I remember thinking, This had better be damned serious. Once I saw their faces, I regretted my wish.
I found “Patient Zero” behind the locked door of an abandoned house across town. He was twelve years old. His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he’d rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds, not on the gouges on his legs or arms, or from the large dry gap where his right big toe had been. He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls.
Their family usually had them bound and gagged. You’d see something moving in the back of a car, squirming softly under clothing or heavy blankets. You’d hear banging from a car’s boot, or, later, from crates with airholes in the backs of vans. 'Airholes' … they really didn’t know what was happening to their loved ones."
In the cab there was a very wealthy investment banker from Xi’an. He’d made a lot of money buying up American credit card debt. He had enough to pay for his entire extended family. The man’s Armani suit was rumpled and torn. There were scratch marks down the side of his face, and his eyes had that frantic fire I was starting to see more of every day. The driver’s eyes had a different look, the same one as me, the look that maybe money wasn’t going to be much good for much longer. I slipped the man an extra fifty and wished him luck. That was all I could do.
Immediately we began to see bodies, men killed by their own booby traps. They looked like they’d been trying…running…to get out.
They teach you how to resist the enemy, how to protect your mind and spirit. They don’t teach you how to resist your own people, especially people who think they’re trying to “help” you see “the truth.”
Why did so many outbreaks begin in hospitals? Illegal Chinese immigrants weren’t going to hospitals. Do you know how many thousands of people got illegal organ transplants in those early years leading up to the Great Panic? Even if 10 percent of them were infected, even 1 percent…
“Please,” I begged, “you have to run!” I reached for her but she stabbed my hand. I left her there. I didn’t know what else to do. She is still in my memory, when I sleep or maybe close my eyes sometimes. Sometimes she’s my mother, and the crying children are my sisters.
I know a lot of credit has been heaped upon the South African war plan, and deservedly so, but if more people had read our report and worked to make its recommendations a reality, then that plan would have never needed to exist.
When you think about the CIA, you probably imagine two of our most popular and enduring myths. The first is that our mission is to search the globe for any conceivable threat to the United States, and the second is that we have the power to perform the first.
The facts were out; it was now a question of who would believe them.
We were in the hallway when I heard Jenna scream. I ran to her room, threw open the door. Another one, big, I’d say six and a half feet with giant shoulders and bulging arms. The window was broken and it had Jenna by the hair. She was screaming.
The swarm continued among the cars, literally eating its way up the stalled lines, all those poor bastards just trying to get away. And that’s what haunts me most about it, they weren’t headed anywhere.
That was the worst part, watching the other ships we passed. Some of the onboard infected refugees had begun to reanimate. Some vessels were floating slaughterhouses, others just burned at anchor. People were leaping into the sea. Many who sank beneath the surface never reappeared.
We relinquished our freedom that day, and we were more than happy to see it go. From that moment on we lived in true freedom, the freedom to point to someone else and say “They told me to do it! It’s their fault, not mine.” The freedom, God help us, to say “I was only following orders.”
No one would have expected [the escalation of nuclear hostilities], but then again, no one would have expected the dead to rise, now would they? Only one could have foreseen this, and I don’t believe in him anymore.
The opening bombardment took out at least three-quarters of them. Only three-quarters.
You think that after watching all the wonders of modern warfare fall flat on their high-tech hyper ass, that after watching three months of the Great Panic and watching everything you knew as reality be eaten alive by an enemy that wasn't even supposed to exist that you're gonna keep a cool fucking head and a steady fucking trigger finger?
Well, we did! We still managed to do our job and make Zack pay for every fuckin' inch!
Sure, we were unprepared, our tools, our training, everything I just talked about, all one class-A, gold-standard clusterfuck, but the weapon that really failed wasn’t something that rolled off an assembly line. It’s as old as…I don’t know, I guess as old as war. It’s fear, dude, just fear and you don’t have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn’t about killing or even hurting the other guy, it’s about scaring him enough to call it a day... “Shock and Awe”? Perfect name, “Shock and Awe”! But what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t, but biologically can’t! That’s what happened that day outside New York City, that’s the failure that almost lost us the whole damn war. The fact that we couldn’t shock and awe Zack boomeranged right back in our faces and actually allowed Zack to shock and awe us! They’re not afraid! No matter what we do, no matter how many we kill, they will never, ever be afraid!
Paul Redeker always believed, well, perhaps not always, but at least in his adult life, that humanity’s one fundamental flaw was emotion.
First of all, there was no way to save everyone. The outbreak was too far gone.
There was another reason for this partial evacuation, an eminently logical and insidiously dark reason that, many believe, will forever ensure Redeker the tallest pedestal in the pantheon of hell. Those who were left behind were to be herded into special isolated zones. They were to be “human bait,” distracting the undead from following the retreating army to their safe zone.
We were also under strict orders not to move the civilians. Even worse, we were ordered not to inform them of our departure!
We got everything we deserved. "Where are you going?" they shouted from buildings. "Come back, you cowards!" I tried to answer. "No, we're coming back for you," I said. "We're coming back tomorrow with more men. Just stay where you are, we'll be back tomorrow." "Fucking liar!" I heard one woman shout. "You're letting my baby die!"
As soon as the report came in, [General Lang] sat down at his desk, signed a few final orders, addressed and sealed a letter to his family, then put a bullet through his brain. Bastard. I hate him now even more than I did on the way to Hamburg... he knew this was just the first step of a long war and we were going to need men like him to win it... That's why he deserted us like we deserted those civilians. He saw the road ahead, a steep, treacherous mountain road. We'd all have to hike that road, each of us dragging the boulder of what he'd done behind us. [Lang] couldn't do that. He couldn't shoulder the weight.
They say eleven million people died that winter, and that’s just in North America.
The first labor survey stated clearly that over 65 percent of the present civilian workforce were classified F-6, possessing no valued vocation. We required a massive job retraining program. In short, we needed to get a lot of white collars dirty.
The Allies had the resources, industry, and logistics of an entire planet. The Axis, on the other hand, had to depend on what scant assets they could scrape up within their borders. This time we were the Axis.
I remember the attorney general suggesting that we dump as many of them into the infested zones as possible, rid ourselves of the drain and potential hazard of their continued presence. Both the president and I opposed this proposition; my objections were ethical, his were practical. We were still talking about American soil, infested yes, but, hopefully one day to be liberated. “The last thing we needed,” he said “was to come up against one of these ex-cons as The New Grand Warlord of Duluth.” I thought he was joking, but later, I saw the exact thing happen in other countries.
Lies are neither bad nor good. Like a fire they can either keep you warm or burn you to death, depending on how they're used. [...] The truth was that we were standing at what might be the twilight of our species and that truth was freezing a hundred people to death every night. They needed something to keep them warm. And so I lied, and so did the President, and every doctor and priest, every platoon leader and every parent. "We're going to be okay." That was our message. That was the message of every other filmmaker during the war. [...] There's a word for that kind of lie. Hope.
She... she wouldn't leave, you see. She insisted, over the objections of Parliament, to remain at Windsor, as she put it, "for the duration." [...] "The highest distinction is service to others." Her father had said that; it was the reason he had refused to run to Canada during the Second World War, the reason her mother had spent the blitz visiting civilians huddled in the tube stations beneath London, the same reason, to this day, we remain a United Kingdom.Their task, their mandate, is to personify all that is great in our national spirit. They must forever be an example to the rest of us, the strongest, and bravest, and absolute best of us. In a sense, it is they who are ruled by us, instead of the other way around, and they must sacrifice everything, everything, to shoulder the weight of this godlike burden. Otherwise, what's the flipping point? Just scrap the whole damn tradition, roll out the bloody guillotine, and be done with it altogether. They were viewed very much like castles, I suppose: as crumbling, obsolete relics, with no real modern function other than as tourist attractions. But when the skies darkened and the nation called, both reawoke to the meaning of their existence. One shielded our bodies, the other, our souls.
Ignorance was the enemy. Lies and superstition, misinformation, disinformation. Sometimes, no information at all. Ignorance killed billions of people. Ignorance caused the Zombie War. Imagine if we had known then what we know now. Imagine if the undead virus had been as understood as, say, tuberculosis was. Imagine if the world’s citizens, or at least those charged with protecting those citizens, had known exactly what they were facing. Ignorance was the real enemy, and cold, hard facts were the weapons. (Page 194-195)
When the last broadcast came from Buenos Aires, when that famous Latin singer played that Spanish lullaby, it was too much for one of our operators. He wasn’t from Buenos Aires, he wasn’t even from South America. He was just an eighteen-year-old Russian sailor who blew his brains out all over his instruments. He was the first, and since the end of the war, the rest of the IR operators have followed suit. Not one of them is alive today. The last was my Belgian friend. “You carry those voices with you,” he told me one morning. We were standing on the deck, looking into that brown haze, waiting for a sunrise we knew we’d never see. “Those cries will be with me the rest of my life, never resting, never fading, never ceasing their call to join them.”
Attack. When I first heard that word, my gut reaction was, "oh shit". Does that surprise you? Of course it does. You probably expected "the brass" to be just champing at that bit, all that blood and guts, "hold 'em by the nose while we kick 'em in the ass" crap. I don't know who created the stereotype hard-charging, dim-witted, high school football coach of a general officer. Maybe it was Hollywood, or the civilian press, or maybe we did it to ourselves, by allowing those insipid, egocentric clowns- the MacArthurs and Halseys and Curtis E. LeMays- to define our image to the rest of the country. Point is, that's the image of those in uniform, and it couldn't be further from the truth.
Two hundred million zombies. Who can even visualize that type of number, let alone combat it? At least this time around we knew what we were combating, but when you added up all the experience, all the data we'd compiled on their origin, their physiology, their strengths, their weaknesses, their motives, and their mentality, it still presented us with a gloomy prospect for victory. The book of war, the one we've been writing since one ape slapped another, was completely useless in this situation. We had to write a new one from scratch.
For the first time in history, we faced an enemy that was actively waging total war. They had no limits of endurance. They would never negotiate, never surrender. They would fight until the very end because, unlike us, every single one of them, every second of every day, was devoted to consuming all life on Earth. That's the kind of enemy we had waiting for us beyond the Rockies. That's the kind of war we had to fight.
Hope, New Mexico. Hope. I'm not kidding. The town was actually named Hope. They say the brass chose it because of the terrain, clear and open with the desert in front and the mountains in back. Perfect, they said, for an opening engagement, and that the name had nothing to do with it. Right.
Did you see the movie, the one Elliot made about us? That scene with the campfire and the grunts all jawing in this witty dialogue, the stories and the dreams for the future, and even that guy with the harmonica. Dude, it was so not like that. First of all, it was the middle of the day, no campfires, no harmonica under the stars, and also everyone was really quiet. You knew what everyone was thinking though, "What the hell are we doing here?" This was Zack's house now, and as far as we were concerned, he could have it. We'd all had plenty of pep talks about "The Future of the Human Spirit." We'd seen the president's speech God knows how many times, but the prez wasn't out here on Zack's front lawn. We had a good thing going behind the Rockies. What the hell were we doing out here?
The officers didn't tell us the attack was almost over, but you could see them looking through their scopes, talking on their radios. You could see the relief on their faces. I think the last shot was fired just before dawn. After that, we just waited for first light. It was kinda eeries, the sun rising over this mountainous ring of corpses. We were totally walled in, all sides were piled at least twenty feet high and over a hundred feet deep. I'm not sure how many we killed that day; stats always vary depending on who you get it from.
They let us sleep as late as we wanted the next day. That was pretty sweet. Eventually the voices woke me up; everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories. It was a different vibe, one-eighty from two days ago. I couldn't really put a finger on what I was feeling, maybe it was what the president said about "reclaiming our future." I just knew I felt good, better than I had the entire war. I knew it was gonna be a real, long-ass road. I knew our campaign across America was just beginning, but, hey, as the prez said later that first night, it was finally the beginning of the end.
Just puppies, you know, a couple of weeks old. Scared little babies screaming for their mommies, for anyone, to please come and save them.
I heard them die, one by one as their water bottles ran out. The dead never got in. They were still massed outside the gate when I escaped, ran right past without stopping to look. What could I have done? I was unarmed, untrained. I couldn't have taken care of them. I could barely take care of myself. What could I have done? ... Something. I could have done something.
"Heroes," that's what we were, that's what our leaders wanted, that's what our people felt they needed. After all that has happened, not just in this war, but in so many wars before: Algeria, Indochina, the Nazis... you understand what I am saying... you see the sorrow and pity? We understood what the American President said about "reclaiming our confidence"; we understood it more than most. We needed heroes, new names and places to restore our pride.
The Hospital.. that was our shining moment... the Hospital. [...] An advance team broke through without realizing what was on the other side. They could have withdrawn, blown the tunnel, sealed them in again... One squad against three hundred zombies. One squad led by my baby brother. His voice was the last thing we heard before their radio went silent. His last words: "On ne passe pas!"
Rarely, like, blue-moon rarely, we'd enter a zone where we were totally not welcome. In Valley City, North Dakota, they were like, "Fuck you, army! You ran out on us, we don't need you!"... At least they let us in. The Rebs only welcomed you with gunshots.
We were in Hammond, Indiana, scouting defenses for the siege of Chicago. He spied a house at the end of a deserted street, completely intact except for boarded up windows and a crashed-in front door. He got a look on his face, a grin. We should have known way before he dropped out of formation, before we heard the shot. He was sitting in the living room, in this worn, old easy chair, SIR between his knees, that smile still on his face. I looked up at the pictures on the mantlepiece. It was his home.
Last week I was listening to the radio and happened to hear [name withheld for legal reasons]. He was doing his usual thing- fart jokes and adolescent sexuality- and I remember thinking, "This man survived and my parents didn't."
I wonder what future generations will say about us. My grandparents suffered through the Depression, World War II, then came home to build the greatest middle class in human history. Lord knows they weren't perfect, but they sure came closest to the American dream. Then my parents' generation came along and fucked it all up--the baby boomers, the "me" generation. And then you got us. Yeah, we stopped the zombie menace, but we're the ones who let it become a menace in the first place. At least we're cleaning up our own mess, and maybe that's the best epitaph to hope for: "Generation Z, they cleaned up their own mess."
I went on a cruise two years ago, the Pan Pacific Line across the islands. We had people from everywhere, and even though the details might be different, the stories themselves were all pretty much the same. I know I come off as a little too optimistic, because I'm sure that as soon as things really get back to "normal", once our kids or grandkids grow up in a peaceful and comfortable world, they'll probably go right back to being as selfish and narrow-minded and generally shitty to one another as we were. But then again, can what we all went through really just go away? I once heard an African proverb, "One cannot cross a river without getting wet." I'd like to believe that.
We lost a hell of a lot more than just people when we abandoned them to the dead. That's all I'm going to say.
There's a little pond, in a small town in Poland, where they used to dump the ashes. The pond is still gray, even half a century later. I've heard it said that the holocaust had no survivors, that even those who managed to remain technically alive were so irreparably damaged, that their spirit, their soul, the person that they were supposed to be, was gone forever. I'd like to think that's not true. But if it is, then no one on Earth survived this war.
You wanna know who lost World War Z? Whales. I guess they never really had a chance, not with several million hungry boat people and half the world's navies converted to fishing fleets. [...] So the next time someone tries to tell you about how the true losses of this war are "our innocence" or "part of our humanity"... Whatever, bro. Tell it to the whales.
I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations. Yes, in World War Z some nations come out as winners and some as losers, but isn't that the case in real life as well? I wanted to base my stories on the historical actions of the countries in question, and if it offends some individuals, then maybe they should reexamine their own nation's history
Max Brooks "Exclusive Interview: Max Brooks on World War Z". Eat My Brains!. October 20, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2008.
They scare me more than any other fictional creature out there because they break all the rules. Werewolves and vampires and mummies and giant sharks, you have to go look for them. My attitude is if you go looking for them, no sympathy. But zombies come to you. Zombies don't act like a predator; they act like a virus, and that is the core of my terror. A predator is intelligent by nature, and knows not to overhunt its feeding ground. A virus will just continue to spread, infect and consume, no matter what happens. It's the mindlessness behind it.
Max Brooks Lance Eaton (October 2, 2006). "Zombies Spreading like a Virus: PW Talks with Max Brooks". Interview. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2009
The lack of rational thought has always scared me when it came to zombies, the idea that there is no middle ground, no room for negotiation. That has always terrified me. Of course that applies to terrorists, but it can also apply to a hurricane, or flu pandemic, or the potential earthquake that I grew up with living in L.A. Any kind of mindless extremism scares me, and we're living in some pretty extreme times.
Brooks, Max (October 6, 2006). "Zombie Wars". Washington Post. Retrieved September 19, 2008.