Saturday, 5 September 2009 - 9:40 pm


Finally, I made it out of the infirmary today. The medic gave me the all-clear from under the cloud he carries around, and handed Matt and I over to a pair of army cutouts.

After reading Matt’s description of the army fellas, I keep picturing them as little frozen toys when no-one’s looking. Trust him to make guys with guns faintly ridiculous.

They escorted us out of the infirmary and into the middle of a courtyard between the wide arms of buildings. Then they told us that we had to split up. The girls’ dorm was on one side, the boys’ on the other.

My stomach went cold. I took Matt’s hand without thinking; he immediately linked his fingers through mine. No way we were going to let them separate us. The worst part was that it meant the other Seekers had already been split up. There was nothing I liked about that.

“I want to see my friends,” I told them. I planted myself where I stood so they couldn’t pull me up.

They tried a few things. Refusing my demand didn’t work, so they offered to take Matt to go fetch them. That didn’t work either. They explained that they’re keeping the sexes apart for safety – not all the time, just most of it.

I guess I understand that – sex is a tricky beast. We’ve seen what it did in the Pride, and the Sharks. That’s why Jersey hid who she was. That’s why, so long ago it seems, I pretended to be with my best friend so that no-one else would bother me. But that didn’t mean that I was happy with not being able to see my friends.

In the end, one of them went to fetch the guys and brought them to us. Matt and I stood in the middle of the courtyard, feeling foolish and nervous, though it’s hard to put my finger on why. It seemed like we were left there forever, watching for the sight of friends’ faces appearing in the midst of the bustle of the place. No-one else bothered us or even breezed close by.

I’ve never been so relieved to see familiar shapes in my life, stomping hurriedly across the acid-scarred concrete. I almost ran to meet them. They all got hugs, even Dan and Thorpe, and Matt wasn’t shy about it either. They looked all right and were more worried about me than anything else. We’re fine, they said. A place to sleep, regular meals – does wonders, I think.

They’d been told that I was resting and it was best to leave me to heal. They hadn’t liked it but they knew Matt was with me; I wasn’t on my own. That’s the only reason they didn’t push until they got to me. Thorpe had a face like thunder anyway; I think he’s been wearing it since we got here and he’s not inclined to let it go yet, even though he knows I’m all right.

They haven’t seen Jersey, but Terry has caught up with his sister and says that the girls are doing okay. I promised I’d make sure of that when I got to the girls’ dorms. Now that I think about it, I realise that, in saying that, I accepted being separated from my friends. It’s funny how these things seep in while you’re not looking.


We were so busy catching up that no-one noticed the General approach, not until he cleared his throat. I would have looked at him, but Thorpe’s unwavering bulk was in the way. I had to move around him so that I could see what was going on.

“I see you’ve all found each other,” he said. I wanted to trust his smile but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s because one of his men put me in the infirmary.

“We’re Seekers,” I told him. “That’s what we do.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dale nodding.

“And now you have, might I have a word?” He meant me, pinning me with a very direct gaze.

I hesitated and a hand fell on my shoulder, from behind. I looked up at Thorpe and then around at Matt. Their expressions said no. “I’ll be all right,” I told them.

I wanted to hear what this man had to say. I wanted to know what we’d found here, now that my headache was easing and I might make sense of it. I wanted to know if the squirl in my belly was justified or just caution holding me back from realising that it was all okay now.

I stepped towards the General, then turned to face my best friend. He was so unhappy, and he’s done so much for me over the past few days. Stayed with me while I was hurt, despite how many times they must have tried to get him to leave. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek, whispering my thanks into his ear, suddenly thick-throated. He means so much to me. But I’d see him again; it wasn’t like it was forever. It would be okay.

Stepping back from him was like tearing a part of myself off. Even telling myself that they’re right here in the compound, it felt like I was losing all of them. I had to paint on a brave smile and hope that the bruise on my face didn’t give me away. I’d see them all soon, I said. Can’t keep me away, even if they try.

Then I looked up at the General and nodded, and we moved away to talk. When I looked back, the pair of cutouts were shepherding my friends back towards the western side of the courtyard, Matt along with them now. It was done; it was too late to turn back. Always stepping forward when everyone else is holding back, that’s me.


Dammit. Someone’s looking around in here – I had to hide in the toilets no-one uses to write this. Better go.