Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mad World

We went from seventy degree weather one day to raging storms the next, and then yesterday we got about six inches of snow. It came on suddenly and dropped in less than eight hours. Since yesterday morning when we woke up to see the beautiful blanket draped across the world, the temperature has dropped to the mid-twenties and stayed there.

This morning is March the sixth, I'll remind you. Our timetable for planting has little wiggle room, and the weather is not being agreeable. I can't tell you how fortunate we are that my wife has been directing her teams so efficiently. She's the reason our agricultural efforts are as far along as they are.

The rapid shift toward cold weather brought us one unexpected but valuable piece of information: we now see a weakness in the New Breed. It's a small one, but something we can exploit in the short term.

Yesterday morning around dawn wasn't all that cold. It was just above freezing out, causing the snow to be very wet and clingy. Thinking that we'd have the advantage over the zombies outside the walls, we sent teams out under guard to gather several large loads of firewood. Not knowing if the cold snap would stay with us or not, this seemed like a reasonable (and necessary) risk. I should add here that our teams have encountered small groups of New Breed zombies many times over the last week. Some have attacked our people, some have merely hung back at the edge of any nearby woods to observe, some have feinted toward our people only to retreat at once, testing us.

It's becoming clear that the local New Breed are acting as one large force. They're not just trying to figure out the weaknesses in New Haven's defenses or deciding which of our gathering places in the outside world might act as a convenient feeding ground in which to kill unwary humans. There seems to be a larger push here, a guiding principle that makes me think the New Breed are trying to get a handle on every aspect of us, their enemy and potential food supply.

Yeah, that's fucking scary. We've been working on the assumption that all our worst-case scenarios are true. That the New Breed is far more intelligent than they appear to be, and that the game they play is currently beyond our understanding.

That's actually a much more freeing idea than you might think. We know they're watching us, could be preparing some move against New Haven and our people that we can't anticipate. That narrows down the possible responses on our part to basically two: retreat or attack. We have nowhere to run, so....

We've armed the guards going out to protect our teams of workers with rifles and precious bullets. They have instructions to shoot any New Breed on sight, whether or not they attack. These zombies are smart, and they measure us. The last thing we can afford to be is predictable.

Yesterday morning around ten o'clock, a cold(er) front moved in and dropped the temperatures into the low twenties in a very short time. A team of woodcutters had been sent out to gather lumber and firewood. They encountered a group of New Breed waiting for them. The zombies had been clever, seeing the snow coming and hiding themselves amid the piles of wood during the night. Our watchers check, but it's impossible to be perfect. The undead managed to find places to lay low, waiting during the snowfall for our people.

Thing is, when the New Breed sensed our people coming close and rose from the mantle of snow covering them, they were slow. Zombies have developed a resistance to cold during the time since the outbreak began, but there is only so much a body can take--reanimated or not. Our people had plenty of time to pull back, and thank god for the perceptiveness of the guard captain. He ordered his people to hold their fire, noting something different about these New Breed.

Their skin, usually looking dense and leathery, appeared brittle. The color was off from slate gray to a sickly blue, and even as the New Breed moved and the snow fell away from them he could see small cracked areas forming at the joints. Cold wasn't sending them into the hibernation state it used to, but clearly it was still affecting parts of their physiology.

The guard captain ordered one of his men to strike at the first zombie with a handheld weapon, told him to aim for a joint. The man hit the elbow of the nearest New Breed, and the result was...awful. The skin basically sloughed away like a loos glove from elbow to wrist. The constant contact with the and the rapid change in temperature does things to that armored skin they grow.

Note that I said change in temperature instead of 'drop in temperature'. Evans and I spent yesterday afternoon testing a theory, you see. On our captive New Breed. We used a lot of firewood to get the room we keep him in hot enough, but we began to see it. I put on my armor, thinking I'd sweat to death, in order to restrain our test subject. Once I had the noose pole around his neck, the rest wasn't so hard.

As Evans directed me through the heavy fence around the cell, I tested the strength and resilience of our New Breed's skin. At prolonged lower temps, their skin can crack and separate if they move too quickly or violently before it begins to warm back up. At higher temperatures, somewhere between ninety-five and a hundred degrees, the skin begins to lose its toughness and become waxy. More supple. Way easier to pierce.

Hell, I accidentally pulled off a chunk of our captive's skin the size of a baseball just pinching it and giving a moderate pull.

To think that yesterday I woke up angry that this insane season had given us snow when it should be getting t-shirt warm. The freak snowstorm and following cold front were the best thing that could have happened, because otherwise we might not have discovered this chink in the armor of the enemy. How we can take advantage of that is probably going to be my main work for the near future, but it's a job I'm happy to take on.

We had to get some good news eventually.

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