Just a couple of days after their arrival at the renegade safe zone of New Haven, the weather turned without any prior warning. As most of the residents slept at night, the skies opened up and the first showering of rain hit the ground in what had been a couple of months at least. It rained with a vengeance too; pouring for several unrelenting hours and not stopping until well after daybreak. Typical of Britain to be dry and sunny throughout spring only to rain in July. At least some things never change.
Ryan took advantage of the situation and left the temporary lodgings for a walk to cleanse his mind and his body simultaneously. There was only one road in and out of the makeshift town, but Ryan chose to head into the fields surrounding. They had been ploughed in preparation for any coming rain and he knew the residents of New Haven would soon be busy sowing seeds.
Walking the fields was advised against as the woodland surrounding them was a hotbed for surprise lurcher attacks as many had discovered to their detriment. That hardly bothered Ryan anymore. The way he felt at present, he wouldn’t have been upset if the lurchers tore him apart. He didn’t want to be in New Haven. He wanted to be at home. The setup worked nicely for him there and it depressed him that he’d been forcibly torn away from it.
Barely three words had been spoken between Ryan and Georgina since they’d arrived. He’d found a different room to sleep in and kept himself to himself. Harry would always walk in the opposite direction when he saw Ryan, which amused the latter. He wanted to talk to Georgina and straighten things out, but figured she probably wouldn’t calm down until Harry had gotten over being lied to; something he clearly hadn’t yet as the pair could be heard arguing occasionally.
He kept to himself mainly, but Jay had popped in frequently to talk; the former squaddie clearly having taken a shine to Ryan and Ryan had to admit that he rather liked Jay too. He was a straight talking man and didn’t carry the trademark ego that was ordinarily present in most ex forces men. It was probably too soon to refer to him as a friend, but there was a definite bond of trust growing between them.
The edge of the field was only ten or so feet away and Ryan felt he was being watched through the nearby trees. He mentally prepared himself without physically looking as though he was ready for some form of ambush. When the gawker leapt through the trees at Ryan, it didn’t even get close before he swung his 7 iron in a graceful upward arc and caught the creature hard in the face. The force was enough to change its trajectory and it landed harmlessly to Ryan’s left, but it wasn’t dead. Its jaw had been completely smashed off its face and only the top row of teeth and wagging tongue remained of the hideous face.
The gawker growled as it prepared to launch again, but Ryan was a hair quicker and used the flat of his boot to send the gawker back to ground before using the same foot to crush its head into the sodden earth. The ground was so wet that the gawker’s head sunk into it, but there wasn’t enough pressure to kill it. Its growls gargled creepily in the wet mud and Ryan began ferociously stomping until it went quiet; the skull finally breaking and the required damage to the brain occurring.
He had no time to collect his thoughts before a small group of lurchers broke through the trees. He wielded his 7 iron like a ninja with a katana before getting to work on the monsters. The four strong group was no real trouble. The muddy ground slowed their already sluggish pace further and it allowed Ryan to pick his spots meticulously. He was relieved to see that a spewer wasn’t amongst their number as he made short work of the lurchers.
The altercation came to an abrupt end and Ryan made the decision to beat a hasty retreat back to the holding area before anymore undead showed up.
After a hot shower, Ryan retired to his room, but not before making himself a cup of tea. Entertainment was limited in New Haven. The choices at Ryan’s disposal were either to take walks or to lie down and consider his own thoughts. He chose the latter; deciding he’d sooner stay clean after having had a shower rather than head out and get all sweaty again.
No sooner had Ryan drifted into a nap than somebody appeared at his doorway calling his name and causing him to wake with a snap.
“Ryan; the leader wants to see you and the other two now. Could you get ready and go to see him as soon as you can, please?”
Ryan recognised the man, but didn’t know his name. He rubbed his eyes before emitting a loud yawn complete with a big stretch of the arms. He settled his gaze back on the man who waited patiently.
“No worries. I’ll get dressed and make my way there shortly”.
The man smiled genuinely as he drew the curtain shut to give Ryan his privacy once again. Ryan wasted no time in getting ready. About time, he thought. There had been nothing said about the leader, not even a name. He’d probed Jay, but got nothing. He quickly threw on his clothes; a dry set that had been provided him when he arrived at New Haven; and made his way out of the room and down the hall.
Georgina and Harry were leaving their room too as he walked along. There were awkward stares and mumbled greetings, but Ryan carried on; opting not to walk with them. He reached the tallest building in New Haven in just a couple of minutes and knocked upon the door. An attractive lady opened it with a smile and gestured for Ryan to enter. Naturally, he gave her the smile he always reserved for those he fancied as he passed through. She told him to make his way upstairs and take one of the seats available in the corridor. Georgina and Harry weren’t far behind, but sat as far away from Ryan as possible.
There were fleeting but frequent glances between the three of them. Ryan couldn’t fathom his emotions. He felt angry, guilty, let down and a whole cacophony of various other negative emotions towards them both, but mainly towards Georgina. He believed she was in some way indebted to him, but also reasoned to himself that he perhaps had no right to feel that way given his treatment of her during their relationship. The world might have changed around them, but feelings didn’t necessarily do the same as a result.
“Please come in,” a voice emanated from inside the room the leader sat in; breaking Ryan’s thought process.
Georgina and Harry stood immediately and head inside the room, leaving the door open for Ryan who followed them in after a short pause to bring his mind back on track. He stepped into what was an unimpressive room, but certainly better decorated than the temporary lodging. Sat in a chair at the far end of the room was a man whose features were hard to distinguish owing to the slightly open blinds behind him. Ryan was no fool. He knew this man had done that on purpose and it only served to irritate him further. He remained standing while the other two sat.
“Thank you for coming to see me,” the leader said in a gruff southern Welsh burr. “Apologies for how long it’s taken, but I’ve a whole town to run here with the populace growing by the day”.
“That’s quite alright,” Georgina said genially.
“Enough with all this secrecy nonsense,” Ryan spat. “For days we’ve been given no information about who you are and what you do. We come up here and you continue to make a show of hiding your face. I don’t mind saying I’m starting to get pissed off by it all”.
“Ryan Lloyd, am I right,” the leader asked with a degree of mirth in his voice. “I’ve been told all about you from Jason. Forgive the favouritism, but it’s you I’ve been looking forward to meeting the most. Every bit as brash as I was warned”.
The man laughed. He then stood and walked away from the window towards Ryan; his face coming into view in the process. The shaggy mop of grey hair atop his head might have looked fake if not for the fact it blended in perfectly to a beard and moustache combo that covered most of his face. Twinkling intelligent eyes of green sat below thick bushy eyebrows and above a sizeable nose that was bent slightly but visibly to the right. Just like most of the other apparent ex-army men that walked around, he was a strapping bloke. Despite his greater age than all the others, he still looked as tough as nails. This didn’t cause Ryan to shrink though. The leader held out a hand and Ryan looked down.
“They don’t tell anything about me because we have to ensure you’re trustworthy first. I’m still not sure you are, but I’m nothing if not a risk taker. The name’s Melvyn Roberts. I prefer Mel”.
“It’s nice to finally have a name and a face,” Ryan said; taking Mel’s hand in his.
“I hope it puts you at ease”. Mel broke the handshake and returned to his seat while Ryan finally took one himself. The Welshman took a breath before talking again. “I’ll get straight to the burning question most want the answer to first. Why does New Haven even exist? It’s simple really. The Safe Zone’s are nothing but a way of keeping everybody under control and the problem is escalating. Week by week, day by day, the military are taking away the freedoms of those inside. The plan is to turn those people still living into nothing more than subservient slaves who’ll do everything they’re told on the promise they’ll stay alive. They’ll be told it’s necessary for their survival, but it’s really nothing more than communism like you’ve never seen before. The government decided to turn a bad situation in their favour. Typical, eh?”
“I had no idea the government were still operational,” Ryan said.
“This ordeal has allowed them the opportunity to slip off the radar, but they’re still pulling all the strings. The military are still acting under their orders. I’m not privy to all the details, but something dodgy is going on. They’re rounding up those on the outside who are still living and I have no idea what they’re doing with them. Best guess, they’re either incarcerating them or killing them to make sure they never tell any civilians in the Safe Zones what’s happening outside”.
“So what are you doing if not rounding people up yourself? It sounds to me like you’re doing exactly the same as the army, but with a smile,” Ryan said cynically.
“We’re giving people a safe place to live. We don’t oppress people here. All we ask is that those who do live here put something in to get anything out. We don’t think that’s much to ask. Those who want to leave can do so whenever they wish”.
“This is how it starts, but people get greedy”.
“For fuck’s sake, Ryan,” Georgina uttered in frustration. “You do nothing but second guess those who offer a kindness. Why don’t you do everybody a favour and go? We don’t need your negativity around here”.
“Why don’t you shut your bitch mouth,” Ryan retorted angrily.
“Don’t talk to her like that,” Harry interjected.
There followed a maelstrom of shouting and arguing that Mel sat back and allowed to erupt with a smirk on his face. Only when Ryan looked as though he might be ready to swing for somebody did he interject.
“Alright, alright; that’s enough,” he said in a friendly tone, but the warning was evident and the three immediately calmed down. “It’s clear that there’s tension between the three of you so I’ll do all I can to keep you apart. Ryan, I’m aware that you’ve been out there surviving for a while now and are capable of taking care of yourself. Is that right?”
“Well I haven’t been bitten yet and I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed”.
“So I’d be right to assume a combat role of some description would work best for you?”
“One hundred percent,” Ryan said without hesitation.
“And yourselves,” Mel asked of Georgina and Harry.
“There’s little point in assigning her anything. She’s infected,” Ryan interjected.
Georgina’s eyes burned into Ryan who wouldn’t look at her, but had a smile of smug self-satisfaction on his face.
“You…”Georgina started through gritted teeth.
“Is this true, Georgina,” Mel asked; his voice filled with concern.
“Allegedly so,” she conceded with a defeated drop of her head. “I was tested as positive at the time people were being screened”.
“Really,” Mel asked with a quizzical expression. “That was so long ago. Surely you’d have turned by now”.
“So I keep getting told,” Georgina replied; glancing at Ryan again.
“Something doesn’t seem right about that. We’ll have a doctor take a blood sample soon and get some answers before assigning you a position,” Mel said with a reassuring smile. “What about you, Harry? What role takes your fancy?”
Harry didn’t answer. He looked at both Georgina and Ryan with distaste before turning back to face Mel with a frustrated sigh.
“Nothing. I don’t want to stay here. I’ll pack up my things and go at the earliest convenience”.
“You? Out there on your own? I’ll give you five minutes before you trip on your shoelaces and get eaten, you stuttering prick,” Ryan said with a derisive snigger.
“I swear, I’m going to punch you in the jaw in a minute,” Georgina flared up again.
“That’s no surprise. You’re more of a man than he is,” Ryan teased further.
“This is exactly why,” Harry interrupted. “I can’t be doing with the shit between you two. You act like a pair of teenagers, but it’s quite obvious you’re both still in love with one another. I can’t just sit here and play middle man while you work out your differences. I’m not going to be your interim guy, Georgina”.
“Harry, you aren’t…”
“Save it, George. Seriously; save it,” Harry said with a hand held up. He then looked at Ryan. “As for you; you’ve been a cunt from day one. You’ve done nothing but look down on me because you’re jealous. I can’t stand to be in the same room as you, let alone the same town”.
“Pack up your shit and get out then,” Ryan responded with a sneer.
Harry stood and headed for the door. Both Mel and Georgina protested, but Harry wasn’t interested and he left the room; slamming the door behind him. Mel looked at both Ryan and Georgina with an openhanded gesture.
“I don’t want to ask what all that was about because I frankly don’t care. All I’ll say is that if there’s some kind of problem between you both then you either make amends or stay out of each other’s way. Do I make myself clear?”
They both agreed half-heartedly.
“Okay, we’ll end this here. Georgina, I’m assuming you’re going to want to go and talk Harry around so I won’t keep you waiting”.
Georgina thanked Mel and excused herself, but not before a look of contempt thrown the way of Ryan that he blew a kiss in response to. Mel set his gaze upon Ryan and the latter felt a reprimand coming.
“Ryan, I admire what you’ve done out there. I admire that you were able to give those bastards the slip and escape the safe zone. You’re obviously a very adept survivor, but might I advise some caution in your attitude. Whether your arrogance is a front or genuine, you’re unlikely to make many allies with it and right now, allies are what we all need”.
“What you call arrogance, I call looking out for the only person that matters to me now the world has gone to shit,” Ryan said with conviction. “You might have been judging whether I’m worthy of staying in New Haven, but I’m judging whether New Haven is worthy of me also. Up to now, I’m not convinced. I’ll stay here and help as much as I can, but I don’t trust you’re the selfless person you’re making yourself out to be. The second I get a sniff that something isn’t right I’ll bring this whole place to its knees”.
Mel scoffed at Ryan’s forthright impudence. He wanted to be angry, but couldn’t help admiring the man’s fortitude and self-assurance.
“You talk a lot of smack for one man who sits in the empire of another,” Mel said with a smile.
“Without your empire, you’re just one man as well and I never looked at another man as anything more than my equal regardless of what he’s in possession of”.
“I appreciate your candour. However, I’m going to request that you consider yourself equal to the people who reside here for as long as you choose to remain. I’m happy to prove New Haven is everything that has been promised to you as long as you can prove you’re capable of working alongside others to keep New Haven safe. Can we shake on that?”
Ryan looked down at Mel’s outstretched hand and then back up into the Welshman’s eyes. His choices were limited for now. He swore to himself to find a chink in the armour and discover what tricks Mel had up his sleeve, but in the meantime he would stick with the adage of keeping enemies closer than friends. He took Mel’s hand in his and shook it.
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.