Tuesday, 6 October 2009 - 10:13 pm


The infirmary was full again today. Blood, bone and bruising, and hands holding onto concussed heads. Worse, there was the scream of acid’s burn among the injuries.

A short time after dawn, the roof of one of the machine shops partially collapsed. Those working below had no warning – just the shriek of protesting wood and metal as the weight above shifted, and then the rumble as it gave way and tumbled down. There must have been a puddle of rain on the roof, because that came hissing down too.

Two died. A dozen more were injured, a couple of them badly. They came in all in a clatter, limping, carried, wavering, and I lost count. Somehow, Simon managed to keep track of them all and told me what I needed to do. For once, I did as he said without complaint; it wasn’t a day for personal feelings.

They can’t be shut away entirely, though. I searched every face that came in, looking for some familiarity. My stomach tightened up into knots when I heard about the deaths. I wanted to know who. I wanted to know where my dad was, and Thorpe, and the rest of the Seekers. I kept my hands working, bandaging and applying pressure, and I soothed with what comfort I could offer.

Matt helped out too. He gave up his bed to a guy with a shattered shoulder and hobbled around on his crutch, trying not to get in the way. He looked after the laptop for me while I rushed around. He lent a hand when an extra pair was needed, to hold a man down while a bone was set or when a splinter longer than my hand had to be removed. He patted shoulders and chatted lightly, and tried not to look too ill when he had to apply pressure on a bleeding wound.

Simon had to dose the guy who caught the brunt of the acid. He’d lost most of his left arm; what was left was raw, the skin gone and the meat cut through in rivulets. He wouldn’t stop screaming, and when I saw the damage, I didn’t blame him. I could see the bone through the blood that we couldn’t stop flowing. I don’t ever want to be able to see someone’s bones like that again – I could feel the horror crawling all over me, as if my muscles were trying to escape one by one.

It got worse, though. Simon put the guy out, much to the relief of everyone’s ears, and then he asked Peter to get him a certain kit. He was pale around the mouth with tension as he tried to get a tourniquet to work. There was just so much skin missing.

I went cold all over when I saw what was on the tray Peter brought back. I have no idea where they kept those blades and I don’t think I ever want to. As soon as I saw them, I knew what he was going to do: saw the rest of that ruined arm off. A tiny part of me was nodding and agreeing that it was probably the fella’s best chance, while the rest of me wanted desperately to vomit on the floor.

I tried to excuse myself, but Simon needed the extra pair of hands. I had to make do with trying not to watch, not to hear the sound of a saw against bone or the wet slap of human tissue piling up in a bowl. I shuddered and tried to focus on little things, but I found myself seeing red covering everything. I noticed that the fella was about my age and he reminded me painfully of Terry. He had a piece of twine tied around his right wrist; a token from another time. I wondered what he might have had tied around his other wrist and then instantly regretted it. Don’t look, don’t look.


It took a long time to stop the bleeding and tidy up the shoulder. Once the bulk of the work was done, I managed to slip away to check on the other patients. I wasn’t sorry to leave that room behind me.

Matt saw me and called me over. I must have looked as shaken-up as I felt, because he hugged me – careful not to get any blood on him – and told me he was glad he didn’t have my job. It was good to have the chance to lean on him for a moment and catch my breath, before a pained moan tore me away again.

Most of the day was a blur. I flitted from patient to patient, checked the same thing four times without realising. I didn’t know what I was looking for until Dad appeared in the doorway. He was bewildered when he saw me and kept asking if I was all right; I was so relieved to see him it took me a moment to realise how awful I looked, rusty with dried blood.

He was fine, that’s what was important; it wasn’t his roof that had come down. Thorpe worked with him and the others were all in other divisions. The Seekers were safe; my dad was safe. I could relax. We had a weirdly quiet dinner in the back storeroom, listening to the treacherous rain.

Been a hell of a day. My cutout guard – his name’s Jonah and he looks about twelve – insisted that I go back to the dorm tonight, as the General had decreed. I’d rather stay with Matt, but if I’m honest, it’s a relief to be out of there. A hard bunk and a change of clothes is a good thing right now.

It’s hard not to watch the ceiling as I sit here. The acid is worming its way into Haven, nibbling away at its supports. And once again, I’m cleaning up the mess it left behind.

Some things don’t change.