Sunday, 18 October 2009 - 7:52 pm

Fate and other f-words

Today, I woke up looking forward to my day at the infirmary. With all of the tensions and sharp sideways looks, it’s nice to be out of the dorms and away from the other women. There’s only Draskill to care for and he’s getting stronger every day, so my days are mostly trying to clean equipment. Rubber gloves and try to use as little disinfectant as possible, please.

A new patient arrived around mid-morning. One of the kids was brought into the infirmary with a fever and a cough. I remember hearing that cough in other throats. A quick check of the little girl turned up a splashed scar on her calf that looked like it was made by acid.

My stomach was like a small, cold stone when I saw the scar. Her name is Debbie. She has beautiful red hair that glows in the orange-tinted sunlight. In a few days, she’ll be dead.


As I was tucking her into a bed, my mind went to a Rat-infested mall we visited once upon a time. There was a room full of sick kids, all coughing and overheated by an internal fire. One of them travelled with us for a while, poor Alice with only half a face. We never saw them afterwards, but I don’t think any of them made it.

Then I thought about the kids we left behind at the University – Estebar and Nugget. How are they now? Has either of them been burned yet? Have they fallen prey to the Sickness, or its resulting shamblers? I wish I dared to steal a radio so I could call them and find out. I want to know that they’re okay.

I can’t bear the thought of such a small thing as a shambler. All that promise turned into gnawing hunger that breaks itself, ruining its perfect potential. I wanted to ask Simon if he would chain Debbie in the basement when she finally turns. I wanted to ask him if he had chains small enough for that. I didn’t dare form the words in case he had an answer for me.

There are only a handful of kids here – I don’t know how many, but it’s not enough. With so little to look forward to, so few of us left, each young life means so much more than they used to. Children were always precious, and in the After we’re all aware of how much we need them if we’re going to cling to any form of future. But we can’t save this one. She’s only just getting Sick, but there’s nothing we can do. We offer small comforts in this last journey of hers because it’s all we have.

It tears at me every time I smile and force cheerfulness out of my lips for her. She’s six years old and her name is Debbie. The Sickness is just starting to take hold of her. In a few days, she’ll be dead and I wish I didn’t know her name.