Despite zombies permeating every outlet of our popular culture, we still can’t seem to get enough of them- light gun Resident Evil clone, House of the Dead, can still be found in arcades; Max Brooks’ vignette structured apocalypse tale, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, sold well over a million copies and the 2013 film adaptaion grossed $540 million at the box office; ‘Zombies’ mode has become a staple of the Call of Duty games and titles such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead has received critical acclaim.
However, would a zombie apocalypse be end the of the world? Read on to hear both sides of the argument. In terms of lore, I shall be referring to Max Brooks’ work:
Human victory (Unsuccessful apocalypse)
- Transmission of the zombie condition is slow and ineffective: The virus that causes the creation of zombies is transmitted through contact with infected fluids. The most common way this happens is through bites. However, for a zombie to infect someone in this manner (or any manner), they must be within physical contact range. Furthermore, this means that a zombie can only infect one person at time (the exception being if a zombie explodes and covers a larger area in fluids). These limitations make it easy for a human resistance.
- It is possible to just wait the apocalypse out: If you are sensible and well stocked with supplies, you can most likely wait out the zombie apocolypse. A zombie has no higher level cognitive functions and is only as good as the body it has. If a zombie gets caught in a barbed wire fence, it will remain stuck in the barbed wire fence until an external force frees it because it has no perception of its predicament. Similarly, if you tear a muscle, your muscle will heal over time but in the case of a zombie, a torn muscle will remain a torn muscle. Furthermore, remain that these things are essentially walking corpses- they will slow degrade until nothing remains, making the option to simply wait it out very plausible.
- There’s only one way to kill a zombie: The method to killing a zombie is almost universally known- you have to destroy the brain. This means that, in a confrontation or combat situation, you are able to target zombies effectively. In addition, we don’t live within a fictional universe- we have all been exposed to zombie media so we know the do’s and don’ts of an apocalypse and this means we know how to kill a zombie.
- There are no special zombies: Unlike popular video games such as Left 4 Dead, this zombie apocalypse contains only hordes of the undead, no gaseous zombies that explode or toxic zombies that spit acid. All you need to worry about is eliminating undead humans. Special infected are included in a game to spice up a game’s pacing and continuity but, luckily for us, this would not be the case in a real world apocalypse.
Zombie victory (Oh, the humanity)
- Zombies have no limitations: The human body is a powerful thing. However, we are limited by things such as pain and exhaustion. This does not apply to zombies. A zombie will exert more force in a bite than a regular human because nothing is telling them to restrain themselves; a zombie cannot tire and will track you for as long as you appear prey to them; a zombie will not be deterred by threats, be it physical, verbal or environmental; a zombie does not feel and will not be swayed by any emotional stimuli. A zombie is a human bereft of its humanity and this could prove to be our downfall.
- We are human: There are many traits unique to humans that could allow the zombies to win in a hypothetical apocalypse. Much like the attitude in World War I that the war would be over in a few months, people who are not convinced that the zombie apocalypse is a long term thing are likely to become zombie fodder- journalists seeking out a career-making account of the event, looters and get rich quick schemers looking to come out on top, even people looking to settle scores in the temporary chaos of a global apocalypse. More fuel for the zombie fire comes from nostalgia, sentiment and compassion- not killing zombified children and trying to ‘cure’ friends and family will only end in disaster.
- There is only one way to kill a zombie: While being able to dispatch a zombie in one go is great, this does mean that you have to be accurate 100% of the time. One miss or one hit that isn’t a kill shot could mean the end for you. This is a disadvantage for most people as a majority of the population are not skilled in the use of weaponry. In addition to that, most people will not have access to proper weapons and will be fending off the undead with whatever comes to hand.
- Psychological effects: Fear will be a killer amongst survivors- the undead is not something that can be taken lightly. While a killing strike or shot is hard enough to pull off at the best of times, when a zombie is three feet away, eager to rip you apart, fear will play a big part in cutting your survival short. Furthermore, even if you are safely barricaded in your shelter, the psychological effect of the near constant moaning of the zombies outside is nearly unimaginable. ‘Sound torture’ is a tried and tested practise, dating back to the ‘death whistle’ used by Aztec forces when besieging a location and more recently by the FBI at the Wace siege in 1993 and even in at Guantanamo Bay. The near constant sound causes sleep deprivation and disrupts daily activity, breaking the will of the target. The constant moans of the undead outside your (most likely) non-soundproofed shelter will have a similar effect on your will and health.
So there we have it, a few arguments why a zombie apocolypse would and wouldn’t be successful. Thank you for reading and, if the zombies do attack, good luck.