Tuesday, 30 August 2011


There's a thick fog out at the moment. Been there all day. Completely surrounding the hospital. I feel intensely claustrophobic. We couldn't even see the treeline from here.

Unfortunate memories of playing Silent Hill at too young an age aren't helping.

Monday, 29 August 2011


"No-one's talking to me anymore."

I don't know why Steve decided to tell me this.

"How do you know I'm still talking to you?", I said as I looked up at him.

Steve took a seat next to me, and his body seemed to sag wearily. "They blame me. I know they do. That proxy was after me, and now Lianne is suffering. Her infection's still not going, and her fever's only suppressed by medication. Her arm'll never move properly again."

His eyes glistened. "And they're right. It's my fault."

I now have a twenty-seven year old man weeping openly beside me, and I have no idea what to say here. None.

The fact is, it isn't his fault. It's the fault of a dead man.

The fault of a man whose head was cracked in like an eggshell, and whose blood and brains seeped out onto the floor, and whose mask slipped away just enough to reveal a face, and a blankly staring eye. Blood for blood, I guess.

But Steve's really torn up. Lianne's still requiring a lot of care, and we're not going to be out of here any time soon.

Roland says he saw movement in the shadows outside Lianne's ward last night.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

It's over.

Lianne's out of surgery.

A lot of damage was done to her arm by the shards of glass moving about in there, and the infection's stubbornly refusing to go away properly, but they got the glass out, and hopefully she won't have to have any of her arm amputated.

In the meantime, we're getting twitchy in here. We're hanging around, so that if something does go down, we can protect Lianne, but no-one's confident. Basically, our plan is that if something happens, we're running. Maybe a new hospital, maybe just hoping the infection will go and the wound will heal.

But we're not optimistic about a peaceful discharge.

Friday, 26 August 2011


Lianne's in surgery right now. Her antibiotics have been taking effect, but her arm's still be hurting with every movement. They took a look around in there yesterday, and it turns out the glass shattered inside her arm.

We should have noticed. So distracted by the fucking proxy. And right now, she has tiny shards of glass deep in her arm, and whenever she moves it, the shards dig in deeper, cutting away at her muscles. She hardly even complained until it was too much for her to take.

Of course, now it's not just disinfection. She's being operated on. We're in one place way too long. Roland's back keeping his knife on him at all times. He might find us, assuming his dogs don't get here first.

In the meantime, Natalie's spitting venom. She's been reading up on the blogs, and there's some prominent blogger who's accusing one of her old friends, who's now a runner from the same event that pushed her away, of kidnapping and torturing her. She barely even knows who she's angry at - she can't believe this Kari girl would do that, and yet she's halfway convinced, muttering that she's "lost her fucking mind, I always knew losing Simon would do this to her." Earlier, she tried to convince Shannon to have us go meet up with her. The most obvious issue is that she's in America, so that's not happening. That she's apparently a psychotic torturer comes...a close second.

Either way, it's keeping her mind off Lianne. She's still in a fragile state. It's amazing how strong she can be at times - it still amazes me - but she depends on Lianne, as someone to look up to. Her and Rachel both do.

And now she's hurt, and we're in one place for far too long.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

...Disaster averted?

We just got a message at the front desk of the hospital.

"Dear travellers,
                         your indiscretion in Huish has been dealt with. You'll never hear about it again. Consider your freedom a happy side-effect of an ongoing effort on our part, and do not expect it again.

Agent Saliss
On behalf of Director Fisk."

Shannon's screwed up the letter in her hand, her teeth gritted. Natalie has gone white. She's sitting on a bench, clutching her head in her hands. "Someone knows. How does this happen? How...who do they know? Oh god..."
Roland's concern is that this is the kind of favour that will eventually warrant repayment, that whoever these "Salliss" and "Fisk" characters represent has leverage over us.
Lianne, on the other hand, couldn't be happier. She's just been repeating how this means us bringing her to hospital was the right decision, and that we won't have to be running from the police.
Stephen...well, he's honestly barely here these days. Now that I think about it, he may not have even spoken since Lianne started getting weak. He just walks along with us, looking sullen. Not even this can inspire a reaction from him.

Fisk. The name rings a bell. I've got to wonder exactly how strings-attached this service comes. We'll have to be more careful from now on. We've attracted the attention of something we don't know about, something bigger and more powerful than us, and that scares me.

And to think we thought that the Slender Man was the only thing we had to fear.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


We're at the hospital right now. Lianne's in bed, being drip-fed antibiotics. Her infection was nasty. It took us a day to get here - a day and a half, and she would've had to lose enough chunks of her arm that she may as well have lost it.

We're getting twitchy here. The hospital is lovely - an old manor house conversion, donated to the NHS when its owning family died - but it's in the middle of nowhere, and we're staying in one place in an isolated area. The one thing you never do.

Right now, the rest of us are staying at a hotel about a mile down the road. Roland's footing the bill. The other night was our first time seeing him in a very long time, and Shannon and Roland figured that we'd need little comforts to put us back at, if not ease, then merely our usual level of unease. Comforts matter, every so often.

Speaking of which, I think I owe an explanation.

This whole Lianne arm thing had really gotten to Natalie. She's been here a long time, and in that time, she's taken on Lianne as a mother figure. Seeing her in pain - seeing her dying - really hurt her, but of course, she's Shannon's right hand. She couldn't show it.

It must have been building up since Lianne was stabbed.

And we were making camp for the night when I noticed that her hand iwas shaking, and when I got closer, her breaths were heavy, as though she was on the edge of sobs. I leaned in and whispered, "Do you want to go find somewhere to talk?"

She looked up at me, and nodded. Clasping my hand, she pulled me away into the darkness of the woods around us.

We walked for a good five minutes along a footpath until we reached a wooden bench. She slumped into it like a puppet with her strings cut, and her sobs were loud and thick. I felt sick to see her like this. I sat down next to her and drew her into a hug, and she sobbed into my shoulder for the longest time. "I'm so scared," she kept repeating. I didn't know what to say - the fact was that Lianne may well be dying. No reassurance came to mind. So I stroked her hair and told her everything was going to be okay, and felt ashamed that I couldn't do more to help this poor, shaking young woman clutching onto me and crying into my t-shirt.

And then it changed. I felt her breath catch in her throat

"He's here."

I grabbed her arm and pulled her into a run for the camp, not looking back.

We reached the camp in two minutes. I was rousing the others and tearing my tent from the ground, when Natalie collapsed, clutching at her head and screaming. She'd looked for way too long. Roland slung her over his shoulder and we ran.

We ran until our throats choked with lactic acid, and our muscles ached, deep and raw.

We slept on the earth in our sleeping bags, and the next day, we headed for the nearest hospital.

Monday, 22 August 2011

He's here.

It's Peter here.

We saw him.

Hospital or no, we need to run, NOW.


Hey everyone, it's Rachel here.

It's been almost a week. We've walked almost 200 miles. We've not stopped. We're filthy, ragged and weary. We've got a hand-crank radio, but we've heard nothing about two corpses found in the kitchen of a restaurant in a small village, so that's something.

We do, however, have a problem. Lianne's arm is hurting, worse than it did before, and well beyond the area that was damaged. That means she's probably got an infection in the wound.

She needs to go to hospital.

Of course, if anyone saw us go in or out of the abandoned restaurant, before long, someone'll be looking out for a group of seven squatters, one of whom is injured. And if this hospital reports that, we're done. They'll know Lianne's name at least, they'll probably call the police, at the very least, they'll know whereabouts we are. We'll be locked up, and that means we can't move around. Which means he'll get us.

If we don't, Lianne will be in pain, and then she will die.

Shannon's in her tent right now, thinking it over. Natalie went off to cry, and Peter went with her.

Rule 5. Don't go anywhere alone.

When I first met these guys, they put me under Lianne's wing. And she had ten rules for me to follow.

1. It's never over. This is roughly analogous to that whole "There's always another nightfall coming" that Shannon and Roland repeat like a mantra, but that's not all flowery metaphor - it IS significantly more dangerous after nightfall. Which is why Lianne prefers a simple "It's never over." It means we're never safe. It means we're never entirely doomed. And it does mean that we'll in all likelihood be on the run forever. It'll never be over.

2. The group is everything. This, I think, should have gone first. The reason we're one group is that we're stronger because of it. More than that, I rely on these people implicitly. There are individual, interpersonal relationships, but fundamentally, we're a unified group. Leave No Man Behind, Watch Each Others' Backs, slogans like that.

3. Don't go anywhere unarmed. Obvious, given recent events.

4. Don't go anywhere without telling everyone else. This is just genre-savviness.

5. Don't go anywhere alone. See above.

6. Try to avoid looking out of windows. Why tempt fate?

7. Use fake names.

8. Everyone surviving takes precedence over everything else. This is a big one. If there's a chance of all seven of us surviving something, you take it over a better chance of six of us surviving. All of us will put everything on the line for one person. We all survive. That's the goal, and that's the thing that drives us.

9. If you see a proxy, alert the others, and get ready for a fight. If possible, make peace with the idea that you may die.

10. If you see...the other one...you run. If you're lucky, you might make it to safety. Make peace with the idea that you're probably going to die.

These rules have done me well. She says they're why she's still alive. That maybe the rules will outlive her. And now that sweet woman who looked after me, and gave me a role model in this whole mess, she's constantly groaning in pain, and she's going to die soon if we don't ignore the safety of the group.

And I leave you...with a dilemma.

Friday, 19 August 2011


The last few days have been hectic. A lot has happened...

Okay, I'll start where I left off last time.

It was around two in the morning. Everyone was still tense, preparing for the worst, but the late hour following a hard day began to get to us. The squat was an old square shop space with a layer of dust on everything and boards over the tall, floor-to-ceiling windows of a small restaurant, tables and chairs still strewn around on the floor. Long abandoned, there was plaster falling from the walls, with old pipes exposed or falling out entirely. The windows at the front were the most obvious point of entry, so Roland covered there, backed up by a stony-faced Lianne. I've gotten used to Roland in a state where he's prepared to kill someone, but Lianne sheds her whole caring persona with ease. To see her with genuine coldness in her eyes - it's hard to forget afterwards. In the back, we had Natalie and Shannon, machetes and stiletto knives in hand.

No-one noticed the boarded up hatch in the low ceiling until it crashed to the ground in pieces and the dark figure dropped down to the floor. He grabbed Stephen, who'd been standing right near where he dropped in, and drew what looked like a sharp shard of glass to his throat. Quicker than I could have believed, Shannon lunged at him and sunk a fist into his face. As he fell away, the glass scraped Stephen's neck, leaving a shallow cut. The man, the proxy, fell back and composed himself. Like the others, he was wearing a crude mask. This one's looked to be made of pieces of cardboard, stuck together with parcel tape, and judging from the way that it hadn't shifted with the punch, it looked to be stuck to his face. Tufts of greasy black hair protruded from the top, and a beard in similar condition came out of the bottom, rubbing against his filthy clothes - a nondescript black hoodie and dark jeans.

Screaming obscenities, he thrusted the glass shard towards Shannon, who dodged deftly. She kicked at his stomach, but her own momentum left it with little force behind it. Natalie, who had two tables between them, threw a chair at him, but he knocked it out of the way with his arm, barely seeming to notice. Roland moved around the edge of the room, away from the windows, looking for a gap in the messily arrayed tables to join the fight, his axe held up at face level. I stood, knife drawn, with my back to Stephen, Rachel covering his other side, as we moved towards the exit. We'd surrounded our attacker.

The proxy's head snapped around, looking for a weak link in our circle around him. His movements were sharp, and animalistic, and his breathing heavy. His gaze fell on  Lianne and he sprung, racing towards her. She let out a cry of surprise before trying to skip backwards. Her back hit a wall. He'd timed it perfectly. The shard of glass was raised above his head, and sensing his moment, he swing it down. She'd brought her hands up in time to protect her face, but the shard sank deep into her forearm, near her shoulder. She screamed in pain as he tore it out. Roland dashed around a table and swung his axe at the Proxy's midsection, and he leapt away to the front of the store.

Rachel let out a scream. I quickly turned to see that another shape was dropping through the hatch in the ceiling, just in time to land right on top of Roland. He hit the floor hard, his axe clattering across the floor, but the landing unbalanced the second assailant too, who fell to the ground. Even the other proxy looked surprised, staring wildly at the interloper - better dressed, in a light check shirt and suit trousers, and with what looked like a proper mask over his face. In the few seconds she was granted, Natalie stomped on the back of the scruffier proxy's knee, dropping him to the ground, before bringing her elbow down across the back of his head. He hit the floor hard, and went limp.

The second assailant has scrambled to his feet and pointed a fishing knife at Stephen and I. He stepped forwards, with a slowness and consideration that gave away that this one was not as wild as his partner. I swung my longer knife towards his face and shifted my front foot forward into a low kick, but he skidded backwards. Realising that his compatriot was in no position to help him, he solidified his stance, and started to move forward again. I swung my knife again, and this time, Rachel was next to me, lunging for him as well. He dodged with a surprising deftness, but the plan was already sprung. Roland was behind him, a large, heavy lead pipe in his hands, bringing it down two-handed over the proxy's head.

There was a hollow crack, like the sound of an eggshell breaking. The proxy fell to the floor, his light brown hair rapidly turning red from a mass of crimson and back at the crown of his head, jutting fragments of bone showing through. As he lay there, blood spilt from the gaping hole in his skull at an incredible rate.

I froze.

I'd never seen someone die before.

I heard a sob from Rachel behind me. Roland and Shannon slowly stepped towards the bloodied form.

"He's dead." Roland said, irreverantly.

Lianne gave out a moan and we were snapped out of our trances. Her wound was deep and large, and while she was trying to use her shirt as a bandage, it wasn't stopping the bleeding. Shannon screamed at Natalie, "Get your first aid kit!"
Natalie looked dumbly at Lianne, and then at the body.
She came back into focus, sprinting to the back of the shop to where the bags were and rifling through them to get the small plastic green case. She ran back over to Lianne and handed it to Shannon.
Roland brought the shirt away and gravely said "This is going to need stitches, or it won't heal."
"Fuck," sighed Shannon, "It figures the bloody nurse would be the first one to get stabbed."

I heard a voice behind me, "What do you want us to do?"
Rachel was next to me, looking determined. Shannon spat "Go get one of the proper Maglites and hold it over her arm, I'm going to need to do this myself. Peter, go get the rope, and tie the other one to the chair. Natalie, get me out the bandages and the disinfectant, and hold her arm still."
She turned her head to look at Roland. "And you, you're going to have to do what we discussed. We need answers, and we have a live one."
Roland muttered under his breath before asking "What shall I do about the other one?"
"He's already bled out. Stuff the body in one of the larders in the kitchen area. Take his wallet and any other ID."
The tall man wearily got to his feet and moved over to the corpse, picking it up and dragging it into the back room.

We moved out the early next morning. Lianne was still very weak from blood loss, and for once Stephen was supporting her. None of us had slept at all. Natalie, Rachel, Stephen and I had assisted in helping Shannon deal with Lianne's wound, but it took a long time.

Roland spent the night doing what he and Shannon had talked about. Muffled screams crept out from the kitchen all night, and in the end, only Roland had emerged from the kitchen. We had only one bizarre piece of information to show for it.

They think they're under his command.

The man was clearly insane, Roland said, and in his delusion he'd described his "boss" as some kind of evil criminal mastermind, building an army to inflict his malicious intent upon the world. He talked about him as though he were human, detailing plans and generals. Claiming that he was there under direct orders from him.

What would a creature like him want with human allies?

Every one of us seven has a story. A few involve proxies similar to these guys, and they all acted differently, trying to achieve vastly different ends. And they were all insane. Of course they believe they're on the side of the supernatural abomination. They're madmen, psychotics and delusionals, driven insane by him, and trying to concoct a fantasy in their broken minds to guarantee them safety by putting them on the "winning" team.

Do any other bloggers know proxies who believe a similar thing? Is this widespread? I don't know.

But I'm tired, and I've seen horrible things, and I'm weary of everything. Every one of us is. We all look sick. None of us have slept in days. We've been moving at random, not for the car but for anywhere except that restaurant with the two corpses stuffed in the larder.

Anywhere but there. Sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Aaaaaaand back to Peter.

We're in a town, about three quarters of the way to the car. We've found a pretty hospitable squat, and we're setting up for the night. We're prepared for a fight. No-one's sleeping tonight. There are movements outside, in the dark.

Today's walk was long. We only decided to head here last night and had to get up early, and walk until late. It was the longest walk we've done in the time I was here. And every time I found myself faltering, I hear Natalie yelling at me that I better keep going or they'll leave me to straggle, maybe buy them some time. That maybe if I'm gonna be such a pussy, I shouldn't even be with them. That if I'm beaten by my own body, maybe I shouldn't be worrying about the proxies.

So I kept walking, and we reached the squat in the last hour of sunlight the summer evening was going to give us. We were all exhausted - Steven looked like he was going to collapse, and even Roland was breathing heavily - and I felt someone fall against me, their arm over my shoulder. I half expect Natalie to scream directly into my ear, but instead she says, softly, "You did well today."
I look around and she's grinning. And maybe it was the fact that it's hard one way or the other to notice someone's looks when they're yelling at you, or the sunlight setting behind her, or maybe it's that the only other females I've talked to in the last five days were a woman almost twice my age, a fairly emotionally damaged waif and a survivalist hardass, but Natalie is...kinda gorgeous.
And this sucks because I've never been able to talk to gorgeous girls. Or even pretty girls.
In fact, you know what? Girls as a whole? Not my specialty.

So I choked on saliva a little. Audibly.

She fell away, laughing so hard she doubled over. "Oh my god," she practically wept inbetween wheezes, "you are really super-easy to get wound up!"
And then Rachel and Roland and Lianne were laughing too, and I felt my face turn red.

And then Roland pushed me out of the way and drew his knife. Suddenly, Natalie and Shannon and Lianne were by his side, faces stony, weapons drawn.

We got inside the squat. No-one's put their weapons away since.

Monday, 15 August 2011

My first post.

Hey everyone. It's Rachel here. I've been having kind of a hard time as of late, what with being quite new to this whole being a Runner thing. So Peter's letting me use his blog as a way to vent. The problem is, it's a hard thing to put into words. But I'll try.

When I was a child, my favourite story was Little Red Riding Hood. I loved that story. It was scary, it had a great hero, and it ended happily ever after. As I grew older, I got into Angela Carter and having read The Company of Wolves, I went on to do English Literature coursework about the tale. I found out that the story has all these different variants, most of which are allegorical about rape or murder. It happens that very few have a happily ever after. And as bad as this sounds, my own fears over sexual assault actually make the story scary for me again. I gobbled up games like The Path.

And then a friend of mine disappeared.

She was walking through the woods on her way home from college, and the last anyone saw of her was that she was following "a tall bald man in a suit". Two days later, one of her school books arrived in an envelope through my door, covered in scribbles and bizarre symbols. There were long, meandering sections of bizarre, stream-of-consciousness writing and detailed drawings of her home, of school, of places she visited - drawings far beyond her meager artistic abilities. And in the middle of these drawings was always the same thing; a tall, bare tree.

That night, he appeared at my window. I did some research. I found his name. An urban myth, or so I thought. The Slender Man. The kind of name which would once have been whispered between superstitious gossips and voiced in hushed tones by a mother to keep her child on the path through the woods.

When they found my friend, Nona, she was a mass of wet meat and entrails, her body warped and distorted by some unnatural torturer.

And so I ran. I ran and I haven't stopped. And I understand why Little Red Riding Hood is scary. It's not the creepy sexual undertones, it's not the symbolism. It's about being all alone, in the woods, with something terrifying. Even at the grandmother's house, the creature is there. And in the end, there is no woodcutter, no strapping man to save the day. Red Riding Hood is devoured, and the moral of the story is that sometimes, the thing chasing you catches you.

That's why I cry when we're camping in the forest, five miles in every direction from anything but motorway. That's why I fight to stay in the city when we're there. Because we're alone in the woods right now. And the wolf is hungry.

- Rachel

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Men as Trees

So we're camped out and gathered around the fire and you know the drill by now. For summer, it's cold. No-one can relax. The fire we've got going isn't warming us. We're all just staring out into the black of the woods. The treetops block out the stars, and so beyond the shy glow of the fire, the wood is a gaping maw of blackness. Every sound amongst the mass of trees feels cacophonous. Every rustling leaf sends us pointing our Maglites into an unremitting layer after layer of tree trunks. Sometimes I think I see movement from one to the other, or even the outline of a tall, thin figure.

But it's just my imagination. You look for something long enough, you're gonna see it, whether it's there or not. Anticipation does odd things to the brain.

I had a dream about him last night. I dreamt that I was in the woods at night, just like I am now. I'm wandering through, alone, my torch much like it is now, a pin-prick amongst the blackness. Wandering aimlessly, searching for something I can't recall. The trees are bare, as though it's winter, and the mesh of their branches loom over me like giant fingers flexing. My eyes pass tree after tree. They surround me, growing tightly next to one another. Suddenly, ahead of me, a movement. A tree's branches droop, and the bark of the trunk and the white wood inside unfurls itself to form a torso and head, and the roots disengage themselves from the ground to form legs, and before I know it, the tree is him. Ahead of me. Staring in the total darkness. My torch light finds him in the black.

And then to my right, and to my left. And soon every one of these trees abandon their petrification and become like him. I can't run. I can't fight. I feel myself overwhelmed with something beyond fear -  a simple concept of utter, all-consuming hopelessness.

And then they begin, slowly, to move towards me.

When I awoke, my throat was raw. I'm told I was screaming.

The forest tonight is dark, and I can feel him out there. I look on every one of those trees, and I don't see the woods we're sleeping in. I see him. I see him in each and every one of them.

We'll be at the car tomorrow, which means we'll hopefully be in a new squat before nightfall. I won't miss the trees.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

On the road again, I just can't wait to get on that road again...

Title says it all. We're back travelling cross-country. We're heading back to the car. We managed to get a little money in the city, and we're putting it towards petrol. Everyone aches. Sleep on the hard ground and trudging dozens of miles with everything you own on your back will do that to you.

Rachel's faring the worst. As I said last time, she's not finding it easy to uproot herself like this every couple of days, especially to a girl who's used to a fair amount of domesticity. We found her only a little while after she'd run away from home, and she's still new to a lot of things, though under Lianne's watch, she's caught up quickly. Lianne's certainly been more patient than Natalie was or is to me, even now, or than Shannon is with just about any of us. But even with her support, Rachel's still faring poorly. She still cries at night. My tent is generally next to hers, and so I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who can hear her, and it's not my place to tell.

It is hard, of course. For all the good it did us, the security of brick walls can't be underestimated. Tents, even with locks on them and knives in our hands, are wide open to attack. That's more stress. More weight to carry.

I'm too tired to write right now. There'll be another, less rambling post soon.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Leaving the city.

We're off. He was in the squat last night. No-one saw him, but we know he was there. He left a note on an old work-surface in the kitchen, addressed to Steve. Poor guy almost wet himself.

It's not safe here.

We had almost a week of stability, of staying in one place. Too much time. Unsafe, we should know that by now. I guess our domestic instincts are still trying to root us to one place.

Rachel's still new to this. She's not complaining - she's very conscious about not being a burden on any of us - but she's clearly missing the stability of staying in one place. She was trying to argue that we should stay. Says Roland could take whoever came at us. But we all know that, the longer we stay, the more likely it is that the big one will find his way to us. And no-one likes their chances against him.

Packing is a drag. Getting to the next place even more so. But we all got to visit a laundry, and eat hot meals - can't risk a fire attracting attention when you're on the road - and we visited the swimming pool every day just to shower. We must have looked a very odd lot. But we're clean and fed and we have clean clothes, and when you're a Runner, when you're a Refugee, you take what you can get. You enjoy the good stuff while it lasts, because there's always another nightfall coming, and none of us can guarantee that we'll see the next daybreak.

So we pick up our stuff and move on to the next place.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Time is running out.

We've been in the city perhaps a little too long. Rachel says she saw someone moving in the shadows outside of the squat we're staying in.  Maybe she's paranoid. Being a Runner does that for you.

Maybe she's not.

Steve's shaking. He knows this one's after him. We all do. Natalie was practically begging Shannon and Roland to leave him to the wolves. He's not of any practical use to us. A computer programmer in his old life, he is, as I've said before, in no physical shape to be fighting anything. Thin and clumsy, slow, with no cardiovascular endurance whatsoever. Going straight from home-bound computer geek to Runner - no-one could do that. The long treks, the need to sprint for your lives, the sudden, vicious bursts of violence - they all require more energy, endurance, and psychological fortitude than someone who's never even seen the inside of a gym can muster. And of course, he's the one the Proxy is focused on. He's an Achilles' heel. One we can't afford. But her reasoning is no good. We don't leave one of our own behind.

"What if you were injured, and couldn't keep up? How would she feel if we abandoned you, all alone, to be killed by some psychopath?"
Natalie looked uncomfortable. "Well, what's the alternative?"
Shannon gruffly stated, "We'd carry you. There's always another nightfall coming, and we need to stick together or we'll all be killed. We need to be able to depend on each other having the rest's backs."
"He's useless, and worse than that, he's a liability!"
"He's one of us, Natalie. End of conversation." Roland crossed his arms and looked down at her. She looked to me, trying to find support, but I stood to the side, hands in pockets, in uncomfortable silence, and she wasn't going to get Lianne to back leaving someone to their fate. Furious, she stormed out.

That was an hour ago. Since then, she's just been sitting by one of the boarded-up doorways, sharpening her Ka-Bar machete, glancing through the boards every so often. Rachel's slumped next to her, sound asleep. How she can be anything other awake and terrified is beyond me. Steve's hiding on the stairway, as far away from doors and windows as possible, with Roland just above him, axe in hand. We don't know if he's coming tonight, but if he does, we have to be ready.

He'll try and kill us. We'll try and kill him. Pick your sides.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

You have reached your destination.

We're in the city. I won't tell you which one. I'm updating from a library right now - free internet access is always welcome. The comforts of a city are well worth the trek. And we're no safer here than we are anywhere else, but they come with enough advantages that we may as well make a beeline for them. As long as we keep moving.

I realised yesterday that I named this blog all wrong. I mean, we may have been driven from our homes by danger, but the idea of refuge is...naive. Nowhere is refuge from Him. Still, it's simple and catchy, I guess.

But where are my manners?

I'm Peter.

About eight months ago, I ran away from home. To be more accurate, I was forced away. I was seventeen at the time.

I kept moving around the country, like some kind of hermit. My problem just kept following me.

Eventually, one of the lackeys found me just outside a small town I'd been staying in, near Nottingham. He chased me. I ran.

Not fast enough. This was my first time in proper confrontation. I'd read about them, but I had no idea how fast someone gets when all they want is to rip you apart at the seams. I ran into a back alley, hoping to lose him. No good. He'd almost caught me. He was a thin man, but tall, with a long reach and a knife in his hand. If he caught me I was done. Vicious eyes behind a blank-faced mask. Hair hanging greasy from the side of his mask. An intimidating man even without the threat of danger.

Someone barrelled into the side of him. A tall, lightly bearded man, in excess of six feet, and muscular, clad in a black t-shirt and jeans. The other one - the proxy - clambered to his feet, but never even had time to face the man. He grabbed the proxy's arm and pulled him into the path of a powerful sideways swing of his fist, sinking deep and hard into his kidneys. He fell to his knees, groaning and coughing. The big man then stood back, ran forward and kicked the same spot again, like he was kicking a football. A crack of ribs. Shrieking from the Proxy.

I heard a rustling in the undergrowth. I whipped around to see five others standing nearby, watching. A tall black woman, a skinny, weedy looking man, and a troubled-looking middle-aged woman with a pretty teenage girl's hand on her shoulder. Behind me, the dull thuds of impact on flesh had become wet and heavy. The black woman shouted "Roland, that's enough!"

The big man, Roland, stood up. next to him, the thin man was bloodied and broken, his mask lying on the ground to reveal a face that was bruised and already swollen.

"Come on, Shannon, he can't chase us if he can't get up."

He placed a large foot on the proxy's leg. A look of distaste crossed Shannon's face. "Do what you have to do."

Roland raised his leg. I looked away and covered my ears. It still didn't stop the screams. The middle-aged woman looked horrified, and the teenage girl clutched at her shoulders.

Roland walked over beside me, the proxy's walled in his hand. Emptying the contents into his pocket, he looked down at me and said, in a grave voice, "Someone will have reported that. We need to go. Are you coming with us?"

I couldn't help but notice that his shoe was wet with blood.


So from then on, I moved with them. They showed me a lot - the things I should have with me, the things I wouldn't need. How to be safe. They were a friendly lot, in contrast with their introduction to me.

Shannon assigned Natalie to keep an eye on me. As patriarchal as this is going to sound, having a girl about my age looking after me was a blow to the ego. But she was excellent - physically fit, smart, and confident to the point of cockiness. You could see why Shannon deferred to her even more than to Roland. She did look down on me, insulting me when I wasn't keeping up, or was getting too relaxed, but these were flaws. She called me slow or weak because I was slow or weak - and after only a little while, I wasn't anymore. I realised that, since I'd ran, I'd been surviving purely by luck. In a real confrontation, like that other one, I would have been killed.

About a week later, we found Rachel. As much as I was looking forward to having my own charge, she was looked after by Lianne, the friendly middle-aged woman. Natalie's tough-love approach suddenly seemed like I'd drawn the short straw.

And that was two weeks ago. Since then, it's been the same. We walk. We camp. Sometimes we buy supplies. Sometimes we drive, if we've got the money. Rachel and I trying not to be a burden. And we always look out for one another. Because there's one mantra beaten into you as soon as you join up with these guys:

"There's always another nightfall coming."

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Surviving the Night

We camped where we were in the end. It was a risk. No-one slept well, and we all had on us our mediocre selection of weapons, as provided from Roland's...intimidating collection. All Ka-Bar weapons. Roland swears by them. The rest are in an SUV owned by Shannon, parked inbetween the city we're walking to and the town we last stayed at. Two or three days' walk, depending on whether some dickless little squirt of shit hurts his ickle leg again. Petrol's too expensive, and it's well parked as a supply cache, assuming some asshole doesn't rob it.

We move around a lot. We'll be back for it in a while.

Even though it was daylight, and the combination of visibility and witnesses made any real danger unlikely, Natalie, Shannon's second-in-command, still had her knife on hand as we walked through the woods this morning. It's dangerous. We can legally have these knives on us - we're campers to all intents and purposes, and the knives' blades are under ten inches - but the last thing we want is an oversuspicious policeman checking Roland or Natalie's tent bags. There's more than poles and canvas kept in there.

Fortunately, our assailant never showed as we feared he would. He's been following us for about two weeks, but we couldn't tell you what he looked like. He's wearing something over his face. Roland thinks he caught a glimpse of someone disappearing behind a wall two days ago, and that it was tall, in a brown leather jacket, but we can't be sure if it's just him or if we're just being paranoid. But we know he's there.

The centre of his obsession is Steve. We don't know if it's the weakest-of-the-pack thing, or it it's something else. But yesterday morning, about a minute after he woke, Steve was panicking, though he wouldn't tell us what it was about.

Rachel says she saw him slipping a piece of paper into the fire we were cooking on.

The biggest problem is that there's no way this guy is not connected with the other, bigger threat.

When you're travelling all day, and this light, you make do with what space you have. Even more so if you need this stuff on hand. To be honest, all you need is money and a passport, but one of those is easier than the other. And neither will make us safe.

Typing on a phone is a hassle. I'll see if I can get near a library with PCs when we reach the city.

Friday, 5 August 2011

And we begin...with a dilemma.

About halfway between last night's camp and the city we're going to be staying in, Steve's leg siezed up. Steve's definitely in the worst shape of any of us, stick-thin and with the cardio ability of an eighty-year old, and he's been finding it difficult with the camping gear and basically everything he owns on his back while we hike. But hell, the rest of us do it. Rachel can do it, and she's seventeen, and been one of us for two weeks. He's been at it since before me.

So we're stopped right now, sitting on our asses while the sun goes down, and we've been walking alongside a motorway of fields and bare hills, but wouldn't you know it, we're right near a forest. And this presents a problem. If it's not a small forest, we might not be able to get through it before it gets dark. We'll have to camp. We can't camp here, it's too close to the forest. We sure as hell can't camp in the forest. And if we go back, we'll lose progress. Progress we'll have to make again tomorrow. Which puts more distance between us and our destination, and even more time for things to go wrong.

Roland's Ka-Bar knife is just visible under his jacket in its scabbard. He called it a D2. Said the steel was special. We have options. Just not many.

Forests, you see, are His territory.

And every second we're near one - too near, like we are now, and will be for a while - we're exposed. Exponentially increasing danger. Him or the psychopaths He seems to accumulate.

So everyone turns to Shannon, even though Steve, Roland and Lianne are older, and Roland certainly more experienced. Shannon makes the calls. She has as long as most of us have been here.

I'm sitting on my sleeping bag bundle, my own knife in my hands, the same type as Roland's. I've never even used it. Roland taught me a move or two, but against some nutcase with murder in his eyes, I don't place a lot of faith in my abilities. Only Shannon and Roland are good, and only Roland good enough.

And I've realised suddenly that I'm afraid. I told myself I'd write this, that I'd try and reach out to other people in a similar position to us, but all I'm doing is writing about how, when you read this, we might already be dead.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, we're on the run. We've been driven from our homes and our families by...something that's rather hard to explain. That's where I got the blog title from.

Shannon's still thinking. Natalie's vocalising the pros and cons which she knows everyone already realised five minutes ago. Meanwhile the sun's setting and we're running short on time.