I don’t know why this set me off, maybe because I have too much time on my hands, but I recently noticed a few folks talking about their future plans for “zombie survival bunkers”.
First, setting aside the complete lack of imagination this requires, let’s assume that we are talking about the typical movie zombie. Fast or slow, they have one thing in common: they can’t climb stairs very well. What this means is they can fall down stairs just fine. So go ahead and have your underground bunker straight out of Cold War paranoia (which is really what most zombie movies are still rooted in anyway). When you become a buried MRE for a zombie hoard don’t blame me.
So what would I recommend? So glad you asked. I’m thinking treehouse.
Let’s consider what you really need for defensibility. Inaccessibility is the first requirement. From zombies that means up, not down. Stairs work fine for this in most instances, although ladders are better. I especially like the idea of a rope pulley backup system. This serves the dual purpose of allowing you to haul up heavy supplies as well as getting yourself up in case of injury. If you’re too injured to make it up with a pulley system, I’m sorry to say your odds aren’t very good regardless, so don’t blame the treehouse.
The second thing you need is food and water. Fresh water is much easier to collect from rain when you’re, I dunno, in a tree than when you’re underground. As for food, assuming you live in the right kind of tree, you’ll have edibles close to hand, and if not, you’re no worse off than in your underground bunker. The difference is you don’t need to compromise the integrity of your defenses to build a greenhouse for growing food.
Speaking of things you don’t need to compromise your defenses to get access to, while everyone enjoys sunshine, there’s something else they enjoy even more, and that’s air! Yes, my treehouse fortress has just slightly easier access to fresh air than a sealed underground bunker. Sure, you could create air shafts, but like I said, that compromises your defenses, and it’s also a lot of work. If I feel like I need more air, all I have to do is drill a hole.
How about clear sight lines? You have to come out of that bunker sometime, and when you do those zombies might very well be waiting for you. Even if they aren’t this time, they could follow you back, and then what? You’re trapped in there. I can swing from tree to tree in a pinch, or better yet I can take shots at those zombies all day long.
Now sure, you can make arguments poking holes in the value of my plan. High winds, tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters can all undermine the value of a tree fortress, but many of those can be planned for, and there are plenty of natural disasters that would be a total pooch screw for a bunker as well. Earthquakes, rockslides, and fires are problems your bunker won’t necessarily protect you from, and might even make worse. The difference is I can jump out of my tree and run.
It’s cool, though. Keep your bunkers. Just do me a favor and make sure they’re well stocked. I’m going to need somewhere to scavenge from.
I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend at work that later spread (rather ironically) to some fellow coworkers. It was on a topic of grave (pardon the pun) importance in this day and age: if it was the zombie apocalypse, would you want to be the first person turned into a zombie or the last person left on Earth after everyone else had been turned into a zombie? Think about that one for a second. Go watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead if you think it would be instructive.
Got your answer? Here’s the ones that came up: almost universally the decision was be the first. The reasons given ranged from the maudlin (“I would hate to watch my entire family and all of my friends die”) to the perverse (“I’ve always enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet…”), but there was solid agreement on this point; as usual I was the lone dissenter. I said, unequivocally, I would invest my entire fortune in canned food and shotgun shells and ride this one out. My reasoning may sound flip at first, perhaps even grotesque, but I ask you to bear with me.
To start, answer this perhaps indelicate but I promise serious and on-point question: have you made love enough in your lifetime?
No need to answer out loud; feel free to keep it to yourself. Regardless of your answer, let me take it a step further. Have you read every book you would ever want to read? Seen every film? Have you experienced every great or wonderful moment you could ever want to experience? If nothing else, have you seen every sunset or sunrise you ever need see again?
Answer me every one of those questions, and then answer this one again: would you be the first zombie, or the last?
I also pointed out that, if you remove the element of the fantastic from it, the question becomes one of the essential nature of humanity. Death, in all of its forms, is unpleasant at least and gruesome at worst. It is rarely desirable, and it is always final. Change the question even slightly: “if every person on Earth were going to die in a car crash, would you prefer to be the first or the last?” Does your answer change?
Life is for the living. It’s easy to forget that as we go through the motions of job and school, get trapped in the daily grind of wake up, commute, work, commute, sleep, rinse and repeat. There are joys to be had, great and small, victories and triumphs and losses and tears and great walloping gobs of life to live. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’m going to ride that sucker out in style. Feel free to stop by; I’ll have plenty of canned food and shotgun shells to go around.
I know it’s just a game, a thought experiment, and perhaps I take it a bit too seriously, but I think sometimes games are worth taking a little seriously just to see where they take us. If this game takes you to a place where you appreciate life a bit more, perhaps enjoy a sunset, kiss your spouse one more time, pet your dog, or just give an extra piece of candy to the kids who knock on your door tonight, then it was a game well played.
Happy Halloween, everyone.