family. Samuel's heart aged in purity, conjuring up a cynical side never shown before. Atticus and Samuel led everyone through the treeline to a small clearing.

"We should hide in here!”  The first thing they all noticed were the animals' cages.
“Why are they all open?”
“Open and empty…”

The zombies came through the woods in force, now twice as many as there were on the stoop. The horde must have picked up more in the park. Atticus brought them through to the other side of the Zoo but there were zombies covering that entrance too. They were surrounded. He looked back. 

Samuel jumped up and over into one, Ed lifted Rebecca up and over so Samuel would catch her. Next was Nora. She got over safely as Frank locked himself alone in a separate cage. It was surrounded by zombies but he was safe and it gave Ed and Atticus a couple more seconds. Atticus tried to give Ed a foot up but his ankle gave out and finally broke completely.

 Ed screamed and the zombies heard his colorful agony, turning their sights on him and Atticus. Atticus jumped up himself and climbed up the metal cage. Ed looked back as he tried not to fall over, the pain was searing. Nora was screaming for him. The zombies were only paces away.
Samuel and Atticus leaned over the top of the cage and grabbed Ed by the shoulders, lifting him swiftly up to safety. The zombies surrounded them but could not climb the cage. So Samuel and Atticus stayed sitting on top guarding the opened door. Frank’s cage on the other hand was clear of zombies but he had closed the door, locking without a key. He could not escape unless someone let him out. Hopefully, someone would know how…