If — or when — the zombie apocalypse begins, what are our odds here in the Scenic City?
Don’t say you haven’t thought about it, especially after recent stories of late-night cannibalism (the face-eating man in Miami, the heart-and-brains-eating college student in Maryland).
You can’t swing a cerebral cortex without hitting a new zombie film or book, making zombie culture so popular that one blogger declared zombie-ism as the disease of the 21st century.
A Harvard psychiatrist has published a mock medical-paper on the workings of a zombie virus, and even the dour-faced Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — not normally known for being funny — maintains a zombie blog and checklist on zombie preparedness.
Even the rail-splitter Abe Lincoln was a vampire hunter, which means we should take a serious look at what that makes Dick Cheney.
Why so many zombies? Perhaps it’s our subconscious, reflecting on the emptiness of post-modern life, with its cubicles, traffic jams and hundred-year mortgage payments. Who’s to say Fred in accounting is not really half-dead? Have you seen him after his lunch break?
Intellectuals are usually the first to get eaten in zombie films, so enough ivory tower talk. The question remains: Between the good people of Hamilton County and the undead, who wins?
I’ll offer five factors for consideration. Feel free to continue the debate in the online comments.
Factor one: Civil War battlefields.
More than 30,000 soldiers died in the Battle of Chickamauga. Their bodies are still there. Enough said.
Factor two: the Chattanooga Track Club.
Most zombies are slow, shuffling and stumbling like the last folks to leave Riverbend, which means a 15-minute miler can outrun the undead. There are road or trail races nearly every weekend, which means we are a fast city.
Advantage: Hamilton County humans. (Note: Zombies in recent films, such as those in “28 Days Later,” are faster than ever, which means this advantage may only apply to runners like Phoebe Wright).
Factor three: Republicans.
From protecting gun rights to legislating stricter voter identification, the Republican agenda not only serves its constituent base but also quietly wages war against the zombie threat.
Zombies have no birth certificates, which means purging voter ID laws serves to oust the unidentifiable. Plus, a well-placed bullet usually stops an advancing zombie.
“These are sold out,’’ said Timothy Turner, salesman at Shooter’s Depot.
On the wall behind him: two life-size shooting targets. In one, a mild-mannered balding businessman wearing glasses and carrying a briefcase (see earlier point about intellectuals) is attacked by two zombies.
In another poster (displayed next to the target of Osama bin Laden) a red-mouthed zombie is about to bite the neck of a well-endowed blonde who seems to be missing her bra, and in a few moments, her brains.
Turner said some targets even explode fake blood when shot, and that one ammo company makes rounds, or bullets, specifically for zombies. Turner says it’s all for fun, but did note one actual event that did drive up gun sales.
“When the president was elected, it really skyrocketed sales,’’ he said.
Factor four: country folks.
“Listen to the Hank Williams Jr. song ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ and that will tell you everything you need to know,’’ said my friend Matt Nooga.
Nooga’s been watching zombie films since he was young, and since been involved in the creation of zombie-crowded haunted houses here and in Atlanta. His theory: survivors of the zombie apocalypse will be the ones who can live off the land.
“Country people,’’ he said. “We know how to make it. I can survive in the woods and take my family with me.’’
Finally, our secret weapon. We need a group working under the radar, unknown even to normal, everyday citizens (like Fred in accounting). This group must have special authority to act in emergencies, and have the support of the sheriff.
Such a group may seem irrelevant, but when the zombies come out, their purpose will be fully revealed.
The Hamilton County posse!
Contact David Cook at email@example.com or 423-757-6329. His columns will appear regularly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and on Tuesday in an online-only version.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...