Leaving the town had proven easier than any of them could have hoped. The truck was a heavy, cumbersome thing; it had no problem in flattening any lurcher that stood in its path. Within a matter of minutes they were out onto clear roads.
Darkness quickly fell. Ryan stared out of the window and looked at nothing in particular. He was lost in his thoughts. It frustrated him that they’d been so quickly ushered out of town. While he’d always known their staying at the hotel wouldn’t be a permanent thing he was no less disappointed they hadn’t been able to stay longer than they ultimately had. The hotel had been the ideal setup; plenty of room for everyone and a town full of goodies to loot. Where would they end up next? He had no idea.
He thought long and hard about Georgina. He wasn’t surprised about what had almost happened back at the hotel. It had been inevitable from the moment they were thrown back into one another’s lives. If there was one thing he was absolutely certain about where she was concerned it was that she loved him. She always had despite the months of playing it cool; he knew it.
In many ways, he bemoaned his arrogance. It was that very trait that caused him to cheat on her in the first place. The time she caught him with her two friends was the one time she knew about. He’d done an awful lot more that she was still oblivious to. He didn’t feel good about it; he didn’t feel bad about it. It was just the kind of guy he was. He was at peace with that side of himself. It didn’t mean that he didn’t love her. Sex was sex to him. It was nothing more than recreation. He might as well have been playing tennis! There was no emotional attachment to sex for him. The love he felt came from inside and it was a feeling he’d only ever experienced with Georgina. He wished he could keep his hands off other women, but he knew it wasn’t likely.
“I wonder what ended up becoming of the people back in New Haven,” Kas mused.
Ryan thought hard about the statement. He thought hard about how his actions had compromised every single person living there. He thought about Mel and how he’d managed to convince everyone the man was a corrupt slime ball. The truth was his to keep. He’d never divulge it to anyone, least of all the men sat by his side.
Not a part of him felt bad about what he’d done. New Haven had never felt like home to him. Besides, it would only have been a matter of time before the military discovered it and blitzed the place, especially with Mel wanting to annex safe zones. The fact he’d genuinely thought they could get away with that amused Ryan. No, he felt vindicated. The way it was now was the best way: a small bunch of people moving from place to place.
He looked at Jay briefly, who looked back at him with a smile and a nod.
Jay. Jason Walker.
Ryan liked him, there was no denying it. What he didn’t like was the fact that Jay was in charge of the whole shebang. He was working his magic and slowly figuring out how to manipulate him. He wanted the leadership for himself. It would take hard work to coax a stoic man like Jay into handing the power over. He didn’t want to kill him though, so he’d rather have tried to convince Jay over time that he was the right man to lead everyone. If all else failed then he’d grudgingly kill him.
His thoughts scared him sometimes. The fact he’d reached a point where he could kill people to get ahead was something he’d never so much as considered before. Prior to the apocalypse, he hadn’t been this way. He got into the occasional fight and beat one or two people up; killing people was never on his radar. A few months into the zombie outbreak, and with no law to hold him back anymore, he’d killed or been directly responsible for the deaths of six people, if not more. What was even more shocking was how normal it felt. Survival in this situation meant others had to lay down their lives. That was a simple fact now, in Ryan’s eyes anyway.
There was a sudden bang and all three of Ryan, Jay, and Kas started. A quick look out of the window told them they’d just hit a lurcher. More to the point, the lurcher hadn’t been killed by the impact as it still writhed about on the bonnet of the still moving truck. Kas applied the brakes hard, which caused the lurcher to topple off and bounce several metres down the road. The impact had taken one of its legs clean off, yet the monster still attempted to stand in the desperate search for a meal. Kas looked at the other two briefly and then stomped his foot down on the accelerator, ensuring the lurcher got crushed under the wheels.
Nothing was said of the event. How had such a thing become so normal, Ryan thought. A hit and run on any creature would have been deemed evil months back; now it was something people did without a moment of consideration. Everything had changed. The world was a completely different place to what it once was. Would there ever be a way back from here?
Then he considered himself. Had he changed, or was he still the same man he’d always been? The answer to that was a tricky one. The obvious answer was yes. How could what was going on around him not have changed the person he was on the inside? That was missing the point of the question in his eyes. If things were to return to normal tomorrow would he be a different person or simply slip back into the guy he’d always been?
A quick evaluation told him a few things: he was still selfish; he was still deceitful; he was still lustful; he was still a compulsive liar; he was still prepared to step on other people’s heads to get where he needed to go. The world around him was forcing him to act on these traits in different ways to which he would have done before the apocalypse began; that didn’t mean the traits were gone. They were alive and kicking in a bigger and uglier way than they ever had been.
The conclusion was simple: he hadn’t changed a single bit. If he had changed then it was only for the worse. He was completely at peace with that because it all returned to one simple thing: he would do whatever it took to survive, and it seemed being a rotten person was the best way to make that happen.
He smiled and chuckled lightly to himself.
“What are you laughing at?” Jay asked.
“Everything buddy. Absolutely everything!”
TO BE CONTINUED