Home > The Zombie Survival Guide(4)

The Zombie Survival Guide(4)
Author: Max Brooks

of the picture. Accept this basic rule of moviemaking and you will understand why Hollywood zombie films stray, in some cases wildly, from the reality on which they are based. In short, use these photo-plays as their makers intended: as a source of temporary, lighthearted entertainment and not a visual aid to your survival.

Outbreaks

Although each zombie attack is different, given the number, terrain, reaction of the general populace, etc., its level of intensity can be measured in four distinct classes.

Class 1

This is a low-level outbreak, usually in a Third World country or First World rural area. The number of zombies in this class of outbreak ranges between one and twenty. Total human casualties (including those infected) range from one to fifty. The total duration, from the first case to the last (known), will range between twenty-four hours and fourteen days. The infested area will be small, no larger than a twenty-mile radius. In many cases, natural boundaries will determine its limits. Response will be light, either exclusively civilian or with some additional help from local law enforcement. Media coverage will be light, if present at all. If the media is present, look for common stories like homicides or “accidents.” This is the most common type of outbreak and also the easiest to go unnoticed.

Class 2

Urban or densely populated rural areas are included in this level of outbreak. Total zombies will range between twenty and one hundred. Total human casualties may reach as high as several hundred. The duration of a Class 2 attack may last no longer than a Class 1 outbreak. In some cases, the larger number of zombies will spark a more immediate response. A rural, sparsely populated outbreak may extend to a hundred-mile radius, while an urban outbreak may encompass only several blocks. Suppression will almost certainly be organized. Bands of civilians will be replaced by local, state, even federal law enforcement. Look for an additional, if low-level, military response, the National Guard in the United States or its equivalent abroad. Most often, so as to ease panic, these units will take a more noncombatant role, providing medical assistance, crowd control, and logistical support. Class 2 outbreaks almost always attract the press. Unless the attack occurs in a truly isolated area of the world, or one where the media is strictly controlled, the story will be reported. This does not mean, however, that it will be reported accurately.

Class 3

A true crisis. Class 3 outbreaks, more than any other, demonstrate the clear threat posed by the living dead. Zombies will number in the thousands, encompassing an area of several hundred miles. The duration of the attack and a possible lengthy mop-up process could last as long as several months. There will be no chance for a press blackout or cover-up. Even without media attention, the sheer magnitude of the attack will leave too many eyewitnesses. This is a full-blown battle, with law enforcement replaced by units of the regular military. A state of emergency will be declared for the infested zone, as well as the neighboring areas. Expect martial law, restricted travel, rationed supplies, federalized services, and strictly monitored communication. All these measures, however, will take time to implement. The initial phase will be one of chaos as those in power come to grips with the crisis. Riots, looting, and widespread panic will add to their difficulties, further delaying an effective response. While this is happening, those living within the infested area will be at the mercy of the undead. Isolated, abandoned, and surrounded by ghouls, they will have only themselves to depend on.

Class 4

(See “Living in an Undead World.”)

Detection

Every undead outbreak, regardless of its class, has a beginning. Now that the enemy has been defined, the next step is early warning. Knowing what a zombie is will not help if you are unable to recognize an outbreak before it’s too late. This does not entail building a “zombie command post” in your basement, sticking pins in a map, and huddling around the shortwave radio. All it requires is looking for signs that would slip by the untrained mind. These signs include:

1. Homicides in which the victims were executed by head shots or decapitation. It has happened many times: People recognize an outbreak for what it is and try to take matters into their own hands. Almost always, these people are declared murderers by the local authorities and prosecuted as such.

2. Missing persons, particularly in wilderness or uninhabited areas. Pay careful attention if one or more of the search members end up missing. If the story is televised or photographed, watch to see what level of armament the search parties carry. Any more than one rifle per group could mean that this is more than just a simple rescue operation.

3. Cases of “violent insanity” in which the subject attacked friends or family without the use of weapons. Find out if the attacker bit or tried to bite his victims. If so, are any of the victims still in the hospital? Try to discover if any of these victims mysteriously died within days of their bite.

4. Riots or other civil disturbances that began without provocation or other logical cause. Common sense will dictate that violence on any group level does not simply occur without a catalyst such as racial tension, political actions, or legal decisions. Even socalled “mass hysteria” can always be traced to a root source. If none can be found, the answer may lie elsewhere.

5. Disease-based deaths in which either the cause is undetermined or seems highly suspect. Deaths from infectious disease are rare in the industrialized world, compared to a century ago. For this reason, new outbreaks always make the news. Look for those cases in which the exact nature of the disease is unexplained. Also, be on the alert for suspicious explanations such as West Nile virus or “mad cow” disease. Either could be examples of a cover-up.

 

 


6. Any of the above in which media coverage was forbidden. A total press blackout is rare in the United States. The occurrence of one should be regarded as an immediate red flag. Of course, there may be many reasons other than an attack of the living dead. Then again, any event causing a government as media-conscious as our own to clamp down merits close attention. The truth, no matter what it is, cannot be good.

Once an event has tripped your sensors, keep track of it. Note the location, and its distance from you. Watch for similar incidents around or near the original site. If, within a few days or weeks, these incidents do occur, study them carefully. Note the response of law enforcement and other government agencies. If they react more forcefully with each occurrence, chances are that an outbreak is unfolding.

Weapons and Combat Techniques

At least fifteen or twenty of them; men, women, children. We opened up at seventy, maybe eighty meters. I could see chunks of flesh blasting off their bodies. Our rounds were hitting their mark! They kept coming, they just kept coming! I sighted one and let go a full burst from my BXP. I know I snapped his spine, because the man dropped like a leaf. Legs still twitching, he kept crawling after me! At twenty meters, we opened up with the Vektor. Nothing! I watched bits of organ and bone blown out their backs. I watched limbs literally sawed off at the joints. The SS77 is the best MG ever made, 840 meters per second, 800 rounds per minute, and it wasn’t doing a goddamn thing! What grenades we had only downed one of them. One! His mangled body lay motionless with a stillsnapping head! [Name Withheld] let go with his RPG. The damn rocket went right through its soft target and took out a rock behind it! Finally, at five meters, we used the last bit of fuel in the flamethrower! The sons of bitches lit up like torches but just wouldn’t stop! One of them grabbed [Name Withheld], setting him on fire as it bit through his neck. I saw the rest of those things surround him as we took off for the jungle, a mob of burning bodies squatting down to tear another screaming human torch apart. Goddamn the devil’s mother, what the hell were we supposed to do!?!

Serbian mercenary during Thezairian Civil War, 1994

Choosing the right weapons (nevercarry just one) can make the difference between a pile of dead zombies and becoming one yourself. When confronted with the undead, it is easy to believe in the super-commando strategy: Load up with the heaviest, most powerful weapons possible and go out to “kick ass.” This is not only foolish—it is suicidal. Zombies are not camp guards in some POW escape movie, crumbling en masse with the first theatrical volley. Arming yourself for a zombie encounter requires careful consideration, a cool head, and a practical analysis of all factors involved.

General Rules

1. OBEY THE LAW!: Regulations governing weapons such as firearms and explosives depend on your location. Follow them to the letter. Punishment may range from a sizable fine to incarceration. In any case, the resulting criminal record is something youcannot afford! When the dead rise, law enforcement must look upon you as a model citizen, someone to be trusted and left alone, not a felon of questionable background who should be interrogated at the first sign of trouble. Fortunately, as this chapter will show, simpler, legal weapons will serve you much better than paramilitary death machines.

2. TRAIN CONSTANTLY: No matter what weapon you choose, from a simple machete to a semiautomatic rifle, it must become an extension of your body. Practice as often as possible. If classes are available, by all means sign up. Learning from qualified instructors will save immense time and energy. If the device can be disassembled, do so, both in sunlight and total darkness until you know every pin, every spring, every curve and edge of that all-important machine. With practice will come both experience and confidence, two traits you must develop in order to successfully do battle with the living dead. History has proven that a well-trained individual, with nothing but a rock, has a better chance of survival than a novice with the latest technological marvel.

3. CARE FOR YOUR TOOLS: Weapons, no matter how simple they may be, must be cared for as if they were living things. Anyone with firearm experience knows that inspection and cleaning are part of everyday use. This also applies to close-combat weapons. Blades need polish and rust protection. Grips need checking and maintenance. Never abuse your tools or expose them to unnecessary damage. If possible, have them tested regularly by experienced professionals. These experts may detect early-stage defects imperceptible to the amateur user.

4. BEWARE DISPLAY ITEMS: Many companies offer a variety of replica weapons, such as swords, bows, etc., that are meant merely for decoration. Always research your chosen item thoroughly and ensure that it is intended for actual use in the real world. Do not rely solely on the company’s word. “Battle ready” may mean the item could withstand a few blows on a theatrical stage, or at some historical fair, but it will snap in half during a life-or-death confrontation. If resources permit, purchase a duplicate item and train with it to the breaking point. Only then should you trust in its abilities.

5. DEVELOP THE FIRST WEAPON: The human body, if cared for and trained properly, is the greatest weapon on earth. Americans are notorious for their bad diet, lack of exercise, and relentless fetish for labor-saving technology. As recognizable as the term “couch potato” is, a more accurate term would be “cattle”: fat, lazy, listless, and ready to be eaten. Weapon No. 1, the biological tool that is our body, can and must be transformed from prey to predator. Obey a strict diet and physical-fitness regimen. Concentrate on cardiovascular instead of strength-building exercise. Monitor any chronic health conditions you may have, no matter how small. Even if your worst ailment is allergies, treat them regularly! When a situation does arise, you must knowexactly what your body is capable of! Study and master at least one martial art. Make sure its emphasis is on escaping holds rather than delivering blows. Knowing how to slip from a zombie’s clutches is the single most important skill you can possess when you find yourself in close combat.

Close Combat

Hand-to-hand combat should almost always be avoided. Given a zombie’s lack of speed, it is much easier to run (or walk quickly) than stand and fight. However, it may be necessary to destroy a zombie at close quarters. When this happens, split-second timing is critical. A wrong move, a moment’s hesitation, and you may feel cold hands gripping your arm, or sharp, broken teeth biting into your flesh. For this reason above all, choosing a close-combat weapon is more important than any other in this section.

1. BLUDGEONS

When using a blunt weapon, the goal is to crush the brain (remember, the only way to kill a zombie is by destroying its brain). This is not as easy as it sounds. The human skull is one of the hardest, most durable surfaces in nature. So, of course, is the zombie’s. Extreme force is needed to fracture, let alone shatter it. However, this must be done, and done with a single, well-placed blow. Missing your target or failing to breach the bone will leave you with no second chance.

Sticks, ax handles, and other wooden clubs are good for knocking a zombie out of the way or beating off an individual attack. What they lack is the weight and strength necessary for a lethal strike. A section of lead pipe will work for a single encounter but is too heavy for those on the move. A sledgehammer has the same drawback and also requires practice for its user to hit a moving target. Aluminum bats are light enough to work for one, maybe two fights, but are known to bend after prolonged use. The standard, one-handed carpenter’s hammer has striking power but severely limited reach. Its short handle allows a zombie to grab your arm and pull it in. The police baton, made of acetate plastic (in most cases), is strong enough for any battle but lacks the lethal power for a one-blow kill. (Note: This was intended in its design.)

The best bludgeon is a steel crowbar. Its relatively lightweight and durable construction makes it ideal for prolonged close combat. Its curved, semi-sharpened edge also allows for a stabbing motion through the eye socket, directly into the brain case. More than one survivor has reported killing zombies in this manner. Another benefit of the crowbar is that it may be necessary to pry open a door, shift a heavy object, or perform other tasks for which it was originally designed. None of these functions can be accomplished with any of the previously mentioned items. Even lighter and more durable than the steel crowbar is the titanium model, now trickling into Western markets from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

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