Sunday, February 27, 2011

Eve of Judgement

I've been pretty religious in making sure that there is something on this blog most days. I used to take Sundays off to spend with my wife, but that went out the window when we had to flee the compound. Now we're back, and I may take up that habit again. Not today, obviously, but I almost certainly won't be posting tomorrow.

As I look back over the the last year, I think about how far we've come since the first days of The Fall. Our community along with many others of its kind have grown and strengthened in that time, we've built bonds with one another that will hopefully last for years. So, too, have the terrible marauders and violent takers banded together, using force when words and peaceful intent would likely have sufficed.

We've changed and evolved. I'm a more realistic and frankly brutal person than I was when this began. Our shared view here at the compound that survival of the group has to be paramount has led us to see human lives in a different light than before society fell. It isn't that we don't value individuals, far from it. Rather, it's a learned willingness to sacrifice a few to save the many. To do what is needed regardless of how painful it might be for the good of the tribe.

A single person might have the will to cut off a finger, a hand, or an entire arm to save their own life. This might be the first time in human history when an entire community would do the same--expect and allow for a large number of their own to perish that the majority may continue on. In that sense, all of us here see human lives as commodities. Numbers that need to balance with reality. The difference is that while each of us might be a figure in the grand equation of our little society, we still love one another, respect one another. We still weep when the loss of a brother or sister survivor comes. We honor our dead for their willingness to fight for the vision we all share.

It's that steely core in us, that one guiding principle, which drives the people of the compound forward. We make summary judgments based on that criteria--hence Will Price's trial, which is happening tomorrow. See, with the Richmond soldiers, there was no other way we could have gone. Death was the answer. They had weakened us, stolen our home, eaten our reserves, and stifled the progress of our people. Invaders are to be dealt with quickly and with prejudice.

With Will, though, things are different. People want to give him a public trial in order to make the facts clear for everyone. Yes, Will did an awful (unforgivable?) thing when he gave us up to the enemy. He allowed all of those things I wrote above to happen. He also probably saved a lot of lives by doing it, and during the occupation of the compound he went to great lengths to help people.

I once wrote, "If what you are is what you do when crisis comes, then they were monsters, worse than the shambling dead that surround us at all times." It's that first part that I look at now, that makes me seriously consider how I have changed and how my perspective has altered over time.

A crisis came, and Will handed us over to the enemy. His intent is the key to it all. Was it to give this place to the soldiers, or to save lives? Intent does matter. Actions matter. And for all the suffering Will caused, he spent a lot of time with us before. Fighting for our lives, protecting our allies. Saving Jessica's life. My wife lives because of this man.

Will Price is one of us. I don't know if that simply makes things worse gives more weight to the act of betrayal, or if it means we should look harder at what he did and the consequences of it. I have the feeling that every avenue of discussion is going to be addressed at the trial tomorrow. Every angle of his actions will be examined. It will take all day, I'm sure, but eventually a decision will be reached, and consequences made clear.

I will be testifying, as will many others. Because so many people (all of us, really) will be at the trial at one point or another, everyone who is physically capable of it will be pulling extra duties on the wall and at the farms while the rest are at the trial. We need it, too--the zombies have been showing up in more numbers at the farms since my post yesterday. They're going after the farmers as well as animals now, and judging by the two sheep they managed to get hold of yesterday while I was out there, we'll need constant eyes on our livestock.

Tomorrow is going to be a rough day for everyone, and it's pretty much guaranteed that no one is going to walk away happy. Those that want Will dead will be furious if he isn't executed, those that want leniency will be furious if he lives, and everyone except the injured will be overworked, underfed, and pissed that it's still chilly outside. As one of the people who is looked at to set an example, I will run between my testimony, guard duty, and regular daily work with a smile nailed to may face so well that it might crack my bones.

If what you are is what you do when crisis comes...I re-read that line, and I can't help but shy away from thinking about that in terms of myself. The things I have done, though the reasons behind them were justified, have been terrible. Is there such a thing as a good monster? A man (or woman) who can do unspeakable wrongs to support the greater right, without falling onto the slippery slope toward becoming what he hates? I don't know, but it scares me. I feel good about that, at least--my own actions haven't scared me in a long time. Looking down the barrel of our judgement of Will, I can't help but reexamine the last year and see so much killing, so much pain at my hands that I wonder if I really have been on the side of the angels.

I've got to get to it and try to get as much done today as possible. Tomorrow is going to be a beast for everyone. See you on March 1st.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


There are a few trusted people looking into the facts about Will's actions over the last few months. I wanted to be a part of it, but old routines and responsibilities have resurfaced. As much as I'd like to learn the truth first hand, there are others who can do it. My skills are needed elsewhere. 

We had a lot of food stocked up here, enough canned goods and preserved foods to see us through the winter and spring. Not all of it is gone, but the majority is. If we were relying solely on the stores, we'd go hungry before any kind of harvest would be possible. Of course, that's ignoring flour and grain, rice and pastas. We've made a lot of pasta. It keeps forever and is easy to make. The soldiers ignored the huge reserves of it, choosing instead to eat what was easy. It's good they did, because with what we have left along with hunting for game and slaughtering some of the animals out on the farms, we'll manage. Not to mention that while we were gone, some of the more clever farmers went out when they could and hunted for chickens. They've got a good number of them out there. 

We've got decent amounts of whole wheat, whole dent and table corn, and groats (the stuff that get smooshed into oats). That's awesome, because those things all last for...ever, really. We can make them into other foods, and though our flour will run out long before it can go bad, it's good to know we've got options. 

It's going to be tight, though. We should be okay until we can get some returns on the planting we're just starting. It helps that a lot of people have already started some food plants in their homes. I'm hoping that we can get enough yield of staple crops this year to ensure that we don't have to worry about coming up short next year. 

So, that's my morning. I'm trying to catch up with months of being away, gathering reports about how much of what things we have. I'm going to be heading out in a little bit to see the adjacent farms, find out what we can expect from them in on average. I hate to put the burden on the farmers, but they're the best at what we need--making food. It helps that most of them seem OK with this arrangement, but it feels a little weird expecting them to work so hard to feed others. 

I'm working on the food situation while also trying to get an idea of how our construction supplies look, how much water we have (it looks good, lots of rain in the last few days) and a hundred other tiny things that need managing. I'm not complaining, by any means--I love being back here doing my job, despite the horrible consequences we're having to deal with. It's just that I've spent the last few months trying to stay alive, then learning new skills as I went on to North Jackson. It's overwhelming to have to get back into the mindset that my job requires. 

Especially difficult given that every time I look up from my computer, I see the perfect stacks of books and supplies in my office that remind me that a man who gave us up to the bad guys also took pains to safeguard the very place I'm working. It's a distraction that I can't afford right now. That's part of why I'm heading to the farms. 

Oh, and the zombies started showing up again yesterday. Not a ton of them, but enough that we have to post a lot of extra guards at the gap in the north wall. No firearms--bullets are more valuable than gold at this point, so we're not using guns. An extra twenty people with bows are keeping an eye on the undead drifting by the north wall. An unexpected consequence of driving them off with ammonia seems to be a reluctance to gather too closely to that area. Which makes guarding the gap easier. 

Unfortunately, it means that the zombies are now wandering more on the farms. Which is another reason I need to head out there...

Enough shop talk. I'll update everyone on what's going on with Will tomorrow. I need to get out and focus on figuring out just how threatened we are in our weakened state, and come up with solutions. Not alone, though. For the first time in months, we're all together again. My friends, my family, the people I love. 

Any amount of stress and worry is worth it for that. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

No Good Deed

I haven't had much sleep in the last two days. I caught about a three hour nap tonight, but for the most part I've been restless. Most of yesterday was spent cleaning up and treating the injured--and there were a lot of them. Many people suffered minor burns trying to put out the fires, with a few more severe cases that need some careful TLC. Along with that, the soldiers fought like hell when the citizens took them down. There are some broken bones and a lot of black eyes, scrapes, and cuts.

Gabby, Evans, and Phil worked along with their team through most of the day trying to treat all the injuries. Under normal circumstances, we'd be able to treat a dozen or so people with little fear for complication. As it is, there are more than fifty injured, and supplies are going to be thin by the time those treatments are done. There are reserves we can tap into down the road, but unless we find another big cache of medical supplies, the next year is going to be rough for anyone that gets injured.

The single largest problem we're facing is the north wall. Our assault teams thought to bring as many extinguishers rated to put out metal fires as we could find, but by the time we got the blaze under control, the damage was done. There's a huge open section in the wall, and it's not going to be long before the zombies realize that they can come back this way now that the ammonia has cleared out. Teams have been working through the night to shore up the gap, packing it with cars and raw boards while others work on cutting new posts to rebuild. With the number of bodies we have working on it, the work will go quick. We've gotten extremely good at building walls efficiently.

Though a big portion of our population is injured, and a smaller fraction dead, the surviving citizens of the compound, injured or not, seem happy. I can't imagine the frustration they dealt with, having to wait while they were gradually starved while those of us on the outside organized the attack. It's gratifying to see smiles on their faces...though some of them smiled while they were executing the Richmond soldiers.

I feel a little callous saying this, but the thing that has bothered me the most since our victory yesterday is Will Price. Don't get me wrong, I feel awful that we had to lose any people, much less two dozen of them. I helped treat the wounded myself, and I winced in sympathy with their wounds, though they were earned honorably in defense of our home. It's just that I expected those things, and the last year has prepared me mentally to deal with them. What I didn't expect was to come home and learn that Will has been something of a positive force since his betrayal.

I wanted to hate him, expected to come home and have a mob to deal with that would try to kill him at the first chance. I almost hoped for that, because it would have made it easy for me to accede to their demands and just let them have him. To be sure, if that had happened, I would have had doubts for the rest of my days about him. I would have let my thoughts wander, in odd moments, what the real story with Will Price had been. There would have been a guilty spot nestled firmly in my mind from then on out. But make no mistake--I would have let them do it in a heartbeat. They've earned their choice in justice.

Several facts have come to my attention that begin to explain why that mob was nowhere to be found. When Will realized what was happening, he went down to the small theater my brother made, and sat there under the overhang in the dark. He just waited while the battles were fought, hidden in the small darkened corner. When all was said and done, he walked out and handed himself over.

I mentioned yesterday that he stayed in my house, kept it safe. He did some things while I was gone that deserve to be looked into. Sharing his food with the hungry. Stopping some of the more deprived soldiers from having their way with women. Checking on people he was worried might be ill or injured if he hadn't seen them in a while.

I want to hate him, I really do. He betrayed us to the soldiers, gave our home to the enemy. That's fact. Doing good deeds in the time his brother soldiers were here doesn't erase that crime. It does, for me at least, merit some investigation before we have his trial. I would have stood by as the people ripped him to shreds--but they didn't. His continued survival means that he will have a trial, and we'll do it right. All the facts will be taken into consideration.

And what comes will come, as surely as the tides.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Revelation Day

This is going to be one of the longest posts I've ever done. It's worth it, so bear with me.

I want to start out by apologizing to everyone who reads this blog. I have tried to be a beacon of hope and light in the dark place this world has become. I have tried to help others survive the hordes of zombies and the vicious  marauders by being open, detailed, and above all, honest.

And I've been lying to you for a few days. Well, honestly, I've been doing it in doses since my group and I came to North Jackson. I've been telling you for weeks that our plans to take back the compound were set for a time in the distant future. That we'd be bringing in massive force to retake what is ours. I tried my very hardest to make it seem as though my fellow refugees and I were settling in at North Jackson, planning for the long term as we have always advocated.

Sorry about that. Really.

I hope that I haven't broken the trust of too many of you, because though that is a high price, the reward is well worth it. Overnight, we liberated the compound. We are home.

This is probably sudden to many of you, I know. If it seems that this has come from nowhere, then I did my job well. We've been working on a plan to retake this place by stealth for a while, though it was a combination of several factors that allowed it to happen.

The key was always weakening the defenses enough that we could get the Richmond soldiers to either panic or surrender. It has taken a lot of coordination of effort between those of us outside the compound and those still left inside. The plan was complex and full of variables, but we pulled it off. Not without losses, but I'll get to that in the course of explaining how we did it.

So, onward. The first part of the plan was getting every person still inside the compound (our people) to agree on a signal. When that signal came, everyone was to attack and subdue as many soldiers as possible. This was incredibly risky, as the general populace weren't allowed weapons. It was the first major hurdle to overcome, because many of our cohorts from NJ and almost all of the refugees (including me) were against letting the people who had lived under the thumb of the soldiers take such an enormous chance. We were convinced, eventually, but I still don't like that it was necessary.

The conditions inside the compound have gotten steadily worse since I and the others left. The huge surplus of food we left here has been heavily depleted by the soldiers, who apparently ate all they could. This left the rest of the people, most already hungry, in a state of near starvation as the stores were kept under guard and meted out to them in dribbles. Five brave people, three men and two women, all of whom were very weak and hovering on the edge of death, volunteered for the next part of the plan.

All five of those people sacrificed themselves for the freedom of the compound. The soldiers, being understandably paranoid about their safety while sleeping, constructed a rough barracks, guarded while occupied. Of course, my people were sent in to clean up and gather laundry and the like, so it wasn't actually all that hard to hide bodies in there while it was mostly empty. Three of my people went in there, and none of them came out alive. They carefully concealed themselves, you see, and then took overdoses of some medicines that were too common to be under lock and key--sleeping pills. The other two hid themselves near a popular gathering spot for off-duty soldiers and did the same.

Let's put those five people to the back of our thoughts for right now. Don't forget them, but rather think about their bodies as I explain the rest. Their intact, dead bodies, waiting for a change to come...

The other major aspect of the plan was weakening the defenses. I've dropped hints over the last few weeks, unable to contain my inner smart-ass, but I had to stop short of taunting the enemy, lest they figure out what we planned. This is a good point to tell you that Patrick wrote a lie the other day as well--he isn't heading for the east coast. He's with Dodger's group with Jamie and my brother Dave, right here. They beat us here by about twelve hours, and started clearing out the local zombie population from around the compound. How? You guessed it: ammonia. The guys carefully went about putting the stuff all around the far edges of the area we needed clear. It was risky, because we didn't want the smell to drift toward the compound and give up the fact that someone was out there spreading chemicals.

We needed the area mostly clear of zombies to make the next part work. Pat, Dodger, and the rest of their group (which includes a lot of volunteers from other groups of survivors--that's what Dodger and Jamie have been doing all this time, gathering people to help us) underwent a pretty significant change. They were made up to look like zombies, caked in grime and some nasty stuff taken from actual zombies. It wasn't a perfect disguise, but given that they were only active at night when they'd cleared off the majority of the undead, it worked. It's very helpful that zombies are typically ignored if they aren't an active threat. The soldiers (and most folks nowadays) won't waste ammo or arrows on a zombie that's just scratching at the wall trying to get in. Or, for that matter, three dozen of them in a hundred-foot section. Those kinds of numbers just aren't a threat to a place as heavily fortified as the compound.

Able to get close in relative safety, the boys worked to spread an interesting mix onto the wall that houses the main gate. It's a concoction made of various flammable materials, but mostly magnesium. After most of a night of people imitating zombies coming and going as they slathered the walls in powdered metal, that section was basically a tinderbox waiting for a spark.

When the first screams came from the southern part of the compound, followed by gunfire, we gave it that spark. The bodies of those five people had reanimated, though not all at once. The source of the terrified shrieks was the barracks, where the darkness and locked doors allowed the chaos and bloodshed to really blossom. As a numbers game, it didn't do much to reduce the amount of soldiers in the compound. What it did  do was cause a panic that sent soldiers flying from the walls to respond to the threat. After all, a few watchful men left at the northern wall could surely keep their eyes on a few dozen zombies. Right?

Too bad for them, really. There were six of them left on the north wall, and even as Dodger was igniting the wall with a road flare, Mason was climbing an unwatched section of it, making his way toward the nearest guard. The wall went up with a fair gout of flame, and our faux zombies looked away as they pulled water guns, water balloons, and flasks from the places on their bodies where they'd been hidden. Water and magnesium makes a hell of a light show. It can blind you if you're looking right at it. Mason didn't need the stealth skills he'd picked up over years of service--those men literally couldn't see him coming.

While Dodger and his men were taking the north wall, the other teams came out from hiding to storm it. The north wall was easy to scale and get over with no one left to defend it. Well, we thought there weren't any left, but apparently a few of the soldiers were keen enough to avoid the mob of people looking to pummel them and head that way. A group of about ten of them showed up while me and my crew were slapping thermite blocks onto all the artillery and heavy weapons located in the north section of the compound. We'd made the thermite packs to be simple to ignite--just push a button and run. It was awesome to see the stuff melt into the metal of those guns, though we were careful not to hit the ammo. Dangerous...

It wasn't really a firefight when those soldiers showed up. They were armed, sure, but there were a lot more of us. Someone threw a lit thermite block at them, and that broke up their group. Mason himself picked off three of them with his pistol, and we swarmed on the last seven. Frankly, their fear and confusion kept them from spraying into us wildly, though five of our number were killed as we took them.

Around the compound, counting the five who sacrificed themselves, we lost a total of twenty-four people. Seven of them were people I didn't have the pleasure of knowing, having come from NJ or with Dodger and Jamie. Five who killed themselves to cause the panic. Five in my group. Seven more from the group of people who fought like nine kinds of hell to subdue the main body of the Richmond soldiers. I'm actually surprised that the numbers were so low, but I'm told that most of the weapons discovered with the captured soldiers didn't have any bullets in them. Why risk the populace taking them by force and using them, eh?

All told, thirty five soldiers died in the conflict, leaving forty-two of them alive. One of those was Will Price, who betrayed our trust and gave the compound to the enemy. Will is in a holding cell waiting on the pleasure of our justice. The rest of the soldiers have already been dealt with.

In the spirit of renewed honesty, I have to tell you the truth here. I've wondered what we would do when and if we finally took our home back. What would be our course of action in dealing with the soldiers? The answer came in our democratic way, and it was overwhelming: death. Every one of those men have been killed. We offered them no chance to speak for themselves, no chance at life through exile. The simple fact is that they came here and took our home. There might have been room for leniency of one kind or another if they hadn't greedily hoarded the food, tearing through six months worth of edibles in less than three. They oppressed the people here, threatened them and debased them, and made them starve. Man, woman, and child, they kept them on the edge of death. We didn't even waste bullets on them. Knives work just as well. It took as many as six men to hold down a few of them, but each one got the same treatment--throat cut, head crushed right after. Brutal, awful, and necessary.

I said it before, and for anyone out there who thinks of us as a target rather than as a potential ally: DO. NOT. FUCK. WITH. US.

Will Price is going to be a bit more of a spectacle. The people here who had to suffer through months of watching him walk freely along the roads of the home he had betrayed deserve to see his trial and punishment for themselves. Not today, though, because we have a lot of work to do. I do want to say one thing, something that unsettles me a little: My house, the home that Jess and I fled a few months ago, is untouched. It has been lived in, by Will himself from what I'm told, and it's been taken care of. I'm there now. Nothing taken other than food, nothing disturbed. Will's sleeping bag is in my living room with a small case for his toiletries. I don't know why he would live here or why he seemed to care what happened to my house, but there it is. Strange, but I'm thankful nonetheless. A small favor when placed before his betrayal, but I accept it anyway. My animals are certainly happy to see it, especially the cats.

It's strange to be back here, but fighting for my home, going through the process of planning these events, has taught me something very valuable. When I was younger, I believed that most problems could be solved rationally and without violence. I thought that war was a last resort that should only be used when the stakes were too high for any other option. I was wrong. Even though the government is gone, I still identify myself as an American. Not because of where I was born geographically, but for the ideals for which the country was founded on. Never before have I understood that sense of community with my countrymen as I do now. The compound is its own community, and I feel as strongly about it as I do my identity as an American. We fought to take our home back, we did it in such a way that casualties were at a minimum, and we won.

We killed the enemy because we had to. The risk of keeping the soldiers around for labor or sending them out to exile was just way too high. We did what was required to keep the people of this community safe along with any others they might have encountered in the future. It makes me feel sick inside when I relive the images of their deaths. But it also fills me with pride. We made the hard choice. It was also the right one.

When there is time, we will mourn our fallen properly. Right now I'm too energized from victory and the chaos we're still trying to get under control to really touch on how deeply the last twenty four hours has affected us. There are a lot of fires both literal and figurative to put out, and many, many wounded to treat. That's part of the consequences that I just can't bring myself to get into: all the collateral damage. People being the largest part of that. It's almost too much for my brain to handle.

Most important, the people here are free again. We refugees are home, and though there are a host of problems that need solutions, for now at least we can find some happiness in that.

Once again, from my desk at last--I will be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seeds of Hope

Yesterday was a busy time. I've talked about a lot of projects that have been started or at least looked into, the most vital of which is the massive overhaul of the nearest factory so we can turn it into a greenhouse. Most of us call it the hydroponics bay, because we're massive nerds and enjoy making Star Trek references when possible, but there won't be any actual hydroponic growing happening inside.

So, yesterday I worked on that for a long, long time. There were several key steps to the setup that needed to be seen to, and I was asked to act as foreman, since my job at my own compound was managing logistics. The greenhouse requires the seamless integration of a number of systems, and yesterday was a key point for making those plans come together into a useful whole. I won't go into too much detail, because it really isn't all that interesting. I'll say that I'm pleased with the results, and it seems that plans have come together better than expected. It's looking like we'll see good results.

This is going to be a lot shorter a post than I would like, but in putting my focus on the greenhouse, I've done some digging around for things related to growing food. In that search, I found a place in Canada that looks to house an enormous cache of seeds and seed vegetables. I trust this info--it's from an old friend who used to live here in Michigan for a long time. He worked for a company that made trips into Canada to import a lot of stuff from the place where this cache is supposed to be. He thinks the warehouses that he used to visit are probably still there and stocked--they look like any other industrial building from the outside.

So today, in fact in just a few minutes, I'm leaving to head north with Jess and a few others. With Pat and Dodger's group heading east, it's going to be a while before all of us are together again. I'm hoping that when I come back here to North Jackson, it's with glad tidings.

Wish us luck. This is going to be an interesting trip.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Homeward bound (almost)

Well, true believers, your friendly neighborhood Patrick is free from Florida and back with Dodger's convoy of hope. I even liberated his laptop to write this, teach him to give me middle watch. I thought that we would be headed to North Jackson for some much needed R and R, but Dodger had other ideas. The convoy was getting real low on ammo, so they would have had to head there soon. Guess I should have thought of that before we brought about ten thousand rounds with us. So now we get to travel the eastern seaboard, lucky us.

Right now we are in South Carolina headed to a smallish post of survivors. Then we have stops in Maryland and New Jersey. Sigh, I might never get everyone back together again. Oh well, it's good work. This trip we are bringing fuel to some rural camps. Courtney negotiated with a group of people on the Gulf Coast that had set up at one of the refineries for a couple of tanker trucks. David and the rest of Dodger's convoy picked them up. I know the group in S.C. really need the gas badly, their reserves got water in it and haven't been able to go out foraging in weeks. So off to the rescue.

Tell you what though, it's real good to be back with friends again. To be able to talk them, share worries, fears, and joys. To be able to tell the whole truth and not the half truths I had to always tell the girls for fear I might upset them. Only problem being back in semi-civilization is temptation. They have pain killers here, and good ones at that. I told Dodger and Jamie about what I went through coming off of them, they agreed to keep an eye on me. Being a former three hundred pound chain smoker I can tell you self control isn't my strong suit.

Alice is really glad to have kids closer to her own age to play with, and I mean play. She followed Kylie around constantly, mostly because Kylie is short for her age, but they never played together, they just did what needed doing. I'm afraid that Alysa and Kylie are still to wary of every one around them to relax and be kids again. I don't even know if they can anymore.

Part of it was my fault. When we met up with the convoy, only those on watch carried guns and I didn't think to tell anyone how important the guns were to the girls. Well, David tried to get Alysa and Kylie to give up their guns while I was off talking to Josh on the phone. The shot brought me running. I found both Alysa and Kylie with guns drawn, their backs to the wheels of a bus, and David with a look of surprise, anger, and just a little bit of fear. The shot was of the warning variety and only put a little hole in the ground, albeit right in front of David's feet. Hours of talking, pleading, negotiating, and even yelling by me, and David, found us in the same position, final result, girls kept their guns. Hate to say it, but I'm more than a little proud of them for standing their ground.

Well that is how things stand now. As to how we got out of the Nazi HQ, well I guess I still have some time until my watch shift is over.

We got out pretty much the same way we got Dodger and Jamie in, lots and lots of ammo. Luckily Dodger, Jamie, and Alysa are better shots than me. The lack of cold to help us meant we needed to get rid of the smarties and they did just that. All three lining up shots on the same smartie, if one missed the next fired, before the bastard could run off. Even Alysa got one, though Dodger claims that he hit it, it just hadn't fallen yet.

The next part of our plan was the systematic genocide of all zombies around us, easy enough without the smarties to guide them. Just start at the back of the horde at the walls and work your way inward. No automatics this time though, no need to waste any bullets. It took the better part of a day to get the numbers down to hand to claw fighting numbers.

The next few hours after that were still a little tough on me, the memory of Mom and Dad zombie still fresh in my mind. I don't know why I had more trouble mentally with close up fighting than through the scope of a gun. Who knows. Well the last fifty or so fell to Jamie and Dodger's swords and my mace. Thats right, I got to use a mace. Damn sight better than the crowbar I'd been using up to that point. Thanks for the loaner Jamie, won't even ask why you have a mace, buddy.

Alysa had to save my ass, though. A mace is not as fast a weapon as the swords I'm used to using, and when it got a little crowded, my reaction times were a little slow. Alysa's sharpshooting kept me from being zombie burgers.

After that the guys went out and found a box truck with some gas, jumped the batteries and brought it back. Even though it was well after dark when they got back, we started loading up all the ammo and some of the guns and finished a couple hours before dawn. Man, I hadn't been that tired in awhile, guess that's what easy livin' gets you.

We started out shortly after dawn, we took turns driving and sleeping on swaying crates of ammo in the back. We took it slow most of the way. Luckily there are not a lot of cities along interstate 75 in Northern Florida, so no major herds of zombies. We finally met up with David and the rest of the convoy outside of Lake City GA.

Well I'm sad to not be headed home yet, but then again North Jackson isn't my home.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Broken Dreams; New Reality

I'm in a mood. Not a good mood, nor a bad one. Just...a mood.

I've been thinking about what the zombie plague has really cost us. I've written before about the cost in real terms--safety, shelter, food, and the like. The thing is, the more I think about what's happened to the world as we approach a year into this mess, the more I think that every bit of bad has had an equal amount of good.

This isn't a new concept. I've talked about it before. Let's take the Richmond soldiers as an example, shall we? While I'm still furious (along with every other citizen of my compound, at home and abroad) that we were betrayed and had our home taken, a lot of good has come from it. Call it fate or kismet, but events have worked out to be largely beneficial for many, many people since my home was taken over.

The various groups of refugees have accomplished a lot since they've been gone from home. Courtney and her convoy built friendships and trade agreements with dozens of groups of survivors as well as securing a lot of new supplies and bringing in many new people. Gabrielle and Evans' group managed to bring in new blood as well, and build goodwill with their short-lived medical practice at the hospital. They even managed to find another doctor, and Phil has been knocking the rust off his old skills very well. My group hasn't accomplished as much, to be honest, but since we've been here at North Jackson, I think we've done a lot to help the citizens of this place deal with the horrible tragedies that have hit them.

Funny, none of them blame us for bringing it down on top of their heads. That last attack, anyway, happened because we're here. I take it as a sign of incredible maturity as a people that they didn't blame us for that. They took us in, they took the risk, and they accept that.

Which is exactly my point with this post. Look at how irrational and short-sighted people used to be, and compare that with how those around you act now. I have seen so many people use their logic and reason when they would have once simply reacted out of anger or fear. Though the Richmond soldiers have my home, I can't help but feel some satisfaction that those of us who managed to escape have used our freedom for the betterment of ourselves and others. It's awesome.

The cost, to me, is a hard one but ultimately worth it. I don't know if that's my stupidly powerful optimism making the situation look better than it actually is, but that's how I feel. We've paid a heavy cost in human lives since The Fall took away so many, and we'll do so again. But because of that crucible, those of us who are left are better than we probably could have been before. Inch by inch, we are moving toward being a people that have less need for violence between ourselves, and more towards a cooperative society. There are, of course, exceptions--like the Richmond soldiers.

I'm fine with the fact that my dreams have been broken, likely forever. I used to want to be an author, someone who wrote fantastic tales and had a comfortable, wonderful life because of his popularity. Big house, decent car, none of the struggle to pay the bills that had defined my life until The Fall.

Look at me now. I'm a writer, all right. But now I huddle over my laptop or phone, desperately telling the facts as a way of keeping myself sane. I'm ok with that, since this blog has saved the lives of many people, and acted as an instrument for other groups to find us and start the process of working together. My dream of being the next Stephen King or Patrick Rothfuss is probably dead forever. I'm alive, though. I'll take that as a win.

It's the same for most people. The happiest people before The Fall are likely still the happiest as survivors. Those folks didn't want the trappings of success or the ease of life that comes with wealth. Chances are, those folks wanted to live a full life, one with purpose and love, and everything else was just icing on the cake. I envy that attitude, and I hope that I can feel that way permanently some day. I want to leave behind my old life completely, forget the old hopes that no longer apply, and forever simply be here, now, in the life that I have.

I hope the same for each and every one of you. May all of us learn to be happy as things are, and find the joy in the everyday that the best among us take for granted. Though some of us are far away from home, we can manage it. I know it.

I've got some things to see to tomorrow that can't wait, so I won't be posting. I've sent a text to Patrick to see if he can keep all of you entertained in my absence. Hoping he'll get the message, and will be able to send something out...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A few updates

We've made it back to North Jackson. Actually, we got in yesterday afternoon, but I was busy overseeing the unloading of our supplies, so I didn't have time to post anything about making it home safely.

It turns out that my concern for the people here apparently outweighed my estimation of their hearts. I guess being away for a few days has given me some perspective, because I'm seeing a society in motion before me. The residents are so much more interactive with one another, going out of their way to include those who haven't been as social in the past as most. It's a hell of a thing to see such an outpouring of community spirit as it happens.

The warm weather is coming and going, but temperatures have been pretty steadily trending upward. That means we'll be able to start some of the work we've had to put off for a variety of reasons. Our very first effort is going to be building the fence that will protect us as we go back and forth between the main compound here and the building we're going to use as a hydroponics bay. A lot of work has been going on there, turning the roof into a water collector, altering and adding to the sprinkler system to carry the water in for irrigation. The biggest part has been the constant construction going on inside, creating levels of boxes and troughs to put soil in. It's huge and impressive. Now all we need is the soil (which is easy) and the fence (which isn't) and we're ready to roll.

Thought the zombie population has adapted to the cold, while it was here they were still a lot easier to kill. It made them sluggish and slow. Now that it's getting warmer, the same number of them poses a more serious threat. Not anything we can't handle and haven't dealt with before, but months of having it relatively easy worries me. Before you all start getting red in the face--I said "relatively" easy. I know it's been hard, but we have to face the reality that with the return of warm weather, the zombies are going to become just as dangerous as they were before the winter. I just don't want anyone falling prey to habit and getting killed.

I haven't heard anything from Patrick since he and the girls saved Dodger and Jamie's asses. I really can't wait to give them a hard time about that in person, being saved by a guy with one hand and three little girls. Big, bad survivors, aren't they. HA!

In seriousness, I understand why Dodger and Jamie left the rest of their group (which includes some of my family) behind when they went in to rescue Pat and the girls. The risks involved for a large group heading into an area writhing with zombies are just too high. That's totally ignoring the fact that their group has kids with them and that they are running low on ammo. I'm glad that things worked out, though I'm curious to see how Pat, his girls, and the gallant heroes that "saved" them are going to get out and join up with the my brother and the others.

Jeez, this is just kind of a newsy post, isn't it? Guess I've gotten so used to being upset and writing to get it out that I don't know what to do when things are actually OK. I really don't have much else to say today, other than this: I feel really positive right now. About the future, about the way things are going in NJ. About the steps we've taken to secure what we need to survive. I've been all over the place lately, but it's starting to feel like I have a path, a plan that I can follow. It's a good feeling, let me tell you.

It's a hard thing not knowing which way you're headed, always surrounded by uncertainty. I've got mine it's just a matter of getting my feet moving.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Burning Mixture

We're heading back to North Jackson now. The trip has been an interesting and successful one, but the one major thing we were after, food, has been pretty much a bust. Oh, we found a total of about four thousand cans of food in all the places Jess and I had tagged, but that's nothing compared to the trove we had to leave behind because of the chemical spill. Speaking of chemicals...

When we found all those canisters at the apartment complex, we looked around very carefully before we messed with them or the big drums the canisters were sitting on. In general, it's a good idea to be as meticulous and careful as possible when searching any habitat, especially those occupied at any point by survivors. A lot of people will build traps to protect their stuff. We didn't find any, thank god, because the stuff in that lab was STUPIDLY dangerous. Yeah, all caps on that one.

The notebooks and chemistry manuals we found gave us a pretty good idea of what we had discovered, and a call to NJ gave us an idea for testing the theory. So, we put one of the canisters on top of a pile of scrap metal, pulled off the cap, and lit the fuse. Yeah, fuse.

The light that came from the it was so bright that all of us looked away. The engineer we'd talked to warned us that we should get as far away as possible and not look, and we listened...mostly. Watching thermite burn is a good way to permanently damage your vision. Most of us did as we were told, but one unlucky camper is going to see spots for the near future.

That pile of scrap metal? Melted. Now a puddle of slag in the complex's courtyard. Thermite isn't a material you screw around with.

Anyway, we left our last stop about an hour ago. The trip has gone pretty quickly since my last post, not a whole lot of problems to speak of. At least, no major ones. We did run into a good sized group of zombies yesterday while we were heading to a big shipping depot that had bale after bale of chain link (which we've been in serious need of). We tried driving through them, but they just parted and followed. That happens sometimes. When you're in a car or other smallish vehicle it's not a big deal, you just pick up speed and take a bunch of turns. When you're in a group of eight very large trucks with smaller support vehicles, that's not really an option. So, we hunkered down to wait them out, or at worst set up a defensive perimeter inside the circle we made with the trucks and start killing until the way was clear.

Not many of us were excited about that prospect. Using a makeshift barrier when fighting the undead is always extremely risky. The trucks are pretty high off the ground, so a team would have had to be on the run, clearing out any zombies that got under them. It was Jess that suggested we try to scare them off with fire. Zombies have an innate respect and fear for it, as most of you know. Probably a leftover instinct from their days as people.

So, thinking we might be lucky enough to keep the zombies from following us if we made enough fire, Jess spilled out a bunch of thermite onto the road, making a line. It was a dangerous move, since she had to run out in front of the trucks in the direction we were going to go and pour the stuff out. She set one of the canisters at the end of the line, and we all got ready to drive as she lit it.

The zombies' reaction was...surprising. We managed to get ahead of the main crowd as the thermite lit up in the road, metals and oxides blazing like the sun. It was sheer luck that we didn't accidentally catch our vehicles on fire. That, and Jess having a good eye for distance. We passed the burning line with about a foot to spare, and the zombies that were milling about in the big group freaked out when they saw the flare of white-hot burning metal, and they ran way. Almost all of them.

It was strange. I've seen the undead do a lot of weird things that I thought beyond them. I know they're afraid of fire, or at least wary of it, but this reaction seemed too much even for that. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that most of them had some experience with similar flames, back at the apartment complex. We were only about thirty miles from the complex at that point. Seems reasonable to me that a large chunk of the zombies in the area had been that way at some point. By extension, it's also reasonable to assume that a bunch of them got the shit torched out of them by thermite, and it scared the rest of them enough that their dead little brains remembered it.

Which is totally speculative and not really helpful to us. We've got a bunch of the stuff with us, though we couldn't carry most of it, but we're going to use it to weld with in emergencies.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to NJ and seeing how everyone is doing. I've been in contact with some folks there off and on over the last few days, and the general feeling is that spirits are up. People seem to be recovering somewhat from the attack and the resulting deaths, which relieves me. I was getting worried that the terrible losses were the proverbial straw that would break their backs. I still worry that there are people who might have lost hope completely. I'd like to walk the floor, talking to folks and trying to make them smile. I'd hate to lose even one more person, especially to depression due to recent events.

You have to look hard for those people--they make it a point to be hard to see. To be small. Yet, they are the ones who need looking after the most. I try to look for the ones who stay apart from the rest, have few people to talk to, and focus on getting to know them. I've been that guy. I know that pain.

And there might be one or two back at NJ who still need a willing ear...So we're going home, full steam ahead.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Saving the Saviors

[This is a post by Patrick]

Well, looks like my trust in Jamie and Dodger's sneakiness might have been a little unfounded. After several attempts to lead the zombies away and double back failed Jamie and Dodger were in a real bad way. Though not all their fault, both had injuries that slowed them way down, they were low on ammo, hadn't had more than three hours sleep a day for weeks, or even a full belly in almost as long. All that, and were up against three smarties. Bastards learned real quick our effective firing distance after I put two of them down. So it was up to me and the girls to save the asses of the people coming to rescue us. Sometimes irony is funny, sometimes it's sad, this was a little of both.

Our basic problem was the warm weather. I know, weird for Florida, right? What was happening was that the temp never really dropped and stayed low for any period of time so no adaptation by our zombie friends. Any time the mercury dropped below fifty our friendly brain munchers slowed down enough to safely play tag with. Hell, that's the only thing that kept me and the girls alive before we found this place, a cold snap that lasted a couple of days.

Between the weather and the smarties, Jamie and Dodger were getting a little desperate. The smarties had a group of zombies just following those two, another group trying to box them in every time they swung back to us, and the largest group keeping us right where we were.

Our solution, brute strength and massive firepower!

One of the many little treasures that we found in hidden weapons bunker was an old WWII Browning M2 .50 Cal machine gun and belts and belts of ammo for it!

It was a very surreal situation, me trying to fire that massive weapon with one hand and a hook that I had fashioned out of a wire hanger held to my stump with leather belts, my 12 year old niece feeding in belts of ammo, the 10 year old waiting with more ammo boxes near by, while the little 6 year old sweating from the heat of the gun trying to collect the casings and clips as they flew from the gun.

In the end it worked. Though of course I probably used twice the ammo necessary than if I'd had both hands, but beggars can't be choosers. We cut a swath you could have driven a semi through right up to the wall. The fellas might have been injured but they still could move, and move they did right to the fire ladder we had hanging off the wall. Alysa, Kylie and I left the .50 cal for more accurate weapons to cover their dash to the wall.

I couldn't have been prouder of the girls as they shot anything that came with in inches of them. Their accuracy was amazing in itself but the fact that they didn't shoot Jamie or Dodger was what really impressed me. Even as late as the first shot out of the old Browning, they begged me to tell them to go away. They cried as they pleaded with me, saying that we would be o.k. by ourselves, that we've done well here and didn't need any one else. They had their reasons. Once I get it straight in my own head, Aaron has been helping me with it, I'll finish telling them to you. When if finally came time to do the deed they trusted me enough to do the job I set up for them, and made my heart sing with pride.

That is the biggest reason I'm in such a good mood as I type this, well that and Dodger managed to bring me a carton of cigarettes! I know that smoking is bad for you, hell I've already caught my nieces trying to hide the smokes, but the lord above knows that I have very few vices. I don't drink, I've lost close to a hundred pounds (guess fast food really does make you fat) and I haven't watched an hour of T.V. since I left the compound. All I have left to me is smokes. Until they run out, that is. The real sad thing is I hadn't had one in over a month, but god that first drag was almost better than sex! Well I think it was, it's been so long in that department I might even be a virgin again. See? No vices. All I need now are two miracles and I'm ready for sainthood, baby.

Sorry about the tangent there. All is well here, Dodger and Jamie have full bellies and slept the last ten hours. We managed to get their wounds treated with the few medical supplies we still have here. I used up most of them. Whenever they are feeling up to it we'll work out a plan to get out of this Nazi bunker compound and up to North Jackson. Hope to see you all soon, or at least get into better cell range.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Well, yesterday wasn't a loss in the end. Actually, we made out better than we hoped for.

When we drove away from the town flooded with chemical spills, I said that there was a glum feeling of failure among us. There was--right up until we hit our next target. The closest town that Jess and I had scouted last time we were up here was a good piece bigger than the one shrouded in chemicals. We considered it of less value, because there wasn't food to be found as there was in the place we had to abandon.

No surprise stock of canned goods, but upon closer inspection we did discover what appeared to be an abandoned stronghold. It was this big set of apartment buildings, looked like housing projects. The people that had lived there at one point erected walls and stockpiled all sorts of interesting things. We did find a little food, actually, maybe a few hundred cans of veggies and some sacks of dry pasta, but that isn't more than a day's worth for the residents of NJ. The great finds were more subtle but useful things.

All sorts of homemade items. Almost every apartment we went into (and there were about fifty of them) had a jet stove--one of those tiny stoves made from spare metal that are designed to burn wood with crazy efficiency. There was a lot of stock metal--round bar, flat bar, all sizes and shapes, which the people here used to make weapons, but also to fashion some very clever items that met specific needs.

For example--the wall there isn't as sound as others I've seen. Not because of poor craftsmanship, but because the complex is set on a steep hill, making it hard to build evenly. There were gaps where a determined zombie could probably work his way through or over. Solution? A sort of angled spike with a barb on it, attached to the weaker sections of wall. A heavy spring was linked to a section of wall, and when a zombie climbed it, the movement of the wall under the zombie triggered the release of the spike, impaling the zombie and filling the gap in the wall with its pinned body.

That's freaking creative! There were all sorts of things like that around. All of it made by hand, and the metal worked at, you guessed it, a small forge the folks here had set up. God knows how long it took them to figure out how to build one, get the supplies, and get it done. It didn't take us all that long at my own compound, but we had the advantage of having Patrick, who had grown up obsessed with learning to blacksmith. He knew all the details, all we had to do was give him supplies and people.

Aside from the apartment complex, the cache of building supplies that Jess and I marked were still there. We loaded up what we needed and headed back to the apartment complex. It seemed as good a place as any to rest. Too bad the people there seemed to have abandoned it--and it is abandoned, there were signs that no one had been there in a few months at the least. One thing that makes me wonder what happened there is the surprising amount of fuel left behind. I'd think that if you were picking up and making a run for it, you'd put every ounce of diesel and gas you could in spare tanks. Though we haven't found even one body, and no signs of forced entry (the place was locked up tight when we got to it), there are dozens of cars packed into the parking lot, all with fuel. Most with more than half a tank. Not to mention a giant plastic drum full of diesel, at least three hundred gallons of it.

One last thing we found here: some sort of lab. At first glance I thought it was a meth lab, but that was just because so much of it was slapped together from whatever the people that lived her could find. There are cannisters of stuff in there, and large drums that are sealed tight. We're going to look at it a lot more carefully before we leave out. Might be something useful.

There are three more big stops for us before we head back to North Jackson. A few minor stops along the way, but I think we can manage it all in a few days. The only real trouble we've run into so far is the chemical spill, though with the warm front that has moved in, the zombies around these parts have become a lot more active. No sluggish movements from exposure to extreme cold. Just as fast and dangerous as ever. There will undoubtedly be crowds of them, but the modifications to our trucks (gotta love cow-catchers) should make driving through them easy enough. We aren't planning on staying exposed long enough to attract groups of them at our stops, but we can run if we're suddenly set upon by the undead.

...I find myself feeling a powerful yearning to be back at NJ. It's funny how The Fall seemed to separate people into two basic categories, and helped those who wanted to live in peace get along with others of the same mindset. I always felt friendship toward the people at NJ, Jack's compound, whatever you want to call it. However, I didn't see them as more than that before our recent tragedy brought us together. I feel like I'm away from family right now, family in pain. I want to be there to hold their hands and keep them smiling. I don't know if that's weird to you, but it's both reassuring (that I can build new bonds) and frightening (because I am afraid to lose any more of them) to me.

I share the anger against our attackers. All of us do. And honestly, it's getting harder and harder to ignore the urge to do something disturbing and permanent to the Richmond soldiers. The desire to march home, back to Kentucky and to the compound, pulls at me all the time. To step right up and just lose control on those bastards for everything they've done...

Good thing I'm stuck on this run, no chance to give in, or I might. Just not today...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NH3: Zombie Repellant

NH3 is the formula for ammonia. I looked it up on the copy of the Ark that's stored on the massive external hard drive I tote around with me all the time. Yes, I have my own copy. No, I didn't steal it. I just spent a little time copying stuff...

We're taking a few hours to regroup and plan our next stop, because one of the towns Jess and I scouted isn't safe to go into any longer. I don't know how long ago the leak happened, but there's now a massive cloud of noxious chemicals all over the place. Thank god we realized it before we got to the cache of canned food and tools we had located on our last trip. We knew there was a big plant of some kind, though we didn't get close enough to identify it. Apparently it was a chemical company of some kind, and whatever fail safe measures were in place when it was abandoned...well, failed.

It was a blow to all of us. This cache was important, both in real terms and psychologically. The volume of canned food would have kept everyone at NJ fed for weeks--that's a huge deal to people who are used to living on fifteen hundred calories a day, mostly grains and rice. The tools were actually located in a small factory that produced them. So we would have had an abundance of hand tools, always useful, and access to the machines that made them if we ever wanted to come up here and take them.

Running away from that awful, choking cloud definitely hurt the morale of everyone that came with us. The last few weeks have been especially harsh for the people of NJ and my own refugees, and this collection run really seemed to pump them up. Knowing that we would be doing something worthwhile for the long-term survival of the group gave everyone a boost, not just those that came on the trip with us. It gave most people a project--those who planned the logistics, those who designed the upgrades to the trucks and those who did the upgrading, even the folks that prepared our food for the trip so we didn't have to make camp and cook, which saves us a lot of time.

Leaving that place behind wasn't devastating. We'll buck up when the next destination is in sight. Yeah, we wasted fuel getting here, but we've got plenty in the extra tanks to last us, not even considering what we can pilfer on the way. Yeah, we wasted time--but time is something that we have a lot of now. No worries about renewing our licenses or filing those taxes. Eat, drink, shelter, survival--all else is a luxury. I just hate to see all these people down, feeling defeated again so soon after taking such hard losses. I hate feeling that way too.

I know there's nothing we could have done about it. I get that. It's a situation beyond our control. We know that, but it might take a bit to really feel it. Until then we'll joke with one another and try to get confidence back up. After all, there are plenty more places where we can go to that have things we need. Chances are those places don't have giant clouds of ammonia and other dangerous substances boiling around them from terrible spills.

I don't take this setback as a total loss, though. I did notice one very interesting thing: lines of zombies moving away from the corrosive cloud. Zombies that, on any other day, would have come after us with furious hunger. Today, they didn't. They were escaping and even when they heard our trucks running and noticed that we were people (hence, food) they didn't come after us. They seemed to be incredibly put off by the touch of the corrosive gas. Interesting, because I've seen zombies lose limbs and set on fire yet still come after the living.

These zombies had obvious chemical burns all over them. I wonder if it was just the global discomfort of having their skin toasted by fumes, or if the plague that animates them had its fibrous structures damaged by the contact? There's no way for me to know, really, and it will be a long time before we can find out, if we ever can. It's nice to know that there is something out there that will affect the undead in such a way that they will leave us alone, even if it is a toxic substance that would hurt us as well.

Of course, this development is taken with the usual gain of salt. I've seen zombies evolve in at least two ways so far, some of them becoming more intelligent and later almost all of them becoming resistant to cold. I suspect that many of them are becoming less and less dependent on regular feeding, given that none of us have seen much drop in their numbers even though the number of living humans is probably at its lowest ebb in twenty thousand years. We knew that they were efficient in storing what they eat and using it sparingly, but unconfirmed reports from some other groups lead me to think that we know a lot less about the undead than we once thought. So, I wouldn't be surprised if, a few months down the road, we see zombies that can walk right through puddles of ammonia without batting a milky-white eye. They adapt to whatever problem seems to stand in their way far too easily for me to expect otherwise.

I just read over this post, and I have to say, I think this trip out is doing some good for me as well. Yes, we've had a big setback, but this is the first time in a week that I've written something that didn't sound morose to the point of depression. I feel better, being out and doing things. I think this is good therapy.

And yeah--the zombies might evolve. But to hell with them. I talk about the things that make me want to keep the tribe alive, the things that make me love humanity...and our capacity to evolve is near the top of the list. We can't do it genetically as fast as the plague seems to manage, but our minds can do it far better than any disease. Adapting to the situation, I guess, has made me feel a little more positive.

Or maybe I'm just psyching myself up. Either way, I'll take it. I needed a boost.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

War Mentality

Once more I'm on the road with my lovely wife, moving farther away from the barrage of heartache and fury back in North Jackson. The last of the fatally injured died this morning. Her passing was met with relief and another wave of rage and sadness. 

Jess and I are with a bunch of other people this time, and we've got trucks. Lots of trucks. We're going to start the process of loading the stuff Jess and I scouted out last week. The weather has turned warmer the last few days, and the snow around here has melted, making driving a lot easier. It's going to be a long trip...

I realized the other day, after one of my friends mentioned it to me, that I haven't talked much about my sister in a while. I guess that strikes some people as odd, since I've been living in the same community with her for, what, more than a month? The truth of the matter is that Jackie and I rarely see each other, and it's only since the attack that we've spent more than a half hour together since I settled in with the other refugees. 

It's not that I avoid her or anything. I love my sister, and just as important, I like her. She and I might not talk often, but we're close. We trust each other implicitly, can talk about anything. It's just that she's busy seeing to the education needs of North Jackson, and she has four kids. Her husband is busy as well--his expertise with computers is incredibly useful and much in demand, which eats a lot of his time. 

Jackie was hit very hard by the attack. She cares very deeply for people, especially kids. She lost students in the attack. Virtually all the kids that live inside the walls are her students, and she loves them. It hurt her so much when those kids were hurt. She could barely handle it when she found out they wouldn't be waking up. 

She came looking for me, and I wasn't going to tell her I was too busy, even though I was really, really busy. It's not often that my sister comes to me for solace or advice--after all, she's nine years older than I am. She's got all of this life experience and wisdom that I don't. Yet once in a while throughout our lives, she has done this. I don't pretend to know why, other than the ceaseless emotional support I offer her as a brother. Maybe she just wants a different perspective on things. Perhaps just kind words and a shoulder to cry on. 

I sat with her for a long time, talking about many things and taking breaks to let her blow her nose and dry her eyes. It was strange for me to see her that emotional. She's one of the strongest, toughest people I know, for all that she's more of a girlie girl than my tomboy of a mom would have expected. Jackie is usually the one to be there for others, and she's been there for me many times. Hell, she practically raised me. 

I think a lot of it had to do with her own kids. She's aware of just how spectacularly lucky she is to have her entire family, husband and kids, alive. I think seeing those children, alive yet unable to survive, struck that deep maternal instinct in her. The sight of them slumbering their way to eternity grabbed on the the fear center of her mommy-brain and squeezed. Imagining that being your kid would bring anyone to their knees. 

Hmm. Maybe that's why the attack and resulting deaths have put people so universally up in arms. Those who have children likely felt the same way as my sister. Those who had lost kids in The Fall were reminded sharply of that terrible lack. Those who didn't have kids might have looked at the terrible agony the adult victims were in, and in that pain seen the possibility that it could have been them. Or their brother. Their lover. 

I held their hands as they died, and that could have been Jackie. Could have been Jess. 

The thought makes the bottom drop out of my stomach. 

All of us are angry, but none of us are stupid. To attack the compound would be literal suicide--I know Will Price well enough to know that he has to have improved the defenses since we've left. And god knows how much firepower the Richmond soldiers brought with them. We're stuck with being pissed off to a degree that English doesn't have a word for and not being able to do anything about it. 

So, we stock up. We're going to make North Jackson as sturdy and defensible as we can, pack it with supplies, and plan. The soldiers know we're coming for them one day, that's no secret. All we have to do is figure out how and find a way to build an army to do it. We've got the moral support of so many of the other survivors Courtney met and worked with, but it's just that. None of them are going to organize massive efforts to help us take our home back and free our people. I get it, really. People have survived because they didn't risk their lives when the likelihood was almost certain that they would be killed. Only if you have to. That's how you keep on breathing. 

I don't mind talking about it now. The Richmond soldiers know that their unprovoked attack has had terrible repercussions for them. They can't expect us to just forget it and move on. They knew when my people fled the compound that we would eventually come back. Thats MY home. Our home. 

Now they have hundreds more equally ready to kill them with gusto. Far from being worried that they know we're planning, I WANT them to know. To think about it. To worry and fret over just what the details are. I want them afraid and jumping at shadows, thinking that the next random noise could be one of us sneaking in for the kill. 

I doubt it, though. That's how it's done in books, not in reality. These are trained soldiers, and while their moral fiber seems to have gone threadbare, I doubt that years of training and discipline will fail them when faced with threats and taunts from a group of seven hundred people that have about a hundred bullets between them. 

Well...maybe a bit more ammo than that. But not enough. Nowhere near. 

So...something else will have to take the place of guns. Like I said, this will be a long drive. Plenty of time to think about that problem. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

All About Love (A Little Hate, Too)

I've posted on holidays before, or what used to be holidays. I wrote about being grateful on Thanksgiving. I talked about the real meaning of Christmas. Today is Valentine's day. While my wife and I have rarely celebrated this holiday, I think the time is right to talk about love. Given our recent tragedy, it's fair to say that love is more important than ever. This is all from my own perspective, so please don't think I'm judging how you view the subject. I'm not. It's just my view.

It's a weird thing to think about, really. Love is such a fluid and ephemeral concept for so many of us. You think about it in many contexts, many situations. Some are common and fairly reliable, such as familial love. I love my family so much that it overwhelms me sometimes. Those are people I grew up with, who have always been there for me in my worst times. They are like other parts of me that have the same basic makeup but different experiences. Familial love, what I feel for my departed mother, my brothers and sister, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts (though most of them died in the early days, when the zombie plague was spreading like cancer across the country) is powerful in me, and not just because it's hardwired into my genes. I've got some family that I don't feel that strong reaction toward. Mostly I do.

That's important to me, because while I don't know how it is for most people, when I say that someone is "like family", it isn't just a pleasant turn of phrase. I mean it with total sincerity. Patrick is a good example. Pat is my best friend, but my brain sees him as a brother. He's as important to me, as vital to my mental well-being, as anyone can be.

In a very broad sense, I love people. My base setting is to love everyone, to have basic respect and an open mind about them, until they give me a reason not to. Strangely, this is even extends to the zombies that swarm the walls on a daily basis. I know that sounds odd, but it's true. I can't find it in me to hate them. I see them in much the same way I would see a rabid dog or an injured bear--an object of pity, of sympathy, that is also a potentially fatal threat to my life. I do feel heartache, tiny though it might be, when I look at them. They were people once, and what has happened to them is not their fault. Since I have this general love for humanity, it's hard not to feel a little bit of it for our dead, especially those of them that walk.

I'm not going to go on and on about why I love humankind. You've read it here before. I will tell you that the practical result of that feeling is a willingness to do almost anything to save people. To protect them, kill for them, feed them, house them, teach them to do for themselves, all the while learning to do all of that stuff for me as well. It led me to bring people together to form the compound. It has pushed me into rescue missions time and again. It was there in my brain when I first crossed the moral line I swore to avoid at all costs--killing a living person--because of the terrible acts those men had committed against other people. My adoration of people has created a new morality in me--a willingness to kill those who lack the qualities I love in humanity in order to protect those who do.

I think that most people who have survived that aren't traveling across the countryside Mad Max-style have some portion of this. To live in relative peace with one another, especially under such immense stress, takes more than just willpower. It takes that mercurial and indefinable feeling that allows you to overlook the minor, embrace the flaws, and enjoy another person for who they are and not for what you think they should be: love.

Lastly...Romantic love. This one is a subject that has been in debate for as long as people have felt it, so I won't make big sweeping statements. Jess is perfect for me. I love her, and am in love with her, literally more each day. I used to think that was just a saying, a hackneyed line that writers used to make housewives read their cheap romance. It isn't. Not for me. My wife gets me like no other person ever has--no one. Not my best friends or family. We have the same sensibilities. We are both practical. She forgives my terrible qualities, and loves me despite them.

She is beautiful, and funny. Sexy and hilarious. She's the light of my life who shares my dark sense of humor. She is adorably naive at times, childlike in her innocence. She can also pull out random knowledge and hardcore pragmatism that truly astounds me. She is smart and awesome in the truest meaning of the word.

There is so much more to it. I wish that I could describe it to you, but until you feel that thrill--the excitement of just getting to come home to someone and talk about your day, even after years together, then you can't understand it. When you feel terror at the thought that they might be harmed, and a willingness to die in their place to go with it. It's so much--it fills me. She fills my heart in ways I used to think were impossible.

I've seen all types of it among the people here in North Jackson. Here and there, the deep and mesmerized stares between two people deeply in love with each other. The smiles of joy at just seeing one another.

I've seen families stick together and find happiness with one another, and take in others to join their tribe. On this medium scale, most people have found others. There are few loners left who have no adopted group to call their own.

Overall...I don't think I've ever seen a group that has as much general love for one another as the people here. I don't know if it stems from the amazing progress that has gone on, or the many tragic happenings. Jack likely had a lot to do with it, weaving among them to bring them tighter, and Susan has made that a priority. The people here understand the innate need to survive, yes, but they feel that others should do so as well--there is no selfishness to it. They will save people, help those in need, because of the love they all seem to feel towards those that have peaceful intent. It's beautiful.

Right now all of us here are united in our love and hope for those that were left behind at the compound in Frankfort. We want them to be safe and healthy...but more than anything, we want them to be free.

Seems the people here have another thing in common with me: they also have a willingness to be violent in defense of peaceful, good people. Especially against those that hold them captive.

Right now the feeling is universal in this part of the country--we don't feel too much love for the Richmond soldiers for the terror and murder they are responsible for. That should worry them.

A lot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Final Kindness

I'm just off a twelve hour shift in the clinic, and I don't know if I can go back. I think I might have reached my limit for keeping a compassionate and calm demeanor in the face of painful and disturbing things.

Evans, Phil, and Gabrielle had to sit down with some of the people with the worst injuries and talk to them. It wasn't a job I would have wanted to do, and I'm damn thankful I didn't have to. The problem was that we knew there was no way some of the worst off of them could survive. It just isn't going to happen. Neither are they going to die quickly or easily, so the choice was awful: linger in constant pain, consuming medicines that might help someone later on, or choose to die now at the hand of a friend.

Evans made it very clear that they were all able to make the choice freely. No one was to be coerced into anything, no pressure or guilt to be applied. I don't think that anyone would do that, but then I've been called suicidally optimistic more than once.

Of those with burns and other injuries severe enough to be considered fatal, nine of eleven adults chose to end their lives. There are two kids, but Evans just keeps them sedated all the time. No one wants to make that call. No one wants to ask that of children. So, we won't. Evans is saving them the agony of being awake, seeing and feeling their wounds. Some might say he is depriving them of the chance to experience their last, precious days. Perhaps.

But what quality would those days have? Evans took his oath seriously: First, do no harm. For the kids, that meant letting sleep wrap around them as they passed the bridge to whatever comes next. For the adults, that meant a quick death when asked for. Doctors have done it for centuries, never doubt that. Human suffering, constant and deeply damaging to the human psyche, will always change a person's views on morality given enough time.

I sat with them when Evans did it. Each and every one of them. I held their hands, talked with them, made them comfortable. I watched the light go out of their eyes, the vibrant motions that defined life within them fall still. No ticking throb of a pulse in the throat. No narrowing or widening of the pupils as we talked. Facial tension gone, relaxed in a way that life simply won't allow. I was glad to be there for them, but I hated it. Every minute of it.

I didn't want to watch them die. I didn't want to be there as we did what we had to do in order to ensure none of them reanimated. The peace Evans gave them was a final one, the companionship I gave them their last. If there is a great beyond, my presence was a mere transitional circumstance to tide them over until they touched the infinite. Compared to whatever wonders might lie beyond the cusp of life, my company is a poor substitute.

Those last two have decided to tough it out. They have chosen to suffer through the hours or days until they die. I get that. I would make that choice. I'm a pretty logical person, but when it comes to the thought of  my own death, I'm as emotional as they come. I'll fight every minute until the end, enjoy the pain because it will prove that I'm still alive. Both of our last patients have asked not to be given any painkillers, so that others who might need them later and live can use them.

They are brave, in my eyes. They know that there is no way to survive. They accept it, and embrace it. Just as those who chose to die embraced their fate, eyes open. I am lucky to have known such people.

I hope that on the day when I face my own death, I can show half as much courage.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To The Faithful Departed

I've spent a lot of the last few days dealing with the consequences of one man's actions. There has been a lot to do--providing a proper funeral for the dead, caring for the injured from the attack, and consoling those whose injuries are too severe. Who are alive and in agony, but can't survive the inevitable infections that will take root in them and flourish. So many other consequences, though, that the repercussions of the soldier's choice to attack us will be felt here for a long time.

There are families that lost members. Lovers who've lost their spouse. I think I've lost count of the number of times I've said this over the last eleven months, but can you imagine the fury going through their minds? To survive together through all that we've been through, or to lose a husband or wife only to find love again in what should be nearly impossible circumstances...and then have that taken away? Not by zombies or the bitter cold, things that have no thought process of their own, but by the willful choice of a human being--acting in a manner that has defined human beings for thousands of years.

Ronald Reagan once said that the only threat that could bring humanity together as one unified force was that of an extraterrestrial invasion. I think the zombie plague constitutes an equivalent threat, at least in a practical sense. Sorry to say, the Gipper has been proven wrong on that score. We face a threat to the existence of our race, and yet still a large number of people are bent toward behavior that is destructive to the possibility for survival in the long term.

The core idea behind Mr. Reagan's quote is right, though. Tragedy, especially pointless violence, brings people together. Compound tragedies combined with an already common purpose makes allies into something unique and beautiful.

It makes us family.

As if some tiny but important switch has been thrown in our brains, the people here have come together in ways that defy explanation. I used to view the refugees and myself as something different than the citizens of North Jackson. We were visitors. Friends in need of help. We were friends with the people here, but guests in need of succor. Now, we're treated the same as everyone else. We cried our eyes out when we shared loss. We saw children die in front of us. We've all suffered from the attack, but we did it together. There was no thought of my people or their people.

Just our people. Just regular folks with a common goal--building something new and better on the wreckage of the old and broken. I feel as though we've managed a good start on that, partly because of this tragedy. Losing so many at once has crystallized our urge to cooperate. It has made us more tolerant of our differences. It has made us close and strong, like a fabric whose threads are being pulled tighter together on the loom.

There is still a lot to do. We're preparing for the return of our final lost group--Patrick and his girls should be freed from their location soon. Jamie and Dodger cleared a path on their way in, so the return trip should be much faster. There that, and the physical damage to the wall and the rest of the area around the explosion. The wall is top priority, of course. There's the continuing needs of the injured to be met, and decisions to be made for those who live in pain but can't survive. Hard decisions...

I will leave you with this. I want to end this post, a sad and painful thing that reminds me of the taste of ashes, on a higher note. It might be strange, but I'd like to say something to the victims, though they are past hearing (or reading) my words now:

Though I may not have known you, I loved you. In this dark and frightening world, you were points of calm light and warmth when the chill wind rushed in to bite. You were what we, the survivors, should all aspire to be; hardworking, fair, supportive, caring. You were so many other things, both good and bad, in your variety as a group. That was what we lost that day. We lost a collection of potential that the world simply can't get back. For all your faults, you had many more wondrous and positive traits. You might have been the nicest person to be found, or curt and surly--either way you proved time and again that you would risk your life and limb for those around you. You were men, women, and children that came together in a time of desperate need to save each other.

You will be missed. I may not have known you, or at least known you well, but I could not hope any harder that you find the embrace of whatever god you hold to. It is my deepest wish that each of you finds solace now in a place of peace and glowing warmth, far removed from the struggle that defined you here. That struggle outlined your grace and moral strength. May you live forever in that world of perfect satisfaction, the pain and fear long forgotten, the dead no longer your enemy, only old friends and loved ones to be reunited with.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Sad eyes hurt my soul

Most of this post has been written ahead of time, mostly because of the really short window of time I get cell service and also because it's a motherfucker to type with one hand. The only recent thing to add is that Dodger and Jamie are close, I received a text from them tonight saying that they have us in sight and they are trying to find a way to us. Guess all the recent target practice has drawn quite a large crowd around us. I have faith in them and in their general sneakiness to get in. A few days rest and recuperation will do them good, then we can plan a way out.

Now I hope you can all bear with me as I try to empty my head and vent what I've learned from the girls about what happened to my family. I know that you all have tales of woe and loss, and I'm just some jerk that most of you have never met or could care less about, but it feels like my brain is swelling and if I don't get it out it'll explode. It helped my girls to tell me, now I must burden you, please forgive me.

I begin with what happened to my parents. Like I said earlier they had listened to me and had prepared the house as best they could and were safe to a degree. Alysa tells me they didn't believe that the outbreak would last that long or that the government would fall. That all they would have to do is sit tight for a couple of weeks or at the worst a month or two. Most people probably felt this way in the beginning, I know thats what I hoped for.

Every thing was o.k. for the first month, Dad had convinced a lot of his neighbors to take the same precautions, but as food got low and people went out to forage and saw how bad it really was all sense of community was lost. Every one was out for number one, which is sad but understandable. It got so bad that when you came back with supplies they could be taken from you if you were out-gunned.

Kylie told me that around the second month is when survivors from Tampa and St. Pete started to show up trying to get away from the hordes of zombies in the city. Most only came in ones and twos but there were some large armed groups as well, usually trailing large herds. I guess this was the only time the neighborhood came together was to drive these people off, then when the threat was dealt with back to guarding your own.

Finally one day screams came from the street outside the house. Alysa tells of a woman and girl of about ten running from about fifteen zombies, of how they pounded on the security doors begging for help. How each time they were ignored or had a gun thrust in their face, just barely staying ahead of the shambling dead.

Guess dad couldn't take it anymore, he gave mom the order to shoot and grabbed his shot gun and went out the door running for the women. Kylie was mom's reloader and said grandma got seven of the zombies before grandpa even got to the little girl. Funny--I didn't even know my mother could shoot, guess growing up in the wilds of Alaska will prepare you for a little bit of every thing. Then dad scooped up the little girl and blasted three zombies himself.

Picking up the little girl saved him from a bullet in the head. At least for the better part of a year until I came along. When he turned to run back to the house the woman was facing him with a pistol aimed at him and screamed at him to drop the girl. At the same time two men ran into the house firing shots where moms head would have been had she been standing and not in her wheelchair.

Katie, my sister, had been asleep, she had night watch most night, but the shooting woke her and she came running with her gun just in time to see the two men enter and shoot at mom. Didn't even hesitate, just came out firing, killing both men. Then proceeded to march out of the house and straight for the woman holding a gun on dad. Kylie said the only reason she didn't kill her were the cries of mommy from the little girl.

While this little stand off happened mom responded to Kylie's cries of warning gunned down the final five zombies breathing down dad's neck. Finally the woman dropped her gun and dad let go of the little girl. Kylie said the last she saw of the woman she was crying over her husband and brother and dad pulled them from the house into the street where he showed mercy again by putting a bullet into the head of each. The little girl had her head buried in her mothers stomach so not to watch. Alysa told me that the next time they went out the girls and the bodies were gone.

All this was to much of dad's heart I guess, the girls told me that he went gray while dragging the bodies from the house. When he was done he said that he was tired and went into the bedroom. That was the last any one saw him alive.

Mom went to check on him about an hour later, followed by Katie when she heard mom screaming. Katie rushed to mom's aid trying to get dad off of her but couldn't bring her self to shoot dad in front of the girls. Alysa said that grandma died quickly because grandpa tore her throat out. Crying Katie rushed the girls out so they wouldn't have to watch grandpa feeding on grandma.

I'm crying now as I type this out mostly because that I couldn't cry in front of my girls as they told me this. I could have cried with them, but they didn't cry, they just look at me with a sad far off expression as the told me the story. Alysa telling me most of it and Kylie piping up when she knew something Alysa didn't know. I hope that they haven't forgotten how to cry, or even how to feel.

My sister couldn't deal with what had happened to our parents, so she ran from it. I can't blame her, putting down the dry husks that used to be my parents is the hardest thing I have ever done. My sister loaded all the supplies, guns and ammo in the house into my parents mini-van and set out for a safe harbor in the storm, Morry's house.

Josh saw the zombie plague coming because of his love for the subject, I think most zombie fans and comic book nerds saw through the government's lies and cover ups. So my sister reasoned that Morry, a comic book artist living with three other comic book artists, would be well prepared for the apocalypse and she was right.

When the people in Morry's neighborhood ran instead of listening to him, he annexed their houses in much the same way Josh did in the beginning. Bringing all his friends and family in the area into one secure location. By the time Katie and the girls showed up they had put together a square block of defensible houses and had blocked off all major roads leading to their position, stemming the tide of zombies coming from the bigger cities. Katie barely made it there, harder for zombies is harder for every one.

Alysa tells me that it was nice to be around people that looked out for and helped one another. Both girls were a little sad that other than Alice, Morry's daughter, they were the only children there. I guess Katie felt somewhat uncomfortable being one of the few women there, but every one was nice and happy to see them, to know that there were others out there alive.

The place had been set up well, seems one of the first places they hit when scavenging was a book store. Nerds my not have a lot of practical knowledge but they know where to get it and apply what they learn. They had solar cells covering every roof in the compound, they had even set up a fenced in solar farm using a dead end street in the neighborhood. They had a complete ham radio set up, but Alysa said that there was little to no contact, guess cell phone and computers killed most of that tech. There was even a house set aside as a mess hall and kitchen, Katie was more than happy to take on the sexist roll of camp cook, with the girls as sous chef.

The girls managed to find some comfort in the basic routine of the place, even a sense of safety. Alice was the one to tell me that Morry was happy to be able to protect my sister and her girls, he said it was the least he could do after all the scrapes I pulled him out of in high school. I think he was just happy to have some one that knew how to cook, and would have protected her even had I been his worst enemy in school, he was just that good a man.

Over the months more and more people found their way to the neighborhood, most found while out on scavenging runs. In the end there were over fifty people living there, working to build some thing that could last. Biggest problem was food was getting harder and harder to find and even then they wouldn't turn any one away. Kylie said that mom was getting real good at making soups and stews, even if they were a bit thin.

Farming was the answer and they turned to it early on, and in the Florida sun how can you go wrong? Only problem was a lack of protein, a problem solved I'm proud to say by my Kylie. Peanuts, they grow well in the south and are rich in protein. They even found soy beans to plant. It was sad they never saw the harvest come in.

The crop was their downfall.

They had attracted the attention of a large group of raider looking for food and no work. Kylie saw what happened as she was hiding from the kitchen trying to avoid work, and was playing by the fields. Every guard watching the fields and every one working them were shot at the same time. She just looked at me with sad eyes as she described how every one fell over at the same time, how the shots rang out from all sides. She ran back to find Morry and the other guards firing from their post, yelling at my sister to get the women and children out.

Katie didn't have much to do in rounding up the women and children all were working in the kitchen, canning veggies for the winter. Alysa said that men in the camp were over protective of the women and children not because they couldn't fight but because they were more valuable than the men for the human race, I think most of the women didn't argue to much because they had seen enough violence for one life time.

Every one headed for the one bolt hole. You can't have basements in Florida because of the water table, but they still had sewer lines and drainage tunnels and Morry insisted that every one knew the way out to the emergency vehicles in case they had to run. Ten women and six kids crawled for over half a mile in pitch blackness to the stocked mini-vans waiting on the other side.

The last part of the story I know better as that is where I found the girls. That will have to wait until later. My emotions are spent and the darkest chapter of their fight for survival has yet to come, that and my eyes and thumb are killing me. Thank you all for letting me unburden my self, to try and keep some measure of sanity.