The last thing you ever hear is the moaning.
By that time, they've already surrounded your home, their fingernails scratching at the walls. The moaning grows louder, like the hum of a million bees. And just as you realize what they are and your terror is almost complete, a windowpane shatters ...
I'm talking, of course, about zombies.
Where are you right now? At your home computer? In the office? Take a look around. What is the nearest thing you could use as a weapon if the undead should come shambling through your doorway? How many could you take down with it? One? Two? Five?
What if you had to fight your way through 40 zombies? Maybe you've seen a zombie movie or two, but if you had to, could you kill one today? Bravado aside, are you absolutely positive you even know how to kill a zombie?
Fortunately, you probably haven't had to deal with the sick horror of a zombie apocalypse. Yet. But help is here with a new book by Roger Ma called "The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead." In it, Ma analyzes -- in extraordinary detail -- how to prepare physically and mentally to protect yourself in a zombie outbreak, particularly an extended one that could cover weeks or even months.
Oh sure, it may seem easy to dismiss a future zombie invasion as unlikely simply because it hasn't happened yet, but ask yourself this: How much is it worth to have the security not to feel the deathless bite of a hungry corpse crunching through your skull?
© Berkley Trade Paperbacks/Penguin Group
I was concerned at first that this would be little more than a rehashing of the groundbreaking work by Max Brooks, but "The Zombie Combat Manual" gains a tremendous amount of depth by narrowing its focus: Instead of discussing the roots, history and process of zombification, it assumes the eventuality of infestation so you can begin to prepare for it right away.
More important than hypothesizing over the possible cures or treatment for zombiism, it jumps into preparing for close-range undead combat. While it doesn't avoid important considerations like shelter and defensive fortifications, the meat of the book delves into the preparation aspects necessary prior to any combat: self-assessment of physical strengths and weaknesses, evaluation of fitness and point-by-point considerations of every class and type of likely weaponry that would be available to the average person in the case of an undead outbreak, from Swiss halberds to kitchen cutlery to gardening tools. Nothing is overlooked.
© Berkley Trade Paperbacks/Penguin Group
A valuable point is made early on: What is most effective against a zombie is not necessarily the most practical in the event of a long-term infestation. For example, guns are effective, but ammunition must be sufficient, and in the likelihood of traveling to a safe area, all of the ammunition would need to be carried -- a very real concern.
For all of the more practical weapons, careful consideration is shown to the strengths and weaknesses of each: effectiveness, life span, skill level required to be effective, availability and cost.
Ma's background in emergency planning and preparation is evident as he drills down past basic assumptions to confront the reality of fleeing a shuffling horde of flesh-hungry ghouls. The best compliment I could give the book is that several times, I found myself agreeing with some discussion before I caught myself and said, "Wait, this is about freaking zombies."
It also raises the question about how prepared we are to defend our mortality against other unseen foes that remain outside of our everyday consciousness. It's easy to forget about them, partly because they occupy a different part of our consciousness. It's always us vs. them, whereas the shuffling undead feel more like us vs. us. We retain our humanity against outside foes, and we band together when the outside force is great enough.
Still, it's that sameness that we share with the undead that makes zombie conflict most disturbing. They have two eyes, a nose and a mouth, like us. They walk upright, like us. They look human, like us. No other conflict evokes the same sense of dread, not even Bill Barker's bleak Schwa universe, where human enslavement is inevitable and where capture and probing, while not necessarily enjoyable, is as much a part of everyday life as anything else.
All I know is that I'm going to look into Swiss halberds. You just can't be too careful.