This is more or less a crossover with World War Z, although I don't think you need to know the book to read the story; the only real elements that cross over is the fate of Scandinavia, the location of the German camp, and the interview-style format.
And of course, the zombie apocalypse.
New Kiel, Schleswig.
[The man I'm speaking to today is tall and blonde, with a strong nose and jaw. Unlike many survivors of the war, his eyes are still bright and open; speaking to him, it almost seems as though the incident completely passed over Denmark and the Danes, as opposed to the harsh reality. I do not know the man's name, nor is one offered: instead, he asks me to call him by the codename Kierkegaard if the interview ends up published. "The right people will know who you mean, I guess. It was the king's idea anyway."
The secrecy alone is enough to pique my curiosity, and we meet in the Schleswig camp. One of the largest in the war, it is now a city in its own right, one Denmark and Germany are both struggling over possession for. Kierkegaard wants to walk as we speak; he leads us on a meandering path through the streets. Aside from a slight limp he, hands in his pockets and often smiling, seems again remarkably unscathed.]
Well, yeah, of course both sides want it. When the Germans decided to evacuate up here- I mean, hell, it's practically the Danish half of Slesvig, and besides that, it was Danish land first, right? We were looking for a place to evacuate to. I think our first plan was to find one of the islands, not Zealand but something smaller, maybe Bornholm. Guard it from all sides, that kinda thing. That was before we found out they could swim… or whatever it is they do. And, well, you know. Compared to the rest of Scandinavia, we're a bit less icy, but a lot of the runoff from the North…
[He trails off, frowning, and then shakes his head as though clearing away his thoughts.]
I guess I'm starting in the wrong spot. Point is, with the islands and the ocean, ships coming and going- I swear to God, you could have walked across the Sound ship to ship, sometimes- it's like, sailing is in the blood of Scandinavia. From viking times, you know? So of course the first fucking thing everyone did was take to the sea, right? And then when things went bad… Well. I heard about the German plan when they started throwing it together. It seemed like the best bet, you know? Join forces. If a bunch of armed Germans were going to make a stand in Schleswig, why couldn't a bunch of armed Danes do the same thing? Wouldn't be the first time we all ran around there armed. It was that or staying holed up in Kronborg Castle. That's the one Hamlet was in, you know. I mean, he wasn't really, he didn't exist. But apparently that's where Shakespeare set it. More than that, it's a fucking good fort. Best in the world. Swear to God.
So you were holed up there?
Nah. Almost. There were some people who were, I think like, a hundred and ten? They made it through. It's a damn good castle. You can shoot clear into Sweden from the battlements.
[He trails off again into thought. After a moment, I ask him about the fighting in Schleswig.]
Yeah. Yeah, right- you mean against Germany, right? Fuck, that was a clusterfuck. I mean okay, fine, I can see why they'd worry, a bunch of people coming in. But we screened ourselves, and they knew we weren't infected. I mean, it was a hell of a risk for us, right? It was just bullshit. Some older Danes all pissed off 'cause of the war- I mean the second world war- and it's not like we haven't had other wars, Denmark and Germans. It was just tense. Not like the fuckstorm in India and Pakistan, we got along a million times better than that, but you know. Germany was kind of like, get your own camp, and we were kind of like, fuck that, you owe us.
[He laughs, and it's hard to tell if he finds it funny or is annoyed.] I talked to- some guys. We worked it out. After that it was okay. I mean, Isreal probably had fifty times more guns, but together we had a pretty big pile also. Once the walls and shit were up, we all felt pretty cozy. Me and this guy, uh, Ludwig, we'd play cards and shit, in this one tent, right? Me and him and maybe a couple bored government aides- me and him, we're both government attaches, I guess you'd call it, so not much shooting, lots of hand shaking. And card games. Anyway, next thing you know, we have this whole pub there. Eventually we built a real one, out of cinderblocks and shit. People say Germans love to drink? I can drink every damn one of 'em under the table without getting tipsy.
It's not like we were relaxed, but it was okay, you know? We were pretty safe after the first year. Were able to start cleaning up a little sooner than the rest of Europe. Worked together on it, too. I- The Danes had less land, but worse white, and so it kind of balanced out. On the other hand, Germany had lost a hell of a lot more people. Just a bigger population, you know? Something like 80 million killed down to ten thousand, against Denmark going five million down to ten thousand… [Right when I'm about to ask him if he's alright, he continues on. For the first time, he looks like the weary survivor he, and everyone else, is.] It hurts, you know? I did alright. I survived. Proportionally, according to some reports the king was talking about, we did well. We won the fucking war. And look at me. Look at Denmark. The reason we're fighting with Germany now about this camp is 'cause it's pretty much the only safe land we have left. Every spring there's a tidal wave of them washing ashore. 85% of the islands are gone. The other Nordics… I guess that's where all of them are coming from. This shitty camp, this goddamn strip of land, it's all that's left of Denmark. And Germany, that bastard, is saying that this is his just because it's 5 km south of the border. Slesvig was Danish first, you know?
I'm supposed to feel bad, because poor Germany's lost 99% of his population, but the fucker still has so- [He looks angry still, but shakes his head, trying to clear those thoughts.] I do feel bad. Fucker is an uptight bastard, but no one… it hurts bad enough for me. I don't know how the Germans can stand it. But still, the camp should fall to me, you know?
[Night is falling, and it's getting chilly. We take a break in the interview to grab a bite to eat at a cafe. The sandwiches are dry and the beer is superb. We chat about it, and Kierkegaard introduces me to several friends; dinner becomes an opinionated discourse on beer refining. This beer, I learn, is among the first batches made "post war:" at first, both the Danes and Germans deemed it "unfortunately a non-priority" to devote food resources to alcohol. The debate is raging if Niew Carlsberg holds up to the old.
After dinner, Kierkegaard gets us a private corner of the pub to continue our conversation, and I ask him something that's been confusing me for a while now.]
You keep referring to Germany as a "he," as though…
Huh? Oh, well. Haven't you ever taken a history class? Teachers do it all the time. It's easier to relate to things on national levels if you personify them… I dunno. If you're asking why I'm talking about Germany as a guy and not a girl… don't you think an uptight asshole like Germany just seems a hell of a lot more like a guy?
But it's kinda… bad, ain't it?
Like… You know. This is one of the things Ge- Ludwig and I would talk about sometimes, when we were playing cards that first year. He told me about this study he'd read. I don't know where or anything like that, but basically, "a million is a statistic." Right? So if you hear, "Zeds killed two million in Australia…" Well, I used to know an Australian woman. But anyway, aside from her, I don't really know two million Australians. And people can only remember a few hundred people anyway. So like Ludwig was saying- If someone holds a gun to your best friend… or your brother… or your adopted kid… and kills them, then you go, you're upset, right? You're fucking upset. You scream and cry and break things until it stops, but it never stops, because that person matters. But if Zeds kill two million strangers in Australia, you go, "that's terrible," but you don't really give a fuck. Maybe you're scared you're next, but… you know what I mean?
[I tell him yes, and he nods.] Because you don't know them. It's human nature.
The first year in our tent, it was cold as hell. We weren't allowed to fight 'em- official orders from the King on my end, and his new boss on his. Of course we did it anyway… but we also just spent a lot of time, a little drunk on whatever we could find, freezing and alone. They thought if they kept us there, kept us safe, somehow they'd be safe. Like we were some kind of magical good luck rabbit's foot or some shit…
Anyway, one night, around Jul, he says- and I remember this- "That's why personifications exist." It's not to make history class easy, or for national pride, or to be a fucking good luck charm… it was so fucking cold, that winter. I could see his breath, even inside. He had these awful fucking chapped lips, bloody and- Anyway, he said, "It's for empathy purposes." And then he explained it.
See… you don't care if five million Norwegians die, because you don't know any of them. But when you hear "Norway is dead, everyone is gone…" every goddamn one of them… when you hear that, that, this person, this personification, does not exist, just like Iceland and who the hell knows how many others…
Then it means something, you know?
[After this, he refuses to talk. Two days later, he agrees to meet once more. Today is much warmer, and the air is cautious with signs of spring. Even though the war is over, the Baltic Sea is still a danger zone. Soon patrols will be setting out.
Kierkegaard is back to his usual ebullient self, although he passes over my question as to how he's doing with a tight smile. He begins talking without being prompted a few minutes later.]
You know, this is something that's bugged the hell out of me. It was in your book, too. Scandinavia. I know some people argue about landmasses and shit, but here's the straight truth: Scandinavia is Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Not Finland, not Iceland, not any of the islands. I mean, all of them are Nordics, and being Nordic is… was… hell, still is, the best thing to be. Yeah. You know? I think it will be again. But anyway, Scandinavia is just the three eldest. So in your book, when you talk about Scandinavia being gone in the same paragraph where you talk about Finland…
Denmark's still alive.
[He smiles bitterly. I ask him cautiously if he means that as in personifications, and he shrugs.]
When you think about it, a nation exists as long as people believe in them. I don't mean like fairytale shit. I mean like, as long as people… I've heard about Americans, born and raised, who call themselves Italians just 'cause their grandparents were from there. It's that kind of thing. As long as people go, "yeah, I'm Scandinavian-" Danish- Norwegian- Swedish- or Nordic, then the country kind of exists, you know? Even if Denmark is just one shitty camp on the border right now.
That's why I think the Nordic countries will still be the best thing to be. We'll kill the Zeds… [Again he trails off, but this time, he's smiling calmly. His confidence is infectious, and even I almost believe him: that someday even Iceland will be saved. As if he's reading my thoughts, he continues:] Even if that's not true, I don't care. I'll put in some kind of creepy program like they have in Russia, except not creepy, but you know, have tons of kids, sex is awesome. We'll take back the land. Iceland… Norway… Skåne… last time I owned those places, my family got really mad, claimed and stole them for themselves. I think I might be okay with that. I wouldn't mind making Sve angry by taking it, if it meant I could punch him one more time, you know?
[Although I'm admittedly not sure what he's talking about and wondering if he's crazy, I tell him that I know. He smiles and leans back in his chair, echoing me.]
"Everyone has someone like that," huh? I guess it's just human nature, right?
But you know… even if I could just proclaim all this land is Danish now… I'll be happy with just Slesvig if it means somewhere some Norwegian and some Swede are sitting together in a bunker, arguing over Charles XIII and keeping national feeling alive, you know?
Germany says it just means I'm growing up, but I say fuck him, he's not even two hundred yet. [He rests his chin on his palm, closing his eyes and looking exhausted, yet faintly smiling.] Fucking upstart can stop talking back and get off my lawn, you know what I mean?
As far as I can remember, the German camp (heavily guarded refugee bunker thing against zombies) had no name, so I decided to stick it with 'New Kiel,' because why not. In the novel the camp is "so far in north Schleswig that it's practically in Denmark," thus why I decided to just let the Danes take advantage of it too.
It's stated in World War Z that Iceland is a "white zone" (infested) so badly that it will be centuries before it is ever cleared. No one is very hopeful that it will happen. Finland is also stated to be one of the very worst hit, along with "Scandinavia." The book never gets specific about Denmark, Norway, or Sweden aside from saying "Scandinavia" in the same sentence as Finland… so I took liberties. Since it's stated that ice/extreme cold is the main problem with clearing out Iceland and Finland, I decided it wasn't totally implausible for Denmark to get off lightest- Denmark gets by far the least snowfall of the Nordics, and is slightly warmer statistically. Hey, if Germany could survive by camping out on the Danish border, why can't Denmark?
Originally, this was meant to be a much longer story, ultimately involving Denmark finding and teaming up with Sweden for manly broventures as they kicked ass, took names, and searched for the other Nordics. Unfortunately, I don't think I have the time to write it- but isn't it a great mental image?