Monday, November 15, 2010

The coming Apocalypse

I love zombie movies.

Whether it's the concept of so many oxygen thieves wiped away from the population, the idea of a world where guns are not an optional accessory or frowned upon, or the idea that twinkies are indeed a holy grail to be sought out, I dig the idea of a zombie apocalypse.

What I don't like, are the obvious flaws in thought in every movie.

1. People in comas generally WON'T wake up without medical care. No one adds water to the feeding tube, in about 3 days you're dead. Not to mention that since outbreaks would spread rapidly in hospitals (since they don't take prophylaxis against the zombie virus) your are laying undefended and helpless in bed--a veritable buffet for the walking dead. Also, waking up 28 days later means either waking up in a pile of your own poo, or waking up with a colostomy bag the size of a hefty bag. In the case of the latter, you'll need a surgeon to fix the colostomy.

2. Guns and ammo. 12 GA Shotguns are big and have stopping power. They also kick like a mule, and have bulky and heavy ammo, and 7-round (or less) magazines. Bad choice, except as a get away option. Deer rifles are a bad choice as well, unless sniping to thin the herd. Otherwise ammo is much heavier than you need to drop a zombie. The AR15 and AK 47 are acceptable choices, high-capacity magazines, readily available ammo, but if you don't already own one, after the apocalypse, good luck finding one (more on that later.) For my money, the venerable .22is the gun of choice.  Enough power to scramble a brain, high capacity magazines, ridiculously cheap, small, and light ammo, (try carrying 1,000 rounds of any other ammo), negligible recoil, decent (enough) range,  and much quieter than other guns.

3.  If you don't have a gun when the apocalypse starts, don't plan on raiding the local gun store/police department/National Guard Armory.  Those guns are either long gone, or locked up tighter than you have the means to get at them.  Also, everyone else with an inkling of survival will have the same idea, so you can expect swarms of zombies near those places.

4.  Head shots aren't all that important.  Sure, scrambling a brain is the only thing that kills a zombie, but busting a kneecap slows them down, because the mechanism is no longer there to function properly.  Same with shots to the spine, neck, and shoulders.  you may have to police up the crawlers later, but you can do that at your leisure.  Imagine a whole fence covered with severed heads, clattering their teeth every time someone walked by, but otherwise impotent.

5.  Bugs are your friend.  In mere weeks, maggots and roaches will have done more than their fair share of zombie irradiation.  Hopefully, their feasting on rotted flesh won't be a vector for carrying the virus to us, or we're totally screwed.

6. Likewise, winter is your friend as well.  Once the first good freeze sets, it's killin' spree time.  Frozen meat is STIFF.  (If you've ever pulled a pot roast out of the freezer an hour before dinner, you know what I mean.)  After the third day of below 30 temps, it's time to get something pointy and go outside to forage and scramble brains.  At best, the zombies will only be able to move as well as the mummies in old Abbot and Costello movies.

7.  Even with all the other troubles you have to worry about, you'd better get pretty far away from any nuclear reactor.  After they run out of watter in the rod-cooling pools, they are going to go boom.

8.  Speaking of getting away, you are going to need to get away from the city, and preferably away from the suburbs.  Too many zombies.  Of course, everyone else will be thinking about that, and highways will be ridiculously crowded with the living and the undead.  Best to stay away until the situation stabilizes.  So you'll need a local place to stay.  The fewer windows, the better.  Roof access is a plus.  Get water catching buckets/tarps/etc up early.  Board up the 1st floor windows from both sides, and bar the doors.  Haul in the pets (they are your loving family members, as well as an emergency food source.)  Blackout curtains (or foil) on all the windows for night time.  Keep the family in one room for sleeping, and bar that door too. 

9.  Once the main pandemonium has passed, it's time to consider moving elsewhere.  You're going to need a vehicle.  Forget about popping by the local Ferrari dealership.  Forget about building the apocalypse vehicle, surrounded by flame-throwers, flailing chains, and chainsaws. You do need a SOLID vehicle, one with large fuel tanks, and as few (and hopefully armored) windows as possible.  You don't need an RV.  You need a panel van, or something with a large enough enclosed space to sleep comfortably and haul supplies.  Find a Cargo Van, Short School Bus (lots of windows, but higher up), UPS truck, or even better, an armored van.  Since the local Brinks trucks may not be available, you need to realize some specifics about zombie driving.
  • You don't need to go 100 miles an hour.  
  • You do need to run over anything in your way.  
  • You DO need to reinforce windows.  You don't need to be the A-team; welding an extra 10,000 pounds of chicken wire and diamond-plate on your Chevy.  Duct tape or even clear adhesive contact paper can keep a window from shattering.  
  • The key is to never stop anywhere you are unable to completely secure the vehicle and observe in every direction.

10. Shopping. 
When it comes to feeding yourself, canned food is a safe bet, as is the bevy of already prepared foods on your local gas station's shelves.  You don't need to raid the local Whole Foods for Arugula.  (And since all their food is totally free-range and organic, it'll be full of worms by now, anyway.)  You will need fresh food, eventually, but not yet.  For now, get what you can and get out of the stores.  Since the buildings themselves offer some protection from the elements and if the power grid is still working, may have climate control, they may be occupied by the walking dead still.  Be safe, clear the building first, before heading for the spam and pork rinds. 
Be sure to hit up your local Bass Outfitters/Cabelas for the following:
  • Any remaining guns/Ammo .22 has probably been overlooked, but they'll likely be out of elephant guns.
  • Fishing gear (cane poles are preferred, for use in lakes, rivers, and surf.)
  • Camping gear--sub-zero sleeping bags, tents, empty fuel cans and bottles, water bottles, jerky making stuff, a small stove, a smoker, (and a game cookbook) environmentally safe toilets and TP, and hunter's no-scent soap and deodorant.  
  • Crossbows, Bows, Arrows, and Bolts.  They kill silently, and have reusable ammo (if recovered.)  If you have never used a bow, get a crossbow. 
  • Axes and Hatchets and Knives.  (Sturdy buck knives and multi-tools.  forget the Rambo knife.  If it comes down to Rambo knives, you're better off as a zombie.
  • Get dressed.  You are shopping here for clothes that are sturdy, warm, and durable.  Fashion is irrelevant, form is everything.  Make sure to get extra shoes, socks, boots, and gloves.
  • A small generator.
  • A portable weather and shortwave radio, a CB, and a GPS (zombies don't kill satellites.)  A scanner if there is one, and some good flashlights.As many batteries as you can carry, rechargables if possible, and look for a solar charger.  Try to get portable electronics that share the same battery type, as much as possible.
  • If you are heading to a large body of water, (like a deep-bottom lake or quarry) then consider a boat, as large as your vehicle can easily pull.  Nothing says sleeping securely like being surrounded by deep water and high sides.  (I'm thinking cabin cruiser, not canoe.)  Just be sure not to drop anchor chains, the undead can climb up those, too.  If you must anchor, be sure to oil up the chains very well, so they can't keep a grip on them, and keep an axe nearby.  You'll need an anchor watch if you do drop anchor.
Okay, back outside, make sure the vehicle is secure and zombie-free.  Make sure the tank is full, and use the fuel in the abandoned vehicles to fill up your fuel cans and tank.  There should also be some coleman fuel (super clean kerosene) in the store, grabs a few gallons of that too.

Now that you have all of this stuff, just where do you think you're going?  You can look for other humans, but you've a 50/50 chance that you have more supplies than they do, and are just getting into a worse situation than you were in.  On the other hand, there is some safety in numbers.  Whatever you decide, do not head back into a city.  Too many zombies, period.  If you live in a climate that is inhospitable to human life without modern conveniences, you need to move.  If you are surrounded by desert, you have great fields of fire, and someone may eventually come across your shriveled husk after you've died of thirst.  You need to be somewhere that living off the land is an option, although not your first option.  You will be far better off living off the vast stores of food that have been left behind in suburbia, than you will be by trying to get by using hunter/gatherer skills that most of us left in the caves.  If you must hunt, small game will serve you better than large game, especially since small animals are dumber than big ones.  It's why you see bunnies and squirrels in the park, and (generally) not moose and bear.  Also, you likely won't have much use for a whole deer before it goes bad.  Another source of food can be found on a farm, although many have also had this idea, and farmers have this "thing" about protecting their land.  You'll be far better off if you have something to barter (like all that fuel.) Farms generally have the means to preserve food, and the know how to do it.  Farmers are far more likely to teach you how to can veggies and fruit, make jams and jellies, butcher, smoke, and store for winter.  In return, you can work your ass off for them, providing security, helping with chores, etc.  The more you bring to the table, the more likely they will be to accept you. 
If you happen upon an abandoned farm, clear it, take stock of animals and equipment and food, and clear your fields of fire.  You should be able to get through the winter with only mild discomfort, but you'll need to use those cold months to thin the herd of zombies, and stockpile for the summer months when the ones you've missed (and the newly dead) will come knocking.


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