Friday, May 16, 2008

Ask a Moron: Zombie Invasion - Know Thine Enemy

Ash has never wanted a radio or television signal more than he does right now. For the last several hours he has tried futilely to sleep through the groans of the hungry dead. They arrived as the sun dipped behind the horizon and now seem to be milling about outside without purpose or awareness. The defenses have not been tested and all are safe for the time being. Still, the mere knowledge of their presence is enough to rob even the most stoic and disciplined person of sleep.

First Night

During the first night, one of the firearms-savvy members of Ash's gang keeps watch and it has been required that he take notes on the behavior of the lingering undead. One of the cheif reasons for remaining stationary for the time being was to ensure enough intelligence to confidently and safely escape from the city. While it may seem prudent to get out of the city as quickly as possible there are several reasons this is a stupid idea.

First, during the initial periods there is a maximum of chaos and confusion. Not only do you need to be highly concerned about the zombie menace but also fellow, panicked humans. It is often and correctly noted that a person is smart but people are morons. Throw in the end of the world an you are looking at a massive army of self-interested, frantic retards charging off without any plan or real destination. In other words, dangerous people.

Second, it is not yet clear if escaping will even be necessary. Evidently, the machinery of society has broken down but it may yet be repaired. Even in the best of circumstances the pendulum of government, once pushed, takes some time to swing back and address the situation. The military may yet control the threat. The scientific community still has the capacity to reverse the zombie plague. Hell (pun intended), religion may yet find a way to set the dead to rest.

Finally, and most importantly: You only get one shot at this. It can not be overemphasized that the smallest miscalculation could get you outmaneuvered and it only takes one tiny bite to destroy your entire coterie. Knowing that you are currently in a relatively secure location allows you to gather information and process your surroundings while plans are formulated. When the nature of the enemy and the condition of surviving humantiy is better understood, and only then, a cautious, meticulous escape should be attempted.

Lying Low

If you're anything like me, your first impulse would be to load up the guns, walk out on the balcony and from that relatively safe position start giving the zombies nicknames and blowing their heads off Dawn of the Dead style. Surely, combining the fun of wonton destruction with the murder of zombies couldn't be bad. Sadly, this approach would be wasteful and irresponsible at best and potentially disasterous at worst depending on the nature of the foes. One of the most important known unknowns is the method by which the undead search for and locate their prey. Are they drawn to loud noise or scared of it? Do they seek out humans by scent or merely chase things they can see. Obviously, if they have spread so quickly and pervasively they must have, at the least, retained basic hunting and tracking abilities. Because of these unknowns, firing off half-cocked (again, intended) will at least serve to waste needed ammunition for no strategic or tactical gain and at worst could make you the zombie Guns and Roses. Not an envious position no matter how much you like mosh pits and intravenous alcohol.

Another important aspect to pay attention to is any remaining zombie communication ability. If one zombie locates prey does it move alone to intercept the delicious human flesh or does it in some way signal to the other zombies that dinner's ready? Another important and obvious fact is that the zombies definitely do not stop to completely consume their prey but instead seem to bite each one with the intention of infection then move on to other live prey. Once the victim is dead, it is left to rise partially but not cripplingly consumed. For this reason, any attempt at decoy heroics is effectively a suicide and saves noone. If Ash sees any of his friends run off in an attempt to 'draw them away' he is liable to shoot them before they get the chance.

So, for the time being, the night watchman looks out a small hole in the defenses and notes each movement and interaction, hoping morbidly to see them hunt, to see them swarm in order to increase desperately needed knowledge. Much of the escape strategy will depend on these factors.


Communicative zombies (Swarming Zombies) will tend to swarm giving opportunities for mass slaughter should the weapons be available and the need arise. Also, these swarms will serve to present a solid front against which our heroes can direct their defense. Dinner bell grunts will also serve as a warning should one zombie notice you before you notice it. The worst scenario with Swarming Zombies is being caught in the open with no method of faster-than-zombie travel. You will want to avoid being seen at all by the various clots of zombies throughout the city. For this reason, travelling by backroads and alleys allows necessary cover at the expense of possible surprise by the odd stragler. This is a small price to pay to avoid an angry throng of Swarming Zombies in the middle of main street. Any lone zombies will need to be killed on sight to prevent any attempt at calling to friends. You will also want to move quickly as any loud noise may start to draw Swarming Zombies and you will want to stay ahead of them. Initiative is the key to dealing with Swarming Zombies.

Non-Communicative zombies (Ninja Zombies) will pose a different threat by, in effect, sneaking up on you. Because they make no attempt to warn their brethren or bring friends to the party they will be randomly dispersed through any given area and will not make their presence known before attempting to fill their bellies. This scenario demands an almost completely reverse strategy from the previous one. Stalking through back alleys and side streets only serves to more completely put you at the mercy of random chance and get you bit by surprise behind a dumpster. In this case it is preferable to move on the widest, most open locations and deal with each zombie as it approaches. Walking down the center of an empty street gives you several yards of unobstructed line of sight with which to mow down the undead. Also, moving too quickly serves no purpose as no vast shambling horde is attempting to catch you. Cautious, determined advancement through the city will serve best. Unfortunately, this scenario also requires more weapons and ammuntion to accomplish. There will be way more fire fights.

Tightening Belts

The rising sun brings with it memories of a different world but also the familiar pangs of hunger. It is decided that food will be rationed at a level that uses as little food as possible while maintaining alertness and physical fitness in the survivors. An inventory of current supplies is taken and it is determined that there is enough food for three weeks before totally being exhausted. Unfortunately, this adds a time element to the escape plan which disallows waiting until all conditions are ideal. Three weeks into the future, ready or not, these neighbors will have to move out.

So far, the power remains on by whatever automatic mechanism exists but all forms of communication are completely down. It is clearly impossible to get messages to any of the other groups Ash talked with before contact was lost. It is then necessary to trust that each group rememembers the plan of extraction. There are three locations to which Ash must go before leaving the town. If these are fucking Ninja Zombies, they'll add another stop before they get moving.

Also during this time, any members of the group that aren't trained in the use of firearms (damned hippies) are taught the basics of loading, aiming and firing a gun. Well, as much as can be taught without actually, you know, firing the fucking gun. With a dearth of trained marksmen, it is strongly hoped that these aren't Ninja Zombies but coming events will make that determination as plain as day.

An Unfortunate Example

Several days come and go without any notable occurances. Several dozen zombies have passed by the limited line of sight and at any given time over a dozen are visible. They do not seem to be engaged in any activity other than shambling about and randomly twitching. They also don't seem to be coagulting as Swarming Zombies probably would but without the presences of prey, it is impossible to truly test that theory. Unfortunately for the young man creeping through the parking lot, Ash is about to get his evidence.

He makes his way cautiously along the edge of the building across the parking lot attempting to stay low and make no noise. The dozen or so zombies in his immediate area are arrayed facing nearly random directions but so far none are looking in his particular direction and that seems to be the method by which he chooses his path. Unfortunately for him, Ash can see a zombie behind a parked van that will surely see him should he continue in the direction he is going. Ash does nothing.

As much as possible I wish to avoid morality in any great measure during these posts but I believe this particular situation warrants a little moral exloration. Is it moral to do nothing and nearly ensure by your inaction the death of this stranger. Obviously, yes. At this stage of the game we can only assume that any attempt at warning the young man will result in garnering the unwanted attention of some hungry, rotting people. For that reason, any behavior that might risk creating this level of sound is absolutely, morally unacceptable. This poor stranger attempting to get by will almost certainly die but the many in the building with Ash will survive, at least for now. Sadly, the survivors of a zombie apocalypse will face many such disturbing decisions and very few of them will be less morally ambiguous or feel more humane. So Ash just watches as this man becomes a victim.

The young man walks past the corner of the parked van and enters the zombie's line of sight, prompting an immediate and rather quick reaction. It takes a moment for him to react to the closing shambler and in that moment the short distance between them has been covered. He swings his club at the zombie but the blow is glancing and only serves to cock the zombie's head to the side as it takes it's first, fatal bite. Ash notices what didn't happen. The zombie did not make any noise. The man's screams, however, alert the nearby zombies to the presense of food. Fucking Ninja Zombies.

Ash adds the gun store to his list of destinations with a sigh.

(to be continued...)

Other Installments

In order to keep Ask A Moron a regular feature I need questions from you, my readers. Please put your questions, any question at all, in the comments or e-mail them to me at the address on the sidebar.


bmac said...

You clearly worked your ass off for this post, and I'm surprised no one commented.

Good work, well thought out and written.

Moron Pundit said...

Thanks. It was a lot of fun to write and I guess after that you always hope for a little more reaction but I'm sure people read it and liked it without anything to add.

If that is the case, I really did a good job.

Prepared Now said...

Hey, Good job with the post. As a former zombie survivalist (I take the train in to work everyday, some of those people have to be zombies) I would include a list of common household weapons, things around the house that could be made into weapons, and lastly a decent list of real weapons. I live in chicago and there are no gun stores for twenty miles from downtown that I know of. I know this would hamper many of these people from escaping, especially white collar, I'll-just-pay-for-it types. I, myself, am a blue collar construction worker, raised in the country where everybody has guns, I feel safe. Yes, I have a gun rack in the back-window of my 4-wheel pick-up, yee-haw. But seriously, most people would freak, and few would be prepared. Any common information would be helpful. Communication would last for a little while and obviously the smart ones would google this to find some information on how to handle this situation.
So thanks, and keep up the fight!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I enjoyed reading this, but it kind of left me hanging--I would love to see the ending, if you have planned to write about how they gather food, weapons, and escape/travel to different locations.

Thanks for this, it was an enjoyment, I'd love to see the conclusion!


Anonymous said...

Nice job

Anonymous said...

I thought it was awesome