Thursday, 19 November 2009 - 10:46 pm

Out of ashes

We’re almost to the University. So close, and yet struggling to make headway. A mechanical fault delayed us this morning, with painful results and stretching out our travelling time yet again. A bullet had wormed its way into an engine during our escape and leaked fuel all over it. How it didn’t catch fire before now, I don’t know. We never noticed it using more fuel than the other bikes, and no-one smelt the fumes coming off it. I guess we were just too busy to notice before it was too late.

It was Thorpe’s bike. He swung on and kicked it started, and there was a strange ‘whoomph’ sound. The next thing I knew, there was a flare of light, he was rolling on the ground and people were shouting. Someone called for a blanket; I was rolling up my bedding when it happened and ran to the bikes to throw it on him. Between a couple of us, we put him out. He wasn’t hurt badly, thank goodness; only his hands were exposed, and they’ve been cleaned and bound carefully. His jeans are toast, though, and his boots didn’t survive well either. I don’t think the burns are too bad, though it’s always hard to tell with him.

The bike was harder to put out. A couple of the boys sprinted off to look for a fire extinguisher. The rest of us could do nothing other than watch as it burned, trying not to think too hard about what was strapped to the back of it. They were supplies we couldn’t afford to lose but the heat was too high for anyone to try to save them. The fuel cans strapped to it ruptured, sending a gout of flame up and spilling the mess into a puddle. We all skittered further away from it, shying from the pool of light and shoving our untouched gear along with us. I noticed Dale quietly holding the blankets around Thorpe, asking him for the sixth time if he was okay.

The first extinguisher brought back to us was just water, useless on an oil-based fire; it would only have spread the problem into a wider area. The second one promised it would work, though, and Thorpe gave the boys instructions on how best to use it. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that he used to be a fireman until something like this happened. I get the feelnig that if he hadn’t been hurt, he would have had the blaze out long before the others managed it. After much fighting and shouting, we were left with a foamy, blackened bike and a dispersing pillar of dirty smoke.

If anyone was still looking for us, that was a big pointer over our location. I saw Jonah exchange glances with the other cutouts and asked him what was wrong – he’s the one who pointed that out to me. I told him that we couldn’t worry about that just then – we had more important things to be doing.

It was a while before the bike was cool enough to touch. We salvaged what little we could from the bike, but there wasn’t much left. The perishable parts of it had melted and the dials were cracked. The packs on the back were a twisted mess, their contents spilt and ruined. So that was it: a burned bike listing to one side in a charred puddle, smoking slightly.


There are too many of us to fit on four bikes. We were back to looking for other vehicles, breaking into cars and offroaders, looking for one that we can get going. We had been reluctant to spend that kind of time before, not with Haven’s pressure driving us forward. It took most of the day, but we wound up with a station wagon that runs just fine and is big enough to take most of our gear.

It forced us to reshuffle the pack. Thorpe, Matt and Warren rode in the car with their various hurts and Iona in the back. Jersey, Dale, Bobby and Jonah drove the bikes, and I took a break to ride pillion. I wound up behind Jonah, my old escort. Thorpe gets all frowny when someone else rides with Dale, Jersey is prickly, and Jonah is familiar.

We didn’t get far but I felt like we made progress. The injured were more comfortable and the cutouts got a bit more freedom, as if perhaps we might trust them. We couldn’t move as fast, as we had to find paths through the abandoned vehicles for the car to get through. We’re getting there slowly, one step at a time, days trickling under our tyres.

It’s strange how quickly we fell back into our old, familiar patterns. Today, we felt like Seekers again.