It is a playful, if only marginally amusing, meme for ordinarily staid authorities to issue coping strategies for the so-called zombie apocalypse. In May, for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government’s white-coated vanguard against wee beasties, tee-hee’d all the way through a rotted-tongue-in-gangrenous-cheek disaster survival guide. Unfortunately, this publicity stunt quickly devolved into a fairly dry reminder merely to stock basic emergency supplies (e.g. water, extra clothing, etc.) and otherwise plan ahead for an evacuation.
Several years ago, Wired.com did the same sort of thing, an even less imaginative primer that unhelpfully gets bogged down in a zoological curation of zombie types, extrapolating backward from various films in a spurt of numbing prose and advising survivors simply to shoot their undead antagonists in the head.
A recent example, possibly first noted by a bizarrely enthusiastic Wired.com correspondent, is an authentic-seeming recreation of a United States Army handbook, made by the Snappy Cow Energy Drink Companyof Wynantskill, N.Y. The Snappy Cow people do an energetic (ha!) job outlining believable methods for identifying and neutralizing zombies, including a detailed discussion of small-unit military tactics.
But even this game effort runs out of steam about halfway through, and a reader would be forgiven for giving up before the end, a woefully incomplete section on terrain and weather and, of course, the Snappy Cow advertisement itself.
The biggest mistake these guides make is wasting space in a discussion of zombie origins and varieties. The truth is, it does not matter how zombies are created (few of the pathologies make any sense, anyway). It only matters that you avoid or disable them. Don’t ever trust an authority that tries to unknot things in any other fashion.
Any worthwhile zombie survival guide will be short and to the point:
- In case of zombie apocalypse, the first order of business is to secure space. Determine where the nearest zombies are, and place as many obstacles between you and the zombies as possible. This includes, but is not limited to, barricading doors, covering windows and minimizing noise and other signs of “life.” Rooftops are ideal “secure spaces,” isolated farmhouses are acceptable, but basements without multiple forms of egress are not.
- Assess your resources. Locate sources of food and water, and if possible clean clothing, medical supplies and metal tools. In theory, this could be the shortest zombie survival guide ever written, because if you have a secure space to inhabit and you have food and water, your to-do list rapidly drops off into things like whittling and masturbating. This is because it is unlikely, given the natural forces of putrefaction and weathering, that a zombie attack would last longer than a week.
- Worst case is the best case. Do not worry if the zombie apocalypse appears to be unnervingly widespread. Fewer human survivors will reduce competition for accessible space and resources, which will make it easier for a hopeful survivor to get squared away. It also strains the carrying capacity of the zombie population by increasing competition for uninfected humans.
- Avoid other survivors. Under no circumstances should you undertake cross-country journeys with a large group of fellow humans, no matter how amiable they appear to be. If you have been unable to secure space or sufficient resources, move cautiously in small groups if not by yourself. Other people cannot, under the stress of a serious (and disgusting) breakdown in the fabric of society, be relied upon to hew to anything resembling altruism.
- Save your ammunition. Avoid confrontations with zombies at all costs. Even if well-equipped and in a large group, you are unlikely to be able to neutralize a body of motivated zombies. And, importantly, the zombification process is too unpredictable to risk infection from close encounters. If the immediate threat can be avoided by quick movement or deception, choose that course over knocking heads together.
- Sit down, shut up and wait. Simply put, the overall zombie threat is profoundly overstated. Even the most taciturn, apathetic, indolent zombie is deteriorating by the minute, which means that the prospects of a hopeful survivor are constantly increasing. To wit, the vigorous, cranium-craving maniacs of the dark and menacing Zero Hour will be withered and oozing by Day 2. All you have to do is sit back, polish your aluminum baseball bat and let your anaerobic allies do their work.