“What’s going on,” Georgina asked in a breathy whisper; glad in some ways of the distraction.
“Might be a checkpoint,” Ryan conjectured.
They all went quiet again and listened. The voices were raised. The words “just fucking move or you’ll be shot” could be heard quite clearly. This was no checkpoint. Somebody was blocking the road.
All of a sudden, gunshots started to ring out. Georgina yelped aloud and threw herself onto the floor next to Ryan. Harry went sheet white and froze. The tinny sound of bullets hitting the truck rang out; Georgina squealing with each one. Ryan shuffled closer in order to shield her and couldn’t help casting a glance up at Harry, but the man was scared stiff and hadn’t even noticed Ryan protecting her.
The shooting continued for several minutes before all went quiet. Ryan and Georgina listened out intently for any noise. Eventually there were voices, but they were indiscernible. There was no way of telling who was talking. Then the words “check the trucks” came through. Whoever had stopped the convoy moving had been successful in picking off the army officers. Ryan looked down at Georgina.
“Move up towards the cabin of the truck. Get as far away from the door as you can,” he said in a whisper.
“Who are these people, Ryan?”
“I have no idea, but I can only assume they’re rebels”.
“What does that mean?”
“I guess we’ll find out. Do as I say, George”.
Georgina scooted quickly but quietly towards the cabin end of the truck as instructed. Ryan looked at Harry who still hadn’t moved. He was petrified.
“Harry; get your arse back there with Georgina”.
There was no response. Harry simply continued to stare into space. Ryan’s ire was beginning to rise, but he kept his voice quiet and calm.
“You had a gawker snapping in your face earlier today and you didn’t do this. You fought for your life. Don’t go all soft on me now ‘cause there’s a few blokes with guns. Get back there now. Don’t make me have to tell you again”.
Harry looked fleetingly at Ryan. His bottom lip shook visibly and all Ryan could think was what a coward this man was. However, he slowly made his way to the cabin end of the truck and sat next to Georgina; nuzzling into her. Ryan chose not to look. All he could feel inside was regret having not allowed the gawker to eat the man’s face off earlier.
After a couple of minutes, the handle to the truck moved. Ryan tensed up. He had absolutely no idea what was to come. The door creaked open and he was almost immediately blinded by a flashlight shined in his eyes and squinted.
“There are people in here, Jay,” the man called out in a northern accent heavily laden with an Asian overcoat. Ryan assumed he was perhaps Pakistani or Bangladeshi.
“How many,” came a faint reply.
“Three. Two blokes and one female”.
Ryan found himself mildly amused at the slang term used for the males and the more respectful term for the female. That caused him to remember a time when Georgina had hit the roof when he’d referred to her as his “bird”. He was in the doghouse for days after.
“I’ll be over in a minute,” Jay responded. “Get as much info out of ‘em as you can”.
“No worries, boss”.
The man stepped inside the van. He was, as suspected, Asian and about the same height and build as Ryan. He was a good looking man with a full beard and hair stylishly combed over. His piercing dark brown eyes gleamed with intelligence, but were warm and friendly too despite a stern expression on his face. Ryan noticed he kept his SMG lowered, but at hip height which suggested he was more than ready to fire if needed. He glowered at Ryan a moment before his thin lips parted into a smile that revealed pristine white teeth.
“My name’s Kassam, but call me Kas. What are your names?”
“Do our names matter if you’re just gonna kill us anyway,” Ryan asked.
“Kill you? Nah, guy. If I was gonna kill you then you’d be dead,” Kas said with a light chuckle. “I’m interested to know why you’re in here chained up, but we’ll get to that. Just your names’ll do for now”.
“Fair enough. I’m Ryan. Those two are Harry and Georgina”.
“Cool, man, cool! Okay, so why are you in here then?”
“Long story short, the army burst into my house and took us all,” Ryan said; purposely giving as little information as possible.
“Sounds a bit iffy. The army don’t just storm random houses unless they’re lookin’ for somethin’…or someone,” Kas said; raising one of his thick eyebrows.
“Assume what you like, guy,” Ryan said with attitude.
“Listen, I know you don’t know me and you’re probably worried about what’s goin’ on, but we aren’t the bad guys. We’re only as worried about you as you are about us. It’ll be much easier if you cooperate; trust me”.
“Why should I cooperate,” Ryan asked.
“Because if we like your answers then we may decide to bring you with us,” said Jay, who suddenly appeared behind Kas. “If we don’t, then we’ll leave you here to fend for yourself. The choice is yours”.
Ryan was on his knees so had to look up anyway, but even if he’d have been standing at his full six feet and one inch he’d have still fallen a good three inches short of Jay. He was huge in every sense of the word. His blonde hair was shaved short and his face was extremely handsome and rugged. Everything about his appearance screamed military from his bulging biceps to the muscular legs that threatened to rip the fabric of his cargo pants. Ryan felt inferior which in turn saw him shrink a little in his presence. However, like Kas, Jay’s expression was only one of kindliness. His ocean blue eyes were bright and as smiling as his mouth. He had the face of a pretty boy and the physique of a bodybuilder, but no trace of arrogance was evident. Ryan didn’t like him, but he was also willing to admit that was entirely because of jealousy.
“Who are you guys,” Ryan asked quietly.
“We don’t go by a name collectively ’cause we aren’t that shallow,” Jay said with a grin. “I’m Jason Walker. Jay to my friends”.
“A pleasure to meet you, Jason Walker,” Ryan said facetiously.
“I appreciate your doubts,” Jay said; unperturbed by Ryan’s aloof behaviour. “The way things are right now, you’re best not to trust anybody. I’ll lay my cards on the table. We’re essentially renegades. The guys in charge of our faction have either defected from the army or have served in the military in the past. We saw quickly the way the military were dealing with things in the Safe Zones and decided we wanted no part in it. Bit by bit, they intend to take away the freedoms of everybody. We’re here to counterbalance that. We have our own Safe Zone. It’s a Safe Zone where people aren’t bound by curfews or stupid shit like that. The only rule we have is that people put in their fair share to keep the place running. In return, we head out and take down any military convoys that we know are doing the rounds so we can get our hands on their weapons and provisions”.
“Am I right in thinking you’re the leader of the whole operation?”
“No. I’m the leader of this detachment, but the overall leader is back in New Haven”.
“So New Haven is basically just the same as all the other Safe Zones with a bunch of military cunts strutting about and ruling the roost?”
“Trust me, buddy; it’s nothing like that. Us ‘military cunts’ put in our fair share of the graft and there’s certainly no strutting. I don’t lament you thinking the way you do because I saw what it was like in those Safe Zones and I can totally understand your concerns. You’ll have to see New Haven yourself to see how different it is. I can only assume you managed to bust out of a Safe Zone?”
“Yeah. The one in Sheffield”.
“I had a feeling. I was stationed at the one in Hull”.
“So how did you get out if you were part of the military?”
“That’s a conversation we’d perhaps be better having back at New Haven. That is if you’ll come with us”.
“If you break us out of these chains then you’ve got yourself a deal,” Ryan responded.
Jay nodded and shouted for one of his other men to bring the key that had been taken from the cadaver of one of the soldiers. The key was handed to Jay and he quickly unlocked the shackles of all three of them. He stood before Ryan again and held out a hand. Ryan hesitated before shaking it and locked the big man with a bold stare.
“Nice to meet you”.
The three of them were taken from the back of the truck and to another vehicle that was every bit as uncomfortable. Jay and Kas stayed with them the whole time and gave them more information about New Haven. The Safe Zone had been set up around a month ago in a location set away from major towns and cities. It pleased Ryan to know that he hadn’t been the only one to see the sham of the Safe Zones. He’d always known that something had been amiss.
Ryan told Jay about his experiences since leaving Sheffield and Jay admitted to being impressed.
“All I tend to see when those things approach anybody is panic, but you seem to have got your way of dealing with them down to a fine art”.
“It’s either me or them. That’s the way I look at it,” Ryan said.
He noticed a disapproving glance from Georgina and a slight shake of the head. It irked him slightly that she seemed to have a reservation about any pride he showed in himself. It irked him to the point of saying something on this occasion.
“Did I say something that bothered you, George?”
“Nothing you say bothers me, Ryan. I got used to your big man act a long while ago”.
“You mean the same big man act that saved your boyfriend’s life today? How many lurchers have you both killed again?”
Ryan grinned. He knew that was the response reserved for when she was cornered and proven wrong. Harry had remained silent the whole time and Ryan wondered whether he was still thinking about the revelation that he and Georgina had been an item in the past. Jay broke his train of thought.
“You sound like a resourceful bloke. Maybe I can get you a gig out on the streets with us”.
“Do you not worry about infection?”
“The way I see it is if it’s gonna get me then there’s fuck all I can do about it”.
“Yeah; I developed that mind-set shortly after I left the Safe Zone”.
Ryan then thought about Georgina and the fact that she had been tested positive for New Black Plague. He wondered if he should tell Jay, but then thought about what her fate might be if he did and immediately decided against.
“I reckon it might be a laugh getting’ my hands dirty,” Ryan said with a grin.
“I’ll see what I can swing with the boss back at New Haven”.
“Although I do have one request if I’m gonna do this”.
“What’s that, Ryan?”
“Did you find a 7 iron in amongst the army’s haul?”
“Yeah, we did”.
“I’m gonna need that back!”
Ryan didn’t know what to expect, but the virtual shanty town he saw was certainly not it. Jay had really meant it when he mentioned New Haven was understated. The lodgings were hastily prepared shacks and no more than a storey high. All around were ploughed and barren fields and the streets between were dirt tracks. The Safe Zone sat on a precipice; a natural vantage point that allowed the people within to see for miles around. Ryan figured it had previously been a large farm.
Practically in the centre of New Haven sat a building that was noticeably taller than the others, but still of a modest enough height not to draw much attention. Jay told the new guests that the leader of New Haven resided within and that they would meet him in due course. Little had been said about whoever this elusive person was and Ryan was ill at ease with the fact Jay and Kas were reluctant to provide any information. All they would say was that he would find out soon enough.
The truck came to a halt outside one of the shanties; a place that was effectively a holding area for new residents. Jay assured the three of them that permanent lodgings would be arranged for them all in due course and to get comfortable in the meantime. Harry and Georgina did so immediately, but Ryan was restless.
“Something isn’t right about all of this”.
“Do you have to be so suspicious,” Georgina asked. “Why can’t you just relax for tonight and we’ll get some answers tomorrow”.
“That’s always been your problem, George. You’re too trusting”.
Georgina’s face flushed red immediately and her jaw trembled. If Ryan didn’t already know he’d gone too far, the slap in the face he received before she stormed out of the room definitely got the message through. He was at a loss of how to react, so he didn’t and slowly sat down on an available bed instead; massaging his cheek. Several moments passed before Ryan noticed that Harry was glaring at him.
“What’s up with you,” Ryan asked.
“Why didn’t either of you tell me you had history?”
“You’re asking the wrong person. It wasn’t my place to tell you,” Ryan said flatly.
“Bullshit! It was the place of either one of you to tell me,” Harry said angrily.
Ryan quickly jumped to his feet and rushed over to Harry; grabbing hold of his face, forcing him back to a lying position and leaning over him ominously. Harry’s bravado quickly vanished.
“Listen to me you little prick! I come home after a week of fighting off lurchers to find you and my ex-girlfriend have been shacking up in my bed. A lesser man would’ve killed the pair of you. Instead, I took you under my wing and taught you how to survive out there and you have the cheek to say I owe you anything? I should break your fucking jaw right now!”
“I…I’m sorry…Ry. I’m s…sorry,” Harry uttered fearfully.
“You will be if you ever talk to me like that again,” Ryan said; shoving Harry’s face away. He stood up and walked towards the door and turned to look at Harry again before walking out. “I won’t babysit you anymore, Harry. You’re on your own. I’ve had enough of you. I’ve had enough of both of you. Enjoy however long you have left with each other”.
TO BE CONTINUED
Please be sure to keep up with the awesome Just Another Apocalypse Diary by fellow blogger Kira Scribbled. Catch up now by clicking the appropriate link. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9.