Saturday, 4 April 2009 - 9:47 pm


The storm has been washing over us for more than a day now. It comes in waves, all wind and the shattering noise of thunder, and the thrashing of the rain. We’re too far inside the building to see much of the lightning, but it still crackles far too close for comfort. Then it’ll circle away from us, spinning out to punish some other district before it comes back around to us again. The drains are audibly thick with it, something which makes most of us nervous.

We relocated to a furniture store on the upper floor, further towards the centre of the mall. No-one wants to wake up to a flood that’ll eat us before we can get out of bed. The Rats are unhappy and have a tendency to linger within eyeshot, sometimes within earshot too.

I don’t dare to post while they might be around; I don’t want them to know that the laptop works. I had a pink vest yesterday and this morning it had disappeared, and it’s just not something that anyone else in my group would wear. That’s not the only thing that has gone missing; I’ve heard a couple of the others asking if anyone has seen something – a piece of clothing, a pocketknife, a broken watch.

We’re running short of food and water. We haven’t found any in the stores we’ve been in, and we don’t want to push our luck with the Rats – there are a couple of sports stores here and several household shops, all of which used to hold things that would make good weapons. The kids are wary but they’re not intimidated by us, and I think they’ve been around long enough to have a reason for that confidence. I would rather not find out what that reason is. This truce is so fragile.

We’re hoping for a break in the storm soon, so we can go out and check the other places around here for supplies.


This morning, Ben and I wound up sitting alone while the others were off checking out other parts of the mall. I didn’t feel up to trudging about and he was only too happy to stay behind and mope. I was tired, so I didn’t push him for a conversation, and I was surprised when he started one.

“Do you ever get frustrated with all the delays, Faith?”

I was lying on a couch and pulled my feet up so he could sit down. He didn’t mind when I stretched my legs across his lap. “Yeah, of course. But we can only do what we can do.”

He looked at me searchingly, and there was such darkness in his look. It crouched on his expression, heavy and pressing. “We’re always too late.”

It does seem that way. Sax’s daughter missing, Dillon’s parents moved on, Ben’s sister giving up. Something in his voice made me hesitate before I could agree and the words changed on my tongue. “It wasn’t your fault, Ben. We got there as quick as we could.”

He didn’t answer, just looked down at the hems of my jeans, streaked with dirt and grease and black rubber from my own bootsoles.

“You can’t blame yourself. Don’t torture yourself that way, please. We did what we had to at the time. You know that.” I reached over for his hand.

“I could have gone alone. I could have tried.” He took my hand, even though he was accepting my words.

“And you might not have made it at all. You might have walked into the Pride, into anything.” I know he was right. There’s more we all could have done to get there sooner. There always is. Is any of it enough? Are we trying as hard as we should be, as much as we can? But he needed something different from me right then, so I disagreed with him.

At least he wasn’t getting angry any more; he wasn’t shouting. He was quiet and concentrated about it; he was more like the Ben I had come to know. “I just don’t understand,” he said after a moment, a bleak puzzlement in his voice. “I don’t understand how it happened.”

All this time, the past few days, he’s been trying to make sense of this and just can’t. All he’s been able to feel is the hole in his life, like a blind man trying to figure out where a cup has gone from the ring it left on a table. There was an ache in my chest for him then and I shifted around to curl against his side.

“She did the best thing she could see to do, I guess.”

I can understand it, and that scares me a little. It piqued Ben’s attention, too; he looked at me again. “Could you ever do something like that?”

I didn’t know what to tell him. My throat closed up just at the thought of it, at how Kim must have felt when she walked into that baby-blue bedroom and picked up the pillow. At the thought of ever having to make that decision. “I don’t think I’m that brave,” I told him finally.

I saw his eyes shining brightly when he turned his head away, and sat quietly with him until the others came back. When I got up to see what they were fussing over, he squeezed my hand and came with me. He was the presence behind my right shoulder again, my steely support that was more silent than ever. It’s a step in the right direction, I suppose.