Tuesday, 8 September 2009 - 8:55 pm

Chief no more

I think the weirdest thing about being here is the normality. The food is terrible and there’s no water to wash with, but other than that, everything feels very… ordinary. Ordinary for the time Before, as if all the strangeness of the bomb and its aftereffects is a distant story.

It rains here too. There’s a claxon that goes off when it’s getting close and everyone rushes indoors, closing the place up for the night. The generators groan and spit out sparse lights that shine like eyes in the wet dark.

I heard a couple of the fellas talking about shamblers at the gates, but it was an off-hand thing. They laughed about it and then wondered what the lumps in the stew were. Even the acid and its productions have become part of the routine here, incorporated into the normality of the place.

Sometimes I think about all the struggling we had to do, everyone we lost, and I get so angry at this place. Safe in its cocoon of wire and guns, blithely oblivious of the pain burning just a short way from the gates. Sending out a message like an afterthought, riding on radiowaves that barely any of those fighting for their lives can hear.

I think part of it is that I’m not in charge any more. It’s not that I ever really wanted to be, but I got used to being one who made decisions. I got used to having all the information the group had, being ‘in the know’. I got used to being the one that people turned to, listened to. I had a place that was mine.

Here, I’m no-one. I feel like a silly kid again. I’m another face in the crowd, another pair of hands, one more bunk in a long row. I don’t like taking orders without knowing why they’re being issued and I don’t like not talking about what’s going on. I’m forced to follow someone else’s lead blindly, and I don’t even know who that person is. Not really. It chafes, like sand in my shoes.


I managed to see the boys today. Just briefly.

I was helping serve up dinner on their rotation through the dining hall. There are too many people to fit into the hall and we have to eat in shifts. I was spooning out the slop when all of a sudden there was Dale, grinning at me. Thorpe was next to him – of course – and Matt trailed behind them. Terry and Dan were a little further down. We asked how we all were and chattered away. I could feel one of the supervisors burning holes in my back with her eyes and I ignored her thoroughly. I didn’t care that we were holding up the line; these are my friends.

It was only a few seconds, but it was enough to lift my whole day. I’m not sure what they’re doing or where, but that doesn’t matter so much right now. They’re still here, they’re doing all right, and they’re together. That makes a difference. I know they’ll look after each other. I’d rather be helping with that; like so many personal preferences, that one has slipped away. But they’re okay. It’s something to hold onto.


I suppose that’s one more way I’m not a leader any more. I don’t need to look after anyone – or everyone. I don’t need to make sure people are okay.

Is it power-hungry of me to want that back? I feel so small now. I got to be more than just a bookstore assistant or the girl who helped out with Dad’s paperwork, and now that’s all gone. Is it selfish to want more than this? We’re safe, we have enough to eat and beds to sleep in. They’re keeping the shamblers away from the doors. This is much better than being out on the road. This is what we were looking for.

Why, then, haven’t I told them about the University? Why do I hope that no-one else has either?

Why doesn’t it feel like enough?