Monday, April 14, 2014

The Big Box Store as Post-Apocalyptic Fortress

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, the Dark Resurrection, etc. First of a probable series, if I’m motivated enough.

This was on George Takei’s Facebook page, so I expect everyone has seen it already:

I have several problems with this. The first that comes to mind is the zombies do have memberships at my local Costco. People complain about Walmart shoppers, but the most inconsiderate, aisle-blocking, slow-walking slugs shop where I go for coffee, kitty litter, and toilet paper in bulk. If it wasn’t for the breaks I get on these items I’d have let my membership lapse a long time ago. 

Nothing on the company, mind you. The mindless hordes that go there, however, are a crash course in the most passionate misanthropy. Do you suffer from a naturally sunny disposition? Pushing your cart through these milling cattle on a Friday afternoon, when the Food Sample Ladies are out in force, will clear that right up.

You’re going to have a devil of a time clearing these former shoppers out—in the dark, because you likely won’t have electricity. You’ll need to bring the steel doors down for security from the hordes outdoors, too. It’s okay, though. Whatever’s there in the store with you is sure to find you, so just sit tight and get ready to dance. In the dark. 
The reason for steel doors in one handy visual. In real life that glass front would bow in on its frames from the weight alone in, oh, 15 seconds? If this is what you’re seeing you might as well pour steak sauce on yourself.

As always in these apocalypses, your fellow survivors are as much of a danger as the living dead. A big box store full of supplies and food is a prime target for the more aggressive looters and wannabe warlords.  Your best hope for protection is a lot of zombies in the parking lot, enough to swarm all but the largest and most heavily armed of groups.
Think of this as a moat full of snapping crocodiles. 

Sure as sunrise, though, that biggest and most heavily armed group will come. You’ll want to be long gone when they show up, too. As far as they’re concerned, you’re the one squatting on their stuff, and they won’t take kindly to that. What scares me most is they might want to play with you a bit before they actually kill you. Yeah, let’s not go there....

You may (or not) have noticed the two stills from George A. Romero’s 1978 film Dawn of the Dead. In Romero’s definitive survival-among-the-undead film, his survivors take a helicopter and land on a shopping mall. The mall still has electricity, but they still have to clear it out and secure the entrances. It’s perilous work. And, in the end—SPOILER ALERT!—it’s all for nothing.

Before the inevitable gang comes busting through the barricades, letting the hordes outside back in, the survivors are already losing their minds to boredom. They’re surrounded by everything you’d think anyone ever could want, from jewelry to clothes to money—and like the latter in any collapsed economy, it’s all worthless. That’s the ultimate statement on the consumer mentality right there. Not the zombies. Indeed, the zombies are the only thing that gives our heroes lives meaning, because the dead force you to fight for the only thing that means anything, i.e., your life.

Consider that our heroes in Dawn of the Dead had a brightly lit shopping mall to run around in. Sam’s Clubs and Costcos and the like are big, but not that big, let alone so cheerfully appointed. Also, you’ll be without electricity. You’ll be trying on all those discount clothes by camp lantern light, until you either run out of batteries or the ones there simply go bad.

Which they will, along with the food. Canned food, contrary to popular belief, does not last forever. There’s a handy Web site called StillTasty: Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide for your further education. Avail yourself of this knowledge while there’s still an Internet. Sure, the canned stuff lasts years. But one month is already a couple of weeks too long to be cooped up in a dark box.

Bottom line: you’ll likely be driven off by the darkness and the claustrophobia long before the food goes bad or the warlords show up, so never mind. If you’re not, you probably have a death wish anyway.
Psst...I write zombie thrillers. You like post-apocalyptic adventure? Right here, kid. I got some stuff.