Wednesday, 16 December 2009 - 7:44 pm

Slaves to the after

Where did I get to? There are so many demands fighting for attention right now, and people still come to me to fulfil them. Warren is one of those demands: Warren and what we decided to do with him. I wish there had been a better answer.


Warren didn’t get to take his final turn. It was stolen from him. I pleaded for him not to do it and he hesitated.

Between one heartbeat and the next, Bobby was on him. He grabbed Warren’s arm and yanked the gun up to a safer angle. It punctured the air, once, twice, and everyone behind me was moving. Someone snagged my arm and tugged me away from the tussle. It was Matt, of course, getting me out of range of flailing limbs, out of danger.

People were grabbing at the saboteur, the gun was pulled out of his hands, and they bore him to the ground. He shouted in pain, the sound lost in all the raised voices.

Matt put me behind him, keeping a hand latched around my arm, wanting to stay in contact. I curled fingers in the back of his shirt, needing to hold onto him too. I was only too glad to be out of the middle of the situation, peeking out from behind his shoulder.

I suppressed a wave of tremors as I watched the boys subduing Warren, and swallowed back a sudden urge to throw up. I wasn’t sure if it was the stress or the unfortunately-timed start of morning sickness. They were rough. Someone kicked him, making him cough for air, and I flinched.

The stillness was abrupt and balanced delicately on a line drawn across the air. It was time to decide if we were Seekers, or if we would kill him.


We were all furious and scared, and that’s never a good combination. It swirled around us like a smell that made our eyes smart.

Warren was whimpering with pain when they hauled him back to his feet, out in the dust of the yard. His shoulder wasn’t as seriously injured as he had led us to believe, but it was still barely healed and painful. We tried to feel bad about that, but I don’t think any of us succeeded. He spat blood onto the ground and cried out when someone yanked on his injured arm, almost falling back to his knees. I think that’s what saved him in the end: a show of pain and the moment when someone might use a gun in anger passed.

We weren’t sure what to do with him, but we had some plastic ties from the supplies of the flower farm and that was enough to lash his hands together behind his back. For the time being, we put him in one of the small storage sheds, where he wouldn’t be able to do any damage while we assessed the damage and figured out what we’re going to do with him.

Kostoya said that there wasn’t any damage to the water system. The pipes had been fiddled with, but some tightening was all it took to make it right. Whatever he was going to do, he didn’t have time to do it before I got there. That was a relief, though there wasn’t any sweetness in it.

We don’t have a policy for this kind of thing. The smart thing to do would be a kill him, just like he assumed we would. But we don’t want to be that kind of group. I’m not the only one who thinks so – Kostoya was openly horrified by the notion, as was most of the group. Of course, certain voices called for it: Jersey, Masterson, even Thorpe. Estebar and Nugget hovered around the edge of the gathering as we discussed it, watching the exchanges with wide eyes to see if we would betray their trust and innocence. I wasn’t the only one who felt the weight of their attention.

We don’t want to be murderers. We subdued him without fatality and we’re past an excusable death now. Hot blood has drained, pooled and cooled. Cold blood isn’t something we like the taste of.

So what choices do we have? We don’t have enough food to go around as it is, so should we continue to keep him alive by feeding him? Letting him starve is murder, too. We could let him go, but he knows where we are – he’d run back to Haven and tell them. Bring them down on us, if he hasn’t already. We can’t trust him again; he’s very set on our evil and the righteousness of his own actions. Even if he made apologetic noises and promised he’d seen our light, we can’t ever take a chance on him again. There are too many lives at stake. Out on the road, he almost killed Thorpe and Bobby, and the former is still healing from his encounter with the bike’s burst fuel tank. Here, Bree and Conroy are healing too, and we don’t know the extent of the damage there yet.

There are no easy answers. It’s either going to cost us a lot to keep him locked up and alive, or we have to kill him. When it comes to him or us, we choose us; there’s no contest there. But we’re not killers. We won’t become killers.

Except for the soldiers. Jonah and Bobby – they’ve killed people before. They admitted as much, and I’m not counting shamblers. They’d do it, they said. Even though they knew him. They had trusted him enough to let him in on the secret of the escape and brought him along, and he had betrayed them. It was their error of judgement, theirs to fix. Many thought it and a couple even said it, putting the onus on them.

But all of us took him in. If we let this happen, cold-blooded murder by soldiers’ hands, then it taints all of us. Jonah and Bobby are Seekers now. We won’t be unsullied by making them do it for us. It’s an easy option for most of us, but it’s not a clean one. And so we circled again.


We kept coming back to the same place. There was only one other idea that came up: slavery. We couldn’t let him go and we couldn’t let him be a drain on our supplies, but we could make him work for his keep. Indentured servitude. It meant he would have to be guarded at all times, and we’d need to find a way to bind him so that he couldn’t sneak off and do any more damage.

It feels like a step backwards, but the After has put us back so far that perhaps it’s suitable. It’s certainly more humane than taking him out the back and shooting him. Or worse, if we wanted to save the bullet.

We’re going to try it. We’re going to be slave-keepers, and prison guards, and whip-crackers, though we don’t have any actual whips. I don’t know how Warren will react to this yet. I don’t know if it’s going to work.

It’s a small step towards becoming one of the lean, hungry dogs prowling in the After. Just a small step in a long scale of grey. Let’s see how it tastes, if we can swallow it and if it’s enough. It has to at least be enough.

I just hope we can stay Seekers.