Friday, August 30, 2013

The Hard Goodbye (Part Four)

I talk a lot about struggle, and in a sense each of our individual tribulations are also ours. Not that all of them are identical or we experienced them together, but as we come together, those experiences are shared. Many of you have praised me (much more than I deserve, by the way) for the work I've done trying to keep people informed and communicating. That support means more to me than you can ever imagine.

But that's not the thing I'm most thankful for.

It's you. I'm in the unique position of airing my life and trials--sometimes literal ones--out where anyone can see them. If I've helped anyone out there, believe me when I say each of you has given back a hundred times anything I've done for you. Despite my luck in The Fall, despite my slight foresight in seeing it coming, and despite all the blessings I had where others didn't, none of it would have been enough without you.

Sounds crazy, I know. I got through The Fall with most of my immediate family intact. I was in my own home, a safe place in all the madness. I had food and water and shelter and love, and that's so much more than most of you. I know it makes me sound like an ass to say it, but I think because of all that, I needed something to occupy me. While many others fought tooth and nail to make it day to day, I was hunkered down in my house. The weight of knowing how lucky I was brought guilt. Crushing, powerful guilt like matter from a neutron star draped around my heart.

To carry on, I needed something. I needed work, a mission. I needed to ensure those less fortunate had every opportunity and scrap of information they could get. Yeah, my weird guilt complex isn't rational or sane. I know that much, I deal with it every day.

And weirdly, being out here where things are much more dicey is helping me deal with that very anxiety. It's strange to think how much more trouble we could get into this far from anything, but it's oddly satisfying at the same time. For the first time, really, I'm dealing with total unknowns. Even during the long periods of time I was away from home, it was never like this. Never an attempt to build something permanent in a new place. It's scary and amazing and as I said, freeing.

Knowing I won't be posting nearly as much is almost like a breakup or a divorce. Not a bad one, just a separation that will forever change the nature of the relationship. I still feel bad for getting so much out of all of you, support and satisfaction at being able to help in some small way. It's a debt I can't pretend to be able to pay. To continue on from here as I have done would be pointless and insulting. You're probably better survivors than I've ever been, at this point. And it would be the height of arrogance to assume you'd want or need daily updates on my life out here in the sticks.

Words are something I hold very dear. They're a love as deep and wide as any I've ever had. Yet right now, in this place, they fail me. I will never be able to explain what you've meant to me all this time. I could keep trying, but I'd rather just end here with perhaps not the best words, but ones from the heart.

Thank you all so much. You saved my life more than once. Despair is an enemy more insidious than any flesh-and-blood foe we face. Without you, it would have defeated me ages ago. Thank you, a million times.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Hard Goodbye (Part Three)

A small trickle of zombies came up the road yesterday. Not enough to worry about, really. We had warning long before we could see them. Bigby and Riley went apeshit once they began to smell them. We had plenty of warning, time to suit up and head out. I actually got to leave the fence for the first time since I've been here.

There were only eleven undead. Fast and easy work with my dogs distracting them. The five people with me were strong and precise and deadly. When it was done, even though I was still clad in body armor and carrying weapons, I felt free. For the first time in memory, I felt free.

I walked the open fields nearby, the rows of dirt already sprouting with crops Jess put there when this place was first settled by our people. Outside the fence, clear of any wooded areas and wild game for half a mile or better, and free of zombies, those plants may grow without our protection. That's the best way for things to grow, when you really think about it. Free of restraint, able to spread as far and wide as they can manage.

I remember moving into our old house back before The Fall. I was so excited to be a homeowner. Jess was less thrilled about the actual house, 'fixer-upper' being the absolute kindest phrase you could call it. When the world ended, it became our refuge. Our safe place. When Haven was attacked by the Richmond soldiers, taken over, we fled. Jess and I wanted to come back something fierce, to reclaim our little house. It wasn't perfect, but it was home.

I hold on to things until they have to be taken from me with a crowbar. As much as I hated the work we couldn't afford to put into the place, I loved that house. It was where Jess and I built a life together. I thought it would be hard to leave it behind when we came here, and really it was a little bit. When I stepped out into the open with my dogs on either side, tongues lolling out in doggy grins as we took a walk together, that small ache throbbed and unknotted in my chest. My happy beasts and I stood before a new home, a place we chose to be rather than existing in by default.

I realized then that I could walk with them as long as I wanted to. Out here, on the great plain where we've made our stand, it's empty and huge. No politics or machinations of other people. No vast swarms waiting for us to make a mistake. No enemies other than natural predators, and those damn few if any at all. It's dangerous out here for a lot of reasons, but it's also open beautiful. The freedom to just exist for life and living is heady and intoxicating. Knowing the odds are with us enough that we can wander freely sends jolts of electricity down my spine.

We have work, jobs to do, but spread between all of us they don't take up large chunks of time. I had today off from work, as a matter of fact. I went into town--the nearest about ten miles away--on horseback with another scout. We went looking for materials K asked for. We located them, marked the locations, and kept on checking things out.

Which was when we found a library. Small as these things go, but untouched. Pristine. A single floor about the size of a fast-food place, books stacked from floor to ceiling. I spent the first part of my day off doing work, because I like exploring. I like knowing the lay of the land in real terms and not just maps. I'll spend the rest of it sitting on the front porch of this old farmhouse, beneath the deep eaves where the swing creaks in the wind. I'll have a book in my hand and my thoughts far away.

Even so, my heart will be here. Home.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Hard Goodbye (Part Two)

In the face of a nagging sore throat, I begin to miss certain things about Haven more and more.

It's funny, you know. I intended this last series of posts to be a sort of swan song. I wanted to write some breathtaking, sweeping conclusion including all we've seen and done and learned over the last three and a half years. Obviously it would have been impossible to cover even a fraction of that, but I was going to try to do something memorable just in case something happens to me and I really can't post here ever again.

Much like the best laid battle plans go up in smoke when the first bullet flies, so too do my designs fail me when the first word hits the page. So rather than spend my time and effort reminding those of you still reading of things you already know, I'm going to say something both condescending and sincere.

I'm really proud of you.

The reason I say it's condescending is because those words make it seem as though I view myself as superior. If you've really been reading me all this time, you know that isn't the case. I say it because I truly have pride in what the people of this country--and of the world, for all I know--have accomplished. We've faced the worst events in the history of our species and managed to come out the other side relatively intact. Not whole by any stretch, but alive and able to function.

It could've gone the other way. We've all seen post-apocalyptic movies. Ever notice how we cheered for the hero without once noting how his actions did nothing to improve the world he lived in? Invariably, the survivors in those movies lived in continuously rotting societies. Everything circling the drain toward entropy and nothingness.

You--we--have done better. We have struggled to start over. There have been many, many instances where killing an enemy made more sense. We got stuck on survival over anything else at times. It would have been easy to forget our essential humanity and live in the world created by our expectations. We failed here and there, because we're people and that's what people do. We stumbled and fucked up in ways large and small. We killed and in some cases murdered on a large scale because of our mistakes and misapprehensions.

But we didn't let the weight of those failures crush us. It's a testament to our spirit that we soldiered on and learned, never dismissing the chance for peaceful solutions. We made amnesty available to Marauders. We broke through the suspicion between communities and forged a nation between them. In a matter of days, we held strong and risked all to turn our most dangerous living enemies into allies, if not friends.

I could harp on about the other things we've done, but I don't think it's needed. Most of that stuff was just survival, needs to be met. What I'm talking about here is the marvelous ability of the human being to overcome a desire so strong it's nearly a need itself--the desire for revenge. For violence. For letting our base instincts reign when we're hurt or scared. We could have done that and did on some occasions.

We learned from tragedies wrought by our own decisions. We've fucked up and faced the fire, but like Tolkien said, the burned hand teaches best. We could have let go our humanity and justified our descent into the behavior we long fought to eliminate. It makes sense, as a defense mechanism. You can only be Superman so long before you lose ground to those willing to do anything. Our morals cracked and strained over time, but they never broke.

That's why I'm proud. We did the worst more than once, but we never let the darkness it caused in our hearts take over. We--you--never gave up the struggle to be better, to learn. It's a desperate, shadowy world out there, but never have we strayed so far from the path that we couldn't still see the light.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Hard Goodbye (Part One)

I promised I'd write regularly until the end of the month, but as you know I've been mostly unable to do that. Not because I haven't wanted to, but mostly due to the rigors of life out here on our own. Farming and building at breakneck speeds are the least of it. The heat and dangers and stress are just as bad.

I'll fully admit that when I remembered my mom's birthday last week, I sort of lost it. I don't know why it hit me so hard this year. Maybe because it was a memorable birthday, one of the big ones in people's lives, though I think she would have disagreed. Age is just a number and all that.

Basically that emotional breakdown, small as it was, combined with some troubles over the weekend kept me sidelined here. I worked and ate and slept and that was about the extent of my ability to function. Over the weekend we had a hailstorm powerful enough to damage our vehicles, so you can imagine the destruction it leveled on our crops. Lucky for us, we prepared for such an eventuality, but part of our scramble was us working out in the pelting ice to cover the crop beds we hadn't yet reached. All told we lost about a fifth of the food already sprouting. A heavy blow, but not a fatal one.

Then there was a...I'd call it a zombie attack, but it wasn't. We've had a team of people doing nothing but strengthening our fences and other defensive measures since they got here. Which means runs out to the nearby towns and farms to gather supplies. They even managed to find a couple horses somewhere, which pull our makeshift wagon. Saves on gas, that's for sure.

The zombies didn't try to overrun the fence. The damn thing is really high and strong. It's webbed with spikes and other deterrents to keep the undead from trying to scale it. Every one of the dead outside our wall was New Breed. Probably forty or fifty of them, all watching us with too-clever eyes, trying to figure out the best way to crack the shell to get at the tasty meat inside.

I'm sort of proud of that last sentence. Just sayin'.

We used some of our precious ammonia--of which we have a good amount, but not easily replaced out here--to scatter the undead from our perimeter. Three teams of three went out the sally gate to hunt the undead down and end them. That gate was Jessica's idea, by the way. How did no one think of building an inner and outer gate to prevent the undead from swarming through an open door? Maybe it came up at a meeting at some point and was considered too difficult to add on to the gates of Haven. Maybe no one brought it up because they were all too embarrassed no one thought of it. Who knows? What we had worked, that's the main thing.

At any rate, I did my thing with my bow for the first time in what feels like forever. I'm healed enough and we're worried about ammo enough that I was allowed to try to pick off zombies with arrows. It was hard and my arm and shoulder are hellishly out of practice. My muscles seem to have weakened a little, joints tightening. It took a lot of effort to loose that first arrow, which clanged off the top of the fence and darted into the distance never to be seen again. Which is saying something since I was on a cherry-picker well above the fenceline. It's one of the electric ones you can charge with a normal plug. Patrick made that particular find.

In the end I did manage to take down a few zombies with headshots, but I chalk that up to volume rather than ability. My body needs to relearn how to shoot, and I made a good start by firing at least forty arrows. I got better about halfway through the lot, then worse toward the end as the pain and fatigue in my muscles made even holding the bow an exercise in not swearing a lot.

But you know, it felt good. Really good. The pain was a reminder I'm still alive. It told me I was working to support my chosen community, full of people I love and respect. Every time I've been injured in the last few years, I've fallen into a funk during the recovery. I know that. It's just part of me. Jess made the point that each time I've gained a better handle on my recovery, both mentally and physically. She told me she's seeing me improve a little at a time. All it takes is getting shot, I suppose.

I think of the satisfaction running through me even as I agonized over pulling the string of my bow back to my cheek, and I couldn't help but remember my breakdown. Seems like a different man. Oh, I still feel dark echoes from that time. It's sort of the mental equivalent of a smell bringing back the full memory of home cooking or a favorite summer camp. I have these flashes of deja vu at times, putting me back in those, my worst of days. But I can't stay there. The man who fell into that shaded valley, cut off from all hope of seeing light, is not the man who walked out of it to finally face the sun.

Growth and change and time all conspire to fundamentally alter who we are. It's like the adult me watching kids play with toys and pretend. I see them, even feel a yearning to do the same just as I'd done as a child, but even when I'm there in spirit for a few seconds, I'm not really there. I'm past it, different on a bedrock level that doesn't allow me to go back.

Which is where all of us are now. We haven't named our new home yet, other than to call it the generic 'compound', but we will. The people living here have already moved past Haven. Fond memories and cherished friends can't bridge the divide from who we are to who we were. This is who we have become. Pioneers. Settlers. A part of the first wave of people moving beyond the confines of communities of survivors.

I think that's enough for one day, don't you? Four more of these, four more parts, and then we'll say our goodbyes. Not forever, obviously--I'm philosophical, but not so much I can't keep in touch--but for a while at least. Until I have something to say. Something that matters.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Hey, it’s Beckley.

Have you ever been completely blindsided by nostalgia?  Well I got flattened by a freaking nostalgia train yesterday.  Normally this would just be a pleasant diversion, but in this world we live in now, these kinds of occurrences haunt me.  I feel like I’m walking around in a daze.  It’s all the cognitive dissonance, I think.

So I was walking through Haven with my baseball bat (it’s still my security blanket and probably always will be.  It basically works like a walking stick now.)  Everything was good, and some guy working on the wall walks by singing some snippet of a dance song from the 90’s.  He’s singing and working and suddenly I’m back in the 7th grade at a dance I completely forgot I went to.  I literally stopped dead in my tracks.

I was there.  All of Haven melted away and I was in this big room with a bunch of dancing preteens.  I’m on the outskirts (as I always was), watching a really cute girl (as I always was), and this song is blaring in my ears.  And life is suddenly so simple.

It’s a testament to how messed up this world can get that I’m pining for the simplicity that came from middle school, a time in my life that was maybe a notch above the ninth circle of hell.  I still haven’t bounced back from that flashback.  I’m looking at everything through that filter of childhood now.  What would my preteen self say if he knew the zombie apocalypse was coming and that everyone in his life was going to die?  Friends, teachers, the anonymous cute girl.  They all died and yet I, the social misfit standing in the corner at the dance, survived.  I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

I think about everyone I knew, everyone who made up my preteen world and it’s sobering to know they’re all dead.  At least I assume so.  It’s a sad reality of the world today that death really is the safest assumption as to a person’s ultimate fate.

I’ve been in this odd little world all day today.  It’s not unpleasant.  It’s just a strange way of looking at this already strange world.  And I think my brain is trying to milk it for all its worth before I have to walk past walls holding back moaning monsters, on my way to mediate arguments between grown adults who can’t stop acting like children.  For the first time in my life, I don’t want to leave middle school.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Splitting Headaches

Hey, it’s Beckley.

I’ve been feeling pretty sick lately and have been taking as much downtime as is possible.  Fortunately my work allows me to sit down with people, so that’s helpful.  Still, it’s hard to by sympathetic and understanding when you feel like crap.  But that’s an issue I’ve learned to work through long ago.  It’s kind of necessary as a therapist.  Having a bad day and getting snippy is career suicide.

I’ve noticed tensions have gotten higher lately.  I don’t think it’s the zombie attacks.  Those are still happening with lessening regularity.  Everything is under control in that department.  Rather, there’s been an increase in people getting in verbal, and sometimes physical, altercations.  Some between the Havenites and the UAS immigrants, but also between people in general.  Tempers are short.  People won’t admit why that is, or they just don’t realize, but I think I’ve got a good idea.

It has officially gotten real that people left.  Yes, Josh has been talking about leaving for a minute and he has been gone for a little while now.  But the last group of people have left and, according to Josh, are getting settled in.  Josh and his people are officially moved out.  It’s real.  And now people are dealing with all those emotions.  We all have abandonment issues.  That’s just a reality of the world we live in.  Anyone who says they don’t is a liar or a sociopath.  Or both.  If you’re a sociopath, it’s pretty much a given you are a liar too.  But I digress…

The point is that we’ve lost most everyone in our lives and the only solace we had, as poor as it was, was that they didn’t have a choice.  People died, they didn’t actively choose to leave.  With Josh and his group, though, they did.  And that’s not a betrayal, it’s not bad of them, but it does touch a wound that has only barely begun to scab over.  There can be a knee-jerk emotional reaction, and that leads to the irritability we’re seeing.  Right now, people probably don’t even realize it’s there, but it has to be dealt with.

If you let this anger grow, it’s going to take over.  We live in a world where death has become much more prevalent, but that doesn’t mean that it is the norm.  Death and abandonment are still tragedies.  So we can’t get cynical and act like we don’t need to deal with that.  When it comes to Josh and his wife and Kincaid and all the others who left, they didn’t choose to specifically leave us.  They didn’t take a long look at us and say, “Yeah…that guy.  I’m leaving that loser right about now.”  No, they decided, for their own good, to make a new home.  This isn’t personal and if you try to make it so, it will eat you alive.  This isn’t like the Exiles (who I heard a Havanite grumbling about under his breath the other day) who attacked the governing body of Haven, made it personal, then left.  There’s no judgment, no anger.  Just that sense of sadness when you move on from something you love.  And you can rest assured that sadness is on both sides.

Although, on the other end of that spectrum, I can’t help but notice that a lot of UAS guys seem calmer knowing that Kincaid moved out.  From what I’ve gathered, the guy is akin to the boogeyman to them.  Which is understandable seeing as how he went rogue that one time and blogged about torturing those UAS soldiers.  And how he blew up a weapons depot.  And how he’s made it very clear that he will end anyone who stands against him.  And because everyone knows his history of being a marauder, which some find it hard to move past.  Personally, I think that Kincaid gets a rush out of being the big scary guy.  I’ll leave it there though, since he once calmly threatened me with a facial/rectal exam if I ever “psychoanalyze my shit again.”  He also implied that the inside of his head would make me cry.  In my own defense, I can guarantee it wouldn’t, but it seemed pretty important for him to have me believe that, so I’ll just leave it there.  I like the guy, truthfully.  He's got issues, though.  But find me someone who doesn't.

Oh, and speaking of Kincaid, before he left, he dropped three cases of root beer off at my Luxury Shoppe (the extra “p” and “e” are for classiness!)  It’s premium A&W stuff.  Kincaid found it somewhere (probably on one of the many scouting trips between Haven in his new home) and traded it for my entire stock of mallow cups.  For real.  I don’t get it either.  I didn’t think I could so much as give those things away.  Dude loves his mallow, I guess.  Then again, soda is horrifically expired now whereas mallow cups have been on the shelves since the Great Depression so he may feel he got the better end of the deal.  For root beer, though, I will risk all manner of flat, sugary botchalism.  I know I’m not the only one to feel the same way, so stop on by and trade something neat for expired nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Last of Us

The rest of our people came in this morning. A few more than we expected, actually, but not more than we can handle. Thanks to my beautiful wife, there are enough potatoes growing to feed all of us if we're left with no other option.

It took the last group an extra day to get here because they brought a housewarming present for everyone: materials to build greenhouses. That's going to be super helpful through the winter. We've got something set up in the barn already, but every bit adds up.

There's a sense of finality in the last of the group finally making it here. Our number is just shy of seventy people. Sounds like a lot, I know, but it's a small fraction of the thousands in Haven. We originally planned on having about thirty people, but as time went by more of our close associates decided they wanted to make the move as well. That's part of why things are so cramped at the moment, a problem we're doing our best to solve. We're slightly over double our first goal and have had to adjust.

Still, it's all good. We made the decision quite a while back to bring any of our close friends who wanted to come. At present we can't accommodate another living soul, not even another pet, but we can use every scrap of training and experience our people bring to the table. It's not like we won't be facing some bad mojo out here. We've got one person acting as a long-range scout and they've already spotted another small zombie swarm headed this way. We knew it would happen when the last members of our party finally made it home.

Home. A strange way to think of this place, but not nearly as odd as it was even a couple days ago. I got up to go to the bathroom last night, in the dark, and didn't have to think about the way there. That seems weird and silly, but it's the little things that make new places uncomfortable and scary. I'm starting to fit here, and the place is starting to fit me as we slowly shape it. The people make it work more than anything. Our combined experience and friendship gain strength as we adapt together in this smaller and more exposed compound. If home is where the heart is, then with these people I can go anywhere.

It's easy to expound on the emotional aspects of living here at the moment. I'm used to a much more constant set of threats. My brain can't reconcile the lack of zombies. There's a sort of tension among us as we wait for the next batch to show up here. The end of the world (and surviving in it) required us to acclimate to violence and to be ready to dole it out at the drop of a hat. It's hard to break such a deeply ingrained habit, even when there's no external factor requiring you to use it.

I'm not saying we're bloodthirsty or even spoiling for a fight, just that each of us feels the need to blow off steam. Not many better ways to do it than to annihilate zombies.

It's one of the many things we'll all have to do together. Jess has proclaimed me fit to join the ranks, with limited duties. I can't leave the fence or lift more than thirty pounds just yet, but she sees no reason why I can't put down the undead from inside the protection of our barriers. It's sooner than I thought she'd allow it, but I'm not going to complain. My wounds are healed over but still ugly and far from being old scars. They still hurt at times. Jess is being more generous than she'd prefer, I think, but a few words from K seemed to convince her.

Tomorrow I'll be out doing patrols. Weird to think I'll be back to where I was three and a half years ago, but this doesn't feel like backtracking. Out here we're as prepared as anyone can be, armed with weapons both physical and mental, armored in much the same way. We know more now than then by many orders of magnitude. And we're on this wide, open plain of land with a sky so big it seems to swallow you whole. It's all there for us to work and shape, to rebuild and spread onto.

Now that the last of us are here, we can start the next great chapter in our lives. Free of the politics and complications of living in a large community, it's a story we can finally write ourselves.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wide Open Sky

There was a time many years ago when I went with my church youth group deep into the back country, where we stayed overnight on a farm far from city lights. Even there the distant glow of the world washed out the sky somewhat, but that night was the first time in my life I saw the stars as they really are. Not a dim sprinkling of pinpricks above me, but a vast and complex tapestry of light. I saw the wide swath of dense stars we call the Milky Way. For the first time, I understood what that meant.

Our galaxy is a rough disc a hundred thousand light-years across. That banner of stars swooping across the heavens, hard to see in the brightness of the world that was, is the inner edge of that disc. When you look at the sky and see the Milky Way, you're seeing a big chunk of the galaxy itself. That's why we named it after that swath of light.

Yesterday we managed to clear the area of zombies for the first time since I've been here. None to be seen, anyway, and none to be heard. The world wasn't silent, but for the first time in ages I wasn't hearing the moaning or scratching of the undead. There were no sounds of people working around the clock. We got rain yesterday, so even the guy running the pump got a nice break. Best of all, no sounds of war.

I lay there on the roof with Jess, our fingers intertwined, and we watched the stars do their dance. All the lights here were out, the darkness only broken by the bright moon. It was peaceful and gorgeous and I can't tell you how relaxing. As much as I miss the people and the community we left behind, I'm beginning to see how powerfully good this change can be. I feel almost lost in my effort to do as I've done for years, giving you all the details so you can understand the ins and outs of what happens in my life.

But this is pretty much it.

We're small and isolated, tucked away in a relatively safe place. Our needs are met, our troubles few, and the people we have aren't the scared group of survivors that founded Haven. We're old hands at this. We do it well. That experience lends us all the tools we need to cope, which is excellent in terms of our daily lives. It's hell on dramatic tension, however. We're as close to sublime as the world allows these days.

There will always be work, of course. There will always be dangers. But we're not trying to expand this home into a giant bastion in order to make a city, as Haven is becoming. Our only aim is safety and seclusion, away from the dangers and exposure of the larger world. Oh, we'll deal with the same things. There will always be zombies, always be renegades. We're a smaller target, and one would assume because of that and our distance from pretty much anything, we'll face proportionally smaller threats.

In Haven the work was never done. Here it's much different. We eat from our stores and hunt as we must, but everyone here puts in work on our crops and our herd of rabbits. It's no more than a few hours a day for any single person, leaving us time for other pursuits. Some work on other things, some pursue leisure. Even with a full day in doing this and that, no one is so tired they can't fine joy in the little moments. No one is so busy they can't seize happiness and find time to live.

I don't know how the others do it, but quiet stargazing is plenty for me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

All These Troubles

I told myself I wouldn't dwell on Beckley's posts from Haven. It would do me no good to worry endlessly about the people there. True, we're still planning to do occasional trading with them, though not more than once a month at the most. We need to be in the loop as much as possible as we've still got a working relationship with Haven. But I swore I wouldn't gnaw on their problems. 

I'm really trying not to. I'm still in that uncomfortable transition period where my distance geographically only makes the unknown consequences of the zombie attacks on Haven that much worse in my head. I don't know if that makes sense to you, but it does to me. Rather than harp on about it--especially since Haven seems to have the attacks under control--I'm going to leave it there. I'm worried, and writing about it only makes it worse.

We're dealing with our own problems at the moment. While no great swarm of them has (so far) appeared since the initial rush, we are getting a steady stream of zombies. They follow our trail from Haven, coming across the farm in ones and twos, a trickle compared to the flood we dealt with back in Kentucky. I should note here that these are the zombies we're seeing, which doesn't mean they're all we're getting. I imagine the New Breed are spreading out around us in a n effort to gain an upper hand. Tricky, given how flat the land is in every direction. We'll definitely see them coming. 

We haven't had any rain, either. That's not a life and death problem since we've got a well with a pump, but it does present some difficult choices for our farming efforts. We have someone on the pump literally around the clock. K and Jess rigged up a foot pedal to the thing so people wouldn't have to wear out their arms using it. We're collecting every drop in the cistern and our other catchment systems, save for what we're using to drink and water the crops. After four solid days of effort, we've managed to reinforce and expand our fencing quite a lot. We've got a dozen of those giant livestock water tanks linked together in our back yard. We have a rabbit warren all stocked up, canned (well, it's in jars, but you get the idea) food to last for months, and enough firepower to make our heavily reinforced perimeter almost unnecessary. 

And here we are worried about rain. 

It's not an absurd concern to have. The people we sent here ahead of us have been setting up our farm for quite a while now. They're the ones who put up the first fence, cleaned out the house, began filling the cistern. Since Jess and K and I got here, it's been a mad dash to improve, expand, and ensure our food crops are going to be enough to last us through the winter. We're not a tiny community, really, and with the last of our number due in any day, we're going to be using a lot of water. We've already used a great deal of what we had stored. Somewhere along the line there was a miscalculation, so we're a bit stressed. No worries, though. We'll figure it out even if we have to leave someone pumping day and night, a quart at a time. 

It's not terribly hot here, so at least things aren't desperate. We've managed a lot in a short time, not the least being our defenses. Haven is amazing, but the sheer area it sits on made defense an enormous pain in the ass. At least here we can see through our walls, which are also higher than the average wall in Haven. Harder to climb, too. Creative people can do much with endless fields of abandoned farm equipment and supplies and the stores that used to provide them. 

Our compound is small by most standards, but we've fenced it into a geometric shape that's just below two hundred yards long and about fifty wide. Easy to farm, easy to defend, and given its straight walls, easy to expand. It encompasses the house, barn, and the old farmhand houses with enough ground to let us do all the things we need to survive with space left over. 

Jess wants to do some vertical farming to maximize production, K wants to section off an area for more solar panels if we can get them, more turbines in addition to the one we're building. Everyone, it seems, has some plan or idea they want to make into a thing that will help us. I suppose I should be trying to manage it all, that being my experience and job since The Fall, but I find myself less worried than I'd have expected. The arguments between people here are good-natured, even joking, and it's clear we all have the group's best interest at heart. For once I'm going to let other people worry about who gets to do what. 

People are just funny that way. We're not even done dealing with our other issues, and everyone clamors for time, help, and resources to make their own ideas into reality. They're excited and eager, bless them, so I can hardly be upset. Maybe I really am worrying overmuch. Maybe all these troubles--elsewhere if not here as much--are things I should let go of. They are nothing I can change, and a burden I no longer need to bear. Is it cold or terrible to stop worrying about things I can't fix? I don't know. 

I just know I'd rather live in the here and now, and stop the lurching in my heart every time someone I know is in danger. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lazy Saturday

This post is by Beckley and glory be, the funk’s on me.

Haven continues to be under attack from the zombie hoards.  Despite that, everyone is pretty calm here.  I remember when hearing the moaning of the undead would make me hide in a closet for days at a time (What can I say?  The Fall had literally just happened.)  Now people just go about their daily business while moaning and growling is going on right outside the walls.

I cannot get over how efficient Haven’s zombie beaters are.  Calling them beaters just doesn’t seem right.  These guys move with precision, every twitch perfectly choreographed.  It’s freaking ballet.  They’re like the Elven army from Lord of the Rings.  I can’t help but compare it to how I’ve handled zombies in the past.  In the UAS, it was the Monty Python approach (Run away!  Run away!)  In Pittsburgh, we lured the zombies down the wall (which was easy since this was the glory days of the early Fall, before smarties or New Breed) then came out of the gates with makeshift armor and bats.  If the Haven beaters are out of Lord of the Rings, my compatriots and I were right out of Office Space.  I can still feel the adrenaline in the back of my throat whenever I see the beaters take on the hoard.  I might not be wearing football pads and swinging my bat, waiting for the gate to open and the carnage to begin, but it still feels like I am sometimes.  Haven’s protectors might be more professional than I ever could have dreamed of being, but I know they feel that too.

Other than the attacks and zombie re-killing, things are mostly quiet here.  I don’t want to come out and say that my job as UAS liaison has been easy because that would be tempting the universe to jinx me.  I’m not normally superstitious, but working in mental health you learn that the universe is weird like that.  For example, the moment you invoke the name of a trouble patient, they will suddenly present.  It sounds ridiculous, but it happens.  Likewise, I’ve worked on psych wards the day after a full moon and it is consistently hellish.  Call it coincidence, call it a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Still, it happens.  So I won’t say that my job as UAS liaison has been easy.  But I totally could.

Really, people are behaving themselves.  There are some tensions.  The UAS all tend to live in the same area of Haven, which is good in that it puts them near people who accept them and know them.  But it’s bad because it could be seen as segregation.  Still, there’s not much difficulty outside of the usual disorderly conduct.  There’s the one Havenite who gets drunk every so often and screams about killing the UAS.  You know the guy.  You’ve probably told him to shut up once or twice.  And some of the UAS seem to get off on being belligerent.  But that’s all to be expected and I suspect that it’s more an individual issue.  I’d bet money that those trouble UAS guys were always this belligerent.  And we all know that Jeremy would get drunk and scream in the middle of the night long before the UAS immigration.  No amount of punishments from the Powers That Be will change that.  Unless they find his alcohol supplier, that is.

I feel like I’m rambling, but there’s really not that much else to talk about.  Besides, rambling is kind of my thing.  Josh will tell you what’s up and occasionally waxes philosophic.  When Kincaid posts, you’re about to get reamed.  We all have our thing.  Hopefully my rambles are a cut above.  If not, Josh will no doubt post soon, same bat channel.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sunny Day

This post is brought to you by the letter Beckley.

So Josh and his wife have left Haven, as you know.  The sun is shining, life is pretty decent, and yet I’ve been in kind of a funk since then.  You know the feeling you get when you move to a new area?  It’s exciting, but you just feel down and lost.  Maybe it’s just me who gets like that.  Regardless, that’s where I’m at today.

And don’t get me wrong, Haven itself hasn’t actually changed.  It’s just that Josh and his wife were the first two people to accept me when I defected from the UAS.  Others did as well like Will Price and the hamburger couple (I’ve really got to learn their names, but they refuse to tell me.  They just keep telling me my food is getting cold.)  I guess it’s that Josh is the voice of Haven and now he’s no longer here.  It’s weird and even though Haven hasn’t changed, it’s like it has.  I feel like I’ve moved yet again.

I moved a lot when I was younger and my time post-Fall has been spent as a transient.  I did spend a little time in a survivor camp in Pittsburgh, but I was going through a lot while I was there.  The reality of The Fall had hit me and I’d had to do things that I normally would have never done.  I think we can all remember that time when we first did something that, in The World That Was, would have been unthinkable but in The World That Is, becomes necessary for survival.  I was going through a ton of survivor’s guilt, shame, and so on.  So even when I was at that camp, I was pretty standoffish.  I just did what they needed me to do.  A little light therapy and a lot of zombie hoard head-smashing.  It took a while for me to get used to the idea of belonging somewhere.  That’s about when the marauders rolled through and butchered everyone and those of us lucky enough to escape scattered.  There are not words for how much I hate marauders.

I think I mentioned way back in my first post how I just wandered after that and eventually found the UAS and bought right in to the lie that The World That Was and The World That Is could be reconciled.  I really tried to belong there, but it never seemed right.  Part of the reason I originally spoke out in favor of the UAS was because I wanted so badly to feel like I belonged.  Really, Haven is the first time I’ve actually let down my guard and allowed myself to settle somewhere.  I’ve never had that before, even Pre-Fall I was always expecting to have to move somewhere else eventually.  Now I’m here and life shakes itself up.  Kind of.

Not that I’m mad at Josh or disappointed or anything.  It’s just weird to be reminded of what I always knew before.  Everyone moves on.  Some move, some die, but we’re all transient to a degree.  And I don’t mean that in a nihilistic way.  It’s just realistic.  We all move forward in life.  Even when we try to stand still, inertia caries us inexorably forward.  Things change and we all adapt.  Josh has his new home and we all have to get used to our home again, this time without the man we assumed would always be there.  How, in this world of death and the ruins of an extinct society, did we get the idea that we were all here permanently and would never go away?  We’re like kids once again, who can’t comprehend the permanence of death.  Like Big Bird insisting that he would see Mr. Hooper tomorrow.  You’d think we’d have learned that lesson.  Yet a guy leaving to make a new life for himself still strikes us as strange.

Humanity is really weird sometimes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Left Behind

I said yesterday I'd been in touch with Haven and had word about the goings-on there. In general terms I'll say the place is doing well; a few more zombie incursions, one patrol in a firefight with more renegade UAS, but overall they're doing fine. That's about all I want to say about it.

Which is the rule from here on out.

I'm not categorically saying I won't talk about Haven or the rest of the Union, even the country in general. I may do that. I'm just saying you won't be getting regular updates from me about any of it. If something important happens and Beckley doesn't mention it, I might chime in.

The bottom line is that I'm out of the game. I've spent years giving you all the details on the ground, chronicling the vast changes in my own life and the lives of many other survivors. I've done everything I can to share tips and stories to help anyone and everyone, most of it couched in my position within Haven. Thing is, I'm not there any longer, and I have no desire to constantly reopen that wound by reporting second or third-hand details about a place I no longer live in.

Nor do I intend to keep much of a running commentary about our new home. Everything we're doing here--well, almost everything--has been done before. Mentioned and explained in great detail. If you're reading this then you've almost definitely done it yourself. My life isn't that interesting and to be honest I'm sort of looking forward to a bit of privacy. I still intend to write the occasional blog post here, though if I put up more than two a week I'd be shocked. I imagine I'll still do at least one a week, but the day will vary. Partly because I foresee people asking about how we're doing, part due to K's work, which may have some interesting and beneficial results, and part due to sheer boredom.

But after this month, during which I'll be winding down my posts, don't expect the sort of detailed reports you've been getting for the last three and a half years. Beckley will be posting occasionally along with me, but I want to stretch out as a writer somewhat. Maybe I'll start a book about my experiences from here on out. It would be fun to write something that isn't this blog, though I'm thankful for all the friends I've made because of it and all the people we've been able to help with it.

A memoir isn't really an option. After all, what have you been reading all this time if this isn't one? I think a book might be just the thing for me. We'll see.

Aside from the fact that I sort of feel like the move out here brings me full circle, thus making this month a good end to writing this blog as often as I have, I also worry about the future. We're safe out here, safe as we can make ourselves, but the sad fact remains we're much more at risk here than in Haven or any of the larger communities. Holding off a large force of living people would likely prove impossible. I choose to end the (almost) daily posts for all the reasons above, but also because right now we're as safe as we're going to be out on this plain. Time will only increase the chance some enemy or another will find us and end us all.

I'd much rather end this period of the blog and the frequent updates which define it while I can still do so by choice. I'd much rather force a break and a massive slowdown in my output here than keep on as I have, boring you with the same old stuff until the day comes when the posts just stop because I've been killed. Maybe I'd have bored you so much by then you wouldn't mind. Who knows?

With the exception of K's work, nothing happening here will be news to you. We'll farm and fight and live our lives in the sun and dark as we've always done. K will tinker with projects I don't fully understand and therefore can't much comment on, and maybe he'll come up with something to make our lot in life easier. Maybe not. But he's a smart guy and he should have every chance to try.

That goes for me as well. Though it isn't the main reason or even a majority, a sliver of why I want to drastically reduce my contribution to this blog is so I can be like everyone else. How much time have I spent typing while others worked? Sitting in my house while others fought? Treated alternately as a little bit of a hero when others risked far more, planned better, had more brilliant ideas? For a while, at least, I want to go about my life as someone without a hint of notoriety. People really took this blog and ran with it. I'm all for folks having a beacon of light to gather around, but I was never comfortable being the bulb.

Now I'll have the chance to just live. For once, and finally, just to go out and live.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Perch

I'm not allowed to go out and fight hand to hand yet. We've got no real doctors here, though several of us have a lot of medical training, so it's not an order handed down from a physician. It comes from my wife, and since I'd like to have sex again pretty much ever, I'm doing as she says.

My healing is nearly done, actually, but Jess wants me to keep totally out of combat until I'm finished. That could take a while. She's not against me firing a gun, though, so I've taken to sitting on the perch outside our bedroom window and picking off zombies.

Our house is still undergoing many of the modifications we have planned, but one of the first was to copy the changes Jess and I made to our old house. Wow. Just writing that brought back a flood of memories. Anyway, one of the first things we did after armoring the hell out of our house was cut a hole in the roof for escape access. Which became an easy way to get to the shooting/lookout platform we built there. Our new house actually has a balcony with double doors, but we've added other platforms all around to give us full coverage.

K has been working with me all day. Rather than shoot through the fence, which could damage sections of it, he goes up to a section and throws an ammonia bomb at it. The smell pushes the undead back far enough I'm able to fire at them over the top of the fence. I get to pick my shots, and thanks to the ludicrous amount of gear we took from the renegade UAS Jess and K took out, we're very good on ammo.

Aside from writing, this is pretty much all I can do. No one is desperate enough to let me try to cook, there's not much to clean, and Jess says farming is too rough on my wounds even though they're mostly closed. So i sit up here and shoot dead people--a vital safety measure for our people--and sip on tea. I hate tea, usually, and you'd think this hatred would fuel my annihilation of the zombies around us. But this is sweet tea with raspberry made by my wife, and it is worth killing for. How Jess found raspberry anything I have no idea. Maybe there are some growing nearby.

I'm about to go crazy. Not because I feel a little like a belltower shooter from some hackneyed story, though I do a little bit. Not because I'm bored, though I am at times. I can't shake the feeling that people I've known for years are going to drop by the house to talk to me. Just show up because they can, as they've done for as long as I've been writing this blog (with some notable exceptions due to journeys/occupations by enemy forces).

The weird thing is, I don't long for that. Oh, sure, I miss everyone. I want to see them, have the chance to chat at will, but it isn't killing me not to. It's an annoyance, really. No, my problem is sort of like the weird vibrating sensation in your hands after half an hour holding a weed trimmer. You get used to it, then when you cut the engine your nerves mimic the sensation because they're adapted to the chance. That's kind of what's going on here, and it's very jarring to feel like people could come around the corner any second--regardless of the flat and empty land around us--while looking down the iron sights of an assault rifle. Worse is the constant need to remind myself that isn't going to happen. It's like mental jet lag, I suppose.

I've been in touch with Haven, but that's something I want to save for tomorrow. I have things I need to say about it that deserve a post of their own.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Home Again (Again)

We made it to the new settlement, finally. I'm blown away by how much work everyone has already done here, as most of the hardest elements are already finished or in the final stages. Food is planted and growing, both in the ground and in makeshift greenhouses. The central house itself is enormous. It's an old farm house with a lot of modern updates. Six actual bedrooms and a host of other rooms converted for the purpose.

Whoever built the place back in the day must have been prosperous over the years. There are small cabins dotting the property close to the main house. A family of three can live in each of them, cramped but not falling over each other. Jess tells me they were used to house farm hands in the world that was. And we're not putting them to much different use, to be frank; about half the people here will be working with Jess to manage our basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and materials.

Not that water or materials will be a problem. While I won't say where we are, I can mention that the area in general was very sparsely populated before The Fall. Most of our surroundings are former farmland, so while we don't have the ability to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, we have access to all the farm supply places within a hundred miles. There's no one here to claim any of it. Most of the people here have been working for the last few weeks to do just that, gathering fencing and other heavy supplies for our needs.

We've got a well with a manual pump and a cistern built to hold thousands of gallons of water. Add that to our own water capture and retention methods, even now being put in place, and it's a recipe for success. The hunting close to the house is shitty, unfortunately, requiring longer-range hunting parties than I'd like, but since we're feeding a lot less mouths it's more than worth the effort.

Our barn is reinforced to withstand hell itself. People are putting together other shelters to house everyone more comfortably. It's amazing what folks come up with when presented with a variety of materials never meant for this kind of construction.

While we're a little jammed together for the moment, it won't be long until everyone who wants a private space has one. K has the basement--the entire basement, which is huge--by mutual agreement. He shares it with a few people he came to Haven with. He has a particular set of skills that we're happy to let him use, but they require concentration and space to work. No one is complaining.

Jess and I have our very own bedroom. I tried to argue against that since it seemed unfair to everyone else who has to suffer through sleeping stacked like cords of wood, but their arguments won out. I am still recovering from my wounds, and within a week or two everyone will have some kind of place of their own even if it's just a hollowed-out school bus. Of which there are many, there being a bus graveyard about three miles from here. Lots of options for housing when I think about it.

The solar panels are already installed. Once we hook up the battery banks (K knows how to make new batteries, and while they might be inefficient compared to old ones, cost is no longer an issue, so he is making them BIG) and salvage more materials to build wind turbines, we'll have reliable power. Enough to hook our cell transmitter to rather than burn gas to run the thing.

One problem we didn't think we'd have to deal with is zombies, and that's kind of funny when you think about it. This area, as I've said many times, seemed ideal to us because of the low population. We knew we'd leave a trail for the undead to follow. It's a long way from anything. Some of them are bound to lose their path on the way here. Others will be distracted by more appetizing smells. But while we expected them to come, we had no idea it would be in numbers anything like what we're dealing with right now.

There are about a hundred outside our fences. At the moment that's not a disastrous figure to cope with. Our fences aren't just chain-link, after all. They're reinforced five times over with everything we could think of. A miniature version of the buffer from Haven is in place, much simpler and less effective, but good enough for our needs at the moment. More than anything they're an annoyance. If they managed to bear down on a single spot on the fence I'd be worried they'd have a chance of getting through. We've got people out there drawing them off and thinning the herd, nearly constantly. It's a smart but dangerous way to manage zombies, armored and using hit-and-run tactics. Given the higher than expected numbers, it's an unpleasant reality to deal with, but that's life.

As with any move to a new place there are a billion little details I could get into here, but those are the basics. We're healthy and safe, ready for the rest of our migrants to join us. There's a storm rolling in, clouds like pieces of night carrying the rumblings of an angry god. If that seems like it has two meanings, don't fret too long over it. Of course it does. Not because of anything specific, just the world we live in.

I'm okay with that. We'll survive and thrive. It's what we do. No mater the circumstances, no matter how hard or dark the road ahead becomes, we'll carry on and make our lives a little brighter every day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Victory and Spoils

The rogue UAS chasing us tried to run there at the end. It did them no good.

K and Jess took the last four of them this morning. It wasn't much of a fight; the last little handful of them camped out a final night, probably deciding whether we were worth dying for. That was their downfall. Some men learn lessons the hardest way possible while others never learn them at all. Had those UAS deserters just gone on their way and left us, they'd still be alive. Mercy isn't beyond most of us, especially not the three survivors in our vehicles, but taking stupid risks is something none of us are inclined toward.

It wasn't even that hard. Those men weren't without skill or determination. They did manage to follow us for a long stretch without being seen. We might have missed them for much longer had one of them held his twitchy trigger finger. They probably even had some good combat ability, but the critical factor against them seems to have been their lack of experience fighting a different kind of war. From their perspective this was a fight against men (and women) and nothing more. The rest of us have battled a war against the world itself for years.

That sounds dramatic and I suppose it is, but it also happens to be the truth. The dead soldiers lit a fire rather than cold camp, which given the time of year was a curious and stupid idea. It ruined their night vision and made them easy to track. They were armed and armored. If we'd have faced them head on there is no doubt in my mind the three of us would be dead ten times over. It seemed as though they expected us to do that. No. No, thank you. Why come at an enemy with every advantage over you head on? I'd much rather move sideways and catch them off guard.

K did that. He and Jess took those last four down almost as an afterthought. The result of our victory is a new vehicle loaded with extra fuel, being driven by K, and all the weapons, armor, ammo and other gear those dead men carried. It's a nice chunk of material which will be spread among the folks joining our community. I expect we'll be the best-prepared small community within a thousand miles. Strange to think of it that way, you know? The end of the world wasn't even a handful of years back and folks are already moving out and homesteading new areas.

Now we're nearly home, only stopping about an hour away to make absolutely certain there are no living people keeping an eye on us. That the dead will follow is a foregone conclusion, we already know that's going to happen if it hasn't already. We can't risk knowledge of our location being spread around. Even our friends and allies don't know where our new compound is located. No one who doesn't live there knows. We'll be doing all our trade by sending out people. It's going to be expensive since the small quantities of gasoline being refined will eat up a large chunk of what we trade for, but it's necessary.

We're shooting to do something better here, something big and unique. I can't give details, but I hope to see results not long from now, even if those results are just a better formula for survivor communities, a design and method to be repeated elsewhere. That's not all we've got planned, not by miles, but as a minimum accomplishment I'd be happy with that as a result.

I see Jess coming back from her recon. I imagine that means we're clear to move. In an hour or so I'll be at my new home, hopefully the last new home I'll ever have, and we can begin working on ways to make this a better world. It's something I'd have loved to do ages ago. Without the pressure and business of being out there in the thick of the new world's growing pains, I think we have a shot at making it happen this time around.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I suppose the best way to start is at the beginning. That's usually the way it goes, anyway.

After my post a few days ago we'd stopped for another swarm of zombies. For the most part Jess and K fight off and kill the smaller herds of them. Less than a dozen and it's easy enough for the two of them to clear them out and use the resulting bodies to protect our vehicle. That's an idea we've used often enough; covering things in zombie gore to keep them away from us. With people it sometimes serves to trick old school zombies into thinking we're one of them. Doesn't work as well with New Breed, but even on a vehicle it confuses them long enough they don't congregate around us quickly, letting us pass through groups we run into down the road.

This wasn't one of those times. Bad luck had us run into an unusually dense swarm on the road, one packed with New Breed. We hunkered down and were preparing to drop ammonia bombs to clear the swarm when a bullet pinged against the bed of our truck. Lucky it's reinforced or it might have hit our spare fuel reserves.

Jess sighted through her rifle scope even as K forced the engine to life and plowed recklessly through the horde. It was a dangerous move, one that could have left our truck and trailer damaged beyond usability, but also a necessary one. We lucked out and got away, Jess shouting her observations. She didn't bother shooting since she would have had to fire not only inside the cab but through a window. From everything she saw in her brief look at the enemy, they must be rogue UAS. They had the equipment, the armor, and the weapons.

Chances are they've been watching and following since we left Haven. They can't be totally without skills since they managed to follow us unobserved for any length of time. Jess reckons that gunshot was an accident--looking through her scope, she saw a man running and yelling at the rifleman fleeing his position. Maybe his finger slipped, maybe he thought he'd be a big man and take a shot. Who knows? I'd have to guess they were going to follow us all the way to our new place. That single bullet ruined that chance.

K and Jess have been slowly picking them off. Oh, we'll get a distance away and hide so we can rest. But each morning we start again, placing ourselves in a spot just visible enough they catch a glimpse. Jess positions herself with her rifle and kills one or two of them. Next time, K sneaks into their camp--impressive given he's six and a half feet tall and built fairly heavy--and kills or captures one of them. Our estimate put their original number around twenty. Now they're at half that.

We think they're losing their nerve. We know they don't have any way to read this or to communicate with the outside world. K did a nice recon of their camp last night. They're cut off.

It won't be long before we're able to head back home. It's a close call as far as fuel goes, though we're still within our margin for surprises like this. So far I've been as useful as any other piece of luggage, but neither of my companions have said a bad word about it. Jess seems more worried than annoyed. K is...well, the guy is kind of scary out here. Scary in a way totally beneficial to us, but frightening all the same. Seeing him back in Haven was different. Sure, he fought, and did it very well. Probably better than most people, but there are no shortage of good fighters. That doesn't make him stand out much. Out here he's a different man. More reserved, if that's even possible. More controlled in his every movement and action.

More deadly by a wide margin. He doesn't flinch or show remorse, and only the glint of anger in his eyes gives away what's going on behind them at all. He never hesitates even if he never seems exactly eager to go out into the night. It's unnerving to hear the giant man calmly and quietly explain precisely how he's going to murder people. Like he's talking about the weather or the best way to cook a steak.

For the moment we're all here and not moving. The local swarm surrounds us, zombies wandering the area in large packs. We're tucked away, invisible from farther than a dozen yards, and ironically protected by the undead around us. The morning will see that change and hopefully bring an end to this cat-and-mouse. As much as I miss Haven and all the people I left behind, I hope to see our new home soon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Midnight Hour

What a long, insane week. We're still on the road. I'm only going to be able to post this because Jess found us a nicely deserted safe spot to camp. I don't have much juice left on my computer, so I'll save the details for tomorrow.

Basically, we got skunked. Ran into some trouble not an hour after I posted my last update. We had to make a run for it, and we ended up more than a hundred miles southeast of where we were when I wrote that post. That's a hefty amount of backtracking, especially since we ran in a direction totally unknown to any of us. The area is swarming with zombies as they move along the roads in a constant stream.

I can't say where we are. It's for our own safety, you understand. Right now we're free of the undead and the pursuers who chased us from an ambush. We're okay. I know some of you have been worried since I didn't manage to let anyone know what happened. The folks waiting for us at our new place still have no idea as this cell transmitter is the one our new little community is going to use.

Hopefully we'll be in a better position in the morning and I can give you the long rundown of what happened. For now, keep your thoughts and prayers pointed our way. If K is right, we're not totally safe yet. They could come back, and I'm still in no shape to fight hand-to-hand if it comes to that. I have no doubt K and my wife have been running solely for my benefit. Otherwise I fully believe they'd have taken the risk and fought. As it is, we're running low on fuel and potable water. Food, not so much. We're loaded up on that. But things are going to get desperate if we don't shake the people following us soon.

If we run out of gas, the situation will become impossible. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bump and Roll

Thank goodness--or actually, thank Will Price--for giving us one of the cell transmitters. Otherwise I'd be screwed when wanting to communicate with anyone from here on out.

Haven is behind me. There are still a few people there who will follow later, but we're now halfway to our new place. It's weird, being taken from there like this. I know it's necessary. Just feels strange to be in the middle of so many little things, much as I've always been, and then to just walk away. I did manage to say a final few goodbyes. I saw Will and Becky at the gates, my siblings last night. I'm sure there are others I forgot about in the crunch to get ready. I'm sorry for that.

I found myself in our trusty old camper while Jess and K drove us away from Frankfort and into the unknown. The truck and trailer that carried a small group of us around the country in an effort to garner some kind of community spirit is the vessel transporting me into a new life. It's bizarre and sad and I can't say it doesn't hurt. It does. It's a little like someone dying, if I'm being honest about it. That sense of utter disbelief, like you're going to wake up and discover the impossible situation you're in was all just a fevered nightmare.

Two hours into our trip this morning we had to kill a small band of zombies. So yeah, it's all too real.

I say 'we' did that, but I just sat here and listened as Jess and K did all the work. My dogs helped a little. They've certainly got enough practice at it. It was just me, the ferrets, and my cats all huddled up in this hot little trailer together, waiting for the fight to be over. K and my wife both wore their armor. The outcome of the battle was never in question, at least not for me. But it did leave me time to think and dwell on this change.

A thousand little threads were left dangling. I didn't get a chance to speak to Beckley again before I left. I know he's taking up my mantle a little bit, trying to keep some form of the blog going. He'll be posting on here more often, a new and  different voice from Haven. I know intellectually that I'll be able to talk to people regularly, that the only real difference is not being able to see them at will.

But as we bump and roll down the road and I write this, waiting for a chance to stop to crank up the transmitter to post it, I can't help worrying at all those hanging threads. So many people I know or love are out of my easy reach now. The bits and pieces, the daily goings-on, the struggles and the victories, all beyond me. I feel torn away from my life.

Yeah, I'm being a whiny asshole about it. My prerogative.

I can see the horizon, though. Behind the sharp sadness and regret is a sense of wonder I've long missed. A hope for the future that doesn't involve me being a minor celebrity where I live. A mysterious new journey ahead where anything at all is possible, freed from the binding past.

I'm not there yet, but I can see the path forward.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Here And Now

I don't know what my posting schedule is going to look like for the next week. To be honest there might not be much. Jess and K came back from their trip to our new home this morning. The original plan was to leave a handful of people there to guard the place and have the rest of us move out as soon as I was able. Instead, just the two of them returned.

A small swarm hit the place while they were up there preparing. Not anything our folks couldn't handle, but even a handful of zombies in that area is a bad sign. A major reason we picked that spot was its lack of population--it's mostly empty of human beings, dead or alive. Jess reckons a wandering swarm must have picked up their scent on the way in last week and followed it to our new place.

The fair weather over the last few weeks isn't helping things out. The lulls between swarms are slowly dwindling. We're in the worst part of storm season. And worst of all, beyond the destructive power of mother nature and the increasing movements of the living dead, is the news Jess and K brought back with them.

Many UAS, unhappy with the state of the war (or more accurately, the lack of it) have splintered off from the larger nation they supported. The central UAS leadership stands with the local units like the one integrating here; they want peace. The majority of them are trying to work with us. But the faction of their people leaving with anger in their hearts for both sides? Not a small number. Even ten percent is a potentially disastrous number of people to have out there, free and roaming, ready to attack at will.

Which is why Jess and K came back. One of those small splinter groups--thankfully a very small one--managed to find their way to our new home. They weren't soldiers, not really, just men who thought they were. Our people waited until it became clear violence was about to happen. Then, as all survivors must, they took care of the problem.

Without knowing how many UAS are out there, split from the community they knew and ready to fight about it, we can't risk waiting much longer. We're leaving as soon as possible, maybe even today if I can be ready that fast. K and Jess want to get ahead of anyone watching for us.

These splinter groups might be filling the void left by the amnesty. Marauder numbers never did bounce back after we gave them a choice. They still exist, but certainly not in force enough to threaten entire communities. I worry these UAS splinter groups are going to change that. It scares me not only because the bad old days where marauders were one of two huge primary concerns as far as survival goes might be here again, but also due to how well armed these people are. Granted, most marauders have to attack our fuel shipments to get anything done. Most of the gas from the old world is long since uselessly inert. These splinters will have the same problem eventually, but from what I understand, many of them are quite well provisioned for the time being.

Better armed and armored, and angry as hell. If these are the new marauders, it doesn't bode well for any of us.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When You're a Stranger

This is Beckley

So a guy died last night.  I don’t know what his real name was, but he went by Grady.  We’re still not sure how it happened exactly.  He was a Havenite and he was found, outside, at the base of the wall, ravaged by the dead.  The dead really are starving because the few out there picked him clean to the point where very little was left.

Some people are blaming someone from the UAS.  Honestly, there’s no reason to think that anything happened outside of this guy falling off the wall.  He was due to have a shift pretty late at night and he could have had a heart attack, an aneurysm, been clumsy, or just been drunk.  Stuff like this happens, unfortunately, but now it could be a spark that will light off the tensions here.  We just have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What bugs me is that, even as we’re rebuilding society, we didn’t really know this guy.  Even those that did know him personally didn’t know him well.  The only agreement is that no one thinks his name was actually Grady.  One of his friends swears that Grady came during the amnesty agreement for marauders.  Another informed me in no uncertain terms that “Grady weren’t one of them gods damned killers.”  So I really don’t know.  It just seems so wrong that in a time where there’s not many of our species left, we still don’t know each other that well.  I guess that makes sense, and maybe this whole apocalypse has fostered a sense of unrealistic solidarity.  We feel like we stand together, but do we really, on a personal level?  A lot of us are still loners, either because we’re running from something or because we don’t want to let people too close, in case they die just like everyone else did.  I’m guilty of doing both as are most people I’ve met.

One thing I do know is that my tolerance for the destruction of this world has gone down.  I honestly felt sick looking at Grady’s body, after it had been found and the dead cleared back.  It took me by surprise.  How many times have I seen mutilated bodies?  I can’t even count.  Hell, I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen someone get killed or eaten directly in front of me.  And yet I’m not permanently numb.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Then again, I don’t think I was ever completely numb.  I’ve said before that I really didn’t handle the early days of The Fall well, but even more recently, all I do is try to keep the pain at bay.  I isolate like a lot of people do.  I also make jokes, that are probably only entertaining to me.  I try to remind myself of simpler times.  Looking back at things I say to people, or even past blog entries, it’s like I have a constant need to crack a joke, to make life not quite that serious.  Or to make a 90’s reference because when I say that zombies are wiggity, wiggity, wiggity wack, it lets me think, for a minute, that I’m a kid again with no responsibilities and without this world of death.  I don’t know.  I guess it’s kept me relatively sane.

Anyway, that’s really all I got.  Again, I can’t stress enough that there’s no reason to suspect foul play with Grady.  Honestly, I think the only reason that this isn’t being accepted as an accident, no questions asked, is because people are still a bit edgy regarding the UAS moving in.  So let’s all keep cool.  And as we deal with this newest death, we’d probably be well served to try to deal with some of the past death too.  Rebuilding humanity is good, but it will be better if we’re not all broken beyond repair.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Come Together

This is Beckley and this is ten!  Ten wonderful Beckley posts!  AH-HA-HAAAA!

I am exhausted.  There’s still a ton of work to do around Haven and on top of all that, I’ve had to visit with the new citizens from the UAS.  There were a couple small brush fires to put out too.  Normally, the policing force here would deal with the fights and arguments, but since I’m to be the new UAS liaison, they figured I should get my feet wet.  Plus the Council is busy with the post-war effort and everyone wants to keep working on keeping Haven secure.

So I’ve been visiting with the new settlers, talking about what they can expect here, what they need, that kind of thing.  Josh has talked about how the citizens of the UAS were fed misinformation, but it really is incredible to see their prejudices melt away.  These people were told all number of things, that the Union attacked first, that we kidnapped their people.  They were told that we were using children as shields at our weapons depots and staging grounds.  I think that’s how the UAS government justified their actions when news leaked out that they were gassing and poisoning entire settlements, including children.

I’ve found that a good number of the UAS citizens didn’t join us because they recognized all the lies, but rather because they were beaten and just wanted to survive.  For some, surrender was out of desperation and they thought it was likely they’d just be executed, but at least they had a chance to live.  Now they’re seeing how things really are and they’ve gone from being broken and believing they betrayed their friends in the UAS, to actually accepting their new home and realizing that the Union was not to blame for the war.

A number of Haven citizens are accepting of their new UAS neighbors.  A bit cautiously, perhaps.  But that makes sense.  The problem is that this war, while devastating, was not something that the Union needed to stop right away.  We could have kept going.  We didn’t look to the peace out of desperation, so a substantial minority of residents here don’t feel motivated to really accept anyone.  And that minority is vocal, let me tell you.  So I’m doing what I can to keep the peace.  There have been a smattering of fist fights and one or two beatings.  A small amount of food went missing, which happens from time to time, but now that gets blamed right on our new neighbors.  Which it may have been, since a number are still used to starving every day.

I’ve tried to organize some common projects that can integrate the Haven and UAS folks.  Josh mentioned how training together helps.  So does old-fashioned work.  One of the areas that has a high concentration of UAS was vandalized, so I got a group of Havenites and UASers together and we all washed and sanded the graffiti out.  Not sure what the vandal used for graffiti, now that I think about it, but I guess that’s not important.  What is important is that having our people help clean not only fosters cooperation, but it shows the UAS that we take responsibility for the actions of our more hateful people, and also forces us to confront our own prejudice.  Over all, I think that projects like that have helped the two sides come together.  Nothing can connect people quite like taking a lunch break after spending hours in the blistering sun washing UAS GO HOM off the side of a building.  Oh, that wasn’t a typo, by the way.  The vandal, whoever they were, can’t spell.

Over all, getting people to see reason isn’t that hard.  You just have to come at it the right way.  I find it’s best to come at these issues like you’re consoling someone through grief.  Seeing the UAS here is hard when the cost of this war is still so fresh.  But we have to deal with our losses, the same way we did when The Fall first occurred.  The way we did when marauders were granted amnesty.  It was hard at first, but those of us who are functional were able to do it.  Those who didn’t are still stuck, brooding and fuming over the injustice of it all.  Well, in the grand scheme of things, allowing a group of people who are starving and misinformed into our fold is probably the most just thing that’s happened since The Fall.  So let’s all just take a step back and relax.  And if you must spew hate, please at least be grammatically correct.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Last Supper

With all the continuing work here, it's hard to get a decent amount of quality time with family. My sister and her kids, who've been in Haven since North Jackson was hit during the war, have been virtual strangers. Or I should say, we've been strangers. Even before I was injured I didn't take the time to visit her as much as I should.

The same goes for my brother. We see each other often but it's usually related to work. Been a long while since we were able to sit down to a meal or have drinks and just bullshit. His wife and kids stay busy as well. Been ages since I've seen them.

Though I don't know the timeline, I'll be leaving soon. Because they're awesome human beings, my friends and family have worked out their schedules to give us one last night together as a group. As I write this there are people cooking out on my deck, others setting up my kitchen table for a buffet. My house teems with people I love and respect, and in short order I'll be out there with them.

Given the amount of work ahead for Haven, this is almost definitely the last time we'll be together as a group. It's a minor miracle they managed it, to be frank. Everyone rushes to make this place whole and strong, to prepare it for the day-to-day struggles we know will come. I'm humbled and overjoyed. I know it isn't just about me; most of these folks are friends or family in their own right. We're a group, after all. But they're making today happen so I won't have the regret trailing behind me as we move to our new home, the sadness of not having one last hurrah.

The fun is supposed to begin at five, which is in three minutes. I'd love to sit and write something longer, something more descriptive of the world around me and the dangers we face, but after so many years, well...

I think you get the message.

So instead of jotting down my random thoughts, I'm going to post this and close the laptop. For a while I'm going to eat good food, drink good drinks, and spend my time with good people as we toast absent friends and bright tomorrows.