The End of the World

The End of the World (Apocalypse Preparation #4)

A year ago, when this blog was a lot more popular, I did a “how do you think the world will end?” poll, allowing people to vote between such popular choices as “Alien Invasion,” “Zombies,” “Nuclear War,” “Asteroids,” etc.  Unfortunately, I think one of Blogger’s redesigns or my incompetence ate my poll and data — so the results are gone, but I think you can still see some of the responses. With my recent posts on apocalypse preparation, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the topic. After all, if one is going to prepare for the end of the world, one should consider what form this end will take.

Here are some possible ‘end of the world’ scenarios, in no particular order:

1) Zombies: I know that zombies have been done to death (hah hah, joke; previously I blogged that the living dead seem to have jumped the shark).  It seems as if everyone and his brother is writing a crappy Zombie genre novel, but zombies, as an end of the world proposal, still seem like a good bet. To start with, we have those Canadian statistical studies that suggest in a George Romero-esque zombie scenario, humanity is probably fucked.  Zombies continue to appeal to the imagination because the idea of shooting that annoying coworker because he’s turned into a zombie is something most of us would like to at least imagine doing.
I just want to make it clear that I was into zombies before everyone else thought they were cool.
However, we are also going to have to differentiate between actual living dead scenarios (like
Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’) and “rage virus” type scenarios like ’28 Days Later.’ The ’28 Days
Later’ infected are, technically, not ‘undead,’ but they may as well be because they certainly behave like zombies. They are also faster and meaner than Romero’s shuffling, bumbling undead. Romero zombies have to bite you for you to be infected, then you need to die from the diesease (which takes hours) and then, finally, you rise again.  This gives other people plenty of time to tie you up, lock you in a closet, decapitate you or take other precautions. 28 Days Later infected just have to bite you, spit in your eye or kiss you on your lips and, seconds later, you have become one of them.  I’m not as fast on my feet as Vice Presidential candidate Paul “Marathon Man” Ryan claims to be, but even I could keep up a brisk trot that would keep me out of reach of the slow “Dawn of the Dead” Romero zombies.  The 28 Days Later infected would be another story… those bastards are all adrenaline.
Other films, like Romero’s “The Crazies” (where a chemical weapon gets into the water supply and turns a whole town into homicidal maniacs — I reviewed both the 1973 original and the 2010 remake) are sort of like ‘zombie’ scenarios, but are more localized phenomena — unless you go to the town with the poisoned water and drink the water over a period of time, you are unlikely to get infected. And the question remains unanswered as to whether or not people who have been driven mad by the poison in the water supply can be cured. Sure, the ‘Crazies’ are not undead… but they are the next best thing.
Strategy: Avoid, hide, shoot-em-in-the-head. If it’s Trixie, don’t drink the water and get out of Dodge.

2) Plague: Whether flesh eating virus, bird flu or bubonic plague, what if a diesease just killed ~90% of the humans? See Carriers, a movie from a few years ago that I really enjoyed but didn’t get a lot of popular attention.  There was also a BBC TV show called Survivors; I saw a few episodes on Netflix a while back. In the wake of having 90% or more of the people die, societies collapse and a few people are left, fending for themselves in a new dark age.  Of course, there are always the little Hitlers in these stories who want to take shit over and those frequent shoot outs over food supplies, a possible cure or that last can of gasoline. Survivors or Carriers were a bit like “Mad Max” but without the S&M outfits and the crazy cars.
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is how badly all those dead bodies are going to stink. Even if you are immune to the plague that wiped out most of humanity, cities and towns are rapidly going to turn into disease infected maggot piles which will eventually produce some sort of something that WILL kill you. The fact that dead bodies stink really badly and make us want to puke is nature’s way of telling us, “Stay away — this rotting flesh is dangerous.”  If the plague doesn’t get you, maybe something caught with trying to retreive a can Vienna sausages from the corpse filled ruin of a 7-11 will.
I suppose the medieval Black Plague survivors or the South American natives in the age of the Spanish invasion experienced what seemed like apocalyptic plagues; to those living through it, it probably seemed like ‘the end of the world.’ And then there was the flu pandemic of 1918 when somewhere around 100 million people might have died — shit, this is getting just too depressing.
Strategy: Inoculate, Evacuate, Isolate. Wear lots of rubber and use lots of hand sanitizer. Move to the country and learn to like the taste of venison. Cough into your sleeve. Wave instead of shaking hands. No glove = no love.

3) Meteors / Super Nova: These seem the least interesting to me, simply because there is nothing I can conceive of doing to improve my chances of survival. Faced with zombies, I can shoot them in the head; when the reptilian overlords take over, the machines rise up or the apes attack, I can join the resistance, etc. But the entire planet disintigrated in a ball of flame?  Unless we can send Bruce Willis up in a space shuttle to destroy the asteroid, it’s game over for all of us.
Strategy: None.  U.R. phuct.

4) The Day of the Triffids: I’m not sure where this one belongs.  “Day of the Triffids” was a sci-fi novel and then a BBC TV series and, maybe, a movie.  It applies several Apocalypses at once.  First, a night time meteor shower produces a wonderously colorful light show in the night sky.  Almost everyone stays up to watch it.  Unfortunately, the next morning they all wake up fucking BLIND! If that were not bad enough, mankind had domesticated some sort of a weird, walking plant called a ‘triffid’ that could be used to make an oil for fuel, thus solving the energy crisis once and for all (I guess it was written in the 1970s or so).  The triffids are dangerous (they have a whip with poison that can wound and (eventually) kill a human), but are easily managed through the use of electrified wire fences and other barriers.  When the humans go blind, the triffids escape and start hunting down the now blind humans who are bumbling around trying to survive.  There are a handful of humans who did not go blind (some were in prison and thus not permitted to see the lightshow, others were sleeping off a drunk, had suffered an eye injury and were wrapped in bandages, etc.) and the action revolves around these ‘sighted’ few. Triffids are sort of like zombies — they move slowly and are not very intelligent, but are dangerous in larger groups and they don’t give up. The whole ‘meteor shower causing 99% of the population to go blind” is an interesting wrinkle.
Strategy: If a ‘glorious meteor shower with astounding colors’ is predicted, draw the curtains, close your eyes, stay inside and hide.  Stockpile food and weapons. Avoid city centers where large numbers of decaying dead-and-blind people will be found.  Watch out for sighted megalomaniacs who want to lord it over the blind. Stock up on agent orange and other herbicides.

5) Rise of the Machines / Apes / C.H.U.D., etc.: The “that which was our servant has taken over” has worked very well for the Terminator franchise — we got a series of films, television shows and a robot Governor for the state of California out of the deal. And I LOVED the ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies when I was a wee sprat — especially the one with the army of mutated humans who lived under the ruins of a city fighting the apes (although the one where the other group of mutants worship a bomb was pretty cool, too). Planet of the Apes was from the 70s, a time when the ideas of social unrest were on the minds of a lot of people, so I  think those stories had a little more resonance then than they have today.
I guess ‘The Matrix’ belongs in here too, but it’s a lot more post modern so I’m gonna pretend I didn’t mention it.
C.H.U.D. doesn’t count as an ‘end of the world’ scenario (unless you are a hobo or a late night dog walker living in the early 80s NYC), but I loved the movie and the idea of mutants living in the sewers because the people who run the nuclear power plant are too cheap to truck the radioactive waste out of town and instead stash it in the sewers under Manhattan is pretty boss.
Strategy: Stockpile weapons, food, ammo. Grenades and Geiger counters would be useful in a C.H.U.D. scenario. Be nice to your pet monkey and when he wants another banana, give it to him. Knowing where the circuit breakers are, so you can shut the whole fucking system down if needed, is key, so respect the janitor and his big ring of keys. Stay out of the basement if it’s CHUD; head to the basement if it’s terminator.  If you are in the Matrix, the basement is in your mind (which I just blew, by the way).

6) War of the Worlds / Space Invaders: I’m showing my age here, but I remember when a video game where you were a little rocket that moved left or right and shot missiles out of your nose at advancing hordes of bug-like space ships was considered ‘cutting edge.’ A few months ago, I re-read H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds” and, as a both a novel and science fiction I think it really held up well, despite all the references to cravats and horse drawn carriages and other late 19th century-isms. I guess that’s because Wells could write and Space Invaders just got boring after a while.
But what are we going to go if the Martian Tripods arrive and our orbital satellite defense platforms are not ready for them? I’d suggest running, hiding and allowing the tiny bacteria to eventually do to the martians what all our military might cannot (i.e.: kick their asses).  If you are in danger of being caught by the martians, try to have a cold so the martians that drink your blood will get sick and die. If the martians have anti-biotics, we are fucked.
Strategy: Good running/hiking shoes, a canteen and food, weather gear and quick wits and a will to live will serve you well.  Weapons are more likely to help you against fellow humans who want to fuck you over for a chocolate bar than the martians; don’t waste your ammo taking potshots at the tripods (it will only let them know where you are). Avoid mentally unbalanced travel companions and do not accept a berth on a ship named HMS Thunderchild. Hopefully it will all be over in less than a week.

7) Atomic War: My, how times have changed.  When I was a kid, a war to end all wars with ICBMs between the USSR and “The Western Democracies” was considered very likely. All these years later, we are more worried about terrorists than Ivan here in the US (although some worry about underpaid soldiers or disgruntled commisars of the former USSR selling nukes to the terrorists). When I was a youngster I played GAMMA WORLD and I thought after a nuclear war I would have 1d8 hp per point of CON and I would be riding around on a cactus-horse and fighting mutant rabbits with my vibro-blade in one hand and my slug-thrower in the other.  Then I saw a movie called “The Day After” in which the inhabitants of Lawrence Kansas got the shit blasted out of them by nukes and their hair and teeth all fell out and they were vomitting all the time and I was considerably less enthusiastic.
When I was a school boy, one of our teachers was talking about how he grew up with ‘Duck and Cover’ exercises in which an alarm would sound and everyone would scuttle under a desk to protect themselves. Someone asked why we didn’t do such exercises anymore and I remember him saying he didn’t know why but that hiding under a desk wouldn’t protect you against a nuclear attack, anyway. “Gee, that’s swell Mr. Ryan! I guess if they bomb, we are all fucked! Now that you’ve traumatized us, can we go to recess?” Good thing it didn’t come to that.
I wouldn’t mind nuclear war if it was more like Fallout 3 or Gamma World. Since it will instead probably be really dusty and everyone getting either blasted to atoms or slowly sickening and dying, I’m thinking, “no, thanks.”
Strategy: Hope that it doesn’t happen? If it does, have stored food, shotguns and assault rifles, geiger counters and a fallout shelter handy. Live someplace far from anything that the Russkis (or Chinese or whomever) want to blow up and learn to grow your own food.  String up lots of barbed wire to keep the mutants out. If you live in Fallout 3 and can afford it, buy space in a vault from Vault-Tec!

8) Mutants/Food of the Gods/The Blob/Monolith Monsters/Last Man on Earth: Growing up, I used to watch monster movies on the local independant channels (KPLR-11 in Saint Louis and/or the local UHF station TV 30 back when TV sets still had knobs you had to twist). I loved these B-movies because they were always coming up with monsters from some mysterious source (usually radiation or outer space) which would have humanity pinned to the mat and be about to rip our collective throats when someone would come up with a solution and the movie would end with the equivalent of, “Whew, that was close!” (or, in the case of the Blob, it would end with the US Airforce dropping the frozen blob into the arctic wastes via parachute…. and just when you started to feel safe, an enormous question mark came surging up out of the screen— The blob isn’t dead… it is only dormant!  Who knows what will happen!?!).
I don’t remember if they ever explained where the ‘Food of the Gods’ came from in that movie — it was some sort of mysterious substance that caused chickens to grow to enormous size when mixed with their feed.  Unfortunately, rats broke intot the barn and ate the chicken feed and the heroes of the movie spent most of their time trying to escape the resultant giant rats.  They managed to kill the rats by blowing up a damn and flooding the valley, but, at the end of the film we saw broken jars labeled “Food of the Gods” lying in a stream… the stream flowed into a river… that flowed into a cow farm where the cows drank the F.O.t.Gs contaminated water… and… in the last scene… a bunch of snot nosed school kids happily slurping milk out of little paper cartons in the school lunch room…. “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” Plus we had ‘THEM’ which was about giant ants attacking people in California.
Carpenter’s “The Thing!” was a direct descendant of these B-movies but with special effects that were more special and Kurt Russel. Again it ended with a “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” and a sequel (or was it a prequel?).
“Monolith Monsters” deserves an honorable mention because it was perhaps the weirdest apocalypse idea that Hollywood came up with.  There are these giant crystals (I don’t remember where they come from) that keep growing out of the ground until they grow so huge that they snap off and fall over, crushing whatever they fall on. They are easy to avoid, but, like a game of Tetris, you are likely to get surrounded by them and cut off and they just DON’T STOP! I don’t remember much about this movie other than I couldn’t decide if it was cool or stupid when I saw it (I would have been about 10 or so)… which makes me think it was probably pretty cool.  I’m going to have to see if I can find it on netflix or something.
Strategy: If you are dealing with giant ants, shoot them in the antennae and they will go crazy and kill each other. Steve McQueen defeated the blob with fire extinguishers. You are gonna have to handle these things on a case by case basis, but, in most cases, stick close to the star of the movie and don’t downplay the danger — the people who wander off on their own or doubt the danger are always the ones who get killed.

9) Let’s get Biblical — Noah and the Great Flood: Did you know that Russel Crowe recently starred in a yet-to-be-released movie about Noah’s ark? Ironically, he and a friend also recently got lost while kayaking and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Noah would have been able to deal with that shit on his own is all I’m saying.
Strategy: I’m tempted to say you ought to just carry an inflatable life raft around with yourself at all times, but, IMO, the God of the old testament would have just sent a swordfish to pop your raft while you were floating above the waves in order to drown your ass. He was always setting up these situations where humans would fail and then destroying them. If god didn’t want people having anal sex, why did he give people assholes and let them build a city called ‘Sodom’?  And what kind of god puts two naked people in a garden and says, “You can do anything you want… just don’t eat the apple,” and then acts surprised when they eat the apple? Of course they ate the apple.  And if he’s all knowing and all powerful, he would have known they were gonna eat the apple before he even made the garden.
You just can’t win with a god that acts like a spoiled jerk.

5 Comments on “The End of the World”

  1. SAROE says:

    #6 Defender-I had that for my Atari-spent a lot of time saving the humans.

    Another good survival strategy against the Martians is to ditch your lame dad & annoying little sister and join the Army in a mass suicide charge over the hill. This will result in your guaranteed survival and an easy trip to your grandparents' house. Your dad and sister will have a much harder time of it.

  2. mikemonaco says:

    Ha! In fifth grade I wrote a report for school called “Armageddon: doomsday scenarios” where I described all the possible ways the world might end (I remember nuclear war & asteroids being prominent, but I must had a few more like epidemics?). I will have to see if my Mom kept that somewhere. That must have been 1983 or so. I think anyone who was kid through the late 70s/early 80s lived “in the shadow of atomic fear,” as Black Sabbath put it. “The Day After,” Three Mile Island, Ronnie Raygun …

  3. Stephan Poag says:

    Reading over my post, I'm surprised I didn't include 'climate change.' Maybe that's because I think it's going to happen, unlike Mayan Calendar predictions or aliens from outerspace. However, every time I state online that my belief in 'climate change' is based on the belief that scientist who don't work for oil companies consider it a matter of conscensus but were merely arguing over the details and people came out of the woodwork to tell me I was a crackpot radical who wanted them to live in a grass hut without deodorant. So I don't bother anymore. But add that one to the list.

  4. porphyre77 says:

    Does the rise from the oceans of ancient Rlye'h and the awakening of the Great Old Ones technically count as “space invaders”?

  5. Stephan Poag says:

    I would say yes, although I have no survival strategy suggestions.

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