Tag Archives: Surviving the zombie apocalypse

Apocalypse Apartments Incorporated – A Short Zombie Story

10 Jul

You can download a PDF of this story from here.

Who’d have thought my biggest problem in coping with the zombie apocalypse would be boredom? I know it’s different for others, I can see them struggling and fighting and dying through the telescope mounted in the observatory in the top tower, but there’s nothing I can do for them. I’m stuck here in the castle, set high above the nearby town, all safely locked away. Yes, there’s zombies all around me, well I suppose they’re not really zombies since they’re not dead, but because of the disease they act just like the zombies you see in movies, so that’s what I call them. Either way, when they first appeared all I had to do to keep them out was pull up the drawbridge and I was safe. The 30 foot wide moat is more than enough to stop them getting close enough to know I’m here, and even if they could cross it, they’d never get through walls which are six feet thick and made of solid stone.

Unlike those in the settlement below, I don’t need to go outside to look for food, or, indeed, any other supplies. There’s a well in the main courtyard and I’ve got enough stores stashed in what were once the dungeons to last a lifetime. I’ve got solar panels and a couple of wind turbines, and for those days which are dark and still, I’ve got a diesel generator and enough fuel to run it day and night for fifty years. When I was bringing all this stuff together, I wasn’t worried about zombies or infected or whatever you want to call them, I simply did it to make enough money to stop the buildings around me crumbling to dust. You see, this had been my family’s home for six hundred years, and as an only child it fell to me to look after it when first my father, then my mother died in quick succession.

At first I’d hated the fact that the dilapidated and ancient edifice was now my responsibility. At thirty-two I wanted to be out exploring the world and having fun, not worrying about leaking roofs, rotting timbers and rising damp. Then, one day, as I drove away after yet another disaster which would cost more money than I had to fix, an idea suddenly came to me and I realised how I could fund not just the repairs but the complete renovation it had need for at least a century. It would mean some rather drastic changes, but it would also mean I’d never have to worry about being able to afford it’s upkeep again. My business plan was simple: I had a building which had some pretty serious fortifications and there were lots of very rich but very paranoid people out there who feared civilisation was about to be brought to its knees by some disaster or other that was looming just over the horizon. If you look at it one way, you could say I was selling them insurance against their worst fears, in another you could say I was ripping them off because I never believed any of it would actually happen. All I did was build up the supplies and guarantee each of my subscribers a safe, secure and, most importantly, luxurious environment where they could ride out whatever catastrophe they feared was about to turn the world upside down. I converted otherwise unoccupied and unused rooms into up-market apartments, complete with self-contained plumbing and water filters and even air-scrubbers. That was just the standard stuff, depending on each subscribers own personal paranoia, I also offered customisations. Stuff like heavy-duty fire power, six-inch thick steel doors and built-in radiation shields. The only limitation I placed on the subscribers was that, in the event of any crisis, they had to find their own way to the castle; it would be once they arrived that my duties would begin.

Almost from the moment word started leaking out about what I was offering, I was inundated with requests from the rich and famous, and within the first week I’d filled every available apartment; that was before I’d even started any of the renovations. By the time I had all the conversion work finished, the apartments were changing hands for almost ten times what I’d originally charged. You’d have thought this would have annoyed me, but it didn’t. You see they weren’t buying the apartments, only leasing them, and every time a lease was sold, I got ten percent of the price. I also had the right to veto any sale if I thought anyone would be too high maintenance. After all, you’ve got to be selective if there’s a chance you’ll end up cooped up with people for months on end during some disaster or other. Each time an apartment changed hands, the new owner would want to change the decor, and the security options, and that had to come through me too – and as you might imagine, my prices weren’t cheap.

It was funny, within a matter of six months, owning one of my apocalypse apartments, as they were being called by then, had become a status symbol for those who could afford them; that drove demand, and prices, up even further. I started to branch out, buying up other castles and lighthouses and old military bunkers wherever I could find them, and setting up apartments there too. I even adopted the name everyone was using for them for the company I created to run my little venture and officially I became Apocalypse Apartments Incorporated. That was ten years before everything fell apart, and in that time, while everyone else with ancient family piles was fighting just to keep them from falling down, I was making enough money to keep eight castles afloat as well as all the other buildings I’d picked up over the years. I’d become an expert in the ultimate home defence and I was the person everyone turned to when they wanted to do something crazy just in case their wildest nightmares ever came true.

Then came the zombies, or rather the infected. That was one eventuality I’d never counted on, but luckily it seems my defences are perfect for keeping them out. The moment the first hints something odd was going on started appearing on the news, I expected the subscribers to start turning up, but weirdly they didn’t. No one ever even came near the place. That’s one of those little mysteries of the apocalypse I’ll probably never find an answer to. I mean, I’d specifically installed a helipad to allow people to get here even when the roads were over-run but, despite the millions they’d paid to have a safe place to hole up in the event of something quite so world-changing actually happening, not one of them ever made it.

This meant I was all alone; totally secure, but all alone. And oh so bored. In the two years since everything kicked off, I’ve read every book in the place and I know all the films I have on DVD backwards and forwards. I can repeat the entire script, word for word without making a mistake, for each and every one of them. I’d tried alcoholism but I wasn’t really built for it; I found being drunk on my own very dull, and hangovers without anyone to commiserate even duller.

When the world first fell apart, I spent a lot of time in the observatory, keeping an eye out for the subscribers I was sure would be on their way, but once it was clear they weren’t going to appear I stopped hanging out there. It was just too depressing watching all that death and destruction and people struggling for survival. But after a while, I started going back. I can’t remember why but one day I found myself walking passed the door and I thought I’d take a look to see what was out there. I was surprised to find there were still people living amongst the zombies. Well, maybe living is stretching it a little. More like eaking out a meagre existence, struggling every day to find food while avoiding being torn apart by the hordes of zombies which haunted the streets around them.

By then, I’d been without human company for so long I found myself drawn into their struggles. I made up names for the survivors, and even some of the more memorable zombies, and I started making up back stories. It was like my own little soap opera and I couldn’t resist it. It was the first time in months I’d felt alive: I knew I was living vicariously through their struggles and part of me felt uncomfortable with this, but the rest of me revelled in it. The telescope was so powerful, and the town so far away, I felt detached from them and it was like I was watching some fictional drama unfolding on a television rather than real people living and dying.

You might think of me as callous, but it’s not like I didn’t try to help. Once I knew they were there, grimly hanging on under the worst imaginable circumstances, I spent weeks and months trying to work out how I could help them but there was nothing I can do. There’s no way I can let them know I’m here, and there’s no way I can do anything to help them without risking being over-run, which would pretty much defeat the purpose of the exercise. So, here I am, living in total security with enough food to keep all the little groups of survivors I watch each day fed for as long as we all live, yet there’s no way to get the people and the food in the same place. All I can do is sit here as the zombie apocalypse engulfs the world but passes me by, leaving me with nothing to do but stare through my telescope, bored and lonely, unable to do anything to ease their suffering, and my own.


This short story was inspired by the idea that boredom could be a major obstacle to survival in a zombie apocalypse. You can find out more about this here.

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.

The Self-Preservation Instinct And The Zombie Apocalpyse

1 Apr

I recently started a series of posts under the theme of ‘What would you do if …’. These present dilemmas you might face when a zombie apocalypse strikes and asks you to consider how you’d deal with them. From the comments on the first one it became clear that people would almost certainly prioritize their own survival over that of others (possibly at all costs and to a greater extent the longer they managed to survive). This got me thinking, how will the natural human self-preservation instinct affect the way people interact with each other in the face of a zombie apocalypse?

This is important because it will affect any decisions you make about whether to join up with others or go it alone. There are lots of advantages to being part of a group but the main ones are increased vigilance (the more people there are, the more eyes there’ll be to spot trouble – and there will be people to keep a look out as you do things like rest, sleep and eat), communal defence (the greater the number of people, the better chance you have of repelling any attacks from zombie or other groups of survivors who are after your stuff) and division of labour (it allows some people to concentrate on things like getting supplies while others defend or guard your camp or safe house).

Yet, any group will be made up of individuals and because of the natural human self-preservation instinct, come the zombie apocalypse, these individuals will most likely behave like pet cats. That is, as long as their survival needs align with yours, they’ll be your friend but the moment a rift develops between what’s in their best interest and what’s in yours, you’ll be on your own, or worse they’ll turn on you or abandon you to the zombie hordes just so they can get away. This means that in any group you become part of, you need to try to ensure that there is as little difference as possible between what’s good for you and what’s good for all others within it.

How do you do this? Well, you can think of this as a trade-off. The more similar and compatible the personalities of all the individuals, the smaller the group, the better they know each other and the more closely related they are, the more everyone’s survival needs will align. The greater the disparity in personality types, the larger the group and the less well known or related to each other the individuals in it are, the higher the likelihood that there will be serious mis-matches in the survival needs of different individuals within the group and this will mean they are less dependable and, indeed, the actions of individuals within it may become highly unpredictable.

For any given set of circumstances, there’s going to be an optimal group size and composition as far as your survival needs are concerned. Sometimes you’ll find your optimal group size is quite large and include a wide range of people. These will be times when everyone has the same best interests in terms of their survival, such as when you’re defending a large compound from outside aggressors who are likely to kill you all if they get in. At others, it might be as low and as narrow as just you on your own because what’s best for you conflicts with what might be best for others, such as sneaking silently away from an approaching zombie horde while the rest of the camp sleeps because you know that rousing them would only alert the approaching undead to your presence and then you too would risk being killed.

The extent to which people let this self-preservation instinct rule how they respond to others is likely to change over time. When the apocalypse starts, people are probably going to try to help each other as much as they can but as time goes on, they’re likely to become more and more self-centred as they become hardened to their new world. That or you’ll find that those who survive the longest are the ones most willing to put their own needs above those of others. Either way, the longer the zombie apocalypse goes on, the more people are going to put their own interests first and the less likely they’ll be to help others, and especially strangers.

So what does all this means? Firstly, when the dead start to walk again, don’t assume you’ll always be better off in a group. If your thinking about joining one make sure that it’s needs align well with yours. Personally, I’d avoid large groups and groups where a lot of people don’t know each other well as this increases the chances that there will be a conflict between different members of the group and that’s never a good thing for your long-term survival. If you do join a group, remember that things can change and if they do, you may need to leave right away, so always have a plan and equipment packed ready and waiting just in case. Finally, remember that no matter what, when trying to survive in a world filled with zombies, you will never be able to truly rely on those around you to help you when things go bad, and the benefits of being in a group can evaporate in an instant, especially when you come under attack from the undead. After all, when the apocalypse comes, everyone who survives will eventually reach the point where they’d abandon their own granny to the zombies because they realise they can only run fast enough to escape if they leave her behind.

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 an 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.

Zombies Can’t Swim – A Short Story About Escaping From The Undead

27 Mar

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.

The first time I saw the sign at the entrance to the boat yard I laughed so hard I almost crashed my car but once I regained my composure I figured it was nothing more than a great bit of advertising. Now as I smash through the gates in a stolen SUV, I wonder if the old man who ran it had somehow foreseen what was going to happen. Right now, it doesn’t matter if he did or not, only whether he was right. I shoot past the sign with it’s faded black letters standing proud against a once-white background that’s now a dull, dishwater grey, proclaiming its message to the world: Zombies Can’t Swim, Buy A Boat!. I glance nervously in my rear-view mirror to make sure I’m not being followed: zombies might not be able to swim but they sure as hell can run.


When the zombie apocalypse came it didn’t happen in the way it was portrayed in the movies. Rather than the dead rising from their graves, it was, instead, caused by a virus that infected the living, stripping them of everything that made them human and leaving a body ruled by one single urge: to infect others. That in itself wasn’t a problem rather it was the way they spread the virus – not through coughs and sneezes but by the infected attacking and biting others. If this reminds you of rabies that’s because it was rabies, only it had mutated. It no longer killed; instead it just drove people mad, whipping them into a frenzy where they’d attack anyone who was near. It also acted much faster than rabies used to, taking over infected people’s brains in hours or minutes rather than weeks or months.

It had built slowly, almost without anyone really noticing. It started with just a few cases in Haiti but with everything else going on there it was hardly surprising that no one pick up on what was happening until it was too late. After all, at first, it was hard to tell the difference between attacks by those infected with the virus and the violent protests against the US biotech firm that had sprung up across the country. The locals had found out it had been illegally testing it’s new and highly controversial vaccine in the capital’s slums and they weren’t pleased. Then again, maybe the two weren’t really that different since it was the vaccine that had caused the virus to mutate in the first place. Regardless of what going on in Haiti, the virus didn’t really take off until it reached Miami. I still wasn’t quite clear about what had happened there but then again, it seemed no one else was either. All I knew was that the infected and the infection had swept through the city within hours, forcing those who survived to flee. Some of them were carrying the infection but were as yet unturned and that just spread the disease further and faster across the country.

Once I heard the rumours that the infected had reached Virginia I’d started getting myself prepared. At first I stayed put, after all it was what the government was telling us to do, and I set to work collecting the recommended supplies: canned foods, bags of rice, water, medicines. I also joined the ill-tempered crowds that queued for fuel at the town’s only gas station and at the hardware store for plywood to board up the windows. It was just like what happened whenever a hurricane threatened, only ten times worse. With hurricanes people at least knew what they were dealing with, with this disease no one really knew what to expect.

As the virus and the infected that carried it grew ever closer, things started getting out of control. One evening as I was driving home, I saw the town’s two deputies threatening a woman with their guns as her terrified kids huddled in the back of her car. It was clear they were after the food that filled every available space in her vehicle. By the time I’d passed, I could see her standing at the side of the road holding her kids and crying as the police officers drove off: one in their patrol car, the other in hers. That was when I started thinking it might be an idea to get out before things got any worse but I wanted to make sure this was the right thing to do. I figured I should sleep on it for the night before moving on. That turned out to be a big mistake and I woke in the morning to find the first of the infected among us. I was lucky, my apartment overlooked main street and I’d glanced through a crack between the boards I’d hastily nailed across the windows before going outside. What I saw shocked me. There were two people lying in the street with others huddled round them. At first I thought they were trying to help, then I realised they were clawing the peoples’ torsos with their hands and ripping off strips of flesh with their teeth. I watched, horror-struck, as the abdomen of first one person and then the other was torn open. Blood and guts spilled onto the dusty pavement and I had to fight hard not to throw up.

Suddenly, a man appeared out of a side street carrying a small child on his back. He had his head turned, talking to the toddler so he didn’t see the infected before they saw him. With a speed that was almost unbelievable, they leapt to their feet and raced towards him. They must have made a sound because his head suddenly snapped round. Seeing the infected racing towards him, he froze for a moment before turning and running but with the child on his back he barely moved faster than if he was walking. Glancing desperately over one shoulder then the other he saw the infected rapidly closing on him. Then he did the only thing that gave him a chance of escape: he dropped the child. Unencumbered, he finally started to draw away while two of the infected descended on the screaming child, biting and tearing at it until there was little left but scraps of blood-soaked clothing and scattered lumps of flesh. The only thing that was still recognisable was the head and I could see the child’s eyes frozen in terror as one of the infected gnawed on it’s left cheek.

At that moment, I knew if I didn’t leave soon I’d never get out but I needed a plan. I wracked my brains trying to think of somewhere I could go where the infected wouldn’t find me. Then, as if out of nowhere, the sign popped into my head. I knew these weren’t really zombies but surely if the virus wiped out everything human within them, they mightn’t remember how to swim. After all, swimming’s not like walking or running, it doesn’t come naturally; it’s something you have to specifically learn. With no other options coming to mind, I decided it was the best chance I had.


I slam on the brakes and the SUV skids to a halt at the end of the dirt track leading from the gates to the boat yard’s single dock. I sit there with the engine idling, my eyes darting round nervously, trying to work out what to do next. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around so at least I shouldn’t have to worry about infected. I don’t really know anything about boats so I don’t know which one I should choose or how I’m going to drive it but I figure it can’t be that much different from driving a car.

A movement in the rear-view mirror catches my eye; it’s off in the distance and little more than dust being kicked up into the air but it means something’s coming this way. It might just be people trying to escape but it could just as easily be infected and I’m not going wait around to find out. Leaving the engine running and the door open, I leap from the car and run down to the wooden pontoon that stretches out into the water. Boats of all shapes and sizes are tied up there and at first I’m at a loss as to which one to take. Then I see it: a long, sleek speed boat with two huge engines on the back, and I know it’s the one for me. I run to it and jump onboard before racing over to the steering wheel. When I get there I’m surprised to see that you need a key and there’s no obvious way to hot-wire it. I climb back onto the dock and scratch my head, wondering what I’m going to do now. As I do, I become aware of a noise that I can’t quite place. It’s like the sound of water rushing over the edge of a massive waterfall and crashing into the pool far below; then I realise it’s the sound of people, or more likely infected, pounding along the road towards me.

Growing ever more desperate, I try motorboat after motorboat, while all the time the noise grows louder and louder, but I can’t get any of them started. Finally, right on the end of the dock, I see a sailboat, no more than twenty feet long, and I realise it’s my salvation: I won’t need any keys because I won’t need to start the engine, all I’ll need to do is raise the sails and I’ll be away. I’ve never sailed before but I figure it can’t be that difficult. I jump onboard and just as I start untying the ropes I glance up to see the first of the infected entering the boat yard. At first they don’t know where to go but they must have sensed my movements because before I know it, they’re hurtling towards the dock. By the time I get the last rope free and have pushed the boat away from the shore, they’re streaming along the pontoon, mouths open, roaring and snarling. I feel a gentle breeze on the back of my neck as I stare at them, both terrified and hypnotized by the sight of the infected sweeping towards me. The first of the infected reach the end of the pontoon and stop while the ones behind them keep going, pushing those ahead of them into the water. I watch as they thrash around before sinking from sight. Just as the sign predicted, zombies can’t swim.

Then I notice something: little by little I’m drifting back towards the dock. I’m not too sure what I should be doing but I figure I need to get the sails up. The mast seems a logical place to start since that’s what the sails are attached to so I run forward but find there’s ropes everywhere and I can’t work out which does what. I try randomly pulling on them but nothing happens. I glance desperately back to the pontoon; it’s only ten feet way now and the closer I get the more the infected are being whipped into a frenzy. I turn my attention back to the boat and I realise there are straps tied round the sail. I figure these are what’s stopping me from pulling it up so I frantically undo them one by one and stumble back to the mast and I pull randomly on ropes again. This time I find one which raises the sail and I start pulling on it as hard as I can. The sail goes up and fills with wind but it pushes me towards the land I’m trying so hard to get away from. I let the rope go and with a crash the sail drops onto the dock. While the boat slows, it’s still drifting inexorably towards the dock and the infected that wait for me there. That’s when it finally dawns on me: while zombies can’t swim, I can’t sail so it’s not really going to help me survive after all.


Author’s Note: This story was inspired by a photograph of a real sign I came across in the web that was genuinely used as advertising in a boat yard and proclaimed ‘Zombies Can’t Swim, Get A Boat’. Looking into this a further it seems such signs are not as uncommon as you might think. I don’t know if several people have independently come up with the same slogan or if there was one original that all the others have copied but either way it struck me as a great title for a story, and it was one I couldn’t resist writing.

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.

The Custom Of The Sea

25 Mar

The custom of the sea is a commonly-used euphemism for cannibalism. Not your every day cannibalism (if there is such a thing) but a very specific type. It has occurred regularly for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years but it’s also something that’s never talked about in polite company, even by those who resort to it. So what is the custom of the sea? In the days before satellite phones and emergency beacons if a ship went down while crossing an ocean, it wasn’t unusual for a few survivors to find themselves bobbing around in a lifeboat or life raft with no way to tell any would-be rescuers where they were. If the were lucky they might get picked up by another ship after a few days but if they weren’t, they could find themselves out there in the middle of nowhere for weeks or even months.

When they ended up in this position, sailors were faced with a stark choice: starve or turn to whatever food source that was available to them. So what could they eat? Well, they might have some basic supplies with them and after they ran out there’d be fish or seabirds, maybe even a turtle or two if they could catch them. The trouble is without the right equipment that’s extremely difficult to do. There’s one food source, however, they could easily get their hands on: human flesh. In some cases they’d wait for someone to die of natural causes before consuming them but in others the custom of the sea was much more unsavoury. When there was no other option, one survivor would be killed and eaten so that the rest could live. It is said there were very specific, if unwritten, rules as to how this was done and it involved drawing lots. However, in practice it seems things weren’t always so democratic and instead it was the most junior or unpopular crew member who was eaten first.

One of the most famous examples occurred when a whaling ship called the Essex was attacked and sunk by a male sperm whale in the middle of the South Pacific in 1820 (if this sounds familiar it’s because Herman Melville based his epic Moby Dick on these event). The surviving whalers found themselves in three small boats and more than 1000 miles from the nearest land. The few that lasted the three months until they were finally picked up by other ships survived, in part, by following the custom of the sea and eating some of their fellow crew members after they died.

Of course, this type of cannibalism doesn’t just happen at sea but in any circumstances where people find themselves trapped with no other sources of food. Probably the most famous modern example happened after a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes in 1972 and involved the survivors eating those killed in the crash in order to sustain themselves long enough to be rescued. All this raises an interesting question. Were a zombie apocalypse ever to happen, it’s likely that there’d be small groups of people trapped in houses, offices, hotel rooms, bank vaults, military bunkers and almost every other possible hidey-hole and safe place you could imagine. Many of these groups would have little food and they’d be faced with having to choose between staying safe and starving to death or going outside and facing the zombie hordes in order to find food. Assuming only those infected by whatever’s causing the zombism in the first place will become zombies and not just everyone who dies, would such survivors, like so many have done before them, resort to the custom of the sea?

Based on what we know about how people have responded to similar circumstances in the past, I suspect that in a lot of cases, the answer may well be yes, at least towards the beginning of event when they still have hope and think that rescue might be a possibility. This is because in a zombie apocalypse, the world outside would be a truly terrifying place and if they feel safe, most people will choose to stay where they are rather than going outside and risk being attacked by zombies. Some may try a few foraging trips first but if these fail or if those that try are killed by the undead, it’s likely that the rest will simply stop trying and just hunker down where they are, and where they know they’re safe, waiting and hoping that someone will rescue them. Of those that do resort to cannibalism, most will probably wait until someone dies a natural death before consuming them. Some people may volunteer to die to help those around them survive, while those in other groups may draw lots to decide who’s going to get sacrificed. There will also undoubtedly be a few where things will be less democratic and selfless, and they’ll gang up on the weak, the elderly or just the plain old unpopular.

The custom of the sea, therefore, has an interesting, if rarely considered, implication were a zombie apocalypse were ever to happen: if, when it starts, you find yourself part of a group that’s trapped and there’s no other readily available food, it’s quite likely that it won’t just be the zombies that will be eyeing you up as a potential meal!

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 an 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.

Five Surprisingly Useful Skills For Surviving In A Post-apocalyptic World

5 Mar

When thinking about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, the useful skills that usually jump into minds are things like how to use a gun and how to fix a broken engine. While I agree these skills are likely to become incredibly useful, and I’ve had them on a previous list of skills you should think about learning now to help you survive when civilisation comes crashing down, they are all relatively obvious. In this post, I want to highlight five other skills you may not have considered before but that are likely prove to be surprisingly useful.

The Ancient Art Of Knitting

Knitting: The Ancient Art Of Turning Sheep Into Clothing

The first of these is knitting. I know what you’re thinking, in the immediate aftermath of whatever caused the end of the world, you’re not exactly going to have time to sit down with a ball of wool and a couple of knitting needles so you can finish that scarf you promised your Aunt Jenny for her birthday but I’m thinking about longer-term survival here. Once the dust starts to settle and you’ve solved as many of the problems of immediate survival as possible, you will need to turn your attention to what you’re going to do in the longer term, and one of the issue here is how you’re going to stay warm and clothed. This is where skills like knitting and the related ones of sewing, spinning fibres into yarn, weaving and so on start to become invaluable. In addition, it’s only a short leap from these to making things like rope (which is really just very thick yarn made from very tough materials), matting, walls and roofs for shelters (through weaving vegetation together), baskets and even things like fishing nets. All of these use the same basic skill sets as knitting and other similar hobbies.

Next it’s fishing. In most post-apocalyptic films and stories, food is generally found in places like supermarkets or is caught through hunting. Neither of these are very good long-term survival options. Take supermarkets. Firstly, they’re going to be dangerous places. They’ll attract all sorts of people and you’ll probably have to fight for access to any food they still have in them. Such confrontations are something you should aim to avoid wherever possible as there’s no guarantee you’ll come off best. Supermarkets and other buildings that are likely to contain food will also have lots of dark nooks and crannies where anything could be hiding, just waiting for it’s moment to leap out at attack you and, again, this is a risk you should try to avoid if you want to have the best chance of surviving. All this means you’d be better off avoiding places like this in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of civilisation. Secondly, supermarkets going to run out of dry pretty damn quick as everyone scrambles to get hold of whatever they have inside. This means you can’t rely on them as a food source in the longer term either.

That’s supermarkets out the way, so what’s wrong with hunting? Well, for a start, it’s very time-consuming and uses up ammunition that could be better used elsewhere, such as for defending yourself from whatever there is you might have to defend yourself against. It’s also noisy, meaning you’ll attract the attention of anyone, or anything, that’s out there, and you don’t want to be doing that, do you? In comparison, fishing is not only quiet but if you know what you’re doing it’s highly efficient. You can set lines, nets or traps, leave them to do their job while your off doing other things and return later to collect whatever they catch. This certainly beats having to trudge through the woods for hours trying to find something worth shooting. However, fishing isn’t just a matter of throwing a baited hook in anywhere and you’ll only be successful at it if you actually know what you’re doing.

The third surprisingly useful skill is sailing. When I mention sailing, you’re probably thinking luxury yachts and Caribbean islands, and wondering what could be useful in that, but, come the apocalypse, sailing could turn out to be one of the most useful things you’ve ever learned. If you know how to sail, it gives you a way to move around that doesn’t require any fuel, and sailing isn’t only useful on water. Using a knowledge of sailing, it would be easy enough to build something that would allow you to propel land-based vehicles along with just the power of the wind (those familiar with land-sailing or kite-boarding will already have a good idea of how this can be done). This having been said, moving around on water is where sailing’s really going to come into it’s own. This is because in almost any possible post-apocalyptic situation, you’re going to be safer on the water than on the land: on the water it’ll be easier to move around, to avoid trouble, to take your base and move it somewhere else if you need to (and especially if you need to do this in a hurry) and defend your base for any attacks. This is why I’d always make sailing a key element of my post-apocalyptic survival strategy, and why I used it as the basis for my book For Those In Peril On The Sea. You can find out more about why I think sailing’s likely to be so useful when the world comes to an end here.

After sailing comes star-gazing. There’s a lot of useful information up there in the sky if you only you know what you’re looking at. Almost every human civilisation there’s ever been has relied heavily on star-gazing at one time or another. It’s been used to tell the time, to tell the seasons, to predict the tides and to navigate from point A to point B. Few of us know how to read the stars any more but come the apocalypse this information will become vital to your long-term survival. However the world comes to an end, the chances are that within a very short space of time the GPS satellites will come crashing down and the batteries on things like watches will run out. Yet, you’ll still need to be able to know where you’re going, how long you have until the sun goes down, or comes up again, and when it’s the right time to start planting food or harvesting crops. The key to being able to do this lies in the stars above our heads but you can only unlock it if you know how to read the sky.

Finally, the last surprisingly useful skill is cooking. I’m not talking about being able to microwave popcorn here, I’m talking about being able to cook something hot and tasty from whatever ingredients you have to hand so I suppose this is really as much about food preparation as cooking itself. Nothing saps morale quicker than having to live off a monotonous diet of the same tasteless pre-packed food meal after meal, day after day, week after week (unless you’re a student who’s living off pot noodles because you’ve already blown all your money for the term on beer, in which case you’re probably already well adapted to this type of diet and it won’t really bother you).

Almost anything (even pot noodles and other pre-packed food) can be made to taste a lot better with a bit of thought and some culinary knowledge. This knowledge will also open up many food sources to you that you couldn’t successfully access without it. Think bird eggs in spring, pheasants in summer, rabbits in autumn and migrating salmon in winter. These are all things going to be out there, just waiting for you to come along and eat them but before you can, you’ll need to know what to do with them before you can turn them into something that’s both edible and, possibly more importantly, unlikely to poison you. Real cooking involves a knowledge not just of how to warm things up but also how to skin animals, gut fish, pluck birds, identify edible mushrooms and prepare all things vegetable. With a good cook on your side, you’ll be able to face the apocalypse with a full belly and a nice taste in your mouth, and you’ll feel so much better for it.

The thing all these skills have in common is that at first, they don’t seem like your traditional key post-apocalyptic survival skills but this is because they won’t necessarily help you survive in immediate aftermath of everything going horribly wrong. What you have to remember, though, is that the end of civilisation isn’t something the world will recover from in a matter of days or weeks. Rather it’s going to make months or years, and that’s if it even happens at all. These skills are the ones that will become ever more useful the longer you manage to survive. They’re the ones that have the potential to make your life in a post-apocalyptic world not only easier but much, much more bearable. Yet, they are also exactly the types of skills we’re likely to lose because, when planning their post-apocalyptic survival strategies, everyone only ever concentrates on short-term survival rather than what they’re going to do as days turn into weeks, then months, then years and they find that the world still hasn’t gone back to being the way it was before.

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 the UK, and available as an ebook and in print in the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 1 – The Running Girl Dilemma

1 Mar

If (or should that be when?) the zombie apocalypse comes, it will change not just the world but the way we view it and how we respond to those around us. We will find ourselves facing situations we never thought we’d have to face and doing things – good and bad, brave and cowardly – we never thought we were capable of.

The more we think about this now, the better prepared we’ll be when it happens. So to help you get ready I’m going to post a series of zombie apocalypse dilemmas under the category ‘What Would You Do If….’. I’ll aim to post one each Friday around 3pm here in Scotland until I run out of ideas because, let’s face it, by the end of the week you’d much rather be thinking about zombies than working or studying or whatever else it is you’re meant to be doing instead.

Each dilemma will outline a situation and then ask you how you’d respond if you found yourself in it. In all of them, there will be different choices, each of which have different repercussions for those involved. They’re just here to make you think, so there’s no right or wrong answers, but please post a comment to let me know what you would do and why. If you don’t have time to leave a comment, you can still take part by voting on the poll below the dilemma (if you’re leaving a comment, please vote in the poll as well just so that your views are counted in the results of that too).

So with that brief introduction out of the way, here’s the first one:

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 1.
The Running Girl Dilemma

You’re just about to enter your safe house after a successful foraging trip when you see a teenage girl being pursued by a horde of zombies. She spots you and starts running towards you, the zombies only a few steps behind. If you shut the door now you’ll have time to lock and bar it before the zombies get there; you’ll then be safe but the girl will die. If you wait until the girl’s inside too, it might be too late. What do you do?


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 the UK, and available as an ebook and in print in the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Do Zombies And Water Mix?

8 Feb

I’ve long held that one of the best defences against zombies is to put a large body of water between you and them. Yet, while I’d happily based my own personal survival strategy on this premise if I suddenly found myself in a zombie-infested world, I still have a niggling suspicion that I might be making a serious error of judgement here so I thought I’d explore this possibility here to see whether it holds up or not.

So do I mean by a large body of water? I’m not thinking a gentle little stream or a garden pond here. I’m thinking of something much bigger like the Amazon, or one of the Great Lakes, or better still a large expanse of open sea. Also, I’m not just talking about getting to some island and holing up there; I’m also thinking about using a boat to move around and perhaps even live on.

As far as I can work out the main thing that’s likely to determine whether this survival strategy would work or not is what type of zombies we’re talking about. If it’s living humans infected with some sort of disease or chemical agent that causes them to act like zombies (as was the case in 28 Days Later) then I think my strategy is sound. It’s unlikely such infected would be able to swim or to use boats or anything like that, and they are likely to drown during any prolonged immersion. This means any sort of body of water is likely to act as a barrier to such zombies getting to you. In fact, under these conditions, even a relatively small body of water might well be very effective way to help you survive a zombie apocalypse.

If, on the other hand, we’re talking about more traditional re-animated corpses, things could be very different. These types of zombies are dead already and so there are no obvious reasons as to why they couldn’t move through water in pretty much the same way they do on land. Even if they can’t walk along the bottom, they can float around and that means they could potentially be carried long distances before clambering ashore and attacking you. Even on a boat, you might not be safe. You could well wake in the middle of the night to find them pulling themselves up your anchor lines or dragging they’re rotting corpses over the side. This is certainly a scenario that was used in World War Z.

However, there’s still one issue. Being dead, these zombies will rot and fall apart, and any time spent in the water is only going to speed up this process. I’ve got no idea if any of the many creatures that would normally feed on flesh left floating around in the sea would eat zombies but they might. All this means is that while undead zombies can survive the occasional dunking unscathed, it’s unlikely they’d make it through any sort of prolonged period in water without, quite literally, falling to pieces. So using water as part of your survival strategy may well work even against the undead, it’s just that it’ll probably have to be a much wider barrier before it becomes effective. Therefore, if, come the apocalypse, you find yourself facing the walking dead, water may still be your friend. Just don’t go thinking about an island that’s only a few miles from the nearest shore; instead think about one that’s well over the horizon and well away from any human habitation.

So no matter the type of zombie you come up against, when they rise up and take over the world think good old H20 because (at least from my point of view) zombies and water really don’t mix. You just have to think carefully about exactly where you’ll go.

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 the UK, and available as an ebook and in print the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

How To Kill A Zombie

3 Jan

I’ll say from the start that this isn’t a self-help guide so if you’ve got a zombie horde battering at your door and you’re looking for some practical advice, you might need to look else where (and fast!). Instead, it’s a consideration of the difficulties of coming up with new and interesting ways for taking out the undead.

Here’s the problem: You sit down to write a zombie story. You’ve probably got a number of set pieces in mind where people will take on zombies, and in each one you’re probably going to have your characters kill anything between a few and a few hundred walking dead. Yet, if all are dispatched in the same way, your story’s going to get dull and repetitive very quickly. After all, there’s only so many times you can read about a zombie getting smacked across the back of the skull with a baseball bat or being killed by yet another head shot before you start rooting for the undead rather than the protagonist just because it would be something a bit different.

And the problem isn’t just what happens in your own story, there’s also the methods that those who have come before you have already used. Fed up of baseball bats? You might consider using a cricket one only to realise that it makes it seem like you’re ripping off Shaun Of The Dead. So what’s the solution?

I think it’s quite easy, and all it takes is a little (possibly rather sick!) imagination. The key thing here is to remember that you are trying to destroy the brain in some manner and, if used correctly, almost anything can do that. If you’re smacking a zombie in the face, don’t reach for the baseball bat, instead reach for a golf club (I’d recommend a three wood over a putter) or a football helmet. Away from the sporting world, there’s steel bars, juggling clubs, fender guitars or – if you want to be particularly gruesome – a severed human arm would probably do at a pinch.

Then there’s the guns. Don’t just always reach for the trusty double-barrelled shot-gun like everyone else. How about using a sniper rifle, snub-nosed revolver or 18th century flint-lock? What about something bigger? Rocket launcher anyone? Howitzer? Or quieter: Crossbow? A bit too common that one. How about an English long bow or a Roman ballista bolt through the eye?

Then there’s the bladed weapons but don’t just stick to calling them swords or machetes it’s too generic, too over-used. Instead, be more specific. Try grabbing a katana or a claymore or that cavalry sabre your great, great grandpa used in the American Civil War. Each has its own style and is wielded in a slightly different way providing variety to your kills.

If you’ve got to tackle more than one and you’re fed of up resorting to a machine gun, reach instead for a flame-thrower or the home-made napalm from your mental arsenal. A bit too old school for you? How about running them down? Too over-used? What if it’s with a combine harvester rather than a car? That would cut them down pretty damn quick and I don’t think I’ve come across that one before (although I’m sure someone must have used it some where – if not I’ll call dibs!).

Then there’s the type of things you’d never usually think of as a weapon but the juxtaposition of familiar objects used in unfamiliar ways when people are forced to fight for their lives can really bring home the feeling of a world gone badly wrong. To go back to Shaun Of The Dead, there’s a great scene early on where they’re throwing 12 inch records like Frisbees to try to kill a zombie. I’m not too sure how effective it would be but it’s certainly different. So when the undead come knocking, how about using that stuffed owl from the cabinet in the corner of the living room? Or using the granny’s funeral urn to obliterate the head of an attacking zombie because it’s the first thing that comes to hand? There’s a certain symmetry there of using the dead to send the undead to hell.

The bottom line here is that when you’re writing about killing zombies, it’s too easy to get caught is the same old and over-familiar clichés. Instead, put some imagination in there and see if you can come up with something a bit different. Of course, it’s possible to go too far the other way. Not every walking dead needs to be incapacitated in some new and interesting way but it’s always good to have a few distinctive deaths sprinkled in amongst the usual smashed in skulls. It keep the reader interested and rooting for the heroes rather than the zombies.

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 the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Where To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse…

11 Dec

A lot of thought has been given to how to survive when the dead start to rise. Discussions usually focus on things like the types of buildings it’s best to hole up in, what weapons to use to dispatch the undead and how to avoid becoming infected. However, where you hole up will be just as important as how you do it. Get this right, and you might survive, get it wrong and you’ll be doomed no matter how clever you are. Geography might just have been that class where you caught up on your sleep at school, but come the zombie apocalypse, you’ll regret all those naps. This is because your choice of locale can be your greatest ally. So, what should you be looking for? There’s a few key factors you’ll want to consider:

1. Low Population Density: The fewer zombies that are around, the lower the likelihood that you’ll run into them, and that can only be good. However, this isn’t just a matter of thinking about where people rarely go in your local neighbourhood, you want to be thinking regionally, or even nationally. Zombies will move around, looking for the living to feast on. You might not realise it, but even when shambling, zombies can cover surprisingly large distances, given enough time (and being dead, the one thing they have is plenty of time!). A zombie moving at 1 mile an hour (about a quarter the usual human walking speed), will be able to cover 168 miles in a week, 720 miles in a month and 8,760 miles in a year. This means that within a year of the start of a zombie plague they could turn up anywhere, but the lower the pre-apocalyptic population density of an area, the less likely it that zombies will make it to you in numbers that you can’t comfortably deal with.

2. Think Geographic Barriers: The fact that zombies can move surprisingly long distances, given enough time, is also the key to the next thing you need to think about.  This is geographic barriers. These are things that will stop wandering zombies dead (apologies for the pun!) in their tracks. Think fast flowing rivers, canyons, isolated mesas, cliffs, mountain chains. Such features have been used for defence by humans for centuries, and zombies will never manage to cross them. You can also consider whether slower moving rivers, lakes and seas will make good barriers but just remember that there’s some debate as to whether zombies can survive a good dunking in water, or even move around in it.

3. Connectivity: Connectivity is a measure of how well one area is linked to other neighbouring ones. In the pre-apocalyptic world, high connectivity is king. You want to be as connected to the rest of the world as possible. Yet, come the apocalypse, the greater the connectivity, the greater the risk that wandering zombies will find you. What you want is to find somewhere with the lowest level of connectivity possible. This means you’ll want to avoid the middle of continents and large geographic areas.  Instead, cling to the edges of them, or even avoid them all together. Islands are great, and the more isolated the islands the better. Think Ascension Island, think Diego Garcia, think Pitcairn. Can’t place them on a map? Never even heard of them ? That just tells you how unconnected they are! Of course, getting to them might be a little difficult, but you could always move there now, just in case. Yes, it’s drastic, but we’re talking about your survival here.

4. Climate: With climate things are complicated. There’s two issues to think about here, and they kind of conflict with each other. The first is your survival. For this, you’d want a nice mild climate, not too hot in summer or too cold in winter. You’d want enough rainfall to allow you to get plenty of drinking water, but not so much you’ll get floods. The trouble with mild climates though, is that zombies will last longer in them too. Zombies are the dead risen, and let’s face it they’ll start falling apart from the moment they reanimate. The harsher the environment, the quicker this will happen. Think baking deserts, think the frozen north (or south!), think the humidity of tropical forests. Zombies won’t last long in any of these. So what do you do? You’ll probably want to aim for the harshest environment where you think you could survive, just make sure you get it right.

5. Weather: I know, you’re thinking weather’s the same thing as climate, right?  Wrong. And when it comes to surviving the zombie apocalypse, it’s important you know the difference. Climate is the long-term average of things like rainfall, cloud cover and temperature. Weather is the variation you get from day-to-day. The critical thing for weather is you want to avoid anywhere that is regularly hit by destructive weather systems.  That’s things like hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes. There’s no point in escaping from the undead if the local weather’s going to drop a house on you and squash you flat!

6. Geological Stability: Geological stability is similar to weather. Survival is going to be hard enough with all the zombies around (well there shouldn’t be too many if you’ve chosen your location properly, the it’s the principle that’s important here!) you don’t want to also have to have to deal with things like earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. This means avoiding anywhere near the edges of tectonic plates (that’s most of the coastal areas around the Pacific, many oceanic islands, much of the Mediterranean and large parts of Asia).

7. Natural Resources: The zombie apocalypse is probably going to last a very long time so you need to think about surviving in the long-term. This means that you need to think about natural resources. These are going to be things like good soil for growing food, animals to hunt and fish to catch. They’re also going to be things like wood for fires, water for drinking, and if you get really ambitious things you can use to generate electricity  (wind, solar power, tidal energy, waves and so on). You might not be able to find somewhere with all of these, but the more of them you have in a given location the better. You certainly don’t want to end up somewhere where you can’t find food of one description or another.  After all, unless you’ve got an unfeasibly well-stocked larder, you’re going to run out of canned food before the last of the zombies finally turns to dust.

So these are the types of things you need to think of when deciding on where in the world you’d be best placed to survive a zombie apocalypse, but where can you find all these things in one place? We could argue about that one all night. I have my own ideas, but I’m afraid I’m going to keep them for myself for the time being. After all, when the dead start walking, I don’t want to make it to my carefully selected location only to find it’s already packed with other survivors!

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 the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.