So there I was at work today, my mind slightly wandering between tasks when suddenly a goddess visited me. Of course if I were an artist I would cite the muse as the deity that brought a bright and sudden illumination to my mind, but since i am not an artist I’ll blame Ereshkigal Summerian goddess of the dead.
That would be fitting as my lighting quick inspiration was about the dead, or more specifically the undead. After watching The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, cinematic zombies have been on my mind. To tell the truth they are never very far from it anyway. I have always had a fascination with survival situations and the Zombie Apocalypse ranks right up there in fun though and game experiments.
Even if you posit the existence of supernatural undead who attack and consume the living the sort of apocalypse envisioned by filmmakers simply isn’t possible. The hard cold mathematics are there simply are not enough dead people lying about to cause that sort of carnage.
According to the CDC the death rate in the United States is 803.6 per 100,000 per year. (stats are from 2007.) Let super impose that on my hometown of San Diego California. San Diego City has a population of 1,359,132 and so statistically has 10,921.98 death per year. That breaks down to 29.90 deaths per day. The top three causes of death are Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke all of which are primarily diseases of the elderly and constitute 25.4%, 23.2%, and 5.6% percent of death respectively. These three causes total to 54.2% of all deaths. The majority of your zombies are going to be frail old bodies that break easily.
So let’s wave our wand and revivify all the dead in san Diego for the last three days. That’s going to be 89.7 zombies, of which 48.6 are going to be ex-Senior Citizen Zombies. (Those beyond three days are almost certainly in the ground or burnt and hardly a threat to anyone.)
San Diego City has an area of 372.1 square miles. This yields in our zombie apocalypse .24 zombie per square mile, and most of those are old frail bodies. I think a scenario of 1 zombie ever 4.14 square miles is a very under-control situation.
The outlook for a zombie apocalypse grows even fainter when you realize that most people die in hospitals. The bodies are one, locked in cold vault and unable to get at victims to spread the infection and two in a situation where is it easy to lock down and isolate the carriers. Yes, you in the back? Oh, you want to point out that it takes only a single bite to transform a human to a zombie. Good point, but remember the Zombie consume their victims. In a fight where the zombie clearly wins, there is no transformation because the victim body has been destroyed not converted. We only have conversions when there is a partial victory by the zombie. A bitten vicitm who escapes to die later. Not a very good vector for a rapid spread disease.
The explosion of epiphany I had today was a zombie scenario that can yield a zombie apocalypse. I envisioned a new zombie. One that certainly draws up the ghouls from George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, and also on the zombies of the Caribbean with additional influences from revenant mythology.
I found my mind just running away from me with ideas and details about how this new undead ghoul would work and the unique dangers it presented. Story elements began to present themselves and scenes started to play in the theater of my mind. I can’t go into details here. I think — I’m not certain — but I think I may have my first horror novel germinating in my grey matter.
I have never written a horror novel, and I have never written a novel set in the here and now; so there are real challenges ahead of me. Not the least of which is that no solid story may develop, but it will not be from lack of trying!