Sunday, 4 October 2009 - 10:12 pm

Clipping cover

It’s been a couple of hours since the cutouts came through. I didn’t dare check on the laptop before now.

When I got up this morning, I wasn’t sure about whether or not I would be able to post. The battery on the laptop was critically low and I didn’t want to get caught charging it on the base’s circuits. The last time I tried was too close for comfort. I know they’ll take the laptop if they find out about it, and dammit, it’s mine.


Matt and I were talking about nothing when the idea struck us. He’s doing much better – he’s got his colour back and even tried to hobble around the room today. Afterwards, he was breathless but not flushed or shaky like he was before. I think it’s safe to believe that he’s going to be okay now. As I was watching him today, something relaxed inside me and I felt myself smiling like I haven’t in so long. No reservations, no caution. Just smiling.

As he was crutching his way around the bed, he kept shaking his head so he could see through his mop. I teased him about it and he suggested that I cut it for him. I had nothing better to do at the time, so I went to find scissors. Buried among the medical equipment was a set of clippers, so I brought them back, too.

At first, I had no idea why an infirmary would have a set of electric clippers. Then I thought about the times when they might have to be used – headwounds, or delicately-placed wounds, or just really hairy guys. I looked at them differently after I realised their real purpose, and I didn’t particularly want to touch them. I checked the blades for blood as well as rust, just in case.

If Matt has the same realisation, he didn’t show it, and I know he’s more squeamish than I am. He was pleased to see them, eager to deal with his overgrown shag, but I had to pause.

“We’ll get in trouble,” I told him. I explained what happened the first time I tried to plug in.

He went quiet, musing over the risk and reward, and then gave me a sideways look that was all mischief. I know that look – it means he’s having an idea that’s bound to get someone in trouble.

“They’ll notice one – but will they know if there’s two?” he said.

Neither of us knew the answer to that, but it was a fair bet that they probably wouldn’t notice an extra electrical device. They knew where there was a draw on the system, but did they know how many, or how much? It was risky for many reasons, not least of all what their idea of punishment might be.

I checked with him four times to make sure he really wanted to do it – get caught with the clippers so we could hide the charging of the laptop. Then I pointed out that he would have to trust me with clippers near his head. He laughed and said he was sure.

My heart was thrumming quickly the whole time. We had to wait until the rain started and then for it to start to get dark, when the generators kicked in and sent electricity sluggishly through the circuits. We had a candle to see by, and cutting hair by candlelight is harder than you’d think. Matt had to show me how to use the clippers and I strained my eyes desperately trying not to nick his ears or neck.

It took them a lot longer to find us than we thought. On the plus side, the laptop’s battery is almost completely full – good enough for a while. By the time we heard the approaching footsteps, I was so nervous that I was almost jiggling from foot to foot – I only held still because I had to be careful and concentrate on what I was doing. Then my pulse ratcheted up a couple of notches and I hurried to hide the laptop and its cord.

We were caught red-handed. Me with buzzing clippers in hand and a horribly guilty expression, and Matt with most of his hair on the floor. He does a good wide-eyed expression when he wants to.

The cutouts were less impressed, and none too gentle in taking the clippers off me. I had to struggle briefly so that the one reaching for them didn’t cut himself, and it took me several minutes to convince them to let me show them where the cover was. I was sure one of them would get hurt.

I was terrified that they’d look under Matt’s bed and see the laptop secreted away underneath among the metal struts. I had to make a conscious effort not to glance at it, just in case a loop of wire was showing, just in case it had fallen down to the floor, because one of them might see me look and go to investigate. To me, it pulsed under there like a beacon begging to be located, an itch on my senses. Luckily, the cutouts were oblivious.

After they left, I leant on the bed, shaking. I couldn’t believe they didn’t find it. They had made all kinds of ominous noises about reporting the clipper-incident to the General, but I didn’t really care about that. I still don’t. My laptop is here and charged up, and that’s what really matters.

Put like that, it sounds small and petty. It’s just a laptop. But it’s so much more to me. It’s our story. It’s all I have left of those I’ve lost along the way. Ben, Dillon. Thorpe’s Trevor. Sax. Carter. Those we left behind at the University. It could be used to find those at the University. I don’t trust Haven with anyone there.

No, the laptop is mine and I’m going to keep it. I’ll take whatever the General dishes out. I can handle him, I think.

I didn’t need to explain any of this to Matt – he gets it. He has used it to post too and it means almost as much to him as it does to me. He’s a good friend, too. He’d have helped me today even if he hadn’t put himself in here.

I made him keep some of his hair long at the front. Longer than usual – enough to flop into his eyes. It’s cuter that way. He rolled his eyes at me but he let me do it. For a little while there, he let me do anything I wanted. It feels so strange, trusting and being trusted. Like a tiny piece of home in the middle of a swamp.


Mission accomplished. It’s a tiny victory and we can’t tell anyone about it, but it’s a flag we’ve planted in our hearts. In the face of the obelisk that is Haven, a small win like this matters. It’s for us, it helps us stay who we are.

I don’t like the Sharks or their victories, but I understand them now. I don’t like seeing from the perspective of people like that – it makes my flesh crawl with the kind of unclean that you can’t wash off, not even with water. They’re in Haven, but they’re still Sharks. They do what makes them Sharks.

We’re here but we’re still Seekers. We still Seek – answers, mostly. A safer, better place to be. And I still record it all, for that future set of eyes that will look back and wonder how any of us made it through this.

Here is how. We did things we aren’t proud of. We made compromises and sacrifices. We hid behind a pair of clippers and innocent expressions, and prepared to swallow the punishment. But we stayed ourselves.

It’s worth it.