Mon, 29 June 2009 - 9:10 pm

Convoy rolling

Getting a group this size moving is like herding cats. Today, our cat was missing but everyone else sought to make up for it. The gear was still stowed in the vehicles from the day we first saw the flood of rat-people enter the area, but there was still so much more to do before we could actually leave.

On top of everything else, it was so cold this morning that we spoke through the apparition of our own breath, our words suspended on the air before us. We all moved quickly in an effort to get warm; there was much stamping and drubbing of hands over arms and thighs in between moving stuff around.

We were about to shift the injured when Bree’s group emerged from the office. They weren’t oblivious to what was going on – not that we were trying to be subtle about it. Even so, we weren’t expecting the question that came to us.

“We’d like to come with you.” It wasn’t Bree who spoke – it was the boy she had picked up between the Pride and here. The one member of the group unconnected to the bane of the western suburbs. The one we’d be most likely to listen to.

I could feel the group shifting around us. Masterson’s expression darkened immediately and several group members tensed. Ben looked displeased, bearing a dark look I haven’t seen on him before.

 

No-one had the chance to speak before a call came down from on high – Matt was on watch and wanted to show us something. About half of us peeled away from the matter at hand and jogged up the stairs to the roof access to see what was going on. The others stayed behind to keep an eye on things.

Matt didn’t need to point out what he called us up there for. They were like the scum on the tide, riding in sluggishly. They stuttered between the buildings – individual shamblers might slip and fall down, but the mass as a whole continued to press forwards. The inching death that had driven so many people into flight was finally arriving. They were rising towards us, as inexorable as the sand in an hourglass.

It changed things. We left Nugget up on watch with instructions to come down if they got to our block before we were ready. The rest of the packing-up was done in a hurry and the ex-Pride’s request was almost forgotten. Almost, but not quite.

Bree had kept out of the request because she knew she had a spoiled reputation here. But they knew what we had seen – we were talking about it as we came back downstairs – and she was desperate.

“Faith. We need your help. Please.”

Again, her begging didn’t please me the way I had once hoped it would. I looked at her and thought she seemed earnest. I just wasn’t sure that that was enough. Ben came to a stop near my shoulder and turned his attention onto her. I saw her shiver.

“We’re starving and we can’t run from them any more. Please. There must be something you can do. They’ll kill us.” She looked from one of us to the other and back again, then to Matt as he joined us, and Thorpe. I think the only reason she wasn’t crying is that she knew it wouldn’t help her case.

I told her we’d talk about it. After she went away, the others asked me if I was crazy. After everything she’d done to us, everything she’d let happen. Everything she’d done to me. They were right – I didn’t want Bree or her friends with us. We couldn’t trust them and I didn’t want the reminder of all the awful things she’s done to my life. I didn’t want Sally to have to look at her, or for Masterson to finally snap and strangle her.

“We’re not killers,” I told them. It seems like an important thing to hold onto. “We’re not the Pride.”

“So you want to take them in?” Masterson had joined us and decided to weigh in, derisive as ever.

I sighed and rubbed my head. Of course I didn’t want to take them in. We didn’t have time to debate this, though; the shamblers were approaching steadily across the ice-slicked roadways.

Sally, so far silent on the whole issue of Bree and her friends, finally spoke up. “What about the other van?”

I had forgotten about the second campervan. We had managed to get it running long enough to get it to the warehouse, but I haven’t had the chance to work on it since then. I don’t know how long it will run or how well it’ll resist the rain. I mentioned all of this to my group, and then to Bree’s group, and said they were welcome to take it if they wanted to take that chance. But we wouldn’t stop if they broke down, and they didn’t have to follow us. I didn’t say it, but I think it was clear that most of us didn’t want them to follow us at all.

I showed them how to get it started – it felt weird, having Bree watch me for instructions. Always, she’s been in the lead before; I don’t think she’s had to do as she’s told in her life. Maybe the Pride taught her that. I don’t like the notion that they broke her.

 

If they hadn’t turned up, we might have had a similar talk with the Wolverines. With the Pride looming around us, we’ve closed ranks and there hasn’t been any more talk of Wolverines against Seekers. I don’t know how long this will last, but hopefully it’ll be enough to get past the current conditions forcing us onto the road.

The shamblers were moving slow enough that we were ready to go before the wave had reached our block of warehouses. The wounded were loaded into the Seeker campervan and made as comfortable as possible on the beds in the back. That process wasn’t easy for any of us, not for those of us forced to watch or those carrying the injured, and certainly not for Dillon and Dale themselves.

Thorpe had to pick Nugget up, put her into the campervan and lock her inside. She kept calling out the cat’s name, but no-one has seen Jones since last night before we all went to sleep, not even those on watch. We tried to tell her that he’d catch up with us; he always did. She bowed her head miserably and refused to look at anyone when she finally gave up the struggle.

It was a relief to get out onto the road. We put the warehouse in our rearview mirrors and powered south, pushing on until the first spots of rain dotted the windscreen. We had run out of buildings big enough to house us, vehicles and all, so we wound up in a covered car park. That’s where we are now, scrounging enough debris and garbage to make a fire, and hoping that the roof holds the acid off us for the night. Bree and her friends are near us, but they’re keeping to themselves.

The air tastes clearer out here. That might just be me, though.

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