Chapter Twenty Four: Kyle Richards
“I was perfectly awake. Could you not tell from my amazing posture and,” I paused to cough and had a wheezing fit. Blood splattered from my mouth and my throat was dry. I spat it out and carried on, “my amazing posture and my very heroic actions?”
“Stop spluttering! Save your breath. You’re going to need it seeing as we aren’t going into that place anytime soon,” said Aria, pointing judgingly at the warehouse, the safe house.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, think about it numb skull,” she joked, rapping my head with her knuckles lightly. “Whatever it was that scared off those zombies is inside that warehouse, and if you think you’re going to find me anywhere near that thing, that place of doom, then you’re very much mistaken.”
“What do you mean, scared off the zombies? They weren’t scared, they decided not to eat us out of sheer politeness, never kiss on the first date and all that,” I chuckled.
“Hmm. I highly doubt it,” pondered Aria. “Either way, I’m not going anywhere near that place. We can hunt across the town for a building that we can hide in for the night, or, if we can make it, we can get back to the other warehouse. You know, the one that is safe.”
“It isn’t safe though, is it? Martha was kidnapped from there,” I added. Why was I agreeing with her? The Fifth Horseman was obviously a good guy and he was helping us out. I should probably have thought out loud. “Maybe he, I mean, The Fifth Horseman, can help us. Maybe he already has. I bet it was him that got all the zombies to go away, to run away. We’ll owe our lives to him if that is true, which I think it is.”
Aria snorted. “As if. My life belongs to me. The Fifth Horseman can stick his “I care about you and want to protect you” lies where the sun doesn’t shine. We aren’t going into that warehouse and that is final.”
“Really?” I paused and thought it over. “Okay then.” Aria beamed. “You can go to the town and try to find somewhere where the buildings are still standing and not reduced to ash.”
“There is a but involved, isn't there?” Aria asked, getting straight to the point.
I nodded and smiled sadly. “But I’m going into the warehouse. Into the safe house. It's impolite to turn down such good generosity of a stranger. I mean, how often is it that in a disaster, there is a good guy who helps out strong survivors like us? I’ll bet that Jason dying wasn't anything to do with fate and everything to do with choice. He’ll have chosen to stand there and fight, buying what little time we needed to get away to the warehouse, to the safe house, quickly and safely. Martha being kidnapped, well, she gave herself up, didn't she? She handed herself in so that we could live on. We were in the presence of some truly great heroes and I find it sad that nobody will ever appreciate them. Nobody will ever hear this story, our story, because there isn't anything to tell. We don't know what to say, or even that we can say anything about this. When this is all over, there will be nobody left to learn these all important life lessons from friends, from these legacies.”
Aria was crying, tears streaming down her face. “You can’t do this. You have to come with me. If we’re the only two people left alive in this world, we’re going to need to look out for each other. We need each other to survive. We need each other to stop us from going crazy and to keep us sane. We need someone that we can rely on, that we can depend upon to do whatever we need the other to do. We need respect. You need me. I need you. Whatever you do, I do. Whatever I do, you do. It is how it always works. It's how it always has worked. It's how it always will work.”
“The thing is, I can’t promise you anything. I can’t say that I’ll be fine, I can’t say that you’ll be fine. I can’t even say whether either of us will live through this Armageddon,” I said slowly.
“Actually,” said Aria through sobs, “Armageddon is the battle between the forces of good and evil which takes place during the apocalypse. What we’re in now is the apocalypse, not Armageddon. The apocalypse is just the imminent end of the world.”
I spluttered. “Just? You’ve got to be kidding me, right?” I looked at the deadpan look on her face. “Surely you can’t be serious?”
“Don’t call me Shirley,” she said, joking. She wanted to make light of it, for me to change my mind, to say that actually, I wanted to go hunting around town for somewhere to hide. “And I am. Deadly serious.” She finished.
“How can you… Why do we… What is there…” I paused to gather my thoughts. Aria looked at me with big, watering, pleading, puppy-dog eyes. “What are you doing? I need to go to the warehouse. To the safe house. There is something that tells me that I need to go there. If we go there, we’ll face what we need to. What I feel is like an instinct. I don’t know what I have an instinct for, or why, but it's there and I, at least, know this: I can’t ignore it.”
Resigned in some way, Aria nodded. “I understand.” The silence rang in my ears as she paused. Was she going to leave? Was she going to give up on our friendship? I could see by the look in her eyes that she’d given up. I felt my eyes begin to prick.
“So it is now that it ends,” I said sadly, only just managing to hold my composure and a steady voice.
“But only for that idiot The Fifth Horseman,” said Aria slyly. Realisation lifted the veil that Aria had been covered in and freed my vision. Her eyes weren’t filled with resignation for our friendship, only for realising that we were probably going to meet our end here. Knowing that we were going to be together through the whole of this. No matter what. The two musketeers. Somehow it didn’t quite have the same ring to it as the three musketeers, but it would have to do for now. When we got through this, we’d be able to talk it over and arrange something more suitable, but at the moment, I knew it didn’t matter. Such trivial matters never did in reality.
I spluttered. “You mean… You’re coming with me? You aren’t going to run off into the distance towards the ashes that used to be buildings?”
She shook her head. “Even if I disagree with you, I think you’re wrong and if you’re leading us to a certain doom, there is nobody else I’d rather be led by. We’ll die in there. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that there will be a time in there, even if we do get out alive, where we’ll nearly die. I want you to know one thing.” She paused and looked into my eyes.
“I know what you’re going to say,” I said, more confident than I’d ever been before. “I’ve been preparing for this moment for a while, but I never pictured it like this. I want you to know that I love you too.”
Aria blushed slightly and inhaled sharply. “Actually, I was going to say ‘Let's kick some Fifth Horseman backside’ but I guess I can settle for saying I love you.” She smiled while I groaned. Why was I so bad at this? At least she was finding this funny rather than taking it badly. I couldn’t face anything if she thought that I was some loser. Now I could. Now I’d walk into the safe house, show Aria that there wasn’t anything there that could harm us and live on through the apocalypse in relative comfort. Well, better comfort than out here.
“Well. What are we waiting for?” I said, sliding my arm around Aria’s linking her. “Let us get going then. We might as well walk it now. Or we could share your quad bike. Sadly, somehow, I don’t think mine will be of much use again.”
Aria smiled as I picked up my bag, which had fallen, off my shoulders when I’d crashed out and handed it to me. Once I’d put it onto my shoulders, we walked together towards the welcoming, large, metal shutters of the safe house. I remember distinctly my last thought as we walked hand in hand down the road “What could possibly go wrong?”