Tuesday, 11 August 2009 - 11:00 pm


I wasn’t the only one watching the sunrise this morning. It was freezing so high up, but we stood and stamped in it, watching the stars wink out while the beauty of blue flushed over them. I think that night under the open sky will carry us all for a while.

We were all quiet as we packed up and prepared to leave. We can’t stay up there, as much as we all love it. We have places to go, people to find, answers to seek out.

We set our wheels on the road again, pointing downwards towards the ruffled sea of clouds. None of us wanted to put so much as a bumper into that searing mass. Even Dillon was quiet beside me, solemn and unhappy as the fog lifted around us and the campervan started to waver on the slick surface.

We had forgotten about the ice; the lack of it up above had set us on our way earlier than usual. I had a couple of terrifying moments when I knew that the tyres weren’t connecting with the tarmac at all, separated by the sheen of frozen acid. One wheel nearly slipped off the road altogether: I hauled the van back the other way, heart thumping out through my sternum. We skidded sideways before the van shuddered straight.

Luckily, it wasn’t far to the ECC from the top of the mountain. I’ve never been so glad to shut off the engine before, and I spent a couple of minutes just sitting and waiting for the shaking to stop.

The ECC is high enough to be within the wrap of the cloudbank, so we weren’t eager to get out. Condensation beaded on the windscreen and we exchanged glances and gestures with those in the other vehicles. We wound up waiting for the sun to climb higher, hoping that it would burn off at least some of the moisture, or lift it away from us. I don’t really know how that stuff works – I wished that Conroy was with us; he was always full of that kind of information.

After an hour, we were all bored and impatient. Sitting and staring at the doors of the ECC wasn’t fun, and I couldn’t help but note the details hinting that it wasn’t all we had hoped it would be. There were no lights on and the external surfaces were all badly scarred from the acid. It crouched on the bare ground looking boxy and small. A spiderweb of aerials and dishes teetered on the roof, almost bigger than the building itself. We beeped a few times, but no-one came out. For a moment, I hoped to see a new face there, a smile or even a wary frown would have been welcome. Any sign of life would have been good.

Finally, a couple of the boys threw blankets over themselves and sprang for the doors. They wound up putting their shoulders against the panels and battering their way in. After disappearing inside for a heartstopping minute, they held the doors open and waved us inside. We covered ourselves and ran from the vehicles into the building, barely daring to breathe in case we inhaled the moisture in the air.

Everyone made it okay. I waited for Dillon to hobble in on his crutches before we closed the doors up behind us. It wasn’t damp enough outside to damage our blankets, despite our fears. I wasn’t the only one wondering about the poison in the air, though. At least it seemed sealed enough inside that we would be safe, once we were away from those forced doors.


So here we are in the ECC, finally. After all these months, all those winding roads, distractions, obstacles, detours. We have reached that place where we finally get to see if our hopes are justified. We might find out where everyone from the hospital evacuated to, where the help went.

What we found inside was, at first, darkness. Thick walls with a lack of windows protect this place, and it took some fumbling around with the one flashlight that someone thought to bring before we could figure out where we were.

Offices. It all looks like offices, which makes sense if this is supposed to be about coordination. Empty desks thick with paper, maps tacked onto walls, computer screens dull and listless. I’m not sure what I had expected to find here, but an office that looked like the back rooms of my dad’s car yard wasn’t it. It was familiar and a let-down at the same time.

It took some searching but we found the generators in the basement, drained completely dry. We argued over what to do for a while – some of us wanted to see what we could find lying around, while a few of us preferred to try to get the generators up and running again. We finally agreed to sacrifice one can of fuel to see what we could find out.

Now, we have lights. We’re using as little as possible, but we’ve managed to get some of the computers working. This building must be shielded somehow for them to have survived the blast. There’s even a working radio – Dale has been trying to raise the university on it, but I think it’s too late for anyone to be on the roof now. He is picking up that repeating broadcast, though.

So far, we haven’t found enough to put the pieces together, but we’re going to keep looking. It feels like there’s a lot here – we just need to work out how to pick out what we need from the mess. We’re not ready to give up.

It looks like whoever was here left in a hurry. It’s not a comforting sign. I’m trying not to think about that too much.

Time to bed down. Hopefully tomorrow will be more illuminating.