Several years ago I produced an instructional video series on survival skills; we grouped these videos under the term “neo-tribal”: taking modern, easily-scrounged materials and using primitive or less-modern skills to make them into tools.
What follows is a short piece that didn’t make it to the final manuscript of The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. Like all good survival advice, it is timeless and necessary, especially for this time of year.
- Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things: Stay away from graveyards at all costs. A dead body buried in unhallowed ground can be an attractive vessel for ghosts seeking a return to life (or unlife, as it were). It may be traditional to hold parties at cemeteries during Halloween, but as an enlightened student of zombie combat you know that the best way to avoid being killed by the undead is to not be where there are going to be large numbers of them.
- The Craft: Stay away from practitioners of the occult, and don’t dabble in it yourself this one time. Just like you wouldn’t play with matches near a gas station, getting out the Ouija board to see if you can contact a random spirit from the Great Beyond on Halloween is a terrifically bad idea.
- The Scent of Blood: Because any true zombies active at this time of year are most likely Supernatural Zombies, they’re probably going to be more rotten, and hence smell a lot worse than a fresher Viral Zombie. Putrefaction has a scent all its own, and the vast majority of zombie poseurs, even the most hardcore, won’t go the extra mile of smearing rotting meat on their bodies to complete the costume.
- The Naked and the Dead: Clothing and funeral cerements tend to rot in the grave, and the effort of breaking through a coffin and digging out from six feet of earth tends to destroy burial garments. It’s extremely unlikely that someone will shuffle around town with his private parts exposed to the wind as part of his zombie costume (though you can’t entirely rule that out).
- Body Parts: It’s an easy thing to apply white, green, red, and gray splotches of makeup on your face, dress up in carefully torn clothing, limp around, make pitiful moaning noises, and call it a zombie costume. But you can’t convincingly fake a truly skeletal hand with missing flesh over moving, bony digits.
The most important thing is to make 100% certain of your target before shooting. That smelly, grunting, half-naked person might be an Occupy protestor, not an actual undead creature. Don’t shoot until you know beyond a shadow of doubt that the zombie in your sights is a true monster. If necessary, call out verbal commands. Even the most “in-character” zombie actor will fill his trousers and stop approaching at the sight of a drawn gun and a proper command to freeze.
This is a rewrite of an earlier piece I wrote to support my book The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. For more information on Zombie Redoubts, read this piece. For the full skinny on Zombie Redoubts, I urge you to pick up The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. It might just save your life.
When You’ve Got to Go
It’s not something we typically talk about in polite company, but everybody poops. And pees. For most of us it’s not a big deal: just go to the bathroom and do your thing. We don’t have to think about it. During the Zombie Apocalypse, disposal of human waste presents some problems.
It is not known if zombies have a sense of smell. It’s most likely that the zombies you’ll be dealing with will track you via sight and sound. That is, if they see or hear you, they’ll go after you. Zombies aren’t capable of examining your scat to determine where you’ve been or where you’re going, the way human hunters can with animals. Despite this, it’s not a good idea to just do your number twos wherever you happen to be: it’s unsanitary and attracts disease-carrying vermin of the living (not undead) sort.
Your Zombie Redoubt should include some way to eliminate or safely store your waste without the requirement of indoor plumbing. The two best options are a chemical toilet or a bucket toilet.
- Better Pooping Through Chemistry: A chemical toilet is a standalone reservoir containing chemicals that react with human waste, deodorizing it. The drawback to a chemical toilet is that you will have to replace the chemicals in it once you empty it out, otherwise it just becomes a bucket toilet.
- Don’t Kick the Bucket: A bucket toilet is just that: a large container with a toilet seat on it. Some of the more expensive models have water reservoirs for “flushing” the excreta into a waste reservoir, self-sealing lids, soft seats, and heavy-duty bucket liners.
The biggest problem with an indoor survival toilet is disposing of the contents once the reservoir is full. The last thing you want to do is dodge hungry zombies outside while running with a large, heavy bag of your own waste. Before zombies rise up to destroy civilization, identify places near your Zombie Redoubt that might be suitable for waste disposal: a nearby trash dumpster, a port-a-potty at a nearby construction site, a pre-dug latrine in the back yard.
If you’re on the road, always make sure you have an E-tool (entrenching tool/shovel) with you so you can bury your solid waste.
Toilet paper is pretty important, as anyone who is without it and needs it will tell you. The problem is that it’s fairly bulky. Use as little as you can get away with and still remain clean. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) tend to have a constipating effect, which in the short term can be beneficial to your toilet paper bottom line. But if you’re traveling, you may not be so lucky in the food department, and what you find on the road may not agree with you. In that case, if you’re out of paper, you’re obviously just going to have to use what’s available: leaves, socks, moss, etc. Just make sure that the leaves you’re using don’t belong to a poison ivy plant. It’s very difficult to keep a two-handed grip on your pistol and face down a group of zombies when your nether regions are on fire.
Always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer and use it after going to the bathroom to prevent cholera, typhus, and other illnesses spread by human waste.
Survival preparedness isn’t just about a bug-out bag full of flashlights, Hydra-Shok rounds, and cans of pork ‘n’ beans: you have to think about the less-fun stuff, too. Poop smarter, not harder.
Illustration by Carlos Machuca for The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.
The first book I wrote was The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. I wrote it under the pseudonym F. Kim O’Neill, because I thought that survival skills and zombie-killing techniques would be more credible if they came from a fictional military veteran than a real-life goofball like myself. Despite my past and present goofball status, my book is still the most realistic primer available on surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, bar none.
Since the book was published in December 2010, I’ve written some shorter pieces on zombie apocalypse survival skills. What follows is a rewrite of an earlier piece.
Zombie Redoubts on the Go
In The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, I described methods to turn your house or apartment into a Zombie Redoubt: a place of refuge that can be readily defended during a Zombie Apocalypse. If, for whatever reason, you can’t or won’t take those steps to make your home more zombie-resistant (almost no place on Earth is completely zombie-proof), then you will want to read on. Even if you have stocked up your Zombie Redoubt with weapons, supplies, and water, the longer you stay in one place, the more likely it is that you’ll meet wandering, hungry undead. Every fight can be your last, be it from bad luck, a jammed gun, or an overwhelming number of enemies. Eventually you’re going to have to move out of your Zombie Redoubt and find a new place to live.
Whether you’re looking for a place to sleep for the night or a home for a few weeks, identifying a suitable Zombie Redoubt on the go should include the following factors:
- That Prius May Save the Environment, but It Won’t Save Your Life: If you use an abandoned car as a temporary hotel and are surprised by zombies, you’re in a very bad position. Inside an automobile there’s little room to dodge attacks or access a weapon (let alone swing one), and the entire top half of the thing is made out of glass that a determined undead attacker will eventually break. You’re also very easily surrounded in a car, and it can be extremely difficult to get out of one in a hurry.
- More Than One Exit: Any place you go into should have at least two means of egress: the one you entered and one other that leads to a ground floor exit. If you’re running from zombies and lock yourself into a structure that only has one exit, you’re just delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later you’re going to have to get out and deal with the problem that brought you there in the first place. Of course, you can’t always immediately tell if the building you plan to hole up in has a second way out, so before you commit to staying for any length of time, do a thorough sweep of the first floor and test any exits you might see: that back fire door may be locked or rusted shut.
- The Visible Man: Places like libraries, schools, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail establishments may have things like free food, water, and books, but they also have very large windows and glass fronts. This glass may be zombie-proof, but it also provides both living and undead enemies with an unobstructed view of the interior of the building. If zombies see you in there, they will never leave. Sure, you can try to block all the windows, but with what? Will it block all light? Did you leave yourself enough peepholes to see what’s going on outside? Use these kinds of places as resupply stops and very temporary shelters, not homes.
- Knock Knock, Who’s There: Depending on the size of the structure you’ve entered, you will want to make certain that you’re alone in it. If it’s an office building, secure all ground floor methods of entry or egress to keep upstairs tenants from sneaking up on you. Just because the building doesn’t have power, it doesn’t mean you can’t be surprised by undead in the elevator shaft, for example. If it’s a house or smaller structure, go room to room on a search for enemies before relaxing. During the Zombie Apocalypse most surprises you’ll experience will turn out to be nasty ones, not birthday parties. Minimize the chances of being surprised.
- Squatter’s Rights: Be prepared to face down other scavenging humans in your quest for shelter, but unless your intent is to kill everyone you see, you may want to avoid places that show obvious signs of habitation. If you’ve managed to survive the first few weeks of the Zombie Apocalypse, you’re a tougher customer than you used to be. The problem is, so is everyone else. You don’t know what that scruffy-looking guy and his wall-eyed girlfriend in the abandoned 7-11 had to go through to survive. With thousands of hungry undead seeking your brains, do you really want to fight everybody? There’s probably a suitable place to crash down the street.
Practice assessing places as Zombie Redoubts on the go before the Zombie Apocalypse. Take a casual look around the next time you’re in an unfamiliar building. Identify the exits, check out how much glass is out front, and give it a general look-see. Imagine yourself having to sleep there with minimal creature comforts. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.