Friday, April 30, 2010


This is patrick, on josh's phone. We are outside of lexington, we have been in an accident. Evans is working on josh, he's hurt but evans doesn't think it's too bad. We have another car, just waiting for evans to get done.

we have to make the drive through lexington, we were detoured by a group of marauders.

keep watch for us, we will be on our way soon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ran Dry

Super fast update, so that no one back home makes any hasty decisions to come after us.

We're halfway home, but out of gas. We're in a little town whose name I didn't catch, and we had to push the car a quarter mile to get here. Not too many zombies around here, which is a surprise considering how dense this area has been packed. I think we'll have to spend another night here, as we're all bushed and the search for fuel is taking a lot of time. I really don't want to travel at night, and another day of rest will do us a lot of good.

I can't help but wonder what is going on back at the compound. I have managed to get a few calls off, but reception is pretty shoddy all around. I wish that the solar charger Evans was using for his phone would have worked on mine, I could have kept in touch much more easily.

I hope you're all doing well, and that we will see you soon. We're safe, and secure in this little house we found. Keep an eye out for us in the morning.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Pat made it back to us. Thank god that everyone and their mother had an iPhone, because the car he found had a charger in it. We're still in Raven at the moment, but we are sitting in the car, waiting to take off. Jess is driving, Evans and I are in the back seat, and Pat is going to do something really brave and extremely stupid. He's outside the car, dressed in so much clothing and what little armor he could salvage from the SUV that it's unlikely the zombies will be able to bite him.

But he's still out there, running through the crowd trying to thin it out. He's never been the most gifted student of the sword (nor have I, to be honest...) but he is doing a fantastic job right now. I just worry that he will get swarmed and fall, because enough of them could eventually tear through all his stuff. It should be only a few more minutes, and he will have thinned the herd out enough for us to drive through.

Cutting short here, need to be ready.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Man Gone

Patrick has been gone for a long time. He left us when a small break in the crowd outside gave him a window. There's a ball of ice where my stomach used to be. After three hours, I have to start seriously considering that he may be dead.

We thought about trying to draw them away again, but they apparently aren't going to take that bait, or they would have all followed Pat, instead of mulling around here. Hopefully their reluctance helped Pat to find a vehicle, or at least shelter.

My phone is about to die.

If this is my last communication until many of you back home see me, then please don't worry. Mom, please remember that we will be careful, and cautious. We will sit here and think about how to get out as long as it takes to figure out a plan. We might get lucky. We might die. But if we do, please, everyone at home remember to be human to each other. In a good way.

But do not, under any circumstances, come here looking for us.

I think we can do it. Shit. Ok, got to go. Hopefully see you all soon.

Monday, April 26, 2010


We're stuck in Raven at the moment. We managed to get to Doctor Evans, but now we're trapped in the store with him.

We thought we were being terribly clever. We drove through the town, me standing up out of the moonroof to get the attention of all the damn zombies following us. We wanted to draw them away and lose them, load up the doc and his supplies, and get the hell out of town. It was working, until the pothole.

It has been raining, and we didn't realize that the puddle we were driving toward was a massive hole in the road, deep enough to bog down the whole front end. So there we were, a giant swarm of undead behind us about a hundred yards, and the store ahead about the same distance. We booked it, made it through the door, and now the road is packed with them.

Evans is pissed. He's been trapped here for a long time, and from his point of view things are worse than ever. He's also really low on food, and we brought little to eat, enough for a few days at most. For us, this is just another challenge to face. We try to keep it positive-we're alive, unhurt, and still armed.

Ok, Evans is looking at me like I'm an idiot, for tapping away at my phone for so long. I need to help them come up with some kind of plan. We don't have any power here, so I have no way to charge it. Ideally, we will be out of here before it runs out of juice, but if not, I think it will last until tomorrow.

Wish us luck.

Wish I didn't have to end so many posts that way, but luck is all we have sometimes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Willie Nelson

Because I'm on the road again. Sorry, call me a fool with a deep love of music, especially all the old-school country I used to hear on the radio when I rode in my dad's car as a kid. I'm on the way to a town called, I shit you not, Raven, Ky. Not a whole lot could have pulled me away from the compound when so much is going on, especially when new folks have joined us and with such a raging debate going on. But this particular task I just don't want to risk with anyone else. Call it ego if you will, but my accomplishments speak for themselves, and when it comes to retrieving people, I trust my core group.

Pat is driving, Jess is up front with him. We're in a big SUV, trundling along at a stately twenty miles an hour. Damn zombies are crossing the road all over the place, and every so often we have to do some fancy driving to lose them. We're making this run to bring someone to us, a single person that thankfully, our contacts at Google were able to locate. He's an old army surgeon named Evans (a last name was all he would give us), and he wants to join us. He's been holed up in an old store almost since the beginning, living off the food there. I gather it's some sort of general store, since he tells us that it's all brick, and smack in the middle of town. And the middle of the town is packed tight with bodies. The moving, biting type.

I said before that we needed a doctor. This is still true, especially if we are going to survive long term, build a new society. We need someone to teach us, to give us the ability to do more than first aid, more than wound treatment. Hopefully he can make some of us decent surgeons, effective diagnosticians. He may not be our only chance at this, but he is our first and therefore best shot.

We're going to get in there, get him out, and bring him back with us. To do this, we will have to fight our way through hundreds if not thousands of zombies, get him out safely, and make it home without getting killed. That's a best case scenario, not even thinking about the possibility that there are marauders there, or any number of other possible threats. We'll get him out.

But I have no idea how.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beautiful Violence

I have seen many things in my life that have taken my breath away. Sights that have given me hope, filled me with joy, and touched my heart. No experience I have ever had moved me the way yesterday did. 

A line of vehicles hundreds of feet long, packed and strapped all over with all manner of supplies, so dense with items that no one car had more than two people in it. They all had the hard look of people who had been through much, the deep lines around the eyes of folks who have spent a lot of time watching all corners of their world for threats. 

So imagine what it did for me to see the light suddenly bloom behind those thousand yard stares. It was beautiful beyond any description. Many of them wept openly at first sight of the compound, the work going on here, the tantalizing hints of normal life. 

And they bring children. Many of them are families, finding the strength to survive in each other. And all of them made the choice to come here. 

It was altogether another experience to see them fight off the large horde of zombies that followed them in. They had been picking them off for a while, and when they pulled up, we were all ready. 

You can say you know someone for any number of reasons. Time spent together, long time friendships, ideas shared late at night after your passion is spent. But no act compares to the bittersweet dance of violence in the name of survival. Once you join in the motions of death with a person for the purpose of mutual survival, you reach an understanding that cannot be matched. 

They are here now, and are doing their best to blend into our home. We are having some serious talks about some recent decisions around here, and doing what we can to reassure. It's stressful, but good. Most of us have redoubled our hope for the future with so many people joining us. The feeling that we are truly building something, an organic thing that grows and changes, is strong. 

Friday, April 23, 2010


Another short post today, for two reasons. One is that I am feeling like crap, my head is killing me and I feel like I have the flu. The other is that while I am feeling really shitty, I am still working to cool heads about this whole crime and punishment argument. We are expecting the first new arrivals just after lunch, and we've been scrambling to make space, among the other preparations that come with accepting new people into the compound. A busy day. 

I feel very strongly that I am right about this. I just can't see any other ways to address some extreme behaviors, not any that seem moral to me. And of course, since my sense of right and wrong as well as my morals, are dynamic and now based in this zombie-filled nightmare. My main problem at this point is that no other reasonable options are being presented. 

So while we are getting busy today, let me know what your thoughts are. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Will to Proceed

Treesong posted some comments on a few posts, putting on the written record what he has already expressed in words, to the rest of us. A link to that post can be found here. I will reiterate why some of our positions on punishment have been chosen, because I feel very strongly about this. Also, because not a lot else is going on at the moment, as our normal routine hasn't been interrupted, and our (hopefully) new arrivals have yet to...arrive. Yeah.


First, I ask this: what should be done to a person that rapes a woman, caught cold at it? A child? Under the laws that used to be enforced across this country, that person would go to prison. Possibly suffer chemical castration, but not actual castration. What should happen to a person that kills one of the few remaining people on earth in cold blood, not for self defense or defense of another? Again, the old idea was to stick them in a prison.

It was basically the same solution to every crime. Because people, somewhere along the way, got this idea that criminals had rights just like everyone else. So prisons became places where criminals went to work out, get three squares a day, and learn from other criminals how to be better at committing crimes. I'm not saying that incarceration was a walk in the park, at all. But I am saying that such a system did not work then, and cannot possibly work now. So I'm open to suggestion.

The system I have written about previously is one built on realistic needs, and from a strong desire to avoid many of the pitfalls of the old ways of doing business. Prisons were a huge drain on resources, and essentially allowed offenders to eat food provided by others while doing no work of value. We can't afford the manpower to run such a facility, and frankly, I am frightened of the mindset that thinks such an obviously broken system should be reinstated.

I am all for individual liberty. I think that anything anyone wants to do that doesn't hurt anyone else (and in our case) doesn't endanger the group is fine. So no nitpicking here. But I most certainly do expect people to go right one being people, making mistakes to varying degrees. Honest mistakes can often be forgiven, but outright choosing to do wrong cannot.

I am reminded of Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", a novel set in the future on the moon, during the Lunar revolution. Many of these same issues are at play. In that story, the citizens of Luna are both incredibly polite and willing to kill at the drop of a hat--both environmentally required to survive there, long term.

We are in a similar scenario. Few of us left, compared to the vast population we once had, and faced with tough choices. Tree said in his comment that these ideas might be necessary in the short term, but long term, we need to build a society that does not need to use these punishments. In part, I agree. But I think we can only live in a society that does not need to use them by living in one that uses them as a deterrent.

So, once more, I ask you; What to do to a man who rapes? Do you put him in a cell and feed him, locking him away from others, keeping him warm and safe, siphoning food from the mouths of those who did not commit an atrocious act? What do you do with him after his sentence is up? Can you release him back into the fold, thinking that his time alone has taught him the error of his ways? Please.

The reason this system didn't work is because that is what you do to children. You put them in a corner. You give them a time out. The reason society was already fraying at the seams is because far too many children grew up and realized that for most crimes, the punishment had not changed. Look at history if you doubt me--true crime was much less common back when people were killed publicly, flogged, and given punishments that fit the crime.

The difference is that we won't be accusing folks of crimes for political gain, or to control the populace, like so many governments and churches did before modern times. We want to combine the effectiveness of more brutal punishment that fits the crime with a modern view, that it should be used if for no other reason than to deter heinous acts.

A man commits premeditated murder, he dies, because who among us wants to let a man who kills for revenge or from rage to go on living, risking others? I believe in basic human rights very strongly, but I also believe that certain acts remove those rights. You might call me arrogant for thinking that I have the right to judge this, and that's fine. You have your own views. But I will do anything I must to ensure that the most basic needs are met for those around me, and safety is number one.

If needed, I will personally castrate a man who commits violent sexual acts against another. I will kill a man who does so to a child. What punishment seems right to you? Could you live with yourself knowing that you shut him away, hale and unharmed, for a period of years, only to let him out in the future, to do it all over again? Personally, I don't understand how juries, judges, and lawmakers could go on after making such a decision, knowing that they had only put a man's nose in the corner.

People have to know that there are consequences, real ones, that are based on our need to keep living in this world. Instead of creating a system that has no real deterring effect for harming others, instead I choose, WE choose, to create one that will instill a healthy fear of consequences. Because sane, rational people will make one of two choices: either choose to act in their own interests and do no harm, or to knowingly commit such an act, and accept the results.

I wouldn't want to live in a society where people think that there is a third option. If we harm none, no harm is brought upon us. If we harm others, we are harmed in equal turn. Living by any other code seems total madness to me.

I'll let you decide.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dust Settles

Over a long enough period of time, you can get used to anything. Looking back over the last month, I realize that I have slowly acclimated to the threat of constant attacks, by man or zombie. I also sort of got used to the idea that it seemed like there were no large groups like ours left that weren't out to rape and pillage.

But man, was I wrong.

One of the "small groups" I contacted the other day has turned out to be a lot bigger than ours. More than a hundred. They are the reason this part of the country still has power and thus, internet. They have made a power station their home (about half of them worked there before the fall) and keep it running. They tell me that this won't last for much longer, perhaps two months if they can continue hauling coal from the local storehouses. Once those caches are gone, no more electricity unless we make it ourselves or go mine more coal. When that happens, they might come here, they might not.

A few of the other groups are bigger than expected. The crew from Cynthiana is waiting on Little David to get there (he's from there originally) and then they head toward us. Forty people, all packing supplies, weapons, and a strong willingness to work. I couldn't be happier.

Some of them managed to check out this blog on their phones, and I guess they shared with the others. It took a few hours to convince them that we aren't interested in ruling anyone's life, nor especially wanting to punish folks. There was a lot of worry among the various groups about some of my posts, what it might mean. Some of these people haven't had to fight a living person since all this began, and maybe think that we are just crazy for fights. I hope that our talks with them have alleviated at least some of this, but I do understand why, based on what I have written, people would be afraid. I scare me too, at times.

So far, no new conflicts have popped up. Ellen seems to be dealing with her anger...perhaps chopping wood when she would normally be off duty is teaching her something. Maybe swinging an axe is just a great way to blow off aggression. Or, less likely but admittedly possible, she's just enjoying the practice for a bloody spree of axe murders.


She's doing fine. I have talked to her quite a bit, she still feels as strongly as she once did, but realizes the error in taking out her frustration the way she did.

Darlene is going with Little David. It'll be good for them to get away for a while.

Other news...

Patrick is being followed around by several women now, and he's just as oblivious as ever. Which is funny, since he reads this blog. One of them will trip him eventually. Hell, maybe all of them. Hope they give him breaks in between.

My brother Dave is working on some designs for new buildings he wants to start work on sometime down the road, after we get the manpower. He wants to tear down some houses and build new structures in place of them, sort of like apartment buildings but designed around our current needs. We'll need them if we keep getting more people rolling in. He's also working on the logistics and final design of the wall we're going to put up around the entire compound. That is priority one.

Mom and Gabby are working like crazy in our makeshift clinic. Everyday someone gets a cut, hits their head, or does some other thing to get hurt that requires a nurse to check out. We take our health very seriously around here, and to that end both of them are trying to locate a doctor, anywhere, that is still alive and is willing to relocate.

Haven't seen much of Al, Elizabeth, or many of the others lately. I have been taking it easy, as my damn kidney is still tender (but healing well), and have been busy with almost daily committee meetings, trying to decide on all manner of things, and then trying to figure out how to get supplies to act on those decisions, and then how to budget our limited get the idea. This administration stuff has been going on since day one, but since we went and got ourselves an elected "government", seems like everyone has ideas. Problem is, we're a group made up of smart, realistic, and tough people--so the ideas are usually so good, we have to try and figure out a way to implement them.

Which leaves me less time to work on other stuff. I still put in time building, chopping wood, and all the rest, but writing this is getting harder and harder. I want to--the urge to keep whoever is left to read this informed and hopeful that others are out there is too strong not to. I am getting so busy, in fact, that I may have to start getting others to cover this for times when I just can't, and may have to slow down how much I am doing, labor-wise. I'm getting about five hours of sleep right now, and more work to come.

So, I'm off. Spent too much time here already. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Today is my first wedding anniversary. This isn't the world I thought I would live in on this day, but there's no use crying about it. Just letting you all know, as today I will be spending my time with the wife. Back to normal on the morrow, but for today, I am all hers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Google Lives!

Today's post will have to be short, but there is good reason. Overnight, as many of you who use Gmail might know, Google sent out a mass message to every user of their services. It seems a big group of engineers and other employees have made the google campus into a bit of a fortress, and since they added all those solar panels and other renewable energy sources, they have been able to keep blogger and other services up and running. I have managed to contact them back, and have been learning some very interesting news, most of which I will have to share later. But for the record, that is why I am posting so early and so short. I don't want to waste a lot of time, just in case we get cut off from them.

Updates: since my post yesterday and the subsequent announcement to our group of the decisions reached by the committee, several people in the compound have expressed their unhappiness at, most particularly, the idea that we would whip someone as punishment. I will say that this idea was a bone of heavy contention even among the committee, but let me assure you, once more.

We do not want to use this option, if at all possible. But it IS an option. I have said before that we live in a harder, more brutal world. While we strive to be as civilized as possible, when one of us steps across that line, endangering the group or selfishly harming a person (thus reducing our capacity to defend ourselves), strict and severe punishment needs to be available. Because none of us want to die, or for the community to die--so we set a harsh deterrent. This is universal; it applies to me just as much as any other person. It applies to my own mother. But if we act with reasonable restraint and continue to do as we have done to defend and protect each other, I see no real issue.

Moving on: we have established contact with a few smaller groups, thanks to the team at google. These survivors have no internet access, but the google crew have managed to take control of several of the telecom systems abandoned around the country, and have been able to track the movement of cell phones near us. They handed us the numbers, we called them. A few seem promising, and relatively close to us; one group is in Cynthiana, another in Winchester. One is in Ohio. We are actively trying to gauge numbers and see if any of them want to pull up stakes and come here. I'm still a bit wary of bringing in strangers, but to really start over, to have some chance to rebuild against the constant threat of herds of zombies coming against us, we need to be united. Many scattered groups are much weaker than one large group standing as one.

More to come tomorrow, I am trying to coordinate too much at once. Hopefully, this is just the first step.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fits the crime

Once again, I have to thank Patrick for saving our bacon. He has been my best friend for a few years, which is funny since he is as conservative as I am liberal. While all of us discussed our plans forward in respect to what system of justice and/or punishment was the right fit for our growing community, Pat played the part of silent observer. I thought at first that it might be because he didn't want to offend some of us with what he would consider offensive ideas, but after a while he did begin asking questions.

When we came to agreement that it would be unwise to just go for the old "eye for an eye" routine and would have to create some system of graded responses, Pat was the one to suggest the most practical and pragmatic route. Old school military style justice.

Allow me to explain:

The military handled a lot of discipline problems in-house, because in combat situations, even in simply combat-ready situations, every soldier counts. You can't just lock a guy (or gal) up for every crime, you need them to be ready if needed. Our situation is, in all practical ways, the same.

It breaks down into three basic levels. (Bear with me, as this will be a dynamic and loose system, changing as circumstances require.) For first offenses of crimes that do not endanger the group or cause serious injury to a person, the violator will be held for a period of no longer than a day in confinement while awaiting judgement and sentence (or release if found innocent). Ellen has been held longer than that already, but we weren't really prepared for this, which is why we set that limit for any future cases. Sentences for these crimes will include confinement when not on duty, hard labor, and when deemed necessary by the committee, extra "combat" duty, or any situation in which the danger of serious injury or death is elevated.

For crimes that cause serious injury or endanger the group or compound, as well as other undefined serious offenses, punishment can include any of the previously stated, and may also include a number of lashes.

This might seem to go too far, and there was a lot of argument about it, but I think this is the direction we will have to go. Merely the threat of lashes, historically, has been enough to demure most people from committing serious crimes. And we agree that in cases, for example, where a person might accidentally let information slip that would lead to danger for the group would not fall into a category punishable in this fashion. We see whipping as the option reserved for those who willfully cause serious injury to others without just cause, willfully endanger the group, etc.

The most serious crimes (and again, this is by no means a complete list at present) are punishable by all of the previous, plus special punishments reserved for the type of crime. In cases of obvious and provable rape, the offender will be castrated. Messily. For cases of rape in which the facts cannot be clearly proven, we reserve the right to severely punish the offender short of castration. This one is tough. The abuse or molestation of children, premeditated murder, and deliberate sabotage (treason) are all punishable by death.

It has been suggested that we keep banishment as an option, but to be honest, I think that doing so to our looter captives before was a bad idea, from a pragmatist's point of view. It made a lot of sense at the time, politically, as it satisfied the majority and kept the peace, but the consensus among us in the committee is that ultimately, it created more danger for the group. Outsiders who come to us with the hope of coexistence will be welcomed. Those who come looking for a fight will get one. If they survive the experience, they will be our captives from then on. Doing useful work for us, mind you, but never to leave again. There is the chance that such a captive would be allowed to become a citizen of our little community here, if they manage to convince every member of the committee of their sincerity and of being truly rehabilitated.

Whew! I didn't plan for this post to become such a dissertation on our plans, but I am glad. We all want you to know that we are thinking about our needs as we grow into a true community. If our numbers continue to increase, we will need to spend a lot of time on thinking about things like this.

All punishments are to be made public, as are the acts that required them. Ellen, for her assault on Darlene, will be serving one week of hard labor, chopping wood. She will be required to stay in her room at her home when off duty. The particular form of labor for this offense is being used due to our current effort to clear all of the trees from this block, and to stockpile the wood for cooking down the road. It is my wildest hope that we will only need to resort to this type of judgement system sparingly. I trust that most of our group will act, if not in a totally civilized manner, at least in their own rational self-interest. We don't want to gather to pass judgement, nor to punish if we can help it. But we will.

Off to help Pat with putting up the post that will serve for holding anyone who receives lashes. Just seeing it there will likely be enough to deter most serious offenses. I know thinking about it makes my stomach go cold, and I haven't even done anything.

Oh, one more thing, totally unrelated. Just another example of the giant pile of awesome that is Patrick--he has been keenly interested for a long time in blacksmithing. When my brother David found this out, he made a little trip to some of the horse farms out on Versailles road. Bless those rich bastards for having the greenbacks to keep ferriers on duty. We now have all the important bits to start a smithy. Pat has some practical knowledge of how this works, and a great deal of self-education on it, so hopefully he will be able to teach himself the fine art of working with metal the way the first smiths did--by trial and error, and experience.

We also plan to go steal those horses. Gas is still fairly plentiful, but every day takes us that much farther from a time when refineries were running and tanker trucks were still delivering. So, horses seem like a good idea. Thoroughbreds, champion horseflesh just sitting there munching grass, waiting for someone to come take them for a ride. Got to love Kentucky.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


We're still working on a solution. For now, our prisoner (for lack of a better term) Ellen, is still confined. Mind you, she's in a bedroom with an adjoining bath, so she's not exactly suffering. But we are still mulling over the options for addressing this sort of behavior. We need to develop responsible but effective deterrents and punishments, since pretty much none of us believe in the effectiveness of the old jail and prison system.

The crux of the matter is this: the majority think that a good general rule is that the punishment should fit the crime. But are we going to administer a beating to this woman who lost her temper and picked a fight? I don't see that doing much good for her. In fact, I would think that particular response would just make her more angry, more likely to fly off the handle, and thus more of a threat to others.

So we're stuck.

And we're debating. Which slows down the work around here, as people talk and discuss. Which is why we should have some sort of rules or laws or what have you set down before shit like this happens. This situation is really making the case for being proactive rather than reactive.

I am only taking a short break to write this, and then I go back out and work on the wall we're building around my block, and do my best to keep us all on task. It's sort of an exercise in futility.

You know, the one thing I thought would be different about living in a post-apocalyptic world was that people would be more focused on the really important stuff, and no one would be fooling around with unneeded rules and laws, interfering in our lives. As it turns out, people will always be people, with all the ups and downs, and someone will always have to be the bad guy and call others out. Someone has to enforce even the minimum rules we have set.

So it's me and the committee together again today, after lunch. Hopefully we can accomplish something.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Some days you just can't win. I realize this is an old and hackneyed saw, but the truth of it is inescapable.

Last night, after a long day of what I thought was friendly togetherness, we had ourselves a fight. Not zombies or marauders for once, but a good old-fashioned fistfight. I think that most of us are adult enough to be able to get over a fight with relative ease, brush off the dust and get along. As it turns out, though, some folks just can't get over their hate and anger. 

In the aftermath, we found out what the fight was about. But at the time all we saw was fists flying and dust clouding about them. It took quite a lot of us to get them apart, both of them are pretty damn strong. 

Darlene held her own pretty well, considering that she got blindsided. Apparently one of the women that we rescued from the hotel has been harboring some pretty harsh feelings toward her. In most of the debates and discussions, Darlene has been siding with the moderates. She has tried very hard to move past the atrocities that happened to her and the other women, attempting to use her reason to decide, rather than her hate.

Darlene was rescued early on, from a smaller group of that had abducted her. This isn't something that she shared very openly before, telling few people, and I have respected her privacy. She feels that she made an error in confiding in others who had been imprisoned and abused, trying to provide a little empathy. Now she wants me to make the message clear: as a victim of rape and torture, if she can overcome, then so can anyone. She implores me to make a point clear: this is not to denigrate anyone, but rather a positive statement about the strength and willpower of the women she has come to know. Her mistake was not in sharing, as she  is having me do on her behalf now, but in not making clear her intention to make decisions with the better angels of her nature, rather than allowing hatred and anger, however reasonable, to rule. 

Some of the others seem to see this as a sort of betrayal. I see why they feel that way, but it's hard to feel pity for a person that has to solve her disagreement with violence. The fact that her attacker had been drinking only complicates the issue. I mean, all of us around here know that sometimes people disagree and get into fights. I guess you had to see it. It was vicious. She was aiming to injure or maim. So now we have exactly what I was hoping to avoid--a prisoner, someone in detention. I don't intend to imply that we are going to keep her there as a punishment, only that we have to do something with here until we make a decision about what to do. 

But we shouldn't have to wait, or figure out anything. We should have been more proactive about what our specific laws or rules would be, few as they are likely to be, so that we could administer punishment and move forward. Now, more talk, more debate. More dissent from many sides, more mired arguments going nowhere. 

Damn it. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mourning and Reflection

Yesterday afternoon, an enormous swarm of zombies came into Frankfort from the direction of Louisville. We estimated the number at somewhere around five thousand. They stuck together in a huge mass, and it was a very lucky thing that we caught them before they got close enough to overrun our defenses. Seven of us took off to draw them away from our home. My brother has been working on some improvised weapons to combat large hordes like this, and we got our test.

Let it be enough that I can tell you that we succeeded. We killed a lot of them, but our main purpose was to point them any other direction but ours. In the struggle, we lost two people. We have enough here that I have a hard time finding the chance to get to know anyone very well, and the most I can tell you is that they were with the large group of folks that came in with my brother.

Something Treesong has said a few times has stuck with me, and is partially the reason we have had a morning like this one.

He says that part of the reason we call them zombies is because the easy label and the visceral reaction it brings makes killing them more bearable. He cannot help but see them as people with a sickness. In sentiment, I agree with him. These used to be people, and doing violence to them does hurt. But the idea that they are sick people is false, yesterday made that very clear to me.

One of our people was bitten in the neck. I watched her bleed out, the powerful arc of scarlet gradually weakening after we pulled her into the back of the pickup. I saw the moment of transition, watched as her eyes lost focus, her breath stilled. I saw with perfect clarity the moment of death, unmistakable and stark.

I watched her stand up, and come for us. This was not a person afflicted by a disease, but a body, animated by something, freed of the soul once bound to its every motion. That didn't make it any easier to shoot her in the face, this person who only minutes before had fought valiantly by my side.

I intend to take a very detailed look at the physiology of the undead. Now that things are calming down, my curiosity has time to be sated. Many of us want to know how and why this is happening, and with luck, we will discover it.

But I digress. Yesterday only cemented in my mind that there is a need within us to remember, to keep in our minds what we have lost, if for no other reason than to keep some tenuous grasp on what humanity once was. So, last night, we all gathered and discussed having a time of mourning. It began at dawn.

Many people are gathered in the common area of my block, sitting on the grass and talking about loved ones now gone, missing the small things in life, wishing for simpler times. Some are lamenting a home far away, still covered in the obvious wounds garnered in a struggle to escape, while nursing the far more subtle injuries that make them toss and turn each night. Others sit around the edges, in twos and threes, sipping courage and watching silently, mourning blended so tightly with anger that moving on may be an impossible task.

I sit here in my house with all the comfort I will ever need. My wife is laying across my lap, my mother across the room talking with my best friends. In a short while we will go outside and truly gather, to remember as one the world we have left behind in everyday life, if not in memory.

But first, I have some things that I want to say, because they should be said and the record of them kept somewhere, in the event that we as a society and a species end up spiraling into the barbarism that seems the wont of some survivors.

I want to mourn today, but I find myself feeling very lucky, personally. I have around me so many people that mean more to me than I will ever be able to express in words. I have retained much while so many others have lost it all. I say this not to gloat, though I know that some will see this as an inappropriate fact to point out. I wish that those who have lost everything but their own lives would join with us as a family, grow with us all as we forge ahead in this difficult and trying life we share. If I have more than you, then come sit in our circle, and my family, my friends, can become yours as well.

I mourn the loss of so many good souls. But far more important than what has been lost is what should be held onto with dear life: the aspects of ourselves that define us as human beings. We should remember compassion for others, more important than ever as new survivors with little left to them join us in trickles. We should remember understanding, that we never again fall into the trap of refusing to grow and change because we are unwilling to listen. We should remember generosity, the only currency we have left. We should remember patience, so that those who hurt have the time they need to grieve and grow past the pain.

We should remember love, for what better motivation to protect and survive exists?

We should remember hope, because without it, why survive at all?

Remember all of these things, and keep them in your heart, mind, and actions each and every day. We can be practical, and hard, and even brutal when needs demand it. But in our softer moments, when we share the stories of our day, our lives, and sit together in the darkness, we need to always carry with us what it is to feel these things, and smile.

We are people, as different as snowflakes and blades of grass, but now more than any other time, we must remember those commonalities that we share, one and all. The ties that bind us are the skein upon which our future is woven.

Don't let them fray.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Forlorn Hope

Treesong here. Now that I've made it to The Compound, Josh has given me access to the blog. I'll probably use this sparingly because I have my own writing to do, and an unfortunate amount of other work to do. I feel a need to write something now that I'm here, though, so here goes.

I'm capitalizing The Compound because that's what people call this place. I'm hoping we get a more inspiring name for it eventually, but in the meantime, it'll do.

The Compound itself is an inspiration. I don't know how Josh and everyone else in this community managed to build a castle, even an ad hoc wood and brick and metal one, in such a short amount of time.

Actually, I take that back. I do know how they were able to do it. In the short time I've been here, I've already seen what hard workers they are. There's some serious tension here -- but the work of building and growing and patrolling seems to be their distraction from all of the in-fighting and the pain, so they throw themselves into it fully. Now that I've had some time to rest and recover, I've started joining them in the work.

Words can't describe what any of us have been through. The final incident at Gaia House, though, was the worst thing I've seen since the first wave came into town. At first, I was frustrated and ill because I thought the presence of Josh and Steve's rescue team had triggered the Marauder attack. But once the adrenaline wore off and we were on the road, I realized that the Marauders were probably just coming to kill us all anyway. The rescue effort is almost certainly the reason any of us are alive today, and for that I am forever grateful.

It's hard to say that, though. It's hard to say that I'm grateful to be alive when so many people have died. A part of me -- a very real, deep, visceral part of me -- wishes I had just died with them. For better or worse, though, I'm mostly just numb now, spending almost all of my waking hours focused on actions and strategies of survival rather than what has been lost.

When the first wave came, thousands of people died in Carbondale. Thousands in a single day, in a town of maybe 25,000. But we were in hiding, so the high body count seemed almost abstract at first -- like a mass extinction that took place while we were sleeping in our makeshift shelters. But our last moments in Carbondale were gruesome, brutal, personal.

I lost a lot of friends in the span of a few heartbeats -- a lot of good people, people with big and tender hearts, most of whom would have argued in defense of these Marauder's lives, even after what they've done. And yet, the Marauders seem to have no mercy, no conscience, no basic human empathy or compassion. They just take what they can from us, then murder us. It's that simple.

A part of me is shaken to the core by this. And from the stories I've heard, this area is plagued by a similar menace. Most areas probably are -- which to me is more sickening than the mindless violence the "zombies" direct at us.

The "zombies" have an illness. What's the Marauders' excuse?

A part of me just wants to hunt down these Marauders with a ruthless brutality worthy of the soulless monsters they've become. I know now what it feels like to fire a gun, and I want to feel the weight of that recoil pressing against me as I fire again and again into a hoard of Marauders, watching the hot steel rip through them one by one until none of them are left standing.

But another part of me still recoils in horror at the thought of violence. When I close my eyes, I can still see the twisted faces of my friends dying all around me. I can still smell the blood and guts and piss and shit of my murdered friends scattered on the lawn of a formerly quiet and peaceful community center. The weight of a gun in my hand feels far too heavy -- not because I'm weak, but because I know I have the strength and the skill and the will to use it. And the thought that I will have to use it again -- and again, and again -- to defend the ones I love is too much for me to bear.

With that said, though, there is still cause for hope, however forlorn we may all feel at times. In my moments of solitude, I let the horror of it all rush back in. But those moments are few and far between. For the most part, now that I'm mostly on my feet again, I find myself quite busy, and surprisingly full of hope. We are alive, we are strong in numbers, and The Compound actually has a shot at carrying us through until the last of the zombies are dead. (I hate calling them zombies, but it's hard not to, given their current state. Besides, it lends a darkly humorous slant to an otherwise horrific and soul-crushing situation.)

My main concern at the moment is not zombies, or even outsiders, but inner stability of The Compound. It seems to me like Courtney has been ostracized for advocating mercy, which I've been very sad to see. It also seems to me like the Carbondale crew hasn't fully found a place in our new community yet. This is partially due to the fact that we're all in various states of shock given the fact that we just watched a lot of people we know die all at once. But it's also due to other factors such as cultural differences, and the fact that we were a sudden influx of refugees rather than a trickle of individuals. But these all seem like decent, hard-working people, so I have high hopes that with time spent working side by side, we'll learn to get along.

I haven't had a chance to talk to the other Carbondale survivors yet about whether or not they want me to mention them by name. If you're from Southern Illinois and want to know who's here, let me know in private.

For people who know me, I will say that my friend Aur is not with us, but is with his family and a few friends. They are well-fortified and well-stocked at an undisclosed location. Also, you may be surprised to hear that Rich Whitney, who was the Illinois Green Party's gubernatorial candidate before the apocalypse, is alive and uninjured and has made the journey with us.

Rich came in third place last election cycle, carrying 10% of the statewide vote. In spite of this relative celebrity, he's a very down-to-earth and hands-on member of the community. Some of us have joked (rather darkly) that in light of the rumored destruction of our state capitol, the office of Governor should fall to him.

Rich played a pivotal role in organizing our camp and was somewhat reluctantly elected our Director shortly before the fall of the center. True to his pre-apocalypse beliefs, however, he still holds out hope (however grim) for recreating some semblance of a democratic society once we've dealt with "the pandemic" and its consequences. The whole ordeal has shaken him terribly, and he seems rather ill and sullen at times. I suppose a lot of us do. But his eyes brighten when he talks about the prospect of building grassroots democracy among the survivors. He was passionate about such things before the apocalypse, and now I think it may be what keeps him going.

I think I'll end on that hopeful note. Besides, even with my lingering exhaustion, there is other work that needs to be done, and I think some people are growing impatient with my rest and my typing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Demon in a bottle

Pretty much constant pain has given me a lot of time to think about drugs. In part, how I am not taking any for the pain, and how much I wish I could. There are several reasons for this. One is that since we don't have access to a lot of the diagnostic tools we once took for granted, we have no idea how much damage has been done, and what effect pain medicine would have on me. Another is that I am already very distracted by the agony in my back, and I don't want to be stoned on top of that when a wave of zombies breaks through the barriers and walks the streets of the compound. 

This particular thought has been ricocheting around my skull for most of a day. When I agreed to be "leader", I think most of us had in mind nothing more than a moderator for debate, and a judge to settle arguments. I made it a point that I wanted to be able to set rules, and knowing that I would have to set reasonable ones, common sense ones, or be voted out made it clear, to me at least, that I wouldn't be able to abuse my power any longer than it would take to cast a vote. After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that we have to talk about drugs. 

You see, it's all about perspective. Before the collapse, I was either way on drugs. I didn't take them (unless prescribed, of course), but neither was I necessarily against people using them for recreation. I mean softer things, like smoking pot, not hard drugs that ruined lives like Meth, heroin, of cocaine. I guess add alcohol to recreational drugs, even though it was legal, because it screws up your brain just as much.

Now, though, I think the committee and I should talk about this. I know a few people around here have been getting drunk now and again when not on duty. While this appears harmless and so far has been, what happens if this spreads and many more do so? When folks drink on duty? Do we get mauled in our sleep or shot in our backs if zombies or marauders (thanks for that word, Treesong) attack us and our sentries are wasted? I know that most of you will say that people will express self control, will not risk so much for so little, and to that I have two responses. The first is snarky:

Yeah, people are well known for self control. 

The second is that addiction is self-inflating, causing the addict to get more and more out of their head. I know a few of the women from the hotel have been swigging whiskey quite a bit...and can I blame them for wanting to dull the edge of those memories? Not really. But it does worry me. I used to enjoy having a good night of binge drinking now and again, but now the idea that I would be at anything but my sharpest at all times makes my skin crawl. 

Not to say that prohibition is the only option. That's why we have to talk about this, so that reasonable use does not become a major issue. I admit that I am betting on the intelligence and creativity of my fellows to find a solution. Any thoughts? 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ethical Considerations

A comment was posted on "The Battle of Carbondale". It is repeated here in full, and unedited:

I'm glad that you got all your family and friends out of my area because if you ever come back again it will be the last thing you ever do! Do you even consider the your actions before you go threw with them. Did it even cross your mind that the wall your brother blew up might serve a purpose. Thanks to you the one side that we knew that was free of zombies was breached. They over ran our defenses and my wife died saving our children's lives. You and every one you love and care for should thank what ever god looks over this hell on earth that they still live, if it weren't for them all your lives would be forfeit. You laughed at my traps as you drove away from here, be warned you won't laugh if you ever come back. Pray that my children have long lives. 
I read this, and my first reaction was sadness. But after thinking about it for a while, I came to other conclusions. I have been pondering what constitutes morality and ethics in the here and now. What are the definitions or right and wrong? Are they absolutes that exist independent of the changes in society, in reality? Or are they dynamic ideas that must shift and change to suit the needs of survivors?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely protective of children. The idea that I would put kids in danger needlessly is insane. I won't sit here and debate the points in this post, because the author has a completely valid argument. From his point of view, I committed a terrible crime. From mine, we took necessary steps to accomplish our goals.

But in general, I can make some statements. My morality is based on practical need to accomplish things. Our overall goal is to keep people alive. To that end, I will take almost any step required. Would I blow another hole in that wall of junk to get back into Marion if it meant saving the lives of people I love? Almost certainly. Would I kill a man who held a weapon to one of them? Yes, without qualification.

Would I kill a man for the threat he posed? Before the fall, I would have laughed and said no. Now, I would have to carefully gauge how plausible the threat was, how capable he was of doing it. If I came to the conclusion that he could or would, I would kill him in cold blood, and probably not feel too bad about it. Because knowing that all it would take for he and I to coexist was simply the mutual desire to do so, and knowing that he would refuse so simple an arrangement would make it clear to me that such a person could contribute nothing to the sum of society.

In short, my view on right and wrong is now, by need, defined by what is best for the tribe. All decisions, all actions, can be determined by that simple formula. Not by religion or any other factor. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I cannot make it any more clear how important this is to me. How deep it runs.

Whoever you are, anonymous poster, please understand a few things. I do feel bad that your wife was killed, that your defenses were breached, that your children were in danger. But while we were responsible for that breach, I don't feel any sense of guilt over it. My family was on one side of that wall, and I was on the other. Simple math. I'm pretty sure you would do the same. So, my condolences to you, but not my apologies.

And for the record--if you come here with vengeance your intent, you will not survive. Others have tried, to our mutual sadness, but we have survived.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A week of difference

I almost wept when we I got out of the bus. Seeing my home, my family, and my friends was a shocking dose of normality, which is crazy, given how strange my life had grown before this trip.

I am incredibly thankful to be alive, that everyone who left with us came back in one piece. I am thankful that my sister and her family is with us, that we were able to bring Treesong and the remainder of his group with us. I cannot imagine what that slim number is feeling, to have seen so many others slaughtered before their eyes.

I am thankful, so don't take this wrong, as it's only an observation: I could not imagine how much medical attention my mother and Gabrielle would be lavishing on us.

Patrick, already having a sizable facial scar, seems oddly at peace with a few more. Steve has only minor cuts and burns. Jess and I are stuck at my mom's house right now, being hovered over. I'm certainly not complaining about having medical care available, I am just kind of shocked at how much this house and the people in it have changed since we left.

Mom and Gabby must have started converting it a soon as we left, maybe before. Mom tells me that Gabby went out with a small party and scavenged a lot of equipment and supplies. Most of the space inside her house has been turned into what is pretty much an urgent treatment center. They even have generators set up, just in case. They have all sorts of plans to go and try to find some more solar panels, turbines, all the stuff we have at our own house. The idea of anyone doing something even that risky is, at least for right now, enough to make me nauseous. So we're going to donate the turbine we stole, and plan to gather more later.

They expected much worse casualties, which I guess is obvious.

It's interesting--only gone a week, but the difference in the compound is as dramatic as it is in this house. All around, I see row after row of churned earth, some with tiny sprouts. All over I see signs of progress, of growth, of change. Fences have been torn down on our block, our massive communal back yard a nest of growing structures and plants.

All over, I see signs of growth, but not only the life sustaining growth of plants and needed buildings. Sadly, I see other walls forming, other seeds breaking into the open with the same jealousy, hate, and misunderstanding that seemed to be the only oil that society's wheels turned on. I used to pride myself on being able to see what was around me, to read people. I was so proud that we had begun to build something here, and had helped others to survive and make something better with us.

What an idiot I am. No matter how much of a realist I thought I was being, I can only be called an optimist in comparison.

I see it in the eyes of the people who visit us. I hear it in the tone of their voices as they tell us the goings on around the neighborhood during our absence, in their questions. Body language screams at me, so clearly that I wonder how other people don't wince the way I do when some people show up, though I pass it off as kidney pain.

I know many of them will read this: good. I want all of you to know that there are some simple and hard truths that we will have to all agree on. This place, our compound, is all we have. We are all individuals, which is to be celebrated. We disagree, which is the foundation of debate and useful conversation. But I feel how deep many of the divisions around here run, and this cannot continue. I am not issuing a decree, no grand statements of purpose. I am simply relating provable truth. We are a small group that may or may not grow. We have lived where the vast majority have died, which makes us dangerous. These factors make it clear to me that we MUST calm ourselves, we have to force ourselves to choose reason and logic over emotion, religion, or any other factor.

Our past experiences can be hurtful and scarring. I sympathize with those who have suffered. But to be blunt, I won't let that stop me if you raise a hand in violence against another person for any reason other than to defend your life. I can't make this any more clear.

If any of us allow our minds to be clouded by rage, or pain, religion or hope, we risk the safety of everyone. It is in my nature, and not my job, to be concerned with the welfare of the group. I wish that others felt this way, but I can't make it happen. But to my mind, anyway, it is clear that people should be considering the good of the tribe over personal vendetta or disagreement. Of course, I felt that way before the fall of society, and few people in the world fit that particular hope, even then.

I guess I will stop now. I have to pee in a very bad way, and it's my deepest hope that this time it won't be full of blood.

My hope is that by talking to people, by letting them vent and discussing their problems calmly, I can help them. That's probably as foolish as thinking things around here were going smoothly, but it is, to me, more reasonable.

Good luck to us all.

Thank You

They're alive. There was so much death, and yet they're alive. Right now, for a moment, nothing else matters.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Battle of Carbondale

I can't wait to get home. This trip has been one challenge after another, and longer than any of us could have imagined when we set out. When we left home, we had specific goals, and we have met them, but our secondary aims have mostly failed. I wanted to get as many folks out of here as wanted to go, but I only got what's left.

Tree and several dozen folks were still camped out at the Gaia House. I couldn't tell you how many of them were people that had been there for a while, and how many came based on Courtney's comment to the survivors around Carbondale. Here's how it went down.

We got the bus pretty close, but parked it on a side street about three blocks away, pointed back the way we came. We had to leave it so far, because it was the closest street that was deserted and had enough trees to provide cover. My inclination was to ask Steve to stay behind as the driver, given how close I brought him to getting shot. I didn't want to put him into direct danger if it could be helped. He was having none of it, of course. He was the most familiar with the area, really the only person except for me that knew it at all, and I only know the general layout. He had to go, as simple as that.

So we drew straws--Dave stayed behind. I called his phone and left the call open in my breast pocket just in case. Steve led the way, and while the resulting events will probably visit me every night while I try to sleep, I have to imagine how funny we looked as we were sneaking around. Clad in a mismatch of military armored vests, thick Judo gi with kendo face masks, chainmail gorgets, and combat boots, all of us toting firearms of varying types and some of us with swords at our hips. What a sight.

We made it to the Gaia House without any trouble. Without even seeing anyone else. What should have struck us was that we didn't see any zombies either. Not one. Granted, we were moving through as many closed-in spaces as possible to remain concealed, but given the reports, we should have seen something.

Steve called Treesong when we got close, so he was waiting outside for us. We saw a crowd of folks inside, and the thought occurred that we would have to bring the bus, because there was no way we were going to be able to walk all of them back safely. Hell, I was sure that we couldn't pack all of them into the bus.

We were discussing our options when someone opened fire on us. Tree called them marauders, that works for me. Three groups of them hit us all at once. Two sets of men on foot, coming from opposite directions down the road, and one set in a military humvee, thankfully without a large caliber machine gun. Treesong hit the ground at the sound of guns firing, as did most everyone else. I saw my wife crumple like a god had punched her in the gut, and everything fell into slow motion.

Steve moved like water, diving and rolling, coming up with a pistol. Jess was moving, one hand clutching her stomach while the other reached out toward her fallen rifle, fingers clawing the dirt. Pain exploded over my right kidney as what was surely a bullet slammed into my vest. The agony of it was numbing, and any thought of anything but that pain drove me to the ground.

I saw the Gaia house over my head as I rolled over in the dirt. Plywood sprouted a vast array of splinters as the marauders peppered us with gunfire. Our saving grace was distance: they were still far enough away from us that aiming was a chore, and that they were moving didn't make it easier. I heard yelling all over, and saw people pouring out of the building, red blooms appearing across their bodies as they ran.

It took a more effort than any movement of my life, getting on my hands and knees. Jess lay on her stomach, rifle butted against her shoulder, making them pay for every step. Steve was firing, moving, firing, moving, taking quick but careful aim. Divots of earth puckered around us as I found my gun and returned fire. I doubt that I hit a thing, too much of my concentration was on my battered side.

Patrick was trying to direct people toward the street where the bus was. Or rather, where the bus had been. In the chaos and deafening ruckus, the incoming foot soldiers didn't hear the bus coming up behind them.

David crushed three quarters of them before he stopped, but he also made a big target. The remaining men were quickly cut down as they fired round after round at the bus, but the last and most frightening threat was that damn humvee. There were so many people trying to get on the bus that when it smashed into the side of it, it had to have killed more than a dozen of them. It's not a sound I will ever be able to forget. The humvee careened off and tried to spin around for another pass. Some of the survivors had managed to get on, but the majority of them ran as they saw the dented machine turn toward them. The hatch on top of it popped open, a rifleman taking aim at my brother as it came toward him. David must have ducked, as none of the few shots the man got off hit him. Few shots, because my wife pegged him with her last bullet. The rifleman vanished as he fell into the Humvee, and he must have fallen into the driver, sending the vehicle slamming into the side of the bus.

Patrick ran up to the Humvee and tossed something into the hatch. Dave slammed the bus into reverse, and all of us screamed in pain as the sound of the pipebomb going off tore at our ears.

We were safe, if you could call it that. The hummer's glass and small metals showed us, gave us all a large complement of cuts and burns. It was on fire, and all of us seemed to have the same thought in unison, because everyone that was left ran for the bus at the same time.

Final count: Treesong and eight others rescued from the Gaia House. Twenty three others dead or ran away. Jess has a bruise that covers most of her belly, Patrick has a few more cuts to add to the scar on his face, Steve took only minor injuries, Dave took none, and I feel like my kidney is going to fall out. Only the fact that we wore the armor saved Jess and me, a fact I will always remember when trying something so ludicrously dangerous.

We are on the way out of town, hoping that no one sees the carnage and follows us, because I don't think we can get so lucky again. We were downhill from them, firing up, not an advantage we can count on twice. Jackie and company should be okay. We'll see them soon, and then head home. If we are lucky, we will be in Frankfort in half a day.

I don't think we can risk another trip like this. It has been made clear to me how very fortunate we have been. While we prepared as well as we could, and benefited from both practice and armor, the simple fact is that too many risky ventures will cost me someone I love, or even my own life. Thinking about Jess taking that bullet makes me sick, and that's with having been saved by her vest. Steve displayed the bravery I had always known him capable of, with a remarkable dexterity I admit I suspected he lacked. That kind of even headed ability only makes my respect for him grow. And one wrong move, all his potential would have been lost. It shakes me, it really does.

The idea that I might have to one day go home without one of them, to their wives or children, and try to explain and comfort, is something I just don't think I can cope with.

Thank god it's over. We're going home.

ramble, ramble

I was watching an old episode of "Futurama" earlier, trying to veg and not think about all the people in the country (world?) that just didn't even have a chance to run or fight back. It's so unbelievably depressing, so of course I sought refuge in the awesomeness of cartoons. Fabulous use of energy and time, right? Yeah, I'm a real conservation and efficiency genius. It was the episode where Fry spends millions of dollars on the last tin of anchovies on the planet. I decided anchovies sounded awesome, and opened up a tin of them I found in the hotel. They were tasty, but they are way better on pizza or in a salad like from El Greco. I realize I have no idea how one even obtains live anchovies, much less how to make them salty and delicious. I don't know the specifics on pickles, either (Yes, I know they're cucumbers in salty water, but I think there might be a bit more to it than that), and olives are right out of the question for our midwestern climate. Is it even safe to fish? To hunt? What if some animals have been tainted in some way by whatever made the zombies? I still don't quite understand what happened to make all these people zombiefied. Treesong's comments about us calling them zombies to feel better about killing them hit me pretty hard; I've been contemplating the same thing myself. I mean, what if it's some kind of curable disease? Then all these poor people died when they could have been saved. I'm not saying we shouldn't fight back, we have to stay alive and keep each other safe; I guess I'm just remembering that the creatures we're calling zombies were humans like us not very long ago, and that they're victims, too. Perhaps even more so.

I can't seem to get to sleep tonight, and I probably won't. I've heard the phrase "worried sick" before, but tonight my stomach feels like it's twisting around, and it's making all these horrible squishy noises, so I think I'm finally catching on to the meaning of that particular saying. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that the oily, salty fishies I consumed didn't help all that much, either. No wonder no one else wanted them. I haven't heard back from Steve or Josh or anyone for quite some time. They're probably okay, but... Gah. It takes courage to go out and undertake daring missions, but at least for me, it's scarier waiting back at home. At least if you're on an adventure, you have all the adrenaline and excitement and close calls that make your heart just about stop right in the moment, but that you laugh about later, and turn into a story later on. "I got sick for stupid reasons and felt sad about a number of things" isn't really fireside tale material.

On that note, I think I'm about finished here. I've typed and deleted about two paragraphs worth of sentences now, because nothing seems to do justice to how much I miss my family and friends. The fact that everyone else does, too, doesn't comfort me, it just makes me feel worse. I hate this feeling, why would I wish it on anyone else!? I want to be curled up with my warm, beautiful Steve, and congratulating the others on a job well done. It feels like this night will never end.

Friday, April 9, 2010

At the Gates

We're still not in Carbondale. We decided to tackle it fresh, after a good night's sleep, and it turns out that we were very lucky to make that choice. Treesong was able to get in touch with us via this blog, and has made the situation in this area clear. Warring camps, roving bands of armed men, and a group that seems frighteningly similar to the one back home that I was calling "looters" wreaking havoc. In light of this information, we have planned a few changes.

I have no desire to put children in any more danger than I can help. Jackie and her family will be staying at an undisclosed location we have found while the rest of us make the trip into town to try and get Treesong out. At this point I am inclined to get him and run, because most of the people he has holed up with have made the choice to abandon their location completely, due to its close proximity to some very violent and horrific scenes.

It's pretty much a worst case scenario. Tree is deep inside the city, in fact in the one spot I was really, really hoping he would not be. We have to somehow get to the SIU campus without being blown up or shot to death, get him out, and make it back to Jackie without being followed. The silver lining here is that Tree is pretty sure that none of the groups around here go too far outside the city, and probably won't follow us out.

It's tense right now, the stress we all normally live under ratcheted up tenfold. Jess is handing out some armored vests we got from the armory after it was cleared out. These things are rated for rifle fire. I hope we don't have to test it.

Dave is doing some more frightening things with explosives in preparation for this drive. We found a gas station that had some full tanks of propane, as well as a working fuel pump. We're topped off now, and he's strapping more pipe bombs to the tanks as I type this. This is in addition to a few other nasty surprises he thought up. It's so funny to me--while Dave has always been a creative person, this new world has really given him new license to combine his intelligence, practicality, and creativity in a lot of new ways. He's another one who has this crazy set of skills that serve to help us all.

It's time. Hopefully I will be posting to you again, but this is a far more dangerous place we're going to than any before. I just pray that Tree is ready to go when we get there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Steve: Ninja, Josh: Target

Ok, a short update here, because we just now got back to safety.

Steve and I got a good look at the walled-in area near the bus garage, and things didn't look too bad at first. We saw folks doing some planting, others working on building what looked like simple sleeping quarters, a few walking a patrol. Not too different from what we do back home.

But these folks are a little trigger-happy. Steve and I had discussed walking up to the gate and trying to start a dialog, but we got shot at when we started to climb down from the tree. I take responsibility for this; Steve was pretty ninja the whole trip. I think he could have gotten in unnoticed if he had wanted to, and I am really glad he didn't try.

We're on our way out of town, and will be headed for Carbondale this afternoon. Dave thinks we should try to gauge how bad the situation is before we get too far in, so that we can camp out somewhere relatively safe if we need to. It's a smart idea, really. I have no urge to get stuck in a hellhole with little to no sleep if I can help it.

As you can see, Courtney posted right before me. It's really hard to read these on an iPhone, but I got the gist. I will try to take off my rose-tinted glasses between rifle rounds and hungry, walking corpses.

Ok, a bit snarky, but her post makes me worry about what's going on at home, when I really should be concentrating on what's going on around me. My fault, not hers. Almost getting one of my best friends killed has put me in a negative mood.

Will update when I can.

Hoping we can somehow contact these people. Trying to figure out how.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

Right, so, Courtney here, with all the latest zombie-apocalypse gossip. Actually, not so much with the gossip; I'm not exactly what one might describe as "wildly popular" here at the compound. Sayeth the almighty Josh, as one might recall, "It shouldn't be any real work for her, to be honest. It isn't for me, since we have no issues at present that require an arbiter. I haven't had to make a call on anything since we let the looters go, and since the compound is in agreement on most everything else at present, my hope is that things will run just as smoothly for her, in my absence." Ahh, Josh. Great guy. Likes to paint himself as the worldly cynic at times, but really? About as much of an optimist as you're ever going to find, sometimes to absurd, spiky-haired-anime-hero levels. He's had high hopes and grandiose plans basically as long as I've known him, and suffice it to say that diving headfirst into the Battle For The Fate Of Mankind has done little to abate this.

Of course, he is so focused on these firefights and rescue missions and whatnot, that he tends to overlook other details, like the fact that the compound is NOT in agreement on things, and things are NOT going smoothly. Tension is at an all-time high, and I've entertained more than once the idea of attracting the attention of a roving pack of zombies just so we have something to band together and fight against, rather than ripping each other apart. Obviously haven't gone with that option; more using that to illustrate my perception of the situation.

Some of these former captive chicks hate my guts, utterly despise me, and I guess I don't blame them. I argued for sparing the lives of the captives we took, the "looters" themselves. And man, we have got to find a better way of referring to these dudes. It's freaking doomsday out here, EVERYONE is a looter, if they have even a ghost of survival instinct. Beside the point. Anyway, my own (possibly too) optimistic belief is that there are very few people in life who literally have zero hope of redemption. Once you kill someone, though, boom. That's it. Not even the remotest chance they will ever do a good work upon this earth, no chance to feel remorse for their wrongdoings, no chance to prevent another from going down the same road they did, nothing. Beyond that, I promised myself long ago, a geeky, socially ostracized tween, that if there was ever somebody with no one else there to defend them, no one to speak up and advocate on their behalf, I would do it.

And so there these guys were, no longer assaulting us with gunfire or molotovs, but completely restrained and sullenly awaiting their fate, or, in some cases, looking downright terrified. So I spoke up for them. Are these classy-looking dudes? No. Would they have been my friend, pre-zombieland? Are you kidding me? Chuckleheads like these dweebs were the reason I and others of my nerdy tribe even WERE socially ostracized! And, ohh. Oh, my God. The things their people did to these women. Josh has glossed over it, from what I can tell, so out of respect for him, and for them, I'll spare the bulk of the details, too. But on some nights, you can hear their muffled sobs as they wake up crying, or perhaps were never able to sleep in the first place. I've comforted some of them, in the past. The fact that they are so hurt, hurts me. Was making a few friends. I was teaching them to play D&D, and some of them were even nice enough to pretend like they were interested. But now, for the most part, they want nothing to do with me. They have this furious, yet deeply wounded look in their eyes. Even if they don't speak a word to me, their faces seem to say, "You betrayed me." And maybe I did. Not only that, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

So. When it came down to the decision-making crunch time, as Josh has said, I was SO not in favor of electing a king or whatever the heck. I do stupid stuff, and get taken to task for it time and time again, but my accomplishments and screw-ups are my own, and I don't need anyone else to take the credit or flack for them. And let's think, do we maybe have a bit of an issue of situated power already? Josh and Jessie took the initiative and prepared for what was coming, and everyone is grateful for that, but their world is our world now. Mrr. This is coming out wrong, never mind for right now. Anyway, the only reason I eventually gave in? Steve asked me to. Steve never demands anything. He only very rarely even asks for it. Thus, when he actually vocalizes a request? I tend to listen. "Baby," he said, very quietly, of course, just right in my ear so no one else could hear him. "Let it go. Just for now." And so I did. Later he explained that he was fairly sure certain members of our merry band were literally going to kill me if I kept "getting in the way" of things. I told him I was willing to die for my beliefs. He said he wasn't willing to have me die for my beliefs. Then we sort of cried/hugged for a little while. In conclusion, Steve is still one of the absolute greatest human beings.

Of course, now here we are, in different states, him off on a noble yet insanely dangerous quest, me back on the homefront sans my usual support group with a handful of folks who are under the (incorrect!)impression that violent rapists are just A-OK in my book. So I'm basically just chilling here, working on chainmail, making the usual patrols, and hoping no one decides to cut my throat in my sleep because they don't want to waste the bullet. Probably working my way a little to the paranoid/depressive side of things, but hey, maybe that means I'll just be pleasantly surprised when everything "continues to run smoothly," right? Right?

Sigh. I do exaggerate, I suppose. I guess I just worry that Josh has made this place sound like some Utopian Promised Land, that everything runs like a well-oiled machine, that we are the best and brightest humanity has to offer, so on and so forth. I don't want anybody coming here and winding up horribly disappointed. We're just people. We work hard, we slack off, we pay the price, we learn from our mistakes. We argue, and we struggle. Eventually, I hope, we forgive.

So if you're out there somewhere in the wide world reading this, and you've allied yourself with a group of not-so-nice individuals for your protection and survival, please know that there are other alternatives. What we have isn't perfect, but it is alive and dynamic and it WILL improve over time. Hey, actually, even if you don't want to join up with us, opening up dialogue with other groups would probably be a good thing. We don't want to get too closed-off and insular in our (re?)construction of society. And finally, if you're out there struggling for defensible survival with your own neo-tribal-type unit, take heart: if we can blunder through it, so can you!

Stuck in the middle

We're stuck in Carterville right now. Someone set some very well hidden traps, and the bus is now short two front tires. Luckily, we think the school district here used the same buses as Franklin county, so new wheels are on their way. Steve is showing my brother where the bus garage is, and it will be up to Dave to get them on, since I have no idea if there is a jack big enough to do it...

The rest of us are hanging out in the bus. I haven't talked to anyone back home today, but last I heard, all was well, save for a few minor zombie attacks. We got a fair look around here after we made it into town, but haven't found anyone alive. My aunt and uncle, as well as my cousin, are gone. I have to assume they are dead, though I searched their house and found no signs of violence. It had been looted, but no blood, no bullet holes.

There are signs that someone is out there, though. The wall may have been there last time we came this direction, but I can tell you with total certainty that some things have changed. Areas that we drove through freely before are blocked off, whole blocks are burned down that were fine last time. I can't tell you if they are a threat to us or not, because we haven't seen them. The huge changes around here are part of the reason I am not following through on the strong urge to run around and search for people. Our passengers have to be priority number one.

...Just got a call from my brother. Apparently he and Steve have come across something. He thinks they've found the place where these survivors are operating from. It's pretty close to the bus garage, apparently. I have talked to everyone about it, and the consensus seems to be that we should check it out. Not in a stupid way, of course. Two of us can go, leaving the rest of the group out of sight in the bus, ready to roll if we need to go in a hurry. I am conflicted, though. One of my best characteristics is my boundless curiosity, but it also happens to be my biggest flaw. Jackie is all for us just leaving now, and when I look at the tired, dirty faces of my nieces and nephews, I agree completely.

Dave argues that we need to start opening lines of communication with other camps like ours. I agree with that sentiment, since it appears that the human race has become a minority on the planet earth.

It's too important a chance to miss. I think I will go, and Steve has volunteered. We can watch them from a good bit away for a while, see if anything incriminating happens. If we decide it's safe, I can leave my phone in an open call to Dave's, keeping a sort of bug going. Besides, they might have supplies we can trade for, and topping off our fuel couldn't hurt, as we've found none here so far.

I will try to post more later today. Hoping that whoever that anonymous poster was the other day gets in touch with me before we run into Carbondale. After the ridiculous wait here after having to try several different routes to get into town, I would love to justify all the extra time and risk by bringing out a big load of folks.

Dave is calling again. He and Steve are on the way. Found a truck to haul those tires in, and a big ass jack to lift this beast up with. Hope we can get moving before too long. Getting tired of the zombies wandering too close and us taking turns killing them. The first few are a nice distraction, the next thirty a tiring chore.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First leg

I really wish whoever built that damn wall was still around. We could use the help.

We are still in Marion right now, having finally gotten to the church where my family has take refuge. It took a long time to get here. The zombies in Marion are thick, extremely so. We had to try several routes to find one that was at all navigable, and even then we had to fight our way through so many zombies that we eventually had to stop to sleep. The bus is pretty secure from them, but enough bodies in the way will stop pretty much any vehicle.

Right now Jackie is getting the kids settled in. Dave threw up a few more pieces of sheet metal he had strapped to the roof. We don't want to take any chances, so the armored area is boxed in, reinforced, and should be thick enough to stop rifle rounds. I can't imagine that we will be able to avoid armed and probably violent people.

The trip to Carterville should be a short one, though it seems pretty likely that the roads will be further packed with zombies. They tend to fill in any gaps when you mow a bunch of them down. Route thirteen is sure to have some surprises in store; to expect anything else would be optimism bordering on stupidity. If we have to, we can take alternate routes there as well. It helps to be from this area.

When we get there, it's going to be up to Steve and me to do any searching on foot that may be needed. Dave will join Jess on the roof, covering us with rifle fire if needed, while Pat will be manning the steering wheel for a quick exit. Jackie and her husband will be wrangling their kids. That's a job, let me tell you.

We're ready to go. I hope that we do find some people, and that we can keep ourselves safe if or when we do. It's a lot more dangerous here than back home. Not only is there virtually no rise or fall to the land, which keeps us in near constant sight of zombies, but I think the same folks that built that wall of junk are also responsible for all the damn traps we keep finding. It is slightly amusing, in a dark way, to see a zombie get caught in a snare and get hung up by the ankle, or stumble into a pungee pit. It's sobering to realize that we could easily fall prey to them as well.

Off we trot. Next stop, Carterville, Illinois. Population: 3,600. Survivors: ????

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Great Wall of Williamson County

The drive is one I have made many, many times, though never before in something that still mostly resembles a school bus. We are sitting on interstate 57 south, just outside of Marion, Illinois. We didn't go this far last time, having taken an earlier exit to get to Courtney and Steve's faster. I don't know if this mess was here before, but we certainly have to deal with it now.

From one side of the road to the other, from tree to tree, is a huge pile of debris. Cars, trees, bodies, furniture, and what looks like the contents of several semi trucks. Oh, and the semi trucks themselves. We are about a hundred yards away, staring at it, all of us sort of struck dumb. Dave is mumbling to himself, tracing the outlines of parts of the pile. This is a good sign, and a frightening one. It means he is actively using that overactive brain of his to come up with a solution. Bad, though, because I have seen him doing the same thing immediately prior to something going incredibly, if creatively, wrong. I have to wonder which way this will go.

The plan is pretty simple. We go to Marion, find my sister and her family, get them out. We plan to keep all of them hunkered down behind one of the armored sections until we get to relative safety, at least, my sister and the kids. I won't turn away her husband if he wants to help us out. Every body helps. But neither will I blame him if he wants to stay hidden and safe. They haven't had an easy time of it, especially with four kids.

Dave is fiddling with some supplies in the back of the bus. I can't see what he's doing, but he's still mumbling, and I'm pretty sure there is math involved. A chill is running up my back.

After we get out of Marion, we head toward Carterville. This is where Courtney and Steve are from, and I have some more family there. Jess and I couldn't find any of them last time around, but a twenty minute drive around is the minimum I need to keep myself happy. I need to try. I doubt that we will find anyone after this much time, but hope is one of those parts of the human mind that could reasonably be described as rationalized insanity.

On from there to Carbondale, the place where I was born. I don't have any plans to stop by the hospital where I was delivered, but I do have some hefty fears that I will meet my maker there. Because while it's not a huge place, it does have a frighteningly dense population, due to the location of Southern Illinois University, smack in the middle of it. There are a ton of students there, or rather were. Now most of them are roaming around, hungry and vacant shells. Hmm. I just described most college students. Alright, let me add: also dead.

Carbondale is swarming, from what we have been able to gather. We plan on finding Treesong if we can, and if he has kept true to what I know of him, he will have tried to help as many people as possible. I don't really want to drive this thing packed with people all the way back home, but I'm not planning on turning away people if I can help it. Unless we run out of room, we'll keep on letting them on. It's a problem I hope we have to deal with. I am much more inclined to think that we'll be hard pressed to find anyone in Carbondale that doesn't have a hankering for my brains.

Oh my. Dave is driving us toward the pile. He has something sitting next to him that really makes my blood run cold. Though there seems to be more to it, the device contains two elements that, together, really make me wish that I had left him at home.

He has parked us about thirty yards away, and he is running toward the roadblock, carrying the damn thing with him. Jamming it into the pile...fiddling with it...running back like Satan himself is poking him in the ass. He's got us moving backwards pretty fast.

Wow. That's a big explosion. I didn't think a pipe bomb strapped to a propane tank would have that sort of power. We're about a thousand feet away, and shrapnel is tinkling down on the roof. The smoke is clearing away, and I see a big, clear space we can drive through. Guess we just have to wait for the fire to die down a bit.

Dave is looking back at us, a grin stretched across his face. The rest of us are staring at him like he's from the moon or something. I really hope that if I die on this trip, I get killed by zombies. Because falling prey to my brother's love of explosives is just too stupid a way to die.

We're rolling forward, heading toward the exit. Here we go.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Road Trip

I haven't really celebrated easter in a long time. I grew up catholic but stopped going to church years ago. Call it the general malaise that many folks feel about religion, the gradual starvation of faith from lack of miracles.

Today, though, feels pretty miraculous. 

I have a lot of friends and family out of state, or at least I used to. I haven't gotten very specific with a lot of them, for several reasons. I don't like to dwell on how many of the people I know and love must be dead, and mentioning them here doesn't help that. As well, there must be dozens of them, and it would be unfair to the memories of all to mourn one but ignore others.

Imagine my surprise that my mom finally, after all these weeks, got in touch with my sister. She lives in Illinois with her family, and we lost contact with her very early on. We tried and tried, to no avail. 

Now, though, mom has gotten word. They are holed up many hours from their home, having tried to get to southern Illinois from their home up north, not realizing how badly the southern part of the state was hit. So it looks like I have another trip to my old stomping grounds planned out. 

Jackie and her family aren't the only ones we will be going for. Courtney, one of my best friends and wife of Steve, has asked that we search out our friend Treesong, who lives in the same area. Tree is a good friend of mine, and very close to Courtney and Steve, and since I will be there anyway...

I realize that I am talking like it's only me that will be going on this daring rescue mission, but that's not true. We had a pretty easy time getting Courtney and Steve out, but things can't have improved in that area since, so we are preparing a bit more this time. That area of the country is so thick with zombies that we are worried about even being able to drive through it this time around. I will be going, as will Steve, Jess, Patrick, and Dave, my brother. I have asked Courtney to stay here and keep an eye on things. 

You see, when the argument was raging over what to do about the captive looters, most everyone decided that since none of them could agree on what to do, they needed an impartial person that everyone agreed on to make the call. Courtney was a loud dissenter to them putting the burden on me, being a good friend and not wanting the stress of that to fall on me. She argued for a council (which we also got anyway), saying that no one person should have to be the scapegoat for the indecision of others. It became clear, though, that none of them were going to bend, and she eventually relented and cast her vote for me as well, after she and I talked about it. She is, like Patrick, Little David, and others, more friend than I deserve. She is also the perfect person to cover while I am away. She doesn't like the way the people here have put the onus of tough decisions on one person, but she has agreed that it's the only way to keep folks happy. 

It shouldn't be any real work for her, to be honest. It isn't for me, since we have no issues at present that require an arbiter. I haven't had to make a call on anything since we let the looters go, and since the compound is in agreement on most everything else at present, my hope is that things will run just as smoothly for her, in my absence. 

Keep an eye out for a post or two by her on here, in addition to any posts I put out. 

I need to go and help Dave with the last minute alterations we are making to that school bus that was abandoned down the road. He added a platform on top to shoot from yesterday, and right now he's out there working with the generators humming, giving him light and power for his welding gear. He really is a genius. He's armoring parts of the inside with sheet metal, so we can duck behind them if we get shot at. He wants some help adding in a huge backup gas tank, because we probably won't find any after we leave here. Patrick is out right now, gathering as much diesel fuel as he can find for the trip. Jess is loading up all of the food, weapons, and ammo we will need. Steve is securing a rope ladder to the top, so we can get people in without opening the door. We aren't going into this blindly, I promise you that. 

Jackie, her husband, and all four of their kids, along with whatever friends we have left in southern Illinois, are coming back with us, and we will make sure they get here safely. We leave as soon as the modifications are done. Dave will likely sleep the whole way there, he's been doing so much work on the bus. We'll have to throw some mattresses in there, come to think of it.

Jess is yelling for me. It's sort of becoming my sign off call. I write way too much. Going to grab some police armor on my way out the door, along with a few gi and some chainmail. She's had people working on that for a few days now. 

Next time you read a post of mine, with luck, we will be in southern Ill. Though we moved away from there a long time ago for the green hills of Kentucky, and though the world has moved on quite a long way since then, somehow it still feels like going home again. 

Wish us luck.