Friday, June 29, 2012

Trending Upward

Wow. What an eventful few days it's been. This is Josh again, by the way. I know our issues with not being able to create a login for Kincaid and him having to use my account is a little confusing. Just wanted to make things clear.

I'm feeling better if not at a hundred percent yet. Mind you, I'd be happy with just about any illness at this point given how lucky I've been. My wife is better, my fellow citizens are slowly being treated with nothing more than hot air and getting better because of it, and the unrelenting heatwave of the last few days has kept our walls virtually free of zombies. On top of that, we've had a communication from the Exile camp at the fallback point. They want to strengthen the truce. They have new leadership that wants to head in a new direction.

All told, it's been a damn good week. I don't expect it to last.

I hope it does, make no mistake. But I've seen too much betrayal, stupidity, and human nature to have any concrete belief that everything will go the right way. Life isn't about things going how you want. While that would be safer, it would also be incredibly boring.

Which reminds me, I want to tell you a story. I thought about this very topic while I was laid up, and it seems fitting to this post.

I once knew a girl. She was a brilliant chick, always top of her class, always succeeding. She grew up in a family that Had Money. Not the comfortable upper-middle to bottom-upper class money you might think about when I say that. They had a lot of it. Enough that when she was accepted to the school of her dreams, tuition wasn't even a blip on her radar. She went to college, eventually accepted into a premed program.

The point is, everything she ever did, she succeeded at. And that made me so sad for her. At first I was a bit jealous. I wasn't given a new car for my sixteenth birthday, or anything like that. But I got over that crap. My mom worked her ass off for us and my siblings and I never wanted for anything. No, it made me sad because all her life, this girl never faced a struggle. She never knew what it was like to be hungry, to truly fail at something.

I bet you're thinking that I'm going to say that when The Fall happened, she wasn't prepared and she died. You're wrong.

The girl went to medical school. And in the first week of her residency, she made a mistake. Someone died as a result. Tormented by that and completely without a coping mechanism, she took her own life. This was just before The Fall. She was only twenty-five years old. Poor girl skipped grades, went to college early, and had a bright future ahead of her.

It wasn't anyone's fault. Her parents only wanted a life for her that was filled with less pain and exhausting effort than their own had been. Should she have given up the opportunities she had? Of course not. In the truest sense of the word, her death was a tragedy. No blame to be found.

But there was a reason. I think we all see it.

For all the terrible things we've suffered, we've proven ourselves equal to the task. Not because we are stronger than she was, or smarter, or somehow better. We are none of those things. She slaved away night and day to learn and to be the best. But a life of work and isolation put her in the rare and curious position of not having any emotional callouses. No coping mechanisms. No way to quantify and understand the agony she was in.

She didn't have people like you. She hadn't been through the things we've all endured. I know that over the last two and a half years or so, I'd have gone insane a dozen times over without Jess and without you all. We'll face hard times again and we'll work together to make those days easier. Let's always try to keep perspective.

We suffer, we hurt, we starve, we fail. We make mistakes and sometimes they have consequences we can't imagine. It's when those things happen that we have to turn to one another and remember that together we can always work to make it better.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fighting With Fire

Hey, all. It's Kincaid again. Josh is feeling better but decided to let me write today's blog as a sort of victory lap. I'll explain, but I guess the best way to sum up the last day and his reasoning for giving me another chance to post can be summed up simply.

I kind of cured the new plague yesterday.

Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are. Like I said, I've been reading the blog and catching up on it during my stay here. While I was talking about the fire that put my group and I on the wrong path, I remembered reading some of Josh's posts about experimenting on his captive zombies. The New Breed are very susceptible to heat, even just very hot days like we've had recently.

I went back and read those posts. Then I asked Josh if I could see his notes from the experiments.

This was the part of his notes that made me pretty sure I was right:

"Tissues of the New Breed subjects tend to soften and become more pliable at temperatures above 130 degrees F. The hotter they get, the faster the tissues weaken, and the curve looks pretty steep."

So I talked to Josh about it, and he talked to his brother Dave and Will. Will talked to the council. All of that within two hours. Took Dave about twenty minutes after getting approval from the council to set up a rough version of my idea, which isn't an original one. People have been using them for centuries.

Our cure is a makeshift sauna. It's not a perfect solution because so many people are so weak, but one of the first to volunteer for it was Jess. Josh still isn't 100% but he sat in there with her for almost half an hour. We had to heat up stones with fire to do it. Makes the thing inefficient, but the thermometer in the tiny room read about 160 degrees. Sunlight and hot days helped a lot.

Jess is better. That was all it took. My small flash of inspiration came with another thought, which was that the people who keep waking up totally fine are probably developing huge temperatures while they sleep. That's why some wake up okay--the fever is caused by the worsening new plague attacking the original zombie plague already in their lungs, and the fever helps win the war--or they die in their sleep. Because it was too much for their bodies.

It was a guess. An inspired guess built on the work of other people. I just had an idea. I'm really glad I was right, not because I want recognition or anything. Just because it helps my people.

You really are my people, you know. I'm not a brave guy. I still get that weak feeling all over me and a ball of ice in my stomach when I'm in danger. I want to live. But if I died tomorrow, nothing I could do to stop it, I could at least take solace in the fact that I've done something to help. Maybe it's a start toward making up for the things I've done.

It's risky and dangerous, but so is the new plague itself. But it's hope. Sometimes, that's all we have.

Most times, that's enough.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meaning Well

Josh is on the mend. He's fighting off whatever bug he caught, but I'm back one more time to cover for him on here. Yep, it's Kincaid again.

I should mention at the outset here that things are going well for us at the moment. There's no news from across the river. The Exiles have been quiet since their coup against Scar. I didn't know the guy personally, but word travels among marauders. He was one I wouldn't have messed with under any circumstances. Not because he was brutal--he was--but because we heard a lot of stories about him gathering followers. He had charisma and intelligence. Mixed with cruelty, that makes for one of the scariest kinds of people you can imagine.

There haven't been any zombie attacks to speak of, either. That's kind of surprising given the cool mornings we've had, and we're being watchful for any tricks on the part of the New Breed, but that isn't stopping us from enjoying the relative peace.

I said I'd talk about some of the things that put me on the wrong path after The Fall. I thought about it a lot last night, and I decided the rest of my bad decisions all followed the basic pattern of my first major error. That's the really important one. People sometimes make choices that seem like the best of a bad situation, and subsequent decisions based on them can become a slippery slope.

After the military encampment I was in was overrun, I set out with a few of my fellow survivors to find a new place to stay. Somewhere safe, secure. In those days we thought finding a hole to hide in was a far better idea than joining up with any established groups, or rather any groups that were trying to become established. Didn't much help that we had no communications to speak of, so everything we knew came from word of mouth.

Over a period of weeks, we gathered followers. Most of them were people we found out on the road. We took them in and everyone shared their supplies, and we hunted down what food and other gear we could find in the empty city we were staying in. The streets were running over with the undead, but we figured safety could be had if we stayed in buildings of stone and steel, high places that offered thick walls to protect us from the zombie swarms.

After going through the fourth such location, we decided we were wrong. The problem was that zombies always figured out where we were eventually, and the things that made those places secure also made them death traps. One or two entrances meant we got trapped indoors when the swarms came. If that happened while we were low on food or water, we went hungry and thirsty until the zombies gave up or we killed enough of them to escape. The last place we tried to call home was a modern art museum that had lots of huge glass windows at floor level. We put up lots of plywood in layers, even had the stuff on hinges and pulleys so we could just put a boot to them and turn them from defensive walls into ramps leading through the broken window frames. We were so clever.

That place we lost to fire. We might have survived there for a while had one of us not accidentally kicked a lantern over and set a bunch of the displays on fire. We ran like hell from that one, the whole floor we were on went up like a tinderbox. Everything we had except the clothes on our backs and whatever we could grab as we ran was gone. Very little food, almost no water. Just weapons and a powerful need to eat.

We left the city. And on the way out we saw a caravan of people traveling down the road toward us. They were in the distance, and one of the people with me had a terrible idea. We had been on foot for hours by that point and had been on half rations even before the fire. We couldn't have farmed where we were, no way to have made a long-term home. We deluded ourselves into thinking it was possible.

In our hunger, our despair, and our desperation, we took a vote. The 'ayes' had it. We set up an ambush and attacked that caravan. They were marauders, though more genteel than others I've met. They only robbed people. Didn't hurt them if it was avoidable, didn't rape or kill. Our blood was up, running hot in our veins. I can't explain it to you in a way that makes it palatable. We were in need, and we were running on empty. It didn't occur to us to risk asking for help, because that meant we could be turned down. The chance to go from dire need to abundance in a few short minutes was too enticing.

We killed them. All of them. And after that, things just kept going downhill. Once you've slaughtered a large number of people for their belongings, never having given them a chance to offer terms or surrender, your capacity to make rationalizations for any kind of behavior increases. Your moral convictions fuzz out. You convince yourself you've done what you had to do, regardless of reality.

From that singular moment of fiery rage at seeing people blessed with plenty sprang every other horrible call I've ever made.

Hm. I just read over this. I just had an idea, sort of a flash of inspiration. I need to check a few things out, but hopefully I'm on the right track. Yeah, that's confusing. But I don't want to mention what it is until I know for sure that I'm right.

Might be back tomorrow, or Josh. Either way, I'm glad I got to get some of this off my chest. I feel better for the chance to be honest with so many of you at one time. Not better about what I've done, really, but just to clear the air. I'm not some smug asshole gloating at having gotten away with my actions. They weigh on me, and I just wanted you to know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kincaid, Part Two

Yeah, this is Kincaid again. Josh is still sick, worse off than he was yesterday. I feel kind of weird writing on here. I don't want to intrude on his space. I've read back through the archives and it makes me feel better knowing other people have done it before me.

Josh talks about a lot of stuff as he tries to keep everyone updated on life here in New Haven. I would try to do the same thing but there isn't a lot to talk about. The heat has been almost too much to handle lately, but the zombies outside are still feeling it too. We're not fighting them at the moment. I can't say it bothers me much.

I guess the most important thing happening at the moment, or at least what's stuck in my head, is Josh not being here. He's in the infirmary with his wife. I'm typing at his house. The big blacksmith is sitting across the desk right now. He doesn't like me. The eyeball-fucking I'm working under at present should come with hazard pay.

Not being liked. Heh. Used to that.

So many of you out there have no idea what life was like for people like me when the world came to an end. I can't defend the things I did and won't try. And don't get me wrong, the distrust for former marauders isn't something we haven't earned. We have. Guess I just think cooperation and integration would go smoother if there were more civility. Maybe some understanding.

The question I get asked most, at least when people aren't too afraid to ask, is why. Why did I do the things I did as a marauder and especially as a leader of a group? Notice that I don't say that people asked me how I could do it. In general, stupid and naive people didn't make it through The Fall, and it would take one of the two to have any genuine doubt that human beings are capable of being awful in a whole spectrum of ways.

No. 'Why' is the question. Why, knowing it was wrong on a fundamental level. Why, when my conscience eventually pushed me to give myself up during the amnesty. Why, a hundred varieties and angles. Why did I do it.

Because I was fucking scared. I was out of my mind with fear when I finally realized the military wasn't going to stop the plague of zombies. I was a good little sheep, herded into a big city and inside a giant ring of heavily-armed soldiers. I was there for nearly two weeks as the soldiers fought for us. Out of at least three thousand people, I was one of maybe twenty survivors.

While so many of you were planning and building the first parts of your communities, I did what the majority of people chose to do. I ran. I hid behind others better equipped to deal with the situation. I don't feel guilt or cowardice about it. It was a logical and reasonable decision. Hell, I was an IT guy at a credit card company before The Fall. I had never been in a fight, never fired a gun. I was thirty before I had a steady girlfriend.

The hardest thing I'd ever had to do was worry about sending my mom to a nursing home. I thought that decision would tear me apart. Honestly, how prepared was I mentally for what was going to happen?

I won't lie to you. I didn't go crazy or decide that the world was going to burn anyway and just give in to my base impulses. It's easy to think of myself as a bad person. I've done terrible and maybe unforgivable things. But it didn't all come at once. There were moments of choice, hard ones that required picking the lesser evil. Worry for those around me. The thought that keeping my people alive was more important than anything else.

Maybe if Josh is still too sick to write tomorrow, I'll tell you about them. I just realized how much I've written and how much time has passed. I have work to do.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This Is Awkward

Hi. I know this post says Josh on it, but this isn't him. My name is Stephen Kincaid, though no one calls me by my first name. You've read about me here and there. You're probably wondering why I'm writing this post. So am I.

Josh didn't name the teammates that went with him to Clinton to dig out the marauders that had set up there. He didn't want anyone bringing any scrutiny against us, especially given my history. Guess that makes it pretty clear that I was one of the other people. Not the marksman. I was the one who went with Josh into the marauder camp. I helped do the dirty work.

While we were away, I had a lot of time to get to know him better. I've read this blog here and there over the last two years or so. What he writes gives you an idea of what kind of guy Josh is, but just like anything else you can't really know someone just from letters on a screen.

During those days we were out, Josh got to know me too. He admitted that he hasn't put a lot of effort into getting to know me until now because of what I used to be. A marauder. A bad guy. I can't lay much blame on him for that. I didn't like being that person. I still have a hard time sleeping.

Danger and proximity have a way of building rapport between people. Days stuck together and mutually bitching about the scorching swamp our small tent was, moving at a moment's notice to avoid detection, and having to do...the things we did, all have a way of making our differences seem minor. It's hard to judge a man for the terrible choices he's had to make when you're having to make one just as bad together.

Sorry, I know this is strange and I'm not doing it right. I'm rambling. I'm trying to explain why I'm writing here and not getting very close to the mark. Josh is sick. Not the new plague. Just allergies leading to a plain old infection. He didn't even know he had caught something until yesterday. He just thought his neck was hurting because of how he slept. He'd been congested and feeling off for a few days, but that's what happens to people with allergies when trees are fucking all around them.

He's sleeping in the other room right now, and thought it would be a nice change of pace for someone else to put their voice out there. We've got each other's measure a lot better now, and Josh thought it would help the other former marauders out there gain some acceptance in their communities if one of us had a platform to speak from. I have a hard time feeling human some days, looking back on what I have done. I can understand how many of you have the same problem when you look at us.

I did promise to mention that there is some good news right now. Some report from the doctors here Josh got last night says that the worst of the new plague seems to be over. More people are getting better than are falling ill. Deaths have tapered off. And his wife Jess is improving.

I'm really happy about that. She has always been nice to me. Never looked at me funny because of my history, just treated me like a person. Which, when I think about it too hard, seems like maybe more than I deserve.

Okay. I'm ending this awkward mess. I told him I'm not much for writing. I had to read over a lot of his posts to get comfortable enough to even do this. Josh is going to take tomorrow off as always and if he's feeling better will be back Tuesday.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Not having a national weather service anymore, no one knows how long the heat is going to last. However, this being summer and New Haven not being full of idiots, we're taking a mental leap and assuming it's going to be hot for a good long while. I've decided to take rotating shifts in the infirmary, some days working in the morning, some evenings, some nights. It works out better for me since I'll get to see Jess more often, and at least nights will let me work when the air is coolest. That's one blessing, I guess--night time hasn't been as murderously hot as it has in previous years.

I can happily report that Jess is doing a little better. That took me by surprise, I have to admit, since few of our sick people show signs of incremental improvement. Most of the time they get worse and worse, then either wake up fine or don't wake up at all. Some small number improve slowly, and I can't tell you how happy I am that Jess is one of them.

I wish I felt a little better, myself. I've been keeping myself busy since yesterday, covering breaks for guards and sentries on the wall for a while, helping cook, giving Pat a hand (haha, I made a funny. Because he cut off one of his hands. Get it?) at the forge. Little things to help where I can and occupy my mind now that the house is empty. I won't say that I wish for a zombie attack because that's stupid, but I wouldn't mind having something to completely focus on for a while. Life-or-death struggles are good for that.

I'm just being crotchety and out of sorts, I know. Being home alone is still a new thing for me and I don't have a routine to take comfort in. I raced through all the work Will had for me yesterday in about two hours, which is why I went out to find other things to do. I kept so busy and wore myself out that I came home last night and curled up next to the escape hatch in the floor of our kitchen, burrowed up inside my tatty old comforter.

I really thought about just climbing under the house, which was very cool in the wee hours of the morning. I love being cold, but my stupid brain doesn't let me sleep comfortably without a blanket. There's a plastic-lined space to store food down there, one I could have fit in easily. As it is, sleeping on the floor left me tired and stiff. Probably better that I didn't add the potential stress of waking up in a cold grave underneath a house. I got over nightmares about that years ago. Goddamn obsession with movies about serial killers...

Damn, I'm out of it. Kind of zigzagging all over the place this morning, aren't I? The messenger from Will isn't here yet, so I don't know what my workload for today is going to look like. I'm awake and ready to go, but have nothing to do at the moment.

My neck is really, really sore though. I might go a few houses down and see if Dora is home. She's a nice lady, somewhere in her fifties, and she used to work as a massage therapist. She might be willing to work out some of the knots. I'm never sleeping on the floor again, I swear. I'd rather fight a zombie than deal with this kind of discomfort all day.

Then work. Then a shift in the infirmary. Then, we'll see how much energy I have left.

Man, I didn't sleep enough. So light-headed and out of it...

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Shelter Swelter

Yesterday was absolutely balls hot. Usually zombies aren't affected by the heat short of a fire, but apparently the New Breed sensitivity to variance in air temperature has increased. I did a short run along the walls to get some relief from the muggy swamp that is my house, and I saw it with my own eyes. The undead weren't as energetic, stayed back from the walls for the most part. Except for the lack of sweat, their reaction was eerily human. 

I'm not complaining, mind you. Having to fight in hundred percent humidity is not my idea of a good time. I had a lot of free time to kill anyway, since Jess and the others have been temporarily removed from my house. 

The heat is the culprit. While I was out of town, the decision was made to work on creating a space that would be cool and comfortable for the sick people. A few ideas were tossed around, but in the end it was my brother who finally engineered a solution. He got the idea from a technology he'd heard about before The Fall, but hadn't actually seen in action. It's a kind of air conditioning that uses a lot less power than a traditional system. It's complicated, but the whole thing runs on solar during the day. 

Basically, the makeshift infirmary we set up in the expansion is being cooled by a big ass block of ice. 

Dave made sure to close up all the holes and ran some rough ductwork through the whole place. The AC unit itself is a big metal box, waterproof, that is filled with water. There are copper pipes that run through it, and the solar panels power a compressor (condenser? I don't know, he built the damn thing) that freezes the water around the pipes into a big, solid block. 

Then air is pushed through the pipes, cooling it down a hell of a lot, and it's blown into the infirmary. 

It's not perfect, but it works. The actual freezing part happens mostly at night, by batteries. Those are mostly charged by the solar panels (there's excess during the day, as all they power is the fan and compressor) though apparently we've used generators as well. Weighing human life against fuel consumption isn't really even a discussion worth having, is it?

It's a slapped-together system, and ugly as hell to look at, but the damn thing works well enough to make the infirmary tolerably comfortable. The other measures we've taken to reduce the heat in there help a lot as well, but my hat is off to Dave and his nearly MacGyver level of ingenuity. 

I'm gushing a little here, but I can't help it. This is a sustainable (at least until the solar panels give out or some part of Dave's hasty construction breaks) solution to the insane heat we're all dealing with. To keep the infirmary as cool as possible, they've limited the times that people can come in. Think of it as the end of the world version of your mom yelling at you to shut the front door because she's not paying to cool down the whole neighborhood. 

Which means I can only visit Jess and my people during visiting hours or when I'm pulling a shift in there myself. That may not seem like a big deal, but I've been in an all-or-nothing situation at home for a bit now. I'm either around Jess and my other patients all the time, or I'm away on a trip. Granted, that only happened once since I've been caring for them, but it's hard to get used to being so close but unable to just swing in. 

When Will told me all the sick people were being relocated, I was surprised at how much it really didn't bother me. Sure, I wanted to stay at home with them. But I'm healthy and mobile and the heat was nearly unbearable to me. I can't imagine how badly they were suffering. 

Still feels like my world has been knocked off its axis, though. Days away helping out the folks at Clinton was enough of a disruption to my routine. Not seeing Jess by walking into another room is weird and disconcerting. She's only a few hundred feet away, but I miss her. A lot. I miss the others as well...though I admit to some small relief at not having to prepare food for half a dozen people at once. I'm not happy about the situation, but I won't lie and say there aren't silver linings here and there as well. 

Now, if it would only get hot enough to kill the zombies outside instead of just making them lazy, we'd really be getting somewhere. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The team and I are home. After a very brief stay in Clinton, during which we confirmed some of the information they'd sent us before accepting the job, we headed back. Fortunately there were fewer zombies on the roads and bridges, and the trip was uneventful. 

Once I got here, however, I found myself beset with messages from people all over the country. Some congratulatory on our decisive victory over the marauders, but many more questioning my team's actions on this trip. Why were we so sure they were marauders beforehand? Yes, we discovered proof of their previous crimes in the middle of killing the lot of them, but why hadn't I published any proof beforehand? Did we really know they were a threat to Clinton?

I want to answer, even though I face no consequences at home from my actions. The team, who remain nameless for now, acted on my instructions. I made the calls. I was the one who made the decision to commit wholesale murder. I don't feel good about it, but honestly, I don't feel bad either. That alone is enough to make me lose sleep. There should be guilt or self-hatred or something inside me that marks my psyche the same way their blood marred my clothes. 

There isn't. 

How did we know what they were before we went? When the marauders appeared in the town near Clinton, they had a prisoner. A woman. She escaped as they were trying to transfer her from one vehicle to another. She didn't suffer the perversions that many victims of marauders have historically, but she definitely was a captive. A few of Clinton's scouts caught her as she made her way through the woods and brought her back since she was such a security risk. The chance existed that she was a spy, after all. 

I couldn't mention it before mainly because if the marauders actually did have some means of reading the blog, they would have known for certain that they were close to the potential victims they were searching for. The woman and I had a long conversation, and I'm convinced of her sincerity. Unless she's had some in-depth acting classes, I think she's honest. And the things she overheard about the marauders' plan when they found Clinton were not at all kind. 

So, yes, we had some admittedly questionable proof beforehand, but given her starved and bedraggled appearance I can understand why the leadership of Clinton asked us to act. They had every reason to believe they were in imminent danger, and the marauders weren't acting in an open and communicative manner as most decent survivors would. 

I remember the hot, sick feeling I had so long ago when Patrick and I burned the first big group of marauders we found. We killed them in their sleep, and I thought then that I had become something other than a human being. It's been a long time since I was faced with a decision similar in size and scope. Then, I tortured myself with the knowledge of what I'd done. The world was still dying in those days. 

Now that the world has long since fallen still from those final throes and something new has been born in its place, I have to wonder at what I've become. I think before this trip that everything I've ever said about hard-nosed practicality has just been buildup to this moment. I'm not some serial killer completely devoid of emotion on this. I hate that I had to do it. I hate that those people had to die. But I don't feel guilt about it, because I recognize the complete necessity of the act. I can say with complete honesty that I feel the world is a better and safer place because of my actions. 

I don't know what that makes me, but the fact that I still ask the question is important, I think. 

Now I'm off to tend to my wife and the others. Pat and the girls deserve a nice, long break after covering me so well. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


That's what it was, no way around it.

The marauders went to sleep last night, only protected by four guards keeping watch, and one of my teammates managed to get in close. The guy is a lifelong hunter, used to moving around silently, and the darkness gave him the edge he needed. We didn't have to get inside the boundaries of the camp, only up to the back of one truck.

That was where the water was kept. Big old container of it, shared among the whole group. One of the things we brought with us was a powerful kind of poison. It's not something I plan on sharing with you, sorry to say. Some things have to stay secret in order to remain advantages. Suffice it to say that we make the stuff ourselves, it's in powder form, and it's water soluble.

I acted as a distraction for the guards, making noises out in the darkness, while teammate number three covered us with a rifle from the trees. The truck with the water tank in it wasn't being watched closely anyway, and the tank itself had its collection funnel attached, as it was raining off and on all day yesterday. Our man slipped in close and dumped a few cups of the stuff in there. Not powerful enough to take a man off his feet in an instant, but definitely capable of making you wish you were dead with a little time to work.

Within an hour of waking up, most of the marauders were sidelined. Half a dozen of them must have had canteens or something, as they didn't fall ill, but the rest were vomiting their guts out, some passed out from the severe nausea. In the confusion, our rifleman covered while teammate number two and I rushed the camp with our bows, firing arrows into the people still standing. Thank god most of the sick people were too out of it to realize that the sharp and short sounds they were hearing were muffled screams.

The able-bodied went down first, right there in the middle of the camp. From there we moved inside the campers and RVs, and that was close-up work. Most of them died before they realized we were strangers, enemies. Their murderers.

The worst part of it is that right now, all I can think about is going home. I feel bad that I had to do these things, I'm trying not to remember the hot gush of blood across my hands as I held mouths shut and swept my knife through windpipes and arteries. I got one guy through the kidney from behind, and as I slapped my hand over his mouth I saw the surprise on his face. He couldn't scream, though he tried. The wound was so painful his throat constricted hard enough to make sound impossible.

We murdered them. Coldly. Weirdly, it doesn't make me feel any better to have seen the evidence of the abuses they'd heaped on people. There were old chains and old stains in those vehicles. One had a cage with human hair still jammed in bloody clumps in the corners of the bars. Those men did terrible things to people at one time or another. But it didn't ease my conscience.

Not that it feels very heavy. Maybe I'm just distancing myself from the horrible reality of it, but I don't feel the soul-deep revulsion I expected to have. They're dead, I'm alive, and they had it coming. They were Bad Guys, right?

Yeah, they were. But if we're being honest, and I try to encourage that by example...well, being bad guys was pretty much immaterial to this. Their past deeds weren't the issue. They could have been a band of house-building, zombie-slaying missionaries up until they showed up near Clinton. Once they became a threat, once they started looking with greedy eyes toward that community, their status as human beings didn't matter. They were as much a threat to be eliminated as the zombies themselves.

I'm not saying that's right or moral. I'm just saying it's math. It was either kill them, all thirty of them, or watch them come into conflict with allies and possibly threaten many times that number. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

I'm going home. Let's focus on that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Fail

You'd think that being outnumbered ten to one (at least) by the marauders would make it so stressful and busy here that I wouldn't have time to think about other things. You'd be wrong. Hell, even I thought there was a good chance I would put other concerns to the back of my mind given the enormity of the job at hand. Not that I could simply forget that Jess and the other people in my house are ill, but that I could at least save the worry for moments when I'm not in mortal danger.


Turns out my two teammates and I couldn't forget or ignore the stuff going on at home. Instead of being a professional and gaining some kind of laser focus like a hero in a story, I found myself planning the best way to drive off or kill the marauders without wasting any more time than necessary. The idea was a simple one we've used many times: gather up a big trail of zombies and lead them right to the enemy.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The plan had the advantage of being tried and true, relatively easy to pull off, and minimally risky for us. Plus it wouldn't take a lot of time to engineer, so we could get back home quickly.

Of course, we weren't going to actually have the zombies chase us. We didn't want to expose our presence any more than Clinton does. So my teammates went one way and I the other, and we started spraying small bursts of ammonia up and down the nearest highway where a number of zombies could be found. We brought a wide variety of stuff with us, packed tight into the back of our truck, since we had no game plan when we left New Haven.

The ammonia wasn't super thick, just a dab here and there to corral the undead in the direction we wanted. I moved a bit faster than the others and brought my sprays closer to the road itself. By the time the zombies reached the town near Clinton, the passage they would be moving through was narrow and pointed right at the bad guys. Ammonia is wonderful stuff, and my teammates did an excellent job following the horde and spraying behind them to keep the stampede going.

For the record, that part of the plan worked fine. We just didn't count on the marauders being as disciplined and responsive as they were. I'd say there were about a hundred zombies in the train we sent toward the rough marauder camp, but those thirty or so people reacted like something out of The Dark Tower. They moved into their armored vehicles with clockwork precision, gunners popping through hatches in the roof of each, and calmly fired round after round into the heads of the undead swarming them.

We watched it all happen from a copse of trees. Gunners moving with practiced fluidity across the roofs of their vehicles, safely above the fray. Each of them made sure to regularly scan the battlefield to make sure their friends weren't being hauled down and killed. They watched out for each other. If they weren't so obviously marauders, I'd have felt pride watching them.

We've got another idea, one we wouldn't have been able to come up with had the team and I not noticed something during the assault. It gives me chills to think about what I'm planning, but when you're against a wall and low on options you have to take the opportunities fate hands you.

We're just waiting for cover of darkness now. Which is appropriate considering the terrible thing I'm about to do.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Job

Well, I'm in a bit of a pickle here. Let me explain some background on the community we're trying to help and their problem. That should help.

I'm just going to call the place Clinton, because that's one of the most common names for a town in the US. Can't give away too much about it, but the crux of the problem is that Clinton is very, very secure because of its location. The community is located at the top of a large hill (I can say that because lots of places have those), but in a huge, shallow depression in that hill. Big enough to house hundreds of people and some farmland to boot. Think about some of the river valleys you've seen, or distant plateaus as you've driven down the highway and you'll get an idea of the scope. Clinton is pretty big.

And because it's at the top of that big ass chain of hills, and the hills are covered in trees, and the town itself is basically fifteen feet below where the hilltop should be...well, Clinton is invisible from the road. You could walk around the hills and wouldn't know it was there until you were on it.

The people there do a lot of mining. There's not a lot to be had in the rocks there, but a few natural caverns and a lot of broken rock gives them a ton of extra cool storage space and room to work metal without being seen or heard. Not too far away from Clinton is a cluster of abandoned factories and a good-size town where they regularly search for and gather materials of all kinds. Good number of zombies passing through there, though nothing like the numbers we deal with. The important factors to understand:

The people of Clinton have been creating caches of things in the town to more easily transport them back when needed. They're very careful about not drawing any undead from the town back to the community itself, and because of its location and geography, zombies almost never come across the hidden town in the hills.

The problem is simple. One-word simple. Marauders.

I can write about this now without too much fear that the marauders in question will read this and figure something out. I've been watching them from a distance all morning, and this band of bad guys don't seem to have any mobile communications technology. There aren't any functional cell towers around here, and they don't have a transmitter.

But the marauders definitely do know that people live around here. They've found several supply caches so far and have added them to their own plentiful supplies. More, they've begun a systematic search of the area for the people who left those caches sitting around, correctly guessing that they are recent rather than being left over from before The Fall.

It's pretty clear why I was asked to do this. The marauders have been poking around this area for a few days. Eventually they'll exhaust all the obvious places and start looking at the less likely choices. They'll go into the hills and lead zombies that way, and chances are good they'll find Clinton.

There are no walls to protect these people. They've got weapons and they can fight, having learned the hard way on supply runs into town. But they don't have defenses like we do or a barrier other than the terrain to slow down enemies. Building a wall where they are would be too obvious and noticeable. Leaving their hidden home right now is also too big a risk--what if someone saw them do it? Game over.

They're trapped and in danger and can't do anything about it without exposing themselves. That alone is enough to get me to help. But it's the things they've been making in those caves, out of sight from the world above, that makes the place a vitally important resource we have to save if possible.

But that's another post entirely.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

O Death

I'm in between New Haven and where I'm headed right now. I left home about an hour and a half ago, but we're stopped for a few hours while we wait out a passing swarm of zombies. They aren't close, can't see or hear us, but they're moving across a bridge we have to use so I've got nothing to do but write at the moment. I'm just glad we've got batteries for the cell transmitter so I don't have to try cranking the thing's generator in this heat.

Something happened back home yesterday that got me thinking. If you aren't a fan of my occasional philosophical posts, you can skip this one if you like. It's that kind of morning.

One of our guards died on the wall early yesterday morning. He was killed by zombies, but it wasn't an attack. The guard--Tim--had Othostatic Hypotension. It's basically a condition that causes blood pressure to drop, and in rare cases can cause Vasovagal Syncope, a very specific kind of fainting. Tim was a rare bird in many ways: having OH in the first place at his age (his thirties) and having a very, very rare symptom along with it. He knew about this problem, but he tried to be super careful about the onset of symptoms.

In life, no one ever manages a perfect score. For some people, that means game over when the mistake comes at the wrong time.

Tim passed out and fell right over the wall. The undead were on him in less than a minute. There was nothing anyone could do to save him. After the first few bites, one of the sentries ran close and put a few arrows in him. It was, I'm told, the most merciful gift for him.

The sheer randomness of it made my mind spin and twirl the concept of death around for hours. I couldn't stop focusing on it, looking at it from different angles.

Death is the ultimate mystery, right? Or it used to be. Some folks used to romanticize it in one way or another--sometimes through literature, or maybe television or movies. We've seen death happen so often and on such scale since The Fall that it's possible the event has lost some of its sharp edges for us.

I've realized some truths that can't be ignored. Death is ugly. It's unpleasant. It's a terrible thing, yet as much as we hate it conceptually, we don't hesitate to deal it out when we need to. Sometimes when we don't. It can have meaning, can grant gifts to those left alive. I'm thinking of Mason here, and his last hurrah out in the sandy southwest, fighting off the zombies approaching our camp with his bare hands. Mason knew he was dying already, and he didn't go with a whimper. He fought and died with as much bravery as he lived with, and shouted with a lion's roar right to his last breath.

Does that make his passing any better than Tim's? No. No, I don't think so. Sure, there are good ways to go out (I always imagined my own death happening during vigorous sex with identical busty redheaded twins, but I doubt that's really an option anymore. Oh, not because the zombie apocalypse happened. No. Because I got married), but the more I think about it, the more I realize we simply attach too much other meaning to the act. All of us will die, probably a lot sooner than we thought before the world fell apart. Many philosophers have said that the important thing is how you live, and I agree.

My mom died in that fire. It was an accident, it was stupid, and instead of trying to repair the damage her loss did to me and others, I lost my shit completely. Death is many, many things. Random, brave, dumb, cowardly, romantic, beautiful, grotesque, meaningful, pointless. Like everything else in our lives, it depends completely on context. It could come for us at any time, for any reason or none.

I guess that's why I feel so strongly that every day should be an effort to better ourselves. To live according to principles we define for ourselves as being good or positive. A bald eagle could fall from the sky and break my neck in ten minutes, which would be idiotic and pointless. But if there's an afterlife (or at least a few fleeting moments of consciousness before I Move On) I would want to look back at that moment of change and say, "Well, how I went was completely moronic, but why I was in that place at that time was good. I was on my way to do the right thing."

We fail. In the end, we all fail. Death isn't the failure, of course. We try to be good, and at times we widely miss the mark. We fuck up royally, give in to our tempers, lash out when we don't mean to. We're shitty with people or reluctant to put forth an effort when we're needed. We fail in as many ways as there are to describe it. Maybe more, since I'm kind of bad at math.

Any moment could be our last. Yeah, it's trite and definitely something you've heard at every funeral you've ever been to, but that doesn't make it any less true. Before The Fall, it could have been a car crash, food poisoning, or any number of factors that are much less likely now. Post-fall, it's probably going to be a zombie or something violent. The how just isn't important to me anymore. The why even less so.

The end of the line for all of us is the same. We'll die. The length of the trip will vary, but it's far more important to worry about how we spend the journey.

Like I said, just some thoughts.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Test

This morning I was put in a situation that required me to prove whether or not I meant what I said about the community coming first, even as I stay home to care for my wife and others. One of our key allies in the local area, and by that I mean within a hundred miles or so, asked specifically if I'd help them with a project. They said I was their first choice, for my familiarity with the area in question as well as having worked and communicated with me more than any other citizen of New Haven.

Understand, these folks are critically important friends of New Haven. They offer us tactical assistance in extreme need, and beyond that they're good people. And yeah, I know the part of the country they live in very well. Of all the people here, only the team I took with me across the country and I have spent any time there. Me more than anyone else; when I was a kid my mom and dad used to meet there sometimes to exchange me between them for the summer.

And the job itself is something I have experience with. I can't say more than that right now, but there are some pretty compelling reasons for me being the one to go.

Obviously, that would mean leaving Jess and my guests. Jess wants me to do it, and the others are behind her on this, those of them that can still talk. Pat has offered to take care of everything, to schedule duty between himself, the girls, and Becky. I don't want to go, that's my gut reaction, but I have to consider the larger implications of refusing.

When I told Jess that I'd be devastated if something happened to her while I was away, she pointed out that given the new plague's seemingly instantaneous ability to kill, she could die while I was in the bathroom. Life is random, death is random, and if you wait around worrying about what will happen if you move, nothing can ever get accomplished.

Have I mentioned how wise my wife is? I really should make a habit of doing that.

I'll go, of course. I can't refuse the request in good conscience. This is a delicate situation that our allies can't afford to attempt on their own. Once I've done the job and can explain, you'll understand why that is, and why I can't go into more detail.

Will told me that should I choose to leave, I will be able to take two people with me. What I'm being asked to do is dangerous to the extreme, but we can't spare more than that. Really, we shouldn't be sparing anyone since people still get sick almost daily and there are many hundreds of pissed-off, hungry zombies buzzing against the walls, but exceptions have to be made sometimes. We're doing something to help ensure the survival of an entire community, a group of more than three hundred people.

It would be awful for me to be away if something happened to Jess. Logically I would understand my own faultlessness in that situation, but just imagining the scenario makes the guilt center of my brain (which feels suspiciously like my heart) go into overdrive. However, while that would make me feel terrible, not going to help people in desperate need and by so doing possibly doom them to violent deaths would be the worst kind of immoral act by way of neutrality.

Letting those people down, letting them come to harm because I was too selfish to take a risk, would be awful in ways I can't describe. I've done many terrible things since The Fall began, but not when I could avoid them. Through those hard choices and scarring acts, I've always tried to do what's best for the community. I've done immoral things to serve a larger good. Maybe that's why I can look myself in the eye.

But if I refuse to go, I don't think Jess would be able to do the same. I would prove myself to be a different man than she married. Less than I was. I can't let our allies down, but in the end I make the choice to go because I want her to be proud, more than any other factor.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I can't help feeling incredibly strange about the fact that I'm not sick. I spent a good portion of yesterday thinking back on the new plague and our experiences with it. Just like everyone else, I've been exposed, there really can't be any doubt about that. I spent weeks tending to the people from Louisville that first fell ill with it. I've been around sick people nonstop for a long, long time.

But some of us just aren't catching it. Maybe whatever strain of the zombie plague we have inside us just waiting to take over when we die is too tough for the new kid on the block. That might be it, or I could simply be the next one to wake up barely able to breathe. Who knows?

On a deeper level, this bugs the shit out of me. It's not as though I want to get sick--all of you know how much I hate being helpless and unable to stand and fight when needed--but me being one of the people still hale and hearty touches on a larger trend for me: I've been very lucky.

Not falling victim to the new plague is only the most recent sign. Yeah, I've been injured several times, but that doesn't make me unique among survivors. We live in dangerous times and work often has to be rushed to get done at all. No, I've been super lucky. A combination of that and some foresight let me save some of my family members, though the majority of them died. One of my brothers and my sister lived, and their families. My mom made it through The Fall itself. The majority of people in New Haven lost literally every person they knew.

I don't like it, mostly because I constantly feel as if the other cosmic shoe is going to drop. That some huge tragedy will rain down upon me and make mockery of the good fortune I've had so far. When the universe aims to balance the scales, there's isn't dick you can do to stop it.

Y'know, if you believe in that kind of thing.

I guess I'm just feeling bad for all the folks who're suffering with every breath right now. I see it in my wife, the folks I'm caring for at the house. I saw it in the patients at the clinic. Hell, I know how awful it is, from severe bronchitis three winters in a row, and one bout of pneumonia that would have killed me had I not grudgingly made a trip to the ER. It wears you down, fighting just to make your chest expand, to drink in trickles of the oxygen you always took for granted.

All I have to do is go fight zombies. Compared to what these folks are dealing with, that's a fucking breeze.

Stupid survivor's guilt.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


My schedule is completely fucked at this point. I've been getting very little sleep lately, usually in little hour or two hour chunks between checking on the folks living in my house. Jess isn't working anymore. She can still move around on her own but she's so weak at this point that she has passed the daily administration of her areas of responsibility to others.

Patrick or one of his nieces is always here with me now. Pat has the new baby, which I've been remiss in even mentioning given all the chaos lately, making the fact that he spends so much of his free time helping me out all the more impressive. It's not that I need help with the work necessarily, just that there isn't enough time in the day for all the things I have to do plus the work I may potentially do and sleep. Take yesterday, for example.

After my post went up, the bells started ringing. It wasn't a large assault, but it was global. New Breed came at the walls from every direction, in small groups. They carried big wooden boards, probably taken from one of our hidden supply caches (not hidden well enough, obviously), and they were doing their damnedest to get a foothold on the walls to scale them.

There are numerous little crannies and crevices in the wall between the stones where those boards can be jammed to provide a decent ramp. Just over ten feet high, the New Breed only needs to get them about six feet up to have a good shot at getting over the edge.

So that was what I did yesterday for several hours. I ran around the walkways defending the northern section, alternating between firing arrows at close range (for accuracy--after all, shots to the head are the only ones that count) and waylaying those that made it over with one of the heavy machetes the folks in North Jackson made for us. That entire section of wall, roughly a quarter of the whole, was manned by twenty-five people. Five groups of two in set positions, working a small area. Five 'flying units', like me, running between longer chunks and helping where needed, and ten sentries posted up with long guns, sending out precious bullets into the heads of zombies who got past us or were making their way to the wall, depending on the circumstances.

It was exhausting. Fighting for hours on end with only short breaks to get a drink of water or wipe zombie gore from my face took its toll on me. It was well into the afternoon before I made it home, where Pat had set up a rotation to care for my people. Jess is in better condition than the others at the house, so she did a bit of light work to help out. She cooked, which is rare for her. Even that much effort took a toll on her, but she seemed genuinely happy to do something for me. For us.

Somehow I stayed awake for a few hours after that, but sometime between seven and eight I fell asleep. The good thing about turning my house into a tiny care facility is the abundance of places to comfortably fall asleep. Mattresses are all over the place, my couch is super comfy, the floors are littered with piles of pillows. I picked the couch.

And I didn't wake up until five this morning. I slept very well, the deep sleep of a person on the edge of losing it from bone-deep tiredness. I was angry when I finally came to, but I couldn't maintain it for long. Jess, my patients, Pat, and his nieces conspired to let me rest. There was some food ready, which helped mitigate my crankiness.

I guess I just felt like they didn't think I could do it. Like I wasn't tough enough or dedicated enough to catch a nap, get up, and take care of business. That may sound stupid, and I fell kind of stupid, but even if that's not the lesson my wife and friends intended to teach, it was correct. There's a lot on my shoulders and my stupid, pig-headed pride needs to be put on the backburner. I can't do this alone, that much is clear. The community at large needs every able-bodied person ready to fight at a moment's notice, and I'm in that category.

I'm thankful as hell for the help, that's all I'm saying. I need it, no getting around that fact. The girls are too young to be in combat, but one or the other of them will stay here while the other serves as support staff for those who do the fighting.

But even if there's a period of peace and the New Breed gives us a break, I still can't do it alone. Staying in the house, working nonstop on one thing or another, letting the worry build up and having virtually no socialization...that was a recipe for disaster.

Having them here gives me time to do something completely alien: to just sit down for a few minutes and breathe. To do nothing, to have a brief time with no responsibilities and no immediate worries. I did that for half an hour after I woke up this morning, just sat on the couch after my light breakfast and enjoyed the cool breeze through the windows, the sound of crickets and morning birdsong. My cat, Simon, came in from his prowling and sat in my lap. Can't remember the last time I was able to give him some much-needed ear scratches. It was nice. I feel like an almost-new man.

Monday, June 11, 2012


One of the people I've been taking care of here at the house died this morning. Her name was Norma Smith, and I called her Mrs. Smith. An old habit from working at the nursing home, not using someone's first name if they're older than I am. Funny how that little foible came right back to me when I invited these folks into my home.

She didn't pass in her sleep. Most of the people sick with the new plague who lose the fight go that way. Mrs. Smith woke up for a few minutes, her eyes glassy and her breathing harsh and shallow. There wasn't much in those eyes, desperate pain faded to resignation. All animals seem to know when their final moments are on them, and people are no different. I sat with her for those last few minutes, watched the remaining strength flow from her muscles and bones.

I held her when she died.

I should have felt more. I didn't cry for her. A light sadness crept over me that I couldn't do more, that the life she fought so hard to keep was taken from her in a way she just couldn't combat. Being there for her as she died was the least I could do for her. Sadly, it was also all I could do.

Norma's death marks an interesting turn to how the new plague is playing out around our home. We seem to have reached a point of rough balance between the number of people falling ill and the number getting better or passing away. There's some hope that the worst of it is over. As we are now, we can maintain things until the sickness burns itself out.

We have hope, as always, but not expectations. Because basing your plans and future on what you'd like to happen is stupid. We expect the worst as always and will work from there.

Trying to comfort Norma was a strange thing for me. I couldn't help sitting there and recalling the times I'd done the same before The Fall, trying to be there for the people I took care of at work when one of them was moving on to whatever is next. I don't even know if I believe in an afterlife anymore, but I damn well believe in life.

Think about it for a minute. Every person around you is a walking miracle. We're these animals, evolved enough to have the capacity for logic and self-awareness to a degree other creatures can't manage. We're the apex species of planet Earth, a biological anomaly. A quirk of nature.

Each of us is a conglomeration of experiences and events that make us who we are. We've loved and hated, risked everything and taken the easy way out. We've been kind and cruel, had moments of deep insight and impervious denial. Some of us have specialized in understanding the strangest and most esoteric fields of study while others are dedicated generalists. Those experiences and the knowledge that comes with them are as invaluable for their inherent teachable data as they are for what they represent about the species.

What kinds of knowledge did Norma have to share with us? What things did she know that might not even seem important but somewhere down the line could prove crucial to some endeavor? What about the wisdom that came from the experiences gaining that knowledge, you know?

We're more than just repositories for information. One of the things that makes the human animal so unique, so damn amazing, is our ability to learn overarching lessons from our experiences. Through understanding, we grow wise, and we share that wisdom with those who come after us.

In the world that was, there were so many people that we lost sight of how important those lessons were. Sitting here tapping away at my keyboard, hearing the shouts of sentries on the walls as zombies taunt them below, I can't help but feel envy for Norma and her escape from this. She's at peace now.

The rest of us may have lost an invaluable resource. The worst part of that is not knowing if we have or not. I think, should we weather this storm, that we should take steps to change that.

Rest well, Mrs. Smith. You'll be missed.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Men Overboard

I've been focused on Jess and what's been happening around New Haven a lot lately, but some things just need a post all their own.

Our watchers brought a report in yesterday (at great personal risk, they've been making their way over the walls to keep an eye on the Exiles. Brave folks, considering the zombies outside...) that some major shifts have happened at the old fallback point. At dusk yesterday, a large group of Exiles made their way to the broken bridge where their leader, who I call Scar, murdered a guard who dared show us some small measure of respect.

Many in the group were clearly ill--pale faces, labored breathing, sweating profusely--but they came along anyway, determined to haul their captives right to the edge.

Yeah. Captives. Seven men and three women, all sick themselves, were unceremoniously killed and thrown into the river. The last of them was Scar himself, so devastated with the new plague that our watchers weren't sure he even knew what was going on. He didn't get a bullet like the others. Scar had his throat slashed by a small woman, who kicked him over the edge.

We got a message from the Exiles not long after. It was hand-written and chucked across the river inside one of those capsules you used to get at the drive-through at banks. I'm not going to transcribe it here mainly because it's in Will's office, but the gist of the thing was an explanation. Scar and his lieutenants ruled the Exile camp through fear, intimidation, and violence. Some of it subtle, some of it overt, all of it terrible. Turns out a lot of people weren't very happy about that and took their chance when they got it. The letter further explained that the large boat being constructed was intended for piracy--traveling up and down the river looking for people using it as we have, to ferry large shipments of goods around. Scar was planning on breaking the truce, another mark against him.

The remaining Exiles want to live in peace, or so they say. As a show of goodwill, they burned the boat's skeleton last night after lowering the screens they've got set up around their home. As before, we'll take them at their word that they won't attack, but we'll plan for the worst. We're a hopeful sort of people, but not stupid.

For the sake of the ill living in New Haven, I hope this is genuine. We haven't been shy about telling people we're weak at the moment, and while we can still defend ourselves quite well, doing so would represent a strain on our population that would make things so much worse.

I've got my fingers crossed. We'll watch and see.

Friday, June 8, 2012


This morning has been a good one for the people suffering from the new plague. Nine of them woke up feeling tired and weak, but otherwise well. All of them were folks that hadn't been hit particularly hard by the symptoms, which is the first time we've seen any uniformity in the progression or resolution of the illness.

There were a few good comments on yesterday's post, and we actually used one of them as part of a solution for keeping the makeshift hospital cooler. I'm a moron for not thinking of it myself, because there's a great example of it right across the river: sun screens. The Exiles have big-ass swaths of fabric to block our watchers from easily seeing what they're doing (which still isn't a lot) but they also help create shade for the fallback point.

We did the same, though ours are far more makeshift. We've got a big pile of pipes marked for eventual use, and slapping them together and sewing lots of fabric didn't take very long. We had a dozen people doing the work, two teams of six, and they went on for hours and hours. Made enough surface area to help a great deal, especially since Dave cut some more ventilation in the things.

My contribution was less useful. I suggested that we use some of our extra tanks of compressed air to move the muggy air inside around. It's not ideal, but it helps a little. This is a problem that will get worse as we get closer to July, so it's not like we're done working on it. But progress is progress.

The zombies outside have taken to attacking weakly guarded areas of the wall. At first our traps took a toll on them, but we can't risk sending people out to reset and rearm them, so there are more places in the perimeter where the undead can get close to the wall. It has the same feeling as previous assaults, as though they're testing us to gauge our reactions. I'm sure it isn't good news, but for the time being the New Breed aren't making any real effort to get over the wall. If they were, they'd be bringing in logs to use as scaling ladders or climbing over each other to get our people.

Since they can't really hurt us without those tactics, our guards and sentries have been ordered not to attack. We save every arrow, bullet, and moment of risk for a time when we can't help using them. We're in too precarious a position to be goaded into another offensive like the one we put on a few weeks ago.

More people are getting sick, but not in large numbers at any given time. Jess is still in an in-between state, not fully functional and healthy but still able to move around and get things done. I almost wish there would be some kind of change, just so the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop, constant and pounding in the back of my head, would go away. Mind you, I want that to be for the better, so I need to knock on wood or dance to the moon spirits or something.

She is taking it easier, though. With so many people ill and workloads reduced by necessity, there's less for her to do. I can't help feeling a strange variety of relief for that. It's terrible that we have to trim the number of projects we're working on to keep our healthy people from overtaxing themselves, but if it makes my wife feel the burdens of her responsibilities less, I'll take that silver lining.

Ah, she's awake. I hear her moving around in there. Going to go check on her and the others before I start their breakfast.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Staying inside a shipping container when the sun is out sucks very, very badly. The interior of the thing gets hot quickly even when the air temperature outside is mild. That makes it difficult to keep the damn things cool and ventilated, which is a problem since we have a lot of our sick people set up in them.

Also, because the expansion--in all its boxy metal glory--is our new fallback point. Which means in a pinch, every inhabitant of New Haven will have to live in one of the things.

The first thing we considered was trying to set up another refrigeration system like the one our big freezer uses, but that isn't workable. One, the zombies outside the walls are still large in numbers, making attempts to go out and gather the supplies we'd need suicidal in difficulty. Two, even if we could find the parts to build more absorption refrigeration units (a big 'if', given how specialized some of the stuff is), we'd never be able to find enough to cover all the space we need. Three: only three people here know how to really build one, and we all have other work to do.

Realistically, it isn't going to happen. Other solutions, then.

I don't know what those might be, but we'll figure something out. For the last two years we've been dealing with the heat in our homes by opening all the windows that aren't covered by armor (though most of the houses including mine have been modified so the plates over the windows are removable) and letting the breeze come through. Granted, there's a huge difference between a thin metal box and a house with thick walls and shade.

For the moment we're setting up fans and running small generators, but we can't do that for long. Maybe if we use the modified genny, the one that runs on ethanol, we can manage for a good chunk of time. Fuel isn't quite at a premium yet, but we can't afford to use too much.

It's a conundrum. It bugs the hell out of me.

Normally I'd be out there looking at the problem. I'm working on it here at the house but it isn't quite the same. Visualization is important for me as a critical thinker. Maybe I've been too harsh and immobile in my stance to stay home whenever possible. Might be good for my brain to get out for a bit each day, kind of decompress and release the steam valves some. You know--not just to kill zombies.

Ugh. It's a slow, hot day, and I'm feeling cooped up. I think I will go out. See if Pat will come over for a bit and keep an eye on things, and get some perspective. I'll read reports and spend time on what should be a simple problem when I get back. I need to stretch my legs before I gnaw one of them off in frustration.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I spent a lot of yesterday fighting. Jess insisted I go out with the small assault teams to clear some of the zombies away. It wasn't a pleasant job, but every body is needed. We had to clear enough undead away from the gates and draw large enough groups off so we could send out collection teams for supplies.

It sucked out loud, believe me. Patrick stayed with Jess, since he only has blacksmith duty most days what with him having the one hand and all. His workload varies, and the new plague has our need for freshly worked metal at a low point. Of all the people left in the world, I trust Pat with my life and my wife more than any other. Hell, I that much was true before The Fall, too. Patrick Rooney is the best friend I could have asked for. Much like Jess herself, he's more than I deserve.

My team had the unenviable task of being first through the inner gate--the smaller, man-sized door set into the huge front gate--to clear away the few New Breed and old school zombies brave enough to come within bow range. They've seen that we aren't willing to waste arrows on stragglers at the moment and more of them edge closer all the time.

That part was fairly easy. The rest...

It was ugly work. Killing always is, even when it's zombies. We cleared the stragglers from the gate enough to let out three tanks, who took over the lion's share of the job. They led the larger forces of the undead away while those of us on foot fought the rest. The teams left out as we worked, and they won't be back for another day. They're loading up on firewood, which they have to cut, and hunting for fresh meat, and other sundries we'll need for an extended siege if it comes to that.

New Haven has been insulated from the outside to a large degree ever since the first perimeter defenses went up. With the construction of one wall and then another, even better one, the feeling that this place is an island has grown. Now that we're weaker than we've been in a long while and surrounded by the undead, it's almost impossible to feel any other way.

To a lesser degree, my house was starting to feel that way as well. I want to be there with Jess, need to hold her hand in her time of need, but I'm actually glad I got out and helped fight. I hadn't realized how isolated I was starting to feel after only a few days without my normal routine. I wasn't going out for a jog or trotting to the office to hand in reports. I was at home, working nonstop and only seeing the outside world through windows.

Before and after the fight, I managed to have some good conversations with my teammates. Two of them work in the annex most of the time, and they're helping handle the gopher problem. They've set traps and managed to capture a few of the little buggers. Apparently gopher makes a decent stew.

Another is a guard on the wall, and is one of the marauders who showed up with Kincaid. Guy's name is Darryl, he's in his forties, and he joined up with us because he wanted a safe place for his daughter. I had no idea some groups of marauders were families, but Darryl only joined with them for her. She's just sixteen. Though they've only been here a few months, she fell for a local boy. They had a small ceremony just yesterday, hands bound by ribbon and all that.

Even in hard times, love can bloom like roses in the cracks of concrete. Hellfire, love born in times like these? It's especially powerful, tempered like steel.

I know I've never loved my wife more.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hand of Doom

There are some days that start off bad and just roll downhill from there. Bad days like that can be epic from a single event, so terrible and mind-shattering that they leave scars on you that take years to get over. Others aren't as damaging in the long term but have the same kind of impact.

Where to begin?

I guess it started last night. The giant outdoor freezer I'd been designing before the team and I left out, the one my brother completed while we were away, failed. Not a structural failure--I spent too much time digging through the various articles and texts in my copy of the Ark and too much time double-checking my work to have made an engineering mistake that bad--but plain old human error. Our Absorption fridge needs a heat source to keep the process going, and last night the person who was on duty passed out just after they relieved the person before them.

The guy who passed out was sick with the new plague and didn't tell anyone. The fire has to be carefully tended, and no one came by to check on him as they should have. As a result, the contents of the fridge began to thaw. We insulated well, but the amount of time that passed means we have to eat a lot of the stuff that's in there. Mostly meat. Now that the fridge is cooling back down we can restock it, but we've got a lot less people to send out hunting than we did a few weeks ago.

Oh, and it's not like we can easily send people out. The zombies have apparently taken notice of the lower number of guards on the wall. They're coming closer to the ring of traps around New Haven all the time, and our people have been told not to fire on them unless the undead actually attack. We don't want to provoke them. The game here is to keep from having to fight again for as long as possible.

Sending out hunting parties is problematic for that very reason. We can't let them through the gate where the undead can easily spot them and attack. We have to get hunters out over the wall at times when they aren't being observed. Getting them back in is even more of a mess, because they have to come in wherever there's an opening, which means we need teams ready to run to any given spot to haul ropes and ladders at a moment's notice.

Two more deaths since yesterday, and four more sick. Three of those four are council members, so we're running a deficit in the responsible leadership area. The Exiles have started to reappear in small numbers at the fallback point, some of them going outside to work on their crops. Not devastating news, but it means they're either recovering somewhat from their outbreak of the plague or on death's door with hunger and desperate enough to survive that they'll send a few healthy souls out to collect food.

I don't know which is worse, to be honest.

Oh, and on top of those bits of bad news, the annex--the burned-out section of New Haven we abandoned last year and now farm in--is being invaded. By gophers.

Yeah, cute little guys that annoy Bill Murray in legendary golf movies. It's almost funny how dangerous those fuckers are to us. The ground and crops are being assaulted by a force of dumb, adorable tunnel dwellers that only want a nice meal. We've got deadly enemies across the river, implacable and clever undead nearly beating on the walls, and our biggest worry at the moment is how to deal with buck-toothed rodents nibbling on the food supply.

I can't help thinking of how hard Joss Whedon would be laughing right now. I think back to season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the cryptic warning that echoed through the episodes: From beneath you, it devours.

We're in a tough spot and dealing with a lot of stuff at once. It's just frustrating and disheartening to have these kinds of setbacks all at once. I'm doing what I can, which includes taking Jess over to the annex to see the damage for herself. I don't want to strain her, but she insists.

We need to catch a break.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


It seems counterintuitive, but it turns out that people infected with the new plague actually seem to be relieved by smoke. Though the fresh and damaged version of the zombie illness is hitting them in their lungs, blow-by marijuana smoke does seem to have a positive effect.

Yeah, I know. Strange. The folks in my house aren't using the stuff, but the clinic is treating several people with more difficult breathing and it's doing some good. I don't know if the moderate amount of THC they're getting from the indirect inhalation is just relieving some of the pain or if it's the particulate matter of the smoke itself making the two warring versions of the plague behave better, but it's a win.

Funny that the end of the world came, and instead of toking up given the lack of law, people are instead really using the stuff for a medical purpose. With disturbing numbers of zombies still milling around outside the walls, you'd think a lot of people would be getting high if for no other reason than to mitigate the insane level of stress that situation creates.

But, no. Our people are way too laser-focused on getting their jobs done and seeing to the most important needs of the community. Maybe one day when everyone is safe, we'll have a party and those who want to partake can do so without fear of endangering others with slow reactions. I hope that day comes, I really do. Not for the freedom to indulge (I never cared for the stuff myself) but for the simple freedom to choose.

Jess isn't doing any better, but she's not doing any worse either. That's something, I guess, but I can't quite get over waking up after my very minimal naps and seeing her unchanged. New cases of the plague are slow in developing at the moment, and a few more people have beat the thing overnight. Sadly, two more deaths as well, which only makes me wish to see Jess pop up one morning hale and hearty. Other people are doing it, why not her?

It's terribly stressful, but I try to keep cool in front of her. One small piece of solace is this blog, which she doesn't read. I mean, why would she? I'm right here, and everything I say on here she could just ask me. So in this space I can complain about my worries, fret over the fact that she reacts very badly to smoke of any kind and thus won't benefit from this new treatment if she does get worse, and I don't have to worry about her feeling bad for me. I'm trying my damnedest to be her rock right now. I don't know how much she needs it.

The zombie plague has destroyed much, and in my wife it has beaten away the layers of fear and worry. Jess used to be shy and unsure of herself, but now she leads naturally, without any hesitation or concern over what people think of her. She has to labor to breath if she does anything more difficult than walk at a normal pace, but that doesn't stop her from doing every ounce of work she can, and then some.

She's tougher than I am. I know that now. If my being home can help in even the tiniest way, I'm going to keep doing it. Hell, right now I'm mostly just helping the others and being impressed at how much Jess can still do on her own.

I see it wearing her down, though she fights it. She's smart enough to pace herself but time and weariness aren't forgiving to the infirm. She'll keep going until she falls, because that's just who she is.

And I'll catch her, because that's who I am.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Yesterday was a false alarm. Well, not a false one, the bells were set off on purpose. Will wanted to test our responsiveness to danger given our weakened state. We did fine, and he gave me the shittiest grin when he saw me on the wall with my bow. I almost think he did it just to prove he could get me out of my house if he wanted to, the clever bastard. I gave him a wink before I went home. He's still my friend.

Things are working out rather well, all things considered. We had a bad rush of victims of the new plague yesterday, another ten sick. We're still getting weirdly varied results, though. Some of the ill wake up feeling perfectly fine. This morning one of my own patients sleeping in my living room got up and felt wonderful. He'd only been sick for a few days.

And seven of those ten people aren't bad off enough to stop work. They feel like crap, their breath isn't coming as easily, but much like Jess they can work. Some more than others, but still doing something constructive with their time. More important, they're not using up the efforts of the medical staff.

This does create a special problem, however. As sick people get suddenly better, healthy people get either somewhat ill or totally incapable of caring for themselves, the schedule has to change. Some folks that do heavy labor come down with the new plague and can't manage tending crops or hauling firewood, but maybe they can work on armor or something else that doesn't require tons of effort.

What it boils down to is a hugely chaotic situation in which the different section managers of New Haven get reports each morning from all over the place with new listings for sick, healthy, and people in between. It's becoming a total clusterfuck to manage, because it takes so much effort to work out who can go where, to substitute this person here but then figuring out where the original person needs to be assigned...

Yep, guess who got the job of making all that work?

It's not that bad for me, because I don't have to worry about any other paperwork-type things while I'm doing it. I haven't got a section of New Haven to run, no department to head. All I have to do is take reports from all over the place and do the math. Difficult, but much easier than what my former trainees were facing by doing this and their normal jobs. The fact that my house is a more convenient point of convergence than the new, um, city hall or whatever you want to call it, helps. People running in and out all morning makes it a little hard to keep track of what I'm doing, but I manage.

The folks staying here with Jess and I aren't all that needy just yet. I help them with whatever they need, though mostly that's cooking for them and helping them use the bathroom. I don't have to do much in-depth work with any of them yet since they're still alert and capable of feeding themselves. A couple of them have even offered to help me with the schedule changes, which is endearing and funny. That kind of willingness to help also says a hell of a lot about the character of your average New Haven citizen. I gave them hugs and told them to shut up and get some rest, but I smiled when I said it.

Predictably, some people are upset that I've basically told the leadership to let me do what I want and got my way. Things have worked out well, and there aren't any snags so far. So my response?

Fuck 'em.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reality Check

There was a short but passionate debate on my last post. One person thought I went too far, the other thought I was totally in the right. Look, we live in a fucked-up, dangerous world. If you need any better proof that I believe deep in my heart that working together is the best way to outwit and outfight the zombie swarms, just remember where I live.

I said it in that post, and I'm saying it again: Jess and I started this place. What I said in that post about refusing to leave my home wasn't a play for pity or attention. I really meant it. To get me away from my wife, whose strength is slowly beginning to ebb away, they'll need to be super serious about it. Physical violence is the only way I'm leaving her side. I can (and am, because Will realized how serious I am) working from home. Doing double or triple duty, at that, as I'm working on some project logistics, caring for several ill people that were moved in yesterday, and helping Jess manage the food and armor situations.

What the argument boils down to is: how is this different than the Exiles (the ones that used to be citizens here, not the marauders they joined up with) who chose to do their own thing despite the larger needs of New Haven? How can I justify my actions knowing that precisely because I have some influence, others may choose to follow my example?

Don't think I haven't considered it. But my reaction, while angry and probably upsetting to many of you, is what it is. I've given more to this place than any of you know, put up with hardships and put forth efforts that I don't always cover on the blog. Beyond survival, I've tried to do things here that gave people something resembling a real life. Jess has done as much if not more.

Realistically, yeah, things could get very bad if a huge number of people suddenly decided to stay home with their loved ones or roomates. Funny thing is, most people choose not to do that. Most citizens here have some medical training to one degree or another, but not much in the way of experience or education in providing long-term care. It takes a sort of acquired patience. I know many folks who have sick relatives or friends who stop by our new clinic and the old to visit their chums before going out for duty on the wall or to tend our crops. They understand that New Haven needs to appear strong in front of the increasingly numerous zombies outside.

Fact is, they don't want to stay back and care for people. Their viewpoint is that people better trained and suited for the work can do it more efficiently. And they're right.

The crux of my argument wasn't that I would forsake my work for Jess, but that I could do the same job (in fact, more, since I have four other sick people living in my house at the moment, saving that effort from our regular medical staff) from home. Will and the council don't actually care if I come work in the space they set aside for me. I don't think they even really need me to work on most of the stuff Will has assigned to me. It's piddly stuff that isn't really vital.

No, they want me out and about because I'm well-known. Because despite not having an official leadership position, people still follow my lead. Right now things are tough. We've seen tougher, but this sickness thing has the Exiles so bad off they aren't even working their crops. As a threat, they're nullified at the moment. We could be heading that way soon, and there are a lot more zombies on this side of the river. People are scared, and Will wants the leadership to appear strong and in control. That's totally reasonable. Good leaders go about business as normally as possible in a crisis, because it shows people that calm can be maintained in bad situations.

Again, I'm not playing the game. I have no real authority here, despite founding New Haven. I'm fine with that, of course--I don't want to risk letting power get to my head again. But because I'm no higher on the totem pole than any guard on the wall or chef in the mess halls, I don't feel bad about making my stance clear: I won't be forced to leave my wife so I can be paraded around for morale. You want me out there, you'll need to make a serious issue of it.

One small caveat, however: if things start to get really bad, of course I'll help. I'll do whatever needs doing to ensure Jessica's safety. If we have too few people to defend the walls for whatever reason (even if it's because people start wanting to stay home with loved ones after all, though I am not seeing that happen with anyone but me) I'll go out and patrol myself. I won't let the safety of this place be compromised, and the suggestion that I wouldn't care frankly pisses me off.

I'm doing what I'm doing precisely because it's safe and doesn't affect my ability to get work done. I'm not advocating skiving off work or refusing duties, just saying that my own aren't affected by where I am.

Oh, that's just rich. I had to say something about fighting, didn't I? All that up there about why I can't leave, and the attack bell just went off. At least a hundred of them are about to hit us. Funny.