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.