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.