The future of the human race is severely limited, or at least it is today. We exist on one planet and one planet alone, essentially trapped in a bubble in which our entire species resides. If something apocalyptic were to ever happen to our world, that would pretty much be the end of us as a species. Right now, there’s no scientifically possible way for us to prevent this. We can’t seed other planets, we can’t hop on a space ship and just move shop, and we can’t jump through time to avoid the disaster. We’re essentially screwed.
However, humans have one massive advantage when it comes to certain apocalyptic events. We are natural survivors. We may not be the strongest species out there, and we may not be the biggest, but as far as we know to date, we are certainly the smartest. We have problem solving skills unmatched by any species we’ve ever encountered. We build weapons, explosives, houses, modes of transport, and everything else we can think of to make our lives easier. And we always do a damn good job of it. When we invented the television, we didn’t stop and say “this 12 inch black and white screen is good enough. We’re done.” Nope, we made it bigger, added colour, created VHS, DVDs, BlueRay, and 3D. We didn’t stick with the Model T when we perfected mass production of cars, either. We made them faster, smaller, bigger, more efficient, easier to drive, increased handling, and even allowed you to paint them any colour you wanted!
We are an evolutionary masterpiece, the pinnacle of survival of the fittest. We are the best mammals on the planet at spreading our genetic pool and diversifying our hold on this planet. We are incredible.
But this has also made us lazy. We have never had to face an enemy so formidable that it actually threatens the continued existence of humanity. We have never truly been challenged to a point that we really had to band together as an entire species and say “I’ve had enough of this crap, it’s time to survive!” So the question becomes, when this apocalyptic catastrophe finally arises, which I guarantee you, it will one day, what are you going to do to make the situation better?
Which brings me to my favourite end of the world setting: The Zombie Apocalypse.
When we talk about zombies, we are immediately thrown into the world that Hollywood has created. Zombies that run, that spit on you and immediately turn you into one of them, zombies with serious problem solving skills that can climb buildings and ladders and jump 30 feet into the sky or shoot tongues out that extend for miles and pull you into the hoard. We are surrounded by not just the completely improbable, but the impossible as well. See, we have to separate the possible from the impossible. Sure, we have to take certain leaps of improbability along the way, but what’s important is shutting down the impossible and not letting find its way into what could actually happen.
So what can you expect when the walking dead start pounding on your door? Here’s a little list of what I consider to be the most likely scenario:
- Zombies will be reanimated corpses. They will be man-made, born of a military virus to be used in warfare. What better tactic for destroying your opponents than having their dead reanimate and attack them?
- You will not die immediately after infection. The virus will have work to do on the host while it’s still alive. It will most likely take part in two separate stages. The first will be infection, keeping the host alive while the virus rewrites the hosts biology so that the virus can survive in the host postmortem. During this time, the host will most likely suffer pains in different parts of their body, most likely the stomach, chest, and head. The host will also develop a heavy fever as the body’s natural immune system attempts to combat the virus. This fever will eventually result in the hosts death, most likely 18-36 hours after infection.
- Once the host has technically died, the virus will then be the only living thing in the system. It will reanimate the brain, but not entirely. There will be serious brain damage to the host due to the incredible fever it has endured, and so the virus will be working with a damaged system. It will launch only primal instincts, the ability to move (however slowly and clumsily) and the need to feed. However, keep in mind that many of the systems have been essentially shut down in the digestive track. The system will no longer be functioning, and it’s likely that this primitive need to feed will only be the need to bite, not to actually ingest. Due to brain damage and primitive control of the brain, the host will be slow moving and clumsy. It will have next to no memories, if it has any at all. It will not have the coordination to climb ladders, and will most likely fumble over staircases as well.
- The virus will have put a lot of the natural decomposition methods at bay. Things like bloating in the heat and natural cell rupture will be drastically hindered by the presence of the virus. What you have to understand is that this will be a very vicious infection. It will be akin to stem cells, working its way through the body while the host is alive, finding all the different parts of the body it needs, then going into whichever mode is required to operate that part of the body. Some will work on muscle retention and hardening, some will decrease decomposition rates, and others will work as the synapses in the brain. However, they will all be primitive, and they will all be working with broken machinery.
So what can you expect? You can expect things to get out of control very quickly. The slow infection rate will allow people to travel almost unnoticed around the world for the early stages of infection. People will most likely not believe that zombies are really coming, meaning that the infected will be able to spread around the planet with great ease. Even after the first few infections are announced, they will most likely be covered up or ignored as ridiculous. By the time people start taking the Zombie Apocalypse seriously, it will already be too late.
So now you know. You can expect slow moving, not very intelligent, reanimated corpses. But don’t think that just because they’re stupid they won’t be a problem. They’ll be stronger than you. They won’t feel pain. They will be difficult to stop, except for a bullet to the brain. And they will come in numbers. Huge, unstoppable numbers. People will panic, will see their loved ones in pain and keep them around only to quickly become infected themselves. So when the dead start walking, remember this simple rule: There’s no time for attachments. Your life depends on your ability to survive, not protect those that are already lost.