I remember sitting in the waiting area of the doctor's office when I was a kid. Even when I was young I read adult magazines and books. I never cared for kids' magazines. My only weakness were those puzzles where two pictures are next to each other, and you have to see what's in the second that isn't in the first. We get a lot of practice doing that, looking at our world now and seeing the changes from the world that was.
Turns out the way to tell the difference between the Hunters and the Exiles is to pay attention to the details, too.
It's something we should have realized before now. The Hunters strike for two reasons: to acquire what others have, or to prevent others from interfering in their activities. They don't act without having a plan, don't risk unnecessarily. The Exiles are running on fury and a thirst for revenge.
Yesterday we learned that lesson again, in the hardest way possible. Out of a group of one hundred and fifty settlers, less than half survived the trip. A mass of Exiles hit them on the road. The assault was at about the best place for it, a tight curve in the road with woods and grass overgrown on each side. The attackers waited until they could open fire and move forward at once, only having to move a few dozen yards to hit their target. Our people.
The worst part wasn't the initial assault. The settlers weren't caught with their pants down by any means. They were ready for a fight. What they couldn't manage was fighting off the Exiles and a group of zombies at the same time. The Exiles must have deliberately gathered a group of the undead and held kept their attention out there in the woods. Because when those bastards rode in amid a hail of gunfire, the hungry forms of New Breed and old school zombies alike came with them.
The death toll doubled because of it. The injured were the first to be torn apart, of course. The smell of fresh blood drives even the New Breed out of control. Makes them lose connection with whatever crude form of logic they've got going. And yeah, it's a thing among most survivors who find themselves in that situation to try to remain cool. The idea is to cut losses and protect those with the greatest chance to live. You don't jump in a swarm when the person being attacked--no, fuck that--the person being eaten alive is going to die for an absolute certainty.
That's the rule. Sometimes it's spoken but most often we allow it to go unsaid.
But when it's your wife, your husband, your kid, the friend who saved your life and who was there for you in every possible way, it's near goddamn impossible to keep your cool. Some of the newcomers died for that very reason, and I'll be straight with you: I can'e feel anything but love for those folks. I'm completely enraged that they were attacked in the first place, but I heard someone in the mess hall talking shit about those who died, saying they would just never have left the group to try and save a person who was certainly dead anyway. I wanted to break that guy's fucking arm. I would have if Dodger hadn't been there to stop me.
I've lost people, had their blood splatter across my face as they died in agony. I've been the man who stopped those last few minutes of misery, which is as much a gift as risking life and well-being for another. It's not weak or stupid to lose sight of what you should do because of what you feel you must do. Logic doesn't enter into it.
If Jess were being attacked, the world would cease to be a place filled with allies and enemies. Whatever tried to stand between us would be removed. The end. When it comes to the woman I love more than anything or anyone on this earth, self-preservation and consequences can go fuck themselves.
I'm in a mood. Forgive me. But I want to take a run at both groups of these fuckers so much right now I'm half tempted to just pack up and leave. See if I can find the Hunters and the Exiles still on the loose myself.
I want to do some damage. Screw this defense bullshit. I want to tear their throats out with my teeth.