Friday, October 25, 2013

All Hallows' Eve

Hey, it’s Beckley.  I’ll try to keep the reminiscing to a minimum today.  I doubt anyone wants to hear me be all morose and emo.

It’s getting colder, but you probably already know that, it being October and all.  Some of the residents here plan on taking their kids out for trick or treat next week.  Not everyone wants to, though.  Celebrating holidays can be controversial at times.  Halloween, a holiday of gluttony, doesn’t have a place in some people’s hearts.  And of course, it was a holiday for kids and not a lot of children survived the fall.  So the 31st can be a rough day for those who suffered that particular loss.  And the kids don’t really get it, either.  Some of these kids were too young to trick or treat before The Fall hit, and now they don’t understand the point.  I remember hearing about the children of settlers and how they grew up early and were basically adults by the time they were in their tweens.  I think we’ve returned to that.  Kids today tend to be practical and all business.  Trick or treating is basically a treat for the very young ones and a comfort to some of the adults who still want a piece of the old world to hold on to.

And why not?  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a holiday, even if it has lost its meaning.  Hell, just look at Halloween before The Fall.  Who actually dressed up and thought, “I’m going out and scare away evil spirits with my kickass Ninja Turtle costume?”  What adults would look out at the horde of costumed children and think, “Ah, mummers!  And just in time for harvest!  I will now bend my taboos of privacy and safety by handing out treats to random strangers in honor of Samhain!”  No one.  No one has thought that in centuries.  But we kept celebrating Halloween because it was fun.  And because, regardless of our beliefs, flaunting taboos is still something that, culturally, we needed to get out.

Christmas is another example.  Though it held a religious connotation to many, to others Christmas was just a day of peace and love.  A day when you could be with your family and celebrate the fact that a morbidly obese time lord just broke into your house.  And now it’s just the same.  Holidays are a means for us to unwind.  There’s not much of an organized religious belief for the most part.  People are disillusioned and they don’t have time for it.

Although, I do find it interesting that religion has taken such a hit.  Yes, the world we live in today is harsh and people find it difficult to reconcile a loving god with what has happened.  Truth be told, though, that’s a very First World viewpoint.  Entire populations have been living in a hell worse than this for a very long time.  Entire countries have been ravaged by warlords, cartels, sociopathic dictators, secret police, genocides, cleansings, corruption, and so on since time began.  Yet religion has thrived even in those cultures.  You had people who would hold their religion even as they were threatened with mutilation and death.  Christianity itself grew and thrived even as the Romans attempted to stamp it out and butchered its followers.  And yet we in the First World renounce all faith, holidays, any belief at all, the moment we’ve been robbed of our Starbucks.  This hell we’ve been living is nothing new.  It’s just the scenery that is new, improved, and bitey.

So I promised no morose reminiscing and instead I’ve rambled.  Hooray?  Look, I don’t know what point I’m trying to make.  I don’t know what I believe anymore.  All I know is that I’ll be handing out candy to whatever kids come by next week.  I don’t think, just because the world has changed, that we need to let go of everything we ever had.  Some change is necessary in order to live.  But some change just alters us too much.  We’re still human.  We need something to celebrate.  Something to convince us that there is more to life than what we have now.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Hey, it’s Beckley.  My brain has finally quieted down for the most part.  I just had to find something to distract myself with.  In the early days of The Fall, I used alcohol.  Lots of alcohol.  I’ve said before that it’s a miracle I managed to survive this long.  One of the reasons is because I tended to be buzzed most of the time.  And I’d go out of my way to loot liquor stores even if it was important to keep moving.  Those bottles get heavy.  Well, I don’t really drink anymore.  Any strong stuff goes to the hospital.  The weak stuff is more valuable for trade, and at this point in my life I’d rather have a Snickers bar than a shot of Amaretto or whatever sticky sweet cordial I have that was of no use to the hospital.

The other distraction I had was killing the undead.  When I was at the Pittsburgh colony I would take an extra shift on beater duty whenever my brain started to get morose.  We were nowhere near as sophisticated as Haven is, although we did have rudimentary airlock doors at the gate.  About half a dozen of us would wait in that area between the inner gate and the outer gate and get pumped up while the guys on the walls would distract the undead.  This was fairly early on, so there were no New Breed.  There weren’t even any smarties, so the dead fell for the distractions every time.  Then the doors would open, and there was chaos.  Keep in mind that this was a losing battle.  There was no way we were going to clear out all the undead around the walls.  We were right in the city so the undead population was staggering.

Actually, I take that back.  It wasn’t as staggering as you'd think a city would be.  Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?  It’s not really a city.  It’s a bunch of little towns all joined together as a city-body.  There are bridges everywhere, but all the neighborhoods are very segregated from each other.  Pittsburghers, when they still lived, would just stay in their own neighborhood and they certainly would never travel over a bridge.  It was a very provincial town.  So even though the entire population had turned, it’s not like they could all gather somewhere at once.  For all I know, the Pittsburgh zombies were just as provincial and unwilling to shamble out of their neighborhoods as they were in life.  All I know for sure is that Pittsburgh or not, the zombies preferred flesh to pierogies.

Anyway, even though the geographics of Pittsburgh kept us safer than, say, living in downtown New York City, there were still tons of undead out there.  So we’d burst out of the gate and start butchering as many as possible.  The guys on the walls would blast some music to distract the dead and get us hyped (my favorite was that fax machine beating song from Office Space).  And we would just go to town.  There’s something very peaceful about wildly swinging a baseball bat.  You can’t think of anything else.  You just identify a target, swing, feel the jolt as your bat strikes a skull, then move on.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Over and over again.  Killing the undead had a way of quieting all those hopeless voices in my head.

So all that to say, I’ve started taking shooting lessons.  It has a similar effect.  All you focus on is the target.  So I’ve been distracted and happier.  Plus it’s pretty ridiculous that I can’t shoot a gun with any accuracy, particularly in this world we live in.  I’m training with the kids since I’m still at their skill level.  And I’ll probably be at this level for a while.  My aim is just appalling.  The instructor (and the kids) tend to laugh at it, but I really don’t care.  I’m getting what I need out of this.  Things are quiet.  I’ve really missed the quiet.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Hey, it’s Beckley.  Still in a mood today.  These phases come and go for me.  I’ll probably be more cheerful tomorrow, but today…not so much.  I do want to be hopeful, there’s so much to be hopeful about, but I cannot get this sense of futility out of my mind.  I know there’s still a point to life, but I just can’t see it right now.  And all I can think about are the people I’ve known who are dead.

I talked yesterday about there being no reason to anything.  And I don’t mean that in a fully nihilistic way.  I know there’s still a need to live, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no greater purpose in life.  I still stand by that.  In the World That Was, people acted like things happened for a reason, that the bad would work out to be good.  You don’t hear that cliché much anymore, and I’m fine with that because I always thought it was garbage.  Bad things happen and anything good that comes out of it happens in spite of the bad, not because of it.  I grow stronger because I am resilient, not because evil made me stronger.

If anything, the evil that exists has come close to breaking me over and over again.  I don’t talk much about my past.  I allude to it, probably way too much.  I think it’s my way of flirting with bringing stuff out because I know, emotionally, it would help.  But then I just stuff it back down.  Try to keep the darkness out of sight.  I know I’d tell people in therapy to open up, to release and process their emotions.  I’d tell them that people are more understanding than we assume.  But I know that’s not the case for me.  I can’t forgive myself for the things I’ve had to do in the past, so I can’t imagine anyone else would.  So I’m a hypocrite.  But so is everyone on this planet.  Anyone who says they’re not is a liar.  And a hypocrite.

And so I hold everything in and think about the dead.  Even if I don’t own up to my own actions, the least I can do is honor the dead and feel that their lives meant something.  I remember this guy in Pittsburgh.  This was, maybe, a month or two after The Fall.  I had gone around looting and gathering supplies and doing other things necessary to my survival.  I’d come back into town and found that a wall of dead cars and other jetsam had been built around a small housing project.  Josh talked before about fortifying his neighborhood and how it was pretty doable because of how the neighborhood was built.  Housing projects are even better.  They’re compact, they hold a lot of people, and they’re usually isolated.  Thanks to racism and classism in society, housing projects are usually in their own little cul-de-sac.  People don’t want to be around them, so they’re easier to fortify.  And that’s what people did to this little apartment complex.

Anyway, I was walking past and I saw that the walls were under siege by a freaking legion of the undead.  This is right in the heart of Pittsburgh, by one of the hospitals that was used as a quarantine center when this plague left Cincinnati, so you can just imagine how big a mess things were.  The undead were all swarming a single part of the wall.  They all had their attention turned on this guy.  Kid really.  Couldn’t have been over eighteen.

This guy, I cannot remember his name.  I don’t know why I can’t remember.  Tay, I think it was.  Yeah, I think he went by Tay.  Tay was standing on the edge of the wall, ready to jump into the swarm.  The zombies could see that, sense it, and they were going insane.  They were trampling each other trying to get the first grab once he finally came into range.  I just watched and something inside of me started to care what happened to this kid.

Up until that moment I had gone totally numb.  Everyone was dead, everyone I cared about was gone.  I no longer felt human, no longer cared if I lived or died.  But watching Tay on that ledge, part of me came back.  I climbed up a deserted portion of wall and started talking to this poor kid.  I knew that I felt just as empty as he did, but for whatever reason I had a drive to keep living where he didn’t.  So I talked to him.  I reached back and pulled up the therapist in me, the human part that I thought died in the earliest days of The Fall.  I talked this kid down off the wall.

His family was beside themselves with thanks.  They took me in, insisted I make my home with them and the others that created this little settlement.  Even now, I try to think about that, to think about Tay crying in relief with his family.  I try to think about the good.  Then the darkness of this world takes over and I think about the rest.  I remember that a few weeks later, Tay tried again during the night and this time no one was there to stop him from jumping.  I remember that less than a year after making my home there, everyone was dead.  I remember the marauders rolling in, tearing down the walls.  I remember the dead pouring in.

I try to think of the good.  I try to focus on this beautiful life that exists in Haven.  Focus on the fact that Humanity has endured and we’re rebuilding, that nothing can stand in our way.  But no matter how hard I try lately, my mind turns to death.  You can’t strive against death.  Death always rolls up and takes us all.  Everything decays.  You can’t stop it.  Yet I keep moving forward.  I don’t know why, but I do.  The thought of giving up is abhorrent to me.  So I keep pushing forward, hoping that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.  Still, I know that, while there may be a light eventually, I’ll probably die before I ever see it.  And if I ever do see the light, it’s just as likely to be an oncoming train.  Because that is the world we live in.  But I think I’m ok with that.  For today.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beyond Reason

Hey, it’s Beckley.  Things are going on as normal here.  The New Breed are still watching, but they’re not attacking.  We don’t know how many are actually out there.  Beaters get sent out periodically and they clear out the visible ones, but they don’t go too far out.  When it comes to the New Breed, you have to assume they’re planning something, that they’re trying to lure you somewhere, so it’s best not to push your luck.

My brush with death has been on my mind the past week.  You’d think I’d be used to near-death experiences, but I’m not.  Actually, I don’t know why I expect myself to be ok.  I’ve mentioned how I didn’t handle the beginning of The Fall well, and after Pittsburgh became unlivable I was more or less suicidal, just walking across the country.  Really, it was only after embracing the UAS that I started to pull myself together, and it wasn’t until Haven that I started trying to live my life.  So why is it surprising to me that I’m still struggling with these demons?

And these New Breed.  There’s just something about them that makes my skin crawl.  I think it’s the fact that they think and reason, yet they are so clearly not human and their thinking is just…off.  Take the attack.  The New Breed recognized that we came out to collect arrows.  They recognize that the arrows are tools, weapons that make them stop moving.  So they collected arrows and lay down, prone, on the ground.  That’s problem-solving intelligence right there.  Yet, while they can problem-solve, their thinking doesn’t extend to anything abstract.  They get that arrows stop zombies from moving, but they don’t understand why.  They don’t get the relationship between the object of the arrow and the result of a dead zombie.  So when I ended up among a bunch of playing-dead New Breed, they had arrows just laying on their chests, or they held them in their hands.  They didn’t stick the arrow into their leg or stomach.  They get that “arrow + zombie = dinner thinks it’s safe.”  They don’t get that “arrow = dead zombie because arrow is sharp and sticks in zombie brain-pan.”  Their thinking is both human and alien.  It’s weird, it’s wrong, it shouldn’t be.  It creeps me out.

And yet these New Breed that can’t understand abstract concepts, killed two people right in front of me and nearly got me too.  I don’t know why I survive these attacks.  I’m clever, but so are a lot of dead people.  I’m not particularly strong or fit.  I was never a fighter.  Yet I survive.  Every person I’ve ever known died in The Fall.  Up until recently everyone I met Post-Fall died.  People die around me.  And yet I stay untouched.  Do you get how bizarre that is, how unthinkable?  All it takes is one bite from these monsters and you’re gone.  There’s no coming back from that.  And yet I’ve survived for years.  Day after day watching as people get bitten, torn apart by the undead, raped and murdered by sociopathic marauders, people left for dead so that others could survive.  How am I still here?  How is it that I’m even still around to write this and eat hamburgers and trade stale chocolate?  Why do I deserve to be alive?  There are better people out there who died.

There’s no reason.  That’s the answer.  There’s just no reason.  Life happens and there’s no greater plan.  People die because that’s what happens.  Those two other arrow collectors who died were here and now they’re not.  I don’t even know their names.  The one got torn to pieces right in front of me.  Got eaten alive, spraying me with blood, and I don’t even know his name.  That’s the world we live in now.  We work, we preserve our morality, we do the best we can, and there’s nothing that comes back for that.  No karma, no benevolent deity.  Just death.  Or life.  Whatever.  There’s no reason.

Well, no, scratch that.  There is reason, but it’s man-made.  We make our own reason for life.  And that’s why, even though life happens regardless of ultimate morality, I refuse to sink to the level of those pathetic wastes of human potential that have become marauders.  Death might eventually come to all of us, but when it comes to me, I won’t be taken as some base piece of sub-human slime that rapes and murders for entertainment.  I guess all I can do is keep trying to live my life.  I’m alive because the universe just shrugs and says, “why not?”  No greater reason than that.  I still don’t think I deserve it, though.  I know I don’t deserve it.  But people don’t get what they deserve.  They never did.  They never will.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Hey, it’s Beckley.  I probably don’t need to keep informing you of that, but I’m a creature of habit.

So I almost got eaten the other day.  Back on Monday the New Breed attacked Haven in force.  Now this was nothing compared to the past swarms that Haven has endured, but certainly more than the piddling two dozen or so that they’ve been intermittently throwing at us the past few weeks.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d say that there was about 150-200 total, spread out over two waves.  Like I said, not bad compared to past swarms.  Still, they were all New Breed.  And one New Breed is worth a handful of Old School Zombies.

I really don’t have to describe too much of the fight.  You guys all know, either from seeing them in action, or reading Josh’s past posts, that the Haven fighters are not to be trifled with.  The moment the New Breed came into range, the arrows started flying.  The undead seemed to know where a lot of the traps are outside Haven so they reached the walls fairly quickly.  Once they hit the walls, they spread out, looking for weak points.  And they found them because, from what I heard, when the second wave came, they headed right for one weaker portion of wall.  I don’t know how the first wave communicated that with the second wave, but they did.

Whatever the case, I wasn’t there for the second wave.  Once the first wave was down, I ran out with some others to gather arrows.  I like to help out, seeing as how I really feel useless when fighting breaks out.  Gathering arrows is a difficult job with the New Breed.  Their skin is so tough it’s like a layer of hide armor, so you want to make sure that they’re actually dead and not just incapacitated.  Then there are the really clever ones.  The ones that take an arrow to the chest, or even one to the head that doesn’t penetrate to the brain, and drop to the ground.  Those monsters just lay there, playing dead, knowing that a meal will be out soon to collect the arrow.

So when you’re out there, you can’t just grab the arrow.  You have to check the body as you approach.  Make sure, visually, the arrow was a clean hit.  If there’s any doubt, you approach the dead from its head-side and bash it to be sure.  Even the slightest doubt, you bash.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a New Breed reach back to me just as I bury my baseball bat in its face.  Tricksey New Breeds.

So between checking the bodies, smashing the bodies, and picking up arrows that hit the ground, it’s easy to get tunnel vision.  And that’s what happened to me.  Before I realized it, I was farther from the New Haven walls than I should have been, surrounded by downed New Breed.  There were arrows scattered on the ground around them, or laying on the bodies.  And that’s when it dawned on me that I was out of arrow range.

Yeah.  A bunch of New Breed that weren’t part of the first wave collected arrows in the heat of battle and laid down just outside our range so that guys like me would accidentally go too far out, thinking we were still in the field of carnage when, in reality, we were surrounded by the hungry dead.

There were three of us that wandered out that far.  By the time we realized how much trouble we were in, the New Breed had started to get up.  We handled the ones grabbing for us, but by that point, the ones between us and Haven to were up and blocked us from retreating.

So there the three of us were, surrounded by a good dozen or so New Breed.  I wish I could give some sort of thrilling blow-by-blow account of how we fought them off.  The truth is I can’t.  I don’t remember anything except a lot of screaming and me swinging my bat like a madman.  And blood.  Lots of blood.  One of the guys from Haven got torn apart right in front of me.  I didn’t even try to fight my way back towards Haven.  I kept running outward, trying to get away.  I could hear gunshots from Haven and I knew that even if I broke free from this group of New Breed, there was a second wave that had started hitting Haven that would get me.  So I ran outward, which I think caught the zombies off guard.  They might be smart, but they can’t improvise.  They expected me to run back to my people, maybe have Haven open its doors and expose the delicious meals within.  So I just ran away.  I avoided the forested areas because I knew they were probably swarmed with other New Breed.  Just standing there, trying to think and plan.  And watching.  Damn things always watch.

I made it out towards some nearby neighborhood.  I really don’t know the area.  Probably it’s one of those places Josh visited and blogged about in the early days of The Fall.  I survived out there for a day and a half before I figured the fight was over and it was safe to come back in.  The journey back was pretty uneventful.  Sure enough, once Haven came into sight, there was no battle, just about five New Breed standing outside of arrow range, watching.  I came up behind them and started swinging.  Again, no poetry in motion, no awesome tactics, just rage swings.  Then I went to the Haven gates, all splattered in congealed zombie blood.  The older guy who let me in took one look at me and said, “Goddamn, son” before shaking his head and walking off.  Not sure if that was a “you’re lucky to be alive” or a “didn’t think you had it in you.”  Maybe it was just a “you really smell.”  Whatever the case, I’m alive.  And I was the only one of the three of us arrow collectors that made it back.  So many times I’ve been the only one to survive, and I just don’t understand why.  I just survive somehow.  I don’t deserve to live any more than these other guys.  I really don’t know how to feel about it, except tired.  So tired.