Thursday, August 30, 2012


It's early morning and the wind outside is cold. For the first time in more than a week I am in my own home. For the first time in months I went for a jog. The breeze was uncomfortable at first, then almost painful as the air began to cool the sweat beading on my skin.

I kept running, though. I muscled through it and embraced the experience. On my circuit through the streets I took new avenues, wandering across the most recent expansions and taking in hundreds of unfamiliar faces. Even in the gloom of predawn there were so many people working. The bustle was a background to the noise of my run. I focused on the swoosh of my limbs, the pounding of my heart. I felt my pulse race as I pushed harder.

Yet I couldn't help but notice the sharp crack of hammers meshing with distant, muted calls as men and women coordinated their efforts. As my feet slapped against the pavement, my eyes were drawn to the skeleton of a new watchtower climbing into the sky, just visible against the brightening sky. Our new arrivals began their real work today in the darkness, and will carry on through the light.

There's something poetic about that image. I heard laughter and cheer as those people shed sweat and effort to create something that will stand above what was before. My chest swelled with fierce pride that they would forgo sleep and probably a decent meal to ensure that much-needed work was done.

Many of them waved at me as I moved by, and I waved back. My face isn't so special that people remark on my handsomeness, but with my hair having grown as long as it has--a rarity in a society that fears an enemy grabbing onto it--and my heavy-framed glasses, I'm easy to pick out of a crowd. They greeted me with smiles and what seemed to be nods of respect. I felt the embers of happiness kindle inside me a bit. Acceptance can go a long way.

When I came back home there were already guests waiting on me. Courtney, Steve, Patrick, Becky, Bill, Gabrielle, Rachel, and a few others. Some of them, most vocally Gabby, were worried that I'd vanished without telling anyone. My jog took better than half an hour. Jess punched me in the arm for not waking her up. She hits really hard.

The fact that we were all supposed to sit down and have breakfast had totally slipped my mind. Pat and his nieces were cooking--something they liked to do for us now and again--while Pat's little girl was passed around like an adorable, crying football.

We all sat down in my living room and ate together. Deer steak and eggs are a staple food here, and one most people tire of after eating it every day for weeks at a time, but the company around me added a certain something to the repast. Friendship and good times are a spice that makes life much sweeter. The bonds we share are powerful things.

Like anything else, those bonds take work. Ask any circus tightrope walker and they'll tell you that a net is only as good as the time you put into servicing it. If you ignore what could save your life, what supports you (and in this case, the people you support in return), the whole thing can fray.

That's why mornings like this are so vital. Shared experience is important, but not just the random events we all have to live through. To knit ourselves closer, to secure what binds us together, takes deliberate choice. That's why we decided on a big meal together. Not only to remind me that there are people who care to lean on when I need them, but to simply enjoy one another. To make new memories together, adding to the rich collection of them that defines our friendships.

It's that way all over. Everywhere throughout New Haven and spreading to communities of survivors wherever they're found. That curious element is the focus of all our endeavors. To grow and fight for a better way. To rely on each other to set our course straight when we begin to veer. Love strong enough to bear the guilt and anger of being brought back down to earth when rage and arrogance pushes us in the wrong direction.

And in the simplest possible terms, concrete and down-to-earth, the force that pulls a man back from the edge of self-destruction. These people, my loved ones, are the reason I'm here right now. Only time can help salve the guilt I feel for ignoring them for so long, but they've given me the strength and encouragement I need to face that struggle. The gratitude I feel is...

There aren't any words. It's too much.

I lose track of the number of times I've said this, but some messages bear repeating. We will face enemies, human and zombie alike. We will likely face sickness and starvation, war and death. We will disagree--sometimes violently--and we will falter. Bad things will happen, and they will chip away at us. I'm living proof of that.

None of those things are the end of the world. You might have noticed, but we've been there and done that.

When one of us begins to fall, there will be another to hold us up until our strength returns. On the small scale as with my own recent experience, all the way to the vast assortment of communities that support one another already. As we move past the hardest times we've faced, the first few years after The Fall, we begin the times that will truly test us.

Once survival isn't the desperate struggle it once was, we begin to lay the framework for the future. Not just the next few years and not just in the physical sense. We are creating the first stage of a new age of human existence. We lay the literal and metaphorical foundations for the infinite time ahead. Small things now will have a larger impact decades or centuries down the line than we can possibly imagine. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the untold generations we hope to see born, to out our best effort into it.

And the only way to do that is together. That may mean swallowing our pride and taking in enemies as allies like we've done with some of the Exiles and many, many marauders. Chances are we'll badly misstep here and there in the name of justice, but with any luck there will be others to call us out on our mistakes.

But not only call us out. It's my hope that all of us, the entirety of human beings we're in contact with, will always strive not only to point out these flaws we so easily miss in ourselves, but also offer solutions. Self-correction on a massive scale, arcing over years and decades and centuries.

I hope for that, even though hoping is a fool's game. I have to be a fool, because if I saw the unity of purpose and the powerful compassion around me as just some fleeting thing, I wouldn't be able to face this world another day.

We will soar above even the hopes and dreams we have now. Our legacy will be the choice to be better than we were before, in every way that matters. As our homes and technology improve, so must our commitment to one another, and to the uncounted tomorrows our children will share. A higher moral fiber, a greater code of ethics, and a future bound by mutual achievement and cooperation. Those must be equally important goals moving forward.

Otherwise, all we have lost and all we have done to rebuild is a waste. Separately we will fail and flounder.

Together, we will rise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

While The World Watches

Yesterday evening, the council announced their decision regarding the Exiles. Actually they announced two decisions, and I'll get to the second one in a minute. 

Many of us expected a call for a general vote. I won't bore you with the humdrum details of how the process for getting a general vote to happen works, so let me just say that there was reason to think the choice would be left up to us. That didn't happen. I'll admit to a certain amount of relief that Will and the others in charge made an executive call, the consequences of which will be on their shoulders. 

Here's how it works out:

All Exiles--indeed, all remaining marauders--are being given a chance to submit to New Haven. Will, with Courtney and Steve's help, contacted every allied community to try and coordinate another amnesty. This time things are going to be a little different. More organized. We have the capacity now to keep a large number of prisoners, and that is the plan for anyone who takes the deal. If you come willingly, you live in a cell and do hard labor for a year and a day. After that time there will be individual hearings for each person to determine whether they should be allowed in the general population. 

If they are, it's five years limited freedom. Think of it as a sort of probation. During that long span, they won't be allowed weapons or certain freedoms that others enjoy. They will have to work like anyone else, but won't be asked to do more than any other person. During the probationary period, the measures they would live under are really more for the protection of others rather than any kind of real punishment. 

Any current prisoner who accepts this deal will start their time on September first. Any who decline will be tried for their crimes and punished in a manner decided by a tribunal. In some cases that may mean death. 

There is a good chance that the Exiles out in the wild--and those few still hunkered down in the fallback point--will band together and fight us if they find these terms unsatisfactory. We're prepared for that possibility as well as we can be, and most citizens seem to think this decision is a fair one. Anyone who chooses prison and hard labor on the off chance they might get to be under our watchful eyes for half a decade is likely the kind of person who can move beyond what they once were. 

What can I say, I'm an optimist. 

There are a small number of people (relative to our staggeringly large population now) who think the prisoners should be used as advance units to fight zombies. The logistics of actually making unwilling people do such a thing aside without them just escaping aside, that attitude is exactly what I'd expect of Exiles, not New Haven citizens. It's not surprising, but it is a disappointment to me and it hurts me to know that even a few dozen can still be so driven by vengeance. 

Then again, I've been pushed by that very same spirit a time or two, and I might have felt the same way before my recent troubles. So who am I to judge?

I doubt that we'll see much action from any resistant Exiles still out there in the near future. Right now we're strong and watchful. If they're going to hit us they'll do it when we're weak. Maybe during a zombie attack (new influxes of the undead have begun streaming in from Louisville now that there aren't many people there to stop them) or perhaps while we're ferrying in another wave of settlers. Now that we've begun the process of relocating the remaining Louisville people to our hastily (but cleverly) built isolation area, there isn't a buffer to slow down the undead. They're still a threat. As it turns out, so are the Exiles. 

Things change, but sometimes they stay the same no matter what you do. I'm trying to stick with the mental exercises Gabby has me doing for therapy. Trying to focus on the positive aspects of life right now, such as how far we've come as a community in a very short period of time. We have enough people even now, when much less than half of the total newcomers are here, to allow some people to work very specialized jobs without putting undue strain on the people who keep New Haven running. 

Which leads me to the second announcement: I don't have a job anymore. 

Well, not entirely true. Kincaid has been placed in the permanent position of Director of Offensive Operations, an office that didn't have a nifty name like that while I was doing the job. He works under Dodger, obviously, and for the near term will be working out of my house. I have the office space and location, so it only makes sense. I also want to get to know him a little better, give the guy a chance to overcome the preconceived notions I have about him. 

I won't be wearing any of the hats I used to switch between anymore. I'm free to work whatever jobs I want, from clinic hours to helping my brother and his crew build stuff. But I no longer have duties as a coordinator of any kind. I won't run things, oversee people, or be required to do anything that will push my boundaries further than the occasional rotation as an on-call fighter during attacks. 

My only job title now is one of those specialized ones. Will smiled as he announced it yesterday; I am New Haven's official historian. It's a position that can only be bestowed or removed by the council in a supermajority vote, and otherwise it lasts for life. I honestly thought at first that I was going to be shunned by citizens who thought I was getting an easy ride because of my breakdown. Hell, I thought the same damn thing. What right do I have to mooch off others and provide no needed services while they break their backs in the fields? Or risk their lives on the wall? Or do one of a hundred thankless and difficult jobs while I sit at home with my computer?

I thought that until people began coming over and congratulating me with smiles that held genuine warmth and joy. Many of them thanked me for my years of service, for seeing The Fall coming (many people saw what was happening, I am not special that way), and for a number of other things. The prevailing opinion seems to be that after two and a half years of doing what was necessary to safeguard others and build a home, I had earned the right to do the one thing I love above all else and give up a risky life. 

I'll be damned, but after losing count of the number of people that came by my house to thank me (I stopped tracking them after a hundred) I started to think they might be on to something. Realistically, I still feel as though I should be contributing in a more meaningful and concrete way, but my lingering instability makes me a liability in many situations. I think I can fight undead without a problem, but the thought of aiming a weapon at another living being gives me a bad case of the shakes. I don't even think I could hunt for food at this point. 

Stress might affect me the same way, so the council decided the best thing for everyone was to put me where I could be the least stressed out and the most effective. I didn't miss the fact that it's also a kind of reward. I cried a little when Will read out the news. 

See, before The Fall I had long nurtured a dream of being a full-time writer. I wanted to entertain the masses and make a positive impact on the world. I've joked before that it took the end of that world to make my dream a reality, but the truth is that even over the last two years I haven't been living that dream. I have done so much, things both terrible and wonderful, and had so many responsibilities that even this blog has become a darker place, filled mostly with news and happenings and devoid of much of the character and love I want to see in it. 

So...that's my goal. I have complete freedom to write what I want, when I want, and how I want. I will always update on events here, but my troubles have shown me that having that positive impact I'd so long hoped for isn't going to ride on news updates and the latest survival techniques. I have a chance to reconnect with that child of wonder inside me, the one who saw the rays of light shining through the darkness of the zombie apocalypse. I have the opportunity before me to highlight the love I have long ignored from my amazing friends and family. I can share pieces of beauty and joy, contrast them with the sad and the awful, and hopefully once again give hope to those of you out there who need it that the world isn't bleak and empty. 

Not only will I be trying to convince you of that fact, but myself as well. I may not be entirely comfortable with this new reality, but over time I expect I'll be out there again, doing things that have a material impact to balance out the morale boost I will try to provide here. 

I'll have one last post for this month, and then I'll take the last day of August and the first of September off to get my bearings and start anew. September second will mark exactly two and a half years of Living With the Dead. As I look back on all the words I've shared with you, the highs and lows, I start to feel one of those rays of light trying to fight through the clouds in my heart. The chance to focus entirely on writing here, to touch lives in a more meaningful way, is the only thing besides my loved ones that has given me hope in the last few weeks. It's tiny, but it's there. 

And really, that's what hope is, isn't it? A stupidly small chance that we grip as hard as we can and work toward. The journey might be fruitless and end in pain, but I begin to see that the destination isn't as important as how you get to it. As Will said, we make the future. We choose how we will impact others. We might never reach the goals we shoot for, but if we don't do what is right on the path toward those goals, we can never achieve something better. 

I choose hope, no matter how far away it may seem. I choose life. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


[Post by Kincaid]

Today is the day. The council has been deliberating for most of two solid days now and tensions are jacked up beyond what most people can tolerate. It isn't a situation like most before. There's no shadowy fear of unknown consequences. Everybody knows that we could be in the middle of a guerrilla war by this time tomorrow, fighting heavily armed people with righteous fury on their side.

Righteous from their point of view, anyway. A comment on Josh's post yesterday struck me funny. The comment said that they could almost see Josh's point, but that the difference between the disaster with the Louisville crew and what we're going through with the Exiles is that the Louisville crew are friends, if only casual ones. We weren't sure what their intentions were. With the Exiles, the comment said, we know exactly who and what they are, and they can't be trusted.

Just have to point out that New Haven was sure what I was when I took the offer of amnesty. A lot of communities did the same. We were murderers, thieves, abusers, some were even sadists and rapists. Most marauders tried to weed out the worst elements before taking the amnesty, but some were bound to have gotten through.

I'm still not taking sides. I'm just pointing out that there is precedent for giving the Exiles a chance. I'm just as unhappy as the rest of you that they chose not to take the amnesty when offered, and angry that they tried to kill over it. I'm certain that many of the Exiles, especially the women and children, weren't given much choice.

As for the rest? I don't think it's impossible that they might have finally come around. Living in peace, cooperating with neighbors, is a hell of a lot less stressful than the life most marauders lead. We still have to fight and kill, but it's the difference between being the enemy of everyone and having to be afraid all the time that any one of them will decide to strike at you, and just facing whatever problems come up. I chose the amnesty because I was sick of living that way. I wanted something better.

Maybe the Exiles have seen the light. I don't know. Hell's bells, I used to be one of them and saw the light myself and even I have a hard time believing it.

One way or another, today is going to be one for the record books. Speaking of record books, I have some interesting news on that front, but I'll let Josh fill you in on it tomorrow. Starting then he'll be back on here full-time, assuming he feels he can handle it.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Monday, August 27, 2012


No little brackets this time. This post is by me.

I'm not unaware of the goings-on right now. People have tried to isolate me from the facts, but even though my friends were only looking out for my well being, they were wrong to do it. I'm not proud of myself for hiding how deeply hurt I was, but I don't feel guilty for feeling it. Gabby tells me that's a start, really looking at my situation as something that happened and moving forward.

That being said, keeping me out of the loop isn't going to help in the long term. I'm feeling much more stable than I did even a few days ago. I know I'm a long way from healthy, but there's just no way for me to function in the long view if I can't handle the difficult situations we encounter.

While I was in my little cell, friends spent time with me. As time goes on I might decide to share some of those conversations, but even if I don't I will make a point to spend more time with them and talk about them. Seeing Courtney, Steve, Pat, Becky, Will, and others so much and so often over the last week drove home how much I rely on them. If I had put more effort into those friendships, maybe my burden wouldn't have felt so heavy.

And it isn't as though I was cut off from the world completely in there. There were a few surprise zombie attacks on the newest expansion. I heard the bells loud and clear. Even when I was curled up in shame on my cot I felt the overwhelming urge to fight the undead when the bells rang. I wasn't allowed anywhere near a weapon, of course.

I guess the important lesson I took away from the experience is that I don't want to die. At least, I'm willing to live and fight for others at a bare minimum.

Another lesson is that all of us are at risk. Not to beat a dead horse, but I want to drive home the point that this has been a long time coming for me. I've held it together in the face of many small disasters but the damage was cumulative. I don't think I'm the only person who has been bent and broken by the things we do. The decisions we've made may have been necessary but that doesn't mean they don't kill us a little inside.

I wouldn't be posting today--and believe me, it's taking a lot of effort to remain calm while I type--if Will and the rest of the council weren't still weighing the future of the captured Exiles and what our stance will be on those free Exiles who threaten war on us if we kill the captives out of hand.

For the first time in a very long span, I'm not a part of the discussion. The council wouldn't ask me my opinion right now even if they didn't care about putting pressure on my brain. My judgment may not be sound. I recognize that as a real possibility. Part of my breakdown has been the constant violence we've lived through. If I say that we should negotiate for peace at all costs, that might be a sign that I'm now too damaged to properly respond with force when needed.

That's entirely possible. In fact, I'm worried that might be the case. It's still early for me, yet. Only time will tell. Instead of suggesting a way forward and hoping that I will influence the council enough to make my choice rather than their own, I will just make a statement and hope that we come to the right decision.

To the council and all citizens of New Haven:

No. To everyone, everywhere.

I ask you to take a few moments to stop. At some point today when you feel overwhelmed or angry or just sick of it all, I would like you to pause. Close your eyes and let the breeze move over you. Focus on something around you. Maybe the noise of children playing or men working. Could be the smell of lunch being made. Take that time and let yourself simply be a person in a place, with no larger context than that.

No matter who you are, whether you're an Exile or a marauder or a citizen of a community like our own. Please stop and take a calming breath when you need it. After that refreshing moment, I want you to remember that every other person out there is just like you. They might be an enemy bent on ending your life, but history is full of foes having respect and understanding for each other.

We are all matter. From the most base subatomic particles, we're the dust of stars given shape and life. We share a common origin and the unique pain of watching the same beloved world die in front of us. Every living person now has had to end the existence of beings that were once what we are now. Some of the walking dead were loved ones, others strangers, but I doubt that many of us ended those dreary second lives without some degree of regret.

I have gained so many new pieces of perspective from my breakdown. We have allowed the pressures of life, so hard now and such a struggle, force us into corners. Yes, building the future is the only goal we can strive for, but Will was right. More than I realized when I first read his post.

We don't have to continue the cycle of violence to prove anything. We don't have to maintain some abstract sense of toughness to those who would call us enemy. We are the ones in control of our decisions, not them. Not only can we choose to be compassionate to those who may not deserve it, but it's our responsibility to set the tone. We've done that in the past, most notably in the very structure of our community. But turning points such as this demand that we step back and take a hard look at our recent history. We have to decide if the time has come to raise the bar for ourselves ethically and morally.

In short, we have to choose whether or not the risk of seeming weak is worth setting a better example.

I don't know if it is or not. Honestly. I'm not qualified to even speculate on that right now. I'm not proposing any particular plan. God knows I've been wrong enough in my life to question every choice I make. I'm simply asking everyone out there to stop and calm yourselves, try to imagine the point of view of the enemy. See if there isn't some common ground to work from.

It may be that the Exiles are bloodthirsty to a fault and not open to compromise. We've seen that before, which is why they became an enemy in the first place. If that is the case then we may not be at a point of stability that allows us as a society to take a leap of faith. Only two and a half years into these new dark ages, I admit the possibility that it may take years before we can begin to trust enough to risk ourselves on principle.

If, however, the Exiles and others like them are willing to listen and at least try to work something out, then I ask only that you give the possibility a chance. The thought of cutting down people who genuinely want to change themselves for the better because we once said some words and feel bound to follow through makes me nauseous.

Again, it might be necessary. That is your collective call to make.

I meant this to be a plea for sincere deliberation to all of you out there, but yeah, it ended up being pointed mostly at my own people. I will back whatever call you make. I beg that you only remember that no matter what they've done, these are human beings whose fate you're deciding. If they have to die, please be sure that you're acting out of real need and not obstinate ego.

If we have to commit to war, I only ask that you make sure it's one we have to fight for ethical reasons. Not because the only way to prove we're morally superior is by killing the enemy. Humanity has had enough of that over the centuries.

We're all specks wandering this great big globe, made up of the same stuff. There aren't so many living people left that we can afford to lose any for stupid reasons. If this rambling post makes any sense at all, I hope that last part sticks with you. In the final equation, it boils down to the same mentality that makes all of us survivors in the first place: waste nothing that can benefit the group.

Think about it. That's all I can ask.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


[Post by Will Price]

We have come to a crossroads here in New Haven. I talked the other day about the fact that we need to face the future with our eyes and minds open. To achieve much there has to be sacrifice, but we also have to remain willing to bend to the times. You probably guessed that this post has to do with our prisoners. You are right. Not just with the Exiles we have in captivity, but also the ones still out there. Those are the ones making this situation more difficult.

Within New Haven there is a division between people. Some want the council to follow the path we laid out with the original truce. They want us to kill the prisoners and declare war on the remaining Exiles. Not because those citizens are angry or want revenge. They see a threat to our home and recognize the need to neutralize it. They see enemies who were given a chance to walk away and did not take it.

That opinion isn't wrong or right. Most of those backing a violent solution to this problem have suffered at the hands of the Exiles or people like them. There are a significant number of new arrivals that have been brutalized by marauders at one point or another. It isn't just long-time citizens that feel this way.

The other side want us to mitigate our response. They argue that we should have learned a lesson from the debacle with Louisville. That killing is a last resort, one to be avoided if possible. It has been pointed out to me that the Exile infiltrators were working and doing a good job by all accounts. What if this signifies genuine change, a willingness to move beyond the people they once were?

Both sides have reasoned and compelling cases. The council is deadlocked. I am the deciding vote. It rests in my hands alone whether we spend our efforts working on the expansion or trolling the local fields and woods for enemies. Do we show our strength and determination in the face of enemies or allow for the possibility of their personal evolution and growth?

I am balanced between them. There are too many variables to consider. A lot can go wrong either way. A good leader should never show hesitation or fear. The person in charge is supposed to be the example for everyone else. Once upon a time I would have agreed with that idea wholeheartedly. Not today. Maybe not ever again.

If the trouble with Louisville has taught us anything it's that open and frank discussion is important. I need to make a call on this situation very soon, by tomorrow at the latest, and it's important that none of you think I will come to it lightly or easily. Lives could be lost. Probably will be, either way. Not many people are furious enough to kill based on what I've heard, but it only takes a few sparks to start a fire.

That kind of turmoil is the last thing we can afford. The question or right and wrong in this context is the worst part. We have always tried to fight for life, even when that meant making ourselves violent enough that no enemy would dare come after us. New Haven has been a collection of people painted in contrasts since before it had a name. Even when this was the compound, the cold choice to kill did not come without some cost.

My only choice is to weigh them now. Wish me luck. Wish all of us luck.

Friday, August 24, 2012


[Post by Kincaid]

We have ourselves a few prisoners. Some of the Exiles passed themselves off as stranded travelers a few weeks back and worked their way to North Jackson. Not sure how they got into the group coming here as part of the first big wave of migrants, but they did. We caught them.

The question now is what to do with them. People think I must lean toward going easy on them because I was a marauder too. They're wrong. The prisoners were part of a group that chose not to take the amnesty when it was offered. They claim they couldn't because their leaders threatened to kill them if they tried to leave. We can't be sure.

Killing them offhand isn't something most New Haven citizens are comfortable with. The infiltrators haven't caused any trouble that we know of. They've worked and taken risks just like everyone else. That isn't to condone what they've done. There was a very specific set of simple rules in place. The Exiles broke them. Consequences are going to happen, no two ways about it.

I'm the last person that should have a public opinion about this. I have been on both sides of the issue and either way people are going to think I have an agenda. Either I'm trying too hard to win the trust of my fellow citizens if I side against the Exiles, or I'm a sympathizer if I suggest leniency. Call me Switzerland on this one. I'm out of the game.

I do have a few thoughts. Maybe an observation or two.

Context matters. When the truce went into place there was a lot more turmoil in the Exile camp. They were strong, then. There were more of them and the group was under the thumb of a bunch of tyrants.

Then again, they could have kept going their own way. The new plague gave them a chance to kill off those tyrants. They took it. Scar and his lieutenants are dead. The remaining Exiles had everything they needed to survive on their own. But for whatever reason they risked breaking the terms of the truce to come here.

So far the ones we've captured have given a variety of answers to the question 'why?'. No one knows what to believe, but the immediate inclination for most people here is to suspect them of a larger plot. If they were planning to weaken us from the inside we might find hard evidence of it. If they really did want to make a better life, it might have been worth the risk to simply ask us to come here. If recent events are any indication, the leadership might have taken another look at their hard line stance against the Exiles. We've all got enough blood on our hands. Compassion can be risky, though.

You probably guessed that there's a lot of discussion going on here. I can't say with any certainty which way it will go. There are factors about the prisoners I'm not allowed to share. They matter, I can say that much. I just don't know if they will matter enough.

I'm done being vague and mysterious for one day. Josh is eager to edit this, and I have more work to do than any three people should have to deal with.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


[Post by Dodger]

This isn't one of those pretty philosophical things everyone else seems to write on here. I'm in charge of security and defense. We got a problem.

Josh is sitting next to me, and he isn't getting a chance to mess with this one. If I hand it over to him he'll edit and make it all pretty. Screw that. This isn't a happy-feely post about how we should all get along. I'm not telling you how we've made mistakes. This is a warning. You can call it a threat if you like. I don't care.

To all you Exiles across the river: stay there. Don't even think about fucking moving.

To all you exiles that have been sneaking away from the fallback point, I suggest going home or elsewhere if you read this. If we catch you there are gonna be consequences.

Now that's settled. To fill you in, we got snookered by those tricky bastards. My watchmen have been making sure the people across the river haven't been making any moves. The Exiles used that to lull us into a false sense of security. We kept seeing more of them get sick and vanish over time. We never questioned why more of them didn't reappear. We made assumptions. We were wrong.

In the last day our watchers have seen the same twenty-seven Exiles over and over again. Took a while to realize some of them were changing clothes and their appearances slightly to look like different people. There were hundreds of them at one time. So where the hell are they now?

We don't have a clue, but they aren't in the fallback point. This message is for every newcomer and every community out there that has any association with us at all. Watch out for strangers. We're going through the process of asking all our new arrivals to point out anyone they don't know. It's a fucking beast of a problem. There are a lot of people in a group of five hundred that don't know others. Then we have to take the suspicious strangers and parade them through other groups to see if anyone knows them.

We're pretty sure none of the homesteaders will try to get back in New Haven. Too many of the old guard know them. They know we'll kill them on sight. They're only a small number of the Exiles.

Keep your eyes open. Keep your defenses up, and I don't just mean weapons. Remember who these people are and what they're capable of. They had a chance to change their ways. They are the enemy. Don't forget it for even a second if you like breathing through the right holes.

I take the blame for this. We watched them fade away and didn't even question it because it was good for us. We thought they were dying. Instead they were escaping. Right out into the world.

Our world.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hiding In Plain Sight

[Post by Gabrielle]

I've been working with Josh for the last several days. Between trying to help him along, which includes being a friend as much as it does supplying him with some needed pharmaceuticals, and trying to organize physicals for all the new arrivals, I've been busy. Not as busy as everyone else, but still pressed for time.

Evans is overseeing the quarantine area. Phil is doing most of the grunt work in the clinic. There are a few nurses in the group of newcomers but the two doctors joining us won't be here until the final wave. The only reason I'm writing this is because everyone else who might do it is running their asses off.

So much going on. Teams running physicals, teams out to the four corners hunting. Teams stocking up firewood. Teams dismantling train cars. All over the place, groups of people trying to meet a wide range of goals. Right now is the best time to build stores and prepare for the winter. Too many projects going at once.  The council wants to make this expansion work and they aren't holding back any effort. No reserves.

I've been writing this for about an hour. That, kids, is how fucking crazy it is here right now. I get in a few words or a sentence and then have to go do something else. Whoever kicked this anthill can kiss my ass. I haven't seen my husband in two days. I think my kids have joined a roving band of Lord of the Flies-style savage children.

I don't have to spend the time with Josh I do. I dedicate an hour to him at a time. I could beg off and make headway on the truly irritating amount of work in front of me. I don't abandon my friends. Good thing I don't, too, because this morning he pointed something important out to me.

Can't really get into details. But before I cut this post very short, I will say that we've become very lax in one area. Too comfortable. We're still watching but there are some serious possibilities we didn't take into account before the migration started.

I'm talking about the Exiles. And why we may have a war on our hands.

Monday, August 20, 2012

For Tomorrow

[Post by Will Price]

Each of us makes choices as individuals. The Fall brought death into all our lives. We have survived for a lot of reasons. Some of us were lucky. A few saw the zombie plague for what it was and prepared. Others had been prepping for some kind of cataclysm for years.

All of us have done bad things to get here. Nearly two and a half years after the end of the world and still alive. We protect ourselves fiercely and have to weigh every decision against the cost in lives that might result from it. History is full of those choices. World War II was and is an example we cannot forget. If America had entered the war sooner, if we hadn't waited until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor to finally join the battle, how many lives would have been saved?

As a nation we looked at the potential lives lost for our people and decided that it wasn't worth the risk. At the time most people didn't know the real happenings in Europe. We were unaware of the atrocities of the Third Reich.

When we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were doing the same thing. Untold thousands died in a flash, entire family lines wiped from the earth between heartbeats. There are many conflicting opinions about the morality of that action, but even after the first bomb dropped the Japanese refused to surrender. Centuries of honing an indomitable warrior spirit boxed them in to a mindset that made death preferable to giving up the fight.

My opinion has always been that we acted in the only way possible. I believe that countless millions were saved by making the world aware that we were truly in an atomic age.

And now that we are in many ways back in the middle ages, those kinds of choices become much more commonplace. On one side of the scale we looked at our own people and those to migrate here. We measured the stability we're building and the potential we would be harnessing. On the other side were the Louisville group, ravaged by disease and desperate for help. To many it seemed like an obvious, if not easy, choice.

In the rush to defend ourselves we left one factor out of our equation. We didn't think about the cost it would take on us as people. I have been rereading this blog off and on for weeks, and this morning I thought to ask some of the younger kids what they thought of the situation with Louisville. Their responses made me take stock of who we are and what our ultimate goals are. Those kids thought we did the right thing. Without hesitation or thought. They didn't make the point that we could have done more, earlier. They broke it down into survival or death.

They are our future, and after speaking with the council about this, we've come to the decision that our future may not be as bright as we'd hoped for. It isn't that our young people lack compassion. They do have it. But we as adults have been too rigid and focused on pure survival and pragmatic choices to realize the lessons we were teaching.

That is why, as of tomorrow morning, we will be going forward with out plans to build a small but secure quarantine area for whatever Louisville survivors are left. We have twenty-one volunteers out of the new arrivals that are willing to risk infection to go bring them here and to care for them. We won't be allowing any contact, because we aren't suicidal, but we will provide for their needs through a system of dead drops so the two groups never come close than a few hundred yards.

Josh played a role in this. His breakdown was the wake up call some of us needed in order to understand our flaws. To expose them to the light of day. I told him about it before I wrote this post, and something in him, some long-held tension, seemed to vanish. By no means did he heal miraculously, but I think some portion of the burden he has been feeling lightened.


P.S. As part of his...therapy, I guess you'd call it, Gabrielle has ordered him to start getting back into some of his normal routines. He's still in the clinic being watcher at all times, but I take it as a very good sign that he edited this post. The sentiment is mine, the better phrases are his. I sat here while he did it, and while he isn't impressed with my writing, I was happy for each little groan at my bad writing as much as for each nod of his head or tiny smile at something he liked. You can shatter a thing and sometimes it's impossible to put back together. But if you can, it's a wonderful feeling to see those edges fit together and to hold. They might not be perfect, but each one is progress toward making a thing whole.

One piece at a time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


[Post by Kincaid]

There is going to be an interval before the next phase of the expansion. We have exhausted most of the supply of easily found shipping containers North Jackson can spare. With the number of people we have here, it's now possible to do some deep searches around the area for more of them in the area. We can use the reworked containers we have already used as templates to make our own sections of wall.

That's where I come in. Now that the county has a manageable zombie population we can spare assault teams to clear areas where we know there are clusters of shipping containers. There's a train full of them sitting on tracks a few counties over. We'll have to take out a lot of undead to get to it but if we can figure out a way to remove them and transport them we'll be ahead of the game.

Will is trying his best to make people more comfortable around me. It's not that bad and I told him so, but he doesn't want personal dislike to endanger any of our programs. Josh being unavailable is making it harder for us to all get along in the planning meetings. I guess they feel like I'm trying to take his place. Like an intruder. From their point of view, I suppose I am.

I spent a good amount of time with Josh's brother and Patrick yesterday. David and I worked on ways to quickly remove shipping crates from train cars. Transport is something we will tackle later. David has a surprising talent for physical problem-solving. Not even knowing what difficulties we might face dealing with the train, he still came up with several ideas that have a good chance of working.

My time with Patrick was more personal. I'm getting deeper into this job. Josh's job. I see how many people he has to talk to in a given day. I try to solve the huge number of problems and complications he worked on. I interact with the same folks as him. I find myself wondering how he did it for so long. It's like keeping two dozen plates spinning while finishing a crossword puzzle.

I decided to take a risk. I don't know how Josh's friends and family will react to me trying to get to know them on a personal level. Patrick was my experiment. He was nice to even give me the time of day. There are few people I can rely on for support. I don't expect Josh's friends to suddenly forget who I am and invite me over for tea. I'd settle for willingness to help me out only to keep his work from being screwed up badly by me.

Patrick doesn't think many people will warm up to me. Before now most saw me as that quiet ex-marauder who led dangerous attacks on the undead or worked a scout team. They didn't have to deal with me or understand me at all. I was doing a dangerous job instead of one of them, so at worst I was ignored. Now I'm helping do a job most of them aren't able to do. It requires experience with the assault teams and skills honed by more time in the field than any three average people here have.

They don't like that. I understand why. I won't allow friction to screw anything up. If I can't figure a way to smooth out the situation, I will ask the council to appoint someone else. I can think of two or three candidates that might do for the job. I can go back to killing zombies and taking orders instead of giving them.

I don't want to fail. I will take risks to avoid it even if it means upsetting Josh's loved ones by approaching them with an olive branch. If I don't succeed, I won't push. I'll step back and let another take over.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not Forgotten

[This post was written by Kincaid. That's me. But going through the blog I see I'm supposed to mention it in brackets for some reason. Other people did it, so I will too.]

Josh has asked that we give it a few days before anyone who posts on the blog starts updating about him. I can understand the need for privacy. Nothing on that front from me today. 

Otherwise New Haven is moving forward very well. Franklin county isn't zombie-free yet but the assault units have done a great job thinning them out. It feels strange not to be out there with them. Stranger to know I won't be any time soon. They don't need me, though.

I'm surprised they're letting me step up and take over Josh's spot. Given my history I never would have expected it except on an as-needed basis. Dodger trusts me, but it took a while for him to get there. Not many others in the defense sector here do. It doesn't exactly come as a shock.

On second thought it may not be that they don't trust me. If there wasn't a minimum level of trust I would be in a shallow grave right now. No way I could be allowed to make a leap up the ladder if a bunch of people had the idea I was going to sell them out. There must be trust. It might be thin but it's there. They just don't like me.

Hard to hold that against you, kids. I don't like me much either.

That's the way it is and there's nothing any of us can do to fix it. Until and unless I'm removed I'm going to do the best job possible. It isn't a need to appease any of you that drives me to that. It's not to make me feel better about myself, either. I couldn't make up for my sins if I live a thousand years. I will try anyway. A million small deeds to make some kind of amends.

I'm out of joint this morning, I know. Maybe this isn't the most informative or lengthy post but I'll try to do better tomorrow. Honestly I'm still shaken about Josh. What he's going through, I went through. It's terrible. The difference is, I did it alone in my car at night where the other marauders couldn't see it. Couldn't see my 'weakness'. I did it alone.

I've seen friends visit him several times. They pass this way. I don't envy him for having support. I couldn't be happier about that. I don't think it makes me tough to have worked through it alone. Just unfortunate. I only wish I could be there for him like they are. I don't have many friends. I don't make people laugh. Josh doesn't need a reminder of bad times by seeing someone who used to do far worse things than he has ever dreamed of.

Huh. Look at that. I managed to talk about him and what's on my mind without divulging any details and violating his privacy. Maybe I'm getting the hang of the whole writing thing. 

Friday, August 17, 2012


This is Will Price. I need to share some bad news with you. I was chosen to write this post because the people closest to the situation are in no shape to do it. Even Kincaid is shaken, having spent so much time working with Josh lately.

First, let me say that Josh is still alive. I know as well as anyone that the first thing most of us think when we hear the phrase 'bad news' is that someone has died. But Josh isn't well. Not at all.

The other night when we had our big day off, Josh wrote a fairly emotional post. None of us knew how badly he was hurting. It was much worse than his words led us to believe. Throughout the day and into the evening, he made an effort to socialize. I could see how hard a time he was having keeping up his smile. He drank  more and more as the day wore on. By nightfall he could barely walk, and somehow we lost track of him.

No one was worried then, not really. Some people dwell on bitter things when they drink, but...

We didn't know. Maybe we should have seen it. Maybe we could have helped.

When Jessica noticed he was gone she asked that I look for him. Patrick helped. We found him down the road from his house on the edge of the first expansion. There are places where the walls butt up against the shipping container that serves as a gate between the two sections. Josh was there, bottle in hand. More of them were on the ground, some of them broken. His feet were badly cut. He didn't seem to notice. Tears were streaming down his face, but he wasn't making a noise. He just stood there, half slumped against the corner, bare feet grinding into the shards littering the small patch of concrete under him.

He wouldn't talk to us. Even when Patrick and I picked him up and carried him to the clinic he stayed silent. I've seen men get stitches before, but Josh curled into the fetal position and didn't even flinch.

I was a soldier. In many ways I still am. I lead New Haven not because of ego, but from a desire to serve. Part of that service is seeing to the health and well-being of our citizens. Josh was the first citizen, he and his wife. Yet I do not know what I can do to help him. I have seen people in this state before. In the old days before the military began to truly integrate psychiatry into the service, they called it 'battlefield fatigue.' Later it was known as PTSD.

I stayed with him all night and well into the morning. I was there as he sobered up and began to realize how injured he was. What I didn't see was a spark of his old self. His eyes had the same desolate look as any shell-shocked infantryman. Trauma comes in many forms. Some of it is immediate, but sometimes it takes a thousand cuts to finally make the damage clear.

When I finally coaxed him into talking I began to see how deep it goes. He told me that for a long time now he has felt more and more empty, like all the little pains have been wearing him away inside. It makes sense. On the outside he seemed fine, but it only took one tiny crack in the exterior to shatter the facade.

There is no easy solution here. There may not be a solution at all. What we know, right now, is that one of our own is ill and that we care for our people when they need it. It isn't the new plague or the flu or whatever the Louisville people carry, but it's a sickness and an injury at the same time.

If he can recover from this, he will. We will dedicate whatever resources are needed to make sure that happens. On a practical level I couldn't make that promise for a large number of people, but Josh is one person. I have yet to hear anyone disagree. None of us would be here physically or be on the cusp of such a transformative moment without him. We owe him.

I personally owe him more than I will ever be able to repay. He stood by me when few others would. He trusted me when he had every reason not to. When I was shunned and hungry, he fed me.

He would argue against all those things, I have no doubt. But this is my decision to make and I'll deal with any potential problems as they come. We've had enough hard choices lately. I won't abandon a friend again.

From what I have been able to gather, this...breakdown involves many factors. His workload, his predisposition toward depression, the constant stress of his daily life. And the decisions. God, the terrible things we've all done. He made more stone-cold choices in the early days than any three people combined. What happens when a decent person is forced by circumstance to do evil things by necessity time and again? Even people farther down the moral scale begin to break apart.

I'm rambling. I apologize. This isn't easy for any of us and I am no exception. It probably goes without saying, but Josh will not be posting for the near future. Kincaid is taking over the management of the assault teams and most of the blog responsibilities for now. The rest of Josh's work will be absorbed by others.

I should have seen it. I'm his friend, and he used to spend so much time with his friends. He used to talk about us on here all the time. He has become more isolated over time and we should have noticed. Almost all he talked about was current events and work and Jess. We missed him pulling away.

And now he's being watched around the clock, because it took this to make us realize we were about to lose him.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today is a good day. Truly good. They've been hard to come by lately. Because this is a happy day, there are some things I'm saving for my next post. Right now I want to stay as positive as I can, while I can.

One entire section of the expansion is fully walled and defended. Those five hundred people can get a lot accomplished when the end result will keep them alive. For that many workers, the remaining tasks were small and relatively easy. Since the newcomers brought many more segments of prefab wall than we needed to finish out this part of the expansion, they started on the next one.

It's hard to imagine that we've managed so much this quickly. Well, we as in the old guard citizens of New Haven didn't actually do it. The prefab walls were cut and bolted together by North Jackson, mostly by the people migrating here. Most of the materials are theirs, too. They've been the driving force behind this huge change, and it was their ingenuity that made it possible to provide a safe place for them to live in such a short time.

So, after so many weeks of fighting and heartache and backbreaking labor, we're taking a day off. The assault teams get to stay home for the whole day. All work shifts are cut down to the bare minimum of people and changed every two hours so no one has to work more than that. We've got fresh game to cook up and a slew of new friends and citizens to meet and get to know.

Basically, we're having an epic barbecue today. And it's nice.

Sure, we've got patrols out. That's just common sense. But this morning Will and the council decided that putting off all other work for today was just the thing we all needed. We've made more progress than we could have hoped for, and it just feels like the right thing to do. The new arrivals busted ass as soon as they got here, and then worked when they were supposed to be acclimating. It's a good sign in new citizens, at least in my book.

In fact, the only reason I'm even writing a post today is to keep with my schedule. I've been a creature of habit all my life, and only the habits have changed with the end of the world. Not writing on a day I should be feels weird and wrong to me, like laughing during a sermon or seeing Luke Skywalker make out with his sister in the first Star Wars movie.

Well, maybe that's not the only reason.

I've been feeling the creeping edges of depression since the situation with Louisville got out of hand. I've got a handle on it--no worries for me, please--because I recognize the root cause. I'm very lucky that way, because many people affected by this problem don't have that option. They can only feel the anguish and suffer through it. I've been there, too.

It's not guilt. I don't feel that what we did was wrong. It's not rooted in anger, either. Just sadness at the waste of it all. Those were good people we killed, and there are still more good ones out there, many of them suffering and dying because their brethren wasted the small chance we gave them.

I don't expect the remnants of the Louisville crew to apologize, nor do I want them to. They've paid ten times over for any harm they caused. Instead, I want to say what's in my heart, what has been eating me up:

We did what we had to do. It was the necessary thing, but it wasn't the right thing. Today is a happy day for most people in New Haven, but I can't join them while this weighs me down.

We killed your friends and family to protect our own. I hate that it had to happen, and if any of you are reading this, please believe that I'm terribly sorry. Truly, deeply, infinitely sorry. I would give almost anything to wind back the clock and offer earlier and better help. Maybe take a larger risk.

I don't know that we could have done any differently. I just know that I had to say it. It hurts. Not just me, but a lot of people. I can't express the regret I feel. And yeah, I know that I'm probably just making myself feel better and not accomplishing any real good. There isn't much else I can do, though.

So I'll head back out and socialize. I'll crack open one of my brother's questionable home-brewed beers and be thankful for a day without zombies or marauders, and I'll toast to you. For your recovery and well-being, for survival and better days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Red Rover

I said at the end of my post yesterday that the first big wave of settlers brought dogs with them. A large number of them. Some of you out there don't keep dogs in your communities owing to difficulties in feeding them. Blessed as we are with a bounty of small furry creatures hereabouts, that isn't such a big problem. Many of our dogs--not the new ones, they need a few days to get used to this as 'home'--go hunting out in the wild on their own if we don't have the spare food to feed them. 

Usually that isn't a problem. Our hunting parties bring in a lot of deer and smaller animals. Takes a while since they're ranging pretty far to allow the local population to recover, but we can feed a lot of people on just a few of them. Stew. It's a win. 

The spare parts and even some whole animals get set aside for the dogs and cats (and even my ferrets.) For us, the effort is well worth the reward, and the additional fifty dogs that came with our new arrivals are already paying for themselves. Some dogs, like my own, stay inside New Haven but run around free. I've mentioned before that they're excellent zombie alert systems, catching the smell of active undead well before we can see them coming. Most of you know how batshit crazy that smell makes them, clawing at the walls to try to attack them. 

For that reason we've shied away from bringing dogs outside very often. Some do patrol with scouts nearby, but we've always thought it was too dangerous for them. The pups might have a serious hate for zombies and try to take them down, but that doesn't mean the zombies can't hurt them. 

Except the assault teams found a group of undead, New Breed at that, huddling in terror down a steep embankment as a much smaller group of wild dogs. We tried out unleashing (pun completely intended) some of our own dogs on groups of zombies, and presto! 

Instant terror. The undead ran as fast as they could, and when the dogs caught them they fought back, but the pack of canines seriously messed up the undead in the process. We had already asked the new arrivals to bring their dogs if they had any. Our intention was to have them do the same for the new sections that we have our dogs do. Patrol and warn. 

Instead, we're sending dogs out with the assault teams. Any edge we can use to scare away the undead is something we can't ignore. It's in the early stages right now, testing and perfecting, but eventually we hope to have dogs along with every group that leaves New Haven for any reason. 

I should point out here that the assault teams have been doing an excellent job. The county is getting very sparsely populated, zombie-wise. They still drift in from different directions, but there's only so much creativity and adaptation the New Breed are capable of. As it turns out, a certain level of force (mixed with a lot of training and dedication) is enough to overcome their advantages. Slowly but surely our people are cleaning the area of major threats, which is all we hoped for when this began. I don't know what the long-term outlook might be, since there are likely still tens of millions of undead out there, but this little corner of the world is a lot safer than it was even a few weeks ago. 

Frankly, we're almost at a manageable level as far as the zombie population goes. That is, a situation where we can deal with any new zombies showing up (discounting vast swarms, of course) with regular heavy patrols rather than the extended offensive campaign we're using right now. Our hope is that including dogs in the mix, making the undead feel primal fear, will help make this a place they want to avoid. We've had that before, and it's awesome. If we're successful, the expansion can accelerate.

If not, we'll figure something else out. Whatever the case my be, things are moving forward. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

First Wave

I admit to a fair bit of fudging the truth from time to time when it's necessary to protect our interests. Sometimes--as in the last few days--that comes in the form of minimizing the facts about what's going on in New Haven. I can now say without fear that the report Kincaid gave yesterday was true, just not the whole truth. Work here has progressed far beyond what we've said almost completely at the hands of the people that have migrated here so far.

For example, the first new expansion is done. Not done as in completely finished, but that big ass area is wholly walled in and defensible. More defensible, in fact, than some parts of the original compound. You wouldn't think we could have managed that in such a short time, but it turns out Kincaid is a brilliant guy. Back in his marauder days he kept losing people to zombie attacks from the spotty protection their vehicles gave them. As a solution his people found some heavy steel cable and attached a bunch of heavy stakes to it. Then they made a rough grid around their camps, which tripped or slowed down the undead coming for them.

We're doing the same thing. Steel cable isn't that hard to find, and if we run out there are always power lines. Frankfort isn't a big city, but there are hundreds of miles of power lines we can cut down and use for just about anything we want. Imagine constructing a forest of raised lines around New Haven, six feet high and ten deep. There's easily enough material to do it, and that would make it very, very hard for the undead to get anywhere near us.

Sorry. Kind of a tangent there. What I'm getting at is the grid of steel cables in place around the expansion, in front of the prefab walls, is awesome. It's two feet high and effective. Our assault teams even drove a group of New Breed in to test it. Worked like a dream. The zombies didn't know how to deal with it at first, and the handful of people behind the net were able to pick them off easily.

That much was accomplished because yesterday the first wave of settlers arrived. I'm not talking about the relatively small groups of fifty to a hundred here and there. This group is huge--five hundred. And nearly half of them hopped off the huge fleet of vehicles to help pound stakes into the ground and string up the cable. Took about four hours, mainly because we marked off the locations for the stakes beforehand.

The trip here from North Jackson took them nearly thirty hours. The way between here and there is relatively safe and definitely well-traveled, but moving so many people at once was a logistical challenge. The solution wasn't anything terribly creative, to be honest. Maybe a fourth of the new arrivals came in smaller vehicles like cars, trucks, vans, and the like. Many semi-trucks came with them, most carrying raw materials. Our migrants have known for a long time they've been headed this way, and many of them have scoured Michigan and surrounding areas for anything useful to bring with them. North Jackson got first dibs on most of it, but they're very generous allies. Lucky for all of us that the abandoned United States is a veritable gold mine of useful things left laying around.

Most of the first wave came in...well, for lack of a better word, trains. Not on-the-rails trains (though we're trying to find a way to make that happen) but rather a thrown-together set of mass transport vehicles. They look like a very angry child smashed a bunch of toys together, but they work. It's a hell of a thing seeing a swarm of hundred-foot long trailers, buses, and semi-trailers filled with tightly packed masses of people just pull up at the front door and spill out a sea of humanity.

One of those damn things was just three long flatbeds hooked together, the beds protected by chain link fence. Glad it's been cool for the last two days.

The trip took so long because they moved at a snail's pace. The makeshift mass transit vehicles aren't the safest thing on the road, and no one wanted any accidents. Slow and steady wins the race and all those cliche sayings. Obviously I couldn't say anything about this group coming until they got here, so I'm sorry about that. But this has been a part of the plan for a while now, since the stuff with the Louisville folks was happening. It was a consideration when we made our choice, though not one we could talk about.

This group is mostly adults, with only about fifty kids in it. We asked that they weight the early big waves that way since we'll need as many able-bodied adults to help annex new areas as quickly as possible.

That work begins tomorrow. They did a lot yesterday, and need today to settle in a bit. So far I haven't heard any complaints about the accommodations but that might change once they realize more people will be joining them and crowding their houses soon. Hopefully my brother will have the first of the big communal living spaces done by then to lessen the burden.

I will say that after a fairly bleak few weeks, it's a wonderful breath of fresh air to see so many new and happy faces around. And they brought a lot of dogs. But that's tomorrow's post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flip Side

Hey. Kincaid here again. Josh is probably going to sleep through most of today. He was up for almost forty hours, splitting his time between organizing our assault teams and working with a group of new arrivals that came early. These guys are doing electrical work and installing solar panels and wind turbines. I don't know much about that kind of thing, but I promised Josh I'd leave the field and take over running the assault team management duties for today and maybe tomorrow if he needs it.

With that also comes blog duty. I don't know that I have much to add to all the recent goings-on. I want to be honest here, that's important. If we're going to build a future as a larger set of interconnected communities, we have to be straightforward about our differences of opinion. Especially when it comes to perspective.

A lot of people are still down about what happened with Louisville. I'm not holding grudges against the ones that came out of the situation alive, but I haven't lost any sleep over it either. I don't know if that's because there's something in me that's broken or just too many nights on the road trying to strangle the part of me that rebelled against the things I did. I don't wish any of them ill. I don't mourn the fallen.

Not because they made a choice. Some of them may not have been in their right minds, and some of them really did choose to come after us with clear heads. I don't blame them for that. I don't mourn because it was a thing that happened that I can't change. We can't change. They did a thing they knew could end badly for them. We acted to save ourselves from a potentially devastating disease.

I feel remorse, generally speaking. If I didn't then it's not likely I'd be here in the first place. Just not in this situation. Those folks got very unlucky and we did what we had to. I guess it's more accurate to say I feel bad that they died but I don't feel responsible.

Seeing people coming in from North Jackson with excitement in their eyes and profound determination to improve this place is a good reason not to feel so bad. It is to me, anyway. I watched those guys scamper around, modifying power lines and busting their asses to get things done. I simply can't feel guilt for actions that meant protecting that. I fired shots that day too. I watched people who had fought by our side die.

This morning, I heard two of the new arrivals discussing putting actual electric heat in one of the communal sleeping quarters. Something about an array of heavy batteries and ultra-efficient furnaces. Maybe not enough to make the place cozy since heat eats up volts like a starving hobo, but enough to keep people alive. I know people--mothers--who've lost babies to the cold. There will be a lot of children born here before very long.

I weigh that potential, the safety and well-being of those yet to come, against the failing health of people at the end of their rope. It's not even close.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Widening Gyre

I'm not huge into poetry or anything, but many years ago I read a book by Clive Barker--Weaveworld--that contained a piece of poetry by William Butler Yeats. It's a famous poem called The Second Coming, and it's fairly short:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I think I've mentioned this poem before, but it bears repeating.

As I worked last night and early this morning on the very mundane and kind of boring task of organizing parts of the expansion, it struck me how chaotic things are around here. Sort of a controlled chaos, since we're working on so much at one time. The assault teams are still out there scouring the land of zombies, fighting for hours each day to ensure the boring task of managing logistics here in my office is safe.

The gyre is widening each day. New Haven as it is now will soon be only a small center in a whirlwind of activity. The scant few hundred citizens that have lived here longer than a few months will be lost in a press of new arrivals, a relative flood of humanity we only dreamed of a year ago. While Yeats was waxing poetic about the end of the world using biblical imagery, I can't help but see the parallels again and again over time. We've been through the absolute worst the world had to throw at us; we've persevered through it.

Time and again we've had our feet kicked out from under us. Friends and families lost, setbacks in every shape and size. We've hurt each time, but ultimately New Haven always stands back up, brushes off the dust and wipes the blood from our eyes, and soldiers ever onward.

That's who we are. It's what we do. Not because it's the only choice; it isn't. We could lay down and die or give less than our all in our endeavors. No, it's because our identity as a people demands a high level of sacrifice and effort. We push each other to do better, to do more.

Make no mistake, we think this expansion and the resulting immigration of so many new people is a good thing. It's just that there's a sense of loss around here lately. We've had to make terrible choices to keep ourselves safe and to ensure the expansion moves forward. The people of Louisville suffered for that, regardless of what side of the line between right and wrong they were on. Aaron said in a comment about the Louisville group's illness that we had changed, and while I still think we made the only choices we could in order to survive, he wasn't wrong in that assessment.

We have changed. New Haven as it is now will soon cease to exist. Maybe we're afraid that the sense of identity will become diluted or vanish within a sea of thousands of people. Maybe we've spent so long being in control of our choices and our future that we're afraid of losing that to a larger group. It's not unreasonable fear at all, but neither is it a reaction that will change the path before us one iota.

People come and go at all hours, shipments of supplies from the north come in more often, and things are being built. We might be a little scared of what this will mean for us, but we're also excited about it for the same reason. Dreams of a New Haven bustling with life and love and laughter aren't some abstract hope for a tomorrow long down the road. It's happening now, right in front of us. We're making it happen.

Think about that for a second and marvel at the strange alchemy of it. Through nothing more than logical choices like building walls and making the county safer to move around in, creating running water and trucking in busloads of people, we're making New Haven a place where new life will be created. Just through hard work and planning, many more babies will be born here, people will fall in love in greater numbers, laughter could spread among thousands instead of hundreds. The potential of our home is being expanded right along with the protective walls around it. That's beautiful.

And, yes, I know that along with the wonders come all the dangers. No one understands the pitfalls of human nature better than we do. Survivors can't help but be aware of how far we can fall.

But today, despite all the heartache that we're dealing with (or perhaps in spite of it), I choose to be positive. To think about the good. If we didn't make that choice now and then, I think we'd have died off long ago.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Critical Drinking

I spent a good chunk of last night nursing a bottle of rum my wife hid away for a very, very rainy day. In this case the rain was proverbial instead of literal, but I needed a drink. Not a want, a need. I'm no alcoholic, but sometimes there's a damn good reason to let booze soak your brain. Usually the reason either falls under 'celebration' or 'forgetting'. In this case we'll call it a little bit of both. 

On the celebration side of the equation, the alterations to the plumbing inside New Haven and the small expansion--the one made up of shipping containers--is complete. The hard part is done, which I'm told was digging up and altering a lot of the old pipes and whatnot, but I now have running water in my house. From what I understand a very basic delivery system is being designed and built as needed for all further expansion sections. People will have to muddle through while that work is being done. 

That's right, I haven't mentioned the other news. We got that big load of prefab pieces of wall in a few days ago. Along with it came a good number of workers--about forty--to begin installing them along the areas we've put in support posts. As of this writing about five hundred feet of new wall is standing. It looks rough since the shipping containers North Jackson cut up to make the sections were all different colors and some of them fairly rusty, but it's beautiful. Nothing like sections of sheer steel wall soon to house new arrivals to make you feel a little hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

A smaller group of people are rounding up materials from all over the county and beyond to make the houses in the current expansion more comfortable. Since the plumbing won't be set up for running water right away, they're trying to find storage for rainwater (or some filtered river water if we have to pump and haul it there.) We'll be digging cisterns and small reservoirs, of course, as we've done in New Haven proper, but it's nice to have as much capacity to store water as possible. 

On top of that, we're having to haul in beds, blankets, and all manner of things our new arrivals will need. The next group arriving from NJ will have many of their own supplies, but I'm sure there are people who have had to do without. We'll have the wall finished around their expansion (or nearly so) by the time they arrive, so at least we don't have to go about zombie-proofing houses. That's a plus. The only real snag is that there are more coming in the first large group than would be comfortable in the housing available. Dave is tackling that problem, but that's for another post. 

All that is worth celebration, and definitely a drink. But the other half, the forgetting...

Some of the Louisville crew that escaped the slaughter outside the walls the other day didn't get far. Some of them ended up getting bitten and turned to zombies. Others looked to have died from their sickness before they could get out of the county. The twelve New Haven citizens taken captive and subsequently released by the Louisville folks took up the task of...

I was going to say something like "cleaning them up" or some other euphemism, but misguided or not these folks were our allies. 

Our temporarily exiled citizens, living outdoors to keep from vectoring the disease they may be carrying, killed those poor people. Yes, they had turned into zombies, but that doesn't make it any easier to know that former friends are dead. Twice. 

Worse, there were a few survivors. Not many, just a handful, and not sick enough to be on the verge of death. They were hunkered down out in the woods, trying to come up with a plan to get over the wall and into New Haven. We know this because one of our exiled scouts was sitting up in a tree above the place the group came to rest. He heard the whole conversation, which he repeated to us via walkie-talkie. Thank god for rechargeable batteries and the forethought to put communications devices in the packages we leave for our exiled citizens. 

That handful are no longer a threat. Their attempt to infiltrate New Haven can't become a reality. Desperate people will do stupid things, as I've said a lot lately. 

I want to thank our people living rough for protecting us in so many ways. By keeping away, you're protecting us from the virulent disease that may yet claim your own lives. By doing what you had to do without hesitation, you've stopped those stragglers from Louisville from making your own sacrifice meaningless. It was a hard choice. I've made similar ones myself. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Mourning After

There have been a lot of messages from you out there who read this blog since yesterday's post. Many of you apologized for your earlier comments toward us, chastising us for not helping the Louisville people out. Some of you have said that in light of their actions you felt wrong about saying what you did. That we were right not to help.

No. You were right to call us out. At the time, none of us knew how desperate the sickness would make our friends from Louisville. The consensus here is that we still made the right decision in not offering our aid, but course correction can't happen without feedback. More now than ever it's vital that we continue to take a critical look at each other, our motivations and actions, and speak up if we think something is wonky. Maybe if we'd have worked out some kind of minimal assistance earlier this situation could have been avoided. There's no way to know.

Nor do I agree with those of you who say the Louisville crew deserved what they got for attacking us, or that the remaining members of their group are 'former' friends. You have the right to your opinion, obviously, but I was there. I saw the terrible shape they were in. Many of them looked starved after so long unable to keep any food in their bellies. They were weak and terrified. Doing what they did--coming here--wasn't a malicious act born out of hatred or anger. It was the last-ditch effort of a dying people trying anything they could to survive.

Because goddammit, that's what survivors do. We've all learned by now that some principles shouldn't be put aside even in the face of death itself, but others matter more than the lives of others. I think about what I would do if New Haven were wracked by a similar plague, and I can honestly say that if I were in their position I'd probably have done the same. The people around me, my friends and family (everyone here are those to me. When you shed blood in defense of your home, that makes you family) are worth any cost. I would die or kill or threaten to keep them safe.

Don't expect any I-told-you-so's from me. Nothing about this situation is good. One small spot of not terrible to be found is that the surviving Louisville crew managed to get away safely. The efforts of our assault teams in scouring the local landscape of zombies paid off at least that much.

What happened was awful, and I worry about the long-term consequences. We haven't heard back from any of the volunteers that left to go assist them. We don't know if they were among the escapees or never left Louisville in the first place. I can only imagine that the ones left alive after this plague burns itself out will harbor bad feelings toward us. Hard to blame them, I suppose. And if that happens and they choose to fight about it, I'll feel bad all over again. Because I'll always defend my people, even if it means killing friends.

Much has happened over the last several days aside from these events. As much time and attention as I've put toward them, they've actually been a minimal distraction from the work going on here. We've had all sorts of people come in from the north, and new sections of infrastructure being worked on. For what should be clear reasons I've ignored that, and I won't get into it today. But tomorrow life and this blog will go on as normal. At least I'll make my best effort.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The History of the World

Many thousands of years ago, the first intelligent human beings discovered fire. Then tools. Before long they started herding animals and building civilizations, transitioning from roving bands of nomads into stable societies with centralized locations.

It's been pretty much downhill since then.

There are days when I have a lot of hope for the future, but I'm always brought back to earth by some inescapable facts. Back before The Fall, before the zombie plague wiped out everything humankind spent those thousands of years creating, I bought a smartphone. I used it to surf the web and whatnot, but I always came back to my clunky laptop to write and play games. Because of the simple limit of how small a screen my eyes could use for some tasks. Like gravity or electromagnetism, it was a simple fact that writing was easier and way more efficient on a large screen with a physical keyboard. Nothing the makers of my phone could do about that.

Similarly, there are some things about human nature that no amount of positive thinking or social structure can override. When your people are sick and dying, you'll do anything to save them. When your back is against that wall you don't think about the consequences to others. We're the only species on the planet that worries for the welfare of all, not just our immediate social group. It's when the immediate social group is facing an existential threat that the scope of your concern narrows to them.

It's about love and family, you see. Doing everything you can to save the folks who've been by your side each day, suffering as you have suffered and sharing in the hundred little joys. We are a strange bunch; violent at times yet equally compassionate before or after. Rarely we feel both at once, a deeply morose sense of dark necessity, heartbreaking, even as we commit to terrible acts.

Sorry I'm taking so long to get to the point, but I don't want to type the words that are on my mind. It's stupid, I know, but the part of me that's still a scared and hopeful kid feels like not putting it out there for everyone to read somehow keeps it from being real.

About half the Louisville people that came here, which was more than three-fourths of their total population, are dead. We killed them. There wasn't much choice.

They released our captive scouts and fighters. I guess the assumption was that once they were exposed to the disease, our boys and girls would try to come back home. And that we would let them. Neither of those things happened. A lot of people seem to forget it, but we aren't stupid. All the people that went out to intercept the Louisville people were volunteers who agreed that if exposed they would stay out of New Haven for sixty days. We even set up supply caches for them just in case.

When the captives were let go, they scattered. Half-mad with disease and exhaustion, the Louisville people moved toward New Haven. The able-bodied helped the ill, brought the trucks within fifty yards when they hit the spike strips out in the grass.

They came out of the trucks, some of them walking, others crawling. Our defenders only killed a few of them. Those became zombies quickly, and as slow as the ill were moving they couldn't escape. One after another they died in a morbid domino effect.

It took nearly half of them dying to convince the rest to run. We burned the dead after killing the zombies that rose. In this case I saw "we" in the correct sense. I was there. I fired shots. I helped clean up.

I wept most of that time. They weren't bad people, nor are those who retreated. They were and are scared and desperate. Blame can be placed if you like, but I can't find fault on either side. Just tragedy.

Violence and tragedy. That's the way things go.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I've been going on at length the last few days; this post is by necessity much shorter. Our scouts did manage to intercept the caravans from Louisville yesterday and stopped them from getting closer than a few miles away. The team, composed of four scouts and an eight-man squad pulled from the assault teams, gave them our terms. Accept quarantine with no contact or direct aid, with food and water provided, or turn around and go home.

The Louisville folks knew the unspoken third option was force. Instead they opted for option four. They pointed guns at our people and took them captive.

It's a desperate gambit, one made with the idea that we'd have to take our own people in, and logic would follow that since we'd be exposing ourselves in the process we might as well take in the rest of them.

The reason I'm keeping it short is that the council has been in session off and on for the last twelve hours trying to decide what our next move is going to be. There are several ways forward on the table, but Will insisted that all of them--none of them pleasant--be put up for a community-wide majority vote. Four plans, four actions to take. We'll pair them off and take two votes. One will end up winning.

I should point out in the limited time I have to write this post that yes, one of the options is full acceptance of the Louisville group into New Haven. They'd become full citizens and receive as much treatment and care as we can provide. As bad an idea as that is, I can't fault Will or the council for making it an option. We've had enough heartache dealing with enemies. No one wants to leave any option off the table. If we're going to get sick and die, no matter how stupid or wasteful that may be, then we'll choose to do it as a majority.

I'm not going to lie: if that option is picked, I'm out. If the people around me want to expose themselves to a very infectious and deadly illness, I can't stop them. This is my home, but it's theirs as well. I can't fault people for doing something I consider suicidal in its altruism, but just like any citizen of New Haven I have the right to leave at any time. I'll risk a lot, but I won't accept near certain death (especially a slow and painful one) because other people tell me I should. If the vote goes that way then I'll leave. Jess has already said the same.

The votes begin in less than half an hour, and I'm helping run things. I have to go. Keep us in your thoughts.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


The first comment on yesterday's post, which was a rant on my part and fairly long, began with a question. I was asked if I felt better. No. I don't. I don't feel at all good about this situation or the hard call we as a community have made to protect ourselves from near-certain calamity.

Then again, that choice ultimately seems to have been the right one, because people are dying in Louisville despite the best efforts of the healthy folks there to prevent it. And they're coming back as zombies, right there in the crowded rooms where the rest of the defenseless sick people are located. Not after a few hours, either. We've seen it before in isolated cases, but the people in Louisville dying from whatever disease is ravaging their population are coming back in minutes, sometimes much faster.

Maybe it has to do with how weak they become as they fail, their immune systems no longer able to fend off control by the plague thoroughly rooted in every system of their bodies. I don't know any facts, there. I'd have to study it to have any idea at all.

What I do know is the sudden onslaught of dying people rising up to consume their neighbors has put Louisville in a panic. Just as we feared, they've begun following through on their threat to come here. It's a last gasp effort on their part, because it's going to take the last of their resources to load everything up and head this way. They expended much of what they'd saved up moving to the place they all live now--a sports arena, I can now say without fear of bringing enemies down on them--and what little is left in fuel and food will come east with them. Toward us.

Those New Haven citizens that went there to help are trying to convince them not to do it, as I understand. Faced with the impending certainty of their arrival, the council met this morning. For the record, I fought hard for a compromise that might save us from having to do something we'd regret for years to come. I wanted to set up a rough quarantine zone a few hundred yards west of New Haven that we could put wide patrols around. We could drop off water there, or rig up a crude gravity system to supply the area with water without having to come close. Food would be a bit more tricky but ideas were floated.

We wouldn't provide any manpower inside. The amount of effort required to do this would/will take away from our expansion efforts pretty drastically. We're already behind schedule due to all the recent storms, but faced with no other option than to fight, we decided that doing something to help no matter how minimal on our part would be infinitely better than having to do violence to friends.

Make no mistake: our position hasn't changed. Our goal here is to prevent risk to New Haven, plain and simple. The Louisville people have forced us into a corner here, and we've pulled half the assault teams from zombie cleanup duty to help our scouts out in watching for the convoys we know will be coming. We are doing the bare minimum to ensure there is little to no contact between the two groups. If that means losing some days of work and using up some supplies to keep them from coming closer to us, then that's what we'll have to do. The only other option is to fight them, as I said, and we want to avoid that if at all possible.

The council agreed to a modified version of my idea, hinging on agreement from the Louisville crew themselves. So far there hasn't been a response from them. Our volunteers there say that every time they try to talk to the remaining leadership about it, they get sent to do other work after being told it's under discussion.

For us, the priority is not allowing a known infectious agent to enter New Haven. If a person or a family, or even a huge group like the migrants that will be here all too soon, happen to come here to live and bring some unknown disease with them, we can't stop that. If people aren't aware of what's happening then there isn't any way to stop it. That's the difference here. The Louisville group knows exactly what's happening to them, and they've forced us into making concessions to help them. But they aren't coming through our gates, it's as simple as that. If things work out, they won't come within fifty feet of another New Haven citizen until the sickness in them has run its course.

We'll risk a quiet, lurking illness when bringing people here to live. We can't turn away everyone because of what might happen. Rather a lot of you have made that point: will we turn away a person who shows up looking for a safe place away from the wandering dead? Of course not. We wouldn't even turn away a sick person. We'd isolate them and treat them. Again, we'll take in a lot of people even knowing that some of them may carry bugs in with them.

But if you can't understand the difference between those scenarios and a group of people actively wasting away and dying from an incredibly virulent illness with an insanely high transmission rate, then there's something wrong with you. I will risk being burned to help a person, but I won't risk the lives of others to do it. Sorry for the roughness, but I just don't get how people can't see the difference. To me, the Louisville crew coming here isn't much different than a terrorist ransoming a city with the threat of a biological weapon.

I know they're desperate and afraid. I would be too. Hell, I am. As much as I hate the tactic they're using, I get that it's the only thing they can do. It's a last-ditch effort to get help, because the Louisville crew are desperately trying to protect and save their people as all survivors do. If it weren't my home they were coming for, I'd applaud the balls it takes to risk so much.

But they are a threat, regardless of any other facts. One we can hopefully manage peacefully when our scouts intercept them on the way here. I don't pray much, but this morning I really am praying for that.