I swore I’d be smarter about things since the Beginning of the End, but how many warnings have I already ignored? How many of my own rules have I already broken? If these end up as my last words, understand this: I died from my own stupidity.
First of all, never leave home. I was pretty safe in my brick Brooklyn fort, but still I packed up the car and drove 666 miles south to the mountains of North Carolina. It’s crazy but I know I’m needed here. If Photography is going to live on through these survivors – what the hell, if Art and Beauty too – then I’ve decided it’s I who will lead them. Rule one, broken…
Second of all, if it seems dangerous, it probably is. There is still too much about the Zombie Apocalypse that’s being covered up, I know. What is wrong with these people? “Isolated outbreaks”… “The worst is over…” “We have already begun to rebuild…” It’s ridiculous, and false, and scarier than anything. I’ve heard Washington has already fallen, the zombies parading on television even, as if everything is ok. No way was I going to drive on I-95 through the middle of _that_. I headed west and gave it as wide a berth as I could. The problem was, I was blatantly ignoring some obvious signs. Just as I was getting on the road, my meeting with the Community Leaders here was almost postponed, due to The Architect coming down with the “flu.” (Are you kidding me?) And yet, I came anyway.
I had plenty of chances to turn around, too, as if Someone were really trying to make it clear that I was being foolish: the “accident” that completely closed long stretches of I-78, for instance. I took an enormous detour around it all, speeding through country hillsides trying not to imagine the screaming and the carnage of what was surely a frightening rampage. Later, I almost ran out of gas, and as dusk fell I found myself lost on small shadowed roads in a panic, hoping not to see anything shuffling in the dark. Hell, even as I was trying to leave the house, my cat got sick. Are there Cat Zombies yet? I don’t think I want to know.
I did end up making it to the mountains without incident, having slept a few hours locked in my car at a rest stop. I knew how to be safe – totally covered in a blanket, the new car smell masking from any marauders the scent of living flesh – but it was hardly a restful sleep. Nevertheless, the last winding curves up the hill to Penland can always swell my heart, and this time they did even more. This place has been home to me so many times, for so many years. I have worked here, and loved here, and I have been my best self here. If the world ends now, I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be.
The meeting went well, though I was wary. I sat well away from The Architect as he spoke about building the future. He didn’t seem to have any of the usual Symptoms – no sluggishness, no sweats – nor could I see any dark bruises or bites, but they could have been hidden. That’s the problem with the coming of Fall. The cold weather means festering flesh is covered up, that first telltale stench blending in with the general autumnal decay. More to worry about… In the end, I think he’s probably not Bitten, but it’s good to be reminded to be careful.
The Coordinator was also at the meeting, and once she and I could be alone and walk in the bright sun towards the studio, I could finally relax. The studio was a disaster, she said, and it was possible there was still Something locked in there. Oddly enough, she didn’t seemed worried at all. I know I’ll rely on her strength for the week to come. For now, I’m going to pile up the desks outside and nail the door shut while we prepare. I would have to wait for my own team of Survivors to arrive before we’d dare go in.