Friday, December 31, 2010
For those of you just tuning in, smarties are my cute little nickname for the unusually intelligent zombies out there. Thank god that strain of the plague isn't as easily transmissible as the one for cold resistance is, or everyone here at the hospital would probably be dead. It also helps that we were already in the process of making sure the ground floor windows were all doubly secured with boards and steel, anything we could find to make them useless as means of entering our space.
The great thing about hospitals in general is that the first floor of most of them tends to be taken up with the ER, lab spaces, radiology, and the like. At least, that's how it has been in my experience, and the one we're holed up in now is no exception. There aren't a lot of ways for the undead to get in, and given that the attached parking lot most of us were staying is walled, we're pretty safe.
It was the sheer numbers that blew us away. We've killed at least a hundred of them over the last day and a half, most having gotten over the wall to the parking lot. We'd set up a defensive position at the door, though, so it wasn't that hard to hold them back. Given our currently limited supplies of ammunition, the majority of the work (see: killing) has by necessity been done with handheld weapons. I've been using an Iaito, one of the katana I took from home that is durable and very good for cutting. It's nicked and scratched all to hell now, but it still does the job.
A few other people are using some interesting weapons. Jess is manning her rifle, of course--she took to that particular weapon much faster than she did to blades. Gabby even joined the fight at one point, using a brush hook. Have you ever seen one of those things at a Lowe's or Home Depot? It looks sort of like a four foot long halberd, with a wide, flat blade that has a curved end to it for yanking brush out after you cut it. It's fucking scary to see in action, especially when a tiny woman is furiously screaming while chopping into the skulls of walking corpses...
There are a few other people using swords, but now that the main body of the zombie horde outside seems to have called it quits, they have put down their weapons in favor of sleep. I'm going to do the same before too long, but I felt the need to let everyone know what's been going on since I didn't have a chance to post yesterday due to the fighting.
I think I'll start offering basic weapons instruction in the next few days. We lost a few people because of their lack of practice or familiarity with their weapons. At the compound, we had the advantage of numbers and time, so that those of us who have spent years sweating it out in a dojo carefully learning how to use a blade could teach those who hadn't. I don't want to see another person get bitten and turn because they lost their grip on the hilt of their weapon, no one having prepared them for the sudden change in weight as the blade bit into the body of a man once-living.
There's been talk about trying to put up extensions to the parking lot wall. If we can find some plywood or other large materials to raise up, it seems like a good idea. Of course, without a walkway of some kind or a support structure it would simply be a defense that would blind us, but if it stopped the undead from getting over, I'd be ok with that. At least then we could safely use the parking lot again, for cooking or what have you.
OK, the level of sleepiness I'm feeling is beyond description. I need to catch some sleep while I can, and help with whatever search may go on for supplies in a few hours. Or, help defend if this place gets hit again before then...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Actually, talking to Courtney this morning is the whole reason for this post. She updated me on a lot of what she, Steve, and the others have been up to. Little David is still with them, slowly coming to terms with losing Darlene to the Richmond soldiers when they came to take the compound from us.
Courtney passed on a lot of information to me, and I want to share it with you, because while the individual pieces might not be much alone, together they make a pretty interesting picture...
First is that recently her convoy has been making trips north. They've been as far as South Dakota in their efforts to help survivors struggling to cope with the winter along with the plague of zombies. That far north, the cold isn't just awful; it's sometimes deadly. What she saw there was swarms of zombies, none of them seeming to suffer from the cold at all beyond a little stiffness as they moved. People from her convoy confirmed multiple sightings of active zombies pretty much everywhere they went. So it looks like whatever mutation is causing them to develop cold resistance has either spread or at least become active almost everywhere. We suspected this, since so many people have reported seeing or fighting zombies since winter began, but this brings us data from a dozen states in a period of only a few weeks.
The second main thing we talked about was how successful her trip has been. At first she and her group left the compound to work with a coalition of volunteers from several other large survivor communities we had gotten in contact with. You'll recall that we managed to secure some awesome donations of manpower, vehicles, and supplies to make the trip possible. You might also remember that some of the large communities were reluctant to lend aid or supplies, but eventually gave in to help. The cool news here is that along their way, Courtney's people have discovered many more groups of survivors. Some of them have even joined the relief effort, giving fuel, people, vehicles, food...you name it. Many more of them decided to join with other groups to the south, bringing everything with them they could haul. This has resulted in a huge influx of people and needed materials to the south, swelling the number of people in the larger communities while also bolstering their supplies. Which, any way you cut it, is sweet.
The last thing we talked about was pretty awesome.
Most of the people that Courtney and the others talked to wanted to know what's been going on in the world, and how so many people had managed to get together so much to help those in need. So, she told them. She explained to every person who asked about how we at the compound had set up the relief effort, had managed to convince others to help us. Part of the reason that Courtney's efforts to help out have managed to go on this long is due to the assistance of some of the people she's been finding on the trip. People who have given much needed gas to keep the convoys running, or food to take on to the next stop. And pretty much every person who found out what the Richmond soldiers did to us is really, really pissed about it.
The end result is that every single group of people she's run into or worked with has put an embargo on the compound for as long as the Richmond soldiers are in charge of it. Some of the smaller groups may have needed a little convincing from the larger ones, but in the end they all agreed. There will be no trading with the enemy. Since all of the groups that she's run into or worked with total more than six thousand people, the Richmond boys can't really do much about it. It's pretty great.
The other awesome thing is that Courtney and her people will be heading here at some point in the future, or at least sending a little aid our way as well. It seems that the plight of the refugees from the compound has moved the hearts of a lot of the people we've helped, and they have appealed to all the big survivor groups to help us in return. All told, it's a pretty amazing display of what I've been hoping to see all along--human decency and a sense of community on a large scale.
The dead walk the earth, hungry for the blood of the living. We have been damaged in every way by the zombie plague, and nothing can ever bring back what we've lost. After talking with Courtney, though, I am now certain beyond doubt that we can work together to remove the debris from the foundations of society, and unify to build something new atop them.
When I first came up with what ended up being a personal motto, the words seemed simple and obvious. Protect. Survive. Hope.
I mean, we protect each other as best we can, because no one can be on guard all the time. We watch out for one another not only in dangerous situations, but in every aspect of our lives--being there in whatever capacity is required of us. We survive as a baseline, every effort we make bent toward that effort. Hope was always more ephemeral to me, a bit of philosophy that had no real world application, other than it being better to hope fruitlessly than to despair.
After this morning, despair just isn't an option for me. I've seen Hope with a capital H, and it's every one of you that has taken up the cause we helped start. All of you out there have done something amazing, not just for the people you have helped directly or indirectly, but for the human race itself. You've set an example for cooperative survival and betterment that no one will ever be able to ignore or dismiss. You are heroes. You're amazing.
And you're all everyday people. That's the best part.
You've made it real to me. Thank you.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
One Less Worry
The people that have come here for medical care and decided to stay are integrating with each other and the original groups very well. My group is still sparkling new, and it's going to take a while for us to get used to one another. I'm not worried about it, to be truthful--after listening to Gabby and her people talk about the compound and what we had there, having to run away from it, they are very interested in hearing how my people did the same. It's a start.
With so many warm bodies to cover sentry duty, a lot of us have extra time on our hands. I've spent mine this morning trying to get in touch with some folks, mainly the groups that have been in and out of contact since we fled the compound. Aaron and his kids are hard to get hold of most of the time, and Patrick (god help him) is rarely in contact, as you might have read in his post. While I was sending out emails and making calls, though, I was given some interesting information that I'd like to share.
It seems that our fear of the Richmond soldiers coming after us is mostly baseless. I'm getting this info from someone who managed to communicate with one of our people still in the compound, but given who I talked to (and no, I won't be sharing that) I think it's pretty reliable.
See, I thought as many of us did, that the Richmond boys would get all manner of nervous with an enemy contingent (the refugees from the compound) moving freely about the countryside. The general wisdom was that as soon as they secured their power base in the home they took from us, they would be sending teams out to find us and gun us down.
Apparently, that isn't the case. According to my source, the remaining citizens of the compound have been causing just enough trouble to keep the Richmond soldiers busy--things like sentries leaving their posts at random, refusing to do chores for them such as washing clothes or making food, all sorts of little inconveniences that add up to a lot of time spent working for the men who took our home away.
I was worried at first that doing those kinds of things would basically incite a round of executions, but apparently the soldiers are dealing with pretty much every single person pulling little shit like this. They know they can't kill everyone, so they're trying different methods of controlling the folks we've left behind. None of the measures they've put into effect have done much good, so for the time being we refugees are safe.
I'm proud of them, I will admit. Resisting an occupying force is ballsy, and resisting just enough to keep them from doing anything more than guard the walls and get irritated is brilliant. I'm going to do my best to get in touch with the source inside the compound directly. I'd like to get a first hand account of how things have been since we ran.
One other contributing factor in how busy the Richmond soldiers are is the damn zombies. What started out as a small fraction of the total zombie population (which we called SnowTroopers) that are capable of functioning in the cold has now grown into a major problem. It seems that whatever mutation causes cold resistance in the zombie population spreads much easier and faster than the one that makes some of them smart. More and more of them have been popping up here, even in the last day, and word from the compound is that they are seeing daily numbers close to what we used to see in the fall. Dozens walking the walls at any given time, bursts of hundreds on bad days.
They've got the improved defenses that Will worked on for weeks at their disposal, of course. As much as I hate that fucker for giving us up to his Richmond friends, I have to tip my hat once again to his evil genius when it comes to defensive measures.
I'm taking a turn at sentry before long, so I need to wrap this up. One last thing I'd like to ask all of you out there--if you run in to anyone from the compound, try to help them get in touch with us. We want to try to get anyone and everyone who isn't currently either with Courtney and her group or trying to save his family (Patrick) here as soon as possible. We always seem to flourish as a group.
Monday, December 27, 2010
So, we made it. I'm frankly kind of shocked at how organized and ordered everything here is. Everyone has food and shelter, there are people on sentry duty here and there. It's nice to see people outside our group again. We had a hard time getting here between the constant snow and random groups of zombies drifting across our path. One thing that I really miss? Road crews. You never really think about what they did for society until you don't have them anymore. Driving along pretty much any road with five or six inches of snow on it and patches of ice sucks in ways that I can't even describe.
I'm pretty exhausted from the trip. Getting here was frustratingly slow, and now that we've arrived I don't think we'll be going anywhere for a good long while. That is, we'll be staying as long as it's safe for us to do so. You might call me paranoid since I've seen no actual evidence that any of them have come after us at all, but I'm still worried about what would happen if the bastards that took our home from us figure out where we are.
It's not that this town isn't fairly defensible or that we lack people willing to put up a fight if one is brought to us. It's just that right now we're not at full fighting strength and we need time build ourselves up a bit. We have canned and packaged food, but right now no long term solutions for growing our own. All of that was left behind. We've got ammo for our guns and handheld weapons, but the shop we set up back at the compound to cast bullets and make our own shells is lost to us.
Right now, I'm thrilled to be around people, and ecstatic to be in a group that is big enough to ward off smaller threats. I love the safety and sense of community. It's just a fragile thing right now.
I recognize, of course, that almost no community anyone builds in the world as it is now can be stable or safe in the ways that used to count. Look at the compound--we had a decent population, armed to the teeth and as prepared as it was possible to be. Sitting on a stockpile of food and weapons, ready to die or kill to preserve it.
And all it took was one man to take it all away.
As I walk around this place, assisting where I can with first aid needs, I keep that simple fact in mind. We're nowhere near as well protected as we were at the compound. We're in a delicate situation. Yes, we are alive and together, which is a beautiful thing. We can pool our resources to do more than any of us could individually. And all it would take to ruin what good we have here is one person telling the Richmond soldiers where we are. Or anyone that has a jones against us, for that matter.
Hmmm. A parable just popped into my head that pretty accurately describes the situation:
A man is hanging from the edge of a cliff. In his haste to catch himself, he grabbed on to the only thing he could--a strawberry plant. As he hung there watching the thin roots slowly come out of the ground, he realized that he wouldn't be able to pull himself up. He resigned himself to his fate, knowing that he would surely fall, and at that moment he noticed a delicious berry amid the leaves. So, he ate it.
I've always loved that one. I don't think our situation is as bleak as the man in the story, but there is a ring of truth to it nonetheless. I'll enjoy what we have while we have it, and keep an eye out for anyone taking aim at the roots...
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The Greatest Gift
On thanksgiving, I talked about trying to find the hidden good in the situations we find ourselves in. The zombie plague has taken most of what we are, but at the same time it's burned away the dross and left us stronger and more pure.
Christmas is different. It has so many meanings. For Christians, it is a celebration of the life of Jesus. For others, a time to give generously when the world is cold and harsh. Yet others simply celebrate togetherness and the warmth of being a family.
For me, on this Christmas, I think about the real gifts we've given one another. Regardless of the season, we now live in a world as hard and sharp as the dead of winter. We've given each other the gift of life--fighting for one another to protect. But violence, even when it is meant to preserve, is so integral to who we are as a species that it's an easy gift to give.
We've given each other that gift of life in other ways. We've buckled down and learned to farm, working our fingers in the earth until our muscles protested and our bodies became weak. We have learned to make things to preserve life, people with no experience at all striving to understand the workings of armor. It may seem strange or silly to you to think of these things as gifts, but they certainly are. It would have been much easier for so many of us to become marauders, to take and take from others. I see the gift of honest effort as one of the greatest that has been given to us by each other, and I thank you for it.
The single greatest treasure that we've shared is also the one that surprised me the most. Seeing my fellow citizens of the compound, both before and after the other refugees and I fled it, find moments of real normality. Watching people tell jokes and invite others over for dinner. Seeing two sentries have a friendly disagreement about what NBA team had the greatest legacy. Watching a young boy and girl share that same first peck on the cheek that one of them would call their first kiss for the rest of their days.
We have been changed in ways that may take years for all of us to fully understand. We can't do the things we've done, make the decisions we've had to make, and remain the same people. The world as it is has shaped us and removed the complications that used to clutter our everyday lives. It has made us grim and frighteningly realistic about the risks we face on a daily basis.
But it hasn't taken the core of us. Everything I have seen makes me believe that there is something inherently good in people, powerfully so. When the worst case scenario came, we struggled and suffered, we cried our tears. Instead of falling into the instinctual behavior to kill and take, we found ourselves sharing compassion and love. We allowed ourselves to feel completely at ease with the way life is now, to take small pleasures and pass them on to others.
That's a gift that can't be measured. You have all given it to me, and I to you. Today, let's celebrate being alive and together. Remember with a happy pride that we've accomplished that by treating each other as we wished to be treated, and acting like the civilized people that we know ourselves to be.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanuka. Whatever your reason for the season, enjoy today. You made it happen.
Friday, December 24, 2010
I Still Live (For Now)
It took me a while to convince him that people knowing his first name wouldn't be such a bad thing. It brings me great pleasure to finally be able to call him something other than "the new doctor" or "the other doctor". His name is Phil.
That's right. Doctor Phil.
We don't call him that, of course. We never call Evans "Doctor Evans". It'd just be weird. Thinking about it, though, makes me wonder if he didn't want us to tell people his name just so no one would make that stupid joke...
We've been doing a lot of work around here lately. People are still coming in here and there, some staying while the majority move on or go back home. We've had patients from as far as three hundred miles away come to us. I wouldn't have thought so many people would have the resources to make it so far, but one thing about being able to look outside and see the dead walking is that it greatly increases your ability to handle surprise.
And trust me, we can see them walking out there. A lot of people were living out in their cars or in tents before the large groups of cold-proof zombies started to show up. The parking lot for this hospital is walled in, so none of them were in too much danger, but I get why so many of them wanted to have more brick between themselves and the undead.
We've picked up some interesting facts from the people that come to us for treatment. Phil has an amazing bedside manner (which is strange considering that most doctors are...well, that's just the nurse in me coming out...) and people tend to open up to him easily. For instance, there is a farm about forty miles south of where we are that has almost as many people as the compound did before we fled, and the people there have managed to stockpile truly huge amounts of food. Also neat is the tip we got about a small oil refinery a hundred miles down the road, one that has plenty of gas ready for the taking.
We've gotten dozens of nifty tidbits like that thanks to Phil. He's sort of the opposite of Evans. Where Evans is, and I say this with love, sort of a surly bastard, Phil is gentle and caring. The flip side to that coin is that while Evans has forty years of practical experience with trauma and emergency medicine, Phil is racing to relearn the basics of those things. He's not an idiot or anything--it's just that once he specialized in working on cancer, he didn't need to keep up with much else.
I really don't want to make it sound like Phil is doing anything wrong or isn't pulling his weight. He's working ten or twelve hours a day with patients, then spending at least two hours with Evans and a few of the students learning surgical procedures, treatment options, diagnostics...he's actually pretty amazing in his work ethic.
We're doing a good thing here, no matter what else is going on. Thinking about how things have gone in the last weeks makes me wonder if running from the compound doesn't have its major upsides. If we hadn't, we would never have met most of the people we've been caring for, never built what connections we have made. Our group has achieved communication and a lasting good will with so many other survivors since we left home, and I don't think that should be dismissed.
I would like to think that eventually, we would have trained enough people that we could have sent some out into the world to do exactly what we're doing now. The truth is that I doubt it would have happened. Risking a resource as limited as a person who has the knowledge, gained over years, to cut you open and fix you, then sew you back up? It's a hard leap to make, at least for me.
I wish the soldiers from Richmond hadn't done this to us. In a way, I'm glad they did, because I don't know that we could have reached a point of stability in my lifetime to make the citizens of the compound willing to take the risks we're taking now. It took the threat of total destruction or complete oppression to put us on this path.
And as long as we're forced to be on it, I will take solace in the good we're doing. It's that easy.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
It was a pit. Not very old, almost certainly dug after The Fall, the edges of it barely eroded from the weather. The sides were almost vertical, and the backhoe that made the pit was still in the bottom of it. At least ten feet deep and thirty across, that hole in the ground was strange enough a sight to make us stop and take a peek at it.
Inside, half obscured by melting ice and slush, were bodies. Most of them were so ravaged by the weather that it was almost impossible to tell anything about who those people must have been. There were a lot of them, we estimate more than a hundred. At first we thought it must have been the dumping ground for the zombies killed by the locals--after all, it's outside of town (in the direction we didn't come by, which is why we missed it the first time) but after that initial shock we realized that it was pretty unlikely.
After all, part of why we stayed in that little town was because so much stuff had been left behind. The people that lived there left very, very quickly, and that means that it isn't likely enough people stayed behind to kill enough zombies to necessitate a hole that big.
After we searched around that area for a few minutes, we came across a body in a car, the occupant having shot himself in the head quite some time before. There was a note, and I'll give you the gist of it since none of us wanted to bring it along, for reasons that may become clear.
It wasn't a typical suicide note. The man who wrote it, the one who shot himself in his car, had been the administrator of the nursing home we had been staying at. He said in it that while some people had come to take their elderly relatives to the supposed safety of the bigger cities, most hadn't. When his staff left and there were so many left to be cared for, zombies prowling constantly...he made a choice.
He described in great detail the steps he took to end the lives of every single person under his care. He was the last one, a single man with no family and no staff left to do the work. He poisoned the residents of his facility, dug the hole here, and filled it with their bodies. He begged forgiveness for his acts. I don't know who he was asking, but I'm certainly not the one to give it to him.
I thought I had seen enough terrible things that I could no longer be surprised by my reactions. I was wrong. To know that this man methodically worked his way through the building, killing helpless people one after another makes my skin crawl. It doesn't help that part of me understands and in some tiny way almost too small to be called real, agrees with his action. I don't think I could have done it myself, but truly take a look at his situation.
He cared for them for a week entirely on his own. It became clear to him that there was simply no way to keep them alive in the short term without help, and virtually no way at all to do it in the long term is society didn't immediately rebound from the zombie plague. He had to leave most of them covered in their own filth just to get any food or water in them for the day. He barely slept, and trying to keep the zombies away was taking its toll on him.
Rather than let them suffer and die from dehydration or the horror of being savaged by a zombie and then coming back to do the same to the others, he made the deliberate choice to end their lives. A brief flare of pain before falling into peace forever. Taking his own life, he had written in his note, was the only choice he had left.
It's brutal. Terrible. And after all this time struggling to survive, forcing ourselves to become observant and aware so that we stay alive, we never thought about this. We never considered the lack of elderly people or the mentally handicapped. Hell, we rarely see anyone who even has a limp.
How many times has this scenario played out over the last nine months? The weak and injured, old and disabled...how many pits are there around the world just like that one?
I don't know. It's too much.
We'll be on our way shortly.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Looking For Direction
I'm glad we took the time to harvest supplies the other day. There were lots of cars to siphon fuel from, and we even managed to squeeze in some more gas cans for each of our vehicles. The food we've found here will replace a lot of what we've used over the last few weeks. We're as well stocked and provisioned as we can be, better even than we were when we left the compound.
The only real problem is that we don't have a destination in mind. We don't want to head toward any of the places that the Richmond soldiers know about--we'd rather not endanger our allies by taking refuge with them. We have a few ideas about where we might go, but most of the safe spots we've heard about aren't much more than rumor and speculation. The driving factors for us are simple:
We're a group of more than thirty people, and anywhere we go has to be suitable for those numbers.
We're fugitives from our own home, which means that moving back toward that home is not an option.
We've got full tanks of gas for each of our vehicles, and enough extra to refill twice each.
The last one is the most pressing. We've got to assume that the fuel we have is all we're going to get. We have to plan our exit so that wherever we end up, we don't run out before we get there. Today is going to be our last day here any way we cut it, that's certain. This morning is the time when we'll decide where we're headed.
I knew we wouldn't be here forever, but I had hoped that we could at least last out the month. There's plenty of propane left in the generator, more canned food than we can take with us, and a total lack of living human beings anywhere nearby. The reality remains that this nursing home just isn't as defensible as it could have been given the right time and materials, but we don't have either.
Gabrielle and her group are doing well, so maybe we'll try to get where they are. It would take a lot of driving and a lot of luck, but I don't think it would be any more difficult or risky than trying to go somewhere we've never been in hopes of finding anything near as good as the place we're leaving. There's always the option to head in the direction of Courtney and her roving group of people, but when she left the compound to run her mission of goodwill and to lend aid, somehow I didn't see her having to give that aid to us. That's a flimsy option, anyway, given how often they move around and how patchy communication with her is.
I do want to add in here, while I still have the time, that Courtney and her group have managed to do some pretty amazing things while they've been out on this trip. She's gone above and beyond the call of duty, not only passing out supplies and providing transport for those that need it, but finding new groups of survivors and convincing some of the more reluctant groups to finally pitch in and help. She's actually had to make fuel runs back down south to restock a few times, her relief mission has been so successful. I'm proud of what she and the others with her have accomplished. Should I die tomorrow, it will be with the knowledge that in ways small and large, the world has been made a better place by some of the people left in it.
That's way more comforting to me than it should be. We're in a mess here, trying to plan out where we will go, waiting until we're sure that the zombies outside have thinned out enough for us to pile into our vehicles. Yet despite the struggle ahead and the unknowns we face, I can't help but take a lot of solace in the fact that people, a lot of people, are doing what they can to help those in need.
It's not just the holiday spirit, I'm sure. It's truly awesome to me to witness people rising up against the terrible circumstances all of us are in to recognize the basic truth that led me to found the compound in the first place: that the needs of the tribe, the larger issue of survival of the human species, is more important than any other factor.
I've said before that living in a world of the dead has forced us to learn how to truly live. Never before has that truth been more clear to me. It can't just be about survival for us. In fact, there can't even be an "us" unless it's referring to every survivor out there. I'm not saying that we won't have trouble with marauders or crazies--we will. But the greater body of the human species can survive having cancers like those removed when needed. We're all in this together, and it fills me with real hope to see that so many out there are starting to see that as well.
Ok, the last of our people have woken up. It's time to decide where to go. I'll be back as soon as I can.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Better Living Through Chemistry
So a bit of advice for those out there surviving the zombie apocalypse. Attempting to remove a bullet in one's leg without any sort of heavy medication is dang near impossible. However, having an eight year old attempting to remove the same bullet is downright terrifying. Fortunate for me, I watched Evans and Gabby do this enough to at least have some idea on how to walk someone else through it. That and I know a good amount about the human body. Maybe not the exact names of certain things, but where they are and what they do most definitely. So thanks to Allan (one of the four that was trapped with me) I no longer have a bullet in my leg. I'm still unable to walk on it though, but at least now it has the chance to heal properly. But honestly, this isn't why I'm updating. Don't get me wrong. I'm very excited about having that bullet out, but some things are far more important.
Like, how we managed to secure the school. Yes, we're secured. The raiders for the most part are dead, though a few did escape. I doubt they'll get very far though. Like Josh, we're under a bit of siege, though not by nearly as many, thankfully. This school is not even remotely zombie proof. I've gotten the kids to work on boarding up the massive windows in the classroom I'm held up in, and we've blocked off most the other entrances on our side of the school (it's too large to explore throughly at the moment). I've been told they/re actually trying to make this place a bit of a maze, in case anyone else tries to invade our temporary home. Of course, it's a home we just stole from some other folks. I know in the last post I painted them as raiders and such. But honestly, I don't know for certain. I can only assume the fact that they fired upon our group which had a bunch of children in it that it was the case. Then again, they might not have known. They didn't really put forth much of an effort to flush us out of the room, though they might've just assumed we'd eventually starve to death. It's a hard call. Can't really ask them now, can I? Oh well. Still I have five dead children and three dead adults, so forgive me if I don't seem too terribly upset about it.
Ugh, I really wish Gabby or Evans was here about now. I was glad to hear they were doing well wherever they are. Still, this leg is killing me. Maybe I can have Philip figure out some way to use the chemicals in the lab to make some sort of heavy duty painkiller.
Oh yeah. Yeah. Philip found the chemistry lab. Rather Gregg found it, but Philip put it to use. It's find was a major contributer to overtaking and ousting the occupants of the cafeteria. Basically the run of it is this; Philip used to go to a public school before the fall, and anyone whose been to public school knows that most schools come equipped with chemistry labs in varying degrees. Typically they store the chemicals you work with in one of the large glass cabinets that are surprisingly easy to break into. Philip sent Gregg (via the vents) to find this school's. Apparently this school got a substantial amount of state funding, because it had a very nice chemistry lab. Even had a working eye wash apparently. Imagine that. Even had all the chemicals properly labelled or so I'm told. So a little bit of saltpeter, some sugar, a little bit of baking soda, some aluminum foil and two Bunsen burners later, Philip and his group had a handful of smoke bombs. I'm not sure how the battle went exactly. However, I'm told Philip and the other kids took down 5 of them before they even had a chance to react. The last three made a run for it. One of those guys was knifed down by Tanya and Gregg. The other two got away or so it sounds anyways.
I'm not sure how I feel about what the children did to be honest. Part of me is proud that they did what was necessary for survival. The fact that they've killed now, that worries me. Gregg and Tanya both seem so much more withdrawn, though they follow Philip around like puppies. Philip's more or less taken charge of things here, since I'm mostly out of commission. Though he does come to talk to me at great lengths now, discussing this plan or the next. He's a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders. Though, I feel like he's enjoying this being in charge thing a bit too much. Still, what am I gonna do? I'm pretty much immobile, and unlike me, he's not gotten anyone killed, yet.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Across the Ice
Thankfully we were awake when it happened, and the lookout responded fast. He backed out of the room when the first crack appeared in the glass, and locked the door. We came in through the shared bathroom and cut down the zombies in there before blocking off the broken window.
They're still out there, and while the sound of their frozen hands beating on the walls and windows has slowed, it hasn't stopped. We're going to bite the bullet and get onto the roof to start picking them off. Which uses ammo we can't easily replace as well as sending out a huge dinner bell to any zombies within a few miles.
And to any people out there as well...
Got to get to it, just wanted to update you all. Will post tomorrow if things have calmed down by then.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
[This is a post by Gabrielle]
We've got some good mojo going on here. Our group has decided to stay for a while in the small town with the two hospitals. I know Josh told you guys that we had some exciting news, but I don't know how big a deal it will be to people.
There are resources here, a lot of them. We have access to electricity from the generators, and between the two hospitals we're pretty well stocked up. There's a LOT of stuff. The weird thing is, once I posted about this place, some survivors that live near here figured out where I was talking about. They started coming here in small groups for medical care.
At first, it was just some people who needed stitches or a bone set. Maybe some antibiotics. Then they would leave, giving us food or other necessities in payment. That was how it was the first few days. Then, people started showing up with vehicles packed with their stuff. Most of them needed medical attention to some degree, but a few just wanted to be close to doctors and nurses.
Some of them have brought us even more medical supplies, and they aren't charging for any of it. It makes sense. If you want to live next to what might be the only skilled treatment within a hundred miles, you want those professionals well stocked. So now we have a community growing here, increasing every day. Not big numbers, of course, but about triple what we had just a week ago. I know we couldn't share this place so easily if the newcomers weren't bringing supplies, but as long as they do none of us can see any reason to turn them away.
Evans and our new doctor feel that this is an excellent way to build good relations with the outside word. I agree, though some are still angry that we have to charge for our services. Also, we are really only running at about half capacity, since our second doctor (who still doesn't want his name shared, so we'll call him Doc Two) hasn't dealt with the sort of injuries and illnesses we've been managing since The Fall began. He's an Oncologist, and before the dead began to rise, a pretty wealthy one. He hasn't seen ER duty since his rotation in med school, so he's back on a refresher with Evans.
That's the big news. Slowly but surely we're building a group of people around us. Most of them have said that they want to come with us when we leave, and that's great. More survivors with us means that humanity has a chance to survive, and with me and the Doctors here to keep them healthy, those chances just got better.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
My Debut Novel! MORE shameless self-promotion!
Cold Hard Numbers
Today, though, is cold enough that all the melt froze over, harder and slicker than before. So for now, we're good.
I've been in touch with a lot of people over the last few days, trying to get a feel for how everyone is doing. Patrick is still out of contact with us, though I'm not at all surprised by that. He's trying to get all the way to Florida by himself, so we don't expect him to have a lot of free time (or the ability more often than not) to talk with us. Gabrielle and her group are doing well. Very well, but I will leave that for her post tomorrow. She'd kill me if I ruined the surprise.
I've talked to Courtney briefly about her exploits out in the wider USA, but she's insanely busy managing the relief effort so I don't know if she will be able to post anything in the near future. I have been trying to encourage Aaron to come out of his shell a bit more, wherever he is, and write some more posts on the blog. He's got the free time to do it with his injuries, and I think for the most part the kids have their camp secured...
I've talked to Jack's people in Michigan, and they are doing well. Their food supplies are holding up, power is fairly strong considering the cloudy skies and dimmer winter sun, but otherwise everything is good for them. Except that most of the people a his compound are really, really pissed about Will and the Richmond soldiers taking our home from us.
You have to remember, Will was something of a hero to those folks. Not that we didn't regard him with a lot of respect, but Jack's people saw him do amazing things. Heroic, stupidly brave things. They saw his mind work in creative and powerful ways to defend their home, which makes his betrayal of us that much worse. I've cautioned those I've talked with to keep an open mind, because in the end our lives right now boil down to survival. If, down the road, Jack's people need the food that my former home provides, it would behoove them to keep civil. There aren't a lot of options for most survivors, and I would hate to see Jack's people cut off if they were in dire circumstances.
That's why none of us went there when we ran. Jack offered us a safe haven, confident that his vastly superior numbers and distant location would keep his home from being threatened. None of us were willing to risk it, though, and I'm glad that Jack is the kind of thinker that sees the wisdom of neutrality when feasible.
The reason I spent so much of my day yesterday and this morning trying to get in contact with people was actually because of the SnowTroopers. (Yes, I finally gave in and started calling them that. Because it's shorter and easier than "Cold-resistant zombies" and frankly, it just sounds cool as hell.)
I've been trying to get some info from the others about whether or not they've been seeing these types of zombies and in what kind of numbers. Around here there are only a few dozen at any given time up and about. Gabby previously reported that there were a similar number where she is located. I thought, before yesterday, that the number of them relative to the number of normal zombies was about the same as the smart zombies, maybe one in ten.
Apparently I was wrong. Jack's folks have reported seeing hundreds of them in big herds up north, sometimes entire groups of hibernating zombies getting up and moving. Thank god that they're so stiff from the ice in their bodies that they have a hard time moving at first, because that makes them easier to kill. Courtney has gathered reports from most of the people she's met, and the numbers vary pretty widely across the board. Some places have swarms of hundreds, while others will have maybe a few out of a group of a hundred rise while it's still cold. I don't know what to make of it, but I'm going to keep trying to figure this out.
I need something to work on, besides this blog and staying alive. Being stuck in this nursing home means that my world has gotten a lot smaller in the last few days. I want to do something bigger to help out the rest of you. So keep me informed, alright?
Gabby will be posting tomorrow, and I think you'll enjoy it.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
A Study in Diamond
At first, most of us woke up terrified at the loud cracking sounds that woke us. They were sharp and seemed close; months of living on the edge of death have made all of us light sleepers. It was just on the verge of dawn when I sat bolt upright in my sleeping bag, which also woke Jess since we share one. She wasn't all that thrilled with being slammed around inside the tiny space we sleep in together, but she was only irritated for a few seconds before the cracking and breaking sounds made her realize that something strange was going on.
We made our way to the large window we use as our sentry post. The man on duty was alert and watchful, but hadn't yelled out any warnings, so we relaxed a little. Couldn't be that bad if the alarm wasn't raised.
What I saw through that window was a world changed overnight. The weather has been pretty bad lately, though after the snowstorm the other day the temperature did manage to climb up to the low thirties--not enough to melt the snow, but not windy either. Just enough to be tolerable compared to the skin-freezing extremes of the previous week. Overnight, though, we apparently got some rain and some colder air, because this morning everything was covered in ice.
Not the devastation that most of the midwest, but especially Kentucky, suffered back in 2008. That was one of the worst ones in memory, more than an inch of ice covering everything. It looks like about half of that out there right now, but that's not the important bit.
When snowfall covers the land around you, it creates a lie. Everything is coated and appears pristine, a blanket of white that makes the world uniform and simple. Maybe that underlying thought is why it bothered me so much to see the new, cold resistant zombies (who various people are still trying to convince me to call "SnowTroopers") walking around in it, breaking the even snowfall into chunks and pieces. We've watched them pretty closely over the last few days, but while these new zombies are a threat simply for what they are, they are still relatively slow and plodding. They're easy to avoid.
It just bugged me to see half-rotted corpses walking around in the untouched snow. Something about that image really got to me. So when I saw them tripping and stumbling across the ice today, I couldn't help but compare and laugh. There were a few dozen wandering in the open field in front of us, covered in ice themselves while they slid and crunched through newly hardened covering over the snow. It was funny and a little sad to me, but mostly a relief. Because of the ice, we can hear them coming way before we can see them. As long as the cold weather holds out, mother nature has given us a decent early-warning system.
For all the practicality of the ice, though, I have to say something about what struck me when I looked at it. I said that snow lies, because it covers and homogenizes. Snow hides what's really underneath but doesn't change what actually is. The ice, though...
The ice made the world shine and sparkle. You could still see what was under it in some places where the snow had been thin, and it was beautiful. Everything had this layer of diamond covering it, yes, but you could still see what lay beneath. I was hit by the sheer awesomeness of it. It may not seem very important to some of you, but I'm a strange guy.
Taking small pleasures where we can find them is vital to continuing to survive. Life in our world of the dead is so hard at times, and there is little to console us at the end of the day. We go to sleep when there is enough heat to ensure that we won't die of exposure in the night, knowing that the next day will be just as difficult and full of danger. Our survival instincts make us go on, to do our best. To live.
Taking a moment to witness and appreciate something as simple as the amazing power of nature to candy-coat the world in a single night helps me. I think a lot of people get through the day by finding small joys in the everyday routine. Watching a leaf dance in the breeze. Making someone smile.
Shooting a zombie in the face. That one seems to do it for a lot of people.
We're going to be busy over the next few days, trying to stock up on firewood and supplies if at all possible. The rain made a lot of the snow melt, but there's still a lot of it out there. Since we've seen how badly the zombies outside fare on the ice, we want to take advantage of that while we can to really prepare for a long haul here. We are trying to find more propane as well, so that we can use the generator more often. As it is we only use it when we have to in an effort to conserve fuel. That first day was so bitter cold that we really didn't have a choice but to turn it on, though I regret the need now...
I will try my best to post in the next few days, but no promises. My hope is to hear something (anything, really) from Patrick soon, and Gabrielle or Aaron might be posting again in the near future. Be safe, be warm, be cautious.
And for your own good, take a look outside tomorrow and try to find something beautiful to enjoy.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
This is Aaron here. Josh asked me to post up some time ago, but given the situation I now find myself in, today was the earliest I could do it. See, I'm injured at the moment. Don't worry, it's not lethal or anything. I'll survive. But maybe I should back up a bit. Explain everything that's gone on.
When I found out about Richmond making their way to the compound and Will's betrayal, I grabbed most of the class that was with me. Roughly around 20 kids. Most of them were around the 8-12 age range, though there was a pair of 15 year olds and a 17 year old. There were a few adults with us, but I'll get back to that. We all managed to grab one of the outfitted school buses and thankfully one of the adults (Teddy was his name I think) knew how to drive the thing. We got the heck out of dodge and just started driving. I honestly had no clue where to go. I was so frustrated, so angry, and so betrayed. I trusted Will. Will, can you read this? I trusted you! I hope you realize the hell you're going to get someday. The hell that all of you will get.
Anyways, after driving for what seemed like forever trying to find a place, we passed by the perfect place. A school. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner. It's specifically equipped to deal with large groups of children. Groups much larger than my own. I also believed no one would've raided it. Most people don't see schools as supply stations. They forget all the medical stuff the nurses offices have, all the food the cafeteria holds, and most importantly, the back up generators most these places have for cases of emergency. This one in particular looked to be mostly solar powered given the panels on the roof. Not to mention two-way radios and other very very useful supplies. So we quickly offloaded everyone on the bus (after concealing it from view of the road) and went into the school. I felt a sense of amusement as I passed through the doors. I always felt like I belong in a school in some form or fashion, just not quite like this. Our group started making our way to the cafeteria since the first thing that needed to be checked was the food supply.
I'm guessing they must've heard us coming. I don't honestly know. My memory of the events is a bit foggy. The only real things I remember was hearing a loud bang, followed by an explosion of pain in my leg. I watched as Teddy, and two other adults with me were mowed down by what seemed to be a hail of bullets. Four of the kids dragged me off to what seems like one of the side classrooms. They locked and barricaded the door. I continued to hear gunshots, but instead of hearing the screams of dying children (though there were a couple of those) I heard a couple of grunts and heavy thumps. It seems the 17 year old(whose name I just remembered is Philip) had thought enough in advance to bring a gun of his own and apparently some of the kids grabbed the guns from the fallen adults.
It wasn't long after this that I heard noises in the vents. Two of the bravest kids(Gregg and Tanya) I know crawled out of it. They apparently had decided to use the vents as a means of communication and information gathering (or talking and looking as they said). They watched a lot of spy movies before the fall apparently. Fortunate for them they were also some of the smallest kids in the class. What they had to tell me was grim. There are still 8 men left in the cafeteria and they have the two large entrances each guarded by two men, as well as the one side entrance into the kitchen area. Each of the men carry guns and what looks to be some sort of homemade pipe bomb if the description from Gregg is any indication. We lost the two fifteen year olds (Jenny and James their names were, twins even, maybe even the last set of twins around though I hope not), all three of the adults (other than myself, of course), and 3 of the other children. Everyone else made it into the room across the hall from me, so they're close at least. So that leaves me with 15 kids in two separate rooms, and unable to move.
Oh yeah I suppose I should tell you what's going on with that. I was shot in the thigh. Somehow just missed the big artery that runs through it, thankfully. Unfortunately, I can't really treat it, but at least I'm able to keep the wound clean with some neosporin and rubbing alcohol Gregg has gotten me from the Nurse's office. But still, if I don't get the bullet out sometime soon, it's not gonna be fun. Not that any of this is. Ever. Gregg was also nice enough to bring me one of the guns from the other room so I can protect the four kids in here with me. Philip's doing a pretty good job so far of organizing things in the other room. I've been told he and the other kids are even working on a plan. Also we've managed to stay fairly warm. I'm guessing that some of the bastards held up in this place are maintaining the generator to keep the electric flowing. So that's where things stand. I'm not sure how we're going to get out of this but we will. I won't let another one of the kids die if I can help it. They've become my new family in a way. I'm proud of my kids, very proud. But I'm also sad for them. That they've had to go through this, and worst of all, they'll most likely have to kill to get out of here. Philip already has, and I imagine that will change him. No one kills without being changed. I know this. The fact that they might have to kill just to survive this mess makes me incredably sad, but it also makes me angry.
Angry at Richmond. Because if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be going through this. None of us. Do you hear that Richmond?! You've done this to us. The death of those kids are on your heads. You're monsters. You're not doing a duty or trying to protect a civilian population. You're ogres and thieves. Men who decided to come in and take over a territory, through what I suspect is vicious subterfuge, and as soon we recover from this, you will pay. Don't think you won't. Don't think you've won. You've wakened a beast, a terrible and vengeful beast.
But for now I'm going to rest and try to keep up with what the kids are planning. I'm gonna see if I can have Gregg find a few of those two way radio's so I can more easily talk with Philip and them. That way I won't feel completely useless. Wish me luck folks.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It's still snowing as I write these words. Going on for more than a day, and so far about two and a half feet have dropped on us. It's that sticky, heavy snow that drifts up around buildings, and the one we're in is no different. Sure, we could get out, but why bother to do all that work? We can survive in here for a good while and wait out the storm and the insanely cold temperatures.
I just hate feeling useless, you know? When it was me staying back at the compound while others went out on missions or scouting trips, at least I had something to contribute. I had a job to do, projects to work on. Now all I have is this blog and simple duties here in our makeshift camp. The worst part of it is that we boarded up or blocked off most of the windows, and the few that we left accessible for visibility are now covered with huge snow drifts. I know logically that nothing too important is likely to be going on outside, but it still bugs me that we can't see anything.
One good thing to note is that Jess found a set of keys this morning, jammed up behind the desk at one of the nurse's stations. There are a lot of locked doors here, and not knowing what was behind any of them, we didn't have the urge to break any down or chop them apart, just in case we needed to block them quickly.
So, Jess and I went exploring with a few of our group. Most of the locked areas were sort of worthless to us- old storage areas and custodial supplies, that sort of thing. Two of them turned out to be awesome in huge ways. The first was the office of whoever the maintenance guy here was. It was packed with all sorts of tools and parts for various things, from electrical components to plumbing repair supplies. There were also a ton of how-to books on pretty much every sort of fix that might be needed in a place like this. Best of all, there was a detailed diagram of the nursing home itself, which showed that this place has a basement.
We hadn't seen a door with that written on it, but the map showed us where it was. We'd ignored that door because it actually said "Mechanical Room" on it, and since there was no power we skipped trying to open it beyond a simple jiggle of the handle. I guess we should have realized there was a level below us, because of the cistern we've been drinking from. The basement is full of things we can use, from fire axes and extinguishers to sealants and even a whole bunch of sterno. Also, there's an enormous master breaker box that is very clearly labeled, which gives us the ability to pick and choose exactly where and what would have power if there were some way to produce electricity.
This might be a good time to mention that we found a generator that apparently runs on propane, hooked up to a very large propane tank. If you're thinking that this news made us extremely happy, you are not at all mistaken.
So right now I'm sitting in a room with a bunch of other people, towels stuffed under the doors and the wall unit cranked up to max heat. We've got three rooms running on actual power right now, instead of switching on the main furnace, if it even runs on electricity. My laptop is plugged in and charging, and for the first time in a week or better, I'm actually warm and comfortable.
Still essentially trapped, but after I wrote the above the realization hit me that we've got it pretty good right now. I wonder if we can get the kitchen going...
Oh, and kicking myself for not thinking of looking for a generator before this. I used to work in one of these places, I know how they're meant to run and what backups most of them have. And after Gabrielle wrote about the generators at her hostpital, too...sometimes I'm slow, but I usually get there in the end.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Over the last week or so I have been seriously considering the future of this blog, as it pertains to my own future and that of my loved ones. I know that any day could bring my death, whether it be from a zombie attack or slipping on the ice and breaking my neck. I know that there is risk in waking with every sunrise.
Early on I did what I could to entice other people to post here. This blog has been a way for so many people to discover other survivors of The Fall, to receive needed help, to find a place to live. And as long as I live, I will be here. My concern lately is that I won't always be here, and because of that I have begun to bring more people to the fore, so that should my voice go silent, the idea of Living With the Dead will live on.
Each day that I am away from the compound teaches me something new and frightening about the world as it is now. Part of the reason I stayed home with my wife during the initial outbreak of the zombie plague was because I had seen too many zombie movies. Moving about seemed like a sure way to lose people, get attacked, and die. Jess and I made our home a fortress and defended it as brutally as needed. We did everything we could to save others, and built a home for ourselves that evolved very quickly, by necessity.
So much of my experience so far has been from that perspective. Looking out on a group I helped bring together, seeing that group as almost the totality of my world. I never had to survive some of the mind-breaking tragedies that so many others have endured. I didn't have to run at top speed from place to place just to avoid being eaten, or shot, or raped.
I'm starting to get it now. Even though we are camped out at the nursing home, secure in one spot, I feel the terrifying ease with which fate could snip me from the mortal coil every time I go out. I feel the desperate hunger of living on minimum calories because we're just not sure how long we can stay here, and don't want to waste food. If we stay out here for long enough, there will be famine times, days on end with no food at all. I know so many people who have told me their stories about the fear and hunger, both growing strong enough within them that many contemplated murdering in order to steal food, or even eating people.
I'm starting to understand. I haven't had to deal with anything close to what they have yet, but now I can see how easy it would be to start having those thoughts. I'm starting to see this world for what it really is; not a group of people bound by a single purpose, but rather a mishmash of individual stories whose plot lines have gotten tangled. Each person who has survived so far is a collection of painful experiences and hard choices, balanced by a desire to do right, for the most part.
That's part of the reason I have tried to get others to write posts on here. For far too long I was focused on what was happening at the compound more than I was interested in what was going on in the people within it. Now that I am out here, so many questions have been raised in my mind that never even occurred to me before. So many things that all of us never questioned, and now I am interested in hearing some of the answers.
Over the next few weeks all of us will be exploring the details of all that pondering. My hope is that by understanding the answers, we will better understand ourselves.
Living in a nursing home has made me ask the first real question. I used to work in one of these places, not all that far from my house. In all this time, it never entered my mind to ask this question:
Where are all the old people?
I've been looking into this, and as soon as I am satisfied that I'm not missing something vital, I will relay back to you what I have heard. Maybe a few days.
For those of you who expected this post to be something big and exciting, sorry. I'm trying to survive the same as many of you, now, and am starting to see just how amazing simply watching the sunset or having a meal to eat can be. I'll leave you with this, though--in the time it took us to write three hundred posts, I have become a much happier man than I was. Not as happy as I would have been had the world not crumbled to pieces, but content nonetheless. Being alive is enough for me, with all its triumph and tragedy.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
[This is a post by Gabrielle]
There isn't a lot of good that's come from us having to escape the compound. None of us liked leaving, or knowing that good people were left behind. We hid a lot of vehicles out in the wild, but even though the number that escaped were about a quarter of our total population (not half as Josh mentioned the other day), we're still pushing the limits of what the supplies we put in those cars and trucks can do. A lot of our refugees are getting hungry.
Our group is doing well. Very well, actually. We've been scouring every town we go through for more medical supplies, and trading our services with those we come across. It was slow going for a bit, we went a day and a half without seeing another living person. That was kind of strange given how often we were running into little groups of survivors. Josh and the others are right--there are a lot more survivors out there than we could have imagined. It's just that most of them don't have a means to discover that there are others out there.
We came to this little town yesterday afternoon and have decided to set up shop here for a while. We've been gathering all the food we can carry so that we can set up a camp for some of the other refugees. Evans has sent out messages telling them where we are, so that they can come join us. While I still can't say where we are, I will tell you that we stopped here for a few very important reasons. One is that this town, while small, has two large hospitals. Well, large for such a rural area. There are also two medical pavilions packed with what used to be the offices of a variety of specialists. I've never heard of this town before, and never been to this state. But my guess is that this place used to exist pretty much because of the healthcare facilities, sort of how lots of old cities sprang from goldmines or lumberyards. There are enough supplies here to keep us going for a long time, and we've found a large tank of gasoline.
The second reason we decided to stop here is the hunting. We almost hit three deer on our way in, and there are woods all around us. I lived in Kentucky for so long that it doesn't surprise me a bit to see ten or twelve deer trotting across a field in a given morning, but a few of the others with us had to get used to the idea that food was just walking around waiting to be shot.
I guess I should mention our new arrivals, now that I have said something about them. The other big reason we stopped is because early yesterday morning we found a family in need of help. I've been asked by them to keep their names private, but the rest of their story I'm allowed to tell.
They are from New York. The city as well as the state. They've been moving in fits and starts toward the compound for weeks, having to camp out for long periods of time when they ran out of gas, waiting while the father went searching for more. The day before yesterday they stopped in this town, and the dad went out to hunt for fuel again, leaving his wife and four kids huddled in their van. He did find some, of course, but when he came back there were a bunch of those cold-proof zombies coming toward their vehicle.
He rushed them, making noise and trying to get the attention away from his family. It apparently worked, and he led the undead away for quite a distance. He lost them at some point and had made it almost back to his camp when he slipped and fell, breaking his ankle badly. It took him more than an hour to crawl back within sight of his family, and it took them a few minutes to realize he wasn't some starving zombie pulling itself across the ice and snow.
They stuck it out all day, slowing down the bleeding with cold and hoping that help would just drop in their laps without any real hope that it would. Lucky for all of them that we were heading this way. Or lucky, at least, that they were trying to get to where we came from, and this road was the easiest for both of us.
They were really disappointed to find out what has happened to the compound. They hadn't had any way to check in with us since they left their home a few weeks ago. They did decide to stick with our group, though, and we are VERY glad to have them.
The wife is a homemaker, though she has had to learn and hone her fighting skills since the zombie plague hit. I watched her completely dismember two zombies this morning without batting an eye, and then turn around calmly to ask if any of us wanted some pancakes.
(Oh yeah--the smaller of the two hospitals here still has two giant, full tanks of propane to run its generators. We're conserving it as much as we can, but no one can resist warmth and hot food...)
Their kids range in age from seven to sixteen, and are all nice kids. The oldest is pretty useful in a fight as well, he seems pretty mature for his age. The younger ones need a good bit of looking out for, but their family has done well for them so far, and now they have us too.
We would have taken them even if the wife had been some bitter harridan and the kids a bunch of useless whiners. The father decided to stop here for practical reasons (little gas left) but they could have kept on for another hour or so if they had really needed to. He stopped here for the same reason we did--you can see both of those hospitals from the main road through here.
Yeah. He's a doctor.
Friday, December 10, 2010
There's roof access from inside. That makes it pretty easy to mount a sentry, though it's a pain in the ass to get up there. I think they designed this place for a race of slender midgets to do all the maintenance. All of the crawlspaces and utility areas are small and cramped.
So far we haven't had a lot of trouble from the zombies milling around outside, but we're keeping a sharp eye out anyway. I still won't say where we are, but I will tell you that we're north of the compound. Not straight north necessarily, but farther north than we were...
I wonder if there were multiple versions of whatever plague causes people to rise from the dead. It's a chilling thought, but given the boom in genetically modified foods and designer bacteria back when society was still running (somewhat) smoothly, I wouldn't be shocked by it. A part of me wonders if it isn't all one base organism, though, that just evolves and mutates really quickly.
I mean, the smarties (my word for the smarter zombies that popped up a few months back) came about at a time when we were pretty much managing to protect ourselves from attacks all the time. Maybe it was a one-off mutation that stuck, and then spread. Now we have these cold-resistant undead, and I curse the lack of consistent and easy communication. Back at the compound I would have been able to talk to a lot of folks very quickly, to find out if others have seen anything like this or if we've discovered something new.
I would think that Jack's compound would have, if anyone. They are in Michigan, where it's way colder than it is here. If the undead were to suddenly develop an ability like this, you would think that it would have been there. Then again, I lose my cell signal for most of each day, and I haven't talked to Jack's people in a while, so maybe it did come from farther north and just spread here.
In case these new zombies aren't isolated to our location, let me give you some information that may help you out. They seem to operate down to at least zero degrees--it was only five above the other day and they were still managing to move about. Jerkily and awkward, but moving and able to bite. Above freezing they do a lot better, though it seems they aren't capable of running or too many other fast motions other than snapping at flesh. Maybe a way for them to conserve their energy reserves, which we theorized back when it first started to get chilly out. I think the biggest danger for anybody out there that lives in an area where the weather gets cold enough to affect them is carelessness. It's entirely likely that after weeks or months not seeing a mobile zombie, you might get a little to comfortable and make a mistake.
So, be paranoid. Pull your weapon at the slightest sound. Peek around corners and keep vigilant. If this thing goes farther than where we are, or has cropped up in more than one place at the same time, then the danger to all of us is much higher than most of us realize.
As much as I hate to say it, I really hope these things haven't appeared at the compound. Not for the sake of the bastard soldiers that took the place from we who built it, but for the friends and loved ones left behind. I can imagine all too well that our people would be the ones sent out to capture one of the "Snowtroopers" for examination.
Gabrielle will be back with a post tomorrow, and then just me for the weekend. I realized today that we're almost at our three hundredth post, and I want to try to do something special for it. I realize it might not mean much to you guys, but every time I hit that publish button, it's a victory for me. It means that I have survived another day, loved another day. When I click the mouse, I am passing on something that might directly teach a person something about survival. I might be showing them something about humanity. I could be making them smile, or feel connected.
So getting to three hundred is a big deal for me, and I hope it is for many of you as well. Keep an eye out for it on Sunday, and stay safe.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
We've seen a few more zombies in the last few days. None of them really seemed to be a threat, but that they were up and moving while the mercury sits so low on the thermometer is making all of us worry. We've decided to set sentries at all hours just to be safe.
We have heat, rudimentary though it is. We manage to put together a few stoves from things we found around town, and hacked away parts of the walls until we could manage to run some duct through the ceiling of this place. Thank god it's really old and lacks firewalls between sections of the building. That gave us enough room to run a lot of duct, which lets the smoke and gas from our fires cool off before it gets pushed outside. It's not a perfect system, but it does reduce how much exhaust goes out. We have to be warm to live, so we'll just go with it and hope for the best.
I'm pretty optimistic about it. I mean, this town was pristine when we got here. No one had looted it, no signs that anyone has been within a dozen miles for months. We're about as safe as we can be outside of the compound. Come to think of it, we're probably a lot safer than we would be in the compound at the moment.
Oh, before I go--I just found out this morning that Aaron made it out of the compound as well. Apparently he got a bunch of the younger kids and some of his older students out in one of the buses. I've asked him to post something in the near future, but I won't push it. He's acting the part of father for a lot of needy kids, so he's pretty busy.
He was nice enough to sift through some email for me, though, and has given me an exact count of the number of people that managed to escape the compound. We think that pretty much everyone that got out has checked in at some point or another, so the number seems accurate. It's 112.
That's a pretty damn good number of folks. If need be, it's enough to start all over again, though I hope that we don't have to go that route. That's a worry for another day, however. I need to get going and make a run into town.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
[This is a post by Gabrielle.]
Josh asked me to write on here since he and the others are finding it difficult to make time to post. I don't notice any difference myself, since Josh has managed to write a lot since we all had to run from the compound. I guess he might be asking because he needs some extra time to get settled in. Any way you cut it, I'm glad to help. I am not a writer, though. So don't expect wonders of literary prose here.
It wasn't made very clear to me exactly what I am supposed to write about. Many of you have probably read something about me on the blog before, but I guess the best way to start is to give you some background on me.
I'm married and the mother of two boys. My husband and kids made it out of the compound with me and the group of people from the clinic that made a run for it together. My sons are old enough to learn the basics of first aid and patient care, so they worked shifts at the clinic just like the rest of us. My husband is disabled. His back causes him serious pain almost all the time, but he didn't let that stop him from being useful in so many ways that he became vital to the daily workings of the clinic. He did a little bit of everything, from changing dressings to repairing the various electronics we used in our daily routine.
I guess that leaves me. I'm an RN with fifteen years experience. I've worked everything from emergency rooms to long term care, which is where I met Josh. I was his supervisor on the weekends, in addition to being the wound care specialist at our facility. I don't want to brag too much about myself, but there isn't a lot about the human body that I can't diagnose. Chalk that up to being curious my entire career mixed evenly with a passion for books and learning.
Josh already mentioned that we've been running a sort of mobile medical unit. The vehicles we took out of the compound were the ones we kept parked right at the clinic as storage units for extra supplies and ambulances if the need came up. Lucky for us, or we would be out here in the cold with little to eat or drink and nothing to trade for.
When we left, we focused on getting away above anything else. We did manage to find two of the vehicles stashed away from the compound, packed with enough supplies to keep us going for a few days at least. The idea for our little band of gypsy doctors (as I like to think of them) came from Evans. It was only our second day away from home when we were flagged down by a group of people who came pouring out of a big farmhouse set on a hill. We figured they had to be either really trusting or in desperate need of help. Probably didn't do any harm that there are big red crosses set on white painted on the side of three of our vehicles. We were either medical personnel or Knights Templar...
The people holed up at the farm were two families who had stuck together through the worst of the zombie plague. They had hundreds of acres of food to live from, and managed to catch water and store it. They were all old-school farmers who knew how to make do, but the one thing they didn't have was access to people with my particular skills, or Evans'.
One of the kids with them had slipped on the ice when he was bringing in a load of firewood, broken his leg. It wasn't a terrible break, and the cuts he suffered in the fall weren't too bad except for the one on his head which needed stitches. He'd been laid up for most of a day, the family doing what they could to care for him. I was willing to help without thinking twice, but Evans was the one who made the rest of us realize that without some sort of trade, we would be out of food and medical supplies in no time if we just handed out help to people with no payment.
The families weren't too thrilled to be asked to pay, but after a bit of grumbling they did admit that it was fair. Evans and I set the bone and put together a splint, stitched the head wound, and patched the kid up as best we could. To the surprise of the boy's parents we also gave them some antibiotics and pain medicine. I guess they didn't think we'd be stocked up that well. Don't think I just ran from the compound without snatching a few things first. First thing I picked up was the huge pair of suitcases we use as a pharmacy.
There was a definite moment of pure greed in the eyes of the people we'd helped when they saw how well stocked we were. All of us were armed in some way or another, and I think the fact that we had helped their son was the deciding factor in why a few of them didn't just go for it and try to take our supplies. I can't blame them for having the thought. Who in the world right now isn't desperate to do everything they can for their families?
In the end we drove away with a large stock of extra food (mostly potatoes, some corn and two live chickens...well, not live anymore.) and a good lead on where to get a safe rest for the night. That last bit we ignored. I don't think they would have come after us at the place they suggested we stop for the night, but none of us was so certain that we were willing to risk it. In the end we camped out in an abandoned clothing store, covered in layers expensive ladies' wear to ward off the chill night.
Wow, I didn't think I would write quite so much. I will send this off to Josh to be edited, since it's his blog this is going on. I'll try to write again soon.
[Editor's note: Josh here. I had to trim some bits and pieces from this post that might have given the soldiers back at the compound an idea of where Gabby and her people are. I did do a little cleaning up and made a few of the sentences flow a little better, but the above is pretty much as she wrote it. All in all, I have no complaints.]
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Did you hear the one about the one-armed snowman?
We saw something here this morning that makes me wonder how much we actually know about the zombie plague. Evans spent a good deal of time studying the bodies of ones we killed, and even had a chance to study a "living" zombie. He formed some theories that seemed pretty reasonable, but now all of us here are beginning to wonder if whatever disease or fungus causes the dead to walk can ever be understood by anyone. At least, with the resources we have available to study it...
Several of us were out in the nearby town searching for supplies (I'll get back to that in a bit) when we saw someone walking. At first glance you might have assumed it was a person who was simply staggering from the cold, but long experience has taught us to expect the undead rather than people. It was about a hundred yards from our position, stumbling and crunching through the snow toward us. It was all alone, which is rare, so we let it keep on coming rather than announce our location to any possible company with a gunshot.
The thing was missing an arm, and when it got close enough you could actually hear crackling and popping coming from its body, as if frozen parts inside its muscles and joints were breaking as it moved. It was one of the more disturbing moments I've ever encountered, I promise you that. We waited until it got pretty close and then spread out to make it harder for it to pick a target. When it finally did, the rest of us closed in and took it out as the zombie lunged at a lady named Judy, from the compound.
It didn't move with a lot of accuracy or grace, even for a zombie. That it moved at all on a morning that is, if the thermometer outside the store we were looting is to be believed, below twenty degrees is frightening enough.
We know that whatever the infection is that makes zombies work has to produce some sort of antifreeze, because we know that these things can freeze and get up again later to walk again. That means that while the tissues are frozen, that chemical has to be preventing major cell damage, or there wouldn't be any coming back from temperatures below freezing. What really sets my teeth on edge is knowing that this disease seems to mutate pretty quickly, much like the flu. We've seen as much with the smart zombies and their ability to infect a small percentage of normal zombies with their particular strain.
Maybe this was an isolated incident. It's possible that the mutation was with that one straggler, some oddity of genetics that caused his own plague-ridden cells to produce too much of whatever it is that protects them from the damage freezing has on tissues. I just don't know.
As far as other concerns go...
Nothing has really changed in the overall situation with the compound and the Richmond soldiers. When it does, this will be the first place I go.
We've made the nursing home into a pretty comfortable place in the last day or so. The town nearby is pretty small, with a population around four thousand in days gone by if the sign at the edge of it is to be believed. It looks like most of the people left here before The Fall could really take its toll on the residents. Probably a mass exodus for the supposedly safe zones set up by the military in spots around the country.
That being said, they left behind a lot of shit. The nursing home is virtually untouched, and had maybe three zombies in it when we found it. I guess the folks around here took the patients with them when they left. There are still clothes and all the other stuff I mentioned, enough food to last us for at least a month if we ration it out. The store had been ransacked before we got there, but there were still some items of use aside from the odd can of food and a few sacks of rice. Things like toothpaste and hand sanitizer, shampoo and some gas cans...but the best part was breaking the door off the storeroom in the back. It was loaded with winter gloves, coats, hats, and scarves. I guess when society fell apart back in March, the person that owned the place had a lot of stock left from winter. Now, we've got extras.
We've only been through maybe a dozen of the houses closest to us, but what we've found fully reinforces the idea that almost all of these people left in a hurry. And, that most of them clearly expected to be back in short order. I know that when the government announcements came out, they were telling folks to bring what food with them they could. If the contents of most of the pantries we've looked through are any indication, most people around here thought the emergency would be over in a few days, maybe a week. They've left so much for us to take that we will have to see if we can find a truck to start making trips back and forth to ferry all of it.
So food and supplies, we're pretty much set. There is snow six or seven inches deep everywhere, which means that even if the cistern under this place goes dry, we can always pack in snow and melt it. The only thing we're really having a problem with is heat. The nursing home is an old one and built thick, but that doesn't stop it from getting into the forties of lower in here. We are OK as far as actual surviving goes--plenty of blankets and clothes to keep us alive and relatively comfortable at night--but no actual comfort. We are constantly cold during the day, ceaselessly shivering. We are trying to figure out a way to get some heat in here without A) dying from smoke inhalation, or B) announcing our location for a mile in every direction with a huge plume of smoke.
There's not a fireplace or anything here, but that's not a very big obstacle. Lucky for us that Roger, may god rest his genius soul, made sure that every single person watch him install some of the heating ducts and homemade stoves. We can find something to burn wood in, and cannibalize ductwork as needed. Tools might be a little harder, but we'll manage. Now, just to figure out how to make the smoke invisible.
OK, Jess is shooting me dirty looks for writing instead of working on all the things we need to do. I need to hook up my laptop and phone to the solar charger anyway, juice is getting a bit low.
Keep warm, if possible. If not, think warm thoughts. It helps, I swear.