The raids had stopped; we soon returned to our normal routines. We felt the absence of those lost in the attacks, and as more and more settlements were overrun, we offered shelter to those who could reach us. Very few survivors made it to our walls. Despite the security chief’s protests, they were welcomed without question. This mistake cost us dearly.
Mr. Winthorpe grew attached to one of the refugees, a young girl the same age as his deceased granddaughter. He would give her little gifts, a book or a doll, and arranged little picnics in the dining room for her. With ever increasing frequency, he began to call her by his departed granddaughter’s name. I saw no harm in this little delusion, and when both the head of security and Mr. Winthorpe’s daughter approached me with concerns about his mental health, I remained loyal to my employer.
One night, Mr. Winthorpe’s surrogate granddaughter crept from her bed and opened the doors of the compound to her parents… and the rest of the raiders. The resulting bloodbath was devastating. The raiders, heady with their success, hacked their way to the storehouses. We were not caught completely unaware – our competent security team hastily mounted a counterattack. It wasn’t long before the raiders were driven back. Mr. Winthorpe, awakened by the gunfire, went out into the night calling for his ‘Emily’. Without regard for my own safety, I followed closely at his side. We caught sight of the girl by the open gate as the retreating raiders fled into the waiting darkness. Mr. Winthorpe hurried toward her just as a spray of bullets riddled her small body. My employer fell to his knees in anguish as her corpse rose jerkily to its feet and lurched toward us. I grabbed his discarded walking stick and swung it at the ghoulish creature’s head as it reached for him. After I did what had to be done, I turned to discover Mr. Winthorpe lying face down in the dirt. I rushed to him, fearing a stray bullet had found him, but he bore no wounds. I called for help, and then everything faded into blackness. Later, as I lay in the infirmary next to my stricken employer, the doctor informed me he had been felled by something much worse than a bullet – Mr. Winthorpe had suffered a major stroke.
More than a dozen people were killed, and we had lost most of our food stores. The security chief blamed our losses on Mr. Winthorpe’s daughter’s leniency. Over the next few days, the chief grew more vocal in his dissatisfaction with her policies, until he finally demanded to be put in charge. After finding no support except from some of his own men and a few of the soldiers, and fuelled by the growing silence of Survivor Radio, the chief led his followers out of the Sanctuary to find safety higher in the mountains. Mr. Winthorpe’s daughter allowed them to take a small but fair amount of our remaining supplies.
As the first snows fell, the closest settlements warned of the advancing horde and then fell ominously silent. All we could do was prepare to endure the coming winter.