Monday, 2 February 2009 - 1:41 pm


The tidal wave finally broke over us. It’s been building for days, rising higher and higher over our heads until it was all any of us could see any more.

I don’t know who gave in to it first – in a heartbeat we were all caught up in its swell, tumbling over each other until none of us knew which way was up.


It was the same complaints that we’ve all heard over the past week. Why are we carrying the two junkies with us, why are we wasting our food on them when all they do is slow us down. They can’t be trusted – Sally abandoned us once and we don’t know Masterson at all. They’re only with us because they ran out of drugs; they don’t even want to be here.

It didn’t help that the more lucid the doctor became over the past few days, the nastier he got with people. He snarled and snapped at everyone, and even I don’t trust his eyes. They’re hollow.

But they haven’t ever hurt us, and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to. He’s a doctor – we need him. He has already made sure that Sax’s head is all right, taught me how to glue gashes together, and told us which antibiotics to take and how to care for the acid burns.

And, more than anything else, if we abandon them, they’ll die.


I tried to stay out of it. I didn’t want to get involved; I didn’t even want to listen to it. Masterson was egging his enemies on with a bitter smile, Ben was trying to speak up for him, and Thorpe was raising his voice to shout everyone down. Nugget was hugging the cat tight enough to make it wriggle for air. Sally was crying and begging them, saying that they hadn’t hurt anyone and it wouldn’t be like that. Dillon kept trying to say something, but the men weren’t listening. Sax was weighing in on both sides, apparently at random, and that wasn’t helping anything.

I hated the voices tearing at each other – I kept expecting to see blood all over the floor. I hated the polarisation that was pushing us into the corners of the room. It seemed like it would get physical at any moment, as if there hadn’t been enough punishment lately. As if we didn’t have enough hurts to deal with.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. I couldn’t take my world falling apart all over again.

Suddenly they were all staring at me. It’s possible that I screamed at them to stop. I was standing with my hands clenched tightly enough to make my bad arm spike with pain, but I couldn’t open them. I couldn’t unbend at all. I took in a breath and everything came tumbling out.

I couldn’t believe that this is what we’ve been reduced to. I didn’t think that we were that kind of group, the kind that wanted to throw people out just because they weren’t strong enough, or fast enough, or good enough. We started out because we were trying to help each other, because it was important that everyone survived, that everyone has a chance. Doesn’t that mean anything any more? Why the hell not?

Hasn’t anyone noticed that in all the groups we’ve seen, there haven’t been any children? Or anyone above 35? Were they all kicked out because they couldn’t keep up? Because they couldn’t pick up a bat and beat the shit out of someone else for a can of cold beans? How soon before Sax is kicked out because his knee is slowing us down, or Nugget because she’s too small, or Dillon because he’s too young? What about Ben, with his burns, or me because I can only use one arm properly?

And let’s not kid ourselves about what it means when we kick someone out of the group. How long would any of us survive here on our own? It’s not just a choice about who walks with us – it’s a choice between who we help to live and who we send off to die.

Are we going to become like those other groups we’ve seen? Because they terrify me. They’re little more than animals, and that’s not what we are. That’s not what I want to be. We lost so much because of the bomb, but now we’ve started throwing stuff away – important stuff – and I don’t want to let go of it.

Maybe I’m blind, maybe I’m delusional, but I don’t care. I don’t want to lose who I am just because everything has changed.


Somewhere in there, I think I got off-track. In the heat of it, it didn’t matter until I stopped and took in a breath in the silence. Then I felt my hands start to shake and had to clench them tighter. I was cracking inside, and I didn’t want to shatter into pieces in front of them. So I told them that I was done listening to them and that they could come find me when they’d finished bitching at each other.

Then I walked out. Out of the room and up the stairs, right up to the roof. I needed the air, great big gulps of it as if I was drowning. I looked up at the orange sky and collapsed into tears wondering if the fires of hell had ascended into the heavens, and this was all that was left for any of us now.