Saturday, 27 December 2008 - 11:07 am


We still haven’t left the city.  We found a couple of executives trying to climb out of a building – I’m fairly sure it used to be a law firm.  Like the one that Cody works for.  Worked for.  He might still be alive, but the law firm isn’t.  I don’t think he was at work that day, though.  I hope not.  I really hope not.

Anyway, there were these two in suits.  It took us ages to get them out of there.  The woman still had her high heels on, trying to slither over the rubble that had choked up the access to the ground.  The fella had at least got rid of his tie, though he wouldn’t relinquish his briefcase.  He hugged it to his chest as he struggled down, much like the woman was doing with her handbag.

I can’t blame him.  I’ve been carting my laptop around in my bag in much the same protective way, though mine at least slings to my back and doesn’t get in the way.  I have no intention of giving it up for anyone. Writing all of this down helps me, even if it doesn’t help me make sense of any of it.  But it’s more than that. It seems necessary to hold onto it, and I couldn’t say why.

He’s looking at me now, the guy with the briefcase, as if he wants the laptop.  What’s he going to do with it, play solitaire until the battery runs down?  Doesn’t he know that there’s nothing beyond its plastic case for it to connect to any more?


There was a strange thump just now.  Something’s humming.  Oh god, I think a light just came on.  The power’s back!  Someone turned the power back on.


The ground is shaking.  I can hear metal tearing– oh god, it’s so close.

Saturday, 27 December 2008 - 12:48 pm

Time to go

It was the big hotel.  The one with the shiny glass sides and the huge penthouses.  The blast two days ago put out its eyes.  Today, its guts blew out and the rest of it fell down, toppling sideways and taking out two or three more buildings in the process.

I saw it go.  It was a block away, but so loud that it seemed to be on top of us.  There was so much grace in the way its back broke and bent, swaying its great length down to the ground.  Structures peeled out of its path like petals.  It seemed like something from a dream, or a movie.  A movie with really good bass; I could feel the impact through my shoes.

Then, of course, the great rolls of dust swept on us, all over again.  We ducked and huddled, but there was more than just dust in the air.  We were close enough to catch some of the debris that had been thrown up.

We were lucky not to lose anyone to the concrete hail.  There wasn’t time or anywhere to hide, and it was over so quickly.  It took me  almost a whole minute to realise that I’d been hit.  I don’t even know what struck me. 

I think my arm might be broken.  It hurts so much.  The bruises were awful to look at; they didn’t seem like a part of me.  It’s strapped up now, pinned to my chest.  I don’t want to think about it.  There are others so much worse off – one guy we picked up yesterday lost most of his face to a  fire, and we’re sure that another lady will lose her leg when we get her to the hospital.  There aren’t any more painkillers for anyone.  I can’t complain, really.


Can’t type much with one hand.  We just paused to regroup; the others are tending to the injured.  It feels strange to be classed as one of them.

The fires are worse.  Broken wires are sparking and setting things off.  The firefighters think it was gas piping in the hotel.  The blocks northeast of us are a wall of flames; that’s where the bookstore was.  Helicopter fuel, maybe.

More explosions.  Time to go.  We have to get out of here.

Sunday, 28 December 2008 - 9:21 am

The flight

Yesterday feels like a dream.  If there wasn’t an ache radiating out from the bones in my arm, I might wonder if it was real.  I should have written this last night, kept it fresh, but I was so tired when we finally stopped.  We just found a place we could all fit inside, slid down onto the floor, and stopped for the night.  Dillon used my lap for a pillow.  I don’t even remember him settling down there; I was asleep so quickly.


After the hotel came down, we only had a little time to recover.  We patched up what injuries we could, but the explosions were getting worse, and closer.  Broken gas lines turned into fire spouts, angry dragons at every turn.  We had to pick each other up – literally in some cases – and run for it.

Another building came down.  Or two; it was hard to keep track.  Carter shouted at us to just keep going, not to stop.  The impacts were so close, though – I was knocked off my feet by one of them.  It was hard to see, and we had to keep calling out to make sure we didn’t lose anyone.  Ripples of coughing voices calling out names in sequence.  Sometimes the sequence faltered.

I kept seeing pictures of the First World War in my head, of men going up and over the top and just running towards the enemy.  It’s so crazy, but they did it anyway, because they were told to, because they had to.  They just ran through the bombs and the projectiles whizzing around them, through the smoke and the fog.

There was no enemy for us – just the city falling in on itself and trying to take us with it.  The enemy was the skyscrapers teetering over us, the ground under our feet, the muzzles of broken pipes, the choking air.  All we could do was run, clambering over debris and broken city.  Those of us who could clung to someone else on the way.

We didn’t stop until we got to the bridge, and then it was only to fall to a walk.  The great glowing beast was at our backs, flinging structures at the ground and glaring fire at us.  We could feel the bridge trembling under the pressure and that made us hurry on.  I’ve never been shaking and running at the same time before; I was so tired.  The firemen chivvied us on right to the other side, and I joined in when they ran out of breath. 


We lost four people getting out of there.  No-one’s sure when or where.  A couple of the guys wanted to go back, but none of us were in any state to do that.  Not even them. 

Of course, the fucking dog was fine.


There’s shouting outside; I better see what’s going on.  What do they mean, there’s something wrong with the sky?

Sunday, 28 December 2008 - 10:34 am


I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to tell this part.


They burnt the sky.  That’s what it looks like.  Not just over the city, but in every direction.  It’s a thick orange colour, burnt umber turned inside out.  It’s not the smoke; that’s a black smear against it.

Who could possibly burn the sky like that?  How?  How far does it reach?  And why?  Why would anyone do this?

Looking up at it makes me dizzy.  But it’s so hard to look away.


All of us gathered outside in the street to look at it.  Once the calls had finished, no-one said anything.  When I glanced away from the awfulness of it, I realised how much we all looked the same.  We had all been smeared by the same big, ashen hand from head to toe.  We were eyes and teeth and fallen-open mouths in scorched ghosts.

Gazing towards the city, I can’t believe we were there.  It’s all alight now; the firefighters have lost and fled, and the bones belong to the flames.  I can’t believe we came out of there alive.  Some of the structures are still standing, empty-eyed, like broken teeth.  They gulp smoke at the sky, inverted vomiting, and I can taste it at the back of my throat.


I hadn’t realised until now how much I was looking forward to seeing the sky again.  After all that smoke and dust, I was looking forward to the cleanness of it.

Now I can’t remember what blue is supposed to look like.

Sunday, 28 December 2008 - 8:25 pm

Together until we’re not

Been trying to focus on things lower than the sky.  Thoughts about that go nowhere useful.

The south side of the river fared better than the north.  There aren’t so many high-rises here, less for the shockwave to catch hold of and topple over, but things are still pretty wrecked.  There’s no power now – it only stayed on long enough to make things worse – and no running water.  Shattered glass everywhere, cars tossed into each other and the scenery.  Buildings in various stages of collapse and creaking.  Some fires have already burnt themselves out; others are struggling on.

We didn’t push on today.  After seeing the sky, no-one really wanted to; I think shock is setting in for all of us now.  Carter decided that we should take the chance to rest and recoup, and no-one argued.  We’re all so used to listening to him that obeying is reflex now, as if we’ve all grown into extensions of his fire crew.


I’ve been trying to find out people’s names.  We’ve been struggling on alongside each other for days, but there haven’t exactly been many opportunities to stop and shake hands.  I think I’ve got almost all of them now.

I don’t know Carter’s first name.  He’s forty and strung out, and there’s a wedding band on his finger.  He has a strange momentum about him, as if he’s afraid to stop.  I look at him and it’s familiar.  I guess that’s part of why we don’t mind him being in charge; he seems to need it.

Sally is strung out for an entirely different reason.  I keep catching sight of her rubbing at her arms, as if she’s trying to drub something from them.  Or into them.  She’s pale and sickly; I think if the rest of us hadn’t bullied her into moving, she would have stopped and curled up somewhere in the city’s rubble days ago.  I assumed before she was just very shocked, but now I think it has a more chemical cause.

Liz must be about fifty.  She’s one of the stronger runners of the group – she has an iron determination in her spine.  Most of her attention is focussed on the two little ones she has hanging off her – they can’t be more than six or seven years old.  They’re not related – unless they had very different fathers – and I don’t think they belong to her.  Or they didn’t before all this started.  She doesn’t let them out of her sight now.  One of them – the only name I could get for him was ‘Nugget’ – has a head injury.  He’s been carried by one or other of the group for most of the time, in and out of consciousness.

There’s Dillon, of course.  My shadow, though he’s latching onto one of the firemen as well now.  I guess because I’m injured and can’t be out there doing so much stuff.  He’s thirteen.  I don’t know who he was in the city with; he won’t say and I didn’t want to push him.  Whoever it was, they’re gone now.

The fireman he’s attaching himself to is Thorpe.  I haven’t spoken to him much, but he seems like a sensible kind of guy.  I know he carried Nugget across the bridge last night; I remember seeing the kid flopping about like a broken ragdoll over his shoulder.

Another of the steadier rocks is Sax – he got called by the instrument he’s carrying.  It’s dented; I don’t know if it will play any more.  But he’s keeping it and that’s that.  He’s a big round-shouldered fella, and older than I thought now that I can see the grey in his hair.  It wasn’t until we stopped that I recognised him; I used to walk past him every day in the mall, playing his saxophone, dressed like a blues player from the ’20s.

Delaine is a born whiner.  Nothing is good enough, he’s hungry, he’s thirsty, he’s tired, he’s sore.  He’s the voice of all the little urges inside of us, the ones that the rest of us are too drained or too considerate to let out.  He has no such compunctions.  I hit him in the back of the head with a bottle of water earlier.  Not hard, but enough to get his attention.  I told him that I’d rather go thirsty than listen to his bitching.  I guess my nerves are getting a little bit ragged. Not bad for a left-handed throw, though.

Ben came over and gave me some of his water after that.  He’s the quietest of the fire crew.  He was one of the first firemen I saw; I think he’s been with us the whole time.  He’s the one who helped me climb off the bookstore after Harry.  He’s limping but he won’t let me check out his leg. 

The last of the firefighters is Trevor.  He keeps trying to crack jokes.  He even got Sally to chance a smile earlier.  I caught him worrying at the ring on his finger earlier.  He didn’t notice me; he just sighed and then rubbed his face, as if trying to dislodge a thought from the inside of his skull.

The woman in the heels who came out of the law firm is still with us.  She’s having a lot of trouble with all of this; she has to be chivvied to eat and drink.  She’s vacant, like her driver has taken a break and others need to step in to guide her.  Trevor has been keeping an eye on her, but even he hasn’t been able to get a name out of her.

The last fella is Simon.  He was trapped near a fire and has the worst burns I’ve ever seen.  There’s not much left of his shoulder and one side of his face.  We’ve done what we can for him, but he needs a hospital.  He moans a lot, but no-one dares to mind.  Except Delaine, but even he only mentioned it once.


So that’s us, that’s our bunch of survivors.  Is that what we are now?  Our label?  Survivors, refugees?  All I know is that we’re alive and together until we’re not any more.

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Monday, 29 December 2008 - 7:43 pm

Letting go

I think I’m losing it.  I’m not sure I can keep doing all this.  I don’t feel like me at all any more. 


This morning, we picked ourselves up again, just like before.  It seemed like the only thing left to do.  We managed to find a rainwater tank to drink from, and to wash off the worst of the ash.  Then we started off towards the hospital; the wounded still need proper help.  It’s a long way, though.  We don’t know if all of them will make it.


I was just beginning to think it was weird that we hadn’t seen anyone else around when we found out why.  We heard the smashing first, then the shouts and laughing.  It was the high street, the main road leading south from the bridge we came over last night.

Looters.  Smashing and raiding and taking whatever they wanted.  We stopped and stared at them for a while.  I had no idea what to think about it.  We had done the exact same thing over the past few days, but that was different.  We were trying to survive.  Weren’t we?  I remember hiding those torn-off tags like a guilty little mouse.

What did it really matter any more?  The world had come down around us, the sky was ruined, and there was an awful, hollow feeling in my abdomen that only wanted food in it.  If they wanted to pick the bones of the dead city, who was I to care?


I think it was Carter who decided that we should go around them.  Sensible Carter.  The firefighters moved up to the front of the group.  They seemed to have sniffed something that I was completely oblivious to.  Maybe it was a word they caught, drifting down from the looters, or an edge to the voices.

Whatever it was, it didn’t come soon enough.  The looters fell quiet and looked in our direction, like hunting dogs catching a scent.  Hunting dogs that had just eaten their master.  I didn’t like the way they started towards us, not at all.

It’s funny how instinct makes us act.  Without really meaning to, the injured and the kids were in the middle of the group, behind the shield of the stronger of us.  No-one said anything; we just shifted into place.  I was up front near Carter – I guess my instincts are broken.  Maybe I forgot that I can only use one arm at the moment.

They sauntered and grinned at us, cocky as guns.  They wanted a toll.  They wanted us to pay for using ‘their’ street.  They’d been here since it all came down and had laid claim to this strip of concrete in a crumbling jungle. 

It was so ridiculous that I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  It was like they’d seen a movie about it and decided to live out the idea. All of a sudden, everyone was looking at me.  I could feel Carter and the others stiffening beside me.

The looters didn’t like my response.  But I didn’t like the way that they were looking at Sally and the lawyerlady and me when they were talking about their ‘toll’.  I didn’t like the way one of them was looking at Dillon, either.  And I just… lost it.

Something had bent inside me and I couldn’t stop it.  I was tired and hungry and I’d had enough of having things piled on top of me.  It was enough; it was too much.  And when those looters frowned at me, that’s what I told them.

I told them that we had just spent three – four? – days pulling people out of the ruins of the city.  We had worked ourselves bloody and hurt and sick and hungry and tired trying to salvage something from the wreckage.  Trying to save people.  We had lost a lot of them; we had lost rescuers, too.  We had the city itself working against us – concrete and metal and glass and fire and smoke and dust.  But we stayed and we kept going, because we were damned if we were going to let it stop us doing what we needed to.  And we’d made it.  Even with it coming down on top of us, we had made it out of there.  We made it.

We’re fucking hardcore.

And now, we get to the homestretch only to find these people demanding a toll?  It was juvenile.  It was pathetic, and we didn’t have to stand there listening to that crap.  We’ve got better things to do, like getting the injured to the help they need and the hell out of here.


So we turned and walked away.  They didn’t try to stop us; I think we were just as surprised as they were.  They didn’t follow us, either.  They were mostly kids, and there are five big guys in the group here.  Maybe that was it.

As we walked away, my heart tried to beat its way out of my chest and my hands shook, but I didn’t regret a word of it.  I wanted to cry suddenly, crumple into a little heap; I still do.  I think it’s coming, that final bit of breaking.

Ben asked me if I was crazy.  It’s possible that I was, right then.  I was aware that the looters were dangerous; I just didn’t care.  I was a girl waving a bandaged arm around, mouthing off.  I felt like I could take on the world, tell the whole crumbling guts of it to fuck off and leave us alone.

The group gave me cautious sideways looks and I don’t blame them.  I’d look at myself that way if I could.  Going off like that isn’t like me, not at all.  We seemed to walk faster after that, though, and not out of fear.  Taller, maybe.  I saw a couple of smiles, even, and Thorpe and Carter patted me on the back.  It was a stupid thing to do, but I felt so much better for it.  Like I could breathe easier.  Nothing like a good vent to clear out the dust and smoke, I guess. 

We went around the looters’ area.  I don’t think we’ll be going back there anytime soon.  They’re bound to remember me.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008 - 5:29 pm

No more smart remarks

We were supposed to make it to the hospital today.  We’re on the wrong side of the river now, and I don’t know if Simon is going to make it.  I think his burns are getting infected.


Yesterday, I felt lighter after the encounter with the looters.  Like maybe we were on top of things.  We weren’t even close.  Just when we think we know how bad it is, we’re proved wrong.

Looting and pillaging seems to be the norm in this part of the city.  The group we encountered yesterday was mostly young men and a few teenaged girls.  Today we came across adults and it was completely different.

Again, we heard them before we saw them, but that didn’t prepare us for what we saw when we came around the corner.  I don’t know how many of them there were – a lot, enough to qualify as a mob.  All of them armed with something.  All of them caught up in what they were doing, which was using those weapons against each other.

I don’t know what they were fighting about.  I’m not even sure if it was between two groups, or three, or just a free-for-all.  All I know is that it was awful, and there was a lot of blood and screaming.  Some of it in pain, most of it in anger.  They were dogs, tearing at each other.

There were people running away from the roiling mass of it, and we soon became part of the flight.  The fight was moving down the street and we did not want to get caught up in it.  The little ones were snatched up and Simon was hitched up onto stronger shoulders.

I didn’t know what the popping sound was at first.  It didn’t sound like a gun, but I’d never heard a real one before.  All I knew was that everyone started to run faster and harder, and we didn’t look back.


The only place to go was back to the river.  The noises of the fight chased us, right up onto the riverside boulevard. Whoever was up front turned onto a bridge and the rest of us followed.  It was worse for wear; I think a ship had hit it, snapped it in the middle.  It moved and creaked and shed chunks of itself into the awful water under us.  We didn’t dare stop and we couldn’t go back; the fighting had followed us right up to the end of the bridge.

Liz almost slipped through a crack; Sally and Delaine had to grab her and pull her back up.  I grabbed a fistful of Dillon’s shirt when he wobbled and didn’t let go until we reached the riverbank.  I think he kept me up as much as the other way around.


That could have been us yesterday.  If we had come across a different group, if they had taken what I said a different way.  If the wind had been blowing in the wrong direction.  Thinking about it makes me feel ill.

And now here we are on the wrong side of the river again.  West from the CBD, but close enough that clouds of smoke blow past us every now and then.  We’ve almost come full circle.

I don’t want to go back; I don’t want to complete the circle.  I want to go home.  I want to get the sound of bats breaking bones out of my head.  I want to put my eyes out so that I don’t have to see any more blood and pain and death.  I want the world to make sense again.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 2:15 pm

Catching breath

Today we’re trying to work out how we’re going to get to the hospital. A couple of the group have gone off to find maps and supplies; we’re going to head out when they get back.

We found a mostly-whole café last night.  Intact walls and a roof that doesn’t seem ready to fall on us at a moment’s notice.  The frontage is shattered, but it’s deep enough that we can get away from the wind.  The kids and the injured slept on the couches at the back; I’m a little jealous.  But I suspect that if I lay down on one of those I’d never want to get up again.

Liz and Sally scoured the kitchen and managed to make us all a hot meal.  It seems like forever since I had hot food.  Since I had something that didn’t come out of a packet.  It was heaven.  I don’t know what was in it – I suspect I don’t want to – but damn it was good.  We even got Simon to eat some of it.

He’s not doing so good.  It’s hard to tell, but I think he has a fever.

We found a clothing store next door, too.  Pretty cheap stuff, but it’s not like any of us care.  I had been wearing the same clothes for almost a week; I am tempted to take them outside and burn them.  I don’t even want to know what I smell like.  Feels so good to have something clean on.


It’s getting dark out; there must be a storm coming.  

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 4:40 pm

No words

I keep sitting here and staring at the screen.  I’m watching the battery run down and I don’t know what to say.  I can’t stop shaking.  I can barely speak; my throat is so sore.  I haven’t cried yet – everyone else has, but I can’t.  I just can’t.


There’s only eight of us left now.  The others– I keep seeing them.  There was nothing we could do.  There was nothing anyone could do.


The world is broken.  It’s broken and it wants to kill us.  All of us. I think it might succeed.


I can’t do this now.  The others need me.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 - 9:42 pm


Everyone else is asleep now.  I don’t think I can, not until I get this down.  I feel like I did a week ago, when the bomb went off.  If I don’t get this down, it’s going to always be there, harrying me, haunting me.  I’ll burst and I’ll break, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get up again.


I think the first thing that happened was that it went quiet.  The storm birds had been screaming at the sky for an hour, and all of a sudden they disappeared.  We didn’t think anything of it – why would we?

Those who weren’t resting were outside, looking for supplies.  I was checking out a truck with a couple of the guys – we were hoping to get it working.  Our group wasn’t the only one out and about; there were others, doing the same as we were.

It was just a fall of rain, the most natural thing in the world.  A scudding-together of orange-stained clouds that let loose.  But it swept up the street with the most awful sound. At first I wondered what the water was hitting to set up such a screeching.

Then I realised that it was people screaming.


We didn’t stop to see why; we ran for the café.  Just dropped everything and ran.  I shouted for people to take cover, shoved others when I reached them; anything to get out of the street.  We only just made it before the rain reached us.  It hissed when it hit the ground, and it dissolved alive within its reach.

Carter and Trevor were making their way back to us from their equipment-gathering mission.  They were too far away.  They ran – we could see them, we called to them – but they didn’t make it.  I can still hear their voices, screaming in pain as they went down. 

I never knew that a human body could melt like that.  In this nightmare week, it’s the worst thing I’ve seen.  Faces warp, there’s blood and then bone showing, and then it’s all mashed together on the ground.  A whole person, reduced to nothing but a steaming puddle in a matter of seconds.  I want to throw up again.

We’ve stepped out of a disaster movie and into horror now.  There’s no other word for it.


We had to hold Thorpe back.  He was wild, wanting to get to his crewmates, shouting and screaming.  I think we were all shouting; my throat is raw with it.  He struck at me and Ben tackled him to the floor.  It took Ben and Sax to hold him down.

Liz was out in it, too.  We heard more screams up the street: a woman and the higher, shriller sound of a little one.  She’d taken one of the kids for a walk.  Aaron; the kid’s name was Aaron.  Oh god, he was so tiny.

I tried to herd everyone back from the front of the café.  Especially Dillon – I didn’t want him to see what was happening.  It was probably too late, but… it seemed like the thing I was supposed to do.  And I was so scared – a breath of wind might have driven the rain further inside.  Back, get back, get away from it, get away.


No-one saw the lawyerlady until it was too late.  She was so quiet that we often missed her, and she never did anything without one of us telling her to.  Eat, drink, walk, keep going.  But she did this on her own.  Between Thorpe and everything else, no-one saw her walk up to the doorway.

She paused there, long enough for us to spot her.  Then we were shouting again, and I ran after her.  She turned around and looked right at me, and I’ve never seen eyes like that before.  So empty, so awful and dark.

And then she stepped outside.  I–

I didn’t make it.  I didn’t pay enough attention.  I didn’t try hard enough to get her to talk, to reach her before it was too late.  I didn’t take the time to convince her not to die.

I never even knew her name.  Maybe if I had known her name, I could have called her back.


After that, after she was gone, it went quiet.  All we could do was stare at the hissing of the rain.  If we listened hard, we could hear the leading edge of it claiming more victims, the screeching growing quieter as it spread its grip.  Dillon was crying and I held him so tightly I must’ve hurt him.

It wasn’t until we all settled down together at the back of the café that we realised that Delaine was missing.  Perhaps it was the quiet; the lack of his complaining.  Someone said they thought he’d gone to look for something.  He didn’t come back even after the rain passed.

So there’s just eight of us left now.  Ben and Thorpe, Sally and Sax, Nugget and Simon, and Dillon and me.  The café feels empty without the others.


Our world has turned into fire and acid and broken rocks.  We’re in the belly of the beast, and I can’t see a way out.

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