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Suspending disbelief

September 17, 2019

I am an absolutely unapologetic fan of zombie apocalypse (hereinafter referred to as “ZA”) genre fiction…and movies…and games. It would be embarrassing if I was any good at being embarrassed. (I used to be good at it. Then I went to boot camp.) Anyway, I enjoy the genre a lot. I also happen to like guns quite a bit. It’s not the katana or baseball bat which is the ultimate weapon for killing zombies. It’s the rifle. Which reminds me…

Me: “Hi. I’m Ken and I’m an ammosexual.”

Rest of room (in unison): “Hi, Ken!”

With that out of the way, let’s continue.

There are some things about ZA entertainment that require me to suspend disbelief – a lot of disbelief. The whole walking corpse thing comes to mind, for instance. I’m a nurse, so that’s a big suspension of disbelief on my part. I do it because I enjoy the genre. Only head shots being effective, once one has accepted the whole ambulatory corpse thing, is not as much of a stretch for me. But I still have my limits. When people ask “what’s the likelihood of a real zombie apocalypse,” I feel obligated to ensure their corn flakes are adequately urine soaked because, you see, it’s fiction. It’s not even historical fiction. It’s ZA fiction, sometimes urban fantasy, or some sort of noir fantasy, or maybe even what Lovecraft called “weird fiction.” What it’s not is reality. It’s not real-world stuff, okay? That various government agencies have used it because it’s a useful metaphor in readiness training doesn’t make it real. In the real world, a ZA would last a few weeks and the story would end with some version of “and then everyone went back to their normal lives.”

That may help explain why I’m struggling to write that sort of thing. I can suspend disbelief when I read it, but when I write it, I’m very aware of just how unimpressive zombies are. As in

Panicked reporter: “Aieeee! The zombies have arisen in Wilmington, NC. The horde is now headed north. What will stop them? Are we done as a nation?”

Spokesperson for the 2nd MARDIV: “Yeah. We got this.”

Zombies, after all, aren’t intelligent critters. They’re just mindless, walking appetites. As Max Brooks, the apparent authority on all things zombie, notes, they are barely able to muster one step every 1.5 seconds. FWIW, if we assume an average stride length of 30 inches, that means they can manage 1.14 mph…rounded up. With high quality ammo, their numbers could be decimated with Ruger 10/22s and Marlin Model 60s.

So, given my preference for weird fiction, I decided to search for a more sinister, more dangerous and more difficult monster. I selected vampires.

Vampires are scary, yes? Of course, they are. They’d be a poor horror monster, otherwise.

I’ll be dealing with fairly “traditional” vampires. One of the most important things to remember about the traditional vampire is that it is evil. As such, it seeks to corrupt or pervert the innocent and the righteous. That seems to take care of the sinister part. Unfortunately,  it is the evil nature of the vampire, and its attempt to corrupt, that are tied to many of its weaknesses.

We see things in myth like its inability to enter a home without an invitation. In some medieval literature, we find reference to demons and the like calling to people from outside the home, trying to elicit an invitation. It seems to be related to the idea that people become monstrously evil, as opposed to a more mundane, everyday sort of “bad,” because they choose to allow evil into their lives. It is reflected, I believe, in the almost ubiquitous reference to a vampire’s sex appeal. There may also be a reference to many ancient traditions that saw the threshold as a sacred place – almost the first of family altars, if you will.

Sunlight, silver and the wood of some trees are all associated with purity and goodness. Thus, depending on the legend, vampires are harmed by one or more of these. The heart, that seat of good and evil, is destroyed by having a wooden (especially if made of the right wood) or silver stake driven through it. (Duh! It’s a stake. Through the heart. You’d die, too.) In the West, the Cross is considered sovereign against vampires, though there is some variation (Is it the Cross itself, or must it be presented with faith? If it is faith, can another symbol work?).

Without going too deeply into Christian theology and the different views of various denominations, it is this good vs. evil motif that explains the weakness of vampires as regards holy water and blessed communion wafers (which in the Catholic tradition literally become the body of Christ). I think this explains the idea of, once the vampire is decapitated, the mouth is stuffed with blessed Communion wafers and sewn shut with silver thread. The evil simply can’t overcome that much pure good.

Other things regarding how to permanently kill vampires seem to be related to medieval mythology. The body is burned and the ashes spread asunder. The head, after the mouth is filled and sewn shut, is placed in a bag and buried at a crossroads (the ideal being that the Vampire’s evil spirit would be unable to find its way back to the remnants of its body).

The belief in the efficacy of garlic may be related to the belief that the drinking of blood was part of the evil of the vampire (and the making of another one) and to the use of garlic to cure or prevent some diseases.

Anyway, those are the vampires I chose. So, how to deal with them?

  • Remove anything and everything from the outside of my house that could possibly be construed as an invitation to enter. If I can find one, it might be worthwhile to have an attorney’s point of view on this (“bloodsuckers” and all that).
  • Garlic hung at all entrances. I don’t know why garlic is believed to keep vampires out, but hey, if it works…
  • Silver crosses over the doors and near windows.
  • I would wear a crucifix or cross around my neck at all times.
  • It would be important to deliberately designate the place I lived as my home, rather than merely a place I happened to sleep.
  • External and internal full-spectrum lighting around not just the house, but at strategic points around the property. Backup power consisting of a generator. All power lines either buried and/or contained inside heavy steel conduit. Thus, I give you (bear in mind, the fun is at the end of the clip)

  • All buildings would have fire sprinklers, powered by a pump which pumped holy water from a storage tank. A similar system would be used to pump holy water to external lawn and garden sprinklers.
  • Kinetic energy, ultimately because Sir Isaac Newton
  • Hand loading time for all firearms. Bullets cast in a lead/silver or copper/silver alloy. As long as some degree of penetration is assured, that’s all that matters. It will deliver all its energy to the target (the vampire) and leave the silver in contact with the critter’s body.
  • Explosives. Lots of explosives. I know its a vampire, but physics beats evil, undead bloodsucker

So, vampires, too, would not be that impressive. As it happens, humans are really good at killing things we consider a threat, especially when we work in concert. The result? I have to suspend disbelief for a vampire apocalypse about as much as I do for the more pedestrian zombie version.

Ah, well, the search for an impressive monster goes on. In the meantime, I’ll continue to write about my favorites.

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One Comment
  1. OldNFO permalink

    Good one, and my ‘favorite’ for dealing with either a 12ga with slugs and a 1000 lumen Surefire on the forestock! 🙂

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