Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fight Club

Though we're still recovering from the attack and will be for a while, life must go on. Hard truths haven't been in short supply over the last few years. We mourn our dead and tend our wounded even as we work and learn to laugh again. More and more it becomes clear that despite our hope for a more unified society there will always be those who tear down what others try to build. Because of that I don't know that there will ever be a time that we aren't in recovery of one kind or another.

I spent a good chunk of my morning getting my face rearranged. I'm doing the combat training as promised, and those ladies and gentlemen aren't playing nice with me. I need that. One-on-one sparring with no pulled punches is definitely something that wakes you up in more ways than one.

This morning was the first time since my incident that I felt some kind of fire rise up in me when I needed it. I actually did a little bit of fighting when the wall breaches were being swarmed by zombies, but that was mostly cleanup work behind a shield. Hard to feel angry when you're doing what has become routine work while others take point and fill the gap with their bodies.

No, this morning I got mad and didn't for a moment feel the specter of anxiety or depression creeping in on me. I was fighting my third bout of the morning against a woman named Faye who is whip-fast, slender, and very good at quick strikes to vital areas. We're under orders not to let our fights disable, but that doesn't mean they can't hurt a lot. Faye has a thing for light kidney strikes as a distraction. Nowhere near enough to make me piss blood or do any real damage. They just hurt like hell.

She also used a lot of taunting. Most people wouldn't bother since talking in combat is a distraction to the one speaking as much as the listener. Faye is a lot faster than I am, though. She could get away with it. She must be one of the people here that regularly read this blog, because everything she said mirrored my own personal fears.

How would I protect Jess if I had to, if I couldn't fight properly? Then a flare of pain in my back. If I feel bad now, how terrible would it be if I allowed a child to die because I hesitated? Another strike and more pain.

On and on for several minutes like that. Faye knew her business, because I started getting really angry. At first I thought it was directed at her, but I recognized the truth quickly. It was all me. As trite as it sounds, I was furious at myself for allowing my depression to overwhelm my priorities. I let the anxiety control my actions. The most frustrating part, what truly fueled that rage into something cathartic, was knowing that I literally had no control over either. I was raging out over something I knew intellectually I couldn't have overcome.

You can't just choose not to have a panic attack. You can teach yourself to lessen their intensity and duration by harsh mental discipline, but they happen. You can't think yourself out of depression so bad it keeps you in bed. It's a chemical process.

But I've spent the last month healing. Lots of time put in with therapy and building a framework for long-term recovery. I should have been able to strike out those feelings, push them down when needed.

Compelled by the truth in what Faye said to me, I did. I didn't just respond to her attacks. I felt the urge to live, to fight, to protect. Whatever instinct drives us to do stupidly brave things while ignoring the overwhelming possibility of death and failure...I rediscovered mine. I don't know how else to explain it. I feel complete for the first time in many months, if not whole. Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but a circuit can be complete and still be made of worn-out and damaged wires. That's me.

Pretty sure I'm ready to take on whatever dangers we might face. I need to. I need to know if what I'm feeling isn't just the thrill of finally taking the offensive in a tussle with a woman half my size or if it's a genuine watershed. There has to be a way to know.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reasoned Out

The attack wasn't as bad as it could have been, let me just start with that. The totals are in for our casualties. We lost twenty people in the initial attack, which was a coordinated long-range strike on the wall itself. Seems the enemy was at a distance chucking improvised explosives at us. They'd have demolished huge swaths of our wall if the buffer hadn't tangled up the explosives as they came rolling--literally rolling--in across the ground. The explosions were offset enough that the concrete and stone of our wall only had big sections ripped away from the top to about halfway down instead of thirty feet of just no wall at all.

Three of those bombs hit central New Haven all at once. Twenty guards, sentries, and support staff were killed just by the explosions. In the rush that followed, in which our reserves were called up and the enemy rushed through the night to swarm the breaches, we lost another thirty lives. They had body armor, guns, and a lot of practice using both. The casualties we suffered were old guard and new arrivals alike. Even after the attackers retreated and we took our prisoners there were problems.

The undead noticed the easy access right away. A lot of people took wounds in the frantic struggle to hold them off while we patched the holes. Working at warp speed meant injuries from accidents as much as from zombies. It has been a total mess, and in addition to losing fifty lives in less than an hour there are now another hundred with injuries ranging from negligible to life-threatening.

The theory floating around at the moment is based on a lot of assumptions. Most people think they're the ones who've been ransacking small settlements. Given how precise the attack was, I agree. We're also assuming they attacked us because they know we've been in contact with other groups and know about their activities. As a larger group that just keeps growing it's entirely possible they thought we might field some hunters to track them down and stop them.

The irony is that if they hadn't attacked us, we might have done so. Will has certainly been angry enough about their activities to consider it. But they gave away some details about themselves when they attacked, just by the very act of doing so.

We know they're careful planners and don't attack unless they have the advantage. Yet they hit us, which means they were really worried we'd become a threat to them. I can't imagine risking all of their lives to slow us down--which they managed, there's no way we can field any counterstrike at present--and to prevent us from doing anything to jeopardize their activities. We've assumed these people are one giant mobile assault group, like marauders.

No. No way. If that were the case they'd have been risking total annihilation by coming here. This reeks of a small raid, and you don't send the whole enchilada in a small raid. You send a fraction.

There must be a lot of them. I don't know what the prisoners we took have said about that, as I'm not in that loop. I wouldn't put that kind of intel out to be read at any rate. But I'm damn certain we didn't deal with all of them when they hit us. And if that was only a small percentage of their number, one other thing is obvious:

They aren't marauders in the sense that they move constantly. If there are actually hundreds of them instead of the fifty or so that hit us, then they couldn't possibly manage these attacks and move around the map constantly. The logistics just don't work. They'd have to be incredibly desperate to throw all they have against us, and nothing I've read makes me think this attack was desperate. It was calculated, well executed.

There has to be a permanent settlement they operate from. These people seem less like marauders in the traditional sense and more like, well...


Thursday, September 27, 2012


Quick note to let you all know what's going on. It's chaos here, has been since yesterday morning. Communications just got back up. We were hit, multiple breaches in the wall. All in one section of New Haven, thank god. Buffer protected the wall from some of the damage. Casualties but numbers unknown. We've been working to fight off the undead and plug the holes in the walls. The enemy seems to be the ones who've been hitting small communities. We have captives. But we're damaged.

Will be in touch when possible. Just needed to let everyone know we're still standing. Radio blackout for the last day must have had some of you worried. Need to see to the injured. Keep us in your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Strike Two

Last night we learned of another small community wiped off the map. This time it wasn't a total rout; the occupants of the community in question managed to field a decent counterattack. It was enough resistance to allow about half the population there to escape. The rest died in the effort.

As with Benton, whoever hit the place didn't leave much behind. Buildings burned down, storage ransacked, anything of value that couldn't be carted or driven away was put to the torch. Hearing this news and thinking about it right now, I'm not having an especially hard time feeling violent toward people. Not at all, really.

This is something new in our experience. We've all dealt with marauders catching people unawares on the road. Most groups of survivors have made war with others, usually locals, who try to take over their homes. We haven't seen a concentrated effort by a single group to attack homesteads and destroy them utterly. It's calculated, precise, and effective. It's scaring the hell out of people.

Larger places like New Haven clearly don't have to worry about these people just yet. The difference in the fight sixty or seventy will give you and the one you'll deal with against seven or eight hundred is the difference between a bonfire and a forest fire. It's too bad the attacks are happening far enough away that we can't easily field search teams. I'd love to know they've been hunted down and shot. Like I said, wouldn't mind shooting them myself at present.

No one should worry about their home being attacked by human enemies. I know that's unrealistic to the point of stupidity, but come on. What kind of fucking world do we live in that we, the survivors of the apocalypse, need to fear other people? There are too few of us left and the odds are stacked against us so high that any threat within our control as living people shouldn't even be a consideration. There is literally no logical reason for marauders to exist, no need for these attacks.

Maybe right after The Fall, sure. I could see that. Resource hoarding and fear of outsiders was rampant. Conditions have grown better, though. People everywhere are farming, hunting, and communities are growing. Why do these kinds of people keep doing this? What solution, what magic words, will finally make them overcome the inherent stupidity and greed of human nature and stop?

I wish I knew. I'd give anything for a solution. This is a waste, and it has to end one way or another.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Motive To Kill

I'm sleep-deprived and the shittiest part of the end of the world--the lack of caffeine--means that my mental acuity isn't getting any artificial boosts. Yesterday I mentioned that my unsure reaction to violence and having to fight had larger implications than I originally thought. That wasn't quite accurate. Instead I should say that it has more personal implications.

Yeah, I want to be able to stand up for the community. But what the hell happens if I'm out in the world at some point with Jess and freeze up? There are numerous situations that might arise (the Exiles returning first among them at the moment) that might lead to us having to flee New Haven. Hell, it might not be anything so extreme. What if we're called to visit one of our allied communities or something? What if we have a skillset required for a particular recovery trip with our scouts?

Everything has consequences. Every action has a reaction, a domino effect that ripples forward as unstoppable as the tide. Not all of them are bad, obviously, but I can't imagine me being crippled by anxiety when trying to defend my wife could end well.

Over the last month or so I've spent a lot of time talking to people about my problems. I've written an inordinate amount of words about it on here. I still believe it isn't inherently right or wrong to feel as I do. Self-recrimination won't solve the problem. And this is a problem. I accept that my issues exist as a set of reactions to the world around me and the terrible things I've seen and done. I can't undo them.

No amount of therapy is going to make those feelings go away entirely. I will never be able to know how my reactions will play out until I test them, and I don't want that test to put someone I love at risk. I can learn to be at peace with my situation over time and I plan on working toward that.

It's also possible for me to do that and bypass the risk that comes with my fear of facing combat. When I was a kid I got over my fear of spiders by making it a point to approach them when I saw them. I hated it. I cried. The terror pushing me to run away was almost a singularity, it was so powerful. I didn't give in to it then.

Steve has had the right idea by taking me to the holding area and making me fight the undead. He began the process of rebuilding the emotional callouses I need--that all of us need--to make it in the world today. It isn't a pretty reality, but it's the only one we have. My friends are showing me a lot of love and giving me total support, but I need to know that I will do the right thing if my loved ones are threatened. If I'm against the wall and no one is there to back me up, can I stand true?

It's a good thing people have an incredible capacity for cognitive dissonance. Maintaining the separate mental constructs that A) I need to heal slowly, over time, and come to grips with my breakdown and B) that I need to be able to ignore the pain of my emotional scars in an emergency, is going to be hard. But I can do it.

The how is another monster entirely. I've killed a few dozen zombies in the last several weeks with Steve. Not a lot of human beings around to murder out of hand. So today I start training my body and mind together. First step is combat with a living person. People, actually. I'm joining in on the practice sessions our assault teams and full-time defenders do every day. They aren't going to use any kid gloves. I don't want them to.

I think I can do this. I have to try. Without that vital edge, one mistake could cost me everything I hold dear.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing In The Sky

I wasn't aware until yesterday, but apparently there have been a full compliment of watchers stationed above the fallback point even though the Exiles mostly abandoned it. The skeleton crew left behind don't appear to be much of a threat, but the apocalypse didn't raise no fools. Better to err on the side of caution than get nasty surprises in the form of seemingly harmless cowards suddenly going kamikaze when we weren't looking. 

So imagine my surprise to see smoke signals from that area in the early afternoon. The signals aren't an emergency alert. There are radios for that. Instead, the bonfires act as a means of telling New Haven about specific changes across the river without the chance of the message getting intercepted. In this case, the message in question was simple but important:

Exiles returning to the Fallback point. 

Not just a few or even a few groups, but a hell of a lot of them. They didn't show up and immediately mobilize for war, but the camp over there looks ready for action. From what the watchers report--the general populace was warned as a matter of course--it seems the Exiles returning home aren't being welcomed by those who never left. 

Interesting, if true, though I don't know what the ramifications might be for the people over there. We're too removed from the situation to understand their politics in the least.

What it means for us is a whole new level of readiness in case some shit goes down. The Exiles have declared war on us in as few words as possible. That the other side of the river appears to be a powder keg of possibilities only means we're preparing for as many of them as possible. For now we're all on high alert, but not taking any action against them. Not because they don't deserve it, but because being aggressive with the enemy at this point would be a waste of resources and would show our hand before absolutely necessary. 

Will stopped by after a marathon council meeting to see how the news hit me. I'm still surprised at how often he checks in on me. He's a busy guy, and I've seen him as our governor for so long now and in so many situations that it's difficult to remember him as anything else. It bears repeating that Will himself still vividly recalls being a prisoner and a cog in the machine that made New Haven work. Being in charge is still strange and unreal to him no matter how long or well he has done the job. 

We chatted for almost an hour, and I found myself surprisingly zen about the whole ordeal. The Exiles may attack. They might not. If they do, it's not as though we won't have warning. We've got a serious numbers advantage to their superior firepower. Addled though I might be, my brain still zeroes in on the hard calculation required for survival. 

I found myself feeling prematurely bad for any of them we might have to kill, if indeed it does come down to a fight. But I didn't feel guilty. I still don't know that I would hold up in a combat situation where I had to fight a living person, but there isn't a sense of responsibility there. No shame or self-doubt. Only regret at the necessity of it. Maybe the real thing would be totally different, I don't know. But not being crushed by it inside my own head is nice. 

I've been thinking about that a lot. Needing to be able to act decisively in that kind of situation. There are aspects I hadn't considered before. I'll get into that tomorrow, assuming war doesn't break out in the mean time. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012


If I'm to give a true and honest history of New Haven here, albeit one seen through my eyes and mostly about my own experiences, I'd be shirking my duty not to point out the ramifications of the major victory we had over the New Breed the other day. I was still riding the high of winning in my last post and left out some pertinent information.

We didn't kill all the undead in the county, obviously. Our gamble paid off and a large number of them are gone now, but it's just enough for our beaters and assault teams to gain a foothold outside of New Haven again. At a very generous estimate Dodger says we took out maybe a third of the local population. Not for free, either. Lives were lost, injuries sustained. Some of those people may be permanently crippled.

The cost in lives and able bodies is far outweighed by the good. I don't say that with the cold calculation I once felt while making those kinds of statements. This was an incredibly dangerous operation where a lot of things could go wrong. We expected to lose thirty people. Deaths and injuries combined, the number was less than half that.

And since this is a quasi-historical document now, I should point out the trend in those numbers. Over the last few years we've had setback after setback, but one of the constant truths is that we've become better at keeping our people alive each time. Enough time and practice makes warriors of the least of us. In a fight as complex as the one we had here the other day, with hand-to-hand combat among the zombies, we should have suffered bitter losses. We couldn't have even attempted such a thing two years ago. Twelve months before now we'd have taken forty deaths as a pretty good defense in the circumstances.

We're getting really, really good at this. The cost is high and terrible, comes with a lot of baggage, but that's relatively short term. We won't be able to play that same trick again any time soon now that the New Breed who survived the slaughter have seen it. We've eliminated a lot of the their number and that gives us some wiggle room for the expansion and for our teams, but once the shock and the death smell wears off we'll have to tango with newly enraged and united zombies.

We're sort of threading the needle as far as the future goes. We've bought a narrow window of time where it's not prohibitively dangerous to work on the next section of the expansion (I'm going to name the parts of New Haven on my day off tomorrow, and maybe draw a map so you guys can see. We're getting big enough to need it, now) but the only way we don't face terrible days of endless assaults after that window has closed is if we're nearly perfect during it. Our beaters need to strike often and brilliantly at the undead. Our workers need to build quickly. The next big wave has to come in on schedule and fight as well as the others who came before them.

Many other things. Tons of factors. If we screw up it isn't going to be the end of the world (again). It'll just be hard on us and mess up a lot of our long-term plans. It isn't a case of be perfect or die, we're way beyond that. It's be near-perfect or suffer.

I'm heading to the clinic now. I'm not doing duty there, not providing care like I used to. I'm just going to spend some time with the injured--especially the new arrivals--and get to know some of them. There's man I hear who lost his foot. I might see if he's interested in any of New Haven's full-time labor jobs that don't require much walking. If not, I'll just talk. Sometimes an friendly voice is just what you need when everything seems at its worst.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Next Wave

I didn't even know they were coming, to be frank with you. Not that I would've said anything on here if I had, but it's still strange and different not to know these things. In this case sort of freeing in the sense that I didn't have to hold a secret back at all.

So, yes. The next wave of settlers arrived yesterday. This is a smaller group than the first wave--there were five hundred of them, you may remember--mostly because of the slow pace of the expansion relative to the speed we wanted to work at, and also because of the thick layer of undead now trundling around the county.

This group was about a hundred strong, and they came in yesterday. Knowing they were going to be dealing with a lot of zombies, they came prepared to fight. What impresses me most isn't the calm and capable way they did the fighting, but the adaptability and thoroughly planned method they fought with. I watched a lot of it happen from the walls. I was in a guardhouse, acting as a spotter. My little way of contributing to the fight without risking anyone else by panicking at the wrong time.

Dodger coordinated the assault, and it was impressive. For all their toughness and intelligence, the New Breed can't seem to overcome some basic biological facts. Fire is still something that throws them off and scares them. Massive confusion and overwhelming numbers do it, too. They trade off the mindlessness of the old school zombies and their relentless nature for cleverness but the many fears that come with intelligence.

Our people usually don't start fights with the New Breed. There are always a lot of them out there, and yesterday we made sure to draw in a good number of them with scouts acting as bait. The idea was to kill as many as possible as close to New Haven as we could, in order to leave behind whatever death-scent it is that drives them away for a time. That way we could bring in more waves after this one.

So our archers and riflemen (and riflewomen, as Jess and a few other ladies decided to kick off the rust and fire away from the watchtowers) let loose on the gathered dead. The archers fired over the buffer and into the bodies massed on the other side. things were getting heavy, the cables of the buffer starting to show strain when the scouts burst from the woods on their dirt bikes. Behind them came hundred of zombies, enough to overwhelm sections of the buffer.

All of this was happening at the north gate of central (original) New Haven. The walls are stone and strong, and we thought it would be a good idea to fight them where we're mighty.

The scouts shot away and scurried into hidey holes set up for them, and the mass of New Breed and old school zombies following them pressed into the hordes already in front of us. That was when a section of the buffer gave out, causing hundreds of them to spill into the space between the buffer and the wall.

Just like we planned.

One weakened section of buffer later, the zombies were trapped where we wanted them. It was dangerous as hell, and a constant fire from the walls was needed to keep them from overwhelming us. That, and the traps we'd placed in the night. Then the next wave came at them from behind, using the gap in the buffer as a bottleneck, and the fight moved our direction.

It was beautiful to watch. Lovely and terrible.

I didn't feel a moment of anxiety as I watched it happen, either. I don't know what that means, but I'll lean toward optimism and say it's a good thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

City of Lost Children

It turns out that any whining I might have done to Will about bringing the kids here was moot well before I even asked. A group I've never heard of has invited the survivors of the Benton massacre to live with them. Apparently this group, housed in a location not known to anyone outside of leadership, has been quietly gathering orphans for the last year or so. Sounded sketchy to me at first, but there are enough people well-trusted and well-known who vouch for them that it seems impossible that these people are bad news.

The really frustrating aspect is that I don't get to know anything about the place. Literally nothing. The only message passed on to the general public was what I've already said.

I want to know more and it's driving me crazy. I want to know why they gather and care for kids. Is it solely for the purpose of safeguarding that little slice of our future? Where are they located? What defenses do they have? How can they be so certain that they're as safe for such precious cargo as they need to be?

This whole thing really drove home the point for me. For the first time I'm starting to see that I'm out of the loop. From the founding of New Haven back when it was just the compound, I was a part of the goings-on at the highest level. My judgment and problem-solving skills were highly regarded even though I might have had a position of only moderate importance.

Since my breakdown that hasn't been true. I'm only as informed as everyone else now. That's not a bad thing at all, especially considering the security risks involved in this particular situation. It's just hard to go from being able to satisfy my curiosity at a moment's notice to...not. To not having that easy option at hand.

It's a stupid thing to whine about, I know. I wouldn't even mention it here if it weren't such a drastic change from the way things were.

In the final equation it's almost certainly a good thing those kids aren't headed this way. The last few nights have been bitterly cold, which has (surprisingly) slowed down the New Breed a great deal. We've been able to repel most attacks and make a good effort at constantly repairing our defenses after attacks. The old school zombies are still proof against very cold weather, but it seems the New Breed never quite stop evolving, or at least do it faster. Maybe they're having trouble with the cold because their bodies are trying to adapt to the fire we use against them. No way to tell.

We've got a lull at night and in the dawn hours right now. It won't last (based on how fair the universe has been to us so far) but we won't despair. New Haven might not be the best place for a new group of displaced kids at the moment, but we're far from helpless and will do everything in our power to repair and upgrade our defenses while conditions allow.

I may not be in the chain of command, and certainly not a 'need to know' person in any event, but I know this much: the whole point of these expansions is to become stable. To become more. To build NH into a place that can keep kids safe and act as a platform on which we can make a better tomorrow. If that trip down the timestream comes with disappointments like these, then we'll just have to learn to take them in stride. My hope is that we'll gain some determination and commitment from our small setbacks so that we never have to err into large ones.

Maybe I'm just trying to find a silver lining, as if those kids going to a place specializing in the kind of care they need in an environment rich with other children wasn't reason enough to be happy.

If so, then I guess I can't help but shrug. I'm okay with self-delusion as a means of coping. People have been doing it since the dawn of human sentience, after all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Group Home

Sorry about changing the schedule around on you, but I needed a bit of a reset yesterday. The news about Benton hit me pretty hard. I'm feeling a lot more stable now, having spent nearly a month doing everything I can to feel better, but such terrible news is hard for anyone with a heart to take, much less some who kind of lost it the way I did.

That wasn't the only reason I spent yesterday focusing on the real world. A few hours after the cleanup effort in Benton started, the traders doing that grim work discovered something in the ruins. Tucked away in the basement of what looked like an abandoned shack were two dozen children. No one knew there were kids of any age in Benton. No one had ever seen any.

It hadn't occurred to anyone to wonder why there would be a decrepit, abandoned building inside the walls of the place. No one went there, it didn't look utilitarian or important. According to a few of the older kids the traders rescued, the people of Benton have been stashing them there any time outsiders showed up. If there was fighting to be done, danger to be faced, or strangers to be met, the kids were secured behind a foot of concrete, two-inch metal doors that locked from within, and enough food and water to last them for weeks. There was even a clever ventilation system set up, easily powered by the kids themselves.

The adults of Benton saved their best commodity from their attackers, both living and dead. The basement was built specifically for the purpose it served and hidden from sight by the old shack. I'm astounded at how effective simple misdirection was in this scenario. It also stings a little to realize how much time and effort we've all spent on clever defenses when such a basic ruse did the job.

Then again, for it to work all the adults had to die. So maybe the trade-off isn't really symmetrical.

I'm happy beyond words to know those kids made it out. If I should go out fighting one day, I want it to matter that way. To save those who need saving.

That being said, I'm worried about those kids. Only about half of them are biological children of people from Benton. The rest are strays and orphans that Benton took in and cared for. It happens a lot in the world as it is. Many families here are composed of parents and kids that were strangers a few years ago. The philosopher in me recognizes the abstract truth that love doesn't see chromosome pairs. The realist in me understands that those kids--who are all demanding to stay together--will have a hard time adapting to new parents. The children see themselves as one family. Splitting them up would be cruel and difficult.

Maybe even dangerous. Even kids nowadays can fight like ten kinds of hell.

The discussions have already begun. There aren't a lot of settlements between here and Benton. Though the place is a good distance from us, it's in a direction not many people travel. The realistic choice is to bring them here. We're already planning to accept another fifteen hundred plus new arrivals. A couple handfuls more aren't going to tip the scales.

I don't have any say in that, but Will is our governor and I know him well. I'm not saying it's a sure thing. All I'm saying is that we can manage it better than most, and that I love kids. I think I could be a friend to them. Most people in New Haven could.

Yes, Will. I'm hinting. Pick up on it or I'll punch you in the kidneys.

Monday, September 17, 2012

American Horror Story

Half an hour ago, the news came in that a small community in a town called Benton is completely gone. We're just getting the details from those who discovered the carnage, but a rough sketch of what happened was left behind by some of the last surviving townspeople.

A day ago, just after dawn on Sunday morning, the people of Benton were hit by what they believed to be mortar fire. The community itself was small in population, about seventy people, but the area they occupied was much larger. Being a rural area they were spared the large migrations of zombies in the early days. By walling in a huge park by filling the spaces between the surrounding buildings, the people of Benton were able to farm in a sustainable way inside the safety of their enclosure.

They were traders. That is, they were on the trade route we established last year. I knew some of them pretty well from communications. It was known among the groups who trade with each other that Benton was rich in resources and materials. For the moment we aren't able to pin down who rained shells down on them. All we know are the results.

Whoever hit Benton was after their supplies. It could have been marauders. Doubtful it was the Exiles given the distance from here, but anything is possible. The disturbing possibility that no one wants to say out loud is that it was neither of those groups. Because we're very careful about what information we let out, and as far as I know there weren't more than a hundred people in the world who knew the kinds of things Benton had stockpiled. The place was ransacked.

Every person there is dead. Whoever struck them moved in during the confusion and blew their only gate off its hinges with surgical precision. Those who resisted were killed immediately. Many hid and were left alone so long as they didn't stop the looting. Survivors were rounded up when found and kept at gunpoint until the ransacking of their home was complete. The attackers were fast, taking everything they needed in less than an hour.

Organized. Efficient. Lethal.

As they left in their stolen vehicles--mostly trucks the people of Benton were using to store their goods--they dragged the bodies of some of the slain behind them. Horrifically, the person who left the message behind noted that at least one of the people tied to the back of the trucks was still alive, if bleeding out.

The new breed came while the survivors were trying to cover the gaping hole where the gate had been. Maybe the new breed were watching from afar for the violence to be over. I think they're capable of that much self-control. Maybe they just followed the trail of blood and death the attackers left in their wake. Whatever the cause, we know what killed the rest of Benton's people.

The first people on the scene were the traders and guards who were scheduled to arrive at Benton this morning. Out of almost forty people left behind by the human attackers, only one of them chose not to fight the undead that came after. That woman ran to her home instead, finishing the message she'd begun only a short while before. She would probably still be alive, too, had she not seen and heard her friends being torn apart outside her walls. Her last words in the message were that she couldn't leave them alone. That she had to help.

Her body was found in the threshold of her doorway. What was left of it, anyway.

Later this afternoon we'll be holding a moment of silence for those poor folks. Many people seem to think that I do a disservice to the living by not describing these kinds of attacks and their consequences in more detail. The logic, I understand, is to drive the point home by being brutally graphic.

The most polite response I can come up with to that is "Fuck you". Honestly. Anyone who thinks people need me to tell them about death and violence, what zombies and terrible people alike are capable of needs to get their head on straight. I could describe scenes of gore and mutilation that would make you vomit. I could chronicle a thousand awful memories that are burned into my psyche for all time.

But I don't need to do that, do I? Because we've all seen it. Every one of us has been there. We've been baptized by the blood of friends and foes, stumbled across body parts on battlefields with the living and the dead. We've seen horror, true horror, in volumes no novelist could ever dream of. We've learned those lessons. No need for me to give them.

I invite each of you to take a moment this afternoon to simply spend a minute of your time remembering Benton. Them and every person we've lost, whose memories give us the determination to carry on and fight again.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reflex Save

A thing happened to me this morning as I was doing my routine with Steve and the captive zombies. Well, zombie, in this case. Just one. New Breed, though, and I capitalize the name here because I'm still trying to shake off the experience.

I'm going to make a long story short here, because I've been posting freaking novels lately.

We were in the enclosure with the zombie. He--the zombie, not Steve-- was eyeing us cautiously. Steve stayed well back, near the gate. He's done that the last few days, ready to step up and help but not close enough to make me rely on him. I've taken to carrying not only my trusty gun, but a heavy knife (a thick Randall boot knife my mom gave me when I graduated high school) and one of the custom machetes from North Jackson in a sheath at my side.

I had a round chambered, of course, and held my hands steady. I've managed to ward off the anxiety for the last few days, and even when I felt a tremble of it in my gut today I didn't falter. The idea isn't just to pop off a round and commit the act of killing one of the undead, though just doing that was enough of a breakthrough at first. Keeping my calm while assessing the situation is the goal. Creating endurance.

So I waited until the zombie faked left then darted toward me to throw my right foot back and firmly plant myself in a stance. I pulled the trigger with the same slow squeeze I'd spent long hours practicing.

My gun made a little clicking sound.

Fortune favors the bold as well as the pants-shittingly terrified, which is what saved me from taking a serious injury. I didn't even try to fire a second time, instead dropping back while throwing the now-useless piece of metal and plastic at the zombie's face. Interesting note: even zombies have the gut reaction to pull away from something trying to smash into their eyes.

I tried to pull the machete, but fumbled the clasp and gave the zombie too much time to recover. We went hand to hand.

Which sounds pretty fucking scary if you're one of the astronomically lucky people still alive that have never had the pleasure. And it is, don't get me wrong. But a grapple is one of the few places where a thinking human has the advantage. Even New Breed, smart as they are, don't have much concept of body mechanics. They can run and jump and use tools, but complex things like recognizing the center of gravity and taking advantage of poor balance and the like are beyond them. They focus on clawing, crushing, and biting, leaving you only hands and mouth to worry about.

Thanks to years of practicing what to do when rushed by a thoughtless opponent, I was able to slip to the side enough to avoid getting caught by those claws. I had enough grip on the zombie's arm to jerk him off balance. I didn't let go even as he spun away from me, instead trying to force him to the ground. That didn't really work out since the pain of even a sloppy joint lock doesn't sway the undead. It did let me keep some control, and gave me the second I needed to yank my knife out.

After that, I leaned myself over him and drove us both to the ground, the zombie belly-down. I used both hands to jam the knife into his head as he struggled to get up. It was all over in less than fifteen seconds.

My feet, still very tender from the shredding I gave them during my breakdown, hurt like hell. They aren't stitched any more but the wounds are still healing. I haven't put them up to more than a brisk walk and a little jog since. A fight was more than I reckoned on.

Steve, as it turns out, wanted to start conditioning me to react in less predictable circumstances. That makes sense in the abstract; the real world isn't a safe little fenced area with armed backup.

But he didn't have to take the firing pin out of my gun. That's just cruel. I was briefly upset when he told me that, but my anger only lasted until he pointed out that I didn't so much as flutter an eyelash after the fact. I hadn't needed help. Shit, let's be real, here. I kicked ass.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Last Choice

I've always prided myself on being able to rethink my positions and gather perspective. I like to see myself as open-minded and flexible. Given my recent worries, some people are inevitably see this post as a cry for help. Here's my disclaimer: it's not. I want to approach a subject I've put a lot of thought into recently and which was driven home for me this morning.

So. Let's talk about suicide.

No, I don't want to kill myself. Even at my most self-destructive, my survival instinct was always too strong for that to be an option for me. It's bad enough to want to die, but imagine wanting the pain to be over and knowing you are not physically capable of even letting it happen, much less doing it yourself.

Bah. I digress. This isn't about me. This morning I learned that one of the new arrivals from the first wave was found dead on the grounds of the new expansion. Without giving any gory details, the fellow ended his life in such a way that he wouldn't reanimate as a zombie and become a threat to others. His name was John.

No one knows why he did it. He didn't leave a note. There were no signs that he was depressed at all. Everything seemed fine with him, according to his friends. I think we're all worldly enough to understand that putting up a false front as a defense mechanism is one of the first things a person who needs help will do. It shouldn't come as a shock that someone who wanted to die managed to make themselves appear normal. Doubtlessly there are people that knew and cared about John who are right now blaming themselves and saying that they should have done more.

The sentiment is understandable, but I don't think it's at all fair for anyone to take blame. Doing so implies two things: that there is fault in the person who didn't see it coming (there isn't), and that the person who didn't see it coming had any say in whether the deceased lived or died (they don't).

I used to be strongly against the idea of any person in this world ending their own life in the face of all we have to deal with. Maybe John had been fighting the undead a lot recently and felt overwhelmed by the incessant attacks, the brutal toll it takes on us to cut down the enemy. Maybe it was years of survival while watching other people die. Could have been witnessing marauders descend into the darkest depths of human depravity, or any of a dozen other kinds of suffering.

Or maybe he was just tired. None of us can know.

I'm not so harsh with my opinions now. As I say from time to time, I'm with Heinlein on this one; it is the right of every person to choose their own end, should they wish it. Sometimes our lives are chaotic and our paths determined by the waves of circumstance that carry us. The journey itself can thrash us around in ways we can't control, ways we hate. The only power we have in the face of a life we cannot tolerate is to end that life. Not pretty. Not nice. But true.

I still think it can be a selfish choice. It's hard not to at present, when we're pressed hard at the walls every time a new attack comes. Two or three a day, sometimes in different locations, sometimes hitting a weakened section over and over again. We aren't facing a huge unified force of zombies yet, which is probably saving us from taking very serious losses, but the sight of the undead breaching a section of the new expansion cuts you right down to your marrow. The feeling of desperate terror as you fight to survive can tear you apart.

John could have chosen to live. People do it all the time. We live for ourselves, because it is our driving instinct. Some of us live for others, to support something larger. Many people nowadays make the logical choice to support a group such as ours because they recognize the practical reality that there are better chances of survival if we move as one. Fight as one.

But when you're looking at a swarm of flesh-hungry enemies breaking into your home, it can fuck you up. Knowing that you'll have to be on your guard constantly for the foreseeable future, have to struggle in ways your life in the world that was never prepared you for...that does damage. John may have seen something terrible one time too many. He may have envisioned his future and seen only heartache and pain and ruthless effort just to get by.

Again, we will never know. I wish he had talked to someone, maybe gained some perspective and realized that the good times and moments of joy are that much sweeter when contrasted against the bitter. Maybe he would have survived his own thoughts.

Or he might have still made the same choice. In the end, that's what it comes down to. It was his call. As a community we make the choice each day as we recommit to a purpose. Some of us might be going with the crowd purely out of self-preservation, and that's fine. We aid the tribe for a lot of reasons, but the practical effect is that we live for each other. John chose to end that commitment. He didn't leave or side with the Exiles because he was sick of it. He took the last door honorably available to him. He ended his part in the social contract without harming the rest of us.

And though we will be weaker without him, one less defender of the helpless among us, he had the right. I can't say much more about it than that. Some of you may disagree, and that's good. We should have an honest and open dialog about these kinds of things. We value life and service, sacrifice and goodwill. But shouldn't we also honor personal choice in this manner?

What do you think? Was John wrong to Move On to whatever may come next, leaving the rest of us to deal with the increasingly damaging zombie attacks? Or did he have the right? I hope I have you thinking about it.

I still am.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Evolve Or Die

Somewhat to my surprise, Will agreed to give me regular updates on everything going on in New Haven. Unedited, raw reports that don't pull punches. If I'm to do my job as historian then I need honest data to record. I should probably point out that the blog is, as of this morning, only part of the equation where that task is concerned. 

In light of the increased pressure from the new breed and other zombies out in the county and my desire to create something of value for current generations as well as those who come after, I've expanded my efforts. I was going to just write this blog and collate the data I've collected over the last few years, but now I'm working on something else. I'm collecting all the written reports I can get my hands on, everything passed between the people who make New Haven run no matter how high or low on the totem pole. 

I know, it sounds wonky and strange, but for posterity I think it's important. I've asked for a permanent relocation of one of my old solar cells, which Jess and I had given up to the clinic. With all the new ones coming from North Jackson, simple and inefficient as they might be, there isn't a lack for power in critical areas. One of my little cells will be more than enough to run my laptop and printer for this project. 

And it's a big project. Hundreds of pages of written material have been delivered so far. Right now I'm incapable of doing much with them, not until I can get more battery storage than my dinky little portable solar charger can handle. When and if I can start charging up the chain of batteries in my house again, I'll begin the process of photocopying those documents and keeping a running set of volumes detailing the way we choose to live. 

I talked yesterday about doing something important, finding something that fit me perfectly, and this is it. The blog matters because it's informal and an easy way to digest a lot of information into an easy to understand format and spread it to those of you lucky enough to have a cell signal. Collecting reports and messages, putting them all together and distilling that information down into meaningful data is the other half.

You can tell a lot about a person and a people by how they communicate. I don't think we as a community are on the wrong track necessarily, but course correction is vital. I've said it enough times that it's almost a joke, but we cannot make it long term unless we evolve with our circumstances. You can see the truth of that hard fact of nature in the undead that assault our defenses; we kill a lot of them at one time, and they retreat from the dying ground long enough to adapt. Then they hit us again. 

By reading and absorbing all that information from the movers and shakers in New Haven, I have a chance to see patterns in how people think and react. Hopefully I'll be able to call out and correct people who are leaning heavily toward bad ideas or solutions without considering other options. We learned that lesson with the Louisville crew, and thankfully we didn't repeat it with the Exiles. 

I'm not at all saying I'm going to be some morality police or the ultimate arbiter of what is right or wrong. I don't know that my moral compass isn't skewed in one direction any more than the next person's. The entire impetus behind this project comes from reading over my own words for the last year or so. Looking back at my posts, I can begin to see how I distanced myself from people, how the cracks started forming inside me. I don't see New Haven having that problem on the whole, I just want to put everything I possibly can out there in the open. 

Yes, these volumes will be available for the citizens here to read. One thing that I have in abundance is paper and toner for my printer, two items which (unsurprisingly) were not on anyone's list of things they just had to have when The Fall came. By disseminating the information I gather, we'll be crowdsourcing how we react to events. My hope is two-pronged: on the one hand I'd like to make sure that we've got checks and balances so people can call out the leadership if they think we're about to make a mistake. On the other, I'd like to think that by doing this we're writing a sort of bible for those future generations. Not on how to act, but on how best to determine how to act and react. 

I don't know that it will work. I know it isn't going to do a damn bit of good if I'm the only one behind it. I can shout my opinions from the rooftops and it won't change a thing at this point. So far we've done a good job as a community in making our voices heard, participating in votes, and managing course correction. I'm not doing this to address some glaring flaw in how we live and function. I'm doing it to make the process of course correction easier and faster. 

Pat, Will, Becky, Jess, and all the others have been very supportive of this idea, which I've been jabbering about since yesterday. None of them have smacked me in the mouth to shut me up about it, not even when I walked into Courtney and Steve's house last night without knocking and interrupted them having sex. 

So, I guess it isn't a terrible idea. People seem to like it. Makes it easier for folks to get the facts, meaning we won't have to call huge (and increasingly huger) town meetings to talk to everyone at once. I absolutely promise you this is the one and only time I'm going to write about that side of my job in any detail. It's going to be boring and time-consuming, but I am excited about it and had to share. I will of course share any relevant findings from my record-keeping, but I won't bore you with the details. 

Except for today. You're just gonna have to deal with that. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All Creation

I'm still working on getting my reflexes back, but the recent spate of zombie attacks have given me plenty of targets to practice with. Steve has been taking me out every morning since that first one, and standing at my side as I remove the captive zombies that come for us.

I am not unaware of how much effort he's going to in capturing the undead. Even though I know he is wrangling the survivors of attacks that have been caught in traps or tangled in our growing network of lines and cables that act as a buffer, it's still tremendously hard. It isn't just him, either; there are five or six people helping out. Spending their valuable time setting this up so I can rehab.

It isn't perfect. Yesterday I had a full-on panic attack when my gun caught in my holster, and Steve had to take over. Three years ago I literally could not have imagined him even holding a gun that wasn't a replica blaster from Star Wars or a phaser from Star Trek, but there he went, calmly gunning down two zombies not ten feet away from me. No muss, no fuss, no wasted motion. Even sighting down the gun with his one eye happened naturally. He's the most adaptable person I know.

Not wanting me to crawl back into my shell in the wake of totally losing my shit, Steve took me to Pat's house. That's right next door to mine, and my best friend was there working at the forge. Patrick has been hauling ass working on repair jobs and new work lately. A lot of it is piecework needed for the expansions. Everything from brackets for segments of wall to the complex jumble of connectors used to string up the cables we use in our buffers. Then there's all the repair pieces, from armor to weapons and a dozen other things.

Pat doesn't do it all by himself, of course. He has a team of six workers that have been learning as they go for a long time now. Pat himself had to endure a lot of trial and error when he decided to start working metal. Combining traditional forging with modern metalworking isn't easy, but he has managed some amazing things, especially considering he has just the one hand now.

New Haven dedicates a lot of resources to the forge. Torches, gasoline and generators, twelve new arrivals who joined Pat's crew not long ago to help pick up production. Hell, his place and the clinic are the only spots in New Haven that can flip a switch and have electric lights going any time they want them. My house doesn't even have that.

The zombie attacks have been getting frequent and more brutal, which means a lot of damaged stuff and more work for Pat's crew. The assault teams stopped their runs into the county in the face of increasing swarms of zombies coming in, which means we have no people out there thinning the herd. The theory right now is that so many people in one area are creating a powerful smell that travels for many miles, a buffet irresistible to the undead.

I spent the day working with Pat, mostly repairing cable connectors. I had no idea how much damage the undead were doing. We've been using old power lines for most of the buffer, stringing them up between posts (mostly old telephone and power poles, cut up and moved) to create a barrier to slow down the zombies before they can get to the wall. The theory is sound; some will get tangled and some will manage to fight their way through quickly, but the overall effect will be to create a safe zone between the wall and the buffer where our people can easily take down the undead with minimal risk.

In reality, whole sections of the buffer fail. Each of those repurposed power lines--hundreds of them in each section of buffer--are held to the posts by eye hooks, pulleys, steel bar, or whatever we can find. The weight of all those undead put a lot of strain on those parts, and sometimes even pull up the posts themselves. One such occurrence actually led to a section of wall in the newest expansion being overrun. The weight of the undead pushing against that part of the wall--enough to kill the buffer--also caused two welds in the wall's supports to pop.

Thank god the new arrivals were watching and ready, or it could have been a bloodbath. As it is, five people died defending there, and dozens were hurt. I didn't even find out about that until yesterday.

There was something of a revelation working its way through me as I toiled next to Pat. I was acting as a set of hands, all labor and no skill, as he made things from raw metal to serve the common good. I realized how amazing that really is. He can't fight any more, not without two hands, but the work he does is absolutely vital to New Haven's well-being. Patrick gets to make things. He does a job he loves.

And he serves the community while he does it. Maybe that seems totally obvious to you, but to me it was a bolt of lightning. I can't believe how backward I've been thinking about things. Molding myself into something I think I need to be in order to help is stupid and dangerous. Rather, I need to find a way to make who I am and who I become useful, no matter what shape I end up in. I mentioned that to Pat, and he laughed and made fun of me. He knows how prideful I can be about feeling smart, and how being made to feel ignorant rankles me.

But I was being dumb, honestly. I was worrying too much about reshaping myself to fit a niche, rather than finding a niche that fit me. Pat pointed out that metal can be reshaped--usually must be reshaped--to serve a function, but that other things in creation only serve because of what they are. So it is with people, he said. Some need to be changed to be of use, and most of us have been by the end of the world, but others need to be exactly what they are.

I know, I know. Philosophical and off topic, but I needed that. I really, really did. I feel like I've begun to move forward, and as if there's a floor under me now. I can stumble and fall, but it won't kill me. I feel as though I can just be, without worrying on everything all the time. I'm going to ask Will to resume sending me updates on everything--honest ones with no thought to my mental well-being--so I can begin to integrate more of what's going on here back into these posts.

I don't feel normal, but I think I can see the light from normal now. Thank you, all, for putting up with me using the blog as therapy for the last few weeks. Without it, and without you, I don't know that I could have coped.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Small Circles

One of the most memorable parts of my training in Aikido and Judo was the concept of small circles. The idea was that any technique achievable by a large movement--usually circular, at least in Aikido--was also achievable with a much smaller movement. The difference between them was only difficulty, a problem overcome with time, effort, and dedication.

I've come to terms with being allowed to sit on my ass and write. I don't feel a pressing urge to show willing by having a normal day job here. Truth is, there are a lot of people around New Haven that have desk jobs. I had one myself for ages. Jess and Patrick have convinced me that what I do here on the blog is just as important as what I used to do. Maybe not in the material sense of organizing and collating data for easy use, but in a longer arc. Writing honestly about the dilemmas we face on moral, ethical, mental, physical, spiritual, and philosophical levels really does make a difference. I've heard it often enough from other survivors. Making ourselves reevaluate our actions and attitudes as well as keep an eye for people buckling under the strain is important.

That being said, I do feel that it's vitally important for me to rejoin the ranks of on-call defensive fighters. It isn't just a philosophical ideal for me, though being available to defend my home just like everyone else is a part of it. Mainly, after yesterday, I'm learning just how hot the situation in the county is getting for our folks.

The assault teams are being stretched to their limits with all the undead coming in from the west and south. We've killed so many zombies over the years that we forget just how many people used to live in this country. Even if only ten percent of the population turned into the undead, that's still more than thirty million of them. And we have good reason to believe that number is much, much higher.

Word from out of town is that the new breed version of the plague has become universal. It's every damn where and the pace at which old school zombies are being infected with it or eaten by the new breed to sustain them is increasing. Two highly relevant facts should be taken away from that observation.

One: the number of new breed out there is increasing. If I have to explain how dangerous that is to you, then I'm not sure how you survived this long. Welcome out of your bunker, I guess.

Two: as the number of new breed grows, they eat more of the remaining old school zombies, reducing their easily available food supply. Which means sooner or later those fuckers run out of their equivalent to canned food and need to go shopping.

I suppose I should add a third here, though it goes without saying: we're the grocery store.

Some of my friends aren't happy with Steve for sticking me in front of those zombies yesterday. I'd love to say I had a revelation and am now a fully-charged ass-kicking machine, but that just ain't so. People aren't built on simple binary systems. We are not one thing or another. We're complex and fragile and amazingly capable of holding the cracks in our armor together until that last hit that shatters the whole thing.

I didn't turn into a John Woo character and start firing my gun as I leaped sideways, screaming like a madman and clamoring for revenge. My movements stuttered as I fell into a shooting stance. I was slow and awkward, and Steve had to slow down the first zombie to come for us by putting two rounds into its chest. Those copper-jacketed pieces of lead didn't do any real damage to the zombie, but they did make him pause for a second. Nothing like pain crossed his face, but a look of vaguely puzzled concentration did.

While the zombie was considering the holes that blossomed over his heart, I sighted and fired. The whole experience after that is sort of blurry, but I remember very clearly a moment where I thought the panic would rise in me like magma, explode up and out and fall back down to crush me.

It didn't. I don't know if my survival instinct made the rest of my psyche its bitch or what, but I did the work that needed doing. Not prettily, not well, but I did it. I don't know that I can be relied on not to crack under pressure yet, but I know this was a step. This was the big expansive circle of practice I needed to begin. Now the trick is to gradually reduce down, to hone and perfect, until I know I can defend my home when called.

Like I said, as a purely practical matter I need to do this because our assault teams may soon not have a job. They've been trying to make runs into the county to thin out the incoming herds, but the task is getting beyond them. The one small advantage is that the Exiles can't seem to run operations against us amid the chaos of thousands of undead walking about.

I'm going to be spending some more time with Steve today. Dodger may join us, I haven't spent much time with him lately. I may be taking baby steps, but at this point I'll take any forward motion I can get.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gun Therapy

Yesterday afternoon, Steve came by. At first I thought he was going to treat me with kid gloves the way most of my other friends have, but that wasn't the case. He had an idea for some tough love to help me deal with the fact that I can't deal with stress the way I used to.

Which is ironic and pretty funny since Steve is easily the most compassionate and loving person I know. I mean, he's the least likely badass you could ever meet. I've mentioned more than once that with his soft voice, calm demeanor and almost comically nerdy personality, no one would expect him to be as dangerous as he is. Surprisingly tough, too. He lost an eye and just kept on going like it wasn't a thing.

Instead of sitting in my living room, commiserating on how hard the simplest tasks can be for me, he cut through the bullshit small-talk pretty quick. Steve brought a little bag with him, and he opened it up to show me what was inside: two handguns. I knew them at first glance very intimately, as both of them were my own weapons. It had been so long since I lent them out to Steve and Courtney, before their big trip across the country quite a while back, that I had almost forgotten about them.

The older of the two was my first gun, a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber. It was the gun I learned to shoot with, the one I had before The Fall came about. The other, a Glock 23, is also a .40 caliber. I've never been the kind of person to shy away from weapons, especially my own. I've fired thousands of rounds, killed many zombies (and, unfortunately, living things) and never felt the slightest bit of dread at seeing a gun, knife, sword, spear, or whatever.

But I recoiled just looking at those simple tools. I knew in my head that's what they were, just objects in space that needed a mind to give them purpose. Maybe it's precisely because I've used them so often over the last few years, but I couldn't look at my weapons without shuddering.

As you can guess, Steve wasn't going to take no for an answer. He zipped the bag up and made me come with him to the wall. We toured the sections ravaged by the zombie attacks yesterday, which are becoming overwhelming. He showed me the piles of undead being burned in the aftermath, and explained how hard-pressed our assault teams are. Fall is approaching, and winter after that. The undead are coming here not just from Louisville but from the south as well in increasing numbers. They can smell living people here from miles away, and they're hungry.

He took me by the clinic and made me look at the people injured in yesterday's attacks. I saw the bodies of the slain.

Then we went to the vacant lot hemmed in by heavy fencing near the clinic. It's a familiar place to me; I did some terrible experiments there. We sat outside the lot and talked, and I told Steve how sorry I was. I told him how I knew I was letting people down, and all the other awful things that come into the minds of people like me when bad things happen.

He slapped me on the back of the head. Hard.

Then he told me in no uncertain terms that it wasn't my fault and that only an ego the size of a school bus would cause me to think that. He didn't show me all the fallout and damage to make me feel guilty or responsible. He showed me because no one else thought I could handle the reality of the situation. He showed me because he knew I needed to be confronted with stress and fear if I'm ever to overcome it.

That's also why he handed me my Glock, pushed me through the gate and into the lot, and came in behind me. Three captive zombies were there, new breed. They huddled together in the corner, tearing at the ropes tied to their legs. My hand shook as I watched the fibers shred and disintegrate under their fingers. I tried to slow my breathing, get control.

Steve stood by me, because that's what friends do. He was steady and solid, a presence of comfort even though he had brought this panic on me.

And then the first of them got loose. Well. I don't need to tell you how it went, do I? I'm here writing this, after all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lots of Free Books, and LWtD Book Five

[This is obviously an out of character post]

Right here is a link  to my author blog, wherein I provide links for the huge giveaway I'm doing on Amazon starting Sunday morning. The first four books of LWtD as well as Year One are all going to be free from Sunday through Thursday, and book five, This New Disease, is available for purchase for a mere $3.99.

Please show your support by sharing the link to my author blog, and pick up book five. As always, my thanks just for reading, and for your continued and awesome support.

God's Hand

There are too many ways we can get our expectations up. Luckily for New Haven I'm not talking about the lack of attacks from the Exiles turning into a full-on assault. We've been down that road, and no one here has any realistic belief that we can find peace in the short term.

Unluckily for me, I'm talking about my own expectations. I guess I've had too many good days of late, days where I don't feel like some angry god is reaching down and shoving their hand against my brain and heart. I've still had minor bouts of dark moods and jangling nerves, but overall my outlook has been good. I've even been keeping up with my jogging in the morning, which was a test of mettle today. Rain, and sixty degrees.

About halfway through my run I had a panic attack. I was brought back home on a golf cart because I couldn't uncurl myself from the tiny ball I crunched into after the attack. I didn't want to see the staring faces. Shame and embarrassment kept me almost immobile.

I used to be one of those people who sneered at the idea of panic attacks. I always thought it was kind of stupid to be freaking out for no reason, becoming irrational and incoherent, totally incapable of dealing with the world. My arrogance was strongly bolstered by the body control techniques I learned in martial arts and in my firefighting classes. You can't control your tiniest movements and breathing without strong mental control as well.

I've been having them for a while now. The first one hit me not long after I started experimenting on the zombie captives. They grew in frequency and severity, and let me tell you: panic attacks are nothing to fuck with. The sense of pervasive, overwhelming fear that hits me, as if the entire universe suddenly bends and pushes on my body, is enough to make me feel like a huge douche for panning this condition in the first place. The reason more people don't have sympathy for people who suffer through them--aside from not having the experience themselves--is because words and description can't begin to explain how powerless you are in the grip of the attack.

This was a few hours ago, and I'm still feeling the aftershocks of it. I remember reading some of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files a while back (before and after The Fall, they're my go-to rereads) and being fascinated by the idea that everything a wizard sees in their special Wizard's Sight is indelible and fresh in their memory forever.

The good as well as the bad. And Butcher made the point that enough bad things that you can instantly recall can drive you nuts. That's how I feel right now, as I think about the fist of panic that drove me to the ground today. I feel like I'm right back in that moment all over again. It isn't as powerful, but my hands get a tremor while I type if I don't distract myself.

While Jess was petting my hair and mumbling softly to me shortly after, a herd of zombies attacked in a tight formation, nearly two hundred of them. I heard the bells and thanked my lucky stars that Gabrielle had more insight and common sense than me. I thought I was ready to at least defend against the undead. I was so fucking wrong that the light from being right will take a thousand years to reach me. If I'd had that panic attack on the wall, which is likely since one of the triggers is large groups of people--one of my biggest stress factors--then I could have died. Worse, I could have cost someone else their own life.

I said before that life isn't preset and simple, and that's true. You don't heal from injuries either physical or mental to become exactly who you were before. You change each time, constantly evolving into a newer you. The problem for me right now (aside from being a selfish dick and writing all about my own problems instead of, say, the zombie attack) is that there's no guarantee the person you become is someone you want to be.

Friday, September 7, 2012


There haven't been any new developments with the Exile situation since my last post. Just throwing that out there, because I'm trying to move away from spending my time and effort on speculation and worrying. It's oddly freeing not to be a gear in the decision machine anymore. It gives me the opportunity to talk about what I want to talk about.

My wife is awesome. Most of you know that.

Jess and I have always had a strange relationship. When we started dating, I had just come out of a long relationship that involved a lot of responsibility on my part. I had no intention to see anyone seriously or exclusively. I wanted to have fun.

Turns out I got to have fun while I was building a serious thing with Jess. At first, honestly, we were just a couple. We weren't friends. Hell, we didn't even know each other that well. As time went by, we began to realize how well our broken edges fit together. Where I was strong--the everyday things like managing money and planning for the future--she was inexperienced. Where I was insecure, like worrying about offending her or talking about a girl I saw that I thought was hot, she was an entirely different species. The things that upset most people in a relationship such as discussing old flames or checking out sexy members of the opposite sex, didn't bother her a bit. It took her years to develop even a small amount of jealousy.

And yeah, we became best friends. On the big things we always came to easy agreement. The small stuff usually works itself out. The only serious arguments we ever get in are nearly always opinion-based and centered around pop culture. She has never seen the original Star Wars trilogy. I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that when we said our vows, that fact wasn't on my mind.

The strange and wonderful thing about Jess that stands out over all other aspects of her personality is her ability to adapt. She has never shirked from hard work, and that attitude has served her well since The Fall. She hated guns, but saw the necessity in learning how to use them once the zombie plague broke out. She cried at the thought of killing animals for any reason, even for food, but she sighted down her rifle through the tears and fired with barely a tremor when the time came.

She has bloomed in many ways since the world ended. Her nearly pathological shyness has receded into mere discomfort around strangers. She has a self-confidence that still shocks me every time I think of how she used to be. This morning, on her way to work in our self-contained farm, she walked up behind me as I scrubbed the few dishes we use and slapped me on the ass.

She called me her "little woman", like I was some 1950s-era housewife.

Jess just isn't that kind of person. Or wasn't. Her sense of humor flows through different channels. She caught me off guard and at first I was too dumbfounded to react. When her face fell, I ended up laughing. I knew she was joking but the poor thing seriously thought I was offended.

The truth is, even though I've been at home more on a daily basis since The Fall than any time before it, I've never kept up with my end of the 'shared workload' deal. Historically I've been very lazy about doing housework and seeing that things are in order. I'm a sort of human tornado that way.

Since leaving the clinic and being allowed at home by myself, I have nothing but free time most days. I get bored, and I've read every book in the house many times over the years. So I started cleaning and organizing, and the crazy thing is that I like it. My house is neat for the first time in ages, our stockpiles of random supplies easily accessible. Apparently we possess no less than three sets of barbecue tongs, and I haven't finished going through all the boxes of junk yet.

I feel like I'm reaching a better place. Or at least walking the path toward it. I'm not allowed to participate in New Haven's defense, and I've come to terms with that reality, temporary though it is. I don't have a "real" job to do, other than this blog and collating the reams of data and information I've gathered over the last few years as I've struggled to help run this place. That comprehensive document will take months to complete and then need constant updating, but I've got the rest of my life to do it. So, no rush.

Other than those things, I don't have much going on. That's why I feel such a sense of satisfaction from working on the house (planning on doing some big work, actually, like maybe adding a room or something) and doing the work Jess will be too tired to mess with. I'm almost at peace with myself at the moment, because being unable to do much of value outside my home, I've put forth my best effort to do all I can of value within it.

There's a valuable lesson in there about knowing limitations and if you can't safely push them, taking satisfaction from a job well done. I could be wrong; might be that I'm just trying to make myself feel better. All I know for sure is that the smile on her face when she sees the tidy house waiting for her at the end of the day makes my heart thump hard against my chest, like an old cartoon. I see approval and love in her face, and as much as I dearly care for all my friends and appreciate all they've done...

Nothing else compares to the feeling she gives me. Nothing in the world.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Usual Suspects

Well. One certainty in life after The Fall, especially around these parts, is that nothing is ever certain. Just when you think your assumptions are valid and that events will unfold in a generally predictable fashion, fate decides to keep you on your toes with a hard slap to the back of the head.

My friends are making an (incredibly obvious) effort to visit me each day. I don't get reports the way I used to, at least not as they happen. I'm supposed to be the historian, but I'm also still kind of fragile. The idea between them, I would guess, is for them to gauge my reaction to what they might say based on how we interact when they come by. If I seem okay, even happy, they will share things with me. Maybe disturbing things. If I'm in a dark mood or scattered, they shoot the shit with me and give me hugs.

Except this morning it was Patrick, and he isn't a hugger. Which I've always seen as a damn shame, because the guy is built like a Kodiak Bear. It's like god designed a hugging machine in human form, but in a twist of whimsy decided to make that machine fear the intimacy of belly-to-belly human contact.

Anyway, Pat can't keep things from me. Mostly because I'll poke the living hell out of his ribs until he cries uncle. There have been alarm bells off and on for most of the last day, and at first I wasn't worried because I didn't hear anyone chatting about the attacks. I figured they were small probing deals that were testing our new defenses. Our assault teams are working overtime trying to drop the level of undead in the county, but they just keep on coming from the west in a steady stream.

After the third separate attack, I began to suspect that my not hearing anything about the attacks was a little too perfect. I mentioned that to Pat, and immediately remembered why he never plays poker with me. He has the ability to lie of a spastic three-year-old. He tried to hedge when I asked him about the attacks and whether I was being kept out of the loop.

In his defense, I had to leave a couple quarter-sized bruises on his side before he sang. I won't deny a small thrill of pride that I didn't take any wounds of my own. Granted, he's only got the one hand, but that fucker can nub you to death with it if you aren't wily in quasi-serious combat.

See, we thought the Exiles would hit us after a period of time, that they'd smash us with mortars or sniper fire or some other ungodly destructive thing we can't really plan for. And, hey--they still might. It's a great big infinite future out there.

But those attacks weren't just the undead. There were Exiles peppered throughout. No one is sure how they managed to trick the New Breed into not recognizing them as humans, given how smart the New Breed are, but we know they were there. The evidence was easy to see in the morning light: they've cut or badly damaged some of the steel cable and salvaged power lines that form the makeshift barrier outside the newest expansion. Subtle work, and it might have been missed had they not become greedy and actually cut all the way through some of the lines. Weakening them might have been enough to screw us over without us catching on.

Pat really didn't want to tell me, but I'm glad he did. Not because the news makes me particularly happy (it doesn't) but because I'm glad to know how I can handle bad news on a normal day (not feeling strongly happy or sad) without spiraling downward.

I'm pretty much just pissed off. It's an old familiar feeling, like a comfortable winter coat finally pulled out of a closet and thrown on in a chill.

I'm not a part of policy making any more, so there isn't a lot I can do with that anger, but I'm happy to have it. Gabby calls it a defense mechanism. I'm okay with that. I feel a little bad that I got mad in front of Patrick, because he suddenly remembered a pile of work to be done next door at his little smithy and politely excused himself. Maybe he thought I was going to start with the poking again. Can't hold that against him. In rage mode, I tend to be overly physical...

So, yeah. Pat was right to leave. I was totally gonna try to wrestle with him to blow off some steam. Now, all I have is time to think while Jess is working. I'll try not to stew too much over the peace being broken. Seems like it usually is, anyway. If it isn't zombies, it's human beings. If it isn't people living or dead, then it's the weather. Or a disease. Or hunger. All the usual suspects.

Now there's a pleasant thought.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Idea Man

I really enjoyed seeing and working with Will every day, even though we've butted heads about as often as agreed. Looking back on the timeline of his life here, the roller coaster of how he has been viewed by the populace, gives me fresh perspective on what real strength and determination are. Will is our leader, the one who bears ultimate responsibility for every decision that comes down.

But he's much more than that. Some leaders rule through fear and others become lost in their office. Sometimes the forces bearing down on them can be overwhelming, but I honestly think the time Will spent as a prisoner here taught him some important lessons. He's the kind of leader that doesn't expect men and women to do as he says because of an election. When shit goes down, Will shows up and kicks ass. He does his time on the wall--he was on duty as an on-call fighter night before last during the zombie attack--and he doesn't ask anyone to do something he wouldn't be willing to do himself.

All that being said, he's not a hero or a myth. Will Price is a regular, if busy, guy. He's a history nerd that spends much of his spare time reading old books about war and tactics and military service. Will sees himself as a normal person being asked to do a difficult job, and he believes that leading by example, by making people want to follow you, is the only way to go. I'm in awe of his strength of character, to be blunt.

Which is why, when he stopped by this morning, I was caught flat-footed at an idea he had that's nothing short of brilliant. It's simple, too, but such a work of utter genius that when he bounced the concept off me to get some feedback, I just sat there and stared at him like an idiot.

Let me back up a little.

The rain only stopped this morning. The intensity varied a lot over the last few days, but it just kept on coming. Every catchbasin, bucket, reservoir, and hole in the ground is filled to capacity. One consequence of all the new water retention mechanisms we've installed is that when they get full we have to deal with the overflow. Changing New Haven as much as we have to accommodate new people has its drawbacks. Giant tanks to hold water are awesome, and the wide array of tarps and whatnot that catch rain to feed them work really well.

Then they get full and we have to slog through muddy rivers in the middle of the streets. Will was in meetings all day yesterday trying to figure out a solution. It's not a world-shattering crisis or anything, but it really is annoying. Event the blocked-off creek at the bottom of New Haven filled way beyond capacity.

What to do? Will thought about it a lot yesterday, but the flash of insight came to him when he woke up this morning: he wants to build a moat. Well, not a real moat as in a ring of water that surrounds our home like some awesome Disney castle, but the same basic concept. Since most of our big water tanks are at the top of the hill New Haven is built on, he had the idea to build runoff systems--simple ones--that would feed a series of big-ass holes in the ground outside the wall. The first hole would fill from the runoff pipe.

Say the hole is five feet deep. Once it fills, a shallow trench in the dirt, maybe a foot deep, leads to the second hole a little further down the hill. He wants to dot the entire hillside in them, maybe even run them around the newer expansions. The only tricky part would be running the overflow pipes. The rest is just a lot of digging, something a small crew could bust ass on.

Elegant but simple. I would never have thought of it. Will? He's the man. Coming up with a workable solution that gives us greatly expanded water storage (although not immune to evaporation, of course) as well as a new defensive measure.

Part of what makes Will the guy he is is the fact that he doesn't see how he's a rare breed. Confident but humble, creative, driven, intelligent, and loyal to an almost suicidal degree. And he came by this morning just to hang out and share ideas, to get my opinion on his solution. I spent a long time defending Will when he was still being punished for the things he did to keep New Haven safe. I watched him evolve and grow on our trip across the continent. In some ways he hardly seems like the same man anymore. He thinks in bigger terms, on longer scales, and wraps his brain around problems that would drive lesser men (*ahem, ahem*) crazy.

But he didn't have to stop being who he was to meet those challenges. Will grew beyond his limitations. The old him is still there. He still loves to read and tell ghost stories. If we ever have time, he's eager to start another D&D campaign. At the risk of sounding even more gushy than I already do, I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all he has endured, at his strength, and for keeping to who he is no matter what assaults him. I couldn't have more pride at being able to call him friend.

Now...if I could just figure out a nice way to get him off my couch. He has been playing with my cats for the last half hour and doesn't seem willing to leave. I mean, he does run New Haven. I'm sure he has important work to do...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dream A Little Dream

I was sleeping like a rock until two and a half hours ago. Lately, thanks to an occasional melatonin when I need it, I've been able to get some rest. I've actually gotten used to a solid six or eight hours in a row, so much so that when the alarms started going off at four thirty in the morning, I woke in a panic.

Even with my problems, I usually don't panic. Worry, feel down, and a host of other negative emotions, but immobilizing fear isn't one of them. Most of us have had enough harrowing experiences since The Fall that what used to induce paralysis now just makes us nervous. The reason the alarms hit me so hard isn't hard to figure out; I was already having a bad dream. In it, there was a storm hitting us, magnitudes beyond anything I've ever seen in person.

I've been having variations of that dream for several days, ever since we learned about the hurricane. We're long past the point where people name storms, so I don't know what the National Weather Service would have called the one that hit the gulf recently, but it was powerful. Our contacts in that area have survived many such powerful events, and gave us warning that this was a big one. Big enough to make the weather between here and there batshit insane. The wind and rain calmed down a lot as the power of the hurricane spread out and caused ripples, but yesterday we got nonstop rain for hours on end.

Which had several consequences.

On the macro scale, the best result of the rain was seeing the cisterns and reservoirs around New Haven drink their fill. Our dedicated (and grudge-bearing) plumbers have been hauling ass to set up every kind of catch-and-retain system they can think of, though this bout of storms came too early to utilize the big centralized tank they've just started working on. It's a dubious and frankly sort of scary looking thing, but when it's done they say the giant, half-buried cylinder will hold a hundred thousand gallons on its own.

Sounds impossible, I know, but Frankfort's main city reservoir is only two miles or so down the road. A team of fifteen workers have been cutting the enormous tank there into pieces and hauling them here for a week. It may not get finished before winter, but it's a fantastic long-term storage option. If the sketchy-looking welds hold out, that is. I'm not going to place any bets.

The second consequence of the rain was spending the day with Becky. She has been incredibly busy the last several months. Mostly she works out of a building my brother had built for her, tucked away in a corner of New Haven's original core area. It's one of those prefab metal things, sitting on a pad of baked clay as hard as brick. Other than the wall, there are no structures within fifty feet of it, because Becky does chemistry in that twenty-by-forty space. Mostly she turns raw metal powders into thermite, with the occasional break to make explosives. She has other projects to fiddle with as well, but those two take up a lot of time. She even has two assistants.

Too rainy and humid to do any delicate work, she set her minions on mixing powders as usual and then came here to hang out with me. She looks more vital now than she did when she first appeared at New Haven's gate. Whatever damage her trip across the world did to her has made good progress toward being healed. With most people I try not to talk about the past or focus on old times, but yesterday I spent three hours sprawled on the floor of my living room with her, chatting about our halcyon days while we snuggled comfortably and listened to the rain.

Becky has always needed a project, a goal. It drives her forward. Doesn't always matter what that goal is, whether it's chasing down a potential piece of ass or trying to understand a key component of some obscure biological molecule. Her laughter, that always-shocking girlish sound, made me smile. Especially considering how little of it I've heard recently.

Maybe I was just on her mind, but when the alarms went off last night, Becky came straight to the house. Technically she lives here, but most of the time she sleeps in her lab. I had my jolt of panic well under control in a matter of seconds, so when she came through the door I was calm. Cool. Hell, I even had a pitcher of my brother's beer handy.

On her way, she told me that the New Breed was attacking in force. Rain used to keep the undead docile, but we've seen them break that habit more than once. The downpour was heavy enough to obscure their forms as they worked through the outer defenses. They seemed to have learned their lesson about hitting the new expansion (I really need to rename the parts of New Haven we've added, for the sake of clarity and not giving myself an aneurysm) and trying to deal with the ring of cable and wire strung around it to slow them down.

Like the old myth about Washington: I cannot tell a lie. Well, I can, but I'll be honest here. I'm actually glad I'm still not allowed out to fight. I think I can face zombies well enough, but the idea of slogging through the mud and rain to fire arrows at barely-visible enemies doesn't appeal to me right now for some reason. Instead I spent that time listening to Becky tell incredibly dirty jokes--one involving a bus full of nuns--and trying to pretend I was offended as a former Catholic.

I can say in total truth that I don't feel bad about not fighting. I really don't know if I would break or not in the heat of the moment, and there will certainly be other battles ahead. I haven't heard further alarms since the initial bells announcing a hundred or less attackers at the north wall of New Haven central, so I will assume all is well. No one is pounding on my door and screaming.

Instead a pretty girl is standing behind me as I write, rubbing my shoulders and trying to explain how amino acids join up like an L.A. street gang to build a DNA molecule. I'm only half listening.

...and she slapped me on the back of the head. Damn. I thought I avoided a fight today.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shine On

Thirty months ago today, I wrote the very first words on this blog. At the time they were only half-serious. I was so floored by what I was seeing on television that I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea that what I might be seeing was real. Yet, somehow, the deeper part of me that believes in the impossible regardless of the circumstances knew that what I saw was fact. 

From that initial spurt of violence came The Fall. The end of the world as we know it. If you're reading this right now, I'm not telling you anything you aren't painfully aware of. 

But since today officially marks my first day as New Haven's historian, I thought a little reflection was in order. It's easy to forget how the world used to be, even at the beginning of The Fall. Back then there was still working infrastructure. Running water wasn't a miracle even weeks into fighting swarms of undead. I've been looking back on how that has changed over time and come to the conclusion that we're all insanely lucky to have what we do. Hard work plays a major role, but luck? I love that bitch. 

Because I'm obsessive about seeing connections between things, I can't look around New Haven right now and witness all the great works being accomplished without comparing that to my own recovery. I'm tempted to say that I'm still not 100% or not quite right yet, but then I begin to wonder if I could make the same statement about my home. Is a community ever one hundred percent? I mean, is there a set level or state of how it should be, and when you reach that point nothing important changes?

No. And the same is true of people. I think of myself as being less than I was, and I might be. But the arc of a person's life is a constantly changing and (hopefully) evolving set of conditions. We aren't static beings. So when I see New Haven growing around me, expanding, becoming something new and different, it gives me hope. Maybe I've been looking at myself and the events that weigh me down in the wrong way. Instead of letting them fill me with guilt and break me apart, I should be learning from those events and making the active choice to become a better man. To find a better way. 

Wow. Okay, my first official post is seriously way too focused on me. Sorry about that. 

So, let me say that I know nothing is perfect. Just as I will falter and be pressured in ways I'll have to struggle against, so can a community. 

Take the undead, for example. Our assault and patrol teams have been very active the last two days as more zombies make their way in from Louisville. Most of the Louisville crew--along with our volunteers that went there--have made their way to Franklin county. We've got the temporary quarantine zone set up for them, but the trip here seems to have reinforced whatever trail the undead follow to get here. They smell people and take to it like a dog hunting bacon. Without the presence of a large number of living people in Louisville to take their attention, nearly all of the zombies coming from across the river head here now. 

The good news is that our assault teams had fairly well emptied the county of zombies, so the new arrivals, who are nearly all New Breed themselves, don't have any waiting clusters of allies to team up with. The bad news is that we've had to take another fifty people from work crews to bolster the number of fighters out there keeping the undead population in check. 

Which sucks, because we are making amazing progress with the expansions. It's going a bit slower than it was a few days ago, obviously, and may slow down even more as easily obtainable materials thin out. That's okay, though. There is no shortage of creative solutions with so many people here putting thought into how to solve so many logistical problems. I just hate to see our momentum blunted even a little, not when the expansion and settling of the first wave is going so well. 

It's stupid and kind of mental of me, I know. The reality is that the increase in assault and patrol crew is probably keeping us at the highest level of productivity possible. Though there are several hundred zombies shambling around at the moment, no major attacks have hit us solely because our people are breaking up clusters of them and swatting down would-be attackers in droves. Not having to fight them here at home means we can accomplish a lot. 

And, yeah. I do mean 'we'. I've put in some hours over the last two days swinging a hammer and learning the finer points of improvised plumbing. I've been invited to work at my discretion with several work crews among the first wave's carpenters. Because of a slight misunderstanding with some industrial glue and a crew foreman with no sense of humor, I've been asked not to work on any more pipes. Ever.

The only serious burr in the music of our daily lives at present is the Exiles. That's a situation still pocked with perils and pitfalls. So far no roving groups of them have declared war on us, but given the circumstances and how much we outnumber them now, I doubt there would be any grandiose gestures anyway. Those Exiles out there in the wild who don't like our decision regarding our captives and the idea of another amnesty aren't likely to tell us they're going to attack. If it comes, there won't be warning. They'll just strike as hard as they can. 

But, as Gabby keeps telling me, I can't focus on what might happen. None of us can. We have to plan for those situations, but life is meant to be lived. Work has to be done, plans met, and family seen to. Which is what I have planned for today. I'm off to start the hours-long process of making a big lunch for all my friends and family, in thanks for the time they took caring for me and reminding me that the world can be a beautiful place. 

Zombie-plagued, filled with people that want to shoot my face, and a struggle to survive in, but beautiful all the same.