He paces endlessly, tortured thoughts unknown to those around him. There’s a sense of depth, of hidden darkness that clings to him like a musty shroud. It’s a shroud that billows with impatience, each step casting waves of it out into the night.
Now and then he stops, asks me what I’m doing, why I’m writing, why I keep looking at him. Sometimes he yells, the impatient waves turned to the lashing, crashing of a hurricane.
“Writing,” I tell him. It’s the truth. How can I not write? How could he, anyone, expect that of me? Writing is all I know. All I’ve ever known, all I’ve ever done.
Well. Writing, and observing. Always observing.
For instance, I observe that every time I answer, he tightens a little more. Withdraws a little deeper into the tight-wrapped shell he’s forming around himself.
I would lie to him if I thought it would help. But it wouldn’t help. He’d only withdraw even faster.
My words aren’t the only thing driving him deeper within himself. They’re not even the main thing. More than anything else, it’s the waiting. We lost power several days ago. It’s like that huge crippling of the power grid that happened a few years ago all over again. Only this time nobody knows the extent of the problem.
Only trickles of news have gotten in or out of town, and he is waiting for news. For hope. His hopes are going gray.
Each day he’s a little grimmer, face a little more wooden. The cupboards he’s sharing with the rest of us empty a little more.
A shout reaches us from deeper into the house. “The water’s off.”
“What do you mean it’s off?” He sounds like he knows exactly what that means, but he’s angry about it and doesn’t know how else to react.
The pale custard-yellow of the walls looked warm and inviting, once. Next to someone so gray though, they’ve turned a bit sickly. It makes you want to huddle in on yourself, if only to avoid touching them.
“I don’t know, it’s just off! There’s no more coming out of the taps.”
I’m not sure if we should have seen that coming or not. Now that it has happened, it seems so obvious and natural. Without power, the water system has to shut down. I guess I thought maybe it hadn’t reached there, or that they had a backup supply or something.
Maybe they did have a backup, and that’s gone too. There’s something ringing and hollow in that thought.
He’s going to go out. I know that. I know I can’t stop him. I want to, but I can’t. If someone doesn’t go, we’ll have no water.
They said on the radio that nobody was to go out, but they didn’t say why. They didn’t say it so loudly that it scared everyone half to death. We’d heard the rumors already.
It’s funny how word gets around even faster than radio sometimes. Old Joe at the truck stop swears he saw Bob walking the highway shoulder, but he’s been dead for a week and a half.
Wendy swears up and down she saw her dad’s silhouette on the hill out back of her place, but he’s gone too.
They’re all stories everyone’s heard. The mind goes gray like his when you lose someone. Life loses all colour, all smell, all taste, all vibrancy, and your mind can’t cope with that forever, tries to bring the colors, the smells back again. Sometimes it brings them back too well, you see things that aren’t really there.
That must be it. Right?
But there’s more of the stories, too many more. And soon they’re not being told by people who just lost someone. Tony sees a guy he’s never seen before. The guy’s all torn up, broken and bloody but not bleeding. Danny sees something too. Always at a distance. Still just whispers.
They tried to tell people what they were seeing, but we never believed them. I mean, can you blame us? I suppose now you can. But it was straight-jacket talk at the time, just asking to be thrown into a padded room. The dead, walking around? Attacking people? Turning us into them?
That’s the comfortable story we cling to anyway. It was too much to believe. It was true enough at first, but eventually we’d all seen to much. Eventually, we simply couldn’t bear to believe. To stay sane, we had to deny what we knew.
So now he’s going to go. Tony and Danny too. And the rest of us will stay, and we’ll hope. What else can we do?
- The diary was found next to remains too badly eaten to be identified. Other remains on the site and certain details of the surrounding environment corroborate the details of the account. J.T.