Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Half Measures

I've mentioned Ender's Game before, but for those who haven't read it or missed the post I wrote about it, I'm going to reiterate. Because it matters.

The scene in the book that matters concerns Ender as a young boy, constantly bullied. He is attacked by an older child, and Ender beats the other kid and leaves him on the ground. Then Ender kicks the bully over and over again until the child is a mass of blood and bruises. Ender points out later that his reason for doing so wasn't that he was vicious--he hated what he'd done--but because he didn't just need to win that one fight. He needed to win all the ones after it.

Fear is a powerful motivator, but it only works if the enemy knows you're serious. It's a huge reason the Japanese surrendered only after the second atomic bomb was dropped. Once wasn't enough fear. Anyone can act out once. But when the second bomb fell, every person in that nation knew that the United States was not in the business of dicking around.

Neither is New Haven. We've compromised and used half-measures for too long. No more. We're in a position to remove threats permanently, and we've got the allies to help us do it.

I would be lying if I said it doesn't still irk me to be left out of the loop about some things, but yesterday morning I was told the full details of an operation to stop the Hunters from moving against us or anyone else. I was asked to wait until today to explain in detail, but I'm going to give the full rundown on it tomorrow. Today I have to sort through all the reports about the attack along with all the records given to me concerning the planning and coordination of it.

It's a lot of stuff to sort through. I know this post is short and wonky, but I needed to give you all some kind of introduction to what I'll be writing tomorrow. Context is crucial in this case. We've been the victims of systematic attacks by the Hunters, a few of which I've mentioned but there were others I've just learned about, and we are fully justified in our actions. And remember as you read tomorrow's post that these people coldly destroyed community after community. Decisive action was required.

It's not going to be easy for you to read. I'm not looking forward to writing it. There are limits to what kinds of terrible discoveries we can deal with as human beings, and some of the stuff in the file I was handed about this attack...stays with you. Not for the squeamish.

So consider this post a big disclaimer. Tomorrow you get the full Monty. It'll be bad. But we didn't have much choice. Keep that in mind, please.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


There aren't a lot of survivor communities on the east coast. Too many big population centers, too many zombies moving restlessly through the area. We're in contact with two, and one of them is in New York state. Not that far from the Big Apple itself, which always surprises me. But then, most of the undead in Manhattan are stuck there. The bridges are all destroyed or blocked.

So now we know part of why the weather here is so insane. What appears to be a hurricane made landfall last night, a huge storm that filled the entire horizon as far as our allies there could see. They've felt the wind coming off the storm for days.

Our friends are holding out for now. The buildings they live in are remote and durable, but only time will tell if it will be enough. The community isn't small--four hundred people and growing--and they've got a setup that provides safety from zombie swarms and allows them to farm extensively. Because they're so close to NYC itself, they don't lack for raw materials to recycle and turn into more useful things. That little community is rugged and self-sufficient. They, like New Haven, have made tremendous leaps forward in the last few years.

They are a model for what the surviving members of the human race can do. And because of mother nature they could be wiped out tomorrow. Fate can be hateful and cruel, with a sense of humor that makes your teeth hurt.

It's probably a blessing that more communities aren't located in the eastern states. Some do exist, of course, but they're away from the coast and the usual spots where this kind of thing happens. Funny how settlers from other countries came here and chose to live in the north, in some of the most inhospitable areas of the country during winter time. When New York got those first few feet of snow many decades ago, you'd imagine the people would leave to find a warmer, safer place to live.

No. They stayed and fought it out. Built the greatest city on the planet. New Yorkers--hell, most people in that area of the country--were some of the most tenacious humans to ever walk. Pride and pure grit kept them in the place they'd chosen, and you can't ask for more than that.

Now, without the modern conveniences, things have changed. If the area is prone to tropical storms or worse, you leave. If it gets pounded by blizzards, you leave. If a huge set of population centers is nearby (with some exceptions, like our friends up that way), you leave. History was on the side of immigrants and pioneers once the initial plunge of coming to America was done. Populations were growing, technology was evolving, and every day more was being done to tame the forces that threatened.

We've got less people walking around than ever. The Fall has seen to that, as well as the idiotic drive to fight even in the face of basically infinite free land. We don't have the resources to manage the way those old-timers did. We are a species dwindling, pushed away from threats until we get backed into a corner. It's at that last moment when no other options exist that we turn and lash out. When all else is lost we fight for our lives and freedom, for the right to exist at its most basic.

That's a good thing. It was a lesson our allies in New York learned early on. They retreated from the city and the suburbs to isolated places. They scraped by and planned, worked their fingers to the bone to prepare a place for themselves. Months of effort and sacrifice gave them the rewards they sought: a community built entirely by them. Carved out by sheer willpower and at the cost of lives and leaving thousands of dead zombies in their wake.

We're in that corner, now. Not because our resources are running dry or we've lost everything, but because we have too much to lose now to take risks. Like a mother defending her child, New Haven can't take any more chances. There's only one way to keep people safe.

Tomorrow you'll understand.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I've been a little worried lately that my constant anger at the people trying to wage war against us was doing almost as much damage to me as my depression did. Years of seeing zombies kill and maim people I care about and having to kill myself wore me down. In just the last month I've been able to move from that fragile state to where I am now, but I'm not blind to the facts. I've always had a bad temper, and it's emotionally exhausting to stay as angry as I have these last few weeks.

But it provides a sort of mental shield, you know? When you're furious enough the details don't sink in. You don't let the natural empathy creep in. It makes you burn hot but make decisions cold. I've needed that. Being forced to push myself out of the funk I was in meant doing what was needed to get by. I began to worry that I was cutting myself off from all the good parts of myself as well. Jess has pointed out fairly often lately how distant I've been. More than one of my friends have seen that as well. I haven't been interested in the stories that matter. People and their lives.

They aren't wrong. The problem I've had is that we have to strike a delicate balance between the hard hearts  to deal with the challenges at hand and remembering the reason we make those choices in the first place.

I went to the hospital yesterday to help get our newest arrivals settled in, and it helped me remember. Before, that place was a mess. An empty shell that once served as a haven for those who needed help. Funny that before The Fall most of us disliked hospitals, maybe found them cold and sterile or even frightening. Now I look back and realize in amazement that there was an entire sector of our civilization dedicated to healing people. Maybe not out of altruism, but it was there.

The lifeless husk that had been the hospital was filled with people. Mostly young to middle-aged, but a few older folks were there. And kids. So many kids. I spent a lot of time on what used to be the pediatric floor playing with children. Safe, inside a building strong enough to withstand a small aircraft flying into it, we were carefree for a time. I laughed and got to be myself without any layers or barriers. Just me and those boys and girls reading together or playing with trucks and dolls. It was so great.

Some of you out there aren't in the situation we've been dealing with. God bless you for that. You're lucky. I hope you never make yourselves a target as we have, never have to fight a war on three fronts. But because you aren't waging those battles, it can be hard to understand exactly what drives us. What drives me.

I was depressed and almost gave in to the worst urges. I've always been mentally resilient, and dealing with bouts of depression most of my adult life has given me a lot of practice bouncing back. This time around, the shock of the violence around me helped, and I clung to the rage it gave me. It was a lifeline I climbed to reach a place of relative balance.

But let me be clear. I'm not angry right now. I'm perfectly calm. I say this with sincerity and clear conscience.

If a person or a group or a town full of people were to threaten those children--or anyone else in my community--I would kill them. Without hesitation. I wouldn't give warning or try to be 'honorable' or 'fair' about it. In that situation those words have no meaning at all. I would do it in whatever way I could, through any means that would be safe for me and effective.

It's that simple. No matter how many times I've said it over the years, and I will keep saying it though the words fall on deaf ears, it remains true. If you leave us alone, we're no threat to you. Move against us, against what we're building here, and I will murder you and anyone who might take revenge for that murder. I'm not just speaking for myself, you should know. This is New Haven's position. As far as the council and the population are concerned, uninvited aggression from outsiders can only be met with as much force in return as possible. There are no rules after that. Bullets, knives, traps, poison, weapons of mass destruction. They're all fair game.

Because doing those same old deeply stupid things means you aren't fit to survive in this world. There's enough land to go around. Farm on it. Build things you need. Eke out a living. Do it in peace and you might get help. But attack, try to take what isn't yours and endanger our people?

You're worse than the zombies after that. The undead don't have a choice. You do. Once you cross that line there is no going back. I say this without malice or spite. You don't kill a rabid dog because you hate it. I do hate many of our enemies, but allowing them to retreat and live in peace would be an option...except that the Exiles taught us how foolish that choice is. No, you kill that rabid dog because even if all you feel is sadness and love for it, eventually it'll bite you. Or your child. It will do damage that might be irreversible.

And that's not acceptable. Not in the least. We will burn out the enemies who want to harm us, excise them from the Earth root and branch. To do any less would be a crime against our people old and new. We will do this not despite our humanity, but because of it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Train Job

From what I understand, the idea was to take advantage of the narrow window between wiping out the local Exiles and the Hunters deciding they need to take a swing at us to keep New Haven from rallying against them. It was all planned in advance, mostly between Will, Dodger, and the leadership in North Jackson. 

The plan was to use a convoy of attached cars to haul as many people as possible from NJ in the short span of time right after the Exiles were cleared out but before the Hunters could come after us. What couldn't be planned for was the Hunters keeping close tabs on everyone. They must be very, very good to observe so many parties without being seen.

They knew we were moving people. And that isn't a good thing. 

But being prepared for the worst is a trait that you can't live without nowadays. I mean, let's be clear: we have to worry about swarms of the undead trying to eat anyone out on the road. It's not such a huge step forward to add some provisions to deal with living people as well. It's not like we didn't see the possibility. In fact, based on how organized the Hunters seem to be, Dodger expected it. 

So when the hunters hit the caravan with a slightly larger force than their previous assault, our folks were ready for them. The Hunters learned from the last time, moving to attack from both sides of the road and in a pattern with a much wider spread. This time they were the ones firing shots from a distance first, trying to take out our drivers to immobilize the convoy. 

When the first shot rang out, one of our people blew a horn. That was the signal. 

Every person in every vehicle not designated as a combatant dropped to the floor. The lower sections were all reinforced to provide as much protection as possible. In a string of twenty trailers in the crazy, haphazard train, there were three dummy trailers put together for just such a scenario. When the horn blew, the convoy stopped. that's when those trailers--their tops left off and the four sides held together by large lynchpins--opened like flowers. The sides were rigged to fall at the pull of a chain, yanking those pins out. 

Three mounted guns in each trailer, three trailers in all. Crammed inside beside the gunners were some of the sharpshooters from the last attempt to bring people here. Smaller escort vehicles moving with the caravan swooped in to pick up a few others, men and women armed with precious military-issue assault rifles and the even more valuable training that makes them deadly efficient. 

People who know how to use a giant fifty-cal machine gun mounted on a frame that allow it to rotate around in a full circle are rare nowadays. It's not exactly a skill you pick up working the counter at McDonald's, you know? But NJ has never been shy in giving us help when we need it, and they don't believe in half-measures. 

The thing about the Hunters you can always count on is that they'll run in the face of overwhelming odds. They aren't a group of martyrs by any means. Our people beat them soundly, popping off heavy rounds with calm, cold precision. Last count I heard was sixty Hunters dead, eleven of their vehicles slagged. Fully half the people they sent against us. Maybe they'll learn to stop touching fire. 

They should have picked up on that already, because the tide of victory around here right now probably means that as soon as we're done moving people here and can finish the expansion, we'll turn our attention to the Hunters and taking them on at home. It's going to be a while before we're close to that, but not many people here see it as a bad move. Taking the fight to the enemy is the only real option at this point. We've gone back and forth between forgiveness and practicality in dealing with overwhelming enemy forces. 

Now we're the overwhelming force. And compassion for those who would kill us is no longer on the table. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Whirlwind

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right words. Yesterday I was pretty angry, that was obvious. I went to talk to Will and the council--the right word is probably that I went to confront them--about the lack of movement against the Exiles. We've had some of their people prisoner long enough to get plenty of information from them. Why haven't we used that?

We've been experiencing a slow time for the last few days. No new attacks, no sign of the Exiles on this side of the river. And there won't be. At least not any time soon.

Let me preface what I'm about to tell you with an explanation. When Will gave me the following information, I told him I would put it on the blog. He and the council argued with me, a lot, but I stood by that decision. I told them they'd have to lock me up to stop me. Not because I disagree with what they did, but because I felt the best way to serve the warning to our enemies and prove to our allies that we're going to be as transparent as possible is by telling it like it is.

So. The Exiles that have been hitting us? The ones treating our half of the county like their own personal playground? They're dead. All of them.

Will and Dodger have been carefully prepping and sending out small groups of soldiers that came down from North Jackson. Weeks of planning out scenarios and waiting for a trap to draw in careless enemies came to fruition when we took those prisoners. Over the last few days teams of soldiers have stalked the Exiles, sometimes using traditional methods, others doing creative things to get a peek at the enemy. One of our teams attacked an Exile camp the same way the Exiles have been attacking us: by covering themselves in zombie gore and leading a group of the undead at them.

Becky has been busy so much lately because, unknown to anyone outside her shop and the council, she was working on basic chemical weapons for these attacks. She couldn't tell me. No one involved with the operation was allowed to talk about it. A few months ago that would have bothered me. Knowing there are more than a hundred corpses out there that used to be living, breathing people full of potential would have bothered me.

Right this second I'm not all that fussed about it. Call it a defense mechanism for my poor, battered brain if you want, but I'm saving my concern and anxiety for people that actually give a crap about other human beings. Far from being upset, I think this is a damn good thing. There is a time and place for playing defense and being the bigger person. The fucking apocalypse is neither.

Playing nice and dishing out ultimatums don't matter much if you don't follow through. Long story short, we can't move forward while dealing with the same old threats all the time. Will and the council were decisive and strong exactly when we need it the most. I'm calling it a win.

Also, a warning. If you've got the strong urge to become a charred, sticky skeleton, then please follow the example of the groups of Exiles that have been attacking us. My mother's family has a motto on their coat of arms. The Latin says "Felis Demulcta Mitis", which translates to "Gentle in peace, fearless in war." We've given the people attacking us chance after chance over the months and years. Every opportunity you could ask for to simply walk away and do something constructive. Human history is full of dumb, aggressive assholes who can't let go of bad ideas.

We're no longer going to be gentle with you. The more we have to lose, the harder we'll fight to protect it. In this case, our people are the greatest treasure we could hope for. I suggest to anyone thinking about revenge to reconsider. Especially any remaining Exiles who aren't trying to work on a new life at the fallback point.

No more chances. If our people catch you, you die. The end.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sleeper Cell

We've been in a bit of a lull over the last day. Zombie attacks have tapered off, the injured have been seen to, and the Exiles aren't active against us. Even the Exiles across the river in the fallback point are keeping quiet, barely coming outside apart from their sparsely-manned guard shifts. 

One blip of activity that I should mention, though, is a small resurgence of the new plague. Apparently some people are carriers for it. We don't know if it's just folks who didn't get sick or what the vector for this new outbreak might be. It's not bad--not yet and hopefully it won't get that way--but it's scary. Two dozen people coming down ill over a short period of time reminds us that winter will be here soon. This is the time when people start to get all those shitty seasonal sicknesses that are so much harder to deal with now. 

Fortunately we can deal with the new plague with relative ease. People will have to keep their eyes open for symptoms, but as long as we're careful we can treat cases quickly and effectively. 

One thing I'm curious about is how the council will decide to act in regards to the Louisville crew still hunkered down in the isolation area. The signs of active illness there have passed, and it would be much easier on them to live here...but this flare-up will certainly make people think twice. We've been over all the dangers so many times, I don't think anyone needs a reminder of the risks. 


You know, I'm getting pretty tired of the stress, I won't lie to you. I'm sitting here thinking about the best way to calmly share the information that a deadly disease, no matter how controlled, has reappeared and it bothers me. I've spent a ton of time talking about my own problems and dealing with the damage this shitty world has done to me. That's aside from the damage I've done to myself. 

There's a time and place to be diplomatic. I get that to build a better tomorrow we have to learn to work together and to make compromises. New Haven has always been that way. What bothers me is that to have a better future we have to be alive and sane. Those are kind of key elements, you know?

So, in the middle of worrying about the Hunters and the rogue Exiles, people are getting sick. Which itself isn't so bad, but it reminds us that on top of all the external threats we have to worry about--oh, let's not forget the undead while we're at it--we also have to fret over influenza, pneumonia, and about a million other problems that have become nearly impossible to deal with. We're approaching our third winter in a world without over-the-counter remedies and visits to the doctor. We've been lucky as hell so far, but with our population exploding so do the chances that people carrying illness are going to share it with others. 

The stress of living in this world is a huge part of what messed me up so badly. Feeling like I couldn't do anything about it (sort of like how I felt before the end of the world about working a stressful job but still being broke) made that worse. Add to that the guilt over the lives I've taken and you've got a terrible recipe for mental breakdown. 

But I've realized something. Most of the things we're facing right now are problems we can solve. Sounds a little harsh to put in those terms, but honestly bad people have always been a problem just looking for a person with the strength to solve them. The Exiles are picking away at us, ratcheting up the fear and anxiety. 

I'm fucking done with that. I refuse to live with it any more. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


After I posted about Evans passing away, there was (of freaking course) a zombie attack. They come at us exactly when we can afford it in the least, though it probably didn't help that I pointed out to the enemy that our main trauma doctor was gone. This time the Exiles upped the ante a fair bit: they used the zombies as cover to move in and set a fucking ramp. I don't know where the Exiles found people either brave or suicidal enough to make the run at our wall, but it worked.

Our people on that section of the wall were so overwhelmed with keeping the swarm--which had knocked a hole through a weak part of the buffer--at bay that they weren't able to stop the Exiles before they set up their simple but effective ramp. They were even covered in zombie gore to mask their human smell. Give them full credit for massive steel balls if nothing else.

Long story short, a small section of the wall here in Central was overrun. It didn't last for long thanks to some clever person dropping a thermite bomb on the ramp, but for an intense ten minutes we were fending off the undead as they breasted the wall and moved house-to-house.

In the aftermath there were a few people with very serious burns, mostly made by zombies that caught fire from the thermite and tumbled into them. Quite a few others took cuts and scratches. We lost lives. I don't know how many.

And since Evans was gone, treatment for the injured was not optimal. People were coming in much faster than the clinic could handle them, and while Phil was doing a bang-up job, he was on his own. Way too much work for him without another doc there.

Not long after that cloud of chaos descended on the clinic, a small group of people decided they'd had enough. I was actually over in Will's office when the six of them showed up and asked to be given a small cache of supplies and permission to leave New Haven permanently. I was pretty shocked, to be honest. Two of those folks were early joiners, here for more than two years. One of the others came from Ohio with George, and the other three were newcomers from North Jackson. They wanted out, and Will let them.

We don't keep people here who don't want to stay. This place works because it's a willing joint effort. I believe in the power of the many united toward a common set of goals, but it doesn't work through coercion. Even at my lowest point, I never imagined really leaving here. Oh, I might die in the process of defending my home or from any number of horrible ends, but I wouldn't leave. That's because I am, as Stan Lee would have said, a true believer. Part of my own mental distress was reconciling the goals of this place and my unbreakable support for them with the awful things we've done to achieve them.

Others may not see it the same way, and that's fine. I don't blame those folks for wanting to leave. Being here means having to deal with a laundry list of enemies and threats. It means a near certainty of being injured, and the mess at the clinic plus missing a doctor made the choice easy for them. This place is great, they said, but the risks were too high.

Will asked them why he should give them any supplies at all, and the spokeswoman for the group pointed out that they could have just left over the wall (dangerous) in the middle of the night and raided one of the emergency supply caches tucked away outside the walls. Or stolen on of the stocked escape vehicles. They didn't do that because they knew in a dire situation that choice could cost the lives of the people who expected those supplies and that car to be there. Instead they just asked up front and counted on Will being a reasonable person.

He was. He ordered them outfitted and sent on their way. I hope it all works out in whatever safe, remote corner of the country they end up in. Sometimes I wish we could all live that way, but if we did then society itself would cease to exist. Maybe the human race, too.

It probably sounds cold, but while I don't hold a grudge against those people for going, once they passed the gates I stopped thinking about them completely. They don't exist any longer. Will didn't seem all that upset, and I'm a bit surprised he didn't stop me from writing about it. He doesn't want anyone to think we've got anything to hide or that we'd try to keep people here against their will.

Good luck to them. But then, we need luck too. And if I had to choose which of us would get it...

Monday, October 22, 2012


You get in a certain mindset when bad things happen. When they happen a lot, you dig in and find your center. Zombies attacking, people waging war on us, and through it all we descend into a place of anger and focus. We draw strength from it. We fuel the will to fight with it, keeping ourselves going long past a time when exhaustion should have taken us down. I've been there myself lately. The fury of seeing so much death and waste visited on good people snapped me out of the tail end of my depression. 

Emotions can be an extraordinary thing, but they can't keep you going forever. 

Evans died some time during the night. 

I've been around the clinic off and on during the recent rounds of attacks. When I'm on call to defend the wall, I usually act as a backup triage and first responder. More often than not I end up escorting wounded people to the clinic, and during fights Evans is always there. 

Was. Was always there. Never frantic but always full of energy, it didn't matter if he only went off shift ten minutes before. Evans was a warrior as much as any person holding a weapon. His heart was in his work even if his bedside manner could be unfavorably compared to that of an old-timey sea pirate. 

Turns out his heart wasn't able to keep up with the needs of this place. Phil and Gabrielle say it looks like it just gave out. Evans was older than most people here. When I think about him serving in Vietnam as a surgeon, I think "Oh, my dad served in 'Nam. He's my dad's age." 

Except that he wasn't. Evans was a grown man with eight years or better of college under his belt when he went overseas. That was so many decades ago. A lifetime. For all his stubborn strength and apparently tireless efforts, the old curmudgeon wasn't going to last forever. Seeing him work and hearing him talk you down like an ignorant kid made it hard to remember that behind craggy features and a lean farmer's build was a soul that had seen hard times before most of us were born. 

I probably shouldn't say this due to the weird taboo that has grown up around it, but Evans didn't turn. I only mention it because it's almost funny, given how closely he worked with wounds caused by the undead and people affected by the new plague. He died and stayed that way, as if the cranky bastard decided to spit in the face of the disease that killed his world and told it to fuck off in no uncertain terms. 

Only time will tell what losing this man will cost us. On a purely practical level we've lost one of our two doctors. Phil has learned a lot and he's damn good...but he's only one man. We're in the middle of several fights. Lives may be lost for the lack. Hard to imagine they won't be.

But in the here and now, I see a legacy that will never be forgotten. Almost all of us have seen him at one time or another. Like many, many others I carry scars that will attest to the end of my life that I'm here because of the dedication and skill of one man. While his loss is keenly felt by all of New Haven--especially the folks who've been here the longest--we can take pride and joy in his life. 

Evans grumbled as he sewed up our wounds, set our bones, and even cut into my gut to excise a rogue appendix. For all his rough edges, you'd be hard-pressed to find a person who has been to the clinic who hasn't seen how well he got along with kids. Or the almost fatherly pride he took in checking up on babies he delivered. That first morning after he operated on me, I swear I saw a tear in his eye when he checked my condition. 

He was one of the first, and he was one of our best. He treated all of us like incompetent jackasses, but only because he was so competent himself. One minute he'd call you a dumbass, but after hours he was the first to invite you over for dinner or crack open a hidden bottle of very fine scotch. 

Doctor. Soldier. Healer. Friend. Evans was all of those things, to me at least. It hurts knowing I won't learn anything from him ever again, to see new ways to make people whole. Nor will I see the glimmer in those blue eyes he got when messing with the heads of new students. 

But I can't feel sad for him. He's free of this world now, no longer bound to the needs of so many people and under the pressure of so many fears. There is no uncertainty for Evans, only rest. Richly deserved, to be sure. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012


While the recent series of zombie attacks have kept us from doing much outside the walls of New Haven, they haven't completely cut us off from the world. The zombies don't come at us nonstop, which means there are lulls that allow people to come and go if they need to. That's the good news. The bad is that as the attacks continue it becomes harder and harder to repair the buffer and reset our traps. We've also got to restock the ammunition on the walls, including but not limited to arrows, thermite bombs, and the other goodies we use to defend this place. 

The objective is obvious. Whoever is directing the undead wants to wear us down. We have stockpiles of raw materials to last for a very long time, but we can't turn them into useful things instantly. The damage to the buffer isn't severe with any one attack, but the pieces and parts aren't going to last forever. Fixing the buffer is our biggest priority since it keeps the undead from swarming the walls all at once. 

Again, the good news is that we aren't overwhelmed. We've got people hauling in emergency stocks and checking around the county for any clues to where our hidden enemies might be keeping themselves. Sometimes, using the right tactics is all it takes to put yourself ahead. 

One example would be sending out a two-man scout team on their dirt bikes, only to have one of them run into mechanical problems miles away from home. Those bikes make a hell of a lot of noise, so you just know that any Exiles out there have some idea where to find them. The other scout offers to take their partner back home on their bike, even watching from a distance the body language would be clear. The first scout refuses, and motions his partner to continue on. An argument ensues, distracting both scouts, and that's when you and the small, stealthy team of bad guys with you decides to take this golden opportunity. 

Except when your people move in, they start getting hit with fire from nowhere. Half of your small team is killed immediately, and the other half surrenders as sprays of arterial blood hit them from all sides. You've blundered into a setup, and you realize right then that you're well and truly fucked. 

Captives can be very useful things. When you're a highwayman, picking your targets is essential to survival. If you wander into a trap, chances are extremely high that the people who you're currently waging a silent war against, people whose backs are against the wall and who're feeling pretty desperate, aren't going to be kind to you. 

You've probably guessed that this isn't a hypothetical. I wouldn't be telling you about it if one of the Exiles in question hadn't escaped. There's no point in keeping quiet about it; the enemy knows all the details already. We have three of them in our cells right now. I understand that the previous reluctance toward brutality against Exile prisoners isn't a problem this time. We're already engaged in a war with them, for all intents and purposes. The worst we can do is provoke them into attacking openly, and they won't. There aren't enough of them to beat us, nor are they armed well enough to make up the deficit through superior firepower. That much was obvious before people started asking the captives questions rather...emphatically. If the enemy could destroy us, they would. 

The good news seems to be that while we're on the precipice of a no-holds-barred conflict with the Exiles, the Hunters aren't a problem. They can't attack convoys that aren't happening, and so long as the Exiles are keeping us penned up here we aren't a threat to whatever business it is they're doing out in the world. I guess they're hoping war will reduce our numbers enough that we won't be able to come after them. 

They probably aren't wrong. 

It should bother me, knowing that people are being put the question a few hundred feet from where I sit, but it doesn't. I don't feel happy about it, but whatever lingering concerns I had about our enemies are gone. There's no wellspring of pity or sympathy when I think about what's happening to them. More than two and a half years have passed. They've had every chance to see the light. 

Play time is fucking over, and I'm done feeling shitty about the bad things people bring on themselves. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Be Still

A number of factors have come together, forcing us to call a halt on the immigration of our new citizens. It's a choice that isn't making anyone happy, but we can't risk another disaster like what happened the other day. Not only do we need to spend a few days looking at how we can better secure the transports, but New Haven itself isn't the safest place in the world at present.

We've had a few incidents over the last two days that imply the Exiles are taking shots at us. Nothing direct--surprising if it is the Exiles, as they're not known for subtlety--but effective at keeping us busy nonetheless. Too many groups of zombies attacking at just the right place, just the right time, as if they'd been sent instead of just showing up at random. Damage to roadways and bridges, trees knocked across well-used byways during a recent storm in patterns too perfect to be happenstance.

They're out there, and they're fucking with us. Trying to push us into doing something stupid.

And because I'm not far from doing something stupid myself, I decided to spend some time working with Becky at her little shop. Not that she needed the help, and not that I did much other than heavy lifting because honestly chemistry isn't my bag, but it was nice to see her in her element. Pun intended.

Mostly we drank tea while she did complicated math and gave instructions to her assistants. It's been a while since I'd seen her work. I had forgotten Becky wore glasses. I don't know where on earth she found a pair with her prescription or even close to it, but it filled my heart a little to see her distractedly talking about current events with me while poring over her figures.

Becky has one of those brains that never, ever stops. She can talk to you and do a couple long equations while running her hand through her short blond hair. We chatted about the attack, about the problems we face. She complained about being constantly asked to solve more problems, come up with ever-more-ingenious solutions. She whines, but I can see the pride she takes in being that person.

She's a far cry from the broken soul who showed up at our door all those months ago. I've seen her heal and grow a lot since then. The best part has been seeing her take up the role as our resident chemist, because it gave her an outlet to really shine. Not just to be a survivor along with the rest of us, but to step up and do a thing no one else can do.

It was also a little sad for me. When Becky arrived out of the blue, she lived with us. She needed the comfort of friends. Jess and I took care of her. We were her security blanket and we knew that if it came down to brass tacks, Becky had our back first and always.

That's not how it is now. Sure, she still flops onto the old king-size bed with us more often than not (along with whoever else needs to share body heat) but emotionally and socially our worlds have grown too complex for simple sentences to encompass. Becky is strong, and has bounced back from her trauma caused by The Fall and her trip across the Atlantic to get here. She's more certain and decisive. She's integral to many projects that provide for the safety and well-being of NH citizens.

If Jess and I made the call to just go with the wind and move out into the wilderness on our own, I don't think Becky would come. She's not that person any longer. It's not a bad thing, in fact I think it's wonderful that she has become a fixture here. She worried about being a part of the community for a long time. I guess it's the difference between the powerful primary colors of our childhood, where friendships are absolute in the moment, and the world we see as adults. The one with shades and complexities and considerations, where responsibility and greater good are things you have to think about.

Becky does a lot for New Haven, and it takes up a lot of her time and attention. Jess and I see her less than we used to. I'm not bitter. It makes those moments we spend together more sweet, because I'm reminded each time that nothing has really changed. At least for those few minutes or hours, I'm the most important thing in the world.

It's good to know that no matter what happens, Becky will have a home and friends and a calling. These zombie attacks, if they really are being coordinated by Exiles, put me in a mood to evaluate those kinds of things. I'm back out there on call like everyone else. I've survived truly stupid circumstances, and though I'm not even thirty, I feel old. Like I've been lucky too often. The attacks have grown more effective. I feel that chill inside, the one that makes me feel like the worst is about to happen.

If I fall, I need to know my friends and family will be okay. Becky, at least, will soldier on.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spot The Difference

I remember sitting in the waiting area of the doctor's office when I was a kid. Even when I was young I read adult magazines and books. I never cared for kids' magazines. My only weakness were those puzzles where two pictures are next to each other, and you have to see what's in the second that isn't in the first. We get a lot of practice doing that, looking at our world now and seeing the changes from the world that was.

Turns out the way to tell the difference between the Hunters and the Exiles is to pay attention to the details, too.

It's something we should have realized before now. The Hunters strike for two reasons: to acquire what others have, or to prevent others from interfering in their activities. They don't act without having a plan, don't risk unnecessarily. The Exiles are running on fury and a thirst for revenge.

Yesterday we learned that lesson again, in the hardest way possible. Out of a group of one hundred and fifty settlers, less than half survived the trip. A mass of Exiles hit them on the road. The assault was at about the best place for it, a tight curve in the road with woods and grass overgrown on each side. The attackers waited until they could open fire and move forward at once, only having to move a few dozen yards to hit their target. Our people.

The worst part wasn't the initial assault. The settlers weren't caught with their pants down by any means. They were ready for a fight. What they couldn't manage was fighting off the Exiles and a group of zombies at the same time. The Exiles must have deliberately gathered a group of the undead and held kept their attention out there in the woods. Because when those bastards rode in amid a hail of gunfire, the hungry forms of New Breed and old school zombies alike came with them.

The death toll doubled because of it. The injured were the first to be torn apart, of course. The smell of fresh blood drives even the New Breed out of control. Makes them lose connection with whatever crude form of logic they've got going. And yeah, it's a thing among most survivors who find themselves in that situation to try to remain cool. The idea is to cut losses and protect those with the greatest chance to live. You don't jump in a swarm when the person being attacked--no, fuck that--the person being eaten alive is going to die for an absolute certainty.

That's the rule. Sometimes it's spoken but most often we allow it to go unsaid.

But when it's your wife, your husband, your kid, the friend who saved your life and who was there for you in every possible way, it's near goddamn impossible to keep your cool. Some of the newcomers died for that very reason, and I'll be straight with you: I can'e feel anything but love for those folks. I'm completely enraged that they were attacked in the first place, but I heard someone in the mess hall talking shit about those who died, saying they would just never have left the group to try and save a person who was certainly dead anyway. I wanted to break that guy's fucking arm. I would have if Dodger hadn't been there to stop me.

I've lost people, had their blood splatter across my face as they died in agony. I've been the man who stopped those last few minutes of misery, which is as much a gift as risking life and well-being for another. It's not weak or stupid to lose sight of what you should do because of what you feel you must do. Logic doesn't enter into it.

If Jess were being attacked, the world would cease to be a place filled with allies and enemies. Whatever tried to stand between us would be removed. The end. When it comes to the woman I love more than anything or anyone on this earth, self-preservation and consequences can go fuck themselves.

I'm in a mood. Forgive me. But I want to take a run at both groups of these fuckers so much right now I'm half tempted to just pack up and leave. See if I can find the Hunters and the Exiles still on the loose myself.

I want to do some damage. Screw this defense bullshit. I want to tear their throats out with my teeth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Housing Crisis

I didn't expect to write this post today. I knew in yesterday's that I'd be discussing the first group of this massive wave of new arrivals coming in. For several reasons, we were pretty sure there would be an attack. The expectation was mostly negative; a protracted and costly battle. We've seen the willingness of our enemies to endure losses to accomplish a goal. Conditions worked out nearly perfect for us, which left me without the two days of posts I was planning on.

Since things worked out well for us, I'm free to spend today talking about pretty much anything instead of lamenting the deaths of settlers in defense of others. Which is a pretty awesome option to have, I must admit.

With that in mind, I'll point out that yesterday I mentioned an ingenious solution to some of our housing problems. It's something my brother has been working on for a while, and this particular idea has long been one that we've tried to get going. The problem has been one of manpower and resources, not the solution itself.

I'm talking about trailers. Well, those of you outside the south might call them mobile homes or something, but 'round these parts they're trailers. Prefab houses, mostly uniform in height. Flimsy compared to houses like mine, for example, but with the right modifications and support they're capable of withstanding a lot.

David had the idea to solve several problems at once by hauling trailers in and building a wall out of them. Obviously not just the trailers, as he would have to cover the outside-facing windows and gaps with solid material and extend their height to prevent zombies from easily getting on top of them, but those are minor things when faced with how much land we could capture by using preexisting structures as homes as well as a defensive perimeter.

And with some of the supplies funneled to us by our new arrivals--which includes fuel and a few pieces of equipment that makes hauling trailers much easier--this is now a workable scenario. For the moment we've got a small section of them set up as a test, a square three trailers on a side. It's both a good way to see the weaknesses in the idea as well as a nice means for Dave's crew to get some practice with the needed modifications. People are already living in them, and if it works out the piece of land they sit on will be surrounded by a much bigger wall made almost entirely out of what used to be several large trailer parks' worth of mobile homes.

I'm stupidly excited about this. I know it may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but there's a lot of work that goes in to detaching a trailer and hauling it around without ruining the damn thing. We've wanted to do this for a while and now that we've got the resources to attempt it I'm thrilled at the possibilities. Expansion has always been our goal. We managed a lot with the shipping containers, but this is elegant. We capture land to farm on, provide a wall to defend it with, and house our new folks all in one go.

Looking back at the last two and a half+ years, it's clear to me now that this moment, this insane and breakneck growth, was always going to be the end result. Either that or death. Human civilization has always centered on controlling land, and for us long-term survival and societal evolution will hinge on stable food supplies, safe land to build on, and the safety and numbers that will allow diversity. Diversity means different ideas, which hopefully will bring advances in technology, which will make our little corner of the world a better place.

Yeah. I'm on a tangent and one pretty far out there, but that's how I work. When I'm down and depressed I think about a few billion years from now and wonder at the pointlessness of everything we do because eventually the sun will go red giant and swallow the Earth. When I begin to crawl out of that mental hole, I find myself inspired by the stupidest, most mundane things. I can see a better world ahead than the one we lost in The Fall.

All because of trailers. Wrap your head around that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Told You So

Our first batch of new arrivals made it in yesterday despite my bad feelings about it, which goes to show you that I'm not the Slayer in that I don't have dark precognitive dreams of tragedy and mayhem. Also, I don't have that weird slightly winky eye that Sarah Michelle Gellar managed to get away with by being awesome.

The first group is actually not going to be staying at the hospital. It's not that the place isn't ready yet (though it could use a bit more work) but rather because we've managed to overcome one of our space problems with some interesting and creative use of materials. I'll tackle that tomorrow.

Today I want to send out my condolences to any Exiles or Hunters who lost people yesterday. I tried to warn you that attacking the caravans would be a bad idea. I don't want to see anyone die needlessly, even if it is a result of your own stupid, greedy hearts. Or maybe vengeful hearts, whatever tickles your taco. The point is that I did my level best to nudge you away by appealing to your logic.

I bet when you moved in to attack, whoever you are, that you were caught off guard by what hit you. It's hard to see rifle barrels when they're carefully hidden between people and tucked away in every space available. They saw you coming from a distance and by the time the caravan stopped due to your attack, they already had a bead on you.

Granted, we knew that sending smaller groups might invite attack, but we figured it would be worth the risk to keep you from killing too many at one go if you did make the wrong call. To that end we asked North Jackson to send some of their military boys and girls along on the trip. Sharpshooters, all. Based on what I've been told, nearly two dozen of your people went down with bullets in their chests or heads in a couple seconds. Apparently that was pretty demoralizing, because you broke and retreated on a dime.

I guess the point I'm getting to here is that you were warned. Now you know we're serious and chances are good I've got your attention. So let's be crystal: you won't get more of the same next time. It'll be worse. We have a lot of mean little tricks to play, strategies and tactics that will make a bullet to the skull seem like a pleasant afternoon by comparison. I again ask you to sit back and think for a minute, because we didn't have to let you run away. Let that be a warning to any other groups who might be thinking our folks are easy pickings.

They aren't. You might win, as I've said before, but you won't walk away without some interesting new scars.

To allay the concerns of a few people out there, I'd like to mention that I've been laying on my own fear a little thick lately. I am genuinely worried, don't get me wrong, but some of what you've been reading here has been...well, we'll say good theater. None of us want a fight, and I still got blue when I heard we had to kill all those people.

Just not as bad as I've led you to believe.

I'm due for a half shift on the wall in about half an hour, and I need to get some breakfast. I don't relish the idea of fighting zombies much more than I do fighting people, but I'll do it if I have to. Not half-assed, either. I've been allowed some freedom to do things like this within New Haven--a concession I fought to get--and it's nice to get outside and feel useful. The fact that I'm giving some lucky guard or sentry the chance to sleep in is icing on the cake.

I expect I'll have to kill before the morning is through. The New Breed are getting friskier as the temperature drops. They're hungry and need to build up reserves to keep them from starving during the winter. Seems they need a bit more sustenance than old school zombies. It'll turn my stomach to do it, but I'll follow my orders without a second of hesitation.

Should the situation come up, I'd do the same to the people attacking the caravans, communities, and the like. Not with gusto, but efficiently. I should point out to those of you in the Exile or Hunter communities who're on the fence that the rest of my fellow citizens might not be so nice about it. I'm damaged goods that will kill you quickly and without much pain. If you were wounded on the battlefield I'd put you out of your misery.

The rest of New Haven's people, including the settlers that aren't even here yet, wouldn't. They're more angry than they are compassionate toward you. In my book, killing you swiftly is playing nice. They will play dirty. Be sure of that.

I guess after yesterday at least some of you are.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I woke up about two hours ago. I don't have the words to describe the terror I felt. It was dark, utterly and without relief. Mindless panic rose up in me. I'd been having a dream, and the most frightening part of it was that it should have been a nightmare.

I was standing in front of people. Endless numbers of them stretching as far as the eye could see. They were on their knees, hands bound behind their backs. Calm, relaxed, eyes empty of hope. I moved from one to the next, firing a single round into each of their foreheads like a man operating the killing chute at a slaughterhouse.

In the dream I knew without doubt that they needed killing. I woke up with the image of blood and bodies around me, the lingering sense of vague satisfaction staying with me as my eyes flew open in the unrelieved blackness.

Awake, I have learned the ability to maintain calm and deal with my demons. My conscious mind has healed enough that the panic stays away. I'm functional approaching truly stable. Chalk it up to worry about the incoming settlers ratcheting up my stress levels, but my subconscious is treating me to a morality lesson.

It's probably a good thing I'm up so early. Today is going to be busy for everyone. I had planned to wake a bit before my normal time anyway to be able to post something. This is the best I have, however. I'm too shaken to safely focus on anything else without worrying about spilling some security detail I'm not supposed to share.

No matter how grown up we become, it seems we never quite eradicate our fear of the dark.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Floodgates

Normally I wouldn't mention anything on here about when we're going to be doing delicate things. We have enemies, we aren't stupid. We know there are Exiles and others out there looking for an opening. It's not a good idea to broadcast our intentions and give times and dates. That's a good way to invite attack.

But this time, I've been given the freedom to do so in an effort to appeal to the better angels of their natures.

In the next few days we will begin the largest influx of people so far. This wave will be huge, and the first ones to come will be on a tight schedule once they get here. They've got to help prepare the way for the next group, and the ones after them. It's not going to be a situation where all of them can arrive in one big clump. Many groups of moderate size will come in over a period of days.

We don't want any trouble. Though we'll be staffed to the gills with people, we won't be sending them off to hunt down any Exiles or to assault the Hunters, which is what we're calling the secretive group destroying small communities. We just want these folks to arrive safe and well, period.

I realize how unlikely my words are to have any effect on those of you who might be planning to attack. It's a silly hope to have, I know. And the blunt truth is that I wouldn't be making this appeal if there were a chance you wouldn't see these folks coming. A thousand people are hard to hide.

So I'm left with the option of saying nothing and maybe letting you get the idea that there might be less of them than actually are travelling, and that they'll be easy marks. There really will be that many. If attacked they will fight back without mercy or restraint. In fact, the trip here started yesterday for many of them, and even a relatively small group of two hundred are terrifyingly good at protecting themselves. They encountered a zombie herd on the road, migrating to the southeast to avoid the coming frosts, that outnumbered them two-to-one at the least.

They took only minor injuries. No zombies walked away.

So if you want to attack, we can't stop your bad judgment. You might field enough people to win, even. But you won't walk away without knowing you've been in a fight. I hear several women in the first group are sharpshooters and were given orders to shoot living enemies in the genitals.

So, you know. Go nuts. Get it? I kill me.

The buzz around here is awesome. We can't wait to meet our newest citizens, and all we want is for them to get here safely. Maybe down the road we'll organize against the Exiles or the Hunters if they keep up the way they are, but it's much more likely that the near future will be full of the fun times that come with hunting for food and finding enough room for everyone to sleep. It's not like we've got infinite resources here, people. I'm tired of you assholes out there thinking New Haven can just do anything we want at any time.

Believe me, if we could muster the people and supplies to send a dedicated force out, big and well-armed enough to smash both groups to bits, I'd be the first one to cheer that on. Maybe not the first to volunteer, since I still feel averse to violence if I'm not angry, but I'd go if asked.

We can't. And adding on a thousand people isn't going to make that easier, trust me. Today for breakfast I had an egg. Singular.

So leave it be. Pick your battles elsewhere and/or later. Don't risk losing a fight or a good chunk of your people. No one wants to deal with the repercussions, right? Just chill and stay home. We're going to be drowning in new faces soon, and I'd like to see them stay whole.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Island In The Cold

I helped out yesterday, just a little thing. Being wrapped up in my own crap over the last six weeks has made me seem--accurately, I admit--like a selfish dick. I kind of lost track of a lot of stuff, and the largest omission by far was the small isolation area we set up for the Louisville survivors.

It got cold yesterday, as I mentioned in my post. Not long after I wrote it the isolated folks sent up a flag on the pole we set up for them, letting us know they needed something. Many of the people there have recovered as much as they're going to, but whatever hit them wasn't as nice and clean as the new plague was here. Most are dealing with long-term health problems as a result. Heavy labor isn't something easily done when you're barely able to walk without feeling like your chest is being squeezed in a vice.

Not that the Louisville crew don't plan to earn their keep now that the quarantine period is over. We're giving it another two weeks before we risk any direct interactions between us, but when our people answered the flag, yelling from a distance, the de facto leader of the group there asked for something to do. Work that could help pay us back. Jess suggested armor-making, mostly simple stuff like chain maille or sewing prefab plastic plates into coats.

I went out with our group to help supply the Louisville folks with some firewood. They do still have a few people that are very badly ill, again long-term results of their earlier illness, and can't tolerate big shifts in temperature. They went through the load of wood we left for them on the last dropoff day faster than they expected.

While I was out I also got to talk to a few of our people that had voluntarily submitted to isolation after coming into contact with the Louisville crew (by choice or otherwise), and it was...educational. The folks who live with the Louisville folks are still being cautious about coming too close to New Haven citizens, and they've been living in basically the same conditions we have. Maybe not as lush (haha) as New Haven itself, but not bad.

What really caught me off guard was seeing some of the folks who've been living in the countryside away from everyone else. They're looking rough at the very best. Dealing with finding places to sleep that are safe from zombie attacks, defending themselves when that doesn't work out, hunting food, and other tasks has taken a toll. We forget, inside the relative comfort of New Haven's walls and our own homes, that there are much worse ways to live. I can't imagine the stress of having to move around day to day, perpetually sleeping in strange places and always uncomfortable from hunger, inability to launder clothing, and the like. It must be fucking awful.

Yet for all the wild-eyed expressions I saw in that group, they looked happy enough. They suffered through the discomfort of not having the small luxuries that matter so much to us, but they didn't have the drama and complications that come from large communities, either. In the world they've inhabited there is only survival and safety, plus the occasional job from the leadership here. There's something to be said for avoiding the problems that arise from gathering more than a few handfuls of people in one place.

I want to once again give my sincere thanks to each of those folks. Those who chose to be isolated because they wanted to help the Louisville crew, and those who had it forced upon them because they were just doing their duty. Especially the second group; they could have reacted very badly to being exposed to the sickness. Rage and revenge wouldn't have been unreasonable reactions at all, yet those people responded with grace and reason. You can't ask for much more than that.

We appreciate your sacrifice, all of you. Even if guys like me with a platform like this forget about you. That's my fault entirely, and for that I owe you all an apology and a beer. Both are waiting for you at any time, day or night.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Totally Wizard

I'm going to bag on Lord of the Flies for a minute, because it fits the point of this post and because I really, really fucking hate that book.

I make it a point to reread it every few years if for no reason other than to remind myself just how much I truly detest the story. I know a lot of people mark it as a seminal work, a dark and brilliant glimpse into what people--even children--can become when the usual rules and structures of society get tossed. I'm not knocking the skill in the writing. I think it's well done, much better than anything I'm capable of, and the concept is interesting and thought-provoking.

I don't like it because it depicts a humanity I don't want to believe in: selfish, angry, power-hungry cliques bullying the weak into positions of total submission. In real terms, the effect of my distaste for the reaction the characters have in the story manifested in the deep and powerful urge to climb inside the pages and murder the shit out of a bunch of children.

I'd never felt such a visceral to a work of fiction before reading that book. I didn't like having that feeling. It took me a second reading to realize the genesis of my dislike, but there you go.

And here I am kind of feeling like a smug asshole because the world actually did fall to pieces and the majority of people haven't turned into murderous control freaks. I mean, sure, some of them did, and you could argue that because most survivors are adults that we learned impulse control better than the kids in Golding's book.

I know, I know, I'm leaving out tons of allegory and subtext. I know the book is amazing and agree that it deserves all the credit it has received over the years. I'm just feeling a bit justified in my reaction to it because I see a world laid bare to the bone around me and instead of human beings descended into savagery to gnaw away at the dying flesh, there are instead caregivers and protectors, builders and makers of all kinds.

We leave the gnawing to the undead.

We aren't perfect, I know that. People are going to be people no matter what you throw at them. But I'm genuinely shocked at how well most survivors work together to accomplish good things. It warms my heart, which is something we need this morning as the temperature hit freezing and just keeps dropping.

When I think about the images in my mind from Golding's book--young boys merciless as any adults and devolving into primitives--with the mundane but useful work being done outside my house today, I can't help but see the immense gulf between what Golding thought we would become in such a situation and what really came to be.

We aren't dancing in front of fires and imagining a beast to unify us. The zombies outside as well as our human enemies are more than enough threat to deal with. We aren't barely getting by and committing violence against each other to assert dominance.

Hell, the people outside my house are working on expanding out living spaces to reduce some of the cramped conditions. They're taking measurements and talking about keeping some of the more convenient walkways open so no one has to take the long way round. That's boring. And unquestionably civilized. It's easy to forget nowadays how subtle but unstoppable a descent into savagery would have been. We overcame. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how huge an accomplishment that is, totally on its own merit.

So consider yourselves reminded.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

By Example

The more I observe the people I know, the more clear it becomes that they are simply better people than me. I don't say that with even a hint of anger or hate at myself, only a deep appreciation of how far my friends and family have come since The Fall.

It's not that I haven't evolved with them, just that they've adapted better and faster than I have. I think most people have. Not something I'm ashamed of. That's just how it is.

I know, this is all vague and boring, but I don't have a lot to talk about today. The truth is that I'm sitting here at the house with no news updates about what's going on outside because so many people are out working at the hospital that New Haven feels like a ghost town.

Will is out, as are Jess and Patrick. Pat is missing a hand, and his skills with metalworking are critical--yet he's out there working with the rest of them. It makes sense, after all: there are a lot of little pieces of metalwork that have to be done to make the hospital habitable in the long-term. Pat has to do his thing.

I'm not really griping, just sort of dealing with the new reality. That's the one where I'm kept safe here while others go out and do the fighting for me. That rankles. It makes my teeth hurt. This morning the defenses in East were tested again by a relatively large group of zombies, about a hundred and fifty. The bells went off and I was already grabbing my bow when Jess--before she left--reminded me that I'm not on call today. She also pointed out that there were enough defenders inside the walls of East and fighters coming from the direction of the hospital, which is only a few hundred yards away, to crush that many undead like a walnut on an anvil.

So I settled back in and kissed her goodbye and sat down to try to think of something to write about. I mean, there shouldn't be any shortage of topics. There are Exiles out there, and the mysterious group of survivors systematically destroying smaller settlements. The hospital work is vital to our plans, and some new ideas on how to deal with our crowded population are interesting.

But there's no news on most of those fronts. I'm honestly cut off from updates today because so many people are out of New Haven. I'm bored. Which is a condition so maddening to me that I'm considering taking up knitting just to have something to do.

Terrible as it sounds, tomorrow is bound to bring something interesting. Or, at least the resumption of some news flow that will allow me to focus on something that isn't me. Hoping it won't be anything really bad.

I think I'll try to sleep this weird malaise off. Being alone and without stimulation isn't doing great things for my state of mind, and every word I type just makes it worse.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Deep Blue Need

The worst thing about making detailed plans is that the more dominoes you line up, the more pieces and parts you have to organize to make something big and awesome happen, the easier it is for something to come in and knock the whole thing over.

It has been very, very cold here the last few days. After cooking in our skins all summer long, we're not even a third the way into October and already we're getting frost. Kentucky has always had really strange weather, but this early cold snap is making everything harder. The zombies aren't being affected by the cold as much as we'd like, making defense of New Haven more difficult as well as hampering the last bit of repairs to the wall and buffer. Worse, our teams of people out at the schools are having to move about in near-freezing temperatures to fight the undead with little time to warm up and rest.

The worst part of all is that we're in the south. Granted it isn't the far south, but we aren't getting it nearly as bad as North Jackson is. Which brings me to the bad news.

The decision was made this morning to abandon our work on the schools for the time being. The effort required to make those buildings what we need them to be isn't overwhelming, but it would take longer than we have. The second wave was supposed to be coming this way in a matter of weeks. With the sudden, sharp turn toward winter conditions in the north, we have no choice but to bring in as many newcomers as possible, and quickly. Instead of jamming them into the schools which are single-story and dark (and will be until some modifications can be made to the windows) we're going to be turning our efforts to the local hospital.

Which is conveniently right across the street from the schools. The awesome thing about the hospital is that the ground floor isn't all glass or anything. There are a lot of windows, yeah, but we can cover most of them in a day or so if we put our task force on it. Plus they're super heavy-duty glass, which means as long as we cover the lower parts that a zombie might attack, there is no good reason we can't leave the upper quarter of the ground floor windows unprotected. At ten feet off the ground they'll let in very little light but will be safe from attack. Better than nothing.

It's a huge building and can hold a lot of people. We're not sure yet how it's all going to play out but our hope is to have it ready to go by the end of the week. We can't risk the next wave of settlers being snowed in up north. We have to move now.

And one last thing I should mention about the hospital. This bit goes out to the Exiles.

We caught the sniper you had camped out on the roof. He was watching our people for days, we know that based on the amount of trash we found in his little perch on top of the hospital. He is still alive. He didn't kill any of our people. Just watched. Maybe he was gathering information for you, maybe he's a plant to gain our trust or something. I don't have the slightest. I was told to mention it on here. You should know that we're desperate to get this project ready for our newcomers. No lies or subterfuge here. Just blunt honesty.

If you want a reminder of what we'll do when desperate actions are our only choice, then keep on with this kind of thing. You know roughly when the newcomers will be here. There will be a lot of us and a lot of them, we'll all be armed, and you might be able to hurt us. Just remember if you choose that path that we've been known to...overreact when our citizens are attacked.

Just saying, keep it in mind.

...As for me personally, I'm begging Will and the council to let me help out in some way with our work at the hospital. I mean, give me a hammer and nails, something! Don't just make me sit here and write about it. I don't need to do violence to do my part. I know it won't do any good, suppose I'm just feeling a bit constrained by the rules and such. Not mad about it, either. I'm being given a lot of leeway to do this thing, and if that comes with some basic requirements I won't break the trust of the people who gave me this literally life-saving project.

Doesn't mean I won't whine about it and hope for the best, though. Because all joking aside, we need to get the hospital ready for action ASAP. All hands on deck, right?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


There's no way to say this gently, so I'll just lay it out there: yesterday a woman murdered a man. And she's not going to be punished for it. In fact, I almost wish we could give her a medal.

I'm not going to use names out of respect for the privacy of all parties--the woman, who was a victim first, and the family the man left behind. The long and short of what happened isn't a new story to the world. They were working together over at the middle school helping with the cleanup effort and things got very bad. The inner classrooms there haven't been touched since The Fall, only checked by our people during quick sweeps to make sure no undead were wandering about. They're dark and musty and need the junk in them hauled out. That's what was happening when the man began making unwanted advances.

He didn't try to rape her, exactly. She says that he became very aggressive and pulled her close but that she rebuffed him sharply enough that he backed off. It says something about her that the lady kept working with him, though warily, I'm sure. She said she was worried that if she immediately left to speak to someone about him, he would have become more violent.

During a break the man asked to be reassigned after claiming he was going to use the bathroom, which the woman only discovered after returning to their work site. Upon seeing a new person in the man's place, the woman went to the project leader and inquired about his whereabouts.

So she tracked him down and found him doing the same thing to the girl he was working with there. His second attempted victim was seventeen and thin, but was putting up a good fight when the woman showed up. She pulled the man off the girl, earning a punch in the face which she repaid with a violent kick to the groin. As the fellow lay moaning on the ground, the woman drew her belt knife and slashed his throat, clean as that.

Better than he deserved if you ask me. You didn't, but I'm sharing my opinion anyway.

As a male I understand the incredible power hormones have over my gender. It's a hard thing to explain to people who don't experience the sensation of overwhelming need trying to wrest control of your brain. The thing is, most men learn to control it and not let that urge turn to violence. Because rape is about violence, as the old saw goes. It's never acceptable, full stop.

In the world as it was, some estimates claimed that one in six women would suffer some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes. I hope the apparent enormous drop in that number (apparent because I'm afraid many women still may not report the deed, which would be tragic) has to do with how untamed and wild justice has become.

Before, there existed a biased and slowly evolving legal system that made the victims of these kinds of crimes feel ostracized for bringing charges against their attackers. Not always--hell, maybe not even mostly--but enough that a meme existed in society that standing up and demanding justice was as good as painting yourself with a scarlet letter. That always pissed me off beyond comprehension.

I hope that the way things are now help deal with that. There is no complicated legal structure. Sexual misconduct is one of those things that we as a community simply do not tolerate. If you do it, you face the consequences. In this case there were some factors that played into the man's actions, reasons for an escalation in his sexual frustration and advances. Not excuses, because no matter how bad things were at home, and they were, there is never an excuse for what he did.

As far as everyone that has heard about this is concerned, there's no reason to even question the victims beyond simple fact-finding. Two women suffered hateful attacks by the same man. He signed his own death warrant. By leaving his corpse lying there while she took the girl to a safe place where she could be made comfortable, the woman was guilty of not piercing his brain to keep him from rising. Maybe she wanted to go back so she could kill him a second time. If so, she forgot.

But she did leave him there, so I guess she's guilty of...what, littering, maybe?

I really wanted to do my last post for this four-day cycle on something positive, but I couldn't leave this event untouched. There are very few instances of violence of any kind between citizens, and in general they're so minor that they don't even reach my attention for days after. This, however, is a big deal. And it should be noted for anyone out there who may find themselves fighting similar urges that the same consequences will be on you should you give in to that urge. Either at the hands of your victim or at the hands of the law.

I need a day to get the awful texture of this out of my brain. I thought we were better people than this. I really had hoped this kind of behavior had been weeded out. I'm an idiot. Human nature is too stubborn, strong, and awful. The evidence of that is clear to see.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Access Denied

The first teams left out this morning to start the laborious process of clearing away any zombies from around the schools to cover the workers who'll be erecting the makeshift wall between the three of them. It's going to be a barrier of the roughest sort, mostly made up of abandoned vehicles and whatever materials are easily available. We've got enough experience with that kind of thing that it'll serve well enough even if it isn't very pretty.

I volunteered to help with the effort. I'm good to go on the zombie-killing front. No shakes or doubts left in me. But Dodger and Will informed me together (I assume to make it harder to gravitate toward just one of them to be angry at) that I wasn't allowed to go. There are more than enough people to see to the job and my assistance isn't needed. My work is here, on the blog and putting together the longer and more detailed history for the masses.

It was sobering to be told I couldn't go. At first I thought I was being coddled again, but Will explained that there was a lot of discussion on the council about this. Apparently a lot of people have expressed interest in reading an honest history of New Haven and the larger community of our new world.

I guess what really struck me is that I'm not just being shunted into an easy job because my friends run this place and they want me safe. Keeping a history of our lives is seen as truly important and interesting, and no one comes close to my level of detailed knowledge.

It's not just the facts I'm interested in. I know those and the ones I'm fuzzy on are easy enough to look up. I want to start including posts from other people with pieces of their stories. We've suffered a lot of setbacks and reversals in our fortunes since The Fall, but New Haven and the survivor community seem to have a trajectory that trends upward on the scale of hope. We have problems and there will always be threats, but the future looks a lot brighter now than it did even three months ago.

That's why I want to tell bits and pieces of individual stories along with keeping track of our mutual experiences. Just as every person's life is a collected series of isolated events, so is our community's history composed of those separate parts that come together like a thousand notes to build a symphony.

Which I'll start doing soon, but not today. Right now I'm going back to bed. I was excited because I thought I was going to fight today. I went to bed late and woke up early. I can barely keep my eyes open. At least I have the freedom to work whatever hours I like now. It makes taking naps a lot easier and much more guilt-free.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Old School

Over the last few years there have been discussions among New Haven citizens about how to best expand. We've created and discarded plan after plan as circumstances change, but one constant that we've always seen as a necessity is taking over the abandoned schools not far from here. We've housed people there before but without a solid perimeter around them--a wall, in other words--we've felt it was too dangerous to keep any sizable population there.

That has changed. With autumn making its way in and winter sure to come early and hard, we need to make room for the rest of our new arrivals. It's not an option any more. The good news is that most of the work is already done; the schools have had their windows reinforced or replaced to make them secure and they're stocked up with supplies. They're one of the places we use as a dump site for extra stuff we gather so there won't be a lack of candles, blankets, and the like.

The rough part is going to be that lack of a wall. The football and baseball fields have fences around them and with the right effort can be made very secure. Since there's a small parking lot that houses a bunch of school buses, we'll start there. Using the buses to reinforce the football field's fence is step one in turning it into an enclosed area for farming in the spring.

Ideally we'd like to construct a wall that connects the big island of land the three schools sit on to the rest of New Haven proper, but that just isn't feasible yet. Instead we're going to move people in fairly soon and focus on putting up just enough barriers to keep the buildings themselves secure. Using the walls of the schools themselves as part of the barrier will save us time and material and allow us to give at least a moderately sized space between them as a sort of courtyard.

This will have the effect of creating a small community separate from us. They won't be in the social sense, but physically there will be uncovered ground in between. It's only a few hundred feet, but in an emergency that can matter a lot.

That's the plan for the rest of the expansion. Between the grade school, middle school, and high school we could house somewhere around three or four thousand people. There's a lot of space. And that's a comfortable number. If need be we could squeeze in a whole lot more, though that probably wouldn't be a lot of fun.

Which reminds me that I've been promising to tell you what the sections of New Haven will be called for the sake of easy reference. The original New Haven, made up from my old neighborhood, is designated as Central. The western expansion (made up of all the shipping containers) is West (duh).

The annex used for farming is still going to be called the annex, the eastern expansion connected to it and sprawling east and south beyond it is called East. The schools don't yet have an official super-cool name of their own, but given they're to the east and we've already used that one, my guess is we'll just call them the schools or something like that. It's easy.

I know, we didn't exactly shoot for the moon when naming things, but this way is simple and informative. My hope is that when the new waves of settlers make it here from the north we'll be set to put them to work. Without the possibility of much farming--though Jess has a few ideas on how to do some of that during the winter--we're hoping to utilize that huge workforce into salvaging enough materials to make headway on a much larger and more encompassing wall. Covering those few hundred feet is important to us. If we can't do it before winter, then at least we can try to get a head start on the project so it'll be an easy job come spring.

That's all I have for today. I've been talking with Pat and Will about this all night. I need a good, long nap.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Time Warp

I'll be straight with you; I expected to be emotionally torn up yesterday. I really did. My mind seems to be a lot less fragile than I accounted for, though, because I woke up on my day off from the blog not feeling any different than I did before I volunteered to carry out the sentence of those prisoners.

I remembered back to the early days of The Fall and how deeply the horrible things I did affected me and there just wasn't any comparison. Part of how all of us learned to deal with going to extremes much farther than life had prepared us for was to objectively judge our actions. I won't rehash two plus years of moral observations right now. You know what I'm talking about.

Didn't expect that to make a difference. I knew those people had to die--had earned that punishment for killing our own people--but I expected some fallout from the choice to do it myself. As it happens, I seem to have reached a place where knowing intellectually that an action in necessary and moral (relatively speaking) is enough to stave off the deeper issues I've been dealing with. After all, these people weren't desperate and hungry. They weren't waifs without resources or hope. Hell, even most marauders have the driving force of need behind them. Constant hunger.

No. Our prisoners were well-fed, heavily armed, and outfitted with very good equipment and clothing. They weren't hurting at all. Just more red marks against them and their people for the attack, which was a piece of calculated strategy to remove New Haven from the effort to find these fuckers and wipe them from the face of the earth.

On the whole it was a good thing for me to remember the man I was a few years ago. I went back and read over some of the blogs I wrote after particularly hard episodes and seeing how far I've come has hardened my resolve.

This morning, for example, I took part in a defensive response when a minor zombie attack came. They've been hammering us for days though not in large numbers. There's a lot of damage yet to the buffer even though the walls have been repaired well enough. The buffer has a lot of weakened areas and one huge spot that just doesn't exist, and it takes time to fix. Priorities mean we have to do what we can, when we can, and it still benefits us in regards to the zombie attacks to just leave that space alone for now and let the undead enter through it.

The zombies that came against the wall were almost all New Breed. We know they've been herding old school zombies into the county (or so our scouts report) and the assumption is that they're keeping them in reserve either as a surprise force to bring against us, or as a stockpile of food for the winter. Which is gross.

Whatever the reason, the New Breed have been doing the attacking themselves over the last several days, but only in small groups. These guys look to be the slower and weaker New Breed, though. Some kind of culling in the ranks, maybe? Whatever the reason, I'm happy for it. I got to run to the wall and open fire right along with the rest of my response group today. Couple of the undead actually came close to cresting the wall close to me, too, when two zombies crouched with hands against it so a third could jump on their backs and get his fingers on the edge to climb up.

I broke a knife blade off in that one's head. Not my best work and Pat is sure to yell at me for breaking one of his blades, but effective. I didn't feel a battle lust or anything like that. Just the same calm sense of necessity I felt when I pulled that trigger. In the equation that decides whether my actions are called for, protecting and serving my people always comes out as a win.

It feels a little like going back in time, saying these things, like I'm Marty McFly or something and channeling my younger self. But I like it. Feels good to not be crushed by the fear of failure any more.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nine Shots

I'm keeping it short today because if I don't I'm going to blather endlessly, and we've all had enough of me doing that.

The three prisoners we took during the attack wouldn't talk. They gave us absolutely nothing about where their people came from, what their goals were, what the motivation was. Nothing at all. So, a public trial was held for crimes against us. All three were found guilty.

Our system for dealing with executions, though rarely used, relies on a draft. If no one volunteers then names are drawn. That's just how it goes.

I volunteered. I didn't want to do it, but I felt as though I had to. Those people were enemies, merciless and dedicated. I looked into their eyes as I approached them, no hoods or blindfolds to keep them from seeing the end coming. I think that was a piece of theater to allow fear to build. Maybe if they saw death coming at them they'd break and start telling secrets.

Two men, one woman. The woman was between the men. Their crimes and punishment were read out before the crowd. They were given a chance to say a few last words. None of them took the opportunity. Will presided over the event, and he was the one to give me the signal to continue. I thought there would be hesitation, some creeping sense of wrong.

My hands did there well-practiced trick, though. Smooth and easy. In the old days we were taught to put two in the chest and one in the head. Now it's reversed. One bullet to the heart to kill or close enough to it, two in the head after the first prisoner fell over.

I moved on to the woman. I felt nothing but a vague sense of waste.

I might have expected anger or hate or some kind of fire, but her eyes were empty and resigned. She closed her eyes. I took the light out of them.

The last prisoner was no different. It was all over in less than a minute. Nine bullets, nine cracks of thunder, and then cleanup. I took a cold shower after then ate some breakfast.

Guess I'm ready for anything now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Like Miles O'Brien

Yes, that Miles O'Brien. The one from Star Trek.

Bear with me.

I'm about to go out to my morning routine of getting beat up and doing a little beating up of my own. After that I'll spend some time with Steve and a team of scouts cleaning up zombies from outside the walls while the repair crews work on the breaches.

My brother, the mighty Dave, went on a rant yesterday when he stopped by my house on his lunch. He and his family have relocated into the new expansion (soon, I'll have an answer as to what the sections of New Haven are called, because this is getting ridiculous) and his work keeps him over here for the most part. Dave is in charge of building stuff, and that pretty much includes all repair work. Not only those things, though, which was what he was complaining about yesterday.

In theory, all requests for repairs and improvements have to go up the chain. Dave has people to manage the whole system, and it allows for a lot of work to get done at once. In practice he can't stand being cooped up all day, so he goes out and oversees tricky projects and critical items himself. That means he has to walk around a lot. And since everyone knows him by sight--he shaves his head, which is something most men don't bother with nowadays, as short hair is enough to prevent your coif from becoming a weapon--a lot of people will pull him aside. Just to mention this little problem or that little annoyance.

Something he said yesterday stuck with me. He said he feels just like an engineer on Star Trek. Those poor bastards were always overworked and expected to perform miracles on command. The problem according to Dave is that in the real world, the one overrun by zombies and a decided lack of science fiction to make it all magically work out in the end, there just isn't enough time to do everything.

He sounded a lot like my favorite character from Star Trek, Miles O'Brien. Not just because both of them solve problems others can't or won't handle, or for any of the more obvious reasons. I love O'Brien above all other characters in that show because he was an everyman. Not an officer. A grunt. A fully-fleshed character that had more facets than you could count. To me he was a real person; someone who did his job ably and with creativity, but was more than that. He drank booze and worried about being a good father. He fought in wars. He had demons but tried to be a better man. O'Brien was approachable though gruff. He was the kind of character most likely to give you practical, good advice and even a little bit of wisdom.

Dave is that way, and I realized after most of a day thinking about it that a lot of other people are as well. Faye and many of my other combat training partners talk with me about my problems. Hearing that others have been in the same frame of mind helps, believe it or not. Each person who pats me on the shoulder and tries to make me feel better because they've been there too helps just as much as the ones who've suffered depression and kick me in the gut, telling me to get the fuck over it.

I've experienced a lot of different kinds of help. Those are just two examples. A huge positive for me in the last month is seeing just how resilient people are. So many of us have been broken down yet struggled through to recover. Even in the wake of the attack that took so many lives and injured twice that number, people keep on. The smiles might be tight, but they're there even if it's just to keep the tears away. We all deal in different ways, but I'm right on the edge of something. A realization, I don't know. I feel...

Normal. Not less than others. The anxiety and depression aren't gone but I feel like they're under control now. One of the major stress factors--aside from fighting off the undead, our own fear and sadness, and worrying about human enemies, of course--is how many hats each of us has to wear. O'Brien was whatever the script needed him to be, and more on top of that. He could create a workable solution to some zany transporter problem and move right on to playing the cello or teaching his son to read.

We have to learn a lot of skills, many of them with no overlap. It's hard and thankless. Fighting and how to dress game, butcher meat, tend crops, make clothing from scraps or even from scratch, cooking raw foods to be edible and safe.

Learning to do all the things we need to do to survive while also making the effort and time to remember that we're people, real people, who need social interaction and enjoyment, is the kicker. Striking that balance between hard labor, self-education, and the psychological needs that keep us from losing it from sheer exhaustion and despair...I don't know how people do it.

Scratch that. I didn't know how. I think I've got it now. I've always said that surviving comes at a cost in this mad world. The Fall taught us the need to make hard choices, and I always thought the key to keeping sane was making those choices while still feeling the negatives that come with them. I still do, to an extent, but it's clear to me now that I tortured myself too much. You have to insulate your mind from dwelling too long or sinking too deeply. Feel those things, but find a way not to be crushed by them. Be cold if you must.

Because if a thing is necessary to your safety and survival, if it must be done, then burying yourself in guilt isn't a winning long-term scenario. Instead deal with whatever situation is at hand and move on afterward, working like hell to make sure you can avoid a repeat down the road.

I'm babbling again, but that's because the concept is big. And wide. It covers a host of situations and scenarios, way too many to go into here. But, for example, I'll say this (and end on this note): we lost those fifty people, and I feel bad about it. I really do. Not terrible, not enough to hinder my function. Yet I wasn't fighting.

My heart tells me that I should feel guilty, as if by me including myself in the battle I could have saved all those people. I know that's not the truth. The trick is focusing on the feeling I get when I tell myself that fact, the few seconds of relief from feeling responsible, and driving it home. It's a mantra I'm going to apply to many aspects of my life. Gabrielle thinks it's a good idea, and it seems to be doing the job pretty well so far.

I am not a victim. I am capable of doing what I must to protect myself and others. I will not give in to fear, or guilt, or despair. No matter what.