Tuesday, 26 May 2009 - 6:04 pm


Last night, Ben drew me aside to quietly hand me a bombshell. I didn’t know what to do with it, of course; I still don’t.

He’s been quiet since he came out of his room, withdrawn like he’s been ever since he got sick. I thought it was just because he was ill, but now I’m not so sure.

He had to leave, he said. He had to go find Hugh – his sister’s husband, the one that left her and never came back. He had to find out what happened to him; he had to know why his sister was left alone to despair and die, with his beautiful little nephew. He needed to find some answers.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All this time, all this fighting to stay alive and for him to stay with us, and now that he’s getting better, he wants to leave. I understood his reasons, I could comprehend them, but they sounded false to my ears. My brain was too busy filling up his words with other meanings.

Was it me? Did I do something wrong? (I’d try to make it up to him, whatever it was.) Was he afraid of making us sick? (Because it was way too late by now, if that was likely.) Was he better at all, if he thought that going on his own was safe? (Maybe he better lie down again.) Did he really think that we wouldn’t go with him, if he needed to do this?

No, he said. He couldn’t ask us to come, and it would be safer if he went alone. He’d be able to move faster on his own. Without us.

“I’ll come back, Faith,” he said, putting a chilled hand to my cheek. The gesture grabbed me by the heart and I swallowed painfully, feeling cracks forming. “I know where you’re headed. Once I have this figured out, I’ll catch up.”

Don’t go. I begged him, but he was stone. We need you, we all need you. I need you. Don’t leave me.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ben change his mind about something once it’s made up. The thing is, he always agreed with me before.


I started to cry and he hugged me awkwardly, kissed me on the cheek. I tried for more, in case that might make him stay, but he pulled away and picked up his pack. The crack in my heart widened a little bit further.

Now?” I asked him. “You’re leaving now?”

“Yes. I’ll be back, Faith.” He made me promises I couldn’t absorb while I was wondering how I was ever going to tell the others.

I begged him not to go, pride all shrivelled and forgotten. He looked at me with regret and then left by a back door. The rain had stopped and it was thick darkness outside. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to run after him and drag him back physically; I wanted to scream at him for doing this. It hurt so much I didn’t know how to breathe any more, and the air outside swallowed him, leaving me staring at the black hole of the doorway.


Thorpe found me like that, tears streaming down my cheeks. I don’t know how many times he asked me what was wrong, what had happened, before I heard him. I tried to tell him, I tried to explain, but it all curdled in my throat until all I could throw up were broken phrases and choking sobs. He asked me if Ben was dead, shook me until more words tumbled out. I think he got enough to understand, because he stopped asking.

He was the closest chest, so I buried myself in it. He was awkward about it, but I couldn’t care about that just then. I was useless for anything except seeking comfort, even when the others started trickling in, wondering what was going on. I couldn’t hear what he told them; it was all a blur, swirling around my swell of pain.

Someone touched my hair – I think that was Matt, the gesture felt familiar – and Thorpe handed me off to Sally. She sat with me and held me while I cried myself out, until my eyes were hot and my head felt three sizes too big.

Someone else closed and locked the door behind Ben.


We were supposed to get moving today, but it didn’t happen. Dillon spied the shamblers still in the area from his rooftop vantage point, barely a block away, and we didn’t want to chance a meeting with them. I wish we had been able to go; I wish I had anything to do except sit here and think about this.

I miss him. I don’t understand why he had to go alone.

There’s an ache where he used to be.