In retrospect, our first winter in The Sanctuary could have been worse. As Mr. Winthorpe had little need for a personal assistant in this environment, I was put to work in the kitchen. I had done such menial work in the past, but I did not enjoy it. It did keep me from the bitter winter weather. Others braved the cold to hunt and gather firewood. A group of soldiers who had joined us in the fall insisted on regularly patrolling the nearby woods. At first these forays beyond the walls filled me with dread. When I approached the head of security with my concerns about possible zombie attacks, I was assured the undead did not function in extreme cold. This eased my mind somewhat.
As it happened, we had more to fear from canned goods. Several people became ill with botulism, and three died, Mr. Winthorpe’s youngest granddaughter, Emily, among them. If not for one of the refugees, a doctor, many more would have perished. The security team was given the task of burning the corpses to prevent them from rising. All things being equal, it could indeed have been worse. We felt safe. Maybe that’s why we grew complacent. Spring brought its own calamities. More survivors arrived in search of safety. We took in as many as we could, but eventually even Mr. Winthorpe’s daughter had to concede we could house no more. That did not matter to those we had to turn away. Inevitably, force was used to drive the more determined stragglers away. This would come back to haunt us.
Even under the threat of extinction, we human beings cannot stop fighting one another. Through the shortwave network, dubbed Survivor Radio, we learned of organized attacks on other groups by raiders. Almost as disturbing was the rumor of a massive nuclear exchange, possibly between China and Russia. I don’t know if that is what caused the horrendous storms we experienced. There was no end to the rain and the continuous thunder nearly drove me mad.
It was during one of these storms that disaster struck. The wind howled down the mountain, threatening to rip away the tarpaulin covering the helicopter. A group hurried to secure it, and that is when lightning struck the large fuel tank located next to the helipad. A handful of men died instantly in the resulting explosion, and a few more were killed when the helicopter exploded moments later. When hastily organized rescuers arrived on the rooftop, they were greeted by a horrible sight. The dead had risen and were devouring the wounded. At that time, only the security team carried guns inside The Sanctuary. The rescuers fled to the armory, only to be confronted by more of the undead, those killed by the flying glass and debris from the two explosions. By the following morning, the outbreak had been contained, but more than thirty people were dead, and our only means of safely leaving the mountain was destroyed.