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The growls were loud and intimidating; the thuds against the door were even more so as the gawkers vied to break through.
Shaz looked at Ryan and emitted a quiet chuckle. “We have to stop getting caught out like this.”
“I’ve told you, baby; these things know what they’re doing. They hunt instinctively rather than wading in haphazardly.”
“I know. It’s just a little hard accepting that there’s any consciousness at all left in those things. Knowing there is makes me feel sad that a part of the person is still alive inside them.”
“Even if there is, I’m too busy trying to keep myself alive to give a shit!” Ryan muttered coldly.
“Are you okay, lover? You seem a bit off today.”
Ryan looked at Shaz. The best he could offer was an unconvincing smile. “I didn’t sleep well last night. Ignore me.”
“You haven’t seemed the same since we talked yesterday about your friends.”
A loud sigh escaped Ryan’s mouth. “I’ll be alright. I’m just feeling the prick of conscience.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything about it.”
“Give over!” Ryan gently lifted Shaz’s head so she was looking at him. “I appreciate that you did. It’s just hard knowing what’s happening. I’ve been running with Jay awhile and he’s a good man. Georgina… well, she’s—”
“It’s pretty obvious, Ry. It’s also obvious you still care about her.”
“I don’t want to see any harm come to her. I feel responsible because I’m the one who put her in the position she’s in now.”
“They each had a choice. You can’t blame yourself for what they chose.”
“I’m just gonna throw this out there, okay? It isn’t a suggestion, just a passing thought, so please don’t read too much into it.”
“What if you and I helped them escape and hit the road?”
“We’re tough and resourceful. Between the four of us, we’d get by just fine.”
“You… you do know that isn’t possible, right? We’d never get away alive. This is just a passing thought, isn’t it? Like you said. Please tell me this isn’t something you really want to do.”
Ryan smiled. “It’s just a passing thought.”
“Because we have it good here. We’re looked after. We have a strong crew around us. I don’t—” A finger against her lips silenced her.
“Don’t worry. I was thinking out loud. We’ll say nothing more about it. Let’s concentrate on getting out of here.” He removed the finger from her lips, looped his arm around her waist, and pulled her in for a kiss that caused her to hum contentedly. “Okay, when I say ‘go’, you open that door and stand behind it. I’ll take care of these gawkers.”
Shaz slipped back into her macho façade and moved quickly into position while Ryan stood back and aimed his SA-80 at the door. With a nervous intake of breath, he called out to Shaz and she pulled open the door. In that instant, the assault rifle opened up. Neither of the three gawkers made it a half-step over the threshold of the doorway before their heads were filled with bullets. The noise drew attention and more undead ambled towards the source of the noise. Both Ryan and Shaz switched to their sidearms and took care of the lurchers that appeared with minimal fuss.
They walked down the corridor when Ryan looked around a corner and noticed a door with a simple label that read ‘Storage’. “Hey, Shaz. Storage area: worth a look?”
“It might be what prevents this trip from being yet another waste of time that nearly killed us!”
The door was locked when Ryan tried it, so he used his shoulder and barged it a few times. On the third go the door swung open. A gargling noise told them both to be on high alert, but the room was only small; there was nowhere a lurcher could hide.
Then Shaz saw it and immediately broke down into tears. Ryan went straight to her to comfort her and find out what was wrong, then he saw it too: a baby that couldn’t have been more than a few months old that had been infected with NBP and was now a snarling, pint-sized lurcher.
“Oh my God!” Ryan exclaimed, affectionately stroking Shaz’s short, dark hair as she sobbed into his shoulder. “Uhm… step outside. I’ll deal with it.”
“What are you gonna do?” She asked frantically, looking up at him.
“The poor thing can’t be left like that and I’m not about to let you put it out of its misery.”
“Jesus Christ! This fucking apocalypse!”
“Stay on your guard. There’ll be more of the fuckers around. I’ll grab whatever’s worth grabbing from in here.”
Shaz relinquished her grip on Ryan and stepped tearfully out of the door. Ryan closed it once she was out and knelt beside the bloodthirsty infant. He clenched his jaw, fought back tears, and mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ as he held his pistol against the head of the baby monster. The loud bang in such close quarters hurt his ears and he held his hands against them whilst grimacing. When the ringing stopped, he found a box and placed the cadaver of the baby inside it; it didn’t feel right leaving the body where it was.
There were a few bits and pieces that could be deemed useful and he pocketed them. The haul was barely satisfying, but something was better than nothing. He returned to the door, opened it, and then retrieved the box. Shaz didn’t have to ask him what it was; she was glad he’d shown respect for the baby.
“Let’s get the hell outta here,” he muttered as he walked past her.
Kas was empathetic when Ryan and Shaz returned to him with the body. He insisted they both take a break from action while they get the harrowing experience out of their system; as a former soldier, he was well aware of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
When the couple got back to their place they remained largely in silence. They lay together in bed and held one another. Ryan was apathetic enough not to allow the event to distress him too much, so he was doing his best to be a comforting presence for Shaz.
Mentally, he was anywhere other than in the room with her. While she slept with her head resting on his chest, Ryan thought and thought about what he was going to do. He didn’t want to leave Shaz behind as he really did care for her. His options were limited though. He couldn’t allow Jay and Georgina to continue to be treated the way they were—and time was growing short.
He held Shaz tightly for several minutes and repeatedly kissed her forehead. With great regret, he moved from underneath her, which caused her eyes to open.
“Where are you going?” She asked dazedly.
“I’ll be back soon babe. You get your head back down and I’ll see you shortly.”
She nodded and rested her head upon the pillow vacated by Ryan, quickly falling back to sleep.
Ryan quietly retrieved his combat gear and put it on, strapping his weapons and additional ammo to himself. Last but not least, he slipped his beloved 7 iron into one of the loops in his waistband. One last look in the mirror and he blew a heavy sigh. He had no idea what was about to happen. That didn’t concern him; if there were two things he’d become good at throughout the apocalypse they were adaptation and improvisation.
He approached Shaz and kissed her one more time on her head. “I’ll miss you babe. More than you’ll ever know.”
All that was left was for Ryan to leave the building and save his friends; he just hoped it wasn’t this that would result in the death he’d probably already rode his luck too far in cheating.
TO BE CONTINUED
Read ASAS: Consequence–Chapter Ten now!