Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Remnant

After a long morning of meetings yesterday morning, I went out with Dave on a long scouting trip to look for materials for his proposed second wall. One of the perks of sending out so many people to hunt for food is that we're getting tons of reports of useful stuff being found. It doesn't hurt that the constant traffic away from the compound means easy travel as our people clear more and more of the roads. 

Our trip took us southwest, farther that direction than most of us have been since The Fall. Kentucky has a lot of towns tucked away so well they're almost impossible to see, and with grass everywhere growing unchecked, it's possible to miss entire roads. Luckily, some of our scouts are from Elizabethtown, and that's the direction we went. 

I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that I could kiss whoever it was in state government that requested some of the ethanol vehicles be trucks. The one we drove in had blessed air conditioning and a functional CD player, so I got to listen to music. That's a rarity for us. Granted, it was my brother's music, but I'll take what I can get. 

The trailer we were hauling behind us had some spare gas loaded on it, just in case we had to detour or make a run for it. Our goal was to get to a smallish town about ten miles short of E-town where our scouts and hunters had marked a large construction contractor's yard as a possible source of materials. 

Long story short, it was. The place was simply huge. I guess the company that used it did a lot of business, because Dave was like a kid in a candy store. We found steel forms to use for the wall, though only two sets of them, enough to do about twenty feet at a time. There was a lot of stuff there, but much was missing. Must have been several jobs going on when The Fall came. 

Best of all, they had their own diesel fuel on site. Nice portable hand pump hooked up to a rolling tank. About half full, and the thing could hold five hundred gallons. I didn't ask how much weight we could haul in the truck, and Dave was suspiciously tight-lipped about it. 

Since the tip had worked in our favor, Dave and I prowled the town in an attempt to find more diesel fuel. We're never without a trusty siphon. 

It was about twenty minutes into our search when we came across a zombie. The lack of them wasn't surprising, since most places empty of people also tend toward low populations of the undead. No, what caught me off guard was that the thing was standing in one spot, staring at a mural on the side of a wall. 

The paint was chipped and faded, the image old long before the zombie apocalypse hit us. It was of two children playing on a swingset, one pushing the other. Both of them were smiling, happy. I think it was an old advertisement. 

Dave and I watched for a minute, unseen as we'd ducked behind a hedge. Being on foot was dangerous, but we drew less attention that way. The zombie occasionally cocked his head to a different angle, then back. After two minutes, we were ready to leave. That was when the zombie did something strange. 

It bent at the knees and put its hands out, and mimed pushing, never looking away from the mural. I heard it let out a low keening sound, a sound so forlorn, so human, that it brought tears to my eyes.

We run into zombies sometimes that do things like this, and it never fails to remind me of the harsh reality that these were once people. Some of them almost seem to remember that existence. It doesn't make it us hesitate to kill them, but it makes it harder on us to do it. These occasional remnants always seem to catch us off guard. No matter what they do to us, the hurt is fresh each time. 

Dave and I left it alone. What use in killing it? Its existence might be terrible for us to comprehend, but it clearly wasn't threatening anyone. Why risk ourselves to kill a being that was so obviously saddened by the vague sense of what it had lost, yet took solace in the old pictures that reminded it of that life? Right or wrong, I leave it for you to judge. 

For us, it seemed too cruel. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stone by Stone

Yesterday I mentioned that Dave has something big planned if he can manage to bring it all together. I promised I'd tell you what it was, and since I have much to do, I'll make it short.

He wants to build a wall. I know, seems redundant. We've got one of those already.

No, Dave wants to make a permanent wall of stone and concrete around the compound. It's exactly as huge a project as it sounds, though to be fair it would only surround three sides of the original compound, since most of us live there now. The fourth wall would of course be the one that faces the annex, which itself is a barrier to us and the zombies outside.

First, let me be clear: the idea isn't to make a perfect concrete structure, smooth and without flaw. There aren't enough materials for that, nor manpower to make it possible.

Over the last year and a half, our people have scoured the county in search of food and medical supplies, but they've left untold amounts of materials behind, some marked for future use. Dave thinks it will be possible for us to build a wall of large stones piled between reinforced forms and filled with cement to hold it all together. Yeah, it's a big job, but the hardest part is going to be finding gas to power the vehicles so we can haul all that shit.

Frankfort has a an abundance of stone just laying around. Even if there weren't a gravel and rock processing plant down by the river (and there is, and it's full of materials) there's still enough rock laying around to build our wall a dozen times. The plant has everything we need, even massive trucks to load and haul everything. We're just on the search for enough diesel fuel to make it happen.

I don't expect it to get done quickly, though again Dave assures me I'm wrong there. He says that if we can manage to find forms, the trenches will act as footers for the new wall, and we'll be able to put up sections faster than they can dry. Just set up the forms, which will hopefully lock together easily, pour in stone, fill with cement, then repeat until the form is full.

I'm oversimplifying this idea, but Dave is excited about it. Stone walls on the outside of our mostly wooden ones would create a narrow area between the two which would become a killing ground for any zombies that managed to get into it.

Not to mention the fact that right now we can't start in on this. We've got to stabilize our food supply and work on producing trade goods as our top priorities. Dave wants to work on it as a side project, raising sections when he can over time. It might take him a year, but eventually...

While I have to be realistic and think about how labor intensive the job will be, I'm glad to see him so excited about the project. He's got designs drawn out and alterations made to them already, ways to add catwalks and guard posts to the outer wall that doesn't even exist yet. It's that kind of frenetic drive to do something new and amazing for the community that keeps us from sinking into a pit of worry and fear. It might be a dream empty of any real possibility for all I know, but it gives hope and meaning to people.

I can't complain about that.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


So much of the focus around the compound lately has been given to our food shortages, the large zombie attack that almost wiped us out, and the tension between so many of our people that some things have just been ignored. It's understandable considering how important all that has been, but for the moment we've got more than enough to eat, our rebellious faction has been exiled, and the undead are attacking only in small groups. So...

There's been a debate going on for a long time now inside the compound. It's been a quiet one, talked about over dinner or in the spaces between work and off-time. The question has been raised time and again whether or not we should rename this place. We've been calling it "the compound" for so long that it's stuck as a name, but it still sounds to many of us (including me, and I named the damn place) like a place where cultists join together to challenge authority and drink kool-aid.

I miss kool-aid.

There have been a lot of names thrown into the hat, but none of them have struck a chord with anyone. It's hard enough to name a pet, much less something as big as a community. How can we come together as a group to choose a name that represents all of us and what we stand for? It's daunting, let me tell you.

The thing is, we all really want to come up with a new name. "The Compound" works, but it doesn't describe us in any way. We've evolved and changed, and we want a name that inspires.

The other day I pointed out that our group has been relatively lucky in that we hadn't faced many of the privations that other groups of survivors have. I noted how that had all changed, and it has--we're dealing with every single problem that could have arisen pretty much all at once.

Things are getting better. We've been teetering on the edge of starvation, and now we've working our way out of that hole. It's slow going, but several days of good hunting and great fishing means three full meals a day. Some of us are even starting to gain some weight back.

Our walls, so sorely tested during the recent siege of zombies, are being rebuilt and reinforced. My brother Dave is even planning a HUGE project that I'll be shedding light on tomorrow. He's got to double check a few things first, but it's looking good...

Those of us that are left now that the most extreme of the homesteaders have left are a pretty cohesive group. I once worried that the food problems would lead people to move against one another, cause strife and discord among the compound's citizens. Thankfully, I was wrong there. Maybe it was everyone seeing how our own children sacrificed for the safety of all, or perhaps we're just held together as a people by our compassion for each other, but I was wonderfully wrong.

What's in a name? All those things. Every man, woman, and child who shared with someone in greater need despite their own hunger. Every person who stood their ground when the hordes came, who shed blood and sweat to defend our home in the face of overwhelming odds. Our name should say something as well about a person who fights against the odds, the hunger making her weak, to dedicate herself to making something that benefits all.

You may be able to understand now why choosing a name is so difficult for us. We've been beaten terribly in the last few weeks, but we're alive. Gloriously, wonderfully alive. When a forest burns, for a time it may seem dead, defeated.

But it's never long before shoots of green burst from the blackened floor, and a whole new forest grows.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


So...I had an interesting conversation with the rest of the council yesterday. With the chaos around here lately (the least of which was a small zombie assault on the northeastern corner of the compound yesterday. Thirty of them, which was a snap compared to what we've faced recently) many lines of communication have been fragmented. Everyone has been doing different jobs as they are needed, and there is no real organization. Aside from hunting, I've done a fair bit of construction work with my brother, spent a few shifts cooking in the mess, and picked more tomatoes than any man could count. 

The point being, I've been out and about. I'm usually the contact point between us and the other groups of survivors out there. Courtney does a lot of that as well, since she's our diplomat, but because until recently I was always working on my laptop, it was easier for me to keep in touch with other groups. 

In the last several days, other citizens, most of them on the council, have been doing that. Indeed, they've been organizing all kinds of trade agreements and arranging shipments for the basic, topical antibiotics Gabrielle is working on. 

I was asked to bend my efforts toward organizing the whole process. To coordinate workers to gather and process the base ingredients, schedule training sessions with Gabby so others can learn how to do it. I'm also to negotiate details for trade with some of the outside groups, mostly people that are used to dealing with me and are slightly distrustful of others. 

I can't say I'm overwhelmed with this idea. The way everyone in the council meeting was talking, they think we can become a viable presence in the trade between survivors. That we can manage to produce enough medical supplies to survive that way without having to produce anything else for ourselves. I'm not a fan of that. I've always liked being a generalist, and the compound has (so far) had the same attitude. 

Making our own weapons and armor, along with a hundred other things, gives us a degree of security that is truly significant. We didn't have to rely on others to arm our people or to supply our food. Specialization, as the wise man once said, is for ants. 

I do see the merit in it, though. Right now we've got some pretty useful items being made if on a smaller scale than you might think. There are people out there who are flush with extra food to trade, and while our windfall of slightly stale soup is helping a lot, it will only last a little while. We need to build up reserves, and right now we are barely eating enough to keep from losing more weight, much less put on the pounds all of us lost. 

It's against my inclination to focus on one item so deeply, but there are truths in front of us that can't be ignored: the zombies are attacking again, we're still dangerously close to the edge of starvation, and without some kind of trade we're going to stay there. 

For now, I'll just consider this an opportunity to make some seriously helpful gains in the short term, and let the long-term come as it may. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trade Goods

Gabrielle would like me to make it very clear that she has only been able to produce a very small amount of antibiotics so far, and that they're far inferior to the stuff we used to get back before the world went crazy. She's not even sure they'll work, and there are all sorts of kinks to work out.

I want to assure you that I'm way more excited about some of the other stuff she's learned how to make. Yes, the possibility of Gabby turning her little lab experiment into useful medicine to fight disease would be awesome. Just as important is something she figured out along the way--how to make large quantities of topical antibiotics from natural sources. I was almost shocked at how easy it was once she explained it to me. The only problem we'd have is coming up with a material to act as a carrier, but Jess thinks she's got that covered.

I may seem a little more upbeat today, and there is good reason: yesterday one of our hunting parties found a church about sixty miles from here that was absolutely packed with cans of soup. The place served as a community pantry of sorts, taking donations and handing them out to people in need. I guess they also bought in bulk from the good people at Campbell's, because our folks found two pallets stacked with the stuff.

All told, there were almost eight thousand cans. That seems like a lot, and it is. One of the pallets was old, really, old. The cans stacked on it were expired by ten months, and we don't think chicken noodle soup is worth the risk...

However, the other one still has a year to go, so we've got almost four thousand cans of tomato soup ready to roll. With the number of people we have right now, they'll go quick given how short we've been on food. Still, it's a good feeling to know we can regain some of our strength.

The hunting parties have been doing fairly well, though it's getting difficult to find easy game around here that isn't fish. The woods south of the compound were stripped almost bare by the zombie swarm that nearly killed us. We've decided not to hunt in a wide area between here and Shelbyville, where our departing citizens will be taking up residence. The council, or at least the members we can gather at present, have a strong desire to see them succeed in building a place for themselves, so we're leaving off hunting in that direction if we can help it.

Small victories, but we'll take them. We're only desperately hungry rather than teetering on the edge of starvation.

I've got a meeting with the council in a few minutes. They have something important to discuss, and since I'm *technically* a member, I should be there. I haven't got the slightest idea what it might be, but it would have to be a big deal to pull even the dozen folks that will be there away from hunting. It seems as though some things are getting back to normal, or at least moseying toward it. It may not be long before we can get organized again, and have people working on projects like they used to. I know my protective equipment could use a little repair...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cornering the Market

It's been a long and trying weekend. No major battles or anything, just the humdrum activities of daily life: the oppressive heat, ceaseless hunting trips. and helping the people from Tennessee prepare to leave.

As it turns out, they aren't going far. The departing group have decided to go to Shelbyville. They're going to use the facilities left behind by the poor souls who lost their lives to disease there. There is ample hunting available, and I'm sure patches of crops we haven't found yet. I'm glad to know they'll be close, especially considering a few of the women going are very pregnant. We may not have much in the way of food, but we've still got two doctors on staff and a good amount of medical supplies.

As a matter of fact, Gabby and Phil have had an idea that seems too good to pass up.

You may remember that during our exile, Evans and Gabrielle met Phil while they were running a traveling clinic. Most of our homeless medical personnel managed to survive by trading their services and supplies for food and other vital goods. Gabrielle, as it turns out, has not been idle lately.

She's had her nose buried in my copy of the Ark, the huge collection of information furnished to us by the people out at Google. I'm sure she's been indulging her endless curiosity to some extent, but mostly she's been learning how to do some very important things from scratch. Like making gauze and bandages among many other useful things. The most important?


She's even gotten started. Didn't want to get anyone's hopes up until she had some kind of results, so it came as a surprise to all of us. Granted, they're simple and probably not as effective as the pills we've all gotten used to, but she has done it. As far as I know, Gabrielle is the first person to manufacture new medicine since The Fall. She claims that with enough materials and time, she can make literally tons of the stuff. She's going to be focusing on this right now, because she's been in touch with a few other groups of survivors.

Funny how people swear they don't have any food to give you when you're begging for help, but when you have access to a commodity that will save lives suddenly there are hundreds of pounds of the stuff just lying around for trade.

You might be able to tell, but just to be clear--I'm smiling right now.

Just when things seemed darkest, there is this spark of hope. If Gabby can produce medical supplies in sufficient quantity for us to trade, there is a good chance we'll be able to make it. I have many people with free time on their hands that would love nothing more than to help her. I'm not counting on this working, but I'll be damned if I keep a cynical outlook on it. Have to be positive sometime, right?

Friday, July 22, 2011


When men and women come together to build something, it can be a glorious thing. As you can guess from the title of this post, I can't help but liken the compound to the tower of Babel. If you don't know the story, a brief synopsis: after the great flood, humanity came together in a single place and spoke a single language. People lived and worked together in harmony toward common goals and needs.

God didn't like that, so he came on down and scattered them to the four corners of the Earth and confused their languages. There was no reason given for this--God simply did a thing, and the parable is meant to give origin to the diversity of human language.

I'm not one to blame unseen powers that be, but I can't help seeing the parallels between what we've tried to do here and the eventual fate of Babel.

As I type these words, men and women are slaving over deer and other kills, trimming every scrap for the stewpots, though we are saving some choice bits for our pets. A few people suggested eating the compound's dogs and cats, even my ferrets. I argued hard on that one: the cats keep vermin down to a minimum, my ferrets keep my garden and Pat's free of bugs.

The dogs are coming in handier than we'd have thought. So many of us are weak from hunger that it's becoming difficult to man sentry posts and guard rotations. The solution was simple, and another of Will's many ideas. So now we have dogs trotting along the walkways on the walls. They bark like mad when they see zombies getting close, and the zombies go nuts when they hear dogs barking so close to them. It must be reptile-brain instinct. One of the dogs jumped off the wall and even went after a few of the undead, and they ran like scared little bitches instead of trying to kill the pup.

All of that is nice, but no matter how much I might wish it, there's no distracting from the hard truth that the compound as a community is falling to pieces. All the recent troubles might not have savaged us so badly if we hadn't been made weak by hunger. It's damn hard to concentrate when your stomach feels like it's eating itself all the time.

I don't know if some of our social issues would have been easier to manage, even salvageable, if we weren't going hungry all the time. It's possible. Brings to mind the old saying that any civilization is only a few missed meals away from barbarism. We're not quite to that point yet, but it's getting harder to muster people to do anything other than hunt.

We've even expended the last of our bullets. Jess brought down several animals this morning, but now that she's used up the last few bullets for her rifle she's down to archery like the rest of us.

There are more people talking about leaving, but no one seems to have definitive plans other than the folks from Tennessee. I don't know how any of them are going to manage without food to eat on the road, and we have nothing left over. Nothing at all.

Not everything is awful, though. I've been in touch with North Jackson off and on over the last few days. Their soldiers returned home without incident, and they're talking about sending a caravan out to meet our friends from out west who are gathering a shipment of food for us.

It's good to know that even as the social order here at home unravels, others are taking up the challenge of being leaders. Of being unified.

They're good people.

I've been using my free time, of which I have a lot now that basic social order has broken down (there has to be a silver lining to that, doesn't there?), by working on the abandoned project I started when the zombie plague began to fence in the block my house is on. It's not all that much work, since we got about half of it done before we started in on the big wall. The rest of my block is open, and Pat and I have been bringing in pieces of debris from the destruction going on over in the annex to make a wall. It's just another safeguard in case the main wall is breached. A fallback point, if we need it.

I don't know if there will be enough usable materials from the annex to finish it. My brother is pretty thorough with his demolition, but Dave knows we want the raw materials, so maybe he'll actually tamp down the urge to break everything and come through for us.

I have to build. I have to accomplish something. If not, if I waste the little energy I gather from the small portions of food I get by sitting around and moping, then I've lost. I might as well open up my wrists. I'm not blaming the folks that can't muster the strength to do much else but breathe--this is a personal thing, and I'm only talking about myself. I can't stay idle. Even if I fall over and die from the insane heat outside right now, it'll be worth it. Because I know that I'd done something right up until that last second.

For me, the way things are right now, that would be enough to set my soul at ease.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Faith No More

I woke to shocking and disheartening news: a group of thirty people, most of them the folks from the valley we brought up from Tennessee, have decided to leave. They're planning on being gone by Monday, and there doesn't seem to be a lot we can do to convince them to stay.

I can't blame them, not really. Since they've been here they've seen the worst happen more than once, and they've been treated badly by many people in the compound. If they want to go, no one is going to try to stop them, but with the reappearance of at least some zombies outside the wall, it will be a more dangerous venture than it would have a week ago.

We've lost more than half the compound as livable area, so the loss in numbers isn't a terrible thing from that viewpoint. We're struggling to feed people and going hungrier than any of us is comfortable with, so it's not the end of the world from that vantage either. Hell, I could sit here all day and point out the many ways that losing more people will be beneficial to the group overall. I could do that, but I won't.

I refuse because I'm sick and fucking tired of it. I'm done with being the pragmatist who has to look at people as numbers for the greater good.

Look at the compound. Look at my home, and see how far it has fallen. Less than a year ago we were a thriving community of people who cared deeply for one another. We fought, bled, and died for a common purpose. We were building things and moving forward. We were a small town unto ourselves, policing our own when needed and taking pains to make sure that every single one of us was fairly treated. There were entire weeks of time where it was almost possible to forget The Fall had happened, so comfortable and safe was our home.

I take small credit for that. I managed to see it coming, though at the time even I thought I was being stupid and acting crazy. Lucky for me, other people joined in the madness because without them the compound never would have been the haven it became.

Now look at us. We used to take such pride that we as a people had avoided the worst the zombies could do to us--death. Not so long ago we were damned happy to put in a long day on the wall with the knowledge that our foresight and hard work had prevented us from falling into the desperate situations so many other survivors have faced. We weren't starving waifs huddling in darkened houses. We weren't suffering. We were strong.

Even a few weeks ago things were still relatively intact. Sure, there were tensions and trouble, but we were still a viable community that believed in itself.

And now, doubt chips away at the compound. First small flakes of the mortar that holds us together, and now larger chunks are falling. We have fallen into desperately chaotic struggle to survive that we've avoided for so long. I find myself getting angry when I realize the small bowl of stew I've finished will be my only food for twelve hours.

I look around me and see so many thin faces, so many haunted looks, and I realize that The Fall has happened to us all over again. I used to wonder what drove men and women to become marauders, and I had a hard time seeing the cause from my comfortable perch in front of my computer, safe behind my principles and sedated by a full belly.

Now, I understand. What fools we've been.

The cracks are getting deeper.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Today's LWtD post was short because I was trying to meet a deadline. Yes, the time has finally come! Beautiful is now Out There, riding the electron highway toward publication. Release day is still this coming Saturday, and I wanted to repost once again the link to my author blog where you can get all the relevant information for it. You can also see the cover, watch the book trailer, and keep tabs on new stuff as I update the page over the next few days. 

It's here: A Beautiful Day



The last of the thousands of undead have been burned. Our trenches are rock-hard now, the clay in them fused by the constant fires over the last several days.

We buried the bodies of the poor souls in Shelbyville. It took a lot of effort, but it was the right thing to do. We found some edible canned goods in their home, and fresh veggies in patches. Not a lot, but every bit helps. Though we didn't know them, the people from Shelbyville helped us again, even in death. Burying them was the least we could do.

I'm on hunting detail this morning, so I'm heading out. Now that the smell of burning undead is starting to fade, we're worried that zombies will begin to show up again. At least now we know that burning enough of them will keep some of them away. Too bad we've run out of their corpses for fuel.

We could face a swarm at any time, so hunting and bringing in all we can is vital. We won't know when we'll be hemmed in again. We can't waste any chance to bring in food.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Quiet

Sometimes it's so hard to write the words I need to say that I shake. There are moments now and then, events and sights that deeply affect me, which take the thoughts right out of my head.

We searched Shelbyville carefully yesterday, looking for signs of the group of Hispanic people we knew lived there, or at least they did many months ago. Our hope was to establish trade if possible, cooperative effort at a minimum.

First we checked the rural areas around the town itself. We found some crops growing in what had obviously been carefully tended enclosed areas. They had grown wild and dense, many vegetables fallen from their plants to rot on the ground.

We followed tracks as far as they would take us, but they always led to roads. Dead ends.

We searched the town itself, and it didn't take long to find them. A department store, windows carefully blocked but with firing holes left open, surrounded by defenses. It was in this little shopping center, tucked back off the main road a bit and hard to see through the verdant growth that has taken over much of Shelbyville.

We threaded our way through the barriers and traps cleverly arranged around the front of the place. The windows were very secure, the door locked and barricaded. We searched all around the building until we found an obviously hand-made mechanism, a rough but complicated crank that required both hands to use. It took two of us to figure out how to operate it. We got it in the end, and a rope ladder rolled down the back of the building when we turned it.

There were no sentries. Not a single guard.

From the access ladder on the roof, we made our way inside. The total number of them was fifty-four. Thirty were children. All of them were dead.

Everywhere we looked we found bodies. What I have to assume was the entirety of their group died, but none of them alone. Adults were clutching children, older kids frozen in death holding the small, thin frames of toddlers. From what we can tell, all the older people there committed suicide. Guns next to bodies and bullet wounds to the skull made that obvious enough. The decay in the room made it hard to gather facts, but Gabrielle, who was with us on the trip, thinks the young ones caught something that made them very sick. A few of the bodies of the younger children were still paritally intact, and though the adults had pierced their heads to prevent them from reanimating, that wasn't what killed them.

They were thin. So very small.

There was food there, rows of cans and what had once been fresh produce gone to rot. It surrounded them. They had plenty to eat.

Further inspection by Gabrielle led her to believe that whatever hit them, it caused severe gastrointestinal problems. She said there were signs of dehydration and terrible diarrhea, though I haven't had the nerve to ask what they were. It's bad enough that I have those images in my mind. I don't need to dwell on the agony that must have fallen on those poor souls before the end.

The one that forced me to my knees and brought me to tears was a woman sitting on the floor, her back to a heavy wooden chest. Her legs were splayed out before her as she cradled the remains of a small boy, hear head tilted back atop the chest. Her eyes would have been facing the sky, were she alive. Even though both of them were months gone and I could only identify their genders by the clothes they wore, I could see them clearly in my mind. I felt her despair as she looked to the heavens, begging to know why such terrible misfortune had been visited on them. On him. On her.

Even in death, her posture was unmistakable.

It was a tableau too horrible to really grasp. Still forms, wrapped around one another in the last throes of death, finding one last moment of comfort, one last touch of love. Even to the end, they were there for each other. It was a silent scene that said more without words than I will ever be able to express with them.

So many lives lost. So much potential gone. We've seen so much since The Fall, lost so many, that you'd think it would be easier to deal with things like this. It isn't.

Today I mourn friends I never knew. That's all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hope and Tragedy

My trip out to the farms was interesting and productive. Also, AWESOME.

Though the zombies managed to trample most of our crops, there were a fair number of potatoes undamaged beneath the soil. Enough to feed us for a few days, anyway. Most of the farm equipment was in good shape, so we've got tools to use as we begin the process of converting the annex over to farmland.

What made the trip truly great was the chickens. I guess zombies have a hard time catching them, which really shouldn't come as a surprise. We found about sixty, and teams are still looking for more. Chickens mean eggs. I know that sounds a little third grade, but I'm ecstatic.

Huh. I guess it took zombies destroying society to get me excited about farm animals. Strange world we live in.

We've also been trying to find the group of Latino people we saw in Shelbyville quite a while back. They didn't seem to want much to do with us even though they saved the lives of we who were on the ill-fated trip into their territory, so we haven't tried. We've been avoiding that area for the most part, not wanting to come into conflict with people who helped us and clearly wanted to be left alone.

We're at a desperate point now, so polite indifference is no longer an option. Yes, we've had a little luck in the last few days, but we need to explore every possible avenue. I'm hoping we'll be able to find them today, as I'm about to go out with a few small hunting parties to search Shelbyville. If we can establish communication (we've got a few people that speak Spanish) then we'll work on figuring out if trade is anything close to possible. I'm hoping so. Anything we could bring in would help stabilize our dwindling resources.

I'm in a good mood, but there are dark happenings going on around here as well. I'm trying to stay positive, but there have been two suicides in the last three days. Both of them were homesteaders that chose to work with us and give up on the larger, more intractable group of homesteaders that were exiled.

The notes they left cited the constant and worsening hunger as the reason. One of them, a woman, wrote that the pains in her stomach brought back nightmares of living under the Richmond soldiers, some of whom would make her do awful things just to get rations. Dancing nude in the snow was the least offensive thing she mentioned.

Two dead for fear of reliving the hell that was the winter. I see determination to survive in the eyes of the people around me, but there is suffering there as well. It's impossible to know who will finally give up in the face of all the hardships in the here and now, much less the ones we're sure to face down the road.

If we're very lucky, we can make things easier. I'm going out now. I try to make my own luck.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Last Crumb

Thanks in part to the large pyres we're constantly feeding with zombie remains, we've still yet to see a "living" zombie since the North Jackson soldiers saved our asses.

That's where the good news ends.

We've run out of food. Not totally, since we still have vegetables and fruits growing all over the compound, but our stores are now completely used up. We're doing alright with hunting, but that's a relative statement not to be taken as a positive. Our hunters bring in as many kills as they can every day, and we have a LOT of people out there doing it almost to the exclusion of all else, but we're still running a deficit.

I am happy to report, however, that all children in the compound are getting full rations. Actually, most of them are getting extra to make up for the starvation they put themselves through. I haven't heard of even one adult complaining about that, which is a sign of sanity if nothing else is.

It's harder and harder for our hunting parties to find game. We've got a lot of people out there, and they've been killing all they can for a long time now, not just in the last few days. There's talk of sending some people out to search for food in places we haven't been since The Fall came, but that's pretty risky. Starvation is worse, though, so we'll see what we can do.

Even as we shed pounds and grow a fraction weaker every day, the compound as a community gets stronger. The ravages of the zombie invasion are slowly being healed as my brother takes volunteers to help him repair the walls and raze most of the houses in the annex. He's not making anyone in his usual construction crew work given the current situation, but that hasn't stopped most of them from offering. Many others have joined in as well, and what they lack in carpentry knowhow they make up for with enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

Dave has decided that he will be build several large communal houses in the annex, all of them to butt up against the main compound's wall. Each will be built very sturdily and with their own defenses. They'll be able to house a lot of people, if not with much privacy. Not that most people get any privacy as it is.

It's a lot of effort, obviously. It seems a little silly on the surface to tear down homes just to build new ones, but Dave argues that custom-built living quarters will hold a lot more people and be zombie-proof from the start. Plus they'll have access to the main portion of the compound through doors cut into the wall. A big part of this decision is due to our need to maximize agricultural space inside the annex, which is going to be almost all farmland.

Which reminds me: I have to head out to the farms with a few of our more experienced farmers to see what we can salvage from there. I'm hoping some of the equipment will still be usable, and with luck we might find a few of our animals alive. That'd be a nice surprise.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hunger Pains

This morning I walked house to house, trying to get an accurate count of the number of people left in the compound. I wish I could tell you that I got that job done.

In the southeast corner, there is a section of wall that has several small houses built right next to it. "Houses" may be too generous a term, as they were built quick and dirty by my brother when our original population began to overflow from the homes in this neighborhood.

They're small things, the largest only about twenty feet on a side. I hadn't been there in a long time, but I knew that there were people living in them because we're over capacity for living space.

I talked to several people and took their information for my census. At the fifth of these houses, I got no answer. That shouldn't have alarmed me, but something was out of place to me. The door was locked, which was very odd. There was a faint metallic scent in the air.

I broke the lock and went in. The house was only two rooms, divided by a thin wall made of plywood and curtains. In the main room was a dead man, head impaled on a long steel nail driven through a scrap piece of wood. There were bite marks on his arms. The bites looked human.

In the second room were three dead children with their skulls caved in. I could see the filmy eyes and vacant expression that is the hallmark of the undead on one of their faces. Only one had a face left to see.

The worst part was that the bodies of the children were so ragged and thin that I had to imagine that starvation killed them. It wouldn't have been obvious to a casual observer, as the kids wore baggy clothing that helped hide their condition, but I wasn't casually observing. I was looking at their frail, thin bodies to learn what had happened to them. It wasn't hard to figure out.

My guess is that all three of this man't children had been starving themselves by giving most of their food to their dad. Too many of our young have done this, and I hate myself for not investigating further before now. One of them must have caught some virus or something, and with their immune system weakened by malnutrition, died in their sleep. I'm guessing the oldest one, a girl of about twelve, only because she didn't have any bites on her but the other two kids did. She likely attacked them in their sleep and killed them quickly.

The scene must have been unimaginably terrible. The man, whose name I can't seem to learn from anyone, wakes up to his children moving into the main room. He only realizes what's wrong when they attack him, and he does the only thing possible: he defends himself. The wounds on his arms looked defensive to me, anyway. I'm not an ideal investigator, but I think it's pretty logical.

He had to kill his own flesh and blood to try to save himself, driving them back into their room and bludgeoning them to death. He knew his time was short, as he'd been bitten many times and the bites nearly always kill. He took the only option left, and drove his head right onto that nail, piercing his brain to make certain he wouldn't come back.

I can't imagine the heartache he endured as he took his own life. After having to do such awful things to his own children, I doubt anyone would have the will to live. I wonder how this post would differ if he hadn't been bitten.

In the end, it was almost lucky he was. It saved him the choice of living with the pain or dying alone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Terra Firma

With the help of the soldiers from North Jackson, we've managed to shore up the walls that were burned and broken in the annex. They're not pretty and aren't safe enough for a sizable population to live in, but it's enough that we can begin to plant there. We're also working on making a couple houses there zombie-proof, so that some of our farmers can take up residence and keep an eye on what will hopefully be crops.

We've still got seed corn and seed potatoes, as well as some other things to plant. I don't know that we'll have enough to see to the needs of all our remaining citizens when and if the plants bear vegetables, but it'll have to do. Until then, we've got hunting parties working overtime to bring in food.

The soldiers left this morning with the sunrise, and they did us one last favor before they went--a group of about thirty of them went hunting late last night, and brought us home a haul. God bless and keep men with firearms and spare bullets...

It's enough to feed us for a few days. We'll be making large pots of stew with their kills, and after that we'll have to eat what we can bring in day to day. The vegetables already being grown all over the compound aren't going to be nearly enough.

It helps that so many of the homesteaders have been driven out. Seventy less mouths to feed means we've got a better chance of avoiding starvation until the group of folks out west who've promised us a delivery of food can manage to help us.

The exile of so many of our people is the only thing people talk about around here except for the food shortage. We haven't even seen a zombie outside the walls since the soldiers came and annihilated the swarming undead. People buzzed about the discipline and precision of the soldiers as they formed lines and closed in on the zombie horde, firing in a careful rhythm as they moved forward. Our saviors, clad in familiar uniforms and with the bearing of men and women who had spent years perfecting their skills.

It was an amazing sight, but quickly forgotten in the face of our troubles.

I won't deny that I'm uneasy at the thought of sending so many people away. I'm heartbroken that such a large number of men and women once considered family would be so selfish, though I understand the deep fear and anger that drove them to such lengths. I'm equally worried that they haven't gone far and intend to take some action against us in the future. Honestly I'm hoping that they decide to move along and try to start over somewhere else. Seventy is a good number to build a community with, and there must be places out there that have the resources they'd need to make a good showing of it.

The homesteaders have done some bad things, but part of why they did it was out of concern for one another. I would find it hard to fault that reason were it not for the fact that they put their group's needs over the overall needs of the compound.

I visited Katy today. She's doing better, although she's still very weak. She's putting on a little weight now that she has food to eat. She was thrilled to learn that we are, for the moment, without further conflict. She's excited to get well enough to work along with her peers, and to do her part to make sure the crops we have are cared for, and the ones not planted get their chance.

Her enthusiasm is infectious. I can't bring myself to tell her it might not be enough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


No time for a long post today, but the word needs to be put out: the homesteaders are gone from the compound. Not all of them, but seventy were forced into exile by the soldiers. Seventy men and women who refused to accept responsibility for their heinous actions over the last several weeks.

The rest of them have accepted the fact that judgment will come for them, though for now that's going to have to wait. We've got a lot to accomplish in the few days that the North Jackson soldiers will still be here. We're hoping to repair the walls in the annex sections enough that we can use them to grow food. With the soldiers aiding us in the push to get the homesteaders out of here, we find ourselves with few enough people that we don't have to use the annexes for living in at present.

I hate that it's come to this point, but there wasn't much choice. We let them take weapons and supplies, but no food or vital items like medicine.

I'm off to it. All of us have to pitch in if we're to have a chance at surviving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Breaking Up

One small ray of light in this whole mess between the homesteaders and the rest of us is that the soldiers from North Jackson brought their own food. Not enough to last for weeks, but at least for a few more days as we straighten up our lives and try to get our affairs in order.

After my post yesterday, shit hit the fan in a big way. The homesteaders got angry that I'd called them out so publicly, telling me that I had no right to air the compound's business like that. I told them that I didn't consider them a part of our community anymore since they'd taken it upon themselves to hoard food to the detriment of the rest of us. 

So now we're basically trying to figure out a way forward. The homesteaders are sticking together for the most part, though there are a few that have given up on the group. Most of them are going right back to their previous attitude, which is the idea that we can't do anything to them because they'll all go on strike. 

Not this time.

We've got loads of soldiers backing us that don't take kindly to men and women who let children starve themselves. We're not going to let this pass. 

I don't know what the ultimate solution to this situation is going to be, but we have to do something. We can't let anyone act so blatantly above the rules. We're here to make sure that all are safe and fed, not to let some selfish fucks do whatever they want and damn the rest of us. 

We've got half our land destroyed, our farms ruined. The crops are gone, our livestock shredded by the zombie swarms, and there isn't time to let political haggling distract us. We've got to either pull together and work as one for the community, or those unwilling to do so will have to leave. Those are the only choices. 

We're going to be dangerously short on food in a matter of days, so hunting parties are going to be working overtime. I don't see how we can manage it without the homesteaders, but the rest of us don't trust them not to hold back food they kill. It's maddening. 

For now we've got enough to do that I don't have time to bitch about it any more. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Compound Fractures

Should I talk about how we were rescued from the zombie swarm besieging us by the brave soldiers from North Jackson? Should I give a blow-by-blow account of that final fight?

Should I paint a picture with my words of the destruction around us and our struggle to pick up the shattered pieces of our broken home?

Probably. I should probably do those things. Instead, I'm going to put something out in the open that I've been asked to keep quiet, and damn the consequences.

I won't beat around the bush. Yesterday it was discovered that the homesteaders have been hoarding food for several weeks. That was why the group of them were lost when the second part of the annex fell. Not because they were bravely trying to bring food from one of the storehouses, but because they were desperate to bring as much of their hidden cache as possible with them.

While the rest of us have been subsiding on less and less food each day, they homesteaders have been eating well.

Part of why this enrages me so much is because this morning I got a good look at a few of the children for the first time in days. We've only been desperately short on food for about that long, but things have been tight for a while. I didn't realize how tough it must be on the bodies and spirits of our young, whose metabolisms demand calories to grow.

Pat's girls are skinny, but they aren't unhealthy. Pat has gone hungry many times in his life, and he's happy to do it for them by giving up portions of his own food. Other children aren't so lucky.

The one that really caught my attention was this girl that came into the clinic this morning. I was there putting in the last hour of a shift assisting Evans. Since the fighting ended in a coordinated hail of gunfire by our rescuers, my bow hasn't been needed on the wall. The clinic has been pressed with a constant stream of injured since the siege began, and the people working in it have been dead on their feet for a long while. In the eight hours I was there, I helped treat a gunshot wound from a stray bullet fired by one of the NJ soldiers, a broken wrist from a fall off the wall, several minor cuts, one major puncture, and an assortment of other injuries.

When the girl was brought in unconscious and pale, I assumed she'd hit her head. Evans took a glance at her and the look on his face was terrible. He saw with eyes far more experienced than mine. She was in her early teens, but it would have been easy to mistake her for a young boy.

Evans put her in a recliner and asked her father, who'd brought her in, what had happened. The man told us that he'd found her that way when he woke, unresponsive and with cracked lips, skin drawn. Evans pulled the girl's shirt up on one side to show the hollow stack of her ribs, her belly swollen like the pictures you used to see of starving African children.

She'd been hungry a long, long time. Somehow she and many other people in the compound had slipped through the cracks and gotten shorted in their rations. Her father was a guard, and he said that he had been getting enough when the girl had brought their rations back to the house.

I assume that in order to make sure her dad was strong enough to fight, she'd been giving him some of her food. Probably shorting herself on water as well, given the level of dehydration in her.

After helping Evans get her comfortable and starting an IV, my shift was over. I would have stayed to watch over her if I could have, but exhaustion and hunger drove me back home. On my way home I saw a group of kids sitting together on a corner. They looked tired and listless, which you'd expect given the amount of work they had put in during the siege. The haggard expressions on their faces might have been from running water to the fighters on the wall. It could have been due to being on kill squads for the zombies that fell inside the compound.

But after what I'd just seen, I had to make sure that was all there was to it. So I asked them.

To my surprise, they were honest. The idea had spread among not just the children of the compound, but also through most of the other non-combatants. For weeks now, as food has become more and more scare, those too young to fight have been conspiring with those too injured or with disabilities that keep them from combat as well as many pregnant women to make sure our fighters are strong. They've been shorting their own rations and giving the remainder to others. They've been starving themselves for the greater good.

While the homesteaders have been keeping half of what they've killed in secret. Not to keep from starving or because they were worried that those of us who run the compound would somehow mismanage that food. Nothing so idealized as that.

They kept it because they were afraid of feeling the desperate hunger they'd suffered during the occupation by the Richmond soldiers.

While they've been living comfortably, our children and others have been putting their lives at risk because they were afraid that without strong defenders, we'd probably falter. The worst part is that they were probably right.

I can't explain how angry I am at the homesteaders right now. I can't put in words how much worse that's made by the fact that I was asked by several council members not to share this news. How doing so, no matter how justified I may be, would hurt the compound. Sow distrust not only among our own people but with the other groups of survivors out there as well.

My conscience is clean in this. I refuse to hide the crimes of fearful men and women who would allow others to suffer the pangs of starvation while they were in comfort. I don't have the power to get rid of those people, but I won't sit quietly by as they bully the rest of the compound into not punishing them once again. I won't let them get away with it, because they're cowards of the worst sort.

I wonder if even one of them will care that a girl drove herself to the edge of death in her efforts to keep us all safe. Even a day ago I would have cited my personal differences with the homesteaders and said that while they might have an outlook I don't share, that they were by and large good people who would do what they could for the compound.

Today is a different day. I feel like a different person. They were so eager to keep themselves from privation that they lost sight of the larger goal of the compound: to keep all safe and fed.

I sit here thinking about the consequences of these words, and I hesitate. I worry about the damage I may do when I click that button, sending this out for other survivors to read. I wonder if I'm wrong to do it, and if keeping some semblance of cohesion here is worth the damage it would do to my soul.

Then I think about the girl, body wasted as she lays not a hundred yards from where I sit. A sacrifice on her part that may have made the difference in our survival. It's something I can't ignore or forget. That kind of bravery deserves a like kind of honesty and sacrifice. Whatever happens from here on out I accept. If this is what finally breaks our community beyond repair, then so be it.

Her name is Katie. This is for her and all like her who've given all they could to help save their home.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting Word

We've finally had contact with our people from Bald Knob. Those amazing people have done the impossible: they're going to be bringing reinforcements from North Jackson. 

Our people have been out of touch because they've been in areas that have been deserted for a long time, almost since The Fall itself. They've been looking for a way to transport enough people here to make a difference in the fight against the swarm outside our walls. Though the fighting against the zombies has been intense over the last few days, especially last night, we've got a little more hope now. 

The Bald Knob crew found a large bus garage north of us, and they've loaded up on all the diesel fuel they could find. That's actually quite a lot, considering the garage itself had nearly a forty school buses with at least partial tanks of gas. They've loaded each bus with what they hope will be enough fuel to make it to southern Michigan and back. They're already on the way. 

Which is really goddamn nice. I wish they'd been in an area that had cell reception, but I'll take what I can get. Jess and I are exhausted to the point of tears, and that doesn't make us anything special around here. There are a couple places on the wall where the undead are indeed walking up those previously hypothetical ramps of slain zombies and attacking the top of the wall. So far we've managed to push them back, but I don't know how long we'll be able to stem the tide. A full-on breach seems inevitable. 

Excepting the massive losses from the zombies overrunning the annex, we've done pretty well. We've lost few people, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we haven't had to fight too many zombies at one time. We're also not giving them a lot of chances to get close. We have archers posted all over the place, and the men and women that are actually fighting hand to hand are doing so with long weapons like spears. It's pretty easy to take down a zombie rushing clumsily up a hill of dead bodies while you're standing there on solid footing with a heavy weapon. 

Oh, and most of the hand-to-hand fighters are wearing armor of one type of another. 

It's almost breathtaking to watch. Men and women staying calm as a zombie gets inside their guard, shrugging off a bite to their heavily clothed and protected necks. We've got roaming groups of off-duty fighters and some of the older kids running around from fight to fight, killing any undead that happen to be thrown to the ground inside the compound. 

Will has done a lot of defending on the top of the wall himself. I've seen him wearing the turnout gear (firefighting outfit, if you aren't familiar with the term. Heavy, thick, almost impossible to bite through) that we took from a large supplier in Lexington. He fights with a quarterstaff and a machete like something out of a story. 

Not that others aren't doing the same. Every time I see a group of zombies come up one of the piles of bodies toward our folks, my heart clenches in my chest. I only relax when I witness the defenders swinging weapons and working in unison to stave off the attack. There's always more of them, though. Always another wave. 

I've lost track of the actual numbers, but I think we've lost a total of about seventy people since this massive assault began. I could be wrong there, but it sounds somewhere in the ballpark. My heart hurts for those souls, who've endured so much and fought so hard to stay alive. Their sacrifice means more to me than I'll ever be able to say. 

The practical side of me remembers how short on food we're getting, though...

Come quickly, people of North Jackson. We need you. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Never-ending Battle

We've lost the other part of the annex, and along with it a large chunk of hope. Even if we manage to keep the zombies out of the original compound, which is where our entire population is now, we'll starve.

I should point out that the larger part of the annex is bigger than the portion we intentionally set on fire the other day. More than half of the compound as it was a week ago is overrun. The section we lost last night had a lot more open areas in it than any other part of the compound, and was farmed more. The break in the defenses came suddenly and from three sides, driving our people back with incredible speed.

We lost almost forty people in the attack. Twenty-five of them were homesteaders that somehow managed to get caught between the three swarms of zombies that broke through the walls. They were farther away than I would have expected anyone to be. A few folks said that they were trying to bring food stores over, but the homesteaders weren't anywhere close to the buildings we stored food in over there. I imagine they got caught up in the confusion of the attack and lost their bearings.

We're packed into the original compound pretty tightly. We've got enough food to last us for a little while, maybe a week, and then we start getting very hungry.

I don't want to sound callous about losing so many people, but the reality we face right now is that they simply got to whatever is waiting for us on the other side a little ahead of us. We've got a chance to survive, but it isn't very high unless we can get some help.

The last good bit of news, really, is that we're in such a small area now that we can defend the walls pretty easily. The bad part is that there aren't any trenches or other defenses between us and the annex. Just the wall. It's not a very pretty picture, but it's what we have.

Still no word from our people in Bald Knob, and I haven't gotten any good responses from our allies as far as getting some backup goes. The ones most able to do so, our friends in North Jackson, don't have the fuel needed to get a large force of people here. It just isn't feasible. I know the soldiers that joined with them in the winter would come help us, but without a way to get at least a few hundred of them here it's a moot point.

We're holding out against the undead. We're hungry and will become much more so before this is over. For now being alive is going to be enough. It has to.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lost Ground

The last few days have been hell, and I'm not just saying that because of the fires we've been using to keep the undead back. Will has been working like a madman on the defenses, but eventually they'll fail completely.

As it is we've already suffered some heavy damage. The annex, two smaller subdivisions we fenced in and connected to the larger original compound, has been partially overrun. That was actually intentional on our part, as we knew that the fire wouldn't hold them off forever.

Will came up with the idea. He's spent a lot of time on the walls, and though he's been a busy guy he has also been observing. The smarties that are found in small clusters among the larger swarm of zombies, seem to be having a harder time commanding their less intelligent brethren. Even as the fires in the trenches burned you could see the hunger almost pushing the normal zombies to consider attacking despite the flames.

So Will gave them an easy target. He suggested to Dodger (because Will is still a condemned man and thus has no actual authority) that we allow a section of trench to run out of fuel and let the zombies overrun it if they attacked. It was dangerous, but better to prepare a massive trap and tease them into attacking where we wanted them than risk a break in the defenses at a random place.

One of the good things about how we built the walls in the annex is that each of the two smaller neighborhoods that make it up has its own complete fence surrounding it. We brought the undead into the older and smallest part, letting them fill the streets before we cut loose on them.

We set fire to the wall where they'd come in. It was on the side farthest from the original compound, so we weren't worried about the main area going up in flames. That cut off the zombies' escape route.

Then we pelted them with dozens of vials of ammonia. The smell is overpowering to them, and our observations make it very clear to us that zombie communication, such as it is, is based on smell. So much ammonia in such a small area confused them and made them lose focus.

That's when we went for the kill.

At one corner of the giant square killing zone were two dozen men and women, trained to fight in unison with homemade spears and shields. Those folks, our Spartans, took positions on the corner of the square most in need of defense--the intersection point between the original compound and the two parts of the annex. All along the wall between the two parts of the annex were archers with arrows of many types, all of them interesting.

At the far side of that wall, a team of men working a catapult set on one of the raised platforms each corner used as a sentry post.

Clear on the other end were fifty warriors. Some had cutting weapons, some homemade flamethrowers. They formed a line of death, pushing the swarming zombies staggering in confusion from the ammonia, right into the middle of the giant square formed by the roads and houses.

We weren't worried for those fighters, though they were on foot and not heavily protected. The zombies were not able to get close to them at all because we used every drop of the secretions put out by a very special zombie to assure their safety. You remember, don't you? That zombie the folks in bald knob found, vomiting up a substance that made others of his kind run away?

Turns out that being surrounded by them on all sides makes him a very sick boy. He's been vomiting all week in the cage we keep him chained in. It isn't hard to collect the stuff.

On every rooftop, there were groups of three or four people raining down alcohol, heavy rocks, metal scraps, and anything else we could hit the zombies with. Not the least of which was a liberal dusting of magnesium dust and some leftover thermite.

You can see where this is going, yes?

It was a slaughter. Will planned the whole thing and it worked like a charm. Our people on foot escaped on the signal, which was only sent when the fire began to spread among the trapped swarm. Our folks on the rooftops used the walkways we've built between all our roofs to get out. Our archers and Spartans didn't have much to do but clean up the stragglers. Our catapult crew did all the hard work, dropping a few small explosives in just the right places.

I don't know how many we killed, but there are noticeably less zombies outside the walls now. I'd say about a third of what we faced int he beginning died in the annex yesterday. Maybe half of the total number gone.

That still leaves a hell of a lot of zombies, and us with a lot of problems. As soon as the fires died out in the annex, not more than a few hours after our people pulled back into the original compound, the killing ground was overrun again. The flaming section of wall had died out, and when it did the swarm hit it with their full might.

That's about a quarter of all the homes we had, lost. The homesteaders are taking it hard, since the majority of them lived in that section. None of them are angry at us about it, you understand, which I find rather odd. But they've lost their homes and many possessions, not to mention the gardens that provided them at least some food.

We're left with the same problems. We've conducted a masterful defense so far, but food is getting rationed hard and we'll begin to starve if we can't get out to hunt, especially with that part of the annex and its resources lost to us. We still haven't heard anything from our folks in Bald Knob, and no word about whether or not we'll be getting any help.

I guess the good news is that we've got less area to defend.

When I see the thin faces of the starving children around me, that doesn't seem much comfort.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

*"Beautiful" Release News

This is obviously an out of character post.

I'm taking the day off from writing Living With the Dead. I've been working myself into the ground the last few weeks, writing LWtD and finishing up my newest novel, "Beautiful" which will be released on July 23rd.

Today's break will also serve as a nice dramatic pause in the story, as big things are happening in the LWtD world, bigger than you know. So for today, instead check out my author blog where I've been working on updating the release page for "Beautiful". There's a book trailer and everything!

The release page!

Thanks so much for reading, and never fear: Living With the Dead will still be here even if I get Oprah rich and all sorts of famous. Hell, it'd probably be even better in that case, since I wouldn't have to work full time and could devote a lot more time to it. I really need this day off to prepare for the release and to work on the book. You guys keep me going.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fire By Night

It's been a while since I pulled an all-nighter, but this was worth it. Will and Dodger pulled out all the stops over the last six hours or so, and we're in a lull at the moment.

My brother and some of his carpenters threw together several catapults yesterday. That sounds like a large saga explained in one sentence but it really isn't. They aren't terribly complicated examples of the old war machines, and it didn't take a lot of work to put them together. That being said, none of us are betting that they'll hold together for all that long, but for now they work. That's what matters.

Why that matters is interesting.

Right now, and for the last several hours, the trenches surrounding the compound have been on fire. We moved a lot of raw liquor from the distilleries to distill down into a purer form to mix with our gas. That left us thousands of gallons of the stuff sitting around. Will got a couple of our generators going, hooked hoses up to a few pumps, and  fired away at the trenches. The trenches themselves have a lot of zombies in them, and the alcohol helped them get burning hot.

So we've been safe for the night. The waves came and went yesterday, but they didn't slow down as night came. Our people fought as the light died, and then by torchlight. We have other lights to use, but the coverage isn't total while the zombies outside the walls are everywhere.

The fire in the trenches won't last for long. The bodies there will eventually burn out. We have to ration how much alcohol we use, since we have no idea how long this siege will last. For now the blaze keeps the undead from attacking, but it doesn't do anything to reduce their numbers.

That's where the catapults come in.

We've been hurling small propane tanks out into the crowd. We've got a pretty good supply of them, and the large tanks we fill them from are still full from the last tanker we brought in. Thank god there's so many people around here who used the stuff, necessitating a number of storage facilities within easy driving range. But just like everything else we have in the compound right now, there's a limited supply. We can't go out to resupply.

Again, though, if we die because we tried too hard to conserve supplies, there'll be egg on all our faces, right?

My brother has been running around between each of the catapults all night, making sure they're not coming apart and the fittings are secure. He's also ferrying explosives around as well. We're running through our supplies pretty fast, but the propane tanks make very large explosions. The destruction has the nice side effect of driving the swarm into smaller areas, crowding them tightly together for the next shot. We're peppering them with arrows when we have to, but otherwise we've been careful about not use too many.

Overall things are going better than I'd have expected, but we're running short on things. We aren't getting any food from the farms, and god only knows what's happened to our animals out there.

Today will be a challenge even if we don't suffer a single attack. Still no word from our people in Bald Knob. I hope they're safe.

If they are, I hope they find help soon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reborn on the 4th of July

The sky overhead is slate gray, dark with what should be ominous portents. Thunder. Lightning. Clouds moving on winds that would knocks us down if they were at ground level. We should be afraid, but we're not. Not today.

There's a sense of unity at the compound that has been missing since the other refugees and I returned. You'd have to see the men and women on the walls, working with matchless precision like the gears of some great and intricate clock to understand what I mean. Part of the energy we're feeling stems from the total shock of yesterday's events, the sheer joy of realizing that we might have a chance to survive this.

We expected the horde outside, which is now estimated somewhere around five thousand, to attack as one. That seemed like the most logical thing, since a huge wave of zombies would certainly be enough to overwhelm us. We didn't get hit with that.

Instead we watched with gleeful confusion as we were hit by small groups. Well, 'small' is a relative term here. They were coming in groups of 100-200 at a time. They never hit the same part of the wall twice. Most of the first five or six waves fell victim to the combination of defenses outside the walls. Many were impaled on the stakes, more fell into the trenches. Some actually made it to the base of the wall itself in a few places. My brother, in his infinite brilliance, has made sure to cut murder-holes here and there along the wall's surface.

Small holes that a thin weapon can be thrust through. Wait for a zombie to get close, then jam a spear or similar weapon right into its head. Simple, effective, and the safest way to attack.

We've got all sorts of traps set out, and as new sections of the walls are tested by the swarm outside, we observe and judge the effectiveness of the designs. It's tremendously useful.

Yes, I said the walls were being tested. I've gotten reports of zombies staying back while the attack waves come in, watching with the cold, calculating gaze that only smarties have. I knew such a large gathering of the undead being brought against us couldn't just be chance. There's a probing caution in the attacks, and that can't mean anything good for us.

Except that we're not being overwhelmed, which means we're alive. That's a plus.

Will has a lot of little tricks and ideas for when the flood of undead does finally come. I've also got a few theories about the smarties themselves that sort of came to me fully-formed as I got the battle reports. None of that right now, though. I hear the bells ringing, and I'm due for archery duty at eight.

Will has a few surprises ready, all right. I can hear the chatter of machine gun fire right now. Guess he managed to salvage at least one of the big guns we ruined retaking the compound. If we only had enough bullets for the rest of them...

Sunday, July 3, 2011


The view from the walls is the most frightening thing I've ever seen. We thought we had some idea of what we were facing. We were wrong. Completely.

Will Price led a few sorties out into the streaming throngs of zombies when they started to show up yesterday. He and a small group of folks that have been training with our modified vehicles took some runs into the crowd of undead. The fact that there were a thousand or better in that first wave didn't really matter since most of the zombies heading toward the compound were spread out as they walked. 

Aside from Will, Dodger and four others took the risky course by plowing through them. In Will's case, it was literally plowing since that was the primary weapon on his vehicle. The goal wasn't to kill zombies necessarily, though it was a nice by-product. Breaking their legs and spines, rupturing their stomachs and spilling the stored nutrients there, those were our goals. Practicality means slowing them down or immobilizing as many as possible. 

At first it seemed like things were going well. Will and the others had worked out a game plan ahead of time to avoid running into each other and to maximize the amount of damage they could inflict. Each vehicle has a CB radio in it, the microphones rigged to be on all the time so they could talk hands-free. Those of us who were watching on the walls had our own so we could listen in, and we were running the commentary through a megaphone so the crowd of people behind us could listen. 

That was how we caught Will's observation that the force we faced was much larger than we'd originally thought. He took the position farthest from the compound, the most dangerous for how deep into the zombie hoard he went. Will was on the edge of the hill to the west, looking over. What he saw wasn't a waning trail of undead trying to catch up. His voice, magnified and echoing, had that tone of utter shock and terror that's never ignored in the world as it is now. 

He said, "Oh, Jesus."

Then he called a general retreat, signaled the gates to be ready to open, and our sortie team came back home. 

Over the hill were thousands more zombies, as far as he could see. Right now, eighteen hours or so later, they still haven't attacked. They just keep coming in, standing and watching us. They're massing in a way I've never seen as they wait for some unknown signal to finally attack. They're all around us, every side of the compound facing numbers that could overwhelm us with ease. 

All of our people made it in from the farms except for the people we've got out in Bald Knob. They're far enough away that they're probably safe, and they represent the small if unlikely chance for outside help. I don't know if they'll be able to find anyone. I find myself praying, one of the rare instances of it in my adult life. 

I don't know how we can survive this assault. There are enough zombies out there right now to build a wall of bodies all the way around the walls. The ones left would be able to do as the zombies out at the farm we lost did, and walk over the corpses of their fellows to get inside the compound. 

I'm off to the third emergency council meeting since Will called the retreat yesterday. He's got a few ideas on how we can fight, how we can defend, but none of them are enough to defend against the onslaught waiting for us just a few hundred feet away. 

They're waiting. Just out of bowshot, too far for anything but bullets we're desperately short on, they're waiting. 

So are we. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011


We're gearing up for an all-out assault. All the hunting teams have pulled back to the compound today, as soon as word came in from our scouts that a huge force of zombies was spotted a few miles away.

We've been afraid a large number of them would give us a shot. That's always a fear, of course, but more so since losing one of our farms. We've got every available person ready to fight, and Will is seeing to the defensive measures along with Dodger.

The estimates are wide and questionable, but there were too many zombies in the large patch of woods where they were discovered to be counted. It's hundreds at the very least, and more likely thousands.

We're tired, hot, and hungry. We're frustrated and divided as a people. This kind of threat is exactly what brings us together. Too often we forget what forged us into a community in the first place. In the humdrum days of getting other work done, in the hungry times where food is our largest concern, we lose sight. It doesn't seem possible to forget, but we do.

The good news is that we've had warning which gives us time to prepare. We've still got a scout waiting within visual distance of the woods where the zombies are massing. He'll give us a call when they get moving, and since it's a few miles away we'll still have at least half an hour before they hit us. We're not just going to sit still and take the hit, either.

We're going to hit them as hard as we can. In this the citizens of the compound are a unified force. We may have our differences, but every single one of us will stand and fight.

I've got my own preparations to make in addition to supervising some of the logistics, so I'm making this a short post. I know I usually take Sundays off, but if I live through today and the compound isn't overrun, I'll be back tomorrow for a full account.

If there are thousands of them heading this way, it will probably end up being one hell of a story.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Smoke Signals

It's interesting to me how some of the most simple things in life can also be the most reassuring, the most hopeful. Today is a day like that, full of small signs that signify the possibility of not just survival, but of actually regaining lost ground. 

It's the smoke that's doing it. Smoke from a hundred small fires, planks of wood surrounding them. The hauls from yesterday are still being cleaned by rotating crews of men, women, and children that know how to prepare a fish for smoking. The sight of so many little pillars of smoke, each one helping make our immediate future a little easier, makes the compound look like a land of pillars reaching up to the sky. 

A bit poetic, I know, but the sheer amount of fish and other food brought in yesterday and still being brought in, is amazing. 

We're going to be eating most of this meat shortly--a small group of people that have a lot of experience suring meat are going to be working to preserve as much as possible, but most will have to be eaten. Smoked meat isn't going to last all that long, but at least we can eat it that way. So I'm told, anyway. I'm not far away from a willingness to eat it raw. I've been eating less than my current ration of food the last few days, saving up the extra just in case. 

At least our animals are eating well. We still have a ton of dry animal food left, though I don't know how long it will stay good for. Even if we run out or it goes bad, there's always bits and pieces left over from every kill from our hunts, offal and the like we can't eat. When you've got less than two dozen dogs and a handful of cats, the leavings from what feeds several hundred people is more than enough. 

I've heard that a few hunting teams have encountered packs of wild dogs, which shouldn't be surprising. With zombies roaming the land, I'd imagine the old instincts would have reasserted themselves in the abandoned pets that are victims of the zombie plague every bit as much as we are. They band together to survive, and reports indicate a pretty visible population growth. 

I haven't seen anyone eating dog yet, which isn't to say it won't happen at some point. We're treading water, but for right now things aren't to that extreme. 

The only strange thing is that, again, there's been little reaction from the homesteaders. Most of them seemed mildly happy with the results of yesterday's "fishing with dynamite" adventure, but given how ardently most of them have been supporting any kind of action that will keep our people from severe rationing, I'd have thought to see a little more jubilation from them. Hell, I'd take smarmy satisfaction and a condescending chant of "Told you so!"

Maybe they're finally getting that none of us here are enemies. Maybe they're starting to admit to themselves that while they may disagree with many of us, their fellow citizens, on many things, that we're ultimately all in this together.