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.

1 comment:

  1. Those who refuse to live with the compound as members of the community, shouldn't be allowed to. You all were lenient enough when they abandoned you to go fight what should have been a losing battle, but if they're going to be stealing food from children, then they don't belong in that compound. Let them all leave, and find their own damn safe place.
    You, and those you work with, have given everything to make a safe home, and when you escaped, and these so-called "homesteaders" (on YOUR homestead may I remind them) you spent every moment hell bent on getting back home, and getting them safe again. And this is how they repay you? To starve their family? Their children?
    I hope that every one of them is eaten by a zombie.

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