Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Southern Bound

Well, I'm starting to feel a little better. I hate being sick, but the first half of this year seems to have been the time for me to get that way.

Part of why it's so annoying to me is that I hate feeling helpless. I've always liked knowing that if all else fails, I can take care of myself. That's especially important to me now with zombies a constant threat outside the walls of the compound. I hate knowing that I can't do my part because of illness.

I'm not quite up to going out for walks yet, and my innards are still on shaky ground so I'm not getting a full measure of sleep. That's why I'm up so early, and since nothing important or dramatic happened overnight I don't have anything new to tell you.

Oh, maybe that's not true. There are a few little things going on around here that may be of interest...

Yesterday it got to almost 90 degrees outside. This is hotter than it's gotten so far this year by a wide margin, and it had the interesting effect of slowing down the zombies outside. Not in the same way that the cold did at first, which was physical. The rapid changes the undead seem to go through seem to have made them less tolerant to the heat. Their physical movements don't seem hindered in and of themselves, but their mental acuity (such as it is) appears to be blunted by high temperatures. They seemed listless and confused yesterday, which is a far cry from the vicious if uncoordinated zombie behavior in Winter.

The good news there is that while the zombies seem very physically able, the loss of what little mental edge they have means they're easy pickings for our archers on the wall. Not to mention that they have been stumbling into and scrambling up the berms outside the walls and then falling into the pits. We tend to just keep a few people in hidey holes outside the walls for when this happens, so they can quickly kill the zombies that do fall in with a handheld weapon. As much as I detest the heat since glorious central air is now a thing of the past, I'm pleased that for at least a little while we'll have some measure of advantage over the undead.

I'm probably going to go out hunting for a laptop before very long. Mine is elderly and not working as well as it used to, and the cord is fraying to the point that I'm beginning to seriously worry about shocking my genitals every time I use it as it was intended. Random, I know, but true.

I guess that's a good lead-in to the only other bit of news I have to share. I'm going to be taking a run outside the compound with Jess and a few others (there has been discussion of allowing Will Price to come with us) to look into a small group of survivors down in Tennessee. They have been in touch with us off and on for several months, and they aren't actually all that far away if the roads are clear. They want to join us, and when we told them that our food supplies are low and fluctuating, they told us that they've got a big stock of food to share. So, I will be going to assess the food and other supplies they'd be bringing in. Jess is going to help with that as well as do the whole bodyguard things since I'm still weak. Courtney is coming since she's our diplomat, Steve will join her since I don't think those two can handle being apart for more than a few days. Steve is one of my best friends, almost a brother, yet it still wigs me out to see him as such an efficient and scary fighter. I still look at him as my little nerdy friend. We still play D&D together, which doesn't help that set of contrasting mental images...

Will may be going simply because Dodger can't spare anyone else who has Will's knowledge of defenses and weaponry. I don't have a problem with it, really, and neither does Jess. I'm not certain how Courtney and Steve feel about it but I know that if they agree to let him come they'll treat him like a member of the team. Out there, to do otherwise would be suicide.

I'll let you know if we end up having anyone else join us. It's all up to the council, and I think the only reason I'm getting to go is because with my fellow coordinators working like busy bees, I can be spared. Not to mention I've got the most experience judging these sorts of things.

Still, I don't like the idea of leaving during such a rough time. But it this can help us in the long term, I guess it's the right thing to do...

Monday, May 30, 2011


This has been an eventful few days for me. I didn't post yesterday as is my habit, but believe me when I say that even if I had wanted to, there was little to no chance that I could have.

After I posted Saturday, I decided to spend a little time with Les. He's someone I don't think I've ever talked about, but is vitally important to the compound. He's this little short guy, skinny as a rail but stronger than he looks. Has this bushy mustache and thick brown hair that always looks nicely taken care of. Les is the guy who works on our cars and other vehicles on a full-time basis. He's the one who makes sure they are all in good working order. Given how few of them are used on a daily basis, he manages a maintenance schedule that would have been unreal in the old world.

I know a little bit about cars, but nowhere near what I would like to. I understand the basic functions of the systems and some specifics on how they work, but Les lets me sit in and watch sometimes to learn more. Some days, like Saturday, he lets me help.

Which was how, late Saturday evening, I was almost electrocuted and set on fire.

There's no thrilling tale of adventure here. Les was trying to repair a wiring harness inside one of our flex-fuel trucks and he asked me to help since I was already there and eager. I did, spending a few minutes holding the flashlight, then tracing wires. I helped make sure all the connections were secure. When he finally got finished, I was the one leaning over the engine compartment as Les tried to turn it over. my hands were resting on the edge right next to the battery. So, when one of the big wire clusters right next to me burst into flaming sparks just as the battery started spitting out sparks of its own, you can understand why I was a little freaked out. Six or seven more inches and I would have been seriously hurt. My leg is still on the bad side of healing, making my morning walks hellish at the least. I don't need any more injuries.

On top of that--this part is gross and personal, you might want to skip ahead. I'll wait.

OK, if you're reading this then you don't mind the potentially gross functions of the human body. Less than four hours after I was almost shocked and burned, I woke up around midnight with horrible stomach cramps. I scampered to the bathroom thinking I was about to have an episode of diarrhea, but I didn't. At least, not exactly. It was like I felt this immense pressure inside my guts, but could barely get anything out. I've taken everything I can think of, but almost a day and a half later I'm still getting these horrible cramps every ten to forty minutes. I still run, thinking I'm about to explode. Then virtually nothing.

On the one hand it sucks not being able to concentrate on any one thing for very long. Having to work with the knowledge that I will certainly have to run to the bathroom at least once in any given hour. On the other it's good that I'm not actually passing liquids, because even something as simple as diarrhea can be dangerous as hell in our current conditions. Your mom probably told you to drink plenty of water when you're stricken with it, right? Well, we're not short on good old h2o right now thanks to all the recent rains, but water safe to drink? We've got to boil it after we filter it. Most houses are set up with a basic system for filtration and retention, but the stock of drinkable water any of us keeps on hand isn't really all that large. We tend to do it in batches.

Of course in the event that someone does get sick, others will help by offering their water. It isn't much of a problem for healthy people to do the extra work to make up the difference, but that's why we're so lucky to live in a place like the compound. If it happened to someone who was living out alone or in the wild, they'd be forced to drink unboiled and unfiltered water. That's a recipe for getting even sicker, more dehydrated, and eventually very dead.

This weekend hasn't been a good one for me, but I recognize how lucky I am. I live somewhere wonderful, where people take care of each other. Where we have access to resources. The zombie plague has taken much from us, and these last few days have shown me just how subtle some of those changes have been. I'm really hoping to feel better soon. I hate feeling like a burden.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Bounty of Calm

In a bit of good news, our hunters and scouts brought in a truly massive haul of game this morning. They had to go pretty far north along the river, but what they brought in today will feed a lot of people. This was the first overnight trip they've taken, and the lack of zombies in the area they staked out was either a stroke of luck or a frightening sign. I haven't decided which. 

Our other endeavors food-wise seem to be holding up. Our fishermen are doing well in the creeks and rivers, and while egg collection out on the farms is difficult, Aaron had the idea to set the kids to it. Some of the younger kids have made a game of finding all the places the chickens like to hide them. I watched for a few minutes on my round out to the farm this morning. 

Children laughing and playing together, running around with not a care in the world. It was wonderful to hear their voices trill with happiness as they dug in piles of hay and twigs. When one of the sentries walking the trenches that mark the boundaries of the farm gave warning that a zombie had been spotted, those kids immediately stopped what they were doing and moved into defensive positions. No whining, no hesitation. It was just one zombie, but I was proud of them even more for that. They didn't brush off the threat because it was minimal. 

It's a good sign for the future, knowing that the young ones are learning the right habits and reactions early on. 

I'm still pretty exhausted from the marathon archery session the other night, but I'm feeling better. We ran through a huge number of arrows, and it's going to take a while to make enough to replace all the ones that were lost or broken. Aaron has kids helping with that as well. He's taking their education very seriously. 

Part of why I'm feeling more upbeat despite my still-aching muscles is because of the incredible resilience of the kids. Things suck, sure, but I just can't stay down when I see the bright defiance in their eyes. They don't have a sense of doom about the world we live in. They don't see the odds against us. For them, there isn't a question of failing. We adults see how difficult the road ahead will be and find ourselves grim with the thought of facing those trials. 

The kids just see it as a challenge to be faced. And you know? It's sort of an infectious attitude. I can't help but think about how far we've come and all we've survived and feel that maybe things aren't as bad as they could be. 

I know it doesn't make everything suddenly perfect and lovely here at the compound, but I think everyone could benefit from trying to take a step back from how angry and scared they are. Try watching some children toss a baseball. It might give you some perspective. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Waves

I'm not going to write much today. I can't. I'm so damn tired that words don't even come close to being able to express it. As one of the bowmen that take to the wall when a sizable attack comes, I didn't get much sleep. We were hit by about four hundred zombies overnight, and while the trenches did a great job holding them back, they soon filled with the corpses of slain undead.

Given recent events, I'm feeling a bit paranoid. The smarties have driven their zombie armies at us before in attempts to test our defenses, and this feels like that. Why else would so many undead come at us for so long right at where we are strongest? Maybe the smarties are trying not only to test us, but to reduce competition for their limited food supply...

It's a thought to make your skin crawl. Though I know I won't be able to help it, I'm trying not to think about it. Right now all I want is a hot shower (which I can't get), a warm meal (which I won't get), and about twenty hours of sleep (which so laughable it makes me want to cry).

Damn zombies just kept on coming, wave after wave. They even gave us breaks, long enough that a few times we thought they'd finished.

Ugh. I can't write. My brain is numb with exhaustion, and that's not half of what my body is going through. Five hours of archery is too much for anyone. My fingers are bleeding.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


You remember a few weeks ago when my front left tooth was hurting? Like, so bad that I wanted to rip the damn thing out? You probably remember that Evans and Becky managed to fix it, if roughly. Well, last night it started hurting again way worse than before.

This morning it was so bad that Evans just went ahead and pulled it. He's a dab hand with tiny stitches and knows how to keep a wound from getting infected, so I'm not too worried about that part. Nor am I in pain anymore since he used the most powerful numbing agent he would find. It is pretty strange though, looking in the mirror and seeing a spot where that tooth was.

I know on one hand that it had to be done. There wasn't much chance of Evans or Becky being able to repair the problem since the first go round apparently didn't work. On the other hand, I see my face differently now. There's a piece of me missing that I probably won't get back.

I know there's little chance that we'll manage to find a dentist who survived. Frankly we've gotten lucky to have the medical personnel that we do. I see the gap between my teeth and remember that just a little more than a year ago, this problem would have been simple to resolve. An hour or two of work, and no more gap.

It's the idea that this is such a permanent change that  bugs me. Yeah, I've gotten a good collection of scars since the zombies spread across the planet like wildfire in summer, but scars are something most of us had to deal with before The Fall. Granted, some are worse than others, but scars don't necessarily lessen you. They don't take away. Scars simply mark the consequences of a bad decision, a sloppy mistake, a valiant deed.

I can't help but feel a sense of loss, which is completely stupid. It's a tooth. One tiny bit that won't really make that much of a difference in my life. Maybe part of why it bothers me so much is because I know that in the world that was, I could have had a replacement there even if my dentist couldn't have saved the tooth. An implant or a bridge. Something to give me the illusion that I was whole.

I guess I won't be getting that. I'll have to be careful how I eat. I probably won't smile with my mouth open as much. I don't know if anyone but me thinks this is worth writing a post about. I don't even know if I think it is.

But I wonder: if it were a finger or a hand, wouldn't that be worth it? What makes it so damn important to me? It's a piece of my body I can't get back, though admittedly not one that will affect my survival ability like a finger or hand would. It's just bothering me. I wanted to vent. Sometimes I do that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Growing Boom

I decided to start walking again this morning. I'm not quite up to running yet, but it feels good to get out of the house for a bit with my dogs and talk to people. Actually, taking the dogs with me is not only good exercise for them, but also a good conversation starter while I'm wandering the compound. They're just too damn cute for people to ignore. I've done more standing than walking today while folks give Riley and Bigby affectionate scratches behind the ears.

It's especially nice to know that there are people to do the grunt work of running the compound so I don't have to feel guilty about taking an hour for myself. I don't mean that to sound disparaging or petty. Each person that works with me to manage the different aspects of the compound's daily operations is a godsend. Spreading the work out among seven to ten of us (the number varies from day to day as Becky and a few others take an interest in learning the ins and outs of my job) means that every part of the job can be looked at by fresh eyes and in much greater detail. Also, it allows each of us to have the flexibility to take days away if needed without damaging productivity.

I might be the one who is supposed to coordinate the work of all the others, but the truth is that any of them can sub for me in a pinch. That was the case this morning. Becky is taking a shot at doing my job for a few hours under the careful eye of the rest of my co-workers.

The walk itself was very informative. One thing that surprised me as I was dragged around by my overly energetic canines was how many pregnant women we have. A large number of pregnant women isn't all that surprising in and of itself. After all, history is a pretty good teacher of how population booms happen. Look at Africa and the AIDS epidemic there (I know this is a bad comparison, because babies are pretty much on the other side of the spectrum from AIDS in terms of good versus bad, but bear with me). In Africa and some other places, populations continued to grow even after the number of people infected with HIV reached epidemic proportions. That trend continued even when enough people were educated about how the disease as transferred.

Part of that was lack of protection, of course. Married couples who were both infected and couldn't afford condoms...well, it makes sense, right? Another part of it is simple human nature: adversity and lack of distraction lead to making your own fun.

Of course, the situation here isn't perfectly comparable. We have access to contraceptives (thankfully those aren't all that hard to find. The apocalypse seems to have taken the fear out of sex for a lot of people) and the knowledge that treating STD's and pregnancy-related medical problems have become difficult and, in some cases, impossible. Most of our population has been pretty responsible with this, females tracking their cycles to make sure they don't have sex when they're most fertile. People using condoms when possible. Birth control pills when available.

Today, though, I saw at least twenty pregnant women in various stages. Some had barely noticeable bumps, a few others looked on the verge of giving birth while they stood there petting my grinning dogs. Again, I'm not shocked that women are pregnant. After all, if adversity makes people want to affirm life through sex, then the people here should be going at it like teenage bunnies at prom. Plus, most people have a good chunk of free time if not a proportional amount of privacy. That's a recipe for baby-makin' if I ever saw one.

No, I'm just surprised (and a little disappointed in myself) for not noticing earlier. This isn't the first time I've felt disconnected from the compound, which was why I started jogging all those months ago in the first place. I wanted to get out on a daily basis and meet people, see the people behind all the numbers I had to juggle in my official capacity. When you're working to keep a community of human beings running smoothly while living under the threat of constant zombie attack, it's vital to remember that they are human beings. Not just parts of an equation.

It also seems pretty helpful for me and my co-workers to know about pregnancies so we can plan accordingly. With the undead wandering outside the walls and laying in wait for us when we go hunting or scouting, it's more important than ever to make sure that our community can and will grow over time. As we strengthen and stabilize our food supplies, that may mean taking on additional adult survivors. But children are the future (wow, that sounds lame, doesn't it?) for us and we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure those kids are safe, fed, and have access to every resource they might need to survive in this new world.

Yeah, a lot of pregnant women means more mouths to feed down the road. But that's good! Not only is it a motivator for us to work harder and bring in more food, but we WANT babies around here. We want to start the next generation. A man who goes outside the walls to hunt or fish or even scout might take extra risk if he's a bachelor. Less so if he's married. A man with a small child at home will do everything in his power to provide for that child, and also to make sure he comes home if he's any kind of man at all.

The zombies give us reason to fight. Children, the proof of life and love made of our own substance, give us reason to live.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I sort of feel like I've been ignoring some things. Important things, at least to me. In the midst of all the recent problems, ranging from the heavy storms and food shortages to zombie attacks and discontent within the compound, I've let some things that really mean something slip by without speaking about them.

Becky, for one. I can't describe to you the feeling I get seeing her every day. I know that sounds strange given how much I've talked about my wife, Jess, and how devoted I am to her. I guess the difference lies in my relationship with each of them. Jess is my best friend as much as Pat or Becky, and I'm so head over heels in love with her that sometimes it literally hurts my chest.

It's just that Becky sort of predates that. Granted, I've known Jess longer, but I got to really know Becky first. Having her living in the house with us is awesome. While my wife and I share the same dark sense of humor and sardonic view on most things, Becky and I share the interests that Jess and I lack. Jess and I are gamers, or at least we were. Becky's last video game might have been Tetris. Becky and I are both science nerds, whereas Jess enjoys the practical application of what she knows rather than murky theories.

It's like that in a lot of ways. All of us spend a lot of time together, and we all learn new things from and about each other on a daily basis. Kind of amazing that we all get along so well. It's even more amazing that Becky seems to have begun moving on from the fragile state she was in when she showed up here.

She's not a fragile person by nature. She's bubbly in personality, this little blonde thing that you might expect to be pretty stereotypically girlie. Contrast that with her service in Iraq, having survived two IED explosions and still going back out to save lives every day. Think about the hell she's gone through to get here. I can't imagine how many zombies she had to have killed to make it from the east coast to Kentucky. She's honed fighting skills she didn't even have two years ago, learned to survive on nothing but determination and cleverness, and most important--stayed alive.

It took a toll on her. I've said it before, but having her around is like realizing I was missing a finger and having it grow back. The things she's seen and done aren't easily forgotten. The horrors we all face on a regular basis are bad enough, but she's had more than her share.

But since Becky has been here, that has slowly been changing. The distant look she gets in her eyes when she isn't occupied with something is showing up less and less. The frown lines at the corners of her mouth aren't so deep. The wounds inside her aren't going away. That's impossible as long as memory remains. But they do seem to be scarring over. She's moving on.

What is really satisfying to me on a deeply personal level is seeing how she has affected people around the compound in the short time she's been here. Hell, she's even impressing folks that don't live here. I got a few emails from some survivors in the other groups we keep in touch with, expressing doubt that I was telling the truth when she showed up. What were the chances that yet another person I know managed to survive. Not only that, but to make it here from the other side of the planet?

It should say something about the kind of people I choose to associate with. Really.

I come from a family of smart, tough, pragmatic people. That is how so many of my family survived (though not all that many when you think about the dozens who didn't...) when The Fall happened. I warned as many of them as I could, and some of them listened. I love my family, and I choose my friends with similar traits in mind.

Hence, Becky. Part of why I feel so jazzed about her being here is because she's such an amazing person. I'm not at all surprised that someone who can comprehend the harder parts of theoretical physics, stitch a person back together, run a country mile in six minutes, and have the toughness to survive as a combat medic who is also female in the boys' club that is the military, would live to make it here.

People who seem surprised that some folks have managed to overcome extreme odds apparently haven't taken too hard a look at human beings. We hear and see stories that seem amazing and epic, soldiers who drag twenty men to safety in the middle of a firefight or something similar, and we forget that those stories are about people. Ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Not because they are special in the traditional sense.

It's because each of them recognized that all of us are capable of such things. Every damn person. That is one of our best defining characteristics. Adaptability, cleverness, and the powerful urge to survive. Combine that with human intelligence, and I'm shocked that more people didn't make it through The Fall.

It's that capacity to overcome that really gets me. In the obvious ways, it amazes--acts of heroism and skill, odds defied and enemies defeated. Right now, I'm equally floored by the more subtle aspect right in front of me...

...Becky is feeling better. All things considered, that's pretty fucking epic.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cooped Up

Last summer we dealt with unbelievable heat and drought. This year the flavor seems to be storms. The one we had this morning was only really bad for about ten minutes, though during that time the wind was strong enough to bowl a person over if they weren't careful. No damage to report, but our newly acquired stock of chickens weren't all that thrilled with it.

Yesterday I had actually intended to write a post, but my brother strong-armed me and a bunch of other people into helping him build a bunch of chicken coops. Though we intend on letting most of them wander around when possible, we also wanted to have somewhere they could sneak off to in bad weather. It's also convenient in case we just need to stick them somewhere out of the way.

The place we found the chickens was relatively small for the number of them we gathered. I say relatively because the fenced area itself was pretty damn huge for a fenced area. I guess that's because the people there were actively farming free range birds. I'd say it was about eight hundred feet on a side, and there was a creek running through it.

Our farmers have to water them, but the feeding part seems to be going pretty well. There are a lot of plants and bugs out there to be eaten, and the chickens seem to be content in their new home. We're having a bit of trouble coordinating the logistics of egg gathering for free-range birds, but that's a problem for another day. Hell, I'm just glad they went into the coops when the storm came through.

Not that dirt-floored pens made of one-by-one posts and thin roofs of plywood, aluminum, and whatever else we could find for materials are exactly waterproof. Or windproof for that matter. I was told that the birds got pretty agitated by the wind coming through the wire sides. Guess we'll have to build windbreaks, too.

Funnily, people don't react well to being cooped up either. It isn't just the storms I'm talking about: I think living in what is essentially a walled for for a year has had some small but cumulative psychological effect on many of us. It's contrary to human nature to stay closed in for so long, to not be able to freely move about whenever the hell we want to. We know intellectually that it's safer, and thus equals life. Instinctively, though, we feel a stronger urge to go out and move freely.

I think that might be part of why some people around here are more prone to getting irritated and resentful. I've felted caged many times, and looking back it seems like every time I've gotten sick of it, I've gone out on some mission that I really could have left to other people. And I kept doing it, regardless of the risk involved.

I mean, honestly--the majority of people alive have been killed and/or converted by the zombie disease. How many times can one person go out among the walking dead and reasonably expect to come back alive? Our scouts and hunters are chosen to do just that very carefully. They're incredibly cautious and well-armored. They always travel in groups and watch out for each other. Even so, it's a huge risk for them every time they go through our gates.

I'd love to find a way to channel some of the excess stress and irritation, especially for the men of the compound since we're so testosterone heavy and much more prone to act irrationally because of it. That isn't sexism against my own gender, by the way. It's just biology.

It's something I'll have to think on. I'll ask around, see if anyone has ideas, and maybe try to poll some folks to see which of them might be popular. Every system has to have a relief valve for the pressure that builds, and people aren't any different. We'll just have to find something that fits.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Range

Becky came with us on our trip to Owen county, which was very helpful. She's uncannily good at catching chickens.

I gave you guys a hint, really I did. I said, "Later, Peeps." Peeps, the marshmallow candy covered in sugar, were made to look like chicks. I was trying to be clever. Maybe it was completely lame.


We found exactly what we were looking for: an abandoned farm way out in the boonies that had a huge penned area in which our people from Bald Knob discovered a trove of meals walking around and clucking. We searched the place pretty thoroughly while we were there, and it was interesting. Turns out the family that owned it raised chickens to be free range and sold them as organic. Made a good amount of money at it before the zombie plague broke out, too.

We caught about three hundred of them total. There were a few dozen chickens left there, but we didn't try to get all of them. Left to their own devices on the big plot of land they occupy, there's a good chance they'll multiply again. We can hope. Besides, the vehicles we took were absolutely stuffed with birds. We couldn't have fit any more of them in without using a hammer to do it.

I was surprised that so many of them could live in such a relatively small area without someone to feed them, but after talking to one of our farmers it made more sense. Chickens are omnivores, and they can survive off of almost anything. Kentucky has a lot of bugs and other small creatures. Not really that strange to find a decent population of chickens out there. Lots of folks around here used to keep them as pets. Many of those people would also eat the eggs.

We're going to try something. Given the truly stupid amount of potato beetles we're seeing, the people who run our farms think it's worth trying to release a bunch of them into the fields to see if they can clean house. I'm more worried that the chickens will destroy the potato plants, but the bugs will do that anyway if we can't get them under control.

The urge to slaughter a bunch of them and eat very well for a few days is strong, and the sentiment isn't just limited to me. Fortunately, that choice isn't for any one of us to make. It's a lot more logical to set up some nests and collect eggs. Much more food in the long term, and full of protein and fat.

Still, fried chicken sounds delicious. I know a lot of people are thinking the same thing...

Ahh, OK. Got to get my mind off that. Let's talk about the actual trip.

It was fairly uneventful, to be honest. The way there had been cleared by our people from Bald Knob during their scouting trips. There weren't a lot of surprises to be had. I will admit to being pretty surprised by the fact that the chicken farm was untouched by zombies, considering how many fowl were there, easy meals all. I took a close look around when we got there, and saw that the fence was pretty resistant to damage.

It was pretty tall, about six feet. It had started life out as standard grid fencing, cheap but sturdy. The people who had put it up had sunk posts every four feet, which gave the thing a lot of stability. Of course, that alone wouldn't have been enough to stop the undead, should they have discovered the place. No, the owners had thought ahead and planted some dense climbing flowers all around the outside of the fence. The whole damn thing was a mass of vines and leaves, impossible to see through. I'm told that it probably attracted a lot of bugs, too. Our birds likely ate very well because of that.

All the foliage gave nice cover to the chickens, and grew thick enough that it basically made a solid wall. If you've ever seen a creeper of ivy in a piece of stone, the tiny thread of green cracking it like an eggshell, then you can understand why I'm not surprised at how strong the fence was.

Actually catching the damn things was awful. Also? Really funny. Except for Becky, who is a lot faster than most of the people who went, it was chaos. We slammed into each other over and over, tripped on our own feet as we scrambled to get our hands on the birds. It was about as awkward as two virgins screwing, only with a lot more swearing and less satisfaction.

Still, it was a good trip. We've hopefully got a decent setup to avoid starvation if our hunting and fishing efforts falter because of this trip. Worst case scenario, we can kill and eat them. I don't want to, though. In fact, a lot of people have expressed interest in keeping some of the chicks we caught (or letting some eggs get fertilized) in order to have a chicken at home. I think it's a good idea. Who doesn't want a pet that will keep your garden free of bugs while supplying you with a tasty egg most mornings? That sounds like a WIN!

In fact, I've already got a chick. Cute little thing. My dogs have been eying her enough that I had to put her cage (our old ferret cage, the one we used to take the ferrets with us when we left the compound) in my bedroom with the door shut. I think I'll let the chick grow some before I risk putting her and the dogs in the same room.

I named her Athena. I've always liked that name, and Jess and I have always liked giving our pets strange and non-pet sounding names. I hear her chirping at me now. Good thing I set out a little trap for some bugs. She can eat a lot of them...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Way Out Far

Our people out in Bald Knob sent a messenger out to the compound this morning with some promising news. We'd been wondering for a while what, if anything, there was to find in some of the more rural parts of Henry and Owen counties. They're close enough that it isn't too hard on gas, but isolated enough that there's a good chance that some caches of supplies might remain undiscovered.

So, every day a pair of whatever people happen to be out at the Bald Knob outpost go a little further, carefully and quietly. They've been mapping the area for any possible locations that might contain useful things. We've been hoping to get a group of people together to make a run out there with enough numbers to provide for at least some safety.

Today is that day, ladies and gents.

Since we've recently suffered casualties, the folks that are going are non-essential to the compound. Well, no one is really non-essential. What I mean is that no guards, hunters, scouts, farmers, cooks, et cetera will be going. They're the ones that make the compound work. No, this group will be composed of people who can afford to be gone for a day or two without interrupting the machinery of our community.

Since I coordinate several other people who each do a portion of my old job, I can go. And I will. Dave wanted to come, but the trenches are more important, and today is free of rain, so it's too good a chance.

Though he's still recovering from his injury, Mason will be coming. So will Jamie. Those two won't be getting out of their vehicles, given that one of them has several severe injuries that don't allow him to move with any speed, and the other is missing a leg entirely.

But their minds work just dandy. I can't think of any other two men whose observational abilities I'd want on my side more.

Gabrielle will be coming since today is one of her rare off days from the clinic. Phil and Evans will be able to handle anything that comes up, short of a catastrophic event.

Two of Jessica's armorers will join us along with three of the folks that make clothing, three of Dodger's assistants. Oh, Aaron will be going too. And Dodger himself, I think.

I want to tell you SO badly what we're going after. It was only discovered this morning, and it's incredibly good news for us. Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way that posting a blog about it is a good way to point people right at what you're after. So I won't get too specific, other than to say that if accurate, today's run will solve a major short-term problem and possibly a long-term one as well. It's not anything world-shaking; no hidden nuclear reactor or secret science base. It's pretty mundane. Ordinary, really.

It's just that what we're after could be a windfall that might save a lot of lives. That is what's exciting. I'm jazzed!

Heading out in a few minutes. If we're done by tomorrow, I'll let you know what we went after.

Later, Peeps.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Can Play

As you may remember, my brother has been working like crazy to get the trenches finished around the compound. It has been fairly slow going for a variety of reasons, and it looks like it'll be a long while before the project is completed.

This morning he and his crew were working on it while the rain was pattering down. In fact, he even had a few extra people out there with him. They were working with hand tools, the backhoe sitting unused. The part of the compound they were digging outside of isn't too far from a decent sized patch of woods. Dave and his crew made a lot of noise.

There were only a few sentries on the wall there, all of them keeping dry inside the small enclosures built for that purpose.

The zombies saw men out in the open with little protection. They came out of the woods in a pack of nearly a hundred. See, normally when we see any undead going into that bit of woods, we send in teams to clear them out. We don't let them build up numbers in there. Yesterday evening when Dave was laying out the stakes and lines for today's work on the trench, the sentries saw a few zombies hiding among the trees.

Then Dave thought it might be a good idea to give the undead a bit of their own medicine. So, he told the sentries to keep an eye peeled on the woods, but to do it without looking like they were paying too much attention. Over the course of the night, the woods slowly filled up with zombies moving ever so slowly. Carefully. My guess is that they were almost all smarties. Normal zombies lack the finesse to move with such caution.

So when they attacked the workers outside the wall, they had no idea that we'd set a trap for them. They came in a massive wave, and not twenty seconds later arrows came over the wall, about ten of them. Attached to each was a small vial of ammonia. The shattering glass of the vials released the gas in a wide arc around the zombies, forcing them to move closer to the wall.

Which would have been good for them if ropes hadn't been thrown over the wall so Dave's crew could escape. They'd have been an easy meal. Dave himself hopped into the backhoe, which has a cage of heavy mesh welded onto the cab. Basically, the thing's a tank.

Then my brother, always one of the most calm and rational human beings I've ever known, had himself a fun time. Trapped inside a shrinking bubble of good air, the zombies didn't stand a chance. Dave crushed them, sliced them in half with the wide scoop on the front, and smashed them in groups with the boom arm. A few of them ran through the ammonia to escape, but by that point there were archers on the wall to pick them off. That was easy, since the gas makes them slow and stupid.

It doesn't solve any of our problems. We're still scrambling to catch and kill enough to eat. There are still some very angry people who aren't happy with the way things are going. It doesn't bring back the people we lost in the attack the other day.

There are a hundred less undead to contend with. In a world where the overwhelming majority of the population has succumbed to the zombie plague, that's less than a drop in the ocean.

But it's a start.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Empty Handed

First, I want to give my heartfelt condolences to everyone in the compound that lost a friend or loved one in yesterday's horrible attack. The zombies hit us hard, and took men and women from us. Loss is always terrible and hard. We will stand together in mourning, and soldier on. What else can we do?

I also want to thank Gabrielle for taking the time to share on the blog yesterday. It was important to me that someone present the events as they happened, or as close to it as reports can manage. I'm also happy that she relayed my own injuries, though she left out the fact that my awkward fat ass fell out of the tree when I got tangled up trying to climb down. The fact that I was at the edge of the kill zone is probably why I'm still alive. I wasn't part of the fight.

We're pretty definitively worse off because of this trip. The worst is, or course, the loss of life. It's hard to write about losing people without wanting to go into detail about how hard it is for all of us. I want to tell you about the sad faces I see, the stories people are telling about the fallen. I want to dedicate so much time and effort to making you understand the impact it's had on us.

But you know. Anyone out there who is reading this blog is a survivor. You've lived through the same hell as the rest of us, and you understand what we're feeling. Further, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you understand that it's not simply a place for me to vent my feelings. It's also a record of our collective struggle. It keeps track of our decisions and hard calls, for good or ill. Maybe to teach us what we've done right and wrong. Maybe it will teach others.

Aside from our fallen hunters and scouts (and there they go, with one sentence. Moved past them as they exit, stage left. Terrible. Terrible and necessary, so that we can focus on how to keep going)  we're left with the same problem we've faced to an increasing degree over the last few months. We still have people out hunting, fishing, and trapping. It's enough for now to keep us from enacting harsher rationing, but not nearly enough for us to build up additional stores of food.

On a purely social and psychological level, yesterday was devastating. Morale is low, and no amount of positive attitude seems to do much good. I mean, Pat is one of the most upbeat people I've ever met. Folks love him. Yet the citizens see him smiling and trying to strike up conversations about projects we want to work on, and they see it as a sad attempt to change the subject. To gloss over what happened.

Because a lot of people are seeing the zombie assault yesterday as being the fault of those who organized it. Those who run the compound. Part of that is the human need to blame, to assign fault for the painful things that happen. Part of it is a reflection of the intense individualism that makes our population such good survivors.

To a degree, they're right. It's our responsibility as the council approved the plans and gave the orders. But responsibility isn't fault, is it? Well, I claim that we're at fault here as well as being responsible. We saw a prize that fit our needs, and we didn't waste time. We didn't take the time to really look at the larger area around the kill zone. We didn't pause to consider that the zombies might be setting a trap for us. There are enough smart ones around for it.

We were rash and hungry. We were trying to head off the hot tempers of citizens who were fearful of rationing. We wanted to capture enough food at once to make a start at a nest egg of vittles. We wanted; we took a shot.

We were stupid.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Hey guys. If you missed my name under the post, this is Gabrielle. I'm writing this morning because Josh is injured and currently being stitched up, and I promised him I would tell everyone what happened.

Josh is the last of the wounded to be treated this morning. The large team that went out in the early hours decided that it would be best to get there a little before they planned. The teams were all in position by four A.M.

The reason they went out so early was because of the rain. The local zombies have been showing a lot of reluctance to go out in bad weather of any kind, and since it had started to shower around three, everyone wanted to take advantage of it to get in position in relative safety. Luck was with them, and the rain kept on going.

Fifty-six men and women went out to hunt this morning. Eleven of them didn't make it.

They had killed a fair number of animals by the time the trap was sprung. Some of our people had left the concealment of their blinds to collect their kills. Some were still in the trees. It was just light enough to see out when the zombies appeared in truly large numbers. At least two hundred of them.

Every one of our people had taken one of the weapons sent to us by North Jackson as a backup. The fact that each of our people had a strong, sharp, reliable blade was probably what saved more of them from being killed.

The thing is, it was still raining when the zombies attacked. I don't know if the large number of dead animals combined with the smell of so many people made them overcome their fear of the rain...but a few of the people I treated seem to think the whole area was a trap for us. Set by zombies. It makes sense to me, I guess. The smarties have been known to observe for long periods of time and act creatively with what they've learned. It certainly seems like a trap was sprung to me.

From what I've heard, none of the zombies that attacked our people showed the slightest fear at the worsening weather. If this was a trap, that piece of behavior scares me more than any other. Were they faking us out on that the whole time? Building our confidence up that they wouldn't come in numbers during a rainstorm? The implications are awful.

We did lost eleven people to the zombies, but it would have been a lot more if Jamie and Will hadn't drilled emergency orders into every person that went out. If an alarm went up, everyone was to move toward a predetermined spot and get into a box formation, weapons at the ready.

Most of the injuries we dealt with this morning are a result of that box formation. Forty-odd men and women swinging away at the undead around them with a new and unfamiliar weapon. There were cuts and scrapes all over. One woman lost three fingers. If half of them hadn't been inside the box formed by the other half of them, firing arrows out into the crowds of zombies, I think it would have been a lot worse. As it is, I have several people who might lose limbs. Seven with deep tissue lacerations that will take months to fully heal. Five with wounds that required dozens of stitches.

All in all, it's been a busy morning. I've been sent out of the clinic since I got off duty at three in the morning and was woken back up when the injuries came in. Luckily, we now have enough people trained in the basics that I wasn't needed for anything but the worst injuries. Having two doctors here to teach people is amazingly helpful.

Oh, and Josh. He was in a treestand when someone blew the foghorn to sound the alarm. He tried to climb down, but the dark and unfamiliar equipment got in the way. He fell the last ten feet out of the tree. Nothing broken that we can tell, but the arrow he had ready to draw snapped when he fell and the head went into his leg. He landed on his machete, which fortunately only slid about five inches out of it's sheath. The cut going up his wrist from that looks awful, but it's actually pretty shallow. I expect him to do very well, though it'll be a while before he can type at full speed again.

I guess the only good news is that a lot of our people survived what should have been certain death. It wasn't through brave heroics, though our hunters fought like devils to keep each other alive. It was because a few minutes into the fight, most of the undead that were still standing gave up and moved on. Our people didn't understand why until they started doing damage assessment in that lonely stretch of woods. The ones that had attacked our people might have just been a distraction.

All their kills were gone. We lost eleven priceless men and women, with not a scrap of meat to show for it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Laying in Wait

One good thing about the summer rains is that the zombies seem to have built up a healthy fear of storms. Given the terrible ones we've had lately, it shouldn't surprise anyone that when the sky clouds over and the more gentle downpours come they hide in fear. We've seen the undead evolve and change in startling ways over the last fourteen months, but this one is the first that's helped us. 

The rain outside right now couldn't have come at a better time. The teams of hunters and scouts have been pushing themselves really hard the last several days to bring in as many kills as possible. Late yesterday they found an area about five miles from here where there are signs that large numbers of animals have been passing through. I'm not all that good a hunter, but I'm told that the signs are heavy and fresh, meaning that if we can get a team positioned at the right places, there's a good chance they can bring home a heavy haul. 

The particular area the teams are looking at is pretty big. Jamie has been talking with the hunt/scout teams, trying to figure out the best way to maximize the number of kills. To that end he wants to get as many of us out there at once as possible, spread out in clustered teams among the trees. 

Yeah, I said us. I don't know the ins and outs of hunting like some of the people around here, but I'm very good at handling myself in the open where zombies can show up at a moment's notice. Plus I'm a good shot with a bow. We're going to be as careful as possible...

We'll be setting up early in the morning, probably before dawn. There are a few guys out right now getting the area ready, putting up stands and building simple blinds. Not too many, since we don't want to frighten off our prey.

I'm not all that thrilled about being out in the early morning. Reduced visibility, no walls around us, sitting in the middle of nowhere with our necks exposed. Plus, I just hate waking up that early. 

Ha. I would like to say the last was a joke, but the idea of being half-asleep and out where zombies can walk right up to me is unnerving to say the least. But it will be worth the risk to build up a reserve of dried meat, assuming we can keep up the level of daily hunting our men have managed so far. We can't organize trips like this often.

When we can, though, we will. The last few months have taught us the value of planning as far ahead as possible. When the Richmond soldiers devoured our stores, it left us in a hard place. Harder than I could have imagined. We will do everything we can to make certain that our people don't go hungry. As a man who, before The Fall, was a strong advocate of environmental causes, understand: I will see the land here stripped bare if needed to make sure my people live. I know the long-term consequences of such an act, which is why we're taking steps to avoid that sort of extreme.

We want to convert some greenhouses from the abandoned nursery on the east-west connector into places to grow food year-round. Given the closed environment and controllable conditions, we're thinking potatoes. Assuming we can manage to heat them without killing ourselves with smoke inhalation. A few people also had the idea to start seeding the Game farm, a local wildlife preserve right down the road from the compound, with fish. There are two lakes there that used to serve that very purpose. The hard part will be finding ways to do that. I imagine someone around here knows how. Is it as easy as transporting fish from the river? 

We want to try other things as well. Lots of ideas floating around.

We'll need all hands on deck to manage those goals, so pray for us that tomorrow's trip will give us a buffer so that we can keep our extra people home to work on them. After all, you can't build new things without hands to work. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Technical Difficulties

As you may or may not have noticed, I didn't post yesterday. I worried that you all might think that something major and bad had gone down here, something terrible enough that I was unable to take a few minutes to write.

It didn't. In fact, things here have taken a moderately good turn, but I'll get to that in a minute. The problem yesterday was that the people at Google got hit with an early summer storm and it knocked out a bunch of servers. Since The Fall, Google HQ at Mountain View has been running solely on renewable energy. That means that they've only been able to power a fraction of the servers they once had. Enough to keep communication going, some email services. Certainly enough for the small percentage of people who've managed to survive.

It took a while for them to get everything running again. Hell, I'm just impressed they managed it at all. I know there has to be a ton of work and expertise involved in doing everything they do on a daily basis to keep people in contact. I'm nothing but happy to have them.

I will say this, before I move on--it was strange and frightening not to be able to blog. I know I take days off on Sundays and occasionally during the week, but I still CAN write to all of you if I want. Knowing that the possibility existed that the blog might be completely gone, and unable to return...that left me in a cold sweat.

So, on to some good news.

Our hunting parties have been joined by our scout parties in order to range out and try to bring in a lot more game. All told there are about thirty of them out in a given day. Yesterday they got pretty lucky. They brought in six deer, two wild pigs, three turkeys, several dozen squirrel and about ten rabbits. We've also got a few groups of people doing some fishing on the river as well as in Benson creek. It's net fishing, which is mighty unfair to the little fishies. But we gotta eat.

The good news being that we're bringing in just enough extra food right now to keep from lowering rations. It's exactly what the folks who were threatening to strike wanted, and frankly I think most people are very happy with this outcome. It does kind of suck that we don't have scouts out there looking for new caches of supplies and the like. Honestly, though, I see the strikers' point--without adequate food, people just aren't going to be able to work effectively.

I'm not naive enough to think that this solves the problem and we can just forget about it. We had a good haul yesterday, and we're hoping to keep that up. The creek and river are pretty stable sources of fish, but we can't feed everyone on what is caught. I know that the situation could become critically worse with even a week of bad hunting. We're just going to have to make sure to spread our efforts out over a large area so as not to scare off or over-hunt the local populations.

One thing that does make me worry is that the zombies around here have been living off of animals for a while now. We've seen a marked decrease in the deer population that can't be wholly attributed to our hunting practices. The damn things breed like rabbits in Kentucky at least. Hunting used to be the only thing that kept the deer population in check. Even our community isn't big enough to have caused such a dramatic dip in numbers...

Right now, the zombies eat animals because their primary choice for meals, us, are too hard to get a hold of. I worry that we're going to run into herds of zombies that are after the same prey we are. Scary thought, trying to hunt while being hunted.

For now, we're ok. That's all we can ask for.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I don't have much time to write today. Really not much time.

Some folks have gotten pretty angry about the reduction in food rations. So much so that they've threatened to strike if we don't come up with a solution. I'm only writing a post at all because one of the conditions on which they agreed to continue working while we try and find a solution is that I make a post about it.

They want everyone out there to know that we're struggling. That for all the help we've made a point to give to others, we aren't getting offers in return. I'm not putting my two cents in on that at the moment, because I personally think that trying to help others shouldn't be something you expect to build credit with.

And while I'm generally not all that thrilled with the idea of caving to threats, I would have posted about this anyway. Not to mention the practical aspect--we kind of had to agree to their wishes. We need those people working, or a lot of problems would crop up that we'd have a hard time dealing with. I know that I'm admitting ho weak the position of everyone who isn't threatening to quit is, but it's also the truth.

I'm going. I may post again later, but for the moment I have to try and work out what steps we can take to get more food here with my team. They're smart folks. I hope we can come up with something good...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


One of our sentries, a man name Jeff Williamson, is dead.

Jeff was on the wall during the night, and as a small cluster of zombies wandered toward his position, he jumped over the side and went crazy. His partner, who asked not to be named, said that Jeff did this right in the middle of a sentence. One second they were standing there calm as can be, the next Jeff was gone before his partner even had a chance to stop him.

Jeff screamed as he cut down the first few zombies. His partner says that at no point did Jeff even try to keep from being bitten. He was apparently focused on killing, end of story.

I talk sometimes, especially recently, about the strains and stresses we have to put up with. You would think that after Will's betrayal and the occupation, we'd be able to deal with just about anything. After all, that's what happens in stories. People suffer, but they find the inner strength to deal with the horrid cards they're dealt, and they overcome. They live happily ever after, knowing that they've weathered the storm.

Real life isn't like that. When you face the things we face, sometimes there isn't any coming back. Not too long ago we lost another guard, who killed himself quietly. I don't think two people is a trend, but this worries me. We have to face some pretty hard truths nowadays. Sometimes when people break, there isn't any putting them back together.

I'm worried that food rationing has played a part in what Jeff did. Yesterday afternoon I had to put in my recommendation to the council that we cut back on how much we're eating. There is a lot of concern with the pest problem and the uncertainty of the weather. We're worried that food will start to run short before we can begin to harvest. So, it looks like we'll have to hedge our bets by saving as much of the staple foods that will last a long time as possible.

The news didn't make me very popular. A lot of folks were unhappy with it. A few despaired. No one wants to be told that their hard lives will be made even harder by a further reduction in rations that will make the already-pervasive hunger we feel a little worse.

When you're trying to plan for an entire community, these kinds of decisions have to be made. I didn't recommend it to the council lightly or without a lot of research and weighing of options. I also pushed very hard to have extra hunting teams sent out for game. If we have to cut back on dry staples, we can at least do what we can to bring in more meat, right?

It might have been that Jeff was simply going to lose it eventually, and this morning was his time to snap. It may have been caused by the realization that no matter how hard we work and how clever we may be, some periods are going to be tighter and harsher than others. Maybe Jeff felt like it was never going to get better around here. We'll never know.

It's my hope that others are dealing with the restrictions in a better way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cookie Cutters

This morning brought a load of good surprises. The weather is nicer than it has been for days: a perfectly comfortable sixty-five degrees with a slight wind and just the right amount of humidity. The western trench was full of dead zombies, courtesy of an early morning rush by a group of about fifty. The sentries didn't even ring a bell, it was so easy to defend against them. Five men and women picked off every one of them thanks to the brilliant work my brother Dave and Will have done.

Oh, yeah--Will has been putting his two cents in on the new defenses. He thought it would be smart to pull up some of the stakes we've had ringing the compound and see how sticking them in the dirt berm around the trench would work. As it turns out, fairly well: the zombies in the front of the group slowed down to avoid the stakes, but the rest of them didn't. That pushed some of the ones in front into the stakes, impaling them and making it harder for the ones behind to move over the berm. Easy targets. 

I'm not sure why this particular group of undead tried to rush the only wall with a fully finished trench. They've been avoiding it for the most part and trickling around to sections of the wall that are easier to maneuver. Perhaps they were especially hungry, or were working on some kind of group hysteria. Maybe a smarty was pushing them to attack to test our defenses. We've seen it before. 

Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see the trenches are effective. More, I'm glad to see Will working on more projects. Since his punishment was handed down, I've seen him slowly become a quieter and sadder person. I know some of that has to be the fact that he feels terrible about giving us up to the Richmond soldiers. I think a lot more is probably due to the constant stream of shitty treatment he gets from some people around here. It's not like I blame them--he did an awful thing for what he thought were good reasons, and he accepted the consequences of that. It's a complex situation that contains a distressing amount of moral ambiguity on all sides. 

Basically, that means that I can't fault Will for feeling down that people hate him, nor can I blame him for getting mad about it. That's human nature, regardless of how deserved the treatment may be. Nor can I fault the people who hate Will with a passion and are doing everything they are allowed to do to make him feel that hate. They have the right, and good reason. Doesn't mean I have to like it. The situation is a hundred shades of grey, and crappy for all involved. 

I'll say this, though--Will is one tough fucker. He's been working closely with Dodger on a lot of projects to do with the defenses, and in the process had to work with a lot of people that would rather put a knife in him than hold a civil conversation. Will hasn't let that slow down his progress on some things. One of those projects was completely unknown to me, but we all found out about it this morning. 

Will has been in touch with the people in North Jackson for a while now. I don't know if he set up a trade or something with them, but this morning a pickup truck came to the north gate. It was full of mass-produced weapons. Rather, it was full of a shipment of the same mass-produced weapon. The design was Will's own, and we've got two hundred of them. 

It's basically a machete. Stamped out of thick sheets of metal, unsharpened (that's up to us), the thing is a long, heavy blade about two feet long with a six inch long spike sticking out of the bottom of the hilt. The hilt is flat like the blade, but the edges are rounded to make it less damaging for whatever material we use to wrap around them.

I'm impressed at the design, but more so with Will's ability to get this done with no one in the compound being the wiser. He has managed to circumvent the huge amount of distrust that many here and quite a few in North Jackson feel for him. I'm going to ask him about the details, but the simple fact that he managed to get us so many new and hopefully reliable weapons scores him major brownie points in my book. 

Hopefully it will do the same for some others around here. 

Monday, May 9, 2011


There are many things that plague humanity. Mentally, you can be plagued by depression, hate, doubts or anger. Physically, an entire host of ailments. Socially you can suffer from any number of unlucky recurring situations. More obvious and pertinent to the world today is the zombie plague itself, and the zombies are a plague on us. 

It's an interesting concept, really. The idea of a plague can be anything from an abstract concept to, well, an actual plague. Part of the mental stress we're put under as survivors is the necessity of dealing with a hundred tiny ones every day. 

Now, we've got one more. In a word: potatoes. 

I'm of Irish descent (at least partly), so I've done a little research on Ireland. I've read books about the great famine (usually called the potato famine outside of Ireland itself) and have a decent working knowledge of the blight that caused it. It's an interesting bit of history that has a lot of lessons to teach. One of which is just how awesome potatoes are as a food source that they could basically feed four million Irish. Another being that too much reliance on one staple food is dangerous as hell when things go badly. 

The blight itself isn't as much a worry for us as you might think. Though the disease itself is incredibly difficult to control through chemical and pharmaceutical means, most potatoes for a long time have been bred with a gene that is highly resistant. By using the tubers of a previous crop, you can pretty much propagate them forever safely and without fear of losing most of a crop. 

Very luckily for us, my wife is a stickler for making sure her foodstuffs are strong. Add to that the fair number of farmers that have been growing them for years, and we have a great pool of people who know what to look for in seed potatoes. If I seem to be beating this drum a little hard, then keep this in mind: if not for the fact that Jess bought bag upon bag of seed potatoes when the zombie outbreak happened, it's likely that we would have starved by now. 

So you'll understand that while I'm just as fearful and wary of the walking dead outside our walls as you are, I worry equally about the damn potato bugs that have settled in like uninvited guests to dinner. 

At first there weren't that many. Few enough last year that we could (and had to) kill them one by one. We had people whose whole job was to walk the compound's gardens, squishing them when found. At the farms it wasn't as big an issue, because that was mostly corn and wheat that had already been planted. We just took the food and the land. 

Now that the farms are also growing potatoes, the bugs have started to show up in numbers. Large ones. Enough of them that we're already having problems. There's only so much pesticide, and not enough bodies to police every plant. This is a critical time for the plants we've grown indoors and gotten large enough to sprout foliage. They're small and weak. All that careful time and effort spent growing them in late winter could be lost. More important, the potential food in them could be lost. 

We have many things to fear, and no shortage of lesser concerns. Before The Fall and encountering the reality that the dead walk and consider me a tasty snack, I'd have called you crazy if you said that I would worry about beetles just as much as a hungry corpse. 

Strange days, I know. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Trenches

My brother has been working like a madman for a while now. Between the storm damage to the wall and the houses and digging the trenches, Dave hasn't had a lot of time for the little things in life. Playing with his kids. Spending time with his wife. Sleeping.

It's the trenches that have me excited. Dave started on the western front of the compound since that was where the tornado did its little shrapnel-bomb thing, but he's been expanding them at a fast pace. It's kind of awesome to look over the walls and see this small, long hill of excavated dirt running in a straight line. I don't know why I like it so much, except that it seems sort of iconic.

Sounds weird, right? I see the wall and to a large degree the compound itself that way. Something representative of us. Something we built and made strong. The trenches are like that to me; a feature that alters the shape of the land for the betterment of our community that we made. It's just fantastic to me. Then again, I'm a strange person.

Functionally speaking, the trenches and the raised berm outside of them work like a charm. Zombies, at least the mindless shambling ones, tend to go with the path of least resistance. Climbing a steep hill of dirt, even a small one, is a task most of them don't bother with. Maybe one in five of them will, but we're OK with that. Plus, climbing the hill makes it easier to pick them off with a bow.

If we don't bother with that, most of them lose their balance and fall into the trench itself. We don't have it filled with all the sharpened stakes we'd like, but it's deep enough to keep them from easily climbing out. Which, again, makes them easier to kill.

The only real drawback is that since they're not finished, zombies tend to walk around them and funnel to the places where there aren't any dirt hills or holes in the ground. That slows down the process of making more, since kill teams have to spend a lot of time clearing out bunched up groups of zombies.

All in all it's a pretty good idea that seems to work. Finishing it will be a real effort given the nice weather and resulting high number of undead to deal with.

I've spent a good chunk of this morning checking out the trenches and talking to Jamie. He's doing a little better this morning. He's even discussing possible ways to construct a prosthetic leg. I don't know how we might accomplish that, but I'm glad to see him thinking ahead.

His down time has given him a lot of opportunity to think. He's been putting a lot of effort into figuring out a safe way for us to make our idea to mold plastic armor components. I have to admit, I was worried that he might start falling into a dark mood with nothing to do but sit around. I'm really happy to see him keeping active and working on problems.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Helpless

I've been talking with Jamie this morning, and he seems to be doing fairly well for a man who just lost a leg. He's not on quite so many painkillers, but his mood hasn't shifted dramatically downward. He isn't terribly happy, of course, but he's happy to be alive.

We had a good long conversation about what will be next for him. Scouting is probably going to be impossible for him at this point, which brought up a topic most of us have strayed away from: what to do with people who can't contribute.

Let me insert here that Jamie certainly can contribute. The value of a person doesn't lie in the strength of their arm or the speed they can run at. Jamie is clever and thinks around corners. He has both of his hands, so there is plenty for him to do outside of scouting.

But the larger discussion was a disturbing one. The Fall was hard on the human species in many ways. One of the darker parts of the rising of the zombie plague is that the most helpless were the easiest prey early on. The mentally disabled, the sick, the elderly....all of those groups were hit worse than any other. As awful as it is to say so, that was almost a blessing for the rest of us.

Damn, this is why it's so hard to talk about it. I'm a practical person, but I'm not heartless. I've taken care of all those groups. At the nursing home, I had all three at once. I loved those people, loved making them smile and letting them know that there was someone who cared for them. I'll just say it, then, because pussyfooting around only makes it worse.

When The Fall hit, those in most need of protection died first and quickest. This probably allowed some healthier and stronger people to survive, though given the scale of the outbreak I don't see it as a major factor for most survivors. The thing about the deaths of so many of those who needed total care that was beneficial for those of us who survived was that we were spared the choice of whether or not to take them in. To care for them.

If we had asked ourselves before The Fall about this situation as a hypothetical, the majority answer would have been: Yes, of course we would take in the sick, elderly, and the mentally challenged. A society that refuses to protect those with the greatest need for it isn't a society we want to live in. I mean, what kind of person would turn away those in such desperate need?

For the most part, we didn't need to think about it. Sure, we talked about how much useful knowledge and wisdom was lost with the older people, but it didn't go much beyond that.

Talking with Jamie has made me think about the larger, long-term problem. We're a community that prides itself on our fierce dedication to one another. We've killed when we needed to, even preemptively at times. There's a world of difference between killing a person who might kill you and rape your wife and turning away someone who through no fault of their own can't be a productive member of society.

In the world that was, a person who needed total care or constant supervision had options. They could live in a facility that provided those things. That was due to the abundance of wealth and resources once available. In the here and now, with food becoming such a concern for us, we might be faced with the choice of feeding a mentally retarded person who can never plant a crop or make items of use, and feeding a child. It's something we don't talk about. We don't think about it, either.

Why am I doing so now? I suppose because Jamie is already chomping at the bit to do something useful, as if recovering from having a limb amputated makes him lazy. I know it's because he wants to feel like he's doing his share. He told me that he feels bad to even be eating right now, because he knows it will be a while before he can do anything to have earned it.

Is that what we've become? Are we just a system of weights and numbers, or are we human beings? Can we be both? I doubt we could turn away a person in need. We could absorb the cost of a few meals a day for someone who can't provide for themselves. But could we do it for a dozen? Fifty?

Thinking about it makes me feel like shit. The worst part of it is that it probably won't be an issue for a long time. That doesn't make it any less of a worry for me. When a man injured in the line of duty feels bad about having survived the circumstances that gave him the injury, I have to start questioning how we look at survival.

I'm not just positing questions, either. In such a circumstance, having to choose between providing for a healthy person or one who couldn't care for themselves, I know what I'd choose. I'd choose the healthy person. I'd feel despair at the need for it, and probably hate myself.

You can hate yourself for doing the right thing. It's one of the many unique characteristics of being human.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Call It a Discount

....because Jamie is now 25% off. By that, I mean Evans cut off his leg.

I know the above seems heartless and cruel, but Jamie was the one who made that joke. Granted, he was pretty smashed on pain medicine at the time, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

Working in medicine for so long, I saw more than my fair share of people who had undergone amputation of one limb or another. I had a world war two veteran who had his arm taken off at the elbow by a heavy machine gun. He tied off the stump with his own belt before dragging one of his fellow soldiers back to safety.

I had an old lady have both her legs removed. I forget why it was needed, but while she had moments of sadness and loss about it, she remained happy and positive for the most part. Though she was in her late eighties, she had a lot of hopes and plans for the future. She was optimistic as hell.

So given my experience with those who've lost limbs, maybe you understand why I find a lot of hope myself in Jamie cracking wise about losing his leg. Yeah, it's a dark joke. But it's a joke. It's an attempt to make light of something that should be crushing. As far as I'm concerned, it's as good a sign as could be hoped for.

Of course, Jamie isn't out of the woods yet. There is always the chance for infection or any number of other problems. It was good luck on his part that he knew his blood type and that we have a list of people for matches (and a few type O negative people, which is handy), or there wouldn't be any Jamie to make snarky jokes about. Just a pile of ash and the tears of those who mourned him.

I've got to go out with my brother shortly to take a look at the work being done on the trench that's slowly being dug around the compound. With so many other problems being dealt with lately, our hope is to at least make the zombies wandering outside the walls less of a threat than they've ever been.

We can hope.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I've just received a terrible phone call.

Jamie and his team set out a few hours ago to try and retrieve the mobile cell transmitters they found outside Louisville. They hadn't gotten very close to them on the previous trip due to the horrendous amount of debris around them. Whoever set up the safe zone the transmitters were in, which we assume was military, made sure that there were fortifications galore around them. Jamie knew that to get them out, he'd have to move hundreds of sandbags, portable barriers, vehicles, and dead bodies.

So this trip he took a team of a dozen with him. Four of those men won't be coming home today. Jamie himself is being rushed back to the compound, having taken some serious damage to one of his legs.

Apparently, Jamie and five others were attempting to clear away some of the junk piled near the transmitters when one of the men ahead of Jamie moved a body. There was either an unexploded mine beneath it or maybe a grenade whose pin got hung up and yanked out when the body was moved. I don't suppose it really matters now. What does matter is that the explosion killed four of our people instantly, and shredded Jamie's leg. I haven't gotten a follow-up call yet, but from what I was told it's questionable whether Jamie will live long enough to get home and receive medical care.

I know enough emergency medicine and human physiology to know that when a man's leg has to be tied off with a belt, it usually isn't good news. Whoever I talked to didn't say if the bleeding was arterial. If it is, I don't think any tourniquet will keep him alive long enough to reach us. I don't know...

The man that called me was the sixth member of Jamie's group. He heard the sharp click of whatever triggering mechanism set off the explosive. The other six men are waiting at with the transmitters for Mason, who left out as soon as word came in about the explosion. Mason is going to help the remaining team search very carefully for mines, grenades, IED's, and anything else that might have been left in place for the zombies that wander around the safe zone.

I hate to think of how many times we've probably passed right by stuff like this. I know that the scouts have encountered trapped caches before, but you have to wonder how many we've missed for every one that we've found. I can see some soldier, staring out across the safe zone as his brother soldiers and the civilians they were trying to save were overrun. I can imagine the gears clicking in his head as he realizes they'll be no escape this time. That the swarms are too large and fierce. I can't blame him for setting a mine or rigging a grenade. One last trap to make the world poorer a few undead.

Not just soldiers, either. I can see farmers and businesspeople doing exactly the same, and I can't say I blame them a bit. Seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It is an understandable thing to do.

Unless, of course, you think that some living person might need what you no longer have a use for, you being dead. Then setting a trap for unwitting zombies has a new perspective. Maybe it's selfish, or shortsighted. Possibly dumb? Depending on the person setting the trap, it might even be hateful or nihilistic.

I don't think that was the case here, though. I can't feel anger at anyone for what might have been a simple accident. It's possible that no one set an intentional trap at all. I am angry, just not at a person. Simply at fate, or god, or whatever you want to call it. All of us are pretty tired of the constant flux between good and bad luck. None of us are happy about the terrible shifts in our outlook from day to day. We don't like losing friends and family after such a long struggle. Not to zombies. Not to enemies. Nor to weapons left on the ground.

It's a bad morning. And no matter what might happen throughout this day, no amount of good will bring back those lost men.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Downpour

The scout trip out to gather the mobile cellular transmitters has been put off for at least today. It started raining again yesterday evening, and it hasn't stopped yet. Since The Fall, roads haven't been getting the love they need to endure the harsher elements. None of us want to risk men or vehicles hitting a puddle that hides a hole in the road two feet deep. It might seem silly to some, but we're not in such desperate straits that we need to take an unnecessary risk.

So, another day with little to nothing getting done outdoors. We've got the larger part of the planting done, but there's still a lot of repair and upgrade work to do on the wall. This incessant rain is driving all of us a little bit crazy.

It makes for a slow day, people not being able to go out and work on things. It would be a nice break for them if they hadn't had a week of being idle before it. It's actually really good for me and my brother, since we can take this time to work out routines with our former trainees, now our subordinates. Running the compound is a big job, easily big enough for all of us and then some. For all the time we've spent teaching these folks all the pieces and parts of what the job is, our focus has been on doing all of it alone.

Now the trick is going to be working out a method of integrating each person's data with everyone else's. That's one part of my job. Basically the trainees do the grunt work of sorting through whatever reports and data are involved with their area, while I take each of their finished products and put it all together.

If it sounds annoying and complicated, that's because it is.

For now, anyway. We'll get a system in place and smooth it all out over time. Right now I expect bumps in the road. While I'm as irritated as anyone else at how far behind the rain has put us, I'm glad for the break in zombie activity it gives us. Every day we go without an attack is a chance to improve the defenses, plant crops, do something to make us better and stronger.

I don't know why the rain has started to drive them off in such numbers, but I'll take it. Any advantage we can get...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking Down

Sorry if I got a bit emotional on you guys yesterday. I've just been worried a lot about how we're going to manage this year recently, and it all sort of came to a head.

I would have posted a little earlier today than this, but my brother Dave wanted me to sit and talk with him about the post I wrote. It seems that he has been feeling the burden of trying to manage way too many things at one time as much as I have. When he and I started doing this job, it was with the intent that one of us could serve as a backup for the other if something happened. In reality, the responsibilities we've had added to our workload means that both of us together can barely keep up.

Between trying to keep the walls capable of holding off the zombie swarms and the forty other things we have to keep an eye on every day, it's getting to be too much for us. Honestly, the sheer volume of work to be done is so large that it's almost certain to lead to mistakes. Bad ones.

So Dave talked to the council (well, the rest of the council--you may remember that both of us are actually on it) and basically told them what our trainees have already figured out: we need a larger full time coordination staff.

He did most of the talking, I did most of the sitting and being quiet. It worked out pretty well. While the council are trusted friends and colleagues, most of them do other things full-time. They make decisions as a group for the compound, but they don't handle the day to day operations of it. That's what my brother and I are for.

Were for, I should say. Now we have seven people working for us full time. The trainees have been pulled from their old work and will each be doing part of the job that I used to do. Some will do scheduling. Some will manage materials. Some will do projects. You get the idea, yeah? And the neat thing is that they will rotate out every few days on what part of Operations they handle, so that everyone gets the same amount of experience and practice in covering every part.

Dave will be in charge of implementation. That's a fancy way of saying he gets to keep doing what he's doing--building stuff. I'm in charge of coordinating all of the Operations staff. Which is dandy with me. I'm happy to shift so much of the workload to others as well as getting fresh sets of eyes on the problems we face. Getting feedback from people that think differently than I do is important, since you never know what I might miss and they might catch.

I get to do the same thing I've always done, really, but with the lion's share of the grunt work spread out among all of us. I hate to think of reducing our workforce to manage this, but breaking down the responsibilities that Dave and I have managed for so long will (hopefully) make this place safer and more efficient in the long run.

Now I need to go. Lena and I are working on a game plan for a team of Jamie's scouts to go retrieve the mobile cell transmitters. Hoping to get everything ready to go by the morning.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the Margins

I generally don't post on Sundays, but given the outages in communications over the last week I have the urge to enjoy being able to write while I can.

I was doing a little rearranging in my office, and I came across a milk crate shoved in the back of my closet that had all my old notebooks and folders from college in it. While I would love to say that I kept all that shit from seven years ago because I'm a super-genius and saw the zombie plague coming even then, and hoarded my carefully written notes against future need, the truth is that I'm just a terrible packrat.

However accidental it might be that I kept them, the notes themselves are interesting and possibly helpful. In the margins of pages and on sheet after sheet of notebook space, I wrote hundreds of little facts and tips about the various subjects I studied in college. The majority of them have to do with urgent treatment, emergency care, and fire/rescue, since that was my main area of study. I'd forgotten how many interesting tidbits my instructors had passed on to me. Things that might make the difference between life and death in an emergency.

With the zombies roaming outside our walls, our lives are now a continuous state of emergency.

Then I came across my folder for my Geology class. I've always been a science nerd, but I avoided hard science classes in college because at the time my workload was already almost too heavy to bear. In fact, I only took Geology because I was going to be a credit short of graduating, having miserably failed an art history class online. Damn teacher assigned the wrong book.

At any rate, I ended up really enjoying the class. The teacher had three or four degrees, and a deep love of science. He was also a very dedicated and devout Christian, which lead to some interesting discussions in class. Mike, our teacher, loved to give example after example of why science and religion have zero actual disagreement on how the universe and everything in it formed. Mike's lectures were a huge part of my own unique view on religion, the universe, and everything.

I was flipping through the pages of that folder when a hastily scrawled note in a margin caught my attention. It said, and I quote, "Huge earthquake in southeast Ky decades overdue. We're all gonna die."

I read that, and I laughed. I began to vaguely recall the class in which Mike discussed some huge fault line in Kentucky that was a catastrophe waiting to happen. I remembered that I thought about that potential disaster often in the months after, then less frequently over time.

Since The Fall, I've thought about it little if at all.

And that's important, I think. Human beings have a certain upper limit for how much they can worry about things. When the priorities of your life shift from worrying if there will be enough money in your checking account to buy gas to worrying if that sound you heard was a dead person intent on biting you to death, your priorities have to shift.

The best way I can describe it is by sheer practicality. We worry about growing food, protecting ourselves, the movements of the undead, and the like because those are things that we have some measure of control over. We can do things to affect the outcome. With the weather or potential earthquakes or whatever the impending DOOM may be, we're helpless. No amount of worrying or thinking about it will alter the outcome.

Well, quantum physics may disagree with me there, but I've got no proof that worrying alters the outcome, so I'll have to assume that it doesn't. (Told you I'm a nerd.)

I mentioned to Jess and Lena, one of my trainees, that I'd found my old notes. I told them about the straining fault line. What interested me were their reactions and how different they were. Jess is practical to a fault, but she does have a tendency to let things she can't control take root in the back of her mind. I could see her brain clamp down on the idea and start working overtime.

Lena didn't look concerned. She just asked me if this was a test, and if I wanted her to try and figure a plan for rebuilding and whatnot in case an earthquake does happen. I almost laughed and told her no before realizing that it was a good idea. Also a pretty reasonable one.

The whole episode made me realize a few things. One is that I do a disservice to those I live with at times by writing this blog. I write in my own voice, and sometimes that makes it appear as though the people here are just one big homogeneous group that agrees with me and my point of view. It's hard to encompass all the different voices here in my writing. It's impossible to give each of them their well deserved due.

I also realized from Lena's reaction that for all my practice at running the day to day operations of the compound and skill in organizing projects, I'm pretty reactive. Lena isn't, at all: she thinks proactively all the time, and she's really good at it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I realize I'm not perfect. I've gone back and read a lot of my older posts and see that sometimes I'm arrogant and judgmental. I have respect for people as a base setting, yet some of you out there, my brother and sister survivors, have gotten the impression that I have something against some groups. Religion, the military, other groups of survivors...I get it. The truth is that I don't judge groups. Really. But I do get that I'm imperfect and thus subject to the failings of humankind.

I may not be as fair or open as I would like to be. I'm a smart guy, and the problem with smart people is that they always seem to think they're right. But there I was, not even considering a what my response would be to an earthquake that would probably level half of the compound, because it was too big to worry about. Lena, on the other hand, knew that a plan prepared ahead of time would cut down on our response time and probably save a lot of time, effort, and lives. I'm the guy in charge of thinking about shit like this. I should have been the first to say, hey, you're my trainee and have the time to work on this project--go do it!

Instead she suggested it, and I barely recognized how dumb I was being in not thinking of it first.

I've always tried to be as honest about myself as possible on this blog. It does no good for anyone for me to try and sugar coat who I am, who we as a community are. Honesty is a core requirement for trust, and trust is the only thing that allows us to manage.

So, I'll be honest. I don't know if I'm still the right guy for this job. Not the blog; that isn't a job. I mean running "ops", to use a bit of Star Trek terminology. Coordinating this place and planning for things is a responsibility that just gets bigger and more complex. I'm beginning to think that my arrogance in assuming I could do it all is more of a risk to us than it's worth.

That is something I will worry about. Not just because it's important, but also because it's something that, if true, I can change.

[Let's give Treesong a hand]

[This is an out of character post]

Many of you know Treesong, one of the sometime contributors to the story that is this blog. Tree is a very interesting guy. For example, Treesong is now his legal name. How many people can you say that about, honestly?

My first exposure to his work was a bit of writing he did for a local paper where my friends Courtney (yes, the Courtney that has written on here before) and her husband Steve live. What struck me most about that article was the amazing and seemingly effortless precision with which Tree laid out and constructed his ideas. It was a very dense piece of writing for its length, and from beginning to end it was thoughtful, flowed well, and most important made me think.

Tree is, as I said, and interesting guy. He's an activist with toes dipping into many pools; he supports environmental policy change, total equal rights, and the power of individuals to shape and better their communities. That barely scratches the surface, really. I mean, he's also a part of the real-life superhero movement, and I can tell you from personal experience that he plays Dungeons and Dragons with a gusto that I've rarely seen from anyone else.

Above all that, though, he's a great guy. He's a friend of mine. We don't agree on everything, but even though our stances on some issues may be far and wide from each other, he has always been gracious and open-minded to me. He's that way with everyone. No matter how much he might disagree with you, he'll always listen and give you a fair shake.

All I'm asking is for you to do the same.

Treesong has just launched a campaign on Kickstarter, which is a new and potentially game-changing way of crowdsourcing funds for creative projects. As an indie writer, I feel it's my duty to support other indies when and where I can. It is my pleasure to do so today on this blog, with a link to the Kickstarter page for Treesong's campaign. The urban fantasy he's going to be writing looks to be very interesting. I won't ruin it for you, nor will I tell you to donate.

Rather, I ask you simply to go to the link and check out the page. Watch the video, read the background, and ask yourself if it's worth the cost of a coffee at Starbucks to support an amazing project by an amazing man. If you go there and see the video, read the background, and decide not to back Tree's work, that's just fine. All he and I ask is some honest consideration.

We live in a fractious and difficult time. It seems like all we hear are how different sides of the various arguments going on in America right now will never give an inch. I'm here to tell you that this guy represents the best in those arguments--patience, willingness to listen, and a desire to do right by everyone involved. I can't think of a better or more deserving person. I've donated $15, and I was the very first to give. I say that proudly.

Change: A Kickstarter campaign by Treesong

Please give it a look, and keep an open mind. I appreciate your consideration.