Thursday, 18 June 2009 - 9:04 pm


The inaction is getting to all of us. We twitch at the slightest sound as we wait for the next assault, nerves fraying at the edges even more than they were before. Sharp words have been exchanged more than once over the past couple of days; in lieu of an enemy, others in the group will do.

We’re fracturing. Cracks are working their way between us and bile is bubbling up in the gap. I can see it happening; I can feel it. We’re slipping and there’s nothing to hold onto but each other. Nothing to sink our nails into.


I came back from my watch stint on the roof to find an argument raging. Thorpe was standing with a hand on Nugget’s shoulder, keeping her behind him, and Matt was next to them with a clenched jaw and tightly-coiled fists. Opposite, Jersey and Conroy were glaring at them, poised like they were expecting a fight. Jersey seemed fired up, while Conroy was grim and determined not to back down. In the middle, Masterson waved his hands and spewed words over the Wolverines. I ran down the stairs as soon as I saw what was going on.

“…because you’re fucking idiots!” Masterson was well into a word-vent by the time I came into range. “You bring all this shit down on us and you think you still have a right to make demands! What the fuck have you done to help us?”

He was saying the kinds of things that I had been holding back for days; my mind ticked off the points he was throwing at them. Hearing it, I’m glad I didn’t say it, though I think I would have felt better if I did. Jersey weighed in to argue with him and the volume escalated.

When the two of them were nose-to-nose and a hair away from actual violence, I stepped in. I didn’t want to get in the middle of it, but beating on each other is not going to solve anything. I had to grab Masterson and push him back a step before they stopped yelling and looked at me.

“That’s enough!” I told them. They both started to protest that they were just defending themselves – he said this, and he said that – and then they started to reach past me to get to each other. I never thought I’d have to hold two men apart; luckily they weren’t trying too hard, because my injured arm is useless at the moment. “What are you, five years old?” I think it was the disbelief in my voice that made them stop in the end.

Then it was quiet and I had to figure out what to say next. I hadn’t thought this through beyond the desire to stop them arguing. Now what? How do I finish this? They both looked like they were about to start justifying themselves as soon as they had permission, and something small in me was so very tired of it all.

“You know what,” I said finally. “I don’t care what this is about. We’re together because we need each other – it’s that simple. We-” I looked at Masterson and, by proxy, the Seekers, “-wouldn’t have got this far without their help. And you-” It was the Wolverines’ turn now, “-have caused us more trouble than we ever needed. You nearly got everyone killed.” They looked like they wanted to argue that, but wisely kept their mouths shut; I think the conversation would have fallen apart if they had tried. “We can’t keep on this way, or none of us are going to get through this.”

“Get through to what?” Jersey demanded. “There’s nothing left.”

“We don’t believe that. That boy over there? He has family out there, and we think we know where they are. And him? He’s a fireman and knows about an Emergency Coordination Centre that might have some actual coordination going on. So we’re going to find them. That’s where we’re heading.”

“If you don’t want to sign up to that, then perhaps you should go do your thing elsewhere,” Masterson added. I wasn’t going to go that far but he had no such compunctions.

“You saying you want to kick us out now?” Jersey’s hands were fists again and Conroy’s expression was gaining a belligerent edge.

“No. We need to decide where we’re going from here,” I told him, stepping on Masterson’s foot before he could interject. He had his mouth open ready for it but I wasn’t prepared to let him do that. “All of us. Stay together, or separate.”

“Stay together as one group, you mean?”

I hadn’t meant it that way and blinked at the Wolverine in surprise. But he was right; that was what it meant. It made sense. It was time we made this arrangement a proper teaming-up before the competition killed someone else. I don’t like making decisions like this on the fly; I looked at the other Seekers, but none of them looked upset at the notion, so I went with it.

“I guess I do mean that.” I shrugged, then winced because the motion tugged at the gashes on my arm. “But we all need time to figure out what we want to do here.”

It took some patience and glaring, but I got the two groups to split up and go to cool off. As they moved away, I let out a long breath; the tension left me shaky. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand having danger coming from every direction.

I suppose that there might be a resolution for that part of it soon. If only we can agree on a way to go.

Friday, 19 June 2009 - 9:25 pm

A different celebration

The warehouse is big but it’s getting claustrophobic. Too many egos and tempers rolling around in there for anyone to be comfortable, underlaid by the naked pain our friends are in that is pressing on all of us. We would love to be able to ease it, if only we could find a way.

The more mobile of us went out to look for supplies again. This area is full of warehouses and factories, some of which have already been broken into, but we checked them anyway. We found a warehouse full of children’s toys, the import sticker marked ‘URGENT’; last-minute Christmas deliveries, I think. It’s so weird to think about Christmas now; it seems so long ago, but there are still decorations up in the offices around here. We’re still waiting for the clock to tick over for us.

We also found a few places with more useful wares – blankets and fresh clothing. There was so much that we fetched one of the offroaders and stuffed the back full so that we could go through everything back at our new base.

The idea of Christmas and gifts reminded me of another celebration – birthdays. No-one has mentioned having one, but I think I’m the only one who really keeps track of the date, thanks to this blog. Matt’s birthday is soon, in just a few days; I hadn’t forgotten, but it hasn’t seemed important until today.

I found a couple of things in today’s haul that I think he’d like. I don’t know what made me do it, but it seemed so important at the time. I hid those little things in the hopes that we can do something about his birthday, and somewhere in it all I decided that we were going to celebrate it. It’s time for the Seekers to get a new tradition.


I caught Thorpe alone (not easy these days, with Nugget tagging onto his sleeve whenever she can) and told him what I wanted to do. He looked at me like I’d grown another head.

“You really think now is the time for that kind of thing?” he asked me.

“Yeah. I think all of us could do with a celebration right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s silly games or just talking. We can’t let everything be… like this.”

“You’re crazy.”

I smiled at him then, shaking my head (I knew better than to try to shrug with this stupid arm). He’s not wrong. “Will you help?”

“What do you need?”

I had no idea what to tell him. Once again, my mouth had run ahead of my ability to plan, so we agreed that I’d let him know. I was going to leave it at that, but I caught something in his expression and it held me back. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?”

“I– none of us are, really. You never complain, so I wanted to ask.”

“I’m fine.” Thorpe’s good with the brick walls, so I tried something else.

“Okay. Listen, I wanted to… thank you, I guess.” He looked puzzled “You’re always there when we need you, and you’re so good with Nugget. She’s taken a real shine to you.”

“She’s just following the damn cat.”

I looked at him to check if he’d meant to make a joke, then laughed anyway. He almost smiled. Suddenly, I wanted to hug him, or give him something in lieu of actual physical contact. I opted for the latter and went to seek out Sally, because if anyone here will help me put together some kind of party, it’s her.

She agreed, so we’re planning a party. Quietly, to surprise everyone. Or at least, everyone we don’t drag in to help make it happen.

Saturday, 20 June 2009 - 5:49 pm


The more I think about this whole birthday idea, the more I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. It doesn’t feel right to make a fuss of one person when there’s so much else going on. I don’t know how many birthdays we’ve missed.

I don’t know how many of us will live to celebrate our next birthday.

Normally, I would talk to Matt about this kind of thing. But it’s his birthday that has brought all of this up, and I’d still like it to be a surprise for him. It sounds silly when it’s stated so plainly but I want to hold onto every little thing that might make this special for him, and for everyone else too. I still believe that we need a celebration right now.

I went to Sally to talk about it again and told her about my concerns. I want this to be right, I want it to work. I want it to make everyone feel lighter. She smiled at me and made such a simple suggestion.

“So make it about everyone.”

It took me a moment to think through what she was suggesting. It was the perfect idea, though. There’s no reason that Matt should be the only one to get presents, why his life is the only one to be celebrated.

Sally and I spent some time working out what we’d do, what we needed and what we have. I think it’s the most that the two of us have talked in a single stretch, probably more than we’ve said to each other in a whole week before. It was nice. I had forgotten how good it was to talk to a girl, to have someone I might call a girl friend.

I’ve never set out to do something like this before; our traditions have happened by accident or on spur-of-the-moment decisions. It’s stressful business – what if I screw something up? What if I forget something vital? What if it all goes horribly wrong?

“Will I have to make a speech?” I asked at one point, my stomach slithering down towards my feet.

Sally laughed at the look on my face, shaking her head. “Someone will have to.”

“Oh, shit.”

She patted my hand. “You’ll do fine. You always do.”

Do I? I have no idea; most of the time I just make stuff up as I go, my mind galloping in the background to try to prepare my mouth for what’s about to fall out of it. All of a sudden I had a craving for notecards and colour-coded ink.

To pull my head away from all of that, I looked at the girl sitting next to me, swathed in her layers of clothing. We’re all like that, bundled up against the cold, three pairs of socks and four shirts. It was impossible to know what shape she was under all of that, though I was sure she must be showing by now. She must have that one soft bulge on her skinny frame.

“It would be a good opportunity to tell everyone,” I told her cautiously. “Use one birthday to announce another.”

Her hands went to her belly, then shifted off as if she knew that the gesture gave her away. “You wouldn’t….”

“Oh, no, no. You should, but I won’t.” I won’t tell her secret, but I think the group should know. I don’t think she should have to carry it alone.

It made her uncomfortable. “Maybe,” was all she would say.

I changed the subject and we made some plans. We only have a couple of days left before Matt’s birthday and there seems like so much to do. We did rule out cake, though – any cake that hasn’t decomposed by now is too scary to think about eating.

Luckily, we have plenty of candles. Enough for one each.

Sunday, 21 June 2009 - 11:14 pm

The Seekers’ mouth

It’s hard to keep secrets when we all live in each other’s pockets. It’s hard not to look suspect when you can’t explain what you’re up to. Of all the things I had thought about since we decided to do this celebration, a cover story wasn’t one of them.

The hardest part is not being able to talk to Matt. I’m so used to telling him everything that I feel myself stumble when he’s near. He knows that something is going on but he hasn’t asked me about it yet. I don’t know what I’ll say if he does so I’m staying away from him in the meantime. I’ve never been good at lying, especially to him. He always knows; he gets this wounded, disappointed look on his face and stops asking.

Thorpe’s giving me weird looks as well. It’s so hard to read his stoic grumpiness; he could be annoyed with me, he could be upset, or it could be gas. Of course, asking him reveals little to nothing except an extra effort on his part not to give anything away.

Masterson couldn’t care less what we’re up to, though he’s getting snarky over the fact that Sally is spending time with me. He’s like a hangnail, the sort you’re just dying to chew off because it catches on everything but won’t because it’ll make your hand bleed.

Dillon, on the other hand, is so bored that he’s glad of any attention I can give him. I wind up sitting with him most of the time I’m in the warehouse, making him help me sort out the things that we found on the day’s scavenging. He’s still in a lot of pain and welcomes distractions. He even brushed out Nugget’s snarled hair earlier, with such patience and care that I found myself sitting and watching him when I should have been shifting supplies. He reminded me of a younger Matt; they have the same hands.


The Wolverines are as much trouble as they always are, squabbling over the division of supplies. They defend their space and gear with dark enthusiasm and the rest of the Seekers mostly avoid them. It made me sad at first, until I realised that they were stopping the doctor from getting to Dale.

Dale is pale and sickly from his injuries, not the Sickness. He hasn’t left his blankets since we laid them down; I don’t think he’s been awake much either. When I found out that his companions had prevented Masterson from checking on him, I lost it a little bit.

I told the doctor to come with me and marched over to the poor fella. When Jersey tried to get in my way, I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. The lad didn’t have the chance to reply – of all the stupid things, stopping a doctor from getting to his patient it right up there with running around in the rain. We might not have much in the way of medical supplies, but we can still make a difference. What did he think we were going to do – kill his friend? Did he really think we’d do that?

Haven’t we lost enough people already? Haven’t they? It was about time they started doing the best thing for survival and making a few compromises, because the way they were carrying on, they wouldn’t last long. We’re all making choices that we don’t want to so that we make it to tomorrow, and it was about time the Wolverines realised that they’re not exempt from that.

Then I noticed I was ranting. Masterson was watching me with a closed expression – maybe just a little smile – and Jersey’s mouth hung open a little. I caught myself, took a breath, and asked the Wolverine to get out of the way.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” he demanded, but he stepped aside anyway.

“I’m the one willing to shout at you so your friend gets help,” I told him.

“She’s the Seekers’ mouth,” Masterson agreed as he stepped calmly past us to Dale’s side. He might pretend not to care, but he still likes to make a difference.

I went to go with him, but Jersey wasn’t finished with me. “He can, but not you. I don’t want you near him.”

I glared at him, furious, and had to remind myself that Dale was the important thing here. So I left them to it and sent Sally to lend the doctor a hand.

The whole incident made me so tense that my arm aches now. The healing gashes cut deep into the muscle and they don’t like to be so wound up. The pain radiates out from my arm to the rest of my body until I find myself gritting my teeth. Then I look at Dillon and know it’s so much worse for him that I don’t complain.


My cracks are showing. I shouldn’t have gone off like that at Jersey, even if he did deserve it. I feel like the slightest thing will make me snap – the wrong look, the wrong word, a question too far. I don’t know how to uncoil myself. I can feel my dream waiting for me when I fall asleep – the footsteps in my head, the reaching fingertips at my back. It feels like something’s coming, something awful.

If I let it catch me, will it really be as bad as I fear?

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Monday, 22 June 2009 - 7:33 pm

For all of us

Today was the day. Matt’s birthday, our celebration.

It seems silly to spend so much time and effort on something so unimportant. I don’t regret any of it, though; it was worth all the frustration and hours sorting things out in secret. Sometimes we need to do more than live hand-to-mouth. Sometimes we need to do more than the basics to survive. There just has to be more for us in this hard life After.


The first thing we did was make stew. Canned meat and vegetables, powdered gravy, and the biggest pot we could find, balanced precariously over the fire. The smell of it rolled out across the whole warehouse, drawing the others over even before it was ready. The injured were lying close to the fire anyway – we kept them in where it was warm – and those who didn’t follow their noses were fetched.

That included the Wolverines. They weren’t going to come and I considered sending someone else over to get them, but after yesterday I thought it was better if I did it myself. We wanted them to join us, share in the food and what was coming after. Jersey looked at me with distrust, wondering if I had forgotten my rant at him, and Conroy snorted derisively.

Yesterday is yesterday, I told them. What’s done is done, so let’s move on. There’s plenty for everyone and we want them to come sit with us.

They came eventually, when the smell of the stew got too much to resist. Everyone ate hungrily; for a while, the only sound was spoons scraping in bowls. Cans of drink had been circulated. Bowls emptied and bellies filled up, and chatter fluttered around the fire. I had butterflies vying for space in my stomach, because it was almost time. Candles were being passed around and lit, one flame for each hand.

I hate speeches. I’ve never been good at them. Sally had to nudge me before I’d stand up and ask for everyone’s attention.


“Not many of you know this, but today is the 22nd of June. Matt’s birthday.”

I think he looked more surprised than anyone else; he had forgotten, too.

“I don’t know how many birthdays we’ve missed so far this year, and I don’t know how many we’ll have after this one. So I’d like today to be for all of them. All the ones we forgot, the ones we didn’t get to celebrate. All the ones we might not get to, though I hope we’re able to do this again soon.”

I didn’t mention our dead, the birthdays we’ll never get to celebrate, but they were there with us anyway. I think we all felt them.

“Let’s raise a drink together, for another year past, another year older and, hopefully, wiser.”

To my surprise, Sally spoke up to add to the toast: “For making it this far.”

Masterson: “For Matt, for giving us the excuse.”

Thorpe: “For keeping each other safe.”

Dillon: “For being with good friends.”

The words almost stopped entirely as they reached the Wolverines, but Dale was awake and murmured something I barely caught. “For seeing tomorrow.”

Jersey scowled, but added: “For not forgetting the ones who aren’t here.”

Conroy: “For… the power of Greyskull? Okay, I got nothing.” But he did make us laugh and we all needed it.

Matt was the last one left, sitting next to me. His eyes were shining with tears and I didn’t dare look at him directly; my throat was already thick with emotion and meeting his gaze would just set me off. I hadn’t expected the toast to go that way, stuttering around the circle.

He swallowed and lifted his candle rather than his glass. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not. “For the things that make all the shit worthwhile,” was his quiet contribution.

One by one, the candles lifted, as if we were all part of some great birthday cake, burning our occasion into the air before we brought them down and snuffed them out. The scorch of burnt wick curled around us, comforting in its familiarity, and the toast was completed with the obligatory mouthful of drink.

I had to clear my throat before I could speak again, because it didn’t want to work. “Now, no birthday would be complete without presents. We should have something for everyone, so… bear with us.”

Sally got up to help me hand out the things we’d hidden away until today. I didn’t realise until then that none of us had had Christmas. That’s what all this reminded me of: the celebration we were robbed of when the bomb went off. Something felt right deep in my chest as we gave the bags to their recipients, as if maybe this was a step towards mending what was wrong in the world, even though I knew it couldn’t change the sky, or the rain, or the shamblers threatening our doorstep.

Their reactions made it all worth it. A wealth of razor blades and shaving gel for the boys (they struggled to keep their faces shaved with no water to waste on it, except Dillon, of course). Heavy-duty gloves for Thorpe (he lost his firefighting gloves some time ago). A soccer ball for Dillon (with promises that we’ll kick it around when his leg is better). A shirt with ‘My bark’s worse than my bite’ across the chest for Masterson (he was amused, and I didn’t tell him that Sally helped me pick it out). A knitted sweater with a cat on the front for Nugget (she grinned and went to show Thorpe). A pair of maternity pants for Sally (she looked at the stretchy waist in puzzlement for a minute, then quickly folded them away). A jaunty black-and-white scarf and gloves with each finger a different colour of the rainbow for Matt (he laughed at the gloves, putting them on and wiggling his fingers).

Even the Wolverines were included, though from their expressions they weren’t expecting to be a full part of this. I wasn’t going to skimp, though; it’s not like any of this was costing us money. They got knitted ski hats with a wolf-like logo, from the one supply of winter equipment we found.


There was drinking and talking, and after a while some singing. I still miss Sax’s voice riding under ours, carrying us along in the tunes. I still miss Ben’s hand in mine. Jersey might not have been referring to them when he offered his addition to the toast, but I’m glad he said it. Our friends haven’t been forgotten.

Matt caught up with me when I was fetching more drinks and stole a hug. He had his scarf knotted decoratively on one side despite the chill, like I knew he would.

“You don’t mind that I hijacked your birthday?” I asked.

“Are you kidding?” He grinned like I haven’t seen him do in so long and flipped one end of his scarf extravagantly over his shoulder. “I got presents; I’m happy.” He took my face in his brightly-gloved hands and leaned in to kiss my forehead. For one heart-thumping moment, I thought he was going to kiss me properly, and I was almost disappointed when he didn’t. “Thanks, Faithy.”

He hasn’t called me that in years, not since I asked my friends to call me ‘Mac’. It’s the form of my name that my dad has always used and brought a lump into my throat again. I hugged him tightly with my one good arm until he laughingly groaned in protest, but he stroked my hair while he waited for me to let him go again, as if he knew that my eyes were wet.

When I had control of myself again, I gave him a smile. “Happy birthday.”

Tuesday, 23 June 2009 - 6:30 pm

Extravaganza’s leftovers

Our indulgences came with a price tag attached. There were more than a few sore heads this morning and a lot of cleanup to do. It was worth it in hindsight, once the hangover fog had started to clear from the room.

There was a chunk of supplies to refill. Those of us not too badly affected by the alcohol went out to seek new sources, and we found that the air outside was a sharp slap after the softened edges inside the warehouse. Nothing is more sobering than the bite of winter air at your ears and nose, and the sudden need to watch your footing.

We didn’t find any food or water stores today, but we did stumble across something useful. I was poking through boxes of stationery to see if there was anything in there we might use when Nugget ran in and tugged on my sleeve. She led me outside to the next lot, where Conroy and Thorpe were looking at the wares. An acid-scorched sign declared the place ‘Campervan Extravaganza’.

We’ve come across a few campervans in our travels, but none in a state we would risk on these roads. This place had many to choose from on its yard, though, some of them in good condition. Could I get any of them going? When the boys asked, I shrugged and said I’d try. It was definitely worth a try; a van like one of these would be perfect for transporting our injured friends.

We managed to get a couple of the vehicles working and took them back to the warehouse. I need to go over them and see what work needs doing before we can take them with us.


Everyone seemed lighter by the time we got back. I don’t know if it was yesterday’s celebration or the new vehicles, or just the relief that the end of a hangover brings. Whatever it was, I’m glad of it. We needed a reprieve from the horror of the last few weeks. Even the cat was walking around with more confidence, begging for strokes and scraps of leftover stew with a straight-up tail.

We have a lot of work to do to get ready for the road again, but I’m looking forward to it. Nearly time to get going again. It’ll be good to move forward.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009 - 7:37 pm


I spent today poking through the guts of the campervans, up to my elbows in grease yet again. I have the feeling that I’ll never have clean hands or nice nails again.

I don’t know why Bree popped into my head when I looked at my hands. Even in this time After, she had perfect nails, painted and chip-free. I could never keep them looking like that for more than an hour even when I didn’t have an engine to investigate. How does she do it?


Some time after midday, I was pulled out of my mechanic duties by shouts from the roof. Conroy was on watch up there, and called down for us to come and have a look. Most of the able-bodied were out looking for supplies; it was only me and Sally left with the two badly-injured boys. I looked at her and she shrugged, so we jogged up the stairs to see what was going on.

I feared that he had seen shamblers heading in our direction, but that wasn’t the case. People were moving our way, but they weren’t shambling along: they were running, as fast as their legs and strength would carry them. In groups and singly, they wove between the buildings, coming out of the west and north to flow right through this area.

It was surreal, standing on a platform suspended between the low, burnt clouds above and the rat-run below. That’s what they reminded me of: rats fleeing. Like a horror movie, we knew that when the rats flooded away from something, a bad thing was about to appear in their wake. It didn’t feel real, as if they were still hours away, but already some of them were abreast of our warehouse and heading past. My heart beat uncomfortably behind my breastbone.

“Where do you think they’re all going?” Conroy asked, staring at the flood of people. Some of them clutched packs, others tried to pull friends along with them. I saw one small child being carried.

“Away from something,” I said. They didn’t know where they were going; as long as it was away from whatever was chasing them, they were satisfied. Or alive, at least. Some were heading eastwards and would run up against the ocean soon. I wondered what they would do then: turn and face what snapped at their heels, or try to keep running?


We couldn’t just watch. If nothing else, Dillon and Dale were alone downstairs and one of the doors was open. We had to move fast, prepare ourselves for whatever it was and, possibly, a sudden influx of strangers.

“Conroy, you’re fastest – run and get the others back here. Sally, you better keep watch. I’ll see about finishing up downstairs, then we should get the gear loaded.”

Neither of them disagreed, so we split up to do that. I didn’t want Sally running around outside with those rats fleeing through this area, so I was grateful that Conroy didn’t argue. It’s weird how willing people can be to follow orders when there’s an emergency at hand. We didn’t even know what the emergency was, but it seemed bad. It felt bad.

I ran back to the campervan I was working on and finished up my checks in a hurry. Everything seemed to be working and all the seals were intact; if we got stuck, it wouldn’t shower us with acid. It would have to do. I hadn’t had the chance to look over the the second campervan so I didn’t trust it, and we were already spreading ourselves thin over five vehicles.

By then, Dillon was asking me what was going on and even Dale was awake and looking worried. I told them the short version and kept working. From the looks on their faces, they were both feeling well enough to wish that they could help but not healed enough to be able to do it. That was encouraging when I really needed something to push me onwards; I worked hard in their places.

I remembered the bridge, when we lost a car to the river along with all of the packs inside. We were lucky not to lose any lives to the disturbing water, but the loss of supplies hurt us for a while. So I was determined not to put all our eggs in one basket and started to split up the gear – tools, food, water, medical supplies, other assorted equipment. A little of everything for each vehicle.

I was only halfway done by the time the others arrived. It was a relief to have hands helping me, and I was able to stand back and direct for a while, catching my breath. I thought about getting Dillon and Dale into the campervan, ready in case we needed to take off, but I didn’t want to move them unless we had to.

We were just finishing up with the loading when Jersey came running down the stairs. I hadn’t even seen him go up to check on Sally. He came back looking puzzled.

“Still more people coming,” he reported. “Traffic’s getting lighter, though. Looks like they’re starting to seek shelter – the clouds are gathering.” That meant that it would rain soon, which would drive everything indoors. That was both good and bad for us.

“Aren’t we going to lock the doors?” Conroy asked, looking towards the still-open panel they had returned through.

I paused and looked around. There were a lot of us now – ten, counting the injured. But was that enough to battle desperate people?

“Not unless there are shamblers in the area,” I said. Expressions darkened immediately in response.

“Should we go out and invite them in? Offer them something to eat and drink too?” Jersey demanded.

“That’s not what I said.” He knew how to get under my skin and seeing Masterson rolling his eyes only irritated me further.

“You’d seriously lock someone out in the rain?” Matt asked.

Luckily, that was enough to give them pause. It was a bad time for an argument.

“Go stand guard if you want,” I told the boys. “But if people need shelter, we shouldn’t keep them out.”

So that’s what we did. The rain came quickly, as if that was what had chased those people in our direction. Sally said that she barely got inside in time. A few stragglers strayed in our direction but they didn’t even make it as far as the yard; they dove into the next building to avoid the downpour.

I can’t help being aware that there are strangers all over this area now. I don’t know what they’re capable of. I don’t know what they were running from. As the rain pounds on the roof and fills up the gutters, we all know that there’s something else out there, something that might be worse.

I don’t know if we’re in the sinking ship, or if we’re on the safe ground that those aboard have swum to.

Thursday, 25 June 2009 - 6:41 pm


There was movement outside a little after dawn. I woke early – Matt had shifted and pulled the blankets off my feet, and my toes were cold. I let him sleep and got up, wrapping myself in layers of clothing and stamping on my boots. That’s when I heard them, footsteps pattering across the concrete outside.

I went to one of the dusty windows to look out and saw a few of yesterday’s runners creeping out of the next building. The stained sunlight peeked through the constant cloud cover enough to give them blurry-edged shadows. They stumbled wearily but with the determination of people who know that they can’t afford to rest. I’ve felt like that recently, and often since the bomb went off. We push on to survive.


I heard my name from behind me and turned to see Dillon awake and watching. I went over to sit down next to him, warming my hands and feet at the fire’s edge.

“What’s going on out there?” he asked me. He looked worried, poor kid.

“The runners are heading out now that it’s light.”

“Shouldn’t we head out soon too?”

“Maybe.” It’s true that all the movement outside was making me itchy to get on the road. Staying still just doesn’t seem safe but neither is travelling; they each have their dangers. There’s a part of me that naturally wants to hide, but that’s the worst thing we can do; if the shamblers don’t sniff us out, the rain will work its way in or we’ll run out of food and starve to death. Pushing on is our only option for survival.

Dillon looked at me and I reached over to squeeze his hand. He feels even more helpless than most of us, unable to even get up thanks to his broken leg. He seemed to be struggling to say something, so I waited for him.

“Are we going to help any of them?” he asked finally.

It wasn’t the question that I was expecting. “I don’t know. If they need it and they’ll take it, sure.” I shrugged, knowing that it wasn’t that simple. We teamed up with the Wolverines hoping that it would be simple and now Dillon has a broken leg, Dale is badly injured and they lost three of their own. “We might not be able to.”

“You don’t think it would be better if we just looked after ourselves?” He was watching me closely, weighing my reactions, and that made me careful with how I answered. I didn’t want to lie to him; he deserved better than that.

“Better for us? Yeah, it probably would. But everyone’s in the same boat here. We all just want to survive. I don’t think we should lock anyone out in the rain, but we should protect ourselves, too.” I sighed; I was convincing myself of something I didn’t want to. “We shouldn’t hurt anyone else unless they force us to. Y’know?” I didn’t want to become one of those groups, cruel because we could be, or determined to beat down the other guy before he had the chance to do it to us. I can’t look at every stranger and think about putting my bat to his head.

“Masterson says you’re an idealist.” Dillon said it like he wasn’t sure what the word meant.

“Yeah, I guess I am.” I looked sideways at the kid. “He probably said a lot of other stuff too, huh.”

That made him smile. “Yeah. I don’t listen to most of it, though.”

“Probably a good choice.” Masterson doesn’t tend to lie, but he does put his own spin on the truth. “You want some breakfast, hopalong?”


Those on watch today reported that the runners kept moving. New ones came into sight, moving slower than the rest. One pair almost stumbled right into the warehouse, but they saw us and fled around the side. We tried to talk to them, but they weren’t interested.

We talked about moving on, but Masterson said that we shouldn’t move the injured unless we absolutely have to. Dale, in particular, needs a chance to heal before we jiggle him around.

That’s only one reason to linger, though. I think we all want to see what it is that’s chasing people through here; we want to put a face to their horror because it’s less terrifying than the unknown. No-one’s quite willing to go out and ask someone, not yet. Not when we don’t know how desperate and armed they might be.

Perhaps tomorrow, when the backrunners reach us. The ones that are moving too slowly to evade us easily.

Friday, 26 June 2009 - 8:37 pm


There’s still no sign of whatever is sending people in this direction. They keep coming, moving through the area, passing down lanes and alleys and hurrying across roads. There aren’t many of them now – they come in well-spaced-out clumps. The only reason we keep track of them at all is because the roof of this warehouse is higher than most around here.

Just before the rain started today, a small group stumbled into the yard out front of our warehouse. Some of the boys had slipped out to look for supplies – we’re starting to run low on some things – and the group arrived just as they returned. The clouds were gathering and they saw an open door; what happened next was inevitable.

The sickly green veil of the rain was approaching and they ran for it, water chasing at their heels. They skittered and didn’t slow down as they neared the door, despite the shouts within for them to stop. They ploughed inside, tumbling to the concrete floor in a messy heap. The rain was right behind them – we had to scrabble to get the door closed and stop the damn stuff from being blown inside and onto any of us.


There were huffy words as the strangers peeled themselves out of the mess on the floor and stood up again, dusting themselves down. No-one was hurt, luckily.

The last thing I expected was to recognise one of them. I heard the fuss and went to help, and found myself staring at a familiar face. I stopped and took in the sight before me, unable to find any words. It felt like someone had hit me in the solar plexus, stealing my breath.

Bree. Finally looking like she had realised the world had ended, she had drooping hair and torn tights. She noticed me with dismay and tried to straighten her jacket. She seemed thinner than I remembered from those few weeks ago. She was still wearing heels, but she seemed smaller somehow.

“They’re from the Pride,” I managed to say, and that changed the tone of matters.

The boys drew themselves up and formed a wall around the interlopers. There was only four of them but that name held a lot of threat.

“Toss the fuckers out,” Masterson said without hesitation.

“There is no Pride any more,” the other girl said. She was dressed like Bree and couldn’t have been older than seventeen.

“What are you talking about?” Jersey demanded of them.

“They’re gone, they’re all gone.” The girl was on the verge of tears, barely able to control the trembling of her lip.

“You’re right here,” I pointed out.

“This is all that’s left,” Bree said, looking directly at me. “They rest are dead. Faith, it’s just us. Please.”

Of all the times I dreamed about her apologising to me, begging me for something, it wasn’t like this. It tasted a little too much like blood for my liking. Conroy pulled me out of my thoughts by giving me a surprised look and asking, “You know her?”


For once, I was determined not to make the decision for the group. We told the Pride remnants to hand over their weapons, all of them. They were reluctant but they did as they were told. Between Thorpe’s looming and Masterson’s wild looks, they didn’t dare not to.

After firm instructions to stay exactly where they were, we drew back to consider the matter. Masterson was ready to beat them all to death himself; there was more venom in him than I’ve ever seen before. Sally was silent and wouldn’t meet my eye. I can’t imagine what it was like for her, after what she did with them. What she did for us.

Matt was the one who voiced the question that has always driven these choices: do we want to become killers, or do we take a chance on these people? Our options were limited because the rain was pounding on the roof; throwing them out meant killing them. We could let them stay, in various stages of freedom, but between the hate and the danger, no-one was eager to do it.

That step was still a big one to take, though. I don’t think anyone here has ever intentionally killed another person, not even the Wolverines. We all had that same look, the one that was afraid to know what murder felt like.

Imprisonment was the best choice. Strip them of their gear, lock them up in the warehouse’s office, and the watches can keep an eye on them through the night. We talked it around for a while, but we kept coming back to the same thing, so that’s what we did. I had to send Sally away to check on Dillon and Dale, and then Masterson to make sure she was all right, but we managed to get the intruders cowed and into the office without any problems.

They’ll be cold tonight, but that’s tough. All things considered, they’re lucky. From their faces, I think they know it. I wish that was a comfort.