The zombie apocalypse is coming. You know it; I know it, and if the course of human history has taught us anything – and let’s be honest, it seems clear it hasn’t – there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. At least nothing we are willing to put any effort into, which is sort of the same thing. With that in mind, it’s best we focus on how to prepare for it. If you’re in America, good news! Statistically, there’s a good chance that you’ve inexplicably already assembled a large arsenal of weaponry. The bad news is – the zombies will have access to one too. Yeah, if they’ve got the wherewithal to open a door, who says they can’t pull a trigger? It’s not rocket science.
Meanwhile, for the rest of us, outside of stashing a cricket bat and doing exercises to develop a stiff upper lip, there’s not much you can do to prepare. The good news is, through my diligent study of slightly more than one zombie film, I’m here to help you understand your role when the inevitable happens. So, which one of these are you?
You’re the man or woman (according to 98% of films – man) who has leadership thrust upon you by circumstance. You’re a stoic, kind-hearted soul forced to make life and death decisions in the nightmare the world has become. There’s an incredibly high probability you’ve either just lost a spouse/child or are fighting to get somewhere remarkably inconvenient to prevent that from happening. You’re intelligent, decisive and, should the need arise, you will look good with your shirt off. You are the only fully developed character in the group. Also – spoiler alert – if you’re reading this, this isn’t you. At no point does the leader refer to an article they read about this online while bored at work.
Frankly, this apocalypse is proving to be your time to shine, or at the very least, deal with some issues that you probably should have spoken to a trained professional about. You’re whacking zombies in the head with the kind of wild abandon that suggests if this hadn’t happened, you’d be behind bars by now. You’ve got a real ‘Pamela-won’t-let-me-see-the-kids-and-her-new-boyfriend-is-a-BMW-driving-dentist’ energy about you and, normally, nobody in the group would come within an arse’s roar of you, but apocalypses make strange bed fellows.
When not killing zombies, you’ll do a fair bit of leering at any women present while shaking your head derisively at the beta males attempts to do anything. There’s a good chance you caused this whole apocalypse in the first place, possibly as part of a badly judged romantic gesture to get your ex-wife back.
You’re not coping and your main role in the group is being an overwrought burden on the others, while offering them the comfort of at least not being you. You’re entirely unable to process the situation, as evidenced by the fact you keep checking for a phone signal. There’s a good chance you formerly had the type of job where phrases like ‘paradigm shift and fully integrated, customer-focused solutions’ were thrown around willy-nilly, almost as if someone was making a point about how modern life has made us all soft. (In films, these points are often being made by the same people who freak out when an intern gets their coffee order wrong.) You’ll die eventually and while everyone else will be sad, it’ll last for all of sixty seconds.
You’re the person who saw all this coming. Perversely, this makes you particularly unlikeable. Well, it’s either that or your whole ‘we’re all doomed’ vibe, which is bringing everybody down and keeps setting off the blubberer. You’ll eventually die in a deeply ironic way or, good news, you’ll die in a surprisingly heroic way, but whatever happens, you’re definitely going to die. It’ll be a toss-up as to whether you or the blubberer are the most unpopular member of the group, which will probably be decided by which one of you brought snacks.
The ‘That One’ One
You’re the person who brings up the possibility of the group having to resort to cannibalism way, way, way too early in proceedings. Like, when they’ve not even run out of fresh fruit and vegetables, never mind canned goods. From that point on, nobody in the group will be comfortable near you, a situation only exacerbated when, in a tense moment, someone discovers your rucksack is almost entirely filled with condiments.
You’re the intelligent person in the group who is realistically their only chance at survival. While initially, you’ll seem almost laughably unsuited to a post-apocalyptic lifestyle, you’ll prove to be hardier than people expected. There’s a good chance you’re a woman too, because thinking is seen as less of a drawback in your gender. The Psycho won’t like you because you’re a thinker/the guy who shacked up with his ex-wife/his actual ex-wife or just someone who chews with your mouth closed, but you will be protected from his scorn by the Leader. Still, the Psycho will refer to you as ‘Poindexter’ or some similar word that we all inexplicably know from movies, despite not understanding the reference.
The Leader will eventually ‘find’ a solution by essentially saying ‘maybe we should listen to this person.’ You and the Psycho will grow to have a begrudging respect for each other, which will make it awkward when you have to cave their head in with a shovel after they were bitten by a zombie while trying to protect you.
Relight My Fire (the fourth in the Stranger Times series) by C.K. McDonnell is out now (£18.99, Bantam Press)