Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Lengths

I'm generally opposed to actions that are severely damaging to our environment. I don't like having to do things that negatively impact where we live in the long run.

That being said, this morning thirty of our people went out with explosives on a fishing trip. For now we're leaving the large ponds and small lake across the road at the old game farm alone--we don't know when we'll need those resources, close as they are. We seeded them with fish and we expanded them some, so there's a large amount of food just waiting there for us, but we're holding off until we get truly desperate.

One of the good things about the storms is that they cause the river and the large creeks around here to rise enough to flood some spillover ponds and lock fish into them. A few of our people will be hitting those areas, taking what they can get and sparing no animal. Others will be heading out in all directions to bomb large ponds at abandoned farms and other places out in the country where we know fish and other edible animals have been breeding.

It's risky since the storms have blown over, which means there will be unknown numbers of zombies out and about all over the countryside. We spent a lot of time last year trying to sow fish eggs wherever we could find bodies of water large enough to support them, but that harvest will bring the risk of attack like any other trip. We've made sure to outfit our folks with weaponry and defensive measures, of course, and they'll be as careful as anyone can. Fate, though, can be a hateful bitch, and chances are even that any or all of our people could meet her today.

I've made some inroads with my efforts to find help from outside the compound. There are some folks quite a distance away who have a good sized community right in the middle of the farm belt. They're on the great plains and almost all of them farmers of one type or another, so they've got awesome visibility and plenty of land to work. They're one of the few groups that didn't manage to respond to me at first, because they were also one of the places Courtney went to deliver food. I didn't think they'd rebound quickly enough from their need to be able to help us, but it's looking good.

I obviously can't give away their location, but I can assure you that they're quite a lot safer than most people. there are about a hundred and fifty of them, and that's a hell of a lot of people to work land. It helps that they've got a variety of different types of farming going on where they live. I'm told that they can have a pretty large shipment of food for us sometime near the end of July or early August. That's pretty awesome, actually, but the hard part is going to be transporting it. They've got no way to get the food to us.

We have trucks and fuel, of course, so the logistics aren't that hard for us to manage. It's just a matter of planning a safe route there using our knowledge of what ways are safe from our previous trips out west and getting the whole thing set up. That's at least a month away, though, and our food situation could become pretty desperate before then.

It's a ray of light, though.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Casting Stones

We're in trouble, serious trouble. The storms that have swept through here off and on for the last two days have done some heavy wind damage, but the worst came yesterday afternoon when we got hit by hail. Lots of hail.

At first it wasn't all that bad as the stones were only pea-sized. The hail trailed off and died, and we thought the worst was over. About fifteen minutes later, we got pelted with stones the size of golf balls. Our homes weathered the storm of rock-hard ice pretty well, but we took substantial damage to our remaining crops.

If we hadn't lost an entire farm, it wouldn't have been so damaging. Since we have, also losing a quarter of our food crops is devastating. I don't know what we're going to do to come back from this, or if it's even possible to do so. Our people need to eat, and not just enough to live. They have to be strong to endure zombie attacks. If not, we'll be easy targets for a large assault.

That's not even considering the construction work and other bits of industry we've got going on here. We're in a bad place right now, and there isn't a lot of help to be had.

Surprisingly, the homesteaders have taken this latest piece of bad news without too much griping. There hasn't been a lot of reaction from that camp, other than to say that we need to come up with a way to feed people without letting everyone go hungry. Yeah, that's super helpful.

I've been on the horn with people since last night trying to find anyone that can help us. Our closest allies in spirit if not geography, the settlement of North Jackson, don't have extra to spare. The huge detail of soldiers that peacefully settled and integrated with them some time back brought much with them, but they're still on rations as their greatly expanded farming has yet to reach maturity and full production. Even then, they'll be running a tight ship as far as food goes, having to save enough to last them through winter and into the spring.

So it has gone with everyone else I've talked to. While those of us who were refugees wandered around this part of the country, Courtney and her team were running missions of mercy all over the rest of it. What our allied communities had to spare, they spared. There's no extra to be found.

I won't give up. Any resource we can pull from, any service we can trade, every possible option, will be explored. I will not allow the people here to starve, and whatever it takes to accomplish that goal, I'll do it. Anyone who's out there that can help, send us a message. We need you, now more than ever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'm writing this short update while the storm is still raging around us. It's four in the morning right now, and I'm hoping that this lets long enough for me to at least post this on the blog. Our predictions were off by a pretty significant amount, but in a good way--the storm took longer to hit us than we thought.

It's definitely a big one. The winds are at least as powerful as those we saw last month, and the rain is driving. Thunder and lightning are pretty much constant. We're naturally worried about tornadoes, but there isn't a lot we could do about them even if we had some way of seeing them in the darkness.

The crappy thing about storms now is that our mobile cell towers are useless...

The good thing is that for now, at least, we're zombie free.

Just wanted to let you know we're OK for now, and that at least at the time I'm writing this, there are no reports of severe damage. Not that too many people are out walking in this to let me know.

I'll be posting this as soon as I'm able, and then I'll head out to survey the compound and the farms for damage.

Monday, June 27, 2011


There are two important things to share with you today. The first is that Will's attacker had his trial yesterday, and got his punishment: two lashes and hard labor detail for a month. The rest of the homesteaders are less than pleased at such a harsh sentence, but then they're also happy that his cohorts didn't get more than a slap on the wrist. Overall it's another net zero situation, because most of them think attacking Will was over the line. They may not like the punishment, but they at least admit there was a crime. My main concern is that they may begin to feel that Rich ordered lashes and labor instead of one or the other in retaliation for the homesteaders exodus more than a week ago. I don't think that's the case, but others may.

I really wanted to go into more detail about this, but the other piece of important news is more pressing. 

It's interesting thing to see how creatures react to changes in the weather. This morning, our hunting teams and those the homesteaders have fielded came back not an hour after leaving to report that their game had pretty much vanished. A few farm workers were sent back to tell us that the cows, pigs, horses and sheep have all nestled down as best they can. 

The most telling point is the total lack of zombies outside the walls right now. We know that at least some of them were playing possum during the heavy rains last month, tricking us into a false sense of security by going inert during downpours. Real storms are different--zombies hate them. Thunder and lightning, heavy rains and fierce winds are things to fear, and even the base, stupid zombies have enough of their reptile brain left to recognize the need for safety. The smart zombies picked up on that much faster.

This development incited a flurry of communication between several people here at the compound and pretty much everyone we know outside of it. We've seen this before, when the truly awful storms rolled in and beat on us like the hammer of god. Now we're using a system we set up after that spree of terrible weather that we call stormwatch. 

I know, it's all kinds of dramatic, isn't it?

It's actually really simple. Every group of survivors we can contact are called, and we ask them for weather conditions. We lack the more sophisticated means of measuring and predicting weather, but if someone in, say, southern Indiana tells us that they're dealing with powerful storms that are moving in a southeastern direction, it gives us some warning. Measuring wind speed helps us get a rough estimate of how fast the storm is moving, though that isn't really accurate. We're just trying to do what we can to be ready in case a barn-buster comes through here. 

We've got the kids running around telling folks to button down everything they can. Most people have some kind of shutter or shields to put over their windows, a project that my brother Dave came up with. Helpful for us that so many abandoned houses had shutters to spare. One team of guys ripped enough of them off and brought them here to outfit all of our homes in about three days. I'm really hoping that we aren't going to get hit very hard, but I don't know. The weather this year has been crazy. 

That example above, about the group in Indiana? That wasn't theoretical. We've heard from six small groups and one large one, all of them in a rough line heading west across the great plains. There's a huge system moving in, and it's wide enough that the two northern and southernmost groups we talked to out that way are being hit by it. So are the two farthest east and west, except for us. From what we cal tell, this thing is about three hundred miles wide and at least that distance long. Guesswork, and shoddy work at that, but it's all we have.

We're in the center of its path. 

So, the portable cell transmitters are getting secured right now. The last one is the small unit we keep at my house, and that's going to be shut off as well right after I send this. I will do everything I can to be back tomorrow if possible. If not, try not to worry about us too much. It may suck, but we're tough. We'll make it. 

If you're being hit and we haven't been able to get in touch with you, then our prayers and hopes go with you. With luck you'll find this message when the storm blows over. Good luck to all of you, and to us.

I'll be happy as long as there aren't any more tornadoes. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Limit Break

Maybe I should be a little more careful with my words.

Yesterday I talked about how some of the homesteaders were giving Will Price a hard time. Apparently a few of them got upset that I called them out over this behavior and decided to take it out on Will himself.

You may remember that part of Will's punishment for handing the compound over to the Richmond soldiers was the requirement that he perform any duty asked of him by a member of the compound in good standing, as long as it wasn't illegal and didn't interfere with duties assigned to him by the council or Dodger. We had him doing some pretty terrible grunt work at first, and since Will is only allowed to eat and sleep where people offer him food and shelter, he had a hard time of it. I never heard him complain.

When Dodger's duties coordinating the defenses became to time consuming to allow him to work on new ideas, he asked for Will. No mystery there, as long-time readers will remember that Will has a creative streak a mile wide when it comes to keeping us safe from and killing zombies. Part of that is the pathological obsession Will has with warfare, historical and modern. It's made him very well versed in methods of protecting us from the zombie swarms.

So, for a good while now, Will has been attached to Dodger almost exclusively. It has been very beneficial for all of us, and so far no one has really made to big a deal about it. Until yesterday.

Will was running a report from Dodger's office at the other end of the compound when the small group of extremely angry homesteaders found him. They demanded he do some task or another, something laborious and slow like carrying water. Will explained that he was on a deadline, and that he would be glad to do it after he dropped off the report.

The homesteaders didn't like that. One of them put hands on Will, shoving him. Will backed off, not wanting to start any trouble. So the next time, the guy shoved Will to the ground.

Will, not wanting to get in even more trouble than his current situation, got up and went on his way. That was when the guy who shoved him tackled Will to the ground and started hitting him. The other homesteaders with him, according to the half-dozen witnesses who caught this act, seemed upset that their friend was attacking Will, though they did nothing to stop it.

On the ground, being pummeled, Will finally fought back. He struck his attacker two or three times, aiming for non-vital areas that would cause enough pain for the man to back off. Will says he hit the guy in the temple, the underside of the chin, and in the side of the neck. The attacker became enraged at this, and pulled his hunting knife.

Will, scared for his life, hit the guy right in the throat. Fight over.

Then Will ran the up the block to the clinic, grabbed Evans and told him what happened, and hightailed it back to the scene of the fight. The attacker, a guy named Matt, is alive. He can't talk right now, but his friends swore up and down that Will started the fight. We know this is not true, as those six witnesses all gave identical stories even though none of them were in the same room when they did it.

I don't really care if the homesteaders want to be a group, thinking themselves separate and better than the rest of us. I don't care if they think that everyone outside their number is lazy or weak. I don't have the time or energy to really give a shit what any of them think of me, as long as they do their jobs. What I do care about is people inside the compound breaking any of our few laws. These guys knew that Will was not to be abused, that just like any other person inside the compound, he wasn't a free target for attack. He might be a criminal, but there are lines.

These guys crossed one of them. That's the bottom line. The rest of the homesteaders are in a state of chaos over the announcement that their buddies will be put up on charges because of Will. That he was attacked means nothing to some of them, though many are angry that some of their group would go so far as to attack a man who knew fighting back could be a death sentence.

Will isn't getting charged with anything. He's a living human being, and he has the right to defend himself. He did, knowing what he was risking. It makes me sick that he had to. I hope his attacker gets his voice back in time for the trial, so I can hear his wailing when he gets the lashes he so richly deserves...

Friday, June 24, 2011


A little good news this morning. The homesteaders that have been organizing hunting teams had a good run of luck yesterday eight or nine miles away. They went in the direction of Shelbyville, toward one of the farms near my brother's old house. We raided a lot of those places last year, as the crops had been left to rot by the farmers who had fled their land or been killed.

One interesting fact about Kentucky, and I think most states that had historically had a heavy agricultural industry, is that this place is a giant magnet for rabbit populations. Around here they're considered pests, and there was period of time last year when it was all the rage to see who could catch the most of them in the compound.

The zombies moved toward supplementing their diets with animal meat a long time ago, which has helped keep the population low around us and where we farm. That's one of the few advantages of having zombies congregate around centers of human habitation: pest control. It doesn't make up for the danger we face in having the flesh-eating dead surrounding us at all times, but it does add that silver lining.

A lot of the old farms are perfect breeding grounds for bunnies. The soil, so often hard and dense because of the high clay content here, has been worked for generations in most cases. It's soft and fertile, which makes it perfect for bunnies to burrow in. It also means a lot of plants will take root there, including some food plants. The homesteaders brought back two dozen rabbits yesterday, three deer, and a few baskets full of early corn and other assorted vegetables.

It isn't enough to feed us all, but it helps. Everything helps.

The recent tension and troubles haven't been doing any favors for the new folks we brought from Tennessee, but one person the homesteaders hate above all others has been feeling the heat even more. Will Price was already unpopular with that crowd, though many of the people that would become homesteaders had goodwill toward him because of his actions during the occupation by the Richmond soldiers. Now, that's changed, if only because of the strange mob mentality that the homesteaders seem to have.

A few loudmouths start getting people behind them, and the group seems to follow suit. There are always a few who disagree, of course, and it's not exactly a uniform message. There are degrees in the intensity of hate or dislike that most of the homesteaders have been showing to Will. It's actually a pretty wide range. But they're still getting worse because a few people are egging them on, constantly pushing the message that Will is evil, awful, bad.

This, despite the good he's done. Since we took the compound back, Will has been under punishment that frankly I thought he'd try to get away from long ago. Instead he's tried at every turn to do what was best for the people here, and gone far beyond everything that's been asked of him. Some of our best innovations in security and defense are because of him, yet he gets no credit.

Hell, he's even coming up with ideas to stretch our food supplies as far as they can go. He's been working with Patrick all morning on designing and fabricating very large containers to cook in, so we can make huge portions of stew.

That sounds simple, and it is. I'm not talking the five or ten gallon pots we've collected over time, either. So much of what we eat is usually veggies and fruit that we've never really thought of stews and soups on a large scale. Will, though, has been doing some math, figuring out caloric content, and has discovered just why stews were so widely popular for so long.

They've got tons of calories for relatively few ingredients, and you can put just about anything in them and get the nutritional value of whatever you add right there in the pot. Vegetables for vitamins and minerals, meat for fats and protein, water and flour as a base and for carbohydrates (the fuel for bodily energy, after all) and what milk we can spare to add calcium. It's pretty brilliant, and Will says a very efficient way to get an even mixture of all those things into a simple serving. He says it's a far better way to feed people as efficiency goes than the piecemeal way we've been going about it.

All this time, and we're still learning very simple lessons. I just hope the next time we need to learn some basic fact like this, it happens well before we need it. I'm getting worried that we don't have many more last-minute solutions ahead of us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Family

I've mentioned before how much of a fan I am of a novel that came out a couple of years before The Fall, called "The Name of the Wind", by Patrick Rothfuss.

I mention it here because the main character is from a social group of people that live constantly on the road, travelling from town to town in performing troupes. The greeting from one group of them to another is "One Family", a reference to the cohesive sense of belonging that all of their social group feel for one another, regardless of blood. It's always stuck out in my mind as an interesting way for a society to function, and given that the bond between them is so strong partly due to centuries of tragedy and persecution, an understandable one.

You'd think that the same mentality would apply to people in general now. We've seen ample evidence over the last year plus that such an expectation is, in the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore, "optimistic to the point of foolishness". All of us have seen marauders murder, rape, and pillage. We've all seen groups of survivors that are otherwise reasonable people refuse to help one another in times of tragedy. The sense of brotherhood (and sisterhood, I'm no sexist) you'd hope to feel is there, but far from universal.

The particular problem that prompted me to write today (it seems that lately it's always a problem that does the trick, instead of good news) is that our newcomers from Tennessee are having some trouble adapting to the compound. Since they got here right as so many things went wrong, the place seems overly hostile to them. It doesn't at all help that the homesteaders are either ignoring them or actively being assholes to them, a few demanding that each newcomer put in time on the wall.

Now, that's just absurd. Many of the women that made it here from Tennessee are pregnant, yet a few hardcore homesteaders STILL want them to do guard or sentry duty on the wall. Seriously.

Naturally, that's out of the question. A few of them actually did agree to go, but we've got policies around here about pregnant women being within feet of flesh-hungry undead monsters. Call us crazy, but it seems stupid to risk the lives of two people that way, you know?

I'd like to see a little more unity, especially since every single person in this place was once a newcomer with the exception of me and Jess. Some of them, like Pat, Little David, Allison, Elizabeth, and a few others, have been here almost since the beginning. Others came during hard times, or when we didn't have a lot to spare. No one came to the compound during a time when it was easy or simple for us to take them in. There has been no period of utopia.

It isn't the fault of the newcomers that they've arrived at such a bad time, and I'm fair enough to admit that most of the homesteaders know that. They acknowledge that fact. Hell, most of them are thankful that the food the newcomers brought with them is so plentiful. It's literally going to save lives.

Still, they ignore the newbies when they encounter them, and the homesteaders refuse to intercede with their more hardcore members in regards to the loud public derision of the newcomers. It's infuriating and distracting at a time when we need to focus out efforts as one.

If I had known what sort of long-term consequences the Richmond soldiers' occupation would have, I would have made it a point to assure they died a lot slower than they did.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Zero Sum Game

Nothing, nada, nil, zilch.

That is exactly how much progress we've managed to make. The council meeting yesterday only served to confirm the reality we're facing: we can't do anything to the people who left the compound over the weekend.

Oh, but I can tell you one new piece of news: they've unionized. I hate to put it that way, since I was always supportive of unions before the zombie apocalypse said a hungry hello and made them irrelevant.

And they've even got a name. They're referring to their group as the "Homesteaders" which sounds like a bad 1970's western to me. They picked that name because almost all of them were caught at the compound when the Richmond soldiers invaded and had to stay here during the occupation.

So, the homesteaders have reaffirmed their assertion that they simply won't let anyone hold them responsible for their exodus. That sucks, but isn't surprising. The good news is that as a group they are way more nervous about the rationing we'll have to do with our food, and have offered to send out teams of volunteers as hunting parties during their free hours. They've even taken on the herculean task of arranging to have other members of the group cover the shifts of the hunters should they be unable to return to the compound in time for work.

This sounds like progress, I know. But it isn't, really.

These folks have made these decisions unilaterally, without any input or communication with the other people in the compound. To me, it's just another sign that they see themselves as different. They see their group as special or better or something that the rest of the compound and the council are not. They don't seem to think that the rest of us can solve our problems, or that we haven't been working on solutions.

Oh, and did I mention they aren't even giving us a choice in regards to what they plan? While I appreciate the intent and the effort they're putting in, they only informed us of their plans to keep the walls guarded. They didn't want to repeat the mistake they made last week by not providing for the safety of our population. The zombies have been especially thick outside the walls in the last few days, though they have cleverly been staying just out of bowshot...

I dislike being dictated to. The idea that a group of people who did so much to endanger our people should be allowed to create and execute their own policies without even asking is frankly a bunch of bullshit. If they hadn't at least had the consideration to make sure the schedules were covered, I think the situation would be a lot worse.

Ultimately, we need them to do this. That's the truth. We need people willing to put in extra hours out in the field hunting if we're to have a snowball's chance of keeping our people from starving. I've always said that pragmatism wins out in the end, and this is about as pragmatic as it gets. Without the homesteader volunteers, I don't know that we could survive.

Granted, we didn't get a chance to ask the general population to try the same thing. Maybe there would have been enough people volunteering to make the difference. We'll never know, since the issue has been forced.

For now, it'll have to do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living On the Edge

I'm going to be straight with you here and say that I don't know how things are going to play out here in the next few days and weeks. I don't know that I will be able to post regularly, but I'm going to try. It's important to me that I be able to relate as much of what is happening as possible, for good or ill. The zombie plagues has taken so much from us, but I hope more than anything that this blog helps teach others what to do to make their communities work, and what to avoid. 

The council is meeting for most of the day. My schedule has been cleared so that I can join them, and we'll be bringing in several people outside the actual council itself to help give us input on the current situation. That situation being the sudden loss of one of our farms and most of the food it produced, the refusal of more than a third of our citizens to exercise caution in the face of endangering their fellow citizens, and the tension almost everyone is feeling with the impending rationing of food. 

How to meet these challenges, what to do to rebuild confidence, and many other aspects of the problems we face will all be up for discussion. We've got a very small window to work with since we've got a large store of food to keep us going, but we'll be running a high deficit of what we eat to what we actually produce. If the situation isn't solved somehow before very long, we'll be facing fall and winter with no stores. 

That isn't a viable option. 

On short rations, we'll start to face big problems long before that. We'll grow weak and slow, work will suffer as a result, and productivity will go down. Which will just make the problems worse in a vicious cycle. That's ignoring the huge problem we'll face with zombies that are just as numerous and strong as ever, while we're at our worst. 

I know, its not a very nice prediction, but it's about the most realistic scenario my staff and I were able to come up with. Short rations means everyone will be on a thousand calorie diet at best, and even that will use up our stores within six weeks. Then we'll be down only to what we can hunt and get from the other farms. 

We're on the cusp of an enormous cliff here, and the drop doesn't look all that promising. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Social Contract

The last few days have been terrible ones. I can't even begin to explain the chaos in the compound to you. There's been so much going on that literally every aspect of our lives are out of whack. 

The mass exodus after the attack on the farm the other day didn't go as badly as we had expected. There were no fatalities, which is a miracle itself. The roughly hundred and fifty people that went out looking for the huge swarm that took the lives of some of our kids found their prey. The zombies were apparently concerned enough with such a large group coming after them without hesitation that they tried to run for it. 

That just made the folks hunting them even more angry. I'm told that they kept going after the undead, killing stragglers as they were overtaken, until there were only about three hundred left. Those zombies turned and fought, as our people had pursued them right into a particularly rough area in terms of terrain. The zombies were slaughtered to the last, as far as we know. 

Our people fought with tempers flaring hot, and they were damn lucky that they held it together well enough that they formed lines as they attacked. They didn't give any openings, and there were a lot of archers out there with them to thin the herd down. 

All that being said, I can't approve of what they did. It was irresponsible, reckless, and frankly put the rest of the compound in more danger than we've faced since the Richmond soldiers invaded. Even ignoring the fact that half the walls were left undefended, the basic social order of the compound was disrupted by this populist outburst of rage so much that we're going to be picking up the pieces for weeks. 

And the rest of us, the ones who kept their heads and didn't fly off the handle, can't do a goddamn thing about it. To rub salt in the wound, many dozens of people from the group that went out hunting have made it a point to tell those of us that run this place that we can't do anything to them for leaving. They're showing a high level of loyalty to one another, and once again threatening to strike if any retribution comes to even one of them over this. 

The rest of us that decided to abide by the social contract we have all agreed on are stuck having to suck it up and deal with this situation. They're completely right--we can't afford an extended loss of that many workers. That's especially true considering how many more people we'll have to send out far and wide to hunt now that one of our farms is basically gone. We need a concerted effort by everyone if there's to be the slightest chance for us to keep going as a community. 

And anyway, how in the world could we punish so many? I don't see a way. I also don't see how we could pick one or two of the people that started this mess and make them scapegoats for the whole group. That smacks of the way things were done in the world that was. In the here and now the expectation is that each individual is responsible for their own actions. 

That's why this is so galling for the rest of us. If one person breaks the rules we've set up, minimal as they are, then that person has to deal with the consequences. If it weren't for the lack of violence between our citizens, I'd be tempted to call this a civil war or, to use the favored buzz word of the Bush administration, an insurgency. 

When the people who went hunting the zombies made it back here late Saturday, there were a lot of hard looks and pointed silences. They knew how the rest of us felt, which was abandoned, betrayed, and left wondering how many of them would make it back. The hunters were mostly composed of people that were left here at the compound during the occupation by the Richmond soldiers, so I suppose now we know how they felt when those of us that were able to escape did so. 

I've had this pointed out to me by several of those who left Saturday. Smugly. 

So, here's my response to the arrogant fuckers who want to act as though it was just your turn to leave:

We didn't escape the compound in a fit of anger. Yes, your rage was justified, but your commitment to protect the living should have been stronger than your desire to avenge the dead. If you left the compound on Saturday with the hunting party and you feel absolutely no guilt about doing so, then I hope with all of my heart that you leave this place. Soon.

You know what? Fuck that. I'm not going to play nice with people who used the death of children to justify blowing off some steam, because the truth is that they put all the rest of the children at risk by going. So let me tell you how I really feel. If you left the compound and don't feel guilty, I hope you die. If there isn't the slightest shred of you that feels at least a tiny bit bad that you shirked your responsibilities, then we don't need you here. The human race will certainly be better off without your lack of contribution to it. In my mind, the only difference between you and a marauder is a matter of timing. 

This might seem harsh, but I don't really care. I know many of the people that left, and I know them to be good souls overall. I imagine that most of the folks who left feel bad to one degree or another that they caused so many problems and left us undefended in some areas. I know that they feel justified in what they did, and that such a feeling doesn't preclude them feeling bad about doing it. 

I don't know how things are going to look in the near future. Grim, from what I'm seeing right now. Difficult probably doesn't begin to describe it. I hope to see more penitence than is currently on display. I don't think anyone here is without sin, nor would any in the compound fail to understand the urge to do something you felt was right knowing that it could be seen as cruel or dangerous. 

We need a dialog here, but I stand strong for what I've said: there has to be some sign of guilt. There has to be an admission of wrongdoing, because otherwise that means that they didn't feel like putting the rest of us in mortal danger was wrong. 

That's just not acceptable. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Descent

I cannot describe to you my sorrow. There just aren't words. 

This morning, during the early hours when many of the children within the compound go out to the farms to collect eggs and other food, an attack came. The estimates right now put the number of zombies at nearly five hundred. 

It was raining. 

Seven children lost their lives along with eleven adults who bravely tried to protect them. It must be said here that the safety policies put in place by Dodger and designed by Will Price are the reason why our losses weren't far worse. It's standard procedure to keep the kids at least a hundred yards away from the barriers that define the edges of our farms.

When the attack came, the first few dozen zombies fell into the trench, filling it and making an easy bridge for the rest of the pack to walk over. I say walk, but they were running. I have to assume that this was an attack planned by smart zombies, because the reports I've gotten state that the majority of the zombies that took part in it were very mobile. Not the shambling messes that are more commonplace, but something closer to fully functional people. We saw a lot of those in the early days. 

There were plans in place for such an attack, and equal credit must be given to the people who were at the farm during the attack for following them. We had set up fallback points at each farm, rough buildings with a single entrance designed to hold off zombies long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Most of the people at the farm that was attacked managed to get in, with the obvious exception of the people we lost in the attack. A few of the farmers actually climbed on top of the longhouse they live in, and pulled the ladders up behind them. They keep a store of weapons under oilcloth up there. Just in case. 

By the time word of the attack got to the compound, the damage had been done. We organized as quickly as we could and got to the farm in about twenty minutes. The zombies could see us coming, nearly a hundred armed men and women unloading from dozens of vehicles, several of which had the "tank" modifications Will designed. 

At the sight of us, the undead ran. What we found in their wake was terrible. The people they had killed, adult and child alike, were in the sort of state you would expect from a flesh-hungry mob of half starved zombies. We burned the remains and said a prayer. We assured the workers hidden behind the heavy door of the fallback that it was safe to come out. 

We assessed the damage, and it was severe. 

Aside from the emotional impact of losing children along with the adults, the practical impact of the attack on the farm is devastating. Row upon row of crops trampled to death by the march of hundreds of feet. Almost every potato plant, stalk of corn, lettuce leaf, squash, tomato, strawberry, and every other plant that produces food was destroyed. All around us floated the torn feathers of chickens, tiny bodies with broken wings scattered to the four corners. 

All of us saw the destruction, and I know that every other person there felt the same raw animal fury rise up in them. I could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. My mistake, then, was not putting voice to reason. My error was not intervening and saying something to unite us, to calm that fury. 

Now, a few hours later, there are a hundred and fifty people simply gone from the compound. About half of those that came back with us from the farm went out and gathered others, told them what had happened. Against the council's orders, against my too-late pleas for common sense and caution, those hundred and fifty went out hunting for the party of undead that have damaged us so badly. 

They claim it is for the dead children. For the adults that died saving them. I'm sure that to some degree that's true. 

But I felt the same pain as they when I looked out across the ruined crops. I saw the same hard and bleak future of rationed food and hunger. It may have been the deaths of our young that sparked the flame inside them, throwing the entire compound into chaos as jobs were abandoned, but it was fear of the attack's consequences that fanned the fire. 

We've spent the last hour and a half working to cover the gaps on the wall where guards left. We've had to find coverage in the mess halls, for the construction crews, and half a dozen other places. It's been terrible chaos. 

And of course we've got every person with an iota of medical training on standby. With so many people fired up and out for the heads of the zombies that did this, I can only imagine the number of injured we'll be seeing. 

I've seen a lot of bad things happen since The Fall began, but this is by far the worst. 

It's all falling apart. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Smiling Faces

For once I'm going to skip talking about what's going on in the compound (not much this morning) and forgo going off on a philosophical bent like I did yesterday and will surely do again.

I woke up to a nice cool breeze coming in through the window this morning just before eight. I felt fairly rested, which is strange considering that I only had a few hours of sleep. There was a small attack at dusk last night, and I was on call for archery duty, so I went. 

Various other things kept me awake, including some detailed reports that needed to be given a detailed look. Since I had missed them somehow yesterday, I stayed up to work on them. 

But screw all that. This post isn't about news or zombies or anything but a wonderful morning. 

I woke up as I usually do to my lovely wife Jess sleeping next to me. Once removed in this case, since Becky was sprawled between the two of us. What actually woke me up was Becky turning over in her sleep and flopping her arm over onto my face. Both of them woke up shortly after I did, and the three of us made our way to the kitchen in our jammies. 

I've got this little barter system going with Pat's girls. Three days a week they come in and make breakfast on their way back from the farms after collecting eggs, and in return Jess and I make them things. Things that they'd have little to no chance to procure otherwise. Like armor in child's sizes, and weapons to match. We're working on those things in our spare time, but they're worthwhile projects. Anything that might save a kid's life should be seen as worthwhile, in my mind. 

So there was wonderful breakfast waiting for us. Due to the valley folks joining us, there is an abundance of pork that needs to be used up. The piggies were the last to go, and there wasn't time to properly preserve the meat. Most of it managed the trip alright, though I have no idea what the valley girls did to it to make it keep this long. So today I got not only eggs, but ham and a little bacon too. 

And Pat brought fresh bread. He had someone build a little oven right next to the forge, and the girls set the dough out to rise before they go to the farms. 

Oh, but the best part, aside from spending a wonderful breakfast with my favorite people? Strawberry jam. Someone must really love one of us. I don't know who left it on my doorstep, but GOD BLESS YOU. I was so excited that I even gave a slice of warm buttered bread with jam on it to Will when he did his morning stop for Dodger's paperwork. I'm feeling a little guilty about his current situation, seeing how he saved the lives of every person that made it back from Tennessee. 

I wrote yesterday that death is around us all the time. That we dance with it on a daily basis and know how easily our steps could falter at any moment. That's just as true today. 

But now, the corollary: life is that much sweeter. Living with the constant specter of doom over your shoulder has a wonderful way of making the thousand tiny beautiful things all the better. Pat's adopted girls are fierce and wonderful, and the fact that they've allowed Jess and I (and to increasing degrees, Becky) to get close to them is spectacular. Seeing Patrick happier than I've ever seen him is almost a miracle. Hell, seeing Becky alive after all this time is like finding out a twin I didn't know I had was alive, well, and missed me. 

Those are all big things. The important lesson here is that living with the dead, and death, makes even a simple pleasure like fresh strawberry jam all the better. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Great Fiction

There are many kinds of lies. Lies we tell ourselves, lies we tell others. Some of them are blatant and hurtful, some are in the form of fiction, a way to tell deeper truths through storytelling. 

We here at the compound tell ourselves a very specific and important lie: that inside the walls of our home, we are safe from harm. No matter how many times we see the truth of that one, when the danger is over we gloss over and start telling it anew. 

Each of us looks over the walls at the hordes of zombies that mill about, and we see different things. Some of us look at them with pity, and those people tell themselves that for all the sadness the undead bring to their hearts, that they are too dangerous to let live. Some view them as hateful monsters, with the internal mantra that all humanity must be gone. It would have to be in order to cut them down so brutally. 

I've been thinking about this pretty hard for a few days now, and the greatest fiction that we tell ourselves ends up being the same one that people have been selling for as long as there have been stories. It's the idea that we will live forever. That we will not die. 

In the world that was, a place decidedly not populated by the walking dead, a place where most people never encountered mortal danger, this lie was easy to tell. We trundled along from day to day, absently repeating it in our heads as we happily went about our routines. True, we shook our heads and muttered vague words of condolence when death came to visit others, but it was never us. At least, it was never me. 

That great fiction has been outed for the lie it was. Every one of us has faced death not just a handful of times, or even many times, but routinely. Often. A fucking lot. 

Now the lies we tell ourselves are smaller, less obvious. I think we know for true that death is just one mistake, one bit of bad luck, away. The lies now just soften the edges, make the weight of death all around us seem less terrible. 

It sounds so dour and depressing, but for me that couldn't be farther from the truth. I find the visceral knowledge that I could die at any time strangely freeing. I don't fret about it or dwell on it. Instead I simply hope that if and when it happens, that I can make it a good death. I hope to accomplish something when I go, maybe save others or destroy an enemy. I'm not afraid to die. 

I just don't want to die in a stupid way. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Rain

The weather has been super nice lately, which is fantastic considering the nearly unbearable heat we suffered through last week. Right now it's a pleasant fifty nine degrees out, and if yesterday is any indication it will stay cool and dry all day.

Kentucky is one of those places that never stays dry when it's hot out. I've known a lot of people from hotter states over the years (Arizona, California, etc) that have told me how oppressive the heat here is because of the humidity. I agree. The only thing worse than living inside a walled fortress under constant threat of attack by zombies is having to do it with a sweaty back and frizzy hair.

The only thing that could make this run of nice weather better would be a little rain. We're in a bit of a dry spell at the moment, which isn't all that uncommon around these parts. Fortunately the insanely heavy rainfall last month left us with full cisterns and barrels, and we have a lot of reserves to draw on. Not to mention the vast number of creeks and the river itself, which we can draw from if things get desperate. That's not an ideal choice given the face that our pumps are all manual and that we have to haul the water a good distance to get it to the compound, but it's nice to know we aren't helpless.

The farms are the larger concern. While two of them use nearby creeks as water supplies, the one out in Bald Knob has to rely on stored rainwater to feed the crops. That one has a lot of storage in their cisterns, but it won't last forever. One of the other farms closer to the compound also relies on stored water in dry times, and they are already having to haul water. Luckily Benson Creek is close, so it's not too hard, but it'd be much better if Benson actually ran through the property like the other farms.

I'm probably worrying too much here. Kentucky has been a farm state for a long, long time. We've had terrible droughts before, and farmers have always made do. We've got some of the most resourceful and experienced people I've ever seen, so I know we're in good hands. Plus, it isn't as though we're in a desperate situation or anything. The crops are OK, and the ground hasn't started to crack from lack of rain. I guess it's just my natural propensity to worry and plan for the worst that makes me even think about it. Hell, we went a lot longer than this once or twice last year and things turned out fine.

We've got a few more interviews to do this morning with the last of our new arrivals, and then my staff and I will get to work on placing everybody. My brother is working on moving a few people out of one of the larger homes in the annex portion of the compound and leveling it in order to have a space to build. The house in question is sparsely occupied, and the spot will be perfect for building a simple multi-level barrack style residence for our newbies. They very much want to stay together if possible, and Dave says he can get something built in a very short period of time. Since he's finished most of the work on the trenches, he has the time to work on it.

I don't have as much free time, though. I'll check in again tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Our new arrivals are settling in to their temporary home here inside the compound. While we were gone Dave and some of his construction crew went over to the National Guard base across the road and dug up some large tents. There aren't many empty spots inside the walls to put them, but one place close to the western wall is pretty bare of vegetation given all the repair work we did there. That's a little closer to danger than I'd like to see the new folks put, but it's all we can manage right now. 

My cohorts have been working pretty hard to plan out where all the new arrivals will be staying permanently and what jobs each of them might be best at. Farming and hunting are obvious choices, and a few of them have a lot of experience defending. Today we're doing interviews with each of them to try and determine what the best fit will be. They'll be short ones, I hope, maybe ten minutes apiece, and each of my fellow coordinators will be doing them along with me. Part of the reason we're doing this is because we want to try to move some of our less satisfied citizens away from jobs they don't like since we now have extra people that might actually enjoy some of those jobs. 

I know for sure there are a few guys who hate working in the mess halls, and would rather get out on the wall or to the farms. A few of the pregnant women we brought from Tennessee like to cook, and since it's relatively safe I think a trade might be beneficial.

One of the women we brought back with us is very interesting. Her name is Jen, and I watched her for a long time last night. No, not like that--well, a little, since she's a lovely woman. No, I was watching some of our spearmen practice working in a phalanx, as many of us do from time to time. You may remember them from a while back, a small group of interested people that wanted to work on the spear-and-shield technique as a way of defeating much greater numbers of zombies. 

They've been practicing a lot lately in their spare time, and last night I watched Jen stare at their drills in fascination. She's an interesting lady, very knowledgeable about a lot of things but most interested in hunting and combat. She was the person most likely to be found patrolling the edge of the valley while we were there. She is a good archer, I'm told a good shot with a gun, and she definitely knows how to use a machete and hatchet. I saw that firsthand. 

The phalanx was practicing for about twenty minutes before she got up from where she stood and walked over to them. A few of the men were surprised to see her grab a spear from the rack. Even more were caught off guard when she shouldered her way into the hollow square formation they were in without a shield. No one said anything at first, but Jen caught them off guard one last time by shouting the orders she'd heard Will giving the men from inside the square. 

Those men are well-trained, and Jen has grown used to command. The tone of her voice was as rough and take-no-shit as any drill sergeant, if a few octaves higher. When the line moved forward to strike, shields tight, Jen slipped between the men with her slim frame and brought her spear down with a powerful overhead strike. When she gave the order for the line to pull back, she leaned hard against the men locked together in a tight defensive stance and swept her spear out in a hard arc. 

It was awesome. The men had practiced similar things before, but most of them were too heavy or big to make it work out right. Someone always overbalanced or broke the line apart. That was mostly due to the fact that the space inside the hollow square is small and hard for most guys to maneuver around in. 

Jen showed us the obvious solution to that. She suggests four women inside, each with a polearm. Not a spear, but rather a bladed weapon like a halberd. Swinging away from safely inside, mowing down the undead beating on the shields. 


Monday, June 13, 2011


It was a tired and nervous group of people that finally made it back to the compound. The zombie swarm we drove through thanks to Will's forethought didn't give up on us. Instead they followed, and because we had to take a break not far away from where we left them to refuel a few of our vehicles, they caught up with us.

The casualties were small compared to what they could have been, but we were cautious when we stopped. We lost two of the food trucks in our escape, and five of the men from the valley. Those brave souls stood their ground and held off the initial wave of zombies, giving us just enough time to get away. If the entire swarm had hit us at once rather than just the faster zombies from it, we'd have all been lost.

Those two trucks amounted to about 20% of the food these people were bringing with them. One was full of fruits and vegetables that hadn't been preserved, the other a mixture of dried meat, preserves, and fresh veggies. We tried to mix each load of food that way, so that the loss of any given load wouldn't be disastrous. The vegetable truck was one of the last ones we loaded, and by that time we were in a hurry.

I've been home for more than a day, but I still haven't been able to get a read on how most people around the compound feel about newcomers. I've been busy catching up with my fellow coordinators on what's been happening while I've been away, so I haven't really had the chance to talk to a lot of people. I have spent some time with Pat and his girls, and one of them asked me over breakfast this morning (a very early breakfast, since I still have a lot of work to catch up and the girls had been out just before dawn collecting eggs) if we'd have to cut our food rations because of the new arrivals.

I told her I didn't think so, because they'd brought a lot with them. I told her that these people were very good at farming and hunting, and that they had managed to do very well for themselves. She seemed skeptical. I didn't blame her.

The truth is that none of us can see the future. I'm all about being as practical as we can in making sure that the largest number of human beings possible can survive. I saw the angry looks on the faces of some of  our sentries and guards as we tried to get our caravan of vehicles inside the compound, which in itself was an awkward and dangerous job. Leaving the gates open for so long might as well have been ringing the dinner bell to the local zombies, and then at the end we had to take all the trucks we got from Tennessee back out since there was nowhere to store them inside the walls. Getting them in, emptying them, and getting them back out seems like such a simple thing, but the frustration it caused the people who had to do it was clear.

Then again, I saw even more relief on the faces of people who had known terrible hunger. The sight of truck after truck being unloaded of their burdens of foodstuff must have been almost unreal to them. It's not a permanent solution, but those stores will go a long way toward feeding the people until our crops mature.

I've also been talking with some of the council members and a few other people about the best way we can make use of our new citizens. That's likely to take up the majority of the day. One advantage we have here is that we are practical, and organized, and ready to solve problems.

These last several days have changed me somehow. I don't know exactly why or how, but I can tell you with certainty that two weeks ago I would have left these people to fend for themselves if it meant keeping my own fed and safe. I'd have felt bad about it, but I'd have done it anyway with total conviction.

Now, I know for sure that I couldn't do that. I don't know if it was seeing so many pregnant women struggling to get by that moved some unseen switch inside me or what, but I'm different.

Before this trip, I think I saw people outside the compound and the few small groups we are close to as static, unchanging. To me they were just survivors that had potential use, but could be ignored if needed. In the valley I saw a thriving group of people who had managed to create a wonderful home for themselves, and welcomed the chance to bring children into it. It doesn't sound like much, I guess, but life changing events that alter how you see the world don't have to be big shows. Sometimes the most important lessons are the ones we have to look hard at to see.

I feel changed. I can't help it. I see those women looking shyly around their new home, wondering where they will sleep when the decision of what to do with them is made. I see them and think of all the others out there who have beaten the odds and won the struggle for so long, and I feel something inside me want to scream out at the injustice of it.

I used to think that in our situation, the highest moral code you could follow was the survival of the tribe. And maybe that's still true. I can't help but think I was woefully ignorant of other things, though. Compassion is strong, but I've always advocated being able to ignore it for the sake of pragmatism. Maybe human civilization needs to have that overwhelming sense of compassion to become better than it was. Maybe we have to make the conscious choice to do right and damn the risks. I don't know what kind of world we would build without it, but today it seems that such a world would be a colder and less loving place than I would want to raise my children in.

So much work to do. Now, more than ever...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Road Warriors

We've got the wagons circled at the moment. I mean that metaphorically. There isn't enough room on the highway to actually do that.

We're in Kentucky but only just. Apparently we must have attracted a lot of attention on our last trip through these parts, because about ten minutes after we crossed the state line from Tennessee we hit a mass of zombies large enough that we couldn't just drive through them. There must have been a thousand of them on the road, and more out in the woods.

That's enough undead to do serious damage to us if we tried to bully our way through them. Probably enough of them to tip us over or at least stop us cold. Jess and I are in the lead vehicle, so we stopped as soon as we spotted the swarm milling way down the road at the bottom of the hill we are on. All the drivers got out of their respective vehicles and we had a quick word with each other, which basically ended with Will telling everyone to calm down, that he had an idea.

So now we're waiting and watching as he slowly works his way toward the massive crowd of zombies. We're lucky that Jess has such good reaction time, since she managed to stop our truck just as we crested the hill. We haven't been spotted. The rest of the vehicles are on the other side of the hill, out of sight.

Will has a backpack full of stuff he brought with him, and he's supposed to call me when the way will be clear. Everyone is waiting for the signal, which is just our truck starting and moving forward. I don't know exactly what Will is planning on doing, though I will admit a small part of me is worried he'll just ditch us. I don't think he'd do that, but then I didn't think he was the type of guy to sell us out to the Richmond soldiers either, even if it was for out own good.

In fact--

Huh. Usually when a lone vehicle gets close to a zombie swarm, they start to form ranks around it. Will's car is still about two hundred feet away, but the crowd is already splitting like he's Moses and they're the sea.

Ah. Phone.

Well, that was a short call. We're moving now, Will is telling us to go. The conversation went like this:

Will: Get going
Me: OK. How'd you do that?
Will: Ammonia. Move it.
Me: Why aren't you unconscious?
Will: Gas mask. Fucking GO.

So now we're going. I was wondering why his voice was so muffled. He must have been pulling the mask away from his face while he talked...

I'm really curious how he's getting such a wide spray of the stuff going, but that's a question for later.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Once we finish piling the bodies of the most recent wave of zombies to attack us, we're going to pack up and head out. The swarm that hit us this morning was bigger than the others, about forty in all. They came at us from the mouth of the valley this time because we had to clear away a few of the barriers in order to fit some of the vehicles we found through it. 

We're going to have a lot of people driving. We found the abandoned remains of a small trucking company tucked away in a small town behind what looks to have been a distribution center for a cannery. The cannery itself has been ravaged like a hooker with a half-price sale. 

Sorry, I've always wanted to use that line. 

The trucks we found aren't ideal--most of the ones we grabbed are box trucks. We had to get those because they run on gas. We're using gas vehicles instead of diesel ones because we also found a large container of gas that we can load up and take with us. It looks like one of those five hundred gallon plastic water drums that farmers use, semi-clear white plastic. It's got a hand pump sticking out of the top of it, and the gruesome scene we found the thing at makes me think that someone (lots of someones, judging by the body parts) had just finished filling it when they got hit by a zombie swarm. 

Aside from the box trucks, we've also got several more pickups with trailers. It's going to be a tight fit to get these people and the gigantic load of food they're bringing with them loaded up, but we'll manage. We sort of have to. 

I get the feeling that the council is still iffy on whether or not we should be doing this. I know they've given us permission (possibly because they know I'd tell them to fuck off and do it anyway if they had said no) but I can't shake the feeling that maybe they don't really think that we should be taking on new people right now, regardless of what they can bring to the table. 

I get that. Really. I know better than anyone how short our supplies will run if anything drastic happens. I know that there will be complaints from the faction within the compound that has threatened to strike over food rationing. I am painfully aware that extra mouths to feed simply wouldn't be welcomed if they weren't bringing truckloads of edibles with them. 

I'm going to stay positive about it, though. Mainly because being negative and worrying about the problems that might occur doesn't do us any good. I'm hoping that since the people from the valley have had such extensive experience farming, they can help bolster the number of folks we have at our own farms. More hands means more food planted, and we need to get as much in the ground as quick as we can. It's June already...

Not to mention that there are a fair number of decent hunters among them. I really think that we can manage a lot more productivity with these people to help. 

First, we have to get back home. The good news is that we know the way there is clear, and we kept very detailed maps of the crazy route we took to get here in the first place. If we can keep decent time on the road, I'm thinking we can make it home by sometime tomorrow. If we can manage to get out of here at a reasonable time today, that is. 

That's my cue. I'm going to go help pack up and make sure all the vehicles are topped off. And since I'm the one who's basically coordinating all this, it falls to me to make sure the most important part of this trip is seen to properly. 

I have to remind everyone to pee before we go. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I'm keeping this very short because we've got a lot to do today. My request to the council at the compound has been denied. There won't be any more vehicles or resources sent this way. Their reasoning for this decision is sound, but that doesn't really mean much to those of us that are here and trying to evacuate these people.

The compound has been under light but continuous assault over the last few days. Not more than fifteen or twenty zombies at a time, but the attacks are spaced less than an hour apart. That's not too much for our people to handle, but they are hitting all sides and sections, so our people have no idea where the next one will come from. It makes for a tired group of people. The council doesn't want to risk sending out anyone since the compound will need as many able-bodied folks as possible.

The mood here is fairly bitter. My group isn't happy that not even a few people with a bus could be sent, which I think is pretty reasonable. I mean, three people to drive it down here in shifts doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to me. There's no use getting angry about it since we can't change things, and the people that live in this valley see it that way, too.

Well, to be fair they're angry as hell, but they aren't letting it consume them. They keep on working and trying to get as much done as possible before we have to leave.

Which will be soon. There have been more zombies intrepid enough to make it over the hills, though the groups have been smaller. Two or three at a time, which can easily be killed. It's making a lot of people nervous, though, so we're working on some alternate plans.

Yesterday after I got the bad news my group decided to venture out and try to locate some vehicles to get these people out with. We got to the closest town and looked hard for fuel and trucks, but no luck. That means we'll have to go out again today and look somewhere not so close. If we have to cram these people into the backs of moving trucks and hope for the best, we will. We WILL get them out of here.

Already longer than intended. I've got to go. Will is waiting for me to finish here. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Bloody Hills

Well, we got our first few zombies this morning. They came over the eastern hills right at dawn, which was fortunate for us since they were nicely outlined by the rising sun. There were only about twenty of them, a small group, and between three of us firing arrows at them and three of us using bladed weapons, they were a quick job.

This does move our timetable up considerably. I've already sent messages to the compound requesting they send us a bus and whatever other transports they can to get these people out of here. We'll just have to preserve as much of the food as possible and try to haul what we can. I'm hoping to hear back from Patrick in the next few hours. I need to know what they're sending us so I can try to plan out our escape.

It's a testament to these people that they aren't panicking or freaking out. Everywhere I look there are pregnant women working right alongside the men with feverish energy. Everyone, even the few children that are here, works with focused intent. I saw a kid no older than ten kill and begin plucking a chicken just a few minutes ago. He was crying while he did it in a way that makes me think he had treated that bird like pet.

When he was told to kill it, he didn't hesitate a second.

That's how everyone here is. It's by no means a perfect place. People argue and there aren't magical little butterflies floating around on tides of happiness. I suppose it's just that I'm seeing a group of people who haven't been fractured by division and conquest. There are less of them, and that means it takes a lot more teamwork to achieve their goals.

Even though the problems at the compound are understandable given what we've had to endure on top of the zombie plague, I still feel envious of these people. This is how we were early on. It's just human nature for societies to stratify and grow new tensions when old ones fade.

I've got a lot of work to do today, so this one will be short. If I have time to post something else later, I will. Though it seems like every time I say that I end up not having time.

Now to go finish cleaning up the bodies of all these dead zombies.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Valley Girls

I don't think I mentioned it yesterday, but the population of people here in the valley is surprising in that the women outnumber the men. A lot. Like, three to one.

I could take this a lot of funny and possibly offensive places, but I won't.

On the one hand you might expect the men here to be excited about the prospect of being surrounded by so many women. I mean, it does get boring sometimes after the work is done and there isn't any television to watch or video games to play. You'd think that those fellas would be sitting pretty with a bunch of women with little else to do but think about ways to overcome that boredom...

Of course, I haven't asked. I don't know how people here manage their personal affairs, and I don't care. Not that I'm not curious, of course, just that in the end it has no bearing on why we're here.

Then again...I kind of feel sorry for these guys. I love women, all women, to one degree or another. I think women are amazing and wonderful creatures. That being said, I've also spent a frightening amount of my life being under the thumb of them. At the nursing home where I worked right up until the zombie plague broke out, I felt like the most henpecked son of a bitch on the face of the Earth. I know what those guys are dealing with.

That's bound to be taken the wrong way. Look, I'm truly not sexist. Well, I might be but only because I generally consider women to be superior to men. Women tend toward being smarter, more levelheaded, more meticulous and pragmatic. Also, women can have babies which pretty much gives them the win over guys even if all that other stuff wasn't true. I'm just saying that men, who usually think in straighter lines and with singular purpose, get annoyed with being told what to do even when it's the right thing to do. You feel me?

OK, so I got a bit off topic there. Sorry. I'm feeling unusually relaxed by the weird fact that I haven't seen a zombie since I got here. We've been extraordinarily lucky as far as I'm concerned, and we've used that freedom to work on some ideas for getting these folks and their food out of here.

One thought was the most simple and obvious: bring in more vehicles. Thanks to the flex-fuel fleet we took from the state parking lots, we certainly have enough of them to run a huge convoy if we wanted to. Add to that the tens of thousands of gallons of alcohol we have on hand in Frankfort that can be distilled down for fuel, and it makes perfect sense. Of course the downside is that such a convoy would be too tempting a target and would risk a large number of people from the compound. Not to mention the rather large dent it would take out of our fuel supplies even mixing it with 85% alcohol.

We've been looking at other options. Really, the hardest part is going to be keeping the people safe. We've thought about scouting the local areas for trailers to haul behind out trucks as well as harnessed onto some of the animals. The people here could walk if they had to, though how we would camp safely without drawing a swarm of zombies is beyond me.

We've even considered trying to find a train and using that to get us as far north as possible, but that would likely mean having to leave the vehicles behind, which isn't an option. We'll keep on thinking about it, and meanwhile meat is being dehydrated, veggies canned, and belongings parsed into what needs to be taken and what can be abandoned.

I'm sitting outside right now under a beautiful gazebo that looks older than me. The panels that make up the walls of it are single pieces of wood, each carved with different scenes. Some are of deer grazing in the woods, some of geese flying through the sky. There are holes all through them, in between the animals' legs and the ground. It's beautiful, and lets you see through the carvings like a screen. The valley beyond is idyllic and serene. It's a lovely place full of lovely people. I hate for them to have to leave.

Oh, and they have one thing in common with the people of the compound, at least. Lots of pregnant women here, too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Broken Land

We made it to the group of survivors in Tennessee that we were trying to reach. I had intended on writing yesterday, but the sheer amount of help these people needed took pretty much all of our free after getting here.

As you might have expected, the storms that ravaged Frankfort last month had  an even more profound effect here. The floodwaters hit this part of Tennessee like a hammer. In fact, part of the reason these folks contacted us is because they've been desperately trying to repair all of the damage to their homestead, but they've finally given up. There's just too much that needs fixing and not enough of them to do it, nor enough supplies to make it happen.

The last day and a half has been a whirlwind of activity mostly due to the smattering of medical knowledge we brought with us, bolstered by the medical supplies we tucked away just in case we needed them.

Good thing we did. There are some people here that were severely injured by the damage caused by the storms and floods. Some have been nursing wounds for weeks, others getting injured while working furiously to repair their home.

About half the work we've done since coming here has been canning and preserving food. They weren't kidding when they said there was a huge trove of edibles here. The whole place is a giant farm, far larger than what we utilize at the compound. There are all kinds of veggies and fruits growing, but the really important part is the preserved foods. The people here spent a tremendous amount of time and effort over the last year trying to can and jar every scrap of food they could get. Though the season is still early, there are enough peas and other early vegetables to feed hundreds of people.

The trick is to get them sealed up and preserved while they're still good.

In addition to that, there are animals here. Lots of them. The survivors have been killing them in ones and twos and drying the meat. They hate to waste good livestock, but it has to be done, because there's just no way they can stay here much longer.

See, when they first made it here, this place was ideal. The land itself is situated in a huge tract between some very large and nearly vertical hills. It's screened in on three sides thanks to a sheer cliff face that sits at the end of the valley. The open area between the hills is relatively small, maybe about fifty feet of flatland before the hills jut up from the ground. The trees on the hills have provided ample firewood and lumber to make walls from. It's as defensible against zombies as a place can be.

Weather is a different species of threat, however.

When the rain came to Frankfort, we thought we had it bad. What we got there was even worse here, gusts of wind so strong that it started snapping trees in half after they bent almost in two. Water rushing down the hills, carrying loose rock and parts of trees, whole sections of zombie barricades. About a quarter of the arable land here is covered with sediment and junk.

But now there's nothing keeping the zombies from coming over the hills except for how steep they are. The undead have been rebuffed from this place for a long time now, but eventually a smarty or some lucky dumb zombie will make it up the hill again, and this time they're gonna see a defenseless all-you-can-eat buffet of people.

I guess it's pretty clear what our job is now. We've got to figure out how in the hell we transport these folks and their supplies, and in a short enough time frame that we don't all die in the process.

We've got a few trucks, a bunch of extra E85, and a landscape tattered by wind and water. Piece of cake, except for the part where it's impossible.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


We're still not to our destination. Right now we're taking a break from travel because frankly we have no idea how to bypass the obstruction in our way.

That obstruction being the debris let behind from what I have to assume was one hell of a flood. For the last several miles as we've tried to make our way south, we've run into piles of shattered trees and other assorted rubble that block every road we can find. Becky is looking over maps to see if she can figure out a way around that doesn't cost us another day.

It looks like what we encountered in Frankfort during the weeks of hard rain last month is nothing compared to what Tennessee got. I imagine this area must be something of a convergence point for the floodwaters to the north. The huge mass of trees, limbs, cars, parts of houses, and other bits of junk seems to go on forever. It looks like the majority of the solids being swept along by the flood got stopped up somewhere and just started accumulate. Then everything dried out, and this miles-long snaking roadblock is left.

We've had enough to slow us down that we really didn't need this too. The roads are worse here than we could have imagined, and last night we all caught some sleep in the vehicles since we couldn't find a safe place to camp. If we can't make it to the group we're headed toward by tonight, we'll have to turn around and chalk it up to a loss.

Damn, I see some zombies coming out of the woods about five hundred feet away. This might get ugly.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rolling With Heat

Not too long a post here since our group is getting ready to head out, but I wanted to leave something on the blog so everyone knows we're OK and survived the night without incident. Maybe that's just my discomfort at being stuck in a rest stop again showing through.

I spent the night on the floor snuggled up between Jess and Becky. It got surprisingly cold in here after dark, much more so than I would have expected. The others won the draw for couches and chairs, but I was happy to zip our sleeping bags together and keep warm with my two favorite ladies. It's kind of funny how both of them are similar in that way: Jess and Becky both like to get close and tangle up with someone when they sleep. I'm the opposite in that I'm used to having my own little space to curl up in. As chilly as the rest stop got last night, I broke that habit.

Will ended up coming with us, I don't know if I mentioned that before. For his safety and with hasty escapes in mind, Will isn't being cuffed or shackled on this trip. I only speak for myself here, but I don't think it's very likely that he'd do anything to harm any of us. I don't discount the very slim possibility that he might try to escape, but I doubt it. Even if he did get past all of us or managed to sneak out without waking anyone, where would he go? All the keys to all the vehicles are kept safely in our pockets while we sleep, so that option is out. He probably wouldn't make it very far on foot if he got desperate enough to try.

Not that I think most groups of survivors would take him in. While our own people are split on the morality of Will's actions because we know him and understand his dilemma, outside of the compound the story is very different. For all the help he gave the people of North Jackson, they'd probably just capture him and send him back here if he made it all the way to Michigan. Most other groups consider him a traitor or too large a risk, which I'm told in almost every email I get from them...

Bah, kind of got of topic there. Wasted what little time I had. OK, on the road again. Wish us luck and safe roads.

Oh, and it's already over 80 degrees down here. I can't imagine how hot it's gonna be further south and later in the day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Deja Vu

We left the compound a little later than planned this morning due to an unfortunate case of forgetting to pack my clothes. The zombie apocalypse might have come, but some things never change.

We're camped out right now about twenty miles into Tennessee. The going through Kentucky was clear for the first few hours, though we had to drive slowly. It's funny, but I don't even think about going highway speeds anymore. There's too much risk involved in that--zombies and animals dashing in front of your car, unnoticed debris that can shred tires, even trapped sections of road meant to halt aggressors. Even when the roads are perfectly clear, we take it slow and careful. Actually, we're especially cautious when things are going well.

Paranoia is a way of life.

We had to take a few detours when we got a good pace south, though. The main road was washed out in places by what looks to have been pretty severe flooding. That took a while to navigate, and we were super careful after that. You never know when erosion has reared its ugly head and swept away 90% of the dirt supporting a road where you can't see it. I've got no desire to spend my last few seconds fervently wishing I'd driven five miles an hour slower and saved my spine from being sheared in half.

Ugh, that's gruesome. I guess I'm in a gruesome mood.

The reason for that is simple. We've decided to make camp in one of the safest places we could find: one of the many, many rest areas that dot the US interstate highway system. This one is pretty big and has couches and chairs in it, so at least some of us will be able to get comfy tonight. I'm pretty beat so I don't feel too guilty about wasting most of an evening of driving. I don't know that we could have found anything nearly as secure between here and nightfall.

I just hate these places now. Ever since Jess and I got trapped in that one up in Michigan, I've gotten the creeps just passing them on the road. I remember being a kid, travelling from Illinois to Kentucky with my mom. They seemed so neat and unique to me, little islands of temperature-controlled civilization right in the middle of endless miles of empty road. Now they just remind me of getting trapped by my own stupidity.

Not this time, though. we've parked our vehicles very close to the building (one of them right up against it) and have taken precautions to make escape simple and easy. The glass in the windows and doors is thick and strong, just like most of these places. Built for durability and limited maintenance. That thick glass might leave us exposed, but it also gives us visibility. I'm sitting on a stone bench right now, looking outside. I can see the undead moving toward us even though we've been here less than half an hour. They tend to clump near places where people used to gather.

Given the near torrential rains last month and the clear signs of terrible flooding, it's up in the air what kind of condition we'll find the roads ahead of us in. There aren't any road crews out there to clear fallen trees or patch potholes. We'll take it easy and minimize risks.

I'm just really glad the council let us take one of the smaller portable cell transmitters with us. I'm jazzed about having guaranteed communications wherever we go.

Now, to figure out how to cook food in here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Yes. This post is about hamburgers. You have no idea how much I've missed them.

One of our scout teams (now my favorite scout team EVER) went about twenty miles away late last night looking for game. Somewhere in the rural area between here and Georgetown, they found a whole bunch of cows grazing in a herd. The team had taken a few of the heavy duty pickups. Cue maniacal laugh at the thought of delicious beef.

It wasn't hunting, really. The cows didn't even try to run. I kind of feel bad about that, being the animal fanatic that I am. All told, more than a dozen of them were killed using some of our precious bullets. The scout team butchered the cattle as well as they could in the field and loaded them up.

So today, there were lots of cuts of meat for people. I surprised myself by not really caring about steaks or anything fancy--I just wanted a burger. With cheese. We keep dairy cows, and some of the farmers make cheese. So that's what I got. I almost cried when I took my first bite, though it was sans condiments except for a few early tomato slices and some pickles that Jess brined herself. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe it.

Funny how a day spent eating fatty beef to fill the stomach seems to put smiles on a lot of faces. I can't remember the last time I saw so many people looking happy at one time. It's a fitting way for things to be on the eve of our trip to Tennessee.

I was hoping to have longer before we needed to go, but the council has been talking with the group that is asking to join us pretty much nonstop for the last two days. The consensus is that our mutual best interests would be served by going sooner rather than later. I can see the logic in it, since more people means more security, more hands to plant foodstuffs, etc. Then again, if the food stores and seed plants that the Tennessee group claims they have aren't accurate, taking them on could end up being a burden that the compound won't be able to bear.

I've heard some news in the last day that several of the groups of survivors we've been in touch with further south have been in talks to decide whether they should combine their numbers and try to expand the land they can cultivate. From what I've been able to gather, it seems like what we've been dealing with here at the compound is actually pretty typical for most of the large groups. With the easily acquired canned food running out or expiring and winter stores starting to thin out, many people all over are facing difficulties providing enough food. Of course, there are levels of survival to consider in that equation. People can live off very few calories, even to the point of severe malnutrition.

You don't want the guy guarding your perimeter weak from hunger, though. Nor do you want him to have to patrol it for twelve hours at a time because you can only provide solid meals for a limited number of people. There are a hundred little issues to consider when you ration meals, and a thousand more that matter when you throw in the immense danger we face. Making sure that dozens of people have enough to eat is hard. Ten times as hard when the numbers are in the hundreds.

North Jackson is a little over a thousand strong now. Maybe I should shoot them an email and see how they're doing with that...

At any rate, I had a lovely early lunch with my wife and a few friends. We talked about the trip, planned for it as best we could, and generally just enjoyed each other's company. Tomorrow, our path forward will get murky again, going down highways that none of us have driven since The Fall began. We'll probably go nuts trying to maneuver through abandoned cars. We'll almost certainly encounter swarms of zombies. We may face marauders, or natural disasters, or any number of other threats that we haven't thought of.

That's tomorrow, though. Right this second I intend on seeing if there are any burgers left. Then I might say goodbye to some folks I've spent too little time with, and make sure Pat will watch my animals while I'm away.

My poor baby chicken will miss us so much.