Fri, 13 March 2009 - 2:01 pm

Rabbit run

Yesterday, the rain crept up on us and caught us off-guard. Today, something else did the same thing, though luckily it was far less lethal. Apart from the initial fright, it wasn’t unpleasant at all. But even so, we need to figure out how to be more vigilant, more aware, because I’m not sure that my nerves can take much more of this.

I feel like a rabbit, running and scurrying and hiding, knowing that everything is a predator waiting to take a bite out of me. I feel like I’m waiting for the headlights to turn on me, and then I’ll freeze and that’ll be it. Strung-out nerves will be paralysed until the worst happens.

 

But there was good news today. The worst didn’t happen. I really should try to focus on that.

I’m not sure which one of us became aware of it first. Distant footsteps, the sound of soles slapping bouncing off the buildings around us until we couldn’t tell which direction it came from. We stopped and turned around slowly, trying to locate the source. The buildings in this area are high, fat things – we left the lower, more private houses behind early this morning, moving into the realm of apartment buildings, complexes and compounds. Some of them have names far prettier than they deserve. Heaven’s Gate was broken and stained long before the bomb went off.

Ben said that we should get under cover; trust him to be the one to realise that we were all standing out there in the open, gawping around like fools while those reflected footsteps got louder, got closer. So Thorpe kicked open a door and we all filed into the foyer of a highrise, huddling close to the edges of the windows to see who might turn up. We had figured out by then that it was a single set of footsteps, but that wasn’t enough to make us stand out there to meet it. It could belong to a scout, or outrunner, or just someone inclined to run back to where there are lots of people to tell them where we are.

So we hid and we waited. The footsteps stuttered, and for a moment I thought they weren’t going to make it far enough for us to see anything. With no ambient noise to get in the way, we could hear the sound weaving through alleys between the buildings; we could track the pattern of the terrain by the quality of the echo, tight passageways and open space lending the sound distinctly different reverberations.

I wasn’t the only one surprised when the body broke into view; it still sounded too far away for that. But there it was, running in the shadow of a wall in an efficient jog, the sort that we would like to travel at but never do. We’re lucky to make it to a fast walk at the moment, between the skulking and the slower members of the group.

The runner looked ready to pass us by, but a f of us recognised it. I’m not sure what tipped Dillon and Matt off, but for me it was the bandage around her head; I knew where I had seen it before. Alice, Dillon’s friend. I breathed her name and everyone relaxed.

The next thing I knew, Dillon was diving off out the door after her. Well, of course he did; he said goodbye to her once, I don’t think he was willing to do it again. We are all clinging to whatever remnants of our previous lives we can get our hands on. A few of us hissed at him to be quiet, to make sure he didn’t start hollering her name as soon as he got outside, but he restrained himself. He ran over to her, startling her into a wary pose before she realised who was barrelling towards her, and then they spoke quietly. The rest of us seeped out into the street again, unhurried for once.

I could tell that Dillon was agitated – he kept his voice down, but his hands were unfettered and waving intently. Alice seemed wary but calm, and her shoulders slumped as she followed him to meet up with us. I think it was relief that made her move that way; she said that she had been looking for us for the past few days.

The street wasn’t the place for a long discussion, so we only checked her intentions before pushing on; longer explanations could come later. She came to join us, she said. Something had happened after we left her on the other side of the river; she hadn’t had a group to leave behind by the time she came after us.

We will hopefully get the full story once we settle down for the evening. For now, it’s time to move on.

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