Monday, July 1, 2013 Keeping Your Demons at Bay

Nobody ever liked the Lincoln Tunnel, even before the apocalypse. The only thing more constant than traffic lining the lanes of both bounds was its everlasting appeal for frustration and torment. Now it was a last standing city monument of horror and death that they had just forced themselves halfway into the heart of with no means of escape. 

Samuel was worried. This was the first time he would have to think about surviving without Atticus. He was adapting yes, but part of him still relied on Atticus. Back at his house was different. He wanted to die, it was Atticus who brought him back. None of that mattered now. Just realizing he would have to deal with that when the time came was enough, because he knew Atticus wasn’t dead, not yet. It wouldn’t be that easy. Samuel got himself together and brought everyone else to action.

“Corey, get the dog and the girls in that car. Stay in there with them until the coast is clear.”
“I want to stay out here with you.” Rebecca grabbed Samuel’s arm.
“We can't afford to lose you. The world needs doctors more than ever, Rebecca. Go!” He pushed her away.
They locked themselves in the car and the guys surrounded it. 

“Protect the car at all costs.”

Samuel had his pistol. Marcus had the ax. Ed was now holding the machete Chambers was using before, and Chambers had his pistol out. It was a shiny silver Desert Eagle .50. Chambers Khan had the best weaponry Samuel had ever seen. It was impressive to say the least.
“Chambers don’t fire until we absolutely have to.”
“Trust me, boss, with one eye I'm not too sure about my aim anymore anyways...”

The zombie-cries and calls were simmering. Something was wiping them away, as though they weren’t even there. Two came out from the darkness. You could tell they were in the open light because the girls were screaming from inside the car. Marcus chopped one's head off and thrust the point on the back of the ax into the neck of the other one, snapping it like a nutcracker and breaking its skull to pieces.

Staggered footsteps come at them again. A light is shown on the next intruder, an exhausted Atticus. Marcus nearly took his head off before Samuel stopped him. He had blood all over him, blood that wasn't his, and he was panting heavily, dazed, like he had just woken up. 

The girls jumped out of the car and Rebecca raced over to him. They opened another vehicle. This time they chose a giant black SUV and brought Atticus to the backseat. They couldn’t go anywhere. But while Atticus rested and Rebecca examined him they would all be safe. As she carefully wiped away the wretched blood that was not his own, Rebecca took a hard gulp. Only Samuel could read her face.

As the rest of the group discussed their current situation, Samuel exchanged worried looks with Rebecca.

“He killed all of them?”Corey asked, petting Jackson's matted hair.
“How many do you think?”
“We’re going to find out when we keep going. We can’t be tripping over them on the floor, so once he’s awake he can lead us around them.”
 "What makes them different from the hundred of bodies we've had to trip on so far?" Ed pointed out.
"These might not be dead, and try to bite your ankle..."

A hair-raising notion.

They waited no longer than ten minutes before Atticus woke up, his head on Rebecca’s lap. Rebecca watched above him as he opened his eyes, realizing Atticus couldn't believe he was still alive. 
"What happened?"
"I don't know...I...I blacked out..."

Eventually he sat up, and they all got out of the truck. This time Atticus stayed back with Rebecca who was keeping a careful eye over him. Corey, Ed, Nora, Quinn, and Samuel watched the back while Marcus and Chambers took the lead with Jackson. Back in the truck, Chambers had fashioned the flashlight onto his bow with some duct tape and was now covering Marcus with his ax and little Jackson padding back and forth.

“How far do you think we are now, Doc?” Atticus paced.
“I’d say five more football fields to go.”
“We’re gonna make it!” Nora yelled enthusiastically.
Everyone cringed and Quinn judgmentally asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You of all people should know to avoid jinxes, Nora” Ed yelled.
“Just keep going,” Atticus gasped for a breath, “There’s…no such things as…jinxes.”
“Slow down everyone,” Samuel held them up, “Atticus needs a second.”

They hunkered down for a five minute break and turned there flashlights all off, the most reluctant to do so was Nora. Even Jackson cried out when it went all black. There was nothing like pure darkness. That is to say, there was nothing more terrifying. They shared water and listened to the silence. In this moment of pure darkness they finally would be able to fully appreciate the gift of the sun (if they could make it out alive to see it again), and a beautiful sunny day; just as the zombie outbreak made them re-appreciate the freedoms and comforts of being a modern day human.

Once they were all recharged and Atticus felt like he could make the rest of the journey everyone got back into position and began the final stretch. The ground beneath their feet shook. A loud crash and a rush of air hit them. Something was off. It was no longer calm. Ahead of them screams and moans went off with car alarms and behind them moisture and wind filled the air.

“It’s a tidal” Chambers muttered to himself.
“What was that?” Marcus called out.
Samuel caught on immediately and told the rest of them, “RUN!"

Everyone ran for their lives. Samuel and Rebecca helped Atticus as everyone else rushed past them. They screamed out up ahead, “ZOMBIES!” 

It's never easy.

Nora ran ahead of the group in a frantic haste. As she turned around to watch the others fend for their lives she was grabbed. Nora tried to break free, and when her dress ripped at their clawing hands, she was able to slip out of it and get away, but quickly tripped over a broken railing and fell scraping her knee.

Ed caught up to his niece with the machete and cut the zombies down. More smelled her blood and surrounded them. Ed killed another clawing at her and lifted her up to her feet. Distracted with Nora his efforts to fend them off were lost. From his blindside a rotten old man came around Ed's neck and bit him right under his nose. Nora watched her uncle's face get peeled back by hungry teeth. Ed would have screamed in pain if their bites hadn't torn apart his vocal chords. Her screams were the ones that brought Samuel and Chambers to their rescue.

The gunshots were not as loud as they thought, not with the water closing in on them. They cleared a path to Ed and Nora. Amongst the dead zombies was Ed, moaning and clutching his face. Samuel fished through the rubble to find Nora. After pulling her out they found her practically naked yet unharmed, save the knee-scrape. 

"Somebody has to do something..." Quinn cried for Ed and Nora.

Samuel took off his suit jacket and put it around Nora while Chambers stepped forward to tend to Ed. His nose was gone, and a pile of blood spread beneath him. He was still clutching his head with his hands, but it was no longer in perseverance. Ed was eating his own arms. Nora gagged at the sight of it, and cried into Samuel's shoulder. The facts were clear, Ed was dead. After that realization Chambers had no trouble pulling the trigger and putting him out of his misery. Samuel practically carried Nora away while Atticus forced everyone to keep moving.

“There!” Marcus pointed, “There’s the light!”
They were finally at the end of the tunnel. Chambers and Atticus covered the group’s flanks as Corey ran ahead with Jackson to make sure the coast was clear. Marcus noticed the Welcome to New Jersey sign while escorting the girls, and Samuel still tended to Nora...utterly wrought with despair for her fallen uncle. 

"Here...sit...we're safe now..." Rebecca told Nora, everyone finally feeling the sun's grace on their shoulders and the relief of a journey's end. Everyone except Ed. The group took a collective exhale. The remaining tunnel zombies must have been swallowed up by the flooding tunnel.

Atticus found a maintenance closet at the end of the tunnel. He threw his body at the locked door, mustering all the energy he had left to open it. Everyone else rested and acted like they were in the clear. He was the only one who knew better. 

Atticus kept trying to knock the door down with his shoulder even though he was still not one-hundred percent, attracting everyone’s attention. Samuel was the first to put it together and rallied Chambers and Marcus over to help Atticus. Together they busted the door open, got everyone inside, and held it closed as the tidal wave came rushing out of the tunnel. 

The rapid waters flooded the highway and drained into Jersey. They waited in the dark closet and Atticus fell back asleep. Rebecca stayed by his side and rested his head on her shoulder. Samuel sat himself down next to them. "What's the matter?"

"I'm just worried, Sam, that's all, worried to death over whether or not he's gonna wake up with the fever."

"He wasn't bitten..."

"No, but when I was cleaning the blood off of him...he..." Rebecca unbuttoned the soldier's shirt to reveal what she was already saying, "he's got tiny scratches all over his body."

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