Sunday, May 2, 2010

Zombies in the Suburbs; Entry Two

Okay, so I was woefully optimistic about all sorts of things, and reading my first -- and only post -- since the outbreak, I sort of half laugh at what I was doing to "get ready", even though it was just more than a week ago. The other half of me isn't laughing at all -- steady electricity, phone service, security? Nope, none, and not organized, in that order.

Long and short of things? It is ugly out there and I have only myself to count on. Regardless of the state of the power here at the house, I am also writing journal entries by hand and keeping them in a fire safe. Honey (my wife, not you dear reader) - the safe is in the basement crawl space. You can guess the combination; it is the same four digits we use for everything. Or used to use for everything. I don't think you'll need it for the ATM anytime soon. Nope, not likely.

Okay, so some updates. Security. This is the biggest issue, and in some ways it is the hardest to write about. First, my initial efforts worked well enough - no one --nothing? -- got in the house. Security rule number one, as I've learned - stay quiet. I hooked up a generator, which has been in direct conflict with my newly learned first rule, hence why I've got to either let go of electricity as a concept, or find a way to make some watts quietly. Simply, electricity does not equal security anymore, so I've got to adjust. Habits, my friends, habits. Sure running the genny a half block away helps, but I still have to gas it up, start it, and so on. Can't do that from my third floor, now can I? Unless I want lots of company. I learned the hard way that, as quiet as I try to be, some of the infected still are close by, even if the generator has been cold for hours.

So I've learned security is all about layers. Like an onion, or a parfait. Who doesn't love parfait? I could eat a parfait right now. Fresh fruit? You don't know how much some strawberries would do for my more morale. For Christ's sake, I am allergic to the fucking things, but I'd kill for some strawberries right now. And whipped cream. Oh, fuck me. Something not out of a can.

Okay, focus. Security. The house has held up fine. No lights, so that makes it easier, and obviously not cranking the stereo. A few of the infected have "sniffed around" but meandered on, what attracted them is beyond me. But I practically had a heart attack, and almost got bitten to boot, when one of the infected stilted around the corner with its big mouth wide open, lookin' for lunch meat. I climbed down the ladder to go the garage for something -- what, I can't remember -- but I do remember I was bored and had cabin fever. I had spent the better part of two days and nights staring out of the third floor dormers. Counted four cars, a dozen or so locals running for or from something, and twice that many infected, going to where I couldn't tell you. So when boredom wore me down, I slid one of my ladders our our bedroom window, looked left-right-left, and practically climbed down on top of the fucker. He -- it? -- was slow; its knees were all hyper extended and clearly died the first time pretty roughly. Lucky for me, sucks for him. He couldn't close the gap, and after my heart stopped trying to bang through my ribs, I hustled to the garage and grabbed the heaviest thing I could swing. Turns out a long handed garden shovel works fine on the slow ones; the edge of the shovel blade sank four inches into its head, and it dropped like a box of rocks. I write this now like it was easy, and in some ways it was. I was scared shitless, to be honest, and I acted on instinct and adrenaline. I swung the shovel like a baseball bat and I was swinging for the fences. When it was over, I had two thoughts. I was lucky that this infected was slowed by injury and that I should have felt guilt or remorse for killing another person. But the reality is, I didn't kill this guy, I just killed him again. This has been my my most "up close and personal" experience with what can only be called zombies. Crazy to even write it, but what else can you call 'em.

After I put down the infected -- the zombie --, I scrambled back to the garage and grabbed whatever I could imagine would serve as a weapon. My list was fairly long, even if they were all one of two versions; blunt object or edged. I grabbed my softball bat, my son's baseball bat (got it at Dick's), a maul, a hand held sledge hammer, and roofing hammer. I also grabbed a hatchet, an axe, an adz (got it at Home Depot, as an impulse buy), three shovels, and my machete. No shit, I have a machete. Didn't use it much in the 'burbs, but we used to live in Vermont and it was handy for brush work. It took three or four trips up the ladder, but I got it all into the house proper. Later I made a trip into the basement and added two more regular hammers to my cache, and with my various hiking and camping gear, I added three decent survival-type knives. I scattered them all around the second and third floor, mixing blunt weapons with edged. I took to carrying my machete and my biggest knife on a belt; I didn't want to run into another infected without something right at hand. Oh, I also took a few minutes and hosed down the shovel I used to thump the infected who got the drop on me. There was some goo on the blade and I don't imagine it would be good to have that crap all over me. I was outside too long, and not that I've settled own, I know I was pressing my luck.

Layers. So I might have sorted out the house, at least against random infected. And in terms of close-in defense, I am as kitted out as I can be. But I realized, the night after I met the fucker at the bottom of the ladder, that I need to get some boundaries or barriers up around the house, to give me some space to move. And I was going to need to find some weapon that allowed me to stand-off and defend myself. In short, guns. If not guns, a bow or crossbow. No surprise, but bow hunting in suburbia is not a common hobby. Guns are my goal, but I don't own one. It is on my wish list now, let me tell you.

A barrier idea occurred to me. I don't need pretty, I need effective. If I'm quiet, the infected don't seem to come close to the house, or in groups. There also aren't many regular folk around to attract them. I can't really explain that. Worth figuring out, maybe. I just need to block the infected for awhile, maybe slow 'em down, confuse them. They can walk, even shamble-jog, but they can't seem to climb or move anything, or at least move things out of their way on purpose. As our neighborhood's houses are all pretty close together, I figured the one thing I could gather up easy was cars. All of my neighbors have -- had? -- two or more, so there are plenty around. When I get up the balls, I'm gonna make a used car lot all around the house.

On an aside, the power went out shortly after my first post, and the grid has only come on a few sporadic times. I can only guess as to why, but my hunch is that automatic programs are kicking in as lines, plants, and substations go offline. Sometimes the software programs worked, sometimes they didn't. But after three days of flickering lights, brownouts, and surges, I figured out that if I wanted electricity, I had to jerry-rig my own system. The grid is done. There have literally dozens of fires, some close by and others distant. Some are clearly set for defense or lit accidentally, but others are localized to individual structures. Again, my guess is the occupants either left with appliances in the "on" positions during a blackout, and during the various blips of juice from the grid, those appliances overheated, sparked, or surged, taking down the building. With no fire department or alarm system, once a fire starts, it burns 'til the fuel is gone. The "or", you ask? The occupants are home, but don't have the dexterity or intelligence to turn off the oven or the iron, or switch the breaker.

So my electrical system if pretty basic. First I acquired (stole sound sounds harsh; he's gone and not coming home) my neighbor's Honda generator. Into that I plugged a whole bunch of battery chargers and battery boosters. It took a couple of trips into the neighbors' garages to find the half dozen I have. Mostly I was just fishing and trying to get lucky, until I realized most boat owners around have one for their boat, which helped me narrow the search some. I plug these into the generator, stringing some heavy duty extension cords so I can keep the generator far away from the house. And I only run it during the day, as it is loud. But during the day, it has been manageable. But any noise attracts trouble, so it took two days of on and off operation to charge the chargers. Once they were all in the green, I hooked them into a series of six car batteries, which are easy to find. Most were in the "green" anyways, or were when I pulled 'em from wrecks and the neighbors' cars. I plugged the series into into ac/dc converter, and now I can run my lap top, an old am/fm radio, and a little hotplate for a good while. It took some trial and error, but it works. I also know that electricity is a luxury, and I'm in no position for luxuries right now. I need a simpler system so I don't electrocute myself, make less noise, and last, allows me to stay inside. Going outside is fucking scary, even during the high summer sun. And like a dumb ass, I took batteries from cars that I want to now use for my barrier-maze. I need to plan several steps ahead, or I'm fucked. I may be fucked anyway.

Back to fires for a moment. The fires have been terrifying, to be honest. At first the smoke was sort of comforting. It smelled like a big - and distant - bonfire. But as the days have moved along, the smoke has persisted and been so thick at times, it has obscured my neighbors' homes, most of which are only a few dozen yards away. Wherever the big fires are, they must be huge. Again, at first it was wood smoke and not that unpleasant. But as time passed, the smell took on a decidedly strong chemical/oil smell and I can only imagine what crap is in my lungs now. A period of time passed where the smell was much like that of a barbecue, and for the first moment or two I smelled it, I thought perhaps some of my neighbors were indeed home and cooking outside, using up the meat in their fridge or freezer before it spoils. But it dawned on me quickly that I was smelling cooked meat, but it was not steaks or burgers. God knows what was being cooked, but I doubt it was on a grill or fit for consumption. As I wrote earlier, some of the fires were relatively close by, but after some low key exploring, it seemed pretty obvious they were electrical shorts or other accidents. Not necessarily good news for the homeowner, and maybe I'm being naive again, but I can't dwell on the other options too much.

Okay, I'm rambling. I can't use my precious battery life to post my worries or for pity's sake. If you are reading this, whatever you have to give or share, it won't be pity. I've got to think about "what's next" and sort out if my barrier-maze plan will work, or is worth the effort.

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Zombies are serious business and should not be taken lightly. But my entries, on the other hand, are entirely for fun.