Friday, July 5, 2013

2.5.8 When Death Surrounds You, Look to One Another

Who knew a second date could be surviving the apocalypse? That’s what they did. Survive. Through chance and the fleeting service of their cell phones they found each other along the road. Tyrell was a city engineer and Jill worked in the Mayor’s office. They were both very well off before the fall of society. Tyrell fiddled under the hood of a ’97 Ford Taurus in the cover of a bridge’s shadow.

Tyrell and Jill never thought they would need to use their career skills ever again. Jill probably wouldn’t. Tyrell would be needed more than ever. Soon people would need him more than healers and soldiers. In the throes of society it was people like him, and doctors like Samuel who were capable of bringing entire city grids back online.

“We’ve been walking for days, Ty…” she called him Ty, only his Grandma called him that. She was so familiar with him already. Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean he has to marry the last girl he went out with…does it? “…Where are we even going?”
“The last broadcast on the radio said there was a refugee camp at the Meadowlands, shouldn’t be far now…” Tyrell slammed the hood down and got behind the driver’s wheel, “...Especially if I can get this piece of-”

A hard gurgle and the engine sputtered to ignition. “Yes!” Jill cried out softly, careful not to attract any unwanted attention as she ran around the car to the passenger side. Tyrell was not so cautious in the spur of the moment. “WAIT! JILL!”

Before Jill could get into the car a body crashed into the windshield. Tyrell was already racing around the car after her. When he got Jill to her feet they both could barely stand a look at the carnage.
“Is it one of them?” she asked Tyrell as he braved a closer look.
“I….I don’t think so…”
“How can you tell?”
“If it was, it would still be moving.”

The fallen girl had dirty blonde hair. Not much else could be seen of her besides the oddest choice of apparel. Tyrell stepped back, confused, and Jill asked him what was wrong. He did not answer. He just looked up at the bridge above them, tracing the fall of the dead girl in the tweed suit jacket.

“What is it?”

Seven silhouetted figures peered down at them from the bridge. 

They were alive.

Anyone who was capable of surviving the fall of society and world apocalypse could be inherently capable of anything else, no matter how gruesome or depraved. People had to be treated as hostile. Man will do anything for two reasons: to survive and to get what they want when there is nothing to stop them. Tyrell knew this, so did Samuel and Atticus. And yet a small sliver of hope in the remnants of humanity allowed them to give each other a chance. 
That night they spent in a Parkway Rest Stop. There were plenty of drinks and still some chips on the shelves, and most importantly... hardly any zombies. They built a small covered fire and sat around it as they got to know one another. It was not long before Jill asked about Nora, “So she just decided to opt out after the loss of her uncle?”

“There was nothing we could do,” Rebecca explained, “Before we even realized she was suicidal she took the first opportunity our backs were turned to…well… you know...”

Chambers volunteered to do a perimeter sweep. He ran around with Jackson the dog and took care of a former burger king employee and a man missing both of his arms and his nose. Chambers didn’t flinch when he put them down. He spun back around to one knee as they fell, saying, “You are released, my brothers, from this demon of an earthly body.”

Tyrell watched him from afar with Corey, “So what’s the deal with pirate Ted Nugent?”

“Haha, yeah, I can see that. He’s done alright by us though. He seems to know what he’s doing…in fact…he’s damn good at it.”

Chambers spent most of the night on watch. He could not sleep even if he wanted to, his eye was hurting. It wasn’t necessarily painful but it was a lasting, almost throbbing sensation. He tried cutting his headband to take some of the pressure off. It helped a little bit, but the eye was still uncomfortably raw.

Rebecca wanted to think about her late husband the way she could see Samuel was thinking about his late wife. But Ansem was always a madman, before he ever met Rebecca. They both thought that she cured him, she solved him, but really she just unleashed him on the world.
Everybody wanted to know how this all started. They wanted answers that the news and radio reports never gave them. Of course Rebecca, Samuel, and Atticus knew but if they told them and word got out something bad would undoubtedly happen to Rebecca as a result. The need for an explanation was one of the strongest human compultions. So they tried to question and theorize along with the rest of them. “Could be something religious…”

“Has anybody heard anything about the second coming of Christ since all this happened?”
"C'mon, that shit ain't real..." Chambers scoffed.
"Look around, man...It's the end of days," Marcus flared his convictions.
“…Anything about it where you came from?” Corey asked Tyrell.
“One of the last news reports said the military was calling the virus Ansem's Death…”
Rebecca's heart sank in her chest, all this time she had almost forgotten about her late husband.
 "They should call it Zombie Death"
 "God, I never thought that word could be taken seriously..."
"I never thought I'd be living one of my favorite TV shows."
"Are you talking about The Walking Dead? I loved that show!" Jill squeaked. 
"Walking Dead had nothing on Dawn of the Dead." Chambers argued, "George Romero is the king of-"

“Never mind all that!” Quinn interrupted them, “Has anyone heard of a refugee camp or anything?”
“Last we heard they were taking people in over at the Meadowlands, that’s where we were going when ya’ll found us” Tyrell announced.
“We should go there!” Quinn suggested.
“You got to be out of your goddamn mind,” Atticus chimed in.
“Think about it... People are scared and stupid, they’ll go there even if they're bit. The military won’t be able to keep quarantine. It’s as good as overrun. We should do our best to avoid it.”

“Atticus is right,” Samuel agreed, “That’s why we need a place like a prison, no one will be there-”
“…Except the inmates.”
“Right, but they won’t be broadcasting it on the radios.”
“Marcus have you ever been to the prison?”
“…A couple of times after his trial. It’s right by the east coast, right off of I-95.”
“We’re on 95 right now.” Chambers pointed out.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re going there” Samuel led the conversation.
“What about Baltimore and D.C.? We can’t go anywhere near there.”
“We go down the Jersey shore,” Chambers added, “There's a ferry in Cape May.”
“Why Florida? Why not one of the dozens of prisons we could find along the way?”
“For starters my brother is there. Also Florida is hot year round. These things seem to slow down in the heat.”
“Florida’s surrounded on water by three sides” Atticus added, “Marcus says the prison is on the east coast, which means with our backs to the ocean we will be able to focus on one front instead of four.”

“Wait a second, does anyone even know how to drive a ferry?” Tyrell countered.
“I’m a United States Air Force pilot that has captained the most advanced piece of equipment ever built,” Atticus comforted them, “There's no vehicle on this godforsaken rock I can't comandeer.”
“We have a pilot and an astrophysicist”
“It’s theoretical-”
“Whatever you are,” Chambers finished his thought, “including a doctor… we almost got a full deck. All we need is an engineer…”
“Actually... I'm an engineer” Tyrell admitted.
The fireside fell silent after that. They all just looked at Tyrell in awe. Engineers were one of the most precious commodities in post-apocalyptic America. Tyrell was the key to water, heat, and electricity. Most modern comforts run by factories and fossil fuels; computer systems beyond a common man’s realm of knowledge. Samuel was somebody who could learn all of that or eventually figure it out, but Tyrell was the real deal. Samuel looked over at Atticus. They both knew what happened next. Tyrell was as important as Rebecca now, an integral part of the plan.

“Nothing personal, man...” Corey said to break the ice, “but I think everybody here just assumed engineers were white.”
Everybody laughed at the awkward racial joke that Corey took a chance on. Samuel talked to them before going to sleep about the road ahead. He gave them both comfort and warning. He offered up crucial rules to go by like never wandering off alone, or setting rally points if they get split up. His most important law he first told them in latin, “Salus populi suprema lex esto” And told them it was an ancient quote from Cicero, “You might know it as the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.”

“What’s that got to do with zombies?”

“When danger inevitably comes for us, we have to be prepared to make hard choices for the wellbeing of the group, like leaving Frank behind in the cage or taking care of Ed. Remember this… nobody’s life is more important than the group’s safety. There will always be hope, as long as we still have each other.”

Samuel gave them some inspiring words to end the night on so they didn't all go to bed depressed. Samuel wanted everyone not to worry while they sleep. They would have to be focused and get an early start tomorrow, maybe even use the cover of night before dawn as a way to avoid being seen by any unwelcome visitors.

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