I saw Johnny Kim today. His impeccable hair maintained even after death. How does he do that?
We were friends with enough touch points to keep in contact year round, but were never really that close.
His wife is hot. Is or was? I'm guessing past tense. We're near his home. If they got him, they got her, and the kids, too, probably. (What about mine? Will I ever know?)
He wandered out there with only a few others. Should I have killed him? Is kill the right word? I don't feel guilty. The world is certainly better off without Johnny and his crew.
I dropped out the tree in which I was enjoying my lunch, perfect array of branches that let me rest comfortably, and adjusted my bandana and goggles to guard against splatter. I aimed to sneak up behind Johnny, not out of fear, I've handled this number before, I just didn't want to see his face when I did it.
I tripped him from behind. Not very sporting, I suppose. With a foot on his back, I took a golf swing with my axe. It is true, he did have a lot of brains. His mates turned when they heard. I took my time with them, practiced some new techniques.
Did I do you a favor, Johnny? Are you in a position to care? It's not as bad as I should have thought. Still, would rather avoid meeting more I know. Knew.
Looking back through my journal of the time from outbreak through that first winter has been a difficult task. So much pain and misery. However, I remember this morning with a bit of fondness. I woke up from my first real sleep since the SHTF.
The buildings soak in the rays of the rising sun, reflecting back on my billboard perch across the road. The arches, the red-headed little girl and the ubiquitous source of caffeine. I hate the sameness of fast food architecture, but today it gives me comfort. The memory of my boys whooping it up at an indoor play place, the half eaten cheese burger instantly forgotten; the early mornings before work, when I'd be the only customer and could hear the staccato Spanish ricocheting from the kitchen.
Those buildings look like they're ready to greet the day's customers, but none will be coming. None who I can see, anyways. There are a few zombies moving about like pinballs unsure which way is down, but no one else. There certainly were, though, and not too long ago.
The cars tell the story, map the river bed of the highway that separates those buildings from me. Jammed together, some driven off to the side, run out of gas or vainly trying to bypass everyone else. They would have been smart to just stay put inside, locking the doors, hunkered down. Appears like most got out and hoofed it. Most, but not all. I see a few cars rocking, a zed caught inside, I'm sure. Well I won't come a knocking.
Glad I wasn't here to witness it. I've seen enough already. Could use a sausage, egg and cheese, though. Will have to settle for beef jerky and some raisins.
Trenton was a mess. I'm not far from Philly, which is probably worse.
Found my journals that I kept starting right after the outbreak until things finally calmed down. It's difficult to re-read this: so much misery, so many things I'd've done different. As I comb through this, I'll post the interesting bits.
The house creaked in the wind, a tree tapped a metronome against the rotting clapboards.
"Burn it down."
"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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.