Sunday, March 31, 2013


I don't have much for you today. There are a lot of people celebrating Easter in Haven today, and it's good to see so many smiling faces. It's somewhat amazing to me that people living in a world mostly populated by zombies are still happy to recognize a holy day that emphasizes resurrection, but to each their own. Jesus came first, so he wins dibs on it.

A lot of us are having rabbit today. It's not because we carry some vendetta against the Easter bunny or anything. We're mobilizing our troops and packing away as much food as we can for them, so much of the meat we have on hand--venison, some beef, a good deal of mutton, and chicken--is being cured or eaten or packed away in some form or fashion. The one thing we have almost too much of: bunnies. We breed them (or rather just sort of let them go at it) and if we don't periodically thin the swarm a little, Haven would be overrun with the adorable (and tasty) little guys.

I'd say I'm nursing a pretty serious hangover, but I don't get them very often. I'm a little muzzy this...well, it's not morning, even though I just woke up, but we'll call it morning for me. Today was always going to be a last day off for a lot of us once we heard the UAS was finally making a move this way. Last night there was a concert at our little open-air theater, a bunch of people getting together and playing old favorites. The stunning thing to me was the emergence of new music. And I do mean that.

I drank too much, too fast, but even fairly buttered I caught the words of Les, the frontman of the raggedy band of musicians as he informed the crowd that their first song would be one they worked on together for several weeks. Even after the end of the world, human beings will still make new music.

It was a pretty good song, too.

Today we reflect and gather and grill food and generally enjoy each other. We partied last night, we'll spend today saying goodbye and preparing to send off more of our citizens. Tomorrow will be the first day of a long, painful war for all of us, but for our soldiers directly. I hope we can give them the best of sendoffs.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Drink The Joy

I spent a good chunk of this morning over at the greenhouses with Jess, and a little time helping out at the Box, because manual labor is always in demand. K was happy to spend time working here alone, he even encouraged me to take half a day, saying I looked anxious and wild-eyed. Just needed some time out among people for longer than it takes to carry a message, I suppose.

My dogs found me on the long walk over there. Usually they come home at night, but with us setting up the perimeter out in the county, our huge pack of dogs has become vital to hunting down the trickle of zombies that manage to sneak through the gaps. My boys were running free inside of Central, and I guess they spotted me as I made my way through.

Yes, I spent more time than I should have rolling in the grass with them. They love to wrestle, and I always keep a snack, usually jerky, in my pocket when I'm out. It's been so long since I could just spend time with them as my pets that giving them a treat and tummy rubs was almost unreal to me. So much of my time is taken up with analysis of current events, looking at history, writing, collating, explaining conditions to other people, and dealing with the everyday reality that we live in the freaking apocalypse that something as simple as scritching my dogs behind the ears seems...decadent.

They went with me, running around like idiots and generally just enjoying the wonderful morning. I could tell they liked it from the vigorous wagging of tails and sloppy dog grins. Jess was less than thrilled to have them charging about the greenhouse constantly, but I don't think she was really upset. I could tell because of the cute little smile at the corner of her mouth when one of our boys came up and snuffled all over her.

Jeez, this post isn't as doom-and-gloomy as I thought it was going to be. I mean, we're in a state of war, yeah? There are people about to die, and many who already have in the west. Not to mention the UAS soldiers who already died from their initial contact with our traps, mines, and explosives.

But here and now, life is good. The day is crisp but comfortable, I had a good time with people I love. I saw signs of life, real life, as I walked to and from the Box and greenhouse. Kids playing in the street, families cooking out, children learning to defend themselves in a knife fight.

Okay, so not all of it was strictly old-school normal, but it was as average as things get around here. Life goes on in an everyday sense when the world gets more dangerous. That's part of what we've made here in Haven. We will tackle those dangers when they come, but we will drink the joy in every moment while we have them. It's a damned good way to live.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Hard Road

Well, you can't say we didn't give them ample warning.

The UAS crossed into Union territory yesterday. Because of what I assume were logistical concerns, their main forces moved in only three large groups. Two of those traveled through the vast area of burnout from the forest fire a few weeks ago. Reports are thin on the ground, but Haven's own long-range scouts are telling us that the main body of all three groups are currently stopped. Probably has to do with all the injuries.

What, did anyone think we were going to play fair? Fuck that. These people have enough gear to shell our communities into dust around us. This isn't politics for the Union, or a game about who gets to be in control. From our point of view it's all about survival, plain and simple. 

That's why Union citizens have been mining and trapping every road and bridge they could find for the last month. Becky and some other people versed in chemistry have been working like mad to ensure every group within the Union has the capacity to produce their own explosives, detonators, the works. It helps that we've got the entire eastern third of the country to play with, because we've also got a truly huge number of land mines and antipersonnel mines. 

Well, we did have a vast store of them. That's been somewhat depleted recently. Have a lot of fun figuring out where we put them, UAS. I imagine it will be like an Easter egg hunt no one wants to win. 

Pat left early this morning. I was working late last night with K, and felt under the weather this morning and slept in. I didn't get to see him off, but Patrick has never been overly sentimental. I know he wants to get out there and do some good, and I'm happy he's getting the chance. 

We've shifted gears into a full-on war mentality now. Jess is planning on spending much of her time out of the house as we start the planting. The greenhouse(s) will be restocked and keep growing food all through the season since we'll need as much as possible. Not only for the hungry folks here, but also because every community is trying to keep our own troops stocked up for extended time in the field. It reminds me of all the old movies I've seen about the world wars. People going hungry at home, meatless and wheatless days, weeks without sugar. 

I wish my grandma was here to tell me about those times. She was already married when the US entered the second World War. We've had to stumble and rely on knowledge gleaned from the internet and scoured from old servers, libraries ransacked for precious books, but I'd give a lot to have someone around who lived through this kind of thing before, someone with a lifetime of little tricks and shortcuts and most of all perspective. Someone to tell us the best way to cope, both on a practical physical level and mentally. 

Because I'm having a hard time here. I know that's incredibly selfish considering we've just been plunged into a war for our existence, but it's true. Will is working on managing an emerging nation, and dealing with the cold reality of the fight we're now in. Pat left to help deal with the zombie swarms down south. Steve isn't home yet, Courtney is but she's our diplomat and is busy at all times. Becky basically is our science department, and Rachel lives on the other side of Haven, usually keeping herself occupied with whatever it is she does on a daily basis. We've fallen somewhat out of touch. 

I'm not trying to make this all about me, but I'm at a sort of crossroads here. I don't know if I should do as I've done for years and try to record how the events around me affect me personally as well as all of us, or just stick to the bigger picture and ignore my own life when I'm writing. It's tough because every person (except for Big K) in my life is doing something important. And yes, I know that many of you would place this blog in that category, but I don't put it on the same level as designing a strategy to stall our enemies with explosives. It's just not equal.

Now that I think about it, I'm sure some of the people here probably feel the same way. The guy out hunting for game to share with the rest of us might feel like he could be doing more, even though his job is vital to the fabric of our community. The blog does serve as a morale booster, or so I've been told, as well as a handy place to get news. So maybe I can deal with the lack of friends and family, after all. 

Maybe I'm just off balance because of how fast this is all spiraling down. It's easy to get out of sorts when I look around and see the beginnings of a new world before my eyes. It hits me harder now because for the first time, we've got too much to lose. Running away as many of us did when the Richmond soldiers came here just isn't an option. The stakes are higher now, more than ever, because the only option is to stand. To win. 

Or to die for our home, if it comes to that. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The motto of my mother's family in the latin is Felis Demulcta Mitis. In English it means 'gentle in peace, fearless in war.'

It's hard to sum it up any better than that. Estimates put the incursion of UAS forces onto Union soil somewhere tonight if they keep moving. It will take them a while to reach any of our communities, but they don't have to even do that much to be a threat. I could go over the particulars over and over, why their presence is a problem even if they aren't hitting our towns, but I don't have the energy.

I'm all for a peaceful solution if it's possible. We're at a point right now that requires a change in gears. This isn't a hypothetical nor is it a situation with many variables. The fighting is going to start soon.

So I'm just going to ask one more time for the UAS to withdraw. Do not come across the border, don't threaten our people. We don't want to kill your soldiers and you don't want them to die. The lives of thousands of people are worth more than a pissing match because of your wounded pride.

There, I said it. Moving on...

Patrick is going south for sure, now. He'll be taking the chopper as well as helping coordinate some of our ground teams. The fact that a huge contingent of soldiers is on their way helped spur the decision to go. Haven can spare people for a joint effort to fight the UAS, and Will has been working with the leadership from the other communities to put together a coalition defense force. Pat will be part of it, and his experience and intelligence will serve our...military? very well.

Steve will still be coming home. He has been away for so long, and Courtney just got back last night from her extended trip. The two of them will remain here for the near future. I'll worry about Patrick but it will be a relief to know that the majority of my friends will be home where it's relatively safe. We're far enough inside the border that we'll know long before the UAS comes anywhere close.

I know the properly dramatic thing would be to tell you about the frog in my throat and the cold ball in the pit of my stomach. I wish I could appease you, but we've been living with this for so long that it's actually a serious relief to know it's happening. Now we can get on with the business of it. The only major variable in our lives (other than the undead) has become a constant. The equation is set. Now the only thing for us to do is solve it.

Oooh, that sounds pretty tough, doesn't it? It isn't meant to be. The more I spend time with the people around here, mostly K and my wife, Will and my other friends, the more I remember that we're all people. K and my wife don't talk to each other very often since Jess is usually working when he's here, but I couldn't help but laugh at the two of them--both very awkward and quiet--trying to get through breakfast the other day when Jess stayed home from work. For two intelligent people, both culturally similar even before The Fall, and physically similar, they acted like teenagers trying to ask each other on a date. It was adorable, really. I'd forgotten how much enjoyment can be had watching other people fumble for small talk.

The people coming for us are no different on an individual level. I have no doubt that I could like any number of them, have interesting conversations or learn incredible new facts. Or maybe just enjoy their company. I'm willing to bet that most of the people in their army--which outnumbers us--are to one degree or another fascinating, good human beings.

But they are and army. I may hate the fact that we'll have to fight, I may lose sleep over the fields that will surely be carpeted with bodies before much longer, but I will absolutely not flinch when the moment comes. This is my home, and the Union is our home. I'll be happy for UAS soldiers to defect, surrender, or even switch sides. But none of us will hesitate to pull the trigger to wait for that to happen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Inner Peace

It's a very strange thing to know that the outside world is still such a violent place right now, yet here things are fairly calm. To be honest it's safer in Haven than at any time I can remember, and the outer defenses seem to be doing their job. Not many zombies at all inside the defensive measures. Just strays, really.

Last night I went through the blog, skipping around through posts and looking at the change over time. It's striking how you don't notice the change as it happens because you're part of it, but reading through all those old posts, hauling out so many memories sharp enough to draw blood, was eye-opening. When I first started writing this thing, it was about getting ready. About surviving what was coming. Then The Fall happened faster than any of us could have guessed, and I started writing my experiences.

I read a post from the end of January in 2011 to K, the one about Jack dying in my arms. K is from North Jackson, of course, so he obviously knew about Jack's death. I just wanted to read it out loud because that particular piece of writing was hard for me, as were a lot of others from those early days and months and years.

I'm thirty years old, and I've been living in a world destroyed by zombies for three years now. I've cataloged moments large and small, some in only the most general terms and some in excruciating detail.

I see now that since my time as a (mostly) non-combatant, since the mental break that was, thankfully, not as bad as it could have been, I've changed. This blog has changed with me, taken a larger focus on the things going on around the world. I don't know if that's for better or worse, but the truth is that since I'm mostly sitting in an office and not out there with everyone else, my life has become sort of boring. I sit down some days to type, and it strikes me that you all know who I am, how my life is. It has grown almost impossible for me to make a distinction between what matters about myself or not.

So I write about the war, the UAS, the larger state of things. Because that's easy. It's what people want to read about because it will affect them. Yeah, I try to keep the hotter heads in check because I'm one of them myself, but this blog has moved on so far from what it was as a few sentences typed in haste. It began with survival.

We've grown so far past that basic concept, and so have I.

This post is sort of like an episode of Seinfeld (apologies to future generations who don't understand that reference, if there are future generations) in that it doesn't have a particular thrust or point. I just wanted to lay it all out there, my observations on the evolution I've noticed in the blog and in myself (the two being inextricably linked) and my thoughts on why those changes have happened.

I read so many posts from that first year, and I can't help but think of how damn cute it was that I was so horrified by so many things. I had no idea then what terrible was.

I read back through those posts because I remember feeling so deeply, so wide, and longed for that again even if it were only the bad reactions. I used to get this deep sense of dread when big things happened, and for the life of me I can't pinpoint when that reaction faded away.

I'd love to know, because I didn't feel it at all yesterday when word came in the UAS has mobilized against us. They're coming at the Union in force.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mass Effect

The truly awesome thing about the Union is that each person in it is a survivor. At some point or another every one of us had to keep safe using nothing but the available materials and our own wits. It's harsh and cold to say this, but The Fall did sort of force the most able survivors to thrive or die. Don't get me wrong, most of us got really lucky, and I believe that many more people would have survived if the plague hadn't spread so far, so fast.

But those of us who are left? We're good at staying alive. We're also really good at killing.

Yesterday K and I helped Dodger and a few others test out a new vehicle they've been working on. We've had our tanks for a while now, the tricked-out trucks that can run down the undead with nary a hitch. The monstrosity I was allowed to drive is something else entirely: a weapon designed to mow down the undead in droves. It started life as a pickup truck. Add a new engine, a lot of armor, and some very clever mechanical attachments custom-made over at the Box, and what you end up with sort of looks like a helicopter got nasty with an armored car.

The thing is awesome. It carries huge expanded fuel tanks and runs on ethanol. It has a range better than a thousand miles--much better if the giant extra tanks in the bed are filled to the brim--and the capacity to run its attachments for as long as the engine is going. You get inside, push a button, and two motorized aluminum arms spread out from the sides, extending a good seven and a half feet. They're actually props for the spinning blades that begin to whir as soon as the arms are extended. They can be adjusted in height, speed, and angle.

It's like something out of a movie. We tested it on a group of zombies bottled up at one of our choke points, and the thing works like a freaking charm. The idea was to send it down south to help thin out the swarms, and we're still going to do that. If the chopper (yeah, I just named it that) holds up, it can mow down a swarm with truly ridiculous speed.

The reason we're not in a rush is because late yesterday evening, Will came by to tell Dodger and the rest of us working on the chopper that other communities have been coming up with creative solutions to the vastly increased zombie population. A few greatest hits:

One group killed several deer and dressed the carcasses, pinning them to an abandoned vehicle in the path of a nearby swarm almost a thousand zombies strong. At a distance of a thousand feet, the group watched the swarm center on the car, and then from behind armored glass they hit the detonate button on the forty sticks of dynamite rigged to a radio transmitter. Helped that they packed about five hundred pounds of nails, ball bearings, and gravel into the car. Made a nice shrapnel bomb that greatly reduced the number of functional zombies in the swarm.

Another group started circling around their swarm and harried them forward with ammonia, which forced half the zombies to run off a dead drop, falling a hundred feet into the rocks. Then they started burning the rest as the humans stood in the ammonia cloud, much dispersed and harmless to them, but still overwhelmingly powerful to the zombie sense of smell.

A third group also used the ammonia method, but they herded their swarm into a prepared area; they'd cut down a lot of trees, creating a barrier that they then close off around the swarm with minor difficulty, ten men with chainsaws working as thirty others defended them. Once trapped, it was easy enough to light the whole thing on fire, as the floor of the trapped area was littered with plenty of flammable material. They threw in some thermite and gasoline just to make things interesting.

Patrick has volunteered to go with the small convoy that will be taking the chopper south. He's supposed to relieve Steve and send that group back up this way, and it bothers me to get one of my friends back only to see another leave. But the truck has to get there, and Pat is definitely capable of driving it with one hand and a hook, so I can't think of a reason other than my own selfishness why he shouldn't go. He wants to be proactive, and given how effective that has been with the other communities all over the Union, I think it's a good thing overall.

The mass gatherings of the undead work against them; they're a larger threat, yes, but they're slower and tend to react in unison to things. It makes dealing with them more predictable. I have my fingers crossed that it stays that way, and that my friends remain safe.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

By the Numbers

Here's some irony for you: the UAS is pulling their people as far from our border as they can, because they've figured out that the less live bodies they have to act as bait, the less the endless swarm of the undead from central America will bother them. By backing away our enemy is creating a corridor that basically forces the swarms toward us.

That being said, it's not as though Haven or the Union are in dire straights. I mean, yeah, no one wants to have a tide of (former) humanity to sweep over their home and crush everything they love, but we've been dealing with the undead for three years. I don't know many people who've heard about these giant hordes and even paused while eating their breakfast.

The UAS seems to think this is a viable tactic against us, and that belief stems from the difference in our cultures. They still have an edge to their fear of the undead, that unreasoning panic that goes right down to the pit of their stomachs and makes them sick. We, on the other hand, don't. Our fear is healthy and reasoned and we know that the problem is a matter of scale and numbers. It's a logical worry.

And the reason today's post is going to be short is due to my assistance in testing a logical solution.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Face of the Enemy

Hey, this post is by Beckley…ladies.  I feel weird posting about the UAS and life in general after yesterday’s post where Josh laid out all this personal information and shared about his mom.  I feel like I’m chucking rocks into a quiet pond.  Still, Josh did say he wasn’t going to post today due to being busy, so let’s talk about the UAS’ recent actions.

I had a whole response and message to the UAS written out when Josh discovered that South Americans were immigrating into UAS territory.  I really let the UAS have it.  I, like a lot of people, assumed that the UAS was using the Latinos as cannon fodder and the racism made me nauseous.  I had this burning righteous anger and I wrote all about it.

But now we’ve discovered that the UAS aren’t as morally bankrupt as I assumed.  I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise since I lived there for, like, a minute.  In the days that followed my unposted rant, I’ve become disturbed by how readily I jumped to conclusions.  Josh has talked about how the UAS is made up of human beings just like us.  These are people that are scared, who just want to live their lives.  They have nothing to do with the UAS leadership or the violence of this war.  Hell, from what Josh has found, a lot of the UAS soldiers don’t want anything to do with the wanton violence we’ve seen.  Yet when I found out that the UAS was allowing people to immigrate, I immediately assumed slave labor.  It was a knee jerk reaction.  And the implication is that this UAS hatred and bigotry has rubbed off on me.

And it is bigotry.  Let’s call it like it is.  People hate the UAS around here.  Yes, there are cooler heads who don’t want war, who just want to live in peace.  But ask those same people what they think of the UAS and you’ll be hard pressed to find many who are alright with their existence.  See, not wanting war and being alright with the UAS being alive in the next territory over are two different things.  Hell, I’ve even heard people describe me as “one of the good ones” when talking about the UAS.  Somehow I’ve become the exception to the evil that is every other human being in the UAS.  It’s the same bigotry and prejudice that gave us such wonderful pre-fall comments like, “Now I’m not racist and I’ve got lots of black/white/Latino/Asian/Indian/Lithuanian friends, buuuuuuuut…did you ever notice how those people blah blah blah, I’m a racist piece of crap.”  Just replace your ethnicity du jour with the UAS and you’ve got the fashionable prejudice of this post-fall world.  And I fell right into it.

I keep trying to convince myself that it wasn’t bigotry.  Maybe I assumed slave labor because in the pre-fall world there was a lot of prejudice aimed at Latino immigrants, legal or otherwise.  Maybe I was already primed to assume that people would try to use Latino immigrants to do the work they didn’t want to soil their lily white hands with, just like before the dead started walking and eating.  That justification made me feel better for a second or two, but I was just fooling myself.  It’s prejudice against the UAS plain and simple.  I was wrong.  And a lot of you are wrong too.  You armchair diplomats saying in absolute terms that there can be no peace.  Those of you cackling about attacking UAS territory.  Those of you scoffing at how the UAS stayed safe in their bunker when you would have been begging for a seat right next to them if you’d had the chance.  Those of you who say that I’m one of the good ones while still giving me the stink eye and hoping that you’re the one to execute me when I inevitably show my devious UAS nature and betray you all.  Most of us are horribly prejudiced.  Well, the cure for prejudice is knowledge, so I’m going to introduce you to someone I knew during my time in the UAS.  It will put more of a human face on the UAS for all of you as well as refreshing my memory.

There was this guy named Trevor.  Now you’re going to hate this guy.  Not because he’s a full-grown man with the name of a first-grader (I’m a snob, I know), but rather because he was the go-between for the UAS government and the UAS town leaders.  Trevor studied political theory and whatnot at University of Michigan.  And of course, that’s another reason not to like him because only sad, pathetic people cheer for the Wolverines.  I think I speak for all civilized human beings when I say, “Ohio State Buckeyes, son!”  Regardless, Trevor went into politics and eventually became a senior aide for some senator.  When the fall came, into the bunker the senator went.  And that senator pulled some strings to get Trevor in there too.

Trevor (and others) would bring news, orders, policies, whatever, to the town leaders throughout the UAS territory.  He was the voice of the government, and he made sure that same government played a role in all of our lives.  If this war ended tomorrow with the capture of UAS leadership, you can bet that Trevor will be there in the firing squad with all the other UAS leaders.  You hate that little collaborator, don’t you?

But here’s the thing.  Trevor was a really great guy.  In the world that was, he tutored at-risk kids.  He plays the violin and when in town would regularly do concerts on a Stradivarius he looted after he left the bunker.  His family, all of whom are dead now, raised foster kids and he wanted to do the same, and in fact has done so with the myriad orphans this apocalypse has caused.  Trevor would sneak luxury foods out of the main UAS compound and give them out to the kids in town.  Jelly beans, chocolate, that kind of thing.  One time, I swear to you, he somehow got his hands on homemade ice cream and drove through town in an ice cream truck he’d found.  You should have seen the kids’ faces.

Oh, yeah, and there are kids in the UAS too.  We keep forgetting that, don’t we?

So what is it we really want when we give in to our prejudices?  You can say Trevor is a collaborator and you’re right.  He’s horribly misguided, he spreads propaganda, and in a real way he’s dangerous.  But if you kill him, you remove something fundamentally good from this world.  Do we really want to crush the UAS?  Because that will kill a lot of kids and a lot of innocent families who are just as scared of this war as you.  And let’s face it, a majority of you out there who hate the UAS and want them dead aren’t out their fighting.  You’re sitting safe and warm in your homes with electricity (so stoked about that, by the way).  It’s easy to hate the enemy from afar or when you’re on the other end of a gun.  But at the end of the day your hatred is lazy and offensive and disgusting.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight the UAS.  If they give us no choice, we have to defend ourselves.  But we should never ever relish that fact.  We should not strut about our victories over other human beings.  We should not welcome death.  The world may be filled with walking corpses that look human, but that does not mean that humanity has become disposable.  There’s been so much death already.  How dare you ask for more just to satisfy your own bigotry?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I was unaware, but the clinic here in Central has been in the process of moving to a new location for about a week now. I had a post planned about something entirely different today, but I'm going to be selfish. You may recall that the clinic was once my mom's house. Not the place I grew up, but the place where I went from childhood into manhood, which probably took longer than she would have liked.

During the move, things have been disturbed that were left untouched after her death a few years ago. Most of the stuff that she wouldn't have cared much about like her bed and tables and clothe were moved or used for other things. The deeply personal items got put in storage until I could go through them. Which I did. But apparently I missed a small jewelry box, an old thing she got from my grandmother.

Inside was a sealed envelope addressed to me. It was in her handwriting. An artifact from her, a sort of time capsule. Mom had a habit of writing me letters over the years. I've found more than one since her death, old things that she wrote when I was growing up. But this was new. Or as new as I am ever going to get.

I won't reproduce it here, not in whole. Partly because the thing is deeply personal--on her part and mine, though for my own sake I obviously don't mind airing personal things--and partly because I know it would have embarrassed her for me to do so. The letter was clearly written after The Fall, and it was long. Very, very long. Six front and back pages.

In it she expressed her worries for the future. She wrote about how happy she was that some people had survived. She covered an amazing variety of topics close to her heart, and the letter was written to me in the forthright manner that defined our unique relationship. Mom could always talk to me about literally anything, and vice versa. It was strange and uplifting and it broke my heart.

She wrote the letter a few weeks before her death. The closing lines were what struck me so deeply. Not because they were the most important to me, necessarily, but because she chose to end the letter with them. Her last word to me, the concept she wanted to leave in my head as I finished reading, says more about her than I can explain with an entire language at my disposal.

They were:

Remember that I am proud of you. Remember that you are loved. One of those things is not optional, and you earned the other.

That was actually a reference to a long-running philosophical debate between the two of us; that we tend to love our families unconditionally, but whether it's a conflict to dislike them as people or hold them in contempt while still loving them. I argued that there was no conflict, and her view wasn't too far from my own. Mostly we quibbled on details, but eventually she admitted that she agreed with me.

Those few lines said volumes to me. She loved me, which I knew and still take immense comfort in. But beyond that, she felt genuine pride in me. Pride I had earned in her eyes, not a granted status because I was her son. She was telling me that in the final equation, I was a net positive.

Might not mean much to other people, but it hit me hard. My morning has been shot to hell as I read and reread the letter. I didn't eat any lunch. I'm swimming in memories both good and bad of one of the greatest people I've ever known. Maybe it's stupidly selfish and irritating, but today I just needed to talk about it. I miss her, and while she would have said that memorializing her this way would be a waste of time, she would have wildly encouraged me to do so for other people. Because she was a hypocrite that way; she saw herself as nothing special.

She was wrong.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Field Testing

K asked me for the rest of the week off, so you'll all just have me today and tomorrow. Friday is my next schedule day without a post from me, and I have to admit that it feels weird to be here tapping out things on my keyboard without Big K hovering over me or working at his desk. A month ago I'd have told you it was weird to be working next to someone after so long spent in this office alone. We adapt to things quickly, it seems, and when our routines change it's never as simple as accepting it and moving on.

That reaction varies. This morning Patrick is also starting what is essentially a vacation. His apprentices have taken over the work completely, so Pat is taking some time from working the forge. He has spent so much time and effort helping out with projects and ideas over the years, and his decision a few months ago to move on and learn something new hasn't been forgotten. In the end, Pat knows that he can't work as efficiently as someone with both hands, and that the community might be better served with more able bodies swinging the hammer.

It helped push him along that the Box is producing a lot of items, reducing Pat's workload to relatively small jobs. He's happy to see his nieces and other apprentices come into their own.

So to keep himself busy on what may be an endless hiatus from forge work, Patrick is heading out to help field test some of our new outer defenses this morning.

The huge swarm of zombies coming across the southern border and filtering into Union territory has spread out somewhat and broken apart. They're not close to us yet, but since they will just keep walking endlessly assuming they've got the reserves of protein to do it, they aren't as far away from here as we had originally thought. There is a chance that a large sliver of the group will eventually come here. Add to that the seemingly endless seasonal wanderers that make it here from Louisville and beyond, and it equals out to an interesting Spring to say the least.

Patrick was one of the people who came up with the idea to set up a net of deterrents like ammonia and burned zombie corpses (surprisingly still very effective) to protect us. The idea isn't to absolutely turn away thousands of them. That would be impossible. Pat was the one who pitched the thought that instead we should be channeling them into an area designed to put us in control.

All around the county there are stations meant to create bubbles of gas and fumes that will drive the undead. At regular intervals there are gaps, free spots where the zombies can move inward toward Haven. Here we tried to use the natural features of the landscape to our advantage. Frankfort has a lot of sinkholes and small caves, for example, so one of the channels the zombies will try to walk into leads to a disguised pit nearly forty feet deep, ten across, and twenty long. It may be deeper, but the bottom looks like dirt. None of us were brave enough to go down there and poke it with a stick to see if it was solid or just a huge plug of soil waiting to be dislodged.

That's just the most simple of our traps. Beyond that there are man-made traps that will slow the undead down and even stop large swarms cold, bunching them up and making it easier for our people to kill them. It was Pat that pointed out the system would be at least partially self-sustaining since we could kill the trapped undead and burn them to replenish the supply of charred zombie that makes up part of our defenses. He's a smart guy.

We're testing it section by section with undead that are being herded to us by scouts. Pat is overseeing the efforts and taking notes for Dodger to present to the council. There was a happy spring in Pat's step this morning. Haven't seen that in a while.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


There once was a place called the compound. It was utilitarian at first but grew into something more, and the identity of the place changed. The name changed with it, and the place became New Haven. Time and pressure shaped New Haven further, until the people there decided that one final change was appropriate.

Then there was Haven. A simple name that also serves as a declaration of purpose.

Not many people around town are exactly frothing at the mouth about the name change. A lot of folks wanted us to be called Haven the first time we changed the name, but it seemed pretentious and overly optimistic then. Now, with all the big changes going on in our part of the world, it fits. No one is throwing a party over that.

But we are having a party. Because communities tend to come together for big events and milestones, and today is one of them. The constant and tireless efforts of, well, damn near everyone around here has led to this moment, when I can finally say we've built some of that future I keep talking about.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have POWER.

Electricity all over the place. It's not perfect and certainly not as reliable as what we had before The Fall, but it's there. The folks over at the Box have been cranking out parts for wind turbines--not a complicated mechanism when you really break it down into components--nonstop for months. We have ample supplies of spare power lines to use for the copper, and have gutted house after house out in the county for more. People have been working on the lines we left alone, the ones connecting the homes in Haven's many boroughs as well as the hospital, in an effort to create a closed network.

During the day, of course, most people do not use electricity. We have huge banks of batteries linked together in several locations, most salvaged in the wild but a few made from scratch right here at home. That's not really a long-term solution, but between the turbines and solar panels and energy storage, the nights around here don't have to be lit by fire. Even if it's just one of those twisty low-energy bulbs or an LED, every person can fight the darkness back if they so choose.

More than most, Big K is excited about this. He's a smart guy--really smart--and he started chattering at me today about things we could do with power. I think he misses the old world more than the average person.

Patrick might be angry that I'm telling on him, but he plugged in an electric griddle and cooked a hell of a breakfast for a bunch of us this morning. The only cooking we're supposed to do with electricity is in the mess halls, but I think he can be forgiven his lapse. Will was there, after all, and he's the boss. Besides which the sheer joy at such a simple act as cooking for a dozen people was worth any punishment, and if one comes I'll share it with Pat. Small price to pay for a hot meal that doesn't taste like wood smoke.

Even Becky came out of her hole to spend some time with us. She has lost weight and her hair is longer than I've ever seen it, but she was smiling and happy to see us. She planted a kiss right on my mouth after she jumped into my arms. No worries; Jess got the exact same treatment.

So I spent the morning with family, friends old and new, and we celebrated one of the most venerated ideals that our race has: human achievement. There was pride enough to spare at that table, and by God there should have been. All of us were part of it to some degree or another, and even if we weren't, every person there did their part to make this possible. I think that after today we can safely say that there are no old guard or new arrivals. We're all just citizens of Haven, a place we built together.

It's a damn good feeling, I have to say.

*I also want to give a special thanks to Gavin Coates, who was kind enough to translate yesterday's post into Spanish in the comments. You, sir, are the kind of person who gives me hope for the future.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Dearest Enemy

I promise I will move on to more personally relevant things tomorrow, but the recent changes in how New Haven--sorry, just Haven now (hopefully the last name change, it's getting hard to remember them)--have been taken up by the Union as a whole. The votes were not overwhelming but the majorities were solid. As a...nation? I don't know what to call us, really, but at any rate as a large group of communities we have made it policy to take in those UAS members who wish to avoid war. It may seem like bad policy to allow people into our homes that want to remain neutral, but in good conscience we cannot ask them to fight their brothers and sisters if they aren't even willing to fight us. That shows moral fiber, I think.

Because of these changes, I have been asked to write another message directly to the UAS, and today is the day. Back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow (the one where I talk about dead people and cheeseburgers and the giant, fussy black guy who keeps doing more than his fair share of the work here in the office.)

To the UAS:

I will not attempt to appeal to the better angels of your nature through flowery prose or even lies. I am not speaking to the leadership of your community with this message, though I am sure they will read and distort it. It is clear to us now that much like the previous decade when leaders got themselves embroiled in conflicts they thought they understood but clearly didn't--think other wars that turned out to be totally unnecessary and so costly it makes you sick--the people in charge there have managed to sink in over their heads. Many of them were elected officials, cabinet appointees, even a few governors and a bunch of state lawmakers. I know that trying to convince a politician that his or her decision was the wrong one is akin to herding cats; a nearly impossible time-waster.

This message is for the rest of you. I hope that the bilingual among you will read it to your new friends from south of the border who may not read or speak English so that they too can understand it.

I believe you are good people. I think that many of you are frightened and maladjusted to the strange world you were exposed to when the supplies in your bunkers ran so low you had to leave them. Many of us have said negative things in the past about that, but the truth is that I don't know a single survivor out here who would have turned down the offer of safety, regular meals, medical care, and all the other guarantees you folks had in those bunkers.

It's not just me I'm speaking for, here. We as a small nation of people understand how difficult this is for you. We understand the struggle, the fear, the pain of loss. We know that these feelings are real and powerful, and that your leadership is doing what all politicians since the dawn of time have done: using them to manipulate you.

Oh, you might say, interrupting me. Are you trying to say our leaders are lying about the terrible acts committed by the Union?

No, I'm not. We have made mistakes, gone too far. One of the most haunting memories I have, one that I've written about and referenced many times, is from very early in The Fall. Patrick and I burned a group of marauders alive in their sleep because they were killing small groups of travelers to steal their supplies, and because they were keeping the women as sex slaves. Morally what we did was right, as far as I'm concerned, but that doesn't mean the act doesn't keep me awake some nights even now.

We have been vicious and brutal and murderous when we felt it was necessary. We killed a lot of innocent people along with the Hunters last year. We now believe fully that they were a part of your group, and even though what we did was the only way we knew of to prevent them from destroying more communities, we recognize that realistically our action against them--their total destruction--was what started the conflict between our two groups.

I believe you are good people in a bad situation. I'm sure that much of what is said about my side of this conflict is factually true, but context is also important. We do not kill people because we enjoy it, though if any of you read this blog you know sometimes even the best people can slip into that madness. All we desire is a peaceful life. The appeal I want to make to you isn't that you defect to our side, though you are welcome. It is that you refuse to fight a war that is utterly without purpose.

You don't need our land, you have more of your own than you can even patrol. You don't need our infrastructure. Yours is better than ours. We have no desire to take what is yours, and no need to travel across the land you've made your own. The borders we have are sufficient for us. Leave us in peace and enjoy peace yourselves.

You know what is happening out west. You see how hard people are willing to fight to protect what they've built and the people they love. I make this plea to you not out of cowardice or unwillingness to do my duty, but because I genuinely want to avoid the body count on both sides that will inevitably follow. Do your own thing, let us do ours, and let the politicians wallow in their own ineffectual policies. They can't and won't fight this war without you. You are their army, and you can choose peace. You can walk away safe and live a life unburdened by fear of me and mine.

We have a common enemy in the undead. That should be more than sufficient reason to turn your attention to your own people. All the Union wants is to be left alone and allowed to travel to our western allies, who also just want peace. Give us that, stay out of further conflict with us, and everyone walks away happy.

We will fight. We will be vicious and brutal and without mercy. If our homes and loved ones are threatened, there are no tactics we will not undertake to stop you. This is not a threat, please understand me. I am telling you this precisely because the majority of us want to avoid that. These are not actions we want to perform.

But we will if we have to. We won't fire the first shot, but we will do whatever it takes to win the fight. Please, please, don't make that necessary.

Think about it. Spread the word.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

United Front

I've caused a bit of a stir here at home. There have been unintended, but not in my mind negative, consequences.

K and I have spent a lot of time working together, and I've very slowly begun to peel away some of the protection he keeps wrapped around himself at all times. I don't know facts about him any more than I did a week ago, but he has begun to share some of his views on the larger issues we face. He's surprisingly torn about the situation with the UAS; on the one hand he believes that people have not only a right but a responsibility to defend themselves and their loved ones when threatened, but on the other he's so sick of the violence, so traumatized by it, that he wants to see people avoid the need as much as possible.

It's no secret that I've advocated avoiding a fight where and when possible. This isn't just my desire to live in peace, but a practical aspect of survival. Allowing ourselves to become too reactionary--or in the extreme, proactively violent, which we've done more than once--is too risky. Our purpose and goal is to make something lasting for the little ones outside right now, enjoying the warm day by running around making tons of noise as they play on my street.

Steve was helpful in getting some people to see the point I'm trying to make, that it isn't cowardice to avoid conflict when you don't have to engage in it. Steve is still down south right now as the massive herds of zombies continue to pour across the border into Union territory. The glorious thing about so many communities working together is that united, we have enough manpower and ingenuity to overcome most obstacles. Steve even sent a short piece about what he was facing, which he titled 'The Real Threat'.

The picture inside that bit of mail was of the swarm he was facing that morning, ten thousand strong and blanketing the landscape before him. It was a powerful image.

It spread through New Haven like wildfire.

This morning I see the consequences of me supporting a more moderate path. Nearly a quarter of our population gathered to force a vote, which meant Will and the council had little choice but to come together and hear the people. In a situation like that I would have expected old prejudices to come out; some people in favor or straight up killing the UAS without consideration or mercy would scream that the rest were cowards or too weak, etc. I would have expected some of the people in support of my view--their view, really, but they just needed someone to voice it first and publicly--to counter by calling those people psychopaths who only loved bloodshed, yadda yadda.

That didn't happen, or at least not to any degree that mattered. What followed was a public and even-handed debate in the unofficial town square as both sides explained the reasoning behind their views. In the end there was no argument or schism between them. Neither side of the debate stalked away en masse to angrily plan an insurgence. The larger problem with politics on a national level before The Fall was that it was just too damn big. It was too easy to see the people disagreeing with you as part of a faceless mass of them, as being other than you because you didn't work next to them every day (or so you thought) and didn't share the same values and struggle (from your point of view.)

This debate was among family: all of us here are that. We've bled and died for each other, and that matters. I only stress this point because it reinforces my larger belief that we can come to some sort of equitable solution with the UAS if we put our minds and efforts to it. They are, after all, people. Just like us. It's just that the problems between us and the difference in how we've lived since The Fall have created a vast gulf that turns them from people into them.

Do you see? I think you do. The vote passed, and carried two main sections: to moderate the conflict as much as we can. That much was already happening, but this vote codified it into law. The other half was an agreement, perhaps the first in the Union but I think one that will be taken up by other communities.

Any UAS soldiers or citizens who choose not to fight may join the Union. We will not ask them to bear arms against their friends and family there, and reasonable precautions will be taken to assure any defectors don't attack us from within, but New Haven at least will take them in.

Oh, and a funny little change that sort of fits with this whole idea of providing a safe place: there is a provision in there to change the name of our home. Again. 

It's just Haven now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Six: American Recovery

Is now available on Amazon, right here.

Fair Accounting

I don't want to be the guy who says anything positive about the enemy while they're in the midst of attacking our friends to the west, but we've had some more scout reports from the Union operatives watching the main UAS camps. Word also came in again this morning from the people observing the border where the UAS is funneling people from south/central America.

The assumption was that the UAS would be using those folks as cannon fodder in this war. I don't know how many of them are being rushed out to the front, but from the intelligence related to me, I can't imagine it's very many.

I'm not trying to make the UAS look good here, but propaganda and lies are how we used to do things when armed conflict broke out. It serves no higher purpose to turn our enemies into heartless monsters. They're people, just like us. And at least some of them seem to be doing the right thing.

UAS soldiers are the ones making sure these folks make it across the border safely. They're the ones fighting the undead--something, you may recall, they've been reluctant to do for the most part--and once groups of immigrants are safely behind barriers, those same soldiers make sure their needs are being met. Food, blankets, even medical care.

The same thing is happening at the main camp. These immigrants don't seem to be unhappy with their lot. They aren't being pressed into service. Doesn't look like they're really allowed to leave, either, but our scouts are not reporting any abuses or anything.

We've got a big day here, and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Sorry to cut things short, but K and I have to leave our cave for once and socialize. We'll suffer through somehow.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


There have been a lot of times over the last three years when something so simple, so easy, was overlooked by pretty much everyone. It happened with the vast oil reserves that so many of us knew were out there and yet didn't think to go after until recently. Thanks to that decision and a small, functional refinery well within Union territory, we now have a plentiful supply of fuel that will serve us through the near future. 

It happened with our brilliant and belated realization that there are vehicles out there fully capable of running on alcohol, which has been a huge boon to the people of New Haven and beyond. Fuel is what keeps our society running as we work toward our goals. 

But on the larger scale, the society itself runs on a different kind of fuel: people. In the normal run of things human beings are much harder to come by than simple supplies. We can always make more of them, but it takes time and love and effort, and in the world we live in now there are enough dangers to make that a so-so prospect at best. 

Which is why the UAS was clever. They knew they'd have to work something out to effectively wage the war they're pushing. Even now they've deeply engaged Ketill and his people in the west, taking risks and being aggressive--almost wasteful--with the people who fill their ranks. Why would the UAS be so casually warlike? Because they know a steady stream of fresh recruits waits for the chance at a better life. 

They're using South Americans. 

The southern hemisphere has been mostly forgotten and ignored since The Fall began, which is certainly a shame but does not make that part of the world especially unique. Zombies popped up everywhere after the initial outbreak in Cincinnati, and no one got off easy. I admit to being particularly blind to events south of the border, but the UAS is perfectly positioned to use the desperation of survivors trying to flee the region for their own purposes. 

Unfortunately those survivors bring the undead with them. That's where the massive swarms in the south are coming from. We have to assume that whatever the UAS did to restore communications and land travel between the north and central/south America, it also opened the floodgates for the hundreds of thousands--possibly millions--of zombies chasing the moving survivors from there to here. 

Which means they're now our problem. It feels better to know the facts even if there's nothing we can do about them at present. New Haven is already prepping to send fighters to the south in a concentrated effort to lay waste to the undead. If this is a deliberate tactic on the part of the UAS, it's effective; we'll have to focus on fighting the dead instead of waging war on the living. The UAS might achieve their goals without ever firing a shot. We can handle a lot of zombies, but fresh herds in the hundreds of thousands? No community can stand against that. 

But by God, we'll try. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How The West Was Won

As many of you know, Ketill--leader of an independent but friendly group of soldiers--and his small army moved out west not long ago. The reasons were many, but what it boiled down to in the end is that the western communities needed them more than we do. It's a damn good thing that happened, too, because yesterday morning the UAS moved into full-on war with the west.

When we hear anything about the outcome of the fight still going on after a solid day, I will let you know. It probably makes me a terrible person for saying this, but I'm glad it's not us having to deal with this right now. I don't have a doubt that war is coming, and every day we don't have to fight in one is a damned good day to live.

I don't want to gloss over what is surely a lot of horror going on in the west, but I can't cover what I'm not there to see. I don't have access to a lot of people over there to give me information, so I'll leave it for later. What I can say is that my thoughts are with the people defending the western communities from aggressors, and I hope that the damage isn't so bad it can't be recovered from.

Here, on the other hand, things are going well. We fully expected the universe to spit in our faces as far as the undead go, but got a pleasant surprise: the weather kept warm until last night (there's a bit of snow on the ground right now) and the number of zombies up and walking around during the burst or warm days was surprisingly small. Few enough that our workers have been able to clear out the small groups of them that have popped up as they've been out and about, trying to get our budding infrastructure set up and running.

Other parts of the Union have not been so lucky. The sheer number of UAS citizens massing at the center of their territory seems to be having a disruptive effect on the undead in that area, of which there are many. Many, many, many. We're under the assumption that the UAS is, having access to this blog, are aware of the protective powers of ammonia and are using it liberally to send the undead packing. The practical effect of this means they're coming in our direction, and they're clumping together into a swarm big enough to swallow entire towns whole.

The estimates have a wide range, but the lowest I've seen is somewhere around ten thousand. The highest is several times that, and they just keep showing up. We're pretty sure that this is a trend that will continue; it seems the mysterious new recruits the UAS is pulling out of their hat are coming with equal or greater numbers of zombies, which are--of freaking course--being driven our way.

I don't know that New Haven itself, being hundreds of miles away, will be directly threatened by this massive swarm, but that isn't the point. We're not just single communities any more. We're the Union. We're in this together. If that means sending people and equipment out to deal with the swarm, then that's what we'll do. We support each other because we've made that choice, and because it's the right thing to do.

We've moved past survival for the sake of survival. I still have some reservations about how some people view the war, but it makes my heart swell (and not in the congestive heart failure kind of way) to see our citizens step up and choose to defend people they've never met. We're not just doing what we have to do to make it any longer, and have made the decision to risk our own safety for a better shot at a brighter future. I've hoped for that since people started to gather here, before this place was even called New Haven. I'm seeing it now, and that's amazing.

I worry about people a lot. I've done so forever, and in this world it never gets easier. I think that's a large part of why I've spent so long being the first to volunteer; I can't stand the idea of not being out there to help. I may not know you, but if you're someone like me, a survivor that only wants to build something better, then I love you. I'm willing to go to bat for you against any threat. The fact that you're willing to do the same is what makes me think we're building something that will truly last.

Unless superior numbers wipe us out before then. Which is why we have to figure out a way to either avoid this fight or end it early and decisively.

Monday, March 11, 2013


It's just past eleven in the morning here, and it's overcast and raining. The temperature is a comfortable if slightly less than ideal 54 degrees. Over the last two and a half days, we've seen Spring truly come in, and as of yet there have been no reported zombie sightings within visual range of any of our settlements in the county.

I don't think we're past the point of the undead being a threat to us by any means, but the constant efforts of our people over the last few months have worked out well for us. The county is mostly clear, and the smell of death that drives away zombie swarms seems to be playing a part in that. Now that Spring has sprung, the next step in our plan to drive away the constant swarms that threaten us can take shape.

Over the winter months every community in the Union has been methodically stripping the world bare of old resources. Chemicals, building materials, copper wiring, medical supplies, anything you can think of. We've all been stockpiling like crazy. Not because we necessarily need any of it right now, but because we never know when we will. New Haven in particular has been looking for chemicals of all types. Our scouts have been told to expend whatever effort is needed to bring in certain things, and our stockpiles have grown in enormous ways.

About a month ago we had a team bring in five tanker trucks full of ammonia. Can you see where this is going?

We have scout posts set up at the edges of the county, and every day our people are spraying the stuff on trees and houses. We're trying to make a bubble the undead won't want to walk through. It won't be perfect and it will only last as long as our supplies hold out, but we've bought ourselves a long, long time to work in peace.

Well. From the undead, anyway. We've been in and out of touch with the scouts closest to UAS territory, but we have had word from Steve since yesterday morning. He believes the UAS is about to make a major offensive toward the west. If that's the case, the Union can't be far behind. I hope it's not so, but reality has a way of making that case pretty bluntly. New Haven is going to be mostly free from zombies in the immediate future, but that only means the human threat gets our full attention.

I meant to write a lot more than this, but that last sentence kind of drew me up short. It's such a bald statement of fact, but the implications are rough. We're finally working out large-scale ways of dealing with the undead, and even then we have to worry about living people of all things. It's as wasteful and stupid as it will be necessary, and that sucks.

I'm gonna take a nap. I don't want to think about it much more this morning.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Yesterday ended up being absolutely beautiful. I can't help but think about the three people we lost and how they didn't get to feel the gorgeous wind tickling their limbs at a comfortable sixty-five degrees. They didn't get to feel that shift in the world that says, "cold days might be ahead, but we're on our way to warmer times."

It's the tenth of March, and the planting will begin in exactly ten days. We can't be sure there won't be a hard frost after that, but Jess has enough hardy crops ready to go in the ground that we shouldn't lose many to the cold. Spring is here. The time when the world resumes all the activities it put aside when the harsh winter followed the winding down of fall. 

Now more than ever I think that applies to us as well. We've worked hard for the last three years to make our little corner of creation a better, safer place. We've invested time and effort into recreating at least minimal technology, and now that the ground is softening and work conditions improving we can start to reap dividends on those investments. 

Though all of us have grown accustomed to how harsh the winter months are without things like central heat, this time of year always brings relief. I imagine it's how humans many hundreds of years ago must have felt; a sense of elation and power at having defeated the elements for another year. 

It's obvious even on the most subtle of us. Big K came into the office today with a smile on his face and a pep in his step. He's sitting next to me now, wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and a pair of knee-length shorts. K has been chatting all morning about a shipment that came in last night and how he helped unload it. It's good to see him getting out there and integrating with the community, getting to know people as he helps out. I worry about him not having those connections. God knows I'm bad about keeping up with my friends. 

If Will and Patrick didn't stop over here as often as they do I probably wouldn't see them at all. Can't remember the last time I went to visit Becky in her little lab. While she technically still lives here, she hasn't slept anywhere but the cot in her lab for ages. I guess the difference is that I have a lot of people I can rely on, who are there for me as they know I am for them even if we don't visit with each other often or deeply. K doesn't have that. It's a very positive development that the cruel weather turning kind is encouraging him to get out and about. It means there's hope that he will find positive things and integrate with the rest of us. 

Don't think it's all sunshine and bunny rabbits here in New Haven. We haven't forgotten about the UAS. In fact, word has spread that the massive staging ground swelling with people whose origin we can't quite figure out is on the verge of a mobilization. We don't know for sure when it will come, but the mysterious and large numbers of people appearing (possibly from the bunkers?) are bolstering the forces aimed at the Union, the western communities, and the empty northern space currently being used by most of us for travel between the two halves of the country. 

Every shred of data we have says they'll be coming soon. To say we're not afraid would be stupid; any survivor worth their salt has a healthy sense of self-preservation. Fear is the major component of that. But we're not letting that fear rule us, and further? We're ready for a fight if need be. I will regret that necessity right up until it becomes an unavoidable reality. I will regret it afterward, as well, but I'll be shedding those tears on the corpses of my slain enemies. 

The mistake would be confusing my compassion and empathy for weakness. That doesn't just go for me, but all of us. This is the season of new life and new beginnings, the time where things grow and the future is most open to cultivation. 

But before you can sow, you have to remove any weeds that might choke the life out of your crop.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Tower's Fall

One of our patrols of zombie hunters got into a firefight with a small group of UAS operatives this morning. The enemy team was trying to leave the county at the time, and they were in a big enough hurry that they weren't as careful as they should have been about remaining unseen. Our people outnumbered them. It was a short fight that ended in three deaths on our side and total casualties--six--on theirs. 

It was just past dawn. About three minutes after the last bullet report faded, the water tower I used to sit on and pick off zombies from exploded. 

The base of the tower was rigged with charges, and the water still in the tank at the top did the rest of the work as the weakened and shredded base lost the ability to support it. We're not entirely sure what the goal of this attack was since we only used the emergency water outlets on the tower once in a great while. We haven't even used it as an observation platform for a long time now. It makes anyone sitting up there too easy a target. 

The tower fell, collapsing into the East-West connector, but while this is technically a large event (and I'm not at all downplaying the deaths of three of our people here, please understand) it doesn't do more than inconvenience us in a minor way. We don't use that route to the other side of town since there's no bridge half a mile past that point, and even if we did there are several easy alternate routes past the ruined section of road. 

The tower was tactically unimportant. As a psychological maneuver it's null. None of us needed it or cared about it. Even my own sentimentality only makes me feel vague regret. The UAS may not be operating on good information. That's the only explanation that makes sense to me. 

We're far more upset about losing three of our people. It's always a sad day when the community mourns the losses of brave and dedicated citizens. We will have a moment of silence across all New Haven today at noon, and their friends and families will hold small services for them. Some people don't see the point in funerals or memorials. I used to be one of them. But we all know the ceremonies aren't there for the dead. They exist for the living, to remind us of how painful our losses are. Of what we fight for. Taking the time and energy to construct a service dedicated to another is one of the ways we stay human. We mourn in many ways, but this helps us not only move past that pain, but to forever enshrine it with meaning. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Long Sleep

The last few days have been sleepy and quiet ones around these parts. The massive fire raging across the southern part of the Union and into UAS territory has burned itself out with minimal loss of life. Helped that a storm system moved in and dropped rain on it, not so helpful that the same storms moved north and dropped snow and ice on us.

We've mostly kept indoors this week, as you can imagine. It has been a few years since we've had such a long and sustained bout of cold, and our people have taken advantage of the fact by constantly searching out clusters of sleeping zombies and killing them while they're inert. Small teams, but determined to clear as much of the county as possible. It's March now, so I guess it's spring cleaning come early.

I've spent a good amount of time working on the survival manual, though at this point much of the work is editing and reducing entries to bare facts. It's written in a sort of shorthand by necessity; in order to pack in as much information as possible, grammar and sentence structure have been treated as suggestions rather than rules. K and I have made our best effort to keep the thing intuitive to read and understand. We're actually in sight of finishing the first draft. It might be a few months yet before it's a done deal and archived where we can distribute it, but the sense of satisfaction is there.

Even more than me, Big K seems satisfied. I work with the guy every day but he's no less a mystery to me than when I first met him. We have a good time and work together well, but I couldn't begin to guess why he feels so passionate about the survival manual. The manual is a good thing, of course, and may save lives down the road if people find themselves in the position where they need it. But K's dedication the project is almost scary.

I've said before that there seems to be something in his past that drives him, and I wish I knew what that was. We've all got our demons. I think it would help him to talk about it.

The frustrating thing is that he's a fun guy to be around. Maybe a little more detail-oriented and fussy than I am (the precise speech and hunched manner of an old librarian is hilarious coming from a six-foot-six dude who could have been an NFL lineman) but never boring or uninteresting. As long as we're in the present, K is just like anyone else. More somber than some, but far from the depressing wreck I was six months ago.

I mean, he's teaching me to play chess. Not that I don't know how the mechanics of the game--my mom's ex-husband and I once played a game that took several months to complete--but K is teaching me the actual game. It's the difference between knowing the rank of hands in poker and understanding the probabilities involved along with learning betting patterns and the like. Knowing the rules is a different beast from knowing the game itself.

And as I think about that sentence, I realize that when it comes to Big K, I only know the rules. No one here, even the people who came with him from North Jackson, know his game at all. Suffering is an intensely private affair, and if he hadn't given me permission to write anything about him I want this post wouldn't even exist, but I think in this case life would be better for K if he started dealing with those things. Like the Beatles said, "I get by with a little help from my friends..."

But I don't push it with K himself. He's a friend, now, and a good one. I worry constantly that my effort to help him will make him angry and push him away. If he can live with it, so can I. It's just that I hate seeing people I care about deal with their pain alone. It festers in you if you never bring it out in the light of day, and letting those dark memories sleep for so long inside you only makes them stronger, more destructive.

And that's the last I'll say on the subject for now. I won't push any more.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Incipit Vita Nova

Hey kids, it’s Beckley.  So Josh mentioned Saturday that he, I, and Big K had lunch.  It may have also been mentioned that I was a pig.  So a couple clarifications: First, I’m not normally such a glutton.  But I never thought I’d see another cheeseburger again before I moved here.  I guess I still treat each burger like it’s the last one on Earth.  Second, I hate the fact that Superman would win too.  Superman is boring.  He’s a boy scout.  But he’s also invincible unless you have kryptonite, which you don’t.  So what can you do?  I like Batman too.  He’s complicated and dark, but these are the rules of the universe.   It’s like playing war with a five year old who always insists he has forcefield armor.  You’re not going to win.  Just accept it.  Superman wins.  It sucks, but you’ve got to deal with it.

Needless to say, it was a great time.  And it got me thinking about life.  I realized later that day, while my digestive system took me down for the count, that this was the first time I’ve lived since the fall.  Actual living.  See, I was always in survival mode.  In fact, I initially hated the concept of settling down, of trying to rebuild a life.  I saw it as decadence, as creating a hope that could only be shattered.  How can you try to build anything when there are still zombie heads to smash?  So I lived on adrenaline.  Every one of my actions was directed at keeping me alive in the moment.  The things I’ve done since the fall, the things I needed to do, they were all calculated on what my need was.  I tried not to screw over others, not to ruin their chances of survival, but if it came down to your life or mine, I would live.

And now, since coming to New Haven, my entire world has opened up.  Take the hamburgers for example.  In the world that was…no, scratch that.  In the world that still is, I love to cook.  I haven’t gotten to do it as much since The Fall, but it’s still something I love.  So when I got to actually grill my own burgers?  Goddamn, son!  That was as much of a thrill as eating them.  Later on that day, I realized there’s nothing to stop me from following this love.  I could talk to the Burger Couple about expanding.  They make burgers, but what if I helped them do more?  What about taking a brisket and turning it into corned beef or pastrami?  I’d always wanted to do that before the end of the world, so why not now?  I’m not saying I’m going to do that, or that they’d want to, but just that I can.  For the first time I was thinking beyond just survival.  You can survive (somehow) without pastrami.  But why live without it?

This sounds like such a basic realization now that I’ve had it, but there are so many out there who still live in survival mode.  There’s no hope because by definition hope has no place in a life lived only day to day.  Hope is the expectation that there can be more.  When you live just to survive, it takes a toll.  And in the end it’s not sustainable.  Here, let me tell you a story to illustrate that:

Once upon a time there were a group of punk-ass soldiers in Richmond.  These guys were tough and resourceful, but when The Fall hit, they didn’t know how to live.  They just survived.  They ate up their own resources, so they turned on their neighbors.  Now, they’d have been better served to ally themselves with the people around them, but that would have involved planning for the future.  No, the Richmond Boys wanted to survive for today.  So they eventually took over New Haven.  Once there, they ate up their resources again because all that mattered to them was the present.  And because of that lack of focus, they got their asses thoroughly and rightfully handed to them.

But the story doesn’t end there.  People were oppressed during the reign of Richmond.  When New Haven was reclaimed, some of these victims retreated from the community they’d built, the community for which they lived.  Now they focused only on survival because their safety had been so shattered.  Any time they felt they weren’t heard, they threw tantrums.  When they felt they weren’t getting enough, they stole.  When there appeared to be the slightest hint of a threat, they screamed out for blood.  No more group, no more life, just survive at all costs.  And thanks to their reversion back to survival when the community around them had evolved beyond that, they were exiled.  And still, they couldn’t move on.  They coupled their survival with hate.  In order for me to survive, you must die.  This hatred, this need to be strong, led to them embracing marauders and so they were subjugated again.  By the time they realized that they needed to move on, to settle down, they were broken and fragmented and they had no friends.  And now they’re all dead.

Survival keeps you alive, but it’s not sustainable.  And when you couple hate in with that destructive way of life, you accomplish nothing but your own destruction.  Because what does hate get you?  I despise the marauders out there, but I don’t hate them.  I think the UAS is out of control and misguided, but I don’t hate them.  Hate takes up so much energy, invests you in the life and behavior of a person you can’t stand.  What’s the point?  So when you mix that with trying to survive day to day, all you get is people existing to nurse their own grudges.

And that’s where this comes back to you.  Look, I don’t give a crap who likes me and who doesn’t.  Who trusts me and who doesn’t.  I’d like to walk down the street without getting spat at, but whatever.  Seriously though, look at yourself.  If you truly hate the UAS, if you truly hate me, if you hate those UAS soldiers that saved your people the other day, then what good are you to anyone?  Do you think hate makes you a better fighter?  Because it doesn’t.  Ask any of the professional soldiers that New Haven has operating on the front.  You think they want hotheads or people with something to prove?  Do you think your hate makes you more motivated?  Maybe, but just for your own selfish goals, not for the group.  Because, again, survival doesn’t involve the group.  It involves you.  There’s no loyalty there.  There’s no friendship.  There’s no cheeseburgers.  There’s no pastrami.  There’s no life.

And you in the UAS, you’re scared, I know.  Your government, your military, may seem out of control in their behaviors.  But you can’t depend on them for your survival any more.  It’s time to build yourself a life.  Because there is life out there.  There is so much more.  I found it.  Those soldiers the other day found it.  So can you.

So if anyone wants to start living life instead of just surviving, now is the time.  And you know, even when I was out there, just surviving, I think I knew there needed to be life down the line.  I started collecting luxury items.  Useless stuff that would only be good for trade if the world started to rebuild.  Some cans of soda, jewelry, spices, even porn.  The hope had to be there, otherwise why haul the stuff around?  And it’s time I finally cracked it out, because what good are luxuries if you don’t enjoy them?  It’s time to live, not survive, and not hoard for some unrealistic expectation of a future.  So if you want to trade something for a taste of expired Dr. Pepper or you’ve found the lack of internet porn intolerable, stop by and we’ll deal.  But more importantly, if you need to stop by and talk, please do.  Survival and hate become comfortable like a pair of filthy jeans.  But it’s time to change and put on something fresh and new.  Change is hard, but accepting it is necessary.  Sometimes it helps to just talk.  So please, stop by.  We can all start this new life together.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Late yesterday evening something interesting happened. I would say 'good' here, but ultimately I'll leave that judgment up to you. I'll keep it short because I'm still running a sleep deficit that cries to be balanced. 

A group of Union citizens were on the run, trying to evacuate from their small camp near the border. The fire caught them off guard, forcing them to pull up stakes and pack away everything they could before the flames got to them. Their way into Union territory was cut off. They had no choice but to angle northwest and briefly dip into UAS land. 

Where a group of UAS soldiers found them. 

Our people were small in number, just a family of five on their way from one community to another. They were on the road when the warnings hit, out of contact and unaware of the danger. The UAS patrol stopped them a few hundred yards inside the border, asked them questions for a while. Then the UAS soldiers did something surprising. 

They escorted our people north until they were out of the fire's range, then let them cross back over into our territory. 

Unknown to our citizens at the time, there was something of a disagreement over this among the soldiers and their commanding officer. From the description of the event passed on to me by the Union citizens in question, it appears the actual members of the patrol were real, honest-to-god soldiers. Like, men and women who used to be in the military. Their leader didn't seem to be. No military bearing, very sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitude. It was only when our people crossed the border and stopped their vehicle, exiting and waving to the people who had helped them, that they saw the result of that kind act. 

A fight between several members of the UAS patrol. It seems the leader of the group was furious and trying to order his men across the border to retrieve our people. The soldiers seemed to disagree, or at least most of them. 

The long and short of it is that the commanding officer and the few soldiers on his side were dropped right then and there. Shot by people who disagreed about what should be done with five innocent people who meant no harm to them. Our citizens watched the whole thing play out, and were waved off by the victors. 

Like I said, interesting. I don't know if it means anything or if this was an isolated instance of morality over duty. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to see our people safe. It's nice to know that some of the enemy have their heads on straight, though no one is counting on that to save us in the long run. 

Monday, March 4, 2013


I'm running on about an hour and a half of sleep. I've been up all night acting as the central communication hub between New Haven and the rest of the Union. It's a job that occasionally requires my attention when big or bad (or both) things happen. I've been the daily go-between for New Haven and North Jackson since the attack there and the subsequent relief we sent up that way.

Last night and all of this morning so far I've been in contact with nearly all of the southern communities in the Union. Early yesterday morning a huge warm front came in off the Gulf of Mexico and sent temperatures in the south up toward t-shirt and shorts weather. That would be great except for the fact that it allowed the zombies in the region more mobility. Worse, someone on the border between Union and UAS territory tried to take down a swarm of the undead with fire.

So now we have a giant brush fire working its way across several hundred--soon to be several thousand--acres of dry winter grass and scrub. Lacking the capacity to fight the blaze on a large scale, I've been tasked with helping coordinate communications between groups that need help evacuating and those who can give assistance.

Steve took off a few minutes ago with a group of seasoned soldiers to help provide security. Steve is one the people who desperately want to do something of value but recognize the wisdom in avoiding confrontations with the UAS where possible.

He and fourteen others are riding in five vehicles, three of them Tanks (the homemade kind, not actual tanks), and they tore out of here at breakneck speed. I have no doubt that Steve will report in regularly and give us some idea of the situation on the ground. I cried when I gave him a goodbye hug. Just wet eyes, really, maybe a single tear rolled down my face like that commercial with the sad Indian. Steve has been there for me...I was going to say in the last six months, but the truth is he has been my shoulder to cry on and my willing listener for more than a decade. We've known each other since we were fourteen. That's a lot of history.

And he was probably the definitive person to get me over the hump with my depression. His help has also given me a way to manage my panic attacks, and he did it all without being asked or even expecting thanks. I wasn't just a problem to be solved. I was a person in need. I can't say this is an example of how deep our friendship goes, though it is, because Steve would have done the same for anyone. He's that kind of guy. I have literally seen him give the shirt off his back to someone in need.

I told him to report in as regularly as possible. From what I understand, he and his team should reach the staging point for the evacuation effort by late this afternoon to early evening. If I know Steve at all, he and his teams won't rest when they get there. It'll be a night of hard work after a day of driving nonstop. Again, for total strangers.

I wish I were with him, but I'm quite glad to be doing something useful here. Something to help. I only worry that the tinderbox down south doesn't burn any of my friends or fellow Union members. As fast as we've mobilized, signs point to us being ahead of the fires by a decent margin.

For all of you out there; stay away from the border. We'll send out mass messages to tell you where it's safe to travel. For now that will have to be enough; I need to get some sleep and let Big K fill in for me while I nap. Back to it in a few hours.

This may prevent me from posting tomorrow. Sorry if that's the case.