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The area around the hotel had to be cleared again today. Overnight a few crawlers had invaded the area, reminding us that it would be some time before we’d be able to find and kill them all. We were in for a battle but in comparison to what we had been through, this one was much easier. The crawlers are slow. That fact is plain and simple to see.
None of us were worried. The move to the hotel had run pretty smoothly today.
We managed to get all of the people moved and in the process, moved quite a bit of the gear that we had managed to salvage. Knowing that most of whatever else we could possibly want was within easy reach was certainly a saving grace. We didn’t have to get it all done the same day.
Having the ability to take our time was something that many of us have missed over the past one hundred and sixty-eight days. We’ve been so consumed with saving our own asses, that we’ve missed out on the luxury of relaxation.
Don’t get worried however; there is nothing drastic going on. It’s just that the panic which has existed for such a long time in each moment has subsided to a certain degree. No one is taking chances or acting foolhardy. There is just an atmosphere of calm that has descended over the group.
We’ve lived through so much and while we are bound to love and lose over and over again, hope is returning. Thriving.
Hope makes us a little giddy, akin to the way you felt when growing up looking under the Christmas tree to see a huge present with your name on it. Like when the girl that you have had a crush on forever finally says yes once you’ve collected the courage to ask her out. Hope – it’s a renewing emotion. One that we desperately need.
We had just finished moving everyone over to the hotel when a noise sounded on the horizon. It was something that none of us had heard for a very long time; its absence making it almost foreign.
Could it be true?
Was it possible?
After radioing the Perimeter Guard our suspicions were confirmed.
It was a plane.
On the horizon and homing in on the settlement like it was a beacon. As I ran to the wall to get a closer look myself, the sound got louder and louder. Whoever was flying that plane was in complete control of it and they appeared to heading straight for us.
Ascending the stairs of the closest lookout post, I was rewarded with a glimpse of the craft. It was still some distance off but from the size, you could tell that it was a large commercial plane.
It would have been months since most aircraft had been grounded due to the outbreak and the sheer fact that there was no one left interested in taking a vacation to the hottest Undead locales. It seemed utterly impossible and yet, there it was, slicing through the air toward us.
The closest runway was just outside the wall’s limits. When Johanna had the walls erected, the airport was not included in their coverage. I’m assuming they weighed both the advantages and disadvantages of its inclusion. There was the possibility for something happening within the walls similar to what had happened in London and I’m sure many other cities. It was also a potential escape route. Apparently, Johanna had erred on the side of caution.
Someone had to make the hard decisions and Johanna had been formidable from what I have heard. She’s the reason that many of us are alive right now. Had there not been a place to come to, somewhere safe, free from the Undead, and self-sustaining to a point, we’d be dead. Of that I am certain. Ben, Julie and I were beyond trying to guess at a place that might be safe and Seattle had been our only option at the time.
Sometimes I wonder how the rest of the survivors we have met along the way are. There were so many of us that split ways after the cruise ship ran aground just off the coast of Georgia. What of the people we had rescued from the men that had collected survivors on their farm? So many survivors in a dwindling world of the living and we have no way of knowing how many of them are still alive.
The “what ifs” and the “maybes” cannot be dwelt upon however. So much time has passed and with it an eternity of life. There was once a time where days would pass without any real notice taken of them. I was certainly guilty of just living my life. Enjoying it but allowing the daily routine to steal something of it from me. Life should be a joy and now we can fully understand that. Joy. Simple yet hard to understand.
As I watched the plane, I could see it start to line itself with the runway of the airport to the west of us. At least that’s what I assumed it was doing when it turned in the air to come at us on a different angle.
I took a quick second to radio Lt. Lafferty who I knew was likely along the wall somewhere just like I was. Talking with her, I learned that she planned on waiting for them to land and then assessing the situation. As a group, we had decided to take in fellow survivors but not at the expense of our own survival. Each one would need to be checked over before being allowed inside. It was fair and just.
Their descent from the air was smooth. Whoever was flying the plane was skilled.
With the craft drawing nearer and nearer, I could almost make out the name on the tail. I think it said Air France but with a number of different airlines using white, blue, and red in their logos, I couldn’t be sure.
I swear I only looked away for a moment but it must have been more.
It was the sound that made me turn back at a speed which almost knocked me off the gangway.
When I looked back, the plane was on the ground.
Engulfed in flames and short of the runway.
They had crashed.
Perhaps they had run out of fuel. Or something worse.
Scanning the wreckage, I could just barely make out movement.
Figures exiting the burning fuselage, some on their own, others in groups.
There are survivors.
We have to help them.
There are two hundred and forty-three of us left. So far anyways.
Once we all gathered back at the empty warehouse, we knew that it was time to start planning our next move. But the planning took a backseat for the moment as we all rejoiced in being alive.
There were a number of reunions as well. Our small familial-esque unit made up of Julie, Jane, Lily, Liam and I were all elated to see Ben again and he was just as glad to find out that we had all survived. Our family is mismatched but all we have is each other and the thought of losing any of us is one that none of us want to consider.
Some of the children were lucky and relieved to be reunited with their parents, family or guardians. Many of them had been travelling, surviving, with random people they had met along the way. People that happened to be around them when their other family had met a less than desirable end. They were the people who could have turned their backs on them, left them for dead just to be rid of the potential hassle; instead the child or children were adopted, or in some cases, just allowed to tag along if they could keep up.
Children are incredibly resilient in some regards. I suppose that I should specify that some children are resilient; some just give up in the face of adversity. We have seen both on our journey. The striking dichotomy between the children of Minden and Lily and Liam, even Jane in her crazed state, is clear as day to those of us that have witnessed it all.
Perhaps it’s something bigger in the psyche of people; or a genetic initiative that clicks on in times of stress and hardship. A bona fide survival gene if you will. Whatever you want to call it, it results in the desire and will to survive. Given the state of our current world, some of us have it and others ended up dead or Undead.
Once we had spent some time relishing in the feeling of community the reunion created, we got down to business. We needed to decide what to do next.
Could we stay in the fortified city?
It is the safest place for us at the moment. Obviously there is some clean-up that needs to be done, but it is protected and in most instances, safe.
If we did decide to stay, one of the first things that we would need to do would be to reestablish the twenty-four hour perimeter guard. It is essential that we monitor what is going on outside of the walls. There is no way that we can afford to be unguarded like that again; no way that we can gamble with our lives a second time.
Replacing the perimeter guard also allows us the opportunity to help other survivors should the situation arise. It was a move that appeared to be against what the settlement stood for in the past; the only reason that our group had been let inside was because Johanna Herber thought we had something to offer. What that something was we will never know; she never got the opportunity to tell us.
Our new mandate is to help each and every survivor we can. No exceptions.
In true dictator style, Marcus attempted to usurp control over the plans we were making. Just because he had survived, did not automatically place him back in charge. The collective of the group decided that while we couldn’t hold him responsible for the existence of the Undead, his decision to dissolve the Perimeter Watch had contributed to the significant loss of life that the settlement had sustained.
Taking that singular fact into account, along with memory of how he came to be at the helm of our community, the group decided to move forward with none other than Lieutenant Mary Alice Lafferty leading them. Marcus was angry, upset, and indignant about the switch in leadership but there was nothing that he could say or do. The group had chosen.
Lt. Lafferty refused the role of leadership at first, but with the encouragement of the survivor’s trust in her abilities, she accepted.
Her first role of business was to ask the group what tasks they would like to do. It was the first time that many of them had been asked their opinion since the apocalypse and any member of the group that had been hesitant in the choice of Mary Alice was won over by her simple act of inclusion.
Some of the survivors chose clean-up duties, while others volunteered to watch the world outside the walls. A few opted to stay back and take care of the children and perform housekeeping related duties like cooking and cleaning. It was pleasant to see that everyone wanted to pull their own weight and put things right.
Knowing that we couldn’t stay in the warehouse for a long period of time, Lt. Lafferty proposed that we move to one of the hotels within the walls. It was a sound plan; a hotel would have the capacity to house all two hundred and forty-three of us, provide us with clean linens and have a kitchen where we could prepare meals for everyone.
Having a plan in place, the group who had signed up for clean-up duty went out to start clearing the area around the largest hotel. The sooner we moved the better.
I was on that crew, along with Julie. Once we got to the largest of the hotels, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was relatively free of crawlers. The hotel is located in one of the areas of the city formerly known as Seattle that was uninhabited by survivors at the time of the breach so the incidence of the crawlers was thankfully low. It took us no time at all to clear the area for the move that was set to happen over the next few days.
We moved out from the hotel, clearing the surrounding areas of the crawlers. It is exhausting work; each one needs to be dealt a final, crushing blow and then you have to pile them so that you can dispose of the bodies. Trying to come up with a way to dispose of them all in the most efficient manner wasn’t difficult.
As we ignited the first of the pyres, the flames licked their way over the accessible fuel of the exposed fat and muscles. The smell was awful but cleansing. Akin to the Norse tradition of burning the bodies of the dead, it was celebration of life, a remembrance in death and a fluid message of forgiveness.
May they rest in peace.