Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Did you hear the one about the one-armed snowman?

I'm happy to report that as early as tomorrow, Gabrielle is going to be posting on here. Just FYI.

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.

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