“Wait, what?” Ryan said standing, his hand reaching out. I stood, backing away from his reach, my eyes fixed on his scarred knuckles, looking up only as he withdrew and saw his intent on the gun limp in my right hand. “You,” he said, but stopped as the churn of my stomach radiated across the room. Raising his eyebrows, a smile widened across his mouth. “Do you want something to eat?” he said, his perfect white teeth gleaming in the candlelight.
My defences fell, leaving my insides knotted with pain. The feeling wasn’t new, but the cramps hadn’t been my key concern. Until now my concentration had focused on impending death or incarceration. A compliment to Ryan, I guessed. Mind and body relaxing. I drew in a deep breath, a few minutes of delay wouldn’t hurt, a few hours perhaps. Daylight would be our friend and we could use the time for the area around the van to clear.
I nodded and his smile grew wider.
“Sit down. I’ll go see what I can rustle up.”
I didn’t like being in the room on my own. Hated the flicker of the candle and the shadows it cast, the hypnotic movement sending me within myself, the chaotic dance resembling the flashes of light I kept seeing in my head. In the strobe I saw Toni, her wide-eyed expression, a bloodied wound growing before my eyes, despite knowing my head filled in the blanks. I didn’t want to think about this right now. I never wanted to think about it again. Standing, I lifted the candle before the anger, the sorrow grew too loud and watching my feet, I headed towards the kitchen.
“Gas still works?” I said as I found Ryan stirring a pan in the glow of the blue flame with the grill bright below.
“It’s pressurised,” he said turning his smile widening with my frown. “Doesn’t need electricity,” he added returning to the pan. “You don’t have to carry that around you know,” he said. I looked down at the gun. He was right, at least I hoped. “I took the cuffs off,” he said still looking at the stove. You had your chance and didn’t take it. I heard the words only in my head.
“I know, and I’m sorry I didn’t say thank you,” I said and turned away. “Thank you.” I wasn’t ready to give up the gun just yet.
“It’s okay. Take a seat,” he said turning, nodding towards a small table on the opposite wall of the small kitchen where he’d laid out a single place with a lit candle in the centre. Behind the table were stacks of pizza boxes piled high like a memorial to a single man’s life.
I pulled out the wooden chair and sat, resting the gun on the top to my left with care and he placed a steaming plate of beans piled high on two slices of toast.
“You not eating?” I said, grabbing the knife and fork, not waiting for his answer before I dove in. He sat opposite and watched as I ate, but I enjoyed the food too much to hear his reply. Looking up after my mouth was too full to add any more, I saw him looking on with a question still hanging on his lips.
“I said when did you last eat?”
I thought back to the tastes of food I could remember, the fresh, gamey meats I could smell in my head. The char-grilled BBQ overpowering the tomato sauce and I nearly choked as I forced myself to stop those thoughts, remembering the last meal of a cheese sandwich, Toni’s smile as she offered out the plate.
“Yesterday morning,” I said holding back the cough and I ate the rest of the meal in silence, too distracted to care about my audience, then gulping down the water Ryan offered.
“So are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Ryan said as the last of the water disappeared. I sat back in the chair basking in my full belly, enjoying the stretch of my stomach, trying to ignore the lack of satisfaction, trying to forget I may never feel it again.
“People have different names for it,” I said and watched him stare as if hanging on each word. “Are you a religious man Ryan?”
He smiled and shook his head with a look of confusion on his brow.
“Good, nor me, but don’t tell my parents.”
His smile grew and I enjoyed his white teeth again.
“It’ll make this easy.” His brow grew heavier. “They are what they seem,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “A virus, a plague has taken over the land,” I said as I tried to think of how I would say this on camera. “Reports of a deadly virus are coming out of a secret government research facility in Devon.”
His brow furrowed even further.
“Sources say the plague has infected hundreds of people, if not more,” I said, the words slow as I carefully chose. “Causing symptoms including reanimation from death.” I watched as his mouth dropped wide and he stood, scraping back his chair.
“Oh my god,” he said, pushing his hand to his mouth and I could almost see the colour draining from his face and I made a mental note to tone down the words. “Oh my god,” he said and peered closer. “Oh my god,” he repeated, his eyes getting wider, not able to turn away from me.
I stood, scraping back the chair as he drew in close, my right hand moving to my face afraid I was changing, hairs sprouting out of my chin, teeth ripping through my lips, my left heading to the gun.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.