Anyone who's a Sherlock Holmes nerd will recognize that the title of this post is a variant of the title of the first Holmes story. I use it not because I have some great mystery in front of me that only I am clever enough to solve, but for the wonder I felt when I looked outside this morning.
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.