(This story is written in the context of Max Brook's World War Z.)
I meet Brian Underhill in a small town on the East Coast, in an old British fort that was turned into the center of the town after the zombie outbreak. The place is a ghost town living in the shadow of its former self
What the hell went wrong? It all happened so quickly, I feel like yesterday I was watching the news, listening to the report about the "drug shootings" that had occurred half a block down from me. Maybe I should've paid a bit more attention, noticed the flaws in the story they were feeding us. It seems so obvious now, but you've gotta realize, it didn't seem like such a big deal at the time. I was so caught up in my work, just got a big promotion that I'd been waiting on for years. Assistant Director of Pharmaceutical Merchandise and Research. Put me right up there with the big wigs in the top of the industry. I didn't care about some drug-addicted kid who'd gone too far. Hell, at that point you probably could've told me the zombie apocalypse was here, and wouldn't have given it a second thought. Damn, was I wrong.
The first time I saw one of those monsters was about a day after the "shootings". Didn't even realize what it was, didn't make the connection, nothing. Such an idiot. I remember my initial reaction. I see this mid-40s man, business suit, with a big old bloodstain on his leg, walking with a huge limp. My first instinct was "Lock the door". Guess I got one thing right. See, I could've made things a lot easier for myself, if I had realized the true meaning of that incident. The evacuations, the news reports, well they didn't even start until a week after I saw him. Could've high-tailed it for the coast, packed up a boat, and lived happily ever after out at sea. But no, I ended up here in Darien, Georgia. Population one thousand somethin' before the war, now it's more like 30. Doubt I'll ever be getting out of here. I'll be damned if there's a single boat left on the entire East Coast. Not that a boat would make it any easier. The pre-war diseases can infect a whole ship just as easy as the zombies can. Not like medicine was just laying around at gas stations during the war. Shelves got completely cleared out within a month, and everyone else was left out to dry. I heard there was an entire cruise liner wiped out by a wave of the flu. Zack didn't even touch 'em. Crazy shit right there.
[So how did you become involved in all of this?]
Soon as the outbreaks really kicked in, and the government tried to get involved, and "control" everything, probably half the population tried to get out, head somewhere else. Lucky me, that put me at the tippity top of my profession, head honcho of all the medicinal studies in the Southeast. So of course, the government turned to me right away, tells me to try to cure the virus. Cure a virus? (laughs) Well, it's possible, but its damn hard. Can't get rid of a virus once you're infected. You can try and prevent it with a vaccine, but that doesn't work with the zombie virus. That's cause the smallest dose will still infect you. We probably lost 150 "test subjects" on trying to make a vaccination. Seems like some sort of murder, I know, but we were also one of the main sources for research on the Z's. That "equally dependent on all senses" thing? That came straight from our lab testing results. Did all sorts of experiments you don't want to know about, but hey, we got the information we needed, and we passed it on up to the people who needed it. We were one of the most reliable sources that the government got their information from.
Then, some asshole comes up with Phalanx. The "wonder drug" that didn't do a damn thing for immunization from zombies. Of course, the government sees this thing come out, goes "Why didn't you guys figure this out months ago?". Fired every single one of us, every single person on our team, right down to the damn janitor sweeping up the dead bodies.
But the drug wasn't even the real thing. Didn't cure you from anything except worry. Didn't give you anything but peace of mind. But hey, that's what a lie does. A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. And it sure did, even after it was exposed that the whole thing was a fake, a scam, it was still the #1 selling pharmaceutical product in not just the US, but the whole damn world, too. Something like 84% of people got "vaccinated" during the war. Not one of them was helped by it. Killed a fair amount of people though.
That's right. Think about it, someone gets vaccinated so that they're "zombie immune" right? Well, then they get careless, run right up to Zack and get their face bitten off. You can blame part of it on human stupidity, but you can't deny Phalanx played a role there too.
[Is that why you began your role with the *EPDA?]
*Emergency Pharmaceutical Distribution Agency
I guess you could say that. I joined up with them a few weeks after I'd gotten fired. I was still pretty pissed off about the whole thing, but at that point, money was still worth something, and I needed some. I figured it wouldn't be more than a temp job, just to get some extra cash and keep moving, but I just never found anywhere worth moving to.
[What kind of meds did you deal with, exactly?]
Oh, nothing too unfamiliar. Mostly stuff that you could find in any CVS in the pre-war days. Stuff like allergy meds, flu vaccines, insulin supplements, anything that people still needed to survive even if they could get past the zombies. And I wasn't even the one who really decided what meds we were gonna distribute. I was in the, shall we say… "research" department. We decided where the high-impact areas were, and which places would be cost-efficient for us to distribute to.
[So… you basically decided which areas lived and which areas died?]
You can look at it whatever way you want. The fact is, we were saving thousands of lives every day.
[Some people say that you only distributed to a fraction of your potential target sites…]
Well "some people" don't realize that we were on a very strict budget at the time. We couldn't give our meds to all the cities nearby, just the ones who needed them badly enough. Plus we had to be able to get there in the first place. Transportation was one of our biggest issues. The roads were all clogged with abandoned cars, and choppers aren't exactly easy to find fuel for. Not easy to get places quickly enough in those days. Plus we had very little communication with the places themselves. We had to take our best guesses as to which cities were infested beyond help and which we could still manage to deliver to.
[Is it true that you simply cut off entire cities that depended on your medications?]
We could no longer afford to supply them.
[That's not what some statistics say]
I don't need to be harassed by some reporter. I don't have to answer your damn questions!
[No you don't, but I would appreciate it if you could comply with me as much as possible]
I think we're done here.
Mr. Underhill declined to answer any other questions following this statement.