Sunday, 15 February 2009 - 5:39 pm

Finding Matt

Sneaking out didn’t exactly go as planned. The actual sneaking away part wasn’t too bad – I managed to get all the way out of the mall before anyone came looking for me. I waited out there for a few minutes, just along from the door, to see if anyone had spotted my exit.

I was expecting Ben to be the one to follow me out, but it was Dillon who stuck his head outside the mall’s doors. I had to talk him into going back inside, and made him promise not to tell Ben where I’d gone. He was unhappy, but he’s a good kid. He keeps his promises.

Once that was dealt with, I had no idea where I was going. I set off in the direction that I saw the sharks go in, keeping to the walls as much as I could. It was quiet, as if the buildings were all holding their breath, and I went a couple of blocks before I heard anything that sounded like people.

I headed towards it, cautiously, without really having a plan for what I would do when I got there. I just hoped that Matt would be with them, and that they wouldn’t attack me on sight.

As it turned out, he wasn’t. On my way towards the voices, a hand grabbed my arm from out of nowhere. I almost jumped right out of my skin, spinning around and lifting my broomhandle to fend off whoever it was (I wasn’t quite stupid enough to go without a weapon).

“Mac?” He flinched back, but I didn’t hit him. It took me a moment to recognise my own name – no-one has called me that since the bomb went off. Only my friends called me that. And here was one, right in front of me.

I couldn’t help grinning at him. “Matt.”

“Are you crazy? Come on, get out of the street.” He wasn’t grinning.

He ushered me into a nearby building that had had all its windows smashed. We stood behind the curtain that shielded the display mannequins from the rest of the store while the voices neared us. He watched the street tensely, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. It was really him, he was really here. My Matt, alive and in one piece.


It hardly looked like him, standing with hunched shoulders and a scowl. He was always so neatly turned-out before, took real pride in his appearance, and there he was with torn jeans and a stained shirt. Stubble shadowed his jaw. His bleached hair was growing out, turning shaggy, all dark roots and blonde tips. I haven’t seen him without hair gel since we were twelve.

But I’d know his face anywhere, and I’d know those hands of his, the way they moved, even when they clenched uncertainly.

The last time I saw him, he was naked and I was sneaking out of his bedroom. I was so scared that there would be weirdness between us. Now, seeing him again, I tried not to think about that night (and morning). I was just so glad that he wasn’t dead – I’d even take the weirdness and be happy.

The sharks passed by and he relaxed. When he looked at me, I couldn’t help it – I just about jumped on him. I hugged him hard enough to make us both wince and had to apologise when I let go again. I was smiling too brightly to be truly sorry and blinked back tears without too much success.

“What are you doing here?” There was a sign of the softie, in the eyes as damp as mine, though he was trying not to show it.

“Looking for you.”

“You’re insane. Don’t you know what they’ll do to you if they find you?”

“I… yeah.” I shrugged. It was hard to care when he was here and I was fine. “What are you doing here?”

“I was coming to warn you. They’re heading back to the mall.”

“They’re… what?” The smile was gone all of a sudden. The sharks were heading back to the others. “Oh god.”

I was going for the door before I had time to think about it. I had to get back, I had to warn them, help them, anything. Matt grabbed my arm again before I made it out onto the street.

“You’re going back to them?”

“Yeah, of course. They’re my friends.”

He looked at me and let me go. “I’ll take you the back way. Come on.”

We tore off towards the mall, Matt leading me down alleys and right through buildings with broken doors. I could hear the sharks, but he kept me away from actually seeing them. We finally broke into the loading bay of the mall and made our way up a set of access stairs to the first balcony. I couldn’t get across to where the group was holing up – the caved-in roof had taken out the walkway around to that side. Downstairs, the sharks were just starting to dribble into the building.

I could get over to the group, so I opted to make noise instead. I banged my broomhandle on a railing and shouted until the boys came running out. I pointed until their expressions turned grim and they went to meet the sharks at the head of the stairs. Matt hissed at me to be quiet, but I ignored him. A couple of sharks peeled off and tried to get up to where I was, but all of the stairs on that side had been knocked down by the fallen ceiling.

I’ve heard that higher ground was an advantage, but I didn’t realise how much until I saw the fight across the mall. It was so frustrating – I wanted to be over there helping, not wincing in sympathy from such a distance. I caught myself shouting out directions – look out, over there – as that was all I could do. The sharks definitely came off worst this time around – the others drove them off without too many problems.


After they were gone, Ben came to the gap in the walkway to call over to me. I told him I was fine, not to worry; he was unconvinced. Matt coming out of hiding behind me didn’t make his expression any more forgiving. I told him we’d make our way over to the other side of the mall and to wait there.

That was easier said than done. Matt took me out another back way, in case the sharks were still lurking around the front, and we wound up having to hide a couple of times while stragglers wandered past. It took a lot longer than it should have.

He found a way into the right part of the mall, and then I had to deal with the where-the-hell-were-yous and what-the-hell-were-you-thinkings. I pointed out that if I hadn’t gone, we might not have had any warning about the attack at all. And Matt had just taken me into a part of the mall where they couldn’t get to me – why don’t we go there in case they decide to come back again?

The injured needed more time to recover, but they were well enough to go that far. So we packed up and followed Matt through the back corridors and alleyways into the cut-off part of the mall. We were just getting settled into a new store when the rain started, and Matt looked uncomfortable, like he had wanted to go once we didn’t need him any more. But now he’s stuck here with us for the night.

Everyone is upset with me right now. Ben’s furious, Dillon looks hurt, Matt isn’t talking at all and the others aren’t saying much of anything. I couldn’t take their looks any more, so I’m sitting on my own at the moment. I suppose I deserve it, but that doesn’t make it easier.