Friday, 27 February 2009 - 3:49 pm

Dots on a map

This morning we pushed on to Dillon’s family’s place. I walked with Dillon again today, because he kept moping along on his own. I believe in giving people space when they need it, but sometimes that’s not what they really want. I didn’t push him, though – I just walked alongside him until he wanted to talk.

It didn’t take long. He said he barely recognised any of it – the gardens here used to be so thick, almost wild. If it wasn’t for the stained streetsigns, he wouldn’t have known he was almost home.

He stopped outside a gate and said in a small voice, “Mum was really proud of her garden.” I knew then that we’d reached it. The garden was gone, but the house was there, closed up, acid-scorched and waiting.

“D’you want us to wait out here?”

He shook his head and glanced at me. He didn’t want to go in alone. I looked at the others and the boys nodded at me subtly; they’d hang back to give the kid some space. Matt caught at Nugget’s shoulder when she bounced towards the front steps and held her back. Just for now.

The front door was locked, which was a good sign, I thought. Dillon had lost his pack to the river when the car went over, but there was a spare key under a flowerpot; no breaking in required here. I went inside on the kid’s heels and listened to the way that his voice bounced around the internal spaces when he called for his mum and dad. It seemed like the most strangely ordinary thing in the world, hearing him call them like that. It felt like coming home, even if it was someone else’s.

It was a nice house. Comfortable, with the usual clutter of a small family with one almost-teenaged boy. Football boots by the door, fishing rods propped in a corner, books abandoned on a counter. There were pictures of them on the wall; I thought his father had a kind face, while his mother’s smile looked like a habit she had got into. Just the three of them.

The weirdest part was that there weren’t many Christmas decorations still up. I had grown used to seeing them in the houses we overnighted in; as if time had stopped when the bomb went off, along with all the clocks that marked it. There was still a tree in the lounge, though, bearing its load of tinsel and baubles and crouching limply over a few presents.

The others followed us in slowly while Dillon ran around the house, a little slower with each empty room. Finally he trudged back to where we were waiting for him in the hallway; we all knew that they weren’t here. He held out a piece of paper to me, a note he’d found in the kitchen.



Gone to your Aunt Kathy’s house with Jim and Betty. Come find us when you get this. Dinner’s in the oven.

Love you,

Mum and Dad


There was an address on the bottom, but it was the top that made me grin when I looked up at him. He was glum and nonplussed, and so were the others even after they’d seen the note.

“Look at the date,” I told them. The note was written on 2nd January – after the bomb went off and after the rain started. Dillon’s parents had survived all of that, and then gone off to someplace they thought was safer. That was a good thing! It was news. It was more hope than we had expected to find in an empty house.

“Go check the oven,” Ben suggested. Dillon’s eyes were bright, but he tore off to the kitchen to do that. He gave a happy yell when we trailed in after him. It wasn’t the rotten meal he had been expecting; they had left him canned food and bottles of water. It wasn’t much, but enough to see him through a couple of days at least. The cupboards had been cleaned out, but they had left some of the precious supplies in case he made it home.

The questions started then – what kind of car did his parents have (diesel, manual transmission) and could they have started it (well, neighbour Jim was a mechanic). Where was his aunt’s place? We had to check the map to find out that it was up in the hills, near the ECC – its dot nestled in conveniently close to the Emergency Coordination Centre. They couldn’t have picked a better place to go.

Dillon bounced on his toes and hugged me. He almost hugged Thorpe too, but then thought better of it. His parents might not be here, but at least they’re somewhere, and most likely still alive. It was a better result than Sax had.

So now we’re all relaxing in Dillon’s lounge while he pillages his room for stuff he wants to take with him. He says that he wants a hot dinner tonight and that we should cook up some of what his folks left for him. Later, he’s going to open the presents waiting for him under the tree.

Tomorrow, we’re heading back to the boat and the others in our group. We have a new dot on our map and the hope that out there, somewhere, our families are making their own way too.