Thursday, 14 May 2009 - 8:27 pm


Everyone was stunned when Sally volunteered to pay the Pride’s ‘toll’.

Then a verbal maelstrom erupted. We were all refusing to let her, half of us talking to Sally and the other half warning Kingston off. I grabbed her arm and when we got too vehement, the Pride reminded us of our predicament with the eloquent, unmistakable cock of a gun. In the corner of my eye, I saw Thorpe gripping a fistful of Masterson’s shirt to hold him back.

Sally looked at me with those dark eyes of hers, the ones that know what’s coming, and she patted my hand. “It’s okay, Faith. I’m not like you.”

I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t fair. She shouldn’t have to do this. There was a rock in my throat and I didn’t know how to hold her back when she gently drew her arm free of my grip. It wasn’t okay. It was so very far from okay. She told me kind lies, said it was all right, and then walked away into waiting hands.

I caught the look on Kingston’s face and almost lunged at him. If Matt hadn’t still been holding onto my beltloop, I probably would have. He was enjoying it: our upset; our frustration; our friend giving herself up to the predators to save the rest of us. He probably enjoyed it more than the sex he was going to have. He liked manipulating people, watching them bend and break. He was watching me at that moment to see if I’d cry. I almost satisfied him.

I think Bree was the only reason I didn’t. She was right there, tight-lipped in a way I hadn’t seen her before. She had learned not to argue, even though she didn’t like it when Kingston put a possessive hand on Sally’s shoulder. So, she didn’t like this either. Regardless, I didn’t want to show that kind of weakness in front of her.

The Pride put Sally on the back of a bike and took her away. I don’t know where. The ones on foot scooped up their stolen food and water, and then shoved us into one of the shattered stores. We were to stay put, apparently, until Kingston was done with us. Thorpe was the only reason that Masterson didn’t try anything.

It wasn’t until the door closed on us that I remembered about the baby. Then, I cried.


We stayed in the store all that night. Everyone was unhappy and quiet. Tension ran high as we didn’t dare relax in case the Pride saw weakness; I wiped my tears away quickly before they could latch onto them.

The Pride checked on us periodically, all grins and needling comments, particularly in Masterson’s direction. The doctor sat like a stone, refusing to look at anyone or respond to the taunts. They had read his connection to her but he didn’t let them benefit from it, and the fight seemed to have gone out of him now that Sally was out of sight.

The others had questions, of course – about Bree at first, and then about how we were going to get out of this. I told them about my history with that girl, the words sticking in my throat. I didn’t want to tell them about that shameful, hateful part of my life, even though it was probably obvious from the exchange outside. A part of me had hoped that I wouldn’t have to deal with it after the bomb went off and the rain sought to wipe the world clean. But now here it was, making things better and worse. I don’t know if it saved or doomed us.

Matt and Dillon were attentive, worried about me and my reaction to having Cody dragged up again. Of all people, Matt knows what it means to me, how much Bree and Cody hurt me. Dillon looked like he’d do anything to change the look on my face, even when I told him that I was all right. I hugged him and tried not to think about it all too deeply; there were far more important things going on that I should have been worrying about. But I was grateful too. I felt less alone under their attention.

Ben stuck close to my side too, as if Kingston had reminded him that we were together. When no-one else was near, he told me that he wouldn’t have done it – wouldn’t have gone with Bree – even if the sickness hadn’t put them off. I believe him despite that awful little voice inside, the one that knows I believed Cody too. Ben had said no this time, and I clung to his hand tighter because of it. I had to hold onto what I had.


I tried to talk to Masterson. I shooed the others away and went to sit next to him, and had no idea what to say. We haven’t got along very well, the two of us, and I didn’t know where to start. He still wasn’t looking at anyone, wasn’t taking any notice of us or the Pride when they passed through.

“We’ll get her back,” I told him. I wanted to ask if he knew about the baby, but what if he didn’t? I knew how tight-lipped Sally was and was afraid of making things worse.

He didn’t answer me. He blinked and turned his head away a little more, so I knew he heard me.

“We’re not leaving without her,” was all I could think to promise him. Then I left him alone again.


As the light fell away from outside the window, talk turned towards our predicament. We didn’t think that the Pride would let us go when they were done with Sally; that would be too easy. We would have to make a break for it, but not until they brought her back to us. We wouldn’t leave her here with them.

We heard the Pride moving around in the store where we had left the scooters, and then the scrape of an engine starting. The chances of us getting our transport back were slim and we grimly decided to discount that possibility. On foot it was, then.

We would have to overpower at least two of them; they went everywhere in pairs or quartets. Surprise was our best weapon, and for that to work, we needed to get them to let their guard down. So we tried to appear pathetic and broken while we waited.

After the scene outside, they were cocky and it was easy for us to spend the night looking whipped and beaten. Far too easy. None of us got any sleep except Ben – the sickness was taking a toll on him. It didn’t take any acting on our part to look worn out by the time the sun came up.


They brought Sally back to us in the morning. She was pale and not moving very well, and the Pride members who escorted her made crass comments with sated grins. I tried not to think too deeply about how badly she might be hurt; I was afraid I’d break down again. The guilt that curled around my innards was a cold snake, one that knew it should have been me and was glad it wasn’t.

Before we could do anything, Masterson snapped. He saw their faces, heard one too many taunt about Sally’s performance, and he went for one of them before anyone could hold him back. We should have watched him more closely.

We hadn’t planned to make our break for it just then. There were four of them, four guns, though the weapons were held lazily. We hadn’t had a chance to regroup. But Masterson was flying at them, shouting, and the rest of us had to step in. He would have been shot if left to his own devices.

It was brief and nasty. All I remember is my heart beating out through my ribs, grabbing and wrenching someone’s arm, shouts banging around my head, and a shot or two going off. The sound was enough to give us all pause and there was a terrifying moment when I wondered if I was hit. Time just shortened on us alarmingly – the rest of the Pride would come and so we had to leave, right away.

The Proud four were put down as quickly as we could. We had to pull Masterson off one of them and manhandle him out of the building. There was more blood than I was expecting; I stopped and stared at it. I have no idea if they died. I hope not. Then someone grabbed my arm and shouted at me to run, and I did. I followed the others, diving down alleys and sidestreets, weaving away from that awful scene. Run, just run, bodies pumping as fast and as far as possible.


We kept going until even the strongest of us was stumbling, and the weaker ones were barely dragging one foot after the other. It didn’t help that it had been nearly a full day since any of us had had any food or water. We staggered into the first unlocked door we found. All we wanted was a place to hide, and the house had a basement, so we went down there to collapse.

We were a mess. Most of us were hurt, Ben could hardly breathe. But we were together. We were free. At that moment, panting into the daytime shadows and listening for signs of pursuit, that was all that mattered.

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Friday, 15 May 2009 - 10:08 pm


It has been three days since we ran away from the Pride. After that day, we haven’t stopped moving – while it was light and rain-free, we were on the road, moving as fast as we could. Considering our burdens, it wasn’t very fast, and now I think we have to stop entirely.


As we huddled in that basement, waiting for the sounds of the Pride hounding us, we tried to assess the damage. I put cloth on the bleeding wounds where I could, and then went to shake the doctor.

Masterson was a mess. His knuckles were skinned from hitting a guy over and over, and he had a wild look in his eye when I said his name. He didn’t move, though, didn’t respond. He might have leapt on those Proud members in Sally’s defense, but he was ignoring her now that we were free of them. He was useless.

“God dammit, we need you!” Anger spurted and I grabbed his arms to shake him. He glared at me and pulled himself free.

Ben was wheezing awfully, shaking and seeing spots. Dillon had a head wound that had spilt blood all down his face, but it looked worse than it was. Matt had been shot: a bullet had punched through his lower leg, luckily missing the bone. Thorpe had torn something in his wrist. I had mostly scrapes and bruises. Sally lied when I asked her if she was all right. Nugget was the only one without any damage; she had the sense to hide when things went nuts.

The Pride hadn’t thought to ask for our first aid supplies, so I had antiseptic and dressings enough to patch everyone up. Still, Matt and Sally needed a doctor’s attention, and I was scared about how bad Ben was.


We didn’t dare go outside while the Pride might be chasing us, so we stay put and tried to make ourselves comfortable. I sent Dillon and Nugget to keep watch. It kept them out of the way and they’re capable enough.

The sticking point was still Masterson and his self-imposed catatonia. I had no choice but to go and bother him again. He needed to have his hands seen to anyway, so I used that as an excuse to get close to him. He tried to tell me not to bother, but I was far past letting him brush me off – he did as he was told when it was ‘sit down and shut up’.

While I had him there, I tried to talk to him. I told him that I understood how he felt, but he needed to get past it – Sally needed him. She might say that she’s okay, but she’s not. She’s far from okay. She needed a doctor, she needed a friend, and she needed someone to care for her.

He didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at me. I knew he could hear me – the little muscle in his jaw kept jumping. But he didn’t want to come out and play my game.

I got desperate and I did something I shouldn’t. Frustration made me snap at him. “Goddammit, she’s pregnant!”

That got his attention. He looked at me, then grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “You knew this before?”

“I couldn’t stop her!”

He shouted something at me, and next thing I knew I was tumbling across the room and crashing into a chair. Then the boys were all over the place, in between me and Masterson – who was still shouting at me – and helping me up again. I’d hit my head and the room tilted alarmingly; my knees buckled in confusion when I tried to stand. Someone sat me down and told me to keep still. I remember the sound of fist hitting flesh, and then Masterson stopped shouting – from the look of his face afterwards, someone had punched him in the mouth.

By the time I could see straight again, things were quiet again. Masterson was sitting over by Sally, scowling and holding her hand awkwardly. She wasn’t looking at him and shook her head in tiny, sharp movements every now and then. He stopped trying after a few minutes, but he stayed there with her in silence anyway.


I’ve had a headache ever since that day. We’ve been taking turns carrying the weaker members of our group, moving steadily away from the Pride. Now, Ben is too sick to move, especially not on foot. We’re trying to find somewhere comfortable to hole up for a while. For his last days.

Saturday, 16 May 2009 - 10:21 pm

Tearing down decorations

Ben is worse today. He’s feverish and murmuring, and it looks like we won’t be going anywhere soon. Thorpe is watching Ben for me, so I’ve got a little time to post now.

The others spent most of the day scouting out for supplies – we were nearly two days without water after the Pride took our supplies, and we wound up eating cat food. It’s not an experience I’m eager to repeat, but surprisingly less unpleasant than I had expected it to be.

We’re settled in an empty house now. We took down some of the Christmas decorations, because it’s all getting a bit weird. Like the world is stuck on the day the bomb went off, growing colder and dimmer every day, dying gradually under us while the clock forgets how to tick.

I’m trying not to think of this house as the place that Ben is going to die.


We’ve seen the Pride only once since we ran away from them. They passed by the basement just before the rain came, on our own scooters. I wasn’t the only one who felt furious at that: it was a reminder of everything they took from us.

No-one did anything, though. We huddled by the high windows and watched, holding our breath as they scanned the area on their way through. They weren’t trying very hard to find us; they probably thought we were hours away by then. None of us sought to disillusion them.

To my surprise, I saw a familiar face travelling with them. Paige, the girl who told us her story just a few days before, was riding with them. The one who stayed with us that night and listened to our tales. She pointed us towards the mall when we asked if she’d seen Alice; now we think she was sending us into her group’s jaws. She wasn’t wearing the Pride’s tag and I’m not the only one feeling betrayed by that. Perhaps she was only doing what she needed to to survive, serving her group, but I can’t quite bring myself to be okay with that.


I still don’t really know how Sally is. I tried to talk to her, but she won’t open up to me – she just keeps saying that she’s fine and I shouldn’t worry. When I asked her about the baby, she paused before she said that she thinks it’s okay; that was the most honesty I got out of her.

She didn’t tell me off for opening my mouth to the doctor and I haven’t apologised for it. If nothing else, it made him go check her out.

Masterson still isn’t talking to her but he is sticking close; I don’t think he’s been more than a few feet away from her since I shouted at him. She doesn’t do much that he isn’t keeping an eye on, even if he is grumpy and growly about it.


I hear Ben calling again. I’m not sure who he’s calling for but Thorpe looks helpless – I’d better go and lend a hand. I wish this headache would go away.

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Thursday, 11 June 2009 - 6:36 pm


The cold snap is still crackling ice at us in the mornings and we’re having trouble deciding what to do about it. There’s no way for us to know if it’s going to be like this all winter, or if it’s just a passing weather system. Chances are, it’s going to get worse and worse. The thick cloud cover is already struggling to chase it away.

The Wolverines aren’t eager to leave and take our chances out in the city. They’re comfortable here and we have enough supplies to see us through for a while. We all know that we’re safest together and no-one is willing to break that. Not yet.

Most of us are focussing on making sure we have everything ready to go – most of us Seekers, anyway. The vehicles have been overhauled to within an inch of their lives; I’ve run out of things I can do to them. We’ve packed them on top and inside with as much fuel as we have cans to hold, along with spare parts and tools. That just leaves equipment to keep us warm and alive.


I got out of the yard today, joining the foray into the surrounding buildings for supplies. It was good to stretch my legs and get away from Kirk’s poisonous looks. And, if I’m honest, the reminder of his healing face. I still get a little shock and thud under my ribs when I see it. I did that.

Sally was with us – the supply-searchers tend to travel in a group now rather than pairs, in case of shambler trouble – and I got the chance to talk to her a bit. She’s never very forthcoming, but she’s still a friend. Sometimes it’s good to chat with another girl, someone who understands, and lately she’s been warmer than usual towards me. I think it’s because of Kirk but I don’t want to ask.

I asked about the baby and how Masterson was taking it when we were out of earshot of the others. She said that she was okay – her usual brush-off response, but with more feeling this time. She’s not comfortable with the subject so I didn’t press her on it, and after a few minutes of searching through someone’s wardrobe, she said, “He hugs me at night, really tight. As if he’s afraid I might slip away while he’s asleep.”

She didn’t say any more about it, just gave me a smile and kept on with the work at hand. I think part of why she comes out on these forays for supplies is to get out from under his thumb – he’s attentive to the point of being suffocating, always near her, always watching, always telling her what to do. She doesn’t complain, of course, and I can’t tell if she likes it or not. Her little smile gives her away, though; there’s a part of her that likes mattering so much to someone.

They’re the only part of the group that hasn’t come to share blankets with the rest of us. I don’t think Masterson will let her; he doesn’t want to get too close to any of us and he doesn’t want to share her either. He’s already grumpy enough about being so close to her. I remember his broken words about the family he lost to the rain and wonder if that part of him will truly heal, even with a new child to salve it.

She asked about me and Matt, if we really were just pretending. It was hard to know what to say. Of course we were; we’ve known each other forever and we’ve never been that way. It’s so hard to explain without sounding lame.

And besides, Ben’s coming back. He promised. He could be lying dead somewhere, torn to pieces, eaten or melted down to just boots and belt buckle, but I can’t believe that. He promised he would come back. How long should I wait for him? How long does it take to give up hope?

I don’t think I’m going to let anyone leave now. They all have to stay so that I know where they are. I’m so sick of people being missing, just missing, and having no idea if they’re even breathing any more.

I had no idea that I’d said all that out loud until Sally came over and patted my shoulder. “Yeah,” she said. I don’t think she gets just how crazy it makes me, but she understands. I asked her if there was anyone she was looking for, someone she missed and wondered about too, but she just shrugged and shook her head.

So many barriers there. So many fences around the soft centre of her, propped up one against the other in an attempt to protect. I don’t blame her, but it makes me sad to think about how she came to defend herself so desperately. I think those defenses have been up since long Before the bomb went off; she has been amongst the worst of people for a long time. If that’s how she handles things, I won’t try to change her.

Maybe it’s a skill I need to develop. I don’t think I’m doing a good job of handling things lately.

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Sunday, 19 July 2009 - 8:39 pm


Today, there wasn’t any rain. It didn’t even fall as sleet. Instead, the foragers ran back under a light drift of white flakes.

I hadn’t seen snow before today. It’s oddly beautiful, deceptively gentle dancing, settling into thick blankets. When the foragers got inside, they threw their hats and umbrellas aside. Within seconds, the melting snow had dissolved all of them. It was a duality that sent an uncomfortable tingle up my spine.

Even with that stark reminder, the kids thought the snow was amazing. They wanted to go out and run in it, but they were too used to this time After to ask so they sat at the windows and watched it instead.

It never gets this cold around here – or, it never used to, anyway. I guess all those rules have changed. Now I’m wondering just how must colder it’s going to get. I’m wondering if the ice will ever recede, or if it’ll just keep creeping over us.

I wonder if the orange sky will lighten enough to let some warmth through.


I went up to the lab today and spoke with Dr Kostoya. I asked him about the rainwater and the effect it might have on an unborn child.

He was flustered, but he answered the question in his roundabout way. He said that it could have any number of effects, most of them killing or mutating the baby. It didn’t sound safe for the mother, either. The short answer was that he didn’t know what it might do.

“I don’t know why you’re all coming to me about this,” he told me. “Didn’t your friend talk to you about it?”

“Someone else asked you about this?”

“Dr Masterson came up earlier.” He eyed me closely. “It’s not for you, is it?”

“No! No, it’s not.”

“But it’s someone, isn’t it?”

I looked at him and didn’t want to lie. He seemed so harmless. “Yeah.”

He frowned at me, churning over the thoughts. “She’ll need help.”

I couldn’t argue with him. I sighed and shrugged, and thanked him for his help.


I was surprised that Masterson would go to the trouble of talking to Kostoya about this. But I’m pleased. I don’t have to be the one to worry about all this, and he is trying to look out for her. At least, I hope that’s why he was asking.

I can’t imagine how Sally is feeling right now. Masterson has been sticking close to her and she was in tears again earlier. I think I’ll go talk to her when I get the chance. All I can do is let her know that she’s not alone in this.

Maybe she won’t turn me away like Ben does.

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Monday, 20 July 2009 - 8:02 pm

Three little words

I managed to talk to Sally last night while Masterson had gone to fetch them some dinner.

She’s more scared than she’s showing. She’s hardly eating and her nails are gnawed down to nubs. She looked at me warily as if I might turn on her at any moment, and said that she didn’t want to tell the others about the baby.

Especially not now. Who knows what they might do if they know she was poisoned and might be growing a mutant baby. I can see Conroy bleakly lining up the movie references, and a few of the others fetching weapons to drive her away. I don’t think anyone would attack her – not directly – but desperate people do crazy things. And Masterson’s mouth would only make things worse for everyone.

I told her we’d work this out. We’d do what we could to fix things. She knows as well as I do that there’s little we can do, but I hope she believed me when I said that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. She nodded stiffly and suddenly I could see she was a hair away from crying. So I hugged her, knowing it would break that last bit of self-control but hoping the release would make her feel better. It’s all right to lean on me, it’s all right.

“I don’t know what to do, Faith,” she said into my shoulder. She was shaking and I could barely make out the words. “How’m I going to get out of this?”

She’s too far along to abort safely, so the simpler, bloodier option was gone. She has to bear the baby, and the threat of the Sickness is still swinging over her.

“We’ll figure it out,” I told her. “You’re not alone.”

I seem to be saying those three words so often these days. They feel empty and overused on my tongue, like a candy sucked to a thin shell. All we have is each other here; it’s the one thing that we don’t have to fight and scrape and search for. And I don’t want to let anyone go, not even the strangers among us, the ones we’re just starting to know.

This isn’t a case of keeping your enemies closest: it’s keeping the strangers close, your friends closer, and your enemies at arm’s reach so you can swing a bat at their head.


I left Sally when she was feeling better and Masterson came back. He scowled at me and snapped something about me sticking my nose in again. It hurt more than I like to admit.

“I’m just being a friend to her,” I said. “I want to–”

“Help, yeah, we know.” The derision in his voice twisted in my chest. “We don’t need your ‘help’.”

I stared at him, stung into silence. I’m used to his sharp tongue but not in that way. I don’t know what might have prompted him to slash at me that way. I managed, “What–” before he cut me off again.

“Look at your own house before you go fixing up other people’s.” And then he walked away.

All things considered, I would have preferred a punch in the face. Now Sally is miserable and Masterson is as angry-faced as ever, and I have no idea why I’m suddenly to blame for everything. Maybe it’s because I’m in charge, the one that everyone follows. Maybe it’s something closer to home. I get the feeling that he was talking about Ben when he mentioned ‘my own house’. Unless he’s under the impression that there really was something between me and Matt and this is his way of disapproving. If that’s true, he’s a horrible hypocrite: I remember the way we found him at the hospital.


I feel heavy today. Leaden and useless. I stayed behind when the foragers went out; watching the kids bat Dillon’s soccer-ball around almost managed to cheer me up. His leg is still too sore to kick a ball (or take his weight), but he’s getting better at whacking it with his crutches.

I’m starting to feel stuck here. We’re learning a lot, unravelling mysteries, but we’re treading water. We have to strike out for somewhere soon or we’ll get pulled under and end up cold and hungry.

I think there’s a part of me that wants to run away, too. There’s too much being uncovered, like Caroline’s corpse in the shed. Don’t look, don’t look, stay back, get away.

Now I wonder: have we been running away from the truth all this time?

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Saturday, 25 July 2009 - 9:30 pm

Doctor’s orders

I couldn’t quite bring myself to talk to Bree or Ben today. There was just too much rising in me to do it.

I saw Bree. She’s staying in a side room with her friends: Mira the teenager and Scott the random pickup. She’s pale and that was enough to make me turn around and walk away. Bloodloss. Ben.


Instead, I took hold of my courage and went to speak to someone else. Someone who I hoped would have some answers for me.

I didn’t expect a warm reception and I didn’t get one. At first, I didn’t think he’d talk to me. When I walked up to him, he looked ready to physically toss me out of his way. Luckily for me, he’s a wiry little guy and his mouth is much worse than his hands.

It’s never fun asking Masterson for help. He called me names and spent ten minutes tearing strips off me, until I was nearly in tears all over again. It’s nothing I haven’t said to myself and I was determined not to run away from him.

He said that he had noticed something when Ben was sick. When the Sickness got really bad and we thought he was going to die. After Ben got better, he asked Masterson to check him over. After the doctor noticed a few odd things he couldn’t explain – like low body temperature and elusive pulse – Ben called the whole thing to a stop. Since he returned to the group, Masterson has noticed Ben’s strange behaviour and the sunburn.

I asked him why he didn’t say anything. Masterson shrugged and said it wasn’t up to him to force people to do what they should be doing. It’s not like he doesn’t have enough to do in the group just keeping on top of the injuries. And if Ben didn’t want his help, what did he care?

I tried to get the doctor to help me work out what’s going on with Ben. What’s different about him. Masterson didn’t want to play ball, though.

“Go talk to the chemist,” he said, shooing me away. “Deal with your own problems. Ben gives me the creeps.”

Talking to him is like running into a spiked wall. I gave up eventually and left him alone, with only a little more information for my trouble. Ben’s body seems to be running slowly – his heartbeat is low, which is probably part of the reason he’s so cold. It’s not much, but I guess it’s something to go on.


I should take Masterson’s advice and see if Kostoya can help me figure this out.

The thing is, I’m not sure if working out what’s going on physically will help me deal with the other stuff. With Caroline, with Bree, with blood and meat. With not being entirely human any more. Will bald facts really help me work out how I’m supposed to feel about all this?

There’s no manual for this kind of thing. I feel like I’m learning to dance, but there’s no music or footprints painted on the floor. Who turned off the music?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 - 7:27 pm

Saviour in the belly

After my visit with Sally, I made a point of collaring Masterson and asking him about her. He had come downstairs to go through the medical supplies and I leant him a hand.

He didn’t want to speak to me. At first, I thought he was grumpy about me taking up so much of Sally’s time and energy, but it was more than that. I asked him point-blank what his problem was and he rounded on me. He’s nasty but at least he didn’t shut me out completely.

“You leave us, and then come back and expect everything to be fine. Things aren’t fine. And you want to be into everything, always asking questions like it’s your right. Well, it’s not, you nosy bitch. It’s none of your business. Why don’t you just leave us alone again and we’ll all be happier?”

I hadn’t expected the attack, though I should have – I knew what Masterson was like. Time had softened the memory but he was only too quick to hit me with the reminder.

I won’t lie – it hurt. I’ve taken a lot of knocks lately and for a moment, I didn’t know what to do with it. Hit back or bend under it?

“We were always coming back,” I said, off-kilter.

“Right, right. And what were the chances of that happening, huh? What if that place you found was everything you wanted it to be? You’d have forgotten about us, that’s what would’ve happened. And we’d have been left here to rot alone. Instead, we’re rotting here with you. That’s so much better.”

I haven’t had such a tongue-lashing since Bree tore strips off me at the bookstore, way back in the time Before. It stung, just like it had then. I had taken it from her, swallowed it down and tried not to choke on the bitterness. But I’m a different person now. I wasn’t going to absorb that kind of thing like it didn’t matter.

“We would not have forgotten about you. The reason you didn’t know about Haven is because we were protecting you – we would have called for you if it had been safe. But it wasn’t. And now we’re back and we want to help. We want to find something better.”

“There is nothing better! There’s just this.”

“I don’t believe that. If that’s true, what’s the point?”

“The point is that you’re deluded, and you always have been. Faith and her Seekers, looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow. This is all there is, so get used to it already.”

“How can you say that? Sally’s up there, ready to have your baby any second. That doesn’t give you hope?”

His expression changed as soon as I mentioned Sally and the baby. It turned his fury up a notch and he took a step closer to me. He’s several inches taller than me and wanted me to feel small. It worked. “You stay away from her.”

“She’s my friend!”

“Just stay away! She doesn’t need you, and she doesn’t need your idiotic ideas!”

I opened my mouth to argue but he was already walking away. I turned to watch him and saw Thorpe standing by the door, scowling in our direction. I’m not sure why, but it made me feel worse, knowing we had had an audience. It’s also possible that Masterson only left because the big fireman turned up, in case he got involved too. Thorpe didn’t say anything, just turned and stepped out again, and I was left feeling ashamed of myself.


Masterson had left all the medical supplies on the counter when he stormed out, so I tidied them away. I made him a list of everything in case he wanted it and left it there. A part of me wanted to mend things, and making things right with the supplies seemed like a good place to start. It was the only thing I could do at the time.

That’s where Kostoya found me, quietly packing bandages into a cupboard. He’s a kindly thing and came up with a cautious smile for me. He’d heard the raised voices and seen Masterson thundering off down the corridor; it hadn’t taken him long to put the pieces together. He can be oblivious to a lot of things, but if he puts his mind to it, he understands more than we might expect.

Kostoya patted me on the shoulder, reminding me of my father so sharply that I almost pulled away. It wasn’t his place or his right, and I didn’t want to accept that kind of comfort from anyone else. It was too soon, too fresh. I swallowed back the reaction and tried not to think about Dad. Move on, Faith. It’s not the professor’s fault. He’s trying to be kind.

“He’s just worried about the baby. If it doesn’t come soon, he’ll lose them both.”

I sighed, feeling awful again. Masterson is having a bad time at the moment; I shouldn’t have shouted at him. I’d like to think that he’s more sensitive on the inside than he seems, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe he is. And another part that chirps up to add that it doesn’t excuse him from taking it out on me like that.

“I just wanted to help,” I said.

Kostoya nodded and told me that he knew that about me. “In a good way,” he felt it necessary to add.

He went on to say that they believe the baby is the reason that Sally didn’t get sick. Something about amniotic fluid, gestation, pregnancy, and the baby filtering Sally’s blood. They can’t find a trace of the poison in her system any more – the scar on her arm is the only evidence that she was ever bitten by the rain.

“But we’re not sure what it might have done to the baby,” he said. “Everything seems to be in order, but… well. We won’t know until we see it properly.” He sounded every inch the scientist that wanted to put the baby under a microscope as soon as it was born. At the same time, he was smiling wistfully, as if it was his grandchild that we were talking about bringing into the world.


While we were talking, it occurred to me that I should have asked him in the first place. Kostoya has always been more approachable than Masterson. I gave myself a mental kick and felt sore all the way through. I guess I asked for abuse by going to the doctor. I think he still blames us for the fact that there aren’t any fun drugs around and he can’t get high any more, and he blames me in particular because I lead the group. Coupled with that, he always covers his fear with anger and waspishness.

I’ll keep my distance to keep the peace. We’ll soon find out what the poison might have done to the baby, one way or another. Poor Sally – she didn’t say a thing about it when I talked to her. She must be terrified, not knowing what this thing in her belly is, big enough to crawl out on its own now. I’m scared, too.

She seems to have some hope for it, though. She loves it already and can’t wait to meet it. Somehow, that makes me sadder, knowing all that might go wrong.

I will hope for her. Her and the baby. We all need hope like that right now.

Friday, 27 November 2009 - 10:19 pm

We are one more

Can’t stay for long. I’m so tired.

We are one more now. The disturbance last night was Masterson shouting for help – Sally had finally gone into labour. Real, water-breaking, belly-rippling, screaming labour.

The whole building was in chaos. The boys were put on finding cloths – sheets and towels – and boiling water. They were kept out of the room where the birthing was happening, and if their faces were anything to go by, they were fine with that. Except Conroy and Matt – they kept asking if we could see the baby yet and trying to peek in. Conroy got an uncomfortable eyefull and stopped asking, but Matt wasn’t squeamish, it seems. He seemed more excited than anyone else; most of the group looked somewhere between worried and terrified.

They tried to keep me out of the room, too. At least, Masterson did. I almost let him but then Sally cried out and I couldn’t stay away. She’s my friend and she needed help. She needed all the help she could get. She has always been a small thing and pregnancy didn’t change that. Overdue by almost two weeks, the baby was big. She struggled right from the start, and it wasn’t long before she was crying and begging to know if it should hurt that much.

A few of us were there to help. Janice was the solid one through it all – she was at her cousin’s birth, she said, and it was nothing to panic about. Sometimes these things just took a while. Bree was there too, looking pale and uncomfortable. She mostly fussed around Sally’s head, trying to keep her sponged-off and quiet, and avoided looking at the business end as much as possible. Jersey wanted nothing to do with it and Mira fainted in the doorway. Someone carried her off out of the way.

I ran around between people, doing whatever needed to be done and letting Sally squeeze the stuffing out of my hand in between tasks. My time as Simon’s assistant in the infirmary helped – I’m used to taking directions in a hurried situation and my squeamishness has a much higher threshold than it used to.

Masterson bossed everyone about with short, sharp words, until Janice snapped at him about Sally needing some reassurance. He gestured to the rest of us, saying that she had plenty of people to reassure her, and I thought that Janice would actually smack him.

“She needs you, you bloody idiot.”

He stared at her and I could see the arguments queueing up in his head. He’s the doctor, he has to run this whole show and make sure everything happens as it should, blah blah blah. But he didn’t make it that far. He looked at Janice and then at Sally, and I saw him give up.

That was when I remembered about his wife and child, the ones who had been killed at the first rainfall. The ones who had driven him to grief so deep he buried it in drugs, preferring being high to looking at the world. He has been here before, with a struggling woman and a baby trying to come into the world, and he didn’t know whether to be doctor, or husband, or father. He might lose them both, all over again. That’s what I saw when Masterson went to the head of the bed to talk to Sally. The rest of us drew back to give them some space.

She was too exhausted to cry any more and looked so hopeless. He took her hand and leaned over to speak quietly to her. We couldn’t hear him but we could see her nodding. She was listening and whatever he said to her seemed to help. He stroked her hair off her forehead and then another contraction interrupted them. She screamed and he excused himself to carry on with the delivery.

It went downhill from there. I completely lost track of time between running for this and fetching that. Calling encouragement and telling her its all right, rest a bit now, save your strength. I think she ran out of that after the first hour.

We were up all night and through the next day. At one point, Janice started sending us off to eat one at a time. Masterson refused to leave the room and wouldn’t eat what we brought for him even when it was right there. Sally wouldn’t eat either but we did make her drink water.

I don’t know who fought harder: Sally or the baby.


The rain had just started hitting the windows when a cry slapped the inside of the glass. The baby was streaked in blood and fluid and hiccupped before it shrieked again. It didn’t stop until Janice wiped it with a towel and wrapped it up in a blanket. It came out furious, wrinkled and beet red, as if all the struggling had offended it. It was the ugliest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

With the hard part over, Sally deflated, weeping softly. She looked like she might pass out right away, but then the baby was placed on her chest and she had to move her arms to hold it. She was shaking and weak, but she still managed to cradle it against her and place a trembling kiss on its smeared, soft-skulled head.

“It’s a boy,” Janice told the new parents. They took it in numbly. Masterson’s expression closed down when he looked at the baby – one moment, he was barely holding himself together, and the next he was all business. Sally smiled with vague euphoria, just glad that it was over and she had her child in her arms. I’m not too proud to admit that I was teary as I watched them, for the beauty and sadness of it.

I didn’t have time to dwell on it; there was still a lot to do. The sheets were ruined – there was so much blood. I exchanged glances with Janet when we changed the bed and her expression seemed to agree with me: that’s enough blood to cause concern. An awful feeling curdled in my stomach as we folded the bedding over, hoping that Sally wouldn’t see it.

I looked at Masterson, but he was busy sewing her up – something I never hope to see again in my life. It’s the sort of thing you hear about and don’t want to believe is a part of childbirth. Once that was done, he fussed over everything we did and checked on Sally every couple of seconds. She fell asleep eventually and Janice took the baby off to be washed and checked.

He looked normal. Despite all our fears, despite the unknown effects of the poison he helped clear from his mother, he looked like a normal baby, if somewhat raisin-like when he screwed up his little face to cry, all angry red wrinkles. Masterson finally peeled himself away from the mother to check on the little one, and he shrugged at the end, saying he could find nothing obviously wrong with him.

The baby was put down to sleep in the crook of Sally’s arm and we left them all to their exhaustion, Masterson included. I don’t think he left that room after the delivery started and he’s still there now.


Downstairs, things were quietly jovial as everyone waited hopefully for news. They had all heard the baby cry and Bree had disappeared at some point – I think she had told them the sex of the baby before she went to collapse in her bed. She had been strange through that whole ordeal, though I do’nt know Bree very well any more. I was honestly surprised she leant a hand at all – she used to act like that kind of thing was below her.

Janice and I told the others that the baby was healthy and normal and doing well, and the little family upstairs was resting. There was a cheer – quickly shushed in case the sound carried – and a descent into grins and a smattering of claps. Estebar looked puzzled and asked what was going on, and Kostoya was lucky enough to be the closest adult. The professor flushed red and cleared his throat, then straightened his shoulders, drew himself up, and came over all fatherly. He started on the ‘when two people love each other very much’ speech and was drowned out by a round of laughter. Not unkind, just amused and relieved.

I was glad when I finally found Matt. He put his arms around me and said he’d missed me last night, warming a little ball in my chest. It’s strange how much a little thing like that can make such a difference to me, but it does. Sometimes, love sneaks up and surprises me with reminders like that. I kissed him and promised that I hadn’t slept a wink without him. Then I went to curl up and didn’t even know if he was there or not, too deeply asleep. I think he was, though. At least, he was the one who woke me for dinner a couple of hours later.


The mood in the building is convivial now. New life in the After is so rare and it lifts all of us. I see smiles and feel like sharing them. I can see the edges of hope wrapping around people again, warming them. I’d almost say that we’re cheerful.

I think I’m not the only one looking towards tomorrow and hoping, now.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2009 - 6:42 pm

Examination by an unfriend

I didn’t entirely trust the pregnancy tests. I wanted them to be wrong, or at least unreliable. Not just because it’s terrifying to think about having a child; there’s also the After to consider. Pregnancy is dangerous and birth is worse. Sally is lying in the campervan, pale and wasting, and possibly on her way out. As births go, she didn’t have an awful one, and she’s still in trouble. No-one’s sure if she’ll recover, even though it’s been days now.

There was only one thing left to do. I had to see a doctor and get myself checked out.


I screwed up my courage and went to speak to Masterson late last night, after the rain had stopped. He looked like hell, like he’d barely slept in days. He stays in the campervan at night with Sally. The girls who ride with him bring the baby out to be with the rest of us, so that his mother might sleep. The little one still new enough that none of us mind, though being woken up by that shrill crying isn’t fun for anyone.

I don’t know if it helps. The girls said that Sally misses the baby when he’s not near. I know the doctor can be a cruel bastard, but never when it comes to someone’s health. We have to believe that what he’s doing is for the best.

Masterson doesn’t usually come inside at night, but he’d come for some food after the rain had stopped. It wasn’t exactly the best time to go and ask my question. His girl is struggling at the end of a pregnancy and I’m starting one. Maybe. I couldn’t think about that.

I could see his shoulders go all tense when I approached him. As if he was expecting trouble from me. I’ve done my best to leave them alone! I gave them space, even though I didn’t want to. I haven’t visited Sally lately, though I said I would, because it’s what he wanted. It’s never good enough for him. As if I wasn’t nervous about this already, seeing him prepare for a battle with me made it worse.

I grabbed my courage by the throat and lifted my chin when I spoke to him. I nearly choked off my own words but I got them out. I think I might be pregnant. I need to know for sure. No pleasantries, no wasted breath. Just business.

His look was full of edges and I thought he’d throw it back in my face. I braced myself for whatever he was going to spit at me. How long? Seven weeks. How late? I’d missed two periods now. Had I ever missed them before? Never. Sometimes it varied by a few days, but they always happened. Before now. And I’m only thinking about it now? I’ve been too busy to notice. It’s not something that I thought to worry about.

He started on a lecture about ‘how these things happen’, but I cut him off. I know. I know all of that. What I need is to know if I really am pregnant, and if I’m okay. That’s what I need from him.

He grumbled and took me into a back room where we could have some privacy. What followed was one of the most uncomfortable, humiliating experiences of my life. I’ve been examined by doctors before, but I didn’t know any of them. I wasn’t painfully aware of any bad feeling between us before.

With Masterson, I was vulnerable and at his mercy, and we both felt it. I had to close my eyes for most of it, trying to think of him as a doctor and nothing else. Certainly not a man, with troubles and feelings and a grudge against me. Even when my eyes were open, I couldn’t look at his face, and all I could manage was single-word responses to his questions.

He didn’t do anything untoward – he was very professional. That almost made it worse. Afterwards, he gave me a moment to dress and then told me that everything looked fine. I asked him if I really was pregnant – I needed to hear it, I needed someone else to put it into words for me. I thought that being given those words by a doctor might make it more real.

“Did the pregnancy test come back positive?”


“Then you’re pregnant.”

“They’re that accurate?”

“They’re accurate enough.”

That made me feel worse, too. He could have said that to start with.

I thanked him awkwardly and we went out separate ways. The episode didn’t mend anything between us. If anything, he seems more put-out than ever. I don’t think anything will make our relationship pleasant, but at least I know that he’ll be a doctor for me. He hasn’t ever refused to treat someone and I guess that’s what’s important, for all of us.


I thought I’d feel better once I’d had it confirmed. I don’t. There’s a weight on me, pressing all the air out of my lungs when I least expect it. I’m pregnant. I look at Sally’s baby and try to think about something that tiny being a part of me, and my body doesn’t know whether to yearn for it or run away. It feels like it’s doing both.

I think I wanted Masterson to tell me that I was mistaken. There was some other problem and that’s why I had skipped periods. Maybe it was the hunger or the stress – it can do that. I wanted him to tell me it wasn’t true. Trust him to tell me exactly what I didn’t want to hear.

Then I catch sight of Matt and feel awful all over again. He still has that look about him, wanting to ask me what’s wrong. He asked me once and I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know what to say to him. Now he’s trying to give me space because he can see I need it, but he wants to help. He wants to be with me. It’s cruel to keep him in the dark like this.

At first, I didn’t want to tell him in case it wasn’t true. I didn’t want to worry him – or get him all excited – about it until I was sure. Now I am sure and that excuse has gone away. There aren’t any more reasons not to tell him.

So that’s the next step. I don’t know why I’m waiting – I should just do it. He deserves to know. I have to tell Matt he’s going to be a father.

What if he’s furious with me? We’ve never talked about the possibility of children. We haven’t even talked about settling down together. What if he doesn’t want this? What if he leaves?

I guess I should find out, one way or the other. Get this over with. I’ve had all day to get used to the idea, but I don’t feel any better about it. I wish my hands would stop shaking.

Deep breath, off we go.