Wednesday, 29 July 2009 - 8:36 pm

Look to the road

I’m not the only one growing restless here. Last night, talk turned towards the places we haven’t got to yet. The Emergency Coordination Centre, the signal-senders at Greenberry. The promises of something organised that might take us out of this wandering, hand-to-mouth existence.

Today, the snow melted a little before the rain came. The acid water fell as sleet again rather than fluffy flakes and the wetness muddied up the slush on the ground. Tonight looks like it’s going to be as cold as ever, but there’s hope that the frost will be kinder in the morning. There might even be glimpses of concrete. I guess the hope of that nudged thoughts towards the possibility of walking out on it.

I went out again, but not with the foragers. Instead, I went over to where our vehicles are sitting, frozen onto the campus road. One of the panels on the water truck has been wedged open – the foragers fetched bottles from it when we needed them – and I’m fairly sure that other scavengers have been at it. I can’t bring myself to mind, though. If our water helped others survive, then good for them. It’s not like we’re short of it.

The vehicles seem fine. We managed to get a couple of them running (I took Tia and Iris with me). The offroaders’ engines chugged obscenely loudly in the crisp air. I shut them off quickly, not wanting to waste the fuel and maybe a little bit creeped out by so much noise in the silence.

I ducked into the social building while I was there and looked at the place we first stayed on the campus. There’s a scorched mark on the floor where our fire sat and smoke has blackened the ceiling in places. Furniture is still arranged in approximations of beds. There’s a pile of wrappers and cans dropped in a corner, scoured clean of any traces of food.

It’s strange to think about how much we’ve learned since then. How much has changed.


Tonight, we talked about what we wanted to do. Kostoya was sitting with us and asked if it was safe for the little ones to be going out into the world. I had no answer for him; we would protect them as best we could, obviously, but it was still dangerous. I had to restrain the urge to glance at Ben. It was dangerous for all of us.

We’re a big group now. Over twenty of us – not too many for the vehicles to carry, but a lot to move around. Everything takes so long with this number of bodies to motivate and get moving. But do all of us need to go?

“Dr Kostoya, would you object if some of us stayed here?” I asked.

He looked around, torn. We did move in and make ourselves at home. “I suppose not,” he said. “I have grown used to the help.” And the company, I think. I don’t think he has been alone since the bomb went off – he has talked about others ‘visiting’ him here – but no-one else had been here for some time before we showed up.

Some of the others were looking at me expectantly. Masterson was the first to speak up.

“Thinking of dumping some of us?”

Trust him to inject venom into the conversation. “No,” I said. “But if people do want to stay, then it’s nice to know they can.”

“What are you thinking, Faith?” That was Tom with his calm, solid voice. He reminded me of a lighter, more quiet-spoken version of Sax.

“We don’t all need to go. If we find anything, we’ll come back and… go from there.” I shrugged.

“There’s the radio,” Conroy pointed out. Scott said that the radio was only useful if both those leaving and those staying had one – we still had the firefighting unit, but we didn’t know what kind of range we’d get on it.

“Plenty of parts in the electronics department,” Kostoya said.

“When are you leaving?” Again, the question was aimed at me by Tom.

I restrained the urge to shrug again. I wanted to get moving but it wasn’t like I had a timeline laid out for this. “Couple of days at the most.” I could see the brains reeling from where I was sitting. I felt unfair, though a couple of days felt like too long to wait to me. “We don’t need to decide everything tonight. Have a think about what you all want to do.”


With luck, tonight’s evening chatter will work out who’s coming and who’s staying. I can guess at least a few of those who will stay behind.

I’m looking forward to hitting the road. I feel like I might be able to leave some of these headaches and heartaches behind.