THE DEAD TIMES

DEAD ARE COMING...

Survival: Your Worst Nightmare

In 2012, what seems like a geological age ago, a post-apocalyptic horror movie was released titled The Divide. This film was generally slated by film critics and movie-goers alike, leading to it being largely shunned by the public, cast to the very bottom of Hollywood mediocrity. I'm not saying this was a mistake, I don't remember particularly enjoying this grim vision of the future when I saw it on Virgin Movies. However, against my better judgement, the film sticks with me, lingering in my mind like a cloud upon my pysche that will not be dispelled, a random piece of shrapnel protruding from a Zombie's decaying flesh. There are two reasons for this mental fog:

  1. It had Michael Biehn in it - my favourite actor following his stunning performances of Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Corporal Dwayne Hicks in Aliens.
  2. It brought up a hugely influential point for post-apocalyptic survival that is often overlooked.

In the film - which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with Zombies - New York City is hit by a devastating nuclear attack. Luckily, Mickey (played by Michael Biehn) has been plagued with portents of doom for some time, preparing and stocking the basement of the apartment building he manages with supplies for just such dreadful circumstances. Although made for him and him alone, seven other residents force their way inside when the bombs fall - it's cramped, facilities are terrible and food is limited but at least they are alive. However, day after tedious day of being stuck in a confined basement, not radiation shielded, takes its toll and it's not long before tensions start to fray. From there, it's a grim descent into madness and chaos as the group realise that survival is not the blessing they thought it was.

This brooding setup can be applied to the Zombie genre easily - I actually consider it a duty that I do so on The Dead Times, a site that prides itself on being a complete resource of everything related to the living dead.

Imagine the scenario; fearing a Zombie apocalypse or outbreak you've done your homework, you've researched the living dead, consumed survival strategies, played video games to increase you skill with weapons, watched every episode of The Walking Dead and even gone as far as to prepare a fully stocked shelter that can sustain you for weeks. Then, it happens, the brown hits the fan, your fears (and possibly dreams) come true and the living dead walk the Earth, devouring, ripping, tearing. It happens at an ideal time - you are not far from your dedicated shetler, put together with your own hard work. Your salvation lies just ahead, years of planning for coming darkness about to pay off as those less well prepared scream and die, set upon by the vengeful dead. Suddenly a group of strangers sees where you are headed or blindly follows you; a person with direction, a person in control. You are at the door, opening it and slipping inside, ready to close it behind you. Suddenly, a hand - a forearm - not a disgusting, rotting, flaky forearm of a Zombie, but that of a living human being.

It's them, the ones that followed you and they want inside your den too, they can see the safety it provides. There's a dilemma - what do you do? The door to your self-made fortress cannot be closed until these people either enter or leave, all the while, the undead lumber forward, eager to kill.

Your two options are; let them in - and they plead, they beg for you to see kindness and embrace this option - or leave them outside to meet certain death at the teeth of the Zombies. Is it really a choice though - you have no resource for stragglers. The shelter was packed and stocked for you and you alone, letting more people in would throw all your carefully calculated survival ratios and ration amounts into useless nonsense. Logically, you cannot let them in. What if they are bitten, bringing the infection - if that is indeed what it is - into your sacred vessel of peace and safety? If even one of those living dead horrors got inside, not even the sturdiest of walls could protect you. The choice is made, they must leave.

You try to close the door, repeatedly stating that your haphazard followers cannot come in but the unwanted resist, pleading that to leave them outside would be to condemn them to death. With each passing moment, the hungry undead draw ever closer - the door must be closed or your carefully packed survival shelter will become an unlocked tomb. You are faced with an impossible situation - is forcing the door shut and leaving these helpless people to die at the jaws of the reanimated dead something you could live with? They are looking at you for help, there are no scapegoats, the decision must be made by you. None of the books you read prepared you for this, the games posed this question at times but they were just games, the reset button could be pushed.

You may, at this point, engage your logic engine once more, convincing yourself that food can be rationed - with a little effort you can save these people, be a hero. However, even if you do this and welcome the strangers in, what if those unknown human beings are not very nice? What if they, after having entered your sanctuary, have a far different background and set of opinions than your own? What if they hate you? What if they turn violent towards you or other members of the ramshackle group; over food, duties, exploration of the remaining world, who knows? Could you sit idly by while stronger individuals take control of your hard work and years of preparation?

There are more questions - more 'What if's - though listing them all would be as pointless as it would be time-consuming. I suppose the basic point is adaptability - can you analyse and adapt to situations you did not expect to be in, can you cope with the wide-ranging and frequently changing attitudes of people, can you live with those who do not share your beliefs or put up with those who openly disagree? This highlights the reason I do not particularly 'buy into' survival guides - the texts that claim to give you the all-encompassing knowledge required to survive an apocalypse. Nothing, no book, text or diagram can give you the exact instructions to deal with this situation, this deeply moral conflict.

That's all I can say on the subject - I know strive to bring meaning and point to all the articles I write but this time I cannot. It is merely an idea in liquid form sloshing this way and that as it floods my curious mind, refusing to be moulded into one specific form. So all I can do is open the virtual floor for your opinions, your ideas. What would you do when things go wrong and your careful preparation is threatened? Or, take the opposite stand, and give textual reason why preparing for unseen events of the magnitude of a Zombie apocalypse is utterly useless.

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The Dead Times © Tom Clark 2013 onwards

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'Universal Fruitcake' font sourced from www.fontsquirrel.com