Friday, 31 July 2009 - 6:41 pm


I was hoping to get moving this morning, but a group of shamblers turned up and trod all over that idea.

The foragers were just gearing up to go for their daily hunt when the mass was spotted. They’re less comical these days now that the ice is thinning and retreating. We watched them come and weren’t worried; Kostoya had told us that the pipe-warming system was working fine and that he had plenty of rainwater to keep them out with. We’ve grown complacent.

The waterfall worked fine, stopping the shamblers in their stumbling tracks, and we allowed ourselves a cheer. They lurched back and milled around in some confusion, but they didn’t go away. In the past, they have always given up and moved off towards something else.

They reminded me of a story I read once, about a robot who was caught between two commands. His orders conflicted with his safety protocols, and he wound up circling the object of the order and the danger in indecision, until his batteries ran down. When I read it, I thought about how sad it was that no-one came to break him out of it. He was left there, endlessly circling, forgotten. Expendable.

The shamblers weren’t quite smart enough to circle the building to look for another way in, but they weren’t giving up either. They hovered until the water was turned off, then lurched in again. Water came on, they backed off, some of them sizzling.

Someone asked why they weren’t leaving. It was Ben who answered.

“There’s no other meat around here.”

I don’t want to know how he knew that. I don’t think any of us were comforted by the information.

Kostoya had come down to see what we knew, his little waterfall remote in hand. His fingers were white as he looked from one of us to the other.

“The tank will run out eventually,” he said, his accent thick with nerves.

We all looked at each other. “Then let’s do this on our terms,” I said. No-one argued.


It’s frightening how good we’re getting at preparing for something like this. The kids were shut away with Sally in a room on the floor above. The rest of us grabbed weapons. Ben protected himself from the sun with a hat and scarf.

When everyone was ready and the tips off bats were circling in the air, we nodded to Kostoya and he shut off the waterfall. After a few seconds to make sure that we wouldn’t be dripped on, we piled outside. The shamblers were already heading towards the building again and we went to meet them.

I quickly realised that I shouldn’t have been out there. I still wasn’t feeling on top of things after feeding Ben yesterday and just a few swings of my bat left me feeling weak and shaky. I retreated to the back of the group and fell into instruction mode, yelling for this person to step back, go help him, look out for that. There were more of them than I had realised before we came outside and I had to dodge out of the path of more than one.

Ben is very good at dealing with them. I noticed before that he was better at fighting them, but I thought it was because he’d had to look after himself when he left us. Now I know what he is, there’s a new slant to it. He’s very fast. They tend to go down after just one hit with him – even Thorpe is lucky to do that consistently. Even out in the sunlight, trying to hide in the shade of his own hat, his eyes scrunched up, he was intimidating. Scary. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many he might have killed. And then, I wondered how many weren’t shamblers. When did that first time happen? Who was it? How is he so sure about what he can and cannot eat? I don’t think I want answers to any of these questions.

There were a few yells and injuries, but we got off lightly considering the odds. It was a shock when they were finally all gone, and then there was the wounded to deal with. I worked on automatic pilot, making sure that everyone was getting what they needed, patching up the minor hurts.

For the second time, Jersey refused any help. He had an injured leg but he kept insisting that he was fine. His face was white with pain but he wouldn’t admit it. I made sure he had bandages, even if he wouldn’t let me put them on. I knew it was bad when he didn’t throw them back in my face.

I was dizzy by the time I was done with everyone; Matt had to take me to a chair and sit me down before I fell over.


The attack has kept us quieter today. Some of us are in pain, and all of us have been reminded of the dangers that lie on the roads we’re going to travel. I think some of those eager to get out of here might think again. The group of Seekers that will leave here soon just got smaller.

It makes no difference to me. I am eager for the road, even with its dangers. I trust my friends to keep the group safe. It’s what we do.

And I suspect that the greatest danger isn’t waiting for us outside in the broken world. It travels with us.