by Jack Wallen
Thanks to The Walking Dead, zombie are everywhere. Commercials, music, books, comics, breakfast cereal, underpants…you name it and a zombie’s got its rotten, oozing grip over it. Thanks to that supersaturation, I’ve heard pundits and pedants across the globe stating “The end of zombies is nigh!”
And yet…they remain.
Why? That’s the big question on the lips of so many who had predicted the festering flesh of the genre would wash away in a bathing glory of truth. As you might expect, I’d like offer up a few possible reasons why the shambling big bad has remained.
Here they are.
The “What if?”
What would happen if the zombie apocalypse did actually occur. Have you gone through that scenario yet? You’ve read enough zombie fiction and watched enough Romero films (and six seasons of The Walking Dead), so certainly you’ve allocated plenty of time for your thought-meat to wrap itself around the big “What if?” And surely you’ve fallen “prey” to that Facebook meme:
The object on your right…
You know the one, where you’re supposed to look to your right and the first object you see is the only weapon you’d have to fend off the moaners, screamers, walkers, deaders…whatever you want to call them.
The big question here is “Would you survive?” Simple. Or is it? We all like answer that “What if?” with a resounding “Yes!” But is that the honest answer? Thing is, the very idea of a zombie apocalypse allows us to stand up against that question with a grain of truth.
Of all the monsters ever created, the zombie is the only one that could possibly occur. In fact, we’ve seen it happen. Men and women in drug-induced stupors biting off the flesh of another human, almost unstoppable in their single-mindedness. And we can all easily imagine the scenario wherein a crazed government unleashes a biological weapon. Sadly enough, that is not beyond the realm of “What if?”
It. Could. Happen.
Vampires? Unlikely. Werewolves? Probably not. Zombies? Who knows!
You know a prepper. You may not know you know a prepper…but you do. What are preppers? Preppers are those who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures (e.g., a survival retreat or an underground shelter) that may help them survive a catastrophe.
The prepper phenomenon has been going on for a very long time and it will not stop. Ever. Why? Because the “What if?” exists. We want to think we’d survive anything fate has to throw at us. Preppers further this by actually taking steps to prepare for that eventuality.
The very existence of the prepper culture serves as a reminder that the apocalypse could happen…which, by extension, keeps the apocalypse just under the surface of our consciousness. On top of that, they come up with some of the most amazing ideas for survival (ideas that could actually save our lives come the…say it with me…apocalypse).
This is the big one (Elizabeth). For me, the main reason why zombies and the apocalypse have such incredible staying power is that they can serve as a metaphor for so many things. Consider Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”. Almost the entire film took place within a mall. It is commonly accepted this film is a metaphor for wide-spread consumerism. Or take the opening scene from Shaun of the Dead. Here you have a young man going through the motions of getting himself to work…a metaphor for the corporatization of the human soul. 28 Days later serves as a reminder of how fragile the human ecosystem is. Resident Evil displays the greed and corruption of politics and big business.
No other “monster” can serve as such a flexible metaphor that we, as living humans, can relate to on every possible level.
That is why zombies and the apocalypse has remained and will continue to cry out for brains for years to come.
What do you think? How much longer will the average human allow the zombie to shamble across our consciousness?
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com