The predride (/ˈpɹidɹaɪd/) is a black and white stranger with a drooping snout and small mouth. Its pupils glow in a soft, pulsing manner; this same rhythmic swell is similarly felt when placing one's hand upon the predride's soft skin. Any firm press upon its surface leaves behind an indentation which rises after less than fifteen seconds. Though the predride's body feels warm to the touch, its hands are cool, though as supple in texture as the rest of its skin. The predride's spongy internal flesh is light in color and slimy in consistency, any expressed fluid clotting and acquiring a sweetly acrid smell once contact with the stranger's body ceases.
The predride cannot heal from wounds under normal circumstances, and injuries cause it to develop secondary immune-responsive symptoms, such as sores, rashes, or a recurring sniffle. It thrives in warm conditions, and dies during freezing temperatures.
Unable to speak using linguistic means, the predride instead communicates through lip-smacking and patient grumbles, its vocalizations high in pitch and silvery in tone. It makes a soft, but audible sound of breathing during semi-frequent intervals.
The predride generates within visual range of a sick sensitive, although often at great distance. A sensitive that lays in a windowed room overlooking a city skyline may generate a predride many blocks away, for example. Within this range, the predride fades in first as a fog, which billows and parts as it collects within some pocket of space (such as within a small room, between two barriers, or beneath an overhang), movement slowing as this vapor congeals. With each new swirl, the outline of the predride's body becomes more opaque, until the stranger solidifies in full after up to an hour of this coagulation.
The predride expresses a self-conscious disposition, its every action accompanied by a hesitant discomfort. Though a roaming strain, it pauses before stepping foot into each new area it enters, as though waiting for a nod of approval from some outside source. It tends towards clumsiness, and should the predride stumble or knock over any object within its environment, it feigns embarrassment, holding its head down or looking from side to side, even when unobserved.
The predride is just as likely to be found alone as in a group. Predride that generate in groups tend to stay in groups (forming new groups with other gregarious individuals when separated), while lone predride remain solitary. Groups of predride also tend to be less active than lone individuals, with little to no roaming unless drawn towards a specific attraction.
A predride within a group displays an awkward reticence towards its companions1. Gnawing of a companion's tail-tip is also observed 2, with the targeted individual displaying no response.
The predride seeks out sick sensitives. When the sensitive is outside of visual range, its approach is lackadaisical, with numerous digressions as it stops to stare at bright lights, trace lines between differently-colored tiles, or twiddle its thumbs in moments hesitant inactivity. As it grows closer, however, so too does its path grows more direct.
Upon reaching its destination, the predride observes these infirmed sensitives with great interest, and is fascinated by any evident signs of malaise. It raises its snout in response to sniffling, clenches its hands in excitement upon hearing a cough, and cranes its head to watch as a sensitive blows their nose or clears their throat. It is similarly transfixed by acts of self-care, and watches with rapt attention as a sick sensitive performs nasal irrigation, rubs menthol cream upon the throat and chest, or takes their temperature. Discarded medical supplies draw further attention from the strain, with the predride gathering (and occasionally devouring) tissues, empty pill wrappers, although more foul forms of biological waste are ignored, if not actively avoided. In addition, proximity to sick sensitives causes an injured predride to heal from any wounds it may have obtained, even deep gashes sealing up within the hour, leaving behind no scarring.
The predride follows, to the best of its ability, any command spoken by a sick sensitive3, 4. The predride's presence also appears to have a very calming effect upon a sensitive, though this effect is not strong enough to stave off severe stress/anxiety.
If a sensitive displays aggression towards the predride, it makes no attempt to defend itself, though it does become surreptitiously aggressive, in turn, engaging in such minor acts as biting the tips of the toes or fingers, or lightly gnawing at exposed skin. Though not dangerous, it becomes persistent in these acts, its newfound aggression staved off only by a command from a sick sensitive.
The predride has no interest in either healthy sensitives, and adjusts its path to avoid them. The death of any sensitive (regardless of constitution at the time) within direct visual range of a predride causes the stranger to collapse and die, its corpse becoming pink and swollen, blotchy red marks appearing on the skin before the flesh decays, this visible reaction not occurring under other circumstances.
As the predride ages, it becomes more selective in its attraction to sensitives, preferring, instead, those that suffer from more virulent disease. It similarly becomes more enthusiastic in its responses towards the world, moving towards its goals with a confident march to its step, and following commands with newfound vigor. With this confidence, however, so too does it grow more volatile, even turning against its companions when in a group. This boldness is short-lived, however, for eventually, the predride collapses, its body returning to fog, leaving behind no corpse, and its death doing nothing to either quell or bolster the spread of disease through a city.