Chapter 1, Mike Kim, September 11th, Year 65

“Mr. Kim, you will be on in a few minutes.”

“Thank you, I’m ready.”

I was waiting to be interviewed on national television for the September 11th celebrations. I have difficulty recalling things that happened recently, but my memories from the dying times are still sharp and crystal clear. My first interview ten years ago was for a local paper. As time went on and people my age, my competitors for interviews died, my fame rose. Today I was going to be interviewed on the highest rated morning show in the US. A pre-outbreak comedian once said that ninety percent of success is just showing up. He was right. I learned the hard way that when a crisis occurs, rule number one is first, don’t die. Not dying has been the prerequisite of every achievement I’ve ever had.

I’m 89 years old. There aren’t that many left that remember a terrorist attack occurred in the US on September 11th years before the outbreak; close to three thousand people died. I’ve always wondered if it was just coincidence that the zombie outbreak that killed off 98% of all Americans, two hundred and ninety-four million people, started on September 11th. I know Mark Jones was convinced that the Outbreak was an act of sabotage and that the date was chosen on purpose. He always wanted to find the ones responsible and punish them. He was never able to do this. I believe he regretted that until the day he died.

Its funny how the questions I’m asked have changed over the years. Earlier I was asked questions about the people who survived the outbreak. They wanted to hear stories about Mark Jones from the early weeks and months of the outbreak when he was still the Director. They asked what it was like to meet Prophet Levin. As time has passed and people have died, men like Mark Jones and Ari Levin have morphed from being celebrities to becoming historical figures. A lot of things have changed since the Outbreak. What has not changed is that Americans are fascinated by celebrities and they have absolutely no interest in history. I no longer get questions about ‘dead white men’ like Helen Hansen (If she was still alive, she would be irate about being turned into a ‘dead white man’.), Hiram Rockwell, or Art Bingham. I get questions about what it was like when 6.8 billion people lived on Earth and over 300 million lived in the US.

Well a lot of the differences are obvious. Back then, there were more people. Even now 65 years after the Outbreak, there are less than twenty million Americans. It’s cleaner now. All our vehicles now run on compressed air. We only use renewable energy sources now. Almost all of our energy needs come from hydroelectric power with a little bit of backup from wind and solar. It’s hard to remember what the air quality was like when every American family had at least two vehicles that used hydrocarbons. The problem with renewable energy sources it that there is only a limited amount (i.e. hydroelectric), or that it is fairly expensive (i.e. wind and solar). Before the Outbreak, there were too many people to rely primarily on water for energy. We had to use petroleum, natural gas, coal to sustain the lifestyle that Americans demanded.

After 98% of our population died, we had more than enough hydroelectric power for everyone. There was no need to maintain the infrastructure to drill for oil and natural gas or mine coal. In fact there is no reason now to mine for any substance. It is so much easier to recycle metals and plastics from the remains of our ruined pre-Outbreak cities. After we allowed the infrastructure to drill and mine for hydrocarbons to fall apart, it became much more cost effective to use wind and solar power when hydroelectric wasn’t enough.

We have much fewer minorities. Before the Outbreak most of America’s minorities lived in cities. In small numbers zombies weren’t dangerous. In large numbers they were devastating. More often than not if 400 zombies went up against 400 humans the humans would win. Humans require military training and a viable command structure to cooperate in groups larger than a few hundred. Very few cities had effective military command and control during the Outbreak. If 400 thousand zombies went up against 400 thousand humans, the humans didn’t have a chance. Cities with more than half a million people were almost always completely wiped out. Salt Lake City was the rare exception. The fewest losses were in small rural towns; our currently population has the same percentage of minorities as those old rural towns.

People now days don’t realize how wealthier we are as a society compared to before the Outbreak. It took time, money, and energy to manufacture things like bottles, toilets, glass window panes, and copper wire. Things we now just salvage from our ruins. If we had to build these items from scratch, we would be a much poorer society.

There was a lot more noise back then. We used gasoline and diesel engines for ground travel and jet planes over cities and suburb close to airports that created sonic booms. Our cars and motorcycles which are powered by compressed air make hardly any noise at all. There are some still noises I miss like the distinctive sound of a well tuned Harley but all in all having less noise is better. Since jet airplanes require hydrocarbon fuel and we no long drill for oil, our air travel is on blimps. We no longer hear sonic booms over our airports.

We had a lot more laws back then. One out of every 100 American adults, close to two million people, was in jail or in prison before the Outbreak. We had a legal system that added thousands of new laws every year. We had tens of thousands of tax laws, traffic laws, and environmental laws. We had rules and regulations about everything. The height of fences, how much sand you could put into bricks, and how much salt you could put into baked goods.

Music was better back then. The things kids listen to now is crap. I miss how easy it was to find good ethnic food like Ethiopian, Thai, and Vietnamese. I can’t even find the ingredients now to cook my own Korean dishes.

I remember thinking, “Why he does he think that’s necessary?” when President Jones proposed two new constitutional amendments. The first to limit the maximum number of laws/regulations for any government entity to 1000, requiring that a law or regulation be eliminated before another could be instituted over that number. The second that said any law or regulation passed must clearly state its purpose and that after two years it had to be reevaluated to see if that purpose had been achieved. If a law was passed to decrease crime the law had to state exactly how crime would be measured and by what percentage crime was to decrease in two years. If in two years crime was not decreased by the percentage mandated in the original law than that law was automatically nullified. If a health care regulation was passed to decrease costs, the regulation had to state by how much. If in two years costs were not decreased that amount, the regulation was automatically nullified.

Only laws and regulations that worked like they were supposed to stayed on the books. Because of these two constitutional amendments, bad laws and regulations died and good ones got better. Laws and regulations make sense now. A reasonably intelligent citizen can file his own taxes even if he has a business and most people don’t need to hire lawyers.

I used to believe that Mark Jones would be remembered for showing us how to destroy zombies and vampires. I know now that his greatest achievements were the two constitutional amendments that he helped pass. Kids now days have no idea how complex the legal system and the bureaucracies were back then and how helpless the average American felt back then when faced with taxes or legal issues. Any idiot can kill a zombie. You have to be skilled to take out a vampire. It takes a genius to permanently decrease the number of lawyers.

“Mr. Kim, we’re ready for you now.”

I took one last look into the mirror before I stepped out into the studio. I grinned at myself. I was looking pretty good for an 89 year-old. Not dying works for me; I should keep on doing it. I was ready for my close up.

Chapter 2