“Waaah, shhiiiiiiiir gaaaaahhhhh…,” it went. “Uh……. Waaaaah geeeeer, aaaaaarrh…… Uh.”
On the TV sets mounted on the concrete wall of the small restaurant, the same putrescent monk appeared, from whose guttural mouth emitted the sermon of the dead, along with incredible amounts of black liquid. Below the television sets, his face bathed in the bluish light that filled the otherwise dark room, sat a slightly overweight man, who judging from the half-empty bottle of kaoliang by his elbow on the round table was in a rather advanced stage of inebriation.
Across from him stood three uncomfortable-looking military officers, rifles at the ready. They had come to arrest him, the man who prior to the catastrophe had been Taiwan’s wealthiest man, under martial law regulations.
But he didn’t seem to care about the reason they had crossed the city, fighting their way on every block, to pluck him from this crummy little hideout, a now abandoned noodle shop that evidently had known much better days. Nor did he wonder how the soldiers had succeeded in making their way past the number of thugs he’d hired as bodyguards. Drinking straight from the large bottle, Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of the Want Want China Times Group, was a broken man as he zapped from one channel to another — channels he used to own under his controversial media empire — only to be met by the same ghoulish narrator.
“If you will please come with us,” Lieutenant Colonel Wang, who headed the small detachment, said meekly, still unable to resist being deferential to the powerful businessman.
Tsai, who didn’t seem to have heard the request, slammed the table with his fist, sending the bottle crashing to the ground.
“I lost everything!” he said, now sobbing into his hands. “Those monsters…they took over everything I own.”
With a nod from their leader, the two other soldiers walker over to his side of the table and lifted him off his stool by his elbows.
“Mr Tsai Eng-meng, you are under arrest for breaking the national embargo,” said Wang, his voice sounding far too high-pitched for the severity of the occasion.
“I had every right to make money,” Tsai slurred as they escorted him out. “I’ve been making money in China since I was 26 years old!”
* * *
Tsai’s empire had indeed crumbled. Consumption of his crackers had dropped dramatically since the beginning of the emergency. The fact that zombies devoured the flesh of the living, and not dry crackers, wasn’t good for business. Nor was the fact that the hordes of undead had taken over his media empire and hijacked the airwaves to spread the ridiculous broadcasts from that demonic monk.
Ever the businessman, though, Tsai was always on the lookout for new ways to make money. And as in the past, that opportunity came from China. As the catastrophe spilled like black ink across the nation and news of what was going on inside Taiwan slowly made its way across the Taiwan Strait, a quack in Guangdong Province, known for his trade in herbal medicines and animal parts of all types (mostly of the illegal sort), began advertising a new product. Consumption of that most unusual pâté, Mr Lam claimed, would give individuals of the male gender such stamina in the bedroom as to make the little blue pills sound like peppermints.
That unusual pâté, gathered and canned courtesy of Mr Tsai’s Want Want, was zombie meat. Using his vast wealth, the billionaire businessman (who unsurprisingly began his life selling canned fished meat in his home county of Yilan) hired mercenaries whose one and only task was to “kill” the walking dead and bring them over to a meat factory, where they were processed into meat spreads and canned. Following that, and at great expense, given the series of bribes involved, the canned goods were transported to Taichung Port in the central part of the country, loaded onto small vessels, and in the dead of night, appropriately, taken across the Strait by gangsters with a flair for transporting illegal cargo. Mr Lam’s people took care of bribing Maritime Surveillance Agency officials on the Chinese side as well as port officials, who looked the other way as the crates, the contents of which they wouldn’t dare inquire about, were unloaded, put at the back of small vans, and taken Mao knows where inland.
This went on for a while, and in the process Tsai and Lam made a small fortune, but eventually something went terribly wrong that alerted the authorities on the Chinese side. One night, one of the vessels that silently made its way over the spectral waters of the Taiwan Strait had more than dead meat in its cargo. It had dead meat of the non-canned type, dead meat that still walked, crawled, and which had a craving for human flesh, for the buffet of 1.4 billion people that was China. The gangsters who were in charge of picking up the cargo at Port of Guangzhou, along with port security officials, fought bravely, but the need for secrecy along with the element of surprise were such that the undead prevailed and soon disappeared into the night, spreading the infection.
It didn’t take long for the People’s Liberation Army Navy to deploy warships in the Taiwan Strait, where over the next few days they proceeded to torpedo any vessel approaching from the Taiwan side.
Thus did Tsai’s latest attempt to enrich himself in China come to a quick, decisive end. Weeks later, smiling darkly in his office in Brussels, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, famous for his infamous interview with the uncouth businessman a few years ago, wondered at the irony that had brought the untouchable man to his knees.
“Answer me this, Mr Tsai,” he said, as if addressing the black crow that had landed on the windowsill, the old city readying for sleep in the background. “Does this not now constitute a massacre?”
* * *
Back in Guangdong, police, paramilitary and PLA forces were slow to react to the emergency. This should not have been the case, as unbeknownst to everybody but a few very senior members of the Chinese Communist Party, this was not the first zombie outbreak inside China.