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Zed House

The house creaked in the wind, a tree tapped a metronome against the rotting clapboards.

"Burn it down."

"What?"

"You heard me, burn it to the ground."

The boss stared at the building for a few seconds, then shook his head. "And waste what could be reclaimed? Why would I want to do that?"

The old man pointed, "Z for Zed. That's how we marked infected houses back when we thought the outbreak could be contained."

"That was nearly a decade ago. Even if something's still there, it's got to be so desiccated that it's immobile. The copper alone is worth the risk."

The old man flicked his toothpick at the house as he turned to walk away, "I won't allow it, not worth the risk."

"Wait a minute here! This is not a military operation and, anyways, Colonel, last time I checked, you're retired. Your presence here is purely consultative."

He took a step back as the old man advanced on him, ready to cut loose. "What the f...," the Colonel stopped, reconsidered, looking at the house again. "I guess it doesn't matter what I say, you'd come back tonight on your own even if I could terminate the project."

"Well...," he took off his cap and looked down at the brim. "It would make my life easier if you signed off on this."

"John, you're mother would kill me if anything happened to you. I'll sign off, but only if we do this by the book."

The kid put his hat back on, resuming his role as boss, "Fine by me."

#

Clearing a house of the undead is like a slow motion SWAT operation. Zed behaves predictably, so it's best to take your time. One man kicked the door down while another set the clacker, then they retreated.

"If they're ambulatory, this shouldn't take long. I imagine they're hungry. We'll give it five minutes." The old man's eyes never left the doorway. The dust cloud that seemed to be all that was left of the front door billowed out onto the porch, dissipating in the breeze.

"OK, you know the drill. Let's do it!"

Four men ambled up the steps, one kneeling to turn off the clacker. Two broke left while the other pair kept watch just inside the door, eyeing the stairs. The shouts of "Clear!" following the pair around the ground floor. A shot rang out, quickly followed by the all clear.

The old man and the boss entered the house. "Was that a live one?"

"No, just wanted to make sure."

"Cool. Let's get the basement. John, you stay here, make sure nothing comes down those stairs. The crew can wait outside, off the porch."

The team was already at work by the time the old man made it to the kitchen. More dust and a jawbone lying on the floor. A skeletal arm, its hand grasping a coffee mug, was still on the table. The urge for some caffeine suddenly strong.

The all clear sounded from below and a rattle/bang from the cellar door out back.

#

John was halfway up the stairs by then, taking careful steps, his semi-automatic at the ready.

He could could see her from the top of the staircase, through the open doorway. She lay on the bed in what must have been her finest dress. She didn't move.

He stepped into the room, checking the four corners as the Colonel taught him. Stillness, nothing moved but the motes floating through the window pane divided beams of light.

The floor creaked as he moved. She had to have known, if she was still animated. The pendent on her necklace rested on the leather taut across her chest. Coated in dust, it didn't sparkle, but it still caught his practiced eye. He stepped towards her.

Who are you? What happened? You had time to prepare, there's no sign of a rush. Was it poison? He reached for the necklace.

"You either hate me or you're a dumb piece of shit."

The boy recoiled, letting out a shout. "What the fuck? It ain't moving without a good dose of WD-40. Don't go scaring me like that, you crazy mother fucker."

"You think?" The old man tapped the head with the barrel of his rifle. The eyes shot open, jaw snapping. His shot exploded in the room, shaking dust loose from everywhere. The top half of the skull gone.

He turned and walked out. "I want half of what you get for that necklace."

###

Here's another Col. Drinkmore short story: Who Is He?

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I'm a firm believer that the government is the only vehicle that allows the people to act as a whole. The CDC is the federal government at its best and their post, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, is evidence of that.

CDC: Get a kit, make a plan, be prepared
CDC: Get a kit, make a plan, be prepared

This is good advice. My only complaint is there is no mention of weapons, nor how to assume a more active defense against zombies. However, given the mission of the CDC, I understand.

READ THIS NOW!

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The Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook by W. H. Mumfrey
The Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook by W. H. Mumfrey

by W. H. Mumfrey

I really wanted to like this book. My daughter bought it for me as a birthday present. I was touched that she takes my interest in the subject of TEotWaWKI survival seriously. I am also fascinated by the Mayan prophesy that the world will end on December 21, 2012, despite that god awful movie. This should have been a sure hit.

And it was, for the first half of the book. The author surveys the various end-of-times prophesies in world history and then explores the Mayan story. This is a worthwhile read. I especially like the section on how to become an effective prophet. Hysterical, yet true. If only Mr. Mumfrey left it at this.

  1. Where was the editor?

    Nothing kills a book faster for me than poorly written prose. I can understand the occasional error, but, c'mon! Doing so repeatedly kills your credibility.

    When it comes to acts of barbarity, few can surpass those that profess sanctity.

    Who is for people and That is for things. Ugh!

  2. What's with the militant vegetarianism?

    Yes, that's right. In a book about the end of the world, the author repeatedly pokes those who eat meat.

    The term cognitive dissonance is used to explain the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas at the same time, such as . . . believing in animal rights, but eating meat.

    and

    Do you give a moment's thought to the concentration camp living conditions and terror-stricken deaths of the animals you eat?

    Perhaps there might be some gray area between the two extremes of vegetarianism and industrial food production?

  3. The lost focus dooms the book.

    After the great start, the author then outlines what it would take to survive the end of the world. OK, fine, but he delves into every possible scenario. You can't do that in a single book, much less the final 100 pages of this one. While I give him kudos for exploring how to live in the new world as we will know it, does he really have to tell us how to setup a government and start a new religion? I understand he's trying to humorous here, but there's far too many books out there already that map out these survival techniques. This just makes him one of a crowd.

So, read this if 2012 is of great interest to you. Do take notes because there is some good advice here (Mormons are required by their religion to stock up on supplies for the end of the world. I'm just saying.). You can tune out after 100 pages or so, though.

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Old Green Barn

I've decided to document the last vestiges of life before the catastrophe. Given that there's only 10% of us left, there's a lot of abandoned places out there that have been left to return to the dust from which they came. This barn is a classic example. It looks like it would fall apart in a stiff breeze. You certainly couldn't refurbish it. Yet, I wouldn't tear it down. It's a haunting reminder of life as it used to be.

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The Capital Weather Gang over at The Washington Post has written an excellent description of the threat that our sun poses:

Space weather: Are we ready for a solar strike?

This first in a three part series makes the point that the "more potent solar storms ... have the potential to wreak long-lasting havoc on electric power supply and communications infrastructure around the globe," and that we would have at most a 12 hour notice. What can we do about it? As individuals, not very much. The effort needed to protect our infrastructure requires everyone to pitch in.

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Frozen Movie Poster
Frozen

directed by Adam Green

What a humdinger of a movie this is. My expectations were low: obviously low budget, a no-name cast and some of the special effects were, well, not so special, but, DAMN, it told a great story.

The premise is simple. Three kids talk their way onto a ski lift for one last run, only to get stuck aloft with no hope of rescue for days since the resort is closed during the week. This is another one of those little TEotWaWKIs of which I wrote recently. They were so focused on getting one more go at the slopes that they lost track of what was truly at stake. They had plenty of warning. The operator told them a storm was coming. The lifts were obviously empty for quite some time. And one of them was a beginner. Ah, but kids always think they're invincible.

The movie also raises another issue to consider. What if your only apparent option is one that involves a serious chance of death? Do you wait as long as possible to see if any other opportunities arise? But what if your energy is waning? The longer you wait, the less likely you'll succeed. This is a tough call and harkens back to our discussion of time scale in my review of the TV show After Armageddon. If you're 100% certain rescue will come in the morning, you'll wait, but what if you're wrong?

Do watch this movie. It will scare the crap out of you. Make sure you're bundled up, though, the story seeps into bones like a deep chill. And don't be the last one on the lift.

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We had a freakish snowstorm here last week. Reminded me that the little decisions we make every day could lead to tragedy. Here are some every day things you can do to lessen the chances of that happening:

  • Keep your gas tank full

    For some, a 1 hour drive home took 7 or more. You don't want to run out of gas when it's significantly below freezing, you're in the middle of a desert or a bad neighborhood.

  • Keep your cell phone charged

    When the poop hits the fan, you're going to be making a lot of calls and frequent references to your GPS map. The latter, especially, drains power. Make sure you walk out the door fully charged. Also, it wouldn't hurt to bring along a chord to charge up if you get the chance.

  • Keep abreast of the weather

    This has to be more than just listening to the updates on the eights. I mean, grok the weather. What are the experts predicting? How could the forecast vary? What is the worst case scenario? Act accordingly.

  • Keep abreast of the news

    Related issues can have a significant impact. Does your jurisdiction have enough budget for plowing? Is there unrest that could escalate in an emergency?

  • If in doubt, stay home

    Seriously, is what you're doing something for which you should risk your life?

This idiot's story is a case in point. Was going to work that day worth what he risked? I mean, c'mon, he made a dash across an interstate highway!

I strongly urge anyone who has yet to do so to read Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, which I reviewed previously (Book Review: Deep Survival).

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Folks worry about zombies, asteroids or nuclear war as the agent of humanity's demise. It's the more mundane things, though, that should keep us up at night. To wit:

ARkStorm: California’s other "Big One"

While this is a hypothetical scenario, it still scares the crap out of me. Floods always have since childhood. I grew up in hurricane country. This is a tough balancing act, though, because you don't want to be too far from a water source.

This is also another reason to ensure you understand your local climate. Your life may depend on what you know might be possible.

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The Walking Dead Episodes 3 and 4
The Walking Dead Episodes 3 and 4

Developed by Frank Darabont

I'm on the edge of my seat watching this series. I've heard from others that they find it a bit slow, too much sitting around and talking. This ain't no Earth Abides. Decisions are made and action is taken. My jones for action is satisfied.

These two episodes clearly display an issue that is critical to surviving TEotWaWKI. No, I'm not talking about zombie fighting techniques or the best shelters to seek; rather, the composition of your group. Most teams formed up from whomever was available at the time. This led to a less than optimal cohesiveness for most and disaster for more than a few. One should never team up with someone they cannot stand for reasons that range from psychological to physical well-being.

  • Surviving TEotWaWKI is tough business. Why make it harder by forcing yourself to deal with assholes? This kind of stress will keep you up at night, sapping the energy you need to continue the struggle.
  • If you don't like them, they probably don't like you. This could cause you major problems at a crisis point, such as a food shortage. If you're the weaker party, you'll probably be kicked out, as I saw happen more than once during that first terrible winter. If you're the stronger party, they may strike pre-emptively, probably killing you.

You don't always have the luxury of choosing your team-mates. The exigencies of the moment may work against this. Or someone who seemed nice at first, grew to be a pain in the ass over time. You shouldn't just accept this as an unchangeable fact. You MUST do something. Here are your options (in descending order of desirability):

  • Insist that they change

    This may seem naive, and it would be in certain circumstance, but if you act early and the differences are not fundamental, not only might you remove the pain in your butt, you may also strengthen the ties of your group. Many folks do not realize that their behavior irks others and will willingly change when it's pointed out.

  • You change

    Maybe YOU are the pain in the ass. At least consider that. Even if it's not true, circumstances may require that you suck it up. If you choose this path, it is imperative that you at least appear to have changed. Do not continue with your prior modus operandi or you risk the same outcome that inaction would have triggered. After a while, you may come to terms with the group or you may choose the next option.

  • Leave

    Ideally, this option would be like an amicable divorce. You justly divide up your assets and then part ways. Before you do anything, though, consider how the group may react to your departure. It may not be welcome news, especially if you have a skill or possession that the group desperately needs. If you're in the minority, they may hold you against your will or take your stuff. If there's the slightest doubt, I would keep your departure a secret. Also, while it might be tempting to walk off with more than your share, remember that you may well run into these people again.

  • Kick them out

    This is a tough option to pull off. It may result in a civil war or the outcasts could stalk you, waiting for a vulnerable moment to exact revenge. Even if you're the majority, I would approach this just like the previous option; that is, make it appear you're leaving rather than kicking them out. If feasible, leave them with a greater share of the group's assets as a salve to their wounds. It might be necessary to execute the separation in penny-packets, smaller sub-groups leaving separately with a plan to rendezvous elsewhere.

  • Kill them

    This is the least desirable option, but it shouldn't be ruled out. There are certain violent personality types that do not take well to rejection. If you cannot be sure of a clean break, you may have to take pre-emptive action. You will be crossing a line, though, so fully consider all of your options. You may find that the group, though fully supporting the measure beforehand, will break up when the reality of what you did hits home. Still, given that, there may be situations where this is the only option.

The group of survivors that The Walking Dead is following, not surprisingly, have several cases that highlight the dangers of sub-optimal group relations (spoiler alert):

  1. The abusive husband Ed should not continue as a member of the group. Asking him to change will not likely work and kicking him out may result in the wife leaving with him. Perhaps the man should meet with a hunting accident. No one else needs to know. The fact that Zed took him out was opportune.
  2. Daryl Dixon is an angry, well armed man with good reason to be pissed. T-Dog's action most likely did result in his brother's death. Can you trust that Daryl will be reconciled? Or will he just bide his time. I'm not willing to risk it. Though Daryl is outnumbered by those who clearly don't like him, kicking him out won't be so easy. Killing them would be risky, too, as he appears to be hyper-vigilent. Ditching the man might be your only option.
  3. If I was Shane, I'd probably leave. Your lover doesn't want you around any more and her husband may well learn the truth. I wouldn't want that nagging at me day and night, but then I'd've never lied to her about her husband's death.

Like I said, the fact that there are so many dysfunctionalities should not be a surprise. It's a rare group that had none, and even in those cases, over time, things evolve from better to worse and then back again. Nothing remains the same. Just be aware of what's going on and act when necessary.

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The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead

Developed by Frank Darabont

It's been more than a decade since the initial zombie outbreak, but only now are we beginning to see it portrayed in drama. The new TV series on AMC, The Walking Dead, is the first serious portrayal of the period just after SHTF. I've only seen two episodes, but beyond a few nitpicks and similarities with other TEotWaWKI stories, I'm hooked.

The focus is on survivors in the Atlanta area starting a week or two after the outbreak reached a crisis. Those poor bastards down south had it much harder than even up here in Virginia. They had no appreciable winter to slow the ghouls down, so they never got a break. Even today, the Florida peninsula, surrounded as it is by water, is still pretty much a wasteland.

The main character, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), is a cop who was severely wounded before the outbreak and in a coma during it, only to regain consciousness in an eerily empty hospital, scattered with corpses. This is reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand and 28 Days Later. He's trying to figure out what the hell happened while still staying alive. I'm surprised he's lasted this long, given his proclivity to fire off all of his ammo at anything which stumbles. He's lucky, though, to encounter folks willing to help out.

His motivation is to find his family. This drive is a common theme to most stories that cover this period. It, too, was my spur as I was in Manhattan when hell brook loose and had to make my way back to Northern Virginia. Alas, I have yet to learn what happened to my family. In this case, Mr. Grimes makes it back to his house, but his family is missing. We learn separately that they are alive, but there should be some interesting fireworks should they reunite.

The nits I have are how the undead are portrayed. For the most part, it is in line with reality: dumb, slowly stumbling and killed with a headshot. Occasionally, though, we encounter some outliers. Some use tools like the one with a rock used to break through a glass window. Others are agile and rather speedy, being able to climb a fence. These are rare, though, so not enough to kill my disbelief.

I am happy to see that this show has been extended another 6 episodes. I will surely watch them all.