Ryan held his breath. The sound of shuffling feet and the occasional throaty growl could still be heard. At least they weren’t hammering on the side of the shack anymore. He looked across the room towards the shivering Kas whose breathing was becoming increasingly laboured. That was all he needed, to soon be sharing the room with a lurcher; that was if Kas was even infected. He was in a bad way after the blow to the head he’d taken and he’d been feverish since due to the shock brought on by the impact.
The shack was dark and dirty. It obviously hadn’t been used for years before they fortuitously happened across it. While it had provided a place to hide from the lurchers, there was nothing inside; no food, no water, and no way of contacting the team back in town.
The hunger was bad enough, though it was the quickly diminishing water that concerned Ryan the most. He could stretch it out for another day maybe. After that he’d have no choice but to take his chances outside and fight his way through the horde—with or without Kas!
He wanted to sleep. His eyes were desperate to close. What if Kas turned though? What if the fever was NBP and he woke to find Jay’s right-hand man feasting on him? Should he put him out of his misery now just to be on the safe side? Ryan toyed with the handle of his sidearm; however, he quickly decided against. It was worth waiting to see if Kas’ condition improved. He was of much greater use to him alive, especially if they decided to take their chances outside any time soon.
Four days earlier
“I don’t like the sound of it. Seems pretty risky to me.”
“Of course it’s risky, Ryan. When isn’t fighting lurchers risky? I’m pretty sure our all-out war when we first arrived here was proof of that. Nonetheless, if we don’t stem the flow of the bastards then we’re gonna wake up to see this town swarming again.”
“I appreciate something needs to be done. I’m just not sure that dashing off into the woods is it. There’s no way of knowing if we’ll even discover where they’re all gathered,” Ryan groused.
Jay brought his fist down on the table. “We have to do something!”
“So, what exactly do you suggest?” Kas queried.
“I say we split up into teams of three, head out into the trees, and see if we can find where all the undead are coming from. The way they’re pouring out of the woods tells me there has to be a greater source somewhere out there.”
“What about the scientists? Who protects them?”
“We leave them in a room, lock the door, make sure they have plenty of provisions, and get back here as soon as we can. They’ll be fine for a day.”
Kas looked at Ryan. Neither was happy about the idea. The sudden influx of lurchers, while inconvenient, was nothing they couldn’t handle. They were suspicious Jay was being overly cautious. The big man had intimated on more than one occasion that he felt the town could be a permanent base for them. Ryan, on the other hand, was of the opinion that they were too exposed and the town should be treated as a temporary measure until somewhere better was found. Ideally, he’d have liked to regularly move around as not to draw anyone, alive or undead, to them.
Ryan pursed his lips in thought. “I’m sure there’s a better way of doing this.” He paused for a few seconds and then spread his hands in a defeated gesture. “I’m screwed if I can think of one though.”
“This will work!” Jay insisted emphatically. “The sooner we find out where this horde is coming from the sooner we can send the whole lot of ‘em to hell!”
“Let’s hope we don’t end up paying hell a visit ourselves doing this!” Kas muttered negatively.
The scientists were understandably vexed by the idea of being locked in a room with no idea of how long they’d be there. Jay cared little for their whining.
Georgina communicated her distaste quietly to Ryan. He assured her it wouldn’t be for long and they’d soon be let out. That was good enough for her. She kissed him tenderly and requested he keep himself safe. He agreed despite not being convinced things would go as smoothly as Jay insisted they would.
The teams were decided, Ryan to go with Kas and Keith. Ryan offered Jay his concern that he believed the lurchers were strategic hunters. He’d seen enough occasions where they appeared to ambush their prey for him to believe it was intentional. Jay scoffed at the notion initially but could see Ryan was being serious and decided it was worth taking his advice on board.
The two three-man teams headed out into the woods in different directions. Shortly after they did, the skies darkened and a thunder storm blew in, rendering sight and hearing a damn sight more difficult than they had been. Although not a superstitious man, Ryan only envisaged the turn in the weather to be a bad omen.
TO BE CONTINUED