No-one's chatting anymore.
Considering our situation, generally we were pretty cheerful before. We were on the run, forced out into the wide world by an implacable force, but we were together, and we had a genuine belief that it wouldn't be easy, but we could make it through this.
It seems naive now, but we all thought we'd survive. Funny, that. It got us through a lot. That belief kept our spirits high. The events of Thursday night were, if nothing else, a rude awakening.
Everyone's withdrawn from everyone else. Well, not everyone. Roland's carrying Lianne on his back. Her infection's getting worse again. Every time Roland takes a larger-than-normal step, she murmurs in pain, too weak to scream. Her suffering has really hurt Rachel and Natalie a lot - she's someone they really look up to, almost like a mother figure. Their eyes are puffy and red. I'm pretty sure they've been sharing a tent as well.
Roland and Shannon are doing their best. Trying to be decisive. Trying not to let their own hurt show. They're doing a good job, but not perfect.
Not one of us stopped to help Lianne. Not one of us except Steven. We didn't even notice she had fallen what with the fear and the shock and our heads racked with ache...
Anyway, the reason I'm posting.
So, this morning, I was helping Roland pack his tent away. He's not really the type to talk about his feelings, so I figured I'd try and help him along.
"So, our first death..." I muttered to him gravely.
He stopped folding up the tent pole and looked at me for a moment, then continued packing. His voice was low enough that the others couldn't hear. "I forget you guys don't know."
This caught my attention. I leaned in closer.
"Ever wonder why Shannon's in charge?"
"Erm...it just kinda is that way, isn't it?
"The group started out as just two people. Shannon, and her boyfriend, Richard. They met up with me later, and we ended up travelling together. We picked up Lianne along the way, but Richard and Shannon called the shots."
"I've never heard of Richard before. She's never mentioned him."
Roland shifted uneasily. "Shannon...doesn't like to be reminded of him. We agreed not to talk about him when Steve joined us."
"About six months ago, we were staying in Ireland. Richard's idea. We couldn't keep treading the same ground. We'd found an abandoned house in a little village about twenty miles from Cork. We hunkered down from the night.
That was when Richard decided to go and buy us all a few bottles of beer. It was early night, there'll still be people around. He'd be fine, he told us.
We waited a half-hour, and then we went to look for him.
It was nearly empty outside. Small villages at night aren't exactly bustling, but we saw maybe four people the whole time we were searching.
It didn't matter. The police found him before we did. They questioned us for a long time, asking who he was and whether we had any idea who killed him. We told them we didn't. And something in Shannon died, and never came back."
He sighed. "We found Steve a few weeks later and kept growing. We found Natalie, you, Rachel. But Shannon...you should have seen her before, by comparison. She was sweet, she was kind. She laughed..."
I've only known Shannon as cold and authoritative.
"She's feeling this loss. You can tell. She's pulling back again, like she did when Richard died. She always had pressure on her to - "
He paused. I turned around and saw Shannon standing behind me. I felt my face go white, but she had the same stony expression she's had on near-constantly these days. "I know you're talking about me. I don't are that you are, or what you're saying, but if talking is going to slow you down from packing your shit up, then don't."
And she walked away, leaving us speechless.