We pick up this week in the serial “Zombies and puppies” as Jaya and Seven rescue Ryan from an abandoned warehouse where he was being held, taken hostage a few days prior by a group of rabids. Led by what our heroine has dubbed “Gladiator”, it is apparent once roaming bands of flesh-eaters are now becoming organized.
I jumped out of the Humvee while Seven, leaping out behind me with as much velocity as 4 paws can grant a 90lb dog, hit the ground running (reconnaissance duty waits for no dog); I walked around the vehicle to open the passenger side door; Ryan, seatbelt still hooked, turned, eyes eerily vacant – “Ryan, look at me!” I slapped him hard across his face. Reeling from the impact, his head bounced against the Humvee’s door frame, “Jesus, Jaya, what the hell!”
“You looked like you were in shock so, ya know, the slap thing is a good attention getter“; the moment hung suspended like a piñata as I watched 6′ of lithe muscle, a mop of brownish hair barely covering his grimace of pain, slowly exit the vehicle and realized how much I’ve taken for granted. Standing on the hardened sand parking lot, seemingly uninjured, Ryan began looking more like the man I knew, eyes sharpening, assessing; an echo of emotion, reverberating in a canyon from another lifetime, whispered and my mind drifted to part of a Longfellow quote – “That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain”.
I quickly dismissed any emotion not pertinent to our situation, “I have a million questions Ryan, so let’s – wait – are you hurt? what the hell happened? who was the gladiator guy? the alpha rabid?…”
Barely 2 miles up the road from a burning warehouse, in the middle of the parking lot of the Tractor Supply Co. on N Central Expressway in McKinney, Texas, soft breeze blowing, Ryan and I stood inches from each other, eyes locked, words for the moment, irrelevant.