“ZOM-BIE: (Zom’be) n. also ZOM-BIES pl. 1. An animated corpse that feeds on living human flesh. 2. A voodoo spell that raises the dead. 3. A voodoo snake god. 4. One who moves or acts in a daze ‘like a zombie’
—The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. This essential text provided some information used in this article.
Let this tale begin as might any other told about heroes and villains.
It was roughly one year ago that I banged frantically at the letters of a dusty keyboard, the dawn’s sun my lone source of illumination, filing a story for this very newspaper, most horrific and startling, one of gore and general violence, of fear, repugnance and impending doom. An attack most unusual and unexpected had befallen the city of Louisville, one so brutal and heinous that most public officials still refuse to acknowledge its occurrence.
Let me assure you, dear reader, it happened, just as it will again very soon.
They came in droves, flesh-hungry packs of heathens and swine, with lobotomy eyes and sallow skin, some already ripped and mauled by what could only have been creatures the size of men. They made low animal noises. Their collective din was to the ears what being stabbed with a wooden spoon is to the chest: A dull, repetitious hurt that wears on the psyche and tests one’s threshold of physical pain, yet which is still too weak to afford the relief of a fatal blow.
Zombies — there must have been 80 of them, dear reader, if not handfuls more — roamed the streets in a parade of the undead, gnawing at the flesh of my fellow humans at every turn, around each street corner. The attack was savage and cost the human race many lives, much as I had thought it cost me my own.
Alas, I was not, as I previously believed and wrote one year ago in these pages, infected with Solanum, the blood virus carried by these fiends, the calling card to the world of undead. The bite I sustained to the neck was soft and drew little blood, and I reacted to it with an uncharacteristic swiftness: I retrieved from my nearby kitbag a device, often used in the event of snake bite, which extracts immediately poisoned blood from the body through the initial wound, using a system something like a plunger with an accordion attached. Despite the precaution, I was certain death was nigh. As I waited anxiously and clunked at my computer, wondering if the device had worked, I grew despondent. My tone became one of sorrow. I tried to relate to the incident, and to the presence of zombies in my fair city, but couldn’t make sense of it. Despair became my confidant.
Surprised as I was to realize that I was, in fact, still alive and in human form some 48, then 72 and then 144 hours after the somnambulistic John King laid teeth to my neck meat, I rejoiced only briefly. Rather, I prepared, for I soon learned that this city is a target once again, and experience requires our sustained vigilance. The zombie force, my sources have advised, is thought to have more than doubled since that awful dusk of 2005.
I fear I will not endure this year’s attack, if only because I have gained — through extensive research and by reading interviews with the world’s foremost scholars on the undead — annals of pertinent information. And I consider it my duty to disseminate it among you so that you may avoid the terrible fate that awaits you if lacerated by these infernal creatures. My premonition is that I will ultimately succumb doing battle for the fate of my city and its inhabitants. But read me right: I will take up arms for the sake of my own progeny as much as yours, for a city — nay, a world — governed by fiends and sycophants is but a colony of lepers; true leaders are crowned by those they represent.
As such, I am contributing to the permanent record of the city of Louisville the following, an abbreviated collection of general and specific information regarding the behavior of zombies, their battle styles, recommendations for self-defense, and key identifications that may make it easier not only for you, dear reader, but for the protectors of our fair city, to know how to properly confront a zombie.
My day job as a journalist has afforded me unique opportunities to speak with at least three people who I now know to be zombies: John King, Lyndi Curtis and Mike Welch. Beware these three, for my notes tell me that even before they were infected, they harbored hopes of one day becoming undead.
From my last interview with King: “I’m in love with the idea of not dying alone, the idea that we’re all in it together.” It is unclear among scholars just what motivates zombies to dine on human flesh and procreate by spreading their hideous disease (some argue the concept of the disease), but it appears to me that King is after it here. A shared “pack mentality” may provide zombies the strength common among humans on sports teams, for instance. The idea of shared purpose has long motivated humans, and zombies — though they possess no brain function beyond that of a common insect — may apportion this inherently.
In fact, Curtis waxed somewhat romantically on a tangent of this very notion: “They’re the most basic form of humanity. They’re running on instincts.”
Welch went so far as to characterize, of course from a then-human perspective — one nonetheless fantasizing about the undead world — the very condition. “The basis of a zombie attack, all across the board, is animalism.” The idea fascinates him, he said.
This trio is perhaps Louisville’s most established representation of the undead. If they try to bite you or seem to possess the infamous thousand-yard stare, run.
The two basic concepts central to avoiding the plague of the zombies are these: Common sense and a willingness to listen. Be aware of your surroundings. Build a protective barrier around your house. If you can, build your house on stilts. Lock the windows and doors, and barricade them from the inside. Stay away from outer walls, and if you can’t elevate your abode, stay in your basement. Do not turn on the lights or in any way draw attention to your house.
Zombies, while completely dumb, have an instinctual ability to seek out living things and gnaw their flesh. Be prepared to sacrifice your dogs, cats and other domesticated beasts to the ogres as a measure of self-preservation. Stock food, tend your gardens and ration water supplies. It is important to note that a zombie is not likely to “hunt” you; therefore, preparation to remain concealed for what could be a long period of time is essential. A zombie will saunter and lumber around like the sensually-dead being it is, and it is unlikely to give ample chase. But this is no excuse for laziness or stupidity.
Consider, again, the pack mentality: In all likelihood you will encounter more zombies if you see one. Running, while good in the short term, is not an adequate defense.
The only way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain. This should be achieved by whatever means necessary.* A firearm is always a fairly reliable way to kill a zombie, although that depends on how good a shot you are and how many bullets you have at the ready. Axes and a variety of steel tools will also do the job, though it is incumbent upon each of you to be able to properly wield such weaponry in the event of a large-scale zombie attack, such as the one imminent.
Likewise, do not — unless absolutely necessary — engage a zombie in hand-to-hand combat. You will most likely lose, as a zombie will not react to anything but a severe blow to the brain. It is important to remember, however, that although zombies retain the strength and size of their former human selves, they have no blood circulation; therefore, muscles become fatigued quickly. In addition, zombies are as uncoordinated as small children or selected elderly; an agile human will likely be able to confront a single one — perhaps more, depending on your vigor — successfully.
On the eve of our parting
There is little more I can do but wait. As their ghastly drone already hums in my eardrums, a nearby and painful memory, I recall an admonitory incident from this time last year, shortly before I was bitten. A man — a human — tried to attack John King with his bare hands. Perhaps he’d forgotten the first rule of battling zombies, which is to never, ever go it alone. He swung furiously and made contact once or twice, never a direct blow to the brain. As the man’s companion tried to join the melee, the zombies swarmed, carrying the pair to their ultimate demise on the street, in public, for all who cared to see. The panic became palpable as humans fled the scene in packs of two and three, running to get away, fast as they could, from the Louisville Zombie Attack.
I wish you luck, dear reader, for you will need it. We all do.
*LEO does not advocate bludgeoning, shooting or otherwise beating actual people, only bona fide zombies.