8 Things to Do With Zombies
Apparently I’ve been on a zombie kick as of late. I haven’t actually written any zombie stories recently, but I just finished writing a three-part series of articles on zombies for Sanitarium and there’s a zombie section to be written up soon, for a sourcebook that I’m putting together.
Here are a few ideas that I haven’t seen often, or at all.
Did you see World War Z? There’s an implication that kids aren’t targeted by zombies. There’s that scene where one of the kids seems to be getting chased by zombies, sure, but it’s just as likely that the zombies were going for the guy in front of him. After all, the zombies were interested in him, how did he get past the other ones to begin with.
But I digress. It’s not uncommon for a zombie fic to neglect pint-sized zombies. Perhaps we’re not comfortable with the idea. Perhaps we don’t think they’re scary enough. Perhaps we don’t think about it at all. But what if you took the sprinting zombies, the ones that go at everything like Spring-heeled Jack, and they were all kids?
Oh, they’re willing to nosh on adults just fine, yeah. But all of the zombies are kids. Every last one. Maybe they even preferentially target kids when given a choice. How’s that work for you?
Meat’s meat, after all, and meat is meet. Too bad they’ve more than smart and strong enough to be dangerous all on their own. Zombies may not sprint, but they can do a mean speed walk. And they don’t get tired, either.
But more than that, zombies remember. They remember how to turn knobs and climb ladders, sure. But they also remember how to pick up a gun. They remember how to formulate plans. They even remember how to read, and… Well, a zombie has just one thing on its mind, and that’s eating.
So they’ll figure out traps. Some might even be inspired to take up chemistry, make bombs. Some will take prisoners, and nom their prey a little bit at a time, keeping their victims alive with their medical learning. They don’t sleep, after all. And they don’t get bored. They can learn a lot, and they have a tasty reason to.
Zombies, zombies everywhere. Strapped to poles or walls, or skewered on stakes. Without arms or legs, and probably even relieved of those nasty pearly whites. Hey, why not remove the lower jaw while you’re at it? Keep the lungs and throat and suchlike, though. You’re going to need it.
And what is the point of all this? Zombie scarecrows are nice, to start with, but there’s more than the undead can do for you, especially if they are only alerted by humans. Put some zombies around your property and you’ll never be caught off-guard.
You’ve got these people in a mall, right? The world has been overrun by zombies and there are these survivors holed up in a mall. And the zombies, well, the zombies… they have a curious habit. They’re more intelligent than most, and they’re the kind to have a little bit of dinner conversation. Especially on such topics of the meaning of existence, or whether it is possible to derive an Ought from an Is.
That’s right, these are philosophical zombies.
Picture the world as it was in the age of sail. Europe’s colonies are growing in the New World, but they are yet young. And it takes months, many months, to cross the ocean divide that is between them.
Now insert zombies. Make them dangerous. All kinds of dangerous. These are not zombies that you are going to keep in the hold of your ship, somewhere in the bottom. If you were of a mind to chain them up, perhaps— but you’d have to manage the job of chaining one first!
They appeared somewhere in the Old World. Europe, Africa, Asia, it doesn’t matter. The zombies spread. In a matter of months, or in a year or two. However long it took, they spread, and they overcame the Old World. But the contagion, whatever it is, doesn’t progress so slowly that the infected can make the journey all the way to the New World. Maybe not even long enough to make it to the ship. That’s your call.
But the Old World is as good as gone, and in no state to be resettled. Perhaps the zombies will decay, leaving room for a new wilderness. Perhaps they will have to be cleared out town by city, centuries from now. But at the moment it is gone and not to be reclaimed in this lifetime, and the New World is alone.
So you’ve got your zombies, right? And they… they’re something. They run around or they’re possessed by demons or whatever. I don’t know. They’re your zombies, not mine.
But what if there were something else that was causing zombies, too? Maybe they’re slightly tied to each other, even if they’re divergent now. One of the demons possessed a dude with rabies and now he’s got… weird magic rabies or something.
However it goes, what if you have two fundamentally different types of zombie? What if you never knew for sure what kind you were dealing with until it was on your doorstep, or you blew its head off only to find that no, this is the kind that has to be taken apart limb from limb and burned?
Zombies are pretty slow when you get down to it. And sure, it’s difficult to deal with them until you figure out the headshot thing, but if you keep a cool head and focus your hands it’s arguably not that hard in the end.
But zombies are walking corpses. They rot. They’re full of all kinds of stuff that’d make you sick. And they’re not exactly concerned with hygiene. They’re walk around being all rotting and go through your river and so on. Forget about being bitten by a zombie, just having some in the area could bring on something worse than a bite.
What’s the worst thing about keeping a zoo? The upkeep. You have to feed them. Water them. Clean up their waste. When the cold comes, you have to keep them warm. If the summer months are too hot or dry, you have to keep them cool. It’s a lot of overhead.
But what if you could fix that? What if zombies were a thing? And what if you could make zombies of all your animals, and keep them well and alive without food, water, proper climate, or even air, if for some reason that was a thing you needed to be concerned about (hey, maybe you’re on Mars or something).
What’s the worst thing about keeping a zombie zoo? It isn’t just the lions and tigers that want to eat the visitors.
It’s Night of the Living Dead meets Jurassic Park.
(On the bright side, the savings are still going to more than make up for what we lose in the lawsuits!)