Tuesday, November 30, 2010
There and back again (Continued)
Gears of War
We've been worried as hell that the Richmond soldiers would come for us. So worried that the council secretly sent out one of our people to live covertly in Richmond to keep an eye on the situation. You'll understand why I never mentioned that fact. The bad news is that our spy has come home, telling us that the soldiers there have already mobilized and started to move out.
He saw some heavy gear being moved out, and while there were plenty of smaller and faster vehicles along with the armored and armed ones, everyone seemed to be sticking together. If that holds true, they should be here sometime around noon or one. I think we have a little longer than that, though.
When they hit us a few weeks ago, they avoided our scout patrols and sentries along the highway by getting here by back roads and over land. With the ridiculous amount of rain the last few days, there is zero chance that some of those vehicles could go across the land around us to hit the compound. And I doubt too many of those back roads will be able to handle the weight of many of those vehicles.
So it's the highway all the way here. They can afford to be obvious--after all, they are coming in force and well protected.
Then again, we've left some surprises for them along their path to us. Hope you fuckers are reading this. Have fun finding them.
If I sound reasonably calm about this, don't consider it very surprising. We've dealt with enough insane shit since March that this is just another nasty bump in the road. Yeah, we are being threatened by a military force that is heavily armed with unknown goals. But we have the advantage of home turf, high ground, and a degree of innovative thinking that, when combined with our general sneakiness, is formidable at the least.
It helps that we have more than three times their numbers as well. There are plans set up for nearly any contingency, and I think we'll have until tomorrow before we have to face them head on. I don't know if it's going to come to a firefight, but since the idea seems to be conquest rather than destruction, you can call it a safe bet that they probably won't shell us with heavy artillery or anything...
I'm terribly glad now that so many of us are away from the compound right now. I'm confident that we have made ourselves too difficult to take, but the danger is still very real. One of my favorite authors, Raymond E. Feist, has a quote that he likes to use in some of his books.
"The best battle plan in the world means nothing once the first arrow is fired."
Something like that, anyway. And it's true. The great thing about fighting mostly zombies up until this point is that the majority of them are predicable and therefore relatively easy to beat. People are different--creative and efficient in finding ways to kill each other. It's almost a racial superpower for us. Which means that Mr. Feist's quote is Truth with a capital 'T'. We've planned and designed defense after defense, but the hard reality is that once the fighting starts, anything could happen.
The only really comforting thought there is that it goes both ways...
At any rate, we're on red alert here (thanks for that phrase, Star Trek) so I need to scoot. If I'm alive tomorrow, I will update you on what's going on if possible. We might be fighting, but I will try to do something to at least let you know I'm alive. Wish us luck, and stay away from here if you want to be safe.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Patrick's Trip, round 2
Sunday, November 28, 2010
In the Night
Post by Patrick
I leave this post just down the road from the compound just as I'm about to leave cell service. I'm posting here to apologize for sneaking off in the night and because I couldn't look anybody in the eye while I told them that I had to leave by myself. Josh had a plan that I would go out with the convoy going to Louisiana and Alabama and then we would swing down in to Florida to look for my family, but I just couldn't do that. The mission to establish contact with these people is just too important for it to be jeopardized looking for my family, and is a dangerous precedent to set. Everyone here has family and friends that they haven't heard from or know what happened to, and we don't have the resources to look for people that may or may not be alive, there are too many that we know are alive and in need.
I know in my heart that my family is dead or undead, yet I can't rest until I know for sure. I know from my repeated request to Google that there is little to no power or internet usage in Southern Florida and none in the area that my family lived in, but I must try. The dreams of my parents being eaten alive are keeping me awake most nights.
Since I have returned from the last trip to retrieve the turbines I have been stocking away supplies for this trip and it makes me feel the thief, stealing what others have worked so hard to make or procure is heavy on my soul but hasn't stopped me. The worst is the ammo, just knowing that if any big action or zombie attack happened and that if for some reason people ran out and died as the result has me in cold sweats. But I need a chance and so must be selfish.
I'm going on a small dirt bike that David had modified the exhaust on for scout work, so it runs really quite. I'll miss the safety of being encased in steel but with fuel getting harder to find the small but quick engine will be best. Not to be flip but thanks to Jessica's leather work the holsters for my shot gun and rifle make me feel like a real cowboy.
To everyone back at the compound I'm so sorry to leave you, but I tried to wait until everyone was as safe as could be in these times. Believe me when I say that leaving that safety and your love is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It's my hope that you can forgive me and understand what I do now. Please don't come after me there is to much good work to be done. I'll try to post every day if I can to let you know that I'm still alive and doing well.
Well the night is moving on and so must I, good bye for now and I hope to see you all again real soon.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
We're in the process of loading up and getting the convoy ready for travel. Our relief team is heading out tomorrow to meet with their counterparts from Jack's compound. I'm not going to say where they are meeting up, but I'm not too worried about saying they are going. It's going to be a big group when everyone gets together, given that people from at least five groups of survivors are joining in. And they will be well protected. No force that goes against them will have a chance at stopping them short of blowing the whole thing apart.
Please, don't blow the whole thing apart...
Will isn't very happy with the idea that we have to send out guards with them. He's worried that the walls will be left undermanned in the event of an emergency, but the duty rosters say otherwise. We have more people than we need to mount full patrols and man the walls for defense. We'll be fine there.
I'm worried about so many of my friends going out into the world, but I couldn't be more proud of them for what they're doing. The same goes for Patrick, who is looking to leave any day now to go look for his family. He's been such an integral part of this place for so long that it sort of feels like my hand is going to be cut off when he leaves. I know he intends to come back, but Florida is a long way from here, and a world of danger in between.
We're having a dinner together tonight before everyone goes. Even though I will see them later today, I still can't help but imagine what the morning will bring. Saying my goodbyes, watching them roll away toward unknown dangers to provide hope for others...
The thought has occurred to me that all of us are really alone at the end of the day. We share our triumphs and tragedies with those we love, our friends and our families. The test of our character is how we react when there is no comfort or understanding to be found. No encouragement or guidance. It's ironic to me that I want to be strong when they leave, when it's just Jess and I left here from our tight group of friends, so that when they return they can be proud of how strong we were.
I've fought and killed more zombies over the last nine months than I can count. I've done the same for men and women who attacked us, tried to take what we have rather than ask with an open hand. Strangely, this is much harder for me to face. They've left before, but this is a trip that at a minimum will take many times longer than any before. The risks will multiply with time...
But they are strong. They will be careful and safe, and with luck and the determination that has kept us alive this long, we'll all see each other again.
Feeling all of that makes seeing them bittersweet. It will be wonderful to spend time with everyone before we part, but all that much harder to be around them knowing that all of these words will rise up in me when they are sitting around the table with me. The key to it will be the same as any other time.
Smile for them, and put on a brave face.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Feast and Famine
Not everyone feels that way, of course, but that's what being a human being is all about. Differing opinions working against each other to act as the driving force behind improving society. Overall I call it a good day for everyone.
Eating together did sort of put the exclamation point on the fact that there are so many survivors out there who are on the edge of starving. If you've been reading the last few days you know that Courtney, Steve and many others have been putting in a lot of time trying to organize a relief effort to help them out. Part of that included some pretty long range scouting trips to look for stores of food. I had to keep that quiet at Will's request, because letting anyone know we were sending people out was too risky for the ones leaving.
We have managed to locate a large supply of canned and preserved food. There's a little town several hours away whose only major employer was a cannery that supplied big stores with stuff they could slap their own branded label on cheaply. Add to that some pretty in depth forays into places that used to be emergency shelters, and what you end up with is a lot of easily transported food that's rich with calories if not particularly healthy eating...
Of course, we're sending other stuff as well. Extra veggies and the like. But this will help.
Jack and his people up north have been working tirelessly to organize this relief mission in concert with Courtney and some of the other groups from around the country. Jack's folks have managed to set up some rendezvous points between us in the mideastern part of the country and some of the folks who will be helping by donating fuel and trucks. It's on a tight schedule, though, much tighter than we thought would be the case. Apparently some of those folks, especially the ones south of us, are still dealing with zombies on a daily basis and have to work around that. So, Courtney and her team are going to be heading out this weekend to meet with the volunteers from Jack's place. They will be leading this trip to deliver food and other supplies, and to bring back people that want to come join either of our communities.
It's a huge deal, and some of our best people are going. Courtney and Steve will be working as a team as always. Little David will be going, though Darlene will surely miss him. I think she would go if the responsibility of being our leader didn't keep her here. They have had a slowly intensifying relationship since she joined us, and I think they are getting serious.
My brother Dave is going as well, along with his wife and kids. If that sounds strange, it really isn't. The dangers they will face on the road are about equal with what we face here, and this will be a great opportunity for my nieces and nephew to learn about giving, doing what is right by those in need. Dave is going to be helping with some repair and construction, and giving some fast lessons on the principles of building at each stop. He's a handy guy, and someone with his skills could be very beneficial in most of the places our delegation is going.
I'm really excited about it. I wish I could go, but too many council members and key personnel are going already. This is not only going to be directly beneficial, by helping those in need, but it's the best possible way for us to do exactly what Courtney has been doing (building ties and establishing diplomatic relations) on a large scale. And she'll be heading up the group, which is great. I think this trip will be a huge step toward creating the sort of universal goodwill needed to weather the storms of life as it is now in the long term.
Winter is a going to be a quiet time for many survivors as the zombies go inert from the cold. Maybe not so much in the far south, but if the temp drops below sixty for a while, at least they will get some breaks.
No, it's next spring that worries me. Knowing what we have already faced, knowing that the smart zombies will be back and maybe better prepared. Knowing that our struggle against the dead will reignite and burn every single day...
That is why we're doing this. So that every human being that wants to live in peace can do so. By strengthening one, we strengthen all. By helping fortify one group's community, we create one more place of safety for those who need it. It just doesn't get any better than this.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
His name was Adam Flynn. I don't know anything else about him other than that. What I do know is that his death is the result of a simple mistake. Evans found some small splinters in Adam's cheek, almost too small to see. When he was found, Adam was laying on his side flat as a board. It seems he fell asleep leaning up against the wall of the guard post he was in, and died that way. The people who walked the wall were fighting the wind and cold, and seeing Adam standing at his post looking out, they didn't think it was necessary to go up and make sure he was ok. From their vantage point there was nothing to worry about. It was far too dark to notice that there was no plume of breath coming from him.
I don't know if there will be any charges or punishment sought, and honestly I think that the guards that were on duty are so devastated by the consequences of their error that one isn't really needed. That's just me, though. I don't get to be the one to make that call, and I shouldn't.
So. Turkey day.
Everyone knows the drill. Today was a time for family and friends to come together and give thanks for the bounty of the harvest. Before The Fall, this was a secular holiday that had many meanings for many people. Since the rise of the zombie plague, most of us here at the compound feel a bit of Thanksgiving every day of our lives.
I want to tell you what I am tankful for, but first just a bit of history. Many of us know about thanksgiving and how the first one happened. Squanto, acting as a translator between the nearest tribe of native Americans and the colony of pilgrims at Plymouth. The local tribe of Wampanoag donated large stores of food to the pilgrims when it became clear that the supplies that came with them from England would not be enough to last.
It was an amazing act of pure generosity and a testament to the human spirit.
In remembrance of this act, the varied people and leaders of this country proceeded to kill and steal from the native peoples for hundreds of years. Touching, I know. Eventually we saw the error of our ways and made peace, but what we gave back was a pittance compared to what we've taken.
So, I want to tell you what I'm thankful for.
I am thankful for the people I have had the good fortune to meet and come to know. Those at the compound and at Jack's, the people out there in the newly discovered enclaves of surviving humanity. Almost all of you have demonstrated that same basic respect for human life, in that you are willing to share and do what you can for others.
I am thankful that the people I live and work with are willing to adhere to principles and ideals--those of peace and harmony--and that they are willing to fight and kill those who would murder and steal from otherwise peace seeking human beings
I am thankful for the willingness of so many to put in the time and effort to gather food and needed supplies for those survivors in need. This kind of fits with some of the above, but it's worth looking like an idiot to say it twice.
I am thankful for our ability to learn from the mistakes of the old ways that society worked. Not only the way that we treated the ideas of giving and sharing, atoning for our past mistakes, but also our willingness to cut through the debate and the red tape to say decisively that what is right is right and move forward.
OK, that last one might need a little explaining. I've been thinking about the native peoples of this country for a few days, and how badly we have treated them. Every person that I have talked to about it agrees that the best thing that could happen would be for those who remain to eventually spread and move out from the reservations that are a poor replacement for the vast lands they used to own and live as they once did. Yeah, I would be upset and defensive if anybody, native or not, tried to lay claim to this place, but the vast majority of the USA is now open to them as far as I am concerned. It's something that has always bothered me, and for that...
I am thankful for the zombie plague. Though I wish fiercely that it had never happened, I can't change the fact that it did. There are way more negatives than positives to it, but today at least I am thankful for those good things. Bringing people together to work for the common purpose of survival and growth. Giving us the proper perspective to understand just how dysfunctional society was, and the understanding to attempt to avoid those same errors.
As terrible as it is, the plague reduced the number of people so much that the effect we have on the environment is now almost zero. Our numbers were increasing to the point where the planet might not have been able to sustain us for much longer...
I know, it's an awful thing to say. The thing about the truth is that whether or not you like it, you have to accept it if you are a rational, thinking person. In the world we live in now, ignoring the truth or pretending that facts are lies leads to bad judgement and probable death. So instead of shying away from the terrible facts, I embrace them.
The Fall happened, and it nearly destroyed us. The events of the last nine months have been a crucible in which all of us have burned. The pain has been nearly more than we can bear.
But we've become better, more pure. We have been boiled down to human beings acting as our instincts demand, but that our intellects have more often than not interfered with. We act for the good of the tribe called humanity, as it should be.
And I am damn thankful for that.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Chill of Night
One of the people in the annex was on guard over there last night, and apparently fell asleep from exhaustion. I'm not clear on how a patrol missed him when they went by, or why no one realized he hadn't checked in, but when the shift changed out his replacement found him dead from exposure.
I don't even know his name. I read it in the report, but it escapes me at the moment. Don't know that I had ever set eyes on the guy. Now I never will.
We try to do everything we can to deal with the elements. We've made sure that everyone who has to be outside for extended periods of time has layers of clothes to wear along with winter coats and gloves. We've altered the schedules to try to make sure that things like this can't happen.
It's just frustrating and depressing to lose someone from something so preventable. Talking about it isn't helping...
So maybe I will head out and look into this. I helped make those rotation schedules. There should be no reason that a man died last night. Someone should have seen him, woken him up, within half an hour. That's the longest gap of any walking patrol anywhere on this wall.
There aren't a lot of possibilities here. Either someone saw him asleep and let him go on about it, or someone (or several someones, more likely) didn't actually do their walk around, and missed him. Or, they walked and missed him but didn't double check to make sure he was on duty.
OK, I need to get off this subject or I'm going to get really angry.
Other than that, not much is going on around here that you don't already know about. Courtney has made big strides toward getting a convoy set up to bring some struggling survivors here. There's a group down in Louisiana that has fuel for us to use, some people in Alabama with a bunch of converted buses. If we can manage to get everything together in one place, it should be pretty simple for us to manage.
Oh, and Will has gotten a little better with his mania in the last few days. Most of the big defense upgrades are done, and now he's organizing the production and distribution of a lot of melee weapons. He's seeding them all over the place so that no one can be caught off guard too far away from something that can either cut a head off a zombie or bash it in.
Guess that goes for live folks as well, but I don't like to think about that too long.
It says a lot about the people around here that we can leave weapons in easy reach and not worry about something going horribly awry. Even the smaller kids know better than to grab one unless they need it, which is pretty surprising but also very comforting.
No, talking about other things is definitely not helping. I'm going out to look into this thing at the annex, and I'm going to get some damn answers...
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
But you know, I have been pretty philosophical lately. I'd rather tell you some good news on my birthday rather than sound like a self-centered jackass for once.
The sniper is dead. I wish we could take credit for that, but the warm weather yesterday pretty much did the job for us. Our scouts found her body yesterday, or what was left of it. Seems she got a little too comfortable with the recent lack of zombie activity and reacted too late to save herself. There isn't much to go on to determine who she was or where she came from, though several people have theories...
The gunfire I heard Saturday was her, though. Our scouts got too close to where she was hiding and she bolted into the woods, spraying bullets behind her. She was good--several of the scouts are trained woodsmen and survivalists who know how to track, but she lost them.
I'm thrilled that the threat is over, but I admit to a little discomfort at the way it ended. I can't imagine how awful it must be to die by zombie. The slashing nails and gnashing teeth...
Sends a shiver down my spine. I said I wanted to talk about good stuff today.
Courtney has co-opted Steve from his duties as a member of our "flying company", which is the name I use for the group of folks that fill in wherever they are needed. She's actually pulled in a few other people as well to manage the herculean task of coordinating with all of the other groups of people who recently managed to contact us. It's a big and very difficult job, but I know she'll manage it amazingly. Courtney is a fantastic problem solver, and has become skilled at coordinating others.
There are a lot of factors that go into any durable society. The most basic ones are of course food, water, and shelter. The idea is to try and figure out how all of us across the US can work together to make those basics available to all, and build from there. Some groups have managed more than we have--running water and electricity around the clock, working refrigerators, all the creature comforts. Some have almost nothing, and desperately need help. We intend to do everything possible to make sure that those folks get all the help we can manage.
Courtney tells me that there is a lot of support for this. Many of the better-off groups have already pledged supplies and manpower to give aid to those in need. Some, like us here at the compound, have opened their doors to anyone who wants to come and join us. There are things like food supplies to take into account, or course, but overall the consensus is that it's a manageable problem.
If this sounds like socialism or whatever to you, trust me when I say that it's OK. I know that a lot of folks used to have some weird innate discomfort with helping those in need by sharing resources, but the hard facts are plain: people will die for certain if we don't. So if we can, why wouldn't we help?
When it gets down to life and death, most people have agreed to do the right thing. The few that are against building a cooperative effort or are on the fence seem to be operating from a place of fear and mistrust. I hate that it has to be that way, but I completely understand. This is my dream come true, and I'm still nervous as hell about it.
Knowing that the immediate threat is over and hearing that so many people out there are willing to do their part to help their fellow man fills me with a pride and hope for all of us that has been sorely lacking. I've talked about how lucky I feel to have so many good people here and at Jack's compound in Michigan, but this effort to help each other is the best sign for our species I've seen in months.
Best birthday present EVER.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
At any rate, they aren't getting any observing done now. There is nothing to see, other than the fact that we're staying inside or at least out of the way until the scouts and Dodger give us an all-clear. I don't know how long that will take, but I don't think we will still be on lockdown tomorrow.
This whole thing has made it pretty much impossible for us to work on any of our projects, the new defenses included. Sure, there are things to be done that fall within the safe zones, but much of Will's designs cover large areas. So that pretty much sucks.
To be honest, it's also kind of nice. I mean, we have people outside the walls making sure that a large group of enemies aren't trying to use this situation to get near us without being seen. But the rest of us don't really have much to do. I have little on the way of paperwork today, and checking supplies is out of the question.
There are many ways to fill those bored hours. Since we live in the southern part of the compound, and especially since our block has its own fence, we can move around pretty much freely. And it's the weekend, which means that most folks like Patrick who can be working right now will be calling it a day at eleven. I don't know what kind of shenanigans we'll get into but the day is full of promise. It's sort of like a rainy day--you are stuck in a small area, but feel oddly free to do something different because you can't go out.
Maybe that's just me, I don't know. But it's a nice change of pace from the months on end when we had to do not just our regular jobs, but also put in hours working our land, patrolling the wall for zombie attacks, and all the rest. Right here, right now, the ways that those of us who are safely ensconced on my block can be productive are approaching zero.
I think it's important to have fun now and then, and just as important to feel like its ok to have fun. Things are pretty slow around here lately now that the zombies have mostly gone into hibernation from the cold, which gives everyone a little more leeway to find enjoyment. Some people have taken up hobbies (I have several, my favorite right now is wood carving.) while others play games or sit down for a good long conversation with a friend.
Not everyone takes that much needed time to enjoy themselves. Some people, like Will, are so dedicated to their purpose that they can't allow themselves to take breaks. I don't think that's wrong or anything, I just worry that constant and ridiculously stressful work without cease will make some people lose perspective or focus.
Kind of random, I know. But I'm in a random sort of mood today. I want to go wrestle someone, or maybe practice tumbling. Maybe carve some needed wooden parts...
Something that's not sitting in front of this computer. They won't let me go out after the sniper, and my work is done. What to do?
Oh...I hear gunfire. Doesn't sound like a rifle, either. Maybe the scouts got our man...
Friday, November 19, 2010
One thing that's been bugging me, though. How does this person know what we look like? I mean, my picture is on the blog, even though it's a weird one, but no one else is shown. How long have we been watched?
The compound is on lockdown right now. While I was on my jog a few minutes ago a bullet from somewhere outside the walls came way too close to hitting me. I actually heard it go by my head. I guess it's a good thing that I'm an indifferent runner and have a hard time keeping a good rhythm.
General consensus is that there's a sniper out there somewhere. It worries me that he apparently waited to see someone who wasn't guard or a scout. The quick meeting we organized after I ran away like a little girl with a scraped me led me to think that whoever is out there is looking for targets that have something to do with making the place run. People like me and Will, Courtney and Patrick, who have jobs that require either specialized skills or a good amount of experience. I get that, actually. Taking out scouts and guards would hurt us, but killing someone who coordinates defenses or heals the sick could be devastating.
I don't mean to downplay how vital people that guard us are, or the scouts. Every person from the folks that make our fabrics to the farmers in the field is integral to our way of life. It's just that anyone looking to weaken us knows that they would be able to do so more efficiently by causing chaos. No better way to do that than to knock out one of the gears that makes the machinery of our little society run smoothly.
Whoever it is will fail. The compound has only so many spots that are visible from a distance. Being built on a hill has a lot of tactical advantages, one of which is that our wall screens us from sight most of the way around. So we have a general idea of his direction, but we are going to have to find a way to pick him off without putting people at risk...
That's it for now. We have a long day ahead.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Lead By Example
That was pretty random, but I think it kind of fits with my mood this morning.
I've gone on a bit lately about how the zombie plague has affected us and our perceptions. One of the things that really blows me away is how adaptive most of us are. When the other option is death, stale rice and overcooked forest creature makes for a fine set of staple foods. I've lost a lot of weight since the zombies came, simply from a lack of all the insanely unhealthy foods I used to eat. I'm at about 200 pounds right now, and while I will always retain the slight pudge that is my genetic heritage (thanks, Ireland) I am healthier than I have ever been and can run a country mile flat out if I need to.
It may not seem like much of a silver lining, but think about it. I can outrun the undead if I need to. That's something I could never do before. More than that, I feel great. I breathe easier, don't get tired after a good run, and could kick in a car door.
I wrote yesterday about accepting and embracing the way things are as a means to work toward making things better, and I feel like this is a pretty good example of that.
Proudly, I want to say that two other people have managed a similar feat. Not long ago, I told you about Jamie Packard sucker punching Dodger in a moment of anger. I worried about the punishment for Jamie, even though he was guilty by self-admission and acted in front of others. I know very well what it is to try and control rage, and I can understand him.
Jamie showed pretty remarkable self-awareness about the whole thing. He knew that he had broken the rules, and that being allowed to walk away unpunished would be terrible for morale. Not that he was all that fond of the idea of punishment, but he recognized that committing violence with no provocation was counter to the very idea of the compound.
So Rich, our magistrate and judge, gave Jamie a choice. He could either allow judgement to be passed on him and accept whatever came his way, or he could choose from a list of punishments. Understand, there wasn't any need for a trial as we used to think of them. Jamie's guilt was never in question. There were no mitigating circumstances, he admits that Dodger did nothing to deserve getting hit. I think Rich gave him the option because Jamie was so forthright in taking responsibility.
So Jamie took three lashes. It was a bit harsh, more than he had to take. But he told Dodger after that people who felt as he did had to understand that nothing could be gained from losing control, and everything would be risked.
I see the wisdom there. What if, while Dodger and Jamie were having their altercation, a swarm had come upon the group of scouts that were crowding around them and not paying any attention to the surrounding area? If they had been attacked because Jamie's attack had caused a distraction, I sincerely doubt Rich would have been so lenient. If someone had been killed? Probably exile or death.
He knew that. He hated the idea of holding himself up on that post and waiting for the whip to lace across his back, but he did it. Jamie showed an understanding of himself and our situation that frankly shocked me. It took my small revelation the other day to realize just how far so many people here have come.
In the end, Dodger and Jamie shook hands. Not tersely or with grudges, but as two men who recognized that a wrong had been committed, and punishment for it served.
What purpose would be served by either of them staying upset about it? Team cohesion would falter, efficiency and watchfulness would suffer. Bad feelings build on themselves, only leading to more and worse problems down the road.
Those guys accepted the reality of the situation and moved on, just as I was talking about yesterday. You have to wonder how many stories like that are around here, going on every day. It may not seem like a big deal to some of you out there, but for me it's like watching a dream I never expected to become reality suddenly smack me in the face and say hello. The biggest problem this world has ever had, at least in human society, is not a lack of communication. It's a lack of understanding.
People let too many unimportant things interfere with their better judgement. Racism was a great and extreme example of that--what could be more stupid than ignoring a potentially awesome friend of lover because of skin color?
Tensions between nations, personal relationships, or simply working at a job...these are all things that have suffered because people couldn't put overcome their pride or emotions and think rationally about what would be better for everyone. That's what really gets me here.
So many of us living in the compound have done it. Certain death is a great motivator and unifier. The really hard part is that far-distant and possibly fictional day when there is no immediate threat to bring us together. Working toward the good of all rather than from personal ambition or desire has to be a shared goal and ideal, or basically we're all fucked.
I've said before that the good of the tribe must be our primary concern. That has always been the position from which I have built most of my personal views and beliefs. My time out in the rain helped me to understand that to strive for the greater good, we have to overcome our internal struggles. Thinking about Jamie and Dodger, I can see that to some degree, we are managing that.
Now, if we can just keep it up for the rest of human history...
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Misogi is an old and traditional practice in Japan. Many people used different versions of it for ritual purification, and the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, used it as part of his training. Ueshiba found that water misogi, specifically standing under a cold waterfall, helped him to find his center and cleanse his mind so that he could move further toward understanding of himself and the world around him.
It's the waterfall that always interested me. Not as a spiritual cleansing, but as a physical and mental test of yourself. To me the idea of subjecting your body to long periods of extreme wet and cold and trying to toughen yourself to endure more every time you try it seems very primal. The mental control it takes to force yourself to remain still when so many outside stimuli are screaming at you to move, to end the discomfort, to be somewhere warm and dry and peaceful.
Fascinating. To me, anyway.
I have always wanted to try it. Not too many waterfalls around here, though, and for one reason or another I never got around to it.
Yesterday, I did. Sort of. It started raining early in the morning, and it was cold. Cold enough that there was zero chance of any zombies coming for us. Cold enough to require a winter coat. Not quite frigid to the point of turning the rain to snow, though, and that's what got me thinking.
I sat in my back yard on a small patch of grass wearing only a pair of shorts. The rain waxed and waned in the thirty or so minutes I was out there, ending with fat drops much like bullets, each one a painful sting on my skin. I shivered and burned to move away from the cold. I tried to think of anything else but where I was and the numbness in my limbs.
Thoughts crossed my mind that seemed so simple to me at the time, yet now that I have to write them down feel complicated and clunky.
The Fall happened. Society smashed apart when it struck the hard earth, and we are still dodging the pieces. Part of why the compound and so many other groups out there have survived is because we haven't cut ourselves trying to snatch the remnants of the old civilization from the flying debris around us. Most survivors instead remember what was, and move forward in a way that makes good and practical sense.
This has helped us bind our groups together in a way that has helped prepare us for today. For a time when we would have to deal with large groups of living people from other places.
The Fall of society made many of us more open to other people, more willing to accept them. Because circumstances demanded it. The constant zombie threat toughened us for the battles we have faced and will surely face again. We have survived and flourished because we embraced the struggle, accepted the pain and discomfort assailing our minds and bodies. We recognize the futility of wishing for things to be the way they were, or at least different than they are. The struggle to change and improve our lives has been accepted as an indelible aspect of those lives, and so we are able to work toward those goals.
At the end of my experience in the rain yesterday, I no longer wished to be somewhere else. I stopped thinking about being warm and comfortable and accepted that I would not be until I made the conscious to change my circumstances. It's a weird sort of loop, I know, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
The rain of undead upon us along with the effort required to simply survive has done something to us very similar to this ancient practice. We have been toughened physically by the constant fighting. Our minds have new clarity of purpose and focus. Our intent has been purified.
I don't know if I will ever know real enlightenment. I know that my desire to understand myself and the world around me is partially to blame for my inability to reach the totality of that understanding. But yesterday something in me changed. My perspective grew.
I am the same man I was a day ago. My circumstances haven't changed. My goals are the same as ever.
But my understanding of them has bloomed, and I am content.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Courtney has managed to maintain civil contact with the group in Carterville. They are still asking for privacy at present, so I won't go into detail. I will say that things are going well on that front. We even got an apology from them for shooting at me and Steve, not that we could blame them. Oh, and Courtney also managed to find out some info on the crazy bastard that commented on the blog after our trip to Carterville.
You might not remember, but when we got close to there we encountered a wall made of all kinds of things. My brother Dave blew a giant hole in it so we could get where we needed to go. On the way back from that particular trip someone posted a comment on that blog entry, basically threatening all of us here at the compound for damaging their work and endangering their families.
It wasn't the Carterville folks that sent this. Remember, they didn't have access to the internet at all until a short while ago.
No, it was someone from another group of survivors in Marion, which is my hometown. That group is smaller and frankly scary from what I have been told. They didn't build the wall (it seems likely that the marauders that still control much of Carbondale, where we rescued Tree and his people from, are responsible there) but they did enjoy the protection it gave from zombies coming in from the north.
The people in Marion are crazy. They aren't like some survivors, like us and the Carterville group, who are merely cautious to a fault and fast on the trigger. Nor are they like marauders, who kidnap and murder in order to steal supplies and weapons as well as for fun. No, those people are actually nuts, it seems.
They are rational enough to want to live, and seem to be willing to do just about anything to achieve that goal. Marion is now a deathtrap from one end to the other, dotted with pits, rope snares, explosives...literally tons of deadliness wherever you go. The Carterville group lost a patrol finding that out.
Marion is basically off limits to anyone and everyone. They kill any human who isn't a part of their group on sight. I don't know what they have gone through to make them so afraid of everyone, but there it is. No one goes in and lives. There is no chance for useful communication.
The whole thing begs the question: when and if society stabilizes and we can finally destroy or at least manage the swarms of zombies across the earth, what do we do with people like this? Do we leave them be and only worry about them when they get low on food or medicine and come out, desperate and willing to kill on a whim? Do we take drastic measures to ensure that a group of murderers never has the chance to come after us? It's a bit much for me this morning.
It's looking likely that Courtney and Steve will be heading out before long. I hope that the positive trend with the Carterville compound grows on, but I will worry about them regardless. There is so much death and destruction in southern Illinois, and we know that large groups are still active as marauders, maybe more so since our trip there. Our tenuous friendship with Carterville has made us aware that somehow they have kept themselves safe from outside forces, but I still worry.
Maybe because of our recent group obsession around here with overwhelming forces...
Ok, that's it for me. I need to get some work done today and writing for a long time is only sapping what little concentration I've got. More tomorrow.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
In a lot of situations, you might take a risk based on a gut feeling. The thing about living in a world full of the living dead is that the consequences of even the most basic risks are much higher than they were a year ago. Which is why, as the weather gets warmer today, we will be mounting full scout and sentry rotations. Through the last week and a half we've had big fluctuations in the temperature, yet no matter how warm it gets the zombies don't come for us. Maybe they are being led by smarties who realize that a cold snap right after an attack means they won't get far enough away before becoming immobile to be safe from us.
None of us are willing to bet on that.
That idea, of preparing for any contingency, is pretty much the driving force behind the way we have survived here. From day one, the compound has been about gathering supplies and food, weapons and vehicles...anything and everything we might need down the road. Several times we've been caught short because we just didn't think of this or that, but overall we have done well. So how do you plan out defenses when you know that somewhere frighteningly close there exists a group of men with access to enough firepower to level pretty much your whole town?
You don't. You can't.
When the idea came up in council, it was hard to convince people that the likelihood of the soldiers in Richmond just annihilating us without cause was small. People become irrational when they are afraid, and get very afraid when they realize that they could be wiped from the face of the earth without any warning or chance to fight back.
The key to the argument was motive. It's obvious that they do have one, and that they aren't just bent on our destruction. I mean, we haven't done anything to them. If they wanted to take us out, they simply would, I think. I'm sure that somewhere on that massive depot is a canister of something that would end us as a problem definitively.
They attacked us, though. They sought to overtake us through minimal force and without killing too many of our people. The assumption has to be made that they are after something. My guess is that they want our food and supplies, as Will paints a pretty grim picture of what life on the Richmond base is like...
So we have to operate from that viewpoint. We have to plan and build defenses based on an attacker that has a goal and means to get there that doesn't involve turning our home into a smoking hole in the ground.
It's actually a good thing. I mean, to know that there is at least a chance that we can survive an assault should it come...
Well, that's rather optimistic. I should have just said what all of us know--the attack is coming. There really can't be any doubt at this point. Why would people desperate enough to send ten percent of their men at us to try and take control give up after that attempt failed?
They won't. We are all certain of it, or we wouldn't have been let Will run roughshod over us the last few weeks augmenting our defenses. But we aren't trusting our gut on this. We are planning for any number of possible outcomes. Because as much as we love this place, my home for many years long before the zombie plague, we love living and surviving more. If it comes down to having to go down in a blaze of glory or having to run...
Hopefully, it won't come to that. Maybe we can do enough here to make the Richmond soldiers realize we might not be worth the risk. Maybe we can fend them off. Maybe we can kill them en mass.
We're working on all the maybes.
Friday, November 12, 2010
From Bullets to Words
Something very important happened yesterday, and I hope it bodes well for us. The mysterious group of people in Carterville, Illinois that shot at Steve and I from inside the walls of their own walled compound have finally contacted us. We have tried just about everything we could think of to form some kind of communication with them, to no avail.
Now, though, we have that chance. I got an E-mail from one of the people there, who has asked me to keep his information secret. It turns out that these folks have been struggling pretty hard just to get by since The Fall. They have just recently gotten communications up, and are trying to find some help from other survivors. Courtney is very excited about this, since she and Steve are both from Carterville, and as our diplomat this is sort of her specialty.
I don't have a lot that I can share about them at this point. They have asked for privacy for now, and we will naturally comply. If these folks turn out to be peaceable, then my hope is that we can build a good working relationship with them to strengthen us both.
Other than that, no big news to report. There have been no sightings of military men, which is great. The longer we can go without having to fight the soldiers from Richmond, the better. Hopefully it will never happen.
No zombies coming after us, which is just as good. It's finally gotten cold here again, and they have managed to hide themselves while hibernating so well that our scouts haven't found any big groups in the last day or two.
It almost feels like we're paused between breaths here. So much possible good and bad on the horizon, yet everything seems to be standing still. I hate the feeling that we are trying to plan our lives around fights that may never happen, and hopes that may never manifest. Patrick might be leaving soon to look for his family, Courtney and Steve might be heading back to Illinois to work on relations with the people in Carterville.
I will remain here with Will and Dodger, doing what I can to help them finish the defensive upgrades around here as well as doing my own job. This is our home, and I intend to do what I can to keep it happy and running smoothly when any of our people have to leave, so that when they come home it seems as though they never left.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Loss of Focus
We really thought there would be an attack yesterday. It was warm for a very long time, which most of us believed would awaken the hibernating zombies around here and bring them hunting. Fortune seems to favor us, however. No attack came.
The dramatic shifts in the temperature throughout the day are sapping morale around the compound. It's hard for a person to go from a beautiful sunny day to freezing cold when the dark comes. Many of us are kind of walking around in an irritated daze, waiting for the constant gloom of winter. At least then we'll have some consistency and maybe be able to get used to it.
I've been experiencing some odd symptoms the last few days, including a similar haziness to the folks unable to get used to the weather. I wake up exhausted every morning, with a bad headache, and have a really hard time concentrating and thinking clearly. My first concern was that Jess was dosing me with something again, slipping some kind of pharmaceutical into my meals like she did a few months back. I asked her, though, and she swears that's not the case.
It's not like I would get angry at her about it at this point. We've suffered a lot together, so trying to medicate me for my own good is far down on my list of shit to rage about. I accept her answer at face value, because she really has no reason to lie.
So, I talked to Evans. Time was, I would have asked my mom, but she's gone now. Strange how the weirdest things can open up those wounds and remind you what you've lost.
At any rate, I asked Evans about it since my lifelong healthcare coach has moved on, and he says that I have probably developed sleep apnea. Jess did tell me not long ago that my snores have begun to evolve from merely cute and gentle zzz's into the mighty rasp of a saw on a hard knot of wood. So yeah, looks like sleep apnea.
Last year, that would have been no problem. This year, I really have no options. I mean, I can't use a CPAP or anything like that, since we don't have any. Not to mention that we can't spare the power to run such a machine all night. And the other solutions such as changing sleeping position and whatnot don't work. I tried those years ago when I had a previous bout of heavy snoring and tiredness, though I had no idea at the time what sleep apnea was...
It sounds like I'm just bitching about my problem and to a degree I am. It sucks to be tired all day and feel like nothing makes sense when you read it. It frustrates and irritates the hell out of me. Add to that the fact that I know there will be no easy relief, along with all the other stress of living in a world populated by hungry, walking corpses, and you get a cycle of exhaustion-fueled rage and despondence that goes nowhere good.
That's one of my biggest fears. While I know from a lifetime of experience that I will always adapt and feel better regardless of how many times life kicks me in the balls, I don't know how many others around here can. We're a tougher lot than the average person who died in The Fall, surely, but everyone has their limits.
Some folks are managing very well. They are eating regularly if not sumptuously. They are within the relative safety of our walls. They have tolerably warm places to live, decent and needed work to perform. All of that is to the good.
But as you have read over the last week or so, not everyone's lie around here is so easy. Many people are dealing with the traumas in their lives, many so atrocious that they can't even talk about it. That constant stress I love to talk about, the daily fear of attacks and losing those we love is enough to test anyone.
What concerns me is the thousand tiny details that add up over time. For me, today, it's a sleep disorder I can't do anything about that is going to effect the quality of my life. For another person, it could be finally remembering that we don't have a corkscrew when he wants to open that bottle of wine he snagged to celebrate his anniversary. The woman who comes home from a long day of patrol on the wall only to realize that she's starting her cycle and the compound has run out of sanitary items for her to use.
Yeah, people hate that our medical facilities are limited, but that's a big thing that can be rationalized. It's the little bits we had become so used to that will bleed our minds a drop at a time. Can the adaptability that is the hallmark of the human animal work fast enough to get us used to the lack of so many things that eased our lives? I don't know.
I have always been a resilient guy, and most of the survivors with us are tough as nails. Right now I feel distracted and tired, but I know that once I get a handle on it this problem, I will manage fine. I'd like to think that the rest of the people here are better than me. Maybe they will be able to brush off the little things and appreciate what is rather than wishing for what was.
I hope so. The world that was is gone forever, and wishing will do us no good.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
On a related note, we don't have a dentist in house.
One of our scouts, Jamie Packard, is sitting in isolation right now after getting into a fight with Dodger. To be accurate, I should say that Jamie and Dodger had a heated disagreement which the former tried to end by blindsiding the latter. Jamie sucker punched Dodger when the poor guy thought the argument was over and lost two teeth for his optimism.
It's not the issue of the fight that makes me want to tell you about this incident, but rather why the fight happened in the first place.
While on his daily run outside with the scouts, Dodger wanted to go searching for more groups of hibernating zombies beyond the patrol area. It was very cold this morning just as it was yesterday at that time, but yesterday got warm. Which means that some of the undead got up and started moving around. With that lovely bit of information, you might see why Dodger was so intent on finding a group of zombies while they were helpless.
Jamie was fine with the idea, as were the other scouts. They have been making runs with Dodger regularly since last week and have come to mostly trust his judgement on this type of thing. Ahh, but that qualifier has to be put in: mostly. See, by the time they actually found a group of undead, it was already pushing fifty-five degrees. Dangerously close to the temperature they wake up at. Indeed, a few of the hardier zombies were stirring even as the discussion was going on whether to stay or go.
Dodger wanted to go, Jamie wanted to stay. As the disagreement grew more heated and some insults were hurled at Dodger, he decided to pull rank and make the call to come back home, at which point Jamie called him a coward and slugged him while wearing his armored gloves.
That brings us up to right now, I guess. Rich, our arbiter for all legal situations, is having to judge the attack on Dodger based on what happened today. Problem is, all of us know how Jamie feels. As I came to find out while hearing about this whole scenario, Jamie has had it harder than most of us. He managed to get his immediate family safe, only to watch some of them die in a brutal zombie attack. Acting as the leader of his small group long before he met us, he found himself alone after a while. Every person he loved was killed, leaving him no one. Imagine how badly that must have scarred him, and the anger those deaths must have stoked.
To give some perspective, let me share something about myself I'm not especially proud of. It's short and not so sweet.
A few weeks ago some people were over at the house taking my combat class. One of them left a bar of chocolate out. They must have saved it from Halloween. Anyway, one of my dogs got into it and ate the damn thing. Made him sick enough that I thought he was going to die. I went from house to house looking for who had done such a thoughtless thing, totally ignoring the fact that it was an accident in my rage, and when I finally got to the right house, the lady who did it admitted the truth. I lost it, screamed at her, and while she seemed a little worried that I was going to attack her (reasonable, since I was yelling in her face) she also took my outburst with a fair amount of calm.
Of course, I eventually apologized. I overreacted. My only defense is that I love my dogs and all my other animals almost as much as I do my family and more than I do most people. They are sweet and loyal and unconditional with their love for me. I don't take the illness or death of my pets very well.
I was almost on the point of violence for the sake of my sick dog. Jamie lost his entire world to the plague of zombies, so who among us can blame him for his intense desire, bordering on a need, to kill them? No one.
We are, however, a community built on the idea of peaceful cooperation. We can disagree all day long, but at the end of it we have to do so with each other non-violently. Else we risk so many of the same mistakes that society made before. We have laws and punishments for that reason. There have to be consequences to actions.
I'm not the one who got punched. Dodger is. He's a pretty reasonable guy, but who would blame him for wanting to see Jamie punished for his actions? Jamie was in the wrong. It's a shitty situation.
There's a famous quote whose source escapes me. It says something to the effect that to achieve real compromise, you have to make both parties feel as though each of them got the best deal they could get, but leave them wishing for something a bit better.
I don't know if that sort of wanting satisfaction can be reached here, but I really hope so. Not for the sake of a fistfight that the two men will probably both grunt out an apology to each other for (because that's what we men do, in case you didn't know), but because all of us carry that fury around with us. All the damn time. We are bitter and frustrated animals struggling to fit within the cage we have built to contain us and keep us safe. We trust that our reason and self control will overcome the more impulsive and vengeful side of our nature.
Not always possible. We all know that. This incident only underscores the truth that we are all capable of doing something stupid and destructive when our buttons are pushed. I hope that we can keep that sort of thing to a minimum, but I also hope that when outbursts do happen we can have some compassion and flexibility on both sides. A little understanding.
It's personal for me.
If my dog had died, I don't know if I would have had the self control not to lash out at that woman. Given how I feel about men who abuse women, that there is even a question in my heart about it is enough to make me worry about just how high my stress level has gotten. Again, not just me: all of us, at least every adult here, deals with similarly injured hearts. How do we deal? How can you heal the pain of a thousand cuts as this world of the dead continues to bleed us day after day?
Help me out here, because I just don't know.
Monday, November 8, 2010
At the end of the road
It's common knowledge that we want to be self- reliant for pretty much everything. It will take a long time to get there, but the reason for that is our desire to build a large and safe community where anyone can come and live in peace. My personal goal has always been to work toward Utopia, an impossible goal.
My philosophy in life is a curious mix of idealism and realism. I feel that working toward an unreachable goal will generally increase how hard we work for that goal, and how far toward it we get. It also keeps people trying to improve everything they do. For now, we work toward continued survival in this world destroyed by the uncounted swarms of zombies. In the future, we will take this cluster of neighborhoods surrounded by simple and rough walls and turn it into an enormous fortification. Eventually we plan to have most of Frankfort enclosed, with enough people here to ensure the survival of the human race.
I once read that every human alive comes from a surviving population of six thousand. I can't remember the exact circumstances that caused that catastrophe, but the details aren't important. Just think about it for a minute. Six thousand people into seven billion.
I want to make the compound into a center of learning. And farming. Technology. Many things.
Above all, a place of peace. Where families can come and be certain that they won't be abused and battered. Where the stupidities of the former world are dealt with on the spot, and harming others without cause won't be tolerated.
We have a lot of hurdles to clear before we can begin to make that dream come true. It may never be possible to achieve that much autonomy and cooperation within our own walls. But if we don't aim high, we can never hope to create something worthwhile or lasting. I am determined to make sure that the zombies who destroyed society don't manage to make human beings a thing of the past.
If you're with me, with us, I beg you to show your support in any way you can. Together we can change the world. It won't be easy and sometimes you will want to quit in frustration, but I can promise that in the final equation, it will be worth it. Maybe not for you, but for those that will hopefully come after.
If I die tomorrow, I will be satisfied having said that. We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world now, and the time for skirting around what you feel and being timid has passed.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Growing Along the Way
While on my now daily jog, I stopped by the main gate and helped a repair team there fix a broken bolt. Not a big deal, we have plenty of extras, but it made me think about some of the positive things the zombie plague has done.
I'm not saying I am glad it happened. The fall of society (which I often refer to in the appropriate caps "The Fall") was obviously the single most devastating event in the history of mankind. The greater majority of all people on Earth are dead, as far as anyone can tell. Families and communities have been sundered, and after enough time it's a real possibility that there will be too few of us left to continue on as a species.
But hear me out.
What is left of humankind are some of the most intelligent, versatile and resourceful people I have seen. As much as it galls me to do so, I have to say the same of many of the marauders that seem to crop up in groups across the country. I hate them, but they have managed to stay alive and thrive when most others didn't.
Mostly, though, it's the people I see around me on a daily basis. All of us have had to learn to do things that we had never considered before. People who had spent their lives as pencil pushers worrying about the cost of groceries are now farming their own land. All of us have skills and knowledge about that now, since so much of our land within the compound is used to grow food.
We've all learned some carpentry and building, weapons and hand to hand combat, how to fire a gun and hit what you aim for. A huge variety of skills and knowledge none of us had before. That's not even including the things we're learning from the books and copied web pages at our disposal. Many people are learning things that may never be useful, but have always wanted to know about. Groups of people are learning many useful things as well, from those of us in Evans' medical classes to the guys and gals trying to teach themselves electrical engineering in advance of trying to make our power stations work.
It's like we became a community full of my wife. If you've read this blog for a long time, you know that Jess has always had this weird but useful form of OCD where she gets obsessed with something and then does nothing else until she masters it. She did it with assembling computers, making chain mail, growing vegetables, sewing...the list goes on and on. She's sort of the template for us as a group.
I can't help but wonder at the changes in all of us over the last eight months. I know many of us have had to do very bad things, but for today, I like to think about the positives we've also managed from this tragic set of circumstances.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Moving Forward by Backing Up
While I was out I talked to Dodger, who has completely taken over runs to the outside with the scouts. They've been out hunting groups of inert zombies just after dawn, when it's still extremely cold but with enough light to see. He told me several very interesting things.
One is that they are still finding groups of undead here and there, but usually in small clusters. Most of those look very emaciated, as though they hadn't managed to find food in a very long time. Interestingly, those groups tend to be very small. The largest one our scouts have located so far was about a dozen. Most have been much smaller, three or four together.
Dodger found a large group this morning, and he only did so because he disobeyed his instructions from Will. Instead of staying within the radius of travel he was given, Dodger moved much farther out on a hunch. It seems that the smart zombies (smarties) might have seen the pattern in our patrols and gone outside their reach to hibernate or whatever it is they do. The group this morning was found about ten miles from here, all laying down with leaves and brush pulled over them in a dense copse of trees.
Dodger found them by the tracks they left in the mud around the place, so they must have been there a while. He stepped on one of them before he realized they were all laying down, but luckily the cold had the zombie so immobile that all it could do was moan before he crushed its head with a crowbar.
I guess they tried to move far away from people before they became unable to move for the winter. I worry that this means a large number of them will go unscathed this winter, but we aren't going to take inordinate risks when the weather gets bad.
The flip side to that coin is that a longer distance between us and them means that any warm spells would have to last a long time for them to make it back here and attack us. I see that as a big plus, since we've had no days in the last week above fifty five degrees or so.
Oh, while I was out jogging I saw Aaron. He's been pretty busy lately trying to keep ahead of his students on pretty much every subject, but I caught him talking to a very pretty girl. I hated to interrupt, but I had some news for him that couldn't wait. I'll share it with you as well.
My sister has been working with Jack and his people up north to try and help us with some technical skills that we sorely lack here. To that end, she will be coordinating with Aaron to send some of his more interested students up north to receive training in whatever areas of engineering and fabrication (or pretty much any other subject Jack's people know). With luck, those folks will come back with some new things to teach others.
Roger's death drove home a lesson we already knew: we can't allow specialized knowledge and skills to be lost. Patrick worked with him and learned enough from him to continue his work, but Pat is gone right now, and that is too risky. Pat will be home again soon, we hope, and when he gets here he will stay long enough to teach what he knows. He's agreed to do that full time until there are two others that know was much as he does about smithing and metallurgy. That will be helped by the surprising delivery of books Roger's wife dropped off here this morning, which contain between them thousands of pages of instructions and bits of information, all written by him over a long career with metal. Bless that man for being so obsessive.
I have work to get back to, much as I hate to cut short. I have a good feeling about sending some of our people north to learn. It feels right.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
One Step at a Time
Evans thinks that all of us need to focus on getting in shape. Food has been plentiful enough that no one has really gone hungry since The Fall, and a lot of us have gotten more fit by the sheer amount of work needed around the compound. The real work will be building our endurance and constitutions up to a point where we can fight all day if we have to. Run all day if it comes to that.
Not to mention flexibility exercises and building muscle. The more nimble and strong we are, the better we will fare in combat situations. Now that the cold has set in pretty thoroughly, zombies are basically not a threat for the time being. The mark at which they tend to become active is about sixty degrees, and while some days get there, they are few and far between.
So we're dealing with an excess of energy now that we aren't fighting every other day or so. I have a strong suspicion that Will talked to Evans about this whole getting fit idea, but it seems like a good one. It helps that we are on rationed meals and that a great deal of what we eat is lean meat and veggies grown in the compound or around it. We still have a lot of canned food and dry goods, but we are trying to save that stuff for when we really need it.
At my weight I'm not exactly built for running, but I do it. I do a lot of things to improve my own life and set an example, like going to as many of Evans' classes as possible. I've missed a lot of them, but he's holding refresher classes and open tutoring times to help people catch up.
I'm still doing an hour a day of teaching myself, thirty minutes each of hand to hand combat and weapons. I'm a lot better at unarmed combat, but I've learned enough over the years to be decent with something sharp and deadly.
I want to be a bigger part of the community here. I'm already in a vital position, of course, because of the planning and logistics work I do with my brother, but I am fairly cut off from most people because of that. Like I said, I sit in an office and work eight hours a day at a minimum, and that greatly reduces the chances I have to meet and get to know people.
Consider. Most folks have jobs that take them outdoors. A guard, for example, is outside all day. He or she does four hours on the wall watching for external threats, then two hours walking patrol around the compound, and finishes with two hours of sentry duty. During that time, depending on what section of the wall they have been assigned that day, a given person can meet and talk to fifty people. Some are going through the gate to scavenge or run raids on dozing zombies. Some are simply digging up potatoes or carrots. Some are off duty themselves, merely enjoying a stroll (though more rare now that it's so cold.) while others are taking classes with Aaron.
Every bit of conversation, every introduction, produces a bit more togetherness. I have tried to get to know people, but it has felt all too often like trying rather than doing. It's felt forced.
I've had a little luck with combat training, but the idea is for me to teach. It's hard to be friends with the guy who demands you try harder, be better, because he knows you can even if you feel you can't.
So despite my heavy frame, I'm jogging. It gives me a break from the endless numbers and bits of math, and I get to be out there in the streets, smiling at babies and winking at pretty girls.
And getting to know the people around here, learning their stories, is important to me. I need to keep grounded in reality as much as anyone else, keep first and foremost in my mind what it is we're doing here. It's not about my anger or pride, having basically founded this place. It's not about my principles or ethics, my desperate and sometimes murderously harsh actions and decisions. It's about these people. Anyone that wants to live in peaceful cooperation.
They are the goal. Living, growing, continuing to be. Every man, woman and child are the greatest treasure we have. All else is dross that can be burned away, painfully, but ultimately expendable.
I'm not separate from them, or different. I have as much value as anyone here, and they as much as me. Working on larger and more long term problems has done much to make me lose perspective.
I'm going to go for a run. Maybe straighten out my vision a little along the way.