Tuesday, July 30, 2013


While I wait for Jess to come back, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the means we'll be using to set up our new home. It's funny, because so many of the ideas we used building Haven at the very beginning were my ideas. Some of them worked--enough to keep us alive, obviously--and others failed miserably. The larger point being, it has been a long time since I've had to think small. I've been working on large scales for years now, and it's a fun exercise to sort of start over with all the experience and understanding (I'll decline to call it wisdom here) we've gained since The Fall began.

The basic things are fascinating to look at now, all this time later. Jess is setting us up with a rabbit warren to provide regular meat. I'm not a fan of eating the whole animal, but with them being such a constant supply of meat, even in winter, there isn't much choice. Not that the area we're moving to doesn't have game to hunt, but that's always an iffy proposition. We'll have potatoes galore since we can grow literal tons of them in a very small area, as well as other veggies.

The place will have a fence heavy--should have already, actually--heavy enough to repel zombie incursions of at least moderate size. K and Kincaid are managing that part, using what we know to fabricate a defense as efficient as it can be.

Judging by the activity around here, that's going to be important. As the season passes, we're seeing less and less old school zombies mixed in with the swarms. We've known for a while that the overall population of the undead appears to be declining, which makes sense. We've been killing them off for years, and there is only so much food easily available. Add that to the New Breed eating the old school zombies when food is scarce, and it makes perfect sense.

But while the larger scale indicated the numbers are dropping, it's a relative data set. There are still untold swarms of them out there, and the percentage of New Breed among them is growing. Smarter, stronger, faster, more difficult to kill. We've grown used to fighting the New Breed, using our advantages to their fullest. We tend to put the undead in situations where their cleverness and mutation-driven improvements mean little or nothing.

That said, we're seeing them in larger and larger concentrations, and that's bad. The New Breed are going to become a larger problem very quickly. And while our new home is in an area with extremely low population density--virtually empty, now--there exists every possibility we'll see an influx of zombies at some point. It's not chance; we're certain the undead use smell to track prey, much stronger than our own senses. They've proven time and again they'll follow the trail of people for hundreds of miles. All it will take is one band cutting across our path, and we're in for fights.

Which circles back around to the work we're having to do. It's going to be Haven in miniature. I watched a group of archers slide along an undamaged section of wall this morning, firing at a small group of New Breed smart enough to escape detection. Most of the exterior traps and defensive measures are depleted and broken from the war, leaving our people dependent on manpower for defense. Haven is big, requiring our folks to move place to place. One good thing about our smaller compound will be how much less of it there is. A good thing considering the smaller group of people living there.

All told it should work out. We'll have electricity on the regular thanks to North Jackson gifting us with the necessary equipment for generation and storage. Our sister community has been rebuilding for a long time, but it shows a lot of heart that they'd be willing to help us even though their own home is still damaged.

I can't stop thinking about the potatoes, you know? It's such a simple thing, just a little brown-skinned tuber sitting in the dirt, but without it all the other stuff would be impossible. We're human beings, right? We've rebuilt some technologies, survived the worst, fight the dead, plan for the future. None of which could happen without the humble little spuds growing even now in the ground of our new home.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Jess and K left this morning with about half the people we're taking with us when we move out of Haven. They took the opportunity now since we're in something of a lull with the zombie swarms. As I'm fond of saying, that's a relative statement. The mild weather over the last week made it easier for our people to work on trimming their numbers, though by all accounts a steady stream still wash over the bridges in Louisville and from the southwest.

This isn't the first trip they've made to the place we're planting our flag. I may have mentioned others leaving before. It's a long drive but one our folks can now make in a single day since the roads between are clear. Even the undead tend not to show up over most of the distance. The area had such low population density even before The Fall, now it's virtually empty.

The entire point of this trip is to finish preparing our new home for the migration. Much has already been accomplished; the place has a temporary fence around the main living area, there are weapons and supplies hidden around the property. With the war over in this part of the world, supply lines between Haven and the other communities within the Union are up and running. Which means the two places still refining fuel are happy to help us out. Will and the council are giving us access to all the ethanol we need--our vehicles are all flex-fuel--to mix with the new gas coming in. We're going into this ready as we can be.

This trip is the last touch. Jess and K are working on getting food ready. For now we'll be transplanting a very small fraction of the crops Jess has been growing here. Enough to get us started. Sure, we'll take insulated containers full of frozen meat with us when we go. There's enough to spare. We'll need more than perishable goods to make this a long-term thing. Jess is on top of it, as always.

After all the weeks and months of fighting and killing, destroying things, K and the others are going to spend a few days planting and growing. Building. Creating. A handful won't come back from this trip, instead staying at our new place to guard against any marauders or just curious travelers who might wander by. We are, after all, reproducing most of the advances found in Haven at the new homestead in miniature. Electricity, cold storage (eventually), running water, all that good stuff. It's too cherry a target to leave undefended. The world might be a nicer place than it was two months ago, but that doesn't mean it's safe. Not by a country mile.

Really, we could have already left if not for my injuries. Most of the preparations are done. The rest of the work could be finished while we're moving in. I'm the last holdover, the only person still healing to the point where self defense isn't possible. Is it likely I could ride in the back seat without ever needing to raise a finger other than to take bathroom breaks on the way there? Sure. Given the easy trips between Haven and our new home the others have been quietly taking, it borders on certain.

My wife isn't taking that chance. K isn't keen on anyone going who can't at protect themselves if the worst happens. I'm healing fast--really fast, actually--but Phil and Gabby tell me the deep tissues need a few more weeks before I risk straining them too much.

Based on how Jess and K have been acting, though, I'd almost say they're giving me this time to get used to the idea of not being here any more. Haven that was New Haven that was The Compound that was the neighborhood I grew up in means the world to me. This was my home long before The Fall. It's in my blood to love it, to love the people here who I've shared and suffered so much with. All the bad memories and the good.

For all her other amazing qualities, Jess isn't as sentimental as I am. She loves me, though, and I think she wants to give me all the time she can. K is a friend, maybe a better one that I thought possible in the beginning, and he's similar. The difference being Jess is wired that way, not building emotional connections to places and most people by design, while K seems to avoid it by choice. Understandable given the way the world is.

So I'll spend the next few days and weeks tying up loose ends and letting people know what they mean to me. I'll say goodbye to my brother and the rest of my surviving family. Then off to that next adventure.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Part of Your World

Hey, this is Beckley.  I’m in a decent mood today, so I’m going to just skip the usual one liner I put after my introduction.  Maybe save it for when I need to cheer myself up.

So Josh has made everyone aware that I’m the new Haven/UAS liaison.  He also said some other, really flattering, stuff and that was nice of him and now I’m a little embarrassed.  Like he said, though, there’s a lot of responsibility with this new job.  When tempers flare up, I’ll be the one with front row seats, expected to talk them down and work out an understanding.  It’s pretty daunting.  I don’t really have much to say except that I’m honored they’d think of me and have that much trust in me.  I remember when people were threatening to string me up from the nearest tree for being an obvious UAS spy.

So I’ve got that new job, plus my therapy gig, plus the luxury shop.  Oh, and there’s my other special project.  We all know that Josh is leaving, and he was the Haven historian.  Now the Council is looking at having people step in to fill that void, doing the stuff that Josh used to do such as amending the Survivors Manual with updated information.  It’s a big job to fill.  Josh was a bit of a Renaissance Man and had interests that were as long ranging as my…my...something.  An exact comparison is eluding me right now.  Anyway, I know that I couldn’t do that job, and they're not asking me to.  I may have a range of interests, but straight survival, construction, warfare, all the essentials, are a bit beyond my grasp.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I survived this apocalypse on dumb luck.  I really should be dead several times over (death and walking death included in that count).  I’m just not as good at the practical.  What I am good at is the human aspect.  And that’s been something I want to work on, on my own, because it gets overlooked by the historians looking to make sure the practical information survives.

So while I’ll still post my feelings from time to time on the world at large and current events and my new liaison duties, I will also posting on some of the human aspects of life here.  Maybe introduce specific people here in Haven.  I feel that’s important because as we rebuild and the generations continue, we will be remembered.  Even now there are kids toddling around who never knew a world without walking dead, without abandoned buildings, who have never experienced movie theater popcorn, music videos, or television.  We are the founding fathers and we should document who we are if for no other reason than to make sure that future generations recognize that we’re just as screwed up as them.  I always felt it added to history classes to find out that George Washington was a sucker for ice cream and pit barbeque or that Button Gwinnett had parents that named him Button.  True story.

So all this means that I’ll probably be more visible around Haven and on the blog for the foreseeable future.  If you like my ramblings, then you should be happy.  If you don’t particularly like me, then worry not.  Josh and the others you know and love will be posting too.

That’s all I’ve really got to say right now.  Well, except for this: enjoy yourselves.  Yeah, I know there’s rebuilding, training, and other work to be done, but, particularly after the war, it’s more important than ever to get some down time.  We are living in really exciting times.  Our new allies are settling in and we’re creating a new clan of humanity here.  We’re evolving as a culture and as a species.  In a twisted way, we’re very lucky to be here to see it.

And while you’re enjoying yourself, come swing by the luxury shop.  I’ve still got some sundry items of interest.  Yes, the perishable stuff is long since expired, but I think that just adds to the intrigue, don’t you?  Oh, and I am putting out an official bounty for anyone who brings me a Snickers bar, like, yesterday.  I will not continue this apocalypse without one.  I have soldiered on long enough.  I have some very choice items for trade and I’ll even throw in a Bazooka Joe for karma.  So if you’re one of the first dozen, bring it in, and claim your prize.  The rest go to stocking the shelves.  Oh, and I promise my body is not the prize.  Although I’m almost to that point.  I need my Snickers.  And you know you need it too.  The Snickers, not my body. Wait...THAT was the comparison I wanted to make!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Man of Two Worlds

In an interesting twist, Beckley was asked to act as the liaison between the UAS (as a whole and for the locals, both) and the Union. Specifically Haven.

I can't think of a better person to help foster understanding between the camps. Not just because Beckley was originally from the UAS. Hell, that's the minority reason in my mind. The guy is pretty self-deprecating, but he's sharp as broken glass. He doesn't see himself as brave, not wanting to fight the undead because of his lack of experience, but I've seen him calmly sit between two violently angry people and act as the rational party to talk them down. Bravery isn't just for the battlefield. Therapists maybe just show it in other ways.

The man himself was surprised. Beckley is humble in ways that mystify me. He never saw the offer coming, mainly because he doesn't see himself as the kind of guy to accomplish great things. For all the glory many of us grant the fighters out there killing zombies or defending us from living enemies--deserved, no doubt--it's so easy to forget the way the world was, which is the way it's looking to be again.

Large groups of people form communities. Communities, like stars, clump together to form sets of communities. Those sets reach a critical density and nations form like galaxies. When those worlds collide, the forces tend to grind against each other. Look at all the wars in humanity's past. See all the other conflicts, too. Almost every problem large groups of people faced had people working to fix them on both sides. Men and women trying to create some understanding, a bit of common ground to stand and build on.

That's Beckley. He may not be a diplomat, and the UAS aren't, for the most part, our enemies, but that doesn't mean it isn't a challenge. We need unity of purpose now more than ever. There needs to be someone to move between who knows both sides and who can keep calm no matter how heated the argument. A different kind of bravery, as I said, but just as important. The stakes are just as high as any war.

I don't envy him his new place. My own experiences have mostly been ones without expectations. Being a voice of experience is much easier than having to keep both sides talking. Beckley will have to work under conditions where he has no real power but a lot of responsibility. I can't imagine doing it. Seems like a nightmare to me. But hey, he's happy. Proud, even. He knows the score and isn't showing much fear of dealing with the pressure. Me, I'd rather fight for my life every day. Give me zombies any time.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Boot Camp

The old saying about teaching a man to fish is probably one of the more brilliant things in the history of the world. It's so easy to forget how much time and effort we've spent becoming experts at fighting zombies and surviving in the wild. Many people on the outside managed to go years without ever having to take on one of the undead in hand-to-hand combat. Lots of reasons--someone to fight for them, running and finding a safe place, or even just joining a large community like ours and not being on the roster. There are archers in Haven who've never been closer to a zombie than a bowshot. True story. 

But by now almost every survivor in the Union at least has the training to do it. In his great wisdom, Dodger realized part of the problem with sending our people out on patrols with the UAS is that the UAS rely on completely different tactics. They've got guns and literal tons of ammo. They've got vehicles and fuel to power them. We aren't the only ones working refineries, after all. 

So we're doing for the UAS what we've historically done for all our people. Out in the street in front of my house, just past the wall that defines the little stronghold we built around my block, is a training ground. We've had people teaching combat and refining techniques for years. Now we're passing that knowledge on to others. It's impossible to teach everyone in that huge army of people at once, so Kincaid and a few others are doing intense training, twelve hours a day for at least a week. Enough to let the hundred or so students from the UAS pass on the basics to others. Not that most of it is all that hard, but it does require a different mindset. 

In return, the UAS are helping some of our people learn a few of the techniques they use. Since most of their army were civilians, they had to do much the same. Teaching people basics and refining skills along the way. Most of the things our people are learning are organizational, with a few useful military methodologies we've never seen. It's good stuff, actually. Useful stuff. In the long run I think both sides will benefit greatly from the lessons. 

More, though, I think these training sessions will further break down the walls between us. Eventually we'll stop seeing sides and exist as a single people. Or, rather, the people living here and in other large communities will. Even though we'll be leaving, we'll technically still be a part of the Union. It's just hard to think in those terms since my group will be deliberately isolated from the rest. 

It's a hell of a thing, sitting in a lawn chair on my roof, watching former enemies grouse about how hot it is while they train together. I admit to having my mind blown a little, seeing them laugh at each other's jokes and the like. I watched a Union guy get dropped by a UAS guy who used a perfect throw on him. The Union guy landed hard, but he was excited at how well his student did. Not angry or resentful. 

I'm sure the UAS sent the people most willing to learn, the ones with the best attitude about the merger between our people, but still. It's pretty amazing to watch the integration happen. It wasn't so smooth with the marauders who joined us after the amnesty. Just ask Kincaid why he's leaving with us if you don't believe me. 

On the one hand it's really awesome to see both sides working together. On the other, they wouldn't be busting ass so hard if the threats ahead of them weren't real. I feel guilty for leaving here so soon after the end of the war, especially knowing the trials Haven is going to face. I've been here since the start, and faced those same trials. I worry for my people. And make no mistake; they will always be my people, not matter how far removed I am geographically. The people here didn't just band together to survive. They gave each other a reason to live. Me included. 

I see the first blush of that same bond building between our folks and the UAS. It's thin, but it's there. Knowing the harsh times ahead--that's just the way the world is--I worry they won't be strong enough to endure. I hope I'm just fretting over nothing. I probably am. I watched them for hours today, and it looks very promising. No matter where we end up, I'll keep whatever passes for my prayers aimed this way. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brick House

Someone pointed out in the comments yesterday how we could make use of the abundant clay to create adobe (or at least adobe-like) structures. If you recall back to the time just before we built the expansion out of shipping containers, that was once a serious plan. After reading the comments I got in touch with my brother and reminded him about that plan of his.

It's not a bad idea at all. The main problem is how much work it is. We can only spare so many people for so long. Dave, after thinking about it for a few minutes, shot up out of his chair. The idea hit him like...well, like a ton of bricks. We can kill two birds with one stone; excavate the clay to build an underground dwelling, or even several of them, to house some people. Then use the clay we hauled out to make bricks or outright shape it into structures using forms. Modern construction methods applied to ancient materials techniques. Bricks would be better since they allow for more granularity and specificity in the buildings themselves, but Dave seems pretty excited. The idea is build the new homes, long multi-family deals, right next to the troughs created by digging up the materials to make them.

He's all excited by the idea and pissed at himself for not thinking of it. Dave is under a lot of stress, and it gives him tunnel vision. He focuses on the problem at hand without backing up to think of previous solutions.

It'll be labor-intensive, but once the plan is all laid out we'll have the bodies to do it. That's contingent on this idea being deemed workable, of course.

This is just one example of the larger problems Haven is facing with such a huge influx of people. Same thing happened when all the North Jackson folks migrated this way. Population bumps are good in the long run and a nightmare in the short. I have no doubt my brother and his folks will work it all out. Hell, if nothing else they can just bring in the county's school buses and those from surrounding areas and use them for short-term housing. I've heard of other places doing the same.

The defensive groups are working their asses off trying to clear away as many of the undead as possible. The big swarm wasn't the only group, nor the last. Zombies still stream in from the west toward us in bursts. Sometimes only a few dozen in a day, other times hundreds an hour. The good news is the UAS (soon I'll have to come up with a name for them since they're joining up here...) are becoming familiar with both the local geography and the tactics we use against the unead. Dodger and Kincaid tell me they're even growing more comfortable with the idea of being out among zombies with just melee weapons. They're adapting well.

I deeply hope this peace works. The problems are large but not insurmountable. At least the physical ones. The survival ones. What to eat, where to live, how to fight. Those things are all real items people can deal with. Measurable factors. I'm more concerned about the human element, the long-term ability of all sides to deal with the reality of the situation. I tend to be positive on that score; all of us have had to swallow our pride and our hatred on more than one occasion. Kincaid and his former marauders are a perfect example of that. If we can learn to live with them, to accept those people, then the UAS shouldn't be any harder.

On the UAS side, I think they're seeing the truth of things. They were fed just enough grains of fact about us to make them wary, and enough lies to make them afraid and angry. Not huge obvious things, but lies both subtle and fitting to the slender facts they knew to be true. Now they're growing used to the way things really are. They've surely seen some brutal, awful actions on our part, but we've never shied away from that. We've always been honest. Haven has always owned up to its mistakes, even the huge ones.

The conditions are strong. The foundation of this strange alliance is being built on honesty and full disclosure, as well as mutual acknowledgement of both sides' mistakes. I'm hopeful and proud of both sides for getting to this point. It restores my faith in people a little bit just seeing these small steps.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Projects

The most frequently asked questions are people wondering how Haven is going to feed so many new mouths, and how they'll be housed. 

The first is easy enough to answer. Despite the constant threat of zombie attacks, our people have managed to follow Jessica's plans perfectly. The central ideas were hers, at any rate, though a lot of others contributed and helped improve and perfect. We've got crops here in Haven proper, crops in what used to be a cluster of shopping centers. 

I should break here to point out that the shopping centers are basically giant greenhouses, and their high ceilings give us the ability to farm vertically in them. They produce a LOT of food. 

Then there are the farms worked on the other side of the river. We kept that low-key until the fight with the UAS was over, and we still don't talk about it all that much. There are a lot of acres out that way, land we spent much time and effort cultivating and protecting. Not just Haven citizens, but volunteers from all over the Union. We produce much more food than we can use, which was being sent out to troops or stored. That's just the crops, too. Also remember our rabbit warrens. We've got a lot of them, breeding in huge pens and using every part of the animal to avoid protein poisoning. Add in what we bring in from hunts and you end up with a pretty huge surplus, more than enough to feed the UAS and have some left over. 

We were starving just a few years ago. There are few lessons you learn better than how not to go hungry. We planned and built and expanded every chance we had. We lost whole crops to zombies, so once the Exiles were killed off we decided to use the fallback point as the beginning of our farming efforts. 

On top of all that, the Union worked together over the last several months to build safe zones further to the east, places where mass farming could be managed without much fear. There are several of them, all pretty huge, and they serve the Union as a whole rather than one specific community. Our nation overall produces about twice the food it needs. We learned well. 

As for the housing issue, well, that's a bit trickier. The UAS are safe in their camps for now, defending themselves in temporary positions. Living outside in summer isn't that rigorous if you've got sources of water and a tolerance for bugs. Winter is a whole other can of worms, one my brother is currently stretching his brain to figure out. 

Dave spent some time over here yesterday, bouncing ideas off me and a few other people. His first instinct is to find and transport more shipping containers--and that's likely to happen--but between Haven and North Jackson, we've taken most of the easy to find caches of them. We'd have to search further and deeper into the back roads, with no guarantee of success. The last batch we brought in, just a dozen or so, have been repurposed into refrigeration units to store food. We can't really spare those, not to mention how hard it would be to refit those absorption systems to new containers. 

There are other ideas being bandied about, the most realistic being the creation of large underground shelters. The idea is to dig down eight or ten feet in massive square pits, seal the clay floors and walls as much as possible, put up dividing walls, and build a roof on it to keep out weather. Dave is still working on that one, but it's the best idea he has to fit the materials at hand. In theory he could get his hands on more, a lot more, but the actual construction of homes takes tremendous time and effort. Better to go with large, simpler structures if possible. 

I have to wonder how that will go. Our people working their asses off to house the local UAS, to bring them into the fold. How will the integration go? It should be fascinating. I kind of hope it starts before I leave. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wild West

It's not all sunshine and rainbows. While the UAS here are doing their best to integrate--most of them--the reaction out west is a lot less positive. The situation has a lot of pieces and parts, so I'll try to touch on all of them.

First: the UAS sent to push against and into the western territories aren't as disciplined as the lot we've got here. Rather than try to integrate their army as a cohesive whole, which would have been impossible considering the number of pure civilians in it, the former UAS leadership chose to make the groupings as socially viable as they could. By that I mean they sent out whole communities of people who knew each other as units. Hundreds of people willing to kill and die for each other makes for a determined and focused force. The problem with that arrangement is those groups tend to have the same prejudices and ideas. A portion of them get angry about something and most of the group follows suit. It makes sense from a sociological point of view. Hell, we've seen it here in Haven enough times to know how easy groupthink is to fall into.

So take that mentality, the smaller armed forces going up against the western communities, and add to it the broken reports about the UAS leadership being overthrown. Imagine how those people reacted after months of dealing with some of the more...enthusiastic resistance they've seen in their part of the world. Not the measured responses we've given, but brutal displays and ruthless killing on the part of the western defenders. I'm not judging that since their homes were being invaded, only mentioning it as a point of reference for the mindset of the UAS in the area.

Add to that the much larger numbers in the west, the nightmarish efficiency with which they defend, and the total lack of any effort on the part of the western leaders to approach peace, and you've got a recipe for slaughter. Neither side wants to approach the other with anything but a closed fist. It's bad enough that when the reports came in to Haven and the local UAS, a good number of the latter's soldiers deserted. Took arms and vehicles and set out, certain their discontent could be better vented a thousand miles away.

How they plan to get there with the fuel they've got, I don't know. There are people on both sides of the issue still refining crude oil reserves into gasoline and diesel fuel, but it's a slow process that produces relatively small quantities. And it's doubtful any of them will trade with soldiers who have nothing of value they can part with. Taking fuel by force isn't an option, really, since every place that makes fuel is heavily defended. That's all ignoring the lack of food, the dangers of hitting zombie swarms, and the thousand other dangers the deserters ignored.

A lot of bad things can happen out on the road, and every inch of that journey is bound to be hostile. I can respect the desire to join a fight you believe in, but giving up peace to do it? I don't know, it makes any pity I might have had for them evaporate. There aren't enough people left on the planet that we can spare so many to needless stupidity. Best of luck to them, I guess.

I for one am just glad that fight is too far away to hurt us, at least directly. Maybe that will change, but by the time that might happen I'll be long gone from the game, living somewhere separate from the madness of people in large groups.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


No I'm writing from my phone again today.  Been a long time since I've had to do that, but for once it doesn't bother me. The cleanup outside is nearly done, and while there was some upset around Haven, people are mostly dealing with the attack and it's consequences.  There have been some calls to overhaul the way we deal with disaster and unplanned swarms of zombies, even a fairly large group who want to completely redesign our defenses given our new coalition. The UAS forces here are beginning the long process of integrating with the rest of Haven. Trust is thin but the fact that any exists in the first place is kind of astounding. 

Even as I watch team leaders and defense coordinators hash out the details of any new plan, my own group prepares to leave. That's why I'm writing from my phone--Jess and K took my laptop to begin organizing a running list of all the things we'll need to take with us to compare with what we'll actually be able to take.  I'm out of the game on this one.  I was told in no uncertain terms that until we leave I'm on strict light duty.  No stress, no fighting.

So I'm parked up here on the top of the house in our little homemade perch, umbrella overhead as I watch the activity around. I hear the others packing and discussing the move. I see the shifty-eyed stares between Haven citizens and the slowly migrating UAS.  The weird thing isn't the huge number of changes going on, it's the fact that I'm already in the frame of mind where I'm not gaming out the possibilities. 

The front of my kind and the back are in agreement on the facts. I know in both places that I'm leaving and the instinctive urge to examine all the consequences just isn't there. The horizon is there in front of us, and the change is getting closer. It feels like a bigger change than even The Fall, in suddenness if not in scope.  The world fell apart a little at a time and snowballed into hell.  This is different, a deliberate severing of ties.  Something new and amazing and different.

I'm already there.  It hasn't happened, but the mindset is overwhelming.  Which is why it's torture for me to sit out the planning  of it.  I need work to occupy my brain.  I need to be a part of this.  Too many years throwing myself into projects to be sedate now...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Reconstruction

Last night was a bad night for everyone. Hell, pretty much all of yesterday was.

The UAS/Haven joint forces were doing the best they could to take down or divert the swarms flooding in across the bridges and through Louisville toward us. There wasn't a mistake that caused the defense to buckle; it was sheer numbers. You can only stretch your people so far and put them under the weight of so many bodies before something snaps and the enemy gets through. That's what happened yesterday morning less than twenty miles from here.

Thousands of zombies, all penned up, broke through. Our defenders did their best to stop them before they got close. The rest of us retreated to safe areas. My house is still sound, the place easily capable of locking down and protecting us from the undead for any reasonable length of time. Others aren't so lucky and had to pull back behind barricades and the like. Just as a precaution, you understand. The joint units might have buckled under the numbers, but they didn't stop. They pulled back and fought the good fight.

They just didn't do it very well. Again, that's no one's fault. Our people are well versed in fighting the undead in almost any scenario, but the methods they use aren't suited for large-scale combat operations in the open and with a traditional military force. The Haveners out there didn't have the collapsible diamond bulwarks they'd normally have used, and the UAS aren't trained with them at any rate. Most of the things we use to combat zombies are custom designed and require practice.

Basically what happened was everyone stepped on each other's toes and a big chunk of the swarm made it here. Enough reconstruction has taken place that Haven itself was defensible. People who couldn't fight were tucked away in the bunkers our people made sure to put aside for exactly this scenario. Everyone else--except for me, tucked away in my house--fought from the walls or formed units just outside. Those brave (and probably insane) people formed human walls in front of the parts of Haven that still have breaches.

It was a long and torturous day, blazing hot and bloody. Men and women defended Haven while others accidentally pushed the horde against us. The outer defenders were trying to help, we all know that, but they increased the pressure. In one spot the Haven defenders had to pull back through the breach and actually fought zombies on the streets. It took hours to get everything coordinated and squared away. Far from our brightest hour.

But you know? It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Frankly it's probably a good thing we had a nice hard clusterfuck early on in this cooperative effort. Smooth sailing for too long means the inevitable mistake will just be bigger when it finally happens. The reconstruction was slowed down by the attack--the cleanup of which is still going on--but ultimately it's probably a good thing. Reminds us not to take anything for granted, or to feel too safe.

As if any of us were worried that would happen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Twisted Nerve Redux

Want to know the worst thing ever? I mean, aside from the world ending and people coming back from the dead and the general bullshit over the last few years, of course.

Nerve pain.

I've been walking about, trying to get my strength back as I heal. It's a slow process summed up best by long periods of reduced functionality and meticulous effort not to further injure myself, punctuated regularly by bouts of intense frustration and sharp pain. Yesterday I twisted my back, which is stiff from my immobility, a bit beyond the point I should have pushed it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did this wee bit of spinal reorientation not fighting zombies or defending my home from an invading army. There was no great threat that required me to sacrifice my health in the name of the group. The fact is, well...

The truth is that I was just sitting on the toilet and turned too sharply. I'm officially old.

I've been listening to people talk about what's going on out there. I know there are still fights in the surrounding areas, some UAS loyalists finally losing their patience and getting into brawls with the rest. I hear our own people talk about the wide-ranging effort to build a real perimeter against the zombies once more flowing across the bridges toward us in their regular migration. Gripping tales of heroism and narrow escapes. You know the drill, right?

Yeah, me too. And here I am laid up in bed because my stupid ass couldn't think for two minutes about being careful not to move too fast. It would be funny if it weren't so damn painful. If you've never had sciatic pain before, trust me; it's no joke. Your leg feels like a live wire got shoved all the way through it from your hip to your toes, and that fucker rarely loses power. It sucks in a dozen languages.

That being said, I am pretty happy to hear some of the plans for Haven. The UAS have been working with Will and the council to create a kind of pilot program here. If it works, the idea can be used other places. The basics are simple; the UAS will officially move in, bringing not only their gear and weapons but families and whatnot as well. They'll provide security along with some of our people, as they've already been doing, and in exchange for providing full-time protection our folks will work at the things they're good at. Not that we aren't awesome at killing, but the UAS has better equipment and numbers, and frankly less diversity of skills than most of our folks.

The idea is to create a huge safe zone so the families of the men and women defending the perimeter can live safely inside along with our people. Our people will continue to farm inside and outside of that zone, as well as rebuild and expand Haven itself. Enough that within a year or two, more UAS can move here along with more Union folks and start the process over again so Haven can grow even larger.

It's ambitious as hell, but a natural extension of what is already happening. And writing all that in a rush took my mind off the fact that my leg feels like Zeus himself chucked a lightning bolt at it. I'd rather be out there fighting zombies any day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Distant Woes

The local UAS forces--though I begin to wonder what they'll be called down the road when they begin to integrate as their own community--are facing pretty heavy attacks by the undead. They're between us and the influx of zombies we get from Louisville and beyond. Things have just now settled enough to allow that terrible migration to resume, and it's no fun for the UAS or the people we've sent with them.

It is, however, an interesting bonding experience. Since hostilities ceased, groups of UAS all over the Union and the country at large have been focusing their efforts on dealing with the world they live in rather than killing the survivors in it. Some are resistant, striking out on their own and wanting nothing to do with other groups. Less, but still a decent number, are rebellious and still violent in their support of the UAS, which doesn't exist as it did a month ago.

I've talked to the local UAS leadership, though, and they're kind of blown away by the creativity and depth of experience our people are showing them. We don't just share the best methods of dealing with the undead, but also the theory behind it and the findings of all the research and observation we've done. Years of accumulating little tricks have given us an arsenal to share with anyone who needs the help.

That doesn't help the victims of human violence out there, but if the world were perfect I wouldn't be writing this.

Too many people are suffering the consequences of this war. Not just the fight itself, but even the peace has unintended side effects no one could predict perfectly. When it was a large-scale conflict there were obvious targets, clear objectives. Now the UAS has splintered into many groups outside their main force which still retains control in the central US. Some are isolationists, others rebellious. It leads to a lot of unpredictable fighting and raids, hungry or angry (or both) people who don't want to be a part of what's going on.

Not just the UAS, either. There are plenty of independent groups who've helped us out over the months and years who feel the same way. Some were trusted friends. Now the whole world is chaos. Much less deadly than the war itself, but less contained, at that. The stress of knowing the box of worms we've opened along with this blistering heat is enough to make a man weep.

I think I'll take a nap.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Long Goodbye

We're not leaving yet, maybe not for a while. It's all going to depend on how much work Jess and the others can manage in their off time. K and his friends are going to make some runs out to the area we're looking to settle, get things set up there. They'll be gone a few weeks at least, which leaves Jess and Kincaid and a few others here to help get things ready.

I wish I could help more. Healing from my injuries is keeping me fairly inactive. I've been sick and hurt so much over the last few years that I've grown used to it, I suppose. But that doesn't make it any easier to sit still while other people are getting the work done.

I have noticed a few things in this strange little time where I have to sit back and relax. People have been coming by the house, which we're back in for the time being. Usually only a few a day, though the number varies, but all of them come to talk to Jess and I. Some want to say goodbye, acquaintances we haven't seen in a while. Others are total strangers who feel some obligation to us. That's a weird feeling, you know? I understand how people get the perception, but it's a false one.

So, for the record: your thanks are appreciated but unnecessary. Really. Jess and I might have had started this place, had the idea, but it was all of you who built it. I've said it before and it remains true. You're welcome for the very small part we played in making Haven what it is, but as I look around and see people walking the streets in safety without the benefit of a fully-repaired wall, I can't help but wonder at how far our community has come. And not because of us by any stretch.

I see a former enemy out there now clearing space around our home so the rebuilding can happen without interruption. I smell the burning of the undead in their pyres, see the tension drained from tired faces. I see people repairing power and water lines, putting our home back the way it was. Maybe making it better.

That's on you. On all of you. You're the ones who were willing to put aside the killing, the hate, and take a risk. You were brave enough to let an enemy in after he gave his word for peace. You risked it all. YOU did that, not us. Whatever good things are happening, however this place grows and becomes a true Haven in the days ahead, that's on all of you.

If I'm belaboring the point a little, it's because what I see around me is so amazing. Really, the scope of change and growth in our little town as well as the potential for the future sort of blows my mind. I can barely wrap my head around it, yet people are stopping by my house thanking me for it. That's like a journalist taking credit for a Pulitzer-winning article he didn't write. My ego would love to agree with you, but it's just not true.

Instead, let me thank all of you. I'm leaving this place for a new adventure--hopefully not the kind where I get shot a bunch of times--and I don't contemplate that move without deep sadness. All other considerations aside, this is still my home and you are still my family, my friends. We're a community, and it tears me up to even think about leaving. But I can do it. Not because I'm strong, but because I've watched all of you over the last few weeks. You've banded together in ways that give me real hope for the future. I know my home will be in good hands, growing and thriving, because of you. I planted the seed of the idea, Jess watered and fed it, and the rest of you made this place grow into the vast, complex garden it is today.

I can leave happily enough because I know you'll keep the place vibrant and alive should I ever want to come back to visit. Even should I die the first day out of Haven, I could do so knowing joy that my old stomping grounds have become a place where humanity truly lives once more.

Again, that's because of you, not me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Red Country

[Post by Kincaid]

Not a lot of time today. Jesus, I sound like Josh when I type that in. We're still cleaning up the mess. It's a much bigger problem than you might think. Then again, all of you have seen war and death, so maybe you understand.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the war is over. I don't want to have to fight or kill. Beckley might think I'm some brutal killing machine without a conscience. That's okay. But he's wrong. I just take the more realistic view on things.

If the Union hadn't spent months secretly expanding the crop production of every major community, where would we be right now? If Haven hadn't put people on projects like turning one of the buildings over next to the Box into a huge working freezer, would there have been enough food to keep us and the UAS fed? A lot of good people died to make this peace happen, and I mean that literally. Another thousand mouths to feed and none of the logistics would work out.

And while Josh and the others can and should talk about the happy sunshine of peace, I'll be the one to remind you all about the stink of death still hovering here. You can pile up the bodies all you want, but it takes time and fuel to burn them all. Disease is only a bad whiff of air away for some of the people handling the job. Not to mention how scarring it is to turn over a ruined corpse to find a missing friend.

Others have no other job but to scrub blood off the walls. It's everywhere, seeped into cracks and dark places. That's what this world does, you know. Gets inside your head and sets up shop. Peace is good, I'm happy for all of us. But that doesn't mean the rest of it goes away. Some stains stay with you forever, or as closer to it as any of us will get.

You'll excuse me if I don't show the kind of trust a lot of others are. I still watch the UAS when they come close. Knowing they're setting up shop here just makes the decision to leave with Josh and Jess and their group that much easier. A few people from the old days are coming with us. The rest, I don't know. I'd rather take my chances somewhere new, somewhere isolated, where the enemy is at least something I can put my head around.

Zombies I can predict. People? Never. Never in all my days.

Just keep in mind when you sit down in your clean homes behind your rebuilt walls that the people you're sharing meals with were once enemies. Enjoy peace while you have it, but never fully trust. Dogs can bite twice if you let them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


All right, so stop what you’re doin’, cause I’m about to ruin the image and the style that ya used to.  My name is Beckley, pronounced with an Eckley.  To all the survivors in Haven, please allow me to bump thee.

So for all intents and purposes, the war with the UAS is over.  And not only is it over, but the leadership of the UAS has been deposed.  People have asked me how I feel about that.  That question is second only to people asking me which senators, congressmen, and justices made up the UAS leadership.  I’ve gotten knowing smirks from people talking about how those godless liberals didn’t know how to handle the real world once society crumbled, while others smirk about how those damned conservatives probably thought The Fall was a dream come true because now they could strip away all our freedoms.  In a world filled with zombies and marauders, people are still playing politics.  It’s really quite incredible how so profoundly people can miss the point.

The truth is that I don’t know who, specifically, was ruling the UAS.  I’m sure I might have heard a name or two, but it never stuck with me.  It’s not like I had every member of the House and Senate committed to memory.  And I came late to the UAS anyway.  They were already starting to set up shop when I arrived, though they hadn’t started their expansion in earnest yet.  People keep asking me, though.  So just for convenience, I’m going to assume the senior guy was probably named The Right Honorable Old Whitey McJowlface Esq., Senator of the Great State of Clueless Denial.

People are really thrilled around here that Old Whitey and his homies got deposed.  I’ve heard that communities in the Western Territories were actually dancing in the streets and breaking out what few fireworks survived their scavengers.  And that makes sense.  Obviously the Union and Haven have been the major focus, but never forget that the UAS had to go through the West to get to us.  The West dealt with some serious opposition.  But yeah, people here are thrilled.  Everyone is talking about how much the UAS leadership deserved worse than being deposed.  And of course you get the occasional macho man who talks about how he wants to go out to UAS territory and execute Old Whitey and his pals himself.

The less bro-tastic denizens of Haven, though, tend to ask me yet another common question: “What was wrong with those people?”  If anyone out there is a therapist or ever studied psychology, you know that’s a question you get all the time.  Any time something horrible happens on the news, people ask, even though they tend to already have their opinions formed on whether or not the person was actually mentally ill or just a bad seed (however they define that).  Michael Jackson was always the favorite subject of those questions.  It’s second only to the ever favorite and oh-so-original, “You’re psychoanalyzing me right now, aren’t you?” joke.  People always think they’re so clever.

So here’s the answer, and I think it may actually help people come to terms with some of what has occurred.  There was nothing wrong with these people.  Old Whitey and his cronies were probably completely mentally sound, and if they did have mental illness, it wasn’t to blame for their behaviors.  It’s really interesting to me how people view mental illness.  One out of four people in the World That Was had some diagnosable mental illness, from mild to severe.  That number may have climbed due to the fact we’ve all been traumatized and about one out of every three people who experience trauma come away with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In the World That Was, people tried to ignore mental illness.  It skeeved them out.  I always believed it was the fear that it could happen to them that so frightened people.  So society ignored, or discriminated, or went on tirades about how mental illness was just a plot by Big Pharma (because it’s too hard to say pharmaceutical, I guess).  Those conspiracy theorists would claim mental illness existed only to sell meds, while conveniently ignoring the fact that Lipitor commercials made up about 90% of their television viewing experience.  Mental illness was only for the damaged and weak-willed.  Until something horrible happened.  Then suddenly it’s all, “What was wrong with that guy?  That’s not normal!”  So people spent most of their life ignoring mental illness until they realize that a “normal” person can do horrible things.  Now it’s time to use mental illness as an excuse so that they don’t have to acknowledge their own dark side.  The dark side that lives in all of us.  And that’s what I’m seeing now.

So I’ll say it again.  There was nothing mentally wrong with these politicians.  Maybe some mild narcissism, but if I elected you to help lead the Free World, you’d probably be a bit full of yourself too.  Old Whitey and friends weren’t sociopaths like the marauders who recognized that the loss of all laws and authority gave them free reign to enact their darkest impulses.  No, these guys were regular people whose power allowed them to survive the apocalypse.  And yet, they had no real power over their food running out.  And when they left that bunker, they learned they had no power over the walking dead and that society had to be rebuilt.  I don’t care what your political beliefs were, the death of society is a great equalizer.  So they went into full blown panic mode, just as we all did.  We’ve all done horrible things in our past.  Even to survive, we’ve done things we wouldn’t have done in the past, like loot houses and stores, never wondering if someone was coming back for that stuff or needed it more than us.  We survive.  We’ve stolen to survive, we’ve killed to survive.

Luckily for us, we are all so unimportant in the grand scheme that our moments of panic were not seen as a leadership mandate.  They weren’t put on a national stage for others to see and judge.  At our darkest, did we really do anything that much worse than the UAS?  I’m not sure I can make that claim.  Josh already talked years ago about how he was ready to start a witch hunt when his mother died.  People were able to remove him from power, but imagine if Josh, in that moment of panic, had the power of an elected official from the World That Was and ruled an entire army.  The history of Haven would have been much bloodier.  For my own part, I’m thankful I didn’t have an army to back me up while I was still trying to find my way, so my actions went largely unnoticed by the other survivor camps.  Old Whitey and his bros didn’t have that luxury.  They panicked and people died.  So many people.

And now they’re deposed and living as one of the little people.  According to the laws we’ve created in this brave new world, do these deposed leaders warrant execution?  Yes.  But what are you going to do about it?  Ask the UAS for extradition?  Remember, they committed crimes against the citizens of the UAS.  Not only did they get their own people killed in a pointless war (at greater levels than we lost it would seem) but they also used their position to spread lies and propaganda.  Their crimes against the UAS are arguably more heinous than those against the West or the Union.  And the UAS judged them and sentenced them.  This is done now.  Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if, not long after Kincaid leaves Haven, Old Whitey and his buds are found dead, strangled to death with their own entrails.

But really, we don’t need that.  I think this punishment is incredibly severe, to the point of being cruel and unusual.  Put yourself in their position.  You had power.  Maybe you even had the ear of the president or your political party.  Then one day all hell breaks loose, the world becomes a Romero film, and you’re shoved into a crowded bunker for a couple years.  When you come out, your national influence is gone.  All you have of your identity is what little power you wield in your community.  So you try to recapture that past glory and people reject you.  You try to seize that power by force and you fail miserably and see your own people die as a result.  And now you’ve lost the trust of your own citizens and you’re deposed.  You now have nothing.  The only job you’ve ever really held is lost to you.  The skills you had of debate, of glad-handing people, of creating policy is now ruined because no one will give you the time of day.  You’ve gone from shaping a nation to not even having enough influence to organize a sock hop.  You get to sit in a community, knowing you are no good to those around you, facing scorn and hatred, and watching as others rebuild the world, the world that once was yours.

The punishment for these ex-leaders is nothing short of psychological torture.  I, for one, pity them.  And all you others out there who can truthfully admit to yourself that you understand the fears that drove these lost human beings owe them your pity too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The local UAS are staying. I'm not up on the particulars just yet, but the people camped a dozen or so miles away aren't just male soldiers like the old, old days. There are women among them, families trailing along behind, materials for building or at least for taking over a settlement, you name it. I'm not giving away any state secrets here. It's all over the place.

Not much of a surprise, either. Many people predicted it, and once the UAS realized our food reserves are far, far more substantial than their original estimates...let's just say a hungry man is easy to convince.

You might be asking if this means the Union is joining up with the UAS. The honest answer for the moment is that I have not the slightest idea how this all works. I know Will is still in charge here and the Union isn't going anywhere, but I have a hard time imagining men as powerful as the local military commanders are willing to submit completely. It's all very much above my pay grade.

A lot of people are wondering how it's all going to fit together. I'm curious, though not enough to go back on the decision to leave. The specifics are still pretty fuzzy, though I get the impression something like the arrangement North Jackson has going on is happening here. The idea that the UAS would be protecting us is interesting at the very least. I think it, if that's the case, we'll see more of their people retire from active military-style service and more of ours taking it up. An integrated force is the only kind all sides will be able to live with, much less trust.

We'll see. Or rather, you will.

I've got virtually no time today, so I'm cutting this short. K is nagging me to help him finish the survival manual  before we all leave. It's sort of our goodbye to this place, a last gift.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Omar's Ghost

Today hasn't been a good day. The title of this post is a little strange, but that's because I based it on an impression and nothing more. The sentiment for peace among the UAS clearly isn't universal. There has never been a time in human history when everyone agreed on anything, even the least controversial things. Most of their people who aren't thrilled with the situation are just coping with the will of the majority. They grumble or, when it's a bit more than complaining, get thrown in confinement for a few days. But most of them don't take stands, especially radical ones. They can see which way the wind is blowing.

One man saw the wind and decided he'd go out with a bang. His name never filtered down to me. He was just some guy from the UAS who hated the idea of making peace with an enemy who tried to blow his head off a few weeks ago. He was a Believer, capital intended. He had conviction and the grit to see it through. I can respect that even now.

He stole out of the UAS camp sometime yesterday after a week of angry bitching about how he'd like to stick it to the Union one last time. Armed and armored with pilfered gear, he worked his way through the woods and slipped past patrols. He got inside our defenses.

The local UAS leaders warned us something like this might happen, and again when they realized their wayward soldier was missing. The guy managed to gun down four people working on the perimeter defenses before our sharpshooters took him down. Managed not to kill him, too. His armor kept the worst of it off him, instead damaging his arms and legs enough that fighting back wasn't an option.

The UAS offered to let us deal with him. Will, being somewhat diplomatic, handed the job over to the man in charge of the local UAS. As I understand it, the trial was short and to the point. The man was strung up from a tree and suffocated to death. Our medics did the bare minimum to keep him alive when they arrived on the scene. No one around here would let him walk away from killing four people in cold blood. Patchwork bandages and sutures gave the killer just enough time to feel the rope tighten.

I'm reminded of Omar Little from The Wire. There are many differences between our killer and the fictional character, but what struck me was the similarity they shared. Both of them seemed to have a code. That and a willingness to risk all for a decision made in the name of justice, maybe revenge. What he did was wrong and I'm glad he's dead, but you can't deny the strength it took to knowingly undertake a suicide mission.

Perspective is a strange thing, I guess. From his point of view, the soldiers around him were traitors. In bed with an enemy he believed were the worst kind of people. Murderers at the very least. As sickened as I am that Haven lost four precious lives, I can't hate the man for what he did. I'm angry, sure, but not too long ago many people in the Union thought the same about the UAS. I could name names for an hour without stopping, listing off people I know personally who expressed their urge to kill every one of the enemy.

Those same people are now cooking and serving that same enemy meals on a regular basis. Some are even going on patrols to clear out zombie nests. Working side by side. Every spectrum of malcontents has their extreme examples, and the man hanging from that tree was one of them. Someone who couldn't let evil--evil as he saw it, anyway--go unpunished. A man whose views and feelings were impossible to separated or reconcile from the situation in front of him. It's a sad day all around, no other way to put it. I wish someone could have convinced him otherwise before this tragedy happened.

Now we're five people poorer, and no one is happy.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


The local UAS forces are still around. In truth, it doesn't look as if they're going anywhere for a while yet. To a small degree our people are integrating with them, putting aside the recent past to help them hunt for food and stock up. They've paid back our kindness nicely, though, to make sure the gestures on our part are not seen as unappreciated or ignored.

They've swept the area so clear of zombies it's almost unreal. The one thing the UAS has going for them is weaponry and ammo, almost a ridiculous number of both. They're letting our folks patrol with them and even giving them guns--which they give back at the end of shift--to better clear out all the little hidey-holes we know about. It's an awesome use of resources in the truest sense of the word. I can't believe the UAS are willing to expend so much to protect this area, especially so soon after an armed conflict.

I don't know if there are larger things I'm unaware of behind this, but right this second I don't care. Haven is being worked on in the open because there are no zombies close enough to hurt anyone. Between UAS patrols and our own folks, there is now a free zone five miles across, centered on Haven. No zombies, no enemies breathing down our neck.

Almost like home. You know what I mean? The way the world used to be. I'm told people are working on the walls, fixing houses, my brother David doing his best to manage it all. Our home is going back up at a remarkable pace. Amazing what you can accomplish with the right conditions.

All of that makes me very happy, it honestly does. At the same time it's bitter knowing that soon enough I'll be leaving it behind. I don't regret the choice at all, I'm just stewing in how much I'll miss the people and the place. My brother and I, for example, have grown very close since The Fall. Without jobs and distance between us, we've had the time and conditions to become great friends. It's hell, knowing I won't be able to see him whenever I want. We won't be a world away or anything, but even short distances nowadays are potentially lethal. Saying hello every weekend or month is out of the question.

It comes down to life, really. Doesn't matter what the world is doing, whether it's chaos or ordered. People change. Things change. There is no perfect homeostasis, everything in a closed system where nothing can vary. We all have paths to choose, ways we want our lives to go. Mine is with my wife and a cluster of similarly-minded people. We need something smaller, more isolated. Something private and safe. Well, safer.

Dave and I grew up together, but when he moved out of the house and started a career we drifted apart. There was no fault in it; the man was building his own future. He got married, started a family, had a life of his own to manage. Those were all good problems to have. If it left him less time for his little brother, I certainly never held it against him. His happiness was always the important thing, just as mine was. It's the distance between us that made the times did see each other that much better. Reconnecting, laughing, sharing history. Beautiful stuff.

When The Fall hit us it was the shared loss that brought us closer. Dave is a busy guy around these parts, and if neither of us makes the effort it can be a week or more between seeing each other. Again, no fault. Not in him or anyone else I care about. We all have our own lives to lead, our own choices to make. I know for certain that the people I love and respect understand my choice to leave. But that doesn't mean we won't all miss each other terribly. I sit here in the wheelchair they hauled me to Haven in, watching people laugh and joke as they rebuild. Kids roam the streets even with rents in the walls, because there are enough people out there making it safe that they can, for a little while, just be kids again.

I see the home I fought so hard to defend rising from the ashes again, the love of its people so clear and pure, and pride burns in me. Pride and sadness. I love it here, in ways I can never express, and the people are dear to me. The only consolation I have is knowing that when we leave, behind us will be a place not dead or dying, but growing and evolving once more. When the day comes I can walk--or roll, depending--out of Haven, I can do so knowing I'm leaving it in better shape than I found it.

That'll have to do.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Live Free

Today is the fourth of July, and I can't think of any better day to share this news with you. Whether coincidence or planned, the UAS is now free, free, free.

To keep it short--and I have to since I stupidly popped some stitches last night and have angry doctors to deal with--the UAS military nearby reported the coup to us this morning. Senior members of that organization made fast moves for their base to lay out the situation for the leadership. A bunch of men in a room deep underground who didn't want to listen.

You might be hoping to hear the UAS grand poobahs got killed, but they didn't. When the old men started squawking about the military, throwing out words like 'treason' and 'betrayal', the man in charge of the military ordered them removed. Thirteen ex-senators, congressmen, even a justice from the SCOTUS, all put in cuffs and thrown in tiny rooms to think about it.

I didn't get to talk to the man himself, but Will came by to pass on the news. Basically every old-timer in the UAS leadership becomes a simple citizen from this point out. The people will hold elections, vote on measures going forward, the whole democratic process. They're doing it fast, too, because the simple math means they have to make nice with the rest of the country if they want to eat.

As for being traitors and betrayers, well...

The men leading the UAS army are the ones betrayed. Them and every person under their command, plus every citizen in their territory. They could've traded for food, set up shop and started something productive with the rest of us, except for the men running the show. A hundred or so people if you count the leadership and their support staff, telling lies with kernels of truth in them to whip up opposition against the rest of us. A war predicated not on ideology or principle, but for simple gain through force.

Power, basically, gathered at the cost of lives. Now the truth is in the open; that even after all the deaths and blood between us, we're still willing to take a chance for peace and mutual prosperity. It was our actions that put the final nail in the coffin, you see. Hear all you want from the higher ups about the enemy, how we're evil backstabbing murderers, but when that enemy stands in front of you with open arms and with no weapons, the ruse is impossible to maintain.

Trust is slim, but there. We're putting out the olive branch, which is a small gesture but a damn sight better than the old UAS leaders would have allowed. It's a new day. A good day. Something new is being born, better than the thing it replaced.

I love watching people choose to live free.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I got my first visit to Haven itself today since we're now safe to move from the fallback camps to our home. The end of the world has been going on for several years now. That's good since it's the only thing that could have prepared me for what I saw.

Haven isn't destroyed, not really. Were the place a pile of rubble I would have taken it better. The walls will take a lot of work to fix, pocked with small craters all over and totally destroyed in sections. The buffer is a huge tangled mass of broken posts and cable, which is actually a good thing. Zombies get caught up in it and have a harder time getting into Haven itself. Still going to be a hard time clearing them all out until the repairs are done, but it's something.

Most of the homes are standing but riddled with bullets. I feel their pain on that front. West--the section made up of shipping containers--is virtually untouched. No one knows why, really, since that was the side the UAS attacked from. I chalk it up to one of those weird things in life, like finding a straw jammed through a piece of wood after a tornado, right next to a perfectly healthy baby sleeping in their stroller.

My own home was in pretty good shape, all things considered. Not right at the edge, its proximity to West must have been enough to shield it from the worst of the attack. My roof has certainly seen better days and the crops in our yard are dead or dying, but the house itself didn't take serious damage. Mostly cosmetic stuff. Thank baby Jesus for the person who decided every house in this neighborhood should be brick.

After I wrote that paragraph I stopped for a second and realized my house will only be my house for a little while longer.

What used to be the clinic before we moved it, my mom's old place, is gone. Must have been hit by an artillery round or something. When I saw it from the back seat of the armored vehicle, this huge pile of broken masonry and shattered wood, some part of me that held on through The Fall died. Mom would have been the first to tell me it's just a place. Only a house. It stopped being my home many years ago.

Still, I have a cane made from the wood of the giant tree from the front yard. After we cleared Haven of all trees a few years back, I carved the stump and lacquered it after mom died. The kind of memorial she would have liked; out there in nature among flowers and other growing things.

That's gone, too. All things must eventually pass, sad to say. Our lives and memories are all we have. I'm sad about it now, but I know mom's house was only a place in time and space. The good times and bad, the moments that shaped me into the man I am today, will always be with me. Just as she is, this place will sit in my heart until the day I die.

Haven--both the place and its people--is bloody and bruised. A few broken bones and some ugly scars. But as bad as it is, there is still life. Still a place to come back to and build back up. Where two of us come together, there is opportunity for some great work to be achieved. We will all carry the Haven that fell to the enemy in our hearts just as I do my mother and the place she made home. We'll keep those remembrances safe and in our minds as we--you--rebuild. New. Better. Stronger.

And as this place becomes home for all of you again, you can keep the anger you feel toward the men and women who were our enemies close. As those people show willing to be better, to do better, and to take their place in a world of peaceful if uneasy cooperation, you can look back on what they were and what they did and wonder at the people they're showing themselves to be. Do that. Remember, if only to deepen your understanding of how much they'll exceed your hopes.

That's my hope, at least.

Monday, July 1, 2013


I haven't spent much time talking about my injuries, but since all the excitement seems to have drained out of the world--thank Christ--I figure it's time to give you a small update.

Both Kincaid and I may have said things about my injuries, but both of us have been either hazy or under pressure. For the record, if such a thing matters, I took three bullets. No need for the gory details, but I'm lounging for a while. Secondary injuries were less severe, and thankfully the bullet wounds were all non-critical (if terrifying at first glance) but even so I'm healing three big ass wounds right now and a dozen smaller ones. The doc stopped counting stitches after a hundred.

My leg, my upper chest, my arm. All hit but while they hurt like hell I'm still relatively mobile. I wouldn't want to fight a zombie, but hobbling around my tent is doable.

A bullet, especially one from a rifle, does a lot of fucking damage. I'm in ridiculously good shape for a guy with three of them recently yanked from his body. You can thank my dutiful wife for that. She's the one who made me put on the armor. One good thing about raiding armories is the plentiful supply of military-grade protection. Didn't do a lot of good for my arm and leg, but those weren't core shots. Not grazes, either, but not too deep.

The bullet in my chest/shoulder area hit just at the edge of one of the ceramic plates. The armor ate some of the momentum but shattered and the bullet tumbled into the seam between plates. Tore a hole the size of a golf ball in the material. Lead and ceramic all jammed up inside me. Lots of blood. You know the drill.

I got lucky as hell. That more than anything was the deciding factor in choosing to leave. Beckley's eulogy came perilously close to being necessary. The peace with the UAS is fresh and dangerously shaky, so we're taking advantage while the opportunity exists. Somewhere far enough from everyone else to give us time to settle into some kind of normalcy before the dust settles and this stops being a world of taking and holding.

Because it's coming, you know. Both sides--all sides, even the west and the ones who don't realize there are sides--know we've experienced a watershed moment. The world nearly died and we almost killed what's left. All of us hold some blame. People are realizing it. They're seeing the truth, that we have to overcome our differences and live practically. To stop the bullshit, inside our communities outside between emerging nations. There isn't a person I've talked to who doesn't see the danger we've just lived through and realize we're past the point of simply maintaining.

We're moving forward. If this peace can hold long enough, others will be able to do the things Haven and North Jackson have done. I have hope one day soon we'll see lights on in every community, bright points against the darkness. Our people, which when you get to the most fundamental truth is all people, will put down roots. And as all things do when they're given the chance, they'll grow and expand.

I have hope this will happen. For the first time in ages I have some small expectation to go with it. I've lost the motivation to be here in the thick of things to watch it happen is all. I'm ready to retire to somewhere less busy and full of people. I'm happy to leave the next little bit to others. From what I'm seeing, our tomorrow is in good hands.