Around our kitchen table we pride ourselves on discussing topics that, until recently, we assumed were fairly normal chit-chat. From the much debated: “If you had to eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” or “If you were turned into a dog, but kept your human mind, would you lick your own junk?” and then on to the more weird: “Would you rather be made out of chocolate or pizza dough?” And the popular: “If you had to, could you kill a chicken?”
And then we come to the ever popular subject of zombies, which crops up frequently as we tuck into our evening meal. I savour those moments, dear blog reader, like I would a fine glass of yummy strawberry milkshake on a hot day.
Zombie discussions mainly arise due to the genre of my novel, The Range, a post-apocalyptic story about survival, courage, friendship and trust. The actual apocalyptic subject is more a backdrop for the story rather than the story itself.
Our debates go from general What-If questions to in-depth plans for surviving a zombie outbreak. No area is off-limits and we’ll be quite happily munching through a roast dinner when someone will say: “When the zombies come and we run out of food, rather than face starvation I’d probably eat one of you.”
Bang. Right out of nowhere!
Somewhere in the middle of our idle dinner time chat, such as whether KFC are breeding a race of super chickens without heads and food tubes jammed down their gullets, and if coastal erosion is as serious as they say, how long will it be before the British Isles is nothing more than a single column of rock in the ocean…the strange zombie discussion rears its head.
What do humans taste like? Which part of me would you eat first? Would you lob chunks of me at the zombie horde outside to distract them in order to make a quick getaway? Do you think my thighs would taste like steak? If so then would my feet be more like that of a spit roasted squirrel? If I turned into a zombie how long would it take you to bash my brains in?
One big topic is defence against the flesh-eating scum that we assume will eventually come knocking on our front door. We discuss how we would barricade ourselves into the house, forage for supplies, who to let in (assuming they’re not dead) and how our survival would pan out.
Not long ago we found out that conversation around our friends’ kitchen tables tend to be quite bland. Their topics cover stuff like the weather, the Kardashians, Henrietta The Receptionist’s birthday do next week, what time dad will be teeing off on Sunday and whether we need to book a vet appointment because poor little Benjy has been chewing his arse hole a lot lately and may have worms.
The Sudden Zombie Question.
Questions and ideas about the inevitable zombie uprising can come at any time. Take today for example. We’re driving in to town, it’s sunny and surprisingly mild. I drive past a Little Chef restaurant and notice for the first time that it would make a decent zombie shelter. My comment leads to a funny and thought-provoking conversation – where is our nearest Zombie Shelter?
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like zombies. What’s important in this theoretical debate is finding out where your closest and best safe house is. Whether that would be in case of sudden war, plague, natural disaster or indeed a zombie apocalypse.
In the UK houses are built for comfort. They’re made mostly from solid stuff like bricks, concrete and double glazed windows. But are they suitable as a zombie stronghold? Would you be happy with your reinforcements to windows and doors, or do you suspect those nasty little prying fingers would find a way to get inside and chew off your foot as you slept?
Our house doesn’t have huge windows so I reckon it wouldn’t be too hard to make them secure, board them up or put bars on the outside. We could knock down the first flight of stairs in case the undead come piling inside. Zombies can’t climb so we’d be pretty secure up there. But the kitchen is on the ground floor. How would we cook our food? Would we have time to bring all our supplies upstairs? And given that it isn’t a massive house, would occupying the same smallish space send us all crazy at some point?
Think about a four bedroom house with a standard family, let’s say 2 adults and 2 kids. The amount of time all 4 people are in the same room together for a long period of time is rare – meal times, TV times, maybe a game of cards. We increasingly spend more and more time apart for many reasons. Imagine having to share half your floor space, or less, with the rest of your family for an indefinite amount of time.
And what if someone comes seeking refuge? A friend or neighbour perhaps. Do you have enough space or food? When conversation runs dry do you really want to listen to Mrs Holloway from next door talking about her irritable bowl syndrome?
Maybe the home isn’t such a good place to hole up. Not unless you want to wake up with a zombie chewing on your face whilst Mr and Mrs Holloway watch with hungry smiles on their faces and a napkin at the ready.
So where do you look for a suitable zombie fortress?
Years ago this chain of road side restaurants were sad refuges for the hungry dispassionate UK driver. The breaded garlic mushrooms came with a tiny cup of greasy mayo, and the room temperature English breakfast was just below par but bearable enough to force down and keep down. Now however, Little Chef sells reconstituted rubber blended with cardboard, served by staff who have less intelligence than a boiled potato, the humour of a dead seagull and the wits of a two-week old sandwich.
But none of that matters. What’s important is how easily these Choke & Puke-o-ramas can be transformed into a fortress against the undead masses.
I figure that most towns, villages, hamlets, nooks and crannies in the world have some sort of diner or cafe within a short distance. Aside from the actual mechanics of fortification, which I’ll get to in a moment, your only problem is knowing when to set out from your home and how to get there.
Knowing when to head for your chosen zombie hideout.
It’s a tricky question we’ve all asked ourselves at least once. Do I stay put for a little while longer? How soon is too soon? And how late is too late? It’s all about timing. Your best bet is to keep an eye on the TV. When normal scheduled programming is repeatedly interrupted by wild-eyed anchors who bang on about the undead, that’s the ideal time to make your escape.
By that time you should have already had some warning about the impending doom of the corpse uprising. This could be anywhere between a few days and several months, depending on the severity of the outbreak and how much your government struggles to stem the tide of chaos, and thus avoid needlessly worrying the public. You know, because we’re dumb panicky animals who can’t handle news more terrifying than “Cat stuck in a tree.”
When you start seeing too many video clips of the undead masses swamping cities and eating people, take a look out of your window. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your neighbour washing his car?
- Is the post man whistling merrily as he goes about his deliveries?
- Are there school kids skipping home after a hard days play?
- Is the traffic flowing at a steady pace?
If you answer YES then stay put a while longer. If you up sticks and cram your family into the car, speed to your nearest identified zombie shelter, screaming that the zombies are coming…well, someone is likely to call the rozzers and get you locked up in a nice padded cell. Stay put. Stay vigilant. Keep one eye on your TV set, one eye on your window and another eye on your neighbour. Neighbours are weird.
Some time later if you are able to answer the first set of questions with a NO then it’s time to ask yourself a second set of questions:
- Is your neighbour washing his car with the bloody remains of the post man’s face?
- Are the school kids rampaging down the street with red hands, and not from potato painting?
- Is the traffic screaming by your house?
- Can you see smoke rising in the distance?
- Are there way too many sirens?
- Has the internet/phones/TV stopped working?
Answer YES to these and it’s time to get everyone packed into the car. Don’t be polite: “Oh, I fancy a nice drive out in the country. Come on everyone. Maybe we’ll stop at a nice place to eat.”
Don’t be that person. Now is not the time to be all English about it.
“Get the f**k out of the f**king house and into the f**king car! Screw the f**king Goldfish! Don’t you f**king dare look at Mr Holloway! Move! MOVE!”
That’s more like it.
You can take supplies with you, just don’t get drawn into a shouting match over whether you should leave Plop the Goldfish behind. By all means take your dog/cat/rabbit/child/goat/pot-bellied pig with you. When the food runs out pets can bridge the gap between the last tin of peach’s and your first taste of cannibalism.
Or in my case: The Little Chef Zombie Shelter.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure it’s free of zombies. You don’t want to finish your barricades only to find out the staff are in the kitchen chewing on your family. If there are customers or members of the public in your shelter you should inform then you are the Big Cheese and if they don’t like they can GTFO (Get The F**k Out).
Next step is getting to work on your barricades. The Little Chef has a fair number of windows but they’re quite narrow so you shouldn’t have much problem boarding them up. This assumes that you had the forethought to bring along a hammer, cordless drill and other tools to do the job. If you’ve left them behind or simply never considered you’d need these essentials, well…I’m sure your significant other will make you feel pretty foolish!
There could be enough time to make a run for a hardware store before the flesh-eating bastards show up. You’ll have to pray that whilst the rest of the population are busy running, screaming and getting et, very few will be browsing hardware stores for things like nails, batteries and other survival equipment.
First of all it needs to be like a modern-day castle. Zombie are pretty dumb and don’t have the dexterity needed to prise boards open and fiddle with locks. So long as they don’t pile on top of each other, thus creating a handy slope of bodies to the accessible upper windows or rooftop, you should be fine. Ensure you have access to the roof in case a helicopter comes in to evacuate your group to a “safe zone.”
Know your way out.
You need to establish an escape route and plan. Gather everyone together and explain how, should the time come, you will escape, which direction you’ll head in and where you’ll meet up. It’s best not to discuss who you plan to leave behind as a distraction as this may cause some resentment amongst the group. But keep an eye on the old lady in the corner who smells of cabbage and mutters to herself. She’s the key to leaving the zombies a handy snack while you sneak out the back door.
Lookouts are important.
In the case of my nearby Little Chef there’s a sort of lookout window in the roof that should serve as a good watch post. Make sure everyone takes a turn keeping guard, even little Timmy. Give him a few colouring books and let him draw what he sees. It’ll be mostly zombies. A few screaming survivors too, but they won’t last long when faced with the mass of undead gathered all around your fortress. It’s not cruelty, little Timmy now lives in a very different world and sheltering him from mean or scary things won’t do him any favours.
Food & Water.
The reason I added the Little Chef to my list of potential Zombie Shelters is because it has food. A lot of it will go off when the power shuts down, but it beats sheltering in a supermarket where the walls are made of windows. For zombies this will be like browsing the meat section or being at one of those posh restaurants where you pick a lobster from the tank so the chef can murder it for you.
When or if it rains make sure you collect as much water as possible. If there’s a fridge or vending machine you should empty the contents and stash the cans of pop somewhere secret. This way when moral is low you can hand out some sugary goodness to lift spirits.
Let The Right One In.
At some point other survivors will show up and you must choose how many to let in and more importantly WHO to let in. Always remember that the world has changed and you can’t save everyone. You have to maintain a balance between people and food. Of course the fact that your food supply will eventually run out is something you will have to face, but there’s no point letting idiots into your fortress.
You’re looking for the right stuff. Check this list for people to let in:
- Cop/Military trained people. For fighting, tactics, head smashing etc.
- Engineers. If it wasn’t for engineers the wheel would never have been invented. You need them.
- Farmers. When it’s time to retake the local area you’ll need someone who knows about plants and stuff.
- A Couple of Old People. You will need these so the young ones have something to look forward to and not make foolish mistakes like getting et.
- Your Best Bud. For when you’ve had a fight with your significant other, they’ll be there to wipe away those post apocalyptic tears.
- A Cook. Sure you can whip up cold bakes beans and crackers but a chef will know how to make them taste like gourmet chow.
People you probably shouldn’t let in.
- Teachers. They had their chance, now all you need to know is how to kill zombies and stay alive.
- Lawyers. Zombies don’t settle or negotiate.
- Goths. The end of the world has come and gone. You don’t need any more negativity.
- Business folk. Zombies don’t buy stuff.
- Prisoners, convicts etc. The war is out there, you don’t need to be watching your back on the inside too.
As for the rest…
There’s a lot more to surviving a zombie apocalypse than making a fortress and cracking some undead skulls, but as long as you start the end of the world with the right stuff, maybe, just maybe you won’t get et. So spare a moment to look around your neighbourhood for that important Zombie Shelter. Try not to make it too obvious that you’re seriously considering life beyond the undead uprising or you might find people start avoiding you. Or following you if they too believe the end is coming. The last thing you want when the world goes down the drain is a bunch of brainless idiots asking you questions when you’re trying to flee the area of brain-dead idiots.
Finally, I invite you to share your thoughts on possible Zombie Shelters.