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Risk assessment

Not too long ago, I wrote about the possibility that collectivists and individualists differ in the kinds of risk assessments they make. Now that I look at it, the post could have been fleshed out a bit more, but I think I’ll leave it as is. How convenient, then, that someone shared with me an article from Entitled “The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper,” I would have likely not read it due to the title. Fortunately, it was recommended to me by a person whose opinion I respect. He suggested I read it, though he said I would likely not find it comforting. While it was not comforting, it did tend to reinforce some things I already thought, but without any “the sky is falling” sorts of statements.

The author, BJ Campbell, is a stormwater hydrologist whose professional concern includes things like determining the risk of a given area flooding. He applies the same sort of mathematical analysis to determine, in this case, the risk of what I will call “significant social upheaval.” His conclusion? The risk of such an event during an average lifetime is greater than that of floods for some people living in floodplains. I encourage you to read the article for yourself.

One of the things that interests me about people, far more than the math of their risk assessments, is the sorts of assumptions they make. Campbell deals with some of these as they pertain to mass shooting incidents. He suggests that in the aftermath of a mass shooting, discussions and conversations about guns and gun control policies end up in “three buckets.”

There’s the “tyranny can never happen here” bucket, which the left has mostly abdicated in the wake of Trump winning after they called (and still call) him a tyrant. There’s the “you can’t fight the army with small arms” bucket, which is increasingly unsound given our ongoing decade-and-a-half war with Afghani tribal goat herders. And there’s the “what the hell do you need an AR-15 for anyway?” bucket, which, by its very language, eschews a fundamental lack of understanding of what those people are thinking.

I find the last of his comments about buckets most refreshing because it addresses the fundamental lack of understanding on the part of many people. Preparedness is not about getting ready to overthrow the US government. It’s about being prepared (in such an event) should others attempt to do so. More than that, it is about taking steps, should things reach the point of well and truly sucking, to help ensure that for you and yours they don’t suck quite as much. Under the heading of “Prepping is Just Disaster Planning,” he writes the following:

“But if one of these things happens, you’re screwed anyway!” Well, sure. The point of disaster planning for a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or wildfire, is not to be “not-screwed.” It’s to be notably less screwed.

What I find really interesting, given that Campbell specifically says he is not a prepper, is that he touches on the sorts of things that some preppers find concerning.

It’s an interesting read and I highly recommend it.

Note: Just before I published this thing I realized Bayou Renaissance Man had devoted space to it on his blog. I encourage you to read his words. They’re much more coherent than mine.

King of the punsters?

Edwin Newman was a broadcast journalist who began his career in the wire services before transitioning to radio and eventually to television. He may have also been one of the greatest punsters of all time. This is frequently attributed to him. I reproduce it here for your dubious benefit and with no apologies for the pain it may cause. I should note, it does require some familiarity with the 1970s.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“Out walking the dog,” he said, “looking for the old familiar feces.”

“Your shoes are wet,” she observed.

“Naturally,” he said, “nobody knows the puddles I’ve seen. That is why I am standing on these newspapers. These are the Times that dry men’s soles.” He took off his jacket and tossed it aside. “This”, he said, “is so sodden.”

“I’ll never forget the time they brought you in frozen stiff,” she said,

“I was afraid you’d never come out of it.”

He shrugged. “I thawed, therefore I am.”

“I believe the dog has distemper or worms or something,” she said.

“Maybe so,” he replied, “but his bark is worse than his blight. By the way, I’m thinking of giving him to the Longshoremen’s Union as a mascot.”

“What kind of dog do they want?”

“A dockshund.”

“I’m lonely,” she said, and pointed to a button she was wearing that bore the words “Kiss me. I’m Irish.”

“I’m hungry,” he said. Quiche me. I’m French.”

She gave him instead a pastry consisting of thin layers of puff paste interlaid with a cream filling. He cut off a corner and ate it. “Very good,” he said. “Also the first square mille feuille I’ve had all day.”

“Your French is getting better, she said. “I can remember when you thought the French for throw out the bag was cul-de-sac.”

“O solecism mio,” he said. “And I can remember when you thought a porte-cochere was the entrance to a Jewish restaurant.”

There was a moment’s pause. Then:

“I had an apprentice French hairdresser once,” she said.

“What did he have to say for himself?”

“Je ne sais coif.”

“Having a man around the house does make a vas deferens,” she continued.

“And a woman around, too,” he said gallantly. “You’re a wonderful housekeeper. You keep everything polished.”

“Maybe so,” she said, “but I wish I could chamois like my sister Kate.

I meant to ask you, did you watch the space shot at the office?”

“No,” he replied, “To me the space program is a mere shirrade. I decided to go to a movie instead, the one in which Montgomery Clift plays the founder of psychoanalysis.”

“What was his name again?”

“Pretty Boy Freud.”

“I notice that in the early days of photography he had his picture taken with his coat on and looking furtive. Any idea why?”

“He must have been a cloak and daguerreotype.”

She changed the subject. “I’m glad we’re out of Vietnam.”

“So am I. It was time to let Saigon be Saigon’s.”

“What do you make of the situation between the Russians and the Chinese?” she asked.

“Dogma eat dogma”.

“You said a Maouthful.”

“Tell me, how was your trip to Washington?”

“All right,” she said, “but the taxi driver insisted on talking. I felt that I was a cabtive audience.”

“What was it you had to do there?”

“Deliver two messages.”

“To whom?” he asked.

“One was to the junior senator from Mississippi.”

“Any trouble?”

“No. I was directed to a room where the Armed Services Committee was meeting, and I simply went in and asked, `Stennis, anyone?'”.

“What was the message, by the way?”

“Just what you’d wish on any politician during the festive season: a Merry Charisma and a Happy New Year.”

“And the other?” he asked.

“That was more difficult,” she said. “The nonferrous metals industry was holding a meeting and I had to find the one ferrous metals man who was there. Luckily I was able to go into the ladies’ room and say,

`Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the ferrous one of all?'”

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” she said.

“What did you do about lunch?” he wanted to know.

“I had Chinese,” she said.

“Not Korean?”

“No, though I do like Seoul food.”

“Was the Chinese any good?”

“Not really. I sent back the soup.”

“Any reason?”

“I told the waiter it had been tried and found Won Ton.”

“You’ve done better.”


“That cold day at the Four Seasons when you didn’t like the cooking and you told the head waiter, `Now is the winter of our discontent.’ But what happened after you sent back the Won Ton?”

“They brought me some consommi.”

“How was it?”

“Much better. It was a consommi devoutly to be wished.”

“I’d like to have a Chinese meal in Alaska someday,” he said musingly.

“Why is that?”

“I’d like to try lo mein on a totem pole.”

She was lost in thought for a moment, then blushed lightly. “I don’t think I’ve every told you that I originally intended to marry a clergyman.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because,” she said, humming softly, “I picked a layman in the garden of love when I found you.”

I was his turn to hum.

“What are you humming?” she asked.

“The volcano’s torch song,” he said. “Lava, come back to me.”

She pouted.

“This time of year seems to bring out the worst in you.” he said.

“I know,” she replied. “I’m often jejune in January.”

“Sometimes I think you’ve never got over your regret at not being born a blond.”

“Not quite true. Actually, I dream a genealogy with the light brown hair. Wasn’t it a shame about Father O’Reilly being mugged the other night after the ecumenical meeting?”

“He can’t say he wasn’t warned. Rabbi Goldstein was most explicit.”

“What did he say?”

“Do not go, gentile, into the good night.”

“And that did not stop Father O’Reilly?”

“I’m afraid not. He left without further adieu.”

“Do they know who did it?”

“No, but they do know that the muggers were young and were laughing as they left.”

“Jubilant delinquents?”


“I bought a book of British seafood recipes today.”

“May I guess the title?”


“What Hath Cod Wrought?”

“No. It’s Cod et Mon Droit.”

“By the way, the cod war between Britain and Iceland did end, did it not?”

“Yes, it was followed by the cod peace.”

A sweet voice came from the kitchen. “Would you like some tea, Daddy?”

“Yes, my darjeeling daughter.” He turned back. “She sounds so sad these days. You’d think a girl pretty enough to be a model would be happy.”

“It’s the modeling that’s done it. It’s turned her into a mannequin-depressive.”

The sweet voice rose in anger. “It isn’t. It’s these hot, cross puns.

Will you two ever stop?”

They did.

Like I said, no apologies.

So much for seeking to understand…

I am beyond livid.

I wrote recently of my efforts to understand those whose risk assessment runs toward accepting increased restrictions on liberty. *Sigh* Some things need not be understood as much as kicked in the teeth.

This was shared by Old NFO. As a nurse, I lack the words to adequately share my outrage. I wrote a reply, but I was limited by the bounds of common decency.

“Wow! I’m a nurse, too, since 1991. I too have vast experience, mostly in mental health and perioperative nursing. A good part of my experience was while I served in the Navy. I have seen more than a few GSWs. With that in mind, allow me to respond to your suggestion. No. No, today. No, tomorrow. No, at any point in the future. No, you do not speak for nurses. You speak only for organizations with no vested interest in liberty. When you presume to think you speak for nurses, you forget yourself. When you note that freedom of speech does not allow you to yell “fire” in a crowded rooom, you conveniently forget later rulings the Supreme Court made regarding the First Amendment. When you note that freedom of the press does not permit one to print libel, you pretend the things suggested re: the Second Amendment are equivalent, again forgetting something important, to wit that just as the First Amendment does not excuse libel or slander, the Second Amendment does not excuse murder. I encourage you to consider the concept of prior restraint.”

Though frustrated, I am rather proud of myself. I avoided terms like “authoritarian fascists hiding behind the respect people have long afforded nurses,” but that is really what it comes down to. How can I say that? I am a nurse. I am married to a nurse. I know nurses, and many of them, regardless of how they choose to disguise it, are little control freaks dying for a chance to tell others how to live under the guise of concern for patients (this does not mean they are not concerned for patients, rather that they conflate the two).

The other link is to an op-ed piece written for USA Today by Rep Eric Swalwell. He, the fine gentleman who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, has proposed both a ban on the civilian ownership of “assault weapons,” which he falsely calls “weapons of war,” with them being removed from citizens by means of an Orwellianingly (behold, I have coined a word) labeled “buy back.” But, it gets better. He further proposes that no weapons be grandfathered in and that those who refuse to comply should be criminally prosecuted. Let me be clear. He is a liar and a quisling. I will note the same thing here I noted in my response to the article itself.

No. I will not comply, even if your anti-liberty wet dream comes to fruition. I dare you, no, I defy you or anyone else to enforce the terms of such legislation, should it become law.

I have long endeavored to stop talking like the military guy I was for so long. Though I will likely change my mind, I am not doing that today. So, my message to Rep. Swalwell, The American Academy of Nursing, The American Nurse Association, The American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association, is the same.

Fuck you.

Everybody have a fine Navy day.

Seeking to understand

People have an unfortunate tendency, when dealing with other people who disagree with us about something significant (or something minor sometimes), to do more than disagree with their point(s) of view. Instead, we disparage not the ideas but the person. I know because I am not all that special and I tend to do it myself. This tendency is Not Good, for at least two reasons. First and most importantly, it belittles the person. In fact, it seeks to make the other one less than a person, which arguably takes the tendency from simply Not Good to Really Not Good or even Really Bad. I would argue this tendency should not be a surprise from those on the Left, given the Left’s tendency toward various forms of collectivism and identity politics. It is hard to be a collectivist, I submit, while extolling the value of the individual over the value of the group. For those of us of libertarian or conservative tendencies, when we exhibit this tendency it is a bit of an hypocrisy given our conscious and deliberate extolling of the value of the individual. Second, it is at least Not Good because it interferes with out ability to understand those with whom we disagree. “You’re just an authoritarian s***head” may make us feel better, but all we’ve really done is call someone a name. We haven’t accomplished anything.

While I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for several years now and trying to understand those with whom I disagree (rather than giving in to my tendency to engage in a sort of take-no-prisoners-kill-them-all-torch-the-buildings-salt-the-earth-and-mount-the-enemy-heads-on-poles response), I recently read some things that have helped me understand I think a little of the difference between individualists and collectivists. The first is a post on Sarah Hoyt’s blog. It looks at collectivist ideology as being profoundly “Un-American.” It is probably best summarized by this quote from the last paragraph:

“…worst of all they try to tell us that rather than remaining true to being a country founded upon Freedom From Government, we should become a country that espouses ‘Freedom’ Through Government.”

“Okay,” you might respond. “How does that contribute to understanding? After all, that isn’t as much of a ‘why’ as it is a ‘what,’ isn’t it?” Absolutely. But there is more.

I like to read the comments that so often follow blog posts. In this case, one of those comments contained this link. The article looks at two towns, the Canadian town of Stewart, British Columbia and the American town of Hyder, Alaska. The towns are about two miles apart. The authors, along with dealing briefly (the article is only seven pages, with pictures) with the American definition of virtue (including the important concepts of thumos and both the American view of “frontier” and the cowboy archetype), make this observation:

“There are quite a few American characteristics that seem unpleasant to people with different definitions of virtue. People who have a strong taste for order and hierarchy, who enjoy calm and quiet and leisure, who prefer security to risk, who take aesthetic pleasure in simplicity rather than in the bustling variety of human
commerce—such people are not likely to enjoy America much.”

It is here, I think, that I have found a clue.

I have spoken with a lot of people over the years who talked of how much they disliked working for others and how much they longed to start their own businesses. Most of them never do the thing for which they long. Why is that? Simply put, like many investors, I believe they are risk averse.

To me, this explains a lot. It is not simply that collectivists hate freedom and liberty. I do not believe they see themselves as wishing to be slaves or even serfs, and in the common, popular sense in which those terms are used, I agree. No one in his right mind wants that. Rather, they recognize, perhaps subconsciously, a fact about freedom and liberty that is important. As freedom and personal liberty increase, so to does risk. Earlier in the article, the authors briefly quote two sociologists, one Canadian and the other American.

“Canadian sociologist Kaspar Naegele compares his country and the U.S. this way: “In Canada there seems to be greater acceptance of limitation, of hierarchical patterns. There seems to be less optimism, less faith in the future, less willingness to risk capital or reputation.” American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset concludes that Canada is a “more law-abiding, statist, and collectivity-oriented society” than the United States.”

I believe we should be honest about freedom and liberty. In addition to the psychological risks associated with freedom and liberty (responsibility and accountability make people uncomfortable), there are other more tangible risks. The freer you are from the control of others (whether individuals or government) and the more liberty you have to do as you will, the greater the risks (physical, social, financial etc) you will incur. For most people, every move outside our “comfort zone” is subject to some sort of risk assessment. We accept the risk and do the thing (whatever it is) when we perceive the value of the thing, or the value to be potentially derived from it, to be greater than the risk involved. I am becoming increasingly convinced that for the collectivist, or at least many of them, the risks of freedom and liberty simply are not worth what they might bring. Certainly many do not view them as having an intrinsic value greater than the risk that accompanies them.

Perhaps this is an American view of freedom. Certainly, it seems to date back at least as far as Sam Adams.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

I am curious as to what others think. Please share your thoughts.


I wish I had written that…

Today, I offer this from Sarah Hoyt‘s blog According to Hoyt.

She begins by quoting what is arguably both my favorite and the most well-known, section of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

There is a lot there, far more than many of us realize, including the origin of rights, the legitimate purpose of government and the ideal nature of the relationship between people and their government. Hoyt puts it this way:

“Unlike what our leftists believe, you don’t belong to the government. The government belongs to you. You’re not a subject nor a slave. You’re the owner of the joint.”

I encourage you to read both the blog post and the entirety of the Declaration of Independence from which the initial quote is taken, though the quoted section is the basis for pretty much everything else that follows.

in memoriam, dammit

It is with sadness that I note the death of R. Lee Ermey yesterday, 15 April, 2018.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Gunny Ermey. I wish I had. Best known to many as an actor, particularly for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, he was notable to military members and dependents for his often unpublicized work on behalf of those who wear the uniform and the causes they support. He served in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years, including 14 months in Vietnam, before being medically discharged as a staff sergeant. In 2008, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He will be sorely missed.

Semper Fi, Gunny.

Zombie apocalypse, let me go

Yeah. I enjoy the Zombie Apocalypse genre entirely too much. The question on Quora was “What would your last stand be like in a zombie apocalypse? (more details and plot are fine)” What follows is my answer…and a very rough draft of what may be part of a longer story.


The old man was tired in a way he had never before experienced. No, that wasn’t right. He didn’t really get tired, anymore, not really, or at least not for very long at a time. Hadn’t for years, in fact; not since he had received the implants. They had seemed like a good idea, years ago and way back then. They froze your physical decay and ensured you could perform at the peak of human abilities for your age when you received them. Even when exhausted, your recovery time was unspeakably short. You didn’t get sick anymore. Your hearing didn’t decay and your vision never degraded. And, of course, you lived for who knew how much longer. People even called them “immortals”.

It was the last part that was the problem.

You outlived everyone you knew. All those you loved aged. They grew old. They died. Mankind had thought to fix that with the implants, but, like with everything else, there wasn’t really a solution, but only a trade-off. In this case the trade-off was madness or sterility. 98% of implant recipients went stark raving mad within the first 5 years. The remaining 2% remained as sane as they were before, but were unable to reproduce. So even if you kept your sanity, you would have no kids unless you had taken care of that beforehand.

Time and disease had taken from him those he loved most of all. First, his wife Kathleen had lost her long struggle with cancer. He had stood with his boys, Conor, Jr, Taylor and Stephen, by the grave, knowing that they were his reason for living. Over the years he had taught and guided them, teaching them to be strong, confident and compassionate. Then, one by one, he had watched time take its inevitable toll as they aged and then died.

The dead had risen almost 50 years later. By then, having grown weary of the attention that went with being an immortal, he had learned to be a “grey man” instead. Drifting from one small town to another, living off the investments he had made so many decades ago, he had become a minimalist and seemingly vanished from anyone’s radar. He hunted. He fished. He grew small gardens and raised a few animals for his meager needs. He spent long, lonely nights talking to his God, the One who had never deserted him. Mostly, he missed his family.

When the zombies appeared and the threat they presented became clear, the word went out for people to band together and hunker down. Apparently, another word went out as well, because shortly thereafter a helicopter had landed in the field of the abandoned farm he had occupied in Hancock County, Tennessee. He could remember vividly the conversation with the one star (“they sent a freakin’ General to talk to me,” he thought) who had approached his cabin.

“Lieutenant Commander Douglas” he had stated, not even pretending he didn’t know who he was.

Old habits, as it turned out, really did die hard. He had responded immediately. “Yes, Sir?”

“Your country needs you, commander. Needs you, your skills and your enhanced abilities, badly.”

He had spent the next ten years looking for survivors and taking them to places of relative safety. He had built quite a reputation for himself as the go-to person when civilians needed extraction from a place others simply could not get into or out of. Thousands of people owed their lives to the old man, not knowing how many times he had been convinced he was on his last mission, that all hope was lost and how he had considered his “failsafe” option. Each time, it was as though the dead knew he specifically was there and were searching for him. Each time, though it got worse every time, he found a way out.

The old man had been making his way toward Abilene, Texas from the northeast, coming out of Arkansas and not even on a mission, when he had encountered them. Cold, hungry and convinced they were on the verge of joining the dead, they had taken refuge in a long-abandoned gas station. The woman and oldest daughter had attempted to blockade the door with what was left of the counter, but it would not have held once the zombies started pushing. Not that it would have mattered. They had no food, so starvation and joining the dead was all that awaited them. That was when he had come upon the scene – the zombies munching on the remnants of their husband and father, the faces of those he had been unable to save watching in that sort of apathetic horror that comes from having seen and suffered too much, too fast.

He had plenty of ammo, but he hated to waste it, so he had drawn his hatchets and waded into the dead, permanently killing them all, including the recently dead man. The family, mom and three kids, Claire, Louise, Tim and Keith, had joined him on his journey to Texas. They had fought zombies and raiders, escaping death dozens of times only because of the old man’s skills and seemingly limitless physical endurance.

And now, here he was.

“Here” was a cold, windswept parking structure in the remnants of what had been Abilene, Texas. A stinging, freezing rain was falling, swept sideways by a harsh wind out of the north. They had taken refuge up here, he and the family of four he had rescued, when it became clear they were not going to make it to the newly refortified Dyess Air Force Base. The newest of the government’s steps in taking back the country from the dead, it was, according to the daily government broadcasts, secure and had food, water, medical staff and all those other things that screamed “safety.” It was so very close. And unreachable.

There had been zombies, probably attracted to the same Dyess Air Force Base and all it promised just as the living were. With the mother and children behind him, he had shot, cut, chopped, hacked and stabbed his way through the dead. They fell by the dozen, no, by the score as he and the small family made their slow, painful progress toward salvation. In the end, there had simply been too many, even for him. And so, feeling himself become tired, he had led them to the top of the parking garage, blocking access by pushing cars and rubble onto the ramp. It had been a very near thing, but it was done. The zombies couldn’t get up and they couldn’t get down. This time, there was no way out.

“Father, I am so very, very weary” he prayed silently. Yes. That was it. Weary. The fatigue of his hours-long battle had faded as it always did. The weariness, though, did not. Not this time. “I just don’t know what to do. These four need me to go on, to get them to safety, but I don’t know if I can. I just want to be done.” He looked at the family and sighed. They had trusted him when he had promised to get them to a place of safety. Without complaint they had endured cold, hunger and fatigue and followed him on foot across hundreds of miles and through hordes of the dead. He could no more abandon them now than he could deny or forget his own family. His eyes closed and he shook his head, acquiescing to the requirements of his God and of his own conscience. “Yes, Father. Once more.”

He climbed to his feet. There was work to be done.

“Claire, would you and the kids come here, please”? He opened his pack, pulling out a laminated street map he had picked up long ago, and a small plastic box with a red cross emblazoned on it. Then, he removed his rappeling gear and started assembling it.

They ambled on over.

“Yes, Conor”? It still startled him to hear his own name. Even with his missions to find survivors and mete out justice to raiders, he seldom heard it. “How are we getting out of here”? The trust in her voice hardened his resolve. He would get them to safety.

“In a bit, I’m going to get you guys to Dyess, but I need you to trust me, okay?” They all nodded their heads. After all they had been through, it wouldn’t occur to them to do otherwise. “Good. In this box, you will find four syringes with needles.” He tied off one end of the rope to the rebar extending from a concrete barricade on the side of the parking garage directly opposite the ramp. Looking over the edge of the garage, he made sure there was nothing in the street. It wouldn’t do to impale himself on a piece of angle iron.

Turning toward them, he continued. “When your mom tells you, you’ll need to inject yourselves. What’s in there will give you, temporarily, physical abilities like mine. You’ll be faster, stronger and have greater endurance than you ever thought possible”. The eyes of the kids lit up. That sounded so very cool!

“Now, I’m going to have to create a distraction for the dead. I’m going to do that by rappeling over this wall and making a lot of noise. Like I told you months ago, the nasties seem to know when I am near, so they will follow me. When they do, make your break and run like you have never run before. Claire, you take the map.” He pushed it and the box into her hands, then turned to hug each of the kids. “Save me a place to sleep once you get to Dyess, okay? Now, give me a minute to talk with your mom.” The kids moved on off, eager to get to safety and eager to experience what it was like to be like their hero.

“Claire, don’t take any detours. This stuff will give you several hours, but that’s it. When it wears off, you’ll all be exhausted. You have to be to Dyess before that happens.”

Claire looked at him a long time. “You’re not coming with us, are you? Conor, why?”

He shook his head. “There’s too many of them. Even if I give each of you the serum, you don’t have the skills to fight all the way to Dyess and there’s more of them than I can handle. Each time I face them, there’s more of ‘em. It’s like they know I’m there or something.”

Surviving the apocalypse had taught Claire just how much survival could cost. She accepted it just as she had accepted Conor’s leadership. It was simply part of life. “Will this work, Conor?” That was it. That was the only question that mattered. He thought a moment. Lying would not be an option. Finally, he was able to look her in the eyes and tell her the truth.

“Yes, it will work. It will get you and the kids to safety. Just follow the map and do not stop!” He sighed. “You all have given an old man a reason to live, these last few months. You’re a good mom and your kids will grow up strong and brave, just like you.” He opened his arms. “May I?” In all these months he had never presumed to touch her in any way. She was not his and he was not hers. Today, though, she nodded. The hug was warm, comforting, and the farewell of two campaigners parting ways. “Goodbye, Claire.”

“Go with God, Conor. You’re the best man I’ve ever met.”

He chuckled. “You need to get out more. Now, go to your kids.”

He watched as she walked over to them. Carefully, she injected first herself and then each of her kids. Conor was proud to note not even the youngest cried at the injection. As he waited for the injections to kick in, he softly recited the Rifleman’s Prayer, adding his own to the end.

“Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.

And Father, grant me that this family of four might make it to safety and that I might see my family, once again. I miss them so very, very much.”

Even from this distance, he could see the change that came over them within minutes of the injections. Their bodies seemed to thrum with power. He waved at them. “You’ll know when to go!” Taking one final look at his hookup, he stepped over the edged and went for the road, yelling as he did so. When he reached the road, he quickly disconnected.

“Come on, you dead, stinking, rotten bastards! Conor Douglas is here!” Pulling his pistol he fired two rounds to make noise. Almost as one, the dead turned his way, even as he saw the family begin its run to safety and even as he began his quick retreat, leading them away from Claire and the kids and leading them toward his final battle.

When he finally ran out of ammo, he pulled his hatchets, killing untold dozens more before first one handle and then the other broke with the fury of his strokes. He was covered in blood and tissue when he dropped the now useless backpack and pulled the bat from where it had long ridden on it. Dozens more fell, their heads pounded into jelly, before the bat, too, gave in to the laws of physics and failed. Ten more, then a dozen and then more fell to his bare hands before he was forced to retreat to a doorway and run upstairs, the dead hot on his heels as the fatigue once again came over him.

There was no where to run, no secure place to rest up. He had perhaps ten seconds lead time when he turned to face them. Sneering at them, he pulled his failsafe from the pouch at his side. The M67 grenade weighed 14 ounces and contained 6.5 ounces of “composition B” explosive. Conor removed the safety clip, pulled the pin and released the spoon. The first zombie had reached out for him when the grenade went off.

The world went white.

The world went black.

Somewhere, in a place that was not a place, and in a time that was not a time, his God heard and answered his prayer…

Claire and the kids had never run so fast or so far. It was amazing! No wonder Conor could face the dead as if it was nothing. What it must be like to feel this way all the time. They reached the heavily barricaded gates of Dyess with minutes to spare, the emplaced machine guns mounted on the enourmous concrete walls covering them as they carefully followed the instructions of the gate guards. They were well inside when the fatigue hit, but that was okay. They were safe.

The sun was very bright when he opened his eyes. He was dressed how he knew he preferred to dress; comfortable shoes, jeans and a short-sleeve shirt. He felt rested, though that seemed odd at first. It seemed like he should be tired and that his clothes should be different.

“Conor, we have waited a long time.”

He turned. A woman stood there, with three men alongside her. They all looked familiar, somehow, but his head was fuzzy. He stared at them a long time, until the fuzziness began to clear.

“Kathleen? Conor? Taylor? Stephen? Am I…Are we…?” His head was clearing, but it was still a lot to grasp.

Kathleen smiled a smile without any hint of pain or sadness. “Yes, Conor. We, and you, are finally Home.” The way she said it made things plain.

“And, is He here, too?’

“Yes, He is. Now come, He wants to talk to you. To comfort you for all your long pain and toil.”

“Where? Where do I go?”

“Over there, dad. That’s where we are all going.” The voice was Taylor’s, but all three pointed toward a small, neat cottage not too far away.

Joined and encircled by his family and by love, Conor Douglas walked across a green field under a golden sun, toward eternity.