Kage Baker took it as a surety – and practiced it, and preached it, too – that writing was a panacea for all pains.
It started when she was a little girl. Shortly after Kage discovered she could continue the stories she didn’t want to end, she discovered that she could also disappear into a story at need. She could read – she already had discovered how a good story would take the reader away to another world. Her truly great discovery was that you could also enter into the world most desired as you made it.
That discovery got Kage through every sorrow that struck her between the ages of 7 and 58. Deaths, losses, relatives behaving like monsters, lovers behaving like idiots, rejections from publishers: any and all could be safely withstood from within a Universe of her own making. Even her own death, as it turned out – where she spent the day entertaining guests, and stuffing me with the details she had no time to write down herself; and then left, her responsibilities over, on the midnight tide.
Since she died, I have discovered for myself that – as usual, drat the woman! – she was right. This blog grew out of my adhering to her dictum, and finding out that she was utterly correct. True, I cried like Mad Maudlin as I wrote the last pages of The Women of Nell Gwynne II, but it was a relief. The weeping, as well as the finishing … and since then, I have discovered for myself that the act of writing can ease all manner of pains and griefs.
It was another bad night here, short of sleep, long on drama, with assorted EMTs and far too few soothing drinks. The day would have been horrible in the extreme if it were not for working on the Zombie Story for a thousand words or so …
Thank you for your continued interest, Dear Readers. The Zombie Story, especially, is being put together in a slap-dash fashion: I write bits and pieces and then I cut and paste until some kind of plot appears. It may not be the finished product – probably won’t, in ultimate fact – but it does go forward inevitably, for which I am grateful. Getting it into shape enough for you all to read is the most excellent goad, too.
So here you are – the next 1,000+ words.
Two weeks in, and I was appalled one day to realize that we were, well – two weeks in – into the Zombie Apocalypse, for heaven’s sake. It was a bad dream, a really bad movie. It was worse than election campaigns starting when the sitting president had only been in office for 2 years.
At this point, whether or not there still was a sitting President was a topic of serious debate; there were 6 Federal officials, 2 Southern governors and several assorted preachers and evangelists all claiming to be the Heir to American Democracy. None of them was the guy we’d elected, either. He was still incommunicado and pretty much considered to be zombie-chow, despite the fact that there was a semi-regular radio broadcast out of Cheyenne Mountain in his name …
August was half way past, and L.A. was a vast, silent ghost town. One local television station was back on the air, the venerable Channel 5 that had been the first television channel in L.A. For that matter, it had been the first one in the western United States; and at this point, it was almost the only urban television station broadcasting West of the Rockies. Most of their content was repeats from CNN and MSNBC offices in New York and Atlanta, but it had the ring of truth about it. Unfortunately, that truth was that the country was broken into little tiny pieces, and all the bones were still being gnawed on by their residents.
There were the occasional official radio broadcasts out of Colorado, but most other broadcasters were dismissing them as frantic fakes from whatever was left of the Federal government. There were some intermittent civilian broadcasts from ham operators identifying themselves as based on marijuana farms in the boonies of Pueblo County – however, a lot of their reports seemed to be cribbed from some of the more popular zombie movies, and a lot of other commentators assumed those guys were high most of the time …
A couple of ham radios out of Oregon were much more intermittent, much less entertaining, and just as much under critique for being in an altered chemical state. A few PBS television stations got on the air at unscheduled intervals, and most of their useful programming was promptly re-broadcast by the news stations. Even in the face of the Zombie Apocalypse, people still trusted PBS, I guess.
And that was mostly it for current events. Whatever was coming out of the rest of the world was mostly Europe and Asia – sometimes the “real” news reported that everyone else was in just as much trouble as we were; some international ham rigs picked up fellow amateurs and sent on hideous first person reports.
England had staged a remarkable defense based on a joint campaign by local militias and local hunts, which was keeping the rural areas relatively safe. It helps if your country is an island … Switzerland, whose entire citizenry was armed, was operating on the principle that “if there are no zombies, there will be no zombies”. There were reportedly a lot of successfully executed infected victims, but the disease did not slow down. It was an experiment still in process. The rest of Europe was back in the Dark Ages, huddling in its cottages and fearing whatever roamed the night. There was nothing, nothing at all out of the Balkans, Russia or Ukraine; it was assumed that the the cities were eating themselves, and only the rural areas survived.
Asia was mostly silent. China and India had reverted to warlords, protecting as much as each one could from the remains of stone forts: zombies couldn’t break stone as easily as wood, plaster, and military chain link fences.
At that early date, there was no clear indication whether or not dead zombies stayed dead. Hell, no one was even sure if fresh zombies were alive or dead! All that was clear was that if you ruined a suspected zombie’s head, by bullet or bludgeon or William Tell’s bow, they didn’t get up again. But that was true of anybody.
Nothing came from Australia. There was much speculation – as much as there was casual speculation on anything – as to what would come out on top: the zombies, or the deadly native animals? Or would the locals go zombie, on top of their rich heritage of poison, fangs and claws?
One thing that seemed to be true everywhere – and that was the subject of much discussion and thanks to divinity – was that the only mammals affected were human beings. No zombie cows, moose, dogs, cats, ferrets, bears … but the native animals in Australia were marsupials, and so no one was sure what would happen. I’d seen a couple of the local opossums, though, and they were no more beady-eyed or aggressive than usual. They just seemed disapproving of the sudden dearth of human garbage.
Mind you, on the local front, some trash still appeared on the streets, neatly bagged – there was a limit to what you could keep in the house or the garage. Whatever was set out furtively here and there on the curbs was regularly rooted through, by dogs and coyotes and raccoons. The possums ate what was spread out by the others. A few times, I also saw human figures examining the bag contents.
At first, I couldn’t tell if they were zombies or not – I only made up my mind by seeing what they ate from the bags. If they grabbed the other local vermin and munched on them, they were zombies. One of the universals was that zombies craved living meat. They had better luck with humans prey, though. The wildlife fought back and could run faster.
But between the appearance of garbage bags and the rare non-zombie going through the trash – amazingly, there was one guy still salvaging plastic bottles, though I can’t imagine where he was hoping to redeem them – I got a clear idea of where some survivors still lived in my neighborhood.
The mother and child I had seen scurry indoors on the very first evening were still there; they lived literally catty-corner from me, in a house with blinds over its few windows and no sign of life by day. Hardly any sound, either; that was one quiet baby and a determined mom. There didn’t seem to be anyone else but me on my block – I saw a car from time to time, but I know it belonged further up the street near the crest of the hill. After the first week, though, they seemed to have de-camped to the beach or something, and I didn’t see their car again.
I live on a funny little street up the Hollywood Hills – it’s only two blocks long, and it dead ends on both ends. There’s just the one intersection, where a “major” street cuts it in half. One block dead ends at a precipitous slope of blackberries and assorted weeds; one can climb over the rusted fence, and skid all the way down to Franklin Avenue – or used to be able to, now it was largely a zombie nest.
But the other end was a double row of tiny 1920’s garages that also dead-ended; but there, it was at the mouth of a tunnel in the hillside, leading to a tower that rose up out of the slope. It looked like it was made out of moldy gingerbread. An elevator inside took you to a nest of streets made up entirely of staircases, too narrow for any traffic but pedestrian. The garages below were all under lock and key, as were the wrought-iron doors of the elevator – so it was a fair assumption that no zombies had wandered into the enclave that had defeated so many pizza deliverymen and utility readers. I could see dim lights in one of the houses up there sometimes, and the drapes opened and closed day by day. So I was pretty sure there was someone left alive, who had not been overpowered by any naturally occurring zombies.
It was a symptom of how shell-shocked we all were, I guess, that no one tried to contact anyone else for those first two weeks.