Jess and I are holed up in a safe location, far away from home. So much to tell you, and most of it is still a jumble.
Not long after I posted my entry yesterday, news reached the compound that a firefight had broken out at the I-64/US 127 overpass, where the exit was blocked off by my people. Darlene and a group of marksmen had settled on the bridge, waiting. The rest of the mobile teams with her were scouting and waiting for the enemy to show.
When the soldiers from Richmond came into view, everything went to hell. They had apparently been expecting this: every one of their vehicles with a flat top on it had a sniper laying there. When the enemy stopped a quarter of a mile from the bridge, Darlene poked her head just far enough over the concrete to see what the situation was.
It only took her a few seconds, but that was all the time the shooter needed. I'm told that she didn't die quickly after the rifle round took off the top of her skull. Her second in command gave me the gory details.
When the scouts reported in via radio, Will gathered a team and headed out immediately. He left Dodger in charge of the compound's defenses. I should have known something was wrong. With Darlene dying, Will became our leader. All of us waited for about fifteen minutes after Will left, wondering when more sounds of gunfire would begin to chatter over the hills.
It's frightening how much our world can change in a quarter of an hour. The zombie plague took weeks to destroy the central part of the US, spreading exponentially as living human beings who had been bitten fled for parts unknown in terror.
In fifteen minutes, Will Price destroyed us.
The only reason any of us made it away from the compound before they arrived is thanks to the brave men and women who initially went out with Darlene. They saw Will call for parlay, saw the commander of the Richmond soldiers meet him halfway between our people and theirs. Saw that fucking snake in the grass talk for a few minutes before the enemy commander motioned for his troops to follow. Will gave us up without much of a fight.
Our troops didn't like that shit at all. They opened fire, trying to take out as many of the enemy as possible. It was only because of Jamie Packard that any of this got back to us at all. He was Darlene's second, and his men demanded that he leave, call us on the radio as he ran from the fight so that the rest of us could run. He didn't want to leave his soldiers, but they made him see reason quickly. He's got a shiner that almost swelled his right eye closed.
From what I have gathered since, our boys and girls must have delayed the Richmond soldiers for about twenty minutes. I've gotten sparse reports since then, but from what I can tell, all fifteen that were left out there after Darlene was killed and Jamie was sent packing are dead. Their lives bought and paid for the freedom of every person that managed to get away from the compound, and for that I can never thank them enough.
This is a contingency we prepared for. Stupid as I apparently am, I lost any mistrust of Will Price a good while back. Many of us still had worries about being sold out, though, which caused us to set up some fall back measures in case we had to run. We gassed up about two dozen vehicles, using fuel that only the council was aware existed, taken from one of the secret supply caches we'd set up around town. Every one of those vehicles is stocked with two firearms, one long and one short, four hand weapons, extra blankets and stores of food and water. Add in a few small supplies for living rough, and you get a pretty good emergency plan. They were stashed in hidden locations away from the compound, only waiting to be found by those who needed them and knew they were there.
We ran. I don't know who it was that got on the PA system at our little amphitheater, but may every god there is bless and keep her. She passed the facts on to everyone who wasn't hanging out in or around the council chamber when the news came in. It had been agreed upon weeks ago that we should keep a good number of vehicles fueled up and ready to leave at a moment's notice, empty of supplies so we could cram as many people into them as possible. Almost everyone in the compound keeps a backpack or travel back stocked and easy to reach, stuff they will need in the event of unexpected circumstances. No one needed to be told to do this; they just aren't stupid. All of us are survivors, and we know from terrible experience that being ready for anything, well stocked for whatever possibility, is the best chance any of us have of survival.
It was the sight of so many people toting those bags that really struck me. I had to snag a few things from my house (including my laptop, cell phone, and chargers...) and when I came out with my backpack and Jess's, I saw so many friends and coworkers pelting off toward the bus just down the street, to vans and box trucks, that I almost broke down into tears.
I didn't. The stark image of so many citizens of our little community fleeing with such certainty was awful, but I've lived this long against men and the undead by being able to suppress those feelings at will and doing what needs done.
At last count, almost a hundred of our people have contacted me to check in. That's the number of folks that have escaped the compound. Others have sent me messages to let me know that they are alive but still at home.
One of the first emails I got was from Will Price. I won't be posting it here, but I will give you the gist. Will swears that he had no intention of handing us over to the Richmond soldiers. He said that he had hoped to broker some kind of truce by talking to his old CO, but when he learned that our options were cooperation or certain death (by an even mixture of heavy arms fire and nerve gas), Will says he went with surrender to save our lives.
I don't fucking buy it for a minute. You may wonder why so many of us ran at the news? Because Will goddamn Price knows every crack and crevice of the compound. He knows the defenses to the last bolt. Every gun emplacement, patrol schedule, trap...He could and would have gotten the Richmond boys in there in little time. I'll show willing when my home and friends are threatened, but staying to fight would be suicide. I would much rather flee and start all over again than live under the thumb of anyone, much less some Judas that I once thought of as a friend.
There are still a lot of people back home. Those who didn't run were warned by nearly everyone that did not to fight if they were going to stay. I don't blame them for not wanting to leave. Some of them simply didn't believe the news. Some felt too invested to pull up stakes with zero notice. I can't swear to the motivations of any of them, really, but I can't find anger in my heart for people who saw and option to survive and keep what they had...for a price.
So I'll just direct all the rage toward the man responsible for the shit-pile we're in right now. My wife and I are nearly freezing in the place we settled at for the day with a dozen others. We don't dare light a fire, so we're bundled up and huddled together, eating cold food and swishing our water to keep it from icing over.
I don't think I can say much more right now. My laptop is at about half power, and there are still a ton of people to contact before I can try to sleep for a bit. I'm working on no rest at all since yesterday, trying to dull the murderous rage in my heart and head by forcing myself to feel numb, and the fucking chicken soup I'm drinking out of the can has globs of fat in it that remind me too much of blood clots for me to enjoy the food at all. I want heat, sleep, and safety.
None of us will be getting any of that within the near future.
Will Price. Give me the zombie hordes any day.