Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Hard Goodbye (Part Five)

Here we are. I would say we've reached the end together, but that wouldn't be accurate, now would it? Better said is that we've reached a new beginning. Over the last three and a half years I've said so much. It's hard, now that I'm faced with the closing of this chapter, to find the right words for a goodbye.

I've been thinking a lot about goodbyes lately. When I was shot, there was a short time when I was clinically dead. I woke back up after the surgeries and medications completely unaware at first that I'd been a corpse for a little while. I didn't feel different. I had no recollection of a bright light beckoning me to the great beyond. All I remember is the pain of the injuries, the chaos as I was taken to be cared for, then waking up. Jess was there, standing over me. K was as well.

Not only could I have died for good, but I actually did die for a little while. That makes you aware of your mortality in ways new and frightening. In the world we live in, it also makes you wonder at how the rules work. What everything we've learned about the plague and the dead really means. Sounds vague and cryptic, I know. So let me give you a hypothetical.

We know the plague evolves and changes. It has done so many times since all of this began. We give it negative values for practical and entirely understandable reasons. The reanimated crave flesh and blood, operate almost solely on the urge to sate their hunger.

You all know I've done research into this disease. What I've never shared--couldn't share--is how deep that research goes. I won't give up sources and can't give you all the details, but I can give you that hypothetical.

What if the plague is, in its own way, trying to help us? People die and they rise again, no longer beholden to heart or brain function. The organism does the work for them, a reboot and backup system. When you look at it in those terms, it's not the godawful thing we see it as. Of course, the practical function of the organism means the reanimated--zombies--are a threat to us. Which is bad.

Further consider the evolutionary leaps the plague has undergone. Even from near the beginning, they were obvious. Adaptation to the cold, increased intelligence, the ability to secrete a substance to drive other undead away, even the New Breed mutation that created a stronger, faster, and smarter zombie. I have a theory. Just a theory, but I can't help but wonder if it isn't truth.

What if the smart zombies were initially born from survivors that managed to live longer than the rest of humanity? The organism copies body and brain function and adapts itself to perform tasks our own forms already manage. What if it does a better job the longer it stays attached to a host? Did the New Breed show up so long after the initial outbreak because the bodies carrying that version of the plague were alive for years after, allowing the plague to adapt and strengthen?

What would happen now, years after that huge evolutionary leap in the zombie population? Reanimation times have varied a lot over the years, but we've seen them slow down further and further, even had people come back within a few minutes.

Do you wonder what strange new thing would happen if a person died for a short time, just long enough to allow the organism to gain dominance in the bodily systems, but not enough time for his brain function to cease? Would he come back like people used to when their hearts were shocked, himself in every important way but with the plague active? Making him some sort of weird combination, a living zombie? Do you think it's possible? Do you wonder what the long-term implications of such an unlikely scenario would be?

I do. I wonder a lot.

There are no final words of wisdom to share, even such meager offerings as I have to give. If anything, I feel lessened by this parting. I learned much more from you than you did from me. That's the gospel. Over the last years, and especially the last week, I've said all the things I felt had to be said. You know how much I value each and every person out there, even enemies. We're all people, once lost and afraid, now strong and ready to continue to build the world we want to live in. It's going to be a strange place, different from anything any civilization has seen before. It'll have horrors and wonders in equal measure. I'm proud to be a part of that.

You've done well. You'll do well. Of that I have no doubt at all.

I have hope for you, and for all of us. I've seen the compassion and determination in every community. I've seen the willingness to risk much for ideals. I hope all of us can maintain the open minds and drive to understand. The strange new world we're laying the foundations for will have twists and turns to frighten and enrage. I hope for your continued excellence, and truly have no doubt about it. Those stumbling blocks I talk about are out there, and we'll all trip over them. It's natural and necessary. We learn that way.

Humanity took a beating, a worse one than any point since the dawn of civilization. We lived. We won out against impossible odds. We each crawled from the wreckage, separate and scared. Some stood before others, and in a display of the very best aspect of human nature, those who stood mostly helped up those who couldn't. We walked together for a long time.

And now, we run. So far and so fast that the world itself has to open up to our travels. There are some differences, some unknowns, that require more distance than others until true understanding can be reached. By and large, though, we're moving forward and spreading out in common cause. Not to remake what was, but to create something new.

That's part of why we moved out here. There were...other reasons, too, but to live on the forefront of that vital wave of dynamic growth and change is the most exciting thing I've ever experienced. To pioneer in a new world born from the ashes of the old is amazing and beautiful. Knowing you'll be out there doing the same makes it perfect. Even if my group loses the struggle, all of us here take great satisfaction in knowing the wave of change sweeping across our species won't stop here. Towns are being founded in new places by folks doing exactly what my people here have done. I see those communities as fresh seeds ready to grow into the first generation of the new world's cities.

It's a little like the potential of a child. Knowing the endless possibilities ahead, taking pride in the small role you played in nurturing it. It's joy, plain and simple. We've been through the meat grinder, been battered and even broken.

We've healed. We're here. The world is open for us, ready to give us a second chance. Out here on the plains is where I've chosen to take mine. A satisfied man needs only those things that fulfill him, and for me that's working the fields and studying everything and spending time with the good people I've come to love.

Though I plan to post things now and then as they come up, I guess this is it. My daily life will be mine again, though it will be strange not to share it with you and read your support. Time to lay down the pen (so to speak) and head to the field.

One last time and with every fiber of who I am, thank you. Thank you all.

And goodbye.

Joshua Guess,
September 1st, 2013
Somewhere in America

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