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?

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