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.

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