Saturday, 11 July 2009 - 11:45 am


There wasn’t time to post again yesterday. It’s all been very bewildering.

It was slower going than we thought, and not a straight or simple journey between the social building and the source of the light. The footing slowed us down, and I wound up half-carrying Dillon after he fell down a couple of times. He was trying to be brave but I know how much that must have hurt. He called me the steadiest crutch he’d ever had and tried to grin at me. I said he was a heavy lump and needed to stop eating all the cake.

It seemed to take forever to get to the right building. A sign outside said that it was the Department of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. It’s a strange construction, looking like a work of slapdash modern art at the bottom and then soaring plainly up into the sky above. We didn’t figure out what the wreath of pipes and tubes around the lower level were for until we tried to approach a door.

There was a clang and all of a sudden, it was raining. A spurting waterfall dribbled down from those pipes and forced us to jump back, squealing. There was a frantic moment when we checked ourselves and each other for burns, patting clothing and checking for pain. Nothing more serious than a few spots burned through some of our many layers, luckily. The injured and young were moved to the back of the group even as the water dribbled to a stop.

“Sadistic fucker,” Masterson snarled as he made sure that Sally was all right. Only he could be that offensive and tender at the same time. She patted his hand soothingly, knowing it wouldn’t work. It never did.

He was right about one thing: someone did it. On purpose. It turns my stomach to think about what might have happened if our frontrunners had been a step or two closer.

Some of the boys started shouting at the building, wanting to know who was there and what they thought they were playing at. For the longest time, I thought that we wouldn’t get an answer. That was all we were going to get: a distant light and a spurt of channelled water. Blank walls and a door we can’t reach. Jersey and Conroy were going to smack the pipes down until I pointed out that they’d only splash themselves if they tried. It was enough to make them pause.

“Whoever it is, they’re well-protected,” I told them. “Do you really blame them?”


We were starting to think about leaving, deflated into kicked tyres. Then a window three storeys up opened and a head poked out, just enough to throw words down at us. I caught a glimpse of a wisp of white hair.

“Go away!”

We all looked at each other. Yet again, I was the first to give up on someone else stepping up. “We saw your light,” I called up.

“I have nothing for you!”

I hesitated. It wasn’t like we came with a plan. “We don’t actually want anything from you.”

“Then what do you want?”

Hope. Salvation. Rescue. A hot shower. “Just to see who was here and… what’s going on.”

“That all? I’m supposed to believe that, am I?” He sounded like a man who had learned better than that. I can imagine how. “Who are you?”

“The Seekers.” It was mostly true, though the actual Seekers were outnumbered in the group now. I was hoping the reputation might help us here.


Guess not. “We’re just… survivors.”

The head hesitated, and then the window slammed. We all looked at each other, nonplussed, and didn’t know what to do next. Do we give up and go? Those injured and weak from running rested while we dithered. Then a window on our level opened a crack and he peered out at us.

“There’s nothing for you here. Go away.” Now that he wasn’t shouting, there was a faint accent curling up the edges of his words.

Masterson shifted and his eyes narrowed. “Dr Kostoya?”

“Yes? What?”

“You missed your last appointment.” The doctor glanced sideways at us and shrugged. “He was a patient.”

I was just starting to hope that we had a way in when one of the runners shouted, pointing down the street. There was the unmistakable outline of a shambler, shuffling brokenly towards us. There were dismayed noises on both sides of the chemistry department’s walls.

“They followed you! Why did you bring them here?” Dr Kostoya demanded.

“We came from the other direction,” Matt pointed out.

“Move the injured,” I said, going to grab Dillon. There was a flurry of movement as we shuffled our configuration, putting the young, weak and hurt inside a ring of healthier, fightier bodies. There are so many of us now that there was more confusion than consensus and the whole thing took longer than I liked. It’s a good thing that the shamblers don’t move too fast. By the time we were done, there were three of them in sight.

We don’t go anywhere without being armed any more, bearing weapons on our packs without thought. Like soldiers with their swords and shields strapped to their backs. We’re even getting practiced at taking down the shamblers – bait in front, hitter behind going for the head. Some habits are both comforting and disturbing.

Ben and Jersey took down the first one, and Thorpe stepped up to help deal with the the two behind it. By then, we could see more coming over the rise and my stomach headed for my shoes. There were so many that we would struggle too keep them off us. We didn’t even dare to put our backs against the wall for fear of the waterfall protecting it.


“Kostoya, take the injured in,” I asked while the boys made sickening crunching noises on the shamblers. I tried not to flinch and failed. “Please, just the injured and the kids. They can’t be out here.”

I could barely see him for the reflection on the window, but I knew he was looking at me. I saw surprise slide into his expression. “You have children out there?”

“Yes! We need your help. Please.”

Someone called my name and I was pulled away to form up the front line. I tried to keep track of heads, told Nugget and Estebar to stay with Dillon. Ben was wincing like he was in pain and the other expressions around me were grim, even the Wolverines. They weren’t relishing the idea of this fight. The tips of bats and pipes and poles circled the air nervously.

“Come on then,” said a voice behind us. “Inside now, hurry.” Kostoya was at the door, holding it open, beckoning to us.

At first we didn”t dare trust him. The waterfall was high in our minds, a threat that might drip on us as we ducked inside. Kostoya had to step half out of the door before we would believe that he wasn’t going to turn the sprinklers on again. Then we harried the injured through the door and into the first room we came to. The doors snicked behind us and I didn’t know whether to feel safe or trapped.

When the shamblers got close to the building, we heard the drip of water again; Kostoya had turned the acid on again. The shamblers stopped and wavered for a few long moments, and then turned and headed away. We had no idea that the rainwater would drive them away so easily, but we hadn’t ever wanted to handle the damn stuff.

The shamblers are still wandering around the campus, so now here we are. Holed up in the chemistry department, trying to figure out who this Kostoya is and what he’s up to here.