We can now confirm that the New Breed strain of the zombie plague is airborne. The old school zombie we'd brought in to act study as a control against our captive New Breed has made the change overnight into a New Breed himself.
The change seems to happen faster in zombies that have been reanimated for any length of time. Over at least twelve hours, but possibly as long as eighteen since we didn't look in on our old school zombie very much, the infection has done the majority of its work. The skin is thick and gray, there are the first signs of thickening around the neck and head. The fibrous armor that grows beneath the skin has already made significant progress.
That in and of itself is a change. At first those bands of material weren't visible without removing the skin, but now they're growing thicker and easier to see.
Since we have three New Breed zombies in our holding area, Evans and I along with Gabrielle have decided it's time to take our testing to another level. I still don't feel right about what we're doing, but I'm determined to go on until my conscience absolutely demands otherwise. I could argue about the pros and cons all day, but you probably already know them. The fact that I'm torn is a good sign. The warning bells should only start to ring when I stop questioning the morality of my own actions.
So, today, our newly made New Breed is going to get cooked.
It sounds awful (and it is awful) but we aren't actually going to cook him like a roast or anything. We've got a large hot box set up that will allow us some degree of control over the temperature in it. It looks a lot like a grill, but it really isn't. The highest we'll allow the heat to get to is around a hundred and thirty degrees. Hot, yes, but to a zombie that's not even noticeable.
I can tell you that for sure. One interesting discovery we've made is that zombies don't experience pain the way you and I do. They recognize touch and extremes of hot and cold, but there is no indication that such a thing as discomfort even exists for them. When we were studying the effect of heat on the New Breed's skin the other day, the mounting heat in the room caused no visible reaction in the undead. Hell, we stripped some of his skin off (I shudder at the memory) and got a grunt from him. That was it.
We're going further today mainly to see if the underlying layers of thickened tissue are effected by heat in the same way as their skin. We'll be working in increments. I've got a knot of dread in my belly even thinking about what I'm going to do, balanced out by the buzzing excitement of curiosity.
I've been stuck on our experiments a lot lately. I'm trying to move my focus away from them in my daily life, because the stress of knowing what horrible things we have to do is starting to seriously affect my routines. On that note, other news.
We were hit by rainstorms all day long yesterday, though it was moderately warm the entire time. Jess has doubled down on her work, getting us ready for the planting. One step she's taken that (thankfully) isn't dependent on the weather is sowing a new crop of clover. That stuff is tough, even the seeds are hardy. We're going to collect as many seeds as possible this year, but we've still got (and are still finding) tons of them around the county and beyond. Billions of little seeds.
I spent some time working with Jess yesterday. We even went outside the walls to spread some of the clover seed in the rain. It's strange how circumstances can change a person, and how your perception of the person changes with the circumstances.
Jess isn't a small woman, though in my mind I used to see her that way. She's tall, actually a bit taller than me, and she's very strong. My urge to call her my "little wife" is still there, because only a few short years ago Jess was meek. Quiet. So sensitive to how other saw her that she tried hard not to draw anyone's attention. So sensitive to the cold that even mild weather sent her diving into a pile of blankets to keep warm. So set in her unique brand of OCD that small changes to her routine threw her completely off her game.
It was strange to watch her wander in the rain, oblivious to the cold drops soaking her to the skin. I watched her toss handfuls of seed out as I followed behind with weapons in hand. When a stray zombie stepped out of the woods a few yards from us, she didn't get scared or freak out. She drew its attention while I circled around to put a few pounds of hatchet in the back of its head.
This, from the woman who ran out of the shower because a spider was up in the corner of the bathroom, yelling at me to kill it, kill it, OMG KILL IT!
It's old news, I know. I just can't help watching her, seeing the self-confidence with which she moves and commands, and thinking about how different she is. We all are, of course, but I'm not married to all of you. I'm not in love with all of you. So I center on her.
Honestly, in the early days of The Fall one of the things I worried about the most was how Jess would manage without someone to watch out for her. I know that sounds sexist or whatever, but at the time she was very much a modern person, never in a fight, never fired a gun. She avoided confrontation like it was herpes. She's a faster learner than I am, though. Once she got over her initial shock and saw what needed to be done, Jess set her jaw and did it.
Now look at her. Strong, sure, and independent to a degree that most people in New Haven envy. I don't worry about how she'd manage anymore even though my current work is as dangerous as work can get inside New Haven's walls. If an accident were to happen in our experiments, Jess would be fine. Hell, I worry more about how I'd manage without her.
When I toss and turn with worry about these experiments, she's the one soothing me. She gives me the love and support I need to deal with...everything. Before The Fall, I was the stable rock that she needed me to be. Now the situation is reversed, and I begin to realize how much she really does for me. I probably would have called it quits already with Evans and Gabby if Jess hadn't been the voice of reason.
She gives me strength when I need it most. I can't express in words how amazing that feels. Now to hold on to that thought as I work with my test subject today. That's the challenge.