Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 3:50 pm

The high place

We found out where all the drugs went.  I wish I could say that it was a shock, or even a surprise.  The world has gone to hell in a handbasket; who doesn’t want to get high and forget any of this ever happened? 


We climbed up to the top floor – just four of us, after we convinced Sax to stay with the injured.  Where he should be, for his sake and theirs.  Thorpe tried to suggest that I should stay behind as well, but he stopped when he saw the look on my face.

I wasn’t going to stay behind.  I wasn’t going to linger there and wait for someone else to sort this out.  All I would have done is sit and think and wonder.  Or type nonsense into this record in an effort not to do those things. 

It’s not that I don’t trust the others to do the right thing.  It’s because I have to do something.  I don’t want to be helpless, or weak, or just waiting.  I have to go and see for myself, to replace fantastical mental images with banal reality.  I have to be in motion; my body doesn’t know what to do with itself when it’s still.  My arm aches more when I’m not doing something else. 

And, as Dad would say, my legs aren’t broken, so I might as well go do it myself.


There was this weight against my back the whole way up to the top floor.  A small, hard pressure just above my belt, warm from my skin.  It had been there for days, but I was hyper-aware of it as we climbed the stairs.  We were walking towards a group that might attack us, like the tunnel-dwellers, and the knife seemed to know that.

All the windows are open up there.  I suppose that’s to let the smell out; it certainly isn’t good, even with the ventilation.  Not so much rotting bodies as rancid human waste, the by-product of plumbing that no longer works.  The stench of unwashed bodies and unclean habits.  The gut-turning aromas of the living rather than the dead.

My nose has dulled over the past couple of weeks, after the smoke and dust and then none of us being able to wash properly.  I can barely smell myself or the others in the group any more, but I smelt these people from a corridor away.  There wasn’t much in my stomach, but it still wanted me to throw up.


There were about a dozen of them, down in the geriatric ward.  The patients were all long since gone; this group had taken over the ward and made it their own.  Blankets had been piled near one set of windows and set alight; it was smouldering when we got there, small and sad.  That must have been the smoke we saw outside.

The group might have been a threat if they had been at all capable of it.  They were sprawled in various stages of consciousness, on gurneys and beds, or just stretched out on the floor.  One fella spent the whole time giggling at a painted stripe on the wall.

It was both a relief and disappointment.  They were no threat, but that’s because they’re useless.  They had taken a hospital full of medicine and used it to get completely out of their trees.  The acid is stripping all the trees down to nubs, but they are far too spaced to care. 

I tried to talk to a couple of them, but all I could get out of them was requests for more, and what did I have with me for them?  There was no food or water that we could find.  Lots of spent needles and empty bottles and packets, but no sustenance.  They were suspended on drugs alone up here.


I had to pull Dillon away from a curtained-off bed.  I caught a glimpse of pale white buttocks moving in time with huffed breaths, of a body poised above a girl with empty eyes fixed on the ceiling.  I’m aware that it’s strange to put him in danger by taking him towards potential violence and then to refuse to let him watch a stranger screwing.  He’s just a youngster, though.

There was something not quite right about what was going on in there, too.  She must have been very high to be so still.  I hope she was high.  I hope that he wasn’t doing all the moving in there, because that’s what it looked like.  It looked like she was so far beyond caring that she was never coming back.

We were just looking at each other with clueless confusion when the pair of white buttocks came out from behind the curtain.  He was doing up his pants – thank goodness – and he had a blissful glow about him.  He smiled at us, blankly cheerful in his fuzzy world.

I was going to give up and leave when I noticed that he was wearing a white coat.  It was stained and torn, but it still had a nametag attached to it.  Doctor Masterson.  I didn’t realise that I had read it out loud until he blinked at me vaguely and said, “Yes?”

Everything changed then.  We all started talking at once, which made him look from one to the other and then giggle with delight.  It’s strange, hearing a grown man giggle like a child.  He thought we were the funniest thing he’d ever seen, and his mirth creased him where he stood.


All of a sudden, I was so furious with him.  Thorpe was swearing, and that was exactly what was going through my head.  I mean, how dare he? We have people who need help, people we have kept alive through luck and cobbled-together care, and this is what we find? A doctor, someone who’s supposed to help people, incapacitated because he just had to get high.  Useless – worse than useless: a fucking waste.  A stupid, giggling mess that used to be someone who, once upon a time, chose to save lives.

It was so selfish, turning his back on everything and everyone else like this.  To wrap himself up in a hazy cocoon and damn the rest of us.  Doesn’t he know what we’ve done to get here?  Doesn’t he know what all of this means?

I didn’t realise that I was shouting at him until Thorpe put his hand on my arm to hold me back.  He thought I was going to smack the doctor, and he might have been right.  I didn’t, though. 

I subsided, stepping back and letting Thorpe deal with him.  I was shaking all over.

The tall fireman looked at the doctor – who was clueless, though he had thankfully stopped that stupid giggling – then asked if he’d come with us.  Masterson nodded easily enough; I don’t think he understood the question. 

But he did come with us.  He’s with us right now, asleep in the corner, soaked through with sweat.  We’ll have to wait until he sobers up to figure out if he’s going to be of any real help.