Wednesday, 22 July 2009 - 9:10 pm


This morning, Conroy and Scott took the radio back up to the roof to search for the signal again. They were gone for a couple of hours and then bounced down again. After a few revolutions, they had managed to hear all of the message’s pieces. One of the sentences mentions ‘Apollo’s Mount’, which is a hill near the Greenberry Junction we found on the map yesterday. We’re sure about the location of the signal now, and where to look for those who are sending it out.

Their excitement was infectious and I was only too happy to get caught up in it. I cheerfully helped them spread the word, letting the kids and the few others around know. I avoided intruding on Sally and Masterson’s corner. I couldn’t see Ben in our makeshift camping room, so I went looking for him to share.

I never got to tell him the news. I found him in a supply room and all thoughts about the signal fled from my brain.

He was with Bree.

There’s no mistaking the way he was leaning her into the wall. The tilt of his body, the brace of his hand beside her head. The way his head was dipped in close. Her eyes were closed, her face turned to the side.

The first thing I thought was: it had to be Bree.

I couldn’t have been more surprised if he’d turned around and cut me open, spilling my guts onto the cold floor. That’s what it felt like.

I must have made a sound, because he looked over his shoulder suddenly. That was all I needed to snap my reverie; I spun on my heel and ran. I couldn’t bear to be there, to have to process them, to see which of them smiled and which looked shameful. I couldn’t handle any of it.

He followed me. I heard the slap of the doors behind me as he burst through them, but I didn’t look back. I just kept running, not seeing anything other than doors and obstacles. I think I headed outside on purpose, knowing that the sun burns him. I pushed on when my feet started slipping, even though I wasn’t dressed for it, through the sharp, cold air and across the snow.

I’m not sure how far I went. A few buildings down the street, I think, before I dove inside and found something solid to lean against. I had no breath left; the air shook in and out of my body without giving me any oxygen. I wound up crumpled in a heap with my head in my hands, unable to see anything.


I don’t understand. I don’t know what I’ve done, or not done. He hasn’t been interested in that stuff since he got back, but I guess that’s just with me. Just with me.

There are so many pieces and I don’t know how to put them back together again. I feel like I’m holding a bloody puzzle in my hands, and I can’t tell where it starts and I end.

Sleet was pouring onto the snow by the time I had calmed down. All I had on me was a candy bar and my laptop bag. It’s getting colder now, and it’s too dark to head back. I can’t find my way. I’m not sure I want to.

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Thursday, 23 July 2009 - 8:31 pm


Ben found me last night. After the darkness had wrapped up the building I was crouching in, after I had put away the laptop’s glow too save the battery. After I had given up finding any way to keep warm and all I had left was my own misery.

I know it was stupid to run off on my own. I know it was worse to get stuck away from the group when the rain came down. It wasn’t particularly bright to be trapped in the dark either, too scared to fumble around outside in case I fell into a snowdrift and melted away with it. At the time, even as I got colder and colder, I didn’t particularly care.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps in the corridor outside the room I was in and held my breath. I had no idea who it might be. I ducked under a desk, comforted only by the fact that the steps were too quick and controlled to be a shambler.

My heart was beating in my ears when the door swung open. I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to know who it was. It could have been anyone – a person from another group, even.

Then he said my name and I knew it was Ben. Of all people that I had hoped it was, he was the last on the list.

“Go away,” I told him.

He crouched in front of me; I heard his jeans creaking. “I brought your coat.”

I felt him putting it around me and snatched it out of his hands. I couldn’t bear him so close and stood up, but I did pull the coat on. I was shivering. I didn’t thank him.

“It’s not what you think, Faith.”

I laughed; it came out twisted. “Never is, is it? Go away. I don’t want to talk to you.” My throat was closing up.

“You can’t stay here.”

“I don’t care! And neither do you! Just leave me alone, go on. Go!”

He said my name and touched my arm, and I struck out at him. I couldn’t see him, not properly, I just wanted to hit him. I wanted to hit something. All of a sudden, I was crying and shouting at him, struggling as he tried to hold me still. How could he? With her, of all people. How could he? After all his shit over Matt? Why would he do this to me? Doesn’t he know how much it hurts?

He kept telling me that it wasn’t what I thought. Over and over, until I finally bit on the bait.

“So what was it, then?” My eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to make out his face, just inches from mine. He was as hard to read as he always is lately, his face closed down like it’s not even a part of him.

“It wasn’t sex,” he said. “I… can’t.”

It’s not what I expected him to admit – that’s not something I had considered. I thought he was just disinterested, and then interested in someone else, and… well, anything but that. “Because of the Sickness?”


I frowned and swallowed down a discomfort in my chest, determined not to be distracted. I could still see them, leaning up against the wall like that. “Then what were you doing with her?” My voice broke under the strain.

He hesitated, then said, “I’m not what you think, Faith. Not any more. Things have changed. I’ve changed. The Sickness, it made me… something else.”

“Made you what?” I was starting to get angry with him again, my mood yoyoing between despair, pain, and rage. He was avoiding telling me, I could feel it.

“I don’t know! I don’t know what I am. I thought that going away would help me figure it out, but it didn’t, so I came back. You ever notice that I don’t eat any more?”

“Yeah, I have.” I stopped bringing him food a while ago, because he never ate it. I assumed he was eating elsewhere. He kept avoiding my questions about what was wrong with him, so I stopped asking. Same way I stopped asking about the sunburn, and how he sometimes seemed stronger than he should be. What else was I supposed to do?

“But I’m hungry. I’m hungry all the time. I just can’t eat anything except meat.”

“Meat?” I felt stupid, but I didn’t get it.

“Yes. Fresh meat, particularly.”

He was staring at me. I could barely see him in the dark, even though he was so close, but I could feel him willing me to understand. All of a sudden, I remembered a dead body torn up by human teeth, but not by shamblers. I went cold all over.

“Caroline. You killed Caroline.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“You ate Caroline.”

“It was an accident.”

“How do you accidentally eat someone?”

I almost laughed. It felt the same way as it did when we realised what the shamblers were. I still can’t called them ‘zombies’, because it’s just too ridiculous. I keep thinking I’ll laugh, and then cry, and then throw up at the wrongness of it all. Just when I think the world makes sense, it’s all gibberish again. Or maybe it makes me gibber. I can’t tell. I can barely tell up from down any more.

He was trying to explain. There were rats there, he said – a whole nest of them. He’d been eating them. He said he’d been trying not to hurt anyone. But Caroline came along and started screaming, and he tried to shut her up, and then she fell. Fell and stopped. There was fresh blood, fresh meat, and he was very hungry.

I was shaking and struggling, my arms wrapped around myself as I tried to digest all of this. It didn’t make sense and yet it did. A part of me couldn’t deny it and the rest of me wanted to. I still couldn’t get the image of this morning’s discovery out of my head; it taunted me.

“So were you ‘accidentally’ eating Bree, too?”

I felt him hesitate and that made me afraid of what he was going to say. “No. I wasn’t going to kill her.”

I think it would have been easier to handle if he had been trying to kill her. “So what were you doing?” I had lost hope of a straight answer to that question, but I didn’t know what else to say.

“Sometimes, blood will do.”

I ran those words around in my head until they had meaning. It took a while. She wasn’t fighting him off; she was giving it to him? She knew. She knew what he was. Tears pricked at my eyes again and thickened my throat. She knew the truth he had refused to tell me. She had a part of him that he had kept secret, something that should have been mine. It wasn’t the part I thought it was – screwing would have been worse – but I still felt betrayed. I’d begged him to tell me something Bree had known, and he had only let me in because I’d caught them.

I slapped him so hard my hand stung. I have no idea how I hit him in the dark, but I did. I don’t think either of us felt any better for it.

“You need to leave now,” I told him. He tried to convince me to come back with him, but I had no wish to let him lead me through the darkness. It was cold there, but I could deal with that kind of chill. I couldn’t deal with having to lean on him. He went away, though I don’t know how far. I tried not to think about it through the rest of the night.


I went back to the Chemistry Department this morning. The foragers had gone out by then, but Matt had stayed behind. He was so worried that he pounced on me as soon as I came through the door. I must have looked terrible: cold, sleepless, red-eyed and hungry. I burst into tears when he hugged me, though I couldn’t tell him why. I’m all right, I told him. I didn’t know how to say any more. He stroked my hair until I was feeling well enough to stand on my own again.

I’m numb now. I see the faces around me, most of them glad to see me back, but I can’t feel anything. I’ve thawed myself by the fire all day, but I still feel cold in a way that all the blankets in the world won’t cure.

I need a new word; I don’t know what to call Ben now. There’s one word for what he is, but I won’t use it. Maybe I’ll just call him cannibal.

Friday, 24 July 2009 - 5:59 pm

Once was blind

I have barely spoken to anyone since I got back. It’s hard to know what to say; it’s not like I can tell them what Ben admitted to me. I can see the pitchforks emerging already. There’s a part of me that still cares about that, and not just for Ben’s sake. We’ll all lose a part of ourselves if we let that happen.

Matt’s worried about me. He has stopped asking what’s wrong – he gets that I can’t tell him – but he’s always near. He didn’t go out with the foragers again today. He knows that Ben’s involved: they’re exchanging scowls now. There’s nothing I can – or want to – say to dissuade him.

Bree has wisely stayed out of sight. I think I’d do something we’d all regret if I saw her right now.

I haven’t known what to say to Ben, either. So many questions, but I don’t want to accept what he’s already told me. It’s hard to know where to start. He has been watching me with eyes that are always assessing me, weighing my expressions and reactions, looking for flickers – of hate, or anger, or sympathy. I have nothing to give him yet.


He killed someone. It was an accident, he says, but that didn’t stop him from chowing down on the remains. I can forgive him for an accident. Death and killing are so much a part of our world now that ethics have shifted, but it’s not like he murdered her. It makes a difference, though I’m not sure how much.

He’s not human any more. It’s not a surprise: I have suspected it for a while now. The way his hands and skin are always so cold, his reaction to sunlight, how he caught the offroader that slipped off its jack and held it up. How he found me in the dark. I had no idea of the scale of it, though; it goes much deeper than that, but I don’t know how deep. What else hasn’t he told me?

He has been so reluctant to let me in that I have no idea where I am any more. I want to go talk to him again, but I’m scared. Scared he won’t tell me any more, and scared that he will. Scared that he has more to tell. How much worse can it get?

It still hurts that Bree knew more about what was going on with him than I did. How long has she known? How did she find out? Did she catch him feeding and he didn’t manage to accidentally kill her? Was it longer than that? She has been avoiding me ever since she tagged onto our group, so I can’t use her evasiveness as a clue. Or did she meet him before he came back to us?

How many times can I be the girlfriend kept in the dark before I stop trusting everyone? Am I that easy to lie to?

I could run around in circles on this forever; it’s been almost a couple of days now and I’m still no closer to any kind of resolution. I can’t put this behind me until I know more and at least some of my questions are answered.

I have to talk to one of them. I don’t want to. Every fibre in my chest clenches when I think about it.


I just remembered what Masterson said to me the other day. He told me to look at my own house. Does he know too? How many people were in on this? How many friends didn’t tell me? How blind was I?

I’m in a group of over twenty people and I’ve never felt so alone in my life.

Saturday, 25 July 2009 - 9:30 pm

Doctor’s orders

I couldn’t quite bring myself to talk to Bree or Ben today. There was just too much rising in me to do it.

I saw Bree. She’s staying in a side room with her friends: Mira the teenager and Scott the random pickup. She’s pale and that was enough to make me turn around and walk away. Bloodloss. Ben.


Instead, I took hold of my courage and went to speak to someone else. Someone who I hoped would have some answers for me.

I didn’t expect a warm reception and I didn’t get one. At first, I didn’t think he’d talk to me. When I walked up to him, he looked ready to physically toss me out of his way. Luckily for me, he’s a wiry little guy and his mouth is much worse than his hands.

It’s never fun asking Masterson for help. He called me names and spent ten minutes tearing strips off me, until I was nearly in tears all over again. It’s nothing I haven’t said to myself and I was determined not to run away from him.

He said that he had noticed something when Ben was sick. When the Sickness got really bad and we thought he was going to die. After Ben got better, he asked Masterson to check him over. After the doctor noticed a few odd things he couldn’t explain – like low body temperature and elusive pulse – Ben called the whole thing to a stop. Since he returned to the group, Masterson has noticed Ben’s strange behaviour and the sunburn.

I asked him why he didn’t say anything. Masterson shrugged and said it wasn’t up to him to force people to do what they should be doing. It’s not like he doesn’t have enough to do in the group just keeping on top of the injuries. And if Ben didn’t want his help, what did he care?

I tried to get the doctor to help me work out what’s going on with Ben. What’s different about him. Masterson didn’t want to play ball, though.

“Go talk to the chemist,” he said, shooing me away. “Deal with your own problems. Ben gives me the creeps.”

Talking to him is like running into a spiked wall. I gave up eventually and left him alone, with only a little more information for my trouble. Ben’s body seems to be running slowly – his heartbeat is low, which is probably part of the reason he’s so cold. It’s not much, but I guess it’s something to go on.


I should take Masterson’s advice and see if Kostoya can help me figure this out.

The thing is, I’m not sure if working out what’s going on physically will help me deal with the other stuff. With Caroline, with Bree, with blood and meat. With not being entirely human any more. Will bald facts really help me work out how I’m supposed to feel about all this?

There’s no manual for this kind of thing. I feel like I’m learning to dance, but there’s no music or footprints painted on the floor. Who turned off the music?

Sunday, 26 July 2009 - 9:35 pm

No-one else matters

I thought about going to see Dr Kostoya today. I thought about going to ask Bree what she knew. I thought about talking to Thorpe to see what he had noticed about his old friend and crewmate. But even I knew that I was avoiding what I needed to do, so I ignored the distractions.

Ben has done nothing lately except watch me and stay out of my way. He tried to talk to me a couple of times but wound up just sitting next to me. I had no idea what to say to him and I think the feeling was mutual. Today, though, I was determined that we were going to actually communicate.

I waited until the foragers had headed out for the day. They’re doing well at finding us supplies and we’re building up a stock now; there has even been enough to share with Kostoya when he said he was short of food.. They’re going to need to find a store of heavy boots soon – the snow is eating away at our shoes, no matter how careful we are.

It went quiet about mid-morning, once the remains of breakfast were cleaned up and the foragers were long gone. The kids amuse themselves – Dillon is getting good at being in charge of the other two, supervising by waving a crutch around. Some of the others disappeared upstairs to give the chemist a hand with whatever he’s doing lately.

I sat down next to Ben; he was by the window, looking out at the places he couldn’t walk in the tainted orange day. Why is it so hard to start a conversation like this? It’s easier when I don’t have time to prepare myself, when I just react, though I beat myself up afterwards for all the stuff I forgot to say.

Instead, I took his hand and put my fingertips on the inside of his wrist. His skin is chilly but just as soft as it used to be. He knew what I was doing and just sat there, waiting for the bump under his skin to let me know that he still has a heart in there. It took a long time to come – it felt like forever, though it can’t have been more than half a minute. His is a shy heart.

“What else don’t I know?” I asked him.

He shrugged, but not as dismissively as before. “You know most of it now. I can hear better than I used to. And smell, too – I can smell the rain coming sometimes, though less now that it’s freezing.”

“Is that how you found me that night? By scent?”


I’m not used to getting such straight answers from him. I looked into his face and he seemed sincere. “I smell that bad, huh.”

The corner of his mouth twitched. It’s the closest that any of us have got to a real smile in a long time. The moment didn’t last long, but it was long enough to chip away some of the frost between us.

I sighed and looked down at his hand, still held between mine. It felt warmer than before; either I was warming it up or I was getting used to the cold.

“I don’t know what you want me to do, Ben.”

“I want you to be okay with this,” he said, quickly enough to make me glance up at his face. There was earnestness there. “I’ve got nowhere else to go. No-one else that matters to me.”

My throat was threatening to close up. “I want to be okay with it too.”


It was elusive, that ‘but’. It hung between us and I struggled to reach out and grab it. “I don’t know what all this means. Not, not yet.”

He frowned at our hands. “It means I’m not entirely human any more. I’m some halfway thing. Not one of them, not one of you either.”

“You’re not like the shamblers.”

“I’m trying not to be.”

Suddenly, I felt like I was slipping, or he was slipping, and there was nothing to hold onto. His pulse was slow while mine wanted to beat out of my chest. It was all I could do to keep the desperation out of my voice.

“I want to help you.”


“You went to her.” It was out before I’d thought about it. It mattered, though. It mattered more than I like. It was raw and I couldn’t let go of it, even if I wanted to.

“It wasn’t… it wasn’t like that, Faith. You know that.”

“It doesn’t matter.” The pressure was building up and abruptly I was trying not to cry. “You didn’t come to me. You chose to go to someone else. To her, of all people.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“But you did. That’s exactly what you did.”

He stared at me for a long moment. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Tell me the truth! Tell me what was going on!”

“And the feeding? Would you rather I had fed off you, too?”


He stood up and pulled his hand out of mine, still staring at me. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. I knew it was stupid, but it was how I felt. I remembered what my dad said once, just after I found out about Cody and Bree. “The heart isn’t a rational beast,” he had told me. And then he had hugged me. I would give anything for one of his hugs right now, even for him to scruff my hair up like he always did.

“It’s the truth,” I said to Ben.

He touched my cheek and told me again that he didn’t want to hurt me. He was troubled when he went away, as if he thought I might offer again. As if maybe he’d say yes.

I don’t know what I’d do if he did. I don’t know what’s more important to me right now – that he kept things from me; that he didn’t want to hurt me; that he chose to go to Bree; that he eats people. In my head, it all seems so straightforward, as if the answer is obvious. Then the rest of me gets involved and I don’t know anything.

He said that no-one else matters to him. I want to believe him, though the more I think about it, the more scared that thought makes me.

Monday, 27 July 2009 - 6:58 pm

A normal day

Today, I decided to stretch my legs and went out with the foragers. Over a dozen of us clomped off across the frosted landscape with a couple of makeshift sleds in tow. The guys have been putting things together while I wasn’t looking.

I wound up pulling one of the sleds while the others ran into buildings and searched for supplies. It was nice to be out in the fresh air, even with the smouldering sky hovering so close overhead and the icy bite on the wind.

For a while, I was able to forget about everything that’s been going on lately. The shamblers, Ben, Bree. Caught up in the search for food and essentials, it was like it was months ago, when things were simpler. It was a chance to be with the others, to get to know the newcomers as more than just names. Like how Janice always looks out for Tom, because he’s got a sore knee and will hurt it if he slips again. Jersey is hanging with Terry a lot now; I suspect they might be bad for each other, reckless behaviour concentrated too much for anyone’s good. Now that his sister is better and he doesn’t have to worry so much, Terry has definitely come out of his shell. Dale is mostly recovered from his injuries and recently started accompanying the foragers too, under Thorpe’s watchful eye, and he seems like a good enough fella.

Matt walked with me for most of the day. It was nice; I’ve missed his company. Between Ben’s frowning and the secrets I’m not supposed to tell, we haven’t really talked much lately.

It’s no accident that going out with the foragers meant that I got time away from Ben. I needed space to think and to not have his eyes on me for a while. Even if he’s not in the room, I know he’s close, like a lean on my peripheral vision.

I asked Matt how he’s doing and he said that he’s all right. He sounded surprised by his own answer. Other than being worried about me, he seems better than he has been for a long while. More like his old self. I guess having a big group has given him a bigger audience; he always did play well to a full house.

He gave me that concerned look that wanted to return the inquiry to me, but he didn’t put it into words. I told him anyway. That things are difficult since Ben got back and we’re trying to work them out. I told him that Bree’s involved, but not in that way. That it’s complicated and painful and I’m not handling it very well. I didn’t tell him the truth about Ben, but I didn’t need to. Matt slung an arm around my shoulders and let me know that he was there for me, whatever I needed. At that moment, that was exactly what I needed.

It was a relief to hear. It was like getting my best friend back, though I never lost him, not really. I leaned on him and he let me, and we talked about other stuff. He let me in on some of the gossip – like his suspicions about Thorpe and Dale. That surprised me for several reasons, not least being Matt’s casual attitude towards it. I remember how I felt when I saw him and Thorpe together; it’s still bright and sharp. It’s still confusing. I changed the subject.

By the time we got back to the Chemistry Department, I felt lighter. I felt more solid at the same time, as if I wasn’t at the mercy of the pounding waves at the changing of the tide, not knowing if it was going out or coming in. I felt better able to handle the buckshot being scattered in my direction.

Ben was hovering and grumpy when we came inside, scowling at me and my friend. I went over and kissed his cold cheek, and spent the evening talking to him about nothing. He thawed after a while and held onto my hand.

It was almost like being a normal couple again. Like being a normal girl. It was nice to remember what that’s like, before I have to dive back into what passes for our regular lives here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009 - 5:53 pm

Girl talk

It had to happen sooner or later. I’m not proud to admit what happened today.

I decided not to go out with the foragers again, partly because I knew that I was running away from Ben and all the complications around him when I went out. I had hoped to spend some time with him, but he excused himself with a murmur about needing some space. I was thinking about feeling hurt and then he said that it was because he was hungry. That was enough to make me leave him alone.

I suppose I should be grateful that he’s not just going to Bree any more. I didn’t forbid him or anything like that. I think he knows I wouldn’t handle it well if he kept on with that.


I wasn’t looking for him when I went to find Bree, but there was a frightened swirl in my stomach that thought he might be there. He wasn’t. She was alone; her little friends had gone off to help Kostoya again. She didn’t look well and I tensed because I knew the reason for that.

The glance she gave me was so tired that I almost felt sorry for her. I have an idea about the position she’s in right now, stuck between the shadow of the Pride, my own memories and enmity, and the needs of survival. I don’t envy her any of it. I don’t think I’ve envied her since I found out about her sleeping with Cody.

“What do you want, Faith?” she asked when I came into her room and didn’t immediately turn around and walk out again. “Come to tell me to stay away from your fella?”

I had to clench my jaw to stop a number of angry responses spilling over onto her. I closed the door behind me and leaned on the edge of a desk. “I want to know what was going on between you and Ben.”

“He didn’t tell you?”

“I’m asking you.”

She looked at me for a long moment. “You know what he is now, don’t you?” Her tone was expecting a negative answer and I had to slide my hands under my thighs to stop them from curling up. Damn her, she knows how to get to me.


“Then you know what was going on. He was hungry. I gave him what he wanted.”

I knew she was doing it on purpose, lashing out with the worst wording possible. I think it’s the only arsenal she has left. It pricked at me and I had to keep a tight hold on my temper. “How did you find out about him?”

“Same way you did: I walked in on him feeding.”

I stared at her and tried not to feel sick. I failed. “Who?” Another girl?

Bree glanced away, showing that maybe there was an actual heart in there somewhere. “Steve.” It took me a moment to remember the Pride wannabe she had arrived with. He was just a kid, seventeen, eighteen maybe. “He got Sick. We think he died in the night sometime. Then I found Ben… eating him.” She shuddered delicately.

Steve had disappeared some time ago; she knew all this time? “Why didn’t you tell someone?” Tell me. Why didn’t she tell me?

“He asked me not to. I was too scared.”


“He’s a– he eats people, Faith. That doesn’t scare you?”

I shrugged. “He doesn’t scare me.”

“Well, maybe he should. You think I let him feed off me because I like it? I don’t. Does that make you happy?”

Actually, it did make it easier to deal with, though I wasn’t going to tell her that. “So why did you let him?”

“I told you – I was scared.” She got up and started pacing around the little room, rubbing her arms for warmth. I think it was someone’s office once. “You people – the rest of you – you barely look at us. Would anyone have noticed if he’d picked us off, one by one?”

I can’t even pin a firm date on when Steve disappeared from our ranks. “How long?”

“Has he been coming to me for this? A while. Few weeks, maybe, off and on.”

I didn’t know what to say. It’s been so long – all that time, he had come to her and hadn’t told me anything.

She smiled bitterly. “What’s the matter, Faith? The happy new boyfriend not all you wanted him to be? Why is it your men always prefer to come to me when they really need something?”

She was close enough that when I stood up, I only had to stretch my arm out to slap her. It made a satisfying, shockingly loud sound. “Why do you have to do this?” She was always taking away things that were mine. Things I cared about.

“Poor blind Faith,” she said, rubbing her cheek. “Never can see what’s right there, can you? Everything’s so easy for you; the things you want just fall into your lap, while the rest of us have to work for it. You don’t deserve any of it.”

I stared at her, trying to take all of that in and only getting shards. “I don’t deserve it? And you do? I’m not the one stabbing friends in the back. What the hell makes you think I get what I want?”

“You always do! The pretty boy with big prospects; the job from daddy. And now the pretty boy and a group that follows your every word, without question.” Her tone dripped with derision and made those things dirty somehow. “The world ended and everything changed, but you, you’re exactly the same.”

“You have no idea who I am.” The words came out more surprised than I had intended, but it was true. She didn’t know me, not if she thought I hadn’t changed. Maybe I didn’t sell out like she did but there are lots of ways to change.

I knew then that I wouldn’t get anything else out of her except abuse. There was already too much in my head and my handprint on her cheek, so I turned to leave.

“What are you doing to do now, little miss blind Faith? Huh?” she shot after me. “Tell him to stay away from me? What are you going to do when he’s hungry enough to bite down? What’s it like sleeping with a monster? How is your perfect little arrangement going to work then?”

I didn’t look back at her. She sounded so angry and I had no answer for her. I let the door close behind me and kept walking, up and up until I got to the roof. I stood there in the cold wind until my cheeks were numb and the clouds had ganged up overhead.

The worst part is, I think I understand her now.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009 - 8:36 pm

Look to the road

I’m not the only one growing restless here. Last night, talk turned towards the places we haven’t got to yet. The Emergency Coordination Centre, the signal-senders at Greenberry. The promises of something organised that might take us out of this wandering, hand-to-mouth existence.

Today, the snow melted a little before the rain came. The acid water fell as sleet again rather than fluffy flakes and the wetness muddied up the slush on the ground. Tonight looks like it’s going to be as cold as ever, but there’s hope that the frost will be kinder in the morning. There might even be glimpses of concrete. I guess the hope of that nudged thoughts towards the possibility of walking out on it.

I went out again, but not with the foragers. Instead, I went over to where our vehicles are sitting, frozen onto the campus road. One of the panels on the water truck has been wedged open – the foragers fetched bottles from it when we needed them – and I’m fairly sure that other scavengers have been at it. I can’t bring myself to mind, though. If our water helped others survive, then good for them. It’s not like we’re short of it.

The vehicles seem fine. We managed to get a couple of them running (I took Tia and Iris with me). The offroaders’ engines chugged obscenely loudly in the crisp air. I shut them off quickly, not wanting to waste the fuel and maybe a little bit creeped out by so much noise in the silence.

I ducked into the social building while I was there and looked at the place we first stayed on the campus. There’s a scorched mark on the floor where our fire sat and smoke has blackened the ceiling in places. Furniture is still arranged in approximations of beds. There’s a pile of wrappers and cans dropped in a corner, scoured clean of any traces of food.

It’s strange to think about how much we’ve learned since then. How much has changed.


Tonight, we talked about what we wanted to do. Kostoya was sitting with us and asked if it was safe for the little ones to be going out into the world. I had no answer for him; we would protect them as best we could, obviously, but it was still dangerous. I had to restrain the urge to glance at Ben. It was dangerous for all of us.

We’re a big group now. Over twenty of us – not too many for the vehicles to carry, but a lot to move around. Everything takes so long with this number of bodies to motivate and get moving. But do all of us need to go?

“Dr Kostoya, would you object if some of us stayed here?” I asked.

He looked around, torn. We did move in and make ourselves at home. “I suppose not,” he said. “I have grown used to the help.” And the company, I think. I don’t think he has been alone since the bomb went off – he has talked about others ‘visiting’ him here – but no-one else had been here for some time before we showed up.

Some of the others were looking at me expectantly. Masterson was the first to speak up.

“Thinking of dumping some of us?”

Trust him to inject venom into the conversation. “No,” I said. “But if people do want to stay, then it’s nice to know they can.”

“What are you thinking, Faith?” That was Tom with his calm, solid voice. He reminded me of a lighter, more quiet-spoken version of Sax.

“We don’t all need to go. If we find anything, we’ll come back and… go from there.” I shrugged.

“There’s the radio,” Conroy pointed out. Scott said that the radio was only useful if both those leaving and those staying had one – we still had the firefighting unit, but we didn’t know what kind of range we’d get on it.

“Plenty of parts in the electronics department,” Kostoya said.

“When are you leaving?” Again, the question was aimed at me by Tom.

I restrained the urge to shrug again. I wanted to get moving but it wasn’t like I had a timeline laid out for this. “Couple of days at the most.” I could see the brains reeling from where I was sitting. I felt unfair, though a couple of days felt like too long to wait to me. “We don’t need to decide everything tonight. Have a think about what you all want to do.”


With luck, tonight’s evening chatter will work out who’s coming and who’s staying. I can guess at least a few of those who will stay behind.

I’m looking forward to hitting the road. I feel like I might be able to leave some of these headaches and heartaches behind.

Thursday, 30 July 2009 - 7:14 pm


Last night’s talk didn’t achieve much. Some minds are taking a while to make up. I guess we won’t know who’s coming or going until we actually leave and check who’s in the vehicles.

The only person missing from the discussion was Ben. He didn’t turn up at all last night, so this morning I went to find him. I wound up in a room a couple of floors up, where he was staring out of the window at the forbidden daylight. He didn’t look good, paled into sickliness and gaunt, as if he was wasting away.

He asked me what I wanted and I said I came to find out what was going on with him. He shrugged and gave me a single word: “Hungry.”

I looked at him standing there with his arms wrapped around himself, as if he was afraid of what his hands might do if he didn’t clamp them down. My brain ran through the options with stumbling feet. We didn’t have any fresh meat and canned stuff wouldn’t do. He said he’d exhausted the animal population around here already. The only other option was blood, and I couldn’t bear the thought of him going to Bree again. Her words still rattle around in my head.

It was my blood or hers. My heart made the decision and handed him the knife I still have sheathed at the small of my back. Then it tried to flutter its way out of my chest in denial when he asked if I was sure and I said yes, yes I’m sure. I bared the soft skin of my inner forearm. He didn’t hesitate much.


It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I watched him with his mouth on my arm and thought about Bree and her bitterness.

She has hated me a lot longer than I realised. The things she threw at me mean little to me, but they’re so much to her. Like dating Cody, the lawyer with the prospects she used to go on about. And the job my dad gave me at the car yard that I left because I wanted to find my own way, rather than following in his footsteps. She despised the car yard, but she used to tell me about how her father left her to her own devices; ‘free’, she called it.

It never occurred to me that I might have things she wanted, not until she took Cody away. She was the prettiest of our little circle, the confident one, the one with the best job and the most money. I was the plainest, the lowliest, the one hoping someone else would be able to buy the drinks at the high-end clubs she liked. And she had never let me forget it, though it didn’t turn nasty until after I found out about her and Cody.

Bree put herself on her pedastal and made everyone recognise her up there. The rest of us were in our place without any doubts. I know now that there was doubt; it’s just that she was very good at hiding it. Them the bomb kicked her pedastal out from under her and she’s still trying to work out how to stand up on our level. My memory’s Bree has gold plating, and it’s flaking off. Underneath, she’s just as grubby as the rest of us.

It doesn’t make me like her any more than I did before. She’s still the snake at my back, all cold-blooded eyes and tongue grabbing at my air.


I was lightheaded by the time Ben was finished and there was a dull ache all the way up my arm. It’s possible I shouldn’t have used the one that was still healing. He put an arm around my waist when I wobbled and kissed me. I tasted copper but wasn’t quick enough to recoil before it was over.

He fetched me something to eat, attentive once his needs were met. I let him. It feels fair to have this exchange between us, even though it doesn’t quite feel right. Or safe. But even with all that, I couldn’t find it in me to be scared of him.

While he was gone, I wondered why he didn’t go find some shamblers to eat; that would solve so many problems at once. Then I remembered what Dr Kostoya said about the chemical deficiency and how the shamblers can’t get nourishment from each other. Presumably, the same applies to Ben.

Abruptly, my stomach went cold and edged into every crevice of my body. Bree said that Steve had died of the Sickness before Ben fed on him, but that can’t be true. It wouldn’t have worked. Steve can’t have died of the Sickness.

Something else killed him. Or someone.

Finally, I am starting to be afraid of Ben and what he’s capable of.

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Friday, 31 July 2009 - 6:41 pm


I was hoping to get moving this morning, but a group of shamblers turned up and trod all over that idea.

The foragers were just gearing up to go for their daily hunt when the mass was spotted. They’re less comical these days now that the ice is thinning and retreating. We watched them come and weren’t worried; Kostoya had told us that the pipe-warming system was working fine and that he had plenty of rainwater to keep them out with. We’ve grown complacent.

The waterfall worked fine, stopping the shamblers in their stumbling tracks, and we allowed ourselves a cheer. They lurched back and milled around in some confusion, but they didn’t go away. In the past, they have always given up and moved off towards something else.

They reminded me of a story I read once, about a robot who was caught between two commands. His orders conflicted with his safety protocols, and he wound up circling the object of the order and the danger in indecision, until his batteries ran down. When I read it, I thought about how sad it was that no-one came to break him out of it. He was left there, endlessly circling, forgotten. Expendable.

The shamblers weren’t quite smart enough to circle the building to look for another way in, but they weren’t giving up either. They hovered until the water was turned off, then lurched in again. Water came on, they backed off, some of them sizzling.

Someone asked why they weren’t leaving. It was Ben who answered.

“There’s no other meat around here.”

I don’t want to know how he knew that. I don’t think any of us were comforted by the information.

Kostoya had come down to see what we knew, his little waterfall remote in hand. His fingers were white as he looked from one of us to the other.

“The tank will run out eventually,” he said, his accent thick with nerves.

We all looked at each other. “Then let’s do this on our terms,” I said. No-one argued.


It’s frightening how good we’re getting at preparing for something like this. The kids were shut away with Sally in a room on the floor above. The rest of us grabbed weapons. Ben protected himself from the sun with a hat and scarf.

When everyone was ready and the tips off bats were circling in the air, we nodded to Kostoya and he shut off the waterfall. After a few seconds to make sure that we wouldn’t be dripped on, we piled outside. The shamblers were already heading towards the building again and we went to meet them.

I quickly realised that I shouldn’t have been out there. I still wasn’t feeling on top of things after feeding Ben yesterday and just a few swings of my bat left me feeling weak and shaky. I retreated to the back of the group and fell into instruction mode, yelling for this person to step back, go help him, look out for that. There were more of them than I had realised before we came outside and I had to dodge out of the path of more than one.

Ben is very good at dealing with them. I noticed before that he was better at fighting them, but I thought it was because he’d had to look after himself when he left us. Now I know what he is, there’s a new slant to it. He’s very fast. They tend to go down after just one hit with him – even Thorpe is lucky to do that consistently. Even out in the sunlight, trying to hide in the shade of his own hat, his eyes scrunched up, he was intimidating. Scary. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many he might have killed. And then, I wondered how many weren’t shamblers. When did that first time happen? Who was it? How is he so sure about what he can and cannot eat? I don’t think I want answers to any of these questions.

There were a few yells and injuries, but we got off lightly considering the odds. It was a shock when they were finally all gone, and then there was the wounded to deal with. I worked on automatic pilot, making sure that everyone was getting what they needed, patching up the minor hurts.

For the second time, Jersey refused any help. He had an injured leg but he kept insisting that he was fine. His face was white with pain but he wouldn’t admit it. I made sure he had bandages, even if he wouldn’t let me put them on. I knew it was bad when he didn’t throw them back in my face.

I was dizzy by the time I was done with everyone; Matt had to take me to a chair and sit me down before I fell over.


The attack has kept us quieter today. Some of us are in pain, and all of us have been reminded of the dangers that lie on the roads we’re going to travel. I think some of those eager to get out of here might think again. The group of Seekers that will leave here soon just got smaller.

It makes no difference to me. I am eager for the road, even with its dangers. I trust my friends to keep the group safe. It’s what we do.

And I suspect that the greatest danger isn’t waiting for us outside in the broken world. It travels with us.