Continued from Delirium Jane: Part I
Before the dead began to walk, Mussel Ridge had been a quiet retirement community of 125 homes, a recreation center, a health clinic, about 200 residents and a couple dozen onsite caregivers and administrators. At first the community has been largely untouched. The residents, all in their sixties and seventies, were quite content to continue playing bingo, rummy and their regular scheduled activities as usual. They were self-contained and had little need for the outside world. The recommendations on the TV and radio to stay home and reduce travel were moot.
Eventually, as was the case everywhere in the world, the virus was introduced; maybe by a delivery truck driver or a panicking family member checking in on their loved ones. The virus snuck in behind the gate with little fanfare but once in place it roared through the already at risk and sickness prone community with a violent vengeance. Within two days, the only things moving within Mussel Ridge were the abandoned cats and dogs soon to turn feral and the staggering shuffle of the diseased residents.
Just two weeks after the virus had reached Maine, thirty-five year old Army Reservist, Captain Josh Chambers gave up trying to defend the Capitol. Power had gone out, all but five of his men had been lost, and he hadn’t received communication from headquarters in days.
Hunkered down in the attic of a sporting goods store, the six soldiers tossed around ideas of what to do and where to go. All being Weekend Warriors, their first thoughts were of their families and trying to get home. But Captain Chambers was quick to remind them of the bleak reality they faced. They had originally been a unit of fifty men and women, well trained and well armed. They were now just six. Should they expect their civilian families to fair any better? After all, how many hundreds had they already seen killed only to rise and be killed again?
The Captain told his men that abandoning the Capitol did not mean they were abandoning their duty. Though they could not help their own families, surely, there were other families that could be helped. They stopped talking about civilians and started using the word survivors. They focused on identifying defendable positions where survivors could meet up and work together. Location would be key; too close to a population center and it would be impossible to clear and defend, too far and precious resources would be wasted trying to get supplies and equipment. Natural resources would also be critical; fresh water for drinking and land to grow food.
It was 18 year old Private Rogers who recalled his grandparent’s home in Mussel Ridge. It was situated on 100 acres of secluded forest and fields thirty-five miles from the Capitol and five miles outside a small town of less than 1,000 people. A river bordered the community on two sides, providing both fresh water and natural defenses. Sitting in the attic the six men became excited. Through their sorrow of lost loved ones and their despair of defeat, a plan began to emerge and a glimmer of hope shone through the darkness.
During their escape from the sporting goods store, Private Rogers was savagely attacked by four undead. The Captain swiftly put a bullet in his man’s brain and ended his life before the monsters could rip him apart, or worse, turn him into one of them. Two others succumbed to the hoard before the Captain made it to Mussel Ridge, but in their journey they had also gained a dozen survivors.
There was a silent celebration in memory of their comrades lost as they began the arduous task of putting down the dead and cleaning out the houses. One at a time they secured the homes, reinforced the windows and entrances, and made them livable and defendable. Slowly, but surely, they expanded. Other survivors were found. Duties were divided, school was started for the children, and an apprentice program was implemented to teach valuable trades to the community’s teenagers. At some point life had begun again; not merely surviving, but life.
From time to time a breakout will occur within the confines of the fence, but the tight-knit community now knows the signs and understands the consequences of failing to act, even if that means putting a bullet in your own daughter’s head.
Of the 125 original homes, about 75 are being used to lodge a population of two hundred and growing. The remaining homes were either too badly damaged during the uprising or have been scavenged to repair and reinforce the others. Sometimes tensions and tempers flare when the wrong personalities end up in the same house or sharing rooms, but arrangements and reassignments are quickly and quietly made. Otherwise, communal living is becoming the status quo and all but the oldest and most stubborn residents are forgetting about privacy and ownership. Surely, anyone would prefer to share your supplies with annoying roommate over having their face eaten by dead things.
Continue with Delirium Jane: Part III