Monday, 29 December 2008 - 7:43 pm

Letting go

I think I’m losing it.  I’m not sure I can keep doing all this.  I don’t feel like me at all any more. 


This morning, we picked ourselves up again, just like before.  It seemed like the only thing left to do.  We managed to find a rainwater tank to drink from, and to wash off the worst of the ash.  Then we started off towards the hospital; the wounded still need proper help.  It’s a long way, though.  We don’t know if all of them will make it.


I was just beginning to think it was weird that we hadn’t seen anyone else around when we found out why.  We heard the smashing first, then the shouts and laughing.  It was the high street, the main road leading south from the bridge we came over last night.

Looters.  Smashing and raiding and taking whatever they wanted.  We stopped and stared at them for a while.  I had no idea what to think about it.  We had done the exact same thing over the past few days, but that was different.  We were trying to survive.  Weren’t we?  I remember hiding those torn-off tags like a guilty little mouse.

What did it really matter any more?  The world had come down around us, the sky was ruined, and there was an awful, hollow feeling in my abdomen that only wanted food in it.  If they wanted to pick the bones of the dead city, who was I to care?


I think it was Carter who decided that we should go around them.  Sensible Carter.  The firefighters moved up to the front of the group.  They seemed to have sniffed something that I was completely oblivious to.  Maybe it was a word they caught, drifting down from the looters, or an edge to the voices.

Whatever it was, it didn’t come soon enough.  The looters fell quiet and looked in our direction, like hunting dogs catching a scent.  Hunting dogs that had just eaten their master.  I didn’t like the way they started towards us, not at all.

It’s funny how instinct makes us act.  Without really meaning to, the injured and the kids were in the middle of the group, behind the shield of the stronger of us.  No-one said anything; we just shifted into place.  I was up front near Carter – I guess my instincts are broken.  Maybe I forgot that I can only use one arm at the moment.

They sauntered and grinned at us, cocky as guns.  They wanted a toll.  They wanted us to pay for using ‘their’ street.  They’d been here since it all came down and had laid claim to this strip of concrete in a crumbling jungle. 

It was so ridiculous that I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  It was like they’d seen a movie about it and decided to live out the idea. All of a sudden, everyone was looking at me.  I could feel Carter and the others stiffening beside me.

The looters didn’t like my response.  But I didn’t like the way that they were looking at Sally and the lawyerlady and me when they were talking about their ‘toll’.  I didn’t like the way one of them was looking at Dillon, either.  And I just… lost it.

Something had bent inside me and I couldn’t stop it.  I was tired and hungry and I’d had enough of having things piled on top of me.  It was enough; it was too much.  And when those looters frowned at me, that’s what I told them.

I told them that we had just spent three – four? – days pulling people out of the ruins of the city.  We had worked ourselves bloody and hurt and sick and hungry and tired trying to salvage something from the wreckage.  Trying to save people.  We had lost a lot of them; we had lost rescuers, too.  We had the city itself working against us – concrete and metal and glass and fire and smoke and dust.  But we stayed and we kept going, because we were damned if we were going to let it stop us doing what we needed to.  And we’d made it.  Even with it coming down on top of us, we had made it out of there.  We made it.

We’re fucking hardcore.

And now, we get to the homestretch only to find these people demanding a toll?  It was juvenile.  It was pathetic, and we didn’t have to stand there listening to that crap.  We’ve got better things to do, like getting the injured to the help they need and the hell out of here.


So we turned and walked away.  They didn’t try to stop us; I think we were just as surprised as they were.  They didn’t follow us, either.  They were mostly kids, and there are five big guys in the group here.  Maybe that was it.

As we walked away, my heart tried to beat its way out of my chest and my hands shook, but I didn’t regret a word of it.  I wanted to cry suddenly, crumple into a little heap; I still do.  I think it’s coming, that final bit of breaking.

Ben asked me if I was crazy.  It’s possible that I was, right then.  I was aware that the looters were dangerous; I just didn’t care.  I was a girl waving a bandaged arm around, mouthing off.  I felt like I could take on the world, tell the whole crumbling guts of it to fuck off and leave us alone.

The group gave me cautious sideways looks and I don’t blame them.  I’d look at myself that way if I could.  Going off like that isn’t like me, not at all.  We seemed to walk faster after that, though, and not out of fear.  Taller, maybe.  I saw a couple of smiles, even, and Thorpe and Carter patted me on the back.  It was a stupid thing to do, but I felt so much better for it.  Like I could breathe easier.  Nothing like a good vent to clear out the dust and smoke, I guess. 

We went around the looters’ area.  I don’t think we’ll be going back there anytime soon.  They’re bound to remember me.