Monday, January 23, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land

The chimes we had set up around the camp yesterday did go off, but it was only one of New Haven's scouts coming to get us. We were led home over safe roads, untouched by whatever shadowy group is moving around the area making trouble and setting traps. I'll get to them some other time, because today is about one thing and one thing only: coming home.

I cried when I came through the gate. I've missed this place so much, and pushed that feeling into the back of my mind for so long that when New Haven came into view, I couldn't stop the flood of relief. So long away from home and so many changes have happened. It's hard to know where to begin.

New Haven itself looks different. When we left all those months ago, the stone walls had just been put up. Many of the additions to them were missing and several finishing touches not even begun. Dodger and Dave had been busy men while we were away. The walls are festooned with homemade guns, bolstered with spikes and walkways, and there's now a solidly constructed chain-link fence all the way around the top of it. There are sections of the chain link that open like windows and doors spaced all around the perimeter. Where the hell Dave found so much pristine fence is one of many questions floating around the back of my head.

I've been kept in the loop about some things that have gone on in New Haven since we left, but not being in charge of day-to-day operations meant that a lot of stuff wasn't included in those reports. The project I was planning on starting before I left, a giant heat-powered refrigeration unit, is done. Once the parts we needed came in, Dave set to building it with gusto. Being able to store meat without fear of it spoiling is a huge advancement for us. Bless Ferdinand CarrĂ© for inventing the absorption refrigerator. When he realized how efficient the thing was going to be, Dave built it much larger than the original design called for. We've got enough food stocked up in there to take us through a very lean month or two.

Maybe I'm going on about my brother's work too much. With fair weather for much of the time we've been gone and a large workforce to draw on, Dave has accomplished a lot. I'll get into more of that in other posts. I'm home now, there's time for things like that.

I wish I could tell you that I'm a good person and went to visit all my friends, but I totally didn't do that. I went home, kicked the small gathering of people out of my house, and got reacquainted with my wife. Three times.

(I'm cleverly pointing out that I had lots of SEX yesterday. In case you missed that.)

Jess is looking good. She was getting skinny not long before I left because of the food shortages, but the fall and winter have been good to her and New Haven. She's healthy and strong, as well as eager to show me some of the new skills she's been learning while I've been away. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a little frightened that she wants me to wear armor for one of those demonstrations.

With her, it feels like I never left. Jess is a paradox that way: in many important aspects, she's as steady and unchanging as you could hope for. She's endlessly curious and evolves as a person with a speed that surprises most people, but the core of who she is never changes. She's my wife, my love, my perfect other half. There was no awkwardness between us, no nervous shuffling about. Just joy.

The rest of the place, though...

So much has changed here that you'd think we were gone for several years rather than several months. I'm stumped as to how so much work has been accomplished, even with the easy times New Haven has had lately. I'll have to ask Dave how he managed it, and where all the new materials came from. It's not just buildings or extra supplies whose origins I'm unaware of, either. The people are different. There's an air of relaxation and contentment that is completely new.

That caught me off guard, I'll admit. My folks took in Kincaid and his group of marauders not too long ago. I was sure there would be some obvious signs of distrust and tension, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Either I'm way too cynical, or Kincaid is doping the drinking water with something.

The sad thing is, I'm halfway considering asking Becky to check the water out.

I've been lazing about the house enough since I've been back. Will is being seen to by Evans and Phil, and by Gabby all last night. I didn't get to see any of them because I'm a sex maniac, but I should get off my ass and go say hello to a few people. But before any of that, I have something very important to do.

Will went with us on this trip of his own volition, even though he was still technically a prisoner. He risked his life time and again with no thought of escaping. I'm heading over to talk to a few people on the council, maybe even try to see Rich, our judge. Will has more than earned his freedom, and I intend to see he gets it.

I admire Will more now than ever. He's faced the hordes of undead at my side and at times taking the lead. He has protected us all, thought creatively, and done his utmost to serve the needs of the group. He kept Rachel, one of my oldest friends, from despair when they were captured together. Enough is enough.

There are a lot of things to look into, a dozen little mysteries to explore, people to catch up with, duties to resume, lost friends to mourn...

But I'm home. We're home. And it's a sweeter homecoming than I thought possible

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