It’s another fourth Friday, which means Geek of All Trades is back! Thanks for hanging with me as I document my misadventures in new and geeky worlds. Here’s a little recap of where we’ve been so far. Back in July, I discovered that Portal was fundamentally incompatible with my brain, and last month I fell in love with Ewoks and Han Solo while watching the original Star Wars trilogy. So where are we headed this month? We’re polishing our weapons, strengthening our line of defense, and practicing our wind sprints – we’re talkin’ zombies.
But I’m not taking the easy way out. I won’t just attempt to contract the rage virus from 28 Days Later (hard pass) or take crossbow lessons from Daryl Dixon (that only happens in my dreams). No, I’m going to do what is potentially impossible – I’m going to be completely realistic about how I might actually survive a zombie apocalypse.
If I was anyone other than myself, that wouldn’t be too terribly trying a task. If I had Serena Williams’ athleticism or Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s expertise in hand-to-hand combat, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But that just ain’t me. I am a Hide and Go Seek Champion – a natural evader, queen of the “flight response.” But not in a cool, stealth, invisible way – in a hasty, panicked, pathetic way. Put simply, if life were a horror movie, I’d die first.
The good thing about zombies – if there is such a thing – is that they vary a lot. Unlike, say, vampires, which are generally agreed upon as feeding only at night, speaking in bad Eastern European accents, and missing out on some seriously great Italian food (the garlic, guys – they just can’t do it), zombies have classes. And I’ve come to the conclusion that my ability to survive them depends a great deal on which kind I’m encountering.
What kind of zombie are we talking about here?
I am certainly no expert in zombie lore, but it seems to me that there are four major kinds of zombies.
- Have roots in voodoo – raised from the dead to be a mindless servant of whoever resurrected them.
- Stem from the Night of the Living Dead/George A. Romero train of thought – everyone becomes a zombie when they die, and only head shots will kill them.
- A variation on Romero’s zombies, this kind is driven to eat brains.
- Is super fast/has “the rage virus.”
Now, it seems to me, there’s easy ways to beat most of these guys.
For the voodoo zombies, the path is clear. Step one: never ever visit Phil’s relatives in New Orleans again. (Sorry, hon, you saw The Skeleton Key; you know this is how it has to be). Step two – don’t piss off anyone who rocks at voodoo. Considering my last fight with anyone was about getting the wrong Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas in 1992, I think we’re good.
Night of the Living Dead zombies don’t scare me that much, either. I’m the kid who consistently got picked last in kickball, and I’m still pretty confident that I could outrun them. Unless there are hills. Or they can climb trees. Can they climb trees?
The third kind of zombie is where it starts to get hairy. The first kind to eat brains, this kind of zombie reminds me of the walkers on The Walking Dead – who also eat any other sort of body part they can get their, uh, hands? on. No big deal, right? Just be awesome with a gun. Oops, I’m terrified of guns. Well, alright, then be super-formidable in hand-to-hand combat. Yeah, not gonna happen – I’m five feet tall. My one hope is that they’re so reliant on smelling out humans, they’ll be thrown off by my overpowering desire to smell like lemon Pledge and pumpkin. The survival strategy here? Cross my fingers that I smell like a produce stand til I get out of dodge.
Rage virus zombies are another beast altogether, and one that I would absolutely have no chance against. All kinds of dead here. Merely the sight of them would be enough to send me spiraling into a panic attack so massive, I’m certain I’d be immobilized before the first of them even had time to say, “NNNARRGHHHHH!” They’re way faster than people, way stronger than people, and they FIND YOU WHEREVER YOU GO. It’s like they have Track My iPhone on crack. I’ll spot myself a 2% chance of survival on the off chance I’m able to just find THE BEST hiding spot and wait it out until the virus has run its course.
So what’s the plan?
Let’s break it down – how do we make this real? Say a zombie apocalypse truly, actually happened in present-day society. How could I survive? What would I do – other than have a complete and immediate mental breakdown? Here’s my best guess.
While I love my city most of the time, it’s not exactly well-suited for an outbreak of zombies. As the fourth-largest city in the U.S., fleeing the city by car is almost impossible – as evidenced by the total inability of anyone to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Rita, as well as the daily morning commute. We’d leave early and pile everything we love into my husband’s Ford Escape, strapping our two-person kayak to the roof – chances are, cars and roads only work so long, and I’m thinkin’ zombies aren’t great swimmers.
We have a 1-year old miniature Australian Shepherd named Barley. She’s instinctively a herding dog, loves to have a job to do, and is very protective of me, Phil, and wherever it is we decide to call home for the night. Having her around could alert me of danger I don’t see yet. She’s also lightning-fast, and could dodge most slow-moving zombies. Don’t remind me of the fate that all dogs meet in all zombie movies – I’m gonna go on naively believing that Barley is the exception and not the rule.
My brother-in-law is from a little town in the Texas hill country called Harper. Everyone owns a truck or two, a lot of guns and ammunition, and a ranch. The terrain’s too vast and rocky for zombies to traverse easily, they’d have a lot of ground to cover before they ever got to us, there’s nothing along the way there to really sustain them, and it would be a good place to set up an encampment that could be effectively defended. Once, when discussing the event of a government collapse (which is kind of the same thing as a zombie apocalypse,) one of the locals drawled, “Welp, I think it’d take us…oh, about half an hour…to get a perimeter and some back-up generators set up, but long about after that, I’d say we’d be set.” Sold.
My skills are, shall we say, not similar in any way to those that are traditionally required to survive until the end of a zombie movie. I’m terrified of guns, I have terrible accuracy, and my reflexes are slow. If you need someone on the front lines, I am not your woman. However, I do think that I have a few things up my sleeve that might be able to ingratiate me into a group of stronger folks than myself. First of all, I know how to can and preserve food – when food becomes scarce, I can create rations for up to a year using nothing but glass jars, boiling water, and a little pectin. I also know Morse code – my grandfather, a HAM radio enthusiast and ex-CIA agent, has been teaching it to me since I was two. If all major lines of communication are down, that knowledge might help us transmit or intercept important messages. Sure, a zombie apocalypse needs good soldiers. But it also needs cooks and communications officers – and I’ve got that on lock.
If I’m being totally honest, that plan probably wouldn’t work. My grand plans rarely do. Chances are, we’d never even make it out of Houston – our house would be swarmed by zombies, they’d eat our dog, and we’d shortly follow. But making jam and tapping radios in the hill country sure sounds a lot more hopeful – and even a future zombie could use a little hope now and then.