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Survival Techniques for The Walking Dead

on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 00:00

Supernatural and mystical beings have seen a resurgence since the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Vampires, for instance, have been a part of civilization’s traditional cultural yore for centuries before Bram Stoker wrote the classic Dracula, but it took Anne Rice in the 1970s to transform these creatures of the night from stories told around campfires into the popular culture phenomenon of modern times. The same can also be said about zombies. Originally a myth from Haitian religion, the zombie was reinvented by George Romero in the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead. Gone was the voodoo-infused animated corpse under the control of a sorcerer, and in its place was a “the dead shall rise from the grave” being intent on eating human flesh and brains.

Robert Kirkman added to the contemporary myth of the zombie in 2003 with his graphic depiction of an apocalyptic world where the undead have overrun civilization, and the award-winning comic book series was later adapted into a television show. The Walking Dead has since risen to its own culture phenomenon levels much like vampires after the publication of Interview with the Vampire. Critical acclaim, Golden Globe nominations and a large fan base has followed the AMC drama since its premier, and the second season finale was watched by nine million viewers, setting a record for the largest audience of any cable channel drama. In the resulting aftermath, it appears that modern day society cannot get enough of zombies as the Internet is littered with articles on the actual potential for a zombie apocalypse and how to survive if one should indeed occur.

In June 2012, for instance, Ed Grabianowski of io9 explored the feasibility of a zombie outbreak. Eliminating supernatural origins, as well as viruses and bacterial infections that would not explain the energy needed for movement in a dead being, Grabianowski settled on a fungal infection as the most likely scenario. “Part of the fungal network grows within the brain, where it interfaces with the medulla and cerebellum, as well as parts of the brain involving vision, hearing and possibly scent,” he writes. “Chemicals released by the fungi activate basic responses within these brain areas. The fungi/brain interface is able to convert the electrochemical signals of neurons into chemical signals that can be transmitted along the fungal network that extends through much of the body. This signal method is slow and imperfect, which results in the uncoordinated movements of zombies. And this reliance on the host’s brain accounts for the ‘headshot’ phenomenon, in which grievous wounds to the brain or spine seem to render zombies fully inert.”

If a zombie apocalypse is indeed a possible—albeit implausible—potential reality, how does one go about surviving such an epidemic? A quick search on Amazon reveals a number of guides designed to assist the population at large, including The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks and The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma. Even the United States government has gotten into the act with the US Army Zombie Combat Skills manual. Although each of these books would no doubt help one prepare for any impended zombie uprising, however, actual experience is always preferable than mere written word.

During the season two finale of The Walking Dead, the farm of Hershel Greene is overrun by zombies. Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors attempt to fight off the onslaught the best that they can but quickly realize the hopelessness of the situation and hastily retreat instead. Not everyone makes it out alive, as there are just too many of the “walking dead” to maneuver around and outrun. Reed Street Production in Baltimore realized the need for the special training necessary to escape from this type of zombie horde when they launched Run for Your Lives in 2011. “Several races in this region have offered runners the opportunity to navigate treacherous landscapes and difficult obstacles, but never before have they been chased by zombies while heading to the finish line,” Ryan Hogan of Reed Street Productions remarked at the time. “Run for Your Lives gives runners the opportunity to tackle a once-in-a-lifetime challenge—navigate a post-apocalyptic course with only their wits and their speed to help them.”

The event proved to be such a success that Run for Your Lives expanded into several cities beyond Baltimore in 2012, including Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Runners in the 5K race wear three flags, similar to those in flag-football, while it is the mission of the “zombies” to remove the flags during the excursion. If a runner makes it to the finish line with at least one flag still intact, they are considered “survivors.” Those who lose all three flags, however, join the ranks of the “walking dead.” Regardless of the outcome, both the living and deceased get to share in the Apocalypse Party afterwards that includes live entertainment, food and beverages.

While one may be able to master the necessary skills to escape a horde of zombies on foot, what if simply running away is not a viable option? During the first season of The Walking Dead, for instance, Rick Grimes and his small band of followers needed an actual mode of transportation in order to leave the overrun city of Atlanta. Fellow survivor Glenn was able to commandeer a red sports car at the time, but although it had the speed to escape, it would have been useless if surrounded by the zombies themselves. In hindsight, a vehicle fully equipped with special features designed exclusively for the pending apocalypse would have been a far better choice. Seeing that there are none currently on the market, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman teamed up with Hyundai in early 2012 to redesign an Elantra Coup into the perfect survival vehicle. As described by Mashable, the official Zombie Survival Machine “will feature a plow with spikes at the front, armored windows, spiked tires and a roof hatch you can use while shooting zombies.”

So let’s say that you’ve read the various zombie survival manuals currently available online, successfully navigated your way through the Run for Your Lives obstacle course and even found a way to obtain a souped-up Elantra Coup—what’s next? “There’s got to be a place not just where we hole up but we fortify, hunker down,” Rick Grimes tells the others in The Walking Dead. “Pull ourselves together, build a life for each other. I know it’s out there, we just have to find it.” Fortunately former software engineer Larry Hall has already devised a solution, renovating a nuclear ballistic missile silo in Kansas into a Survival Condo capable of withstanding any type of pending apocalypse. According to the specs, each of the 1,820-square-foot condos-in-the-ground “will not only grant you access to your own off-grid electricity (provided via solar panels and wind turbines) and epoxy-hardened walls (proof against nuclear attack), but stainless steel GE appliances, Kohler bath fixtures and a Jacuzzi, not to mention a full-size pool, spa, fitness room, library and movie theater.” There is a catch, however—the price tag for such a residence is two million dollars.

Thanks to likes of George Romero and Robert Kirkman, zombies have been elevated from the voodoo religion of Haiti into a popular culture obsession. While Rick Grimes was caught off guard when he awoke from a coma-induced sleep to find a post-apocalyptic world overrun with the “walking dead,” current inhabitants of the planet do not need to be unprepared for such a potential future. The rise of the modern day zombie has enabled a small handful of entrepreneurs to develop the necessary means for survival, and while not everyone will be able to purchase a Survival Condo or Zombie Survival Machine, the future may not be as bleak as the one in The Walking Dead for those willing to prepare for the zombie apocalypse ahead of time.

In the meantime, no one with an Internet connection can say that they haven’t been warned of the pending doom.

Anthony Letizia

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