Thu, 24 December 2009 - 10:28 pm

Anniversary, part two: bomb

I didn’t realise what today was until midday. Something felt off – I couldn’t put my finger on it, not until I thought back to last night. Before I had my arm tended by Masterson, when I was writing my post, something had struck me. It took me a few minutes of puzzled musing to realise that it was the date.

A year ago today, the world was rocked and torn by a bomb that went off over our heads. We didn’t know what had happened, just that everything was broken and falling. We were too busy struggling to survive to examine anything. Lives fell away like dominos.

It took us months to find out how bad things really were. All the infrastructure is gone, the whole country hit at the same time. Pieces were left, warped to fit into the holes left for them. Acid and poison taint each day for us, stealing every living thing they touch.

Through it all, we haven’t had an enemy to fight. There are lots of options for who might have been responsible for this, but none of them are here. The only people we have to fight are each other. Living and dead. And we have – we’ve fought everyone we’ve had to, for survival. Some have fought for other reasons, but living has always been the Seekers’ motive. Living and not forgetting who we used to be.

That day, a whole year ago, I was terrified and lost. A young boy found me and latched on, the first of a group that grew up out of the rubble. So many were found and lost. I grew to love that young boy like a little brother. Of the group that walked out of the epicentre, only Thorpe, Sally, and I remain. It’s a sobering thought.

My arm was almost broken when the bomb went off. It took months to heal. Now, I have an injured forearm again, caused by a different part of the bomb’s fallout: our unsacred, hungry dead. It’s all connected, circles of causality and returns. I don’t like to think about it; I have to believe that we can break out of this. One day, we’ll be free of what the bomb did to us.

After the rain huddled us inside, I called everyone together. This blog has made me the group’s historian and timekeeper, and I knew that none of the others would know what today is. What it means.

I had to wait a while for everyone to assemble. Masterson came down, with Sally floating oddly behind him. She looked vague, spreading shy smiles around the room and seeming free of the depression that has been weighing on her lately. She settled down next to the doctor while Bree cradled baby Felix. Even Warren was brought to sit with us, his chains clinking uncomfortably.

Finally, only Jonah was missing, because he couldn’t be moved. I stood up and cleared my throat, and the whole room focussed on me. From adult to the kids, everyone was looking at me, everyone except tiny Felix. I tried not to think of Sax. I tried not to think of everyone who had been there in the city with me and hadn’t made it this far.

This was important; I wanted to do it right. I wished I’d made notes, because I didn’t know where to start. Under so many stares, my throat wanted to close up and hide.

“Thank you all for coming,” I said. It seemed like a good place to start. “I don’t think many of us know what the date is any more. The days seem to run together now and it’s so easy to lose track.” I paused and took a breath. It was harder than I had been expecting; my voice trembled. “Today is Christmas Eve.”

I stopped to let the group digest that, to let them realise what it meant. All around the group, expressions became shocked, and bleak, and brimfull of grief. People reached out for each other. I saw Dale put his hand on Thorpe’s wrist, and for once, the big fella didn’t shake him off. Matt’s fingers slipped into my hand and I squeezed them, grateful for the contact. We remember. We remember all of it.

“We all made it this far,” I said, to fill in the silence that sat on all of us. “A whole year. The world fell down around us, and we’ve survived for a whole year. That’s pretty amazing, and I’m grateful for each day, and every one of you.”

I caught sight of Iona’s face and hesitated. She was smiling at me, so brightly, but there were tears streaming down her face. She wasn’t the only one crying, but hers was the only smile shining through it. I had to swallow mine back; I had more to say, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to once the tears started.

I went on to speak about how none of the past year has been easy for us. We’ve had to struggle and fight for everything, from food, to life, to the freedom to make our own choices. We’ve had to work hard to stay true to the people we want to be, and not turn into one of the vicious groups we’ve had to fend off. We’ve sought a way to build our lives again – and it looks like we might have finally found it. On the way, we’ve found friends, and fallen in love, and built a family.

But we lost a lot along the way, too. Pieces of ourselves, left behind in our wake as we made concessions to the After. We lost all those things we thought were essential to our lives: jobs, homes, comfort. And more than any of that: people. Families, friends, enemies. Everyone sitting there with me today had lost someone dear to them.

I’ve been keeping this blog as a record of everything that has passed. This is our history, so that it might not be forgotten. But we still had to remember. We should remember them, even though it hurts. We should honour them and remember what they meant to us.

So we did. The whole group stood and sang through throats thick with tears. We’ve sung Amazing Grace so many times – we all know the words now. It’s still a beautiful sound, laden with our sadness, love, and hope for them.

When it was over, we all sat down. I was still holding Matt’s hand, gripping it tightly. I was afraid to look at him, because I knew that the emotions churning in my chest would break free if I did. I can break down with him, but I didn’t want to just then.

Luckily, Estebar stood up and came over to me. He was wringing his hands, more nervous than I’ve seen him before; he’s usually a quiet, self-possessed little boy.

“Nugget wants to know if we can sing carols,” he said.

It was the silliest question, and it was completely perfect. I laughed and said yes, of course we can. It was the strangest carolling I’ve ever been to, laced with sadness and reflection, and a mix of voices sliding all over the lyrics. Half of us forgot the words to Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer and were giggling by the end of it. Thorpe and Dale missed it – at first, I thought they were off somewhere enjoying themselves, but then they came back with a couple of crates. I don’t know where they got the beer; the foragers must have stashed it one day. I’m pretty sure I know where it all went, though.

Last Christmas Eve, there weren’t any carols. It was all cracked concrete, smoke and dust. It was voices crying out in the darkness, for help and mercy, and for a morning we weren’t sure would come.

One year on, we put those memories in their place. We sang. Out in the greenhouses, the first green shoots are poking up through the earth.

One year on, the damage that was done that day is finally starting to heal.

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