Day 131

The settlement is visibly shaken and nervous after it was revealed that Dean had been let back into the sanctity of the walls infected. The consensus seems to be that no one can be trusted. It’s a little bit disconcerting to know that a very large number of people are all looking at each other with suspicion.

Anytime people are seen with visible wounds, there is a panic! People will change to the opposite side of the street, ply them with vicious words, even turn tail and run. The strange thing is the newly offensive person may not have even been outside of the walls since they were erected. But that didn’t seem to matter; if you had a wound, you became a pariah.

The council decided it was time to take action. They enlisted all of the medical staff and had them conducting around the clock visual examinations on each and every person that lived in the settlement. The fear was palpable. No one wanted to submit but was afraid of how it would look if they did not. Dissension was not an option; there had been a breach and the council wasn’t about to take any more chances.

They had even gone as far as setting up a Quarantine Zone for anyone having a cut, laceration, or scrape on their bodies. The used the jail that had been cleared shortly after the Apocalypse; each person had a cell to retreat to and common areas to interact with everyone else if they chose to. They used the settlement police department to man the jail, though none of the officers really wanted to deal with the inmates.

It was beginning to border on the ridiculous! Putting all of those people, and there ended up being quite a few, into one place to work each other up was madness, in my honest opinion. But consider the ramifications if just one of them turned out to be infected?

The Next Day

Advertisements

Day 130

We got a visit from the Herber Settlement Police Department the other day. At the time, it wasn’t something I was entirely sure that we should be concerned about but soon it became apparent that the whole event could have had some very dire consequences.

We had been assigned 3 houses in one of the outlying suburbs close to downtown once we had been properly cleared for entry. I was living in the larger house with Ben, Julie, the twins and Jane while everyone else in our group had split themselves up between the 2 other houses.

It was early in the morning, maybe about 7:30, when they knocked on the front door. Only Julie and I were up; Julie because she was getting ready for her shift at one of the Food Kitchens (restaurants turned into cafeterias of sorts that feed all of the people at the settlement) and I was just unwinding after another harrowing night assigned to a gap. When I answered the door, the two officers demanded immediate entry into the house. Unsure of what was going on and considering the potential for a city-wide breach, I let them in.

Their gruff and militant demeanor made me wonder what had happened. Before closing the door, I scanned the neighbourhood around the house for signs of the Undead. The only thing out of the ordinary was the squad car in the driveway and the second one across the street. The second squad car was parked directly in front of the house and was inhabited by two other officers, both intently watching it

Feeling slightly puzzled at the strangeness of the situation, I closed the front door and walked into the living room. Julie was already engaged in a conversation, if you could call their frantic and intimidating line of questioning a conversation, as I entered the room. Once I joined the group, the officers turned their attention to me, fixing me with their hardened and suspicious eyes.

From the line of their questioning, it became evident they had received a tip that we were harbouring a member of the Undead. Hearing such a preposterous claim, I welcomed their demand to search the house.

We had absolutely nothing to hide. In fact, we had even taken on the responsibility of ending the lives of our friends and family that had succumbed to the infection. There was absolutely no way that we would have harboured anyone that was infected or worse. Our pasts had shown us firsthand how dangerous those actions could turn out to be.

The officers searched the house, starting in the basement, with their guns drawn; expecting at any moment to be face to decomposing face with one of the Undead. When they reached the upstairs bedrooms, their tense anxiety was palpable. Not wanting them to wake Jane and the twins, we quietly told them to keep it down. Our polite request only seemed to fuel them more.

They burst into the room they twins shared with Jane, their guns held out before them; the safety’s off. The noise and commotion of their entry jarred the twins awake and made Jane scream in terror. The twins started to cry and tried to become as small as they could in their shared bed. Jane backed up so far in her own bed that it looked like she was being crucified on the wall behind her headboard.

Seeing that the room was in fact only inhabited by children, the officers lowered their weapons and adopted a somewhat sheepish look. They did not apologize however. They just backed out of the room and milled in the hallway. From the looks on their faces, I could tell they realized they had been made to look like fools.

I escorted the officers down the stairs and out of the house without allowing them access to the rest of the house; not that they even asked. In fact, during the short trip down the stairs, they didn’t say a word to me. There were no apologies, not even a justification as to why they had to search the house. I’m not sure if the silence was worse than the potential false platitudes and excuses.

Once the door was shut and the outside world was locked away once again, we met as a group to discuss what had just happened. Thankfully the twins and Jane were so used to startles and scares that it was relatively easy to calm them down. That was the reality that we faced; kids became even more adaptive in tense situations.

It didn’t help that none of us could figure out why someone had accused us of something so heinous. As one of the only doctors in the settlement, Ben had gained a level of something akin to prestige once he started working at the hospital. Medicine is one of those things that people tend to hold in high regard and as it’s unlikely that there would be anymore doctors graduating from Medical Schools anytime soon, the doctors that were still around were precious commodities. And as a Perimeter Guard, I have a level of respect that is bestowed upon me as well. It just didn’t make any sense for someone within the settlement to be working against us…

We’ve been keeping our eyes and ears open on the off-chance that we can gather a little intel. Finding out who was behind the accusation is important but it has since taken a back seat to the events that occurred later that evening.

In order to keep a huge group of survivors like this fed and well, happy, it takes quite a lot. As a result, the council had organized a group of men and women that had special skills; orienteering, Parkour, observation, and weaponry. It was their job to leave the settlement at regular times in order to forage for supplies. Everything that was already behind the walls had been stockpiled and it would last for a while but it never hurt to be even better prepared than what you already were. Now they had to go farther and farther afield for supplies in our dwindling world. Sometimes they would get a lucky break and find a transport truck full of non-perishables on their way to a supermarket when the Apocalypse hit. They had everything that you could ever imagine at their fingertips to obtain supplies; weapons, vehicles, battery chargers. Everything.

The Supply Team came back a few nights ago with two trucks that had been on their way to a grocery store in Vancouver. Two trucks full of groceries and something else. Something a little more insidious. It appears that one of the group had come into contact with some infected blood. No one really knows how it happened since the man swears that he hadn’t been bitten and there were no bite marks on his body. Upon their return, each of them was checked for bites; the full-body check was part of the price for entry. Everyone had to submit to it or risk being left on the outside of the walls.

The man whose name was Dean, had come back with a long but shallow cut on his leg that he said he had gotten while navigating a tricky spot between two buildings. At first no one really paid much attention to it, after all it was just a routine laceration; something that the Supply Team was used to dealing with in the line of duty.

The problem was that after a few days, Dean started to get sick. It turns out that the wound got dangerously infected even though it had been properly cleaned and bandaged. The doctors hadn’t seen anything like that. What would have been useful information for everyone at the settlement was the fact that the sharp edge that Dean had come into contact with had been covered in dried blood. Infected blood.

While the doctors valiantly tried to save Dean’s life, they were puzzled that they couldn’t stop what they assumed was just a simple infection of the tissues surrounding the gash. Within 2 days, Dean was dead. Precautions were taken to ensure that he didn’t come back but under careful study in the lab, it was determined that he had been infected.

It was a sobering lesson for the council. An infected person had gotten past their safeguards. Until further notice, the Council had placed the entire settlement on lock down. No one comes in, no one goes out. I’m not sure how this is going to pan out for us…

The Next Day

Day 125

I know it’s been a few days since I last posted but there has been quite a lot going on around the settlement. They also monitor the amount of time we have on the communal computers. We still haven’t gotten our laptop back which is odd to us since it’s not on the list of restricted items. Eventually I hope that we’ll get it back but you never really know sometimes.

Johanna Herber came to personally thank me for sounding the alarm when the Undead managed to get through the breach in the north wall. It was a nice gesture but I didn’t think that I needed a personal visit. I was just doing what I would assume anyone else would have done. And it was done with so much pomp and circumstance that you would have thought they were giving me a key to the city!

Having finally met Johanna, I have to say I’m a little bit disappointed. She’s made out to be this larger than life hero; like someone who no one could possibly ever live up to. Instead she’s just this little diminutive woman of about 80 years of age. Her face is a map of the life that she has lived; all of the trials and tribulations carved deeply into the freckled skin. She has arthritis so severe that she walks with a cane and the assistance of another woman; someone much younger than herself but from the familial resemblance, likely her granddaughter.

When you meet her, you get the impression that she would be ineffective at anything that she tried. You would have been wrong the moment she opened her mouth. The authority that oozed out the woman was palpable. And when she fixed her eyes on you for the first time, you got the impression that she enjoyed being underestimated. The fire that blazed behind those eyes was very evident and you soon realized why Seattle stood relatively unchanged 125 days after the Apocalypse.

It also became readily apparent why so many people just did everything that she asked of them. Her wisdom and knowledge on any subject was astounding. One might even begin to wonder if she had worked to get herself into a position of power in order to prepare for such an event.

We’ve been hearing rumours and snippets of information about Johanna from other survivors that have been here longer than us. Apparently, in the 30 years (yes that’s correct, 30 years) she has been the mayor of Seattle, she had amassed the multitude of concrete barriers that are currently surrounding the city. Amassing and stockpiling them in warehouses maintained by the city located on the outskirts of town. How she managed to stay in power, with all of the money that she must have diverted, I cannot even begin to comment on.

Once Johanna heard the news that Brooks VanReit had reawakened, she didn’t waste any time in turning all of the city’s manpower to the task of enclosing the city. She figured that it was better to be safe than sorry in any situation that involved the Undead. And all of us were extremely lucky that she did; none of us would have a place to stay safe otherwise.

What I don’t understand is why she leaves the gaps open, it’s not like it would take a lot to patch them up. And she has to know about them; there have been too many breaches to believe otherwise… Perhaps in the beginning the workers that had constructed the wall had hidden the fact that there were gaps but with all of the alarms and the need for Perimeter Guards, it would have become obvious there was an issue.

And after the breach that we had along the north wall the other night, Johanna and the council have even allowed us to have a source of illumination. It’s not a true light because they still don’t want us to inadvertently attract the Undead to the weak parts along the walls. What they have supplied us with are small LED lights similar to what you would find attached to a key ring. It gives off the weakest of bluish tinges and only illuminates the smallest of areas. It’s not enough to really see by but it is better than nothing.

I will say the first time my light was cast upon the face of one of the Undead, I recoiled in abject horror. The light made them look even more ghastly than I thought was possible given the greyish pallor of their rotting visages. It was positively ghoulish. I am not ashamed to say that it caught me by surprise as there were no telltale sounds to accompany its arrival.

The noises may have been missing purely because this particular Undead used to be a toddler; its face now half eaten and right arm ending in a putrid stump just above the wrist. It didn’t take me long to kill it, but I will say that you never get used to the kids…

If I had to choose the kinds of Undead I would prefer to encounter, children would be at the bottom of said list. Sure they are smaller and can be killed slightly easier depending on your method but they are more voracious and just a little more cunning. That might just be because of the creep factor though…

At least with the full-sized Undead, for lack of a better word, you can see them coming. They tend to be taller than or at least as tall as the cars clogging the roadways. And unless they are scraping themselves across the ground after you, you can usually track them in tight spots. Children, on the other hand, can come out of nowhere sometimes. As you make your way around a car or through an area that has some congestion, they can suddenly just be there, their undead eyes fixed on you and their undead arms reaching out as if to be picked up. In the first few days, I can see how a number of people might have easily reached down out of habit to pick up a child. An instinctual move that might well have been their demise; who wouldn’t have wanted to help a child in distress? We’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do.

Once the Apocalypse hit, the right thing quickly became what you rarely did. Unless of course it was something that you deemed was safe to do. No one went out of their way to help anyone else; doing so could mean death. You had no idea who was infected, who might want to do you harm, and who might end up being completely useless.

We’ve been hearing that the settlement has been turning away other survivors since we got here. And in fact they hadn’t let anyone inside after they were fully enclosed. That leaves us to wonder why they decided to let us inside…

The Next Day

Day 117

Yesterday would have been Thanksgiving had we still be living our normal pre-apocalyptic lives. There were a few of us that gathered to celebrate; mainly Julie, Ben, Jane, the twins and myself. We did have a few people from British Columbia that came as well but it wasn’t really a joyous occasion. How could it have been after what went down the other night?

As you know, I’ve been working as one of the PGs (Perimeter Guards). It’s an 8 hour shift of just staring at a gap in the wall. A boring, tedious, exhausting 8 hours but you knew that you were doing something that greatly benefited our community. This is mainly why I cannot fathom how someone managed to fall asleep at their post.

It happened a few nights ago. Sunday morning to be more exact. Gregory, an older gentleman probably in his 60s, was given one of the more solitary gaps to guard against. It was along the north wall and in an area of the city that wasn’t inhabited by too many families.

The worst thing about the duty was that we didn’t have the luxury of light to help us. The council thought that using light to highlight the gaps at night would only attract more of the Undead to them. I could see the logic behind that, really I could, but you have no idea what it’s like to be standing in the inky darkness of night with only your ears as a warning system. After a while your eyes would adjust to the darkness but it wasn’t a perfect system by any means.

I know a bunch of guys that rigged up different types of warning systems just to help them out. Strings with bells across the openings. Cans stacked up in front of the gaps. Anything that you can really think of to make noise in the event that one of the Undead decided to come through your gap.

That must have been what Gregory was relying on. He’d probably been using his system for quite a while and it had worked thus far so why would he think about changing it? The scary thing is that you cannot rely on the Undead to be predictable…

To a certain extent they are. They will come after you relentlessly until you either kill them or they kill you. It’s pretty simple; they are driven by their need to feed and assimilate. What you cannot bank on however is that they can come at you from all different angles, in any way, shape, or form that they can. As long as one of the Undead is mobile, it’s going to pursue you. It might get waylaid if something else crosses its path, but it will keep moving in the last direction that it saw you going.

Poor Gregory. Underestimating your most voracious enemy is dangerous and he definitely learned his lesson.

It was about 3:30am on Sunday morning and I was keeping my eyes glued tp my gap. I was stationed on the west wall that night but I was close to where the north and west walls met. It was a quiet night. Sometimes you heard people out and about in the streets, acting as if nothing was wrong with the world. A little bit of security can put the blinders up for people. That was pretty scary to deal with as well because there were people living in the Herber Settlement that didn’t believe that anything was really wrong with the world. It was like they had selective memories of what had happened and were choosing to forget that there was a world on the other side of the wall.

The night was quiet and incredibly dark… We didn’t even have the benefit of the stars to help illuminate the tiny gaps we watched. I heard a slight scraping along the concrete close to my gap and knew that soon I would have a visitor to turn away. Within a moment, the scraping got louder and from experience I could tell that pretty soon the rotting corpse would be all the way through. It was easy to tell when you had something about the come through; the smell usually gave them away if you didn’t pick up on the noise. I quickly put the invader to rest and went back to listening. My mind started to wander and I began to wonder why The Council didn’t just patch the gaps. It would make life a whole heck of a lot easier. But then I guess maybe they wanted to make sure that people had a job to do… It was a risky choice but one I wasn’t about to argue with; I had no desire to leave the settlement.

As I was listening and smelling for my next invader, I heard a noise off to my right. It sounded a little far away but it was like I instantly knew that it had something to do with one of the gaps. We had an alarm system in case we got into trouble. It consisted of an air horn (a super annoying sound but effective). We each had a specific call signal which was a b*tch to learn each night to be honest…

I blasted my horn 3 short bursts to signify that I was on the west wall and followed it up with a 4 second long burst. The long bursts were meant to tell the Response Team which gap you were guarding. There were only 4 along this stretch of the wall so I only had to deploy the button for 4 seconds as I was the farthest out. In my mind, it would have been easier to have us just continued to press the button until someone came to your rescue but I’m sure they had their own Morse Code of sorts just in case the PG got taken down by one of the Undead.

Once the response team got to my location, I quickly explained that I had heard a strange noise coming from the north portion of the wall. Since I couldn’t leave my post to go and check it out, it was up to them to get over there and investigate. I didn’t feel bad about calling a false alarm; there were usually about 5 or 6 a night. But in my mind it was better to be safe than sorry.

I turned my attention back to my gap and tried to put the possibility that one of the Undead could have gotten through the wall out of my mind. I was doing a pretty good job until all of the shouting started. From what I could make out, it appeared as if Gregory had been surprised by one of the Undead while he had been asleep and the Response Team had happened upon the offender while it was feeding off of Gregory’s now dead body. It was a good thing that I had blown my horn since there was already another member of the Undead army almost through the unattended gap and another one just waiting to push its way through after it.

The Response Team managed to get the situation under control fairly quickly (did I mention that they get to carry flashlights?). Poor Gregory met him demise unfortunately but it drove the point home to all of us watching our respective gaps. Paying attention was of the utmost importance.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully and I was granted a week’s vacation by The Council from my job as a Perimeter Guard for averting what could have been a huge crisis. I’m not sure if a week off is what I need though. I’ll be able to recover from the stress of the job, only to have to go back on active duty in a few days. I pray that someone on The Council will come to their senses and just patch the gaps. I’d rather watch a patched gap than an open one. Until next time, stay safe my friends.

The Next Day

Day 111

They took everything away from us. Guns, ammunition, clothes, personal belongings, and our laptop. They even took all of our identification. I know it seems silly to be walking around with it still since there is no use for it but it’s just been something most of us decided to keep with us, just in case.

It’s a very militant world that we are now living in. Everyone has a place and a purpose and if you don’t tow the line, you could be cast out to fend for yourself. Consider this the end of the “free” world. Sure you are guaranteed protection from the Undead but that is not infallible. The Undead are able to breach the wall and they do so often. My second day in the Herber Settlement, named for the mayor of the city formerly known as Seattle who had devised the idea for this fortress, I was scheduled for sentry duty. Mainly it was my job to ensure that nothing came through the 4 inch space between two of the concrete slabs on the West side of the settlement. There were many such gaps and they had to be manned 24 hours a day.

At first I thought they were kidding. What could possibly get through such small a space? Apparently the Undead can. I guess with their lack of pain or need for a properly articulated skeleton it allows them to fit through just about any space imaginable. At the sight of the first skull pushing its way through, I was instantly creeped out! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even react at first mainly because what I was seeing seemed so unbelievable.

The Undead man was almost all the way through the gap before I remembered that I had a job to do. Once I regained my wits and came to my senses, I placed the blade of the machete that they gave me at the base of its skull, brought it up and then quickly down, severing the head completely from his rotting body.

I would have loved to have had a gun for encounters such as this but the council in charge of the settlement didn’t believe that guns were required for this duty. As long as you took care of all of the Undead trying to breach the perimeter in good time, there would be no need for firepower.

In a way it was a solid place but you couldn’t help but wonder what happened if you missed one. Or if something smaller and infinitely creepier made it through the gap quicker than you could dispose of it… I hoped that we would never have to find out.

Everyone else was put to work as well. Some went to work at the local Laundromat (thank God my laundry duties were over even though it was a much safer job). Others went to work at local restaurants preparing food for delivery to all of the survivors.

Herber Settlement was a fairly well oiled machine by the time that we arrived there. Everyone had a place and a use. Everything that they had been carefully inventoried and measured. The power plant for the city was still functioning so we had lights for when it got dark, and electricity to run hot water heaters, washing machines, ovens, dishwashers. You name it; if it needed electricity, it could be  used for some purpose.

It really was a Utopian society compared to the hell that we had been living for so long. There were numerous safety protocols in place and regular resupply missions undertaken. There was a council of individuals that were charged with deciding what was best for the settlement made up of the former mayor, Johanna Herber (who singlehandedly fought to protect the city of Seattle from the Undead) and 9 other people. Some of those 9 people were other survivors that had been accepted into the settlement. And actually the council was about to name one of our group to it to ensure that we had a voice.

It was a democracy of sorts. Not perfect of course as we were beginning to learn but they were making an effort. The main problem was no one was willing to go against anything that Johanna Herber suggested. There was a bit of a messiah complex that surrounded her. Everyone here revered her and I can understand the belief that she is a hero. If it hadn’t been for her and her plan to protect the city, tens of thousands of people would have been enlisted into the growing army of the Undead. But the constant deference to her and her ideas had gotten the settlement into some trouble along the way.

From what I’ve been told, in hushed voices of course as people are somewhat paranoid around here, is that there used to be a lot more people at the settlement. Anyone that disagrees with the council, and therefore disagrees with Johanna’s decrees is asked to leave immediately. It was similar to what we experienced with Thomas Rosenberg on the ship but this was just a little bit worse.

On the ship, everyone was in agreement that no “upper” class should exist. In the new world order, each person started off as equals.

That wasn’t the case at the Herber Settlement. There was an elite and those in the elite didn’t have to contribute much of anything to the day-to-day maintenance of the community. Their free rides had been bought and paid for by their monetary support in building the settlement once the apocalypse started. Was it a fair system? Of course not but parts of the world had remained intact, that was readily obvious.

What began to truly scare us was the way in which a number of people acted when they thought no one was looking. You know the kind of activity that makes you pause and just say to yourself, something doesn’t seem right about that… Each of us is keeping an eye out for the bizarre but it’s hard to tell with a large group of people what truly is just bizarre and what is a potential threat.

After risking our lives to get here, we still have some uneasiness in staying. Only time will tell what the future holds for us. Let’s pray that the cards are stacked in our favour for once.

The Next Day