GIMLI, MANITOBA, CANADA
(The room, illuminated by a single bare light bulb, doubles as the sole office of the Icelandic Cultural Preservation Society and my host's storage closet. It is covered in posters advertising pre-war Iceland. Fridgeir Stefansson, one of the few remaining people of Icelandic heritage on Earth, has devoted countless hours of his sparse leisure time to catalogue and preserve what remains of a rapidly dying culture. As he sits, there is a definite quaver in his voice)
I grew up in Reykjavik. My father, who was a banker, could afford a large home as well as a coastal cabin, where we would spend our summers together, the two of us. My parents had divorced when I was young, and I rarely saw my father except during the summers at the cabin. He would take me shooting in the nearby quarry, and read me stories while we sat on the windswept shore soaking up the salty air. I especially loved this one book of Norse myths, written as an illuminated manuscript. It told the fables of the Norse, of creation, of their gods and men, of the warriors who burned Europe, of Ragnarok. My favorite story always was the story of Iceland's discovery. My father would read it to me, and eventually I would read it myself, almost every night.
My father seemed to know everything about our history. He had studied Icelandic history at the university, and he wanted to pursue it as a career. But then life got in the way, so he became a banker. When I was a teenager, we stopped going to the cabin. My father had become very busy. It was during the boom years, when we were buying up American debt, lending money to the British, all seven or eight times the net worth of our country. We thought we were invincible. Then, the crash. My father came home one day, several weeks into our national financial collapse, and asked if I would come to the cabin with him for the weekend. He had been working 16-hour shifts every day for weeks as the banks tried to avoid complete liquidation. But, being eighteen, I had a party to go to and homework for the next week. I said no.
(A long pause)
I never had seen my father as despondent as that moment. But I still said no. I wish I had said yes. Maybe he wouldn't have wrapped his mouth around his shotgun and pulled the trigger that weekend if I had
(He smiles bitterly, and turns away, facing the window. After several long minutes, I speak up)
What did you do after that?
I left the country, the continent even. I couldn't stand it anymore. The whole place reminded me of my father. I travelled through the USA in a drunken haze as the first outbreaks were being reported. I was in San Antonio the day the Minutemen burned the Mexican shantytown where the majority of the new cases of infection were coming from. That really woke me up. I started to follow the news again, closely. As the outbreaks got worse, I began to worry about my home and what was left of my family. Travel from anywhere in the USA to Iceland was getting difficult, what with the closures of major airports to "prevent foreign infection carriers" but there were still flights from New York to almost anywhere, and I could probably find a flight from there. I took a bus to New York City, boarded a plane at JFK, and left for Reykjavik. We never made it there.
There was an infected passenger. Somehow, he had gotten aboard without being checked for a bite. He probably had connections somewhere. He was seated a few rows ahead of me, when he dropped dead. As the flight attendants tried to revive him he sat up and bite one's fingers clean off. The newly undead man then bit the other flight attendant in the arm, tearing her bicep in two and cracking the bone, before an air marshal shot him right between the eyes. This was the first time I'd seen the undead in action. The air marshal coolly turned and shot both of the flight attendants in the head, point blank. She then marched over to the cockpit, where a short but heated discussion could be heard. The plane quickly switched directions. Over the PA system, the pilot announced our new course. We were headed for Greenland.
Wasn't that for the best? Greenland was one of the world's safest places during the War.
It was. There is a part of me, and a large one at that, that is even happy I was there. I survived. I barely saw a member of the living dead through the entire war. But, there is another part of me that wishes I could have done more. I was an able-bodied man; I could have helped defend my homeland. Instead I got to live out the war in peace, even in relative luxury.
(He stands up and begins pacing)
Iceland, Iceland is gone, dead. It's the most heavily infested White Zone in the world. Discussions about what to do with it range from just leaving it alone to using thermonuclear weapons to wipe the slate clean. No one and I mean no one, talks about reclaiming it. There are plans to reclaim almost every other White Zone in the world; Finland, Sakhalin Island, Sarajevo, the Chatham Islands. There is nothing for Iceland.
(He sits back down)
I applied to the UN for funding to do an exploratory mission to Iceland. Iceland had gone completely silent almost eight years before, when the last group of survivors, huddled in a volcanic crater, were overrun. They told me there was nothing, but I refused to listen. I barely asked for anything, just a ship, a few men, and some supplies. I even offered to pay the crew myself. It took me six months of haggling with them, but they finally gave me an old fishing trawler, a wad of Cuban pesos, and told me to get the hell out. We left from Boston's new Remembrance Harbour. It took almost a month of travel, but we finally sighted shore. We approached the coastline, west of Reykjavik, within sight of my father's cabin. We blew the airhorn, and waited. It didn't take long. Slowly but surely, a throng of ghouls began to congregate on the shoreline. Some began to wander into the water to be swept away by ocean currents, but most clustered on the shore, moaning. Withn an hour, hundreds had gathered, and we knew if we waited longer there would be more. We left then.
There's a reason I moved up here, and it wasn't for the view.
(He gestures towards Hudson's Bay)
Pre-war Gimli, Manitoba had the largest population of Icelandic descent anywhere in the world outside of Iceland. While there aren't many of those people left, this isn't a White Zone, like my home is. There was a lot of old Icelandic stuff lying around, to add to the collection, and complement the first item.
(He lays out an illuminated book of Norse myths on the table)
No one can really understand what its like to be the last of something. You must understand that it is hard, but no one knows what its like to feel the entire weight of a civilization on your back. No one can understand. Iceland is dead, except inside of us, and when we're gone, it will be gone too.