Thursday, 8 January 2009 - 6:21 pm


It would be so easy to just stay here.  There are a couple of stores here that haven’t been completely stripped of food and water, and there hasn’t been any sign of other people yet.  We could try to make ourselves comfortable, at least until the food ran out.

Good god, we’re locusts.  A very small, ravenous swarm of locusts.

We can’t stay here; we have to keep moving.  Thorpe asked me a few days ago why we’re carrying on to the hospital and pointed at Nugget.  Now there’s Ben too.  It’s not just clinging to the last guidance of a man named Carter; there are real reasons why we’re picking ourselves up and pushing on.

It feels so much better to have it written down.  I’ve been telling myself this stuff all day.  Trying to convince myself that there is more reason to it than ‘any direction is better than none’.  Trying not to feel guilty and selfish because I’m scared that my arm is healing wrong.  Scared that I’m broken and will never be whole again. 

Yes, I want to get to the hospital for my sake, but it’s not just that.  It’s not.


It took us most of the morning to find another vehicle and get it going.  Without Ben to help me, I had to use Thorpe’s hands, and he’s a snappish kind of assistant.  It took all of my patience and lip-biting not to snap back.  I’m starting to get the hang of releasing steering locks, even with one hand. 

We managed to find an old van and emptied out the plumbing tools so that the injured could be laid out in the back.  There was barely enough room in the street to get up the momentum to start it, and the engine sounds like it’s held together with chewing gum and bits of string, but it did start.

It was slow going – the streets here are as bad as the ones on the north side of the river, all abandoned cars and debris.  It’s hard to tell how much progress we made; the distances on the map are very small.  At this rate I think it’ll be another day or two before we reach our target.


We still haven’t seen much in the way of people around here.  It feels strange, like the whole area is holding its breath and waiting for us to pass.  It’s a relief; the last time we saw people on the south side, they were beating each other with sticks.  And our last encounter with people was hardly cordial.

I keep looking at the cracked windows for faces.  The hairs on the back of my neck are convinced that they’re there, that they resolve when we’re not looking.  I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits, I don’t believe in hauntings.  But this empty shell of a place feels like it’s awake and watching us.  It doesn’t feel empty at all.


If it hadn’t been for the rain, I would have slept in the van rather than in one of those unoccupied not-empty buildings.  But none of us wanted to risk the rain, so we crept into an old café missing its entire frontage.  It was deep enough to shelter from the acid water and the rear doors could be blocked up, and that was all we needed.

I don’t know how I’m ever going to sleep.  I’m sure that the building across from us has eyes in it.

Friday, 9 January 2009 - 4:44 pm

The van

We got trapped in the van today.  We’re still in it now, huddling, while the rain patters down on it.


It used to be such a comforting sound.  That wonderful noise put me to sleep as a child: the delicious rhythm of water on a roof; the rich drip of it off gutters and eaves and the boughs of the tree outside my window. 

I would close my eyes sometimes and listen to the hammering of it, beating at a world that cheerfully wouldn’t submit.  A world that would drink it up and turn it into something green and lush.  And sometimes, just sometimes, when it was hot and heavy out, I would go outside and stand in it.  Let it fall on me, prickling and thick.  And I would dance in it.


Now, it hisses on contact, turning to snakes even on impenetrable metal.  The ribbons of it are faintly green-tinged; I can only tell by watching it slither down the windscreen a few inches from my face.  It makes me tense just listening to it.  It brings to mind the faces I watched melt, how they barely had time to scream before sound was robbed from them.  How they looked at us before the acid took their eyes.

Today, it started without warning.  The first thing we knew, Sax was shouting in pain because he had had an arm propped on the sill of the passenger window and spots on his elbow and forearm were dissolving.  Thorpe was driving and nearly panicked, but we’re in a residential street – no store windows to plough through this time.  He didn’t risk a crash, and I’m glad of that. 

I dread to think what might have happened if he had tried to put us inside a building by sheer force alone.  Broken windows, buckled metal and sprung seams, thrown bodies sprawled everywhere, and the rain seeping in over all of it.  I have a mental image of a crash test dummy bent, bleeding, melting, and bearing all of our faces.


Thorpe took a breath and stopped the van instead.  We rolled all the windows up and double-checked the doors, shut ourselves tightly inside.  It was all we could do, even though it made the van suffocatingly hot.  We would all rather put up with the heat than the acid.

Of course, the van leaks.  The doors at the back are not well sealed (despite this being a plumber’s van), and there’s a crack along one side of the roof that has rusted through.  We have moved everyone away from that side of the van – the rain doesn’t seem to be pooling much, thank goodness.

Ben started to shake when the rain came inside – he was trying so hard not to freak out, but he was almost hyperventilating.  The cab seems waterproof, so we helped him scramble into the front.  He’s calmer now, though he’s still watching the rain with taut horror.  He had a deathgrip on my hand for a while.  His burns are still bright and painful; I wonder if seeing the rain that caused it is making them itch with familiarity.

Sax’s arm isn’t too bad, though it still looks like something slathering chewed on it and tore small, dripping chunks off.  It’s bound up now as best we could make it.  Everyone’s waiting for it the roof to come down on us and wash us away into nothing.  I know that all eyes behind me will be fixed on that place where the rain is coming in and making sickly tracks down the van’s side.

It’s so quiet in here.  I just realised that my typing is the loudest thing in here.  Now I’m all self-conscious about it.  Time to do something else.

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Saturday, 10 January 2009 - 10:59 am

Because I need it

I don’t like the silence.  I don’t like thinking about the far-off noises I can hear, or what is out there in the shadows.  I don’t like thinking about everything that brought me here to this place, cramped up in a rusty van with six stranger-friends, hoping that the rain won’t come back ever again but knowing that it will.  I don’t like thinking about the things I’ve seen, the faces I know I’ll never see again, even the ones I didn’t know that well.


I apologised to Ben when I stopped typing last night.  I should have been trying to distract him, to make him feel better.  It feels so selfish and self-serving, to huddle myself down and focus on something that’s just for me.  To type away my thoughts and my feelings, set it down so that I can make sense of it.

But he said that it was all right.  He was glad that someone was making a record of this.  He said that no-one minded the time I spent doing this, because they understood that it’s my way of coping.  Because I don’t let it get in the way of anything else.  And because they know that it’s not just me in here.  They know that I’m telling their names and their actions too, and one day someone will know that we were here, that we lived, that we were scared and we were brave, that we carried on regardless, that some of us died awfully and some of us died in our sleep.


And he’s right.  I suppose it’s not just for me. 

I might not want to think about all those people we’ve left behind, but a part of me wishes that I could have taken pictures of them.  I wish I could have recorded them all, like I’m writing this down, so that there is a mark of them left in the world.  So that someone might know what happened to us, so that our story might not be forgotten.  So that all of this might mean something.

I feel like, without this, we might slip away into the dirt and water and darkness.  And that’ll be it.  The world will digest us and move on, and it’ll be like we were never here.  It’ll be like it was all for nothing.  And that thought – right now, it’s making my hands tremble.  This has to mean something.  There has to be a point to it all, even if it’s only so that someday someone will make an effort to never let it happen again.


I felt like crying after he told me that.  I couldn’t speak for the weight on my chest.  That time, he held my hand because I needed it.

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Saturday, 10 January 2009 - 6:36 pm


We abandoned the van today.  Not because of the nightmare of spending the night in it – though, trust me, it did not smell good in there by the morning.  Nothing like a crisis to make you familiar with the scents of strangers. 

No, not because of any of that.  We ran out of gas.  Of course, none of the pumps will work without power even if we could get to one, so there’s not much chance to refuel unless we start breaking open other vehicles and siphoning stuff out.  We’re going to save that for when we’re really desperate, I think.  Or at least until we steal a much better van.

I still think of it as stealing.  Is it stealing when the owners don’t care?  When they’re dead?  Probably not.  I can’t help it, though – I have to break into them, so it feels like theft.  I still catch myself looking over my shoulder in case I get caught.

I really should stop doing that.  I keep catching snatches of reflections, or movement behind bright glass.  There’s never anyone there.  I’m starting to think my mind is playing tricks on me and sending spiders down my spine because it thinks it’s funny.  It’s really not.  Stop it now.


We still haven’t seen anyone else.  We decided to walk on until we found a better vehicle, rather than delay and search where we were. 

The going was slow today; the injured are slowing us down.  It’s not their fault and the rest of us know that.  Even Thorpe hasn’t complained at the pace, though the fact that he had to carry Nugget for most of the day might have something to do with that; he wasn’t exactly speedy with that burden.  Hopefully we will reach the hospital tomorrow, for their sakes.


It’s so quiet here – it’s easy not to notice when there’s an engine chugging away. 

There’s no distant engines, no voices behind closed doors, no distant chattering of TVs and radios.  No leaves ruffling in the wind, no bright birdsong, no insects with their annoying buzzing.  There’s not a whisper outside of the sphere of our little group.  There’s not even any wind.  Just the scuff of our shoes, the rasp of fabric as we move, the odd grunt, sometimes a few exchanged words.

Sometimes I talk just to break the silence.  Just to prove that we’re not a part of it, to prove that we’re still alive and beating.  Of course, then I feel horribly conspicuous, like I just sucked all eyes onto me and they’re crawling over my skin.  I feel loud and clumsy.

The world is a held breath, waiting to swallow us.