Most zombie stories are about the fight for survival in a world filled with the undead, but suppose a zombie apocalypse were ever to happen, should you try to survive, or should you just give in and let the walking dead win? If you were to look at the situation logically, you’d see that you’d be vastly out-numbered by a terrifying, and, some might say, unbeatable foe, and you would know there’s no way you could win. If that were the case, you might as well give up there and then. After all, struggling to survive would only be delaying the inevitable, and possibly making it an awful lot more painful and frightening into the bargain.
However, that’s only what logic says, and, despite what you might think, we humans are far from logical creatures. Instead, we are hard-wired to keep ourselves alive for as long as possible, regardless of the odds we’re facing or the chances that we might not succeed. As long as we think there is even a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, we’ll carry on, and it is this innate instinct that will push us on and keep us going, even on the darkest days of a zombie apocalypse.
I think this is a quality which we can all relate to, and I think this is one of the reasons that we find post-apocalyptic literature so appealing. We can empathise with the characters as they do all they can to keep themselves alive; and we can think about whether we’d have done the same, or whether we’d have done it differently when faced with the same situation.
Of course, there’s another innate instinct which most of us have, and this can cause a conflict with the drive to survive, no matter what. This is our natural inclination not to harm those we know and love. And, again, this conflict is part of the attraction of post-apocalyptic stories. We can be shocked when someone choses their own life over that of another, even when it means condemning them to certain death; or we can think someone stupid for risking their own life to save someone we might deem less worthy. We can also recognise when a character makes the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of the group, and while we would wish that we would do the same if faced with the same situation, we shift uncomfortably in our seats, knowing that in reality, most of us would put our own survival first and this would stop us doing anything so heroic and altruistic.
This, then, lies at the heart of surviving in a zombie apocalypse. We would find ourselves pulled in different ways by our instincts, and our conscious mind would become frozen as it tries to decide between the two. However, in end, for almost all of us, the desire to survive would win, and we would do whatever it takes, no matter who we’d end up hurting. Of course afterwards, we would do our best to justify our actions to ourselves, and claim that it was the only thing we could do, but deep down, we’d always know we could have done more, if only we hadn’t put ourselves first.
Or am I being too pessimistic about true nature of the human spirit?
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.