Friday, 15 May 2009 - 10:08 pm


It has been three days since we ran away from the Pride. After that day, we haven’t stopped moving – while it was light and rain-free, we were on the road, moving as fast as we could. Considering our burdens, it wasn’t very fast, and now I think we have to stop entirely.


As we huddled in that basement, waiting for the sounds of the Pride hounding us, we tried to assess the damage. I put cloth on the bleeding wounds where I could, and then went to shake the doctor.

Masterson was a mess. His knuckles were skinned from hitting a guy over and over, and he had a wild look in his eye when I said his name. He didn’t move, though, didn’t respond. He might have leapt on those Proud members in Sally’s defense, but he was ignoring her now that we were free of them. He was useless.

“God dammit, we need you!” Anger spurted and I grabbed his arms to shake him. He glared at me and pulled himself free.

Ben was wheezing awfully, shaking and seeing spots. Dillon had a head wound that had spilt blood all down his face, but it looked worse than it was. Matt had been shot: a bullet had punched through his lower leg, luckily missing the bone. Thorpe had torn something in his wrist. I had mostly scrapes and bruises. Sally lied when I asked her if she was all right. Nugget was the only one without any damage; she had the sense to hide when things went nuts.

The Pride hadn’t thought to ask for our first aid supplies, so I had antiseptic and dressings enough to patch everyone up. Still, Matt and Sally needed a doctor’s attention, and I was scared about how bad Ben was.


We didn’t dare go outside while the Pride might be chasing us, so we stay put and tried to make ourselves comfortable. I sent Dillon and Nugget to keep watch. It kept them out of the way and they’re capable enough.

The sticking point was still Masterson and his self-imposed catatonia. I had no choice but to go and bother him again. He needed to have his hands seen to anyway, so I used that as an excuse to get close to him. He tried to tell me not to bother, but I was far past letting him brush me off – he did as he was told when it was ‘sit down and shut up’.

While I had him there, I tried to talk to him. I told him that I understood how he felt, but he needed to get past it – Sally needed him. She might say that she’s okay, but she’s not. She’s far from okay. She needed a doctor, she needed a friend, and she needed someone to care for her.

He didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at me. I knew he could hear me – the little muscle in his jaw kept jumping. But he didn’t want to come out and play my game.

I got desperate and I did something I shouldn’t. Frustration made me snap at him. “Goddammit, she’s pregnant!”

That got his attention. He looked at me, then grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “You knew this before?”

“I couldn’t stop her!”

He shouted something at me, and next thing I knew I was tumbling across the room and crashing into a chair. Then the boys were all over the place, in between me and Masterson – who was still shouting at me – and helping me up again. I’d hit my head and the room tilted alarmingly; my knees buckled in confusion when I tried to stand. Someone sat me down and told me to keep still. I remember the sound of fist hitting flesh, and then Masterson stopped shouting – from the look of his face afterwards, someone had punched him in the mouth.

By the time I could see straight again, things were quiet again. Masterson was sitting over by Sally, scowling and holding her hand awkwardly. She wasn’t looking at him and shook her head in tiny, sharp movements every now and then. He stopped trying after a few minutes, but he stayed there with her in silence anyway.


I’ve had a headache ever since that day. We’ve been taking turns carrying the weaker members of our group, moving steadily away from the Pride. Now, Ben is too sick to move, especially not on foot. We’re trying to find somewhere comfortable to hole up for a while. For his last days.

Saturday, 16 May 2009 - 10:21 pm

Tearing down decorations

Ben is worse today. He’s feverish and murmuring, and it looks like we won’t be going anywhere soon. Thorpe is watching Ben for me, so I’ve got a little time to post now.

The others spent most of the day scouting out for supplies – we were nearly two days without water after the Pride took our supplies, and we wound up eating cat food. It’s not an experience I’m eager to repeat, but surprisingly less unpleasant than I had expected it to be.

We’re settled in an empty house now. We took down some of the Christmas decorations, because it’s all getting a bit weird. Like the world is stuck on the day the bomb went off, growing colder and dimmer every day, dying gradually under us while the clock forgets how to tick.

I’m trying not to think of this house as the place that Ben is going to die.


We’ve seen the Pride only once since we ran away from them. They passed by the basement just before the rain came, on our own scooters. I wasn’t the only one who felt furious at that: it was a reminder of everything they took from us.

No-one did anything, though. We huddled by the high windows and watched, holding our breath as they scanned the area on their way through. They weren’t trying very hard to find us; they probably thought we were hours away by then. None of us sought to disillusion them.

To my surprise, I saw a familiar face travelling with them. Paige, the girl who told us her story just a few days before, was riding with them. The one who stayed with us that night and listened to our tales. She pointed us towards the mall when we asked if she’d seen Alice; now we think she was sending us into her group’s jaws. She wasn’t wearing the Pride’s tag and I’m not the only one feeling betrayed by that. Perhaps she was only doing what she needed to to survive, serving her group, but I can’t quite bring myself to be okay with that.


I still don’t really know how Sally is. I tried to talk to her, but she won’t open up to me – she just keeps saying that she’s fine and I shouldn’t worry. When I asked her about the baby, she paused before she said that she thinks it’s okay; that was the most honesty I got out of her.

She didn’t tell me off for opening my mouth to the doctor and I haven’t apologised for it. If nothing else, it made him go check her out.

Masterson still isn’t talking to her but he is sticking close; I don’t think he’s been more than a few feet away from her since I shouted at him. She doesn’t do much that he isn’t keeping an eye on, even if he is grumpy and growly about it.


I hear Ben calling again. I’m not sure who he’s calling for but Thorpe looks helpless – I’d better go and lend a hand. I wish this headache would go away.

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Sunday, 17 May 2009 - 5:49 pm

Someone to save

Today was much like yesterday, except that Ben was quieter. He didn’t wake up at all, not even when we tried to give him something to drink.

I sat with him all day, watching him breathe. A couple of the others came over to relieve me, but I didn’t let them. I should be with him now. I think it’s all the time we’ve got left.

Sometime this afternoon, I called Masterson over. There was a rash creeping up Ben’s neck, just like the one we saw on Sax’s arm not long before he died.

I think tonight’s going to be a long night.


Something occurred to me today while I was monitoring the rise and fall of Ben’s chest. I could hear Dillon talking to someone else, asking about Alice and if she was like this. I guess she is, or has been. Poor Alice, losing her family and her face, and now her life.

It reminded me about where the Pride caught us – right outside the mall. They were very focussed on us, but they were scouring all the stores along that street. How long before they broke into the mall? Had any of them seen the Rats locking us out and watching us through the tinted windows?

Had we told Paige about the Rats and the mall? I can’t remember now. I don’t think we did; we asked about Alice, but I can’t remember anyone mentioning where we thought she might have gone.

I can’t bear to think about what will happen if the Pride find the Rats. I know how they looked at Dillon and what Sally did for us. Those kids weren’t bad, not anything like some of the other groups we’ve seen. They just wanted to protect the little they had and survive.

I want to go back and get them. I want to help those kids. I want to save them, but I know I can’t. There’s Ben, and we’re probably already too late, and what could we do anyway? We barely got away in one piece as it was. We can’t fight a gang with guns.

I don’t want this. I can’t think about those kids in the Pride’s hands. I can’t sit here next to Ben. But I have to. There’s no-one else left to take care of this stuff any more.

What else can I do? I wish there was someone here to tell me. I wish there was someone I could save.

Monday, 18 May 2009 - 6:49 pm

Fever fighting

I fell asleep a little while before dawn this morning. It can’t have been more than an hour later when I was woken up by Ben’s hand crashing into my side. He was thrashing around and shouting, delirious.

It took four of us to hold him steady so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Masterson shrugged and said that there wasn’t anything he could do; he didn’t have the medicines for this. We just had to hold on until Ben exhausted himself and fell back into a stupor again. He was restless all day, thrashing one moment and then mumbling the next, never quite still. Never resting.

By the time darkness fell, I felt as wrung out and drained as he looked. From somewhere, he found the energy to howl and thump the bedding up, writhing and sounding like someone was gutting him slowly. Whatever the fever was ripping up inside his head, he was fighting it so hard.

It was louder and more violent than anything Sax did. We were all too shocked to know what to do with Ben and Masterson was still useless. Holding him down just made him twist harder, so we let go for fear of hurting him.

I’ve never felt so helpless before. All I could do was watch and wish for it to stop, and then hope that he wouldn’t stop altogether. I want this to be over but I know that that will mean Ben is dead. I don’t want him to be dead. I don’t know how much more of this I can watch.

He’s quieter now; those awful sounds have stopped curdling in his throat, though he’s still mumbling incoherently. He seems to be calming in stages. I don’t want to see the final stage. I can’t.

I want there to be a day when I don’t end up crying.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009 - 6:59 pm

Need for real

I can’t believe it. I thought he was gone. I woke up this morning and it was so quiet. The others had gone out foraging, leaving me to sleep because I’d been up all night again.

From Ben’s bed, there were no moans or murmurs, no shouting or shifting in his blankets. He was so still, as if he was made of pale, thin wax. I couldn’t see him breathing; I thought he was gone.

I had to touch him. I had to make sure that it wasn’t a fearful hallucination, or a twisted dream I didn’t know I was in. Somehow, touching makes it real.

He was real. Cold now, the fever’s heat gone from his skin, and the sensation made my heart twist painfully. So cold. It wasn’t fair. It was too soon.

Then he opened his eyes. I felt his chest lift under my hand and he said my name, looking up at me. For the first time in days, he knew it was me there with him. I was crying when I answered him, and he sat up and hugged me.


That’s how the others found us. Ben smiled thinly and said hello while happy chaos burst around him. Even Nugget came up and patted his hand cautiously. We’ve all been more buoyant since then.

I’m trying not to read too much into it. Sax woke up before the end too. Ben’s still not well – he’s cold and clammy, and he has a grey tinge to his skin. He’s awake now and that’s all I know. I want him to stay that way. I never want to see him asleep again, just in case. He can’t slip away while I’m not looking if I keep looking at him. If I keep hold of his hand.

But it feels like a reprieve. If feels like I’m not going to lose him after all. I want to believe in this. I need it to be real.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009 - 6:47 pm

That wet crunch

We were forced to move today. We could have done with another day or two at least; Ben is weak and Matt’s leg is still healing.

We heard them coming around noon: low moans and the denting of a car being clambered over. A quick check out of the windows reported four shamblers stumbling in our direction, swerving with frightening intent towards the house we had settled in. They could have gone around the car, but it was in their way so they went over it like blind dogs.

These days, we’re never anything but seconds away from being packed. Those of us without serious wounds grabbed the packs of those who couldn’t carry their own. The shamblers were slow, as if working out every motion that pushed them forward required an effort of sluggish genius. But even with Ben and Matt supported on helpful shoulders, we couldn’t move very fast; we were barely be able to keep ahead of them.

It never once occurred to us to leave them behind. Masterson looked like he might suggest something like that, but he kept his mouth shut. I think he knows his audience and it was focussed on finding a way to get out of this.

There weren’t enough of us to try fighting them. We all remembered how strong Sax was, and how hard he was to stop. How do you disable something that doesn’t respond to pain and keeps coming even with broken limbs? It was Thorpe who put it succinctly: “We need to know how to kill them.”

There wasn’t any time to experiment. Dillon said they’d found a big car out back when the boys had been scouting for supplies. I asked them to buy me time and went to see if I could get it started. They were barricading up the front door and windows when I ran out the back.

It seemed to take forever to get the vehicle sorted out. It was a big multi-seat thing, sitting hunched on what used to be someone’s lawn as if it had grown lonely over the past few months. I couldn’t push and start it on my own, so I called the others out once it was unlocked and ready. I could hear wood splintering under those familiar, ominous thumps when the ablebodied of the group ran out. I don’t think we’ve got a vehicle going in such a short time before.

The shamblers were climbing into the house when we went back to grab Ben and Matt. I felt like their shredded fingers were reaching for my back as I hurried out of the door again, half-carrying Ben to the vehicle. Once outside, he groaned and tried to curl up on himself, hiding his face as if the orange-tinted sunlight hurt his eyes. I shouted for help, struggling to carry him on my own.

Dirt spat up behind the people-mover when we were all in. For one terrified second, I wondered if it was stuck and we were sardines in a can for the oncoming shamblers. Then the tyres bit in and shoved us forward, bouncing over the rough ground towards the promise of smoother roads. Masterson was behind the wheel – I don’t know how that happened – and seemed hell-bent on gunning the machine right out of that place.

I looked back as we jigged off the dirt and onto concrete; the shamblers had made it out of the back of the house. They were stopping where the car had been, heads lifted as they searched the air for us. They looked aimless, lost. Then they turned as one and stumbled towards another house. I couldn’t help but wonder whose scent they had caught, my stomach turning over on itself; our escape was someone else’s misfortune.


When I turned around, I caught my breath in surprise: there was a shambler right in the middle of the street. The others started screaming, but Masterson leaned harder on the accelerator. He was grinning. The shambler didn’t even look up as we barrelled towards it.

The impact was less impressive than I was expecting: the shambler’s head cracked the windscreen and then it was right there, clinging onto the vehicle’s blunt nose. I heard it moan over the engine’s roar.

We all shouted at Masterson to get it off. He tried wiggling the car from side to side, whipping the shambler’s legs back and forth. I winced when a parked car took one of them off and felt sick right down to my toes. The shambler didn’t seem to notice. Then Masterson slammed on the brakes and catapulted it off the windscreen.

I think if I’d seen it in a movie, I would have laughed. There was nothing funny about it today, just smears of blood on the windscreen and bonnet.

It was starting to get up when we ran over it. I’ve never been near a car accident, never heard the wet crunch of a body being run over by tons of metal and people, of a skull giving way and spilling its softness. I never want to hear that sound again.

Dillon said that it didn’t try to get up again. He was staring out of the back window as we sped away, swerving around stopped vehicles. Once we were out of sight of it, he threw up. I almost joined him.

I was busy trying to make sure that Ben and Matt were okay. Matt had howled when Masterson hit the brakes; his injured leg had hit the seat in front of him. There wasn’t much comfort I could give him. Ben was pale and clammy, but still awake, at least. It was miles before my heart stopped racing, and I watched the scenery out of the windscreen with a horrible fascination, wondering what else it might throw at us.


We passed another clump of shamblers, more distantly this time. We didn’t pause; we kept going until the vehicle started limping badly. Masterson frowned and gunned the engine, pushing the people-mover on despite its protests. He didn’t stop until sparks were spitting up on one side, where he’d run the wheel rim right through the tyre. The poor vehicle was dented, bruised, smeared and snapped underneath in a couple of places. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere again.

We looked for a place to stay for the night and found a little motel nearby. It was creepy and deserted; all it needed was a house on a hill and some plastic shower curtains, and I’d be looking for a crazy-eyed man with a nice smile and a maternal corpse. There was no house, all the showers have doors, and there wasn’t anyone home. We helped ourselves to room keys after breaking into the office and carried the sick and injured inside. There are beds enough for everyone here.

That’s where we are now, huddling in our rooms and listening to the rain eating the world away. At least the roof isn’t leaking.

Thursday, 21 May 2009 - 6:26 pm


Today has been mostly about supplies. I made sure that Ben was comfortable – he kept assuring me that he felt fine, just needed rest – and joined Thorpe, Masterson and Dillon to search the locale for food and water.

It’s easier to search other people’s homes if you don’t look at them too closely. Just focus on the cupboards and drawers and shelves; ignore the personal effects, the fading decorations, the unopened presents under the drooping trees. Go for those places that people put food and drink, check for second fridges, take the alcohol if that’s all that’s there.

I suppose one good thing about the bomb going off in the holiday season is that many had stocked their cupboards. I try not to think about the family members it was intended to feed.

It’s easier if you focus on every single tree’s bark and ignore the wood. The forest reaches too far and too deep, and it’s too empty for comfort.

We didn’t see any signs of shamblers in our searching, but we all kept weapons within each reach anyway. I don’t think any of us feel comfortable without something hard and swingable close by now. I still have the knife I got so many weeks ago – months now – tucked in the back of my waistband. I used to be scared of what it meant; now I know that I’d reach for it without thinking if I needed to. I don’t know what that says about me any more – I never liked the notion of pragmatism.

This bruised, scarred world is eroding all of us. We’re a part of it more fully than any of us would like, even though we haven’t embraced it as much as some have. The sad part is that I get it. I even get Bree and Kingston, the compromises made for survival. It doesn’t mean that I like it.


We managed to find enough food and liquid to keep us going for a little while. There was some comfort in that.

Ben hasn’t been eating much – he’s giving back almost as much as I’m giving him. I think he doesn’t think I’ve noticed, but I have. I’ve stopped taking my meal until he’s finished with his, because we can’t afford for any of it to be wasted. I figure that if I’m going to get sick, I’ve already done enough to catch it; eating his untouched food isn’t going to make any difference.

He’s cold, too. We’ve had to start carrying heavier blankets with us because of how cold it gets at night, but blankets just don’t seem to make any difference to him. When he lets me, I snuggle up to keep him warm. It seems like he only just thaws when morning rolls around and it’s time to get up. He says that he’s okay, but it can’t be good. I talked to Masterson about it and he doesn’t know what to make of it.

Matt’s leg seems to be healing all right, though. We’re all scared of infections with open wounds and no water to clean them, but between antibiotics and painfully-applied antiseptic, he seems to have avoided getting sick with it.

I’ve held his hand while his bandages are changed when I can, and while his grip is tight, he never complains. That’s not like the Matt I knew; he used to mutter something under his breath if he tore a nail or cut himself shaving. I just hope that he’s not hiding anything with this new stoicism of his.

They’re not good now, but they’re getting better. I have to believe that my boys are getting better.

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Friday, 22 May 2009 - 8:27 pm

Tapping in the dark

I’m so tired. I guess I should spend more time sleeping and less time writing this blog.

This is the only way I get to unload. I can’t bring myself to complain out loud – everyone here is in the same position I am, and some of them have it much worse. I do what I can for them; it helps me as much as it does them, I think. I can’t burden them with the viper doubts curling up in my chest, or the stony fears squatting in my stomach. It’s not fair to them.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m going to burst and the only way to stop it is to write it down. This blog isn’t just a record of everything that’s happening to us: it’s the only way I sleep at all. It’s the only way I can make peace with even a part of what I see every day.

I don’t know how the others do it. They don’t have this. I offered it to some of them, but they refused. Ben said he didn’t have the words, and Matt said he knew I told it all for him. Thorpe just shrugged, and Sally looked at it like it was an alien artefact. I wouldn’t trust Masterson with the laptop.

So I collect their stories for them. Like mosquitos in amber, I hope they’ll stay here forever for some future scientist to discover and learn from. I hope our stories matter to someone, somewhen. I’ve even started burning backups, just in case, though that might be paranoia nibbling at my edges.

It all seems pointless when we’re scared about what each hour will bring, what new threat will turn up on our doorstep next. But it seems so important not to forget all of this. Maybe that’s arrogant of me. I don’t know any more. I live by the knife in my waistband but I can’t do without a word-vent every day. Hand to mouth, head to keyboard.

So little of this world makes sense any more. Why should I be any different?

Saturday, 23 May 2009 - 5:05 pm


Sally hasn’t talked to anyone since the Pride returned her to us. She has spoken words, answered questions and offered suggestions, but she hasn’t talked, just talked. Nugget achieves the same end by not speaking at all; I’ve never seen anyone as good at vocal hiding as Sally is.

It doesn’t help that no-one really knows what to say to her. No-one wants to ask about what happened that night – we don’t want to remind her of it, and we don’t want to hear about it. Our imaginations fill in the gaps easily enough and with taller, worse stories than the reality. But then, they might not be so far from the truth, and that possibility is frightening for all of us.

The hardest thing is not to seem like we pity her. She quietly refuses to let anyone do things for her: she carries her own pack and helps with the food distribution every morning and night. She catches me watching her sometimes and gives me a little smile or a pat on the arm; don’t worry, Faith, don’t worry.

I worry. Of course I do.

I know she limps when she isn’t paying attention or thinks no-one’s looking. I know she throws up in the morning, and doesn’t eat much for breakfast because of it. I suppose it’s a good sign; it means that the baby is still all right.

The baby. The tiny life is still an enigma in my head. On one hand, it’s a kernel of hope, a promise of new things and continued living, the basis of species survival in the face of an apocalypse like ours. On the other hand, it’s dangerous, could damage or kill Sally in many ways, will slow us down, and its chances of survival aren’t high. The good far, far outweighs the bad, but I don’t think it can be ignored. We should prepare somehow. I feel like we should do something.

I would bring it up with the group, but they don’t know about it. Masterson doesn’t want to admit it’s really happening, so he won’t talk to me about it and gives me filthy looks when I try. Sally doesn’t want everyone to know and it’s not my secret to tell. I don’t understand. She’s going to start showing soon, and what then?

Do I just wait for it to be too obvious to ignore? Will that be enough time to make any kind of preparations? We’re struggling to feed and shelter ourselves most of the time; I feel like we’ll need months to gather everything we’d need to deal with a baby.

I can feel the ‘what if’s lining up in my head, behind my fingers and tongue, wanting a route into the world. They’re not helpful; there are too many. We can’t plan tomorrow, let alone six months ahead.

I wish I knew how to talk to Sally. I wonder if Bree spoiled it for me, if she has tainted my trust in women. Maybe it’s just that Sally is the only other woman here.

I wish I was the one telling everyone that it’s all going to be okay.

Sunday, 24 May 2009 - 2:29 pm


We’re still at the motel. Matt is doing better – he’s up and limping around now.

Ben is not doing so good. He said that he was hungry, but he didn’t eat anything I brought him. He seems paler and thinner than before, if that’s possible. There’s no fever – he’s still cold to the touch – and he’s sleeping more and more. I don’t know what to do to help him and neither does the doctor. I’m scared the sickness will take him after all.


A few of us got together today and looked at the map – we’re badly off-course. Fleeing from the Pride and then the shamblers has sent us recklessly eastwards – we need to turn south if we’re ever going to get to the Emergency Coordination Centre. It’s hard to believe that there could be any coordination left after all this time, but we have to try. We don’t have anywhere better to go.

The problem with the ECC is that it’s up in the hills. It was positioned where they thought it would be the most use in a crisis: out of the suburbs, above any danger of flooding, but still easily accessible by road. There’s a big green swathe around its cluster of buildings on the map; in reality, it’s brown and stripped down to the soil by acid rain. The notion of being that far from shelter makes the skin between my shoulderblades crawl, as if it can already feel the bite of the water.

If we’re going to get there, we need vehicles. Scooters won’t work – they’re no protection if we get caught away from a roof. We need something enclosed.

I had looked over the map a hundred times before I realised where we were. Just a short way northwest is a familiar intersection of roads: that’s where MacIntyre’s car yard is. The place my dad spent all his days, polishing and selling cars. The place I used to run around when I was little, weaving between the gleaming machines with a stolen spanner in hand and an exasperated mechanic in chase.

Dad wasn’t at home when we got there. Maybe he went to his yard instead. Maybe he’s waiting for me.

I know we can get vehicles there. I know he has off-roaders – proper ones, not the faux ones sold to housewives who think that the school run requires a small tank. When I mentioned that to the others, they said–


Something’s going on. Better go see what it is.