Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chapter One

Now that we've finally parted ways with Jay, things have gotten a lot easier. We knew we wouldn't exactly miss him, but he ate a lot and used more of our supply reserves than I'd like to think about. You'd think even someone as inept as Jay would realize that things are different now than before the zombies, but he kept on eating "till he was good and full" all the time, and wasting ammo on anything that moved and a lot that didn’t.
You can't do that anymore - you can't forget things are different. Not in the moment, like letting your guard slip down and being noisy going into a public bathroom. And not for the long term either. Jay was stuck in the past and was probably never going to make it in this New World of ours - that's why he thought he could stuff himself all the time, and why he never thought more than a day or so ahead.
There's a lot of rules or codes or mottos or dogmas or commandments you can try to live by, to get by, but things are definitely different.
I found this laptop and a bunch of batteries at a store that was in such a bad spot for retail, it was never even found by looters. If all goes according to plan, I'll be able to keep a record of what happens to us and how we lived. I don't know who I'm keeping it for - some people these days would see this as weak like I saw Jay's eating as weak. They'd probably ask "what you hopin’ for, the zeds learn to read?" There are a lot of thoughts you push aside when you get them these days, and the one I push aside as I write this is the thought of what might happen to humanity's history if that sort of indifference occurs everywhere.
The more we survive in this new age, the less we resemble humans from before the zombies and the more we resemble something new. Something slightly more animal, less intellectual. The dawning of technology and industry led man in many parts of the world to forget what it's like to struggle and fight to survive. I was born in an age and place where man's fathers fathers were never really in danger of starvation or lack of shelter. In America, where I grew up, it seemed that everyone found their way to easy shelter, food and clothing.
Now I live in the ruins of several generations of pioneers that were so successful in their venture they became complacent. Modern men would seem gods to ancient man. Modern man was capable of flight, slaying any other being at great distances with no effort, entering the cosmos and viewing up close what the closest things in space look like. Communicating with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. Forget about just communicating with one person anywhere in the world, modern man was accustomed to being spoken to by disembodied voices all day long - the telephone at work, the radio in the car, the television in the other room at home, the conductor on the intercom on the train, the meaningless announcements in airports, etc, etc.

Modern man, thoroughly interconnected a thousand times over via technology, estranged from reality and immersed in the ideas and "creativity" of corporations, is long gone. Pick a period of time - a week, a month, 5 years. Will whatever is left on Earth after that period of time remember modern man? There is good reason to think they might - his sprawl was endless and evidence of his having been here is global. To the grizzled new veteran of the zombie era, I say to you, I am "wasting my time" toiling here to see that whatever is left remembers this time in between. Because modern man is gone and we are his descendants, it falls to someone to preserve our history. Modern man's history is recorded amongst his sprawl, but every day I can't help but think nothing will tell our tale if I don't.

My name is Jeff. Since Infection Day, I have not met another Jeff who wasn't craving the blood of the living. We did see a zed with one of those stickers that said “Hi, my name is Jeff.” – Jay thought it was hilarious. For the record, however, my last name was Obrist. It is at this point that modern man would have exclaimed, "Jeff Obrist, the son of Felix Obrist?!" and he would of course known that Felix Obrist was the CEO and majority owner of Double Felix International, a top pharmaceutical company. Modern man thought Felix Obrist was kind of a big deal.

Felix Obrist was indeed my father, but it's turning out in these fun new times of ours that Felix Obrist was not so big a deal.

As I alluded to previously, modern man was well accustomed to seeing the faces and hearing the voices of others on their televisions, etc. My father's was amongst them - his face was well known, his success as a businessman giving him something of a celebrity status. It was for this reason that a number of camera crews were following my father on the day after Infection Day; he had just exited a very important press conference announcing a merger between his company and whatever other pharmaceutical it was swallowing this month. This was seriously a big deal. This was seriously a big deal until my father, Felix Obrist, only made it half way from the glass doors of One Financial in Boston to his limo. His progress was impeded along the way by a zombie that had just strolled out of the subway, chased by MBTA police whose less than stellarly-aimed bullets had little effect on the trunk and limbs of the things.
I must have seen footage of my father being chewed on half a dozen times before television transmissions stopped. If for some sick reason I wanted to see it more, it would have been available on the internet, which survived a couple weeks longer. Without anyone to maintain them, servers eventually shut down along with their power grids, until soon there was no more interconnectivity. If all the websites you know are gone and there’s no way to search what’s left, and no internet service providers remaining, you’d have to really know what you were doing to accomplish anything with a computer. Marty knows what he’s doing with a computer and already gave up on this laptop, not wanting to build false hope.
I can only report on what I’ve seen myself in the Brave New World. Hearsay and new mythology and gossip intertwine to make information from other survivors almost worthless. There is no way to know what this is all really like for anyone but ourselves, so here I will record the things that happen to us and do my best to give a depiction of life today, so that maybe someone will remember.

We were looking for food today. Four mouths to feed means a certain amount of food every day. All the readily available, pre-packaged, preserved food that the people of my country, if not much of the world, have eaten for generations - we took it for granted. All that food was so easy to get, modern man forgot how to get his own food.

Beyond that, man almost forgot how to survive. Maybe that's why there are so few of us left. That morbidly obese guy who lived down the street? When the neighbors turned zed, they must have kept some scrap of their brainpower, because within 10 minutes fatty was heavily chewed upon and being dragged into the street by the neighbors and their kids.

Fatty was fat, but like I was saying, he also never found any of his own food that wasn't on the supermarket or convenience store side of a cash register. If fatty suddenly went broke one day, he would not have been able to pick up his rifle and go live off the land, let alone survive a few nights without shelter. Fatty probably would have given up before crawling through dumpsters, fighting off packs of dogs for whatever they might be feeding on, or wandering into a supermarket almost definitely full of zeds that he would be fighting off as he frantically searched for some unspoiled edibles. Fatty was not equipped to handle many if not most of the situations that our Brave New World has provided for modern man. Fatty was modern man embodied, and modern man was mostly unequipped to handle anything like this. Modern man didn't even need to try to survive, why should he bother know how?
Anyone who questions modern man’s inadequacy to deal with a zombie uprising need only compare the modern soccer mom and her children to men of old. The mother and children in a soccer mom’s minivan cannot be said to be as violence-ready as mothers and children of old. When men fought with rifles that carried only one shot, it wasn’t uncommon for a wife and children to be reloading and handing off a cache of rifles to their husbands and fathers who fought wilderness, natives and each other to survive. These people would probably have already put down a zombie uprising with the vigor of a good old fashion witch hunt.

Probably not unrelated to these flaws of modern man's, rural houses always seem to be better equipped for the Brave New World than anything urban or suburban. Fatty relied on the rest of society to clothe, feed and shelter him, but these rural people were less society than Fatty or the rest of modern man. These people in the boonies relied less on other people and more on their knowledge of survival and the land. They grew some of their own food, some more than others. They dug wells and kept them clean and usable. They kept animals. They kept clean, working and efficient projectile weapons. In addition to the simple fact that they were less densely populated, these people started off in this Brave New World much better equipped than modern man. We’ve been working since the beginning to escape the cities and suburbs of modern man to get somewhere populated only by these better equipped folks. Maybe if we ever find such a place, we can remember what safe is.
Traveling amongst some such homes, all save one of them today abandoned by survivors, we found a homestead/farm that had some livestock wandering amongst the premises. They were surprisingly well fed, so we could only make some assumptions. The residence showed signs of relatively recent use - much more recent than Infection Day, for certain. We also found a couple of the pigs rooting around one of the food troughs, so we guessed that the previous residents, upon abandoning the premises, left a supply of food in the trough for the animals. Their compassion and attachment to the animals was our good fortune.

As time goes on, it becomes harder to be in touch with that part of modern man that would have struggled to deal with our situation today. In this New World, there are few rules to govern or dictate behavior. The cops are not coming, and 911 is something we joke about ("Zeds approaching, someone call 911!") - a number people called when they couldn't solve their own serious problems. Now the zeds seem to show up whenever you have serious problems. In any situation such as the sudden acquisition of a fenced farmyard full of livestock, you are left to make up the new rules as you go. Obviously though, we need to survive, and all attention is paid to survival these days. Like I've said, there aren't many of us left. Those of us that are left? We like to think we've got our shit together, and that means thinking more like a much older version of humans than like modern man. Modern man was primarily concerned with things like bank accounts, mile per gallon and celebrities and had distanced himself well from things like how to kill, gut and preserve the most useful portions of a pig.

Modern man probably wouldn't have been this well acquainted with the blood, either.

Obviously, I've had to kill my share of Zeds to make it this far. I'm still unsettled by, but at least acquainted with, the violence and blood that have been so pervasive since Infection Day. I'm still looking forward to the next day when I won't have to slay what's left of a human being that I most likely would have had no quarrel with. That part of my humanity that I have struggled to keep alive - believe me, so many that aren't zeds have nonetheless lost their humanity - is probably what objected to slaughtering those pigs.

None of us ride horses, so we let those go. We argued briefly about trying to learn how to ride, but ultimately my objections about how dangerous that could be were heard – falling from a horse made a casualty out of Superman long before any zeds showed up. I hate to think of them trying to survive what we've had to survive, but I tried to picture those horses kicking some zed heads in, rather than being overtaken by zeds. I think there were five horses - the farm had a nice little stable with lots of riding gear, those horses were probably well loved. Realistically, they'll probably feed a dozen zeds and maybe take out one or two, but they were running out of food in the fenced in farmyard anyway.

There were four pigs. We had planned on killing them all and trying to salt and package as much of the meat as we could. We could only bring ourselves to kill two. I went first, in no way anticipating how difficult it would be to deal with the gurgling, thrashing and awful, awful bleating when I slit its throat. This Brave New World has fortunately frayed my nerves and heightened my reflexes - or so I like to think - because I was fast. The moment that bleating hit my ears, I found myself flipping over the barn stool I'd been sitting on and raising it over my head to end the awful sounds. Mercifully aim, velocity and placement of the strike all worked out to one blow being required. I couldn't even look, Marty had to tell me it was over.

Marty looked sort of shocked, so I can only imagine how I looked. The idea had seemed simple enough - even if we weren't going to be eating its head, we shouldn't waste any ammunition on it. My machete jumped out as the best idea, first. We never thought of bludgeoning it, and that was that. Time was always short now, and you just had to act - it hadn't seemed necessary to spend time thinking of another way when the machete would get the job done. I wish we had spared ourselves that bleating - we're haunted by enough these days.

Marty was ready to waste ammo when there was still plastic wrap and salt after the first pig. I wouldn't help him. We were fortunate that the previous occupants of this farm believed in preservation - food, not environmental. There was a whole setup for making and jarring jams and jellies and preparing and packaging meat. Soon, there won’t be any plastic like this left unused in the country - or maybe there just won't be anybody left to finish up using it all.

We got a lot of meat, some jams, jellies and peanut butter and a few pounds of jerky from the farm, and these days that's incredible. The previous residents must have had their fair share to carry, to leave so much behind. As heavy as peanut butter is, I was happy as a clam to carry it - we haven't had a score this big yet. Usually we consume what we find because there's not enough to bother saving and carrying with us. Modern man's instinct might have been to gorge his starved ass on that food, but like we talked about with fatty, things are different. I spent an hour on my first foot long strip of jerky. I chewed the last everloving fibers out of that jerky, savoring the juices and substance of each bite as long as I could. Modern man had probably lost the sensation of renewed energy after eating substantially for the first time in days, too.

We've got to make it last. We don’t know how much longer we’re going to have to be on the move before we find someplace we can try to make a stand. Making a stand is what this all feels like – against zeds, against nature, against the other survivors, and against the ineptitude of modern man.

Jeff Obrist, at least 5 weeks after Infection Day.

3 comments:

  1. Nice. I like some of the stuff your doing with language. I'd like to see some more cool phrasings and sayings that you've made up though. It's reading a lot like WWZ, with is a compliment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yeah, you should check this out.
    www.thehfl.net

    ReplyDelete

 
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