Wednesday, 12 August 2009 - 9:15 pm


A storm rose around us today, lashing the walls of the Emergency Coordination Centre while we huddled inside. It rolled and thrashed at us, filling our heads with the pound and rush of water, as if it had lost the race to get here and now it was punishing us.

The walls are thick and sturdy here and we’re secure enough behind them. Even so, the acid is beginning to eat its way in. There are places where it has started to ooze inside, rivulets etched down walls. It’s not serious yet, but I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before there’ll be nothing left here worth visiting. We got here in time. Whatever we manage to take away from this place, we got here before it was erased.


We have made progress on deciphering the ECC’s secrets. It took another can of diesel to power the generator, but as stuck here as we are, we didn’t have a lot of choice. We’re running chronically short of batteries for the flashlights.

Thorpe has been on the radio for most of the day. He got hold of the guys at the university – they’re all doing okay. A few more shambler sightings; nothing serious. I listened in but I didn’t talk to them.

Conroy helped us get into the computer systems over the radio. For some reason, everyone expected me to be able to do it, but typing out a blog is nothing like trying to get into a government system. I don’t know what all those buttons and icons do!

Dale and Matt managed to figure it out, with Conroy’s instructions and Dillon lending a helping hand. They went through the files, chattering away while Thorpe glowered and tried to listen in on the radio. He checked all the official channels, but the only transmission he picked up was the repeating one we found at the university. The one calling us on towards our next destination.

The computers gave us a little information. The officials holed up here after the bomb went off and coordinated what they could over the radios. They only had rescue services for those first few days, before the extent of the devastation became apparent. They had a problem with rescue workers running off to find their families. I don’t blame them; I can only be grateful that the good ones stayed with us. The only one of them left now is Thorpe, our faithful fireman. I’d hug him if it wouldn’t make him frown at me.

We think the ECC sent the evacuees from the hospital to an army base out to the west. Then they ran out of fuel for the generators, and food, and water, and were forced to flee for somewhere that might be able to support them. From what we can tell, they struck out for the army base, too.


There are many maps on the walls, some of them scarred by the leaking acid but mostly readable. Different views, different scales, different areas. It wasn’t until I found a handwritten key that I realised what the markings on them meant.

There’s a red pin in the centre of the major cities on the map, but only the ones nearest to us. Circles have been drawn around each pin, concentric and widening to cover more and more of the city. Most of the country is bare – I guess they didn’t hear about the distant ones. Radios only reach and relay so far.

I looked at our markings, at the pin where I stood when it all came down. The first circle covers the central business district, the part of the city that tore itself to pieces and burned until the acid came to wash it away. I’m afraid to think about what might be left there now. The second circle covers the parts of the city where the buildings were ruined, but not as badly as in the CBD. I’m not sure what the third circle represents – the damage all seemed the same to me that far out. I guess I was used to it by the time we got there.

The pattern is the same in each marked city. In a way, it was a comfort: we haven’t just been left here to fend for ourselves. We weren’t alone because no-one out there didn’t want to come for us; we were alone because they couldn’t. Because there wasn’t anyone left to come for us. The more I thought about it, the less of a comfort it turned out to be.

A part of me went dark as I stared at those maps. It wasn’t just us. There isn’t somewhere we can escape to that wasn’t reached by the bombs. There isn’t a part of this country that stands in the sunshine, as free as our mountaintop. Did they bomb everywhere? Is everyone struggling as badly as we are? Did they cover the whole world with their pain and poison?

I can’t begin to fathom who might do this. I can’t begin to figure out why. How can this possibly make sense? How could someone intend to do something like this?

I remember the CBD. I remember the bodies, the dead, the cries from under the rubble that faded a little more each day. I remember the broken people, and the way we have all hardened into survivors. All those steps and slips that brought us here, and now there’s just more of it ahead. More steps, more chances to fall. More ways we need to redefine who we are just so we keep on breathing.


I checked the maps for an army base that wasn’t on our maps. It sitting in the blank area out by the junction that the looping signal is calling us towards, near Greenberry.

All the signs are pointing us in the same direction – to Greenberry, to thatsignal. There’s something comforting about that. But then I can see those concentric circles marking out impacts and deathtolls and it’s suddenly so hard to put my foot out for that next step. I’m starting to feel carried along by all of this. Shepherded.

I keep thinking about the nubs of mountains, heads held just above the surface of the stained water. Stepping-stones across the nightmare. I want to see them again. I want to have more of a horizon than the walls I can reach out and touch.