Monday, 13 July 2009 - 7:15 pm


The circling undead were spotted rotating in our direction just before dawn. I woke to hear the sounds of quiet chortling from the windows. There were a couple of the guys on watch; they hadn’t bothered waking anyone. I don’t know where Ben had got to – I think he was checking the other sides of the building.

I got up to see what they were looking at: distant shamblers struggling to move towards us. It was like a sad version of dead deer ice skating. Feet slid out from under them every other step and they fell hard. Their instincts were so dented that they often didn’t put their hands out to stop themselves. I don’t know if I imagined it, but I’m sure they were leaving blood behind on the ice.

They just kept getting up. Over and over, like a mouse too stupid to figure out the maze. Fall, get up, fall again. I expected at least one of the group to give up and start crawling, but none of them did. Perhaps the ice repelled them, the way the rain did. Maybe they knew, in some part of their off-sparking brains, that they were falling onto rainwater and they shouldn’t stay on it.

I winced when they fell down. The boys – Jersey and one of the siblings, Terry – laughed, and I have to admit that after a few times it did start to be amusing. It was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help myself. I pulled away before I grew callouses to match the boys’.


People started to get up not long after that and I got distracted by the necessary business of organising food and water for everyone. There’s so many of us that we’re burning through our supplies at a shocking rate; we’re going to need to venture out soon to search for more. I counted heads before most of the group woke up (it’s the only time everyone’s still enough to do it), and there’s twenty-two of us now. Wow.

It wasn’t until after the morning rounds of supply-sharing had finished and people were getting restless that I realised they were gathering by those windows. Returning there, I saw that the shamblers were still making their painstaking way towards us. They were much nearer by then, across the street and closing in.

We’ve grown complacent here behind these walls with the protective fall of acid water. More and more of the group were laughing at the shamblers’ trials, at their slip and fall. Two fell down at once and a cheer went up.

They were close enough to see clearly. Their skin was scorched red and black, peeling and cracking. Underneath that, they were bone-white and blue, bitten by the frost. None of them had more than a layer of torn clothing on. Their claw-like hands seemed stiffer than usual, frozen in place. My stomach turned over uncomfortably as I wondered if they would shatter if they fell too hard.


They were stumbling over the kerb before the building when we heard Dr Kostoya clattering down the stairs towards our room. He was calling out something incoherent, his accent twisting words in his haste. I was closest to the door when he stopped there and told him to catch his breath and try again.

He looked at me with eyes starting to go rheumy. I felt his terror slide right down into my belly and went cold all over.

“It’s frozen. In the pipes. The water’s frozen.”

The meaning dominoed in my head as I stared at him. Then all of a sudden I was shouting for everyone to arm themselves. The pipes were frozen and there was no protection for us, just a gaggle of shamblers about to crawl in through the windows we were pressed up against. I had to explain it twice before the idea caught fire and raced around the room, leaving us all scrabbling for defences in its wake.

Those who didn’t have weapons broke furniture for legs to wield. Dale was told to lock the door behind us, shutting himself and the kids away. It was the best we could do for them. I looked at Kostoya and shoved him into the room as well; he was still struggling for breath after running to us and shaking all over. Better he stay where he’ll be safe.

We had to hurry to get outside before the shamblers started to pound on the door – in close quarters, they had the advantage. Our best advantage was our speed and staying out of their grasp; theirs was their persistence and strength.

It was a mess. Our footing was only marginally better than the shamblers’; I think the only one of us who didn’t fall down was Ben. My hips and knees are bruised from it. My left arm, the one that was scored by a shambler in the last big throw-down we had, had to be forced to work, mostly by adrenaline. It aches all the way through now and I can hardly lift it.

At one point, a falling shambler knocked me down and then started to crawl up me, stretching its mouth wide. I screamed and shoved at it, but it was too heavy to dislodge. My heart was climbing up into my throat in panic when it was suddenly lifted off me and tossed aside. I scrambled to my feet to the sound of a bat rising and falling on it, over and over until it stopped twitching. Then Ben turned around and asked if I was all right.

I got off lightly. Several of the others were bitten or torn; their screams pulled the rest of us over to help. I was surrounded by painful voices and the sound of bats crunching flesh and bone, and the low, hungry moans of the shamblers. It’s the sort of situation that circles my nightmares until I’m devoured by it.

The sudden silence at the end of the fight was like a slap in the face. None of us could quite believe it; we kept looking around for more and finding none. There was blood splattered on us, some of it our own, and our breath misted in front of our faces.

I realised then what was missing from the shamblers when they were coming towards us. Their breath didn’t mist. I don’t know if they had breath at all, except to moan with. What they did have was too cold to condense.


We retreated back inside to the kids and the injured, locking all the doors behind us. I wasn’t the only one shaking as I sank to sit down. There was no time to rest; there were injuries to see to. Only a couple were serious and required Masterson’s attention; the rest were cleaned and bound, using up the last dregs of our supplies. I felt Ben keeping an eye on me the whole time, and that was comforting.

When we were done and resting, Dr Kostoya came over to where Ben, Matt, Dillon and I were sitting. He thanked us for beating them and said that he was going to work on the problem, washing his hands over and over each other. We offered our help and he looked at us for an uncertain moment.

“Perhaps yes. I will look at the situation and… let you know.”

He excused himself and hurried back up the stairs to whatever part of the building he resides in. I think he’ll be back. I hope he’ll be back.