The Seventh Hour(141)

By: Tracey Ward



“Ryan.”

I immediately think of Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles, my favorite movie. He looks nothing like him but the association is made. This, I understand immediately, will make things so much more complicated.

I turn sharply toward the bathroom. “Let’s get you cleaned up. Who knows what germs were in that wolf’s mouth? He could have had infected blood in there.”

Ryan follows me quickly, understanding the risk he’s at. Animals don’t contract the virus but they do carry it. If that wolf took down an infected recently, which he very well might have, he could still have active blood in his mouth. The infected don’t die, not unless you force them to. The virus doesn’t either, making a truly dead zombie almost as dangerous as a mobile one.

I set him up with a couple clean strips of cloth and some alcohol, a tall bottle of Gray Goose vodka I found in a desk in a dentist’s office. That and the handful of toothbrushes I scored were the highlight of my week. I hand the bottle to him then quickly leave the room. He can take care of himself, or so I assume since he’s still alive. Anyone who couldn’t fend for themselves or dress a wound died of starvation or infection years ago.

“So have you always lived here alone?” he calls from my small bathroom. It’s a legit bathroom with a toilet and everything that I use leftover washing water to flush once a day. More than that if things are… well you know.

“Yeah,” I call back, noticing how my voice echoes over the destroyed hardwood floors up into the vaulted ceilings. I don’t usually speak in here. This is already weird. “You in a gang?”

“Yeah. My brother and—hell!” He gags out a curse. I know he just doused his open wound in the alcohol. When he speaks again his voice is a little breathier than before, more strained. “He, uh, he and I joined them when our parents died.”

I nod to myself, not surprised. All of us out in the wild are orphans.

“What about you?” he asks, stepping out of the bathroom as he wraps the cloth around his forearm. He’s fumbling with it, trying to manage it with one hand. He’s failing.

“Here,” I hear myself say. I’m across the huge room and standing in front of him before I realize what I’m doing. I wrap the cloth quickly around the wound, being sure to cover it entirely. Nervous, I tie the ends off a little too tightly, pinching him. He doesn’t make a sound. “There, that should hold.”

“Thanks,” he mutters, taking a step back.

I do the same. “Um, yeah, my parents died when I was eight. On Christmas Day.”

He winces. “Ouch. Mine went just after Easter.”

“When they were talking about a cure?”

“Yeah. They thought it was gonna happen. Kind of let their guard down. Four days after Easter Sunday they were dead and Kevin and I were on our own.”

I nod, not sure what to say. Sorry is a worthless word.

“The holidays suck,” I finally tell him.

He grins. “Yeah, they do.”



END PREVIEW

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