Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Night's Song

We spent the day and evening with Karen and her folks, and they were happy to accommodate us by graciously not actually trying to attract zombies to our location. Yeah, they do that. They don't try to bring in a swarm or anything, but there are they do sleeping in shifts, so at least five of them are always awake. 

They try to get the attention of any wandering zombies nearby by singing. Softly at first, then louder if a fair amount of time goes by without an attack. The idea is to A) kill zombies, which is pretty much their whole thing, and B) grab the attention of any undead so that the ones sleeping aren't murdered while they're dreaming. 

They didn't do that last night, instead just keeping a standard watch. A few of them did sing as they sat around the fire, though it was too low to carry more than a dozen feet. One of the singers, an older man named Nelson, has a wonderful voice. I didn't ask if he'd been a professional singer before the fall, but he could have been. Even pitched not to carry, the sounds coming from between his lips were clear and strong, smooth against my ears. 

Karen's people don't have a set list of songs they do or anything. They just sing, whatever happens to strike them. Nelson is a fan of belting out very loud opera in languages I don't understand, and he sang one to me last night. It was a quiet thing, meant for the ears of us around the fire. He sang in Italian, a haunting flow of subtle notes that went beyond language. I didn't have to know the words to understand the story. 

It was a sad song, bringing to mind all the loss we've suffered. Parts of his song had edges, rough pieces that contained trace anger. I found myself thinking about everything that's gone now, all the potential the world no longer has in it. As Nelson breezed through the words, I remembered every friend who'd passed too soon, every family member lost to this cold, dark world and its hungry citizens. 

It put me in a mood, let me just say that. 

I've been down lately, but I've tried to keep my chin up. It's getting harder. More and more, I feel as though I've let my friends and remaining family down back home. I've fostered so much discontent, rightly or not, that I was essentially forced out on this trip. Is our goal a worthy one? Absolutely. I'd have done it even if I thought there was a choice involved. I miss my wife terribly, and I know she misses me. I don't feel like I've failed them because I'm gone. I feel that way because I've had a lot of time to think about my actions and words since The Fall began, and I truly regret not doing more to broker peace and build bridges. 

Nelson's song stuck a chord in the larger sadness that's been plaguing me off and on for months, but I'm glad for that. All of us have outlived loved ones, dear friends, even society as we knew it. We've all got the ghosts of terrible choices haunting us. 

But the real lesson here is that we've got more to lose. Every one of us has some stake in the world even as it is now. It may be something as simple as a mission--say, to kill zombies so that others might be safe--but if we didn't have a reason to struggle and fight...I don't think most of us would. Not with the weight of our traumas cutting into our hearts. Each of us goes on for some reason, some driving force, and it's our responsibility not just to do what it takes to keep going, but to do so in the best way. 

I've been up all night thinking about this. Nothing that's happened since The Fall is as black and white as any of us might think. I know our trouble with the homesteaders might have been dealt with better. Betrayals aren't necessarily all of a kind, are they? Maybe we've acted too rashly and with more haste than we should, and I deeply regret my role in pushing people toward that. Not to mention acting that way myself on more than one occasion. 

Regrets are a part of life, just like everything else. We deal, we move forward. We must. 

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