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Wednesday, 2 February 2011


"They killed the soldiers," she says grimly. "They carried some of them off still alive. I just ran. I didn't know where I was going, I just knew I had to get away. I ran, and the first house I came to that was still standing, I hid."

She'd been on the move ever since, travelling during the day, hiding at night. Scavenging food and water where she could find it. "There were other survivors," she says. "Not lots, but some. In the early days I met this guy. He said he was a policeman and that he was going to get out of the city. I thought I'd be saved. I thought...But, that night he..." Here she pauses, averts her eyes, bites her lip. "He tried rape me. He seemed so normal. I hit him with a lump of concrete and ran."

After that she'd stayed on her own. "I still saw other survivors, but I couldn't trust them...not after that." She tells me about one night, when she was hiding out in the remains of a school. How she woke up in the middle of the night to see a young boy, no older than sixteen, being hauled across the fields outside by the Creatures. And there at the far end of the field waited a Worm. She doesn't have to say what happened next; the look in her eyes is enough.

"It was awful," she says. "I've not stopped moving for longer than a night. And then, one day, I was climbing up this pile of rubble and I slipped, and I just felt this pain in my leg, and I looked, and...I just couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe what had happened. I managed to drag myself here before nightfall. But I was helpless. I couldn't handle it. I, I knew I was going to die. I absolutely knew it, and all I wanted was for it to be quick, for it not to hurt."

And here, finally, her voice gives out. And we're back, just us two sitting in a tiny room in an empty building, telling each other stories. And Lisa's crying, and I realise then that I am too. It's all real, it's all happened, there's no going back home.

"It's okay," I say, even though it's not. "It's okay." I get up and move to Lisa's side and hug her, gently. "It's okay," I say, "we're alive."

After that, we talk about better things, about how it was before the meteors. After reliving that day the memories come easy, without any pain, without regret. I find for the first time that I can think of Sharon--speak of her even--without feeling a slight twinge of pain in the very pit of my stomach. It almost feels good, like being back there in the world of before.

Lisa tells me about what was once her life. She was a secretary at a law firm, and had only moved to the city a year ago. Before that she'd been at university, where she'd met her husband, Luke, and gotten married to him in a civil ceremony and gone on her honeymoon to Cornwall. She shows me the wedding ring: a plain band now tarnished with a patina of dirt.

"I haven't seen Luke since that day," she says. "I think...I mean, I'm sure he must be dead. It's too much to believe that he might still..." She trails off. From her voice and the way she stares at her ring I can tell that she doesn't really believe what she's saying. She thinks her husband is alive. No, that's not quite right. She knows he's dead, and she says he's dead, but she just doesn't want to believe it.

We talk for what feels like hours, until our conversation is abruptly halted by the distant call of a Creature. We both freeze, our eyes meeting as we wait for the terrible sound to fade.

"Perhaps it's time we slept," whispers Lisa. I nod agreement. At my insistence Lisa takes the examination bed on one side of the room, and I wrap myself in blankets and lie down against the wall. Then I take the gun and put it on the floor beside me, within easy reach.

For the first time in a long time I fall asleep without having the gun in my hands.

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