Thursday, January 31, 2013

Supernova (Part One)

A soldier walked in the snowy woods. That was how it began.

She was clearly a soldier; the way she walked, carried her weapon, scanned all quarters of the area she stalked, those things said it all. She was moving ahead of her unit to scout, and what she found was pristine snow all around her. The area appeared to be clear.

Her mistake was in that expectation. Long days in the rough, freezing most of the time and eating rations that left everything to be desired had left her...not impatient, I suppose, but willing to take the evidence in front of her at face value.

I know these things because other scouts watched her. Granted, some of that is speculation. Seems reasonable enough considering the outcome.

The soldier spoke softly into a radio pickup pinned to her lapel, giving the all-clear for the massive column of troops, vehicles, and heavy weaponry to follow. The idea was to swing widely north and angle onto an obscure service road that she and her compatriots weren't supposed to know about. It was far back from the main roads and clear, used by the locals as a means to get to the distant highway quickly and safely. Going twenty miles out of the way to attack a community was fairly good planning.

The westerners planned better.

Every UAS soldier and conscript in that column was on the road when the allied western forces struck. The trap wasn't complicated--though it did take a lot of preparation and work--but it worked. All down the road, stretched along two hundred yards, the UAS forces were hit all at once. Explosives planted in the road were triggered right along with dozens of charges prepared and set against trees weakened just right so they'd fall onto the soldiers. Big trees, old and spreading wide against the sky.

From hiding places set fifty yards back into the woods, the western allies moved toward the chaos. Most of these weren't front-line fighters; they were those without much in the way of armed combat skills. They were farmers and craftsmen, but not afraid to defend themselves. In groups of three they took positions fifty feet from the road, using homemade slingshots held between two people to lob firebombs into the crowded soldiers on the road. Others launched fragile packages of thermite or pure magnesium powder. These were meant to set the fallen trees on fire, but mostly to distract. To dazzle.

It was the main allied forces, bolstered by Ketill and his dragoons, that did the deed itself. Split into two large groups and two smaller ones, five hundred men and women backed by heavy weapons descended on that column from both ends of the road. Machine-gun chatter, rocket-propelled grenades making their deafening entrance, even improvised weapons joined the fray. The two large elements at each end of the column's position, having stayed far back on carefully camouflaged paths, shot forward to attack just as the road and trees exploded. Those large groups took heavy losses, but they held. They kept the UAS from getting free of the trap.

The smaller ancillary units darted along the sides to kill any UAS soldier that happened to move that way, as well as to defend the men and women who had run forward initially to rain liquid metal death down on the enemy.

Yes, our own people--Ketill and his group--were in on this. There will be consequences. Of course, we had to lie about where Ketill was and what his group was doing, but that's for another time. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the rest of the battle, of the break the UAS found in the surrounding forces and what that meant for the enemy.

For now it should be enough to know that the critical moment has come. We are no longer safe.

None of us.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The High Ethic

I'm out of sorts this morning. K has offered to take over all the drudge work on the manual and even manage the record-keeping for me this morning, because I feel like crap and because my mind is running a thousand miles an hour. I'm sure I'll be back to my--our--projects tomorrow, but right now I can't stop mulling over my post from yesterday.

Having had a night to sleep on it, I feel the need to be brutally honest. This is just me, Josh, talking now. Understand that. I'm not speaking for a single other soul out there.

When I think about the UAS and what they claim is their right to lead, to essentially rule the rest of us, it makes me mad. That's a gut reaction to anyone trying to put themselves in authority over me for reasons I don't feel are justified. And after tossing and turning about it last night, I came to realize that the crux of my problem with the UAS is exactly that: they wouldn't be giving us anything in return.

The plain truth is that I'd welcome them as a central authority and cede control of policy and everything else over to them if I thought they could do a decent job of it and actually provide some kind of service for the right to lead us. If they had a massive army that could be dispersed among the various communities around the country to eliminate the threat of zombies, access to technologies that would improve the lives of the people under them, hell, pretty much anything that would help people, I'd bend knee in a heartbeat.

I like to think of myself as an independent person, and I am. But I would happily trade the fear and worry for some stability and breathing room. If it meant that our worst problems were managing to get in a third crop of potatoes for the year, I'd give up my ability to influence policy without hesitation.

Because of this blog and the paranoia that drove me to start writing it when The Fall began, I've achieved a weird cult status. Not cultish in the sense of worship--though donations of fresh fruits and booze are always welcome--but like some internet celebrities before me. People actually pay attention to what I have to say and give it weight. Certainly not all or even most of you, but even a small fraction can make a difference.

I'm not complaining about that, really, but I wonder if any of you realize what a burden that can be? Having to guard my words because an outburst of anger can push people toward bad decisions. I'm still stunned and grateful every day that I have the chance to make people think (or rethink, as the case may be) but after almost three years the load begins to push down on me. I'm sure the UAS would tell me to stop writing the blog were they in control. I'd probably rail against them and fight.

But in the end I would probably do as they asked.

Not because I wouldn't want to write this blog or help people any longer, because I still do. Rather it would be a pragmatic choice; to keep the leadership unified. This is all hypothetical, of course, since we have long since gone past the point of no return regarding the UAS, but I'd be going against my stated beliefs about being practical above all else if I said otherwise. It's not the work or the message I worry over. It's the constant fear that I'll say the wrong thing (as I have before) and precipitate disaster. That's why I took time off when I had my breakdown. I couldn't risk it.

The highest ethic a survivor can follow is to do what is best for the tribe. I believe in the here and now that the UAS offers nothing beneficial to us, any of us, as groups or individuals. What's best for us is to avoid open conflict for as long as possible, bolster our infrastructure and reserves of food and needed items, and in general strengthen ourselves. Alone. No masters setting the rules for us, only the people we vote into office.

If only the UAS had chosen different tactics and actually had some equivalent service to offer us, things might have gone differently. Others have wanted to kill us or take what is ours, even subjugate us cruelly.

That has never, ever worked out well for them. You'd think the UAS would have learned from that example.

Too late now...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


It was a warm night, but apparently not warm enough to allow the undead the energy to muster up and attack us. More than a few have been seen wandering around, but the New Breed are conspicuous by their absence. Probably off feeding on easier prey than the folks around here; they've learned to pick their battles with us. 

The UAS have taken another community in the west. This group was small and unknown to us, and from what we've heard so far every man, woman, and child was taken alive. The place is apparently undamaged but empty as nearly every other town in the world, except for recent signs of habitation. I'm sure the visual of community completely devoid of the people who live there was intended to be intimidating. The UAS wants to project an aura of strength, and this...I hesitate to call it an attack...this action seems to have done the job. There are a lot of people in the west worried they'll be next. Can't blame them. 

They're fighting, the western groups, and many of them are asking us to join them. We explain again and again that we can't be drawn into a war, and they come back each time with new lists of reasons why we should. The sad fact is that we don't need a lot of convincing; we know we should. They're being attacked unjustly and for no other reason than someone seeking control over their land and people. Declaring war with the UAS and instigating open conflict would be the right thing to do. It's just not the best thing to do for the Union. 

Yeah, we should be doing something to help other than offering words of encouragement and advice, but ultimately our leadership is responsible for the safety and well-being of our citizens. Principles are great things, but stepping between a bully and a victim, while satisfying and maybe even self-serving to a degree, is a great way to end up bleeding. And it doesn't teach the victim to stand up for itself. 

I mean, look: the west has twice the people the Union has at the very least. They're are enough police stations, military bases, and gun shops in those states to arm every one of them so heavily that their soldiers couldn't walk under the weight of all the weapons. Hell, probably that three times over. They aren't defenseless or short in numbers. 

What they lack is driving cohesion. They've made a good start by forming unified groups of defenders, but there's a lot of territory to cover. They have to rely on themselves, because even if we did help, how could they know we'd be able to a second time?

Not that we really can do much good. The distance between our groups is vast, and anyone we'd send would have to take insanely long routes to get there because of the UAS land-grab. No supply lines would be possible, no easy communication with the Union when in the field. Basically we'd be sending people to a danger zone with conditions as against them as possible. And us sending enough bodies to thwart the UAS would strip essential protection from much of the Union. It's just not a thing we're equipped to handle. 

So, to all of you in the west who are emphatically asking us to start a war on your behalf: I'm sorry. You know we want to do everything we can, and by any reasonable measure, we are. What we can do for you is offer advice and knowledge. That's the limit. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Paid Time Off

I'm spending the day in bed. The weather was passably nice yesterday, by which I mean it wasn't cold enough to kill in half and hour, and the sun was out. I was reminded yet again why I've never been into sports. Give me a dojo and a martial art, and I have the coordination of a ballet dancer. Give me a zombie or a human threat and I'm as dangerous as the next guy, no mistakes or false moves.

Just don't give me a goddamn football.

My right knee is throbbing like hell and walking is more work than I care to admit. I don't even know what I did to hurt it, but any time it sits immobile for longer than five minutes the whole mechanism of my knee locks up and it hurts like crazy to get it moving again. The rest of me isn't exactly in mint condition, either, but none of my bruises or lumps (or even all of them together) come close to how much the knee is bothering me.

So that means no real work for me. I could mention some things going on out in the world, but I do that far more than I'd like. I made a promise to myself when I resumed my duties on this blog that I would try to ignore as much of the world as possible and write down the human stories around me to share. The problem has always been that the world doesn't stop to worry about my promises or desires, and intrudes anyway no matter what I'm doing.

In relaying the larger stories going on in New Haven and beyond I've missed out on so many small things that may not matter individually, but together paint a better picture of who we are as people than I can otherwise manage. Those little things matter.

For example, you know Big K is assisting me now. You know he's a smart guy who seems to have lost more than most--or at least has a harder time dealing with it than many people do--and that's a big guy. Maybe you caught the fact that he's a black dude. Even that little bit of knowledge helps create an image of him, but at best it's filled with inaccuracies your mind inserts to fill the void. Maybe you think, being a black guy who worked as a professional, that he had a hard-luck upbringing but busted ass to make it through college. Hard to blame you for that assumption; before the zombies killed the world, it was full of inspirational movies with just that plot. Many, many of them. We do that with everyone and everything to some extent, but at least with K it's not true.

His parents were postal workers, high in the organization and paid well. Lifers who saved and scrimped early and were still frugal when their kid was old enough to go to college. K also had scholarships, was a straight-A and honors student, and didn't hate any of his professors.

Also, he fucking loves pickles. I mean like something crazy. When he came over here yesterday and saw the homemade ones Jess stocks up, I thought the guy was having a stroke. He hadn't eaten a pickle in more than two years, and I thought he might kiss me when I offered him one of our many, many jars. We grow everything we need to make them (except salt, of course, but then we've got access to enough of that to last forever anyway) and they're a treat for us, plentiful, so why not give them to someone who'll appreciate them?

Did he ever appreciate them...

It was the first time I've seen real, naked emotion on K. He always has that air of self-control around him, but not so much when faced with thirty ounces of Jessie's finest homemade kosher dills. Maybe there is some deeper connection for him, a comfort food that reminded him of happy times and sweet moments. Maybe not. It's possible he just has a serious jones for wee salty cucumbers. Either way it made me smile to see a grown man six inches taller than me fist-pump the air over a jar of food, right before picking me up in a bear hug.

Small moments, ladies and gentlemen. None alone will do the trick, but they do add up.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Two Man Job

In a surprising and happy twist, Big K--you remember, the guy I was talking about the other day who worked the honey wagon--has asked to be reassigned. To me. As my assistant.

Look, I don't think I rate an assistant these days. Sure, back when I was helping manage New Haven I had a bunch of them, but now I'm just working at my own speed. What I do is important for posterity, but I don't know that it's worth pulling another able body away from the community to do it.

Will agrees with me, but on this one the council outvoted him. That's pretty rare. Will is thinking in terms of defense and strength, as well as the fact that once one person gets a cushy reassignment, others may want to do the same. The council's position is that my work is potentially life-saving in the long run. They want the survival manual worked on, as well as the rest of what I do with record-keeping and collation. The manual is the bit they're keen on; they want me to expand it as much as humanly possible to cover every angle I can imagine.

Well, every angle we can imagine, now. K starts with me today and he should be here around nine. He came over yesterday evening to ask my thoughts on this before the council made their decision. He was willing to accept my saying no, though I'm sure he knew there wasn't much chance of that. K is a funny guy, and I don't mean that in the humorous way, though he jokes as much as anyone.

There's something sad about him. All of us carry scars--it would be impossible not to considering all we've gone through--but K acts like it all just happened a few days ago. I don't know much about him, to be honest, but it's not a stretch to assume he lost people. There's always a distance in his eyes, as if he's remembering the horrors he lived through. It's nonstop. I can't imagine how bad it must have been to continue haunting him for so long.

I've met people who deal with bouts of depression, most often when I look in the mirror every morning, and this doesn't strike me as being the same. Big K gets along like everyone else, but every time I talk to him I can see it in his body language, in the spaces between words; he has lost hope. What other people sometimes feel, the tragic loss of all that was, he seems to know on a deep level. He sees the world as it is and can't allow the possibilities for the future outweigh the tragedies of the past.

I've been there, but during my time with him yesterday I watched him. This isn't a fluctuation in mood brought on by a chemical imbalance. It's ingrained in him, shaped to him. A habit so deeply embedded that the rest of his personality is molded to fit. He's a man who continues on even though (I believe) he feels no hope.

Aside from the fact that I'm glad for the help, that's the reason I took him on. I'm fascinated by the guy, and I think I might be able to help him see some bright edges. When I was at my worst, there were people who held me up and stood by my side as I worked through my own darkness. I might fail, be rejected, be hated. But I have to try. The world is a sad place, it's true, but there is hope and beauty and life.

Faced with the zombie threat, the UAS and their sudden move toward innocent communities, and all the other trials the world sees fit to put us through, it's more important than ever to remember those good things. I can't help but remind people like Big K that they exist.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dragoon Company

Today's post is by Ketill, but I wanted to give a bit of introduction. I know a lot of you like the consistency of reading my own posts, but I think it's very important to have other voices sound off from time to time. Since the UAS are licking their wounds and no major events are going on, I asked Ketill to fill us in on what he and his group have been up to.

That said, here's his post:

Josh asked me to write a post letting y'all know what was going on with me and my group, so here it is.

First off, we have finally all agreed on a name. We are simply calling ourselves The Dragoons. We came up with that name simply because, well, we needed one. Here's a bit of history for you if you're not familiar with the term.

The word dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horseback riding as well as infantry combat skills. However, usage altered over time and during the 18th century dragoons evolved into conventional light cavalry units and personnel. Dragoon regiments were established in most European armies during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The title has been retained in modern times by a number of armored or ceremonial mounted regiments. The word also means to subjugate or persecute by the imposition of troops; and by extension to compel by any violent measures or threats.

In this world, the threats are many. Zombies, marauders, hunters and now the UAS. We have been doing this "protection" thing long enough that our group has embraced the ideals of the dragoon wholeheartedly. We will persecute any and all threats to us and those we know to the fullest extent. With all that being said, I would like to tell you what we're up to now.

I have permission from the leaders of the Union to tell you this basically because there is no threat of anyone getting hurt by sharing this information. We are going to head to the northern parts of the country and try to help clear some roads while the zombie threat is low. We'll be gone for a bit, so I've been asked to leave a few of my Dragoons in New Haven to help with some projects that they've got going on there. I'm also leaving one of my explosive experts at New Haven to work with Becky on a few tricks she has come up with.

Hopefully the weather up north will hold and not dump tons of snow on us while we're working, but I'm doubtful. With all the help we've got going up there, the roads should be cleared for safe travel during the next couple of weeks. We're all doing what we can to help create something new out of the remnants of the old and my hope is that, eventually, we can make this land great and fertile once again without sliding backwards into the politics of the old world.

Anyway, wish us luck on our trip as wish you luck and safe nights.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


A funny thing happened yesterday: the UAS learned what happens when you mess with a group of people that A) don't want to be messed with and B) have plenty of experience dealing with larger numbers of enemies.

The report came in the evening. UAS forces--small in number but heavily armed and armored--moved in on a little isolated settlement called Newcastle. The UAS believed Newcastle contained less than a hundred adults and maybe half that number of children. Easy pickings for a force of two hundred people driving armored vehicles and carrying the kind of gear that pacified entire towns before The Fall. 

Problem is, the western groups are fast learners. They don't take the theft of people, property, or land with much grace. Individually most of the communities not close to the coast really would be little trouble to take if they acted alone. But man, the end of the world teaches you some important lessons about the spirit of working together. 

Basically, going it alone? Fuck that. 

Most of the settlements out that way have contributed a number of citizens to a set of flying companies whose only job is to patrol large sections of land, defending against the UAS incursion. Those two hundred men and women in their pretty vehicles and with their heavy guns didn't know what to do when the road dropped out from under them. 

Pit traps are just one small part of guerrilla warfare. The UAS seems to think people are going to give in to fear and submit. That or fight it out in the open. 

No. Afraid not. Pit traps, attacks from the trees, dirty tricks of every conceivable variety. You can bring a fifty-cal machine gun to a fight, but when someone pelts you and your fellow warriors with rotten eggs and human waste it's pretty hard to concentrate. Your big heavy armored truck matters not at all when it can't move; spike strips and holes in the road will do that. 

Explosives tied to trees to block your way when they blow, packs of dogs chasing you down in the woods when you get out, molotov cocktails thrown right in your way when you do manage to get away. The problem with putting ordinary people in safe little boxes and then expecting them to do the job of soldier is that they need order and routine to even have a chance at it. Without training and experience, they're screwed. 

Survivors--and by that I mean those of us out in the world during The Fall and after, and the UAS doesn't qualify--have the experience and we've had to learn the hard way. I'm told that scaring off those two hundred fighters--while only injuring a few of them and killing none--was actually pretty easy. 

No one expects the next encounter to be as simple. The UAS are many things, but stupid isn't one of them. They'll adapt and learn and probably won't give the next group a chance to prepare. 

But the UAS are aware now that they aren't getting the west without a fight. Nothing in this world is free, and resistance is most harsh when people are defending their home, the people they love. For the part of the westerners, I doubt they'll be as nice the next time. They won't frighten and dazzle; they'll kill.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Unclaimed Lands

This is day two of near single-digit temperatures. For us here in New Haven the weather is immobilizing. It's damn good that we don't have to worry about the undead when it gets this cold, but it has drawbacks, too.

The UAS is far enough south that they aren't having as hard a time getting things done. Those clever bastards are shooting north and claiming empty land. That might seem like an empty gesture since they don't have the people needed to patrol an area hundreds of miles across, but it's actually pretty brilliant. Another example of how they out-politic us.

See, the UAS claims land, then says it's no trespassing for anyone not under their control. We've already agreed that starting a war for no reason is a bad idea, so they know we won't travel onto their land without provocation. The problem is that the land in question creates a barrier between the scattered western groups and the Union, making it much harder to travel between the two. I suppose the idea was to divide and conquer, and as far as strategies go it isn't a bad one.

So, yeah. We won't be able to help our allies out that direction in any real way. The UAS is claiming land at breakneck speeds, and no member of the Union will cross that line. It's a pretty noose.

There's nothing we can do about it, though. I hate to be the one to say it, but the UAS is doing an efficient job of staying ahead of the rest of us. We know another small group, this one further outside UAS territory, has fallen to them. It was another 'join or die' situation, of course. The UAS seems to be accelerating their plans with the western groups.

For now the plan is to buckle down here and worry about the things we can change. New Haven is shaping up quickly since we don't have to defend from the zombies at present. The Box is increasing its capacity for new stuff, forging metals and producing basic technologies with shocking speed. All over the place--at least, when it's not ten degrees out--sections of wall are being fixed and reinforced, new weapons mounted, houses upgraded. There are so many people here to do the work that what would have been impossible a few years ago is now becoming commonplace.

New Haven won't be Eden anytime soon, I know. I'm just impressed with how much ingenuity and passion our people have. Give them a project or the freedom to think up their own and they'll come back with a plan that saves lives, makes something more efficient, you name it. I'm jazzed about it.

One nice thing about the Box becoming more productive is that Patrick doesn't have to be. He still wants to work metal, but the actual demand on him is much less now. He can focus on pet projects or take time off. His apprentices can handle most of the ordinary work from day to day. He has spent the last two days over at my house, helping me with a few of my own projects. I hadn't realized how long it had been since Pat and I just hung out. No personal dramas, no big events, just two friends spending time together.

And, yes, he still tried to catch me off guard with silent but deadly attacks. I am wary of his tricks now.

Pat is already looking for the next thing he wants to do. Working a forge was a dream of his for a long time, and I'm sure if he still had both hands he'd be thrilled to do it the rest of his days. But the joy of the work seems to have receded somewhat, or at least he's ready for something challenging and new. All yesterday he talked about learning to bake. He said he almost opened a bakery once but didn't want to farm the work out to someone else. He wanted to do it himself, from making wedding cakes to mass-producing bread for hundreds of people.

I told him he should be working with the folks who run our mess halls rather than dig through paperwork with me. He told me he was hoping I'd tell him to go do it, like he needed my approval or something. I get that some people around here have a higher opinion of me than they should, but I never expected it of him. I told Pat so, naturally, and he explained that he didn't feel right leaving the forge behind when I was the one who helped set him up with that job. He didn't want me to think...I dunno, that he resented it or wasn't grateful or some other asinine thing. I told him to do what he pleased, it was his life and my opinion there didn't matter at all.

Hell, I wouldn't care if he decided to spend his days talking to squirrels as long as it made him happy.

Happiness might be in short supply when the weather breaks toward spring. We should grab what we can, while we can.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

[Victim Zero]

[This is an out of character post. You really should read all the way to the end.]

I'd like to announce that I am in the early stages of writing a novel set in the Living With the Dead universe. This is something that many of you have asked for over the years, and I'm happy to say that Victim Zero is now an actual thing. I'm working on it in bits and pieces as I write Next, the current novel I'm focusing on.

I'm running an IndieGoGo campaign for Victim Zero as well, and this one is less ambitious than my previous campaign. This one is shooting for a total of $5,000. Some of that money will go to creating a print version of this book, a first for me, and the rewards for backing the project vary with price from my thanks and a digital copy of the book to signed print copies and much more.

You can check out the campaign right here. Pledges start at five bucks.

This is a flexible funding campaign. That means I get the money whether we meet the goal or not. While some of the money will go to paying editors, cover designers, a person for layouts for the print edition, and other costs, some will be set aside for fulfilling the perks that backers for the campaign get.

If we somehow hit the 5k goal, some of that money will go to me, and I'll bank it toward going full-time as a writer. However, if we get over the 5k goal I will add stretch goals for every single person backing the project no matter the size of their contribution.

There are 88 days left on the campaign, so please check it out at

Now, a little about the book itself:

Victim Zero is the story of how The Fall began. Before I ever wrote the first word of LWtD I knew how this book would go. This novel is truly the first novel in the series since the events take place well before and leading up to The Fall. It's also the first true novel because, of course, the books are collections of the blog.

I'm putting a lot of thought into Victim Zero and how I want to portray the world. It's a closer look at the science (well, sort of science anyway, this is science fiction after all) behind the undead and some of the brutalities left unnoticed at the very beginning of the end.

I would love to give you character bios and all sorts of tidbits, but I can't. The reason is simple; this book will actually tie into LWtD. Like, now. Stuff you've read recently and will read in the coming months will definitely weave together with some stuff in Victim Zero. It would ruin the surprise to tell you how, so read it when it comes out and see for yourself.

This is the first of a planned series. The idea is to treat each novel in this separate series as its own contained story that somehow ties in with the main LWtD blog. You won't have to read either to know what's going on, but I think both will be more satisfying if you do.

So please, check out the campaign and back it if you're a fan of this blog and able to afford five bucks at least. You'll be helping put me in print and you'll get cool rewards for helping an indie author out.

And if you don't have five bucks, share the campaign link, or this blog post, or both. Word of mouth is the only way we can get this done.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Bigger Fish

Word came in late last night that a small community--not a part of the Union--on the western edge of UAS territory has been swallowed up. The UAS did it without bloodshed, but there wasn't a lot of choice involved for the people in Bradford. Or, I should say what was Bradford. I don't know what name the UAS will put on the place or even if they'll change it, but this is a turning point.

Until now we held out some vain hope that these people didn't really mean business. A bloodless coup is still a coup, but history tells us a lot about merciful dictators. Cutting off supply lines, creating a situation that demands either total capitulation or a fight to the death against unbeatable odds...that's a hell of a trick if you can pull it off. Top it off by appearing concerned and announcing that little will change under your rule and you have a recipe for short-term anger but long-term acceptance. The UAS knows how to pull this off.

Not that the same tactic can work on most of the Union, but that doesn't mean we don't have to worry. As the UAS grows by consuming small groups and moves on and out to the west and surely to the north, they'll grow into something so large and strong that the direct confrontation with us they're so afraid of won't be ruinous for them. I think that must be their plan. The council called me in along with a few other old-timers to explain this theory and ask our opinion. Most of us agree.

If we're right then we're facing a long-term threat far more pervasive and deadly than even the undead. It makes sense that the UAS would expand now when zombie activity is at its low point for the year. Once the weather warms up the job gets a lot harder to pull off.

People have been asking the leadership--and me, and Pat and other original New Haveners--what we should do. I keep wondering that myself, but I think the better question to ask is what can we do? Those scattered groups out west of UAS territory might be associated with the Union, but they aren't a part of it. Many of them are friends and allies but are too far away for us to send any real help. The real worry is what happens when the UAS gobbles up all the little minnows at the edges. Because then they'll have the strength of numbers to go after bigger fish; the large communities around the coast.

I know a lot of people from that area. Our trip around the country last year achieved its aim very well; Will and everyone else that went are on friendly terms with many of those groups. They aren't statistics. They're people we've broken bread with. We've helped defend their homes.

And there can be no doubt at this point that the UAS is coming for them. How far are we willing to go to stand up for those folks? I don't know what the policy will end up being, but I know my own answer.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Though I've been given permission to do so, it still bothers me to give out any information that may allow our enemies insight into how New Haven and the Union operate. My objections being aired, we have news about the renegade UAS members who have been expelled for going AWOL. That the entire group of them chose to break ranks as one and steal everything from their supply dump doesn't surprise me in the least. Put any group of people together in one place under bad conditions for long enough and one of two things is bound to happen; murder or consensus. 

Look at the human race as it is right now if you need further proof. We've devolved somewhat into a clannish mentality, and that's as it should be. We basically are clans at this point, though not due to bloodlines or marriage. Many people have grumbled that it's just too convenient that an entire outpost would decide to take matters into their own hands, implying that the UAS planned this. I'm not discounting it as a possibility, but it seems much more likely to me that these people acted as their own echo chamber. A few people making arguments for attacking their enemies rather than wait in boredom in some frontier locale has a way of gaining traction. 

The UAS may have the advantage on us in technology and weapons (and we're pretty sure that's the case), but they're much less aware of the psychological needs of survivors out in the world. We've been through it, we know exactly how the seeds of discord can take root. That's why we rotate our people out and do fun things like have concerts in our little theater. We aren't trying to dominate others; we're just trying to give people lives as close to normal as possible. 

We know, via our long-range scouts, that those AWOL people are heading this way. We know where they are and what roads they're using. For once we won't be caught off guard when the time to fight comes. Hell, we might actually get the drop on our attackers for a change. It's a concept that makes my brain hurt. The last time was with the Hunters. We all know how that turned out. 

It's interesting to see the difference in how people within the UAS and regular survivors cope with the world. The tragedy is that the UAS folks were mostly cloistered within their bunkers. They had a lot of time to think and plan and consider, to drive themselves batty with ideas of what the world would be like. I'm sure they received reports and such, but the simple fact remains that within those concrete walls their lives were a cake walk compared to what it's like out here. 

Pen up a dog long enough and when you do finally open that door he's going to go nuts running around. A person isn't much different except for the ease with which you can focus those energies. The UAS did a brilliant job in aiming that pent-up power at the rest of the world. Make everyone else a target, claim some moral imperative to reclaim society and impose order (ignoring the order already established by the rest of us, of course) and set them loose with a purpose. 

The only problem is that some of those people will be on the far end of the bell curve when it comes to interpreting that mission. Being moved from getting regular meals, climate-controlled environs, and many of the creature comforts of the old world into a cold and empty land is hard on a person. It makes them desperate. Thus, the AWOL soldiers. 

The other side of the coin is how some survivors have managed to adapt out here in the world despite a total lack of experience doing so. Take Big K, for example. I don't know what his real name is and wouldn't ask, but Big K is one of the guys who came here from North Jackson on the final trip to bring our imported citizens here. K is tall and big in the shoulders. Before The Fall he probably could have played pro football with his frame. He's an interesting guy, as smart as he is big, and before the world went to hell he worked for some big company as a researcher. Spent all his days with his nose in a book or in front of a screen, collecting a paycheck and scarfing down pizza like the rest of us. 

Big K works the honey wagon. Which, if you don't remember, means he collects human refuse from our homes. It's a shitty job (pun intended) and no one does it for very long as we rotate people out, but I've yet to hear him complain. Big K always takes a minute or two to talk to me when he stops by, and I've never seen anything negative on his face. 

What a difference three years of struggle can make. Spend your adult life working a desk, totally unprepared for the dead to rise and try to eat you, and suddenly shoveling shit seems like easy money. The idea that we should attack some other group on principal rather than from dire need and direct danger is repugnant to him. I asked him yesterday evening when he stopped by. Why risk a relatively safe existence surrounded by good people without serious need? 

It's a good question. New Haven and the Union itself seem to be the answer. We've been out here working together to stay alive. Then to build something stable. Then to create conditions for a better future than we could've hoped for when The Fall began. Does K miss his old life? I'm sure he does. We all do. But I can tell you for sure that I've never seen the smooth brown skin on his face crinkle in distaste at his work. He always smiles--because, he says, he knows how much worse it could be. How much worse it has been for all of us in the past. 

He's right, of course. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I was sleeping in today. Jess ran out of the house this morning like a scalded dog (that's a saying around these parts, and yes, I thought it in a deep southern drawl) as usual, leaving me alone in the bed. She gave me a kiss before she left, so that's okay. Will waking me up by pounding on my door twenty minutes later was less fine.

He had news. Bad news. The UAS sent out a message this morning, explaining that thirty of their people went AWOL much as our dissenters did. The difference is that the UAS didn't kick their people out with minimal weaponry and supplies. These people were all manning a supply dump full of heavy vehicles and firepower. The gist of the argument they were having with the UAS leadership involved New Haven and how we're bothersome in our continued existence. The idea goes that if New Haven were destroyed, as the apparent head of the Union, the body would die. The Union would fall. 

Sort of a casual way to think about the murder of two thousand people, us not being an imminent threat and all, but I give the deserters full marks for honesty. The long and short of it is that the UAS didn't want us to get hit by some of their people and start a full-on ground war with the Union. 

At least, that's the story. I know it makes me paranoid but I have to wonder if this isn't the UAS trying to make a tactic out of our own dissenters leaving. Those folks left here and we disavowed them, and that was real. The UAS took us at our word about it, which was nice. Now we're being asked to do the same and facing a much worse threat than our (former) people were to them. 

We really don't have a lot of choice. Will is angry--and tired, if the haggard look on his face was any indication--because we're put in a corner here. The tentative and minimal trust between the UAS and the Union is too important to the peace to threaten by starting our own war over this. 

It's fucked any way you look at it. The fact that these nutjobs heading toward us intend to do the zombie's work for them is irritating enough. I'm used to dealing with people who want dominion over others or to kill them for some greater purpose, just as I'm used to fighting off the undead who only want a hot meal. But to pull us into politics, which is something I hoped we'd left behind, is a whole other back of worms. I really hope these fuckers come at us just so I can show them how much I appreciate their concern.

By now everyone in New Haven knows about this. There was an announcement not long after Will left. Some of the people from the Box managed to set up a PA system. Don't know that it covers everywhere but gossip is unique in physics for its ability to move faster than the speed of light. I know Patrick and Becky are aware. Pat is worried, deeply worried, about having to endure heavy fire. He is worried for the kids especially and it's strange to see him become so mature and adult about being a parent to his own girl and the nieces. Of course, when he was expressing his concern he blasted out a wicked fart and kept on going over my laughter, so I have to wonder how much of that conversation was really about his fears. Seems like he was just trying to make me laugh. Pat's a comedian. 

Becky was over here at the time, though she left when Patrick bombed the house, and her attitude was surprisingly relaxed. When she came to us she'd spent a long time moving across continents and oceans to reach home. She was kind of broken as a person. In the time since I'd almost forgotten that even before The Fall she had seen and endured worse than 99.9% of the human race. Being a soldier in war zones, getting hit by IEDs, and putting the wounded back together on the fly will harden you. Becky just shrugged when I told her what Will told me. War isn't anything new to her, and she lost her panic reflex for it long ago.

As for me? I don't feel fear any longer. Well, that's not true; I feel it when immediate danger is on me. But I've lost the capacity to worry about things I can't change right in front of me. Those people may come. They might kill me. They might kill a lot of us. But they probably won't kill us all. We'll face them when we have to and stand tall. Until and unless that happens, I'll keep pecking away and writing my books. One thing the zombie plague has taught us above all others: if you let fear keep you from doing anything, you can't survive long term. Simple truth.

Friday, January 18, 2013


So, yesterday was a weird day. No idea why, but all the electronics in New Haven went on the fritz. Thus no blog post or communication in any form. Impulse told me it was some kind of attack, but there are several facts that argue against that.

One: that kind of large-scale electromagnetic disturbance is usually the result of a nuclear weapon going off. I'm still here to write this, so we can rule out atomic weapons.

Two: a device capable of producing such an effect without splitting atoms would have to be powerful and within the boundaries of New Haven itself to be that effective.

One of our portable cell towers is completely fried, and I'd have to take a stab in the dark and say that something inside it went terribly wonky and jammed all the other wireless signals. It's a guess only, but no one has any better suggestions. I'm not an engineer or anything, but the few people we have with experience in such things assure me that's about the only possibility.

As with the small ice storm that hit us the other day, this slowed down our efforts to comb the wreckage over in the fallback point. It's a bad idea to send people over the river without solid long-range communications. So we didn't. Which is probably a good thing since my brother drew duty yesterday for the job. He's still pretty upset. I sometimes forget that my big brother, who has been a rock for me my entire life, has seen the same level of horrible shit happen as the rest of us. I've never seen him truly shaken before, much less for days on end. I worry about him a lot. We all have our limits and the constant rasp of violence and death against our souls wears us thin one stroke at a time.

But today is another day, cold and clear, and we must do our best (as always) to soldier on. It's a hard thing to say and ten times harder to actually do, but the needs of the group must come before our own feelings.

Which brings me to an interesting point, actually. Jess has been putting in dangerously long hours at the greenhouses the last few weeks, and we've barely had any time together. I've basically spent that time here at the house building comprehensive histories of New Haven and her people as well as putting in several hours a day on a compendium for survival. That one has been a pet project for a while, and yes I'm totally aware of the irony of a guy who suffers from deep depressions putting together a survival manual. The idea is to examine all the things we've tried, or that other people have tried, and weed out all the bad ideas. It's sort of a super-distilled volume dedicated to the most efficient ways to do...well, just about anything. And it's a living document that will be amended and added to over time. A bible, of you will, for anyone that wants it.

See how I nerded out just then? That's the point I was getting to. I've been neck deep in my projects just as Jess has been in hers. I love my wife intensely (and somehow gently at the same time) and in ways I can't even explain. Not seeing her really sucks, and not having time together just for us compounds that sucktitude geometrically. Her driving force is to make sure we aren't caught with our pants down when the spring rolls around and the zombies once again run over us like the ocean. We'll need as much of a head start with farming and food supplies as we can get. Jess is burning the candle at both ends because she feels that she can do the best job of it, and because two thousand people are counting on her.

I'm pouring myself into my own work because I recognize that what she's doing is vital, and me bitching about it or guilting her into slowing down or taking time off would be selfish beyond forgiveness. My own work, though not nearly as important, still might save or at least improve lives, so I put my all into it. It's as much self-preservation as it is a desire to help; without the distraction I'd go insane being here without her. Most of my friends are very busy lately, so I don't have them to divert me.

I will eventually put the manual out there for everyone to read, but it's going to take a lot of work to ensure its accuracy. One wrong or unclear sentence and it could cost lives rather than preserve them. That's one lucky thing Jess has going for her. It's nearly impossible to kill people with vegetables, despite the claims of generations of reluctant children at dinner tables 'round the world.

Don't think I don't realize that we're all of us--Dave, Jess, Myself, and really most people--isolating ourselves in some form or fashion to deal with our hardships. It's a damn funny thing, but productive. To escape the pain, we throw ourselves into the work. It helps us forget. It produces good effects for large numbers of people.

Yet for us as individuals I have to wonder if it's the healthiest choice. We're all survivors together, facing new and greater threats on a regular basis. Guess it seems like since we've survived so much we should be somehow better, or at least more capable of coping as a unit. Proof once again that we're just as flawed as anyone else in history. Don't know if that's a comfort or not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sifting Through

There was a minor ice storm last night and a hard freeze this morning. The world is covered in crystal, and that's going to delay our efforts to comb through the destruction in the fallback point. It may be an exercise in futility, but the citizens of New Haven are adamant that the bodies of the fallen be located. It's going to be a big job and will take a long time, but it'll get done. We'll haul truckloads of the debris here as the search teams work. We can break down the rubble for a variety of uses.

God, I just reread that last part and it makes me want to vomit. Trying to find a silver lining, trying to be practical, trying not to find an enemy and tear their throat our for killing so many of our people. I'm terrible at coping sometimes.

The expected response from the UAS came yesterday evening. It was, of course, a denial that they had anything at all to do with the destruction. I'm still leaning toward believing them right now but my shock has totally given way to anger. I want them to be responsible, because then we'd be more than justified in killing twenty of their people.

Of all people to commiserate with me, my brother Dave was the last I'd have expected to show up visibly upset and toting a crate of booze. Dave has always been a deeply rational person, rarely given to displaying the deeper emotions. He's fun and pleasant and gets annoyed easily, but overwhelming joy, rage, and despair aren't things he lets show very often.

The deaths weren't the hardest part for him, he explained. Though of course he was as upset as any of us to suffer the loss of fellow survivors, people who had stood every test we had, Dave is used to that. It doesn't catch him off guard. The worst part for my brother was when he got home and was blindsided by his children. All three of them wanted to understand what happened. They needed concrete reasons why those people were dead and why someone would commit such an act.

We've all asked those questions when people around us have died, and indeed Dave's kids have asked them before. But this was different. This was cold, calculated murder. This wasn't nature taking its course or even the undead. David's kids weren't asking what death was--this world answered that question for them years ago--but rather why someone would do this thing.

How do you answer that? Think hard before respond. Dave did.

Though he keeps it fairly private (and you wouldn't know it unless you shared a meal with him and heard him pray in the earnest way he does), my brother is a man of deep and wide faith. He's the kind of Christian I adore; truly selfless in many ways, fair to all, loving without condition. The reason for his unexpected visit and the resulting unexpected bender flowed from his inability to explain the actions of truly awful people to his kids. How do you tell a child who has learned to love the world even as bad as it is now that there are people who will kill wholesale for no good reason?

I can't wrap my mind around explaining that kind of evil to my nieces and nephew. I really, really can't. I wish I could have done more for my brother than be someone to lean on. A piece of wisdom, perhaps, or some brilliant idea to make the whole thing easier. That's the way it goes in stories, but in real life we sadly have to live with the truth that there are rarely easy explanations. A child's need for absolutes crumbles to dust as they grow, but part of that mindset grants them a wonderful sense of optimism. Maybe that's what Dave was trying to avoid, killing that positive outlook. Such a rare thing now and almost solely found in the hearts of children.

How could he break them?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Other Shoe

Part of living in the world nowadays is the constant effort to work and improve while understanding on a deep, almost fundamental level that Bad Things are going to happen. I've written about that before, and it remains true. The other shoe is always waiting to drop. Fate seems to have an infinite closet full of them.

There's no easy way to say it, so I'll just say it: this morning we lost twenty people in less than five seconds. Twenty. Human. Beings.

It wasn't zombies that did it. The weather has decided to shift back into winter for now, and at any rate the local population is at an ebb since our last big fight with them. The cold is preventing very many from wandering into the county. We're basically free from the dangerous dead for the moment. No, this tragedy was committed by living hands.

Those twenty people were working in the fallback point, completing the tedious room-by room search of the old hotel and the large office building that serve--served, I should say--as the primary safe zones and living quarters. The trap was brilliant and simple but obviously professional; shaped explosive charges cleverly hidden among the supports of both buildings. They were rigged to blow when a specific door was opened. That door was at the top of the office building, clearly somewhere not prone to random wandering. Who the hell wants to climb twenty stories worth of steps?

We know this because the search teams were in constant radio contact with watchers up on the hill. Yes, the Exiles are dead and gone except for Henry, but the watchers listened in as the search teams kept up a constant monologue of every step they took. The concern was that bad guys might have crept in under the lessened security at the fallback point in an effort to take the position from us. We didn't expect sabotage.

At any rate, the office building blew first. the charges were placed in such a way that the whole office building toppled directly onto the hotel exactly when the hotel's own charges went off. The result was a total loss of life in the fallback point. The few people who weren't inside were hit by chunks of concrete the size of cars. Debris scattered all the way across the river, destroying our makeshift bridge as it killed our people.

There's no way to know if those explosives were already there, perhaps put in place by the guards who murdered the Exiles or if someone managed to sneak in since then and set this trap. My first instinct was the blame the UAS, but after the initial shock and white-hot spear of anger mixed with sadness tearing through my head, I began to doubt that. Not because I don't think they're capable of it or because they aren't a bunch of conniving bastards. They would and they are. But it doesn't seem to fit. Why go to such lengths and risk war with us for such small gains? We lost twenty people, yes, real human beings whose lives mattered to us. Friends and family and citizens.

But the macro scale says the effort wasn't worth it. We lost less than one percent of our population, and the attack has only made us more cautious. Destroying the fallback point didn't even do much harm to our provisions. We had people remove everything of value weeks ago, making the long trip to bridges in other counties that are still intact.

No, it doesn't fit for me, but I'm just one guy with general knowledge facts to go by. I could be completely wrong here. In light of the fact that we can't do much investigating because of the destruction and the supreme unlikelihood that anyone will step forward to claim responsibility, we're at a dead end.

Just when you think humans can't get much worse...

Sunday, January 13, 2013


A group of six fighters died yesterday, and their loss will be felt among all those that knew them. I had never met any of them, but they were some of the bravest people here. All were part of our full-time security force, former soldiers, and put themselves at greater risk in a given day than any other group in New Haven.

Those lives weren't wasted. Aside from the very real fact that they died protecting us from the undead, they participated in a raid--the one that killed them--that netted us a new group of undead. Still moving zombies to study.

I'm not the one doing the studying this time, but there are enough people here interested in the cause of the zombie plague that volunteers aren't hard to find. I'm a little torn about research being performed on the undead again, but far be it from me to stand in the way of progress. I've said many times that our research capabilities here are very limited. Now that the Box is producing wind turbines from all that copper laying around in old power lines, we can set up a lab with at least some basic equipment.

I should say, for the sake of accuracy, that we can now power that equipment. The lab itself has been ready for a while. Becky will be putting in some time there, but there are four other people living over in East who can make our efforts more realistic. Two are biologists of one type or another, one a lab tech with a lot of experience reading and understanding many kinds of blood and tissue tests, and the other...

Well, the other is a geneticist. Don't ask me how we missed that. I blame the sheer number of people living here. Hard to catalog so many skills and forms of education. Probably didn't help that until the last few days we haven't had any way to use those kinds of talents. I know we won't be able to do any cutting-edge work, but anything that might help us is welcome.

People are afraid of what they don't understand. That's the nature of the survival instinct. This is another big step in a series of big steps. Not just for New Haven or even the Union. For all of us. I'm sure the UAS has the capability to do far more than we do, but if they have been brave enough to study the enemy, they aren't sharing. Every small erg of data we gather, every tiny bit further our understanding stretches, will make a difference. We may not find a way to defeat the plague in this decade. Maybe not in my lifetime.

We'll work at it anyway. Enough people have survived and gathered together to build something like the ghost of civilization. In an ironic twist, it's almost as if we're resurrecting society. Who'd have thought?

Saturday, January 12, 2013


There are immutable laws in the universe. Newton--probably the most intelligent human being to ever live, and I'll argue that to the end of time--knew this and even sussed out the physical laws. I've mentioned them before, but today I'm again reminded of equal and opposite reactions.

It's January the twelfth, and it should be cold enough to freeze our blood. Instead it's currently fifty-seven degrees outside, and the local zombie population is reminding us that Karma is a bitch. It would be one thing if the New Breed and their old school cronies were hitting us at one point, even a weak point, but they aren't. They're being slow and cautious in some spots as they wiggle through the buffer, and dangerously reckless in others where the buffer is weak or nonexistent. There are portions of the wall they can climb. There are places they can't get any purchase.

There are more than a thousand of them, so there isn't much of New Haven's main parts they aren't testing. All of that would be pretty easy to manage and not all that worthy of mention if they weren't also using weapons. Rocks, branches, pieces of asphalt, pretty much anything they can get a hold of is being chucked at our defenders. They're organized--very organized--and are making a good show. Many of them are getting through the buffer because of the hail of projectiles raining down on our people, distracting them and keeping them from being able to maintain a constant presence on the wall. Those undead doing the throwing are being constantly resupplied by other zombies acting as runners.

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say this has been a long time coming. It was obviously planned, and while we've known for a long while now that the New Breed have superior mental abilities in comparison to the original recipe zombies, complex plans like today's attack are something new.

If I seem calm about the whole thing, it's because so far there haven't been any fatalities. Between our defenders inside the sections of New Haven and the ones running around picking off the enemy outside, we're doing fine. I'm off pretty much right now to do my part for a few hours. We're all rotating in and out until the danger is gone. I may post again later if anything major changes.

Or not, if it's so major I don't have time...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Opposing Voice

Today I want to post two comments made by the same anonymous member of the UAS. I don't agree with their view on most things, but I do believe it's only fair to give voice to reasonable discussion. Each comment is very long. I present them without comment of my own. 

The first was made in response to "Will Of The People", posted on December 31:

"I want it clear I don’t speak for the UAS or its policies. I’ll likely be reprimanded for commenting here as we shouldn’t stoop to engaging internet pundits, but I cannot continue to let the comments on this blog, which is truly a public service, go unanswered.

We’ve been called cowards for staying in our bunker. We used tools to survive the same as everyone else did. We had the option of a safe, secure location and we used it. That does not make our survival less than yours and it does not make us cowards. We’ve been called arrogant for declaring ourselves the legitimate government of this still-great nation. That is not arrogance. Our population includes lawfully and democratically elected officials. We were chosen to lead by you in free elections and we will not shirk our responsibility simply because the world has grown dangerous. That truly would be cowardly. We sent our declaration as a way to foster calm, to inform that this time of anarchy has passed. Yet it has been labeled entitlement. It is not entitlement for a doctor to state that he will treat patients. We are bureaucrats. We can create infrastructure and policy. It is our skill the same as your blacksmiths and sharpshooters. And you would wave us away and deny our worth? Truth be told I thought people would welcome the government’s declaration, would welcome the call to normalcy and to rebuilding this nation. I thought people would want the UAS to take over the infrastructure and the rule of law, allowing you to focus on the skills you’ve developed: farming, crafting, defense. But instead the UAS been maligned and declared impotent. We make overtures of medical care to show that we can in fact create this infrastructure, that we can rebuild, that we can care for all our people. And what is the response? Implications that we were involved in atrocities. How dare all of you frighten needy people away from needed medical care because of your own prejudice against us.

I’ve written far too much and do apologize. Not all us bureaucrats are demagogues after all. But I could not allow the insults against the UAS to go continually unanswered. The United American Survivors are here to aid because that is our duty as the lawfully elected government of this nation. And we will continue to carry out that duty even when insulted and maligned. God bless all survivors across this still-great nation. Out of the many, we are one."

The second comment was posted in response to "Cleaning House", and while I consider it well-written and thoughtful, just as the firs one was, it's also kind of funny and dirty. I can't help but be reminded of me. This one is pretty long:

"The powers that be in the UAS didn’t mind me posting before to defend our government and have told me that I may continue to do so at my own discretion. They did say that they felt my efforts were useless, that people’s prejudices would blind them to such an extent that they won’t be able to see us as anything but cartoon villains. Personally I have more faith in what remains of humanity. Incidentally, it was mentioned that my defenses mean nothing because I don’t speak for or create UAS policy. I would respond that if you only want to listen to policy creators, then why are you on this blog? Josh doesn’t create New Haven policy, but his opinions are valid. My opinions and defenses are just as valid. Also, I don’t need your approval.

I’m not going to address the kidnapping of our citizens as I’m not privy to what occurred to drive our people off course and into your territory. I’d imagine they were trying to avoid a zombie swarm. All I know is that we are not aggressors. Still, the government has been in touch with you regarding this, so there’s nothing for me to add. What I do want to say is that there’s been a lot of negative talk about our abilities to care for our people. And I know that this reflects on our plans for Farlane. It actually saddens me. We are creating something new here. Something exciting. And make no mistake, we do have the capacity, skill, and resources to follow through on this project. We are not only demonstrating that the government of this nation is not defunct but that it can take an active role in improving the lives of its citizens. Even an outlying settlement that was once filled with the sick and dying will thrive under the UAS. You may not believe this, but you will see it for yourself in the near future. With the hard-working heroes of Farlane we will raise this town up into a thriving metropolis. And make no mistake, the people of Farlane are heroes. Not only heroes that have survived this cataclysm, but they are heroes who stood up and took a moral stand and recognized the UAS as the proper and legal government. They did this even as their friends and neighbors continue to slander us. The strength of character that took is humbling and their bravery has not and will not go unrewarded. Farlane will be a thriving hub of commerce, culture, and education. And truth be told, for all the posturing, I don’t believe that everyone in this “Union” will boycott Farlane. Because even those that hate us will see that Farlane is a symbol. A clear demonstration that the time for fear has ended and that we are united underneath this great government once again. The people of Farlane will thrive, and through them, this great nation will follow and thrive as well. God bless us all.

Oh, there was also some talk about a week ago about small dicks. In the interests of diplomacy, I will dispense with the customary, “that’s not what your mom said” joke. I will note, though, that I’ve heard people write about what they know. Also, speaking for myself, when I unzipped to piss off our walls the other day, I accidentally bludgeoned three New Breed to death. So there’s that. Good day."

I'm not going to judge these here and now. I want you to read them and decide what you think on your own without my own biases interfering. It's so easy to fall into the group mentality so many of us live by, and of course we all feel that our own ways of doing things are the morally correct ways. These comments were refreshingly honest and straightforward, and I felt that deserved some consideration.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I spent my day off from the blog working with Jess. Yesterday was one of those rare, carefree times when what I was doing was more important than anything else in the world. My wife has made great strides in getting the greenhouse going, and I was glad to help her team start their planting for this year. I admit to having my doubts about the idea, but I should have realized that if anyone was going to be able to overcome the technical hurdles, it would be Jess. 

The place is freaking huge. It's made up of several large former business, of course, so that's not really a shock. What truly struck me when I walked into the main greenhouse, which used to be a Lowe's and is at least forty feet from floor to ceiling, was how hot it was in there. Sweltering enough that I had to strip my jacket off and get down to a tank top. In January.

Compost makes its own heat, and Jess was not sparing with the stuff. There are piles of it everywhere, set in a pattern around the tables and shelves our newly-planted veggies will occupy. She told me that the compost will heat all the time, and with so many tons of it constantly radiating, the buildings are fairly easy to keep warm. Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't felt the sweat-inducing warmth myself. 

The roof of the place is being fitted with water catchers to feed the sprinkler system, which will in turn feed the hoses that water the plants and provide drinking water. There's something awe-inspiring about watching Jess order people around and carry this huge, crazy design in her head. Seeing her not only be in charge but actually taking charge is so far from who she was when we started dating that I can barely reconcile the two versions of her. 

Hell, she even ordered me around. I spent a good chunk of the day with my hands in dirt, planting seeds. Some of that time was taken up with helping relocated truckloads of compost from New Haven proper and creating the huge piles according to Jess's plan. The last bit few hours I was over at the Box watching one of the production lines build wind turbines. 

Food is a necessity, and one my wife is becoming more clever and creative in managing. Her work is impressive to say the very least, but the turbines that will go on the roof will be the icing on the cake. They will power grow lights to supplement the natural sunlight coming through the new skylights. They'll be powered by batteries (some homemade ones, now that we have people making them) that will charge any time the wind blows hard enough to make the blades spin. Thanks to the wonder of compact fluorescent bulbs, the things will sip power. Should work out well. 

And that, kids, is just the beginning. Thanks to an abundance of copper laying around the country--already in wire form--we can make a lot of generator engines, for windmills or whatever other kinds of power generation we can think of. 

Ha. I just noticed that this whole post has been without mention of my two least favorite things: the UAS and zombies. Funny how a few projects that would have been utterly mundane several years ago now capture my imagination and hope as if they were magic. Plentiful food and the ability to turn on a light at our convenience may not seem like much, and in truth they really aren't in comparison to what we've lost. But it's important to remember that agriculture and the light of fire propelled mankind out of nomadic wandering and into an era that created modern society.

Now we just have to repeat the greenhouse strategy over again a few times and we will have enough food going by spring to keep people from getting too hungry. Sometimes I forget hos many of us there are now. We've planned for it, but maybe my small brain can't wrap around how this is going to translate into feeding so many. Jess tells me it will work, though, so I believe that it will. 

That's hope. More important, it's a start. A first step toward the future we've been planning to build. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cleaning House

I should mention off the bat that the UAS sent us another round of elegantly written bullshit following yesterday's post. The long and short of it is simple: all bluster and no action. We're certainly not upset that they don't plan on starting a war over their captives, but I can't help but laugh at their angry, empty words. Basically they threatened to keep any of our people found in their territory captive should they be found alone. I have to wonder exactly what they consider their territory since the entire Union is supposed to be some rogue nation, but I'm not too worried. Our folks are careful and won't stray far from safe areas.

Closer to home, New Haven participated in a sort of winter tradition. The temperature dropped below twenty last night--which is why I'm still awake at the moment--and five hundred of us took the opportunity to go out and find as many of the undead as possible. The wind was blowing, chilling their flesh even more. We've been planning it for a while now, and with the Box finally producing custom pieces of machinery and weapons, we have the means to do real damage to the local zombie population. Best to hit them when they're weakest.

There's no great strategy or mystery to it. We set up barriers the folks over at the Box made for us, a sort of extendable, spiky bike-rack looking thing, and went hunting. Most of the old school zombies were too frozen to offer much resistance as we attacked them.

The New Breed are as adaptable as always. They're slowly becoming acclimated to the cold, though they have a long way to go before they're a serious threat during winter. It's strange that so many of the old school zombies are resistant to cold down to the low thirties, high twenties, yet the New Breed seem to have persistent issues adapting to it.

Total number of nests found: eleven. Total zombies killed: 438. No casualties on our side.

I mention this both because it's the only real news around these parts to speak of, and because it illustrates a huge difference between the Union and the UAS. Our people head out there and cut down the undead like farmers threshing so much wheat. Long-range scouts report that the UAS has barely made an effort to clear out their newly settled areas. The little bit of extermination they've done has been unpracticed and badly done. All gunshots and being ill-prepared. Messy.

Just a warning to anyone who might be thinking of joining up with the UAS. They can't even handle their own zombies. Doesn't fill me with confidence that they'll be able to take care of you.

Monday, January 7, 2013


As expected, we got a lot of messages from the UAS yesterday. Most of them were filled with the headache-inducing bullshit legalese we thought was left behind when the dead rose up to devour the living. Stuff about their charter (a sort of constitution that they use like politicians before used the US constitution--in any way that benefits them at the moment) and how according to their rules we were keeping their citizens unlawfully. There are actually a few lawyers here, since the apocalypse apparently couldn't wipe them all out, and their opinion is that the UAS sees us as a rogue state and that they have zero recognition of us in a legal sense.

In other words, we're outlaws who kidnapped their people. I also get the sense that they're flooding our inbox with such a volume of ponderous rhetorical bullshit because they're embarrassed their people got caught crossing the border. They knew the deal and sent untrained women into danger.

I know that last bit might come off as sexist, but it really isn't. The frank biological truth of the world as it is now is that women are more important to the human race than men. I've got no problem with females fighting or doing any job a man can do, but without enough women our species is pretty much fucked. So why risk them on something like this? It was doomed to fail at some point. The direction they were heading was right into the heart of Union territory. Chances are good that they would have kept to the roads clear enough to travel on, which are the same ones we use to shuffle goods from one place to another.

We'd have caught them eventually. Which is why it's wasteful and stupid. These weren't trained soldiers, mind you. The six of them in that Hummer were only a few months removed from living safely underground. Before The Fall, two of them were congressional aides, one a business manager, one a park ranger, and the other two accountants from some big agency. All of them friends from the same area, which makes sense given how localized the evacuations for the bunkers must have been. You can only take so many, after all.

They can't tell us what the mission was. Not because they don't want to, but because they don't have any idea. They were given a location to drive to and instructions to wait for a set amount of time for some kind of signal, then to return home. My guess is another agent like the bastards that killed the Exiles, but the ladies in the truck have no idea who it was.

All told it was a badly planned and clumsy idea. If nothing else it cost the UAS a carload of citizens who were wives and mothers to people they left behind and useful members of their community in their respective jobs. I have a problem with suicide missions, which this would have been if we were as barbaric as the UAS seems to think we are. And my mother, may she rest in peace, raised me to believe that women were the superior gender. Right or wrong that attitude made me protective toward the fairer sex, and this...idiocy is infuriating.

They will be relocated far from the border. These ladies will be kept together and moved to a community that can use extra hands. Treatment will be fair and they won't be imprisoned unless they try to escape, but they aren't coming home.

If you are a member of the UAS and can read this, perhaps you should have a talk with your leadership about testing border security this way. I can't imagine this having any other motive. Next time it could be your loved one who gets treated as expendable. Just something to think about.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Across The Line

Over the last week twelve of the communities that make up the Union have sent out long-term settlers to man  the more populated areas of the border with the UAS. Up this far north (which is relative, of course) there isn't as much concern. Closer to the UAS central holdings in the far south, however, a Union presence needs to be seen.

And, in this case, felt.

I don't have a lot of information, but I understand those twelve groups have set up an equal number of outposts covering nearly two hundred and fifty miles of border. The patrols between those stations are both regularly timed and sometimes at odd hours just to keep people from figuring out when they'll be happening for sure. It was during one of the random patrols that our people caught a truckload of UAS members trying to sneak across the border.

Now, we aren't considering this an act of war. I've been told that I have free reign to remind everyone as often as I like that the Union isn't going to fight unless we absolutely have to. That's not showing our hand or acting like cowards. Just fact. We won't attack just because a hummer full of women made their way a few miles into our territory.

But in the spirit of keeping things short and to the point, I'll just skip ahead and say this: they aren't coming back. They're alive, of course, but not free. They came straight into our land at nearly a right angle to the line of the border. It was intentional. So, they're prisoners.

There's not much else in the way of news (that I'm free to share) but then, given we now have UAS prisoners, I imagine a short post will be all the news anyone can handle. Some will call for a fight on both sides. People will let themselves get riled up. No matter how insistent those voices become, the Union will not blink. If disaster follows this, it won't be because we started it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Last Man

I stopped by the clinic yesterday (well, one of the several we have now) to interview Henry, the last surviving Exile from the fallback point. His recovery has been coming along better than expected, though he will never be a healthy man again. Whatever poison was in that water did permanent damage to his respiratory system from the lungs up to his throat and mouth. You can hear him breathe from the next room, a rattle that always seems on the edge of being a cough but doesn't quite get there. The act of getting out of bed winds him, turning his breath to harsh rasps.

His voice is the worst part. I haven't the slightest idea what he sounded like before, but Henry talking is like listening to a cancer patient trying to squeak out his last words around a mouthful of stones. I've spent time with enough dying people to have a fair ear for the sound of it. Except Henry isn't dying. He's getting better. His ordeal has left a mark on him, reminders that come with every inhalation.

Still, he's remarkably tough. The older man is trying to do everything for himself no matter how difficult. I'm told he has been heard sobbing at night, almost certainly from the memories of all the dead left behind when he somehow survived.

I didn't see much of that in my interview with him. I wasn't there to learn secrets about the cowardly attack that took the lives of his loved ones. I wanted his story, a piece of the larger tapestry that is our story as a people. I yearn to understand what drives even the worst of us, how the motivations of normal people can twist and turn them into Exiles or marauders.

Or even into people like the UAS.

Henry isn't like Kincaid. He wasn't a good, or even neutral, man before The Fall. Henry was kind of a bad guy. Not in the twirling-my-mustache way. He didn't rob nuns at gunpoint or sacrifice children. He was a con artist, a thief, and even before The Fall, a rapist.

I write that word and find myself surprised that I'm not enraged. The two things that have always bypassed every barrier I've developed for self-control are people that hit kids or women (call me a sexist, whatever. It's instinct) and rapists. Even before the world fell apart I'd have felt the righteous urge to kill a man for that act.

Maybe it was the honesty that softened the news. It may have been the genuine self-loathing I saw in his eyes, heard in his broken voice. Henry once committed an act beyond forgiveness, and years in a cell later, in a world fallen to ruin, it still haunted him. That's how he came to live with the Exiles.

Before the marauders joined up with the Exiles to form a permanent community, Henry was a marauder. He joined a group made up of people like him; men who took from others without conscience. He says it was because he couldn't bring himself to be around any other kind of person. That he didn't deserve it. He took me off guard by admitting that he worried survivors like me would make him pay for the things he'd done before The Fall if they were discovered. He's probably not wrong.

Though he didn't participate in further such acts against women, he didn't stop those in his group that did. His conscience at him over the long months on the road. He was too frightened to say anything, or to even strike out on his own. He told me that cowardice and a desire to live kept him from voicing the objections he felt.

He quoted Tolstoy (or Edmund Burke, depending on your version of history) to me. It's a famous old line:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

"But," he followed up, "people forget that bad men come in grades. And we can let worse people get by with evil by choosing not to act."

Eventually Henry did leave his group at one of the rare trade gatherings among the marauders. He searched for a new home among them, some group that might have been thieves and maybe even killers, but didn't do the awful things he'd seen too much of. There were a few such caravans, women freely living among them unharmed. Which is who he joined up with and eventually settled in the fallback point with many months later.

Henry admitted to me that at times when he lived among the darkest remnants of humanity, he considered suicide. There wasn't any lack of opportunity, not with so many zombies constantly hounding marauder groups. Henry wasn't afraid to fight, so in that sense he wasn't a coward. But he was afraid to stand up. And too much self-preservation lived inside him to let the undead take him.

It took him a long while, but Henry eventually chose a different way. The truly awful thing I realized by the end of the interview is that he really seems to think he deserves this. That the lives of every single person he held dear was taken while he lived, as a punishment. He wants this pain. He feels he deserves it.

Hmm. Maybe that's why I can't summon up that killing anger. Death would be a release for him. There aren't any punishments for him that I can think of worse than living.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Voice

Let me tell you: after all the months of darkness, doubt and depression, this morning is one hell of a bright spot for me. The voting results are in. Not only did every remaining group in the Union choose to stay together, but the vote wasn't even close in any of them. No single community was below 70% in keeping the Union together, and most of those who voted differently or didn't vote only had issues with how we should respond to the UAS, not whether we should give in to them.

The reason the vote took so long aside from the general problems with getting people together and counting them was due to a separate vote that didn't get cast here. That one was a surprise to me, to most people in New Haven.

That vote was for a leadership council. So far the process of managing the Union has been informal for the most part. New Haven didn't cast any ballots for this part because we're the ones who spearheaded the entire idea. There was never any question we were in to the hilt. Now that the voice of the people has been heard, we're on our way to being a single government rather than a loose association of groups. That last vote was for a sort of high council. People to set policy, propose laws and rules that apply to every person in the Union.

More than all that, it's a council that will be composed of the leaders from each community, and there happen to be an even number of them. Which means the leader of that council, a person voted into the position by the others on it, gets two votes to break ties. Want to guess who got the job?

Will Price is sitting on my couch right now, shaking his head. He has been there for the last hour, totally dumbfounded by how much his life has changed over the last few years. I offered to make him a congratulatory breakfast, but he said maybe being put in charge of this grand experiment wasn't a good thing. So I offered to make him a breakfast of commiseration instead. It's the same breakfast either way, but I don't smile with the sad version.

I want to go into all the details, explain how the higher-ups are planning on integrating us into a single people, but not today. Let's keep it short and sweet and leave it there. I like taking my day off on a positive note, and it doesn't get much better than this.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Border Town

The vote here went as predicted. There weren't many people who thought it would be a good idea for us to bend knee to the UAS. As for the other communities, their votes are still ongoing. Will tells me the full results will be available tomorrow. No idea what the delay is about but considering the world we live in I'd say getting a vote at all is a minor miracle.

I've been thinking about Farlane a lot over the last day, trying to figure out why their choice to switch teams bothers me so much. Other than the obvious reasons, I mean. They had a need--sick people--and the solution to their problem was dangled right in front of them. It's very hard to blame them for the choice. In the heat of the moment people make decisions that seem like the best outcome.

Yesterday the UAS sent messages telling us that Farlane would become a border town. Maybe reading their words helped keep my mind focused on the situation. Farlane is, according to the UAS, going to be something of a free port. People from both sides can go there for trade. The UAS will enforce a weapons ban inside the town limits. They plan on setting up some kind of marketplace there.

To me this is an obvious ploy, nearly as blatant as their clinic scheme. What's the best way to tempt survivors into switching sides and joining them? A taste of the benefits, of course. In carefully controlled circumstances that make the UAS look vastly appealing. Once I realized that, it was only a short leap for me to realize why the situation has been bugging me so much.

The UAS have a different perspective on The Fall from our own. For us, The Fall meant a total collapse of society and government. We were all alone out here, no support structures. It's not that I hold that against the people in the UAS. They had the option to be safe during the madness. There's not many people among us who wouldn't have made the same decision if we'd have had the choice.

But see, there's the rub. We didn't have a choice. It's very easy for the UAS to say they did the logical thing because they certainly did, but they also don't get that they come off as arrogant assholes. Think about it for a second. From our point of view, you have these people who haven't known the hardships and dire straights the rest of us have had to fight through. No zombies, no starvation, no outbreaks, none of that. I actually envy them for that, but to finally come above ground and make demands of us? Fuck that.

One person from the UAS has commented on the blog recently, and their points were reasonably said and fairly stated. I'd love to have a face-to-face with that person if it were possible. Because while I understand his perspective--that the UAS leadership are people who were legally elected officials in the world that was and thus have authority over this country--that doesn't make his point of view at all in sync with reality.

Let's dissect the concept for a minute. You're the UAS. You're led by a bunch of congressmen, senators, civilian leaders of all types. Okay, I get that. The people of the United States voted you in and whatever disaster plan you followed left you in charge of the place.

Two problems. One: the United States no longer exist. Not as a government. The infrastructure and support the UAS claims to be offering seems like a smokescreen. Because why the fuck would they come out after all this time unless they needed something desperately? Yeah, they've got some things we could use, but instead of just trying to trade, they concoct plans to steal and kill to get what they want.

Two: even if the UAS is correct on a legal level about being in charge, the simple fact is that the voters who put them in power are now dead.

Let that sink in for a minute, UAS people. Especially the reasonable man who commented on my post the other day. Think about that hard. You want to enforce the will of the people on us, people who are long dead with no stake in the world today. People who couldn't survive the very circumstances we've managed to adapt to and even thrive in. Does that make a ton of sense to you? Is it fair for you to make a claim to power in that case? You aren't swooping in to conquer the undead and suddenly restore modern civilization to the world. Hell, if you were somehow able to make that happen even I would be thrilled to join up.

You're desperate and puffing out your chests. You're led by tiny men whose life experiences before The Fall made them believe they mattered to the world in some real way. Men whose experiences since The Fall (oh, look at me, I must be special because I got elected and that gets me a spot in the bunker!) has only served to reinforce that. So, before the final votes are in, allow me to reiterate to you one last time what reality is.

You're nothing. You wouldn't last three days out in the world. You can strut and demand all you want, but nothing short of living as we have lived will ever make you more than a joke to us. You could give up the charade that you care about anyone in the Union and declare open hostilities, wage war on us with the horded weapons we know you have.

And you'd still be a fucking joke. Even as you killed us we would laugh at you, because like all bullies you would be proving your dick was bigger than ours the only way you know how. Basically what I'm saying here is that until and unless the UAS is willing to stop all these games and act like adults, we'll treat you like the ignorant children you are.

Oh, and your border town? I doubt you'll see even one of us go there. Have fun spending resources on that.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Things around here have been so insane lately that I didn't even notice yesterday was the last day of 2012. With all the activity over putting the Union's existence to a hard vote, the date sort of just slipped my mind. We won't know until tomorrow what the final count is, but I'm sure New Haven at least has chosen overwhelmingly to stick it out with the Union. We're the ones who started this whole thing when we began working on trade schemes with other communities. It's kind of our baby.

This early in the morning I don't have much to say. Unless my reading of the people here is completely off, we won't see any surprises in the vote. That's not to say other communities won't choose to leave the Union, but I'd be shocked if any of them followed the lead of Farlane. There are reasons, of course, and as usual I'm not at liberty to say much beyond that.

Jess is sleeping beside me. She has had such a rough few weeks, I really don't know how she has managed so much for so long. I feel closer to contentment than I have in a long time. My beautiful wife is here with me, the zombies are hibernating for longer than we could have hoped, and the many projects we've been working on will soon bear fruit. We're taking that first step toward a future much brighter than the past we're leaving behind us.

I should be thrilled. Right here, right now, I should be overwhelmed with the joy of it. I truly am happy, but there's a sour note of unease that never leaves the back of my mind nowadays. Call it whatever you like. Could be depression or practicality or cynicism. I don't know how to explain it. I just know that at all times I'm hyper-aware of how precarious our house of cards really is.

I don't mean survival. Each of us can do that easily. At times I think it might have been better for humanity in the long term if we hadn't clumped together in large groups after The Fall. Maybe it would have been more natural and healthy in the long run if many thousands of individual people fled into the wilderness to survive alone or in small clusters. Then, over time, we could have come back together out of a desire for common purpose rather than a need for protection and comfort. I don't know, exactly. Just this feeling that the structures we've built between us are fragile at best.

The UAS knows this. Take out a main support of a bridge and the whole thing falls to pieces. Our network of communities has functioned so far because we trade with each other and offer support. What happens if a group deep inside Union territory decides to switch sides? All it would take to cripple us is a single defection along a crucial artery of our trade route.

That's just one example, but the more I think about the UAS and their tactics the more I realize that's how they operate. If you hit a piece of crystal just right the whole thing shatters. So it is with us. Some of us have spoiled for a fight with the UAS, but now more than ever the truth is obvious: they don't need to fire a shot to beat us. All they have to do is exploit a weakness with exactly the right amount of pressure at exactly the right time.

Take out one card and the tower falls. Every child of five knows it. Which is why we--the Union--have to make a promise to each other. We have to weather the storm no matter what. We can survive this by doing what we've always done, by making the hard choice to persevere no matter what tricks the enemy throws our way.

The only way we can do it is if we hold firm and stand as one. It's a bit overused, but today of all days we should make a resolution not to abandon each other. We're brothers and sisters in suffering. Survivors who thrived despite the worst parts of The Fall happening all around us. If anything can keep people together, it's that.

If it doesn't, then maybe we don't deserve to win this fight.