Thursday, 23 July 2009 - 8:31 pm


Ben found me last night. After the darkness had wrapped up the building I was crouching in, after I had put away the laptop’s glow too save the battery. After I had given up finding any way to keep warm and all I had left was my own misery.

I know it was stupid to run off on my own. I know it was worse to get stuck away from the group when the rain came down. It wasn’t particularly bright to be trapped in the dark either, too scared to fumble around outside in case I fell into a snowdrift and melted away with it. At the time, even as I got colder and colder, I didn’t particularly care.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps in the corridor outside the room I was in and held my breath. I had no idea who it might be. I ducked under a desk, comforted only by the fact that the steps were too quick and controlled to be a shambler.

My heart was beating in my ears when the door swung open. I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to know who it was. It could have been anyone – a person from another group, even.

Then he said my name and I knew it was Ben. Of all people that I had hoped it was, he was the last on the list.

“Go away,” I told him.

He crouched in front of me; I heard his jeans creaking. “I brought your coat.”

I felt him putting it around me and snatched it out of his hands. I couldn’t bear him so close and stood up, but I did pull the coat on. I was shivering. I didn’t thank him.

“It’s not what you think, Faith.”

I laughed; it came out twisted. “Never is, is it? Go away. I don’t want to talk to you.” My throat was closing up.

“You can’t stay here.”

“I don’t care! And neither do you! Just leave me alone, go on. Go!”

He said my name and touched my arm, and I struck out at him. I couldn’t see him, not properly, I just wanted to hit him. I wanted to hit something. All of a sudden, I was crying and shouting at him, struggling as he tried to hold me still. How could he? With her, of all people. How could he? After all his shit over Matt? Why would he do this to me? Doesn’t he know how much it hurts?

He kept telling me that it wasn’t what I thought. Over and over, until I finally bit on the bait.

“So what was it, then?” My eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to make out his face, just inches from mine. He was as hard to read as he always is lately, his face closed down like it’s not even a part of him.

“It wasn’t sex,” he said. “I… can’t.”

It’s not what I expected him to admit – that’s not something I had considered. I thought he was just disinterested, and then interested in someone else, and… well, anything but that. “Because of the Sickness?”


I frowned and swallowed down a discomfort in my chest, determined not to be distracted. I could still see them, leaning up against the wall like that. “Then what were you doing with her?” My voice broke under the strain.

He hesitated, then said, “I’m not what you think, Faith. Not any more. Things have changed. I’ve changed. The Sickness, it made me… something else.”

“Made you what?” I was starting to get angry with him again, my mood yoyoing between despair, pain, and rage. He was avoiding telling me, I could feel it.

“I don’t know! I don’t know what I am. I thought that going away would help me figure it out, but it didn’t, so I came back. You ever notice that I don’t eat any more?”

“Yeah, I have.” I stopped bringing him food a while ago, because he never ate it. I assumed he was eating elsewhere. He kept avoiding my questions about what was wrong with him, so I stopped asking. Same way I stopped asking about the sunburn, and how he sometimes seemed stronger than he should be. What else was I supposed to do?

“But I’m hungry. I’m hungry all the time. I just can’t eat anything except meat.”

“Meat?” I felt stupid, but I didn’t get it.

“Yes. Fresh meat, particularly.”

He was staring at me. I could barely see him in the dark, even though he was so close, but I could feel him willing me to understand. All of a sudden, I remembered a dead body torn up by human teeth, but not by shamblers. I went cold all over.

“Caroline. You killed Caroline.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“You ate Caroline.”

“It was an accident.”

“How do you accidentally eat someone?”

I almost laughed. It felt the same way as it did when we realised what the shamblers were. I still can’t called them ‘zombies’, because it’s just too ridiculous. I keep thinking I’ll laugh, and then cry, and then throw up at the wrongness of it all. Just when I think the world makes sense, it’s all gibberish again. Or maybe it makes me gibber. I can’t tell. I can barely tell up from down any more.

He was trying to explain. There were rats there, he said – a whole nest of them. He’d been eating them. He said he’d been trying not to hurt anyone. But Caroline came along and started screaming, and he tried to shut her up, and then she fell. Fell and stopped. There was fresh blood, fresh meat, and he was very hungry.

I was shaking and struggling, my arms wrapped around myself as I tried to digest all of this. It didn’t make sense and yet it did. A part of me couldn’t deny it and the rest of me wanted to. I still couldn’t get the image of this morning’s discovery out of my head; it taunted me.

“So were you ‘accidentally’ eating Bree, too?”

I felt him hesitate and that made me afraid of what he was going to say. “No. I wasn’t going to kill her.”

I think it would have been easier to handle if he had been trying to kill her. “So what were you doing?” I had lost hope of a straight answer to that question, but I didn’t know what else to say.

“Sometimes, blood will do.”

I ran those words around in my head until they had meaning. It took a while. She wasn’t fighting him off; she was giving it to him? She knew. She knew what he was. Tears pricked at my eyes again and thickened my throat. She knew the truth he had refused to tell me. She had a part of him that he had kept secret, something that should have been mine. It wasn’t the part I thought it was – screwing would have been worse – but I still felt betrayed. I’d begged him to tell me something Bree had known, and he had only let me in because I’d caught them.

I slapped him so hard my hand stung. I have no idea how I hit him in the dark, but I did. I don’t think either of us felt any better for it.

“You need to leave now,” I told him. He tried to convince me to come back with him, but I had no wish to let him lead me through the darkness. It was cold there, but I could deal with that kind of chill. I couldn’t deal with having to lean on him. He went away, though I don’t know how far. I tried not to think about it through the rest of the night.


I went back to the Chemistry Department this morning. The foragers had gone out by then, but Matt had stayed behind. He was so worried that he pounced on me as soon as I came through the door. I must have looked terrible: cold, sleepless, red-eyed and hungry. I burst into tears when he hugged me, though I couldn’t tell him why. I’m all right, I told him. I didn’t know how to say any more. He stroked my hair until I was feeling well enough to stand on my own again.

I’m numb now. I see the faces around me, most of them glad to see me back, but I can’t feel anything. I’ve thawed myself by the fire all day, but I still feel cold in a way that all the blankets in the world won’t cure.

I need a new word; I don’t know what to call Ben now. There’s one word for what he is, but I won’t use it. Maybe I’ll just call him cannibal.