Saturday, 15 August 2009 - 9:49 pm


We shouldn’t have stopped today. It seemed so harmless. Another gathering of buildings by the roadside, our supplies running low; just a quick stop, that was all. Just a quick stop.

I don’t know where they came from. We were spread out, everyone checking the buildings for anything of value to us. I think Dan saw them first; he was the first one I heard shouting. They were stumbling over the slope above the little town, tripping over rocks and falling down. Dirt skittered down around them – that should have been our first warning.

I counted heads as the group emerged into the street to see what was happening. The shamblers were still a way off, so we decided to complete our search before we left. They’re slow and we were sure we’d have time.

Once upon a time, there were trees on these hills, and grass with its tiny roots, binding it all together. The rain scoured all of that away. There are no trees, or grass, or roots. Nothing to hold it all together. The messy weight of the shamblers was enough to bring it all down.

My first thought was that another storm was coming. Then I realised the rumbling was under my feet and shivering up the walls. I looked up and the whole world was sliding.

I think I screamed. Then there was running, everyone running away. Except Thorpe – he ran back towards the rolling hillside that was coming down to meet us. I shouted at him and looked back. Dale was behind us, just in front of the first building the dirt swept over. I saw him go under, dragged into the wave feet-first.

I ran harder. I couldn’t help it – I just had to get away. Everything was pounding so hard I didn’t even notice the rocks pinging on my back. Then I was thrown down and everything washed over me. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to curl up into a ball, but I couldn’t do that, either.

Then it was over. I pushed myself up and spat out foul grit, and couldn’t believe there was air. My eyes were streaming; I had to scrub them before they’d work properly. Then I saw an arm near me and went to pull it up. It was Terry, coughing and struggling to get up. We stumbled around, trying to find everyone. I ticked names off in my head – Matt, Dan, Tia. Thorpe struggling out of the press of dirt and rocks, shouting so desperately. Dillon fought with the door to a store to get it open, hobbling out on one crutch and looking so worried. He was the only one of us inside when it happened; the rest of us got caught in the tail-end of the landslide.

Except Dale. I haven’t seen Thorpe so frantic since the diner when the rain first came down. It took us minutes to find where the ex-Wolverine was buried, and longer to dig him out. He was unconscious, unmoving. I had to push the fireman out of the way so I could check his pulse and his breathing. His mouth was full of dirt.

I’ve never actually done CPR before except on the training dummies. My hands shook and I had no idea if I was doing it right. The breaths made me dizzy. I kept counting and counting to get the ratios right – breaths and compressions, breaths and compressions. I’m not sure when he came around. Someone pulled me back and I landed on my backside, blinking away spots. Someone was crying; I think it was Tia.


Dillon was the only one of us not mud-coloured. Head to foot, we were long brown smears. He was so bright in his orange jacket, hobbling over the fallen hillside on his splinted leg and one crutch. I think we all heard him shout at the same time and turned to look. He had almost made it over to us.

We weren’t the only dirty bodies pulling ourselves out of the ground: inexorable and hungry, the shamblers were dragging themselves free. There was one just a few feet away from me, almost completely emerged. I hadn’t even noticed the movement. Dillon smacked it in the head with his crutch before I could finish scrambling to my feet. Once, twice, and once more to make sure it wasn’t going to move again. Then he grinned at me.

The flush of relief was sliced off by the movement behind him. More of them were crawling free and he was too close. He tried to hit them, but he couldn’t turn and his leg– He went down. He screamed and then I couldn’t see him any more..

We got to him as fast as we could. No-one had any weapons – it was just bare hands and desperation. We pulled him free and got him into the campervan. There was so much blood. I did what I could for him, but… there was just so much. He kept telling me that it was all right, it’s all right, Faith, don’t worry, it’s all going to be fine. I managed not to start crying until he fell asleep.

I can’t sleep. I keep watching him breathing, terrified every time it catches. I don’t know what to do. Masterson is so far away. The vehicles are stuck in the landslide.

Hold on, Dillon. We have to make it. We have to.

Please don’t go.

Tags: , ,
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 - 8:46 pm


Dale came to talk to me today. He’s a private guy, though not in the way that Thorpe is, so I wondered what was up when he came to give me a hand where we wouldn’t be overheard.

I haven’t spent much time with him since he recovered from his shambler-inflicted injuries; I’ve been preoccupied, mostly with all the stuff around Ben. Before then, our exchanges were underpinned by his pain as I changed dressings and checked wounds. He always made an effort to keep his spirits up, though, always tried to bear a smile, even if it was strained. Or he’d make jokes of the subtle, wry kind.

Today, while we were looking through pillaged cupboards for any scraps of food that might be hiding, he couldn’t find that smile. He kept glancing at me, until I eventually gave in and asked him what was going on.

“The others told me what you did,” he said. “For me, at the landslide.”

I stared at him as I tried to figure out what he meant, what might matter that much to him. Then I remembered the CPR, the taste of dirt and growing dizzy as I tried to give him oxygen. They’d had to pull me off him when he came around. And then Dillon–

“I’m the only one who knows how.” It wasn’t the most inspired response, but it was all I could come up with on short notice. I hadn’t noticed how intent his eyes could get before then. They’re blue and just a little bit green.

“Yeah, but you still saved my life.” He shrugged and that strained smile ghosted past us. “I just wanted to… thank you.”

I hadn’t even realised. In all the hurt that followed, that one little fact had slipped right past me. Something small and hard swelled in my chest as I looked up at Dale and realised that he was right: I had saved him. I couldn’t save the ones closest to me, but I did save someone. It felt like that had to mean something, though I’m still figuring out what.

I didn’t want to make a big thing out of it, though; we all kept each other safe. And my tongue didn’t quite know what to do with itself.

“We’re all in this together.” I felt so lame. But what was I supposed to say? “Look after each other, you know?”

I went to pat his arm and he flinched. That was when I realised he was hurt – we were all battered by the landslide, flesh and bone bruised by the rocks and weight of earth, but he had been buried and hauled out rougher than any of us. I hadn’t even checked to see if there were any serious injuries at the time; I was too caught up in Dillon. Today, though, I had the chance to catch up with that. I made Dale show me his arm, saw the familiar swelling and bruising, and went to dig out the forearm brace I had at the bottom of my pack.

I paused when I got it out. I remembered, so clearly, the first time I saw it. My wrist was so sore, and Dillon had found the brace in the hospital and brought it to me. He had looked like such a good puppy when he handed it over and that alone had made me feel better about being broken.

I didn’t want to give it up. It felt like a part of us, Dillon and me, and there were so few left within my reach. But it was silly – just an object we had shared, one I had stained in the weeks that followed that moment, and Dale needed it. I put it on him before I changed my mind. He saw my hesitation and asked if I was all right. So I told him. There didn’t seem any point in beating about the bush. His face fell, but I fastened the straps anyway. It’s not like anyone else was using it.

After Dale’s hurts were dealt with, I went to check on everyone else. Late, but at least I got there in the end. I hadn’t even realised how many of us were still mud-coloured and smeared with the dirt that tried to swallow us. We’re clay people, different shapes made from the same pressed earth.

I’d do anything for a shower. There’s plenty of soap but no water to spare. I think that sums us up perfectly: so many intentions but a vital piece missing.

We have enough to drink, enough to get by. That will have to do for now.

Sunday, 23 August 2009 - 9:20 pm

Bar’s closed

I just read over the post I wrote yesterday. I don’t usually do that. I don’t usually go back, because there’s too much moving elsewhere to do. But it’s been bothering me.

I read yesterday’s post, and then I read over the first one I put up on this blog. The one I made when my life had shifted and I didn’t know which way to turn, when I couldn’t tell forward from back and struck out in whatever direction I could find. More determination than wisdom.

The things that happen to you crawl in and make themselves at home. That has been bothering me, too.


We got to the warehouse district about midday. The rumbling of our engines reflected back off fences and walls at us, blanketing us in sound until we couldn’t tell where we stopped and the silence began.

When we shut off the engines, the gulf rushed in and swallowed us. Hairs lifted on the back of my neck. It felt like there were things skittering on the edge of hearing, or just out of sight, gone when I turned my head. Then we hopped out of the vehicles and stamped our feet into life, and the feeling shattered.

We were gearing up, taking essential equipment with us, when I noticed that Dale was frowning. He’s one of the more relaxed members of the group, usually lighter than the rest of us, but he has been tense for the past few days. Last night, I saw him talking to Thorpe and not getting the answers he was looking for. Their expressions were enough to tell me that.

I don’t know what’s going on between those two, but I know that Thorpe won’t talk about it with the rest of us here. He’s so private, so protected, and we live on top of each other. We stay within sight for safety, and what we don’t see, we hear.

So I went to Thorpe and suggested that he stay behind to guard the vehicles. Something felt off, so why didn’t he make sure that what supplies we did have were safe? But not alone: Dale should stay behind with him. I wanted to tell him to talk to the poor fella – do something to sort this out – but you can’t approach Thorpe that way. You can’t put it into something as solid as words. All I could do was give them the excuse to be apart from the rest of us long enough to do whatever it was they needed to do.

He tried to say that it wasn’t necessary and I lost patience with him. There’s protected and then there’s isolation. I considered having a go at him, but butting heads wouldn’t have helped anything. Instead, I told the others that Thorpe and Dale were staying behind to guard the vehicles and it was done. The rest of us trudged off without them. I didn’t look back but he was probably glaring at me.


“Do you think it’ll work?” Matt asked me as we worked our way through the first warehouse. Trust him to be aware of the relationships of others, even ones as subtle as Thorpe’s. He’d spotted it long before I did.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re both big boys.”

He couldn’t help himself: he grinned and started making comments about the boys and sizes. I had to smack him before he’d stop, but he made me laugh.

“It really doesn’t bother you?” I asked him when he had restrained himself. He looked puzzled until I admitted that I knew about him and Thorpe, about that one night they’d spent together.

Matt was sheepish about it. They’d been drunk – we were all drunk that night – and it wasn’t more than that. Just one night. “Besides, he’s not my type.”

“You have a type?”

He gave me a playful shove. “Yeah, I do.”

I teased him about all the evidence to the contrary until he told me that the big fireman is a keeper. Not so much into the casual coupling.

“Ah, I see,” I said. “That kind of not your type.”

Matt’s been a casual kinda guy for most of the time I’ve known him. He’s had a few semi-serious partners, but he always goes back to unseriousness in the end. Until the world ended, that is; I think his time with the Sharks altered him. There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for that kind of thing anyway.


Our foray into the warehouses wasn’t very fruitful. We found lots of useless stuff – toys, baby supplies (I snagged a few bits to bring back to Sally), gardening equipment, furniture. Some clothes, some pet supplies. A lot of the crates had already been broken open and the more useful items taken. We didn’t find any perishables, no food or drink. We have a lot more warehouses to go through, so we haven’t given up yet.

It was hard to tell what had happened while we were gone. Things were definitely less frosty when we got back. Thorpe is never going to say, but Dale wasn’t wearing a frown any more. I don’t think it’s solved, but the work is definitely in progress. That must be a good thing.

Progress. Moving on. Making something new and good despite the mess the world is in. I had forgotten what that was like, but all around me it’s still going on. Even Thorpe is managing to do it, as reluctant as he is.

The things that happen to you put their feet up on your mental couch and ask for another drink.

Well, this bar is closed. This is the old Faith, one who’s done crying and feeling sorry for herself, one who’s done listening to the lies and the poison. I’m not worn down yet. I haven’t been washed away.

I’m still here, and I’m staying.

Tags: , ,