This first in a three part series makes the point that the "more potent solar storms ... have the potential to wreak long-lasting havoc on electric power supply and communications infrastructure around the globe," and that we would have at most a 12 hour notice. What can we do about it? As individuals, not very much. The effort needed to protect our infrastructure requires everyone to pitch in.
We had a freakish snowstorm here last week. Reminded me that the little decisions we make every day could lead to tragedy. Here are some every day things you can do to lessen the chances of that happening:
Keep your gas tank full
For some, a 1 hour drive home took 7 or more. You don't want to run out of gas when it's significantly below freezing, you're in the middle of a desert or a bad neighborhood.
Keep your cell phone charged
When the poop hits the fan, you're going to be making a lot of calls and frequent references to your GPS map. The latter, especially, drains power. Make sure you walk out the door fully charged. Also, it wouldn't hurt to bring along a chord to charge up if you get the chance.
Keep abreast of the weather
This has to be more than just listening to the updates on the eights. I mean, grok the weather. What are the experts predicting? How could the forecast vary? What is the worst case scenario? Act accordingly.
Keep abreast of the news
Related issues can have a significant impact. Does your jurisdiction have enough budget for plowing? Is there unrest that could escalate in an emergency?
If in doubt, stay home
Seriously, is what you're doing something for which you should risk your life?
This idiot's story is a case in point. Was going to work that day worth what he risked? I mean, c'mon, he made a dash across an interstate highway!
While this is a hypothetical scenario, it still scares the crap out of me. Floods always have since childhood. I grew up in hurricane country. This is a tough balancing act, though, because you don't want to be too far from a water source.
This is also another reason to ensure you understand your local climate. Your life may depend on what you know might be possible.
I'm on the edge of my seat watching this series. I've heard from others that they find it a bit slow, too much sitting around and talking. This ain't no Earth Abides. Decisions are made and action is taken. My jones for action is satisfied.
These two episodes clearly display an issue that is critical to surviving TEotWaWKI. No, I'm not talking about zombie fighting techniques or the best shelters to seek; rather, the composition of your group. Most teams formed up from whomever was available at the time. This led to a less than optimal cohesiveness for most and disaster for more than a few. One should never team up with someone they cannot stand for reasons that range from psychological to physical well-being.
Surviving TEotWaWKI is tough business. Why make it harder by forcing yourself to deal with assholes? This kind of stress will keep you up at night, sapping the energy you need to continue the struggle.
If you don't like them, they probably don't like you. This could cause you major problems at a crisis point, such as a food shortage. If you're the weaker party, you'll probably be kicked out, as I saw happen more than once during that first terrible winter. If you're the stronger party, they may strike pre-emptively, probably killing you.
You don't always have the luxury of choosing your team-mates. The exigencies of the moment may work against this. Or someone who seemed nice at first, grew to be a pain in the ass over time. You shouldn't just accept this as an unchangeable fact. You MUST do something. Here are your options (in descending order of desirability):
Insist that they change
This may seem naive, and it would be in certain circumstance, but if you act early and the differences are not fundamental, not only might you remove the pain in your butt, you may also strengthen the ties of your group. Many folks do not realize that their behavior irks others and will willingly change when it's pointed out.
Maybe YOU are the pain in the ass. At least consider that. Even if it's not true, circumstances may require that you suck it up. If you choose this path, it is imperative that you at least appear to have changed. Do not continue with your prior modus operandi or you risk the same outcome that inaction would have triggered. After a while, you may come to terms with the group or you may choose the next option.
Ideally, this option would be like an amicable divorce. You justly divide up your assets and then part ways. Before you do anything, though, consider how the group may react to your departure. It may not be welcome news, especially if you have a skill or possession that the group desperately needs. If you're in the minority, they may hold you against your will or take your stuff. If there's the slightest doubt, I would keep your departure a secret. Also, while it might be tempting to walk off with more than your share, remember that you may well run into these people again.
Kick them out
This is a tough option to pull off. It may result in a civil war or the outcasts could stalk you, waiting for a vulnerable moment to exact revenge. Even if you're the majority, I would approach this just like the previous option; that is, make it appear you're leaving rather than kicking them out. If feasible, leave them with a greater share of the group's assets as a salve to their wounds. It might be necessary to execute the separation in penny-packets, smaller sub-groups leaving separately with a plan to rendezvous elsewhere.
This is the least desirable option, but it shouldn't be ruled out. There are certain violent personality types that do not take well to rejection. If you cannot be sure of a clean break, you may have to take pre-emptive action. You will be crossing a line, though, so fully consider all of your options. You may find that the group, though fully supporting the measure beforehand, will break up when the reality of what you did hits home. Still, given that, there may be situations where this is the only option.
The group of survivors that The Walking Dead is following, not surprisingly, have several cases that highlight the dangers of sub-optimal group relations (spoiler alert):
The abusive husband Ed should not continue as a member of the group. Asking him to change will not likely work and kicking him out may result in the wife leaving with him. Perhaps the man should meet with a hunting accident. No one else needs to know. The fact that Zed took him out was opportune.
Daryl Dixon is an angry, well armed man with good reason to be pissed. T-Dog's action most likely did result in his brother's death. Can you trust that Daryl will be reconciled? Or will he just bide his time. I'm not willing to risk it. Though Daryl is outnumbered by those who clearly don't like him, kicking him out won't be so easy. Killing them would be risky, too, as he appears to be hyper-vigilent. Ditching the man might be your only option.
If I was Shane, I'd probably leave. Your lover doesn't want you around any more and her husband may well learn the truth. I wouldn't want that nagging at me day and night, but then I'd've never lied to her about her husband's death.
Like I said, the fact that there are so many dysfunctionalities should not be a surprise. It's a rare group that had none, and even in those cases, over time, things evolve from better to worse and then back again. Nothing remains the same. Just be aware of what's going on and act when necessary.
It's been more than a decade since the initial zombie outbreak, but only now are we beginning to see it portrayed in drama. The new TV series on AMC, The Walking Dead, is the first serious portrayal of the period just after SHTF. I've only seen two episodes, but beyond a few nitpicks and similarities with other TEotWaWKI stories, I'm hooked.
The focus is on survivors in the Atlanta area starting a week or two after the outbreak reached a crisis. Those poor bastards down south had it much harder than even up here in Virginia. They had no appreciable winter to slow the ghouls down, so they never got a break. Even today, the Florida peninsula, surrounded as it is by water, is still pretty much a wasteland.
The main character, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), is a cop who was severely wounded before the outbreak and in a coma during it, only to regain consciousness in an eerily empty hospital, scattered with corpses. This is reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand and 28 Days Later. He's trying to figure out what the hell happened while still staying alive. I'm surprised he's lasted this long, given his proclivity to fire off all of his ammo at anything which stumbles. He's lucky, though, to encounter folks willing to help out.
His motivation is to find his family. This drive is a common theme to most stories that cover this period. It, too, was my spur as I was in Manhattan when hell brook loose and had to make my way back to Northern Virginia. Alas, I have yet to learn what happened to my family. In this case, Mr. Grimes makes it back to his house, but his family is missing. We learn separately that they are alive, but there should be some interesting fireworks should they reunite.
The nits I have are how the undead are portrayed. For the most part, it is in line with reality: dumb, slowly stumbling and killed with a headshot. Occasionally, though, we encounter some outliers. Some use tools like the one with a rock used to break through a glass window. Others are agile and rather speedy, being able to climb a fence. These are rare, though, so not enough to kill my disbelief.
It's unclear whether or not this is related to Solanum; however, at the moment, we are not in danger. This fungus, while 100% fatal once it has infested an organism, does not appear to cause its victim to get violent. Also, for the moment, it does not affect humans.
Stephen King is the go to guy when you want a great TEotWaWKI story. I have reviewed The Mist and I need to so for The Stand, which I haven't read that since pre-SHTF days. That is the granddaddy of all end-of-the-world stories. I figured his novel Cell wouldn't disappoint.
I was wrong. I don't want to say this book is bad. I really respect Mr. King. This is also his first book after his horrific car accident. It is still infinitely better than anything I could write. Let's just say that it's not his best book, but it has it's moments.
The opening grabs you right away. You barely have time to absorb the ordinary world before he brings it crashing down via cells phones that corrupt callers' brains, driving them into homicidal rages. This is Stephen King at his best:
Pass the test of immediate survival, but just barely.
Assemble a small group and seek shelter.
Figure out what the fuck to do now.
I'm lapping this up as it's classic TEotWaWKI story-telling, but then we hit some speed bumps. The writing's not that good. It feels rushed, lacking an editor's touch. I may be unusual in this way, but these kind of mistakes begin to affect my ability to suspend disbelief. Some of the story flaws begin to nibble at me:
Driving is a task that can rarely be accomplished because the roads are all clogged. I'm not buying this. Sure, there will be clots of vehicles, and you may have to drive off to the side, but I cannot imagine it would severely restrict you to the level represented in the book. At least that wasn't my personal experience during the outbreak.
The "zombies" behaved weirdly. I can't go into detail on this since it would involve serious spoilers, but this ultimately killed it for me.
I'm not saying there aren't worthwhile lessons. He was correct to point out that obtaining one or more fire arms is a top priority. Also, group cohesion is extremely important. There are times when you'll need to subordinate your desires for the good of the group. Truly, though, you're better off reading some of his other works. My apologies, Mr. King.
The facts are not all in, yet, so let's withhold judgement. Let me just say that, a decade after the end of the Zombie Wars, more people are killed when mistaken as undead than at the hands of actual zombies. Listen, folks, you don't have to kill the thing right away. Unless someone is in immediate danger of a bite, evacuate, isolate and call the authorities.
Is "Night of the Living Dead" a simple zombie film or a subtle antiwar statement? Precisely when did viral pandemic supplant nuclear radiation as the lead cause of zombification? And which sort of animated dead has the greater potential to frighten: shambler or sprinter?
When most people think of the end of the world, images of the recent zombie wars flood the mind. Understandably so since we lost nearly 90% of the world's population. What people seem to forget, though, is that TEotWaWKI is a regular, albeit infrequent occurrence, from world-wide cataclysms to local events. The American Plague is a good example of the latter end of this spectrum as it delves into the Yellow Fever epidemic that swept through Memphis in 1878.
Consider the following from page 64*:
A number of nurses, doctors, ministers or nuns later wrote of the fear that accompanied them the first time they entered an infected home. They had nursed hundreds from the halls of sick wards, but it was something else all together to climb the steps of a porch and open a door with a yellow card swinging from a nail. The first thing to strike was the smell. It floated in the streets, a scent like rotting hay. The smell grew stronger and overpowering once the front door was opened, where it mingled with the soiled sheets, sweat and vomit. Inside, one never knew what to expect. Moans, cries, delirious screams, or worse, no sound at all. There was darkness, as windows were boarded shut, and there was the stagnant heat of imprisoned air. Then, as their eyes focused, they saw the bodies. At first, it was hard to tell which ones were living and where were not. If deceased, one could never know how long they had been that way or in what condition they would be.
Sound familiar? It gave me the chills. (Is that a headache I feel?) The similarities don't end there:
Effective quarantine procedures had been in place, but they were rescinded several years before because it would, as the author wrote on page 48, "create panic, stifling river traffic and delaying cotton shipments." Money always wins out over safety.
There were gangs roving through the city, robbing the homes of the defenseless infected.
Many did not die as a direct result of the disease, but rather of other causes exacerbated by the outbreak such as starvation and dehydration.
This happened before the dead rose and it will happen again. Be prepared!
* This and other quotes are from the September 2007 Berkley trade paperback edition of the book which is available from Amazon.com.