We have recently been treated to a spate of crimes involving flesh eaters and at least one necrophiliac. There was the guy in Miami who ate the face off of a hobo, the man who cut up and ate his gay lover, and the Maryland college student who ate his roommate. Although all of the incidents (that we know of) occurred in North America, and similar incidents occur every day and do not necessarily herald any kind of impending Armageddon or outbreak of flesh-eating ghouls, it may be wise for all of us to take a step back and consider the worst case scenario: the Mayans were right and we are facing the end of the world.
If so, a Zombiepocalypse is one of the many ways in which the human race may bow out. I live in China, as do many of you, and a zombie outbreak here would be most disastrous, not least because of the population density. The following is but a sketch of some possible scenarios and should not be considered an exhaustive survey of a zombie threat. For a more complete guide, see The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks and related literature.
This short guide does not take into account the actions of the government or military, as that would require a more in depth analysis. This is only for the average human caught up in a China-based Zombiepocalypse.
Moaning or Hopping?
The first thing to ascertain is, what kind of zombie are we dealing with here? Are we talking standard moaning and shuffling undead – the video game variety – who operate in packs? Fast moving, hive-minded zombies like those depicted in the movie I am Legend? Or the classic Chinese hopping zombie? These are not the only versions of the undead encountered over the centuries, tales speak of vampire-zombie hybrids, reanimated wights susceptible to fire and obsidian, and many others. Again, this is but a survey and every human should get educated on the threat of the undead.
Let’s begin with the zombie we all know and loathe: the shuffling, undead brain eater. This particular zombie is an animated, rotting corpse and is therefore immune to almost all of the basic discomforts we know as humans: pain, cold, fatigue, etc. The only thing that matters is hunger. This zombie has been known to display heightened senses – especially hearing and smell – and will use these senses in a pack or alone to locate and feed upon the living. These zombies can put on a burst of speed when in the proximity of the living, and they are easily detected by the distinct – and terrifying – moan of the undead.
The second zombie, the fast moving, semi-intelligent Legend variety, is extremely dangerous and, thank the Gods, a rare version according to historical accounts. This zombie is similar to the shuffling variety in that it is hunger-driven and basically immune to discomforts and pain. Unfortunately, this version emits no moan, has extremely powerful senses and operates as a hive. The Legend zombie was created by a virus, not through contact with other undead, so should not technically fall under the classic “zombie” category. However, the flesh-eaters in the news recently displayed a wide variety of characteristics, including the ability to surf online, book a plane ticket and wield weaponry, as well as classic animal hunger. Be prepared for anything.
The third variety, the hopper, is an unknown quantity outside of Greater China. This zombie cannot bend its legs or arms and must hop about in search of prey. Most of the legends surrounding this zombie come down to us from the ancients and may not be applicable to modern zombie outbreaks. This zombie hungers for qi, one’s essence so to say, and not brains or flesh. Folk tales in China explain that hopping zombies suck the qi out of their victim through the victim’s breath, so some say that “holding your breath” may keep this monster at bay. Nonsense, says I. A zombie must either be avoided, evaded or slain – it pays to remember that sticking your head in the sand or holding your breath will not make the undead go away. The Chinese hopper, known as jiangshi, is supposedly susceptible to a variety of things including mirrors, vinegar and jangling music. I would stick with your standard sharp- and blunt-edged weaponry.
Chinese myths, legends and folklore do much to shed light on past events, but the mixture of rumor with fact obscures the truth. The modern age has given us the ability to take events and news (as well as outright conjecture) and place it into the greatest forum mankind has ever known, the Internet. To wit, Chinese zombie trackers have put their experiences online for the rest of us to learn from: possible undead-related outbreaks have been recorded as recently as 2009 in Chongqing, 1995 in Chengdu and Harbin, and 1993 in Beijing – it behooves the human to research as much as possible when dealing with the undead.
How to Kill a Zombie
Standard operations for killing the undead require destroying the infected brain. There have been tales throughout history of religious figures using symbols, magic, herbal rememdies and incantations to halt zombie outbreaks, but all are unverified (as is God, for that matter) and should not be relied upon in the face of actual, physical zombies. Weaponry across the world is pretty standard when it comes to zombie hunting. Crossbows, metal spikes, guns of any variety, axes, clubs and pikes are all effective killing tools.
A slug to the brain is an effective and proven method, but the scarcity of firearms in China means that humans will have to improvise. Options include, but are not limited to: crowbars, hand-held hoes, baseball bats and Tibetan short swords. Crowbars and hoes are very useful due to their capacity for overhead slams that can crush skulls, but issues arise when the blade of the weapon gets stuck … many a human has died trying to wrench free a crowbar from the skull of an undead.
Tibetan swords are easy to come by in western China, but what about in other locations? Humans should do their research into regional weaponry and take stock of the options. Also, note that a sword is only useful when used in a piercing or stabbing motion through the eye socket, up through the mouth cavity or, in some instances, through the temples.
Fire is often considered a good alternative to blunt trauma or piercing the brain, but historical accounts have shown that the undead do not fear fire as much as legends and tales would have us believe, and, what’s worse, a zombie can survive being burned to a crisp and continue to be a threat to humanity. Fire is best used in mop-up operations, to rid the battlefield of fallen undead.
Nowhere to hide
The sheer mass of people in China – everywhere, anytime – makes for a very precarious situation in the event of an outbreak. It is quite likely that hundreds of millions of undead will be roaming the land within the first few days of an uncontrolled outbreak. Take a moment to consider the daily traffic jams around Chinese cities and imagine a horde of undead descending upon such a clusterfuck. All bad. So where are the safe places?
In urban areas, humans should seek out stand-alone homes whenever available. These will be the homes of the rich and may be in outlying areas, depending upon the urban area you find yourself in. Cities that experienced some sort of colonial influence will have older, stone homes within the urban area – Shanghai, Qingdao, Beijing, Tianjin, for example – and they can provide refuge if defended and well-stocked.
Apartment buildings are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Once inside of a high-rise, leaving undetected to resupply will be very difficult, and you may find yourself the target of a massive mob of nearby undead once they’ve been alerted to your position. The vast majority of Chinese homes are high-rise apartments, adding to the general difficulty of surviving an outbreak.
Chinese cities are dense, under construction and riddled with under and over developed areas. If the enemy were human, standard urban warfare operations would come into play; with the undead, strategy is similar, but the density of Chinese cities precludes protracted house-to-house warfare. One must hide or escape. Every alley could be a dead end, each apartment building may have an undiscovered entrance, any wide-open spaces become magnets for hungry undead and, again, the sheer number of people in each city makes the urban environment the last place you want to be in China in the event of an outbreak.
Head for the hills
The countryside, then, should be the destination of choice. Not only does the population diminish the further one gets from China’s mega-cities, but the savage slaughter that will undoubtedly take place in all urban environments following an outbreak could take several weeks, giving survivors added precious time to distance themselves from cities teeming with undead. Also, country homes in China are almost all stand-alone buildings with walls, clear entrances, and fields for growing food. A well-defended country home with a decent garden and a good water supply could hold out for a long time, especially if we are dealing with the standard shuffling undead.
The mountainous regions of central and western China are also excellent places to organize a defense and eventual counter-attack against the undead hordes. Zombies are not big climbers. Given the choice between a mountain and a valley, the zombie will almost always choose the valley. In any other country, a mountain fastness could hold out and provide a locus of strategic operations for all survivors, but this is China. Tiny towns have 300,000 people or more. Even the mountains will be overrun, eventually, as the undead scour the earth for human brains.
Given the special characteristics of an outbreak in China – extreme numbers, bad infrastructure, dense cities, no access to guns or other high powered weaponry – the only real option for survivors is to escape.
According to my research, there are three possible routes. The first is west into Tibet, with the goal of hunkering down and waiting for the worst to subside before planning an eventual re-conquest of the earth. Tibet is still sparsely populated, lies at a very high altitude and is sealed off from Asia’s major population areas by the highest mountains in the world. Tibetan people have learned to live off of the land in Tibet, but for your average human, living on the Tibetan plateau would provide serious challenges, most of them centered around food production. It would be paramount for any expedition to Tibet to gather a herd of yaks and make contact with local Tibetan survivors. Another issue, besides re-supply, is that Tibet lies smack dab in the middle of the world’s two most populous nations. Tibet would remain safe for only a limited amount of time before the conflict would resume in earnest.
The second path is northwest, into the sands of the Gobi and Taklamaklan Deserts. This option also leads into a relatively sparsely populated region and would buy survivors time. But re-supply becomes an issue without venturing into the cities, and the landscape, although harsh, is not forbidding to the undead hordes. In fact, a desert climate decreases the average decomposition time of the undead and the flat expanse allows them to see their prey over large distances and move quickly to intercept and ultimately devour them.
The third route is, in my opinion, the most promising. This route leads north through Mongolia into Siberia and, if so desired, across the Bering Strait to Alaska. For me, as an American with experience in Alaska, this option is well-known to me and provides several advantages. First, like the other options, it is a sparsely populated region. Second, the cold, although not inherently harmful to the undead, does slow them down. Survivors would need to be aware that zombies can survive a deep freeze and be ready to eat flesh once the spring thaw arrives. Third, the northern regions of Siberia and Alaska are rich in game and fish. A well constructed hill or forest fort, near a river or the ocean, could be a great strategic outpost for the remnants of humanity.
However, I live in Chengdu. So I would most likely head west, grabbing all the weaponry and Tibetan chupa cloaks I could along the way, and head deep into the mountains. Asia is the worst place to be if the undead rise up to vanquish us, so I would try, eventually, to make the run north across the Gobi, across Mongolia and eventually through Siberia to Alaska, where I would join whomever survives and begin the Reconquest.