Monday, 23 November 2009 - 10:05 pm

The lyrics of reunion

Part of the relief of being back with the others is having a doctor to treat the injured. Masterson grumbled up a storm but he didn’t waste any time in seeing to the wounded we had carried back to the University yesterday.

I went along to act as a nurse, partly out of habit after my time in Haven’s infirmary, but Masterson wasn’t interested in having my help. He shooed me away and called on Janice. His form of shooing is to tell me to get the hell out of the way, but that’s all right. As long as he sees to them, I can put up with that. I trust him to be a good doctor, even if he’s not a nice person.

Matt’s leg is doing fine – just needs proper exercise and for him not to overdo it. Sitting in a car isn’t good for it: he needs to flex it to retain mobility, but now we’re not travelling, that’ll be easier.

Thorpe’s hands are a worry. The burns aren’t deep but they are easy to get  infected. We’ve been keeping them as clean as we can – a painful process that none of us enjoys – and we’ve been lucky so far. Masterson gave him some salve that he said should help. I saw Dale hovering worriedly, taking in the doctor’s directions, so at least Thorpe has someone to badger him into looking after himself.

Iona’s bullet-wound was a glancing injury and seems to be healing up all right. Masterson gave her some antibiotics – I couldn’t get a straight answer about why, but I think there was something wrong with the colour of the wound. The girl seems happy enough, but she always does. I think she would smile if someone hit her with a brick.

Warren was the most serious problem. We’ve been keeping him as comfortable as possible, but we didn’t dare dig around in his shoulder to get the bullet out. Instead, we washed it out regularly with disinfectant in the hopes of keeping it clean. He has been in a lot of pain and we haven’t had any painkillers to change that. Masterson looked at it and shook his head. Then he closed up the room so that he could cut the wound open and remove the bullet.

We all heard the screaming, but there was nothing any of us could do about it. The bullet had to come out; if it festered, it would kill him. Afterwards, the doctor said that it had lodged in the workings of the shoulder and there might be nerve damage. It was hard to tell what long-term implications it might have.


Those here at the University have had as much trouble with supplies as we have of late. Neither group had much, but we put it all together and had something of a feast. We all felt like celebrating: those of us left; those of us who had made it this far. We told stories about what had passed since the Seekers left the University. Then we started to relay the tales of those who didn’t make it to this meeting and the evening descended into a sombre mood.

Matt told everyone about what happened to Dillon; a fuller account than the one passed over the radio waves. I couldn’t form the words – just listening put a lump in my throat that was impossible to speak past.

I didn’t tell them about my dad, either – none of them had known him and it was too fresh. No-one asked, so it wasn’t an issue.

Janice told us about Tom, about when they met when she fell out of her father’s fishing boat and he picked her up. They had struggled to be together and wound up eloping in the middle of the night. They hadn’t looked back since, hadn’t spent a night apart since she climbed out of her window with a suitcase clutched in her hand. She didn’t talk about how he died.

Jonah spoke up and told us about his friend Jason. They had joined the military at the same time, two boys who had gone off the rails and had been sent to sign up before they wound up in prison. They met in boot camp and had been best friends ever since. The bombs and what came in the After had bound all of the unit closer together, and then it had started to unravel. Jonah had been caught up in one of the accidents that damaged the Converter and Jason had been the one who found out the whole thing was a farce.

Jason was the cutout who had been on the bike behind Dale when we busted out of Haven. He had fallen at the gates. None of us had noticed him go down, not even Dale at first. Even we had known about it, we couldn’t have gone back for him. No-one expects him to have survived it.


When the stories were done, an uncomfortable silence fell. We were all thinking about the gaps in our circle, the faces missing from our lives now. We had lost so many along the way that it was hard to keep track of them all.

There was one thing that tied them all together – them and us – and it was me who started it this time around. I just started singing quietly into our silence. One by one, the group picked up the song, lifting the lyrics of Amazing Grace towards the ceiling and beyond. As if they might hear us, wherever we are now. Even Iona and the ex-cutouts joined in, though no-one explained it to them. They got it. We remembered our dead.

I couldn’t help it: I thought about my dad. I didn’t want to sing that song for him – to me, he was still alive somewhere, waiting for me to come back and fetch him. My throat was thick by the time the song finished and I wasn’t the only one with damp eyes. To everyone’s surprise, Iona started singing the next song, some 80s number that I can’t remember the name of and yet everyone seemed to know the words for. At least the chorus.

At some point, someone found a bottle of vodka, or ‘firewater’ as Warren liked to call it. There were no more stories, just songs, whatever scraps we could remember. Dale found a small wooden box somewhere and used it as a drum.

I’m tired, in that good way, and ready to curl up in bed. I hear Matt coming. Just the sound of his boots makes me smile tonight. Time to go.