Sunday, February 26, 2012


We live in profoundly strange times. Sometimes the weirdness of the world as it is now can become a part of the background so that we forget the moments in time, the events both good and bad, that shape the present we live in.

I said yesterday that I'd explain why I'm not as upset about the Exiles being able to freely thrive despite the horrible things they've done. As it's another dangerously cold morning and the zombie swarms are quiet, I'm going to take a good deal of time to write this post. I think it's important to give perspective and to explain how a viewpoint can change so much over time. Or rather, how a viewpoint can change with the times.

I've been turning this over in my head for the last day. I've been struggling to put in words the concept that sometimes you just have to let things be. And how you have to do that even for acts that are so contrary to civilized society that it makes you taste blood at the idea of not handing out justice.

A few thoughts. Not perfect comparisons by any means, but I think I've managed to get close enough to make my point. That being said:

When explorers many centuries ago traveled across the oceans, they lost people. Colonists and pilgrims, conquistadors and mapmakers, all of them faced the same sets of odds. Each of them knew when they left home that they'd have to beat some heavy odds in order to make a new life or a fresh discovery. Most of them chose to make those trips.

We didn't have a choice.

But like any settlers,we've moved into a world entirely different from the comfortable one we grew up in. We've done awful things to survive. Almost all of us have had to kill living people as well as the undead. We've done so without mercy when needed. Think about that for a minute. I know most of you have given it some reflection, and I obviously have over the last two years on this blog, many times.

Think hard. Could you have seen yourself burning alive a rapist or shooting an attacker in the heart two years ago? Not as an abstract, I mean. Not in your stray thoughts. I mean in the harshest, most realistic terms. Was there ever a point in your life that you imagined the things we have to do on a regular basis would even be possible for you? I know I didn't.

Now that you're in that frame of mind, another question: could you have imagined a circumstance, any circumstance, in which you'd allow a murdering rapist who ravaged the lives of peaceful human beings to get away with it?

I've said a lot about the standards by which we live on this blog. I've said that some actions, some behaviors, can't be ignored. That a response must come no matter what the cost. As much as it pains me to admit it, as dirty as it makes me feel, I was wrong. A part of me wants to believe that the Exiles are redeemable. I want very badly to hold on to some shred of possibility that our enemy, those very same murdering rapists, could come to a moment of enlightenment. That guilt could drive them to submit to justice by others if for no other reason to attain some kind of atonement.

I don't believe that, which makes the whole thing so much worse.

If the Exiles choose to make a go of building a home of their own in a truly long-term way without going back to the awful deeds that made them infamous, I can live with that. I can go on about my business for the rest of my life knowing they might never pay for all the lives they've ruined. I can suppress the rage and sense of injustice it springs from...pretty much forever.

I can do that because much like those intrepid people who left the old world for the new, I recognize that some fights aren't worth the cost. Should I push my people toward more warfare, surely to be destructive to us, possibly fatal to our community, simply to quiet the rage inside me? Should we as a community be allowed to let that rage, felt in every heart among us, to overcome our sense of self-preservation and build into an urge to destroy that can't be stopped no matter how badly we'll damage ourselves?

I know what some of you out there are thinking. I've made the arguments myself many times. People like the Exiles aren't deserving of the first grain of consideration. For the safety of everyone else, they must be eliminated.

I still think that, but the larger problem is that my own people are deserving of consideration. We've been beaten stupid more times than I can count. We've been hurt in so many ways you could write a definitive work on the subject of human suffering with our stories. All we've ever wanted to do is live our lives without more fear of the future than absolutely necessary. The Exiles have done so many horrific things, but for now they're keeping to the truce. They aren't hurting anyone right now, and it would be profoundly stupid for us to pursue a war with no possible good outcome when we don't have to.

On a personal level, I'm tired. Not in a world-weary suicidal way. I've stood and fought many times in defense of my life, those of my friends, my home, my principles. I'm not eager to do it again unless I absolutely have to. The last two years have been insane in many ways and on a dozen different levels, and I'd give anything for some peace and time to grow.

Even, as it turns out, my conscience. I'll never forget the things the Exiles have done, to us and to the victims they've preyed upon over the last twenty-four months. But like the oceangoing colonists before me, I can witness the horrors, be aware of them, and recognize the reality that trying to make amends just isn't compatible with surviving.

Nothing is static. Human beings are, at their best, incredibly dynamic creatures. We evolve constantly, (in the case of the zombies themselves, in a literal sense) shaping our views in the now based on our experiences. Holding to a set of moral standards, like not suffering people like the Exiles to live, is a very pretty and noble attitude to have.

Right up until it gets you killed, that is.

Time will tell if the situation with the Exiles will remain nonviolent. I don't expect any particular outcome. Things change, and a time might come when the enemy decides that attacking us is off the table, but they want to pick up their old habits again and go after weaker, smaller groups. If they do, we'll see what happens then.

For now, we've got relative peace. Spring isn't far off, and with it comes a lot of hard work. Too much time and effort is wasted on fighting, and it's time we make the call to set aside the more extreme elements of our principles and deal with the fact that sometimes the bad guys don't die in the end.

And for that matter, that in reality the lines between the good guys and the bad guys is often fuzzy and ill-defined. After all, what kind of heroes (if that's what we're supposed to be) allow this kind of injustice to go by unpunished?

We're people. Survivors. We do the best we can, but we're imperfect. Our ultimate responsibility is to ensure the continuation of our community, no matter how many sleepless nights it may cost us. And I do see a few of those in my future.

But I'll get over it. When you're on rough seas and the ships around you flounder in the storm, sometimes the only choice is to sail on.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Up On High

We've still got people watching the fallback point on a continual rotation even though it's tough to spare the extra people at the moment. We're feeling the recent losses in emotional damage and in more concrete terms as those of us still walking the world of the living struggle to prepare for the planting season.

Not just that, but we've got loads of other things to work on, one of the most important being resuming trade. Now that there are no easy ways across the river nearby, we and our allies feel it's safe to begin trading along alternate routes. That's a big part of why we're still mounting a full scout team at all times to keep an eye on the exiles. That's going to be harder to manage when the weather gets permanently warm but we'll find a way.

As it is, the psychotic force of mother nature has given us another cold snap intense enough to drive off the zombies. It's a blessing and a curse, since the unpredictable rise and fall of temperatures is hard on us and our plans for the growing season. One night we're fine without fires, the next it's so frigid we have to spend half the night stoking our fires back up.

But hey, it keeps the undead away, and that's worth it.

We've decided to set up permanent watch stations on the various cliffs overlooking the fallback point. The fallback point itself is nestled on the flood plain of the Kentucky river, while our side of the divide has the high, sheer cliffs that define the river valley. given how much of this state is relatively easy to farm and not pocked with land prone to heavy flooding and huge shelves of rock tumbling off cliff faces, I fail to understand how the founders of Frankfort said, "Yep. This place will do. Let's build our town right on this flat bit that fills with water and hope we don't get smashed to death by boulders."

Still, it's advantageous for us. We were concerned about putting up any structures on the hills or cliffs overlooking the Exiles' new home. They lost a lot of equipment in the fight with us, but they still have a lot of dangerous long-range weaponry that makes any obvious buildings risky.

Our idea was to move in some simple prefabricated structures my brother came up with, basically just wooden boxes that collapse on hinges when the support pins are pulled. The fronts portions are armored in a very creative way that I'm told I can't share.

Dave had several of the boxes built and we hauled them into place. None of them have sustained any attacks from the Exiles. It looks like the enemy is abiding by the simple terms we gave them, at least for now. The only activity that's been reported inside the fallback point in the last few days is safe stuff, the Exiles working on getting their agricultural sections ready for planting.

It should bother me more that the Exiles really seem to be making their home here. Don't misunderstand, I'm not happy that people who have committed such atrocious acts are squatting on what is our land by rights. I'm not thrilled that they're not leaving, or that they're probably plotting some long-term moves against us.

But it should bug me more. I understand why I feel less upset than I should, but I'm saving that for tomorrow. After tomorrow's post, I may have to take a few days off to tend to many of the responsibilities I've shirked while we've been working on so many other things. A few days to focus on other things and get our house in order. I know you'l forgive me, or at least I hope you will.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Terrible Two

I try my best not to focus on the time that's passed, but no matter how much effort we mere humans put into it, we can't help but notice the turning of the seasons. I realized this morning as I walked through the greenhouses Jess supervises that we're just days away from ending our second full year living after the end of the world.

Some of you might be thinking in biblical terms, such as the rapture and those left behind. Some are probably considering all the apocalyptic fiction that you've encountered and how the reality differs. Maybe you're reflecting on how wrong the Mayan calendar was, since the world ground to a screeching halt far in advance of the advertised date in December of this year. I'd wager a few out there are even thinking about how hard the future will be, based on experiences so far.

Me, I'm thinking about radishes.

I've said before that our goal should be to look at the world and our place in it with a large degree of comparison. We have to consider how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go. To measure our achievements, survival chief among them, rather than days gone by. As I walked through the greenhouses with Jess, I realized that I hate radishes, and that there was enough food being grown that I wouldn't have to eat them. My wife's hard work in designing and managing the sprouts destined to be crops this year means that New Haven will be fed with a variety of foodstuffs in such quantities that we'll have choices in our meals.

For someone two years ago who had a hard time picking between two different kinds of frozen lasagna at the supermarket, this probably wouldn't seem world-changing. For me, now, having been hungry in ways that can only be described as third-world, it's close in accomplishment to the discovery of the DNA molecule or harnessing the power of the atom.

Okay, I'm probably being hyperbolic here, but you have to understand that I fucking hate radishes.

Granted, we've got enough troubles to write a century's worth of blues songs. The weather today is already warm and probably headed for balmy heights, which means more probing attacks by zombies. The Exiles aren't going anywhere and my crystal ball tells me they aren't going to give us a pass for dropping half their buddies into a river valley, so that's a comforting thought to carry around.

But dammit, we won't starve through it. With all the worries my people and I have, food hopefully isn't going to be one of them this year. Jess has truly taken ideas and made them her own. Some things she's growing aren't all that tasty, but we can easily grow in bulk--such as clover. Boil it, and it's not so tough to digest. The stuff grows just about anywhere, is relatively nutritious, and at present hundreds of millions of seeds are being spread everywhere we can drive. That, in addition to the clover seeds we spread last year, will give us a huge supply to draw on.

A stable food supply is just one example of the progress made here, and much of that has been achieved while I was away. I learned even more about the defenses after yesterday's post, and I'm now certain that any group of zombies is going to have a tough time getting inside the walls, regardless of numbers. There would have to be thousands for me to seriously worry. I'm gonna knock on wood, of course, because it's not as though we haven't fought that many at New Haven before.

There are plenty of reasons for us to get depressed and give in to worry. That's just honest fact. We could focus on the challenges ahead in a negative way, worry endlessly about the ever-present threat of zombies sneaking up and swarming us suddenly, too fast for the defenses to matter. We will certainly sweat as the Exiles rebuild their strength and call in new allies if they can manage it. Those things and the hundred tiny difficulties that come with daily life can weigh us down.

I'm not trying to sing a happy song and ignore all that. I'm not saying there won't be times when the hurt and worry will drive us to bed, shaking with the overwhelming stress of it all. Surely we'll have moments of weakness.

What I am saying is that we've survived more times and in more dire situations than your average group of settlers heading for the west two centuries ago. We've persevered, and even gone beyond mere survival or maintaining the status quo. We've done a lot of good for ourselves and others, created a complex trade system that will be instrumental in strengthening ties to other communities and rebuilding a larger society.

I'm just saying that when we're tending out wounded from the next unexpected zombie attack or fending off the advances of the Exiles or even just bitching about how hard everyday life is, we should remember that.

The funny thing about the future is there's always more of it to be encountered. Or defeated, conquered, or just plain won. It's going to be a rough journey, but remembering our victories is the best defense our hearts can mount against the many small defeats that will surely come.

So keep your chins up. No matter how long it takes, be it another two terrible years or twenty, we'll get there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Minor Threat

Being away from home for a long time has always been a surreal experience for me. When I was a kid I'd go visit my dad and other family in Illinois for extended periods of time in the summer, and coming back was strange. The house seemed smaller and small changes never ceased to throw me off. 

New Haven is constantly evolving, and that means any given day can bring a change you haven't been aware of. Stay away for months and you're bound to feel like a stranger when you see the new and amazing things your people have done in the interim. 

Hell, just since we've been back there have been a lot of alterations to the fabric of New Haven. War, losing people, gaming the broken system to put Will in charge and then fast-tracking elections to get the dangerously unpredictable councilors out of power. 

Then there's construction, which I've mentioned recently. We've got a functional refrigeration unit that can hold literally tons of food for us. We've got the fishing hut my brother took me to. The annex has been fully cleared and exploited for farmland, and some greenhouses have sprung up there as well. All over our little city on a hill, houses have begun changing as people convert their roofs into gardens where possible. A very large communal living building is going up, capable of housing nearly a hundred people. 

The most stunning change I've come across is the defenses, as I saw first-hand last night near dusk. 

Mother nature, being an insane bitch, hit us with ridiculous cold in the early morning but let the mercury rise all day. By the time the sun got close to the western horizon, it was in the high forties, maybe the low fifties. The sentries were on high alert, given the recent loss of so many people, and were using binoculars to watch for threats. Our people wanted to catch anything long before it could get to us. 

What they saw was a mass of zombies to the south, admittedly the hardest part of New Haven to defend. Far outside of bow range, the undead were too few to pose a threat high enough to justify picking them off with bullets. Estimates ran between thirty and fifty of them, and even from a distance we could tell they were new breed. An interesting aside--the cold weather has apparently been accelerating the change in the color and texture of the new breed's skin, making it much easier to tell them apart from regular zombies. 

The bulk of the group stayed where they were, a common scene among smart zombies. A smaller unit of ten new breed came toward the walls. The head sentry on duty called for the others to hold their fire, wanting to see what the approaching zombies would do. 

By the time the undead had made it to within three hundred feet of the wall, I was there. I watched them get closer, slowing as they moved. Clearly the zombies expected something, and it wasn't for us to just stand there watching them. They were being as cautious as it was possible to be when you're moving on open land toward an enemy fortification. 

Then they hit the first trap.

A lot of work has been done to make New Haven as safe against swarms as possible. One of the strokes of brilliance we had a while back was trying to make weapons that use compressed air as a firing mechanism, since in a worst-case scenario we can hand-pump air if our compressor is offline or the power is out. I had no idea how many people had taken the concept and run with it until last night.

The first zombie to step on a trap hit a switch buried in the matted tall grass, releasing a valve that filled a tube, which pushed a spear of wood straight up from the earth to a height of six feet, impaling the zombie from its crotch and clean out through the side of its neck. Damn thing tilted its head at the last second. But the spring-loaded barbs, a very simple design, popped out after the tip of the spear exploded from flesh and expanded, securing the length of wood in place and keeping the zombie from moving. 

I could almost swear the other undead gave each other looks at that point, as if to say, "Fuck this noise. We're out!". But they moved forward anyway. 

Other traps of similar design were sprung, as well as one of them falling into a well-disguised pit. By the time the remaining three of them got within a hundred feet, the zombies were clearly wary. Their dysfunctional brains, less astute than a living person's but far brighter than that of your average walking corpse, had picked up on the fact that getting anywhere near our wall had cost them the majority of their numbers. And that was just the hidden traps, the ones lurking out of view inside the earth. There were others, more obvious and avoidable, designed to slow down attacking zombies or damage them if they were pushed against them by the crush of a swarm. 

When they crossed that imaginary hundred foot line, the lead sentry gave a hand signal. 

With a hiss like some giant, angry cat, three air cannons let loose at one time. Each cannon aimed at one zombie, and the load of gravel and shrapnel that spread out had enough force behind it to travel that distance and still rip the undead to shreds instantly. It was like watching people explode but without all the pretty flames. 

Those cannons are insanely powerful. And our wall is covered in them. I'm starting to feel a bit better about our chances should the Indiana swarm make their way here. I haven't even touched on a lot of the other stuff, but I can't give away too much about what keeps us safe. We have enemies, after all. 

At any rate, I thought I'd share that. We've had a hard time lately and things are still gloomy at home. I felt uplifted by the show of defenses, not only for the safety they bring us but also because they represent the creativity and power of the human mind operating under terrible circumstances. And that's enough to make me smile. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Deafening Silence

We've heard nothing from the Exiles. Our watchers have seen minimal movement at the fallback point, almost entirely guards moving about on their rounds. For the moment we're working on the assumption that no news is good news and that the Exiles will abide without attacking us for now. If nothing else, they'd have to build up their numbers, weapons, and equipment again, since so much of what they had was lost when the bridge dropped.

Jess has tentatively allowed me back in our house, and I'm trying to appease her in any way I can. She still hasn't forgiven me, but I can live with what progress I've made. Now that the immediate threat is over, she is more open to listen to my point of view. Which I'm cautiously meting out in small doses, because she's still angry and has access to a high-powered rifle.

Our trick with the ammonia worked, driving the zombies away right at the Sherman-Minton bridge that connects Louisville with Indiana. We're not entirely sure where the swarm went after that, but some of our contacts in the Louisville area assure us that it wasn't across the I-65 bridge. Maybe the undead we put off their course are still in Indiana, wandering around looking for a way to pick up whatever trail they're following.

Which reminds me: we're now certain that the new breed can track scents over very long distances. We've had multiple reports from around the country in the last few days of people being attacked on the road, and then having some of the same zombies attack them again days or weeks later when the travelers had been at their destinations for a good while. One story related to me pointed out that during a zombie attack, the defender had cut the hand off a zombie, whose stump then brushed their vehicle. That same zombie appeared with a swarm to attack three days later. We've guessed for a while now a zombie's sense of smell is way more powerful than our own (or at least the organism that animates the undead can detect odors way better than we can, it's all semantics) but now we've got pretty convincing evidence that at least the smell of zombies themselves persists for a long enough time to act as a guide for other undead.

What I'm saying is that I seriously doubt the swarm we hit with the ammonia trap will stay away for long. If they find a way across the river, they'll eventually find us. Large groups of people attract zombies like moths to a flame, so there are thousands of scent trails leading right to us.

We'll deal with that when it comes. New Haven has been a flurry of activity over the last few weeks as the defenses have been bolstered again and again, so we've got little to fear from anything other than truly overwhelming numbers of zombies, even if they are new breed. Our home is set up to defend against even those tricky bastards, and the team and I have seen enough of their tactics to give us solid grounding to the rest of our fellow citizens. The new breed might choose to attack, but we'll have our eyes open for anything unusual.

Worst case scenario, we won't go down easily.

I have to say, I really miss Aaron. I've been so busy lately that I haven't had the chance to comment on him being gone, but I'm glad he left before all this insanity broke out. He's a gentle soul, a rare thing in the world as it is now, and the less horror he has to face, the better. I've got to catch up with him if he manages any kind of internet access soon so I can pick his brain. Aaron probably has some good ideas on the new breed, and I imagine he's put quite a bit of thought in their direction.

I still have that wound-up feeling, that tension all through my body and mind that screams to me that something bad is going to happen. Not that the sensation ever truly goes away nowadays, but it's intense at the moment. As if every second is the last before a soul-chilling scream splits the air.

Yet, there's nothing. The Exiles are holed up and beaten, surely planning but unable to reach us easily and too short on bodies to attack if they wanted to. The local undead are cleverly staying under the radar. I'm sure given the new breed's penchant for sneakiness, there are far more of them around than we think. Maybe the group heading toward the Exiles from the east is close. I don't know that anyone has checked on that, or even has the capacity to.

It's the silence that bothers me, I guess. The quiet in New Haven and the quiet outside the walls aren't good things. It isn't the dull absence of trouble that once brought us peace. It's the calm you hear before a tragedy, the dramatic pause before the serial killer strikes from the darkness.

That's the way it feels to me, but I have zero logical reason to feel that way. Just months of living on the road, usually in immediate danger of some kind, then weeks of record-level stress here. My mind is probably just overcompensating for the sudden cessation of dangerous outside stimuli. I'm sure I'll go back to normal (whatever that is) in a few days. For now, I'm going to fully embrace the fear and roiling sense of doom in my belly, which I can use as an excuse to curl up on my couch and be a curmudgeon.

On that note, I'm taking the rest of the day off. I'm sure tomorrow will be incredibly busy, and I've had precious little rest in the last few days. Maybe some isolation and mental decompression is what I need.

Monday, February 20, 2012


The fallout from our conflict with the Exiles is starting to settle. It's been a hard and tearful few days, as we've treated our wounded and consigned brave men and women to their funeral pyres. There's an overwhelming sense of sadness around New Haven right now, but also new shoots of hope rising through the ashes.

Our fallen friends and family will be missed, but even those most deeply wounded by their passing recognize the bravery with which their lives were given. Without those we lost and their willingness to stand against an enemy that seemed unstoppable, without their help in our desperate gamble, New Haven would likely be a smoking ruin. I've lost count of the times I've said this over the last two years, but thank you.

Not just thanks for those who died, but to those who lost loved ones in the struggle. The fallen have moved on from the danger and death that lurks around every corner in this world. It's you who are left behind that deserve equal respect. You've lost husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, best friends. A little bit of the light that brightened your world has gone out, and your lives are that much darker.

I see the pain on your faces and the tears in your eyes, yet you go on. You honor the memory of those lost in the best possible way: you live. And though your hearts are heavy, you'll soon laugh again, and enjoy warm days and sunsets from a home that continues to exist because of the generous hearts of people unwilling to bend or break in the face of annihilation. Once the wounds begin to heal, you'll take comfort in that.

You will not fall apart.

In the world that was, disintegration happened to people all too often. Life would strike one blow too many, and something deep and vital would break. We've been through too much, fought too hard to make it with all the world seemingly against us, to ever let that happen. It isn't a matter of strength, necessarily. I've seen strong people give in to depression. I don't know what it is, for sure, but I know that even as you hurt you see the need to use the lives and freedom that were bought and paid with the sacrifice of dear friends to the fullest.

There will always be threats. Zombies will, on those warmer days, move against us as they have from the first moments of The Fall. As long as the undead exist, our lives will be contingent on our wits, resourcefulness, and willingness to stand as one.

There will likely always be people like the Exiles as well. Human beings are bred to hate, to kill, to make war. Our genes make us our own worst enemy, and even among the most peaceful there will doubtlessly be born those who commit acts that run counter to that way of life.

We've seen all things fall apart. The world has ended in all practical senses of the term. Society as it was has fallen, infrastructure is mostly useless. Social, political, and governmental structure have all been reset to zero.

Yet here we are, working against entropy to build something new. Something that evolves as we choose it to evolve. Because we recognize that being human and being alive is only worthwhile and meaningful so long as we choose to find worth and meaning. We see the truth; that survival is a means to make a better life for those who come after.

So mourn our lost, as is fitting. But remember every moment of danger and effort that led us to right now. Remember to give silent thanks to the fallen, as I give written thanks to you. We hurt as one, but we're strong. Some of us will die, but the community will live on.

We're survivors. When things begin to fall apart, we are the ones who choose to put them back together.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Great Division

It's just after six in the morning, and I still haven't been to sleep. The world is a smaller place than it was yesterday, and it's because of some hard decisions that had to be made.

An interesting thing about the events of the last twenty-four hours: the local zombies have been keeping to themselves. I don't know if the new breed is beginning to understand what weapons and armor mean, but our people barely saw sign of the undead as they staged closer to the edge of the I-64 bridge than we've gotten in days.

The remaining span over the river was where we chose to make our stand, knowing the Exiles would have to take that path if they wanted to hit us with any kind of speed. In this, the enemy did not disappoint. We lost six people in the push to get close to the bridge, their damned snipers on the tops of the cliffs taking a toll on our fighters as our forces moved forward. Our people eventually did get in position, and a few of our own marksmen forced the enemy snipers to retreat.

Our people only beat the Exiles to the bridge by a few minutes. If we'd been a hair slower, I probably wouldn't be alive to type this right now.

The Exiles weren't interested in a prolonged confrontation across the bridge. Apparently worried about damaging it, they didn't use explosives of any kind as they slowly moved forward. Though we put as many people into the field as we could and still be able to defend New Haven, the Exiles outnumbered our forces by a wide margin. Our people did what they could, firing precious bullets with all the accuracy they could muster, but most of the time the volunteer warriors from New Haven had to hide behind armored plates. The Exiles moved across the bridge cautiously but with a constant hail of suppressing fire.

During the agonizing minutes it took the exiles to reach our side of the bridge, New Haven lost another twenty-one people. Three of those were from the group of allies in Shelby county, women we'd rescued from Tennessee. Four were from the new neighbors who've joined with us from the surrounding areas. Seven were soldiers from North Jackson.

Each of those lives lost are a blow to us, measurable in the loss of their productive and protective capabilities, immeasurable for the lost laughter and fellowship that left the earth with them. Their potential is forever gone. That is the price we paid to defend our home. That is the sacrifice those people knew they might make to give the appearance of a united and dedicated front.

Because once the Exiles got to the edge of the bridge, we detonated the explosives.

This was not a small, controlled piece of demolition designed to blow out the middle of the bridge and simply make it impassable. The reason our people got as close as they did was to make a good show, and to take out those snipers. We could probably have been closer, but the bombs were designed to literally rip the bridge apart and to utterly ruin the steep edges of the river valley they were attached to. The mistake the Exiles made was thinking that we wouldn't cut off our own hand to save the body. That we wouldn't destroy our best remaining way across the river. That our appearance at the bridge signified our determination to stop them with their tactics. Self-sacrifice doesn't seem to be a concept they're keen on.

Our best guess is that about forty percent of their people and weaponry were on the bridge when it went. The volunteer fighters from New Haven took withering fire, many giving their lives to guarantee as many of the enemy were on the bridge as possible when we took it out. Even those who survived the rain of bullets have suffered much more than anyone should--seeing friends die before them, splattered with the blood of allies. Having to make sure none of our dead would rise again as zombies. Terrible memories to carry.

But they carry them anyway. And I respect that choice just as much as I respect those we lost in the fight.

One major aspect of this assault we didn't anticipate, however, was that the Exiles would find a way to attack on two fronts. Even as the major assault group left the fallback point, another group about half the size of the first made their move. Maybe the Exiles assumed that the scouts we've had posted on the hills and cliffs around the fallback point would come back to New Haven once it became clear we were going to have to mount a defense.

Leave the enemy base unwatched during an armed conflict? I don't think so.

That was why we knew they'd pulled a trick on us. Will and I, along with many others, have constantly asked why the Exiles would stage so much right in front of our scouts knowing we were watching. The natural assumption is that the enemy had other tricks and deceptions up their sleeves, and we were right. We just didn't know how much we'd missed.

There were three bridges leading across the river right in front of the fallback point. Two of them were elegant arches of concrete before their destruction. They were shattered in such a way that I can't think of any way to repair them or bridge their gaps. Too much open space, and the remains are at steep angles. The third bridge was an old railroad bridge, straight as an arrow and flat. The middle part of it was destroyed, leaving a gap sixty or seventy feet across.

The Exiles hid a military bridge-layer on the far side of the fallback point, where our scouts couldn't see. Will says it was probably an M104 Wolverine, whatever that is. He says given how old the railroad bridge is and how much damage it sustained, he's surprised the weight of the Wolverine didn't collapse the half of the bridge it had to roll across to lay the replacement section.

I mean, the thing used to hold freaking trains, so it had to have been built tough, right?

Anyway, our scouts reported what the enemy was doing even as they were driving the Wolverine out of its hiding place. The remaining people in New Haven got the news, and we were readying to leave, to make our way down the hill to hurl explosives and anything else we could bring with us at the enemy.

Then the Exiles must have had a call from some of the survivors who hadn't made it onto the bridge before we blew it up, telling the people back home what had happened. Because they retreated back across that makeshift span as fast as they could, then retracted it and dug into their new home.

Apparently, there's a difference between being the other half of an attack force, the surprise half, and being the only group left capable of attacking at all. The Exiles left at the fallback point were only happy to give up their secret weapon and fight as long as they thought they had a huge advantage. Once they learned how badly we hurt them, they scuttled back to safety like the cowards they are.

Yes. I'm saying this. Exiles:

You can attack us if you like, but understand what will happen. We will go to any lengths to protect our home. We will do anything we have to in order to assure the safety of our children and loved ones. You can come back across the river any time and we probably won't be able to stop that. But remember when you do what happened to your people. You want to hurt us, to kill us, because you're angry and vengeful. And honestly? You've got every right to feel that way, even though we have done what we've done because our point of view makes you the bad guys.

But remember this: while you're coming after us for revenge, we fight for survival. Tooth and nail, to the bitter end. Whatever it takes to make sure the group endures. So, attack if you want, but remember that we will kill ourselves gladly to take you with us.

I told you before. We are not to be fucked with.

I will also say this, as it comes from our newly elected leader and our even more newly elected council: we're done attacking you. Though we consider you to be a horrendous group of people, murderers, rapists, and thieves as well as traitors and probably worse, we also want to live. So we're offering this truce to you. Stay on your side of the river, forgo assaulting groups of survivors for any reason save self-defense, and we'll leave you alone. Break those terms, and this whole destructive cycle can begin all over.

The future is now in your hands. The choice is yours.

Make the right one for once in your lives.

Friday, February 17, 2012


We'll know in a day or so if our trap is going to be effective in putting off the undead heading this way, but for the moment our focus is back on the Exiles. Like, WAY back on them.

Our watchers reported that overnight, a flood of vehicles arrived at the fallback point. They came in with their lights off, but our people have some military hardware of their own. Cover of darkness loses to night vision technology.

All told, we estimate another hundred or so people have joined the Exiles. That brings their numbers to a dangerous point, one where attacking us wouldn't be the suicidal gesture you might think. We probably wouldn't be as worried about it if there weren't other things going on at the fallback point this morning that make us think an attack is in the works.

It's not that hard to decipher: the Exiles are outfitting vehicles with armor plates, attaching weapons to them, and forming up ranks out in plain view of our watchers. Will thinks they've been putting up with us for this long because they were waiting for this last group of allies to bolster their numbers, as well as for the supplies the new group brought with them. Which seem to be mostly weapons.

We now have every reason to believe that the Exiles are coming for us today, finally. I really thought that they'd continue to be more cautious, unwilling to risk an assault on us until they were in a vastly superior situation than us. I can see the reasoning behind choosing to do it now--we're still mostly cut off from allies, we're still furiously working on more defenses, and our leadership structure has just changed. If I were them, I'd see this as the best chance they'll have in the near future of dealing us a potential deathblow.

I can't say they're wrong.

Still, there's only one way they can be coming if they're going to hit us with any kind of speed, and that's across the remaining bridge carrying the interstate. We may not have to worry about the zombie swarm headed this way just yet, but it's looking like today is going to be a game-changer one way or another. I don't think I'm giving away any tactical secrets by saying that we'll have to try standing up to them at the bridge. It's a natural bottleneck, and they've got the advantage in firepower and numbers of people they can put in the field. We'll do what we can to hold them there, but I expect fairly high losses. No one in New Haven has any illusions about that. We'll fight hard, we'll use every dirty trick, but a lot of us are probably going to die today.

Unless they try to work their way around us, which would mean a few days of grace as they head toward another county to use other bridges. But that would leave us too much time to prepare or run, since we know they're coming. I think the Exiles are acting so openly because they're angry and want us afraid. We've been doing all we can to hurt them, but now they have a chance to return the favor.

It's almost a blessing that they took out all the other bridges. At least this way we know what they're planning on doing, where they're going to be. It's not much of an advantage, but we'll certainly take it.

Jess has asked me to stay here instead of joining the volunteers that will be staging on our side of the bridge. I've agreed, and only because she asked me to. I want to be out there with the others, doing what I can to keep my home safe, but in the event the Exiles make it past our lines and to New Haven, I want to be here to defend it. I started this refuge back when it was just called the compound, back when it was just my house. I'll fight till my last breath for it and the people I love. If I'm going to die, it's going to be on my own soil, next to the wife who has made this awful world worth the struggle.

Ah. Just got a call. Our people are ready. Thank god we've planned for this, had our vehicles ready and stocked up. The Exiles are coming. They've just started piling people into their vehicles.

I'll try to write again later today if I can...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Preventive Measures

I'm on my way with a small team to get a look at the oncoming zombie swarm. This post is by necessity going to be short, but given my wordiness lately I doubt many of you will complain about that.

Becky and Rachel came with us, the rest of the team being made up of scouts. They're the ones who will try to get close to the swarm and gauge its speed and size, while the ladies and I set up what will hopefully be an effective deterrent. The idea is to lay tripwires across the highway where we expect the zombies will travel, preferably at a bottleneck like a bridge. The tripwires, when struck, will pop the valves on a few tanks of ammonia we had altered for the purpose.

If we get it right, the swarm might be put off completely. If we screw it up, then at worst we've wasted several gallons of ammonia. I know I don't want to be here when those valves go--this is pure ammonia, anhydrous. It's going to expand into a gas very quickly once the pressure valves go. The pressure inside those containers is pretty dangerous. I'm not a huge fan of having them in the truck with us, to be honest.

Will has promised to contact us if the Exiles make any sudden moves. Leaving home again, even for a day trip, is not my first choice in assignments. Especially when my wife still isn't letting me sleep in our house and my home is under threat from outside forces. Er, more under threat, I guess.

Compared to much of what we've faced, this swarm doesn't seem like as much of a big deal as it could, and that's a problem. We can't allow comparative thinking to affect how seriously we take the threat of zombie attacks. Maybe it's the fact that the new breed around New Haven hasn't been attacking us in any serious way that's thrown us off. Maybe the new breed is smart enough to have planned that, to lower our defenses. I don't know.

After months on the road, dealing with threats so often that they became mundane and not even worth mentioning (almost every day we camped outside a community, we had to clear at least a few zombies out. It eventually gets sort of boring), this doesn't seem like much of an adventure. Setting this trap will certainly help a lot, potentially saving us from a major confrontation with one of the deadlier threats we face. Still sort of feels like a day at the office to me. I dunno, maybe I'm just off because Jess won't talk to me much and Patrick is a poor substitute for a loving wife.

Bah, time's up. I'll try to update later if possible, but I don't think it will be. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Another day passes, and another attempt to destroy the Exiles fails utterly.

You may remember that we'd talked to some survivors with access to a plane capable of performing air drops. We'd intended for them to drop some trade goods on the west side of the county, far from any inhabited area. I remembered early yesterday morning as I was finishing up my post that they were supposed to make that drop last night. A light bulb went on in my head, and I had to go talk to Will and Dodger.

It was logical to wonder: if they could drop supplies out in the boonies for us, why couldn't they drop something less pleasant on the Exiles? It made sense. All we needed to know was whether or not our contacts with the plane had access to something suitably destructive. That didn't seem to be a stretch since their plane is military hardware.

Our observers watched from as far away as possible, but were in radio contact with the plane. We were worried about the response from the Exiles if they saw the attack coming, and we wanted to have eyes on the ground just in case. Damn good thing Will thought of that, because the Exiles heard the plane coming well before it came into sight. Our scouts saw the Exiles scramble to the tops of the buildings in the fallback point with some very heavy gear. A couple of them had heavy sniper rifles, and one had a rocket launcher.

Needless to say, the scouts called off the run.

Our friends diverted their flight, climbed as fast as they could, and headed back home. So, yeah. We didn't get our supplies and the enemy didn't take so much as a scratch. It was just *awesome*.

Reality is starting to sink in. Logistically, we can't fight the Exiles openly. We've got heart and all that hero crap, but they have numbers, ammunition, and many other advantages. I hate to say it, but the consensus around here is now leaning toward a longer-term situation than we've previously considered. The Exiles and New Haven are in a stalemate: our defenses are strong enough to cost them dearly to take us down, while their advantages keep a direct assault on our part virtually impossible. Add to that the laundry list of attempted and discarded attack options, and you've got a pretty honest look at the problem.

So, for the moment, we're going to shift our focus to the other concerns that need to be addressed. Preparing for spring, the planting schedule, working out new trade routes, and the like.

I know many of you out there in our sister communities expected some kind of hail-Mary end to this situation, but this isn't a Dean Koontz novel. No hero is going to show up with a personal army and destroy our enemies just in the nick of time. There are limits to the time, effort, and resources we can dedicate to this fight, and we've reached them. For now at least, the Exiles will be just another threat to be monitored, one that will require vigilance and cleverness to keep in check. But if you were hoping to see us pull a stunning last minute victory out of our magic top hats, I'm sorry. Sometimes the home team has to concede a tie game.

That being said, we aren't going to ignore them. Our eyes and ears will be open, just as they are for threats from the undead. Speaking of which...

Two pieces of news on that front, one good and one bad. The good is that we've been told a large herd of zombies, likely new breed, have been spotted heading toward central Kentucky from the east. When I say large, I mean in the hundreds at least, though the contact who saw the herd pass by couldn't get an accurate count. They're heading in this general direction, but no one can say for sure if they'll end up in Frankfort or if they'll miss us by miles. Too much distance between them and us to have any idea how it will go. The good news in there is that the Exiles are on the east side of the river, so those undead hopefully won't be our problem if they manage to hit our town.

The bad news is that the folks flying the plane spotted a similar large herd moving roughly southeast toward my side of town, also from a good distance away. They aren't even in this state yet, and they'd have to go through Louisville to get to us. Chances aren't great they'll hit here, but I have to wonder at the likelihood of two separate groups moving in the general direction of this state at the exact same time. The first (and most pants-shittingly terrifying) thought that popped into my head was that the New Breed we're seeing here in larger and larger numbers are just the forerunners of something larger.

The second and almost equally frightening thought was that zombies seem to communicate by smell. That's been our theory for a long time. So, what if those groups are heading this way because other zombies left a trail for them to follow?

Exiles and zombies. If one of them doesn't destroy us, the other will surely try. Strangely, I'm sort of okay with honest and straightforward threats. I'd rather have a villain to fight than worry about the idiocy of community politics, infighting, and all that jazz.

Which is what I have to deal with right this second. Enough people requested new council elections that now I've got to organize one of them. Giving the people the power to oust their leaders when needed is excellent for keeping authority in check, but it creates a lot of extra work for me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Put Out

I'm writing this from Patrick's house, as Jessica has kicked me out of ours. Turns out her anger is a little more durable than I expected. She's not a happy camper that I went on a potentially suicidal mission without consulting her. My personal life probably isn't as interesting to you as it is to me, but if I seem distracted or a bit off today, that's why.

Our watchers keep sending us steady updates on activity at the fallback point. The Exiles continue working on setting up a permanent home for themselves, though most of the work has been done for them. When our extra people moved from the fallback point to New Haven, they took a lot of stuff with them, but an even larger amount of equipment was left behind. All the rows and rows of raised beds and the tracts of arable land are still there just waiting to be worked. There are quite a few homemade weapons, though what the homesteaders bring to the fight from whatever military base they raided is surely superior.

All in all, it's kind of depressing.

Will and I are working with many other people on contingency plans. We've got a ton of ideas on how to defend ourselves, some thoughts on how to prevent an all-out assault on New Haven, and other ideas that may or may not be feasible. One of our tried and true tactics--using swarms of zombies as weapons--wouldn't be possible for a while yet given the weather even if the new breed weren't clever enough to figure out what we were doing eventually.

The Exiles aren't ignoring us, however. Our guards at the remaining bridge have been forced to pull back quite a ways, driven away from their posts by rifle fire. We've got our own riflemen set up at the new watch post, but they can't guard the bridge itself. By the time the enemy comes into view of our people, they'll have already crossed it. That's a small but important defeat, but we'll adapt to it and deal as best we can.

There's a bit of concern right now for what happens when warmer weather comes through. While the Exiles will certainly be a major concern for as long as they continue to exist within two time zones of New Haven, we're rapidly approaching the time of year when the weather gets nicer day to day. The new breed is terribly creative in their desire to consume us, and while the team and I have a solid grounding in how to fight them and anticipate their tactics, the rest of New Haven doesn't. We've handled smart zombies before, but only in small numbers. Dealing with the Exiles and the new breed during clement weather might be impossible.

I guess that means we're on a schedule. As I said, there are many options on the table, but an equal number of concerns and worries to go with them. We've got to think of security and the overt threats against us, sure, but we also have to feed our people, find a way to trade with the outside world, and a hundred other things that go with having a community of any size.

I'm rambling, I know, but barring a miracle, we're going to be stretched pretty thin very soon.

Hmm. I've just had an idea. I need to go find Will.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Watershed Moment

Since my post yesterday, a string of events has played out that will have lasting ramifications for New Haven and everyone that calls it home. In short, I've played every ace I had in the hole and made every desperate gambit I could. Things have changed.

Back in Colorado, we encountered a large area that was totally bereft of life, even zombies. We discovered that the area had been blasted with chemical and possibly biological agents, and only after I contacted some trustworthy allies to raze the place to the ground did I comment on what we'd found. I couldn't risk any remaining weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands.

Funny, isn't it, how we always think our hands are the right ones.

Now that I've taken action, I can tell the whole truth. You've probably already guessed that I salvaged some of the unused canisters from that place, hid them in the trailer and brought them back home. Two metal containers about the size of a small kitchen fire extinguisher, yet with enough destructive power to wipe out hundreds of human lives in one stroke.

After my post yesterday, the council sent guards to make sure I didn't leave New Haven before they got a chance to talk to me. I went without a fight, because fighting would have been pointless. Also because I wouldn't have posted something like that without fully expecting a consequence of exactly this type. When I stood in front of the council, as they rained questions down on me, I stood calmly without speaking. I waited until their excitement turned into anger that I refused to respond. Past that, I waited until they finally fell totally silent, realizing I wasn't going to speak so long as they were ranting at me.

That was when my people entered the room without announcing themselves and informed the council that their services would no longer be required.

Since well before the team and I returned home, we've been in touch with people at New Haven about the dangerously unpredictable people in charge of the place. The only person on the team that is innocent in all of this is Bill, who finds himself thrust into a volatile situation in his new adopted home. Becky, Rachel, Will, Steve, and I have all been organizing and fomenting resistance on the off chance we'd need to act. Yesterday, the need became pressingly clear.

Understand, please, that we did this according to the rules. One of the many changes the new council made to New Haven's charter (or constitution, whatever they're calling it now) was to give the people the ability to vote in a single leader during times of conflict. All it takes is a majority vote. I think the council expected to have the clout to make sure it would be one of them if crunch time came.

They were wrong. As of today, against all expectation, Will Price is our leader again.

You may think that I would be the logical choice, but I've been down that road. Maybe someday I'll have the maturity to handle that kind of power, but not today. Not soon. Will has been a soldier, a general, a spy, a slave, a criminal, and an intrepid explorer. Through all he's suffered at the hands of New Haven's citizenry, he's maintained a love of this place that is almost matchless.

The other reason we rallied the people for Will instead of me is that I was the one who had the chemical weapons. Whoever went to to deliver them against our enemies was expected to have a 50/50 chance of returning, and Will is still crippled from his injuries. So I was the one who went. I was the one who carefully read the instructions on the things for the fiftieth time, who wore a gas mask, who made his way through the tall, frozen grass lining the hill leading down to the fallback point.

The freezing wind was merciless, but at least it drove the zombie swarms to ground. I didn't have to worry much about them as I crawled several hundred yards dragging a huge nylon bag behind me. I was alone and not in danger from the undead as I set up the air cannon, whose double barrels were cut short to fit in the bag. I hadn't expected to get close enough to actually get my shot into the fallback point, so I settled on firing my charge just far enough to be on the edge of the river, my side of the river. The wind would carry the gas across and into the ranks of the enemy. There was enough of it to kill most of them if we were lucky.

We weren't lucky.

My shot was off, and the wind was hitting me from two directions. One of the canisters misfired completely, landing only a few dozen feet from me and only issuing a small leak of gas. The other overshot wildly, bounced off the riverbank on the far side, and fell into the river. All I managed to do was waste a valuable weapon, get seen, and make the Exiles realize the lengths we were ready to go to against them.

Still, half our goal has been reached. The enemy may be more alert to us as a threat now, but control of New Haven and her resources is in the hands of the people with the willpower, intelligence, and creativity to use them to best advantage. We're going to need that once the Exiles mobilize, and since we tried to wipe them out with a WMD I'm certain they will, because we're outnumbered. Cut off from allies. And probably outgunned. I dodged rifle fire on my way up the hill after my air cannon malfunctioned. And those fuckers were not sparse with the bullets.

I can't help feeling a little relief that the canisters didn't get to do their work. I was resolved to doing what had to be done, but to end so many lives at once...just thinking about it makes me wonder if my conscience could have taken the strain. Strangely, I don't doubt that I would do it again, but part of me is almost happy it didn't work out.

Jess is furious that I didn't tell her any of this. I doubt I'll hold on to that happy relief if or when the Exiles finally attack us outright.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seeing Reasons

Our scout report for this morning made everything clear, and the entire situation with the Exiles has changed. Overnight, our people saw loads being brought into the fallback point through the cleared sections of road. People, supplies, but most frightening of all, seedlings. Plants.

They brought in lots of things, but the majority of what was transported were items used to create a long-term settlement. The Exiles aren't just staging for a war with us, though I'm sure that's coming. They're digging in for the long haul.

They're building a community.

If it hadn't been made so clear by their actions that they're actively hostile toward us, I'd have some hope that we could manage to coexist. Stranger things have happened in the history of the world than two bitter enemies learning to live side by side. The world wars taught us the value of putting hatred aside and dealing with the reality that constant warfare isn't the way to move forward. In this case, I don't think that's possible. The world isn't as it was then, and while there are certainly enough resources to be had around Franklin county to supply both New Haven and the Exiles, peaceful coexistence just isn't in the cards.

For better or worse, we've trained ourselves to respond decisively and with finality to threats. You'd think our overactive council would be gung-ho to nip this godawful development in the bud, but they're responding slowly and with hesitation. As it turns out, Dodger and Will have been feeding the council detailed reports containing strategies and assessments for a full-scale assault on the Exiles. They've concluded that, with the resources we have available, the only way we stand a chance of beating the Exiles quickly is full-on assault.

At least, that would have been true until this morning. Because when I say the Exiles have been bringing in loads of things, I mean it in every way. Estimates lead us to believe they've almost doubled the number of people living at the fallback point. They've been bringing in farming implements and foodstuff to grow, but they've got enough bulk food to last a long, long time. We can't starve them out. And now that their numbers are so much larger, we can't fight them with less than every able-bodied person.

Turns out the council is only cavalier about risking the lives of other people. When Dodger laid out the bare bones and explained that we'd need every single person on board, they balked. Granted, that's a high-risk scenario that we'd risk only as a last resort, but still. I'm putting out there for the people of New Haven and everyone else so they know exactly what the conditions here are. What kind of leadership we're dealing with.

The council is unwilling or unable to act right now. My guess is that they're terrified of having to put themselves in danger, but I admit that I might be wrong. Unfortunately, the longer they take to act, the more entrenched the enemy gets and the harder it's going to be to clear them out.

It's good that I have a backup ready. It's a last-ditch effort and dangerous in ways I can't explain without telling you what it is. What happens next is on me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

All These Diamonds

The groundhog must have seen his shadow, because winter has made a sudden and vengeful reappearance. Snow all yesterday afternoon and through the night melted into a thin layer of water that froze into ice when the temperature took a dive and bottomed out in the low twenties. Zombie activity has slowed to a crawl, but we've got our scouts out in full force anyway.

Not because of the undead, or not only because of them. The new breed are dangerous and crafty, resistant to cold, and probably smart enough to wait until it got cold enough to drive us indoors to attack. Wouldn't put it past them. But the very same thing can be said of the Exiles: our expectation was that they'd start coming out when they thought it was safe, which would logically be right now. Our ability to be outdoors is hampered, so naturally they should take advantage of that.

And lo and behold, they are. While the Exiles defied our expectations by going to ground after our attack instead of hitting back, today they're reacting as we'd expect. They're out in force this morning, though we can't make much sense of what they're doing. The assumption was that they'd be working on some attack plan, like constructing a bridge or gathering boats. Which, to be fair, they might be doing in a location we haven't found. At the fallback point, they definitely aren't.

They're clearing the roads. Of ice, of snow, and with great caution of explosives and other traps. I'm beginning to wonder if the Exiles realize that they're not going to find us easy prey and have decided to cut their losses and fight again another day. There's always a chance that the utter horror of being trapped in your own clothes with sand hot enough to melt skin was enough to send them packing. Maybe having some of their number blinded in that attack, then others blown to dust by explosive traps days later finally drove home the point that we are simply not to be fucked with.

It sounds good in my head. Epic, even. I know in my heart that's probably not the case. This isn't a fairy tale. The good guys don't get an easy win by scaring the bad guys. These are real human beings, and they react like real people do.

Which means they're probably angry to a degree I can barely fathom. Worse, they're clearly not letting that anger distract them. Instead, the opposite seems to be the case, giving them a common enemy to hate and focus on as they follow through with whatever plans they have. We know their larger goal is our destruction, but that doesn't really help. You know a butcher is going to slice up a carcass, but unless you know where the first cut is going to be you have no way of predicting how he's going to do it.

Still, we can make a few reasoned guesses based on what the scouts report. There are few reasons why the Exiles would need clear roads: to leave (we can only dream), to bring in more of their brethren to perhaps try and match our numbers, to be able to field hunting parties if they're low on food, or to reach points elsewhere from which to stage a river crossing to attack us. Sure, there are a lot of other possible reasons, but those seem like the most likely given their mindset.

The most worrisome aspect of the situation is the council. They might be a bit too fast to act for my taste, and their judgement questionable when it comes to putting our people at risk, but at least with a defined threat they react predictably. There's a lot of nervous tension in the council right now. They don't like not knowing what the Exiles are up to. I'm afraid that with the cold hitting the zombies so hard and essentially relegating them to a background threat, they'll react badly to the Exiles' every move. Worry and fear will make the most reasonable person react with blind stupidity after a long enough time building up. The pressure is slowly increasing.

Time is ticking by. As I looked out at the beautiful layer of ice coating the world this morning, sparkling and pure, I couldn't help envisioning what all those billions of diamonds would look like on a New Haven burned to the ground or flattened by bombs. The hardest truth of all is that the ice would have been just as lovely on a set of ruins that mark the tomb of a community I love, that I built, as it does a thriving home filled with the living. In the larger scheme of the world, that image shows just how small and unimportant New Haven's survival is. The universe does not play favorites. It's us or the Exiles, no help from greater powers than we.

Good thing my people have grown used to taking care of themselves, isn't it?

Friday, February 10, 2012

(Big News)

Hi. This is an out of character post.

I've been working on this blog for a long time. There are a lot of you out there reading it, and a lot of people buying the eBooks. I know that you, the fans, are supportive and awesome. So I'm bringing you this news with the hope that once again you will come through for me.

This Link Right Here is to Kickstarter. Specifically, to a Kickstarter campaign to adapt Living With the Dead into a live-action web series. Ten episodes, about six minutes each. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time now, and with funding I can make it something better than just me in front of a camera. It can have makeup, maybe some special effects, who knows what kind of shenanigans we'll be able to throw in there with enough money.

But I can't do it without you. I don't have the funds to make this happen on my own, so I'm turning to crowdsourcing to get it done. Kickstarter is a neat creative-funding website that allows users to decide what projects they want to give to. I have a month from pretty much right now to hit my goal, or the campaign fails. We're shooting for $6,000 by then. That's the bare minimum we'd need to hit to make this happen.

If you decide to back the project and it fails, you don't get charged a dime. But you aren't just throwing dollars at me willy-nilly, either. No, sir (or ma'am, as the case may be)! See, if you back the project, you get rewards. Depending on how much money you decide to put in it, the rewards can be pretty cool. There are eleven reward levels at present, but if enough people back the project I'll start adding more. Every dollar helps get us toward our goal, so please think about giving us a hand.

Click here to go to my Kickstarter campaign page, and please share the link, tell others, and try to help us get the funding we need. If you can't afford to back the project, that's cool. Sharing the links would be just fine, too.


So maybe I wasn't totally honest when I said the other day that we discounted many ideas on how to attack the Exiles. Misinformation is a key aspect of warfare, after all.

Now that our teams have come home, I can report on their activity. I feel pretty safe telling you this (and have approval to do so from the council, though it irks me that it's required) since the methods our people used can't be defended against. You'll understand when I explain.

The Kentucky River is long. Very long. It's impossible for our enemies to patrol even the portion of it that's in this county, much less sections that are much farther away. Two teams made up of a mix of scouts and soldiers went to a location I won't disclose and set up a rope line. That required one of our people to go across the river, but that wasn't such a problem. Jet Skis aren't that hard to find. Not a tactic I'd care to see repeated given the incredible risk involved, but it worked. Zombies were attracted to the noise, but our folks got across once the line was up pretty quickly.

Then several days of sabotage took place.

We knew that getting our folks into the fallback point itself was far too risky. Instead they moved about the area, mostly at night to remain as stealthy as possible, and generally fucked things up. Hitting the Exiles' vehicles was also out of the question, but our boys and girls did a fantastic job setting traps all around the area. Explosives, homemade traps, and some other things I'm sure the Exiles haven't found yet. We know they've run across several of our little presents, because we've had people out listening from safe spots for the explosions.

What's really strange is that they haven't tried to retaliate. I'd have thought something would have happened by now, but our watchers report that the Exiles are hunkering down and keeping close to their base. It makes me nervous.

I'll admit that yesterday's post was also a bit of misdirection, though not entirely false. I really am worried about the possibility that the council will choose to act in a way that will endanger more people than absolutely necessary. The feeling that we were on the edge of a very dangerous moment was real also. Because the teams we sent out had just finished their work, and we were worried about what the response would be from the Exiles.

As it turns out, the most unnerving response they could have given us was this one. Nothing. An enemy that reacts to your attack is a predictable one. Borderline psychotics like the marauders that make up a big chunk of the Exiles should not be capable of the kind of deliberate self-restraint we're seeing. I find it difficult to believe they're so frightened of us that they won't come out of their hidey-hole.

The question remains: what are they doing in there?

I can't conceive an answer that doesn't end in bloodshed. The trick is going to be anticipating what their response will be. It's gonna be that much harder since they've got the homesteaders with them. No one will be more useful in finding sneaky ways to attack us. The Exiles might consist of two very different groups of people, but together they're as much of a threat to us as anything I can imagine.

In short: if we don't get an edge on them and figure out what they're going to do, we're potentially fucked.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


We're standing on the edge of a cliff, and the wrong move could push us off it.

I've got to keep this very, very short due to the war council meeting that starts in a few minutes. But a quick word needs to be said, so you at least know why we're heading in the direction of open conflict. We know the Exiles are holed up in the fallback point, licking their wounds from our assault the other day. We know this because one of the two scouts we sent up one of the cliffs to spy on them told us.

The other scout took a rifle bullet to the chest. He died before his partner could get him back to New Haven.

So, we know they have snipers. We know they're done being subtle. We've thrown the first stone in terms of outright physical confrontation, and they've responded with high-caliber rounds. This situation isn't going to resolve easily or without loss, but we're used to hard and dangerous circumstances.

Our next few steps need to be mapped carefully or we'll all pay the price. I'm making sure I'm early to the meeting in hopes that I can moderate some of the council's ideas, because given recent events I'm certain they'll be too risky. This is not the time to make errors we can avoid.

Again, sorry this is short, but I'll make it up to you by not taking any days off until some kind of resolution is enacted. It may be a fight, it may be something else entirely, but I'll keep everyone in the loop.

New Haven feels somber, like the air itself knows the risks we're going to take...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tiny Little Pieces

There was no question that we'd retaliate against the Exiles for poisoning our people. The difficulty was trying to figure out a way to do it. We wanted to hurt them as they hurt us, but logistical problems denied us at every turn. We went through a lot of ideas.

There was the plan to go down the hill and simply lay into the fallback point with a rain of arrows and a hail of gunfire. This was discarded immediately for practical reasons: we can't afford to waste the ammunition. Also, the fallback point was designated as such because it's really hard to attack. Doing so across the river in this way would be wasteful to the point of stupidity.

Then we moved on to stealth. The idea was proposed to send an elite group made up of our best scouts and some of the military folks from North Jackson on a mission to hit the Exiles where they live. It would have taken a while since they'd have had to travel pretty far north or south to get to a bridge the Exiles aren't guarding. Then they'd have to manage sneaking past security and finding a way to damage the enemy without being caught. This one was vetoed quickly also, due to the extreme risk involved for anyone that went.

Another that was shot down was one I came up with, and I wasn't ever serious about it. I only mention it here because I think it shows how irrational rage can make even the most reasonable person. See, I had the idea that we could build a catapult...

For the record, very few good ideas begin with building a catapult.

Anyway, I was trying to think of ways we could get zombies across the river to do some real damage to the enemy. There were dozens of reasons this wouldn't work--building the damn thing, the fact that zombies like to attack and getting them on a catapult would be impossible, the inevitable broken limbs that would happen when the zombies hit the other side, making them far less effective as killing machines. The idea was stupid and cartoonish, but we'd gone through a dozen others by that point and weren't any closer to a solution.

So, I took a break and picked up the book I'd been reading to clear my head. It was one of the Sword of Truth novels, and as I was reading I was struck by an idea. In one of the novels in the series, a small group is threatened by an overwhelming mass of enemy soldiers. The solution they came up with was creative and awful for their enemies.

Our original idea was to copy that maneuver outright. We were going to send teams in to nearby buildings to take all the glass they could find. We were going to crush the glass into dust and fling it at the Exiles over the river. Yeah, who wants to inhale jagged pieces of glass dust? Or get it in their eyes? Or swallow it. The idea was beautiful and had merit, but the logistics of it failed as a few of the others did. We tried crushing the glass, but when it got close to being dust one of our people accidentally inhaled some. We decided it was too dangerous to attempt on a large scale.

The next best solution? Sand. Specifically very hot sand.

We rigged up one of the compressed air tanks that power some of the defenses on the wall (I'm gonna kiss the guy to found the air compressor and hooked it up to our small solar grid) to a good-sized air cannon kept inside the walls as an extra. We tested it with sand, and it worked really well. At a hundred feet, the sand was still cohesive enough to knock a man down. After that it starts to disintegrate into a cloud and disperses quickly.

We set up five of these cannons in the back of pickup trucks, easily raised to a firing angle in a few seconds. Laying flat, the cannons were virtually invisible as we made our way down the hill. We went unarmed in the hope that it wouldn't drive many of the Exiles inside the buildings. We made our way down the hill slowly, both to make the enemy curious and to keep the wind from cooling the pots of sand too much.

I should mention here that the curious shape of the hill leading down to the fallback point gave us a huge advantage. The road goes between two tall cliffs, was in fact cut from the bedrock that used to be between them. It's a hill blown in half and the whole thing acts as a perfect corridor for any wind. A slight breeze compresses when it hits the cliffs, turning into pretty hard gusts by the time it hits the river.

We stayed back about a hundred and fifty feet, and we acted quickly. From the time we stopped our vehicles, it was maybe twenty seconds before we fired our cannons. Five loads of sand hot enough that we were a bit worried it would fuse to glass or melt the PVC of the cannon barrels went into the air almost at the same time. One of the shots actually did knock down one of the enemy, and the resulting impact spread the sand all around him instantly.

We only got a rough glance in before we ran like hell, but I'd guess there were at least forty people in the clouds. I heard a chorus of screams as they writhed to get red-hot grains of silica out of their hair, from inside their clothes. Some of them are probably blinded. I don't feel good about causing so much pain, but I don't feel bad about it either. I wish I could be the kind of man who still has the moral strength to regret this kind of thing even while finding it necessary, but I'm not. They got what they deserved, and my only wish is that I could have made it cleaner and just killed them.

They're rabid dogs, the Exiles, and as such they need to be put down. That's just not possible right now. So we'll do what we can to weaken them until they finally decide they've had enough and attack us in earnest. It can only be a matter of time.

Maybe the pain they're dealing with right now will teach them caution in the future. I'd like to think they've learned a lesson about doing unto others. I hope, but I don't believe it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Slow Game

It's taking armed guards holding some of out people at gun point to keep us from starting a war. Well, escalating a war. The Exiles started it, but it took us a few days to realize how deep a game they were playing. 

Last night about a dozen people got sick. Really, really sick. By this morning, five of them had died. We track everyone's meal assignments at the mess, and it's obvious what the cause is. They've been poisoned. 

We were so goddamn arrogant to think that the storehouses had been left alone. We saw signs of tampering and assumed that since the same signs didn't appear elsewhere that we were safe. The Exiles didn't want to kill all of us, or they didn't have enough poison to go around. Instead they simply laced a bag of black-eye peas, the only bag we had, with something deadly. Everyone who ate those peas are victims of this conflict. 

One of those victims was a child of five. He died just after midnight. 

I want to haul ass down the hill and rain down bloody murder on these fuckers, but I know it isn't a viable option. It's taking all my willpower to sit here and write this rather than load up a gun and fight my way to the river bank through the zombies still walking along it. Jess is a great help in keeping me steady. I only wish I could do the same for all the others who've lost someone or may lose someone to this attack. 

Make no mistake, I'm furious with the Exiles, but I can't escape a lesser rage at the council. The situation isn't entirely their fault, since we all chose to kick out the homesteaders and to give amnesty to the marauders. But they did make the situation worse by attacking the remaining marauder camps. That was likely a big factor in bringing two different groups of enemies together against us. 

I can't get my thoughts straight this morning. And I really don't have much time to write. I have to help sort through all the remaining supplies we brought back from our storehouses and see what we can salvage. God only knows if anything else has been poisoned. You'd think the Exiles would have done something bigger if they had the means. It's pretty clear they mean to fight us despite how roundabout they've been about it. Maybe this is just an attempt to keep New Haven off balance. 

I can't say much, but I will say this: Newton had it right. For every action, there's a reaction. Don't doubt it. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Angel Wings

It shouldn't surprise anyone out there to learn that New Haven has been cut off from all trade for the time being. No one wants to send their people into what is sure to become a war zone soon, and our people aren't holding that against them. It does create a slew of potential problems down the road if we can't reestablish trade, but for the time being all is well.

One exception, though. We are connected with a group of survivors that are very secretive, and who have access to a large quantity of aviation fuel, a cargo plane, military air drop crates (with parachutes!) and a pilot brave enough to come this way. So yeah, we're working on having some trade goods we've been waiting on for a while dropped right on our doorstep. Okay, not actually anywhere near New Haven itself, because no one wants to be crushed by a huge box falling from the heavens. But still. Air drops. How freaking cool is that?

Yes, I'm excited. Inside every grown man is a boy still obsessed with 'army guys' and their associated toys.

Still, we'll be in a bad situation if we can't find a way to get goods out of here. We could subsidize all the items we ship out and just send team after team of people on long-term trips, but that would be stupidly inefficient. The whole point of the trade system is to spread the cost in fuel and effort among all the groups within it, saving any one group from having to use way more resources than they can spare. We'd only be able to manage for a short while before we had to stop. We've got a lot of fuel and a lot of ethanol to mix with it, but the future is a long time to go without...

We're the only producer of antibiotics of any kind, as far as I'm aware. Most of what we make it topical, but we live in a dirty world where wounds are incredibly prone to festering. I hate to think of the people out there who might suffer without our goods. Not that there's a lot we can do about it, since we don't have a skyhook just laying around, or for that matter anyone to do a flyby and grab it if we did.

Will is working with Dodger to come up with a solution. Safe routes are difficult to cultivate, but given how quiet things are with the Exiles at the moment, it's a problem we can work on. They're still holed up in the fallback point, and have given us no signs they're attempting to come across the river. Which of course makes me mad with curiosity, because why the hell would they be so nonviolent, so complacent, if they weren't up to something? It makes my brain hurt.

I will admit to one satisfying piece of good news. We've been pretty happy about the increasing number of zombies showing up around here, and the face that most of them are on our side of the river. The undead are dangerous, sure, but they make it much harder for the Exiles to move around in our part of town. At least, they would do that if the enemy were crossing over to it.

So, the scout team and I had a little fun yesterday. We trotted around town, gathering up a trail of zombies behind us. We must have had fifty or sixty following when we gunned our engines and left them all at the river bank. Right across from the fallback point. All those zombies, standing at the edge of the river, watching the tasty humans on the other side. Dangerous to the Exiles? No, probably not as long as they don't try to cross. Annoying as hell? Yep. I'd say that's likely.

Sometimes being petty is deeply, deeply gratifying.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Just before dawn, I went out on a recon trip with a group of scouts. It wasn't part of any of the odd jobs I'm now responsible for. Just my own curiosity. The council isn't thrilled with my urge to gather information about the Exiles and they certainly seem to be getting tired of my opinions, but so far they're not stopping me or shutting me up. This is my home, and I can't help feeling responsible for it.

The warm (for winter) weather continues unabated, and the countryside is starting to fill in with zombies. There are only so many you can kill in a day, and the new breed are some clever bastards at staying out of sight. Not that I'm overly worried about clearing out zombies since we live in a walled fort. The more undead out there, the harder it is for the Exiles to move around. I just wish the council would see it from that perspective.

No, I went out this morning for a very specific reason: I wanted to see what the Exiles were up to. The scout team I went with was very efficient and quiet, we weren't spotted by the enemy despite the clump of zombies we had to cut down in order to get a good view of the Exile camp.

They've set up across the river, right at the base of the broken twin bridges. I have to assume they've taken over the entire fallback point, which means they've got a lot of room to stage their vehicles and more than enough room to allow everyone to sleep indoors. We spent a lot of time making that place comfortable.

The Exiles look like they're preparing for war. They've got men set up in a perimeter around the fallback point, guards walking the surrounding area with binoculars to keep an eye out for any incoming danger. I don't know what they're so worried about, really. It's not like we can fly over the river to attack them. And given my people's penchant for breathing regularly and keeping our blood inside our veins, we aren't likely to try any long-range assaults across the river. We lack the needed equipment to do more than irritate them that way.

Even the council, so bent on being proactive and going after any prize that presents itself, is smart enough to realize how hard it would be for us to make any kind of concerted assault on the Exiles. I feel a bit of strange pride that our reputation is apparently so good that we inspire this kind of unreasonable fear in our enemies.

I don't know if that was sarcasm or not.

Of course, I could be reading the entire situation wrong. Maybe they've spotted a big swarm of zombies coming from the east and want to be ready for it. New Haven might not even be a blip on their radar right now, since there's no easy passage across the river. Our guards at the remaining bridge tell us that the Exiles have posted their own a few hundred yards away. Stalemate.

For now, life in New Haven has to go on. We're keeping safe and trying to prepare for anything, but until more information reveals itself (or until we're attacked) there's no sense in letting the mere presence of the enemy stop us from living our lives. The zombie plague put us in a world where danger is constant; this is just the flavor of the month.

Damn it, that made me want ice cream. Stupid end of the world killed all the Baskin-Robbins.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Priority Shift

I'm a little disturbed by the way the council has shifted since I've been gone. I'll give you an example from this morning to shed some light on exactly what's happened to the leadership's outlook. 

The weather continues to stay very warm for this time of year, and to the south a large swarm of zombies was spotted forming by our scouts. This was yesterday, when the scouts saw the swarm--zombies gathering together a few miles down the highway. New breed zombies at that, and they were doing their damnedest to convert the plain zombies that moved toward the group in steady streams. It wasn't a huge gathering, maybe a hundred and fifty at the time, but the threat alone was enough to send the council into emergency session. 

The call came down to our entire scout force as well as the auxiliary soldiers stationed here from North Jackson: this morning, we hit that swarm. Coordinated assault from multiple sides, swarm destroyed. 

That happened, sure. Our people are well-trained and experienced and managed to kill the entire swarm in about forty minutes. Nearly half the men and women who participated in the assault took injuries of one kind or another, and seven people died. Seems like a decent ratio if you look at it as an abstract, but those seven people are a loss we can't afford, not with so few people living in this part of the country. Not with the Exiles and the threat of attack hanging over our heads. 

The injured people are taking a toll on our resources. Medical staff working nonstop for hours, supplies being used up at ludicrous rates. The number of able-bodied fighters here has dropped by a staggering percentage, and for what? To kill some zombies that may or may not even have attacked New Haven. If they had, our defenses would have been sufficient to mow most of them down before they got within spitting distance of the wall. 

Were we a larger community, this would have been less of a problem. Hell, even if this morning's assault on the zombie swarm were a one-off event it wouldn't be so bad. But that isn't the case. This action is just one of many that put our people in needless danger because of the changing attitude of the council. 

Before, we were led by people who believed more in reactive measures than proactive ones. Yeah, not all that brave a way to live and certainly it came with drawbacks, but not going out picking fights was a great way to keep our people alive. 

It's evident with this morning's assault and just as evident in the recent spate of scout runs that the council has gotten tired of the 'wait and see' way of doing things. I'm all for long-range search and recovery of any and all supplies we can find, but why on earth do we have to send our people on missions where they're going to knowingly engage the remaining marauders. The most unreasonable and violent of the marauders, I'll add. Is the risk in going after them worth the rewards?

I talked to the council yesterday and again this morning. I made my case as best I could, and they were fair enough that they listened without interrupting. They answered my questions, and the hardest part is that I could and can see where they're coming from. For them, it makes perfect sense to send parties against marauder camps. The advantages are obvious: you reduce the number of active marauders out in the world, and the camps are treasure troves of materials and supplies. Marauders, when questioned, are also apparently very knowledgeable about where to find other supplies, since they search everywhere they go constantly. 

The old me would have agreed with this, but I can't be that cold anymore. I can't see my fellow citizens--or, for that matter, my fellow human beings in general--as just numbers in an equation. I can't think of the people we lost today and how that weakens our defenses without also feeling the loss that their friends and families must be dealing with. 

Yeah, the council's actions are logical, but there has to be an element of humanity to the policies here or the situation in New Haven could potentially snowball into a much worse one. How many people will die out on these trips before it sets off a riot among those left behind? How many reluctant citizens will risk their lives time and again when it isn't absolutely necessary, creating the sort of hate for those that order them to go which leads to revolution?

In the end, my meetings with the council were cordial, even professional. There was every indication they kept their minds as open to what I had to say as I did to their position. A small comfort, but that's the way things are with people. Only comic books and bad Hollywood scripts have clear-cut bad guys. The rest of us are just human beings with differing opinions. I told them mine, and the final call by the council was to ignore my advice and continue on with the status quo. They told me that I should come talk to them again if I had any new ideas, but I read the subtext of the conversation perfectly. 

They would listen, they would agree with parts of what I had to say, and in the end they'd just do what they thought was right. My words were just wind to them. 

This...isn't good. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Since the bridges came down, we haven't had any encounters with the Exiles. On the surface I want to say that's a good thing, but it also makes me very suspicious. Fortunately, I'm not the only one with that reaction, so I don't seem crazy.

We've begun the process of hauling in all the stuff from the supply dumps we can still reach. The weather has become unseasonably warm, and there has been a corresponding increase in zombie activity. The council made the call to empty our storehouses, rather than face the possibility that we might have to fight our way through hordes of undead to get to our caches in the event the exiles went after the rest of our supplies.

Looks like that was a good call, because the very first cache we went to had been tampered with. It was a food storage site, mostly grains we'd traded for, and the signs that someone had been there were subtle. It was a lucky thing that one of the scouts that went to empty the place had been there just a few hours before and remembered seeing a particular chair having been in one spot. When he got back, it'd been moved.

Naturally we expect the worst, so the food has been destroyed. It wasn't a huge blow to our excess food supply, and thankfully the other suppl dumps left to us have been left untouched. Still, knowing the enemy had been there and left the food in place sends shivers down my spine. We took a sample to see if it had been poisoned, though our means for testing it here are pretty limited.

Right now, our outlook is decent. All things considered, the immediate future doesn't look too dangerous. I know those are more famous last words, but they're the truth. The only quick access the Exiles have to this side of town is across the remaining bridge carrying the interstate, and we've got people watching that. There are other bridges farther away, of course, but steps have been taken to assure we get a lot of warning should the Exiles use any of the ones in adjacent counties.

One of the good things about the new communities hereabouts choosing not to come stay inside New Haven's walls is that they have to keep a close eye out for any movement by the exiles. As things stand, it would be nearly impossible for the enemy to flank us with a large force. They might be able to get folks across the river somewhere else and circle around to the west, but we're going to see them coming if they do.

The biggest worry right now is that they have boats. Or, god help us, some piece of military machinery that will throw a bridge across the river.

But we can't focus on what might be. All we can do is prepare for what we expect to come, and deal with the rest when and if it happens.

I'm hoping to get fully back into the groove today. I've talked to the council and there are several odd positions that need someone with experience in planning and logistics. All the people I trained are occupied doing their respective jobs, so I'll take on the hodgepodge of part-time positions that need me. One is in defense, one in meal planning, one in materials coordination...

There's a surprising amount of structure and bureaucracy in New Haven's government now. From what I see, much of it is good and ensures that no piece or part of the system that makes sure the needs of all our citizens are met can threaten the whole by failing. It's not the system in place that bothers me--most of it was implemented by my trainees, and they have good heads on their shoulders--but rather a lot of policy set by the leadership. That is where we have to make inroads, because this new council seems to have some large blind spots.

That's one more job I'll add to the pile.