Sunday, 1 November 2009 - 9:32 pm

Day of the dead

Debbie had another bad night last night. Her fever drove her out of shifting delerium into a quiet, barely-breathing coma. It’s not looking good for her. I watch her, and it leeches the hope out of me a drip at a time. I know there’s no saving her, not from this, but that doesn’t make it easier to watch.

I know I should go back to the dorm. I should let one of the boys sit with her. I should talk to Jersey and Tia, get back in touch with our escape effort. I should put her out of my mind and get on with my life.

But there’s a tiny girl fading who sometimes calls for comfort and I can’t bear to leave her alone. Even I’m just sitting there holding her hand, it feels better than not being there at all, despite her hand being small and clammy and as limp as if she was already gone. If I was elsewhere, I could pretend that she wasn’t here, but I’d know. I’d know and feel bad for abandoning her.


I just noticed today’s date. Yesterday was Halloween, and today is what some cultures call Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. The day when the dead rise and walk among us.

They’ve been doing that for months. It’s as if the bombs shattered time when they broke the skies, robbing us of a calendar that makes any kind of sense.

The whole world is still decorated for a holiday that has long since become meaningless, with tinsel and baubles and smiling plastic angels. Pretty lights are still strung up across streets and in houses, though they’re on dead wires now, hanging limp like electric corpses. The world still hasn’t moved on from Christmas, as if it doesn’t know how, but there are no gifts for anyone.

Now it seems that the Day of the Dead has been bleeding all over the past few months, twisted into an awful parody of what should be a celebration and a commemoration of those who have left us forever. They should be ghosts, returning to walk with us, benign and honoured. Instead, it’s their bodies that have risen, empty shells that mock us with their familiar faces burned by the touch of the sun. There are no souls there, nothing to celebrate and remember with fondness, or even hate. Just horror and fear, and knowing that no matter how far we run, they’ll follow us doggedly, one ragged step after another. Because it’s all they know how to do now.

It’s easy to forget about that here in Haven, where the cutout soldiers keep the dead at the gates. If the acid didn’t eat the bodies, we would be awash in the stench of their decay by now. But I know they’re out there. When we leave here, we’ll have to face them again and find ways to keep ourselves safe.

Today, on this Day of the Dead, there’s a tiny girl whose future is a shambler. She’s grey and fading, and I don’t think she’ll wake again. Most of those I have seen with the Sickness swam up to the surface once before they died, but they were bigger and stronger. It is hitting Debbie harder and faster than I’ve seen before, and I don’t think there’s anyy swimming left in her.

Maybe today is the day her soul will walk free. Maybe today will be the end of all of this for her, and all we’ll be left with is the husk she leaves behind.

Or maybe today will be her reprieve. Perhaps the fever will break and she’ll wake up clear-eyed and smiling. If there is any magic left in the world, now is the time for it to show.

I’ve seen that magic, though. I saw Ben get up out of the Sickness and seem like a person again. But it had eaten him away inside until he was a halfway thing, striving to be a person despite the gnawing inside of him. The thought of that happening to Debbie turns my stomach so badly that I dread the thought of her waking again. The notion of her smiling again has an edge of horror now.

What sort of world does that to people?


It’s possible that the lack of sleep is getting to me. I’m not usually like this. I just wish that there was something I could do for her. A way to make a difference.

I’m going to curl up in one of the side rooms and try to get some sleep, while the boys are here to keep an eye on the little one. After I wake up, I’ll try to work on my acceptance. But I can’t help thinking that accepting these fates is the same as giving in to it. We’re better than this. We deserve more. Maybe someone else has the answers for us and all we need to do is find them.

In the meantime, I’ll try to keep to the spirit of the day. I’ll send thoughts to our dead and hope they’re in a better place. They are free of all of this, and perhaps the luckiest of us all.