Editor's Note: As in previous chapters dealing with foreign countries, I did some research to ensure the neames and places were accurate, however, if there are any mistakes along those lines, I do apologize.
The Graveyard Tales
Chapter 16: A Small World
"This is bad," said General Shiro Hasegawa as he looked out at the shores of a pristine beach, shores now clogged with the living dead.
The seagulls were long gone, the stench of the rotting corpses enough to drive even them away. Sands which were once white a snow now had an unsettling red tinge to them. Shiro doubted the stain could ever be removed.
The man beside him nodded and took notes. His job was to make a full report of the army's progress on holding back the undead to the government. Hasegawa looked at the weasel-faced man out of the corner of his eye. Right now he wanted nothing more than to throw the lapdog to the zombies.
The general walked along the shores of the beach. Waves frothed with blood lapped onto his boots: he would have to burn them later, a shame, really. They were a gift from his father after his graduation from the military academy. The houses which bordered the ocean cost more than he made in a lifetime, three stories tall, some four, with enough materialistic junk to sink a ship.
Rather ironic that these titans of commercialism were the first witnesses to an invasion by the undead.
Not much of an invasion really. Four minutes and twenty-three seconds after the military was alerted to their presence, the two hundred zombies were eradicated. Bullets in each of their heads. The bodies would be dipped in acid, leaving nothing behind. The actual spread of the zombie virus was still a great mystery, and people were taking no chances.
The government advisor looked at the bodies as they were being dragged off. Their skin was a pale blue, unusual since most undead tended to have a graying tone. "Where do you suppose these ones came from?" he asked as he made more notes.
"If you'd look up from your chipboard for more than a second, maybe you could see for yourself," General Hasegawa said. "This has all the earmarks of a sunken vessel from the Graveyard."
The advisor made a hasty note. Shiro reminded himself to watch what he said. Any facts which this man would report would be attributed to him. He thought for a minute before continuing. "As you can see, despite the corrosion, many of the victims are clearly American. Look at the clothing; a mix of styles and types of dress. Most likely this was a refugee ship bond for more 'friendly' shores. Probably sunk by a sub. Damned fools. They know they're supposed to kill the passengers before they torpedo a ship."
This kind of occurrence was becoming more and more common. After so much time, the number of ships leaving the Graveyard had dropped sharply, but sea patrols were at an all-time high. Captains were starting to get sloppy, simply sinking ships without eliminating their potentially deadly cargo first.
The general had heard of such problems in other countries. In India, for example, a tanker with almost one thousand Americans had been sunk. Once the passengers drowned, they promptly reawakened as the living dead and made for the shore. That evening, panicked calls began flooding the police and military lines of 'zombies rising from the water.'
In England, a group of people swimming across the Chanel to raise money for some insipid fundraiser were suddenly dragged underwater. No traces were ever found, and several of the police divers sent to search for them went missing as well. By the time the authorities finally figured out what was happening, they were almost too late.
The Australians were lucky. The natural predators that roamed the countryside made quick work of the undead that washed up on their shores. For some reason, the virus that reanimated humans had no effect on animals, and so zombified kangaroos an wallabies didn't ravage the countryside.
Shiro tried imaging it; a soft, moonlit night. Dark shapes rising out of the water, silent, save for the moans and snarls. A young couple on the beach is making out, and are ripped to pieces before they know what's happening. A child is walking to the bathroom for a glass of water, when he hears a pounding on the doors. The family dog, usually barking long into the night, is strangely silent. He shuddered at the images his mind created and turned his attention back to the corpses.
"Make sure you include a memo to the Navy," he said to the advisor. "All ships are to be sanitized before they are sunk."
The advisor nodded and made a short notation. Shiro didn't expect the government to take any action. At this point, assigning blame was more important than getting results.
Several shouts drew his attention down the beach. A few miles away, dark shapes were shambling out of the water. Soldiers ran towards them, firing wildly, hitting the sand and surf more than the zombies. Shiro cursed and shook his head.
Even now, almost a year after the Great Exhumation, people were still terrified by the undead. Just the sight of them drove most people into a panic, despite the many undead training programs that had been established for soldiers and citizens alike.
More soldiers converged on the ghouls, and within a few moments they were cut down. Men in Hazmat suit arrived next, and the remains were sealed and transported away. Just then, Shiro's radio cracked. He sighed and pressed the transmitter. This wasn't likely to be good news.
"General! More ghouls reported near Kobe. More than three hundred!"
Shiro looked to see if the government reporter had heard that last transmission. Sure enough, the weasel of a man was furiously scribbling on his notebook, trying not to look like he was eavesdropping.
Shiro cursed again and responded, "Mobilize any soldiers in the area. I'll send reinforcements as soon as possible."
He cut off the transmission with enough force to crack the radio. This was bad. Very bad indeed.
Two days later Shiro was called before the Committee on the War of the Undead, a new government body established to oversee the measures taken to ensure the walking dead did not make it to the shores of Japan.
The general sat at a long wooden table, in a room filled with chairs, clearly meant for a much larger assembly than him, yet here he was, being accorded this special honor of having the committee's undivided attention.
The committee was made up of eleven people, seven men and four women. Each went through a large stack of papers, presumably reports on the latest undead activity. Shiro did nothing, betrayed no emotion on his face. This was not the first time his service had been called into question, and these scare tactics, the shadowy conference room, the single light over his head, did nothing to disturb or frighten him. Shiro knew and the committee knew that he was the most qualified to keep the undead hordes at bay, but with more and more zombies being spotted on the shores and even in the cities, the people needed a scapegoat.
One of the committee members, a portly man with thinning hair named Osamu, ceased looking through the files and stared at the general. "You know why you are here today, General Shiro Hasegawa."
The general shrugged. "I'm being granted early retirement?"
Osamu bristled at the insult, and narrowed his gaze. Shiro, on the other hand, looked calm and relaxed, as if his retirement were the subject of this meeting.
Osamu gestured at the stack of papers, nearly three inches high. "This represents your failure to defend our country, general. In the past five months, there have been dozens of undead sightings, many incursions which have cost this country dearly in the lives of its people."
Shiro simply folded his arms and said nothing, glaring at the committee that dared to question him. Let them take his job and see how easy it was to contain an enemy that followed none of the usual customs of war, an enemy that attacked from all sides, needed no support, no supplies, and no guidance, because each knew what it wanted. Fighting the undead was like waging war on a flood or cyclone; none of the old rules applied.
Shiro stood, clearing his throat and taking a sip from a glass of water so thoughtfully provided by the committee, thinking as he drank that the water could easily have been poisoned. But he didn't feel his blood rise into his throat, and continued. "Members of the committee, I believe it is time to consider these as not just isolated incidents, but a sign."
The committee members looked at one another. Osamu answered for them. "A sign of what, Shiro?"
The general gestured to a map of the world. The United States had been colored over in red, as had smaller islands around it, to represent the presence of the undead. "As your reports no doubt indicate, the number of ships and planes from the Graveyard have dropped substantially in the past two months," he said. "I believe this to mean that the population of the United States is no more."
Concerned murmurs ran through the meeting room. In truth, much of the satellite surveillance supported this stance. In the beginning, there were many cities which the living still occupied, but over the last several weeks, that number had dropped, as one after another they were taken over by the zombies. No explanation could be found, but the answer was obvious.
"We have seen with our own eyes how aggressively the undead pursue their food. Their hunger is unending, and they will go to any lengths to find food, even at the risk of their own, for lack of a better term, lives."
Osamu voiced the fear that gripped all on he committee. "And you believe this search for sustenance has led them here?"
"I do. Maybe in their pursuit of the fleeing Americans they learned of our existence, or perhaps their hunger is great enough to drive them across hundreds of undersea miles. Regardless, I do not believe it is an incursion we are facing. It is an invasion."
The committee began talking back and forth, going through files to find proof of this possibility. Shiro hoped none could be found. Though the possibility was almost certain, he hoped against hope it was not. He knew his country would not survive an all-out invasion of the walking dead. The Americans had tried, and what did they have to show for it? At least there they had room to run. In Japan, with its limited space and high population, the casualties would be astronomical.
Osamu raised his hands for silence. He looked hard at General Hasegawa. "You understand we cannot take this explanation at face value. You will be detained while we determine whether or not the undead have truly left America's shores.
Just then a soldier burst into the room. He wore a terrified expression, and blood soaked the front of his uniform. Sweat poured down his face, despite the air conditioning in the building.
Osamu leapt to his feet. "How dare you interrupt this proceeding!" he shouted. "Get out before I have you arrested!"
But it wasn't the overweight committee member the soldier addressed, but Shiro, falling to his knees. "General, we have reports coming in from across the country. The undead are here."
"Where?" asked Sinta, looking around as if expecting to find a zombie in the meeting room.
When the soldier raised his head, tears streamed down his face.