Thursday, 27 August 2009 - 5:54 pm


We are an even number again. There’s a part of me that wants to fight that one little fact, as if Dillon’s place with us could ever be filled. It can’t. It’s just our number that’s even, not our hearts.

Still, I can’t begrudge the one who has joined us. In fact, I was pleased; after the past few days, we needed something to pick us up again.

We were trying to fix the vehicles. Plastic sheeting over the rear windows and pock-marked panels, secured with the fabulous wrap of ductape. We switched to our last spare set of tyres, too; with all the acid on the roads, in ice or puddles, the treads have been wearing down far too quickly. It might be pointless unless we find more fuel to keep them running, but at least they’ll last a little while longer.

The sound of an engine approaching set us all on edge. We downed tools and ducked out of sight, taut as harpstrings. It wasn’t a big engine – in fact, it sounded thin and rattly – but you never know. These days, you just never know.

It almost went past us without comment. A single person on a motorcycle, anonymously helmeted, drifting slowly down the street. My first thought was that the guards were sending out scouts. Then Terry scowled and Dale leaned forward, staring at the back of the rider’s jacket. A design had been roughly painted on, one I found familiar but couldn’t make out.

Dale had no such problem. He ran out into the street, ignoring hissing and grabbing from the rest of us. With two fingers in his mouth, he whistled, brazen and piercing. We winced at the recklessness of it, while the rider heard and turned back. The rest of us quickly hurried out onto the road, forming up around Dale in case he needed our support.

As it turned out, he didn’t need us or any kind of protection. The rider stopped and shut off the engine, unworried by the mob of us standing there. When the helmet came off, we saw why. One of us, come back to the group, come back to the road.

The first thing I thought was that her hair’s grown and she looks more like a girl now.

Jersey. Most of us were pleased to see her. Dale was grinning and went to slap her on the shoulder; he has apparently forgiven her for the months of lying while they were running as the Wolverines. There were no hugs – she’s not really into that – but plenty of friendly buffets and what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here.

“Got sick of sitting on my ass at the university,” she told us, wheeling the bike towards where our vehicles were stashed. “So I thought I’d come see if you guys needed a hand out here. Heard where you were over the radio.” I know Dale and Dan have been talking to the ones we left behind fairly often, when we can get a signal.

There’s obviously more to it than that but none of us pressed her on it. She has her secrets; the difference now is that we all know they’re there, and that makes it okay. Almost. But a few cans of soup and beans soothe a lot of ruffled feathers. We ate well tonight because of her.

The only one who hung back from the greetings was Terry. He’s still bruised over believing that she was a guy and has been brooding since she turned up. It’s not like him and even Tia is worried. It’s putting bluster into Jersey’s attitude – no-one wants a fight right now, least of all her, so she’s trying to breeze right on past the unpleasantness. I can’t blame her for that.


Eight’s lucky, according to the Chinese. I don’t know if it’s lucky for us. My mind keeps wandering back to the eighth we lost; he’s never far away these days.

I miss the ones we left at the university. I miss the clutter and chatter of them, their faces around the fire. Their stories and the sussurrus of their voices. It’s good to see even just one of them again.

But eight will do. Eight feels right. Welcome back, Jersey.

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Saturday, 29 August 2009 - 5:16 pm


It seems that spring is coming in very slow steps. There’s less ice around now. What little forms overnight is usually gone by the time we’re all up and ready to go. It’s not warm enough to dry up all of the water, though, so we still have to be careful with our footing – no-one wants to put a boot in a puddle, let alone fall down in one.

Jersey is still with us – we’ve strapped her bike to the back of the campervan. Terry isn’t talking to her, but everyone else is getting along with her just fine. Even Tia – I think she’s spending time with the ex-Wolverine just to spite her brother.

I catch Jersey looking at Terry sometimes and the look on her face is familiar. It’s how she used to look when she talked about Rico, the fella who ran the Wolverines until he got Sick. Pained and slightly sad. I wonder if she ever told Rico how she felt. Probably not – how could it have ever worked, while she was pretending to be a boy? And now Terry knows the truth but is so angry over the deception that he’s ignoring her. That’s probably her worst fear when it comes to him.

Much as I might like to, I can’t tell her that I sympathise; she hates pity. That’s part of why she created the lie in the first place: she wanted to protect herself, on her own terms. I can’t believe she kept up the pretence for so long – months, it had to be. I know I couldn’t do it.

The tangled nature of it all is giving me a headache. This is why I prefer not to lie – it’s too complicated and fraught with hurt when it all comes down. At least it’s taking my mind off how hungry I am.


Greenberry is directly west of us now; if we head any further north, we’re going to just make this whole trip longer. We’ve decided to strike out for it, just run there as fast as we can.

Our progress hasn’t been great. We’ve been limping along, stopping periodically to check for supplies – food and fuel mostly. We’ve managed to scrape enough fuel together to last us for a while, but every source we’ve come across had already been broken into and sucked almost dry. Even the vehicles abandoned on the road.

I keep thinking about that truck and how much it must guzzle in order to keep moving. I think we all know who has been through here ahead of us, scouring the landscape like locusts. Thinking about it makes me nervous – they might come back at any time, they might pass through here again. I catch myself listening for distant engines and gunfire when it grows quiet.

The shortage is pressing on all of us. It’s not just that we’re hungry and cold; those are just symptoms of a bigger problem. As much as we’ve all tried to pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem is becoming the elephant in our room.

There’s nothing new coming into the world. Everything we find, everything we scavenge, is all that’s left. There are no farms growing fresh food, no factories making new products, no refineries producing diesel. We’ve known this since the bomb went off, but now we’re running out. We’re burning through what little we’ve got and, one day soon, we won’t find anything to live on.

The world’s not done breaking yet: it won’t be over until we’re all dead. It’s doing its best to make that happen. And it might not take that long.

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