Hi guys, welcome to Zombieworld Part 2! The last time I was here, we talked about contagion zombies, “runners,” and the slow-walking zombies that seem to be the staple for zombie flicks and zombie-themed literature.
The apocalypse…with zombies
One of the things that is made clear in the zombie movie genre and zombie-themed literature is that the presence of zombies spells doom for humanity. So zombies equal the apocalypse. Everyone is, to a degree, fascinated and horrified with the apocalypse! And who wouldn’t be?! We’re talking about the end of the world as we know it!
And in a zombie apocalypse you are not just fearing for the extinction of all human life on planet Earth, you are also acutely aware that human life is about to be consumed in a very painful manner, too. That’s why zombies are such a perfect representation of death and fear because you’re staring not at alien monsters or savage animals from some mutant forest in the Himalayas, you’re looking at human faces that have lost all their humanity
Harbingers of super doom
In a previous article, I tackled the Marvel Zombies series where Iron Man, Spiderman and all these other Marvel greats exist in an alternate universe and they’re all zombies.
So we know that heroes bring peace and hope, right? What made the Marvel Zombies series special was that the bringers of hope became the harbingers of doom, though at some point, someone had to be brought in to temper their power and that guy was Galactus, the mighty planet eater.
But since they were zombie superheroes, they didn’t all die and at the end of the series, they could be seen in space suits swooping in to slaughter innocents on other planets in a classic zombie horde rampage scenario. Nasty!
Surviving a zombie apocalypse
So let’s say that the zombie apocalypse actually happened. Like right now, outside your room, hundreds or thousands of runners and walkers are stalking the streets, breaking down malls and other commercial structures, creating mayhem like never before. What do you do?
If we were to use zombie movies, pop culture and a bit of common sense as references, we’d come up with this list:
ONE: Run and hide. The best offense against zombies is defense. You need shelter. Preferably, one that can be fortified with barriers. Or hide out in a building at the upper floors, as zombies have difficulty climbing stairs (especially the generic, slow-walking zombies).
TWO: Arm yourself. This is a no brainer. Rifles, pistols, machine guns, baseball bats, broken chairs, etc. Anything that you can swing, beat and stab with.
Because: you will never win against a zombie horde with your bare hands. Never. Don’t even try. No experimentation with this one, kids.
(Not unless you’re Rambo and you’re in a forest with plenty of vine and logs lying around. A Rambo versus the zombie horde scenario would probably result in a win for Rambo or a stalemate because Rambo exhibits such badassery that even zombies will have second thoughts about trying to do a frontal assault on him. Like if you see Rambo just standing in an open field, rest assured that a whole tree will come swinging down on your poor soul.)
THREE: Keep moving. Somewhere out there is a fortified haven where people have formed a semi-community to protect against the zombie horde. It’s best to find them, as larger groups of people tend to function better when there is a physical threat.
The downside is there’s probably also plenty of violence and anarchy there and there is also no absolute guarantee that they would welcome you with open arms. Someone might actually want to shoot you or beat you up because you’re going to consume scant resources. Well, this is the apocalypse you know.
FOUR: Get as far away as possible and try to live a new life. This is the best option for highly-skilled and well-prepared doomsday preppers.
Zombies will eventually concentrate in the metropolises and other places where there used to be plenty of people. There might be straggling groups away from the cities but chances are, they will be manageable.
If you can get as far away as possible from the center of the zombie outbreak and get to a forest or any place where you can reboot your life without those pesky zombies, then you’re in luck.
Of course, this is a one in a million shot. You’d need potable water and food to survive. Shelter is just one of the basic needs of man. If you can somehow complete all three at the point of the apocalypse, then congratulations – you actually beat the zombie apocalypse!
Funny question: why do zombies do what they do, anyway?
I’m certain that this question is as old as time, but the only angle that can be explicated with any sort of modern logic is the scenario where zombies are created by some sort of virus, bacteria or parasite (even prions). I’m saying this because we’re talking about movement and behavior, unconscious behavior at that, and for this to happen, fundamental changes have to occur in a person’s brain.
A zombie outbreak caused by any pathogen will mean that the zombies are being reanimated (I say reanimated because zombies are of course dead to begin with) to spread the pathogen around.
Here are some basic characteristics of all zombies that are infected with something:
- They need fresh meat. Freshness means life and fresh meat means the pathogen can replicate itself in another host.
- They need to be easily distracted. Let’s say one zombie has already bitten a living person and that person’s friend runs away. Chances are, the first victim already has the pathogen in her bloodstream. The one running away doesn’t – the choice is clear, the zombie will pursue the un-bitten one to add to the tally of the infected.
- They need to avoid killing each other. Zombies are almost always rotting and decomposing. Eventually, all zombies die because there are real-world limits when it comes to join mobility, muscle flexibility, etc.
Of course all of these rules can be broken in literature or the movies, but all the same, if the rendering of a zombie is too fantastical, the stuff of nightmares becomes comedic and the viewer/reader starts shaking her head. Like “no, that’s not how it works in the real world!”
So zombies need to toe the line between the fantastic and the real in order to be scary and not funny, even if they are mostly flesh-eating maniacs with sometimes inhuman strength that do not fit their muscle’s overall condition.
(Do zombies even burn calories? They don’t even have functioning digestive systems!)
- Zombies need to be persistent. In situations where fresh human meat has ran out because of the maniacal feasting behavior of zombies, zombies need to keep moving. They need to continue existing until all of the proteins in their bodies shrivel up and they’re eventually just decomposing husks on some street or forest floor, waiting for nature to finally close the curtains.
So a zombie that can’t ‘eat’ a living person will have to contend with the inevitable and insatiable compulsion to feed but at the same time, it doesn’t have the human recourse of trying to change its behavior, not anymore. And this really separates zombies from humans, no matter how ‘human’ a zombie might be, because humans are capable of change.
And while zombies are always on the move, they can no longer act the way we do. There are no longer any aspirations and emotions involved. Just existing and infecting others.
Humans on the other hand, have a ton of things going for them even during a zombie apocalypse. In the book Living With Zombies: Society in Apocalypse in Film, Literature and Other Media by Chase Pielak and Alexander H. Cohen, the authors speak of “apocalyptic behavior” which isn’t what we expected it to be:
“To explain: humans within an apocalypse need to develop in light of that apocalypse. It reflects our fears, corporate and individual, and threatens, inevitably, the possibility of being zombie. The apocalypse demands response; if there is no response [or action], the human will cease to be. Further, zombies mirror the humans they pursue, or put in another way, they force humans to mirror them if those humans want to survive.” (page 124)
The mirroring that is spoken of here can be interpreted in two ways. First, the mirroring can refer to being generally violent to zombies (humans fighting back) or zombies actually learning from their environment and mirroring what they see to increase the chances of success.
And this isn’t a “far off” theory at all because a pathogen-induced zombie state would mean the newly created zombies will exhibit the adaptive behavior of the pathogen that caused the zombie state in the first place.
Zombieworld Part 3 is coming soon!