Sunday, 26 July 2009 - 9:35 pm

No-one else matters

I thought about going to see Dr Kostoya today. I thought about going to ask Bree what she knew. I thought about talking to Thorpe to see what he had noticed about his old friend and crewmate. But even I knew that I was avoiding what I needed to do, so I ignored the distractions.

Ben has done nothing lately except watch me and stay out of my way. He tried to talk to me a couple of times but wound up just sitting next to me. I had no idea what to say to him and I think the feeling was mutual. Today, though, I was determined that we were going to actually communicate.

I waited until the foragers had headed out for the day. They’re doing well at finding us supplies and we’re building up a stock now; there has even been enough to share with Kostoya when he said he was short of food.. They’re going to need to find a store of heavy boots soon – the snow is eating away at our shoes, no matter how careful we are.

It went quiet about mid-morning, once the remains of breakfast were cleaned up and the foragers were long gone. The kids amuse themselves – Dillon is getting good at being in charge of the other two, supervising by waving a crutch around. Some of the others disappeared upstairs to give the chemist a hand with whatever he’s doing lately.

I sat down next to Ben; he was by the window, looking out at the places he couldn’t walk in the tainted orange day. Why is it so hard to start a conversation like this? It’s easier when I don’t have time to prepare myself, when I just react, though I beat myself up afterwards for all the stuff I forgot to say.

Instead, I took his hand and put my fingertips on the inside of his wrist. His skin is chilly but just as soft as it used to be. He knew what I was doing and just sat there, waiting for the bump under his skin to let me know that he still has a heart in there. It took a long time to come – it felt like forever, though it can’t have been more than half a minute. His is a shy heart.

“What else don’t I know?” I asked him.

He shrugged, but not as dismissively as before. “You know most of it now. I can hear better than I used to. And smell, too – I can smell the rain coming sometimes, though less now that it’s freezing.”

“Is that how you found me that night? By scent?”


I’m not used to getting such straight answers from him. I looked into his face and he seemed sincere. “I smell that bad, huh.”

The corner of his mouth twitched. It’s the closest that any of us have got to a real smile in a long time. The moment didn’t last long, but it was long enough to chip away some of the frost between us.

I sighed and looked down at his hand, still held between mine. It felt warmer than before; either I was warming it up or I was getting used to the cold.

“I don’t know what you want me to do, Ben.”

“I want you to be okay with this,” he said, quickly enough to make me glance up at his face. There was earnestness there. “I’ve got nowhere else to go. No-one else that matters to me.”

My throat was threatening to close up. “I want to be okay with it too.”


It was elusive, that ‘but’. It hung between us and I struggled to reach out and grab it. “I don’t know what all this means. Not, not yet.”

He frowned at our hands. “It means I’m not entirely human any more. I’m some halfway thing. Not one of them, not one of you either.”

“You’re not like the shamblers.”

“I’m trying not to be.”

Suddenly, I felt like I was slipping, or he was slipping, and there was nothing to hold onto. His pulse was slow while mine wanted to beat out of my chest. It was all I could do to keep the desperation out of my voice.

“I want to help you.”


“You went to her.” It was out before I’d thought about it. It mattered, though. It mattered more than I like. It was raw and I couldn’t let go of it, even if I wanted to.

“It wasn’t… it wasn’t like that, Faith. You know that.”

“It doesn’t matter.” The pressure was building up and abruptly I was trying not to cry. “You didn’t come to me. You chose to go to someone else. To her, of all people.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“But you did. That’s exactly what you did.”

He stared at me for a long moment. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Tell me the truth! Tell me what was going on!”

“And the feeding? Would you rather I had fed off you, too?”


He stood up and pulled his hand out of mine, still staring at me. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. I knew it was stupid, but it was how I felt. I remembered what my dad said once, just after I found out about Cody and Bree. “The heart isn’t a rational beast,” he had told me. And then he had hugged me. I would give anything for one of his hugs right now, even for him to scruff my hair up like he always did.

“It’s the truth,” I said to Ben.

He touched my cheek and told me again that he didn’t want to hurt me. He was troubled when he went away, as if he thought I might offer again. As if maybe he’d say yes.

I don’t know what I’d do if he did. I don’t know what’s more important to me right now – that he kept things from me; that he didn’t want to hurt me; that he chose to go to Bree; that he eats people. In my head, it all seems so straightforward, as if the answer is obvious. Then the rest of me gets involved and I don’t know anything.

He said that no-one else matters to him. I want to believe him, though the more I think about it, the more scared that thought makes me.