Tuesday, 30 June 2009 - 9:27 pm

Circle the wagons

Last night was strange. I hadn’t realised how quickly I had become used to the walls hemming us in, even in the sprawl of the warehouse.

I feel exposed out here. I feel like something is going to rush in with the wind and steal something important from me. I keep catching myself checking where everyone is, counting heads and identifying outlines against the thickening darkness. My fingers twitch as I try to keep track of everything, as if they can tally it all, or perhaps try to hold on.

My shoulderblades creep and I can feel the tension knotting up my neck muscles. I don’t like it out here. The wind breathes and the rain searches for us, for a way in to get to us.


We built a little fire and tried to protect its sides from the wind that knifed across the car park. The chilled air just swept the warmth away to the low sky, far from where it might reach us. Its light stuttered and tried to give me a headache.

Conroy mentioned something from old western movies, about how pioneers would draw the wagons in a circle at night to protect themselves from the elements (and attackers, he added). We should try that, he said. It was a good idea, but by then we had used all the fuel we had managed to gather for the fire – with the wind whipping it up, it burned through our offerings too fast for us to be able to keep feeding it.

The vehicles retained at least some of the heat they had managed to build up during the drive, so we retreated inside them. A few of the others piled into the campervan to visit the injured, and I popped in to see how they were. The two boys seemed uncomfortable after the journey, but not in pain or trouble, and Masterson seems to think they’re doing okay. Even Dale, who is pulling out of trouble now.

Nugget still isn’t looking at anyone, firmly buried in her sulk. There still hasn’t been any sign of Jones, and this morning she wanted to wait for him, even asked to go back and look for him. Thorpe looked unhappy as he strong-armed her into the campervan again and swung into the driver’s seat. Maybe I should give him a break from looking after the kid and the injured tomorrow.


We pushed on today as soon as we freed the vehicles from the encroaching ice. Turns out that our credit cards are still useful for something after all: they make good ice-scrapers. The activity got us warm, but all of us had frozen hands by the time we were done.

We caught up with the back-runners of the human tide at about midday. They look exhausted and scattered before us like driven sheep. One older fella fell down and I watched his friend help him up as we drove past. They look faded, as if each steaming breath was taking something vital from them.

I wanted to stop. We have room. They’re slowing down – I can see it – and the shamblers don’t tire so easily. We could take more of them with us. We could help them.

I took my foot off the accelerator and Ben looked at me sharply. The people outside started towards us.

“We can’t take them all, Faith. Which ones are you going to turn away?” Ben asked me. I’m not used to that short tone on his tongue; it made my eyes sting. Or perhaps it was because I couldn’t argue with him. “They’ll tear us to pieces. Keep moving; you have to.”

I did as I was told. I pressed my foot down and we pulled away, and the other vehicles didn’t hesitate to follow me.

“You’re doing the right thing,” he said. I have no idea if I agree with him or not.

I couldn’t speak; I just kept driving until it was raining and then searched for a place to stop for the night.


Tonight, the vehicles are arranged in a circle. Conroy was right – it does help to keep the elements away. Our fire survived a bit longer this time, but I still miss the walls. I want to shut the world out, just for a little while.

Tonight, I’m not sure what – or who – the circle is supposed to keep out.