Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Broken Storm

The last...well, forever, has been hectic. More than usual the last few days. It's kind of hard to describe the changes, but what it all boils down to is the war is mostly over.

I know, right? No one expected that. I'd like to think it was due to the UAS hitting here, our home, and meeting resistance the likes of which they could barely imagine. That our stalwart defense and powerful counter-strikes made them realize the whole thing was a bad idea. We know now that wasn't the case. There is not only a cease-fire in place but an active reorganization of the UAS as an entity. Turns out the misinformation being fed to the other side was larger in scope and more clever in execution than we realized.

Thanks to the efforts of the UAS citizens who quit the fight and took asylum in the Union, the majority of the UAS forces have offered a halt to all hostilities. Many factors drove the decision, from the now obvious misinformation about us to the sheer need to eat. That one caught me by surprise--the UAS pushed up their attack timelines because our people were destroying their supplies too efficiently. The food shortage on that side of the war was much worse than our information led us to believe. Not a soldier among them was eating more than half rations by the time they attacked Haven.

The leadership's idea was to strike Haven and take it down fast to resupply. Take our crops, our stores, and move on to the next target. When we remained strong against them, the soldiers fighting us began to truly lose heart. The rigors of fighting, travel, and the stress of the situation combined with an empty belly were enough to make most of them question what they were doing even before the first bullet flew. Once they saw us hurt them badly and successfully defend, it broke many of them. They knew there was no easy meal ahead.

It was that mentality which gave the defectors their chance. A small crack in the armor to exploit, and much to my pleasure one they plied with reason rather than violence. There were small revolts when the majority made their will known, put down quickly and with great prejudice. It's not a perfect peace, but our people are working with theirs. The truth is simple: they outnumber us, and even a hungry and tired army is a danger. Things could still end badly. I managed a few minutes with Will, and he understands the risks better than anyone. More, he pointed out some problems most people hadn't considered.

Like what to do with those armies. Sending them home without supplies would be a death sentence for many of them. The cautious thing to do would be to allow them to leave and work on details of any peace slowly and methodically over time.

So we're totally not doing that. Instead we're fielding huge teams of hunters to range far and wide. We're harvesting what crops we can right now. We've opened several of our rabbit breeding pens--we have many of them, but that fact has remained secret out of necessity until now--and at this very moment we've got fifty men and women cooking in continuous shifts. Giant vats of stew and soup, filling and rich. Maybe it isn't exactly French cuisine, but I've seen a few of the UAS soldiers come through here with a grin on their face while they blew the steam off their food.

And they keep coming. In groups arranged with our people, unarmed but not without dignity. They come and eat, some even receiving medical care. War is the strangest of human activities, where on week men are mortal enemies and the next break bread together.

Our people are feeding them, helping to make them strong again. Is it a risk? Yes. It's also the right thing to do. The UAS forces have been kind enough to send in heavily armed patrols to clear out the zombie swarms around Haven. They've risked their lives to defend us since this tenuous peace began, and they're risking the total dissolution of their fledgling nation by taking a chance on us. They've shown a willingness to reach for the best possible outcome. The least we can do--what we owe ourselves and those yet to be--is match their efforts.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Undiscovered Country

This is Beckley.  And after reading Josh’s return from the dead post, I got to say, today is a good day.  Although the Goodyear blimp has yet to confirm my pimpitude.  I’m pretty sure that is an oversight on the part of the universe, however.

So I fully believed Josh was dead.  Maybe in the World That Was I would have held out a little more hope, seeing as how it was only three days between the automated post and Josh letting us know what was up.  But this isn’t the World That Was.  This is the World in Which You Get Eaten or Shot or Both and Then Get Up Again.  It was driving me crazy that I didn’t have any information.  The truth is I haven’t been in Haven.  Josh had mentioned that there were noncombatants who were evacuated to an undisclosed location.  I’ve been with them.  There were a number of reasons for this, none of which, thankfully, were due to my previous living address.  I’ve mentioned before that I am a miserable shot with firearms and just as bad, if not worse at the bow and arrow.  So unless the UAS soldiers were kind enough to lay down their guns and let me run up and go all peanut butter jelly with my baseball bat, I was kind of useless.  Plus, the Powers That Be thought it might be a good idea to have me with the noncombatants.  Stress is high and it seemed like a good idea to have a therapist on sight to help talk people down and keep things calm.  Particularly if that therapist, as previously mentioned, sucks at shooting.  And it was a good choice.  When news of Josh’s untimely death came through, people went nuts.  A good number wanted to rush out and tear the UAS apart with their bare hands.  And these were noncombatants, remember.  Another good portion of the group sank into a depression and was just waiting for the end to come, convinced that Haven was burning and Josh’s broken body was on a UAS pike somewhere.  My work was cut out for me.

Due to all that work and the time I’ve been spending on a pet project cataloging how the symptoms of mental disorders have been affected by The Fall, I didn’t get a chance to complete and post the eulogy that I was working on.  And that’s good because I would have felt pretty stupid if I’d posted that tribute, more maudlin than a Hawkeye-centric episode of M*A*S*H*, about the good Josh had done for us, only to have Josh reply to it in the comments.  And be all sarcastic about it.  Because you know he’d get a special Tom Sawyer-type joy out of doing that, even if he’s still being held together by stitches and gauze.

But the truth is that a lot of what I had to say is still applicable because Josh is leaving.  So I’m going to post most of the eulogy anyway.  I’ll just do a quick edit to remove all the references to untimely death.

Even though he’s not dead, Josh leaving is still a loss.  He was the face of this community.  And we all owe him a lot.  Many of us would be dead right now if it weren’t for Josh.  Patrick, for one, might have died in the early days of The Fall if Josh hadn’t been there to warn him.  It was Josh who helped liberate some of our citizens from torture and death at the hands of marauders.  It was Josh who sat here documenting the new mutations of the zombie population.  How many of us would have gotten blindsided by the smarties when they first appeared, not realizing that there were zombies who could plan and take us by surprise?  Josh was the one who trusted Will Price when everyone hated his guts and was all for treating him like a leper.  You think that Will would be the head of the council if it weren’t for Josh?  And personally, I know I’d be dead.  I would have tried to escape the UAS once their motives became clear and would have done so without the transportation arranged by the Haven council, informed by Josh, who realized that I and some others wanted to defect.  You think I would have survived?  Sure I got to UAS territory, but it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that I got there without dying.  Actually, my entire survival has been a lot of dumb luck.  But without Josh arranging my escape, I’d have been walking as the UAS soldiers swarmed forward, ready for war.  Yeah, they’d have loved the lone defector wandering in the wilderness.  Of course none of that matters because without Josh, there would have been no Haven to begin with.  He was the one who fortified his neighborhood in the first place.

Josh, quite literally, created this world we live in.  And now he’s leaving.  He may come back and visit, he may keep posting when time and conditions permit, but for all intents and purposes, he will be gone from our daily lives.  His legacy will remain, however.  It stares us in the face the moment we wake up in the morning.  Everything around us, we owe to Josh.  Yes, there were others who have built their homes and made Haven the community it is today, never doubt that I don’t recognize that.  But we’re making our lives in the midst of the legacy of another man.  And the really interesting thing is that he never fully realized that.  The guy saved more people than I can count, and even now he’ll act like it was nothing but a thing and talk about how he’s haunted by the extreme things he’s had to do to survive.

Josh’s leaving will be hard on all of us.  He may not be dead and gone, but he will be just straight up gone.  It’s still a loss.  And I know I’ve lost a lot of people since The Fall began.  People that I cared deeply for.  I lay awake at night sometimes, just thinking about what my life would have been if the dead had never risen.  Would I still be in Pittsburgh?  Would I be married?  Would I have kids by now?  There are days I can’t even remember what it was like to wake up, go to work, and do my therapy thing.  What it was like to sleep or cook myself a clam pizza.  Dear god, I haven’t even seen a clam in over three years, canned or fresh.
I know I’ve said a lot about Josh here, but the best thing I can say is that when I talked to Josh, when I got to share burgers with him and Big K, when I got to read about how his heart bled for the misled, frightened people of the UAS or talked about the shame he felt at having to kill sociopathic marauders, when I heard all that, suddenly I could remember what it was like before The Fall.  I can remember those lazy days when I sat around the house and watched Food Network.  When there was law and decorum and order.  When you talk to Josh, life seems brighter.  And that’s what we’re going to be missing once he leaves.  And while I’m happier than words can convey that The Voice of Haven isn’t dead, it’s still a tragedy that he’s leaving.  But it’s his choice and he’s got his reasons.  And I know we’ll all miss him.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fault Lines

I've spent most of the day doing my best Mentat impression. For those of you who don't get my pop-culture references, that's from Dune. Human computers hungry for data who take the vast quantities of information presented and predict possible outcomes, reasoning for, and solutions to situations. I've been a huge fan of Frank Herbert since I was in middle school. The first law of the Mentat--I think I've said it before--is that no process can be understood by stopping it.

Our refugees from the UAS clearly didn't get the memo, because they interrupted the process of this war thoroughly.

It isn't just here, either. All over the Union they stepped up when the violence became to much to bear. Not content to sit on the sidelines and wait for a victor to emerge, they braved zombie swarms, bullets, fire, explosives, and rage-blind warriors to stop this from going further. It wouldn't have worked without a good number of men and women, good people, among the enemy who were tired of death. Tired of killing and watching their brothers and sisters fall.

All it took was a gesture profound enough to capture the attention of those most willing to listen. Walking unarmed across a battlefield as a group? That's one hell of a gesture.

We're in free fall right now. The UAS aren't doing anything. They've retreated about twenty miles back from Haven, allowing our folks to go in and assess the damage. No one knows how any of this is going to play out, but the people I've seen and talked to are already discussing terms of a truce. Just regular folks, mind you, having chats about what would be acceptable to them for peace.

That's mind-boggling. In a few days we've gone from all-out annihilation to a cease-fire bordering on an end to this war. It's not universal even if the efforts of the refugees aren't unique to Haven. There are still places where the war continues. But those cracks in the unity of the enemy, wide swaths of people who want to end this, are widening and getting deeper. More people up the chain are coming to the same conclusion. A UAS officer who will remain nameless sent me a message personally, telling me his five hundred soldiers were behind him in wanting peace. It's spreading.

I'm sure the UAS leadership will have something to say about all this, and probably soon. They've got to be shitting themselves, wondering how it all went so wrong. Maybe the fact they're safe in their bunkers while sending good people out to die in a war they didn't choose has something to do with it. When you're out on the ground with riflemen firing at you on one side and the hungry undead on the other, watching your friends die and get devoured or rise again, that changes you. Gives you perspective.

You start to think maybe the higher-ups don't have the context to understand what they're putting you through. Or worse, that they don't give a crap. That's where the doubts form. I've known a lot of soldiers in my time, and even the most loyal of them had questions. Most of the UAS forces are regular folks. They've been lied to and manipulated and pushed forward by the things we did, the actions we took at times. Blame is aplenty, but hearing the news that the enemy is on the verge of quitting the field entirely makes my heart sing.

I can't wait to see where this all goes. I keep couching it in terms of me being here and watching it unfold, but then remember I'll probably be away from Haven by then.

I don't know which idea is more of a relief, to be honest.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Third Day

Okay, not to make any Jesus comparisons--other than the long hair and a fondness for sandals--but I'm not risen like him. I'm alive.

Just barely, mind you.

Sorry for the fake out. That's twice in the last few months, first with Patrick and now with me. It wasn't intentional. As I said in the post you read, I schedule that damn thing every time I work. Just didn't reckon on being hurt badly enough I couldn't get Jess to fix it but not bad enough to die. My fault, really.

I'm only being given a short time with my computer, and the truth is I can't handle much exertion. Yes, typing is an effort for me at the moment. I only woke up from surgery this morning. I don't have a clue what's going on with the UAS right now other than a brief visit by Kincaid, who told me hostilities have been at a standstill for two days.

I spent about an hour talking with Jess and some other people, which is why I'm bothering to write this now. Even if the others hadn't agreed, I would still be making this decision: we're leaving.

A fairly large group of us will be going. Me, Jess, Pat and his daughter, Courtney and Steve, Kincaid, a few other friends. Will is staying, as is Becky for now. K is coming and is bringing some people with him, friends of his I've yet to meet. Turns out K was the one who pulled my bullet-riddled ass off the field. Saved my life. Talked with him a bit as well, but Jess was the one who really got to spend time with him while I was unconscious.

I'm not privy to the entire conversation, but Jess made it totally clear she wants to leave. Strike out on our own and leave Haven behind. I've felt something like that for a long time myself without ever being able to identify it. An urge to move past the politics and problems that come with so many people joining together. To leave behind the good and the bad and wipe the slate clean. We've sacrificed a lot over the years. I've nearly died a couple times.

For Jess, this last time was really the last time. She can't take watching me get hurt like this. I can't handle much more of it, either. I'm not torn--the decision is made. It will take time to figure out how to manage it what with the army camped a few miles away. We'll need supplies and the like but we've got enough practice winging it that even that isn't a huge concern.

I'll miss this place. It was my home long before The Fall. I grew up here. I built a life with the woman I love here. And now we're planning to leave it behind. I still believe in the future of our people, in cooperative effort and large communities. I just don't think I belong in one. Belonging means responsibilities I no longer wants. A couple rifle bullets to several important areas of my anatomy were very convincing.

That's all I have for now. When I know more about the cease-fire between the two armies I'll let you know. I'm more than a little curious about that.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sweet Sorrow

If you're reading this post, I'm probably dead. I say probably because I've had some version or another of this thing sitting hidden on the blog waiting to be published since the first few weeks of The Fall. I schedule it with a delay of a few days, changing the length of time as needed. As of the time of this writing I've got it set for three days.

I've updated this so often it no longer contains a single word of the original. At first I intended to leave each iteration of my goodbye to all of you intact, simply adding on as necessary to fit the current circumstances. I even did it for a while but the post was large enough to qualify as a novella. I began to alter instead, deleting old things and adding new. I'm writing this now on the eve of the UAS assault. I know it's going to be bad, no matter what advantages we have.

My hope is you never get to read this, but if my time is over, well...

I have a few things to say.

I've often had to censor myself for the benefit of others. I've always been as honest as the situation allowed. I never shied away from the grisly reality we face as we fight off the swarms of zombies. I've not shirked in my duty to convey the horror stories the marauders carried out in real life. I've done so without guilt or shame because those are things that needed to be said.

And when it comes to the current threat, the UAS, I've failed you all. I've expressed doubt, that's for certain. But I've lied to all of you deep and broad. This conflict is one I think we could have nipped in the bud much earlier. Hell, I know we could have. The enemy was angry and starving and driven, but if we'd have dedicated the resources to understand the problem, to place agents in positions where we could convince key individuals that cooperation could be beneficial for both of us, this whole mess would be theory instead of fact.

I know these things because I've talked to nearly everybody you can think of. I spent a lot of time with the defectors from the UAS. They weren't a close-knit group like us, but the single binding thread was their belief that the majority of UAS citizens held barely more allegiance than they did. That nation, if you want to call it that, is held together by promises of better tomorrows and not much else.

There were discussions about trying to peel off UAS citizens in the way described above. They were considered and dropped. It was believed the enemy was too dedicated, too hungry, to make it a viable solution. Many in the leadership here disagreed, Will included. But he was overridden. It's no one's fault, really. It wasn't a matter of choosing war for the sake of war. It was all about survival and taking the course the majority of the leadership thought held the best chance of survival.

For some of us, anyway. If you're reading this, I'm likely not among them.

If that is the case, I ask you not to mourn. Please. Every day I've had since The Fall began is a day I probably shouldn't have been alive. I got lucky and I know it. I feel incredibly blessed to have had as much time as this. To see my wife survive and thrive, grow and change into--hard as it is to believe--an even more amazing woman. I've experienced a lot of great things, from the thrill of survival to the first green shoots of a new world growing from beneath the wreckage of the old.

I've lived through more terrible events than I can name. And no matter how hard I try, how far I come, their shadows never leave me. Maybe because I'm prone to spells of depression. Might just be I'm not built to endure that much. Capacity exceeded. No amount of rationalization or masking emotions can overcome that darkness. It's manageable but with me every day. Heavy.

I had an interesting conversation with Big K just before I sat down to write this. He's moving for the safety of the fallback areas before this assault bears down on us. He's a good man in a fight but barely able to shoot a gun, and our plans rely heavily on firearms.

It was the longest talk I've ever had with him as well as the most personal. I learned a lot about who he is, and I won't betray confidences. I'll tell you my own secrets, sure. But K carries a heavy burden as well, as I've said before. He's worse off than I am, actually. He can't seem to find that one thing to make it all worthwhile no matter how hard he looks.

For all that, the conversation gave me a measure of solace and peace. Should I die in this coming assault, I'll do so knowing I did my best and fought on despite a weary heart. If I live, I will make changes. I'll have to. Going on will mean finding a way to leave the horrors of the past somewhere they can't catch up. I don't know for sure how that's could happen, but I know it's the only choice I'd have. This sadness and grief is cutting off my wind a little more each day.

I've fought and killed before. Gone to war and walked through hell. That doesn't make me special, just one of you. It has been my honor to help where possible, to be your voice when you asked it of me, and to have some small place in your hearts at this watering hole, maybe the last one on earth people everywhere in our country can visit.

Thank you all so much. From the bottom of my heart, know that if this is the end, I go to it smiling. I may be gone, but because of you I learned how to live again.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

[The End is Nigh]

This is an out of character post. I'm putting a link to my author blog here. I can't suggest you go there and read it enough. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stand Tall

[Post by Kincaid]

Josh is down. This morning a surprise push by a big group of UAS soldiers hit the camp he was staying in. Jess made it out okay. There were several deaths, people I don't know by name. Josh was hit several times. Rifle fire. He's in surgery now, but Phil says it doesn't look promising.

Truth is, we'd have taken a lot worse but for one thing. Something I never expected I'd see. It was the defectors from the UAS, all the ones we've allowed to live close by since they gave up the fighting. They walked onto the battlefield from the side, hands all raised up. Not a weapon to be seen. I was there, out in the distance. I watched them move toward the UAS forces.

They talked. It was only after the UAS was pushed back that I found out what they said. Those men and women left the war because they didn't want to kill people who'd done them no wrong. A few came here afterward to explain. They approached our enemy to tell them how we'd treated them. Fair. With reasonable trust if wary of tricks. How we punished anyone who tried to give them trouble for prior loyalties.

So far no one knows if it has had any real effect. The UAS for sure didn't pull back early. We had to make them retreat. But the thing is, they hit us hard. Another push a few hours after the retreat could have done serious damage. They didn't. And nearly a day later they still haven't. They aren't even forming up for another attack. I know a good number of the defectors are still in the UAS camp.

If they're managing to get through to the enemy, well fucking hooray. I doubt it'll amount to more than a delay for us, but we'll take it. Reports are in from all over. The rest of the UAS forces in the region are coming here. Guess the local boys need help from big brother now they've realized we're not going down without ripping off something vital.

I don't have many friends, but Josh is one of them. Even he doesn't fully trust me, I don't think, but I can't blame the guy. I am who I am. He respects that if nothing else.

They hurt my friend. He might have died while I'm typing this. I saw him as he was being hauled off the field. I'm shocked he even lived to get medical attention. You might have noticed, but I'm not like Josh. I don't forgive easily. I sure as hell never forget. I'll follow orders, but until Will himself comes down to tell me otherwise, I'm taking every UAS fucker out when the chance comes up. That's just how it is.

The defectors managed to take a stand. I'm thankful for that even if it ends up an empty gesture. At least they have some decency in them. That's why they aren't the enemy any longer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Impulse Control

It's a wonder the UAS didn't question why we weren't fighting them last night as their soldiers moved into the massive clearing around Haven. Our scouts and watchers spied them from a distance, angry men and women marching toward our home, emerging from the trees like ghosts in the dying light. You'd think the first question they would have asked themselves was why, if there were so many of us out there, would we not be firing at them?

The answer to that unasked question came in the form of land mines. I suppose a better question might have been "Why did the Union forces attack us the other from all directions except from Haven itself? Because explosives in the ground, that's why.

Didn't manage to kill a lot of them, but as a method of discouragement it's top-notch. Whatever sneaky assault the enemy might have been planning fell through when several dozen soldiers splattered across the face of the people following behind them. I'm glad for that, and that bothers me. The deeply logical part of my brain tells me those deaths prevented or at least postponed even more carnage. The deeply emotional Josh is weary of the violence, more so than ever.

I feel the anger, the hate for the stupidity and waste around me. I see my home damaged and evacuated, the heart of the Union injured, and I the animal instinct in me is to lash out and kill. And it's true there is a good argument for defending yourself and others, protecting what you have. Doesn't mean I have to like what we do to accomplish that.

They're out there right now, readying themselves again despite knowing the cost to their forces. The UAS will come for us again, striking at us and losing soldiers. Our own will die with them, a waste beyond calculation in a world bereft of almost our entire species. Later today, maybe even by dinner, the weakened but furious UAS will move as one.

We will respond, because we have no other choice. I'll do my part no matter how I feel about it, because that's what you do. You defend. You die if you have to.

You regret and you hope things can change, but at the end of the day you move forward.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dance With Death

They came. Oh, they came. The UAS moved in, firing every big gun they had. Soldiers with portable mortars, mounted machine guns, even one or two pieces of artillery our people couldn't quite stop. The enemy crossed the line of no return.

That first opening salvo took chunks from our walls, heavy bullets gouging out fist-sized divots in the stone. Mortars made craters big enough for a man to curl up in comfortably. The artillery shots that came with that mad rush toward us demolished two blocks of Haven Central. Houses turned to splinters between heartbeats, carefully tended gardens a mass of tangled earth and dying crop. Homes, full of struggle and love and life, gone. Just gone.

But not the people in them.

Every non-combatant withdrew to a secure location two days ago. The rest of us, with the exception of a small detail to protect our pregnant women, young children, sick, and the few too young to fight, were out there in the world. We spread out in the fading light, Haven left behind as an all-too-tempting target. A place we love, to be certain, but no matter what I've said on here recently, only a place in the end. Not worth our lives or the future of our people.

What did I say when all this began? Do you remember? I told the UAS they should stop this insanity before they learned what we're truly capable of. I said the worst situation they could be in is the one they walked into yesterday. We fielded a few thousand friendly soldiers from other communities, and another fifteen hundred of our own. And you know what? Nearly every one of us had a rifle and pockets full of rounds. We've been hoarding them for months now, using them only for hunting when needed.

Yesterday we hunted men. Our army broke up into discreet groups of twelve and flooded the area. Our land, which we know like the face of our own child. We flowed in and out, taking positions long enough to pick off soldiers and melting back when they tracked our fire. The entire area surrounding Haven has long been prepared for this; shields of thick metal decked with greenery to make them harder to see. Stands that allow shooters to swing around the bole of a tree, aim and kill only to slide back behind the protection of the tree's thickness in an instant.

We've drilled and drilled and drilled. We've practiced. Yeah, we took losses yesterday. Our home was severely damaged and several hundred of our soldiers gave their lives. But we killed five for every one we lost. When the first artillery shots rang out we signaled our backup, kept a tight secret until now. We wanted the UAS to think they were safe to move forward. Surely we would have used any secret weapons before allowing our home to be so badly hurt...

Three heavily modified helicopters swooped in from three directions, laying down fire on the massed enemies and attacking the remaining heavy weapons. One of them dropped hundreds of pounds of thermite, melting men and vehicles--and giant cannons--to slag in less time than you can hold your breath. Our own heavy vehicles swarmed onto the field shortly after to brutalize the forward elements, cutting down soldiers by the dozen.

At our best estimate we killed between two thousand and twenty-five hundred UAS soldiers while losing a bit less than five hundred of our own. Their army has been cut in half, and in the chaos they called a retreat. To their credit I don't think they'd have pulled back just because of the assault, but it probably helped immensely that we fought out there among the undead, untouched by them. Even the New Breed. Our people have been taking advantage of the constant pressure of zombie attacks, gathering pieces of the undead, gore and limbs and the like, to mask our smell. We were an army of men and women slathered in the stink of undeath, invisible to the eyes of the old school zombies. The New Breed began to figure it out when the attack started but left us alone when the sight and smell of UAS blood hit them. Easy meals, you see, and we made sure not to get in their way.

Use every weapon you have.

Today the UAS lick their wounds. I'm typing this on my phone, slow and laborious, from our temporary camp behind our own lines. Scouts indicate the enemy are marshaling their strength, likely to attack again within the next day. Certainly more of us will die. I saw one of the helicopters crash, riddled with bullets, from my perch far back in the woods. Good men and women rushed to the fore, distracting with their attacks as me and mine took careful aim from hiding. I watched them die to save us all. I can only imagine tomorrow will be worse, but today?

Today we're alive.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Scarlet Blush

In the opening moments of most wars, there is a battle that acts as a test. A probe to feel the texture of the defenses. That happened yesterday. The UAS certainly didn't want to commit fully without knowing how far we would go in our desperation, but neither would they send enough troops at us that their loss would cripple their army. Instead they opted to move deeper and deeper into our land, coming relatively close to Haven. Just outside of artillery range. Thankfully they don't have the heavier missile weapons that could hit us from too far away to do a damn thing about it.

Sitting at the edge of the true danger zone was enough to provoke a response from us. Our people have been chipping away at them over the last few days, but that's all. Just flakes that add up to no real loss of operational capability. They waited all day for some large response from us, but other than the small attacks they didn't get one. I wonder if it came as a surprise when several hundred of our people raided all down their line of vehicles last night? The point of the assault wasn't to take lives.

It was to disable that artillery. It's an old trick and one we've used before. Stealth and surprise are something our soldiers are good at. Years in the woods give them strong abilities in that area. We might not have disabled all of them, but no one is going to fire a huge gun when a blazing gob of steel-melting thermite has been down its barrel or across its controls. Kind of amazing how much damage a baseball-sized wad of the stuff can do.

Every person who went on that raid was a volunteer. More than half of them didn't come back. We're actually pretty stunned any of them did. It was considered a suicide mission.

But that's what you get when you conscript soldiers from survivors who've lived mostly underground or, in the case of the vast numbers from Mexico, have no real experience in this kind of terrain. Word is the UAS soldiers from south and central America are by and large more efficient soldiers than those from the bunkers. Which makes sense. The southerners had to survive just like we did.

The language barriers probably helped our raid succeed. No matter how effective your people are in combat, it's nearly impossible to keep disciplined groups when half of them speak several different languages. Confusion, misunderstandings, and just plain bad information clutters up the whole thing. Basically it created good conditions to buy our people time to get the job done.

And they did. The UAS is moving in on us now, heedless of the traps and danger ahead, because their leadership realizes if they wait any longer the morale and urge to fight is going to drain out of their soldiers. Facing a guerrilla force on their home turf with unknown armaments, numbers, and capabilities who sometimes appear from the dark like ghosts is enough to make anyone walk away.

At least by mobilizing and coming right at us they know where we'll be. They know we won't run. In an hour or two the fight will be in our front yard. Then in our streets. If things go very badly, at our front door. We've got a trick or two left. We'll see.

Today is the day, everyone.

Friday, June 14, 2013

There Will Come Soft Rains

Hey guys, it’s Beckley.  Word to your mother.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the upcoming action with the UAS, as has just about every sane person in Haven and the Union.  Josh has already talked at length about this, but I wanted to put my thoughts out there too.  I know that I tend to just parrot and remix some of what Josh says.  Kind of like I’m a Puff Daddy.  Or did he just insist on being called just Diddy before The Fall?  For the life of me I can’t remember or muster up the fortitude to care.  Regardless, Josh has a theme and occasionally I’ll just remix it and insist that the song about a stalker is actually a touching tribute to Biggie Smalls with a well placed, “Yeah” or two.  That metaphor may have gotten away from me slightly.  And now I’m thinking of a zombie Biggie Smalls.  Regardless, this is my thing.  Love it.

Specifically my thoughts have gone to a poem I read back when I was a kid.  Before that, though, let me explain something.  I have principles.  But I’ve also always been a pragmatist.  Prior to The Fall I was a conservative because I believed in small government.  But I was ready to admit that big government programs like the postal service, public libraries, and health care were necessary.  I was religious before all this happened and life became so confused.  But I wasn’t one to shove those tenants into anyone’s face and I always believed that people had the right to believe what they wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a pluralist, and it always drove me crazy when people would say that all religions were the same.  I always found that lazy, factually incorrect in regards to dogma, and culturally insensitive.  Regardless, I like to think that this pragmatism helped me as a therapist.  You really can’t go around challenging every ignorant thing that people say in therapy because then the bigger functionality issues never get addressed.  What good is me correcting some poor guy saying that “the Jews” are plotting against him when he’s also actively hearing voices telling him that he’s Jesus Christ?  You need proportion and you need pragmatism in life.

All that to say that while I do fear the war coming to Haven’s doorstep, I also don’t fear the results.  The Union wins, it’s all good.  The UAS wins, that’s rough and we will all die.  Not just us.  Everyone.  The UAS can’t hold this territory and they have no idea how to grow and adapt.  They will crumble like the rest of Humanity already has.  And then there will be nothing here.  But what does that really mean?  Really?  I’m not being fatalistic or morose and I certainly don’t want to die, but seriously ask yourself the question.  We all die, but how is that any different than what life has already thrown at us in the form of rising dead?  And we’re not talking about total extinction.  There will still be other survivors.  And other countries have their own pockets of Humanity, some of them probably doing much better than we are here.  Maybe an isolated island.  I bet New Zealand is doing incredibly well, for example.  Humanity will survive even if the UAS lays waste and then crumbles under their own weighty shortsightedness.  And then Nature will continue without us.  The dead will run short on easily obtainable food and they will starve.  The planted fields of Haven will grow wild.  Clover will cover the streets.  Vines and trees will spring up and everything, the walls, the Box, the compound, the hospital, the cheeseburger emporium, the fortified walls that Josh built around his house in the first days of The Fall, they will all crumble away.  We succeed and life will flourish here.  We fail and life will still flourish and one day people will rise again.  Survivors from other countries will branch out as the dead finally lay down.  People will come and rebuild on the ruins of Haven, rebuild Josh’s house, the hospital, the cheeseburgers, rebuild it all.  The streets will return and life will continue.

And that is why I’m a pragmatist.  Again, this isn’t self-pity or depression.  Someone I cared for very much before these days used to tell me when my self-pity was getting out of control.  She’s…I don’t know where now.  Probably shuffling around with everyone else I ever knew.  But what I do know is that these new people in my life, they are going to live.  Whether it’s over the broken remains of the UAS or as clover pollen in the wind, we will live.  That’s the pragmatism I’m talking about.  And it’s very comforting to me to think about as I strain my ears during the night, listening to the moans outside the wall and trying to catch the first sign of an approaching UAS vanguard.  We will survive and life will continue.

That poem, in case you were wondering, was by Sara Teasdale.  It’s called There Will Come Soft Rains and it was used to great effect by the always immortal (in the best possible way, such words not being what they used to) Ray Bradbury in a short story about a fully automated house continuing its blissful daily existence even after its family was incinerated to a nuclear shadow on the front lawn and even as it burns to death.  It was included in The Martian Chronicles.  If you haven’t, go read it.  To the point here’s the poem:

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound
And frogs in the pools singing at night
And wild plum trees in tremulous white
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

It’s very sad, very inspirational, and very true.  And more applicable here than I’m comfortable admitting.  The UAS is coming.  But they can’t kill us.  Not what was created here.  Only Nature can do that.  And really, that’s as it should be and how it always was.  No zombies, no delusional politicians, no incoming army, no vigilante action, no Dragoon, and no blog will stop it.  We march towards dust always and I do it with a glad heart because in the end, we are all part of something bigger.  Dawn is coming whether we’re here for it or not.  And it always will be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Been a while since I got philosophical with you, but since this might be my last chance ever I figure it's as good a time as any.

I've been thinking a lot about how we all change each other. It's all connected together, you see. The universe is a big, crazy place full of vast forces tugging on away and it's not crazy at all to say that something happening hundreds of millions of miles away affects my life in a very personal way. I know, sounds out there and pointless, but stay with me.

The sun is a ball of burning plasma, hydrogen fusing into helium and from there into heavier elements. The process creates heat and light as waste, and the very concentration of those elements creates a gravitational field that eventually draws together clumps of rock and metal to create a planetary system. The goldilocks zone is where Earth resides, that stellar sweet spot just far enough away for our home not to burn, but close enough to stay warm and support liquid water. The heat of our star creates the conditions for life, the power of its gravity a stable orbit.

Now, today, I'm sitting out under overcast skies, a weather pattern created by variations in atmospheric temperatures. It may rain, which will give life to our crops. Crops the enemy is sure to reap over our corpses, should their efforts succeed.

That's just how my brain works, you see. I think of the tidal forces of the moon, churning the sea, and I see a corollary in people to match it. I think of the sun, the life-giver, and there too I can't help but laugh at how the larger pattern is mirrored on a small scale with us. All of us. It's organized chaos.

Haven exists today because enough of us came together to shed some light on the world around it. The random accumulation of people gathered as if by gravity, organizing into distinct groups with a purpose. Like a star the individual atoms crashed into each other to create something new. With the denser, stronger new material came more gravity, a self-sustaining process that ends with a stable new nation of similar systems.

The Union. It's sort of a small galaxy when you think about it. But much like Andromeda, which will collide with our own Milky Way in a few billion years, the UAS became attracted to us. Gravity kills after all.

Which puts us where we are today. Similes and metaphors aside, the amazing progress and growth we've seen comes at a cost. Human nature is difficult to stick into a mathematical model and predict. People have been shitty to each other as long as there have been people, and today is no different. One side wants, the other side has, and violence is all too often the bridge over the divide between them.

No matter what momentary bursts of emotion took me, I've never been able to sustain true hate for the undead. Zombies do what they do because the organism in charge has very basic needs to meet. It's all sort of automated, animal. I don't hate wolves or bears for acting in accordance to their wild nature. The UAS, like the marauders before them, are different. They know better. They have choice. They can still choose to back off and give peace a chance. The likelihood rapidly approaches zero, but it isn't impossible.

Tidal forces, pressure changes, the flow of matter pushed on by other matter. I see these concepts all the time, both in physics and in real life. My hobbies tend to bleed over into the everyday that way. The UAS comes in and displaces the undead, driving them toward us. We respond by calculated movements designed to return the favor. When all the turbulence begins to fade toward equilibrium, there's more pressure. Two opposing masses facing one another over a space, the matter in between compressed.

Just my observations and musings. The situation in real terms is exactly that; the UAS is trundling here slowly but surely. They'll be here tonight if they keep on as they are. The zombies between are being pushed this way yet again, and this time no amount of clever work with ammonia sprayers will ward them off. By this time tomorrow, barring a miracle, Haven will be in a state of total war.

Cross your fingers, make your prayers, and remember always that from the madness of a broken world we built amazing things together.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I want to say the UAS is playing smart against us, but that would be a super lie. A large forward element came at us yesterday but didn't get within decent firing range even with their mortars. It's like they never learn  any sort of lessons. Did they think the heart of the Union wouldn't be protected? This part of the country is a death trap.

Granted, I might have made it look like we're in worse shape than we actually are. I might have neglected to mention the thousands of soldiers who came back with our people, stocked with provisions and resupplied from other communities. Camping out there in the dark, living in small clusters, just waiting for the enemy to get close enough. Laying traps, planning ambushes, and generally doing all the things defenders do when enemies are at the proverbial gates.

It's a hard life for those men and women. Living in the wild with minimal protection from the undead isn't the ideal situation for anyone, and I salute their bravery. Moments like this make it plain the Union has become greater than the sum of its parts. We grouped together to create trade in the beginning, but when an enemy powerful enough to steamroll all of us reared its head, we chose to become something more. We acted as one people, defending each other with the same dedication each of us show our local communities.

If this is Haven's last stand, it's a good one.

And make no mistake, it might be our final hour. There is no fault to be found in our soldiers or people where our defenses are concerned, but the UAS is now mobilizing as one. Not just a forward unit or scouts--the entire local force. Thousands of people, hundreds of pieces of equipment. The army can only move as fast as the slowest among them, and they're a hundred miles away through land trapped and ready for them. If they make it here today I'd be amazed, but I can't see it taking much longer than a day.

Our brave defenders showed the forward elements what the army in general is going to be dealing with. Not a rousing defeat, but it showed them what they're dealing with. You can only see your friends get shot in the head from what appears to be empty woods for so long before it saps your will. That's ignoring the explosions, pit traps, and general chaos.

This next bit is going to be the hard part. Maybe the last hard days we'll see. I don't think it will go that way, but I've been wrong before. We could still run if it came down to that, but I don't see it happening. We've built too much to leave Haven behind. Practicality is a wonderful way to survive.

But fighting for our home? That's the best way to live. Even if it means dying.

Monday, June 10, 2013


That's what we were today. For a long four hours we were not civilized men, but something more primal. More base. At the end of endurance when survival becomes the only drive left, that base cluster of actions and reactions necessarily takes over.

It wasn't only the undead, though the swarms were more than enough to wear us down. It wasn't just the heat and humidity wringing the energy from us. In truth we were better off than I expected, teams of men and women so successful at pushing the zombies back from Haven we actually took to the field and drove them back as our tanks, those excellent homemade assault vehicles, mowed them down in droves.

It was at the last push on the edge of the woods surrounding Haven that did the trick. We were on the edge of victory, the swarm that began the day several hundred bodies deep left nothing more than a ragtag clan of a few dozen. I was there, pushing for those last few yards, the sense of power and accomplishment running through me. I wasn't in the front, thank God, but acting as a rear guard for our group.

Which is why I wasn't hit when the UAS bullets tore into our ranks. How they managed to circle around and hide without being seen so close to Haven I still don't know. Pure stupid luck saved us from a total loss as the foremost elements of the small UAS force opened fire too soon. The front line of my group fell immediately, the rest of us diving for cover in the tall grass as blood sprayed in a fine mist over our faces.

Even partially obscured, the twenty enemies would have picked us off in short order had the Tank crews been further away. It was the gunners riding in the back who saved us, riding high in their protected enclosures and barking orders for the drivers to stop. Those men and women aimed as their vehicles halted, rifles bleating out death with the practiced aim of people who have to hunt for their food regularly.

It was meant to be suppressing fire, just enough cover to allow our group to retreat. There wasn't a signal that passed between us, nothing in words or action. I can't swear how it worked for the rest of my team, but for me? It was as if a dam broke inside me. The exhaustion, the red-hot anger, the sudden reversal of the elation of victory into abject fear of death. It swirled together and took over. My spear on my back, a machete in my left hand, a gun in my right, I stood. I remember that, but the world was a narrow place. I might have been the first, my example leading others to stare death in the face and spit blood on his pale skull. I don't know if that's true. The rest of the world didn't exist for me.

Only the enemies cowering in shock as return fire caught them off guard. I pushed through the pain, the aching muscles, a tidal wave of rage-fueled adrenaline surging across my body like a junkie with a fix. I felt the soreness and the worried joints, but I didn't care. All I felt was the need to kill. All that registered in my brain was the enemy.

Torn between avoiding the incoming fire from the Tanks and avoiding the bullets flying at them from the apparently suicidal men trampling through blood-soaked fields toward them, the UAS did not react well. A few of them fell into familiar patterns, firing in bursts and taking cover. Smooth, methodical, professional. Others didn't fare so well as they jerked in place, trying to decide the best course of action.

Some of us fell as the rest moved forward but enough of us reached the enemy to end the fight in our favor. As I write this my mind falls back into the place it was in as the violence happened. I can't--won't--describe it to you. What I felt as they died from my hand, how the light vanishing from their eyes affected me. It was one of the darkest moments of my life. What's frightening is how okay with that I am.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


The rains today made fighting the endless swarms of undead a little easier. Parched ground turned to mud fast, too fast for the zombies to easily adapt to it. Helped that the blaring sun was covered and our tired, sweating bodies got a little relief.

The UAS remain where they are. Their scouts have learned not to get very close as our own scouts have the advantage on them. We've taken enough of them down that it's apparently becoming hard to get new ones to approach Haven.

Kincaid is doing a masterful job of keeping the majority of the undead busy. He has been leading strike teams to disrupt the horde, sending some packing back toward the UAS forces by dropping ammonia bombs, bottling others up and starving them even more than they are now, giving the New Breed in the groups no option but to eat the lesser zombies among them.

Others have been put off kilter by traps, some redirected with false trails in directions leading them far from Haven. Kincaid is a one-man army when it comes to creatively stalling or stopping zombies from massing at our front door. I kind of think the UAS is awed by this since it takes legions of their people to accomplish half of what Kincaid can do with a mere two dozen.

If the coming fight were simply a man-to-man conflict I have no doubt that we as defenders could easily handle five-to-one odds at the least. Too bad for us that the universe doesn't play favorites that way. The good guys in stories always find a way to even the odds or just overcome them with sheer brilliance and endurance. It's not impossible that might happen here, but at the best we're running even odds against the enemy. They have more people, if not nearly as experienced at surviving, and they have much better armor and weapons. Big, scary weapons that have to ride on the back of a truck to get here. Some that need many trucks. Destructive implements so powerful that a shot from one of them could spell disaster for Haven.

I mean, knock down a wall during a bad push by the undead and it could be curtains for us. I'm not giving anyone any ideas they haven't already had, believe me. None of us are frightened virgins with no idea what to do, here.

The irony here is that the UAS appear ready to come at us pretty much right now. They are hesitant because their clever idea to hit us with zombies is backfiring by making the space between us too thick with undead to safely traverse. Seems while some of the UAS have evolved into decent killing machines when it comes to the walking dead, many still bear the vestigial fear response tied into panic. They aren't just scared to enter crowds of zombies, they're actively unwilling to do so, choosing instead to bunker up and wait it out.

Those of us who've had to live out in the world haven't had that luxury, but I won't complain. It's buying us time, so I'll take it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Posts may be sporadic in the near future. We're not in a total state of war here in Haven just yet, but it can't be far off. The first elements of the UAS army are out there in the field, watching us and taking notes on our defenses and capabilities. Worse, the massive front posted up not all that far away is using our own discoveries against us, spraying ammonia ahead of them and driving every zombie in between toward us.

So there's that, too. All of us are being pushed pretty hard as a constant stream of undead show up in our general area. Kincaid had an idea that's helping with that, which I'll go into tomorrow if I have a chance to post. Luckily they aren't coming in huge waves and they aren't without distraction, but the grind of fighting nonstop is wearing us down. Which I suppose is sort of the point.

The main force hasn't moved, but if the scouts and forward elements we're seeing are any indication, we're going to be in trouble. I don't think Haven is going to be the sort of target that gets painted for takeover. They know we're a vital organ in the Union machine, and accurate or not people see us as a shining beacon. The prevailing opinion in Haven is negative. The UAS won't try to treat with us or conquer. They'll destroy us if they can. Just outright level the place and leave all our work as dust for future generations to tread on in ignorance.

What else is there to say? We're no longer approaching that moment of crisis. It's here. We're on the bleeding edge of what the future is going to be. There are no more variables to measure, nothing short of a miracle can change the circumstances as they are. It isn't hopeless for us by any means, but it is a daunting challenge. We'll face it as best we can, together.

Maybe we'll surprise the enemy, maybe not. I can't promise anything more than our very best. It's up to luck or fate or God to decide if that will be enough. You can almost hear the machines of war locking in place, oiled steel parts clicking and sliding as they move into position against us. We've seen enough fights to know the sweating, dead-eyed readiness in the faces of men still a hundred miles away. To know the darkness in their hearts as they ready themselves for the necessity of killing innocent people.

I know it well. All of us do. When the forerunners came into our land and started watching us, we started doing the same. All across the Union, the snowball effect of arming ourselves to kill has been building for a long time. Now is the beat just before the crescendo, when all is silent. Waiting. Quiet with the hope that everything works out without drops of blood shed.

Along with that hope comes the certain knowledge of the impossibility of that coming true.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Victim Zero Release

This is obviously an out of character post, and there won't be a regular LWtD post today. I'm pleased to announce that Victim Zero is now live and available for purchase. I've kept a tight lid on this story since the idea came to me, but now I can tell you a bit more. 

The book is set in the LWtD universe and tells the story of Kell McDonald, the man whose work caused the plague. It's a tale of love and loss, personal exploration and growth, as well as action and survival mixed in. I'm immensely proud of this book. I think you'll like it. Please click on over to the Amazon page for the book and check it out. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Come Out And Play

[Post by Kincaid]

You might wonder if I regret hitting that switch and burying that weapons depot under half an exploded hill. They were our enemies. They were a strategic target. Do you think I regret it? Read this over again and ask yourself the question.

My part in our little caper was cut and dry. I wanted to help Josh get his friend back, and I wanted to hurt the people threatening the only home that would have me. Maybe a lot of you out there don't get why Haven is so important to me, but it is. I was a marauder, but they took me in. Aren't all happy about it. Can't say I blame them for that. It's home, for better or worse.

Now we're on the edge of the cliff. War is breathing down our necks like nothing any of us have seen before. The UAS isn't a far-off threat hitting our outer holdings. They're a hundred miles from Haven. Good roads and decent weather would let them hit us in less than two hours if they wanted. That's not happening at present, but it's a possibility.

Of course I don't regret. They started this. They're the ones on our doorstep. They're the ones killing everyone they can find and enslaving the survivors. They're murdering us for food we would have been happy to trade for. So what I'm saying is basically fuck them.

I hope they come today. I want to watch them down my sights. Any punishment I have to take for blowing up that facility is more than balanced by the chance to take down our enemies. I'm ready to die for Haven. I'm ready to kill to defend it. I don't make much ado about having to kill zombies, and human enemies are just barely above that.

I took the amnesty last year because I wanted peace. A community. Some kind of acceptance. I found it. More than I hoped for. And you want to take that from me? I'll die first.

And I'll take you with me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pieces In Play

My post yesterday about Aaron elicited the comment, "what happened to Treesong?"

Tree is still here, but answering that question brings up an interesting point. While I can tell you with minimal effort that Tree is happily working his ass off doing a lot of different things, I couldn't give you even a summary of what his life has been like recently. The plain truth is that human beings, even ones in a small community like this, drift apart. It's not sad or wrong, just a natural consequence of life. We all focus on things in our own life. Doesn't mean I can't run in to Tree and have a good time, share stories and have a beer even, but it does mean that most of us live our lives and don't constantly make an effort to keep those lives static.

People come, people go, and that's fine.

I feel the need to make this point because things out in the world are changing. As much as my own recent activities (see: felonies) have taken my attention from the larger problems we face, those problems still exist. The undead are growing more restless and hungry, reports from all over indicating that many bands of zombies have reached some kind of natural saturation point. They've cleaned the landscape of easy prey and are devouring each other in a desperate bid to stay functional. I would have said 'stay alive' there, but it wouldn't be totally accurate...

The war is going better for the Union than we expected at this point. While the UAS is quickly learning that they can push in broad waves toward our homes, they've learned that making pointed attacks at any of us is a bad, bad idea. They're eating up the land we've abandoned, most of it unused by the Union to start with. In a military sense that isn't a good thing; you never want to give ground to the enemy. But in this case those empty miles don't prevent us from traveling, mostly don't host farmland or anything of real significance. Just land, dots on a map that we held because they were our dots. I think the reality of the fight we're in has helped loosen that necessary but overwhelming sense of ownership in us.

As the UAS press closer and closer to our homes, their movement is slowed. Though they outnumber us in terms of soldiers-to-soldiers, they're out in the wild. They have to clear out the undead, for one. Two, they've left people behind to begin farming and building things. There's a certain amount of attrition with forward motion, like a piece of chalk being scraped across a blackboard.

Easily the greatest factor slowing them down is us. They're now at the point where their forces will have to choose between moving into the spaces between our communities and cutting themselves off, or attacking our fortified positions and dealing with the incredible losses that will come with that. They could surround the communities themselves if they pushed quickly and hard enough, but even then only the front line of them. And the price in bodies would b staggering.

So now they're slowing down as they work on a strategy that doesn't involve taking a 70% loss or running away because the people on the front lines begin to understand what the leadership have known since the beginning: this won't be an easy win even if a win is possible. It would be a massacre on a grand scale. I don't know what lies the UAS bosses have been spreading, but we're not going to roll over. We're not long off from the powder keg blowing, and at this point I don't know how we can avoid the fallout.

Which may help you understand why I'm not always up on what my old friends have been doing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Aaron Remembered

Forget for a moment about all the worries we face. Forget the war, the zombies, the constant deprivations we've suffered. Or even better, remember them. Yeah. Hold those horrors in your mind as you read this because they will give you contrast.

Aaron was a hell of a guy. He was tough and brave, but those were not his defining qualities. Most survivors have those features. It's almost a requirement. What set him apart was that Aaron was one of those people who only showed the iron inside when the situation demanded it. Even after The Fall he had a habit of falling into his old patterns; being soft-spoken, quietly encouraging, and kind. So very kind.

Much of who we are passes on with us. The impressions left behind are in the minds of others, and if that is the yard stick by which we judge legacy, then Aaron's mark will be felt here for generations.

That sounds hyperbolic. It isn't.

Aaron was never a heavy combatant. He fought when he had to, he worked with the rest of us, but his strength was in building a foundation more important than any wall or defense. Aaron was a teacher, a brilliant one. He examined the world around him, his own students, and himself to determine the best way to impart knowledge. More, he taught the best methods he knew to make people learn how to learn. There are children in Haven ranging in age from early childhood to early adulthood--and quite a few adult students as well--who have been shaped and forever changed by his lessons.

I know this because many of them told me so. Children who should be too young to understand death (not that the world is a kind place for that flavor of ignorance at present) have expressed their deep thankfulness that Aaron was a part of their education and their lives. Older kids called him the best teacher they ever had, one who made them want to learn, to discover and experience the world around them and drink in the understanding he showed them.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a legacy. An enduring one. Many of his students are too young to have kids of their own, but his death has cemented those lessons in their minds for all of time. When the day comes that the younger of Aaron's students begin to raise their own children, I have no doubt at all that the joy and wonder of knowledge Aaron instilled in them will be passed on.

As a friend Aaron meant a lot to me. We worked together and while we weren't as close as brothers, there was a level of comfort and companionship I've rarely encountered and never surpassed. With Aaron you could just be yourself. No judgment, no derision. He was a man who understood on a fundamental level that people are people, worth time and respect even when you disagree. For my part, I feel guilt that I let Aaron slip from my mind for so long, but I think he would be the first to understand. When someone or something is gone from your life it tends to become vague over time.

As is so often and sadly the case, it took his death to bring him back into focus. For that I'm sorry, but if it reminds people what a truly good person looks like, what a sense of wonder and enlightenment can do to a weary soul, then I think he'd say it was worth it.

Goodbye, rest well, and I hope wherever you are now is as gentle and good as you were.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Judgment Day

I'm really torn, now. Between telling you what happened at the trial and between the awful news I got last night.

Aaron is dead. I don't know all the details yet and I feel like I should eulogize him here, but I think I need a day or two to deal with it before I do that. Next post, I promise. He deserves my full attention.

As for what happened at the trial, it's probably obvious that I'm not locked up or out in the fields working twelve hours a day. There was a surprisingly deep divide in the council over how our actions were viewed, a split I'm told closely mirrors the attitudes of many people in Haven itself. On the one hand we broke laws and took matters into our own hands. A small number of us went out and put ourselves in an enormously risky situation for minimal gain, an act that put some very high-level information (what we know) get dangerously close to enemy hands.

The other side of the argument is that with only a small force and some explosives, we recovered a vital member of our community, destroyed an enemy weapons cache, and showed the UAS that nowhere in their territory is safe. Many people are applauding what we did as an example of how Haven can be. How it should be.

The punishment is interesting, a sort of compromise. With the exception of myself, every person that went on this trip is an extremely valuable asset in the day-to-day operations of Haven. Jess, Becky, and Kincaid have roles that can function without them but at nowhere near the same level of efficiency. Me, not so much, but as all of us were tried together, we all got the same sentence. So count this as an instance of pure and unadulterated luck on my part.

Four hours a day, seven days a week, we are required to put in time at various (very) shitty jobs. Dirty, awful work that no one wants to do. Shoveling shit, cleaning putrid wounds, clearing our corpses, you name the job that makes you gag and we're the people for it. My own shifts will be in the morning or early afternoon depending on the job. Jess will be working all over the place, I'm sure. I don't know how Becky and Kincaid made out on that front, as all of us were given separate schedules after the trial.

It's a sort of probation mixed with community service, and the timeline on it is very long. Two years assuming we toe the line and behave ourselves. For minor infractions against the rules we get three months added on. If we break another major law, things will get...dark. That was made very clear to us. We were lucky as hell that the situation didn't fall to pieces immediately, more so that we succeeded in an almost spectacular fashion. Others are not encouraged to take the risks we took. Should any of us decide to break another law, all four of us will suffer. Imprisonment was the most pleasant option, let's put it that way.

So we're none of us sitting easy about this. Our continued freedom rests on the idea that the group as a whole will behave. It's a tightrope to walk, to say the least, but frankly I think we got off easy. I'd have been happy to take a punishment like lashes and get it out of the way. This is a sword dangling over our heads, sure, but it's one we can avoid with little problem as long as we behave.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I'm surprised it took this long for the council to get around to setting a date for our trial. Generally they don't waste time with that sort of thing. I suppose it shouldn't really be that surprising; there's a war going on, after all. One I know nothing about at the moment, other than seeing and hearing the constant activity outside.

We're up on the block tomorrow. I don't know if all of us will be together or if they want to try us separately, but there you go. Sometime tomorrow afternoon I'll have a verdict--guilty, since we're not even pretending otherwise--and a punishment. Assuming I'm allowed to at least blog that to you I'll let you know. If not, if I'm slapped in chains or whatever, I'll have someone get on here and let you know what the deal is.

I can't help that detached feeling. Even though the last two days have been spent outside working to clear the dead from our walls--occasionally halted due to another attack, which Jess and I were at least allowed to participate in--we're still being held apart from the community. I begin to understand why so many people out there latched onto this blog. It's lonely and unnerving to know so much must be happening around me. The citizens are barred from telling me anything, from even speaking to us other than in situations that demand it.

I hate this but I know it isn't unreasonable. I founded Haven sort of by accident, because I couldn't justify turning peaceful people away. It might be arrogant of me but I can't help feeling responsibility for all our folks, and worry for everyone else in the Union. I don't know how the war is going, what the movements of the zombie swarms look like, what threats are facing us. I would worry a lot even if I did know those things. Not knowing makes it so much worse.

But again, I don't blame it on anyone but myself. We did what we had to do, what we felt was right. In retrospect we were all almost willfully blind about the enormous risk we were putting ourselves in, and what the knowledge we carried represented in terms of value to our enemies. It was reckless and stupid and I would do it again in a second. I should feel torn about that. I don't.

The world is a harsher place now. The undead and human enemies and all the ephemeral threats we can't fight with a gun carry the constant potential to end us in a flash. I've often debated the philosophy of understanding the difference between what is right and what is necessary on this blog. I feel like rescuing Pat was both. I didn't do it for the good of the group. I did it for selfish reasons. We all did.

I'll be glad to have it over with. Waiting is the worst. I really don't mind getting my comeuppance but it's pretty irritating to live in the anxiety of not knowing what it is. More than anything else I'll just be glad to be allowed some kind of contact with others. I really want to know what's happening out there.