Posts Tagged ‘ Grand Rapids ’

zDay 59 – All good things…

My past has come back to haunt me.

It’s not the first time its happened but it’s certainly one of the worst. It all started a couple of days ago. Things were running like clockwork around here. I’d stopped blogging because I was busy once again. We found a place in the world once again and integrated ourselves into their system seamlessly. Anna is a little worker. She’s up for any challenge and picks up on how to do things really quickly. You can find her pretty much anywhere at any given time. Helping prepare meals, assisting Keith with the greenhouse, and even cleaning weapons. Yes. The girl can break down a Winchester M70 and clean it in under a half hour. She does so on shift changes or when guards bed down for the night. A clean weapon is an effective one, so they say.

As for me, Ben allowed me to finally go on a few salvage runs with Kyra and Gary while Joesph was being trained by George and Anthony. I wanted to express my concerns about Joe’s state of mind to Ben but how could I? I had killed his wife. How would that reflect on how they view me? Besides he’s very unassuming and follows orders like a soldier. There’s nothing to call him on other than my own personal bias so I remained silent.  The three person teams have been Kyra’s design from the start. They allow for maximum speed but enough coverage to get a good deal of work done. George’s crew had gone out first. Normally Ben doesn’t dispatch more than one squad unless there’s a big find. That came in the form of a Napa Auto Parts. George radioed about an hour in telling us they hand come upon a barely touched auto parts store. Keith has been working tirelessly with an assortment of crap tools and equipment for so long making this a rather ground breaking discovery.

Ben dispatched us next to assist George with the run. The Napa store was quite a ways down 4th, on the opposite side of town and far from our entry point in the Army Surplus store. There were quite a few lurkers on the streets but getting past them wasn’t too difficult. By the time we met up with George and the others they had already made entry into the building and had assembled several loads of equipment – mostly tools and surplus parts. It would have been far easier to have wheeled a couple of the toolboxes down the street but understandably both Kyra and George felt that would draw a bit too much attention. I wasn’t about to argue that one.

By the time we loaded up and hit the streets again, the situation outside had changed somewhat. We heard several dozen shots being fired, not near our position but way farther to the north of the city. There was a brief discussion between Kyra and George regarding whether we should investigate it or not but the consensus seemed to agree that we return to the mill and report what we heard to Ben. The activity up north seemed to stir up the pussbags quite a bit. Many of the stragglers that were near the rear of the mob that always harasses us started to make their way to where the new distraction was causing a herd crossing on 4th. We were forced to head north as well in an effort to get ahead of them and cross back to the surplus store.

Somewhere along the line we lost sight of Joseph. He had been laboring slightly with the load and taking the scenic route back home. When we were about two blocks away from the passage, we got ambushed by several undead nasties. We couldn’t start blasting shots or else we would have compromised our position for sure so we engaged them hand-to-hand. There was some semblance of confusion. I really wasn’t expected we’d have to do any melee fighting while we were out there so when the moment arose everything was a blur. I remember cracking one zombie on the side of the head then getting grabbed by another. Gary flung him off me and we both proceeded to mash him like a roach. The whole skirmish couldn’t have lasted more than 40 seconds but in that time we lost Joesph. The others searched for him for a few tense seconds but dreaded having to call out to him. We could hear the shuffling getting closer and closer so we had no choice but to move.

We managed to get to the sewer line undetected and reported what had happened to Ben. Surprisingly to me, he was infuriated that we left him behind. Kyra tried to explain the situation but Ben was adamant about doing something about it. Unfortunately we were about 2 hours overdue as it was so any rescue mission would have to wait till the following night. We didn’t venture much during the day. It was around 3 or 4 in the morning and I was exhausted. This situation couldn’t have played out better for me I had thought. I was finally done with Joesph. I didn’t have to sleep with one eye open anymore. He wouldn’t survive the day.

…or so I thought.

I can’t recall how long I’d been sleeping. It felt great to rest without that suspicion lingering over me like blanket. Deep down I really felt bad for the guy but my own selfishness made me relish his absence. I was awakened to the sound of several gun shots. I’d grown used to hearing shots over the past couple of weeks but these were much closer. They were coming from inside. I scrambled to my feet and quickly grabbed the Winchester that was laying by my side. I could see people running back and forth through the dirt stained windows of the office I was in. I quickly made my way to the door and cracked it open slightly. It was bedlam. There were unknown assailants – living beings – loose inside the compound and they were systematically executing everyone in their line of sight. I couldn’t see any of our people amidst all of the confusion. Some had hid while others engaged the attackers on the plant floor. I crept down the stairs and made my way towards where the women would sleep. I had to find Anna.

Thankfully their room was on the other side of facility far from where the action was taking place. Bullets whizzed by my ears as I tried to make my way across the battlefield. I could see Kyra, George and Franklyn propped up against some of the milling equipment taking blind shots at the attackers every so often. I don’t believe they noticed me scurry by. I wrestled with the notion of assisting them but I had no idea how many we were up against. From the screams and gun shots it didn’t sound as though we were doing well. Call me a coward. Call me obsessed with her. I don’t care. She was my responsibility and I had to get to her.

As I crossed between two print presses I stumbled over what I initially thought was a fire extinguisher or something. When I looked back I saw it wasn’t an object but in fact a person. Tom to be exact. He was the after hours guard for the sewer line entrance. He had been stabbed multiple times in the gut. His trail of blood spanned almost the length of the entire factory. He apparently tried to crawl to safety but didn’t make it. He was certainly dead now. Tom wasn’t a slouch. He wasn’t the type of guy who would fall asleep on duty or something foolish like that. And to be stabbed to death? That’s pretty ballsy. It had to have been someone he knew in order to get that close.

Then it hit me like a freight train. It had to be Joesph.

Who else could it be? Who else could do this? I felt sick with rage. I wanted to lash out and kill anything in my path but then reason settled over me as I began to think once again. He’s got help. How else could we have been overrun like this? I quickly dashed off towards the women’s dorm. As I neared several shots ricocheted around me as whoever was inside opened fire on me. I yelled out to whoever it was and let them know it was me. Seconds later the door opened and a hand eagerly waved for me to come in. I slipped in and saw that Anna was alive and well. She threw her arms around me and gave me a big tearful hug. Patricia, Katie and Heather barricaded the entryway when the shooting first started and have been holed up here with her. We now had our backs to the wall and the sounds of gunfire were beginning to slow. We waited for tense minutes hoping to hear an “All clear” from one of our companions but we heard something far more ominous. As the gunfire ground to a halt the noxious sound of their moaning could be heard in the distance. They were inside now. I don’t know how or why but now our situation had just gone from bad to worse.

Patty motioned towards a window that rested about 10ft above us. Without hesitation we began to stack whatever furniture we could get our hands on in order to reach it. She scaled it with ease and used the butt of her rifle to smash out the window. We knew we had to move fast so I helped push the others up the pile and out the window. By the time Katie was through I could hear them lurking just outside the door, their silhouettes casting twisted shapes on the murky glass windows. When I dropped down from the window I must have rolled my ankle or something because a fiery pain shot up from my foot all the way up to my calf. We managed to hobble our way down to the dock and board the boat. There were far too many people on such a small vessel but we didn’t have much choice in the matter. We cast off and let the the current carry us away.

We drifted for what seemed like hours all the while watching the smoke and fire rise from the Paper Mill. All that work. All that effort. All those lives. Gone. Because of one individual’s vendetta against me. For the first time since this all began I felt like giving up. Everything good I’ve been trying to do ends up turning out bad and I began to question was it even worth it anymore.

It took me a couple of days to come to grips with my own emotions. Heck I wasn’t even going to make an entry about this but Anna handed me my phone while we were camped out along the bank and cuddled up next to we waiting for me text away. The mood around here is understandably solemn. I don’t believe I’ve said more than a few words to the other ladies in the past 24 hours. Everyone needs time to absorb and process what has happened – some more than others.

I guess we’re back to square one once again.

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zDay 42 – The winds of change

I had a nice long conversation with Ben last night. We’ve never really had a chance to do a one-on-one since Anna and I arrived. We’d spoken briefly in group meetings and at dinner, but nothing substantial. I tell you he’s an interesting dude. He was a CPA for 26 years prior to zDay. The way he has things clicking around here I could have swore he had some kind of military training but no… he’s never even served. I guess it just goes to show that you can’t judge a person by their job.

The other 20 survivors Ben has assembled are all from Grand Rapids. Most of them found one another while on the run in the initial days and decided to stick together. After they settled in the old UPM factory they started actively going out rescuing those in trouble. They multi-tasked rescuing, securing and gathering supplies for the fist couple of weeks and set up quite an operation here. There are a few skilled people here as well. Okay so it’s unfair to say “a few skilled people”. Everyone here has skills that help contribute but let’s be real, trade skills are invaluable. Take Keith for example. He’s a contractor so he’s well rounded when it comes to anything technical like construction or electrical. George is a cop and Kyra is a Marine only a couple of months removed from Iraq so their tactical skills are very important. There’s also a nutritionist, a health care worker, and a mechanic in the fold. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in just the past few days from just observing. Talk about on the job training.

We were the only ones to come from outside of Grand Rapids so getting the opportunity to trade notes with Ben was beneficial to us all. According to him this was the only stable settlement in the city. Every other day they send a patrol out to not only look for survivors but scout out potential threats as well.  They haven’t gotten much further past 6th street so it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the north end. There are gangs lurking about though. There’s no doubt in that. He was actually quite disturbed to hear about the incidents we went through in Two Harbors and Aurora but thankfully his rather unique defense against looters and marauders seems to have some sound logic behind it. I didn’t get it at first. It seemed like too much of a risk to draw the attention of the zombies and have them at the gates – literally. For the past month I’ve been doing everything in my power to avoid them. This just seemed stupid and risky to me until he explained the reasoning behind it.

Everything is a risk. It’s a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Having the zombies constantly at the walls provides an extra buffer of protection – if you can believe that – from raiders. No one is going to approach with that many zombies in front of them so it makes a frontal assault pretty unlikely. So long as the walls are maintained and the body counts monitored and regulated, it limits the amount of manpower needed to defend all points. That leaves us less ground to cover in defending the reservoir and bridge, hence why they scoped us out so quickly. Definitely risky but based on the loose cannons I’ve seen it’s a daring endeavor.

They’re also trying to finish off a greenhouse inside the factory itself, over in the west wing. With winter bearing down on us it’s probably the best idea I’ve heard of yet. Sustainability is a huge advantage. I guess they’re digging in for the long haul. Keith has been toiling with that for a while now. The biggest obstacle is getting the supplies needed to complete it. We may have to send another couple people out when there’s a salvage run in order to pull that off. It may be interesting to tag along on one of those. I think I’ve kinda proven that I can handle myself outside. Course I’m not gonna push for it. if they need me I’ll volunteer but I’m not going to push my way in. They’ve got a smooth operation going here so I’m not about to disrupt that.

Oddly enough I’ve noticed that the deadheads have been slowing down quite a bit. I haven’t seen a runner in about a week now. It seems as though the wear and tear is putting the brakes on them. They’re still very much as dangerous as ever but at least you can skirt by them without winding yourself… for the most part. The key is still to avoid detection when outside the compound though. You get enough of those dumb fuckers around you and it doesn’t matter how slow they are, they’ll maul you.  I’m glad we can get in and out of here without drawing too much attention. There’s access to the sewer system from the factory. They’ve secured a line all the way to 4th street near the Army Surplus store so our people can get in behind the bulk of the horde. They’ve even brought industrial carts from the mill down there to make running supplies back and forth much quicker. It’s pretty much our lifeline cuz we’d have to sail up the reservoir if we had any thought of getting out of here to restock otherwise.

Duty calls.

Stay strong and be safe out there.

zDay 41 – Safe?

It never ceases to amaze me how a human can adapt to anything. Even when presented with the most dire circumstances, people find a way to make things “normal”.

Normal. That’s a term I use lightly.

How can anything be considered normal? I equate normal to being comfortable and I’m certainly not comfortable right now. Grand Rapids reminds me a lot of Duluth. Course a lot of cities and towns in Minnesota look alike. Sure would have been interesting to visit a big city like Minneapolis or St. Paul. Maybe not now but you know. I’m kinda kicking myself for not doing so before. Fuck. There’s a lot of things I wish I had done. Oh well…

We’ve been here for a few days now. I was half expecting this city to be another forage into Waco but thankfully we happened upon some rather stand up folks here. I’m not sure of what’s going on in the rest of the city but these people got their shit together. They had cleverly set up shop along the Paper Mill Reservoir in a factory next to the bridge. They’ve sealed off the other side of the bridge and have created a perimeter using a series of obstructions from cars to heavy machinery creating a decent wall around the immediate area. The parking lot in front of the factory serves as sort of a staging ground with the factory itself being a lock down fortress. We saw it from miles away. It’s hard to miss actually. They have the area well lit with flood lights so we were kinda drawn to it like moths to the flame. There’s a steady plume of smoke that emanates form the factory making it look like a giant cabin. It draws a lot of attention from the deadheads but from what I learned later is it’s part of their strategy. We had come in along the banks on the other side of the reservoir. We were spotted by sentries they had posted immediately. We had been traveling so long that I didn’t even try to escape. I guess the fact that we weren’t immediately fired upon was a good sign.

They sent a small armed fishing boat across to us and helped dispatch some of the local nasties that had started to gather. We were greeted by an older black gentlemen named Benjamin Jones. He looked as though he’d seen his fair share of  grief in the past month but welcomed us aboard with a proud smile and open arms. They didn’t look like military but their operation was quite professional. There are 24 of us in total here. Everyone has a job. Everyone contributes. I guess that’s where the normalcy comes into play. I’ve never been much of a leader. I’ve always felt most at ease just going with the flow. For the past however many days I’ve had to make some really tough decisions… some of which have been awful… a few good. It’s very taxing to say the least. I suck at being responsible for others so it was refreshing to have a group of people that knew how to do the job correctly… or at least it looks like they do.

I’m still not too sure about Joesph though. Yeah, I managed to fish that name out of him a couple of days ago. Well I didn’t but Anna did. One day while we were camped out on a rooftop in La Praine waiting for a scavenging mob to pass us by he finally started to talk – to her. I’m not exactly sure how comfortable I am with that but I overhead him say his name was Joesph… Joesph Barnes. We still haven’t exchanged words since that day but he’s been tagging along ever since getting all buddy buddy with Anna. She doesn’t see the potential threat he poses. I mean why not, he looks like someone’s grandfather and talks in a soft baritone voice. There’s something about him though. Something distant in the way he just gazes at things – at people. We’ve all lost so much in this ordeal but I can’t help but think his train left the station a long time ago.

Oh well. He hasn’t done anything detrimental as of yet so I guess I can’t crucify the guy for doing nothing. But I’ve definitely gotta keep Anna away from him…

So here we are now going about living the way we have to now. I can’t knock it though. It’s good to have some structure back in my life. I have bank patrol in a couple of hours then I’m on burn duty after dinner. Yes burn duty. They actually burn the bodies that start to pile up so as to not promote disease. No one’s exactly running the sewage treatment plants anymore so you kinda have to make due. Letting the bodies accumulate also poses a threat of breach because these dumb fuckers just keep marching forward stepping on the bodies of their fallen comrades. If you let it go for too long they’d eventually have a ramp of bodies to walk right over the walls with. We can’t very well toss bodies into our water supply out back either so burning is the only option. It’s quite a horrid odor… even more than the stench that’s already in the air but you get used to it. It’s a small price to pay considering.

I’m thinking about talking to Jones tonight and seeing if he’ll disclose how he got things set up here. Perhaps it’ll be beneficial to others around the world if they had a sorta guideline of how to defend. He’s a man wise beyond his years. Oddly enough he doesn’t even consider the zombies the biggest threat. It’s the looters he’s more concerned with. This whole compound is more geared towards fending off people than the undead.

“Zombies march, moan and eat. That’s all that’s on their minds. It’s the living human mind that keeps me up at night.”

A man after my own heart.

zDay 34 – The Road

It’s been a while since my last update as you can tell. Let’s just say that circumstances prevented me from being able to do so. Girl and I remained at the cabin for 4 days after my last post. Thankfully I don’t have much to report about our stay there. Like I mentioned earlier it was downright peaceful considering the circumstances. We both ended up getting some much needed rest. I was really tempted to try my hand at some hunting but that would be like trying to piss up a pole. I can just imagine myself sneaking through the forest trying to pick off some wildlife with my peashooter. It would be comically pathetic. The extent of my “hunting” goes as far as a rod & reel. I lacked the proper  equipment to do that either. When the MREs ran low it was time for us to hit the road once again.

She was in good spirits and looking better than she has since I first met her. She’s still hobbling about so getting her out of the forest was a bit of a task. She’s a little thing but my God, after a few miles she gets to be quite heavy. We’ve bonded a great deal over the time we’ve been together though. She still hasn’t spoken a word yet but she listens to everything I blabber on about. Maybe I’ll get her to do some entries here. Might help her to cope with what’s going on. It’s amazing how much her eyes can convey. So much compassion. So much concern, attention, conviction. It’s unfortunate that this ordeal has forced her to grow up so quickly but she knows she can trust me.

Nothing like a bit of pressure, huh?

I really should name her. Listen to me. I’m starting to sound like the kid who found a puppy on the way home from school. Am I really that awful for wanting to “name” her? It’s getting really weird referring to her as Girl or “hey” all the time. You know what? Screw it. I’ll call her Anna. That’s the first name that popped into my head so that’ll be what I call her from now on… unless she tells me different.

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life and had never been to Grand Rapids. I know. It goes against everything I’ve been saying about avoiding large cities but we have to get there. We started seeing a disturbing pattern as we came across some of the smaller townships. They were either completely ransacked or transformed into makeshift forts. Let me tell you this, they aren’t accepting new residents either. We got our first taste of that in Aurora. I suspected something was afoot when I didn’t see too many active deadheads in the area. Much like Two Harbors you can tell where people are holed up by the amount of dead bodies lying about. I don’t know if they’re somehow learning and staying away from these areas or if these hunkered down trigger happy yokels are simply laying waste to everything in sight. Either way I knew it wasn’t good news. We approached at night. I had Anna take cover inside what remained of pizza shop while I scouted area out. It was safe enough for her and I wasn’t going to be long so I headed out.

Many of the main streets and buildings were barricaded with an assortment of debris stacked two men high. Cars, mailboxes, signs… basically anything they could get their hands on it looked like. I noticed however that they weren’t secured with much more than just some ropes and chains. It’s obvious that these fortifications aren’t meant to keep the living out because with the exception of a sentry or two stationed at key spots a child could easily scale them. I broke into the side entrance to place called Dino’s Bottle Shop. I dunno why that name sticks in my head. Apparently a locked door is as good as a barricade when you’re dealing with the undead because there wasn’t anything else blocking my way in. From inside I was able to get a glimpse of what was going on behind the walls. The smell of beer and arrogance was rank in the air. It even overpowered the ever present stench of the dead. I guess these boys had a bit of overconfidence. Aurora is comparable in size to Two Harbors so I doubt they had much of an onslaught to contend with. Heck I betcha half these chicken-humpers had guns anyway and were looking for a reason to shoot something.

I can’t believe I said that. I don’t like what this whole situation is turning me into.

Anyway, I wasn’t about to press my luck and silently left the same way I came in. Course I broke the lock to get in… I hope that doesn’t cause problems for them down the road…

We stayed off the main roads for a long while and headed West. The activity seemed to pick up quite a bit so once again we tried our best to stray away from populated areas. After a few miles though I decided we needed some transportation if we were going to make any headway so we made our way back to the 169. The highway was choked with vehicles but finding one that not only had keys and gas but a drivable path out of the clutter took some time.  I did eventually come across a Mazda 3 that was still in pretty good condition. It managed to stay clear of the many fires that had apparently spread from car to car. There were several charred remains outside of it though and a body inside. It looks as if whoever was driving smacked into the guardrail and got swarmed. As I pulled her corpse out I was anxiously waiting for the eyes to pop open and her to come at me. She didn’t have any open wounds that I could see. In fact the car wasn’t even breached until I smashed through the driver-side window. Her eyes were sunken and tongue swollen. Sadly enough she looks like she died of dehydration… too frightened to even leave the car. As I laid her on the ground I couldn’t help but think back to the old man and his child that I saw in front of the hospital. A chill rocked me to my core as I began to wonder if that was the fate I had in store for myself and this little girl by getting in this car.

Navigating the highway was a task. Whenever we had to slow down and work our way through blockages I was anticipating an ambush. I even had to have her drive at some points while I moved debris from our path. She seemed to enjoy the little tastes of freedom.

There wasn’t much left of Buhl or Chisolm. I didn’t even bother stopping. Didn’t seem worth it. Somehow it seemed to me as though we were chasing the storm. My fears were confirmed when we approached Hibbing. It was a town under siege. You could hear the screams and gunfire a mile away. The road was bringing us right towards the center of town and as we got closer, we saw them.  Hundreds upon thousands of zombies flooding the horizon. I immediately veered off the main road and tried to find a way around. It’s not easy driving in the backwoods, in dark with no headlights with no roads to speak of. We were literally creeping by at a snail’s pace. It was unnerving. After a while the brush was so dense that we couldn’t go any deeper. Luckily we stumbled upon a trail far from the main road. It was probably a walking trail or something. The car could barely fit on the unpaved road but we followed it as far as we could until it brought us to the outskirts of town.

We were on Brooklyn road – wherever the hell that was – when from out of nowhere two people came dashing out from a nearby supply store and began banging frantically on our car. I reached for my gun as Anna clung tightly to my arm. I was so focused on trying to spot the deadheads that I never saw these people approach from my blindside. I fired a shot blindly. I’d become so paranoid of the living that I didn’t even hear their pleas for help until after the bullet splattered the old woman’s brains upon her companion. She slumped down in slow motion as time seemed to freeze for a moment. I looked on in horror as the older gentlemen, shocked by what just transpired stumbled a few steps back, his eyes locked on the gore that now covered him. I was aghast at what I had done. I dropped the gun and it fell between the seat and the door. My mouth quivered as I tried to utter something… anything. The moment seemed to last forever. I didn’t know what to do.

The sound of approaching moans snapped me back into reality for an instant. I unlocked the back door and yelled to the man “Get in!”. He hesitated momentarily until he heard the same thing I did and quickly jumped in back. I put the foot on the gas as I saw them starting to emerge from the darkness, striking a few as I flew down the road. I was insanely nervous. This man was sitting behind me and I feared what he may do. I kept one eye on the road and another in my rear view. He sat there motionless looking down at his hands, weeping ever so inaudibly. I felt sick to my stomach. My head started to swoon as I felt like I was going to pass out. I fumbled around trying to get at the gun I dropped. I couldn’t reach it. Anna squeezed under my arms as I drove and managed to use her wirey little arms to fish it out.  She laid it on my lap and looked back at the old man. He wasn’t even paying attention to what we were doing in the front. She fiddled around in the little Hannah Montana backpack we picked up a while back…

God I hate that little tart.  I hope she didn’t survive this ordeal. Oh my God… that’s just awful. I can’t believe I’m saying these things…

She pulled out a towel and a bottle of water and cautiously offered them to the elderly gentlemen. He didn’t seem to notice her gesture for a bit but when he did he begrudgingly accepted them. She flashed a comforting smile at him and despite how distraught he was forced himself to return the gesture. I still had no idea what to do or say. I just kept driving…

I don’t know how long I drove. Seemed like forever. I watched the sun rise and set. We somehow managed to find the 169 again and took it all the way down to Coleraine before the vehicle said “no more”. The plume of smoke emanating from the hood and knocking in the engine told me we were going on foot once again. Unlike every other towns I’d come across this one was different. It was completely abandoned. A ghost town if you will. It bore the scars of traumatic event but no one remained here. Aside from a couple of stragglers I had to dispatch the town was empty… or so it appears to be. We managed to set up shop inside an old pub a few blocks from the main road. It was easy enough to secure and there was a few provisions left inside that we quickly made use of.

I’m a more than a little uneasy about the way this man has been tagging along. He just follows us blindly as if he’s just doing it by instinct alone. I haven’t turned him away – God… how can I after what I’ve done but I can’t help but have that uncertainty around him. I mean seriously… what would you do? I don’t know if that was his wife, sister or whatever. I could very well be signing my own death warrant by keeping him around. Who knows what’s going in in his head?

I guess only time will tell. For now it’s just another person who won’t talk to me…

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