Sat, 14 March 2009 - 2:18 pm

Where her group went

Alice was wary of us last night; she’s still figuring us out. She wasn’t eager to tell us what had happened since we left her on the other side of the river, but a ring of expectant faces can only be denied for so long. And we deserved answers if she was going to stay with us.

Nugget was asleep by then, and Masterson had grumbled off to do something else. He wasn’t interested in hearing about anyone else’s struggles, I think. He wasn’t far away, though – the store we were holed up in was pretty small and the back rooms stank of rotting matter. None of us wanted to know what was decomposing back there; closing the doors kept most of the smell out of the main room, and that was good enough for us.

 

After we had departed in the boat, Alice had gone on to look for supplies for her group. When she had returned with the little she had managed to scrape together, most of her friends were dead. They had been sick when she left, all fevers and coughing and shaking. When they first started to fall ill, she had raided a pharmacy for medicine, but nothing they took seemed to help. The only thing that gave them any relief at all were the sleeping pills, and she’s sure that at least one of the group took too many and slept too quietly for too long.

There were only two left alive by the time she got back to them. They were awake but very weak; they hadn’t even been able to move the bodies into a different room. That had been Alice’s job, grabbing the corpses of her friends and dragging them away from the ones who were still alive. The smell was the main problem, I think; we’ve been in more than one building where someone has passed away, the worst of which was the hospital. I still shudder when I think about that place. She didn’t say much about the bodies, just gazed at the floor between us and moved on.

The sickness took the weakest of them first. The oldest of the group, and the fella who had lost an arm and half a leg to the rain. She was the youngest since the couple with the small children had decided to return to their house and try to wait out the disaster. They didn’t know that there wasn’t any relief coming.

One of her remaining friends slipped away during that first night she was back with them; the kind of ‘slipping away’ that is all about sleeping and not about moving at all. The other one lasted the rest of the next day, drifting into a feverish malaise that left him raving. She didn’t tell us what he raved about, but not because it didn’t matter; the girl has a way of layering her silences with an intense desire to keep certain things to herself. She has a way of not speaking that tells us there is more we don’t know.

For example, there was something missing when she told us that she decided to come and find us. She had had nowhere else to go and no-one else to go to, and I believe that much, but there was something else to her decision. I didn’t press her on it, not there in front of everyone; I think she might be more likely to talk if there are fewer ears resting on her words.

Her parents had died when the first rain fell, along with her little sister (Dillon stiffened when she said that, poor kid). Alice had been inside the local store when it happened, scrounging food, and had rushed out of the back room when they started screaming. I think we all remember what that was like, the hiss and scream, and the sight of bodies melting. The memory made us all quiet for a moment, and I snuck a glance at Thorpe. His face showed nothing of what was going on behind it, but I know he was thinking about Trevor.

We were the only people she knew and trusted in the world, and so she came to find us. Considering the detour we were taking around the Pride, it’s a miracle she came as close to us as she did, but she seems like a smart girl. No-one has raised any kind of protest about her joining us, so I don’t think there’ll be a problem there (Masterson said something nasty about ‘picking up any damn lame duck, she only has half a face, for fuck’s sake’, but I doubt anyone will listen to his opinion on the matter).

Thorpe asked her bluntly if she had the illness that had killed her friends, and she said no. She had been with them most of the time they were sick, but she hadn’t caught whatever was ailing them. She couldn’t say why and our doctor was pretending he couldn’t hear us. When pressed, he said that the last time he examined her, she seemed fine (apart from the acid burn on her face), and did he really have to look at her again? He did, mostly to keep the rest of us quiet, giving her a cursory once-over and then a shrug to say he couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary (apart from the acid burn on her face – he always had to put that in). Alice took it all silently, with knifing glares for Masterson; she’s falling into the pattern of things with us very quickly.

Dillon has been very attentive, and brighter since she came. He’s making sure that she’s all right and answering her questions. Telling her about each of us, I think. He wants her to be all right, and for her to stay with us. I don’t blame him; she seems like a kid who could use a break. I don’t know if we’re better for her than her last group, but hopefully we’ll be better than no group at all.

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