World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
And they did, although it probably was not in the manner Redeker could have expected. It was during our Great Panic, which began several weeks before yours. Redeker was holed up in the Drakensberg cabin he had bought with the accumulated profits of a business consultant. He liked business, you know. “One goal, no soul,” he used to say. He wasn’t surprised when the door blew off its hinges and agents of the National Intelligence Agency rushed in. They confirmed his name, his identity, his past actions. They asked him point-blank if he had been the author of Orange Eighty-Four. He answered without emotion, naturally. He suspected, and accepted, this intrusion as a last-minute revenge killing; the world was going to hell anyway, why not take a few “apartheid devils” down first. What he could have never predicted was the sudden lowering of their firearms, and the removal of the gas masks of the NIA agents. They were of all colors: black, Asian, colored, and even a white man, a tall Afrikaner who stepped forward, and without giving his name or rank, asked abruptly…“You’ve got a plan for this, man. Don’t you?”
Redeker had, indeed, been working on his own solution to the undead epidemic. What else could he do in this isolated hideaway? It had been an intellectual exercise; he never believed anyone would be left to read it. It had no name, as explained later “because names only exist to distinguish one from others,” and, until that moment, there had been no other plan like his. Once again, Redeker had taken everything into account, not only the strategic situation of the country, but also the physiology, behavior, and “combat doctrine” of the living dead. While you can research the details of the “Redeker Plan” in any public library around the world, here are some of the fundamental keys:
First of all, there was no way to save everyone. The outbreak was too far gone. The armed forces had already been too badly weakened to effectively isolate the threat, and, spread so thinly throughout the country, they could only grow weaker with each passing day. Our forces had to be consolidated, withdrawn to a special “safe zone,” which, hopefully, would be aided by some natural obstacle such as mountains, rivers, or even an offshore island. Once concentrated within this zone, the armed forces could eradicate the infestation within its borders, then use what resources were available to defend it against further onslaughts of the living dead. That was the first part of the plan and it made as much sense as any conventional military retreat.
The second part of the plan dealt with the evacuation of civilians, and this could not have been envisioned by anyone else but Redeker. In his mind, only a small fraction of the civilian population could be evacuated to the safe zone. These people would be saved not only to provide a labor pool for the eventual wartime economic restoration, but also to preserve the legitimacy and stability of the government, to prove to those already within the zone that their leaders were “looking out for them.”
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. Redeker argued that these isolated, uninfected refugees must be kept alive, well defended and even resupplied, if possible, so as to keep the undead hordes firmly rooted to the spot. You see the genius, the sickness? Keeping people as prisoners because “every zombie besieging those survivors will be one less zombie throwing itself against our defenses.” That was the moment when the Afrikaner agent looked up at Redeker, crossed himself, and said, “God help you, man.” Another one said, “God help us all.” That was the black one who appeared to be in charge of the operation. “Now let’s get him out of here.”
Within minutes they were on a helicopter for Kimberley, the very underground base where Redeker had first written Orange Eighty-Four. He was ushered into a meeting of the president’s surviving cabinet, where his report was read aloud to the room. You should have heard the uproar, with no voice louder than the defense minister’s. He was a Zulu, a ferocious man who’d rather be fighting in the streets than cowering in a bunker.
The vice president was more concerned about public relations. He didn’t want to imagine what his backside would be worth if news of this plan ever leaked to the population.
The president looked almost personally insulted by Redeker. He physically grabbed the lapels of the safety and security minister and demanded why in hell he brought him this demented apartheid war criminal.
The minister stammered that he didn’t understand why the president was so upset, especially when it was he who gave the order to find Redeker.
The president threw his hands in the air and shouted that he never gave such an order, and then, from somewhere in the room, a faint voice said, “I did.”
He had been sitting against the back wall; now he stood, hunched over by age, and supported by canes, but with a spirit as strong and vital as it had ever been. The elder statesman, the father of our new democracy, the man whose birth name had been Rolihlahla, which some have translated simply into “Troublemaker.” As he stood, all others sat, all others except Paul Redeker. The old man locked eyes on him, smiled with that warm squint so famous the world over, and said, “Molo, mhlobo wam.” “Greetings, person of my region.” He walked slowly over to Paul, turned to the governing body of South Africa, then lifted the pages from the Afrikaner’s hand and said in a suddenly loud and youthful voice, “This plan will save our people.” Then, gesturing to Paul, he said, “This man will save our people.” And then came that moment, the one that historians will probably debate until the subject fades from memory. He embraced the white Afrikaner. To anyone else this was simply his signature bear hug, but to Paul Redeker…I know that the majority of psychobiographers continue to paint this man without a soul. That is the generally accepted notion. Paul Redeker: no feelings, no compassion, no heart. However, one of our most revered authors, Biko’s old friend and biographer, postulates that Redeker was actually a deeply sensitive man, too sensitive, in fact, for life in apartheid South Africa. He insists that Redeker’s lifelong jihad against emotion was the only way to protect his sanity from the hatred and brutality he witnessed on a daily basis. Not much is known about Redeker’s childhood, whether he even had parents, or was raised by the state, whether he had friends or was ever loved in any way. Those who knew him from work were hard-pressed to remember witnessing any social interaction or even any physical act of warmth. The embrace by our nation’s father, this genuine emotion piercing his impenetrable shell…
[Azania smiles sheepishly.]
Perhaps this is all too sentimental. For all we know he was a heartless monster, and the old man’s embrace had absolutely no impact. But I can tell you that that was the last day anyone ever saw Paul Redeker. Even now, no one knows what really happened to him. That is when I stepped in, in those chaotic weeks when the Redeker Plan was implemented throughout the country. It took some convincing to say the least, but once I’d convinced them that I’d worked for many years with Paul Redeker, and, more importantly, I understood his way of thinking better than anyone left alive in South Africa, how could they refuse? I worked on the retreat, then afterward, during the consolidation months, and right up until the end of the war. At least they were appreciative of my services, why else would they grant me such luxurious accommodations? [Smiles.] Paul Redeker, an angel and a devil. Some hate him, some worship him. Me, I just pity him. If he still exists, somewhere out there, I sincerely hope he’s found his peace.
[After a parting embrace from my guest, I am driven back to my ferry for the mainland. Security is tight as I sign out my entrance badge. The tall Afrikaner guard photographs me again. “Can’t be too careful, man,” he says, handing me the pen. “Lot of people out there want to send him to hell.” I sign next to my name, under the heading of Robben Island Psychiatric Institution. NAME OF PATIENT YOU ARE VISITING: PAUL REDEKER.]
[While not a Catholic himself, Philip Adler has joined the throngs of visitors to the pope’s wartime refuge. “My wife is Bavarian,” he explains in the bar of our hotel. “She had to make the pilgrimage to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.” This is his first time away from Germany since the end of the war. Our meeting is accidental. He does not object to my recorder.]
Hamburg was heavily infested. They were in the streets, in the buildings, pouring out of the Neuer Elbtunnel. We’d tried to blockade it with civilian vehicles, but they were squirming through any open space like bloated, bloody worms. Refugees were also all over. They’d come from as far away as Saxony, thinking they could escape by sea. The ships were long gone, the port was a mess. We had over a thousand trapped at the Reynolds Aluminiumwerk and at least triple that at the Eurokai terminal. No food, no clean water, just waiting to be rescued with the dead swarming outside, and I don’t know how many infected inside.
The harbor was choked with corpses, but corpses that were still moving. We’d blasted them into the harbor with antiriot water cannons; it saved ammo and it helped to keep the streets clear. It was a good idea, until the pressure in the hydrants died. We’d lost our commanding officer two days earlier…freak accident. One of our men had shot a zombie that was almost on top of him. The bullet had gone right through the creature’s head, taking bits of diseased brain tissue out the other end and into the colonel’s shoulder. Insane, eh? He turned over sector command to me before dying. My first official duty was to put him down.
I’d set up our command post in the Renaissance Hotel. It was a decent location, good fields of fire with enough space to house our own unit and several hundred refugees. My men, those not involved in holding the barricades, were attempting to perform these conversions on similar buildings. With the roads blocked and trains inoperative, I thought it best to sequester as many civilians as possible. Help would be coming, it was just a question of when it would arrive.
I was about to organize a detail to scrounge for converted hand-to-hand weapons, we were running low on ammunition, when the order came to retreat. This was not unusual. Our unit had been steadily withdrawing since the first days of the Panic. What was unusual, though, was the rally point. Division was using map-grid coordinates, the first time since the trouble began. Up until then they had simply used civilian designations on an open channel; this was so refugees could know where to assemble. Now it was a coded transmission from a map we hadn’t used since the end of the cold war. I had to check the coordinates three times to confirm. They put us at Schafstedt, just north of the Nord-Ostsee Kanal. Might as well be fucking Denmark!
We were also under strict orders not to move the civilians. Even worse, we were ordered not to inform them of our departure! This didn’t make any sense. They wanted us to pull back to Schleswig-Holstein but leave the refugees behind? They wanted us to just cut and run? There had to be some kind of mistake.
I asked for confirmation. I got it. I asked again. Maybe they got the map wrong, or had shifted codes without telling us. (It wouldn’t be their first mistake.)
I suddenly found myself speaking to General Lang, commander of the entire Northern Front. His voice was shaking. I could hear it even over the shooting. He told me the orders were not a mistake, that I was to rally what was left of the Hamburg Garrison and proceed immediately north. This isn’t happening, I told myself. Funny, eh? I could accept everything else that was happening, the fact that dead bodies were rising to consume the world, but this…following orders that would indirectly cause a mass murder.
Now, I am a good soldier, but I am also a West German. You understand the difference? In the East, they were told that they were not responsible for the atrocities of the Second World War, that as good communists, they were just as much victims of Hitler as anyone else. You understand why the skinheads and proto-fascists were mainly in the East? They did not feel the responsibility of the past, not like we did in the West. We were taught since birth to bear the burden of our grandfathers’ shame. We were taught that, even if we wore a uniform, that our first sworn duty was to our conscience, no matter what the consequences. That is how I was raised, that is how I responded. I told Lang that I could not, in good conscience, obey this order, that I could not leave these people without protection. At this, he exploded. He told me that I would carry out my instructions or I, and, more importantly, my men, would be charged with treason and prosecuted with “Russian efficiency.” And this is what we’ve come to, I thought. We’d all heard of what was happening in Russia…the mutinies, the crackdowns, the decimations. I looked around at all these boys, eighteen, nineteen years old, all tired and scared and fighting for their lives. I couldn’t do that to them. I gave the order to withdraw.
How did they take it?
There were no complaints, at least, not to me. They fought a little amongst themselves. I pretended not to notice. They did their duty.
What about the civilians?
[Pause.] 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.” They didn’t believe me. “Fucking liar!” I heard one woman shout. “You’re letting my baby die!”
Most of them didn’t try to follow, too worried about the zombies in the streets. A few brave souls grabbed on to our armored personnel carriers. They tried to force their way down the hatches. We knocked them off. We had to button up as the ones trapped in buildings started throwing things, lamps, furniture, down on us. One of my men was hit with a bucket filled with human waste. I heard a bullet clang off the hatch of my Marder.