Chapter 6: Old Wives' Tale
Old Wives’ Tale
After the movie Jaws was release all the beaches across America emptied out of a newborn paranoia felt by people believing that every inch of shoreline had been infested by giant great white sharks. Old wives’ tales of sharks smelling the blood of menstruating young women began to circulate, and soon the beaches looked like something out of the desolate opening of Planet of the Apes—without a person in sight.
Now, I wasn’t even born yet when either of those movies came out, but I remember my dad watching them before the Zombie Era, and I know such stories can be extremely powerful. They tap into the darkest parts of our psyche and play our own fears against us. Most of the time, however, such wives’ tales prove to be nothing but farce and fiction, stories exaggerated and blown out of proportion, turned into urban legend as years of repetition have solidified only the most basic and potent elements of the myth. Most of the time you don’t even buy into them but simply go along with it all so that you can join in having a laugh at the expense of the gullible and the credulous. Later on we can all look back at such tall tales and laugh it all off as a bit of harmless naïveté.
But post Z.E., there is one wives’ tale that is deadly true—zombies do smell blood. And just my luck, I started my period.
Which sucks for me, seeing as I’m trapped up on this billboard with a throng of pallid faces looking up at me with whitewashed eyes. Their hungry moans betray their intent, and I can’t help but laugh at the fact that being a girl in today’s world is no easier than the last. Everyone still wants to chew you up and spit you out.
Lucky for you though, because being stuck up here gives me more than enough time to write in this diary. The problem is, now that I’ve begun, I don’t really know what to say. So I guess I’ll just start with today’s events so far.
It may not be lady like—whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean—but I’ve already taken a couple bloody pisses on the congregation of stupid moaning heads down below. It doesn’t seem to do much to quench their insatiable thirst for blood however. Still, it’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, when you gotta go, you gotta go. And it’s not like I can just climb down and find the nearest restroom.
Scrambling up here may not have been the wisest idea. But it was either this or take my chances cutting through downtown, with every biter in the city chasing after my ass. It makes one wonder, how many girls hid themselves away, only to be unaware of the fact that they were like a bright glowing flame to a moth, but instead of a moth, it was a mouth, and that mouth was attached to one of the living dead.
Somehow, being on the outskirts of town just seemed like a better choice for this time of month. Either that or stay holed up somewhere with a candles and incense. That usually masks the faint coppery scent of blood. But I can handle myself if push comes to shove, and well, I was doing just fine until this morning.
By noon I had sixty or so deadheads trailing after me. So I headed for the bridge I use when I want to cross the river, cut back to a secondary bridge, and ditch the whole lot of them, leaving them confused as they stumble to the other side while I back track around. The thing is though, the bridge I needed to use had unexpectedly been demolished. And I bet I know who I can thank for that—Takahiro and his band of little terrorists.
That’s politics for you. A bunch of treachery, lies, and strategic backstabbing. I know what Takahiro’s clan of Banjin are up to. They’re trying to bottleneck my organization by cutting off all access points to the city. If they can take out key bridges and tunnels, then they could effectively gain control over the main trade routes, and I’d have no choice but to deal with them. They could cripple my empire.
Today’s mission was simple enough. Head out and scout around for any signs of the rebels or any further misdeeds on their part. Of course, today’s incident began with the third bridge we’ve found out of service in just as many weeks. As you can imagine, I’m beginning to regret my choice of letting Takahiro run free. He’s proving to be a much more capable pain in my ass then I initially anticipated.
Not only that, my new tattoo itches like a son of a bitch. I got it on my inner left thigh. If I wear a mini-skirt it’s noticeable. I chose the kanji symbols for the praying mantis, or kamakiri in Japanese.
I don’t know why I chose the mantis, other than the fact that the female eats the male after sex, and something about that tickles me. Every male within her purview desires her, but every male fears her, knowing that if he is lucky enough to be the chosen one, he will have the best time of his life quickly followed by a gruesome and brutal death.
Speaking of gruesome deaths, I tell myself, Sae, you’ve taken on sixty monsters before. You can do it again. But then the other part of reminds me that last time I took on a large horde I had to lose in order to win, and that in losing, I had to endure the pain of being eaten alive. That’s not something you ever want to go through… twice. Once was more than enough, thank you very much.
So I’ve been sitting up here all afternoon considering my alternatives. But being stuck up on this billboard gives me very little in the way of possibilities with any chance of success. All chances of success are remote at best.
So far my best bet is to try and get down without injury, make my way through about thirty biters, then manage to outrun the rest as I head back toward what remains of the bridge. Once there, putting the river to my back, I could anchor down and fight off the oncoming flood of living dead. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about anything but the onslaught. Then it’s just a matter of fighting until every last one of those things has been thoroughly lobotomized and put down.
But with the gathering of undead below, such a bold plan seems fleeting not to mention overly optimistic. Lots of things could go wrong. Jumping off from this height I might land wrong, break my ankles or snap my shins. Then I’d be back in that situation I never want to be in again. Or maybe I get down, and fate willing, I make it to the bridge, but unbeknownst to me some of Takahiro’s people are waiting there for me, and then I’m at an even greater disadvantage, fighting of lethal threats from both sides.
Nah, for now I think I’ll just smoke a cigarette and watch the sun set. To be honest, I don’t do it enough. I guess with all the rot and ruin, all the dust and decay, surrounding you every moment of everyday, you sometimes forget how beautiful nature can really be.
It’s these little moments that really seem to put everything else into perspective.
Fortunately, I brought an extra pack of smokes along with me this morning. Didn’t think I’d need them, but here I am, and now I think I’ll enjoy taking my time smoking every last one of them. Well, maybe I’ll save one for breakfast. Hopefully, when I don’t check in tomorrow, someone will come looking for me and get me down off this bloody thing. If not, then I can start weighing my options.
My name is Saeko Sakaguchi. If you’re reading this, heed my advice. If you ever get run down by zombies, make sure you have an exit strategy; otherwise you might find yourself stuck up a goddamn pole with no way down.
***September 20, 2019 (Z.E.)
Chapter 5: The Art of War
The Art of War
Yesterday was a bloodbath. The thing you need to keep in mind about the living dead is that after a while they stop rotting. About two months to be precise. As if there is a limit to the amount they can decay. Nobody knows why they stop rotting. Whatever the Resurrection virus does to them, it preserves them indefinitely as a living corpse.
Some have gone as far as to begin calling them Lazarus’s children, as if it’s some kind of divine miracle which prevents them from wasting away into nothingness. But I guarantee you this much, it’s not a miracle. It’s a goddamn curse.
Yesterday I realized my greatest fear. For as long as I can remember it has been the fear of getting overwhelmed, and fighting until I can’t raise my sword any longer, and then crumpling under the weight of the chomping teeth and cracked fingernails of clawing hands of the living dead.
And I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Imagine this nightmare; imagine being overwhelmed, succumbing to the biting mouths filled with jagged bloody teeth and the realization that it’s your own blood they maws are red with. Imagine the sheering pain as they tear away your flesh from your very bones only for them to stop feeding on you when your body finally goes cold.
Now imagine being aware of everything that’s going on the whole time without the hope of release. Because unlike everybody else, you’re special. You can’t die.
Imagine waking up several hours later and the horde has moved on, and your body, my body, completely mended—as if nothing had ever happened.
Except the emotional scars tearing through your psyche, from having been awake for every bloody minute of getting eaten alive, is trapped in your memory—and this damage is lasting. It’s not the sort of thing you just walk off and shake out of your head. It closer to a rape—of being defiled—of being powerless to prevent your ruin. But even though you come out alive, the trauma is everlasting. So then you wake up, and every moment after that amounts to you coping with it. Trying not to let the scar tear open again and let all the pain come flooding back.
That’s the nightmare I have to live with.
Even if you get bit, gods forbid, you’re still luckier than those poor sobs who can’t fucking die. Not dying in a world of living dead—that’s the real curse.
And the fact that they can hurt you—again and again—well, some days it just makes you want to rage against the world. It makes you want to douse yourself and everything around you in gasoline an light up. It makes you want to scorch every corner of the Earth and burn the whole bloody thing down to the ground so all that remains is a cinder orbiting a star in the cold part of the galaxy—and only then would you be satisfied.
You’re probably wondering how I found myself in such a situation. Well, as embarrassing as it is to say this, chock it up to carelessness. It all came about when I happened to run into Mizuki’s older brother, Takahiro. Let’s just say he wasn’t keen on seeing me again after what I did to his little sister. Payback is a bitch, as they say.
But I get it. Family is family, even if they are psychotic lunatics without a shred of humanity left. And to be honest, I expected Takahiro to make an attempt sooner. What I wasn’t expecting was that he had the stones to ambush me. In the few months since I killed his sister, it’s almost as if, as if he had studied her notebook on how to be a vindictive asshole. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or the other bad apples, for that matter.
As it turns out, Mizuki’s sweet, big brother Takahiro proved himself to be a tyrant in his own right. I always pegged him as a dimwit. Sure, he had the looks, but the brains—that was Mizuki’s department. Now I see that I should have given him more credit.
It was the end of the week, and so I had taken three of my men to Chiba ward to a raid one of the local warehouses. It was no big deal, since it was a warehouse we’ve been to before, and we knew just what to expect. But seeing as how it’s the end times and all, I felt it was probably better to be safe than sorry. So my men were heavily armed. Sub machine guns, swords, knives, I even made sure they had body armor on.
None of this does shit against good old fashioned C4 explosives however. Or so I found out the hard way.
My men were instantly blown into mince meat pie. I only fared slightly better and came out a living charcoal husk. Rising off the floor, I saw two things that unnerved me. First was my men dripping from the walls in wet meaty chunks. Second was seeing the grinning face of Takahiro looking down at me from the second story service entrance. He was standing there with his clan of Banjin rebels—laughing at the fact that they had finally done in the infamous Princess Gangster.
But what really torqued my chain was that goddamn smile of his. He knew he had outwitted me, and he was reveling in the victory. But I didn’t have time to curse or swear I’d get revenge, because at that very instant, when he smiled, that’s when they flooded the main storage area with at least six or seven hundred of relentless living dead.
I did my best to fight them off, but in my condition, I was quickly overrun by the swarm—and it was feeding time.
I guess it is true what they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. But the way I see it, this whole an eye for an eye business gets old real fast. If I go after Takahiro, his people will just come after me, and this endless chain of senseless stupidity will go on for as long as it takes someone to grow some sense or until everyone has killed everyone else off.
There are more important things worth fighting for than one’s honor. Besides, honor isn’t something that is earned. Respect is. Honor amounts to little more than being raised to a lofty position through praise and adoration, and all the hot steam that’s been blown up your ass, regardless of whether it has been earned. Respect on the other hand is harder to come by. You have to work for it. It requires building trust—and that means keeping your word.
So the way I see it, I either have to track and hunt down every single Banjin in this goddamn city and, for good measure, kill the whole lot of them—or I have to let bygones be.
As hard as it is, I’ve chosen to allow Takahiro and his band of rebels to go free. For now, at any rate. And to be honest, it’s not like I had to really think about it that long and hard. I mean, I don’t’ want to kill people over stupid things like territorial spats and silly blood vendettas. Not when human life is as endangered as it is. But at the same time, I know I have to send a clear message, so I’ll do the next best thing. In fact, I already have.
This very morning I gave the word to have all our storage units, including every major warehouse we keep our food stockpiles in, fortified with my army of loyal Yakuza.
Hell, I’m trying to rebuild the biggest city on the planet one block at a time, and I don’t have the time or energy to run off on silly revenge missions. Revenge takes time, energy, and resources. It’s a hard business. And I have better things to do.
So this is what I have in play. I’ve placed twelve armed guards at nine food storage facilities and have effectively locked out all Banjin from our local trade routes, effectively cutting them off from doing business with anyone inside the city. This trade embargo will send a strong message that I mean business. You’re either with me or you’re against me.
Now Takahiro and his band of Banjin have to make a decision. Either surrender to my demands of surrender or starve to death. Of course, there’s a third option. They could simply leave the city altogether and never show their faces here again, which would be fine by me. Somehow I doubt that will be Takahiro’s next move—especially after he hears that I survived.
The bottom line is, the next move is theirs.
I’m Saeko Sakaguchi, but everyone just calls me Princess Gangster. If you’re reading this, count yourself among the lucky ones. You’ve survived this long. That’s no small feat. In the meantime, I welcome you to my humble, zombie infested, city. The most dangerous place on Earth: Tokyo—Land of the Living Dead.
***September 18, 2019 (Z.E.)
Asphalt, Ash, and Adrenaline Fumes
You wouldn't believe half the stuff I've seen. If I told you, you’d probably think I’m pulling your leg. But I've seen it all.
Take for example the time I came across a transvestite zombie wearing a far too tight blue Tommy Hilfiger one piece, bright red heels, and a frizzy yellow wig which in no way matched the four a.m. stubble on his face. Or the time I ran across an army of undead clowns, escaped from a circus gone to hell and back again. If clowns unnerve you, try a whole army of blood soaked, twice mutilated, murky painted mimes with red grinning faces and even redder teeth and an appetite for flesh.
Now, today was another one of those kind of days. Hell, it's embarrassing to even talk about it. Cutting across town, and tired of taking the long way around, I decided to take a shortcut through the old abandoned postal office. Only, I had made a horrible mistake. You see, it wasn't the postal office I had wondered into. Rather, it was an inner city primary school.
Imagine my horror when I entered into the den of a pack of starving cannibal tots, all of them falling into the aforementioned category of D-biters. For some reason the little one’s don’t get stiff. They’re fast. Vicious. And most certainly lethal.
So there I was, sprinting like I was gunning for that red tape, hurdling desks and tables and what not, until I made it to the large windows and, well, let's just say it wasn't my most graceful moment. Desperate to get out alive, I cannon-balled through the glass window, getting lacerated in the process. To make matters worse, I overshot the goddamn fire escape. It didn't help I was on the sixth floor either.
Six stories and half a second later, I hit the pavement with a bone shattering thud. The air was knocked out of me and the only thing I heard were my own bones crunching under the weight of my body. Immobilized, I waited for my body to heal itself. That’s one of the perks of being immune to the Resurrection virus. Instead of getting undead we get better. An ironic twist of fate in what many consider to be an unthinkable curse. A curse of being destined to forever be alive in a world of living dead.
It doesn't mean we can’t die. Take our heads off or put a bullet between our eyes and we drop like any regular ole zombie. Not being immortal is a huge relief, believe you me, but we’re pretty damn impervious to most anything else you might throw at us.
But don’t think being immune is all sunshine and walks in the park. I may be immune to the virus but that doesn't mean it’s not inside me. I am contaminated, tainted by the Resurrection virus, and I can still infect others. I'm a carrier. Instead of turning into the undead however, the virus somehow speeds up my immune system, including my metabolism, and my ability to heal. The hard part is ignoring all the goddamn pain. I might heal fast, but I still feel every sharp twinge and every bone shattering blow. Sometimes the pain is so intense that I feel like puking out my fucking guts. Ever experience pain like that?
But here’s my dirty little secret … I relish it. The pain is real. It’s the ever constant reminder that I’m still kicking. Alive.
So there I was, lying dazed and confused amid a smattering of broken glass. Suddenly it started raining children. Many of them splattered. Their entire bodies exploding like wet water balloons. Others felt the crunch, like I did. The problem was this, the ones that didn't pop didn't die, and so here I was, dragging my paraplegic ass across sharp asphalt. My legs got shredded in the process. By the time I made it half a block my thighs looked like hamburger meat.
Behind me, inching toward me at an aggravatingly persistent pace, the hungry mouths of a dozen or so undead primary schoolers. And don’t you dare think about giving up. If one of them latches on, they’re harder to shake off than a goddamn leach.
Once, about two years ago, I was pinned down by an sniper trying to collect on a hit put out by a rival gang. The only way I could get out was by blowing through the floor and falling down to the room directly beneath. I had landed in a daycare for preschoolers and emerging from the rubble, I suddenly discovered I had three of the leaches draining the life from me. The poor things were too small to chew, as they were turned before their jaw muscles could fully develop, so they bit in and just began suckling the crimson stuff from my veins. I tried to pry them off, but weakened by the blast and the subsequent blood loss, I had no choice but to dispatch with the creatures.
Some days I pity the parents who are still out there looking for their lost children, hoping against hope they are, somehow, alive and well. But whatever remains of this world, one thing is for certain, such hopes amount to little more than pipe-dreams. Sometimes you have to wake up and face reality head on.
Which brings me back to the pain. The pain of living. The pain of life pulsing through your veins. Every throbbing reminder telling you that the moment the pain ceases so does your existence. And if you’re one of the lucky ones, you stay dead.
In the fallout of the Resurrection virus, many opted out of the living nightmare by taking their own lives. I'd be lying if I said I didn't envy them. See, the thing with pain is, if it doesn't go away you wish for nothing more than death. You wish for escape. At some point the pain has to let up. It just has to, because if it doesn't then it’s no longer a state of pain—it’s a state of existence--one of perpetual misery.
Truthfully, I don’t blame those who opted to take the easy way out. How could I? When things get tough and it doesn't seem like there's any way out, just like earlier today when my legs were shot, and I’m scraping along the pavement leaving a blood trail so that everything within a two block radius could smell that delectable copper scent of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, those are the times where a quick and easy out seems like a good call.
By about a block, yeah, one measly block, I realized there was no way in hell I was going to be able to fend off the growing numbers of undead I was attracting. Not in my condition. So I looked for a way out. Easy. Hard. It didn't matter.
That's when I looked up and there it was!
About three meters away sat a larger tanker truck. So I crawled my way to it, but my kneecaps had turned to mush, so using the sheath of my sword as a makeshift crutch, I was able to prop myself up just high enough to undo the cap. Then, I crashed back down under the pouring waterfall of gasoline, leaned against the massive tire, and lit myself a cigarette.
I don’t need to tell you how shocked I was when I woke up. Two white eyes looking out of the charcoal cinder of what used to be a human being. Gasping for air I sat up, brushed the ash off my face, and looked around at the destruction I had left in my wake. It was a miracle I hadn't blown myself into smithereens, but apparently it has something to do with being at the epicenter of a rather large explosion. The oxygen gets sucked out as the plumes of flame expand out all around you, creating a nice little nucleus to hide inside. But that brief moment at the epicenter of the blast seems like an eternity in hell—and then there is that unfathomable pain which registers just after you become aware that your skin and muscles are melting right off your bones. It’s not the sort of pain I’d wish on anyone.
I don’t know how long I was out for, but when I came to the horde which was slowly creeping up on me had been completely decimated. Burnt up. Nothing of them remained but the blackened residue of their bodies—ghostly shadows singed onto the surrounding scenery. It would almost be tragic if it wasn't for that fact that they were mindless monsters without souls.
A flood of adrenaline rushed over me and I sprang to my feet. Luckily, the blast pushed me back onto my sword, and my body shielded it from the bulk of the blast. It’s one of the few times I've felt… I dunno… like something or someone was watching out for me.
At any rate, I picked up my sword and took a few wobbly steps before finding my legs. My muscles burned as they continued to heel, but a few minutes of getting my heart rate up and suddenly the dark charcoal began to fall off me in large black flakes. Shedding my scorched husk I emerged a pristine white figure. I also happened to be stark naked.
Now, to be completely honest, on a typical day I wouldn't be caught dead strolling around in my birthday suit, but on that day it didn't bother me that I didn't have a thread to bare. I felt right at home in my skin. Probably for the first time in my whole bloddy life. But I knew I would have to find something in the way of clothing, and so I strolled up the empty street for several blocks looking for a department store. That’s when I came across the student outlet store, one of the many places in this sprawling city that sells school uniforms for high school kids. Or, at least they used to. Now they’re just stockpiles for countless unused uniforms, and seeing as how I go through one per day on average, I had no choice but to use my katana to cut the chain off of the door.
Picking out a navy blue and green plaid skirt, a white blouse, and a sash with a matching clip-on ribbon, I used a handkerchief to wipe away any unwanted soot and then dressed. It felt good to be back in my trademark look, and I couldn't help but stop to gaze at myself in the dressing room mirror.
It’s a strange thing. One day you’re starving, and looking for anything you can get your hands on to eat, and the next day you’re worried about whether or not your fat ass will still fit into your old schoolgirl uniform. Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind. But I guess surviving the zombie apocalypse does that to a girl.
You’ll be pleased to know that this twenty-one year old still fits into her old high school uniform. Sure, it probably sounds silly to you, but I literally let out a huge sigh of relief. I know what you must be thinking, who entertains worries about watching weight at the end of the world? Little victories like this count though. Especially when it seems you’re losing the war on every other front. Besides this, what can I say, old habits die hard, and certain ones stubbornly stick with you. Which reminds me, I’m out of cigarettes.
My name is Saeko Sakaguchi, but the world knows me as Princess Gangster. Some people pray to me thinking I’ll be their salvation while others flee from my sight as if I was the devil incarnate. But regardless of whether you think I’m a tyrant or a saint, everyone can agree on one thing, I’m not to be trifled with.
If you’re reading this, count yourself among the lucky ones. If I'm alive next week, I'll do my best to find the time to write another entry. This whole keeping a diary thing is starting to grow on me.
***September 5, 2019 (Z.E.)
Tristan Vick is the author of the Bitten Resurrection virus saga as well as the quirky pulp novel The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston: Rough Justice. Princess Gangster is his Resurrection virus spin-off webserial based on the lead character from Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead.