Friday, 11 December 2009 - 7:23 pm

Fire on glass

Iona was right – the fields of glass are beautiful. The stretch over a roll of hillside is like a ripple in a frozen wave. Reflecting the low orange sky, it looks like it’s on fire. A river of molten sand, sliding down to pool at our feet.

We stopped in a spatter of whoops and cheers. Masterson might think I keep searching for the gold at the end of the rainbow, but here it is, right in front of us. Here’s our hope for full bellies and building something to survive the end of canned goods and freeze-dried packets.

It couldn’t come at a better time for me. After the uncertainty and agonising of the past few days, I needed this. Not as much as I had needed Matt’s reaction – which was so much better than I had dared to hope for that I’m still reeling – but it’s still a weight off my chest. We can make this work. We can get through all this, through everything.

The pragmatists among us didn’t join in with the cheering, though I saw smiles on a couple of them. Of course, we couldn’t know if it would work until we got down there and saw first-hand and up-close what we had to deal with. But we wanted to enjoy just getting here. We wanted to celebrate that we had got this far, and the knowledge that our dreams might not be so far out of reach after all. Sure, it was going to be a struggle and lots of hard work to make it happen, but it’s possible now.


We were like kids when we made it to the end of the drive and into the front yard of the flower farm. We piled off and out of our vehicles and ran around, checking things out. Opening doors and sticking our heads inside, checking in cupboards, filtering dirt through our fingers, poking at questionable-looking mounds to see if they twitched. We were back in the yard in record time, reporting our findings in excited voices.

Most of the glass looks intact. Certainly at this end of the long rows of greenhouses, the panes are all whole and seemed sealed enough. There was dirt and the remains of flowers long-dead in the troughs. They had died with no-one here to water and care for them. That’s okay – we can use the remains for compost. It’s a good sign: they haven’t been melted away, so the acid hasn’t snuck in. We can assume that the soil is poison-free, though Kostoya is determined to test it before we go growing any food in it.

That led us to the question of what we need to do next. We split ourselves up into three groups: housing, supplies, and greenhouse examination. I wound up with the latter group, fixed on figuring out just how much of the greenhouses was usable, what tools and equipment there was here, and what else we would need to get started. We knew it would take a trip back to the garden centre to get ourselves properly set up.

The housing group went over the other outbuildings to see where we could set up beds and other necessities. The supplies gang was the largest, with part of it helping Kostoya to set up the water filter and the others looking for any signs of food in the area. I think the professor is going to set up his lab equipment in the barn, so he can run tests on the soil and plants to make sure they’re safe.


All this activity is bewildering. Our vehicles are suddenly stationary and useless, our feet no longer seeking another road to travel down. We’re here. We’ve stopped. Now we have to make this work. All this running around in circles feels more frantic than productive, even though I know that it’s not.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about it all. What if it doesn’t work? What will we do then? Where can we go next? Is this our last, slender thread of survival? A less paranoid and skittish question is: will we find enough food to carry us through until the first crop is ready to eat?

I was outside considering all of this when I spotted Iona. She was sitting inside one of the cars, her chin tucked down behind hugged-in knees. She was a big pair of eyes, blinking and seeing nothing. In all of the activity, no-one had noticed that she was still in there. I went over and let myself into the other side of the vehicle, closing the door with a solid thunk.

I can see why she liked it in there. There was no little breeze to fuss at her hair, no sound of feet hurrying back and forth, no voices lifted in query and answer. It was a peaceful pocket of air, shivering in time with the curled-up girl.

I’ve never seen her so upset before. She has been quiet and increasingly unhappy as we headed down this way, but now we’re here, she’s almost catatonic. I tried to get her to speak or at least look at me, but she wouldn’t. She kept murmuring something when I asked her a question, over and over between snatches of breath. I had to lean in to make out the words.

“They’ll come. They’ll come and you’ll see. You’ll all see.”

I sat back with a lump of ice forming in my belly. Whatever happened to her, it happened here or a place just like it. I think it was the thing that broke her. I hadn’t stopped to wonder if that was going to be a problem for us until that moment.

Leaning over again, I took her face in my hands and turned it so that she was looking at me. She avoided my eyes but at least I forced her to put some effort into it.

“We’re not going to let anything happen to you,” I said. “You’re protected now, Iona. You’re safe with us.”

She murmured at me again, the same answer as before. I don’t think she heard me. With a sigh, I let her go and told her that I was going to arrange a watch. All I could do was hope that some part of her heard me and was eased, even if it wasn’t the part currently in charge of her face.


I grabbed the boys as they passed me in the yard. Thorpe, Jonah, Matt, Masterson, Dale. Jersey came along too – she’s never far from Jonah these days. I think there’s something going on there.

I told them about Iona. She believed there was a threat here. I got the arguments I was expecting – she’s disturbed, she isn’t connected with reality, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and she hasn’t been here for months. I shrugged and said the only response there was: can we take a chance on her being wrong?

A watch was a good idea anyway. Shamblers are likely to be roaming around somewhere and we might not be the only mobile group. As lean and hungry as the world is getting, its inhabitants are only getting harder in their search for survival. Jonah supported the idea – I thought he would – and most of the others were on board too. Masterson was dismissive but that’s nothing new.

Now we have another group in our mixed pod of peas: security. There are people on post now, looking out towards the road and across the fields as the rain slides off the glass. We’ve left Jonah and Bobby in charge of arranging the watches, though I think Thorpe is keeping a close eye on them. There’s still a lot of distrust floating around.

We’re here. We’ve started. Now let’s see what we can make of it.