The "zombie apocalypse" portrayed in
shows like The Walking Dead and
countless novels is almost always a threat set in modern times. Generally, it's
not a city that's overwhelmed by the undead, but the whole Earth. We anticipate
the threat of global collapse; we consider how quickly the disease can leap
national borders and even oceans in our increasingly mobile and interconnected
society. We fear the end of the world.
our earliest ancestors, who most often were born and died in the same place, couldn't
conceive of the threat of a one-time, global extinction. In my Zombie
Bible series, I imagine the zombie threat as our ancestors lived it: wave after
wave after wave of the undead, across the centuries. Like recurring
flood or famine, but more horrible.
the earth as it once was. No railroads, no rapid transit, no aircraft, often no
more than sporadic or seasonal communication between lands inhabited by
different peoples. If a zombie outbreak began by chance in an isolated,
mountainous region and overcame the tribes living there, their dead might
wander those ridges for a year, or ten years, or a century, before encountering
on which strain they carried, they might even rot away before ever biting
another human being. Or, if an outbreak overwhelmed an encampment in a fertile
river valley, the dead might wander en masse down that valley, crossing swiftly
into territories inhabited by other tribes, to either devour them or be
destroyed by them. In the spread of the pestilence, geography mattered more
than commerce, and the plague generally traveled in one direction at a time.
Lurching and clumsy, the larger groups of walking dead most frequently moved
downhill, like water. Some people fought them; some fled; some hid and waited
for them to shamble past.
Unlike us, our ancestors had no biocontainment labs, no centers
for disease control. Their only hope was strict, religious observance of laws
governing contact with the dead. Relax their vigilance for even a
moment, and they might find hundreds of reeking, moaning strangers lurching
through their land.
in the Land (The Zombie Bible),
the tribes inhabiting ancient Israel face one such invasion. And none of them
are prepared for the full extent of the horror that will eat its way across
their fields. To my mind, there's a great depth of horror in exploring zombies
as a recurring crisis, eating its way through our entire history, century after
century, rather than a one-time event.