Monday, 17 August 2009 - 9:19 pm


It’s not fair. It sounds childish, but it’s true. This isn’t justice, or karma, or divine intervention, because it’s just not fair.

I had been dreading finding Dillon’s family. I tried to ignore it, I tried not to say, but there was a part of me that hoped we wouldn’t find them. Because I didn’t want to say goodbye to him. I didn’t want to give him up. I didn’t want there to be Seekers without a Dillon in it. I selfishly wanted him to stay with us – with me – always.

He deserved better. He looked after me, even when he was hurt and hobbling. I remember that hand on my head when I needed it. I tried to do the same for him, but the damage was so bad and he just couldn’t hold on. He tried. He gripped my hand so tightly as I told him, we’re almost there, it’s just a little further, stay with me. Stay with me. Then he smiled and asked if his folks were here yet. I’d really like them, and they’d like me, too. Is that them he can hear?

I don’t think they liked me. I brought them a dead son. I tried to give them more than that as I handed him over, but I don’t know if they heard me.

He looks just like his dad. The little tilt to the corners of his mouth, the way his eyes went solemn and nakedly sad in the face of bad news. Even the way Mr Holt comforted his wife. I think that’s the only reason that I was able to let him go, when my whole body was screaming at me to hold onto him, he’s mine, he’s not allowed to go yet.

It felt wrong to leave him there, but it was right too. All I know is that he got what he wanted – to be with them again. That’s what matters, I guess.


It feels different with him than it did with Ben. Ben left me hollow, hardly able to feel anything. With Dillon, it’s more like losing a limb. The nerves are raw and I keep feeling as if he’s right there. It’s hard to walk forward, as if I have a leg missing. I want to curl around the wound, and shout about how unfair it is. The cuts Ben left on my arm, the pounding that the landslide gave me – it all hurts less than this does.

I woke with heavy eyes and a headache this morning, and Matt was curled up around me. For a moment, I thought it was Dillon, but that was just a wish that slipped through the confusion of waking. I was grateful it was Matt. I turned over and hugged him in return; he needs it as much as I do.

I haven’t seen Matt go grey with grief before; even when his family kicked him out, he put a brave face on it. He’s not even trying to do that this time. I guess it’s because he knows he doesn’t need to. He seems faded, worn through.

Then there’s Thorpe. He got close to the kid too, more than most; Dillon looked up to him, and I think the big fella liked that. But he won’t show it. He knuckles it all down somehow. I guess it’s one way to cope. I’d explode if I tried that.

He gave me a hand this morning, tossing some of the heavier packs into the back of the van. He didn’t need to but I didn’t mind. He asked if I was okay, and it was so unusual I stopped what I was doing and looked up at him.

“Not really,” I told him. There didn’t seem to be any point lying about it.

I returned the question but he didn’t answer. He just put a heavy hand on my shoulder and bowed his head. On impulse, I stepped in and hugged him, partly because I knew he’d never ask for something like that. Hugging him is a bit like being swallowed – I barely come up to his shoulder. I think it was partly the awkwardness of his squeeze that brought the tears up again, and partly because I knew he hadn’t cried yet. So I cried for both of them, the last of the original Seekers.

There’s only Thorpe and me left now, of those who came out of the city. All those miles and months, and there’s only two of us still moving. It’s a frightening attrition.


We’re still moving. We pushed our two battered vehicles until they started and we put miles under our tyres. Heading in a new direction now – north and slightly west, out of the mountains. Moving on to the next dot on the map and leaving a part of us behind. A part we’ll carry with us, at the same time.

I still can’t say goodbye. Goodnight will have to do for now.

Sunday, 23 August 2009 - 9:20 pm

Bar’s closed

I just read over the post I wrote yesterday. I don’t usually do that. I don’t usually go back, because there’s too much moving elsewhere to do. But it’s been bothering me.

I read yesterday’s post, and then I read over the first one I put up on this blog. The one I made when my life had shifted and I didn’t know which way to turn, when I couldn’t tell forward from back and struck out in whatever direction I could find. More determination than wisdom.

The things that happen to you crawl in and make themselves at home. That has been bothering me, too.


We got to the warehouse district about midday. The rumbling of our engines reflected back off fences and walls at us, blanketing us in sound until we couldn’t tell where we stopped and the silence began.

When we shut off the engines, the gulf rushed in and swallowed us. Hairs lifted on the back of my neck. It felt like there were things skittering on the edge of hearing, or just out of sight, gone when I turned my head. Then we hopped out of the vehicles and stamped our feet into life, and the feeling shattered.

We were gearing up, taking essential equipment with us, when I noticed that Dale was frowning. He’s one of the more relaxed members of the group, usually lighter than the rest of us, but he has been tense for the past few days. Last night, I saw him talking to Thorpe and not getting the answers he was looking for. Their expressions were enough to tell me that.

I don’t know what’s going on between those two, but I know that Thorpe won’t talk about it with the rest of us here. He’s so private, so protected, and we live on top of each other. We stay within sight for safety, and what we don’t see, we hear.

So I went to Thorpe and suggested that he stay behind to guard the vehicles. Something felt off, so why didn’t he make sure that what supplies we did have were safe? But not alone: Dale should stay behind with him. I wanted to tell him to talk to the poor fella – do something to sort this out – but you can’t approach Thorpe that way. You can’t put it into something as solid as words. All I could do was give them the excuse to be apart from the rest of us long enough to do whatever it was they needed to do.

He tried to say that it wasn’t necessary and I lost patience with him. There’s protected and then there’s isolation. I considered having a go at him, but butting heads wouldn’t have helped anything. Instead, I told the others that Thorpe and Dale were staying behind to guard the vehicles and it was done. The rest of us trudged off without them. I didn’t look back but he was probably glaring at me.


“Do you think it’ll work?” Matt asked me as we worked our way through the first warehouse. Trust him to be aware of the relationships of others, even ones as subtle as Thorpe’s. He’d spotted it long before I did.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re both big boys.”

He couldn’t help himself: he grinned and started making comments about the boys and sizes. I had to smack him before he’d stop, but he made me laugh.

“It really doesn’t bother you?” I asked him when he had restrained himself. He looked puzzled until I admitted that I knew about him and Thorpe, about that one night they’d spent together.

Matt was sheepish about it. They’d been drunk – we were all drunk that night – and it wasn’t more than that. Just one night. “Besides, he’s not my type.”

“You have a type?”

He gave me a playful shove. “Yeah, I do.”

I teased him about all the evidence to the contrary until he told me that the big fireman is a keeper. Not so much into the casual coupling.

“Ah, I see,” I said. “That kind of not your type.”

Matt’s been a casual kinda guy for most of the time I’ve known him. He’s had a few semi-serious partners, but he always goes back to unseriousness in the end. Until the world ended, that is; I think his time with the Sharks altered him. There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for that kind of thing anyway.


Our foray into the warehouses wasn’t very fruitful. We found lots of useless stuff – toys, baby supplies (I snagged a few bits to bring back to Sally), gardening equipment, furniture. Some clothes, some pet supplies. A lot of the crates had already been broken open and the more useful items taken. We didn’t find any perishables, no food or drink. We have a lot more warehouses to go through, so we haven’t given up yet.

It was hard to tell what had happened while we were gone. Things were definitely less frosty when we got back. Thorpe is never going to say, but Dale wasn’t wearing a frown any more. I don’t think it’s solved, but the work is definitely in progress. That must be a good thing.

Progress. Moving on. Making something new and good despite the mess the world is in. I had forgotten what that was like, but all around me it’s still going on. Even Thorpe is managing to do it, as reluctant as he is.

The things that happen to you put their feet up on your mental couch and ask for another drink.

Well, this bar is closed. This is the old Faith, one who’s done crying and feeling sorry for herself, one who’s done listening to the lies and the poison. I’m not worn down yet. I haven’t been washed away.

I’m still here, and I’m staying.

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Friday, 25 September 2009 - 7:49 pm


When I got back last night, I was still trying to figure out what I had learned from the General and what use it might be. I forgot most of it when I saw Matt.

His face was flushed again, but he hadn’t been up this time. He kept saying that he was fine but he was definitely too hot. I ignored his protests and did my job.

I called Simon in and the medic agreed about the fever. He checked the stab wound and found it angrier than it had been when I changed the dressings yesterday. Violent red lines lead away from it, poisoning Matt’s whole body with the infection.

It’s not really a surprise, we were told, considering the rusty blade that made the hole. I stared at my friend and asked why he didn’t mention it earlier, but he just shrugged. He didn’t want to worry anyone. I told him that he’s an idiot but I kept a tight hold on his hand.

Simon has given him antibiotics and said we’ll see how it goes. He was tight-lipped about it; he’s more guarded than usual, so it must be bad. This kind of infection is nothing to be casual about at the best of times, and this isn’t one of those.

I sat with Matt all day, even when he slept. I snuck in a bowl of water to ease the fever with, trying to make him more comfortable. The antibiotics need some time to work. A couple of days, the medic thinks, then we might see some improvement; in the meantime, he’ll probably get worse.


Matt’s more scared by this than he’s letting on. He’s keeping so much inside these days – he jokes and chats with me well enough, but he doesn’t say what’s really going on with him. I don’t know if it’s the Sharks or the space between the dorms, but something is making him clam up. He’s usually so open and honest, especially with me, and the notion that something has interfered with him that much scares me.

I’m trying my best at just being here anyway. Trying to keep him going with whatever trivialities I can think of. We talked a bit about the General and the situation here.

He squeezed my hand and said, “I know, Faithy. I know. It’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.”


The other injured Seekers came in today to get checked over. I had to pull Thorpe into another room to check on his ribs – he still won’t let any of the others know about it. From the looks Dale was giving us, I think he knows, so at least someone is looking out for the big lug day to day. They’re all healing okay, though.

We exchanged news. I told them what happened with Jersey – she’s back on sanitation duty, along with the fella she attacked – and that Matt was sick. They all went in to talk to him, and that cheered him up a bit.

Terry asked about Tia, but I haven’t seen her in days. I told him I’d find her and make sure she’s all right. Dale filled me in on the latest activities of the Sharks – in short, they’re keeping their heads down, both in regards to the cutouts and the Seekers. They’re not well-liked, so at least this might not blow up into something larger. I can only hope that it’s actually finished now.

Dan is the only one of the Seekers who wasn’t involved in the altercation, and word is that he’s doing okay. As quiet and unobtrusive as he is, I think Dan would fit in anywhere. He knows when to keep his mouth shut and do as he’s told. Maybe I should see if he’s got any advice for me in that regard.

I must have looked stressed, because each of my visiting friends asked me if I was okay. Even Thorpe – when he asked, I almost crumpled into tears again, because he doesn’t usually do that. I just miss my friends, I told him. I’m worried about all of them and Matt’s sick, and nothing here is what we were looking for. He patted my shoulder and I took a shuddering, steadying breath, trying not to lose control of my emotions all over him.

“We’ll work it out,” he said. We. That was exactly what I needed to hear.

He’s a rock. I never realised before how valuable that is, though a part of me always knew it. I don’t think I’ve needed it more than I do now. I was sad when he had to leave.


They went just before the rain came, and I returned to sit by Matt’s side. Sick of trying to sleep on a chair, I pulled a gurney into the room and crammed it against the wall. Most of my gear is here anyway. Simon tried to argue with me when I brought it over from the dorms, but I find that just not listening to him and doing what I need to works fine. I’m not leaving; it’s that simple.

Matt is still feverish and dozing. At the last check, his temperature had risen another couple of notches. There’s not a lot that we can do about it, though I’m still dampening him when I can. We just need to wait for the antibiotics to kick in. I think it’s going to be another long night.

He’s going to be all right, though. He has to be.

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Saturday, 10 October 2009 - 11:45 pm


I don’t know how Dad did it, but Thorpe came to the infirmary today. The first I knew of it was a kerfuffle out in the main room while I was trying to get Clancy, the amputee, to eat something. He was resisting my efforts to get a spoon between his lips and I was just about to give up when I heard voices rising outside.

I went to see what was going on – some of the other patients have been getting snappish between boredom and a lack of painkillers – and found my big fireman friend facing off with the nurse, Peter. I rushed over before something unpleasant happened.

“He’s refusing to let anyone except you deal with him,” Peter said, throwing his hands up. Thorpe looked entirely unapologetic about the matter.

“He’s a friend,” I said. “It’s okay.”

“Special, are you?” I wasn’t sure if he meant me or Thorpe, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know.

I bit my tongue on what I wanted to say. “Not that special. I can’t get Clancy to eat anything – do you wanna see if you have any luck?”

“Great, now I’m doing your work too?”

“Consider it a swap,” I said, gesturing at Thorpe.

Peter grumbled away and I had to shepherd a scowling Thorpe into a back room so we could have some privacy. He’s doing better; he said things were fine and his ribs are healing. I noticed a couple of new bruises, though, and a recent scrape on his hand.

“Been keeping the peace again?” I asked while I cleaned up his hand.

He glanced at me sideways but chose to change the subject by asking, “He been bothering you?”

It took me a moment to realise who he meant. “Peter? No, he’s okay.”

Thorpe grunted like he didn’t believe me.

“Why, would you go out there and smack him if he was?” I was kidding, but Thorpe wasn’t. My half-smile faded and there was an odd little pain in my chest when I realised he really would do that. His affection is startling when it sneaks out. “It’s okay, you don’t have to,” I said quietly. “Don’t go getting yourself in trouble, huh?”

“Like you, you mean?”

Despite all the segregation in this place, word travels fast. I wrinkled my nose at him and scruffed his hair – he was sitting down, so I could reach his head without tiptoeing. He was as stoic as ever, pointedly ignoring his ruffled hair. That was when I noticed how short it was, barely touching his collar at the back, the ends all blunt and neat.

“Matt’s work?” I asked. There was an odd, nauseating twist in my innards when I thought about it; the image of Matt fiddling with Thorpe’s hair reminded me of when I saw them together on that morning after. It was ridiculous; a haircut was nothing to feel jealous over.

“They can’t send him back onto the roof until his leg’s better. He’s keeping busy.”

Well, he was doing all right, at least. I tried to ignore the rest and asked about the other Seekers instead. Thorpe said they were doing fine. There was no accompanying scowl to indicate secret concern, so I think that was the truth and not just a stout assurance.

He said that all the able-bodied hands have been put on the recovery effort. First, they covered the ruined area so that the rain doesn’t damage anything else. Now they’re working on salvaging what they can from the wreckage.

“Dad said the mood was pretty bad out there.”

“It’s not the first time something like this has happened.”

I paused to blink at him. “What do you mean?”

“There are lots of rumours.” Thorpe’s tone didn’t give the rumours much weight – he’s heard varying wild stories, no doubt. “Been a couple of accidents around this Converter of theirs now. Half of them are convinced that the whole project is cursed.”

“Cursed?” I wrinkled my nose again, in doubt this time. Thorpe’s grunt agreed with me. I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Why does superstition have to get involved in these things? People are so eager to see patterns where there aren’t any and make a meaning of it.

Or maybe there is a pattern and they’re just blaming the wrong cause. I asked Thorpe what kinds of accidents they were, but he didn’t know; I’d have to ask someone who was around when they happened. It’s probably nothing, though; just people’s paranoia inventing intrigue where there isn’t any. In the After, it’s easy to believe that the world is conspiring against you.

Still, no harm in finding out a bit of history, right?

Saturday, 5 December 2009 - 9:02 pm

Holding the baby

We’re out of the area that the foraging party has scoured now, so we’ve been stopping to look for supplies again. We managed to siphon enough fuel out of abandoned vehicles to keep ours going, and there’s a gas station down the road from where we’re staying tonight that we’ll try in the morning.

We managed to find some food. Not much, barely enough for half a meal each, but it’s more than we’ve had to share around for a while. We thought about rationing it more strictly, watering it down, but it’s been so long since any of us had a decent meal that we couldn’t do it. I’m not the only one feeling the effects of hunger, with exhaustion that comes on so easily and tremors in my limbs. Jonah’s bike was wavering badly this morning, and I’ve been getting dizzy every now and then as well. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

So now we have our bellies working on a plate of preserved meat and beans. It was pathetically small but the best thing I’ve seen for a while. There was even a handful of smiles around the fire tonight.

I sat in front of Matt while he fiddled with my hair, combing his fingers through it and patiently working out the knots. It’s the sort of casual intimacy I missed in Haven. There, this kind of thing carried a weight of shame with it, because dedicating this sort of attention to one person wasn’t allowed. Even if you were in love with them. Tonight, I could close my eyes and feel Matt taking quiet care of me, and it was easier to believe that everything would be okay.


Sally is still resting up in bed in the campervan. Those who have seen her say that she’s doing better; I haven’t dared Masterson’s wrath by trying to visit her myself, but I trust the others are telling the truth.

This evening, Janice brought the baby out to the group to give his mother a chance to sleep. He was a fretful thing, but he didn’t howl as he was passed around the circle. Most of the group took a turn with him, even Jersey. She liked it more than she let on, I think.

He’s tiny. I didn’t really appreciate that until I held him. I felt big and clumsy, so afraid I would drop or hurt him. Then he made an odd sound and I was abruptly more worried about him throwing up on me. I didn’t want to hand him on – it felt good, cradling the little body against my chest, more than I had expected. I haven’t had a lot to do with babies before but I guess it’s true what they say about maternal instincts.

The boys were the funniest ones. Kostoya was open about being a big sap, cooing and tickling. Matt grinned and looked like the proudest thing in the whole world. Dale peered at the baby curiously, like he’d never seen one before, and then started making little baby-noises. I wasn’t the only one laughing at – and along with – him. He handed the little one on to Thorpe, who promptly went all rigid and disapproving, only partly because his hands are bandaged. The baby fit snugly in the crook of his arm and he looked like he didn’t dare to move in case he shook it loose.

That was the perfect time for a noise to go off further inside the parking garage we were sitting in. It was only a small structure: two levels and ramps with viciously sharp corners designed without offroaders in mind. Immediately, most of the group were on their feet and grabbing for something weapon-like, and Jonah and Bobby led the charge to see what it was. The bulk of the group moved towards the noise, forming a protective barrier between it and our vulnerable ones. Mira had the kids herded back and Bree was sending Iona in that direction too.

It was nothing. It took us a while to confirm that it was nothing – we were all imagining shamblers hiding in the shadows, I’m sure of it, but all we could find was a puddle of acid on the concrete. We think that something in the ceiling must have given way, letting the rain leak through, and something had fallen when enough of its housing had disintegrated. There was no sign of anything worth worrying about, so after some milling around to double- and triple-check, we headed back to the fire’s circle.

Thorpe hadn’t moved. He looked like he wanted to get up and see what was happening, but all he could do was screw his head around and scowl after us. Other than that, he hadn’t dared to move himself. He had one hand hovering above the baby, just in case, and he kept glancing down to check that his charge was still there. The contrast between his gruffness and carefulness was endearing.

He hissed at me when I passed by his shoulder. “Faith, can you take him?”

I looked down at the pair and couldn’t help it: I smiled at the sight. Thorpe was being so protective, and the tiny one had his eyes closed in perfect trust. “Why? He likes you. Look, he’s gone to sleep.” That was the first time I’d seen the baby sleeping. They really are much cuter when they’re asleep. And quiet.

“Faith, please.”

The others were almost on us and I think it was the first time he has been close to begging me to do something for him. I took pity on him and gathered up the little one, who woke and promptly started crying. I rocked him, feeling deaf and clumsy again, and gave Thorpe a sigh. “See? I told you he likes you.”

That’s the only time I’ve ever seen him look helpless. He has no idea what to do with something like a small baby’s preference. He’d be the most protective, devoted, and clueless father in the world, if there was ever a chance of him sleeping with a girl. I think it might be good for him. Children soften men’s edges. Except for Masterson. His defences are still firmly in place.


A couple of the girls are asking about sanitary supplies; they haven’t found any new ones in a while and it sounds like Mira just got her period. As if it isn’t hard enough to keep clean in the After. I’d better go help out; I have plenty in my pack, left over from my last cycle.

Wait. Oh, shit.