Saturday, 27 June 2009 - 6:49 pm

The Pride’s fall

Today, there were questions that needed answers. Our guests were quiet all night, and they looked frozen when we let them out this morning. Some of the boys had been through their gear and left it in a heap, having removed any potential weapons. It’s possible they took some other stuff too, but no-one’s willing to say.

We let them warm up near the fire, keeping them well distant from Dillon and Dale. I wasn’t the only one fingering the reassuring weight of a weapon and watching them, though I can’t see Bree as that kind of threat.

I don’t know if her friends were Pride too. The young girl, maybe; she speaks like she knew them. The other two are young men, scrawny and barely able to scuff their chins with hair yet. One of them keeps scratching at a dressing on his arm and coughing, and I think the gold smear on the back of his jacket might have been a Pride tag once. They all look strung out in that hungry, desperate way that means they could beg or bite at any moment. Bree’s the only one I know would never bite; she’s spent her life letting others do the heavy lifting for her.

Even dirtied and torn, she still looks gorgeous. When we were friends, I felt big, clumsy, and unpretty next to her, and now is no different. Damn her, anyway.

Things went quiet as the two groups looked at each other, basked on one side by the fire’s glow. Just two groups right now, us and the intruders; there’s no division between Seekers and Wolverines. I think that’s the only encouraging thing that’s come out of all of this.

I tried to keep track of where everyone was. Thorpe was standing between the injured and Bree’s group, firmly planted at Dale’s feet. Masterson was in front of Sally, looking like murder, but towards the back of our group. The rest of us were ranged in between.

I don’t remember who asked, but the first question that came up was about the Pride. We all want to know what happened to them, if what Bree said yesterday was true. And if it is, we want to know what could possibly have destroyed such a big, powerful group. It concerned all of us; I don’t think the Wolverines ever met them directly, but they had heard the rumours.

She cleared her throat and looked up at us. She was trying not to shiver as the fire warmed her and I tried not to feel sorry for her. Both of us failed.

“It’s hard to know where to start. Everything was fine until people started getting sick.”

There was a grumble from the back of the group – I suspect Masterson was behind it – in response to the notion that ‘everything was fine’. We all knew that when things were fine for the Pride, they were awful for anyone else.

No-one actually spoke, so she continued, “It took us one by one. It didn’t matter what we did, people just kept getting ill. They even–” She hesitated and looked sideways at the girl. The teen was hugging her legs to her chest and buried her face against her knees. No-one had to translate the expression of bad memories. Bree’s voice took on a note I’d never heard from her before: bleakness. “They started killing the sick ones. Leaving them behind, so the rest of us wouldn’t get it.”

She looked up and met my eyes. “It didn’t work. None of it worked.” Those words felt like a stab in the gut. Sax, the Wolverine boys, Alice, the Rats. All those we knew that we had hoped would get better and didn’t. I swallowed.

“Eventually there were only two of us left who hadn’t got it.” She nodded to her little friend. “Steve hadn’t been initiated, he wasn’t even one of them.” That was the boy who keeps scratching at his arm. “And we didn’t meet Phil until after.” The fourth member of their uncomfortable band looked like he would rather not be here at all.

There was a brief silence that no-one wanted to fill. Conroy broke first. “They all died?”

Bree nodded and Masterson spoke up, loud enough to hear this time. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people.” I wish I could disagree with him.

Bree’s expression faltered and I wondered just how attached to Kingston she had been. Sex is never just sex. I’d have been screaming and shouting by then if it was me, if it was– I don’t want to think about that.

“So what are you doing here?” That was Thorpe.

“The- the dead people, the ones who got sick. They got up and started attacking us. They, they’re….” She stumbled for the first time, honestly at a loss to know how to explain them.

“Zombies,” Conroy supplied.

“We call them ‘shamblers’,” I said. I still prefer that name; it seems less horror-movie and more like something that could feasibly exist.

“There were so many of them. They kept after us, kept killing people. So we’ve been running.” Bree shrugged.

“What about all your weapons and vehicles? What happened to all of that?” Masterson was verbally sticking the knife in, but there was something else there too. As if he was afraid that this was all a ruse and the fully-equipped Pride was about to descend on us at any moment.

I looked at Bree and couldn’t quite believe it. She’s not that good of a liar. Is she? How long was she screwing my boyfriend behind my back before I found out?

Bree looked at Masterson and then at the woman standing behind him. She recognised Sally and dropped her gaze. “There wasn’t anyone left who knew how to start the cars and bikes. And we used up all the ammo trying to fight them off. There’s nothing left.” She shrugged.

I want to believe her, I really do. I just don’t know if I dare. It’s so hard to trust my judgement around her any more.

“What about the rest of the people running through here?” Matt asked. “Where did they all come from?”

“They were everywhere.” Bree was relieved to move onto a different topic. “There’s so many of the… ‘shamblers’, if that’s what you want to call them. I don’t know how it started – suddenly there were people running away from them. It’s been like that for days.”

“Where were you headed?” I put in.

Bree looked at her companions, who were all equally blank. “We were following everyone else. There didn’t seem like an alternative.”

My stomach went cold at that news. They’re all following the group in front, blindly running in a chain that might lead nowhere? I can’t think of anything worse. I feel like there’s a cliff waiting at the end of the road and all of those terrified people are piling off it, unable to see it in time to stop. I want to go and warn them, but I’m not sure that stopping is better than falling at this point.

The rumble of thunder put an end to the argument about what to do with these ex-Pride members. Another storm is descending on us, forcing us to stay where we are for now. On the plus side, it means that the shamblers chasing these people are just as stuck.

The Pride has fallen on us and none of us want them here. There are so many dangers whirling around us, acid and bile in the air. Something’s going to bite soon.