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.