“I’ll give you the 2012 thing”, she said, “but a zombie apocalypse? Come on, you don’t really believe that do you?”
The 2012 thing – if you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already familiar with it. The 2012 thing refers to the conveniently predicted end-of-the-world or great change coming December 21st, 2012. Many apocalypse theories are vague and dark, leaving many details rough, ambiguous and open to interpretation. The 2012 eschaton comes from several cultures and gives us a very certain date to prepare not necessarily for the end of existence or the world, but “the end of the world as we know it” – TEOTWAWKI.
The date of 12/21/12 is derived from the end of a 5,125 year cycle for the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, most notably used by the Maya civilization. The calendar completes its 13th cycle from its starting point. Correlating the Mayan date to our Gregorian calendar yields several different dates ranging from the 21st through the 23rd, but the 21st seems likely, as it coincides with the winter solstice, and though astrology has little to do with our daily affairs, astronomically the Earth is said to be aligned facing the center of the Milky Way behind the Sun on the 21st. This interesting termination of the calendar in our immediate lifetimes is what brings many to reckon the date will bring about great global change or cataclysm.
Prophecies aside, how does 2012 relate to a zombie apocalypse? Certainly our world could be forever changed on this date by an unnoticed eschatological asteroid, disease or terrible quaking of the earth. The walking dead? Also plausible. Current scientific research into disease, reanimation and cellular re-genesis is progressing as rapidly as other scientific disciplines. Particularly terrifying is the reanimation of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus, responsible for a pandemic that killed an estimated 20 million people. Scientists have gathered important new clues to why the virus spread quickly and killed efficiently (though its use as a bio-weapon has not been confirmed). The viral resurrection is brought about for research and a vaccine against itself – which of course has already been eradicated – and the virus is being harvested from corpses, notably the body of a woman buried in the Alaskan permafrost. Unchecked adaptive and opportunistic pathogens claim a definite component of our eschaton, and an escaped weaponized version will most certainly wreak havoc against an unprepared and innocent populace. There’s no guarantee the new vaccine will work well on humans, a problem because nobody born after 1930 is immune to the 1918 strain.
The physical walking dead demand a certain suspense of disbelief of course. Assuming a plausible 20% of the worlds population has been infected by a terminal pathogen, our fragile infrastructure and socioeconomic systems will begin to break down as well. Weakened immune systems will render humans more susceptible to the likes of Trypanosoma brucei, a parasite that carries nightmarish qualities, reducing many of its victims to a zombie-like state before they slip into a coma and die. Toxoplasma gondii can alter brain functions in rats, leading them to the jaws of cats – and in humans can change brain patterns to induce neuroses, paranoia and schizophrenia. Left with a rotting brain and primitive fight-or-flight instincts, an entire populace can be reduced to weakened lumbering shadows of humans, stumbling around for food. Not actually dead or undead, these stupefied humans will be harbingers of disease, parasites, bacteria and infectious rot, whose saliva and blood will be rich with zombifying toxins.
Disease ridden walking corpses are one thing. Reanimating brain-dead humans has been discussed before and is a very real possibility. Restoring a human from a cryogenic stasis and reanimating their dying brain tissue yields the possibility that a human may not be the same as they were when they expired. This leaves much speculation as to a reanimated form of a human being, but combined with the virii and diseases mentioned above – you get the idea.
Five years is a fine timeframe for viruses to be developed and mutate as well as science achieving groundbreaking results in reanimation. “Where will I be in five years?” Loading shotguns and pistols seems like a nice course of action, but they’re more for your protection against opportunistic looters, crazies and deranged survivors rather than walking corpses. In five years I will be watching the news with cautious eyes – and stocking up like I would for any emergency.
Guns and beer.