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.