World War Z Fanfiction: World War Z: The Lost Interviews - 17. Switzerland (Around the World And Above)
[Today is the only day this week where the sun shines completely, with no clouds to block it out, gray or white or otherwise. I sit in the waiting room of the office of Doctor Sofia Schmidt, Ph.D. No more than a few minutes after arriving, her office door opens, revealing the doctor and her last patient for the morning. After giving her patient a prescription and bidding him farewell, she invites me in. Instead of having me sit on the same couch as her patients, she asks me to bring in one of the chairs from the waiting room and set it in front of her desk. Despite my insistence that she can speak in whatever language she feels comfortable with, she insists on speaking in English, as she says she “needs the practice”.]
People often credit Cuba with winning the war due to their geographical and political isolation, but some of them seem to forget that we Swiss had the same qualities. Switzerland won the war…well, on the European front anyway, because of three things: our armed populace, our geography, and our pre-war attentiveness.
Very few countries have the luxury of having natural barriers that protect most, if not all, of said countries. While we are not totally surrounded like Andorra, just having mountains on at least two sides of our country’s border is be beneficial.
The infection was not hitting Switzerland as hard as our neighbors. The Alps provided the guaranteed security of not having wandering packs of zombies coming from the South or East. Like most other countries, our national infection began with tourists, or people visiting on business. Most of the reports in the hospitals went unnoticed, but despite this fact, our outbreaks were actually quite tame compared to our neighbors. But when the Great Panic began to set in, we knew the time had come to act.
Back during the 1800s, a plan called the Swiss National Redoubt was conceived. It was essentially a defense program in which many fortresses were built in order to protect the country from invasion. However, most of these “fortifications” were just machine gun nests and whatnot. But at that time in history, it was the only threat we had. It wasn’t until the fall of the Third Reich, and the rise of the Communist Bloc that the Redoubt had to be seriously reformed if our people were going to survive when and if Europe was reduced to ash.
Bunkers were mainly built under government buildings as well as some homes, but the bigger plan was to build large scale complexes scattered throughout the Alps. Given the signal, a national effort would have to be made to either escort or summon every Swiss citizen to certain locations in the South. Overall, the plan was to ensure that after a certain period of time, we would emerge from our shelters to begin rebuilding the continent with whatever people were still alive.
However, at the turn of the century, questions started being asked about the necessity of the fortifications. With the end of the Cold War, and therefore the decrease in the chances of nuclear Armageddon, many people thought that using tax-payer money to maintain these facilities was wasteful, when those funds could be going to other projects. But in the end, those tax-payer bank notes contributed to our salvation.
I worked as a secretary for [Name withheld for legal reasons.], the President of the seven-member Federal Council, so I pretty much had a front row seat to all the negotiations and meetings regarding the crisis. Once the Panic began spreading throughout Europe, we watched as the continent scrambled to maintain order.
About two weeks into the chaos, they got into a long debate over what the best course of action would be. A bunch of different ideas were thrown out there, but sooner rather than later the Redoubt was brought up. I was surprised at how all seven of them agreed simultaneously on using this old strategy. The only problem was how to execute the plan. Two of the Council members were in favor of simply ordering every citizen to report to their designated facility, but the other members were in favor of conducting a national vote.
Why a vote?
We wanted the public’s opinion on our strategy. Unlike other Western governments, we are direct rather than representational, therefore the people have much more involvement when it comes to large decisions.
But while the facilities were still in working order and provided enough space, the thought of also using the Redeker Plan was on the table. Perhaps we and some others could relocate to the Alps and let the civilians take their chances in fortified towns and villages.
You think they would have been fine with that decision if it was decided?
One thing that makes us stand out from our neighbors is our firearms per capita ratio. We’re not exactly on par with your people, but we still ranked high on the list of most armed countries. Even better is our policy of mandatory male conscription. Every male citizen is required by law to enlist in the armed forces for a few years, then after training is complete, they are allowed to take their weapons home with them. This was a key arguing point; if Redeker was put into place, then not only could our people defend themselves, but the male citizens could adapt easily to the new combat doctrine that would be put into place once our primary base of operations was secure.
But to answer your question, yes I think a chunk would have been fine with it. But regardless, there was still the possibility that some may have wanted to take the easier way out and just flee. So after a few more hours of debating, it was decided that a nation-wide vote would be held for twenty-four hours to determine the next course of action. It would be delayed for another week, in order to give the workers and soldiers already at the Alpine facilities to prepare, i.e. stock food, ensure that the water filters and heaters work, et cetera.
The result was only forty-three votes short of a tie. But the decision had been made: to pack up and relocate the populace to the bunkers in the South.
That must have been a massive undertaking.
Oh it was! First we had to assign every citizen a designated bunker to relocate to. We mainly went by the citizen’s closest proximity to a facility. It was easier for small towns, especially the ones either close to or already in the Alpine region. As for the bigger cities, whatever troops that weren’t deployed the the West and Northeast to combat the swarms crossing the border were being deployed to ensure the exodus was as organized, and above all else calm, as possible.
Another aspect of the Redoubt that proved useful against the invading hordes was the fact that, in the event of an invasion from a foreign power, all bridges throughout the nation would be blown up so any invading army cannot cross. This was especially important for the mountain passes.
What about the infected ones? What was done about them?
Well, we didn’t want to lie to them. We wanted the integrity of our government and the trust of our citizens to still be intact. Did we know it would cause distress for the infected and their loved ones? Absolutely, but again, if we were going to prevent any outbreaks from spreading underground, we had to ensure that every man, woman, and child entering through those doors was as clean, functional, and lucid as the most expensive Rolex watch.
We went on the air at noon. We advised everyone to pack quickly, but only bring essentials. We explained that the facilities would have living quarters for everyone, as well as all the things necessary for long-term survival. At that point in the Panic, everyone was already aware of what caused infection and what would happen if it was not taken care of. We stated that any infected individual must be either be put down or if there is no one to assist the infected, the infected must commit the act themselves. [She chuckles, looking down at her hands.] Isn’t that something? Encouraging your own citizens to kill themselves…
You should have seen them. The lines stretched for what seemed like miles. We copied the Israeli method of screening, with the dogs to identify any infected who wanted to sneak in. Thankfully, we only had a few isolated cases as a whole, but we had virtually none at our specific facility which was a relief. The screening took forever, almost a whole twenty-four hours, but by the end, everyone was screened and registered, and so the doors were sealed, and that would be the last time we would see the sun for years.
How were conditions inside the facilities?
As comfortable as large-scale bunkers go. No detail was forgotten or neglected. In terms of living quarters, the East and West wings were designed to make living underground as comfortable as possible. Each level had a large common room, an open bar, an arcade for the kids, a library, even screening rooms for movie showings. As for the actual livings spaces, each room was equipped with full bedding, a full bathroom, a bookshelf, two chests of drawers, and an intercom system that allowed the government or military to make announcements.
But not every person got their own room, I must add. Some units were designed for two individuals, others were meant to accommodate up to six people.
Was there no concern for overcrowding?
You don’t understand, not only did we have dozens upon dozens of underground facilities, they were huge. I don’t think there’s any possible way of showing you without taking you there to one of them, but that’s not possible, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But no, there wasn’t any concern. The government had been carefully monitoring population statistics over the years to ensure that if the unthinkable ever did happen, there would be enough room for everyone. Each level of the residential wings had hundreds, or sometimes even thousands, of people. Was it crowded? Yes. Was it loud? Yes, but not often.
But the true achievements don’t just lie in the thought and care put into the residential aspects. All the lightbulbs throughout the complexes were special Vitamin D lights, and the best part was these specific models could last for ages without having to be changed. They had them everywhere; in the hallways, in the dorm rooms, in the cafeterias.
The heads of state and top military officials stayed on the top level in the South wing, and no one was allowed access without official clarification.
What was the usual day in one of these bunkers like?
In all honesty, the average day for the average Swiss citizen could be compared to that of a cruise ship vacation. There were activities, events of all sorts. There were sports competitions in the gymnasiums and indoor football fields. The only thing missing was elaborate buffets. Food was rationed, but rationed enough to a point where we weren’t starving, but we didn’t exactly have full bellies either. Some of our foodstuffs were packaged and dehydrated, others were freshly grown in special cultivation rooms. As for items such as water, we not only had large reservoirs, each living space came with this little device that converted human urine into drinkable water.
[She notices my slight look of disgust at this fact.] Oh come on now, what did you expect us to do?
[She straightens herself in her chair.] Anyway, please bare in mind that these were the days of the civilians. The daily routines of the government and military were much different. The military was tasked with keeping track of what was going on above the surface. We still had our satellites still in operation, so we could still receive transmissions of what was going on everywhere else in the world. We heard the transmissions of the American army as they retreated behind the Rockies, we heard the broadcasts of Radio Free Earth and their advice on how to deal with the crisis. We also picked up the last broadcast from Buenos Aires, with that haunting lullaby…
Since I was secretary to one of the Council members, I was allowed to stay in the same quarters as the federal personnel. I shared a room with a Doctor Edith Steiner, a psychiatrist from Bern. She was actually the one who influenced my interest in psychology. And I guess you can say that’s what I chose to do after the war. She was friendly, lively and quite beautiful for her age…
Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. By the time the first full year of being underground came full circle, everyone no longer had qualms about being below, at least not from what could be seen with the naked eye. Everyone was happy, even if some days seemed monotonous and repetitive. It certainly felt that way for the ones in the military, who would spend hours on end either listening to whatever broadcasts would ride the air waves from above, or staring at the screens that displayed the satellite images that constantly showed a zombie-overrun world.
But about twenty months into our underground exodus, Doctor Steiner began to receive more and more patients. A few civilian, but they were no issue. The ones that kept coming in great numbers and for multiple visits were the military personnel. They would all have the same issue: they all felt restless, felt like their work was beginning to get to them. Upon further questioning, Doctor Steiner concluded that many of these men were showing early signs of cabin fever.
Nobody in the government considered this to be a side effect of being isolated?
I’m not entirely sure. Maybe they figured that with all the material distraction, the chances of suffering from that condition would have been at a minimum. But I must remind you that the soldiers were almost on duty twenty-four seven, and when they weren’t doing official duties, they were forbidden from interacting with the common people or leaving the level. Maybe that played a role in what eventually transpired…
But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t anything to keep them occupied when they weren’t on duty. They had a workout facility, a common area with a pool table, air hockey table, and bar, but other than that, they had to find other ways to entertain themselves…
Despite swearing doctor-patient confidentiality, Doctor Steiner would occasionally inform me about what some of the men she would talk to were saying to her, either in passing or when both of us were tipsy. Some of them were having recurring nightmares of horrors going on outside. A few men claimed they could hear moans when there wasn’t a zombie in sight, almost as if a zombie was just behind them. One soldier, one of the ones responsible for keeping tabs on the surface world, claimed he started to see normal human faces as those of the dead, rotten and growling.
One day, I was in the control room with the Council, taking my usual notes. I almost jumped out of my skin when the ear-piercing blare of the alarm went off. Just as with the intercom system, each room in the facility was equipped with an alarm system in case if something went horribly wrong. I didn’t understand what was happening until after a minute or so, the alarm went silent and a voice came over the intercom. The deep voice of a General Schultz was heard. He explained in what was going on: the main doors had been opened, and now the dead were beginning to make their way down.
How was that possible?
According to some CCTV footage, one of Doctor Steiner’s patients, the ones who had apparently been hearing moans when there were none there, tried to find his way out of the facility, with the only option being the main entrance.
How could have there been a breach if you were situated in the Alps?
Our facility’s main point of entry was on solid ground, in the valley. So any zombies roaming in that area could wander about freely. I didn’t find out until much later that the only reason why so many zombies poured in was because one of the European mega-swarms had migrated to that area, and their luck was fortuitous. Most people thought that an alarm sounding would only pertain to an electrical failure or a gas leak, but the idea of a breach was inconceivable. The horde was not as large as ones those astronauts saw wandering around the plains or deserts, but within that confined space, it seemed like the whole world was coming down to our level.
Only a small group of men were dispatched to each entry point. They were decked out as much as the soldiers at Yonkers; head-to-toe body armor, bullet-proof vests, assault rifles in hand. Neither those nor their months of training had prepared them for the vast number of ghouls that came through.
I watched the monitors with the Council and high-ranking military officials. The results were mixed; some monitors displayed the soldiers and even several civilians successfully taking them dow, others displayed the soldiers or civilians being overpowered and brought to the floor. The top brass soon began shouting orders into the mikes, demanding every soldier and armed citizen to arm themselves and stand their ground. We could see people barricading doors, loading their weapons, and shouting for backup. I thankfully did not have to participate in the ordeal, as the control room was reenforced with thick steel doors, and there was no way any of us were going to run into the halls.
Some spaces had zombies shambling with at least six or seven in front, while some corridors had them barely squeezing through with three in front. I learned that those were the hardest to clear, not just in annihilating them, but also removing the corpses.
It was over within a couple of hours. By the end of it, bodies stacked everywhere, both red and black blood smeared all over the floor and walls. It took forever to dispose of the dead zombies, and to dig graves for the fallen. After that, more emphasis was put on the mental conditions of everyone, soldier and civilian. Every month from that moment forward, every single person, myself included had to submit to psychological tests to ensure that we were not cracking. Even Doctor Steiner had to report to a separate specialist for her examinations.
It would be several more years before we received the word of the desire to go on the attack. And by that point, we were ready to get out of our materialistic prison.
Now, I’m sure if the North Koreans tried the same thing. Even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have lasted long, given their history of not having the best resources or infrastructure. But what I will say is that we may want to wait at least another decade before we decide to do anything about that. Just to be safe.
I guess the only thing you can take from this is that you can have the best defense in the world, the most prepared populace, and even the most benevolent government, but if your mind is not at peace, if your sanity even slips up once, you and those around you should be very, very careful.
Now, I don’t even know for certain if the Swiss bunkers are anything on the inside like how they are described here. It is a solid fact that Switzerland still has a few military fortifications still being used, and yes the Swiss still have nuclear bunkers scattered all over the place, but anything beyond that is anyone’s guess. But regardless, I had fun having creative freedom with this concept.
Also if Brooks had included Switzerland in the original novel, and if he did have them go underground, he should have called the chapter, “Around, Above, and Below the World” in my opinion.