Monday, 8 June 2009 - 10:41 pm


Last night was awkward. I didn’t want to talk about what happened and ended up going to bed early.

I think the others talked about it. I’m curious to know what was said, but I’m glad I wasn’t there for it. I huddled in my blankets, trying to warm them up, and told my mind to stop running around on the subject. I was all right. I wasn’t even hurt. But my body was so keyed-up about it that it took forever to unwind. Inside, I was numb; I don’t remember feeling anything at all.

I didn’t fall sleep until after Matt and Dillon came to huddle with me and I finally felt warm. It sounds weird, but there’s nothing sexy about fully-dressed people attempting to share body heat. Everyone was feeling the chill, and by morning we had Nugget and Thorpe buried in with us as well.


When we clambered out of the blankets, pulled on our outer layers and went out to the showroom, we discovered just how bad it had got outside. It had stopped raining sometime in the dark hours, and by the time dawn came around, the world outside was frosted. Ice gleamed fitfully from every surface, coated the vehicles in the yard and the sign out by the road. It spidered in from the edges of the windows and skated over the concrete. The doors broken in the shambler attack had leaked under the recent downpour, and there was a skin of ice across part of the showroom floor.

The weirdest part was the reflected orange light, as if everything had been soiled. I’ve never seen a real frost like that – it doesn’t get that cold here, not ever, not even in the depth of winter. But even to me it didn’t feel right; I wanted it to be white, pristine and shining. Not this dirty, ruddy approximation of how winter’s touch should look.

Our breath steamed in front of our faces as we stopped and looked at each other. I could feel it snapping at my nose and cheeks. I shivered and hugged myself, and we were all wondering what we were supposed to do next. We certainly couldn’t get out of here in that; it’d take us ages just to chip the ice off the vehicles, and I didn’t want to think about starting them in those conditions.


Then the Wolverines stumbled out from where they’re bedded down. They looked particularly drawn and grumpy. At first I wondered if it was because of what happened yesterday, but only Kirk spared me a glare.

His face looks awful. They’ve barely dressed the cut and it makes my stomach twist every time I see it. There’s a part of me that can’t believe that I did that to someone, not even someone who tried to attack me. I’ve been in fights before, I’ve hurt people before, but I’ve never used a knife. And I’ve never had to look at the aftermath of it.

I think it was the cold that was making them snappish. They wouldn’t say and we didn’t care enough to ask outright. Oil and water, that’s us, though I couldn’t say which was which. I supposed we’re the oil; if anyone has acid in them, it’s them. Perhaps that’s just me being mean, though.


No-one really knew what to do today. The ice melted sluggishly as the day wore on and the orange globe in the sky struggled higher. It was hard to think about going out – if things weren’t slick with ice, they were wet with the melt. No-one really wanted to find out how much the acid bit at low temperatures. It was tempting to wonder if it could be clean, but that seems like magic and we weren’t willing to test it.

So we were cooped up for most of another day. The two groups kept to themselves by mutual consent until the ice was all gone and it seemed safe to go out. A small group went in search of blankets and warm clothes; we all know that this winter is only going to get worse. They didn’t find much, but enough to make a difference – we’ll sleep warmer tonight.


It wasn’t until the rain started again that I remembered what I had been looking for when Kirk caught up with me yesterday. The memory made my throat close and my hands shake, but I was determined that he wasn’t going to stop me from doing this. It seems more important than ever now. I’m not foolish enough to try to go on my own again, though.

It’s late enough now; the Wolverines should have settled down for the night. We should try now, I think.

It’s time to tell the boys that I think I know where to find a gun.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009 - 6:31 pm

Concealed weapon

I had forgotten about Dad’s rifle until a couple of days ago. I can’t remember what made me think of it, but all of a sudden there it was, pinging at the forefront of my brain. And here we were, within yards of it.

I haven’t seen it in years. Dad used to go shooting with a friend of his on alternate weekends; my mother frowned on it, but he kept it at the house anyway. Then someone tried to rob the car yard, broke into the garage to steal parts and tools while Dad and a couple of salespeople were still in the buildings. They turned on the lights and scared off the would-be thieves, and after that, Dad kept the rifle in his office. Just in case they came back. Just in case someone worse came back. I think it made the girls feel safer, knowing it was there.

I’ve been in his office a thousand times and had never seen it. I don’t know if he was licenced to keep it here, but either way, he hid it well. I told Thorpe and Matt about it and they agreed to help me, flashlights at the ready. One thing we all agreed on without breathing a word: the Wolverines must never know about it. No-one wanted a weapon like that in their hands.

So we snuck down to the office late last night after the groups fell quiet, keeping our beams of light down and subtle. We looked in every cupboard we could find, on top of cabinets and underneath the desk. Every long, narrow space that might house a rifle was checked. Nothing.

Maybe Dad had been here. Maybe he had visited and collected it – that would make sense. If he had come here, he wouldn’t have left it behind. But there was no way for me to know if that was what had happened.

I sighed and looked over the room one last time, and the single foil decoration dangling from the ceiling over the desk caught my eye. Its tether was caught in the gap between ceiling tiles and remembered how Dad hadn’t wanted me to put it up there. Matt pointed his light up to where I was looking and gave me a crooked smile.

“You think he hid it up there?”

“It’d be just like him. Who’d look there?”

Thorpe looked at us, then at the ceiling, and stepped onto the desk. He lifted the ceiling tile easily – I would have struggled to reach, just like I did when I put the little foil tree up there. I had nearly tumbled right off the desk. Thorpe had no such problems, reaching into the dark cavity and feeling around. I tried not to think about what else might be lurking in there.

He coughed in the dust and turned to hand down a long, narrow object in a leather case. I took it and lay it on the desk; I didn’t need to open it to know what was inside. The weight was familiar; Dad taught me how to carry it, how to hold it, even how to fire it once. I remember it seeming bigger and more unwieldy than it is now, but I was only a kid at the time. Couldn’t have been more than nine or ten years old, just before my mother decided that I should be doing girlier things. Dad was disappointed, but he knew better than to fight her on stuff like that.

Thorpe fumbled around until he had found a couple of boxes of ammo and was satisfied that we had everything hidden up there. Then he slid the ceiling tile back into place, neat as you like, and hopped down.

We all looked at the weapon in its dusty case and the sad-looking boxes. Do we hide it? Yes. I wasn’t even sure I wanted Masterson to know about it. Who gets to carry it? Whoever has a pack big enough to take it. Thorpe is the obvious choice; everyone’s wary of him and his pack is probably the safest. It’s ironic that our best defence requires the most careful protection. Are we ready to do this? Well, we couldn’t stay there all night and we’d be foolish to leave it behind. We had to adapt to the world we were in, and that meant arming ourselves as best we can.

I couldn’t help but think of the Pride, and of Matt’s leg with the healing bullet-hole in it. I wondered if looking at the rifle made the wound itch. I reached for his hand, just in case, and he gave me a surprised look. Whatever he was thinking, it wasn’t the same as what was on my mind. He smiled anyway and slipped an arm around my shoulders.

So it was decided, and we snuck back to our back room with no-one the wiser. Matt and I packed away the ammo while Thorpe took the rifle itself. It seemed sensible that way. Then we all piled in under the blankets to warm ourselves into sleep.


The ice had snuck over the windows and cars again today, creeping in across the floor until midday. We packed the roofracks of the vehicles with the cans of fuel and spare tyres, lashed them down and covered them with tarp. Getting ready for when we can’t put off the departure any more.

Dad didn’t come here in the time After the bomb. I don’t know what to think about that. He went somewhere when he left the house – all I need to do is figure out where. In the meantime, we have his rifle to keep us safe.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009 - 6:43 pm

The Seeker way

We’ve been keeping largely separate from the Wolverines over the past couple of days. I was afraid of the fallout from the incident with Kirk spilling over onto my friends and we haven’t been able to go out much anyway.

It hasn’t stopped there being glares pointed in our direction, though mostly just from Kirk himself. Jersey joins in sometimes, but I think that’s mostly to stay on Kirk’s good side. Conroy looks wary of me now – which I can’t bring myself to be upset about – and Dale keeps to himself as much as ever.


Today, the Wolverines were more morose and withdrawn than ever. I wondered with a spike of fear if they had decided to do something, to retaliate in some fashion. The only reason there hadn’t been any kind of big fight between us all is that neither group wants to start a fight of that size. There’s no telling who would win.

It wasn’t Kirk that had made the Wolverines quiet, though. When I found out what was going on, I felt sorry for them.

Their friends were gone, slipped away between the Sickness, their injuries, and probably the cold too. Their shells were still here, but they were gone. They had been found this morning, empty.

We offered our sympathies. We knew how that felt. There was a nasty voice in the back of my head that wondered if they cared, these Wolverines. It’s not like me to think like that.

They have talked about their fallen ones before – I remember Jersey mentioning how Rico was always good at fighting off the shamblers. Their best and, from what Jersey said, their leader before he got sick. Sean was good at finding supplies, someone else mentioned. They haven’t said much else about him.

I think they’ll be missed. I wish I had been able to know them. I want to ask for their stories, to record a little of something about them, but now isn’t the best time. They’re still a fresh wound.


After the rain came today and the supply-searchers had returned, I asked for everyone to come together. I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t just brush the bodies under the carpet and walk on. Maybe it was guilt, because I didn’t feel more for their loss than I did and I was largely responsible for the tensions keeping the two groups apart.

Whatever the reason, it was one compromise that I wasn’t willing to make.

I didn’t know the dead men, so there wasn’t anything to say. I didn’t think the Wolverines would say anything even if they wanted to, and I didn’t know how to ask them. Instead, I took inspiration from Sax and sang for them. Amazing Grace, my favourite hymn and the only one I know most of the words for. I told them that this is what we do when we lose someone and just started singing.

I’m no solid-voiced Sax, so it got off to a shaky start. Matt and Sally joined in first, then the rest of the Seekers. Even Nugget’s lips were moving, though I’m not sure if she was making any noise. Dale was the first Wolverine to sing with us, and by the end, only Kirk wasn’t even pretending to join in. He glared at me, refusing mostly because I was the one to start it. I didn’t care; that was his choice.

I thought about Sax as we sang. I wondered where he was now and if there was a scrap of him left inside. I wondered if he would recognise our voices, our song. I thought about Ben and the hole he left when he walked away. I wondered if I’d ever see him again, and if he might be dead already. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what happened to him. I thought about my dad and tried not to wonder too much about where he is now.

It felt good, filling the showroom with our voices, making it brimful of us in a rough harmony. As if our song could chase away the shadows lengthening across the floor and the monsters that lurked in the oncoming dark. It felt like we weren’t hiding any more, like we were shouting to the world, here we are. We remember, we live, we are.

Even after we finished, the sound seemed to hang in the air as if the walls might hold onto it for a while. That felt right, too.

Thursday, 11 June 2009 - 6:36 pm


The cold snap is still crackling ice at us in the mornings and we’re having trouble deciding what to do about it. There’s no way for us to know if it’s going to be like this all winter, or if it’s just a passing weather system. Chances are, it’s going to get worse and worse. The thick cloud cover is already struggling to chase it away.

The Wolverines aren’t eager to leave and take our chances out in the city. They’re comfortable here and we have enough supplies to see us through for a while. We all know that we’re safest together and no-one is willing to break that. Not yet.

Most of us are focussing on making sure we have everything ready to go – most of us Seekers, anyway. The vehicles have been overhauled to within an inch of their lives; I’ve run out of things I can do to them. We’ve packed them on top and inside with as much fuel as we have cans to hold, along with spare parts and tools. That just leaves equipment to keep us warm and alive.


I got out of the yard today, joining the foray into the surrounding buildings for supplies. It was good to stretch my legs and get away from Kirk’s poisonous looks. And, if I’m honest, the reminder of his healing face. I still get a little shock and thud under my ribs when I see it. I did that.

Sally was with us – the supply-searchers tend to travel in a group now rather than pairs, in case of shambler trouble – and I got the chance to talk to her a bit. She’s never very forthcoming, but she’s still a friend. Sometimes it’s good to chat with another girl, someone who understands, and lately she’s been warmer than usual towards me. I think it’s because of Kirk but I don’t want to ask.

I asked about the baby and how Masterson was taking it when we were out of earshot of the others. She said that she was okay – her usual brush-off response, but with more feeling this time. She’s not comfortable with the subject so I didn’t press her on it, and after a few minutes of searching through someone’s wardrobe, she said, “He hugs me at night, really tight. As if he’s afraid I might slip away while he’s asleep.”

She didn’t say any more about it, just gave me a smile and kept on with the work at hand. I think part of why she comes out on these forays for supplies is to get out from under his thumb – he’s attentive to the point of being suffocating, always near her, always watching, always telling her what to do. She doesn’t complain, of course, and I can’t tell if she likes it or not. Her little smile gives her away, though; there’s a part of her that likes mattering so much to someone.

They’re the only part of the group that hasn’t come to share blankets with the rest of us. I don’t think Masterson will let her; he doesn’t want to get too close to any of us and he doesn’t want to share her either. He’s already grumpy enough about being so close to her. I remember his broken words about the family he lost to the rain and wonder if that part of him will truly heal, even with a new child to salve it.

She asked about me and Matt, if we really were just pretending. It was hard to know what to say. Of course we were; we’ve known each other forever and we’ve never been that way. It’s so hard to explain without sounding lame.

And besides, Ben’s coming back. He promised. He could be lying dead somewhere, torn to pieces, eaten or melted down to just boots and belt buckle, but I can’t believe that. He promised he would come back. How long should I wait for him? How long does it take to give up hope?

I don’t think I’m going to let anyone leave now. They all have to stay so that I know where they are. I’m so sick of people being missing, just missing, and having no idea if they’re even breathing any more.

I had no idea that I’d said all that out loud until Sally came over and patted my shoulder. “Yeah,” she said. I don’t think she gets just how crazy it makes me, but she understands. I asked her if there was anyone she was looking for, someone she missed and wondered about too, but she just shrugged and shook her head.

So many barriers there. So many fences around the soft centre of her, propped up one against the other in an attempt to protect. I don’t blame her, but it makes me sad to think about how she came to defend herself so desperately. I think those defenses have been up since long Before the bomb went off; she has been amongst the worst of people for a long time. If that’s how she handles things, I won’t try to change her.

Maybe it’s a skill I need to develop. I don’t think I’m doing a good job of handling things lately.

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Friday, 12 June 2009 - 6:02 pm

Talk back

Tonight, our radio chirped.

We’ve been carrying the radio for weeks now, stolen from a boat and fixed up by Sax. Whenever there was a spare car battery to power it, we’ve scanned the frequencies for signs of life. It was something to do in the hours when it was raining and it was too early to sleep. I think we’ve all taken a turn at least once, poking at the dials and listening to the crackle, straining our ears for a trace of order behind the chaos of white noise.

The Wolverines thought we were crazy when they first saw it. Clinging to the shard of the world we’ve lost, desperately hoping for that technological contact with someone else. Maybe it is a little nuts, but we can’t be the only ones. We send out our messages in the hope that there’s someone out there doing the same thing.

“Hello, is anyone listening? We’re survivors, we’re the Seekers. If you can hear this, please talk back.”


I think we’d all given up hope of ever hearing a response. The searches had become rote, almost cursory. People started to add their own twists to the message, started telling jokes to the imaginary audience and refusing to give the punchline unless they answered. Even Masterson joined in, but never in a serious way. I don’t think he wanted to hear anything on the radio.

So, of course, he was the one fiddling with it when the chirp came through. Scanning through the frequencies, going, “Blip blip blip. Blip blip blip?” Like a bored kid with a plastic telephone.

I don’t know what the chirp was; I was in a different room. Nugget ran in and tugged on my sleeve, then on Matt’s, and ran out again. She was fetching everyone, and by the time we emerged to see what was going on, Masterson was in full denial mode.

“…don’t know what it was! It just sounded like something. It was probably just the radio… burping.” He was standing and backing away from the machine, hands held up as if he was afraid to touch it again.

Dillon was kneeling next to it, head cocked over the speaker, fingertips carefully toying with the dials. He looked up at me and shrugged, shaking his head; he couldn’t hear anything.

“Try sending a message,” I told him, ignoring the others and their demands to know what Masterson had actually heard.

“Hello, this is the Seekers. Is anyone out there? Anyone, hello?”

Everyone stopped talking to listen. I don’t think I was the only one holding my breath. The radio crackled, and crackled, and then burbled something incomprehensible.

“See?” Masterson demanded while the rest of us broke into grins.

It couldn’t be anything but good news, a sign of life, a sign of someone else out there trying to reach out. There was backpatting and excitement, and Dillon looked like a deer in headlights until I gestured for him to answer. He was nervous but puffed up with the responsibility.

“Hello, we can’t quite hear you. Can you send again? …over?”

We quietened to listen, but Dillon had to repeat himself three times before we heard any kind of answer. Again, it was garbled so badly we couldn’t make out words, but we were sure that it was a voice. A person trying to speak to us.

We kept trying, and wound up draining the battery it was hooked up to. Rather than suck another one dry, we decided to try for a better aerial and position before we send the call out again. That might help clear up the signal. It’s a job for tomorrow.

There’s someone else out there with power and a radio. They might be no better off than we are, but they’re reaching out. They’re trying to search for something better. Maybe it’s someone at the Emergency Control Centre, that place we’re heading towards whenever we can. Maybe they’re not all we hope they are, but we are still going to try to find them.

Cross our fingers for tomorrow and a better signal.

Saturday, 13 June 2009 - 7:51 pm


The boys tried all day to get the signal back on the radio. They took it up to the roof and tried all kinds of ways to extend the aerial. I’m not sure I want to know the details of what they did – I have visions of Dillon standing on Thorpe’s shoulders on the edge of the roof, holding up a thread of wire. Even a couple of the Wolverines got involved after they heard about the signal.

They didn’t have any luck. There was a whisper of something a couple of times, but it was just as unintelligible as yesterday. I told them not to drain any more batteries; none of us know enough about how to make a better aerial. Maybe our travels would bring us to somewhere that would give us clearer access to the signal.


Travels. We’re not travelling anywhere; we’re still here at the car yard. The Wolverines are still refusing to leave, blaming the ice and claiming that we’re comfortable here.

It reminds me of something my mother used to say. She hated the car yard: she said that after Dad got it, that was it for him. He came here every day, he did his work, he went home, and he was happy with that. She was a climber; she wanted more, always had an eye on the next step. When Chastity and I were kids, it was our next steps she was all caught up in. She always wanted us to be doing better than we were. When we started to do our own thing and think about leaving home, she got on Dad’s back more and more.

That’s probably why she left. Her big hope for something big and bright died with my sister, and I don’t think she could face fighting for another one. Those last months weren’t good for any of us, and not just because we missed Chastity. It was a relief when she packed up and drove away. I feel awful saying it like that, but it was. For all of us, I think.

And now here I am, stuck in the car yard, in a much more literal sense than Dad ever was. He never wanted more than this, but I do. The radio is taunting us with shadows in its white noise. There’s more out there and I have to know what it is. I know I’m not alone in feeling this; some of the others are as restless as I am. Dillon has his family to get to. There’s the promise of organised help. There’s so much more and I’m sure it’s better than what we have now.

I never thought I’d agree with my mother, but I do. I want more. I want to go places.

But unlike her, I won’t go on my own.

Sunday, 14 June 2009 - 6:07 pm


The shamblers came again, and this time, the rainfall was too far off to offer the hope of a solution to the attack.

The first thing we saw were people fleeing, live people, running as if their lives depended on it, which they did. One of them was bleeding badly – one dark side of her shirt glistened wetly. They were bare-headed and coatless, chased out of wherever they had been holed up before they could dress properly against the cold.

They didn’t notice us, not even when we started shouting and banging on the glass. A couple of the others ran outside, but the runners had passed by before we could get out there to call after them. The Wolverines asked if we were crazy, encouraging them to lead the shamblers right to us.

“What, you mean like you did?” Masterson said. I had to hide my smile; for once, I agreed with him.


Straggling along like they always do, the dogged pursuers came into sight. They were quite focussed on heading down the street, following the blood trail of their quarry like blind dogs.

Then they smelled us. A few peeled off the tortoise-paced chase and started across the yard. The ground was still slick with the melting ice and some of them slipped and fell down. Most of us laughed, Wolverines and Seekers alike.

There was something hilarious about it. So dangerous, and so ridiculous at the same time. They were a horror movie spoof, Zombies On Ice, Bambi in bad makeup. I think if I had laughed, it would have turned into hysteria.

“The doors, block up the doors,” I said instead. As amusing as they might look out there, they’d be much less funny inside.

To their credit, everyone helped without complaining: wedging furniture up against the doors; weighing it all down with every heavy thing we could find; sending the kids out of the way, just in case. No-one could forget that this was why we put up with each other in the first place.

Thorpe raised an eyebrow at me and I shook my head; we both agreed that the gun wouldn’t help us here, not with this enemy. Blunt objects applied directly to the head seemed to work best and we didn’t know (or trust) anyone who could shoot.

Then all there was to do was watch them come and be ready to put our shoulders to the barricades in case they slipped. I think my heart was trying to break my ribs in its efforts to get out of there.


It all went well at first. The barricades held, even as more of the shamblers pulled off the road and wandered over to help lean against them. From inside, there wasn’t much we could do but watch.

Then they started to find holes. They started to batter and worm their way in, and everything went to hell. I don’t know what happened – one minute the barricades were barely letting them squeak in and we could pick them off one at a time, and then they were everywhere.

I turned around and there was one baring its stained teeth, leaning towards me. I shouted for help and tried to hold it off. I think it was Thorpe that hit it first – I remember a flurry of movement and the spatter of cool blood, and then it dropped to the floor. There were too many to notice details, and a lot of panicking voices.

It took me a while to realise that I couldn’t see any of the Wolverines. My stomach fell out of me as I realised that they’d left us alone in here with these things, abandoned our truce when we needed them most. It was down to us.


They hadn’t fled. I spotted them lurking near a side door, pushing something into the room. It was a tall stack of old, heavy wheel rims, and they were pushing it towards a clump of incoming shamblers. They were getting it ready to tip over, to crush the attackers, but I shouted at them to stop. They were too close to the windows and one of the barricades.

They didn’t stop. I know they heard me – a couple of them looked over – but they didn’t stop. They shoved their stack over, toppling it onto the unwary dead, crushing skulls and limbs indiscriminately.

There was an almighty crash as the window gave way, showering shards down onto those pressing outside. The forerunners fell over, and those behind didn’t hesitate in clambering over the top of them to get inside. To get to us.

The falling stack hit the side of one of the barricade, making the already-unstable conglomeration of shelves and tyres shift. With more shamblers adding their weight to that side of it, the barricade groaned and a part of it gave way, spilling itself onto the floor. A couple of our attackers were caught in it – the Wolverines, watching, cheered at the sight of it – but Dillon was over there. I heard him scream as he went down.

I ran for him, scrambling over the spilt rims and pieces of ruined barricade, and had to lay into one of the fallen shamblers on the way. It was down but not out, and latched onto my ankle as I tried to get past it. I don’t like how used to smacking skulls I have become, but I didn’t even think about it. I hit it until it let go and then pushed on to where I saw Dillon last.

I had to pull a tyre off him. He was ashen under there but glad to see me. He couldn’t get up – one of the metal shelving units had fallen onto his legs – and from the look of him, he was in a lot of pain. Stay there, I told him. Don’t move. I couldn’t get him out right then; there were too many shamblers coming in through the broken window.

The Wolverines were whooping and bouncing around – I could see them out of the corner of my eye as I tried to keep the attackers away from Dillon. I called for help and saw a couple of Seekers already making their way towards us. I caught sight of Kirk looking over at me and he smiled to himself when an undead hand grabbed hold of my arm.

This was no accident, I thought. This is him getting back at me for fighting him off. This mess, all of it, he did it on purpose. He could have killed us all.

I went cold inside as I tried to twist out of the shambler’s grip. The hand tightened, trying to draw me close enough to devour, and fingertips dug into my upper arm. When I tried to pull free, it tore deep scores down my arm. I beat it off as best I could with only one hand, but it didn’t let go until the others arrived. Matt first, then Thorpe, Masterson and Sally.

Dillon screamed again as a shambler climbed onto the shelves pinning him down, the extra weight pressing on him. We got rid of the damned thing, then Thorpe lifted the shelves up to give me space to pull Dillon free. He was so pale and his legs didn’t look right.


I hear him now. I have to go.

Monday, 15 June 2009 - 8:17 pm


Where did I get to? Things have been happening so fast lately that I hardly know where I am.


With Dillon injured and unable to get up, the Seekers gathered around him to fight off the wave coming in through the empty windowframe. They just kept coming and coming.

I looked across the showroom floor, and there was Kirk, grinning cockily. Dale was crying out for help but Kirk was taking his time, walking around his friend to get a clean swipe at the shambler chewing on him.

Kirk never saw the pair moving up behind him. I shouted at him but he didn’t even glance in my direction, focussed on his target. One minute he was lifting a crescent wrench to take aim, and the next there were hands all over him, pulling him towards hungry mouths. Then there were so many people screaming that it was hard to hear anything.

They had hold of his arms and there was no-one close enough to help him. He couldn’t pull free on his own, not grabbed like that. There was snapping and a lot of blood, and then I didn’t watch any more. Conroy managed to get over to help Dale but they didn’t get to Kirk in time. I remember catching sight of his legs sticking out from the back room, one foot twitching.


The mess attracted the other shamblers in the room. Maybe it was the hot blood hitting the air and spreading all over the floor. Whatever the reason, we suddenly had a reprieve as the staggering attackers shifted towards him.

“We have to get out of here.” I’m not sure who said it. It might even have been me. There were no verbal answers, just a general air of agreement, this was not a place any of us wanted to be any more.

It was an effort to pull my attention around to what needed to be done. I took Sally and ran out to the yard, dodging the shamblers still making their way across the slick footing towards the violated showroom. We started one of our prepared trucks and she backed it up to the shattered window, blocking the portal. The others managed to get the gear thrown into the back while I struggled to start a second engine on my own. I nearly ran it into a wall, but the brakes bit in just in time.

There was no order to it. Just fill up the back of an offroader with whatever packs came to hand, move it out of the way, and do the same with the next one. We ran over the shamblers that got in the way, though that didn’t always stop them. My body didn’t know what to do first – it was a fight between a stomach that wanted to throw up, a heart that wanted out of my chest, and skin that was desperate to crawl off and hide.

Finally all the engines were started, the gear was all piled into vehicles, and we just had to get the injured in too. Dillon screamed when Thorpe picked him up, and again when he was laid on a back seat. Dale had to be helped into the back of another offroader. We were all covered in someone’s blood.

Finally everyone was in a vehicle – even Nugget with a wide-eyed Jones clutched to her chest – and we took off. Shamblers crunched under our tyres and we slid on the mess of blood and ice, but we were all determined to get the hell out of there in the pieces we had left.


We drove for a couple of hours after we saw the last of the zombies. I don’t know how we all stayed together – somehow I ended up in front and the others followed.

Zombies. That term doesn’t seem funny any more, not even a little bit.

We found ourselves in an industrial area and set about looking for a warehouse we could close up for the night. Something we could make secure, though I don’t think any of us will feel secure again. We found one eventually – big enough that we could all drive in and with roller doors we could close after us.

Then there were injuries to deal with. Most of us were torn or bitten somewhere. Masterson was hurt, so I helped him first; then he got to work on patching everyone else up. We barely had enough bandages to deal with it all.

I have four long scores down my upper arm where that shambler grabbed me that felt they were filled with hot lead. It was worse when it was washed with antiseptic – I thought my arm would burn right through and come off. When it was finished, I could barely see and was shaking all over. I can’t believe that Matt had this every day on the bulletwound in his leg.

And then there was Dillon. One leg was broken by the shelves that fell on him, snapped clean through, the doctor said. We scrounged around for something to splint his leg and tore up blankets to lash it all together. The Wolverines gave us a bottle of vodka and we got him drunk before Masterson set the leg. I held onto him and he screamed so loudly. At some point in it all he passed out; I didn’t even realise until someone told me that it was over and to put him down.

We’re all putting up with pain at the moment. I never thought I’d want two small pills so much in my life, just a little relief. The kid has it worse than any of us, and we haven’t tried to move him since his leg was set. He only cries when he thinks no-one will see.

I’ve spent as much time with him as I could. There’s so much to organise: going through what was grabbed in the flight from the car yard, checking the vehicles to see what damage has been done, checking on the injuries, trying to talk to the Wolverines. They’re in a mess, down to only three of their previous six. Jersey won’t talk to anyone except in snaps. Dale has lost a lot of blood; we’re not sure if he’ll pull through.


We’ve set a watch on the roof during the light hours, in case more shamblers turn up. Everyone’s too shell-shocked to talk much, and I’m a little afraid of what will be said once we get past that. I’m afraid of what I’ll say.

For now, all we can do is try to tend to our wounds and hope we avoid attention.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009 - 8:33 pm

Bitter vindication

No-one has mentioned Kirk since we got to the warehouse. I keep catching myself listening for his name, ready to turn and snap the speaker’s head off, but it hasn’t come yet. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I keep going over that day in my head. The way the Wolverines disappeared after the shamblers got inside, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. Their great plan of toppling a pile of metal onto our attackers. The broken window and the barricade falling on Dillon. The way they bounced around their targets, taunting them, like it was a game.

There’s not a single person that wasn’t hurt in all of it. Even Nugget was grabbed – she bears a handprint on her arm in vivid purple and blue. She’s sticking closer to Thorpe than usual, so I guess he was the one who freed her.

When I think about it, I get so angry. My chest grows tight and my eyes prickle. I can feel the words queueing up behind my teeth, pushing to get out. I want to shout at someone, I want to ask them, “What were you thinking?

If Kirk was here, I would have ripped into him already. Probably right after all the injured were dealt with and poor Dillon had passed out from the pain. But he’s not here and I can’t bring myself to blame the other Wolverines as viciously. Kirk was the ringleader, the one who gave them bad ideas and encouraged them to carry them out. I can’t be sorry that he’s gone; everyone’s safer now. In pieces, but safer.


I heard Rico’s name come up earlier, something about him being so wrong.

It wasn’t until I stopped to think about it that I realised it was strange how the shamblers came at Kirk from behind, from the back room. There were no broken entries there; the attack had come from the front. The only place they could have come from was the room where the sick Wolverines had been. Rico and Sean. Now I remember Jersey’s frantic shouts and the surprise on Kirk’s face in a different light.

We thought they’d got rid of the bodies. They can’t have known what would happen, that the Sickness would turn their companions into the danger that stumbles down the streets, mindlessly sniffing out prey. None of us thought to tell them about it; I thought everyone knew.

Dale didn’t see them, but Conroy and Jersey did. Their friends tore Kirk down and ate him. It makes me shudder to think about it – I remember seeing Sax that way, empty and broken, coming at us with hunger. It makes my stomach clench up. Conroy has been quiet since it happened, doing what has been asked of him, trying to make sure that everyone is all right. Jersey has been increasingly snappish; I get the feeling that he’s as wound-up as I am and ready to punch something.


I can’t vent my feelings at them. It wouldn’t be fair. We all have our difficulties to deal with.

If I’m honest, I feel guilty about what happened. Kirk’s viciousness towards the Seekers was my fault after what happened between us. I hated seeing the face I cut every day and wondering when he’d get back at me for it, and now both reminder and threat are gone. That’s a relief to me, and that makes me feel guilty too. It’s ridiculous – he’s a grown man, responsible for his own actions, and he brought that cut on himself. But still. I shouldn’t be relieved he’s dead.

There’s something wrong with the world when all you want is a bad guy so you can feel vindicated in taking everything out on him.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 - 9:13 pm

Marshmallows in the dark

Sleeping arrangements have been awkward. The floor of the warehouse is hard and cold, and we can’t pile together any more. Injuries mean that it’s too uncomfortable and painful to huddle for warmth; it only takes one person to shift wrong in the middle of the night, nudge the wrong part of someone else, and then the yelp wakes everyone up.

Instead, we each have our own clutch of blankets in a ring around a makeshift fire pit. The concrete floor is at least safe enough to light a fire on, and broken-down crates and pallets burn quite well. We have heat and light, though both escape us far too easily in a room this size.

Maybe that was what gave me such disturbed sleep last night. I woke fitfully and kept falling back into the same dream, deeper and deeper, like a swimmer struggling to stay above the surface of the water. Each time I came up for air, I fell down further than before and it was harder to pull myself out again.


I’m alone and running. I don’t know where the others are or where these endless corridors led. They look familiar but I can’t place them – a scrap of mall, an angle of back hallway, half of an alleyway, all muddled together. They all seem to go somewhere, but there is always another turn, another stretch to cover. Every door I stop long enough to try is locked.

It’s nether light nor dark; a halflight lets me see enough to keep my footing and glimpse something to stretch for. There’s a red pall to everything and I wish for a glimpse of white. It feels like I’ve forgotten what true, pure white looks like.

Behind me, someone is following. I catch sight of him in the corner of my eye and hear his footsteps tap-tap-tapping their way through my head. I can’t make out anything about him – no details, no identity, no face at all. Just the pressure at my back, driving me forward, and his terribly slow footsteps. He’s no shambler; he moves with patient determination, unhurried. My noises fall messily against his, ragged breaths and skittering steps. I run as fast as I can, turn corners and wind around on myself, but he’s always there, pressing me forwards.

He’s gaining on me. Inexorably, the steady sound of his heels clipping on the floor approaches, driving my pulse higher and higher into my throat. I’m slipping. I’m exhausted, growing leaden as I push to keep on running. There has to be some way to get away from him, but there isn’t. He’s closing on me.

I don’t look back, but I feel him reaching out for me, fingertips at my back, stretching, almost….


I jerked awake with the sound of my own name in my head and my ears, inside and out. Struggling for breath as if I really had been running, it took me a moment to realise that Matt was there, stroking my hair. I must have whimpered in my sleep and he came over to make sure I was all right.

I apologised, but I leant into him when he put an arm around me. He just smiled and shook his head. His warmth was so welcome right then and I was only too happy to share in it, even though I felt like an idiot.

It’s not exactly surprising that we might have nightmares, not after everything that’s happened. What’s surprising is that this was the most vivid one I’ve had in a long time, and there wasn’t a shambler or drop of acid rain in it. I don’t know if that makes me more or less of a mess.

It’s stupid, how these dreams can affect us so badly. I could feel it there, riding under the surface, just waiting for me to slip back under. I could feel those fingers a breath from my back, no matter how hard I strained away from them.

“I don’t want to go back to sleep,” I told Matt. He shrugged and stayed with me, and we talked quietly about nothing while we watched the wood burn down into embers in the firepit.

For that short time, it felt like the time Before. He felt like my old friend, the one who would chatter on at anyone about anything; a comforting susurrus of words that always made me smile. It felt like we were camping, stuck out somewhere with no showers and a sad lack of marshmallows.

I woke up on his shoulder this morning; I don’t remember falling asleep on him. The chaser hadn’t come back.

I told Matt that he must be my lucky teddy bear and he laughed. I haven’t seen him look so honestly amused in a long time; it almost broke my heart.

“I can live with that,” he said.

I think we both can.