Thursday, 13 August 2009 - 6:26 pm

Our own saviours

The ECC went dark today. I think we’ve got as much from it as we’re going to get. We didn’t want to waste any more fuel on keeping it alive; we don’t know when we’ll get to another gas station and be able to fill our cans up.

We have answered the burning questions we had: where everyone went; what happened to the organisation and official channels that were supposed to help us. We know where they went, but we don’t know if they made it. What happened to them is the same that happened to all of us – the rain, the lack of supplies, and most likely the Sickness and shamblers too.

We know now that there’s no-one coming. No-one is looking for survivors, because that’s all that’s left now and the mirror is close enough. Maybe there’s a government tucked away somewhere, buried in a bunker with three years’ worth of supplies. With no sign of them, they might as well not be there at all.

There’s still the army base. There’s a hope there, growing slimmer by the second. Why aren’t they scanning the air waves? Why haven’t they answered any of our transmissions? Every establishment we have hoped on has turned out to be empty: first the hospital and now here. I think I’m too tired to rest my hopes on that any more. I can’t take any more disappointments.

We’re on our own. Life, death, what little is left of morality – it’s all up to us now. We’re our own higher authority; we’re our own saviours. We’re all each other has got.


That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to see what’s at the base, though. We talked about it while we waited for the storm to blow itself out and all of us want to continue on to Greenberry. If nothing else, there is the signal. There’s power to send it and that has to come from somewhere. There must be something there.

I asked if we could go back up before we head down the mountain again. I wanted to see the sky, to imprint it on my brain before we were cut off completely again. There was a note of relief in the group; after the bleakness of the revelations here, we all need that comfort.

The storm cleared about midday – it’s hard to tell with all this fog, but it felt like midday – and we took whatever we could find that might be of use to us. There wasn’t much; the ECC workers did a good job of evacuating the supplies when they left.

Before we closed the doors behind us, we tacked a note just inside so that whoever came here after us would know where we’ve gone. So they wouldn’t have to search and wonder.


We have spent the rest of the day on the mountaintop, stunned by all the space after spending a couple of days inside windowless walls. We can see the storm circling off to the west, the thunderheads reaching up much higher than we are. It looks like it’s trying to scrub the stained clouds away, but it’s not having much luck.

As focussed as we have been on finding official organisation, we haven’t forgotten what our next destination is. We have to go south a short way to the place where Dillon’s family fled to. To look for them and hope they’re still there. I don’t think any of us can bear the thought of another empty building telling tales of people long gone.

I spent most of the day sitting with the kid; he’s quiet with nerves now that we’re close to his aunt’s house. He’s afraid to hope they’re there and excited at the same time. It’s worse than when we went to his home – I think the wait has made this carrot seem even more precious and distant than the last one.

The boys kicked his ball around on the mountaintop under the setting sun, and he joined in. He’s still slow and relying on his crutches, but the fellas were kind with him. He hobbled back to me with a grin, flushed and needing a rest. It’s good to see him that way. But that grin faded when he sat down, so abruptly that I asked him what was wrong.

“I’m gonna miss you if I stay with my folks,” he said, then stammered to correct himself. “All of you. Everyone. It’s gonna be strange.”

I wrapped both arms around his shoulders and told him that we’ll miss him too. It made me feel heavy inside; of all of these strangers I’ve grown to like and love, he has been with me the longest. I don’t want to think about him not being in the group.

He was quiet for a little while, then he asked, “What if I don’t want to stay with them?”

It wasn’t something that had occurred to me as a possibility. “That’s up to you,” I told him. “No-one’s going to make you stay there.”

“My dad might. And you guys’ll be able to move faster without me.” He tapped a crutch on the split that bound his healing leg.

I know that kind of doubt and fear; I’ve had those thoughts myself, eating away at me while no-one’s looking. I made him look at me, right in the eye so he would know I was telling the truth. “You’ll always have a place with us. We’re not looking to dump you.”

He nodded and looked glum, so I’m not sure if he believed me. Then the boys called him away to play soccer with them and I joined in too, running and shoving with the rest of them. It felt good to get breathless and laugh with them. Even silent Dan joined in, and I know I saw Thorpe grinning like a kid.

The moon has come up tonight, so bright that we don’t need flashlights at all. The sun is watching us from the other side of the world through that great, waning mirror. It’s a comforting thought. We need all we can get of those as we move towards tomorrow.

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.

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Sunday, 16 August 2009 - 9:57 pm


Hi, it’s Matt again. Faith finally cried herself to sleep. I opened up the laptop to see what she’d written, but all she had today was the title. I guess the rest is up to me.

I wish it wasn’t bad news.

We knew it was bad when Faith came out of the van this morning. We were digging out the vehicles – one of them was wrecked, but it had protected the others from the worst of the landslide. She looked so strange that we all turned and stared at her. I’ve never seen her so calm before; it was the kind of calm that made me want to go over and shake her, just to see if my Faith was still in there.

“We need to go Dillon’s aunt’s house,” she said. Last night, we had agreed to head back to the university, get the kid to the doctor. We all knew she wouldn’t make such a reversal lightly. “He should be with his family.” She didn’t need to tell us that there wasn’t much time left.

She went back into the van and closed the door, and the rest of us finished up. It wasn’t long before we were on the road.

I haven’t had such a horrible journey before. Thorpe insisted on driving the van and Dale went with him. I wanted to ride with Faith, but there wasn’t room in the back with her and the kid. I couldn’t have done anything anyway, but I wanted to be there. I should have been there. I shouldn’t have left her alone with him.

Something happened about halfway to the house – I’ve never seen Thorpe drive so crazily before. At first I thought it was the ice, or the tyres on the van going. Then I saw Faith moving in the back of the van, rocking back and forth, and I knew. I knew. I have no idea how Thorpe and Dan did it, but somehow they kept going.

We didn’t get a warm welcome when we got to the highset house. We pulled up and piled out, and suddenly there were guns aimed at us. We held our hands out and denied coming to take anything – the people in the house seemed to believe we had come to steal all their food. They wouldn’t listen to us. I heard the guns cocking and thought that, apparently, things can always get worse.

Then the van’s door opened. Faith stepped out with Dillon in her arms, and we all forgot about the guns and the paranoia that might kill us. I don’t know if it was the fall of his arm, or the way his head fell back, or the look on her face, but everyone could see that he was gone. Even those in the house.

I don’t know where she gets her strength from. She’s so thin these days, and I could have sworn I saw her shaking as she walked up to the front of the group, step after heavy step. We moved aside for her and she didn’t falter once. She carried the kid and raised her voice, and I know that he must have been so heavy.

“Mr and Mrs Holt?” I had no idea what Dillon’s last name was until she asked for his parents. I didn’t even know that she knew it. It got their attention. “We were bringing him home. He was protecting us, and… he was so brave. I’m sorry.”

They came out of the house, down the steps and close enough to see his face. There were four or five of them, all carrying rifles. A couple of them started shouting and making demands and threats. His mother howled and buried herself in her husband’s chest. But Faith, she carried on like she couldn’t even hear them.

She told them that Dillon had been with her when the bomb went off. I didn’t know that. They found each other in the rubble and they haven’t been apart since. They’ve looked after each other through this whole nightmare. They went to his home and found the note left for him. That led us here, after all these months. We wanted to bring him home. And we almost made it. He almost got to see them again.

I think the thing that got to me most was the smudge of blood on her jaw. Looking at it, I knew that she had hugged him when she realised he was gone. She had held onto him like that all the way here, I just know it. It’s just the way she is.

When she was finished speaking, she stood there, holding him and waiting. I thought they might let her stay like that until the rain came, but finally one of them stepped forward and took him off her. I think it was Dillon’s father. He took the kid away, back to where his family could cry over him.

Without Dillon, Faith was so lost. I touched her arm and she shrank in, so I wrapped her up. All her strength went with him.

“We have to sing for him,” she said, looking at me to fix it. I glanced at the others, at the new Seekers who haven’t been through this before and didn’t know. Dan looked solemn, standing with his head bowed. The siblings were holding onto each other, Terry trying not to cry as obviously as his sister. Dale had tears streaming down his face and his arms wrapped around himself. Thorpe nodded at me, stony-faced; he’s a stoic bastard, but he got it. Even he wanted to sing for the kid.

So we did. The lyrics were garbled and thick, but we got through it. The Holts stared at us, but a couple of them joined in. It was like they couldn’t help themselves.

When it was done, we went back to the vehicles. No-one wanted us to stay. What were we supposed to say to these people? There wasn’t anything left. They had Dillon and we had nothing but empty hands.

Inside the van, Faith finally broke down and sobbed like she was trying to choke up her whole heart. That time, I wasn’t going to leave her alone back there. I’m not too proud to admit that I cried right along with her. I loved the damn kid too.

Now we’re a few miles down the road, stopped wherever we were when the rain hit. I guess Thorpe and Dan drove; they were the only ones capable, I think.

It’s hard to think about tomorrow. My head is full of Faith standing there, carrying the kid and telling his family how good he was and how much we’re going to miss him. She wasn’t wrong.

She’s sleeping now. I think I’m going to curl up with her; we both need the company right now. Whatever comfort we can get, though it won’t be enough to forget the one we’ve lost.

Good night, kid. I wish it wasn’t goodbye.

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