Looting became a part of everyday life. There was an unspoken agreement between the survivors: take only what you need. Chambers Khan seemed to find a niche in the nuances of necessity, collecting the most obscure items like a morning star that he pulled off a Comic Con-nerd too fat to escape the horde.
Rebecca watched him carefully; not only as a doctor would with a post-op patient, but as a guilt-ridden woman looking for the right moment to apologize for possibly infecting him. Through all of Chambers' findings he never looked satisfied, as if he had still not found what he was looking for. Dr. Pratt was reminded of his condition when she operated on him, replacing his eye back in the city. He had all the textbook signs. Now exacerbated through time and withdrawal, it was quite clear to her. The strung out hair, the withered face beyond his years; Chambers Khan had all the trademarks of a junkie.
The Garden State Parkway was packed full of cars on both bounds. People were confused, evacuating in every direction. Once the government fell it was every man for himself. Just like in the city, Atticus was the only one able to maneuver around the snaking parking lot of abandoned cars. That was until they reached the bridge into Cape May County, or what remained of it. Pillars with blackened tips stuck out of the river with concrete and littered vehicles drowned all around them.
Under the bridge was a smaller crossing still held together by cast iron train tracks. Samuel told them to take only what they could carry. They would have to leave the cars and cross over on foot. Fortunately there were no undead in sight. Unfortunately the sky above was clouded and thunder could be heard slowly approaching from the coast. Only Samuel and Atticus knew what that meant, exchanging nervous glances, unwilling to share what they already knew with the rest of the group.
One of the biggest churches any of them had ever seen was on the other side. Samuel brought them all in to hold up while Atticus and Corey, along with Jackson, scoped out the perimeter and searched for new rides.
"Wait!" Chambers stopped Corey, "Take this, bro" He handed Corey the morning star, a giant metal mace from medieval times, lined with sharp spikes all around its head. A death machine.
The inside of the church reeked of death. Dead bodies lined the benches before the altar. Samuel, Marcus, Chambers, and Tyrell put down the rising dead with ease. Once the church was clear they split up and foraged for new supplies.
Rebecca kept a close eye on Chambers. Marcus and Quinn wandered into a side room out of sight. Samuel stood by the window above the front doors and watched the rainfall sweep over the church and highway. Tyrell came up behind him. Samuel knew he had to tell them. He would start with Tyrell.
Rebecca found a new pair of glasses that had her prescription. She hadn't seen clearly since she lost her glasses when they crashed the War Bird. Upon finding and putting on the glasses, Rebecca had lost track of Chambers. A soft tangle of smoke rose from behind the altar. There she found Chambers sitting down, basking in the light of the stain glass windows. He was huddled over a burnt piece of tinfoil. He had found his fix.
Rebecca sat down next to him. Chambers quickly put it away and held in the smoke.
"It's okay..." Rebecca gave way, "I just wanted to...apologize..."
Chambers exhaled, "Apologize for what, Doc?"
"Putting that eye back in your head." Tears welled up, "I didn't think- there was so much going on at the time, I-"
"Don't worry about it, Doc" Chambers smiled with his dilated pupils, "Water under the bridge."
Chambers offered her the grounded up oxy on the tinfoil as an olive branch. After a brief hesitation Rebecca thought to herself why the hell not? Rebecca got through school on scholarships and dean's lists. She never partied. She never experimented. She was the perfect student turned perfect doctor. Her whole life she lived by society's rules, never pushing any bounds. Rebecca always played it safe. She reached across, took the straw piece from his dirty fingers, and inhaled while Chambers heated the tinfoil.
Jill walked up on them while Rebecca was partaking, causing her to startle a coughing fit. Chambers laughed while Jill appallingly read Rebecca the riot act, "You're a doctor! You know that shit'll kill you!"
Rebecca looked up at Jill as the blue from the pain glass glazed over her, "Better this than them..."
"Here here!" Chambers raised an open can of beer.
"Where did you find that?" Jill shook her head.
Rebecca leaned into his shoulder and swiped it from him. Chambers' laugh masked the screams coming from the side room. Samuel rushed down from the balcony with Tyrell and Jill to meet Marcus and Quinn dragging a man in with his wife and baby trailing behind them.
"We found a garage and a bus along with these three," Marcus explained, "He has the fever, but I can't find a bite anywhere. What does that mean, Samuel?"
"Where's Doctor Pratt?"
"She's occupied," quipped Jill.
"What happened here?" Samuel asked the woman.
"It...it was a refugee camp until...well, we were overrun from the inside, someone must have gotten bit, I don't know, it all happened so fast..."
"Was it raining?" Samuel asked. Everyone but Tyrell looked at him.
"What does that have to do with it?" Quinn asked, almost insulted.
"...Oh no..." Marcus realized incredulously.
"Remember Ed's theory...atomizing the virus...The fallout particles in the rain clouds could have infected them."
"But it's raining right now..."
"Atticus and Corey are still out there!"
"Everyone calm down, don't worry, Atticus knows, he won't get caught in the rain."
"We have a problem!" Atticus yelled, throwing his coat back outside of the front doors while Corey and Jackson ran in ahead of him, still dry.
"The acid rain, they know," Samuel informed him.
"No, not just the rain," Corey rebutted.
They had stirred up a hornet's nest outside. The horde was gathering on the parkway and making its way towards them.
"Everyone to the bus!" Marcus led them all to the garage.
"We can't take him!" Jill protested.
"Where's Rebecca?" Atticus inquired.
She heard her name and needed Chambers' help getting to her feet. He was still laughing. She was still high. Rebecca could barely make sense of what was happened. She could barely put a sentence together. But Chambers took care of the first timer, practically carrying her to the bus.
After one look at Rebecca "WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO HER!?" Atticus' temper took over.
"Nothing! The lady did it to herself..." Chambers grinned.
"You scumbag!" Atticus tackled Chambers in the bus aisle, exchanging kicks and blows.
It took Samuel, Marcus, and Tyrell to break them up.
"What the hell is going on!?"
"He's a tweeker, Sam!" Atticus reached out again to attack Chambers, "Look what he did to her!"
"I didn't do anythi-"
"We don't have time for this!" Marcus yelled while he got in the drivers seat and started the bus. In all the commotion the man with the fever had slipped away with his family. When Corey opened the garage door they ran out into the rain for their car. "WAIT!"
The woman and her baby were covered. But the man was too fevered to be careful. The rain brought him down before the horde could. Once inside the car the woman cried out for her husband, "GEORGE!"
He must have had the keys. Corey watched this all go down while the group battled within the bus. He took the leash out from his pack, the leash that he never used, and clipped it onto Jackson's collar. Corey brought the pup into the bus and handed the leash to Marcus before stepping back out.
"What are you doing?" Marcus questioned his obvious intentions.
"We can't just leave them out there to die" Corey said, maintaining eye-contact with Jackson, accepting the fact that this was the last time he would ever see his pet "Close the door, Marcus, and... look after him for me..."
Marcus obeyed regretfully. Corey ran out into the acid rain with Chambers' morning star and plowed a path to the fallen husband. He rifled through his pockets and got the keys, cringing as the rain burned through his bare flesh. The horde surrounded him, but they could not get close as he swung the spiked mace. Inside the car, the woman got into the driver's seat and cracked the window.
Corey threw the keys to her, while her husband rose behind him.
Corey felt the teeth sink into the skin between his shoulder and neck. He already knew this was his time. The fallout rain had sealed his fate, now the zombies came to claim him. He managed to stumble back, attracting most of the horde away from the garage.
Atticus tended to Rebecca, who was uncontrollably sobbing after she realized what an unwitting mess she had become. How her harmless attempt at recreational experimentation had gone terribly awry, pitting the group against itself. Samuel walked up to the front of the bus where Marcus was driving to witness Corey's sacrifice. He rubbed Jackson's head while the pup pawed at the door with a broken whimper and helplessly watched his neighbor's final selfless moments, wondering if his end would be so noble.
The bus and the car drove off in separate directions leaving Corey behind, the center of a feast in his honor. The dead picked away at him for so long that by the time they were done the fallout rains had melted them all together into one grotesque pile of waling death before the fallen church. In his fleeting consciousness only one thought could escape through all the pain of dying...
Where was God?