I awoke in the middle of the night, to the sounds of a riot.
Shadows of figures pushing and shoving and beating eachother danced on the wall behind me, their movements looking twisted and demonic with the fire light. People were shouting and swearing and cursing. As I realized what was happening, I couldn't help a sharp intake of breath, sending a lance of agony down the inside of ribcage.
Clenching through it, I hardened my resolve mentally, I pulled myself up using the sides of the walls and nearby sacks of grain as support. Once standing, the pain eased some, enough for me to hobble over to the center of the chaos-ridden shed.
Seeing the three groups, all eyeing one another off I guessed immediately what'd happened. I knew must have hurt, must have been excruciating, for the bitten to hear what John'd said earlier that evening. Too be told that you were being quarantined is hard enough, but coming from someone you'd seen as your equal (or in some cases, inferior) only a fortnight prior must've been impossible. But I didn't think they'd try and use violence to escape it.
Standing on the edge of the firelight, with the backs of one group shadowing me, noone knew I had arrived, so I picked up my shotgun (which I'd been using as a walking stick), flicked off the safety, and fired once upwards blasting a hole in the roof, and bringing a small shower of dead leaves floating down.
Immediate silence. Good
Groups parting to look at me. Better.
Harry and John, tied up and bloodied and bruised in the middle of the circle. Not Good.
No one willing to charge me. Even Better than before.
Judging by the fire in Harry's eyes, they hadn't subdued him by force. They'd jumped him while he was asleep. Smart thinking. I thought with a grin.
Stepping through the crowds over to where my friends lay bound, I looked slowly at the faces within each group. The three groups were to be expected: The first was made up mostly of the people who'd been bitten, with a few non-bitten from the new group mixed in. The Second was composed mostly of people from the new group, not-bitten, and a few from our group who quite obviously weren't willing to fight for either side; and The Third was made up primarily with people from our group.
I was silent for a moment, before moving to kneel and untie my friends. As soon as I moved, we all could feel the tension in the room tighten to yet another degree.
"Don't go doing that now, Jayden." Lawrence spat out from the first group, his bite clearly visible on his arm. Everyone tightened their grip on their weapons. Harry squirmed and struggled against his ropes, making it quite evident he would personally kill (Probably with his bare hands) everyone from the First group.
I didn't want any more death, or violence, or hate. So I stood up, away from my friends. John was watching me underneath two nasty looking black eyes. He nodded slightly, and I could only guess that was him giving me the situation freely.
"What the absolute FUCK, IS GOING ON HERE?!" I asked, my question turning into a bellow. If less anger was pumping through my veins I might have given into the pain and fallen down. But the anger had hit me suddenly, and I was furious that they would dare weaken us further than we already were, that they would attack us in the dark of night, that they would tie us up and beat us black and blue.
Instantly, the yelling came back over, and twenty versions of the story came pouring out. Pointing my shotgun upwards, I blew another hole in the roof, returning the blissful silence and almost divine shower of rotted leave. Bending quickly, I picked up one of Harry's machetes from the floor where it'd been dropped during his struggle against their ropes.
"One at a time. Civilized, yeah?" I scowled at them, and was met with eyes dropping and mumbles of agreement.
"Alright then," I continued. "You first." I pointed at the bitten group, and again Four or Five voices spoke at once. I didn't have to do anything as they caught themselves, muttered under their breath for a moment, then carried on, one at a time.
"You can't lock us up, just like that!"
"We're not animals, we're still people, you know..."
"The bites, they're not even that bad."
"How can we be sure he didn't get something else that made him turn?"
I held my hands up, I knew were they were coming from, I could empathize. Before I could tell them that though, Lawrence stepped forward.
"Come on Jayden. You're reasonable, I know you. You know this is wrong." He gestured to the separate groups. "We can talk about this, right? It's why we didn't tie you up with these two." he nodded towards Harry and John.
If looks could kill, Lawrence would be dead twice.
"Do you think it was an easy decision for John?" I asked quietly. My gaze raising, and voice heightening. "I know he put on a macho attitude, but do you think he did it for kicks?" I was nose to nose with him now. "Do you think I like this?". He started to back away, "Cause it wasn't, he didn't, and I don't. But do you know whats harder?" the anger started to grip into me again. "What's harder is spending every last ounce of effort into keeping someone alive, What's harder is watching that effort and time die, and then kill something it loved, and that loved it."
A different kind of silence took over the room now.
"We weren't going to imprison you..." I shook my head. "We weren't going to lock you up or out like dogs." My voice was starting to break. "We were just going to have someone constantly looking over you incase the worst happened. I'm sorry for not defining that earlier."
I brought the point of the blade around to the second group. "What happened?"
"I don't know, I woke up to shouts and everything."
"John threw a person onto me, thats what woke me up."
"I heard them while they tied Harry down. I think Jake's dead."
"But they're kinda right..."
"It really sounded like you were just going to toss them out."
"I suppose that what you're saying makes more sense."
"I saw Harry kick Jake fair in the head. I swear, I heard the worst cracking noise."
"Took three of them to pin John down."
I held my hands up for silence, this wasn't helping. I turned back around to the Third Group, our guys. I didn't need to ask for an explanation.
"They came out of nowhere. Started kicking and-"
"Things were better without them! Get rid of them!"
"After this we can't trust them..."
"I told you we shouldn't have teamed up with them."
"I think we just just let Harry at them."
I ignored the evil chuckle emitting from a now grinning Harry by the side of my leg. A sudden push of energy from him caught me by surprise, as he tried to propel himself (and John) toward the first group. Fortunately, they ended up in a tangled heap on the ground.
"Next time you've got an issue, talk to us first, and we'll try and work it out." I said, cold and meaningfully toward the newcomers. They started to move to leave, but I had more to say. "And if you ever, ever lay a harmful finger on any of my friends again, I will kill you."
Yet another tense silence took over the crowd. "And, I suggest for the meantime, you put on a watch around your sleeping areas, just incase Harry gets any ideas." Another chuckle, and attempted push forward.
As everyone filed away, I knelt down beside my friends, and quickly removed the tape from their mouths and the bindings tying them down. John pulled himself up, rubbing his wrists.
"Well, thats one way to handle it Jay." he said.
Harry chuckled again.
"Don't kill anyone Harry, please? Not tonight."
He actually laughed this time. "No, I'm not going to kill them. I'm going to find something much, much worse." I handed him back his machete and he smiled genuinely at me, before turning and strolling merrily back to his sleeping kit, whistling a hauntingly cheery tune. I shuddered to think what torturous thoughts must be running through his head.