Monday, April 30, 2012

Morning Glory

The first blush of dawn is rolling across the hills. The morning is just chill enough to refresh, not cold enough to cause discomfort. Birds are chirping. I almost expect a clever talking animal to show up with a Disneyesque voice over narrating our improbably meeting.

It's that nice a morning. Made more so by the fact that from my roof, which is where I'm sitting as I type this, I can see hints of dull metal glinting against the darkness. The walls of the expansion are up, and the whole thing done in less than ten hours. It was a bitch of a ten hours, mind you, but breathtaking to watch. It was hard enough on everyone that a few people had to be kept overnight at the clinic for observation. Exhaustion can do funny things to the body.

Not everything went perfectly. The dock we used was old and in disrepair, and about halfway through the day the damn thing started cracking under the weight of all the shipping boxes. Fortunately Dave decided that he would spend his day overseeing the most dangerous part, transferring from the boats to dry land. He knew the dock was risky to use, and the makeshift repairs he'd made in preparation weren't enough. Dave is like MacGyver when it comes to fixing things. I don't know what sorcery he used to reinforce the dock, but it only took him twenty minutes.

By the end of the day the dock was basically trashed, but still holding together. The awesome thing about rivers is that you have an infinite space to haul stuff behind you. George and his folks pulled those barges along, small for barges but a lot more of them than he initially planned to bring. The place they moved from had big reserves of diesel fuel, most of which they brought with them. They brought some portable machinery to make moving the containers easier. Without that and the fuel we'd probably still be there.

Seeing the light hitting the expansion is invigorating. The walls are four hundred feet on a side, each ten containers long. Most of the wall is two containers tall, though a few places aren't. Not because we didn't have enough, but because we're making them assault points for any zombie attacks. The idea is to anchor tall pieces of metal across them, welded to the box below. Slits between these shield pieces about six inches to a foot wide will allow defenders to fire down on the enemy without giving them a way in.

A good chunk of George's people (I guess now that they live here we can call George by his real name...which is George, actually. See how clever I am? I lied by telling the truth) are already living in the expansion. Mainly because the volunteers who came to help us prepare are still taking up most of our extra houseroom. It hasn't been too cold lately, so they aren't suffering. Most of them are staying inside the wall itself. There are holes cut into the sides of the containers to allow entry.

Jess wants to use the inside of the new wall to farm in, though I don't know if we'd be able to get enough sunlight in them to manage that. It's a fair point, though--they're hollow. We should really use that space for something.

It's kind of amazing to see so much work suddenly done. We were planning on a long process of making bricks and building a new wall by hand. The main building we planned in the middle of the expansion is the first thing to go up, and even that's had a lot of work done on it. The base is made up of five giant metal boxes.

Weird how so much of our lives before The Fall were affected by these things. A simple piece of transportation gear being shuttled across oceans, bringing us mp3 players, blenders, feminine hygiene products, and a million other bits of material to make our modern lives easier. Now they're trash. I use the definition of trash in its most basic meaning--an object no longer useful for its original purpose. Recycling is fun.

We've had a hard time lately, no doubt about it. Things are certainly better right now than they were at this time last year, but life is always throwing curveballs at you. That's the way the world has always been. It's refreshing to see new faces, new blood. As far as I'm concerned, George and his people are family now. They've done a lot of work in a very short time to get here, taken a lot of risks, and are going to do it all over again. A few days to rest and George will lead his boats back up the river with a mix of his people and ours to bring back every last piece of useful material from his camp. Hopefully that means more shipping containers. There are more left, of course. Those things are so damn useful.

I shouldn't say 'his' people or ours anymore. We're all in this together, now. I guess that's why my mood is so light this morning. There's a lot of hard work ahead of us as always, but seeing our numbers grow after so many heartbreaking setbacks makes Josh's heart grow three sizes this day.

I'm feeling pretty good. This is the first morning since my surgery that I've awakened without pain. My gut's tight and stiff, but it doesn't just hurt for no reason right now. The air feels great blowing across me, bringing with it the smell of breakfast cooking. If not for the distant moans and groans of the undead, it would be a perfect morning.

I think even those pained echos from over the barrier that separates us from them are appropriate. No matter how beautiful the morning or how positive our outlook may grow to be we need those reminders. We have to always carry with us that we could die at any time. That forgetting the danger we live in for a moment of relieved bliss at a perfect dawn can cost us everything. It's a slippery slope from discipline to self-delusion, and it ends with us crossing the Rubicon of death and joining the undead on the other side. Maybe a little harsh given how good my mood is, but I've got a lot of practice finding the cloud in every silver lining. That's probably why I'm still alive.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


George's river convoy is going to be here shortly. They were moving down the river at a good clip but decided to stop (which isn't easy to do with a bunch of barges and a couple large boats) last night to rest before arriving here. No great mystery to it--those people worked their asses off getting everything ready to come here. They needed time to rest before the major work begins.

That's good for two reasons. The Exiles spent a good chunk of last night patrolling along the river over large stretches and in big groups. I can't say for sure they were trying to find and intercept George's flotilla, but I don't think it could possibly be coincidence. We could sit here theorizing all day long about what their intentions may have been, but since any action against George's people would violate the truce, I'll leave speculation up to you. I don't know that the Exiles would risk it.

And since it's a moot point anyway, I can move on. The other reason this was a good thing is because we needed the time to get ready. Even with our surprise volunteers working all day to help us get ready, there just wasn't enough time. You'd think there wouldn't be a lot of prep work needed for a patch of ground, and you would be right. But there's also setting up food and housing for those people (and the volunteers as well, together a logistical nightmare) and ensuring everyone who'll be hauling shipping containers from the rendezvous knows the game plan. AND setting up the heavy equipment needed to move the damn things around, which includes a crane that's going to eat up a huge chunk of our remaining diesel fuel.

Oh, and the goddamn zombies.

I mean, what the hell is the deal with them? You send out a few dozen living people--happy meals on two feet--into the open to work on flattening the earth and laying out new spray-paint lines to show where things need to go, and suddenly the undead think it's a good idea to rush well-armed and irritable guards.

None of the attacks were by themselves very dangerous, but they added up to a ton of lost time yesterday. They came in small clusters, mostly old school zombies wandering into view of New Haven for the first (and last) time. The numbers just keep growing day to day as the weather warms, though the more recent undead have looked rougher than usual.

It's sometimes easy to forget that we've been fighting them for two years. The change in them has been so gradual that if you don't focus on it you can miss the signs completely. Two years of shuffling around the country, never rotting but never healing, either. Wear and tear ruins their hair and clothes, though for some reason their feet never seem to suffer too badly. Many of the ones our people took down yesterday had dozens of small wounds and seemed...damaged somehow. Injuries typically don't slow a zombie down, but these ones were sluggish to a man, weak, and probably intensely hungry. After so much time foraging for prey, I'd think that most of the easy game out in the world has been devoured. Say what you will about the zombie plague, but it has done wonders for Darwinism. The wild animals that are left must be the strongest, smartest, best survivors the natural world has to offer.

Kind of like the people that are left, I suppose.

I've asked to have a few of the zombies killed yesterday brought to the cell where we kept our test subject zombies. I can't do a lot right now, but cutting a few of them open to see how starved they were isn't physically draining. Call it very morbid curiosity.

Not long now before our new arrivals...arrive. Yeah. I'm running on little sleep and too much excitement. It's a big day. Let's hope all goes well.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I haven't gotten into the different signals we use to alert the citizens of New Haven about things, mostly because it's not that important and is actually kind of boring. I've mentioned that we ring the bells a given number of times based on how many zombies we estimate are coming at us but haven't gone much past that.

So you know, a constant ringing bell means incoming people. The living kind.

We have ways to differentiate between hostiles and friendlies, and this morning I woke up to the sound of a single bell ringing steadily for ten seconds. It was expected, since today is a trade day. What none of us saw coming was the large number of people that came with the caravan.

We've been in touch with the folks we trade with to let them know what kinds of things we'll be looking for as we work on the expansion. Franklin county has a lot of resources we can salvage for the new section, but some items are a bit harder to find. We've also made it clear that given our recent troubles there might be some small delays or shortages in shipments. So, with the explanation that they're just protecting an investment, a dozen of the groups we trade with sent people to help us out.

There are sixty of them, and they'll be here for several days. Normally the caravans only stay a short time, but this one is large and vitally important: a huge supply of homemade gauze and topical antibiotics, the first large order of the spring. Lots of people have had as hard a time with zombies as we have, and there are many injured who need dressings and medicine. It's worth the wait for them to make sure we've got enough product ready to meet their needs.

In practical terms, this means that we've got enough people to ensure our readiness for the arrival of George and his people and manage everything else in the pipeline. Our goods can be produced, our walls patrolled, and all the other details that need to be seen to don't have to suffer from lack of manpower. It's going to be busy and difficult to organize, but we'll make it work. We'd be idiots to screw up free help from folks who're willing to put in long hours out of the goodness of their hearts.

That, and I'm sure they really do want to make certain we don't all die and stop trading with them. Completely reasonable.

It's going to be a busy morning. I'm in charge of the group preparing our dock site where George and his people will be unloading, as well as organizing fuel and disposition of our heavy machinery, which we'll need to haul and place the shipping containers.

If all goes according to plan, they'll be here tonight. It's not that long a trip by river. I haven't been entirely honest about the timetable, mostly because I didn't want anyone to get ideas about looking for George's group. Misdirection is the best way to make sure attacks don't happen when you suspect assholes may take advantage of transitions.

The number of assholes in the world today is pretty damn high, too. I don't doubt for a second that there are people out there who would have hit George's group like the fist of god if they knew his people would be distracted and frantic with executing their trip here.

If we can get all this work done without any major incidents, we should be set for the near future. There aren't any other big projects to go on about, and the new wall made of shipping containers will make work inside the expansion safe and much easier than we planned. I'm excited. Everyone here is.

Our sincere and infinite thanks to every volunteer who came here to help. Whatever your reasons, you're fine people for doing it, and I love each of you now.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

River Rats

George and his people are making their way here. We've had to up the timetable given our recent setbacks and injuries, so we're getting a lot of frantic work done very quickly in preparation. It's not easy on our injured, but there isn't a lot of choice. The area where George and his people live is facing increased zombie swarms just like everyone else. They've got a nce barrier at their base, but sections of it are made from the shipping containers they're planning on bringing here.

Those are the last ones George and his people will bring here, obviously. Can't hang around when you're snatching pieces of your defensive barrier away.

The Exiles are seeing a marked increase in wayward zombies as well. They've been dealing with the attacks in a totally different way than we do since they haven't the same layers of protection. Without a wall they can't manage a classical defense of the fallback point, so they hole up in their buildings and use raw firepower to mow down the undead that come upon them.

The terms of the truce mean that we couldn't lead any zombies toward them even if there were a bridge within twenty miles that wasn't destroyed, but that doesn't mean I can't wish them all kinds of fun handling the undead. I feel bad thinking that way, because there must be some people on the other side of the river that are decent folks (a thought I wouldn't have entertained at all a few months ago), but it isn't one I can avoid. After hearing the horrible description of how Scar (what we call their leader) killed a friendly guard, I have a hard time actually feeling pity for them.

It's an interesting study in differences. Here, we use a lot of homemade weapons that we can essentially reproduce at will. Less effective than gunfire but sustainable over a long period of time. The Exiles don't have a wall that compares to ours, so they turtle up in the high buildings of the fallback point and rain bullets down upon the swarms of undead. I've spent a lot of time working with people here to assure our methods are passed around and taught to others, so we don't lose our capacity to make bows and arrows should a small handful of people die. I don't see that happening with the Exiles.

We've got walking wounded everywhere, working to make sure New Haven is ready when George and his people start making deliveries on the river. Hopefully they'll bring it all on one trip if they've managed to wrangle enough barges and boats. The Exiles don't seem to do much for their future aside from farming. None of our watchers have seen them making weapons or trying to create their own goods.

George and his river rats know that strength is in numbers and that long-term survival lies with choosing to trust. That's hard to do, but New Haven and many other bands of survivors have managed it. The Exiles haven't, nor have many of the remaining marauders across the countryside. When I walk (carefully, as I don't want to injure the incision in my belly) around New Haven, I see people who might have totally different ideas on god or morality or whatever working together. They tell jokes and help one another. Sometimes they work in silence and cast irritated stares. But they do it. They trust.

Though the Exiles have put up barriers that make it hard to see inside the fallback point, we can still see enough of them to know they're a different beast altogether. People there don't cooperate much, don't seem to have any kind of normal life. The other side of the river seems more like a refugee camp in some third-world country, full of people too frightened of each other to muster the will to overcome that feeling. It's sad. Really and truly. Especially because our watchers have begun to catch sight of kids over there.

Kids. With the Exiles. It's going to get easier, knowing that, to feel bad when they lose folk to zombies or starvation or illness. Children tend to crack the hard armor around our hearts.

George and his people will be here soon. I'm off to do what I can to manage the preparations. I'll try to keep my mind on business, but I can't help thinking about huddled kids living in fear of men like Scar.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Good Company

We of New Haven are fiercely protective of our home, but we need a break from fighting. Even though I haven't been able to do any actual fighting I include myself because we're all at risk. We've got enough able bodies to defend New Haven in a pinch, but that's manning the walls with people who'd be risking popped stitches.

I'm keeping it short and sweet this morning as I've had virtually no sleep. I've done what I could to help around the clinic the last few days. There are a couple people who've taken injuries that have become infected, and many more taking up space as they're observed. Not much room at the clinic now, so I'm going home this morning. I'm still not allowed to do much in the way of heavy lifting, but I can not do that at my house. Still have to check in regularly and have my incision looked at, dressings changed and the like.

We're a community of the walking wounded. It's a sight to see. I may have played it cool with the assault the other day, but it's not pretty. People are hurt and in need of quiet time to heal. If life were like the movies, we'd get just enough of it before the climactic final battle.

But we've had to repel small zombie attacks even since the major assault. Spring brings increased zombie movement across the world, and the old school undead never really stop. They're not as dangerous as the New Breed, of course, but far more numerous. They drift across the landscape like dandelion fluff in a strong breeze, making our guards work in the process.

I'm so tired. We're tired. There's no chance of respite from life. We have to keep manning the guns and defending our home. No way around it. Even as we work with George to finalize plans to bring his people here, which will be a huge help, we struggle. Knowing that help is coming doesn't change the work we have to do in the meantime.

We're almost incapable of giving up. We'll struggle through. No matter how hard it gets.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Tide

Today I'm without drugs in my system, but I'm happy about it. Evans made the right call in doping me up yesterday, because the bells just kept on coming. Eight of them, of course. Eight hundred New Breed hit us all at once.

They came from all sides, and they were clever. The first wave, about fifty on each side of New Haven, rolled logs or carried heavy pieces of wood. The logs hit our traps, setting them off and creating safe routes through the outer defenses. Once the traps were no longer an issue, the remaining forces moved in behind them.

I'm cobbling all this together from what Will and others have told me, so if it seems a little confusing you'll have to forgive me.

Our archers took careful shots, no wild flights of arrows. Each target was chosen, shots taken only when an archer thought they could kill with a headshot. As you can imagine from our prior experience with the New Breed, they moved in loose ranks. Groups moved forward to pick up the logs and set them against the wall. The undead were clearly using logs and wood from our woodcutting site.

As those zombies came forward with their logs, those with chunks of wood gave them cover by throwing their missiles at the people on the wall. Keep in mind this is going on all around New Haven. Every person we could spare carried weapons along the wall.

New Breed can be mighty clever. They aren't quite a match for people scared for their lives, though.

Everyone was kind of surprised that they came at us so hard. The New Breed know how dangerous arrows are, they knew we would take a toll on them. According to Dodger, their skin is tougher than the last time I fought them. Maybe it's the diet of other zombies or just a progression of their particular mutation, but it's harder to damage them.

Which means it's harder to put arrows through their heads. Luckily, we evened the playing field with fire.

It took a lot of effort and some losses on trades, but we managed to stockpile enough materials to make about half a ton of thermite. Some of which Becky worked into a thin gel. Which was carefully spread out across the field.

So while it was hard for our folks to hold back until the New Breed got right up on the wall in one convenient mass (well, four convenient masses) it worked out very well. Because they'd been traipsing about in liquid death. They had rolled their logs through the stuff.

It wasn't the crazy powerful kind of thermite Becky made before. This was simpler stuff, but we managed to get hold of a large amount of magnesium, shavings of which were mixed in. Makes it easier to ignite.

Didn't kill most of them, but the logs went up like torches, ruining the hands of the zombies holding them. The feet and lower legs of others burned. We didn't take out many of them with arrows, but we crippled all but a hundred.

Our people went out the gate and brought hell with them. Squads went out and methodically destroyed their brains. The Beaters took point, setting up diamonds to deal with still-mobile enemies. Others sprinted about in small groups, shields and spears and other killing tools at the ready as they finished off those zombies that couldn't move easily.

Our folks took a lot of injuries, and fourteen people died. That's a smaller loss than we expected, but no one could have imagined the sheer panic we caused. Our people took the fight the them, used every trick they've learned, and wiped almost all of them.

I know this is shaky and not up to my usual standard, but I wasn't there. That bothers me, of course. I know intellectually that there was no way for me to be there and do any kind of good but that doesn't change the fact that my heart feels heavy. For not being there. For knowing that people I've spent time with and shed blood beside are gone. Just like that.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Scar Tissue

I keep poking myself in the tummy. The incision where Evans cut me open and played in my guts is healing up well, faster than I hoped for and better than my expectations. Thank god for small favors.

It's really difficult not to fiddle with the lump of hardening scar tissue on my abdomen. It's like a loose tooth--there, and new, and thus impossible to ignore. Doesn't help that my laptop bumps into it when I work.

Still, I have a long road ahead of me. It's nice to be able to get some work done even if I can't go out and fight with the others. And they could have used me the last day, that's for sure. Every able hand would have been a huge help, but we couldn't risk fielding more than a handful.

The New Breed are back, and they've come with friends. Will is guessing that their disappearance was only for as long as it took to gather all the numbers they could. Idiotically, we assumed that our scouts and beaters had been seeing the large group of them and that it was the majority of the New Breed in the county. Sure, there were small groups and our people attacked them, but all of those together never added up to the larger group we'd seen.

Maybe. Maybe not. It's hard to track movements and numbers in the field. We thought the New Breed were gathering in one mass and that the smaller groups were zombies that just hadn't been integrated yet. New arrivals, probably. We didn't consider the idea that the large swarm we saw was the one they were letting us see, and we should have. We should have known it based on every interaction we've had with them.

Yesterday evening, a pair of our scouts came in at full speed, screaming for us to let them through the gate. They'd caught sight of a large group of New Breed less than a quarter mile away, at least two hundred of them. We had the lookouts on the tower scan all around, and what they saw was bone-chilling. Four such groups in total, spread out around us. Zombies on all sides.

They haven't attacked us yet, and this morning when we sent out those volunteers, the nearest troupe of undead retreated. Our people aren't stupid, so they didn't chase. Getting drawn far from home and into the retreating center of a zombie swarm is a good way to get trapped as the arms of that swarm close in around you.

No, they're just waiting out there. We keep taking warning shots at them, but they're just out of range of our air cannons, much less out arrows. Bullets would be a pointless waste. Two more teams have ridden out since that first one with the same results. Maybe if we had more people, and so many of us weren't injured, we could risk pushing a little harder and faster. Take the fight to them for real.

Waiting is awful. Knowing you're about to fight for your life, for the lives of those you love. The anticipation is brutal. Sitting here, I can only hope that the undead hold decide that we aren't a prize worth the risk. I don't have much expectation of that. They wouldn't be out there in those numbers on a bluff. They've shown us they're smarter than that.

I'm chalking it up to the funny little pill Evans made me swallow about two hours ago, but I'm not stressing out right now. I know I should be worried and fidgety about the possible death sentence waiting outside the walls to hit us like the fist of god, but I'm not. I mean, I feel it, but it isn't overpowering. I can be objective.

The New Breed are dangerous as hell, that's a fact. Their many advantages over the original recipe zombies make each New Breed worth four of the old school ones in a fight. They're fast and tough and smart, and that's not good for us. More, they've got experience with our defenses and probably have plans to overcome them.

Medication is kind of awesome, though. Because I feel a strange (and possibly false) sense of security. Yes, the New Breed are lethal. But they are zombies. Which were once people. Which means they have weaknesses and blind spots we can exploit.

Ah, the sound of bells. Seems the time has come to see if some of our more clever plans will pay dividends. I really, really hope whatever this is doesn't wear off before the battle is done. Jess is here with me and I'm worried the blocked-off fear will overload me all at once and make me piss down my leg or something.

Time to make myself scare. The clinic will be busy soon, and I don't want to be in the way. Wish us luck.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Over the course of the last few years, there have been many occasions where our plans and reality had serious disagreements over who was right. Reality always wins. Once in a while that ends up in our favor. For example, the recent spate of zombie attacks on the walls seems to have made the New Breed unwilling to hit us with their main force. Our Beaters haven't found a trace of them in days.

Then there's the news we got this morning. My brother was sitting with me in the clinic going over pieces and parts of our plans for the expansion when I got a message from a contact who lives relatively nearby. By sheer chance, Dave and I were looking at the estimates on how long the new wall was going to take to complete using the bricks our folks are shaping out of the local clay. The message came in, and our plans changed.

The contact in question has asked that we not share any but the most general information about him. He lives on a river that connects to the Kentucky river. He's not that far away. He is the head of a group of people that we've been trying to persuade to join us for a few weeks now. They live in an area that did a lot of river trade before The Fall.

Long story short, they're at the nexus where a train yard and a large river shipping company meet. They've got several barges small enough to traverse the Kentucky river and more shipping containers than they can fit on them. They've made the decision to join us because they've come up with an idea that will allow the new wall to be built in a period of days rather than months.

I'm sure you've figured it out, but the contact (we'll call him George) and his folks are going to bring loads of those beautiful long metal boxes to us. From the spot on the river we'll be unloading them from it's just a five minute trip to New Haven. We've got everything we need to move the containers, though the process will be tricky. Getting them to New Haven will be the easy part. Making them into a wall will be marginally harder. Stacking them two high will require a crane, I think. That's the main issue we'll have to worry about.

But hey, think about the positives. The expansion will have a wall twenty feet high, made of metal and with no chance of allowing the undead to climb them. If there is enough fuel to manage multiple trips to George's base, there are enough containers that we would have all the extra metal we'd need for years. We could armor the stone wall around New Haven with them, use them as raw materials, cut them up to make shields. The possibilities are wide open.

There are a lot of details to work out. Looks like we'll have to send a team to George's place to coordinate and look for fuel supplies for the barges. But, you know. Train station next door. Sure to be some diesel fuel there.

The Exiles will be an issue. They've got patrols going up and down the river. I think they'll abide by the truce, but George and his people could prove to be too tempting a target. We'll see, I suppose. For now I'm incredibly excited to see George and his crew finally decide to join up. We've had to play that low-key, and knowing now what resources they can bring to us makes the stakes that much higher.

Jess is practically vibrating with the news. She's been laying on the cot next to me, tossing in her two cents here and there. She already has plans for the new wall, ideas that Dave and I might have come up with weeks down the road. She came up with them in minutes. Damn wife, showing me up.

Ah, and our breakfast/lunch is here. Bit of a busy morning today, so the meals are erratic. Dave, Jess and I will need our minds on task, so we better eat. We've got an entire new community to redesign, and only a week or so to do it.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Evans has released me and the others from isolation. Overnight the remaining three Louisville people had sudden and dramatic improvements. They're up, breathing well, and apparently on the mend. It's sudden but fits with the results of the autopsies he's been performing.

Which I didn't get to hear the results of until this morning, because he didn't want to get my hopes up or scare me to death. That the line between the two was narrow enough for him to withhold information is pretty terrifying by itself.

Because I'm free to move about (if gingerly since I still have a huge stitched-together wound in my belly) and because today is my wedding anniversary and I'd like to spend as much of it with Jess as possible, I'm going to have to keep it short. Again.

Evans says that whatever hit these folks isn't likely to be transmissible anymore. I don't know what his reasoning is there, but he's the expert. The lung tissue of the people who died was badly damaged, as if a giant fist had squeezed them. The fibrous material threaded through them, the parts of the zombie plague that grow inside each of us, were brittle and withered. Evans thinks some pathogen began to attack the plague itself, at the lungs first because it was likely airborne. The last few weeks we've been seeing the Louisville crew acting as the battleground between the plague organism and whatever has been attacking it.

That's his theory based on the evidence.

Not that he can really look at the lungs (or most other parts of a person) who is still alive to confirm. So we'll just work on the operative idea that we can't do anything about it and hope that these folks were exposed to whatever this is before they came here to help us. Seems to have a long incubation period, which is a silver lining.

Jess is doing a lot better. Her wounds are annoying the hell out of her, but she's keeping a positive attitude and frankly managing to get a lot more work done than I am. Don't know if we'll be able to do anything special today. Being alive, being together, is something wonderful all on its own. I cherish that even if nothing else happens today.

One good thing is that the zombie attacks have stopped. Well, good in the short term. I don't imagine they've just given up. Maybe deterred considering the number of bodies we created during their test runs.

Ahhh okay, I'm drifting. Time to give the wife some cuddles. Cuddles are manly. Don't judge me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bubble Boy

I'm in isolation along with a lucky group of other people. It's not fun. It's not terrible, but we don't have anything to do. For the time being I don't get to do any real work or interact with people other than they small number of clinic personnel. And those folks wear isolation gear when they come in. It's kind of difficult to have serious human interaction when the person you're talking to is wearing eye shields and a face mask.

The concern is that I'm a carrier for whatever is killing the Louisville crew. There has been another death, the third. That leaves three of them alive, and their condition has basically remained the same. Time is the only way to know if they'll live or die.

I'm charging my laptop with my solar charger through the window. It takes most of each day to do it, and that leaves me a total of about five hours of battery time to work. Writing this blog takes up a chunk of that, and I spend the rest of the time communicating as best I can with the people I need to talk to. Luckily a lot of the work I was doing with my brother on the expansion is on this machine, so I can fiddle with that. Will has someone else covering my job with him. Boredom and worry are racing for first place in my brain.

I'm told that Jess is doing well and so far showing no signs of whatever it is that's killing the Louisville people. I'm hopeful that the illness was beyond the transmissible stage by the time they got to the clinic. That's not really what I'm worried about, to be honest. I try to ration my fear for things that are happening rather than things that might, which is why I'm also not as concerned for me at the moment. I don't have any symptoms.

What's rattling my cage is the zombie attacks. They're happening, and they're getting worse.

For the last day small groups of New Breed have been assaulting different parts of New Haven. None of the attacks have, by themselves, been especially dangerous. Most of the actual zombies heading for the wall are old school, forced on us through whatever coercive means the New Breed has over them. Maybe it's something to do with the plague organism, or something as simple as fear that the New Breed will eat them if they don't.

They've hit different spots each time, testing our defenses. We've seen it before. Only on one occasion has the same section of wall been assaulted twice, and that was the last time. The New Breed waits out of bow range and watches our people as they run out and reset the spear traps in the ground. Seems obvious they're trying to figure a way around them.

We were working under the assumption that the New Breed would attack us in force when the time came. Given their enhanced mental capacity, it was a foregone conclusion that they'd test the defenses for weak spots. Guess I was just hoping for it to happen at a time when I wasn't laid up and helpless.

There's no way of knowing when or if they'll hit us in earnest. Our people are on high alert but being ready is only the beginning of the fight. We've held some defenses in reserve so we can have surprises ready for them when they come, but no one feels totally confident about fighting them off. The peril of too much pride in our ability to defend ourselves is a lesson we've learned in our bones.

Funny. I saw 'we' but I can't do a goddamn thing. So it goes. The bells are coming so regularly now that I've almost developed the ability to ignore them.

Ah, there's one now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Matched Set

I only have a minute this morning. Things are in a mad rush right now. Will and Evans are trying to seal off the portion of the clinic the Louisville people are in. Another of them died last night, and it was caught quickly this time.

No one is sure exactly what's going on with these folks, but the decision has been made to limit exposure as much as possible. The reason I don't have much time to write is because I'm being moved to another part of the clinic myself since I had a lot of contact with them. It's just damage control, no worries. They aren't going to put me to death or anything. Evans just wants to make sure that if we've caught whatever bug it is, we don't share it.

Jess is still laid up, but she and I won't be together until Evans determines whether or not I'm sick. I don't feel sick, but then it might be hard to catch with my recent surgery.

Ah. They're coming to move me. Time to close the laptop. No worries for now, okay? The zombies outside the walls are manageable, the Exiles aren't making any more noise. I'll write again as soon as I can.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Going Dark

One of the folks from Louisville died in the night. I'm in a different part of the clinic, so I wasn't aware of it until I woke up a few minutes ago. Evans is going to do an autopsy, which as you can imagine is unusual.

Somehow, whoever was on duty missed the death at first. I've been a nurse's aide, I know it's not hard to do. Sometimes when people are sleeping soundly and you pop your head in to check on them, you can just make the assumption they're still breathing. After all, they'd been breathing for years without stopping.

In a nutshell, that means the guy on duty didn't know he had a dead body on one of his cots for nearly four hours. A body that had begun to mortify, which is again something unusual. The departed in question is currently strapped to a table just in case, but it's been at least six hours and so far has shown no signs of reanimating into a zombie.

In fact, everything we can see indicates that our fallen ally is just...dead.

I'm too groggy to speculate on what this may mean. The zombie plague is a complicated organism, but the human immune system is a powerful beast in its own right. Maybe after a long enough time some people will begin to build resistance to the infection, I don't know. That's going to be something Evans will try to determine through autopsy, I guess.

The worrying thing is that the guy didn't even get worse. The Louisville crew that have been here for weeks have had peaks and valleys in their illness, but last night there were no changes. No ragged breath, no gasping for air or crackling in the lungs. Just sleeping soundly one minute, lights out the next.

The medical team here is worried that the easy diagnosis for the Louisville group may have been the wrong one. Evans and Gabby sat with me a few minutes ago so I could listen to their thoughts and prepare notes for Will. They made some good points, though Gabby did most of the talking. Evans is a cranky old sawbones and very good at what he does, but Gabs spent the last few years before The Fall studying to be a Nurse Practitioner. Combine that with her love of medicine and endless curiosity, and you get one hell of a diagnostician. Evans isn't a slouch by any means, but he's just not up on the same things. His insight was extremely valuable anyway.

While we don't know exactly what killed the poor guy last night, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Evans told me about how rampant disease was back in Vietnam. There were a lot of soldiers on our side who hadn't had vaccinations through one error or another. Many were exposed to diseases that there were no vaccines for.

Which raises the alarming point that we're now operating in pretty much the same circumstances. Most of us have been vaccinated for various things, but that's the past. The passel of babies here haven't had that blessing, nor is it likely they ever will. All those crazy people who didn't give their kids vaccines and immunizations because of corporate greed or government microchips or whatever would just freaking love this situation.

Too bad most of those folks never looked into mortality rates of communities without those treatments.

Even that is a long-term worry. The immediate fear is that the Louisville people brought some unknown pathogen with them. If that's the case, it doesn't seem easily vectored to other people, because none of us are sick. I'd been working with these folks for weeks and living among them for nonstop for more than a week. Maybe not in the same room, but close. And I'm not sick yet.

Injuries are something we can handle. They're quantifiable problems that have definite solutions. Illness on any scale larger than individual is a whole other beast. Not one easily slain, if at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The last few days have been busy ones. I can't get out of bed, both because I'm still not allowed without help and because the clinic is pretty full at the moment and moving around is hard. It's not that we have an overwhelming number of injuries (though there were a fair number from the zombie attack the other day) but because people are coming to visit Jess in a steady stream, pretty much nonstop since she was brought in.

Yeah, Jess is in here with me now. Her injuries aren't severe but at least the doctors won't have to worry about us trying to engage in painful post-surgical sexy times.

The reason the cannons didn't fire immediately when the swarm came for the walls is because Jess was outside New Haven with a group of kids. They were accompanied by a small contingent of guards and were being watched by the sentries and guards on the wall, but it was still dangerous. Jess and the kids were pulling up clover we'd planted last year, staying inside a designated safe zone where traps hadn't been laid. An escape ladder was thrown over the wall as a precaution so the people outside could shimmy up to escape any incoming zombies. Damn good thing they were prepared.

Things can always go wrong, though.

Jess wasn't carrying her rifle when she went out. She's been practicing with other weapons for a long while now, and working the earth has given her more muscle than at any point in our marriage so far. So, she was carrying a staff. Yeah, maybe not the best weapon with which to actually kill a zombie, but the wife made a show out of holding off several of them with it.

She didn't have a lot of choice there. One of the kids spooked when the sentries shouted their warning and ran outside the safe zone. Poor kid stepped right on one of the spear traps, sent the shaft of wood up out of the ground and right through his calf. Jess ran to him straight away, pulled him back as far as she could until she had no choice but to fight.

According to her, that part of the battle lasted for an hour. According to the guards who moved in to rescue her and the boy she fought like hell for maybe sixty seconds. An impressive minute, make no mistake, as Jess managed to fend off half a dozen undead while protecting a child and using only a long stick. Desperation is a powerful tool.

She took some nasty scratches to her upper arms and shoulders, and she's gonna be here for observation and treatment for another day or two. The wounds look good so far. She's got stitches that look incredibly uncomfortable, so now we're a matched set.

I'm still doing what I can to help by preparing medical supplies and the like while I'm here. Today was a lazy day for me, the staff didn't wake me up until an hour ago. When I came to, Jess and I were holding hands. Had been doing so in our sleep, arms dangling in the space between our cots.

I wish I could have seen it. My wife out there, savaging the hungry enemy for the sake of a wounded child. There was a time when I would have questioned her willingness to do that for anyone, even me, much less a person essentially a stranger to her. In my mind I see her as an unstoppable force, flowing between attacks and striking with perfect grace, a warrior woman of the highest caliber.

Then again, I've seen her trip over her own feet and stab herself in the hand with a steak knife she was carrying in the same hand so my imagination is probably getting a little ahead of reality. I'm sure she had to struggle in the fight and made mistakes. The wounds winding up her arms and across her shoulders are testament to that. Like everyone, she's only human.

That's what makes it so awesome. We're imperfect in many ways, but capable of moments that defy every expectation. My wife, the hero.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Laid Up

Well. I'm a dumbass.

I made the mistake of getting out of bed a little too quickly this morning, and I slipped a little. I didn't fall, but I did bang my side on the table next to the bed. Being as I'm still in the clinic, and Gabrielle was watching...I was busted. I'm stuck in bed and only allowed up with assistance. I know truly know how it was for all my patients at the nursing home. My incision hurts so much because of the nasty bump I gave it that I'm not arguing.

As I write this, I'm carefully forking pieces of steak and eggs into my mouth. It's so very good. There's even milk to go with it. Granted, goat milk, but it's better than nothing.

At the same time I'm hearing the sounds of battle outside. About twenty minutes ago two bells went off, signaling an attack force of zombies estimated between one and two hundred in size. I should be freaking out and worried, feeling like an utter bastard for eating this rare and delicious meal while other people fight for my safety, but I'm not.

Two reasons.

First, hitting my side and feeling that sweeping pain like getting kicked between the legs was a reality check. I'm not just hurt, I'm seriously compromised. Out there I'd be a liability to anyone I tried to protect. Long-term thinking has always been our main advantage over the zombie swarms, and that means getting better. Which means I need protein to heal. Which means eating what I'm given. That the meal is tasty and fulfilling isn't my fault. I'd be an ungrateful asshole not to enjoy what I have.

After all, we have so little here at times. We don't live lives of luxury and ease. In a way that's a blessing, because it makes us appreciate the good moments so much more.

The second reason I'm not losing my shit? I'm drugged the hell up.

I don't know what it is, and I don't much care. It's relaxing me without dulling my senses. I feel calm. Concerned about everyone out fighting at the moment, but not anxious with worry over what's happening. No amount of hand-wringing is going to change what happens. Letting my food get cold or skipping a post here today won't either.

Being in the clinic means that I'm not totally out of the loop since medical staff come and go with casualty reports and the occasional new patient. Triage teams have popped in for supplies once or twice, and they know me well enough to rattle off what details they know without being asked.

It's a group of New Breed, but they didn't come from any direction we expected. They hit us from the south, which has been abnormally sparse of them when our scouts and Beaters head that way. We assumed it was because we operate south of New Haven more than most places, and they avoided gathering in large groups there.

But another detail makes me wonder. These New Breed appear to be more ragged and disorganized than the ones we usually deal with. Makes me think they might have come from a long way off with few meals, and we were too tempting a target to pass by. Says something about their self-control that they'd lose cohesion at a certain point. Hunger is one of our deepest primal urges. Even living people will go nuts when they starve long enough. Can't expect better from the undead.

Apparently they're not as spry or strong as their well-fed cousins, either. Our people aren't having too hard a time scything them down, especially since we've got so many new defenses here. There aren't many new patients here at present, and only one so far with a bite. That guy got hit high on his shoulder, almost his neck. He's probably not going to make it. Can't really cut that off, you know?

What's scary is that he was on the wall when it happened. Even weak and disorganized, these New Breed managed to work together. Two of them lifting with interlocked hands as a third sprang onto them, shooting up to grab the top of the wall. How so many of them avoided being annihilated by the air cannons and spear-throwers I don't know. Those defenses should have chewed up at least a hundred of them if they came at us all at once.

Come to think of it, I haven't heard many of the loud hisses that ring out when the air cannons are fired. Almost none at the start of the fight. That's curious.

Ah. Phil just brought me a long roll of raw gauze. He wants me to cut and fold it in case we need it soon. Need to sterilize my hands and go. I'll report in later if possible.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Generation Gap

A reader asked a question of me yesterday that was both personal and simply curious. The reader must be a loyal one, because they were curious about things that don't have a lot to do with survival. That's a thing that I sometimes forget: some of you out there genuinely care about what's going on here in ways that can be surprising. A lot of folks just read the blog to keep in touch or to get tips on how to deal with the worsening zombie plague, but a few seem to enjoy when I ramble about the place I love. 

The question was actually two: What happened with all the pregnant women all those months back, and are Jess and I going to try again ourselves. Let's do this one at a time. 

I've touched on this a little, but many of the ladies from Tennessee were pregnant back when. Then they left, took over the abandoned strip mall in Shelbyville, and had their babies. There were a fair number of pregnant women who are natives to New Haven (if that term applies) and they've given birth for the most part. 

Not that people are having babies in waves or anything. There are other folks carrying children in various stages, and the ladies from Tennessee are living here again so there are a fair number of kids all around the same age. If it seems as if I ignored this, I guess that's because it doesn't seem newsworthy to me anymore. 

Wait. I'm not trying to knock the importance of kids. I'm just saying that over time we've all acclimated to the fact that there are a bunch of them around now. Initially there was a lot of fear that the attention small children would require might be a risk or cause people to be less productive. That's a bit cold-hearted but remember when that speculation was happening. Things were really bad, really desperate. We weren't holding together well. 

I guess the short answer is that the babies were born, which just became something of a non-issue for most of us. I think that's a great thing. We should see new life being brought into the world as simply the way things ought to be.

Oh, and on that note, Patrick's daughter was born. I never mentioned how far along his...I can't say girlfriend or whatever, because they aren't really seeing each other any more. It was an equal split, no drama or anything, just one that came with the lifelong prize that is a child. She's an adorable little bit, I have to say. I hope Pat settles down with someone eventually, though I know his little girl will be fine with having a single dad if that dad is him. He deserves happiness. 

On to the second question, now that I've frolicked through the happy thoughts that are my new godchild. Will Jess and I try again? 

Many of you know what happened before, and to be honest if you don't know the story I don't want to dwell enough to go into detail. We lost our first child because of violence. And whether or not I showed it much on here over time, it messed me up. Maybe permanently. 

My mom used to tell a story about a doctor she worked with, who carried a list of questions he liked to ask people to gain perspective on our culture. He was from India, I think, and one of the questions was, "You're in a boat with your wife, your son, and your mother. Which one do you save?"

My mom answered that she'd save her child, because children are the future. The doctor was used to that reply, but he said he'd save his mother. You can remarry, he said, and have other children. But you only have one mother. 

It's not wrong, just different. I've come to realize that the zombie plague has created a new culture and forced a shift in the way a lot of us think. When Jess and I lost our unborn child, I was devastated. In the world that was, couples losing a child often meant the couple would split apart under the immense emotional strain of that loss. We didn't. We found solace in each other and in our duty to the people around us. So my answer isn't a simple one. 

If it happens, and we're not taking a lot of precautions against it, then fine. We'll be nervous and terrified and worried to the end of our wits. That might have to do with a world that's fallen apart, though I'm equally sure parents since the dawn o civilization have felt those same things when they realized they were going to be responsible for a new life. Shaping a whole person and keeping them safe until they can care for themselves is a huge responsibility. 

But, honestly? If it doesn't happen I don't know that I'll have tons of regrets about it later. Jess and I serve our people with a dedication that takes up most of our time and energy. There's a lot of personal satisfaction in that. A part of me wants to see my name continue, my features (and my need for glasses along with it) passed on to a new generation of human beings. 

It's complicated, but I admit that my ambivalence has a lot to do with fear. I know me well enough to realize that I might be okay with never having children simply because then I won't have to face that worry. It might make me a coward, I guess that's for you to decide. But I was asked, and that's the best and most honest answer I can give. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I'm not gonna get into how much I hate being stuck in this bed unable to do anything physical. I would actually be allowed up more by now, but I'm running a low-grade fever and Gabby is insistent that I rest and use my strength to heal. I still do some walking and sitting to keep my lungs expanding so as to avoid pneumonia, but it's never for very long. I always come back to this bed.

Not that I'm not doing work, of course. I am. Will has me as his assistant all the time now since I can't do anything other than use my brain. Will is going easy on me with the work, though I wish he wouldn't. I'm weak, not dead. Dave doesn't have that problem. He's taking up my extra time (roughly equivalent to most of my time) helping him rework and improve the designs for the expansion. It's a lot of number crunching and managing supplies. Familiar territory.

No, what's really bothering me is feeling like a freeloader. I know, I know. We take care of our own. That's the point. But I've spent too long working my ass off to feel okay with the notion that I should just be doing paperwork. There's a healthy dollop of rational fear in there, as well: I can't hop up and grab a weapon if there's any kind of attack.

I'm not allowed to go hang out with the sick people from Louisville, who are still here but getting a little better. That they've struggled against whatever is in their lungs says something about their toughness. I don't feel as though they should be putting any effort in (the little voice in the back of my head is quiet now) because they risked their lives to safeguard ours. I just got an infection.

Yes, I know I've risked my own. I'm too hard on myself. I'm a hypocrite with a double standard. Shut up. I'm ranting here.

The captive zombies are all dead. It was decided while I was being operated on that no one else should risk dealing with them, in accordance with my desires. Dodger did the job himself. Those rooms are filled with relatively comfortable cots now, ready for anyone who may need a place to crash near the clinic. I haven't discussed resuming our experiments with Gabby or the others yet. That's too far into the future, and I've just begun the recovery process.

One good thing about having so much time to sit around and think is that the analytically skilled part of my brain is getting a great workout. I can't miss the parallels between us starting the bare bones of our own expansion and what the Exiles are starting to do.

That's the most disturbing thing about being stuck here, knowing the enemy is still the enemy and not being able to observe for myself. Until now they've been content to do their own thing across the river, knowing we're watching them and feeling safe within the walls of the fallback point. Now, they've started raising these huge posts into the air around their stolen home. Tall spears of wood that must have been taken from somewhere else, maybe from downed power lines. They've got long homemade extensions built onto them, with attachments that carry steel cable between each one. Just last night the first three of the posts went up as our watchers observed.

Between them, two huge pieces of fabric flew high. One of them seemed to be an old parachute cut and stitched into a new shape. The other was a patchwork of material. The Exiles are blocking themselves off from our sight, and that's probably a bad sign.

Says something about the basic differences between us, doesn't it? New Haven expands to bring others in, to grow. The Exiles build to hide from us. Not that I blame them considering how coldly our folks view them at present.

I'd love to see it with my own eyes. Sometime soon, I hope. I'll be a good boy and heal up as I'm told. I just don't have to like being apart from everyone. Jess has been too busy to visit me in the last day with all the work being done in the annex farm. Pat is shaping metal for twelve hours a day, his girls apprenticing with him. Courtney and Steve are managing much of the trade operations, Becky in her makeshift lab...

Yeah, I'm going. I really don't want to start a pity party here, especially since I'm the only attendee.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Little Extra

Now that I'm out of serious danger I can tell you what's been going on with me the last several days. It's almost funny that with the Exiles letting their true colors shine again, the New Breed ramping up the rate at which they gather together even as we try to keep their numbers down, and the other threats we face, the simplest ones are what catch us off guard.

I had Aaron post the other day because I was incapable of it. It was a lucky thing I managed to get in touch with him, communications being what they are. His ability to check in here at home has been spotty at best, but I was terrified that if anyone knew that our medical staff were pretty much all busy during that day, we'd be at risk for an attack. The Exiles aren't the only opportunists out there, after all.

See, my appendix almost burst.

In the old world that would have been cause for concern but not all that dangerous compared to most other health problems. I woke up Saturday morning with a sharp pain in my side and decided after a few hours that it wasn't gonna go away on its own. So I went to the clinic. Evans and Phil asked me a lot of questions, but what it boiled down to was guesswork. Damned well-informed guesswork, but still. No tests to confirm, no scans to make sure. They (and Gabby) both thought I had appendicitis, so they did what all good surgeons do and convinced me to let them cut my belly open.

Phil decided to pepper his conversation with explanations about how easy this surgery would have been before The Fall. How he could have done laparoscopic surgery, minimally invasive, and had me up and about in no time.

Instead, I have this gaping wound on my tummy, and a lot of pain, and I'm down for a while. I'm told the surgery went as well as could be expected, but given our circumstances that's not saying great things. I've refused pain medicine (which I regret every time I breathe) for the sake of those who may need it in a much worse way later. That's about half altruism and half practicality--I might be the one who breaks an arm or something, which hurts a lot more than this does.

I'm here in the clinic until further notice. I can work on stuff from my bed, but no duties that involve me having to move around much. With luck I won't develop any infections, though the antibiotics we have at hand are much appreciated.

Okay, I'm not making much sense at the moment. I think Evans might have slipped me some pain medicine, that tricky fucker. I'll be back (and hopefully more coherent) tomorrow.

Weird to think that little extra bit inside me caused so much trouble. An organ I didn't even need almost killed me. I wonder what they did with it?

Ugh, there are hungry zombies penned up not far away. I've decided I just don't want to know.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Hello everyone. Aaron here. Miss me? Josh is being kind enough to let me post my little update on the actual blog here today for those that have been worried or concerned about me. As he mentioned, I left New Haven awhile ago. Now, it wasn't because there's anything wrong with New Haven. Quite the contrary. I miss New Haven greatly and love it so much. I left because I wanted to find a few people. See, before the Fall I was one of those people who did long distance dating via the internet. At the time of the fall, I was with a girl from New Jersey. We actually had been together for about two years and spent a great deal of time traveling back and forth to visit each other and what not. Heck, she even planned on eventually moving to Kentucky. However, the Fall had a funny way of ruining plans. I lost touch with her. I sent her a few messages but never got anything back. So I assumed the worst. She was one of the casualties of the Fall. 

So imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from her, not only telling me that she was fine, but had heard about New Haven and wanted to come down here. The only real problem was that she didn't really know how to get here, nor did she feel safe to try to on her own. So I packed what I could and with the permission of the (now defunct) council grabbed one of the trucks and began to make my way toward New Jersey. This was back in the beginning of November.

Now on top of my own personal mission, I had been asked to make contact with a few known groups of survivors to set up possible trade arrangements. Probably why I was allowed to go at all.  Not that they would've genuinely stopped me, but there would've been many more attempts to persuade me to stay and it was already difficult for me to do so. Plus they wouldn't have let me have the truck.

So my first stop was a group of survivors who had decided to hole up in one of the old coal mining towns in West Virginia. The first thing that really surprised the heck out of me was that they had electricity. Like street lights and stuff. It made everything seem so...bright. This was greatly offset by the thin layer of coal dust that seemed to cover most of everything. So in the end I chose the name Soot for it. I don't know. It seemed appropriate.

The people there seemed genuinely pleased to see me when I got there. I got the feeling I was expected. They were all a hardy lot, about hundred and fifty of them in all. They worked the mine in shifts and those not working in mine usually worked on other projects. Like the massive electrified fence that surrounded the entire town. It's their main means of defense. A large 15 foot tall metal fence they can keep electrified for when the zombies (or marauders back when they were more plentiful) attacked. It was a site to behold. I got to see it in action a few times. Seemed to even keep this New Breed at bay for the most part.

I ended up staying there until about the middle of March, for a number of reasons. The first was the chaotic weather. Not that it was overly cold there (though colder than how it was in Kentucky apparently) or there was a whole lot of snow, but it was enough. Plus it took awhile to work out the arrangement between New Haven and Soot. More so cause of the political turmoil in New Haven. That and communication was really tough. Despite having a more or less regular source electricity they did not have very consistent internet connection. In fact, it was downright impossible to stay on the net for more than an hour or so at a time. I'm amazed they were able to get in touch with the outside world at all. But they're a resourceful bunch.

So anyways, I took my leave a couple of weeks ago to head toward my next stop in Virginia and had the most damning of things happen. I let myself run out of gas. So I've been hoofing it ever since. I just finished crossing the Appalachians a couple of days ago and finally got signal today. I'm hoping to hit my destination sometime in the next week or so and assuming all goes well there, I might be able to check out D.C. area. I guess we'll see what happens.

I miss you guys back and New Haven and I look forward to when I can see you all again. Stay safe back there and I'll try to send more regular messages through Josh when I can.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Pack

The mood in New Haven in the last day has been tense. Not overtly angry, but as if every person is clenching their fists in concert. We never lost sight of the things the Exiles have done to us, but it was jarring to have them give such a stark reminder. That guard dying like that, as an example to others.

Well, that just pisses me off. But I have been asked not to focus on that. Which only means that cooler heads than mine realize pushing the issue, considering how it upsets people who are already high-strung, is probably a bad idea.

One thing that probably helped people relax a little yesterday was Jess's solution to the massive flocks of birds going after our crops and seeds. At first she sent people out among the rows to bang together pie pans (which work a lot better than pieces of firewood) but that was still inefficient and a waste of manpower. It left the walls low on sentries and guards, so we put our brains to coming up with something else.

Again, Jess was the one that came up with it. We've spent a lot of time and effort to gather and slowly breed dogs. We have to be careful of how many we have due to food concerns, but when it comes to early-warning systems for zombies, you don't get better than a dog's sense of smell. My own two, Bigby and Riley, have saved my life a couple of times.

Riley was already fixed before The Fall came, which is a real shame. For all the destruction his over-energetic ass caused back when my biggest concern was paying the mortgage, he's turned into a first-rate guard dog since. He has the nearly unlimited vigor of a growing puppy, and he fucking hates birds. If he had hands instead of paws, I'd give him a fist-bump.

Bigby, on the other hand, was not fixed. We've bred him once already, and the puppies were awesome. Riley is half Golden Retriever and half Great Pyrenees, and it makes me sad to know that he won't pass those beautiful looks on. But he's also lanky and somewhat awkward, so not ideal for what we need.

Bigby is half Chow, half Norwegian Elkhound. He's massive and built low to the ground. Hit mate was abandoned by one of my neighbors early in The Fall, a pure Malamute. The puppies have grown to be meaty, strong adults.

So Riley, Bigby, and his progeny (six of them) are spending their days under the supervision of two people scaring the living crap out of birds. I can't help smiling when I think about it. Watching them gambol and play even as they put the fear of god into their prey makes my heart a bit less heavy. It's another example of how we have to utilize every resource we can. My ferrets and cats are great for controlling vermin from bugs on up to rats. Our large pack of dogs are good for a lot of tasks from guard duty to scaring birds, even acting as pack animals from time to time.

Of course, my boys and their pack out in the annex do have to be watched. All of them are prone to digging, and that wouldn't be a very good thing. Still, with so many targets to keep their attention, it's not a bad situation. Plus we can let some of the kids out with them. Makes the kids happy, which makes the adults happy, which we all need.

Zombies still wander around outside the annex walls, but the dogs seem to be keeping any New Breed among them from risking a climb. That's a lot easier to do in that part of New Haven given how bad the damage is to parts of it, but apparently it's more than birds my boys can keep in line.

Maybe not the most important or moving thing to talk about, but it's better than the alternative. Some days you have to force yourself to avoid the bad, no matter how much you want to dwell on it. So I think I'll had over to the annex and let my pups knock me over and give doggy kisses. That kind of loyalty and love can do wonders.

Friday, April 6, 2012


It seems like every time we start to see positives, right when our emotional level starts to finally equalize, bad things happen. This time it wasn't something that happened to New Haven, but it still made for a terrible morning.

We got the word from our watchers about half an hour ago.

The guard our people saved from a zombie attack, who not long after started telling jokes at our watchers across from his position at the fallback point, was just getting off duty. The replacement sentries came to relieve him and his partner as they always did, but with them came a squad of people. That was new.

The additional group wore riot gear. You know the kind: shiny and black, made to stop bullets and knives, covering the entire body. There were four of them, heavily armed and walking with the dangerous step of a wary person expecting violence.

Our watchers couldn't hear the words being exchanged between the guards going off duty and the armed and armored people who took him into custody. It was a quick thing, maybe thirty seconds of heated exchange and then our comedian was handcuffed. His partner backed away, hands raised, which seemed to satisfy the captors.

A man came out from under the darkened overhang of the parking garage inside the fallback point. We'd blocked that off a long time ago, but the Exiles made an opening once they moved in. The man wasn't tall, but our folks relayed that he was big. Broad across the shoulders, wearing a heavy coat and obviously well-fed. Not fat, but built like a lineman. Used to work.

He walked up to the captive guard, squatted down to talk to him. The big guy's long gray hair whipped in the morning wind across both their faces, he was so close. The watchers gave a detailed description of this person--the leader of the Exiles, we assume--and it's one I'll remember. Scar going down the left side of his face, jutting over sharply to just below his mouth. Square jaw, heavy brows. Body language that screamed an absolute lack of mercy.

How could the watchers tell that last bit? Because when the captive guard began to thrash, trying valiantly to get away, the scarred man hauled the poor guy up by his handcuffs. Scar waved away the armored guards as they moved in to help him, instead walking the captive right to the edge of the nearest bridge until the guard's feet stuck halfway over the broken-toothed concrete rim.

Scar didn't shout at our people, didn't make a gesture toward them. He knew he was being watched. Knew that the chance he was being sighted down a rifle scope approached a hundred percent. The big man held the captive guard still with his right hand, and pulled out a heavy revolver with his left. Without preamble, Scar put the barrel against the head of his captive and pulled the trigger.

The spray of blood and brains and pieces of skull made it almost halfway across the river. The guard slumped immediately, and Scar pushed him into the water before turning around and walking away.

As messages go, this one couldn't have been more clear had it been shouted to us from the heavens. We are not your friends, it said. We are not your allies. We abide by the terms of the truce because we have to, but we are and will remain enemies.

That kind of candor would be refreshing if it hadn't cost a man his life. Any movement our attitude toward the Exiles might have made in positive directions has reversed course, hard. Our course of action from here out has to be iron-clad. No Exile can defect, we can't take the risk of one of them being an agent. Now the general population in the fallback point will know that. And the actions taken by their leadership sent a message to those same people: if you have thoughts of reconciliation with New Haven, or are starting to see them as people, or are thinking of leaving...forget it. Those aren't survivable options.

Credit is due to our watchers for not taking the shot they surely wanted to take. It would have been easy to react to cold murder with one of their own, a few ounces of pressure on a trigger. A moment of rage that would have taken one terrible person out of the human race even as it reignited a war.

God help me, I almost wish they'd done it.

Which is idiotic on an intellectual level. We've got crops to grow, projects to build, zombies of all types to defend against, and a hundred other things to worry about. I know that. But what I feel is totally different.

And I'll leave it there before I start a war myself.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Once upon a time, there was a guy named Josh who never hunted because he didn't like to kill animals. Then the zombie plague came and made it impossible to live without killing creatures great and small. But still, he didn't enjoy the act. 

Until the birds started showing up and attacking his food supply, and then Josh was like, 'Fuck these birds!'. 

Yeah, you get the basic idea. Like most people, I've never thought about birds all that much, save for the occasional flash of irritation when one of them tried to dive-bomb me for walking too close to a nest. Turns out that in the absence of population-control measures (like plane engines or vast hordes of angry farmers with guns, I guess. I have no idea what affects bird populations) the damn things tend to swarm in a fashion not unlike zombies. 

Really, I don't know if it's because of a swing in population or if we just got unlucky, but the flocks blackening the sky in Franklin county are creepily huge. It's good that we have sentries that actually do their job and who manage to think on their feet, because the annex is full of recently planted seeds and sprouts. When the massive swarm of birds came in, two or three guards fired off their guns to scare them away. 

Which worked. For maybe a minute. 

Of course, several clustered gunshots also sent many people inside New Haven into high-alert mode, and more shots rang out over the next several minutes. I was asleep at the time, and woke up scrambling for my clothes. Naturally I assumed we were under attack, so I didn't think about the pain in my knees from where I fell off the bed as I threw myself over Jess. Didn't worry that I kicked Becky kind of hard in the hip doing it, either. Steve was also crammed in the bed since Courtney stayed up all night at their place working, and he wanted to rest quietly. I dream of a day when my friends won't crash on my mattress on a regular basis. That's what I get for having a king-size bed. 

At any rate, I yanked on my clothes and grabbed my bow as the others started working their way toward something resembling consciousness. I forgot my glasses and smacked my face on the corner of my door, which gave me a lovely bruise. At the time I was laser-focused on helping fight whatever threat was bearing down on us. 

There were no warning bells. I realized that before I made it twenty steps from my house. At about the same time, I noticed that I hadn't put on a shirt, and it was cold. Confused, with a throbbing face and aching knees, I wandered back inside to dress. Because I can only take so much irritation right when I wake up, and my nipples were dangerously close to getting chapped. 

In due time Jess and I made our way to the annex to see what was happening, and we were told about the birds. Total elapsed time from the first gunshots, maybe fifteen minutes. By then the sentries were walking around the rows of plants with pieces of wood, slapping them together to scare away the birds. Crude but effective. 

We'll come up with some kind of deterrent today, I'm sure. But that doesn't stop me from wishing we could take the lot of them down and cook them up for supper. I don't know if birds (I think they're starlings) taste good, but I do know this:

I don't mind being injured while protecting others or during the course of my other duties. My pride and dignity can take one hell of a beating for the well-being of the community. But what I feel right now is an overwhelming desire to gloat over the deep-fried wings and drumsticks of a new and hated enemy. 

Now I'm going to go to the clinic and make sure I didn't hurt myself too badly. My knees feel like I've been reminded that I owe a mobster a large debt, and I'm afraid I might have knocked a tooth loose on the door. I've had chances over the last few years to feel like a hero, or at least like I've done Good Things for the sake of others. Hell, I've even felt like a badass once or twice. 

Today? Not one of those days. 

Damn birds.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Before The Fall, I hadn't spent a ton of time doing what my brother does. Dave started in the construction business while he was still in high school. From drywall finisher to running that business to eventually managing the construction of hospitals. Sure, I did a little drywall work with him (which I hated) and put in a good number of hours helping him build his house (which I liked) but I never did it for a living. 

Still, one thing that the last two years of working with him has given me is an appreciation for the potential of things. Knowing that the bare patch of ground in front of you is going to be someone's home, built by your design and with your own hands, is pretty awesome. I got those feel-good vibes this morning as we walked the area where the expansion is going to be built. 

Mind you, we did it with and armed guard that took the occasional zombie down, but that only slightly marred the experience for us. I don't know where they came from, but there's been a sizable influx of old school zombies pelting New Haven for the last day. 

So, guard in tow, we took a walk. The expansion is going to be big. Dave has been toying with the layout for a long time, and I saw a lot of spray-painted rectangles and squares on the ground where he'd begun marking off where things would go. One major advantage in being able to build a huge section of new housing from scratch is that you can design the thing to every specification you want. For example, the center of the expansion is a large building meant to house the living and office spaces of the council and other folks who run New Haven. It will have its own wall, enough space to hold a few hundred people in an emergency, and will be topped with a watchtower. 

Also, there will be plumbing. I haven't been brave enough to ask Dave how that's going to work, but he assures me there will be running water aplenty. If he's figured out a way to have flush toilets, I'm going to name a kid after him. 

While the majority of the expansion is just in the planning stages, work has actually begun on the new wall. Or at least on the trench that will become the new wall. The soil around here is heavy with clay, and since that's such an abundant resource, Dave has some people digging a series of concentric trenches around where the new wall will be. The material being excavated will be shaped and baked into large bricks, which will eventually be the foundation and structure of the wall. 

So far, just holes in the ground. But holes with potential, damn it!

The work is going to go slowly for a long while. We're saving the fuel for the heavy machinery until we absolutely need it, so it's hand tools for the people working. Lot of folks are putting in an hour here and there in addition to the small crew of dedicated workers under Dave's direction. Slowly, we'll get there. Once we can entice more people to join us, the expansion should begin to grow at a good pace. 

As we walked along I listened to Dave excitedly explaining his ideas to me, and I couldn't help but smile. My brother has always been that way about his work--calculated, efficient, but with undertones of the child he had been. The one who loved building blocks for all the permutations they could be shaped into. 

I smiled with him, and realized that not only would we be building something from nothing, but also something new. Not a repurposed building from before The Fall, or a wall made of old materials. The expansion will be something born of the adversity we face, created by us in an era with no easy solutions. That's a hell of a thing. It makes me proud. Proud for what we've achieved, and for the willingness of our people to manage greater things. 

Monday, April 2, 2012


Jess has been working her ass off with the agriculture side of things for a while. Really, she's been keeping busy (aside from recuperating from injuries) pretty much since the onset of the zombie plague. Her weird assortment of skills and knowledge, gained from years of being obsessively curious about things like making chainmail and how to make fabric from scratch, have been as invaluable to us as they are unusual for any one person to possess.

As most of you know, she spent a lot of time teaching other people those skills and sharing her wide range of knowledge. It's almost like she was just getting that out of the way so she could work on farming full-time, because my lovely wife has found an area in which she doesn't just shine, she burns like the sun.

Keep in mind that in the time New Haven has existed, tracking and running all the different elements of our farming and food supply needs in general has been a nightmare. With Jess in charge, the system has become streamlined and efficient. What really blew me away was learning that with just what we can grow inside New Haven's walls (including the annex), we'll be able to meet eighty percent of our food requirements.

That's more than we expected. About twenty percent more. Remember that we send out hunting parties regularly, and that the whitetail population in this state has exploded since The Fall and continues to grow. We expected about twenty percent of our needs to be met with wild game. Then there's the tons upon tons of edible greens sprouting up all over town and in the county. That was intended to make up the difference. So, boom. Extra food.

Of course, we're sure that the wild greens growing around town, along with a few large plots of fruits and veggies we've spread about town, will suffer from the old standby: zombie trample. That's something not a lot of us thought about in the early days, but the undead are hell on things that grow. The huge swarm that nearly wiped us out all those months ago destroyed the crops we'd cultivated just by moving though them.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post: Jess is smarter and more practical than the rest of us put together. I've been so busy with worrying about the New Breed, the Beaters, the Exiles, the politics of trade, and the dozen other hats I wear that I missed the fact that my pragmatic wife has managed to solve one of the most basic needs we've got.

Remember our outpost in Bald Knob? Yeah, in the midst of all the other things going on, a lot of us didn't either. Jess did. Through deal-making and wheedling in her sweet voice, and smiling with her adorable girl face, she managed to convince the folks in charge of the different aspects of New Haven to lend her extra people to go to Bald Knob.

This has been going on for a while. Since a few days after we left on our trip. So, six months as a round number. In that time, when the weather agreed, those extra folks have been helping expand the area of farmland in Bald knob. They've hunted down and spread seeds for clover and other foods we can grow in the open. They spent most of the winter, during the warmer days (which were plentiful here) preparing the ground for new planting.

Oh, and they build a greenhouse the size of a house. With all the clearing going on there was plenty of wood and brush to heat it with. Thousands of seedling plants grown in trays, just waiting to be put in the ground. How much extra food does Jess estimate the crews at Bald Knob have or will have ready to send here?

Enough to meet fifty percent of our needs. Just from that one place.

So, yeah. Jess is awesome. While the rest of us worried about other things, admittedly important things, she took care of business. She did it with minimal staff, no official title, and a boatload of initiative. What this massive amount of excess edibles means is that we can bring in new people without fear of starving ourselves out, which has several implications. Like being able to better secure ourselves, work on the expansion, and the like.

Tonight we're having a dinner in Jess's honor at my house. For her work, obviously, but also simply for who she is. When I freaked out at the report she handed me, detailing all this information, she just shrugged. To her it's nothing special. She just did what needed to be done to the best of her ability. I think I married a superhero without knowing it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April's Fool

It's kind of funny in hindsight that we used to have a whole day dedicated only to messing with people. It doesn't really translate now, I guess. Hard to play tricks on people nowadays without risking a gunshot or a heavy blade getting accidentally put through you because you caught someone by surprise. I guess there's the old stand-by of telling clever lies, but somehow I don't think telling a person fake bad news ("Your family was eaten by the undead. APRIL FOOLS!) is a great idea.

Still, mother nature seems to be in the mood to joke around. Yesterday was rain pretty much all day long, and this morning isn't looking any different. It's actually a good thing, because the landscape is vibrantly green as it soaks up the water. I guess after such an insane winter with its fifty degree swings over a few hours every day, the old lady decided to play a trick by giving us exactly what we need.

It's not all good news, though. Our remaining Louisville citizens are still here and still sick. Evans thought they'd be getting better by now, but whatever has infiltrated their lungs is tough and resistant to every effort to treat it. Granted, the patients aren't much worse, but still. We wanted to see some progress.

Which brings up another point that I know is a growing concern with a lot of other communities out there: lack of medical care. I know a lot of you have made yourselves into first-rate field doctors through education and experience. Most communities of any size have someone who can sew and treat wounds. Trauma is something almost all of us have some kind of handle on, but New Haven is a perfect example of how ill-equipped humanity's survivors are to deal with the more subtle and dangerous things we deal with.

I mean, we have two doctors and a nurse with the equivalent skills and knowledge of one. Yet even their decades of combined experience does us no good at all against something as simple as the flu. We're two years into The Fall, and none of us have had a vaccine for anything in that time, or close to it. There are stores of medicines around the country, but time is waging a war with them that we can't even begin to fight. Much of it is starting to go bad or already has. The liquid stuff that needed to be refrigerated, often some of the most potent medicines, were lost to us in the first weeks of The Fall. Gone. The processes to make things like insulin and the vaccine for Polio are preserved, thank god, but the material requirements for them are way beyond us.

I guess the hours I spend with the Louisville crew drives that point home to me. It's easy to line up and label a lot of threats we face. Zombies we can fight, Exiles we can avoid, food we can gather, shelter we can build. But illness is harder to pin down. I remember working at the nursing home, seeing people get sent out to the hospital from time to time. X-Rays (which we actually do have though the power supply at the clinic has its problems) were the simplest of diagnostic tools. Now they're the best we have. It was an unavoidable element of my job to deal with people dying, sometimes from causes bizarre and impossible to predict or diagnose.

Now we're going to adapt to that as a part of life in general. None of us have many illusions about it. It's one more thing we have already put up with. The flu hit a bunch of people over the winter, one or two people had strep throat. It sucks ass to suffer through, it takes a lot longer to recover, and every time someone gets really ill there's the worry that without proper treatment they could die.

A surprising side effect of the healthy diet forced on us by circumstance is that we're all getting our servings of fruits and veggies. We're taking in the nutrients we need, which boost our immune systems. Phil has argued often that part of the reason we don't see a lot of illness is because our people are eating the right things. As usual, I bow to the people with superior education and experience. The fact that he's probably right about how bad our old diet of fast food and boxed dinners was for us doesn't for one second alter my desire for a giant deep-dish pizza.

I mean, if it were a choice between being well and having a pizza, I wouldn't choose to be sick. Certainly not if it were a choice between pizza and death. I don't want one that bad.


Ah, way off topic. For now, we'll continue limiting exposure to whatever it is that has our guests sidelined. Doesn't look contagious, though that could be because our medical staff (me included) are very cautious about infection control. We're mostly healthy as a community, and we're going to do our damnedest to stay that way.