Thu, 9 July 2009 - 6:02 pm

Frozen in place

The temperature dropped sharply sometime overnight, solidifying the treacherous ice into solid sheets and rime around the windows, encroaching every surface it could get its clammy hands onto.

Jersey swore when he realised that it was as thick inside as it was outside. We’re going to have to be careful when it melts; I’m not the only one watching the ceiling for signs of creeping ice and building drips. No-one wants to wake up to that.

We were supposed to be heading out today, but instead we huddled in. We broke down furniture and fixings for wood to burn, leaving only the padded seats for some of our number to rest on. The fire drum we’re using is not doing the best job of heating us, but it’s certainly better than nothing and safer than setting the carpet alight. We’ll probably rip that up and burn it, too, if it stays this cold.

Someone found a pair of crutches yesterday and Dillon has been practicing with them since then; he’s determined to get around under his own steam again. The activity helped him to keep warm, too, and he wasn’t the only injured person struggling around the floor in an effort to keep the blood pumping. At least there’s always a pair of steady hands around to offer support when they need it.

 

We found Norman today. Conroy returned with a solemn face from a perimeter patrol – we do circuits every now and then to check for shamblers wandering in our direction. He had found bloody clothes and a belt buckle poking out of the ice. He had the buckle with him, worked loose of the ice’s grip. There was no room there for a body, he said; the rain must have got rid of it.

He didn’t want to ask Iris if it was her husband, so I did it. With my heart on my tongue and feeling ready to throw up, I sat down with her and showed her the buckle. She stared at me and said nothing. The whitening of her knuckles answered the question for me. I covered them with my hand and told her how sorry I was. I asked if she needed anything. I asked if she wanted me to leave her alone and she twitched the tiniest nod. I didn’t know what else to do for her.

My hands were shaking when I left her to her grief. It was a silent thing, stony and shocking. She looked so lost, sitting there on her own.

Ben came over and told me he was sorry. He sounded so sincere that it brought the tears into my throat, and all I wanted right then was a hug. He patted my shoulder and told me to go warm up by the fire, and then he went away.

I went to go hold my hands over the flames for a while, hating that the fire is the same colour as the tainted sky outside. I miss blue and green. I miss trusting the sky. I miss not having to think about telling someone that the person she loves is dead.

Matt came over and asked me if I was all right. I told him what Conroy had found and he put his arm around me. I didn’t know what to say to him, or whether I should lean into him the way I wanted to. Everything feels so much more complicated now. He said something soothing that helped push the lump down, out of my throat.

I stood there for a long time with my head down and my hands out, trying to get warm and shivering anyway.

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