Life after the end of the world can sometimes seem very black and white. Survivors tend to think of most things in black and white terms, and people are no exception. They're living or dead. Living ones are either marauders or simply survivors like the rest of us, scavengers that try not to do harm if it can be avoided.
It's easy to forget, due to the low numbers of living human beings left, that there we are amazingly diverse as a species. People will surprise you. It's a constant.
Take Will and Rachel's observations during their captivity as example number one of this truth. Most marauders we've run into tend to rove around. Yeah, they will make a base for a little while to work from, but they don't stay in any place for more than a few weeks. They take what they want and move on.
I tend to call the remaining people out there, including my own, survivors. Yes, I know all of us survived The Fall, but marauders don't fit the image in my mind when I think of survivors. They don't plan for the long haul, don't pick a spot and defend it in order to build something better and stronger. They don't have a sense of community with others. They travel and kill, taking what they want and putting in no work to get it.
Until now, apparently. While temperaments vary, I've always thought of survivors as essentially one class of people, defined by their willingness to cooperate and their commitment to the group. From our point of view, the survival of the clan is predicated on the idea that banding together with common purpose and goals is the only real solution. Zombies are the largest threat by far, and two hundred people together are exponentially more equipped to deal with a swarm of the undead than one alone, or a bare handful. While we've had disagreements with other groups of survivors before, I have long held to the belief that it's impossible for any of us to do the things marauders because of the very basic empathy required to be a part of a community.
I said all that to say this: I was wrong. I'm sure my wife is clapping at that admission. I don't make it often.
Will and Rachel didn't get a lot of hard data from their captors, no names of people or even if the group had a name for the place they lived. What they did get was a good impression of how those people lived their lives. Bits of conversation overheard and the obvious spoils of the work of others made it clear: those people have been doing some very nasty things. One conversation of particular note Rachel overheard mentioned that our group might be "an even better catch than the last one that came through."
There was evidence that the people who took them have been capturing people who pass through their territory, stealing their supplies, and either killing the victims or setting them loose in the wild with nothing. Not even weapons. Brutal.
However, Will noted that the conditions inside their complex were good. The people were friendly with each other if not their captives, everyone seemed well-fed, and there was love between them. The kind of deep care that comes from suffering the worst together, and choosing to stick out whatever may come side by side.
At first I wanted to come up with some clever name for these folks, since they seem to combine elements of the two groups most prevalent in what's left of society. Then I realized it was only my own preconceived notions and point of view in play. These people are just another group, shared experience leading them toward different ways of doing things, harsh though they may be. I can't boil them down into a simple buzz word and leave it at that. Looking back, I kind of hate that I started doing that in the first place.
Survivors. Marauders. Looters. All this time, I've been looking at the stark differences between us without ever trying to understand the subtle ones. Beyond that, I've been blind to the greater truth: I should have been looking not at what divides us, but commonalities that might bridge the space between. At the mose basic, what are we?
Every single one of us are people. We've got to remember that.