Monday, 9 March 2009 - 9:34 pm

No vacancy

There were engines in the distance again today, late in the afternoon when the clouds were gathering. We ducked under cover to wait for them to move away, only to find that we had chosen to dip into a house that still had inhabitants.

It was the strangest thing. We’ve been breaking into buildings, stepping through empty windowframes or kicking doors open, and then making ourselves at home with abandon. We’re used to empty shells, decorated with the shards of other people’s lives, faded and forgotten.

This one, though, was different. The door wasn’t locked, so we got in quickly and easily. We hunkered down in the lounge, trying to listen to the engines to judge how far away they were. But there were other sounds much closer, scratches and bumps and hushed movement.

It took us a while to find them. It was an old couple – they have to be in their sixties at least, and they were hiding in their pantry. They weren’t defenceless, though: the fella had a rifle that he had clearly handled frequently through the years. He almost took Dillon’s head off – I think the only reason that he didn’t fire was because a kid opened the door. The rest of us might not have been so lucky.

From there, it was all frantic explanations and trying not to raise our voices, and asking the old guy to please put the gun down. In the end, we had to leave. We went out the back way, little ones first while the adults kept an eye on that rifle, which the old fella didn’t lower for a second. We went in there to avoid violence, and almost got it anyway.

So there we were, outside with the sky darkening, shaken and listening to the engines approaching. We had to scrabble over the back fence and break into another house, which we did much more nervously than before. We were in a hurry; if the Pride didn’t find us, the rain would, so we had to get inside quickly.

Most of us stayed in the kitchen while the boys checked out the rest of the house, in case the old couple weren’t the only residents still in their home. We were all listening for those tiny noises, the signs that we weren’t alone, and for the engines to see if they had noticed us. There was nothing, though; the engines went away and the small noises were only in our heads.

I can’t believe that old couple were still there. Their house was so normal, tidy and clean. They must have been there all this time, keeping to themselves, waiting it out with the patience of ages. They had cans in that pantry they were huddling in – not many, but enough that the more ruthless voices in our group wanted to go back and help themselves. The rest of us stepped on that idea; that couple deserve their chance to survive this too, though I can’t help but wonder how much longer they can last. They can only have stockpiled so much food.

I don’t think any of us have relaxed since we found them. The kids are asleep now, and most of us have been talking quietly about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. Most of it has been going around in circles, nerves spouting into the lamplit air. We have a more solid plan now, but it’ll probably last the length of a block or two once we get outside.

It’s growing quiet now, finally. I should find Ben and try not to check in all the cupboards in case there’s someone hiding. I have no idea if I’ll be able to sleep tonight; it feels like the world has eyes on us.