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.