Editor's note- In writing this chapter, I took the liberty of doing some research on Japanese names. However, I am not that familiar with Japanese names or the country itself, so I apologize if anything written here inadvertently offends anyone.
The Graveyard Tales
Chapter 7: See No Evil
Jin Higa ran.
Not that he wanted to, mind you. His father had always taught him to face his problems head-on, no matter what the risk, and for his entire nineteen years of life, Jin had tried to follow that mantra. When he received a failing grade in his algebra class, he doubled his study time, often falling asleep while reading his textbook. When the time came to buy a car, he worked two jobs to be able to afford it, so he wouldn't have to beg his parents for money.
All his life, Jin had fought for what he had, never giving up.
So as he ran through the forest near his family's home near the coast of Japan, Jin tried not to imagine what his father would say of his cowardice.
It had happened two days ago. A man had washed up on the beaches near Jin's home. He was American, and everyone knew that American citizens were banned from Japan, from every country on the face of the planet. Ever since the Great Exhumation had started, every nation, both friendly and not, allies and enemies, had closed their borders, prohibiting United States citizens from entering. They had seen how quickly the U.S. had been overrun, the horrors inflicted on its people as the dead devoured them. Many news networks filtered out the more graphic footage, but it got through all the same.
Thank God for the Internet. Whether it's four-player goat porn or the undead eating a baby, you could find it courtesy of the Information Superhighway. Wait, do they still call it that?
The country had to be cut off from the rest of the world. The risk of contamination was too great. Any Americans who managed to get through the air and sea patrols were to be turned over to the proper authorities for 'quarantine.'
Jin knew what that meant. A bullet in the head, and then on to the incinerator. It was sadistic and cruel, to treat a person only trying to escape the undead like this, but if it kept the country safe, how could it be so wrong?
As he ran through the forest, the sharp stones piercing the soles of his feet, brambles tearing at his clothes, Jin Higa wished for the thousandth time that he had followed the government's orders instead of trying to help.
Even laying face-down, the American was obviously infected. His skin was pale, almost ashen, and the wound on his arm was oozing pus, a clear sign that he was no longer human. Jin's first reaction was to follow those government mandates, alert the authorities, and let the poor bastard be put out of his misery. But if he was nothing else, Jin was a kind person, and he couldn't turn his back on someone so desperately in need.
You know the old saying. No good deed goes unpunished.
Jin had approached the man warily, called out to him, and when he received no response, turned him over. The American's eyes snapped open, but the pupils were now a milky white. Blood coated his lips, and the skin was already starting to peel away.
The man was once known as Jacob Nayer, pediatrician, father of twin girls and little league coach. Now possessed with the zombie's unending need to feed, he struck like a snake, burying his teeth into Jin's left ankle.
Jin had screamed, then struck, crushing the man's head with a rock, hitting him again and again until he was covered in coagulated blood. He quickly washed the wound with salt water, ignoring the stinging pain, knowing he had to clean it before it was too late.
Sorry Jin, but that ship's already sailed. The SS You're Fucked. And you're the captain.
Jin pushed the body out to sea, hoping the crashing waves would hide his mistake. He ran straight home, ignoring the agony he felt with each step. He soaked towel after towel with blood until he finally stanched the bleeding. He buried the evidence in the backyard, hoping against hope that he could make it all go away.
But it was far too late. Patrol boats watched the seas like a hawk, and Jin's actions had been noted. That night, soldiers kicked down his family's front door, saying nothing, offering no explanation. His parents were shot on sight. His younger brother, who also did his best to follow their father's lessons, refused to go out so quietly. He broke one of the soldier's arms with a baseball bat, and for his bravery, was shot over one hundred times. Aina, his little sister of only seven years, was killed while she slept. The soldiers never hesitated.
It was for the good of the people.
Jin hid in a closet, and when the soldiers passed by he ran, into the forest, hoping to elude his executioners. They soon found his trail, however and for the last forty eight hours had pursued him, many times almost catching him, each time losing him once more.
Jin hid in alleyways, eating out of garbage cans and dumpsters. He dared not go to the hospital. There was no treatment for this disease, no cure. If people happened to see him, they screamed and ran for their lives, calling for the police. No one would help him, and the only ones who wanted to find him had no intention of offering aid.
Jin slept fitfully, in the spare minutes he had when the soldiers lost him. In his dreams, he watched the killing of his family again and again, except this time, he was the one pulling the trigger, gunning down his parents, his brother, his little sister. He awoke bathed in sweat, either from terror or the one hundred and thirteen degree fever he had.
Somewhere deep in his mind, he knew this tragedy was all his fault, the deaths of his family, the plague reaching his country's shores, all of it.
Yet still he ran.
A bullet cracked past his ear, and Jin tore to the left, taking a moment to hide behind a tall tree. His breath came in ragged gasps. The infection was spreading slowly, but Jin could feel the changes. On the second day of his new life as a fugitive, he had chanced to see himself in a mirror. His skin had begun to turn gray, like the American he had tried to help. His eyes, once clear and alerts, were losing their color. When he touched his face, he had been startled to watch as the skin cracked and fell away, like leaves in autumn.
The soldiers slowly approached him. Of the twenty that had attacked the Higa family, only thirteen remained. Most of them were young, barely over twenty, and several had shot themselves in the head following their latest 'mission.' The rest were tired and scared. Though they wore body armor guaranteed to protect them from bites, they looked around furtively, trying to be aware of everything around them.
They kept their eyes on each other as well. As in every crisis, rumors had begun to take the place of fact. Some said the virus which had claimed America had already come here, that the government's efforts were for naught. Some said it could be passed just by being around a zombie, that the mere presence of the undead was enough to turn a person.
"This is crazy," said one of the soldiers, who more than anything wanted to be home. "I can't believe we're hunting this guy down like a rabid dog."
"We're not going to hurt him," another, even younger than his friend. "He just needs help."
"And what help are we going to give him, exactly?" said the first speaker. "You really think the government was telling the truth when they claimed to be working on a cure?"
The soldier hefted his rifle. "This is the only cure they care about."
"That's enough of that!" shouted their commanding officer, a veteran of many years who now chafed at the idea of being reduced to a zombie chaser. "Keep your minds on your damn jobs."
"Yes sir," said both soldiers meekly.
"Jin Higa," called the officer over a bullhorn. "Come out and surrender. This has gone on long enough. For the good of the people, you must be quarantined."
On one of Jin's visits to a town steal food, a man, around the same age as his father, had cornered him, a gun in his hand. The man's hand was shaking as he told Jin that he would not stand by and allow the plague to spread to his home. The man looked around for someone to help him, panic in his voice as he called out. Jin grabbed a rock and like before, on that beach near his home, he bashed the man's head in, killing him. He only stayed long enough to grab the gun before running again.
It was a simple revolver, and against the automatic weapons the soldiers chasing him carried, it was little more than a pathetic joke. Jin breathed a silent prayer to his father, asking his forgiveness as he did every time he had to do something despicable just to survive, then ran from behind the tree and opened fire.
For once luck was with the last surviving member of the Higa family. One of the soldiers went down, clutching at his leg and screaming. As he ran deeper into the woods, the others opened fire, their shots going wide and doing more damage to the foliage than him.
As he ran, Jin saw lights in the distance. It was a house, and without thinking, he turned and ran towards it, even though a voice in the back of his mind screamed at him that this was insane, that the home would be the first place the soldiers looked.
But Jin's mind was not what it once was. His thoughts were unraveling like an old sweater, becoming less logical, more primitive. To his fever-shrouded brain, the lights were a sanctuary, a refuge. His parents were there, his mother making dinner, his father working late into the night as he always did. His brother was in their room with a new video game, begging Jin to take some time from his schoolwork to play. Aina was being her usual annoying self, loudly signing along to whatever new pop song she and her friends had attached themselves to.
Jin opened the front door as if this were truly his home. The woman in the living room, however, was not his mother, and screamed at the sight of him. Jin only smiled and walked toward her, arms open for a hug.
The woman's husband ran into the room, a stout cane in his hand. He stared at Jin, at the peeling skin, the rotted-tooth smile, the pus oozing out of several infected sores. The young man turned to the older and said, "Father, I'm home."
But the man was not Jin's father, and he attacked, striking him again and again, cursing him as a monster and yelling at his wife to call the police. In that moment Jin ceased to be, and with a snarl, hurled himself at the man, his teeth seeking the warm, nourishing flesh.
The two rolled around on the floor, and the man screamed as Jin's bit into his shoulder, blood flowing like juice from a steak. A young man, around the same age as Jin's brother, ran into the room and pulled him away from his father, who screamed as more flesh was torn away, now hanging in shredded rags from Jin's mouth.
Jin paused, looking at the young man. His brow furrowed in concentration. His mouth opened, but this time it was not to consume, but to communicate. "Hiro?" he said in a cracked and guttural voice, dredging up the name of his deceased brother from the shattered depths of his mind.
The young man could only stare at the creature before him, unable to move. Jin, however, was not possessed of this incapability, and slowly walked over to the man he thought was his brother. Tears filled his eyes, eyes that still showed a trace of humanity. His memories, though tainted and broken by the infection that had silenced his heartbeat, flew through his mind. Jin and Hiro visiting their grandparents, the two of them sitting enraptured as their grandfather spun them tales of his days traveling the world. Jin and Hiro playing video games, Jin always hitting the reset button when he was about to lose. Hiro being attacked by bullies at school, Jin standing up for him, never backing down.
Just as their father had always taught them.
Just then the soldiers entered the home. They had easily tracked Jin through the woods, and when the recently deceased young man snarled at these invaders, these wretches who dared point guns at his family, they ventilated him with a hail of bullets.
There was little left of him but a bloody paste on the carpet.
Then they turned to the man Jin had attacked, and without so much as an insincere apology for the unfortunate turn of events, riddled him with gunfire. His wife and son were killed as well. Nothing was said. Nothing was explained. When they were done, the house was burned to the ground, as was the Higa's.
The soldiers would be debriefed when they were finished, reminded that what happened this night was never to be discussed with anyone. The local police would make no inquiries as to what had happened. No news media would report the sudden and brutal deaths of three people and the destruction of their home.
It was, after all, for the good of the people.