Brown River Queen cover art

Friday, March 2, 2012

Frank's Handy Survival Guide for Tuesdays, Civil Unrest, or Zombies

Have you stuck your head out the door lately?

If so, you may have noticed a few things. Economic catastrophe. Political turmoil. Weather right out of a 'Mad Max' movie trailer. And that's just the scene in my guest bathroom. I hear it's actually worse outside.

We can no longer pretend that the whole leaning tower of Tinkertoys that is Western civilization  is going to avoid collapse much longer. Various people have numerous theories on precisely what will spark the final conflagration -- some say it will come in the form of a global depression, some say conflict in the Middle East will touch off  World War Three, some say aliens will arrive with an appetite for man-flesh and our sweet, sweet bone marrow.


I'm going with zombies. That's right, I say preparations are best made against a full-blown zombie apocalypse. The recent zombie movie and TV craze is actually a sign of an ancient racial memory stirring slowly awake, preparing us, in fact, for what is to come.

Face it, all that clear plastic sheeting and duct tape you bought after 9/11 isn't going to do you much good when the zombie horde shuffles to your door. The police? The military? Your Neighborhood Watch?

Do you even watch the movies? The police and the army are the first ones to go, and the few who do survive do so by using you, Joe Citizen, as cannon fodder. No, gentle reader, you are very much on your own -- and that's where I come in.

Stick with me, and together we will emerge from the smoking wasteland as victorious warriors. Well, maybe you will emerge as a victorious warrior. I'm more a skulking stay-behind-cover type. Which is why I'm alive and you were just bitten by a festering, green-skinned librarian.

That was your first mistake, being seen.  Learn from it.

Here are more tips:

GUNS: When you hear the howl of an undead mob for the first time, you'll probably think to yourself 'I wish I had a really big gun.'  But if you look closely at the shambling horde, you'll see that quite a few of them had guns, big ones even, and despite that they're now jonesing for some delicious fresh spleen.  Guns, my friend, aren't the answer, because here is the question -- "How can I shoot a thousand zombies in the head before they surround and overtake me?"

See? The answer isn't "Gun." The answer is this -- run like the devil at first sight of them.

In fact, I find this is a perfectly valid survival strategy right now. I saw my banker at lunch, and when he saw me, I had two choices -- barricade myself inside an abandoned farmhouse, or run, run away, as fast as I could.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have run into traffic, but I'm here, and the cast doesn't itch that much.

So remember, he who turns and runs away lives to run another day. He who stops to fire his gun will give the zombies bloody fun. It's a nursery rhyme for the post-necrotic wasteland!

FRIENDS: Do any of your friends live inside heavily-fortified compounds filled with military-grade weapons and trained soldiers?

I didn't think so.  Here's another question -- how many of your friends could you call, right now, knowing they'd drop whatever they were doing to help you administer an emergency enema to a rodeo bull?

Yeah. Okay. So, Hallmark cards aside, your friends are neither A) the 82nd Airborne nor B) Chuck Norris. So don't waste a lot of time sitting around expecting them to come and rescue you, because odds are they'll show up all right, shambling and drooling with the rest. So be prepared to be alone, just as you were in high school. You can always fill your bunker with store mannequins later, which will pass for chic after the fall of civilization anyway.

If you do join forces with other survivors, do so only based on how handy they are with a machete and how quickly they can pick a lock or hot-wire an Impala.  In fact, you should start collecting such associations right now, because Craigslist and Match Dot Com will be among the first websites to vanish, leaving you with little opportunity to quickly make new friends.  I'd suggest hanging out in biker bars as a good start. Protip: Never play Cindy Lauper songs on the jukebox. Bikers will cut you for that.

LEATHER PANTS: I know, I know, half the people in post-apocalypse movies run around in black leather. Take it from me, though, tight black leather pants are NOT the garment of choice for running and scavenging in the New Wastes. Cotton or denim is the way to go, because it breathes, and that's not only important but vital when baths are as far apart as Leap Years. Sure, the world may have ended, but nobody, not even the zombies, need the kind of funk constantly-worn leather britches exude.

SHELTER: First, do not attempt to establish a base in the mall. Mainly because it's cliche, and who wants to have their Cause of Death listed in the Akashic Records as 'Death by Cliche?' But also because it's stupid.

All that glass? All those doors? A nice big parking lot for the zombies to gather?

Ditto for hospitals and big-box bulk sales stores.

Instead, look for a pawn shop. See how the glass is armored? See how the doors are reinforced? If you're lucky, you'll find a place with roll-down steel shutters and iron bars on the doors.  If you're unlucky, the owner and his pals are already in there, and they just opened fire on you, because they didn't read my bit about guns.

Find one that's empty, though, have your ex-con pal (who is probably named Little Jimmy or Poptart or something equally humorous) pick the lock. Once inside, wait out the worst of the zombie uprising while working on your golf swing. Because that is the ultimate anti-zombie weapon -- a good solid driver with a big titanium head. Quiet, efficient, and it never needs reloading. And there isn't a pawn shop anywhere in the Universe without a set of clubs on display somewhere. You can find a battered set of mis-matched golf clubs in pawn shops on worlds that don't have golf, bipeds, air, or grass. And even then, the set is always overpriced.  It is one of the Great Mysteries of creation.

TRANSPORTATION: Your first instinct will probably be to snatch up that huge black Hummer just sitting there empty at the corner.

Don't do it, because if you do some other guy is going to find the Hummer sitting there empty where you left it as the zombies dragged you out of it.  It's bigger than a Prius, sure -- but when you may need to run down an entire gated community at once, you need one thing, and that is mass.

Instead, find yourself a garbage truck. Oh, wait, you're being picky?  You don't like the smell, Princess? Well then find a nice lime-green two-seater Fiat and have fun being party snacks.

Because a garbage truck has what you need, and has it in spades. Mass. Huge thick tires. Lots and lots of torque. A diesel engine. And even a good safe place to store supplies and even ferry your nefarious band of miscreants around, as long as you keep your hands off the COMPACT NOW lever.

Okay, since this is the apocalypse, go ahead and paint the thing up with teeth and flames and devil eyes.

Oh, and a garbage truck in full sail is one of the few things that will make the biker gangs think twice about relieving you of your supplies. In the eternal battle of Harley versus Garbage Truck, the latter always wins.

I drive a garbage truck now, just to be prepared.  Parallel parking is a chore, sure, but there's nothing quite like having a pair of dumpster-grabbing arms on the front of your enormous monster truck. Did you know a Prius weighs about the same as a fully-loaded dumpster? Neither did I, or that jerk who cut me off.

So let's recap for a moment. You aren't counting on guns to save you, you're wearing nice breathable cotton, you're living in a pawn shop, driving a garbage truck, and carrying a club. All your friends are short-tempered felons. If you think about it, it's just like living in Detroit, only without all the violent crime.

You're well on your way to living what's left of the American Dream. The only limits to your ambition are your pluck, your moxie, and of course the endless sea of shuffling corpses bent on stripping every last morsel of flesh from your still-twitching bones.  Which isn't drastically different from working in the hotel or entertainment industries, so buck up, little camper, and let's turn this smoldering wasteland into a land of opportunity!

Just keep that nine-iron handy, and your garbage truck, which you refer to as 'The Beast,' fueled and ready. Especially if you have to flee through Detroit. Man, even zombies avoid that place...


  1. Thanks Frank, this will come in handy since tomorrow is Tuesday! I know you posted this a while ago but I just read it so now I'm checking my Google maps for pawn shops...

  2. Make sure the pawn shop you select has a snack machine inside. Food is scarce during the Zombie Apocalypse, and those snickers bars will be worth their weight in gold!