This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Every sensible human has a Zombie Survival Plan folded up and stored somewhere safe in their head. Perhaps you will go to the nearest supermarket, shutter the doors, pour all the fresh fruit into the freezer chests, and live off chips and bottled water. Maybe you have wild plans to somehow turret yourself up in the nearest TA base, sniper aimed firmly at the reinforced gates. Importantly, though, you think you're going to survive, don't you, you poor fool? This is the first mistake—thinking you are made of survivalist stuff.
No, you're getting bitten. Arguably, you'll be one of the first to go. I will, too and I have made my peace with that: Years of embracing life as a softboi millennial snowflake leaves me incapable of tapping into the necessary hunter-gatherer instincts I'd need to avoid a blood-thirsty corpse, but it does leave me with a mindset capable of planning for the worst.
So: Here's a guide for everyone, not just the people still struggling through The Walking Dead. For us, it's not all blowing over in the end; it's a lifestyle, and one we can thrive under. With a little preparation and the right attitude, we can adjust our bodies and our habits, and arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to become the very best zombies we can be.
STAGE #1: Before It All Kicks Off
The virus lies dormant, awaiting activation in its first host’s body. But you, you are preparing.
Do: Figure out your diet
First box to check is figuring out our eating habits. No way around this one, sorry: We're going to want to get right into brains.
Personally, as a soft-lad vegetarian who once suffered a terrible week after drunk-eating fried chicken, I imagine my body's going to have a hard time keeping up after pivoting my diet exclusively to raw human flesh. However, this change carries more risks than stomach cramps and moral guilt, according to nutritional therapist Becky Graham.
"Eating human brain, especially raw, could lead to any number of 'prion diseases,' including 'Kuru' and 'CJD' [mad cow disease]," she tells me. "In fact, eating any part of the human body—brain or otherwise—isn’t great. Our immune system would recognize that we’re eating 'self.' Consuming human tissue will be flagged as entirely wrong, and it’s likely to respond with an inflammatory reaction with any number of unknown repercussions."
So our bodies won’t be best pleased by the change, but it’s worth it in the long run to push through the pain and ready our stomachs. Fortunately, Graham reckons there’s an easier way to prepare:
"For cannibalism training, I’d encourage eating a lot of pork—some claims state that pig’s genetic make-up is the most like human, with a 98 percent genetic similarity—however this is far too simplistic a view, with many hundreds of thousands of additional DNA coding to take into consideration."
It’s not perfect, but definitely give "pig brain + pasta" a google, pick up an extra packet of bacon next time you’re doing the big shop and try to get used to the taste.
Do: Cancel your gym membership
Being muscly seems like it should be beneficial for overpowering humans (to then bite them, to death, on the head and arms), but Professor Hugh Montgomery, Director of UCL's Institute for Human Health and Performance, thinks it’s best to sack off dreams of that Hemsworth frame in favor of low-intensity cardio.
"I can't see the value in big muscles if all zombies continue to walk the way they do," he says. "They'd just stumble better, while looking more buff."
Also: Avoid building a "you" that needs lots of fuel to operate. As Montgomery points out, short of exercise and essential vitamins, those muscles are going to degenerate and abandon you. Keeping lean means you’ll need less sustenance, get in fewer fights, and lower the chance of getting chased off by some jerk with a shotgun when you try to crack into their skull.
Do: Look after your teeth and skin
Grooming seems counterintuitive when you’re ending up looking like literal hell on earth, but a half-decent skin routine now (face wash, moisturizer, night cream) will buy you precious time before your rotting flesh starts to loosen itself from your aching bones. Aesthetics aside, you’ll need to give your skin a strong starting point to help stave off nasty sores and infections that’ll slow you down.
Lesley Reynolds, author and co-founder of Harley Street Skin, suggests factoring coconut oil in to your beauty regime pre-zombification.
"Being undead is not a good look," she says. "You could cover your body in coconut oil, which is amazing for your skin, teeth, bones, and hair. At least you'll look and smell your best... for a while."
Same goes for your teeth. You'll inevitably live or die by your bite, and you're not going to make yourself any new zombie friends by gumming them now, are you? I know flossing is a chore, but if you're going to thrive in your new life it's worth putting the effort in now.
STAGE 2: Things Start Warming Up
Early reports of a previously unseen virus spreading surface. It’s spreading. The W.H.O keep downplaying the severity, but rumors online suggest the infected are displaying cannibalistic tendencies. Poorly-shot video emerges of lethargic individuals cumbersomely lurching around.
DO: Start walking the zombie walk
As a way of getting around town, Dr. Brian Hanley, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Biomechanics at Leeds Beckett University in England, goes in hard on the shuffling gait zombies are so famous for.
"Zombie walks isn’t particularly efficient," he fumes. "The arms don't balance the body well and it's jerky. Presumably the part of their brains that help us have smooth movements isn’t functioning properly."
So, you need to make yourself better at it. You’re going to be shambling around endlessly, so it’ll pay to get your body used to it.
"It would seem zombies have good muscle memory, as they tend to follow similar patterns to when they were 'normal,'" Hanley says. "From this point of view, preparing to be a successful zombie means practicing the things you'll do when you become one—walking slowly but relentlessly, holding the arms out in front of the body and groaning a lot."
Practice makes perfect. Watch the recordings on the news, study the sufferers, and do as they do. Prepare your body for the rigors ahead and, unencumbered by the albatross of survivor’s guilt, you’ll outmaneuver exhausted humans no problem.
Don't: Stock up on supplies
At this point, you’ve started noticing the weird boys-with-bunkers stocking up on canned food—beans with impossible shelf-lives, tubes of "astronaut food," powdered milk, guns, that sort of thing.
Don’t be tempted to follow suit: canned food is gross, and with your eclectic new tastes it won’t be worth the cupboard space. Instead, make sure to binge hard on foods that’ll keep your sodium levels high.
"In traditional zombie folklore, salt could sometimes help zombies become 'normal' again, so maybe they just have a lack of sodium; low salt values are linked with muscle problems," Hanley says.
Keep the salty snacks coming. Every multipack of chips you demolish will be keeping you limber.
Stage 3: Zombie Apocalypse Now
It’s here—the great zombie zpocalypse. Society’s breaking down, the news is spewing out zombie-related push notifications, the undead line the streets. The whole shebang.
Don't: Leave the city
Conventional survival logic points to now as being the best to head off to the countryside; but you, brave zombie-to-be, must fight that flighty urge.
For all its pitfalls, London’s a smorgasbord of over 8 million juicy brains. When it all kicks off, only an idiot would strand themselves out in the Peak District, or, like, Norfolk, just to inevitably get bitten by an outlier.
Do: Choose the right time to go
It’s time to bow out on your own terms. You’ll need to apply for zombie-membership while there are brains to spare (you don’t want to be hungrily walking down streets that have gone a bit 28 Days Later) but you want to be wary not to go too early in case you still end up bunking up with weird scientists and Patient Zero down at the secret research facility.
Find your zombie enabler, present them your wrist like a nightclub bouncer, and make sure to escape before they start ripping you apart.
Do: Lie about being bitten
One trick to score some easy brains is by getting good at lying about being infected. Chances are you’re already doing this, with some 70 percent of us reportedly continuing to work when we’re unwell.
Tell everyone you’re fine. When your suspicious friend/family member/lover asks if you've been bitten, despite frothing at the mouth, your well refined ability to hide your symptoms means you’ll say: "Of course not," semi-believably… Then you can just eat them.
Don't: Forget your helmet
Finally, it’s important to remember zombies = notoriously weak head-havers. Use your last moments before surrendering yourself to the undead legions to strap on a helmet.
Maybe it’s a construction worker’s hat, or maybe it’s one you bought when you tried biking to work that one time. Maybe it’s even one of those party ones, with straws and cans on the sides. Either way, as your last remnants of cognition slowly drift away, with your head protected you can rest easily.
Enjoy yourself out there. You’ve earned it.
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