Monday, October 31, 2011

Holiday Spirit

I realized when I woke up a few minutes ago that today is Halloween. There's certainly no candy out here, and we're hours away from any other survivors at the absolute best, so there's little chance of getting any celebration in. It's always been my favorite holiday, but this go round it doesn't look like I'll be putting on a costume and having any fun.

I can't help but think about the zombies out there, deadly and hungry for our flesh, and giggle a bit. Today is Halloween, and that makes the undead seem just a shade silly to me. They're monsters that we used to make fun of, dressing up as them to scare kids. For all the reality that they're a threat to our very existence, something about today just makes it a little easier to remember the way we used to see them.

Not that there are many undead out here. The area of the country we're travelling through at the moment is pretty empty. Of everything. Mostly just scrub and flatland, leading up to the edge of desert country. We've been on the road continuously for a good long while now, and we've gone very far. I'm told I slept right through a stop at one of the fuel depots to top off. Mason was supposed to wake me up to take a shift driving, but he let me sleep through.

We've been passing the time trying to get Mason to spill to juicy details of his date with Jane. He refuses to call it a date, which is in itself suspicious. He's being gentle about it so far, but knowing me, Becky, Will, Rachel, and Steve, eventually we'll wear him down to the point where he either tells us, or shoots us to shut us up.

I give either possibility a fifty percent chance.

It's boring and lonely out here, but at least we've stopped long enough for me to write and talk to the folks at home. My former trainees back at New Haven are handling all the communications with other groups of survivors I usually manage since we can't stop often enough to be effective at passing important news. I've heard some interesting things this morning, but most of them are sensitive, so I have to leave you hanging.

One I can tell you about is crazy to the point of suspicion, though. Kincaid and his people have, at the encouragement of the council at New Haven, been extending the olive branch of peace to other groups of marauders. As it turns out, resources out in the wild are getting harder to come by, which is part of why so many bands of marauders have started getting more violent. That's really bad for them, because one of the advantages of staying put in a compound is that you build up resources, defenses, and plans. The high ground is ours. That makes raiding a costly and dangerous affair for marauders.

And it's cold as hell outside. Which means less people on the roads, less prey for marauders. I don't know if many (or any) of the groups Kincaid has talked to will give positive responses, but we can hope. Every person who isn't attacking others for their supplies (or worse, to capture people) is a victory for the rest of us. I don't know how the communities out there will deal with men and women who've done the terrible things many marauders have, but it seems like they can't all be really terrible. Not all of them are rapists, as Kincaid proves.

It's a sticky situation, but potentially a very good thing. Damn, I've gone way over what I intended, and Will says it's time to move out again. Stupid time limits.

At any rate, happy Halloween. Don't forget to eat something bad for you. Try not to get eaten.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Long View

I talk about what's going on around me a lot, and who important this trip is. I yammer about the things that have happened and how brutal some of them have been. I was going to focus today on the nearly herculean effort of Sparta to set up fuel depots all over the landscape. I'll still give it some time, because it's worthy, but after I want to tell you something simple.

We carry enough fuel to go a VERY long distance without running dry. The bed of our truck is stuffed with homemade tanks that give us the mobility to go somewhere between seven and nine hundred miles without refueling. That's ignoring idle time and the like, but it's a lot of backup gas to have. We've topped off a few times, and the folks from Sparta have done their part to make sure the convoys of supplies have enough go juice to make trades happen. It isn't just the massive stockpile they're sitting on, either--the whole area of the country Sparta sits in is chock full of fuel supplies. Enough to probably keep trade in operation for years if the gas doesn't go flat and useless. Enough time to breed horses to take over when the gas runs out. Slow, very slow, but maybe the only option down the road.

That's just one small speck of the larger economy we're trying to build. Thinking about the challenges we face as a species to survive and thrive in the months and years ahead is enough to take the focus away from anyone. Do communities try to move from less than ideal locations and merge together? Maybe, but that comes with the risk of putting too many eggs in one basket, endangering more lives in a given area if there's a zombie attack. Also, the strain on local resources is always something to consider.

A million thoughts like this fill my head pretty much all the time. So, today, I'm taking a break from it. There's been so much going on during this trip that some very basic truths about it are overlooked. I write once a day, four out of five days, and maybe I give the impression that I'm always slammed with things to do. When we're at a community, that's usually true. On the road in between, there's a lot of down time to think about all the stuff I wrote above. It can become overwhelming to the point of insanity.

So I'm doing something simple and fun today. I'm reading books. My little solar charger still works despite the weakening sunlight from winter coming, and I've charged up my Kindle. Kind of a funny thing, really, me buying such an expensive piece of consumer electronics when I couldn't really afford it. I've used it on and off since The Fall, as it has copies of probably three hundred books I bought on it. I'm a bibliophile, and a nifty device that holds hundreds of books is like hard drugs to an addict. It's a good thing The Fall happened when it did, as I was spending WAY too much money on books before the world ended.

Kidding, kidding. But I'll admit, it's a little freeing to know I won't have to pay those credit cards back, you know?

So today I'm getting to read a series of books I've managed to avoid over the years. Not intentionally, it just seemed there was always something else to read that was more important. I'm going to sit back, relax, and dive into a world of fantasy for a day. A little escapism is just what I need to get my head back in the game.

I think everyone should find some time to do the same. In the long term, it's the only way to keep from losing perspective.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Thank god, the alarm yesterday wasn't an attack. Which isn't saying there weren't zombies. There were. But slow, old school ones chasing one of Jane's scouts.

The bad news the scout brought in is that the new breed is spreading faster and farther than we thought. It's good he found out, because the sneaky fuckers are using a means to travel we can actually do something about. They're stowing away with marauders. The scout, while in hiding, saw three zombies manage to either sneak up undetected to latch onto the bottom of a vehicle, or fall from a tree onto trucks.

I've suggested we spread the word for everyone to redouble their efforts to check their vehicles at every opportunity.

Jane sent out scouts to try to warn groups of marauders. Kincaid, whose group made it to New Haven safely, has been helpful with contacting them. We'll see how that works out.

There's not much else I can say today. We're on a tight schedule, and we've got to make a rendezvous to top off our fuel supplies in about two hours. The road into the unknown is bound to be full of surprises, and we want to carry all the extra fuel we can manage. It's really too bad we couldn't have just rigged up something with horses, but then the zombies would eat them in an instant and we'd be screwed.

I've never been farther west than St. Louis before. Despite the crazy mess the USA has become, I find myself excited to see areas of the country I've only read about before. I don't know how many stops we'll be making for sure, but between here and Mountain View, there are at least a dozen settlements of survivors we're to see. Whatever else happens between is in god's hands.

I'll try to do a more comprehensive post tomorrow or the day after. We've been running so hard for so long that the weariness is getting bone-deep, and it's hard for me to concentrate. Where we're going, lack of focus could be more fatal than normal.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Common Good

For all of the horrible events since my team and I left home, we still manage to find small pieces of surprising goodness here and there.

Greenville doesn't really need to trade with anyone. They're in a resource heavy area, with a social structure designed to make the best and most efficient use of those resources. Don't get me wrong, there are things they can use--raw and worked metal goods, pieces of technology, weaponry they don't have to make themselves, medical supplies--but none of it vital. All things they can live without.

Still, Jane and the committee that runs Greenville are happy to trade. They know that helping to build a strong network of survivors will be key to keeping humanity going. Jane and her people see the long term. That sounds pretty cold and calculating, pragmatic to the nth degree, and it is.

But that's not the only reason. I've talked to her quite a bit, as have the members of my team. Jane is remarkably compassionate for someone who has a job as hard as hers. When I ran New Haven, it had about a quarter the people that Greenville does, and that was a nightmare of biblical proportions. She offered fair trades, if ones that leaned more toward benefiting her people, without us having to pull the sympathy card for all the hungry people out there in need.

Things here are pretty standard for the trip. I'm glad Courtney and Steve laid so much groundwork last year. It has made things a lot easier for us. Most places we've traveled to have been pretty receptive.

Tomorrow, we head out for parts unknown. People we've been in contact with but never met. Roads we've never gone down.

Motherfucker. Why do I say things about how well it's going? There's some kind of alarm going. Damn it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


We're at our last stop before a very extended drive out west. The community we're in right now is far enough away from the epicenter of the new wave of mutations that there are no reported sightings here yet.

We're in a little town called Greenville, and the community here is pretty big. It's the largest I've seen aside from North Jackson, which has more than eleven hundred people in it at last count. Greenville has somewhere north of eight hundred, and the place is prosperous. It sits in a wooded span of hills, the centerpiece of the town a very large textile mill that used to employ (and now houses) many of the people here. There's a lot of farm land being worked, but the folks here have a lot of other resources.

The woods are good for hunting. The lake is huge and teeming with fish, frogs, turtles, and all the other things you'd expect. The mill itself contains a massive amount of materials, which Jane, the elected leader here, directs her people to work in a variety of ways.

Jane's the woman who really runs the place. Sure, she has a staff to manage the details, but she's the idea lady. To look at her, you wouldn't expect a survivor. She's a bizarre sort of throwback to the world that was. She dresses with stylish professionalism, pant suits or conservative skirt combos. Her nails are manicured but not pampered. She wears makeup that smooths her features but isn't gaudy. Hell, she wears perfume of all things.

And on her, all that makes sense. When Greenville was hit, she was the one that came up with solution after solution where others couldn't. She's a brilliant woman who understands that appearance and confidence are vital to being a successful leader. I'm not even from here, and I'm impressed as hell with her and the projects she's put into motion.

Take this, for example: when news reached her that the new breed of zombies would almost certainly be spreading this way, Jane ordered traps put into place all over the perimeter of their holdings. Traps the zombies (and most people) couldn't see. Pit traps. Tripwires. Nets. Lots of nets.

She didn't hesitate, instead pulling forty people from other details just to make those nets. Way more than any reasonable estimate said they would need. Jane wanted every person to be able to slow down and tangle up a zombie if need be. She designed them herself. They're lightweight, compact when folded properly, and strong.

I know it may not sound like much, but it's a pretty brilliant idea. Especially given how lightly Greenville has had it since The Fall. The large number of survivors hereabouts can be attributed to light and infrequent zombie attacks, and a low overall population of undead.

Think about every time you've been chased by a zombie, too afraid to turn around to get a proper aim with your gun. Or maybe the thing was too close behind for you to stop and smack it in the head with your hammer or hatchet. If you'd had a net, you could have glanced over your shoulder for a split second while throwing, and the tangle that ensued would give you time to put the monster down without undue worry.

I'm pretty impressed with how the people here work together, and how well-managed the defenses, food, and other resources are. Jane is a tough person to negotiate with, but she's fair. And I think reasonably compassionate. I think we'll have a good time staying here.

If the preparations they're making are any sign of how well they work together in a fight, the new breed won't have a chance. There's not a bit of grumbling or complaining about the extra work, nor disbelief at the capabilities of the mutated zombies. Just rugged determination, a lot of hard work, and a coordinated effort from the leadership on down the chain that should make my military friends blush.

Oh, that's funny. Because Jane invited Mason to dinner almost as soon as she laid eyes on him. I've never seen the big guy go red for anyone. He's always so cool and collected, so "I'm the scary Navy Seal that saves your ass with a snarky comment". Yeah. He got asked out on a date, and he looked freaking worried about it. It was such a...human reaction, and it caught all of us off guard.

Naturally, we will never let his royal badassedness forget about it. We'll probably give him hell about it every ten minutes, pretty much for the rest of his life. I'm glad Mason is finding some enjoyment out on this trip. Maybe we all just need a small break and to relax for a bit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Primal Fear

My team and I are on the road again, or we will be in a few minutes as we pack up camp. We left Black Mesa last night and put as much distance between us and it as possible. Call it a hundred and fifty miles. We were the last ones to leave, not long after the last caravan went through the gates. Whatever happens to those kids and their teachers now is in god's hands. I hope he's gentle with them.

Reports are being shared among every survivor who can get them about the widening spread of the new strain of zombie mutation. From what I've read, it looks like the second generation of the mutations have all mixed together into one. People in Sparta report that tagged zombies, ones they marked with spray paint to observe, have been infected by the new strain. Worse, they have infected others, and the transmission rate The tagged zombies have passed on the improved intelligence, toughness, and the rest to every other they've come in contact with.

The good news is that for now, the zombie population is thinning itself, and aren't attacking us in large numbers. Us as in human beings, by the way. The bad news is that the ones eating the others are getting crazy strong and better fed than they've been pretty much ever, which means we're potentially fucked to a degree the English language doesn't have a scale for.

Still, my team and I had some fun with the zombies at Black Mesa before we left.

We made sure the fuckers could see my team. They learned their lesson about attacking high ground with a large number of people on it, but when it was just the six of us, they decided we were easy prey. God knows we tried to make it obvious enough. They might be smart and are probably getting smarter, but the undead have yet to learn to be properly suspicious of human beings. We're grudge-bearing assholes toward things that kill us.

There we were, sitting around a camp fire. Pretty much every structure and piece of equipment was gone except our truck and trailer, broken down for parts and taken with the caravans. Black Mesa's gate was still up, but left ever so slightly open.

The six people on my team, including me, sat around the fire in our heavy armor. It took about half an hour for the zombies to come for us. That whole thing where they work together meant that more than a hundred of them eventually walked through the front gate to get us, one huge mass to tear us apart. They surrounded us as we watched them, staying back about thirty feet until they completed their circle.

That was when Steve very casually threw a bunch of magnesium dust into the fire. The flare of light blinded the undead, and we piled into the back of the truck as Will jumped in the cab. Good thing he'd already started it. We plowed through them, heading toward the gate.

Just as we went through it, as the horde began to sweep closer to us, Mason made a call on my cell phone. Our portable cell transmitter was running.

The phone he called was wired up to ten gallons of propane and a stick of dynamite. Wrapped up in about a hundred pounds of gravel.


The explosion leveled the zombies our truck hadn't yet pulverized, and set off the low piles of alcohol-soaked wood and fabric we'd left around the edge of the plateau. Rachel noted as she was blowing up the logs the other day that even smart zombies still have a deep aversion to fire. They're still terrified of it. The flaming ring on the plateau drove the few remaining undead toward us, and we didn't give them a fair fight as we stopped the truck. Becky hit the fleeing zombies as they bunched up at the gate with the last few sticks of dynamite.

We may not have killed all of them. We're okay with that. If this new breed can learn things, then I think the experience has given them a new piece of information to assimilate.

Human beings are just as dangerous as fire.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Now the rest of the story...

The attack wasn't going well for us. The worst part was having to allow enough zombies onto the mesa that the throwers would have to stop hurling rocks. We huddled and waited, drew back behind the low structures that dot Black Mesa in concentric rings, and whether the storm. 

It took about ten minutes, but it was the longest six hundred seconds of my life. The zombies climbing the logs around the edge of the mesa were fast, so ten or twelve would come at us at a time. The kids were fighting alongside the rest of us, as there just weren't enough adults to cover all the holes.

By the time the stones stopped falling, at least twenty people were down. We fought back, as hard as we could. I saw Mason whipping his machete through zombie after zombie, but after a few minutes the blade broke. When I say this new breed is tough, I'm not kidding. Only about half of the ones he attacked were killed. The rest kept on fighting. 

I couldn't tell you how many ended up on this rock with us. All I remember is the mindless rise and fall of my weapon, the terror of watching young men and women give their lives to protect others. The confines were too close, the numbers against us too many, and the enemy so much stronger than our expectations. 

If it weren't for Becky and Rachel, we would have probably been overwhelmed. I remember with perfect clarity Becky's hand snatching my arm to get my attention. I saw a look of calm determination in her eyes as she spoke to me. 

"Hold them for a few minutes," she said. "I've got an idea."

She grabbed Rachel on her way, and I had no idea what was coming. My mind focused on two things: she had a plan. And we had to survive long enough to let her get it done. 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw her helping Rachel into a set of the heavier armor we bring with us. It's the stuff we use when we have to wade into a group of zombies. Hard as hell to move in, but virtually invincible to zombie attacks. 

It was, of course, untested against the new breed. 

A minute or so later, I saw Rachel helping Becky into her armor. At no point did I consider they'd actually head out into the swarm, thinking only that Becky's plan meant she had to get close to the edge and needed the extra protection to ensure she didn't fall before she was finished. I was very wrong. 

About two minutes after she and Rachel vanished from my sight, I heard the first explosion. Hell, more than heard it--I felt it. A great wave passed under my feet, the rock beneath us surging with the power of the blast. I saw about a dozen zombies on the edge of the mesa simply drop, and a few seconds later another blast sounded from the opposite side with the same results. 

There were five large explosions, ones close enough to the edge of the mesa to cause small collapses. Becky and Rachel hit every one of the logs, blowing them to splinters and killing every zombie within twenty feet of them. They'd run through the front gate, which had been left mostly alone by the zombies at that point, and thrown their dynamite from a distance, as most of the undead were clustered around the logs. Each cratered section of ground helped clear a path close enough to the next log for a hard throw. 

The last log fell, but we'd realized what the girls were doing well before that. When the final explosion came, Mason and Will screamed for everyone to lower what shields they had and push. PUSH! With everything we could muster. 

We shoved the majority of our attackers over the edge. With improved strength and coordination comes the instinct to dance backwards when shoved. If they'd have been slow, shambling zombies that tactic wouldn't have worked for us. By the time we'd gotten the majority of them shoved over the edge, Becky and Rachel had made their way back through the gate. Mason had ordered a few people to start lobbing dynamite over the edge. By then the stone throwers had joined the rest of the mob, and the explosions falling at random were enough to break whatever willpower the horde had. They ran. We'd become too costly a target. 

It was a victory. Survival is always a victory. But it cost us too many irreplaceable lives, their potential contributions to the world eradicated in a fight that took less than half an hour, start to finish. 

We're almost done with the evacuation now. We pushed as hard and fast as possible, and everyone is eager to get away from here. The new breed of zombies is spreading, and Black Mesa taught us a lesson about our future none of us are likely to forget. Ever. 

Things change, and not always for the better. Threats can and do get worse. We can be brave, and strong, and practiced, and in the end it still might not be enough to save us. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tooth and Nail

We lost more than fifty people in the assault yesterday. Survivors from New Haven, kids from Black Mesa, and members of three other communities. Kincaid lost three of his people as well. 

We got tunnel vision, and it cost us. We underestimated the enemy. 

The assault began pretty much as we imagined it would. About fifty of the mutated zombies came for the gate at once. It's been added to and improved in the year and a half since The Fall, but the basic structure of the gate is still the same--an expandable, mobile steel and aluminum structure left here by the military. With ladders built into it from the inside, the twelve-foot tall thing is easy to defend. Thankfully, the people here have added to the mesa a lot, including building a low wall about three feet from the edge of the rock face of the mesa. 

Platforms built up behind the walls allowed many of us to fire weapons into the crowd of zombies. That worked pretty well until the second wave of them came from the woods. Another hundred of so followed the first wave not ten minutes after the fight started, and the second wave started hurling rocks at us. 

Not huge ones, but a fist-sized chunk of stone can kill or incapacitate a person just as easily as a bullet. The excavated area around the shelf of rock we fight from is filled with hundreds of thousands of pieces of broken ground. More than enough missiles to kill all of us by sheer statistics if all of them were eventually thrown. 

So we turtled up and protected ourselves. The only people not hiding under the protection of a shield or small structure were the people defending the gate, and even they were only popping their heads out to make sure no zombies managed to get over it. 

None of us thought the hail of rocks was anything other than a straightforward, direct attack. We were shocked enough that the zombies were using weapons against us that we didn't consider the possibility it could be anything else. We were so wrong. 

A hundred very strong undead throwing deadly projectiles at us was enough to make us take cover. I think the zombies knew that. They've watched us, seen how we as survivors go on the defensive more often than not. And why wouldn't we, you know? Zombies are dumb, lack creativity, and can be endured if the defenses hold up. 

God, we're arrogant. No matter how hard we try to keep alert for new threats, we human beings have such a hard time predicting changes. We easily assimilate them when we see them, but the whole goddamn point of the assault was to keep us from watching. 

They wanted us to focus on the gate, they wanted us to cower under the rain of stones. They wanted us to believe they'd hit us from a direction they've always attacked from. 

Hiding under sheets of plywood, inside roughly built huts, we never saw the third wave coming. There were at least two hundred of them, and between them they carried five very long logs, covered with the stumps of branches. Five pieces of salvaged trees, tall enough when footed to a vertical position to lean against the lip of the mesa. 

That was how they got up here. If we'd have faced them right at the edges, we'd have died. The stone throwers would have kept dropping missiles on us as we fought, collapsing our defenses. Will was the one who realized that, saw it almost immediately. He had Rachel and Steve running around, shields held over their heads, warning everyone to draw back to the center of the mesa. If the zombies started to crowd the rock, the throwers would have to stop their assault. 

It was the only way. 

I'll have to finish this tomorrow. There's far too much to do today for me to spend more time on it right now. We're here, and that's the important thing. We fought tooth and nail to survive, but it cost us. Tomorrow, then. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Other Shoe

We've been carefully evacuating the kids for two days now, only opening the way through long enough for a few vehicles at a time to cross onto the field. Tension has been ratcheting up the entire time, more so in the last several hours.

The local zombies, you see, have been watching us.

Not too close. Not near enough for us to waste the energy attacking them. They're arranged around Black Mesa, maybe a hundred of them, in a rough semicircle. None are within a hundred yards of the place. None of them have moved since they got here.

They're waiting for something. Word got back here about twenty minutes ago that the last caravan we sent out was attacked. Not unusual in itself, but this one had zombies drop into it from trees overhanging the road. Right into the back of a high-walled truck bed. Eleven kids, all of them sixteen years old, died. The four guards with them didn't make it either.

Three zombies did that. I'm told they displayed signs of the mutations all the locals have been passing to each other. Everyone here is upset, angry and hurt at the loss, but right now we can't afford to lose control. We have to focus on the job at hand, or it could all go off the rails. The absolute last thing we need is the place devolving into chaos.

The crew heading for New Haven is still here. That's a plus, anyway, as it will give us a good number of experienced fighters if the zombies outside are some kind of vanguard for a larger force. We're even letting Kincaid's crew have weapons.

Ah. Crap. I'm being told the zombies are moving toward us. No new ones have showed up yet, but it looks like they're going to attack. Thank god this rock is tall and overhangs almost all the way around. If they can climb trees, a sheer rock face might be doable.

I'm off to the gate. That's gonna be where they hit us. That's where we'll make a stand.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unlikely Allies

Well, I'll be damned.

Kincaid and his people accepted our terms wholly and without complaint. They're on the way. His group of marauders are going to be taking a large group of kids and two teachers all the way to New Haven. We made that one of the conditions, since New Haven's location is well known. I don't want to hand potential enemies the location of a group of survivors if I can help it.

Kincaid's bunch won't be going alone, of course. They'll be joined by a task force of our people heading this way even as I type this. There will also be some folks from Sparta and a few other places making that trip. Overall Kincaid's marauders will be outnumbered four to one if you include the people they're transporting. On top of that, his people won't have any guns, and only one in three will be allowed handheld melee weapons. We aren't even letting them have bows and arrows.

Oh, and when Kincaid's group gets to New Haven, they're staying. It remains to be seen whether or not they'll be allowed to move about freely or given sentences for the crimes they've admitted to, but either way New Haven is going to have some interesting new residents aside from the kids we're sending there.

And we need to send them soon. Fleets of vehicles have been moving in and out over the last day taking kids to safe locations at nearby communities. I feel a lot better about sending those young men and women to places I've been to live with people I've met. Time is a factor, however, and even if my team and I had to send them away with strangers, we'd do it.

The local zombies are already moving against the caravans leaving Black Mesa in groups of twelve to twenty. They're moving with purpose--fast, organized, and never attacking the same way twice. So far there haven't been any casualties, but we've only moved about forty people. Would be more, but we're trying to work all the logistics out while figuring ways to keep the zombies from doing any real damage.

Mason has been doing recon a few miles into the surrounding areas. He's the only person doing so, as he's not letting any of us join him. No matter how right that decision is, it never stops being irritating to be reminded he sees the rest of us as dead weight for things like this. Chalk it up to two decades of service, most of which were spent slipping into enemy territory undetected to gather intel.

He's a ghost. Comparatively, the rest of us are people with broken feet walking in very noisy armor. His recon trip yesterday wasn't enlightening as far as specifics go with the local zombies. He didn't see any of them drawing diagrams or anything, giving him some idea of what's in the works. In general terms, he thinks the local undead are building a strong force to assault the place. There's a lot of organization going on outside the limits of what we can see. Groups of three are systematically killing the weakest zombies, getting stronger. There's even a small copse of trees where, Mason swears, a small group of undead seem to be gathering the surviving trios for the purpose of deliberately spreading the mutations that are already so rampant here.

So, yeah. We think something just might be up. It's not a mystery. It's just going to make this especially dangerous. My people should be here in the next day. Kincaide and his early this evening. With luck we'll pull out before whatever is in the works can happen. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Leaving The Rock

It's a hell of a thing to see people come together for a purpose. On a small scale, all survivor communities are examples of this. The last day, we've seen it on a large scale, and the willingness of people to go out of their way to help is pretty astounding.

I've got commitments from Sparta to provide fuel. Half a dozen communities within a reasonable distance have agreed to provide the manpower and vehicles for transport. No single community can absorb the sheer numbers of people from Black Mesa, so we're having to separate people into groups. I'm very proud to say my people at New Haven estimate that with the recent influx of trade goods and food, they can accommodate up to fifty Black Mesa residents.

It's a big undertaking, but the kids here and their small cadre of teachers are working through the details pretty quickly. I don't know if the other communities willing to take them in are going to do so permanently, but I've got promises to see them through the winter. That will give all of us time to work out something if needed.

Another piece of news that goes along with this: a group of marauders has offered to help. They claim they've never taken anyone captive, only killed when needed. I tend to believe them only because they openly admitted  to stealing from others, hijacking caravans and the like. Their leader contacted me late yesterday, and we talked on the phone for a good long while. The name he gave me was Kincaid.

Kincaid has offered his help, and we'd be stupid to turn it down out of hand. I talked to my team, and Steve was the first to pipe up. He suggested that we put severe restrictions and security measures on Kincaid's group, so tight and restrictive that they'd have to be sincere to accept. I'm going to pose them to him this morning and see what he says.

His reasoning for wanting to help is sound and seems genuine. Kincaid told me he and his people were stunned by the news that a large group of kids was out here. He's tried to keep his crew from spiraling into something worse, closer to what other marauders are. I'm prepared to take a leap of faith. Partially because we need them. Partially because I want to believe there is hope for people like Kincaid and his crew.

That being said, we're not taking that leap blindly. Or without caution. We'll pose our demands and see what the response looks like. All there is to it.

We need every body and vehicle we can get. Since The Fall, I don't think anyone has tried to move so many people at one time. The local zombies are a greater threat than I think any of us can fully comprehend, and their numbers are slowly dwindling as the strong devour the weak. Observations lead me to believe they're planning something.

I really hoped there would never again be a point in my life where I was worried about zombies, re: dead human beings animated by an organism of unknown origin, actively using mental prowess to formulate a complex action. Now we're in that place again, much as New Haven was a few short months ago, where an unknown number of them could come down on us at any time, forcing us to fight.

Oh, and add to that the clearly spreading strains of mutation, making them stronger, tougher, smarter, and more cohesive as a unit.

Fun times, right? I wonder if this place has any whiskey...

Monday, October 17, 2011


Black Mesa is in the middle of a very dangerous wave of zombie activity. Though the kids and handful of adults that live here are pretty secure on their platform of rock and dirt, and the narrow strip of land that connects it to the field is easily defended, I don't think this a survivable location. Not for much longer.

They've done well with hunting and scavenging, even farming. The supplies the army left here are still holding out thanks to the forethought the people here have had to supplement them with other food. That said, the local zombies are more dangerous than any I've ever seen. In fact, my team and I have spent the last day doing nothing but working in the field in an attempt to learn as much about them as possible. What we've found is pretty grim.

Whatever mutation is allowing the local undead to eat their own is apparently spreading among them and is universal.  I've had a long talk with New Haven this morning. Evans thinks the plague organism must put out spores or something similar for the changes to spread so rapidly. Every single local we saw eating was doing it at the expense of one of their own.

It didn't even dawn on me until this morning that the zombies I saw yesterday were working together to kill their fellow undead. Add that to the list. We saw smarties out there yesterday. We saw some of the ultra-tough zombies (who I refuse to call 'toughies'. One stupid name for a type of zombies is enough for me) outside as well, and one that we think might have all of those attributes.

The last one is the one that really worries us. We're not a hundred percent sure it's one of the smart zombies, but it for sure has the ashy, thickened skin of a tough one. It definitely works in a group, and can eat other zombies. It's fast and strong, and when it saw us, it did something I've never seen undead do before.

It ran away. The damn thing saw how well armed and armored my team was, gave us a calculating look, and took off. I tend to think it's a smarty for that reason alone, though the fact that his small group followed him rather than try to eat us helps.

That group was pretty fast, pretty coordinated. It worries me to death (maybe literally...) that the locals are right at the crossroads between evolutionary leaps. This place seems to be a busy intersection for undead from different areas. That means these attributes are likely to spread.

It also means the large number of them here are going to get smaller in number as others kill them off for food, but those others are going to be smarter, stronger, faster, and much harder to kill than anything we've faced. I don't like it at all. A zombie, even a smarty, that runs from a person strikes me as a very bad sign. I've got a feeling something is brewing here, what with the plateau acting as a large dinner plate, full of succulent people.

There's some bad mojo coming, I can feel it. Fortunately, I'm not the only one. The people of Black Mesa tell me attacks have gotten more frequent and harder to repel. The council at New Haven and every other person I've talked to about this place agrees that it's likely a large swarm is going to try to get to these kids. It's what zombies do, after all. And the ones here have every possible advantage except the high ground.

So, there are two options. Fight or run. We'll be spending the next day trying to figure out which will be the better option for the people here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cannibal Corpse

We're at our next stop, a community that's set on top of a tall shelf of rock only approachable on one side. The residents call it Black Mesa. It's not actually a mesa, but it's almost as defensible as one. Some of you will recognize the name Black Mesa from the Half-Life series of video games. The locals took to the name with abandon, and for a pretty good reason. 

They're almost all teenagers. 

There are a few people over twenty here, but all of them are in their late thirties or better. Maybe ten or fifteen out of more than two hundred and fifty people. The rest are all twenty or less. These folks are what remains of an evacuated school. The adults are teachers and one of the vice principals, who made the choice to stick with their students when the evacuation order came instead of trying to make it home. 

The mesa (that's what I'll call it for lack of a simpler term) used to be a very large hill. It's been blasted away on three sides, turning it into a raised plateau twenty feet high at the lowest point. It's very, very big. It was part of a development site for a shopping center that had ceased construction due to the worsening economy. The military, I'm told, stocked it with weapons, a temporary wall across the narrow band of ground still connecting it to the large field it's located in, tons of rations, sleeping bags, and the like. Its proximity to the school made it a perfect evacuation point for the kids. 

Things didn't go as planned. When the order to run came, the army was supposed to be manning the mesa. They weren't. No one knows why. More than two thirds of the students who ran from the school died, either on the run there, from injuries shortly after, or during the last eighteen months. 

Those left behind have done amazing things to stay alive. This place has had a lot of work done to it, but to be honest it wasn't even our next stop until the rash of strange mutations in the zombie populations became known. We were heading to a place farther west, but when the kids here finally managed to get a message out, the contents sent my team and I running as fast as we could. 

Communications with Black Mesa have been limited and short. We've known a group was here, but they're self sufficient enough that they haven't asked for any help from outsiders. They're frightened and young enough to be terrified about giving away the fact that half of them would still be minors if the world hadn't come to an end. 

They didn't call us for help, or for trade. They called because they've seen something so potentially dangerous that they were willing to risk exposing themselves to get the news out. 

Here, they have zombies that eat other zombies. That's completely new. Until now we thought it wasn't possible, that the flesh of the living dead was somehow incapable of sustaining another zombie. We've only been here since last night, but we've seen it happen right in front of us. It isn't just a matter of one zombie tearing another apart. That would be bad enough. No, what I witnessed was more horrible...

You see, we've theorized that the organism that reanimates the dead somehow communicates from host to host, keeping them from eating each other. Likely through smell, since that seems to be the most powerful sense they have. I watched a group of three zombies corner a fourth against a large boulder. For a few seconds, they all stood there, the three gazing with empty eyes at the one. 

Then the lone zombie began to thrash where he stood. After a few moments it looked like he'd begun bleeding through his skin. I was watching the whole thing through binoculars, and it wasn't that far away. It took me a bit to realize what I was seeing wasn't blood. It was pieces of the organism animating the zombie, forcing its way through the thing's muscles and skin. Trying to escape? Looks likely. 

Then the zombie fell over. Totally motionless. It didn't twitch as the others tore it to shreds. If you aren't breaking out into a cold sweat right now, you may want to reread this post and think hard about it. 

There are still millions of them out there. Many die off from lack of food, a greater number go into hibernation to conserve the reserves of protein they keep in their bellies. Far more of them simply slow down when starvation begins to set in, barely getting by on whatever scraps or animals they can find. The thing is, even a recently fed zombie is always hungry. And if they can eat each other now, a plentiful source of very easy food, they'll be at the peak of their strength and speed (and god knows what other advantages the damn things are evolving) when they come for the gourmet dish: us. 

Let this serve as a warning to you. Tell everyone you know. The game has changed. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Common Cause

So much of our time is spent moving from one place to another that it's hard to find a moment to explain the variety of people we find at the communities of survivors we visit. That was a thought I had when I woke up a few minutes ago, and the next thing that went through my head was somewhat enlightening:

It's our similarities that are more important.

Every survivor is unique. When we clump together in groups, common cause tends to shape the attitudes of the individuals. A lot of what makes up the personality of the various communities is external; the number and frequency of zombie attacks, how safe their fortified home(s) may be. Access to food and water is a big factor. The easier those are to attain, the more relaxed and easygoing the people tend to be. The people of Long Town, for example, had a fairly secure wall, which made them relatively trusting. They were polite and courteous toward us, yet not generous. Their food was limited, so they made it clear from the get-go that we'd have to fend for ourselves.

The commonalities are just as interesting an probably more vital to cooperation. Every place we've been, there has been an almost palpable sense of community. A general feeling of affection and even love between the people. It's not hard to figure out, we've all felt it and seen it. Soldiers have always grown bonds between them in battle. Survival requires the conscious choice to risk your life for another, and they for you.

Humanity is unique in the animal kingdom, because we've moved beyond the lower-brain instinct to feel loyalty, at most, at the herd level. Right now we're threatened by the zombie hordes, our fellow men, hunger, weather, disease. Those immediate factors push us to feel more strongly toward the close group around us.

I have simple goals for this mission. Well, simple in theory, maddeningly difficult in reality. Trade between the surviving clusters of people is necessary. We have to work together to survive in the long term. We need more than that. We need to recapture that wide-sweeping urge to see all people do well. Survival of the species, not just the tribe.

We're all people, after all. We face the same threats and hardships. We see it more and more every time we stop. I told you all about the walrus yesterday, but there isn't enough time in the world to tell you about even half of the tiny but crucial interactions between the people we've met. All the jokes and shared stories, the smiles and commiserations alike.

I can't be any more plain. These are people. Flesh and bone like all of us. Every one of them deserves a chance at life and to find happiness in a dreary, dangerous world. I've met so many of them, most for only short periods of time, yet I feel that urge to protect. To do what I can to make things better.

This isn't just a trade mission anymore. It's growing into something bigger. More important. That could just be my ego talking, trying to make the miles and danger and time away from home seem worth it.

But I'll tell you this: I've made a few trade agreements with Sparta that benefit them more than us. Because the vital resources they lack are very dear to them, we're giving a little more. And they know it. They know I did what I could to help them, backed by my people in New Haven. They're grateful. We're glad to help.

Our medical supplies might save the lives of their children. A small act of kindness goes a long way. We've seen how badly that can go lately.

I'm thrilled to see some positive results now, too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blame The Walrus

Rachel made an excellent comment on my last post. She pointed out the importance of maintaining our humanity, in believing that even people who've done the terrible things the captured marauders have done might be helped. She posed the possibility that they're sick...or maybe they aren't.

I was angry and hurt when I wrote it, and if one lesson has shone forth in the last year and a half, it's that the worst thing we can do as survivors is to forget our most basic humanity. Those men will be tried for their crimes. I'm not saying that killing them is wrong, I still feel it's completely deserved. But there is a difference between killing men in the field who are actively holding captives and killing them while they're captives themselves.

I was upset, but I blame the walrus.

That's an inside joke among my team. As I was thinking about my rash words the other day, so casually suggesting throwing those six men to a pack of zombies out of hand, I felt guilty. I got my head on straight, tried to remember the basic but vital differences between Us and Them. No false modesty here: I think people like me, who've tried to help as many others to survive as possible are just better people than marauders. We have a moral line that we try not to cross.

And honestly, sometimes it's the little things that keep me from slipping across the line. Enter: the walrus.

When we set out on this trip, the necessities of the journey meant that creature comforts would have to be limited. None of us brought books to read, or virtually any personal items. Space in our trailer is cramped and weight is an issue. Our tiny travelling world is bare.

On the second night out, Becky and I were jammed onto the tiny bed while Will was driving. She and I aren't strangers to sharing a mattress, as she often crashed on my giant bed back home with Jess and whoever else might have needed a place to flop at my house. Funny how desperate times breeds new comfort levels...

So the limited sleeping space wasn't really an issue. Becky and I share warmth and space. Will, unfortunately, wasn't paying much attention to the road for some reason. He hit a big pothole, and the trailer actually bounced. We were thrown off the bed, which flipped over on top of us. Only our dignity suffered wounds. We are, after all, survivors of the zombie plague. Hardened colonists in a frontier of the dead. It was clearly below us to have our asses handed to us by a bed.

Beds are tricky bastards.

As we untangled ourselves and straightened out the trailer, Becky noticed a stowaway. It was a small stuffed walrus. Someone had put it under the hard board the mattress was mounted on. No idea who.

I made my way up to the cab of the truck, and harangued Will about his driving. I didn't realize I still had the walrus in my hand, Becky having handed to to me. Will took being berated by a stuffed-animal wielding, sleep deprived maniac with stoic passivity, then calmly said the following:

"Don't look at me. Blame the walrus."

I laughed. Totally out of proportion to the hilarity of the statement, I laughed. I had tears in my eyes.

Since then, when something goes wrong, "Blaming the Walrus" is an acceptable option. It isn't always used. The timing and situation are critical. It makes us laugh. It's a silly, irreverent thing, more suited to small children than my team, or so you'd think.

The whole idea of it strikes me as something special and important. Just as the walrus shows that we consistently refuse to give in to despair at the state of the world or the difficulty of our lives, choosing instead to find laughter and light where we can...

...So does treating even the worst of men and women with a base level of respect and due process show that we are, at least in some small way, different than they. Better. We have to choose as honorable a path as we can. Rachel was right, completely. We have to take a stand somewhere on the right side of honor.

Survival is not enough. Our choices bring meaning to our struggle. They should be the right ones, that can be looked back on with pride...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I went out with a group of hunters this morning. I'll say this: the people of Sparta may only hunt seasonally, but they know their craft well. We brought down two deer, three ducks, several rabbit, emptied a dozen traps that contained squirrel...and we caught ourselves six marauders.

The last were an unintended bonus. We caught them releasing several prisoners. The ladies I was hunting with questioned them very, very carefully.

It turns out that many groups of marauders keep in touch with each other quite often. They wouldn't divulge the details of that, at least not when I was with them, but whatever means of communication they're using is faster and more reliable than the system of coded symbols left behind as messages to other marauders that swing through a given area.

The ones we nabbed this morning had the bad luck to be passing through. The central living area of Sparta is very well hidden, almost impossible to see until you're within a hundred feet of it. The marauders thought they were moving through an area bereft of human beings. That we happened to see them offloading their unwanted captives was a stroke of luck.

These particular men are part of a larger group. The locals have them locked up for now, waiting to see if their friends come looking for them. While they're...guests here, the leadership of Sparta has given Mason and Will permission to be present and participate in the questioning. That's going on right now. Mason will send Will out to update me when and if he hears anything of interest.

Steve, Courtney, and Becky are all out on a scouting run into the countryside. They want to see if the local zombies are developing any new traits aside from learning to work together. Steve is in charge of their group while they're out, though that's kind of a loose term. All three can look out for themselves, and know how to work together. My team is practiced at that.

I'm interested to see what Steve and the others find, and equally curious what the captured marauders have to pass on to Mason and Will. Given the state of the captives the marauders let go, I'm not inclined to believe they were being compassionate. The poor souls were almost starved, and their clothes were basically just rags. They had no food, water, or tools. They would have been lucky to last the night. Very lucky.

Still, the freedom to walk the world without fear of abuse...I imagine those folks would have seen their last hours as the best in their lives. We found them, brought them to safety. They're having a hard time understanding that Sparta is somewhere they won't be molested or beaten. It's so much more than they probably hoped for.

It's looking like the marauders were doing their best to look like anything but what they are. Letting those people go, in this case, appears to be self-serving. I'm hoping for better, that there was some kind of moral imperative, but I doubt it.

Hey, maybe Steve and the girls will find a nice cluster of hungry zombies that know how to work together. It would be interesting to see how they function against living, thinking human beings. The six marauders should make adequate test subjects.

Here's hoping the leaders here find those half-dozen guilty. You know...for science.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tracking Changes

All across the country, people are seeing changes in the undead, now that they know to look for them. There are obvious ones, like the extra-tough zombies we ran across, and more subtle differences. Reports indicate that some zombies are working in coordinated, leaderless units when they hunt. Others point to some smarties, the smart version of zombies, becoming sharper and even more clever.

The advantage human beings have over the mindless swarms is that they're mindless. We're clever and can think on our feet. We face an enemy that for the most part has been predictable and relatively easy to kill. The game is changing on us, and no one likes it. The good news is that we've managed to catch many of these changes before they could be sprung on us.

The community we're in right now, our latest stop, is the one that's noticed the small coordinated groups. It was something the survivors had to look for, but once they saw it the truth became obvious.

It's only in the last few weeks that they've had to start hunting. Most of the year the residents here (the folks call it Sparta) just trade for most of their food. What they farm and hunt gets stocked up for the winter. Though I've never mentioned it by name, I've talked about Sparta before. They're the people who're sitting on top of a stock of fuel whose volume is measured in the tens of thousands of gallons. This stop is especially important, as Sparta is bound to become a hub of activity. We're negotiating trades for fuel to make pretty much every other trade we've brokered possible.

As I said, they've just now started hunting for the season. A couple of their hunters, some very sharp-eyed women who look as tough as Mason, noticed movement in the distance. They thought it might be a deer, so they stalked very carefully in the direction of the motion.

It was a deer, all right. And four zombies took it down in about twenty seconds. One startled it, flushing the animal out into a small copse of trees, and another popped out in front of it to make it stop. That was when the other two hit it from the sides, breaking the poor thing's legs and tearing into its flesh.

Apparently, those particular zombies are pretty fucking strong as well. Deer are all muscle.

The hunters (huntresses?) made a quick and quiet retreat back to Sparta, where they reported the odd behavior. That was a few days ago, and further observation has proven this to be a trend in the area rather than a one-time thing.

Coordination like this would only be truly dangerous for a person alone, unarmored and unarmed. I don't know any survivor anywhere that would be out alone without protection and something bite-proof on. So I'm not as much worried about the activity itself as I am what it portends.

We've dealt with marauders. That's had its ups and downs, but generally their numbers are so small compared to the rest of us that they aren't a threat to any given group of survivors. We've faced a lot of threats, and until now I thought we had the primary one, zombies, under control. The rules are changing right in front of us. We can't be sure of anything anymore.

Some of the worst damage done to my own home was at the hands of Smarties. The major attack this summer was run by a small group of maybe fifty smarties somehow commanding a horde of over five thousand regular undead. Fifty moderately intelligent beings, and the force they brought against us was nearly fatal.

You know what I'm thinking. I'm imagining what even fifty VERY smart zombies could do. Just by themselves. Worse would be their capabilities when blessed with a contingent of extra tough or strong zombies. Or ones that can work together seamlessly. Or god knows what else.

It's good that people are being proactive. I'm glad to see we aren't brushing aside the threat or marginalizing it. Survival is a long-term game.

One I intend as many of us as possible to win.

Monday, October 10, 2011


All the drama of the last few weeks has almost been enough to make us forget the most pervasive threat to human beings in the world today. Zombies have become a part of the background for us, albeit a dangerous part, but every so often something happens that reminds every survivor how dangerous it is to marginalize them. 

We've seen the undead, or at least the organism that animates them, evolve to meet the needs of the environment around them. When The Fall began, some zombies were slow, shambling creatures. Some were fast, better coordinated. Then smart zombies started appearing, with the ability to infect a small percentage of others with their own version of the plague, sort of upgrading normal ones into smarties. When the cold became too powerful, the plague mutated again, making the zombies functional when the temperatures dropped. We've even seen one example of a zombie, who is still held captive in New Haven, that produces a...discharge that acts as some kind of territorial marker that drives away others of his kind. 

I'm told that Evans, New Haven's head physician, has finally given it a name. George. 

Early this morning, we came across a scene that stopped us in our tracks. Mason, Will, and I were out hunting before we left out toward our next stop when we stumbled upon a group of undead in the woods. They were inert, laying in neat lines in a small clearing. That isn't unusual; when there's a lack of food, most zombies will go into a deep rest mode to conserve the stores of liquefied proteins and fats they keep in their bellies. Hunting parties run across them fairly often, and for the most part smaller groups aren't that dangerous. They take twenty or thirty seconds to get going once they know you're there. Plenty of time to start running or, alternately, go on a killing spree if you're so inclined. 

These were different. Will noticed it, and signaled for Mason and I to look carefully. Each of the six zombies laying before us had strangely rough skin, darker than the medium grey normally associated with the undead. The closest thing I can compare it to was leather, covered in small, fine wrinkles. Will took a few steps into the clearing to get a closer look, which was when they woke up. 

We managed to kill all six of them, but it was a lot harder than it should have been. Their skin really was tougher than normal, and there were strong, fibrous growths in their necks that made hacking off heads one hell of a chore. We ended up going for the old classic: breaking their heads. Causing severe head trauma is the safest and easiest way to do it. 

Except, their skulls were thicker. Will kept one of the heads to study, and he thinks the bone is about twice as thick as it should be. There was also a pretty dense layer of the same fibrous stuff under the scalp. 

I'm putting out the word as widely as I can. Word needs to be spread if these things start showing up more elsewhere. I can't tell you where we found them on this blog, but send me a message if you've encountered something like this. We're on the road in ten minutes, heading southwest. We'll be at our next stop by tonight if all goes well, and will stay for a day or two. I'll do what I can to look into reports from anyone else who's seen these things then. 

Keep your eyes open. I don't like this...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stuck In The Middle

My team and I set out from the nice, comfortable cluster of communities we've spent so much pleasant time in. Carlyle's warm atmosphere, polite people, and safe streets are now behind us. We've done a lot of good, mostly boring and complicated trade agreements. But the bad still follows each member of my team in their thoughts. 

It's early, just a bit after six in the morning. We decided to camp for a day or two, all of us spending some quiet time together to wrap our heads around the insanity of the last several weeks. Things with the marauders have calmed down, and I'm tentatively going to say that I think they've stopped the mass killings of their captives. 

We've been gone from home a month, and the changes in my team seem too drastic for such a short period of time. Rachel is more somber than I've ever seen her. She's always been so...I don't know what the word is. Carefree isn't it. Maybe it's just the relentless energy that comes with her curious nature. Whatever that bright spirit in her is, it's more tempered now. Captivity didn't treat her well, and seeing so many die as a result of our choices has made her a little darker. More contemplative. 

Will, on the other hand, gains confidence with every day. Out here he isn't treated as a criminal. He's a valuable resource to our team and he knows it. Even on his worst days back in New Haven, will was calm, collected, and controlled. He acted the part of penitent lawbreaker to the letter. He was crushed by the guilt of the choices he'd made. He's unhappy about the events of the last few weeks, but overall his attitude has brightened. 

Steve, always funny and ready with an incredibly nerdy quip, is mostly silent now. His entire personality is hidden most of the time. I talk to him pretty often, and I see glimpses of the laughing friend I've known for more than a decade. They're gone in a flash, hidden behind the armor he's pulled tight around his mind. I think someone as gentle and sweet as Steve just isn't meant for a world this harsh. It's a crime to see him hurt so badly that he has to shut out everything just to get by. 

Mason is...Mason. He deals with it. He moves on. 

Becky makes it a point to lose herself in work at every opportunity. She's a fair hand at mechanical things, so she works on our vehicle and trailer a lot. She's got a brain that runs like Ferrari's engine, and I know she can't shut off the constant replay that goes through it. Our choices, our actions, and the consequences of them. She plays over the scenarios over and over again. I've seen her wipe away tears when she thinks I'm not looking. I've felt her shiver on the bed next to me when we go to sleep. It breaks my heart. 

And me? As if you need me to tell you, right? I pour my soul out almost every day. You see it. You know. 

This morning is cool. It's a brisk fifty degrees. I'm the only one awake, safely tucked away as we are and not needing guards. I've heard words of comfort from every friend I have. I've come to the same conclusion that every person who's ever had to deal with unintended consequences has come to: I can't change the past. 

I can only choose to move forward. If there is such a thing as Karma, it may come around to bite me in the ass. I can't fight it if it does. I know I'm a more careful man for the horrible events of the last weeks, and a colder and more calculating one as well. The fire inside me that has always pushed me to act, to help, to save, is just embers now. I'll be more cautious. I'll do what I can, but never again can I let so many monstrous acts spring from my kindness. The past is over, and a new day is breaking over the land. There are a lot of other places we've got to be. 

We've got a mission. A job. Purpose. 

Better get to it. 

Friday, October 7, 2011


I'm exhausted. I've only had a few hours of sleep in the last few days. Between coordinating trades and trying to keep abreast of the situation going on with the marauders across many states, I haven't had much time for rest. I ate something, though. That's good, right? I think it was yesterday morning.

Mason is making me lay down. He's pulling rank, as it were, by pointing out how weak and tired I am and how fresh and strong he is. He told me he'd put me in bed forcibly if I refused. I asked to write a blog first.

For the record, that big fucker is way more scary when he's talking to you calmly than when he's out murdering the hell out of zombies. Just putting that out there.

The reason I was so insistent is because the number of bodies being found has dropped to nothing. In fact, one group of marauders did something...unprecedented. They let their captives go. Alive.

I'm not hopeful this will become a trend, and frankly it confuses me. It's not in keeping with what I've observed about the kind of people marauders typically are. Their psychology is surely a lot more complex than I can imagine. Some people, a very small fraction of a percentage, probably had the perfect storm of mental problems or just plain evil waiting inside them for a trigger. Seeing the rule of law disintegrate overnight might have done it. Maybe watching loved ones die was the cause.

Some of them might be caught up in group hysteria. There are a lot of possible causes for men and women to do the things they do. What I have to wonder now is whether or not the recent actions of the captives we freed have made a few marauders reconsider their lives. The things they do.

Was this a single act of goodness, or a desperate gamble for self-preservation? The results for that group are the same as if they'd killed their captives instead of making them free men. They'll be able to blend in if they choose. Pretend to be normal people, the kind that don't rape and murder innocents. Why leave witnesses alive? Why take that risk if they were so afraid of the consequences of being caught?

It's something I'll have to sleep on, and that's not a turn of phrase. Mason is flipping one of those extendable batons in his hand. It's as close to subtle as I've seen him get.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stemming the Tide

In the last day, I've sent out emails, made calls, done anything I can to halt or even slow the number of captives being killed by marauders around the country. I find myself in the odd position of giving the marauders the comfort of knowing no one is hunting them. There's no freelance vengeance squad after them. Even now, in the aftermath of the zombie plague, rumor still has a curious power to move faster than the speed of light. 

I don't know if it's working or not, but hopefully time will tell. My efforts may end up coming to nothing, but I can't sit idly by and let innocent people be murdered because of my actions. 

I also can't afford to let this situation take over my life. As much as it pains me, I have to get back to doing the job I'm out here for. My team and I have barely seen each other since we came to Carlyle, who as a community have been gracious enough to welcome us in. Here, at least, the people seem to understand our urge to protect the innocents captured by the marauders. They applaud our decision to release them, even knowing the eventual repercussions. I wonder if they'd feel we were so blameless if the flames were licking at their own doors. 

That being said, I really do need to move on. I've got a pretty awesome bit of news that needs to be put out there for ALL survivors. 

A few days ago I got an email from home. Some of our scouts have been ranging to secluded areas not that far from New Haven, no more than a hundred miles. When you think of that radius, it seems a pretty small one to search over more than eighteen months. It isn't. And it's really hard to search all that space carefully. It's equally easy to miss the ridiculously obvious. We've been so hard up for food at times, hovering on the edge of starvation for weeks at a time. 

It's frustrating to know we were driving past dozens of acres of food without even realizing it. The problem lies in the fact that our scouts aren't farmers, and the fields in question are pretty far away. They're full of white clover. Which is edible and pretty nutritious. It has to be boiled for humans to more easily digest it, but that's not especially hard. We boil our water anyway. 

Literally tons of the stuff. And when the scouts mentioned it to some others, it started a frenzy. The thing about white clover is, it's invasive as hell. Once it starts growing in a place, it spreads and kills off other plants. Bad if you're trying to cultivate other food, good if you have thousands of acres of empty land and a huge supply of seeds. 

My folks have started looking for seeds, and it has been easy to find. They've got hundreds of pounds. There's an old abandoned store downtown that had ten huge bags sitting right out back. There's bound to be more. 

Soon, all the land we can manage to sow will be growing clover. Not this year, but early next. And every year it will spread. We're passing this on to as many others as possible. Eat it if you find it, use it to make the rest of your food supplies stretch. Mason and some others are putting together a list of other common edible plants. 

In what seems like an endless stretch of bad news, it's a bright spot. Maybe it will help ease the food problems all of us might face this winter. I hope so. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pandora's Box

Scattered all across the country, bodies are being found. Some are only pits filled with ash and bone, some are in piles six feet high. All of them are fresh. Recent. 

It's my fault. One brave group of survivors caught some marauders as they were making one such grisly pile. They were killing their captives one by one, bashing their skulls in and throwing the bodies into t ditch on the side of the road. The marauders were subdued and...questioned. 

The answer was simple: all along the lines of communication between the marauders, they're spreading the word that a group of people are killing men and women they find with captives. Anyone that looks like a marauder is treated as such. 

I don't know how many of them read this blog, but I'm sure some do. A lot of them don't have access to wireless communication, so they use etched symbols in places other marauders pass through often. Kind of like hobo codes. There's one that basically means, "Danger, eliminate captives". Once prisoners have been disposed of, a group of marauders looks like any other set of travelers. 

Hundreds of dead across the US because those men and women are worried some vigilante group is after them. This is too much. I can't even think straight right now. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wild Justice

Every one of the people we freed from the marauders, all the ones that stayed and fought them at least, have been executed. I'm told their deaths were as humane as possible. It's cold comfort.

The fire they started made its way to the group of survivors that held them prisoner. Thankfully the weather in that area turned, storms drenching the blaze before it could reach their home. That's the only way the fire could have done more damage to them, if it had consumed the buildings they live in. As it is, the future of the group is in the air.

The fire ravaged the entire area, killing game and destroying the late crops they'd been cultivating. The captives were being held until the final results of the forest fire they started could be fully appreciated. What started as a mission of justice against the worst kind of men ended with the destruction of livelihood for an entire group of peaceful survivors. I'm doing what I can to arrange food for them this winter to make up for this entire awful mess, but it may not be enough.

I've called on the goodwill of other survivors often. I've built a lot of personal credit with other groups, but those chips are running low. I've had emails from a lot of people telling me that I'm quickly becoming seen as a dangerous person to know. I've heard a lot of reasons. I made rash decisions. I act before I think. I involve myself in problems that aren't my own. I don't know how to keep my mouth shut.

At first, as I struggled to find trades to help those poor, burned-out people, I was angry. Every call and message was harder than the last. Even as I talked to people, they began to contact each other to spread the word that I was asking for help. One of the few truly stalwart group of friends I have, the leadership in North Jackson, told me about it. The whole situation boils down to me causing chaos. People are tired of going out on a limb to clean up after me.

The anger turned to depression. They're right. I've always seen myself as a good guy, but frankly everyone does that. No one is the villain in the story of their own lives. I've got a powerful sense of right and wrong, and the good I've done in saving others from the plague of zombies in no way makes up for every mistake I've made since.

All those people, the captives, suffered horrible things. My team and I tried to help them. Look at what we caused. Their deaths. The deaths of countless other captives. The destruction of land and animals that would have seen an innocent group of people through hard times. The deaths of those marauders, no matter how much they deserved it, doesn't make up for that. Does it?

I'm still wrestling with that thought. How many people since The Fall had those men and women tortured, killed, and raped? How many lives have been ruined? How many more were saved? The answer I keep coming up with is that I don't know. I can't know. It's all speculative. The facts in front of me, however, are concrete. The results that followed are there to see.

I'm trying hard not to wander off into a philosophical debate with myself here, but the concern that rises from this situation is one that is both important philosophically as well as practically. Morality has always had to shift and change with the times. Now more than ever we have to judge situations for what they are, for what the consequences will be. There's far too much at risk for rash behavior, no matter how heroic we might think they are. Would it have been better for us to leave the marauders be, and organize a force to attack them at a later time? I don't know how much damage they'd have done in the interim, but I know what damage we did by attacking.

This entire situation has been eye-opening. I find myself playing through hypothetical situations in my mind, what I'd do if confronted by a similar situation again. The same answer keeps coming up. Wait. Ignore the screams of the innocents. Gather more information. Plan an attack, gather forces, wait for an opportunity. Don't give in to my heart and the ache it feels for those under the power of monstrous men and women. I can't come to any other conclusion. I'd do it, if the day ever comes. I'd play the long game and plan for total victory rather than give in to the urge to rescue right then, to help regardless of consequences. The last few weeks have taught me that lesson. I've learned it.

And it frightens the hell out of me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I'm not dealing with the events of the last few days very well. I'm worried about the captives (now captives again) and still mourning their actions for the lives they cost. I'm still feeling guilty and responsible. I say this because this morning, right now, I am in Carlyle, the secretive community in close quarters to the Castle. And being here, seeing what the people of Carlyle have accomplished, makes it damn hard to feel down. If my tone seems changed, it's due to the inevitable reaction any person has on a gloomy day when rays of sunlight peek through the clouds.

The name Carlyle was adopted by the residents at random. They literally drew it out of a hat. Instead of keeping the same name, the people here decided that, for safety, a new one would be chosen. They're very particular about their security, and now it's obvious why.

This town has no walls. And it is a town. It's really more of a village, but the streets are clean, the houses in good repair, and it has an air of normality that I hadn't realized I yearned for until I took a tour of the place.

Sure, there are signs here and there that Carlyle has experienced fallout from the zombie plague. There are well-made outhouses behind most buildings, rain catchers that drain into cisterns all over the place. Not many vehicles to be found, though every one I did see was functional and clean. Every square foot of land that wasn't designed for travel is farmed. The houses all have foodstuffs growing inside them as well, some homes modified in ways to make use of their exteriors to grow food.

Those are the visual clues that this place has changed to meet the needs of the times. The really strange and nostalgic part is how bizarrely normal life here is. Kids play in the streets. People amble down sidewalks. I saw a couple sitting together on a bench eating popcorn as the unseasonably cold wind tried to knife through the large coat they snuggled under. They were giggling at some unknown and doubtless inside joke. It made me miss Jess terribly.

The terrain around these parts coupled with the general lack of undead in the area means they folks here never had to build a wall. We're in a rural area, one that's pretty far away from major highways. Not many people knew this whole region was here even before The Fall, now it's almost a complete unknown.

For all the people in the various groups around Carlyle that could let something slip about the region's population and existence, no one has. Overall it's a pretty smooth setup, and this little hamlet is the heart of it all. There's a massive field adjacent to the south end of the town that is many times the area of the town itself. That field is the nexus of how the local economy functions. It's the governing factor that oils interactions between the many nearby groups.

In it, a variety of animals live and die. Rabbit, deer, even duck. Mostly sheep. It's a really, really big pen. Wire fence seven feet high and three layers thick contains an assortment of livestock that could feed everyone here for a year if all the animals were slaughtered at once. I can't imagine the amount of effort it took to carefully remove every foot of fence they could find and relocate it here. The process took months, I'm told. Then having the patience to capture enough animals and sitting back to let them breed, even during the hungry times most of us went through during the winter? Amazing.

To be frank, I thought Carlyle would be full of standoffish people with little love for outsiders. I imagined a place hostile to new things, mainly because of the almost neurotic emphasis our hosts have for security and secrecy. Being here, seeing what conditions they live in every day, I totally get it. If this were my home, I'd stab the first person to threaten it.

Not one wall anywhere, and yet I don't see caches of weapons in strategic locations. New Haven is pocked with them. Carlyle isn't defenseless, of course--just outside the window of town hall, where I sit to type this, there's a group of ten young people, men and women, doing drills with spears. A few minutes ago it was knife practice. They're a part of the all-volunteer defense force. They look very comfortable and practiced with those weapons. Some of those kids have scars.

They've fought enemies here. Living men and the hungry undead alike. They've taken many of the same steps other groups have used for survival, and have made them work. It's part of a pattern I'm finally starting to see. Like every group of human beings, survivors grade themselves on a bell curve of how well they're doing. My own people are probably about three quarters the way over. Carlyle is almost in the right corner.

My naturally cynical nature combined with a lot of empirical data about how badly things can go is urging me to find some deep flaw here. Maybe the land isn't quite as forgiving as I've heard, and zombies could pour down from the hills at any moment. Or perhaps they kill anyone who reaches a certain age a la Logan's Run.

I kid, of course. I've seen a few elderly people around, some of my first since The Fall pretty much guaranteed death for anyone incapable of defending themselves. I want to believe it's as wonderful here as it appears to be. I just don't know if I can take that leap of faith.

I will say this much: though the houses are fairly new, and the whole place decidedly modern, Carlyle feels to me like the fifties. Or rather what movies and TV showed the fifties to be, since I was born in 1982. It feels safe in new (old) ways. It feels wholesome and pure. It feels like a small slice of Americana, something I haven't encountered. It feels like the world as it was, all thoughts of the world as it really is banished.

Home. That's the closest I can get to nailing the sensation down.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


The fire started by the captives is still raging. It has consumed a huge portion of the area the marauders were using as a gathering place. I've gotten a full report from the group the captives have taken refuge with.

The survivors of that group have imprisoned them for endangering the entire area. I hate thinking those people, who've suffered so much, are back under lock and key. But if their desire for revenge drove them to such dangerous lengths, I can't see how they can be allowed to roam free. So far the fire hasn't spread to the nearby community of survivors thanks to strong winds blowing in helpful directions. The locals are doing what they can to build firebreaks. It's going to have to be enough.

Every time I think I've got a handle on this insane fucking world we live in, something comes along and smacks us in the face. Zombies have spread like a plague across the earth? Check. Oh, then they started evolving in strange ways, forcing us to change tactics to match them. It's almost funny that the undead were the root cause of the destruction of human society, yet it's the dangerously unpredictable reactions of living people that threaten what we've managed to rebuild.

I feel partially responsible, and so does my team. We were the ones who freed the captives, stayed with them for such a short time and encouraged them to fight. On the one hand I find it hard to blame them for changing their own tactics when they realized the methods of fighting the marauders they were using wouldn't be enough.

On the other hand, they killed what I have been told was around fifty to sixty people just like them. Captives we hadn't been able to get to and free. Chained and shackled in trailers and shacks, unable even to run as the flames sucked the oxygen right out of their lungs before scorching every inch of them. The marauders didn't give their captured victims a second thought as they ran from the flames. What disturbs me is the fact that the freed captives who set the fires didn't either.

The whole situation begs the larger question: how much consideration should we give to our interactions with people now? Hindsight is a tricky bitch, because she tells me now that maybe giving those men and women their freedom was the wrong thing to do. Yet at the time, it was the only right option.

I'm not usually one to get overly worked up about the consequences of other people's actions. If these had been healthy, undamaged human beings I would just be angry at them. They aren't. They're hurt and frightened, furious beyond comprehension, and they've got every right to be.

My mistake, our mistake, might have been in not realizing how damaged they are. The captives have suffered through things that no living creature should ever know. We freed them like heroes out of some story, and we gave them a small portion of our time before pushing them in the direction of their enemies with a casual 'Go get 'em!'. We had tunnel vision about them. All we saw was the pain, and we missed what the pain caused.

Some men are monsters waiting to happen. All it takes is the right context, the proper circumstances, for the shell to crack and fall away. That's what marauders are.

The captives were made into monsters. They suffered, were broken, and when the healing began all the pieces fit together wrong. Bent on revenge with no consideration for the ramifications of their actions. No one to tell them no, no one to urge caution and restraint on them. Least of all me and mine. The marauders shattered them, but in the final analysis the facts can't be ignored.

My people and I are the ones who set them in motion. We're the ones who put their feet on the path and stoked the embers of their rage into flames. We urged them forward with justice in mind.

That makes us murderers every bit as much as they.