Zombie Outbreak

By Max Plissken

1) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?  Certainly not as fast, well-armed or long-ranged as a typical alien attack fleet, zombies are nonetheless never to be underestimated. In their insatiable undead hunger for living flesh, they are more determined than even the most belligerent Harkonnen[1]. Most zombies do not display any tactical approach to their hunting, or any genuine intelligence at all.  However, some have been observed recalling elements of their natural lives. The precise nature and threat posed by this added phenomenon is uncertain. Their one and only imperative is to find and consume the flesh of the living.  Some zombies yearn for more specific flesh, and feed primarily upon the brains of living humans, but the end result is the same for the victim.  Zombies do not respond to reason, bribery, threats or communication of any kind.  For all intents and purposes, they are indeed walking corpses.

Zombie outbreaks can generally be attributed to one of two classifications: scientific or supernatural.  Scientific zombies are usually created by misguided experiments into possible new abilities of the human body.  Re-animation of dead tissue, immortality of living tissue or the plain old super soldier program are all of great interest to the military and clandestine scientific communities of any country which can afford the budget.  Supernatural zombies are created by malicious spells, incantations and dirty tricks such as hoodoo and maleficium.  As a historical rule, supernatural zombies tend not to reach the swarming populations which scientific zombies are prone to, but they are just as dangerous. Apocalypse-U has contacted representatives from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and requested confirmation or denial of their governments’ participation in reanimation experiments. So far, we have received no response.

2) WHAT ARE THE THREATS?  Most zombies are depicted as slow-moving and sluggish, though recent schools of thought have portrayed them as capable of great bursts of speed.[2] Zombie populations have a frightening tendency to grow rapidly out of control, and it is probably an associated predicament that they tend to move in hordes. If stranded in a zombie-infested area, a survivor can readily be penned in and swarmed upon by sufficiently numerous zombies, even if the creatures lack speed or agility.

The primary difficulty in facing a zombie population is the durability of your enemy.  For while zombies crave human flesh, they do not die without it, nor are they known to falter if deprived of any other substance.  One cannot simply “wait out” a zombie outbreak and hope things will return to normal.  Worse than the zombies’ refusal to starve is their extreme resistance to physical damage.  This is most likely a side-effect of their bodies’ already perished condition.  Since none of a zombie’s organs or systems is keeping it alive, all parts of a zombie’s body are expendable without risk of causing death.  The walking dead do not generally lose much blood, both because their hearts have ceased pumping and because the blood has coagulated within their veins.

The bite of a zombie is invariably fatal.  Sometimes death occurs quickly, for instance when the victim becomes a buffet for a mob of undead.  Other times, when the wound is superficial, death can be prolonged over days or even weeks.  In these latter cases, the victim must be monitored closely for signs of emerging Necrotis Cannibilis.  Amputation of an affected limb has a very low success rate as a means of treatment, which decreases to zero if the surgery is undertaken more than a few minutes after the initial infection.  The toxins in a zombie’s bite will either kill the victim, who will then “revive” as one of the walking dead, or they will actively transform the victim into a zombie, bypassing the state of resting death completely.  It is a question of specific community policy and attitude whether you decide to expel those who have suffered a zombie bite, or choose to give them refuge – albeit at gunpoint – until such time as they become a hazard to the community.

3) WHAT ARE SOME DEFENSES AND PRECAUTIONS?  Zombies have 3 key weaknesses to exploit.  Firstly, most of them can be terminated by damage to the brain.  Secondly, the majority of undead are physically slow and undisciplined.  Thirdly, they have almost none of their previous “living” intelligence.  The first weakness can be exploited in a number of ways.  A well aimed bullet to the head will almost always cause sufficient damage to put a zombie down.  Bear in mind that bullets are a limited resource.  Pistols hold between 6 and 18 rounds between reloads depending on the model.  Shotguns and machineguns vary greatly in ammo capacity, but you will not be able to rattle off as many hundreds of rounds as your average Hollywood gunslinger.  Conserve your ammunition.  Fire when you have a clear shot and remember that anything other than a headshot will have little or no effect.

A zombie’s rotting flesh is more easily severed than a living human’s, and this makes attacking them with blades or clubs more effective than it might sound.  While it is always a last resort to engage in melee combat with zombies, a powerful enough slash to the neck will sever the central nervous system and sometimes produce the same result as destroying the brain tissue.  An added bonus to heavily damaging or removing the head of a zombie is that even if the creature survives the attack, it is now impotent.  If it cannot bite you, it cannot infect you (or eat you).  The second zombie weakness, of sluggish speed and uncoordinated behaviour, is best exploited by staying clear of confined areas.  The hordes which zombies often travel in can surround a building easily and make escape impossible.  Staying in relatively open territory, however, keeps a sprint to safety as a viable option.  This same zombie lack of coordination makes them notoriously poor climbers, so if you find yourself cut off and outnumbered, finding high ground may be your avenue to safety.  Your undead pursuers will not have the brains to predict where you plan to move after reaching high ground.  So choose carefully, then run, jump, and sprint like hell.  This segues into the third zombie weakness, that of diminished intelligence.  Zombies are creatures driven by instinct, with no consideration or planning entering their minds (though rare exceptions to this rule have been observed).  Like rats in a maze, however, they will slowly adapt to their surroundings if they sense the end result to be a dish of human brains.  Unlike bullets, your human intelligence is not a finite resource, and you should utilise it whenever you can.  Whether the issue is defending your position, evacuating the area, rescuing survivors, foraging supplies, exterminating zombies or any other post-apocalyptic agenda, fight the intelligent fight, and leave the zombies mooching in your wake.

Survivors should stay well clear of zombie-infested zones. Understand that they may eventually move elsewhere in search of food and owe no territorial or political allegiance. Consequently, infested zones may gradually become safe for travel or even occupation. During zombie infestation, however, the high population of the infected, combined with their unresponsiveness to human interraction, mean that survivors should not enter the zone without maximum urgency, and should then be well-armed.  If the zombies you are facing are of the slow-moving and sluggish variety, try to stick to high ground or upper levels of structures, since these zombies have great difficulty in climbing.  Be aware that your presence, if noticed, may itself be considered sufficient cause for the zombies to maintain a population in the area.  The undead do not ponder issues of equality and food distribution.  For them, one human is potential dinner for a thousand zombies.  Their “society” exists solely on a “first come, first served” basis.

[1] Dune, Frank Herbert (1965)

[2] 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle (2002); REC, Jaume Balagueró (2007); Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder (2004)