Day 159

We had a breach at the settlement; a significant breach. It started yesterday morning and it was horrific. Since I’ve had a while to process what happened, hopefully I can tell you as succinctly as possible.

I’ve been holed up in the library since it happened. There was no way that I would have been able to get anywhere else; I barely made it inside the library as it was. There are 6 of us here, all terrified of what is outside.

They came over the walls and through the small little holes that didn’t get patched. A veritable carpet of them like a wave of water just overtaking the landscape. One minute you could clearly see the ground around you and then in the next, the ground was covered.

They moved so quickly. So very, very quickly. One minute it was a lovely fall day, the next it was a massacre. The screams were the first indication that something wasn’t quite right.

I was just about the grab the door to the library, intending to go inside and write an update for everyone when I heard the first of the screams. they were blood-curdling. The kind of screams that raise all of the hairs on the back of your neck. The kind of screams that raise all of the ancillary hairs over your entire body. The kind of scream that settles deep into your psyche and changes you forever. It’s the kind of scream that you never forget but search for words to explain. I’ve heard it far too many times; more times that I care to even remember.

When I looked to see what was causing the panic and terror, I saw them. It was the largest group that I had ever seen. The Undead rodents were everywhere; cutting down every living thing that was in their path.

Knowing that I didn’t have a second to spare, I ducked inside the library and closed the door quickly behind me. I turned the lock, knowing that if I didn’t I ran the risk of allowing someone else trying to escape the horde the means to let them in. It may seem heartless but what good was it to sacrifice myself and anyone else that might have been in the library with me.

I heard the panicked and pained screams continue down the street, knowing that the tide of undeath was flowing in that direction. I had no way to warn anyone of their advance.

I could only sit and stare in horror as the seconds ticked by. Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes into hours. The worst was the waiting. Fairly soon the screams died down completely. None of us dared to look out the windows. The fear of attracting them was palpable.

What I didn’t know about the Herber Settlement was that it had suffered a breach just like this about 2 months before we got here. From what I understand there used to be quite a few more people here. The attack by the Undead critters dropped the population down to less than one-third of what it once was. And when Marcus had decided to patch the gaps and disband the Perimeter Guard completely, he did so not realizing what else the PGs had been assigned to look for.

Was it his fault that we’re in this position? No, how was he to know that we were in the path of their carnage. But the sad thing is that if we had known they were coming, we could have gotten in doors. We could have saved more people.

I have no idea who is dead or alive. I can’t even get out of this library. They could still be out there, waiting for us…

The wait is beginning to get to me. I need to find out if my friends made it. I know that Ben was at the hospital, Julie was at the house and the twins and Jane were all in school. The stress of not knowing is wearing me down. I can’t help but realize that while I want to know, I don’t want to know.

And all I can do is sit here and wait. Either they get in and devour us as well, or they’re long gone.

Oh sh*t! More screams… Someone must have ventured outside thinking it was safe only to find out it’s not. At least now we know for sure.

So we wait. And pray.

The Next Day

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Day 156

I remember what it was like in the beginning. The constant fight for survival; the overwhelming sense of desolation. At that point we were on the move, just trying to stay one step ahead of them. Hoping beyond hope that someone would be able to stop them. And by them, I mean the Undead.

Our unrelenting pursuers. They never stopped. Never got tired. Sometimes you were lucky and someone or something else would steal their attention away from you. But there were always more of them. They were everywhere and their numbers just kept growing.

I liken the experience to a river taking over the landscape. You don’t really know where the source is; all you know is that it just keep coming. Everything in their path is consumed and tainted by their encroaching tide of death and subsequent undeath.

Being at the settlement has eased some of the fears that we once had but didn’t erase them completely. Sure, there was no immediate threat related to the Undead behind the walls but things are strained. Marcus still has his minions observing the other survivors in the settlement at every possible moment.

People are not allowed to meet in groups larger than ten and our communal meals are always watched over by someone from Marcus’ camp. There must be something that he is afraid of but the question is what might that thing be? If it’s the possibility that someone might decide to rise up against him, I don’t think he has anything to fear. None of us are interested in seeing any more death. We’ve all seen so much of that; enough to last us 10 lifetimes.

Marcus does have bigger problems though. The supplies at the settlement are dwindling and he has yet to figure out a way that he can send people out and still maintain his hold on the people left behind. If it were me, I would just send a team out to forage for supplies but he’s so paranoid that he’ll send the wrong people that he’s chosen to do nothing. We have about 4 more days of food left before we’ll be eating the types of things that no one knows that to do with. Things like canned mushrooms and Spam. We have nothing fresh that much is obvious. No one is growing anything anymore and the canned goods are going to begin to expire in a few short months. We need to come up with a plan of self-sustainment for the long term. Otherwise, what’s the point in maintaining a semblance of normalcy behind the concrete walls.

In some ways, life is getting better though. Marcus has eased some of his restrictions. We’re allowed more time on the computers. It’s not that there is much to look at or even do but the fact that we have a way to escape for a few more moments a week is good. Most people have just been playing the games that come preloaded. The truth of the matter is that you can only play so much solitaire and minesweeper before your brain goes completely numb.

It’s probable that Marcus is coming to the realization that the people are losing their tenuous grip on reality…

There is a shock that settles in at some point. I’ve seen it first hand while fighting  in Afghanistan but what I’m seeing now is on a much larger scale. The survivors are walking around as if they are lost. They have the same looks on their faces as the people of Minden. It’s chilling really. Some of you might not remember what happened to us in Minden but the experience is burned into our psyches. As much as we might have wanted to forget, the vacant faces we see behind the walls of the Herber Settlement bring those memories back to the forefront.

We’ve seen vacancy before but it’s nothing like the widespread phenomenon that you can see as you walk down the street. It’s like every face is a mirror image of the one before. Each morning I get up and look in the mirror hoping that my face doesn’t look back at me with the same vacancy. The day that it does, I know I’m done. I’ve seen what happens when you just stop caring. Once you reach that point, it’s only a matter of time before the Undead accept you into their flock.

I’m hoping that day never comes for me. Or my friends. It would be horrible to survive the things that we have survived for the last 5 to 6 months only to give up now. We have to figure out how to keep our minds strong and in the game. The answer might be to leave the settlement. It would be dangerous of course. We have none of our weapons and no real way to travel quickly and safely but we’ve been at that point before. If the need arises, I’m positive that we’ll be able to stay alive. We have to. There is no other option. The Undead will not be the death of me or my friends.

The Next Day

Day 149

It’s amazing how much you miss certain things when you don’t have access to them. A number of people were talking the other day about how much they missed music. In fact, there was an impromptu sing-a-long that erupted among the group. It was a joyous moment; people’s voices joining together in song.

Then the moment turned sour. While we were singing a song that I was sure everyone would know we all forgot the words. It was like a switch turned off in our minds and we just forgot what it was that we were doing.

I want to believe that the arts are going to live beyond the Apocalypse but the case may be that they will not. Think of all of the works of art, just hanging in museums and galleries with no one to appreciate them. The songs that will no longer be heard. The books that will no longer be read. It’s a depressing thought if you think on it too long… Art is an expression of a culture’s creativity and at the moment, we are so busy trying to survive that we have no time to be creative. I would like to think the world will be able to get back to that but I do believe that the chances of that happening are slim to none. I hope I’m wrong; I hope that people need to create in order to understand, to process, to heal. I think it would be good for us, for all of us.

Life with Marcus in charge hasn’t actually been all that bad. Despite the way in which he came to power and the deaths that had to occur for it to happen, he has been a good thing for the settlement. He has taken on the task of patching all of the gaps in the wall. It’s freed up a lot of time for the Perimeter Guards to do other tasks that needed to be done. Now all we do it patrol the perimeter just in case the patches don’t hold.

Having the gaps patched up has actually prevented the Undead from hanging around the wall too much. Of course, we get the odd group that passes by but without an entrance they don’t bother too much with us and move along.

With Marcus, everyone has a say. It’s not a true democracy, that’s plainly obvious but he at least listens to what you have to say and then weighs the pros and cons before making a decision. With Johanna and the Council, it was a dictatorship pure and simple. Whatever Johanna wanted to put into law, she did and the Council never stopped her. I can’t fault the woman completely however; she did protect the city of Seattle from the Undead with her plan.

In the days following the riot, coup d’état, whatever you want to call it, Marcus officially apologized for the atrocities that were committed. While it’s interesting to see that he has a heart and I don’t believe that he genuinely feels bad about what happened. No one dares to speak out against him. What’s done is done and people are choosing to let sleeping dogs lie.

Even though he has apologized, people still feel the threat of violence that hides just beneath the surface. It’s an eerie feeling to be completely honest, like you’re never able to get comfortable. Like a pair of eyes are always on you at every moment.

We live with a number of restrictions as well. There is a curfew and you’re only allowed out after dark if you have special permission. If you’re caught out once the sun goes down and you have no proof that you’re allowed to be there, you spend an obligatory week in jail.

I’m not sure what it is that Marcus is worried about. No one is going to try to usurp his new role. I mean there might be a few people that want him gone, but there are no plans to make that happen. At least none that I know of anyways.

The worst of the restrictions might be that we are now only allowed to have one hour per week on the communal computers. And I have seen that our laptop has been put into circulation there. It’s hard to only have contact once per week as I know that some of you are out there thinking that something awful has happened. Well it has, but somehow we always manage to pull through it and survive.

The worst thing is that internet is beginning to die. That’s that only way that I can explain it. There seems to be a systematic shutting down of sites and well I can’t really fault that it‘s happening. At some point, we all knew that it was bound to happen. With no one to run the power stations, the servers would eventually go down. And we’ve been experiencing sites going missing all along but now it just seems that the internet is getting smaller. The once infinite space for information and the like is imploding; folding in on itself and swallowing the information that it once readily provided for us.

The funny thing is that porn sites are still very much alive. And I don’t mean alive in the sense that there is new content or anything. I just mean that the servers were still active and streaming content for the people that had either paid for it, or were willing to pay for it. I saw it a lot at the communal computer bank. The fact that it was the only thing left on the internet to really see meant that everyone was going to go there. And it wasn’t about the sex; it was the fact that they were the only images left to see of a world before all of this.

At some point, those sites will die as well. Lost to the world forever. Some of you might wonder if we will miss them. The truth is we will miss it all. Everything that we lose will be a painful reminder of the world that we once lived in.

The Next Day

Day 140

Lockdown does funny things to people. Put someone in a locked room and tell them that they can’t leave and you’ll soon find out just what they are prepared to do for the rights and freedoms that they once had. The following is the story of Marcus Bereger.

Marcus was one of those unlucky people to have been locked up in the old jail until it could be determined if the wounds they had posed any risk to the entire settlement. He didn’t appreciate the forced confinement; none of them did but Marcus was different. He had a voice, he had charisma and the angry outcasts of the Herber Settlement were ready to listen to someone. Johanna and the Council certainly hadn’t done them any favours by locking them up with potentially infected people.

As a result of the fire that Marcus stoked, the disenfranchised members of the settlement started to rebel. At first, they would just engage the guards in heated debates but soon it turned to violence. That’s the way with our society, if you can’t solve it through (educated) discourse; the one that strikes first usually has the upper hand. And the self-proclaimed outcasts struck first.

It was an organized attack. They moved all of the children into one section of the jail as their safety was never to be jeopardized and then staged a mock fight in the cafeteria. They knew the fight would draw the attention of the guards, and would likely bring them all down into the cafeteria to break it up.

The Herber Settlement Police Force wasn’t made up of your brightest of individuals. None of them actually had any police experience (most of the real officers had either left the city to help other forces quell the uprising of the dead or they had died themselves keeping the Undead out of the city in the early days). What stood for officers now were untrained men and women granted the “honour” of police work by Johanna and the Council. It had worked in the interim when no one did anything to jeopardize safety. And now it worked to the advantage of Marcus and his followers. Once all of the guards had responded, and left the doors open in their inexperience, the outcasts turned on them. They were soon overpowered. It really wasn’t a fair fight, 157 grown men and women against 20 guards ill-equipped to handle any kind of crisis.

In the end, 13 of the guards had been beaten so badly that they died of their injuries. No one even knew to respond to them in the jail; their bodies were found after the fact. The remaining 7 guards were locked in cells and Marcus and the rest of the mob left the jail in search of a fight.

They didn’t have to go too far to find one. Seeing the group burst forth from the jail, panic exploded through the settlement. The assumption was that the infection had spread through the jail like wildfire and now the Undead were loose. It was a fearful reaction but one that had been ingrained so many times before.

A number of the braver inhabitants picked up whatever weapons they could lay their hands readily on; gardening implements, cleaning tools, even spare pieces of wood still present after one of the buildings had been repaired. But the mob was too big for them. While they did some damage, they were quickly disarmed and granted no mercy.

The mob moved through the city, intent in its goal. They wanted the source of their anger, their frustration and they didn’t plan on letting anyone stop them in their pursuit.

The Council all lived in the same area of the city; in the houses that surrounded Johanna’s estate. They were easy to find and naturally were at home at that time of day. The mob dispersed to each of the houses as they came upon them; the group getting smaller as it stalked up the road to its final destination.

The shouts and screams from the houses left behind could be heard as the mob surprised each of the Council members and their families. But onward the shifting mob moved. They found Johanna and her granddaughter in the back of the house, just sitting down to eat dinner. There was an exclamation of surprise, then outrage out of Johanna.

Marcus struck her with a shovel that he had picked up along the way, her skull crumbling in upon itself. Her death was instant and her granddaughter’s followed shortly. By that time, the rest of the mob had finished with the rest of the Council. They were all dead, along with their families.

Marcus proclaimed himself the new mayor of the settlement on the steps of Johanna’s estate, still holding the shovel covered in her blood in his right hand. He raised it high in the air to the exclamations of support from the crowd.

The rest of us found out about the change in power shortly thereafter. Marcus made sure that we all knew he was in charge now. Nothing really changed for a number of us; we went about our normal tasks  of protecting, feeding and cleaning the settlement. There was no time for us to express anything other than blind acceptance.

Marcus is a very fluid speaker. Listening to him is like listening to music; the melody of his voice and the lilt of his words made you want to believe in the things he was promising. I can remember the last time I was present for one of his speeches.

He was standing in front of the doors to City Hall proclaiming that this was the new age of civilization. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure he understood what he was saying but soon we would find out just what he meant. If anyone thought that Johanna was bad, they should have been warned about charismatic charlatans.

Well, myy allotted time is almost up; I had better get this up before it’s lost forever…

The Next Day