Writing

Scary Moments: 15 Zombie Apocalypse Situations To Avoid

Today, I’m continuing the Halloween Scary Moments theme with a bit more fictional list. Being an author, my creative mind shrieks warnings at times about avoiding a zombie apocalypse. See if you agree with these situations to stay away from.

Just in case you think it can’t happen, check out this older post about why a zombie apocalypse could happen. Toxoplasmosis is my favorite on the list (and I love my cat!). Now for the list:

  • Any fast food drive thru – I think this one all the time. Bad place to be, no place to go with that protection. Solution: windows up, unless you’re Merle from Walking Dead, then you need loud music and a fifth of whiskey to share around. You don’t need the food in that situation. Just jump curb, do what you gotta do to get away.
  • A traffic jam – see my post from yesterday and Snowpocalypse. Snow-walking dead. Or just a wonderful late afternoon in summer where things turn rough. The road shoulder suddenly becomes a premium. Run for it? Solution, keep a folding bike in your trunk… That might be a bit much, I just avoid traffic jams like it’s a zombie apocalypse.
  • In the middle of an MRI or CAT scan – the last few of these I had, my last thought going into the claustrophobic tube (they really don’t bother me except the clanking that keeps me awake) is: I hope the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen while I’m in here. 
  • In a basement or crawlspace – Remember Darryl in the basement room of the mortuary? Only a gurney between him and a mob of zombies? You get the picture. Incidentally, Darryl is the man when it comes to fighting zombies. Merle would be, but he had a death wish and couldn’t play well with others enough to survive.
  • In an underground tunnel – See the traffic jam above, but worse. You can’t run from the road. Tunnels from buildings? Even worse. Really nowhere to go. Subways? Don’t get me started.
  • In a church or theatre balcony – One title: 28 Days Later. Main character, Jim, finds himself in a church balcony with one incoming and a building full below him. The bag of drinks was illustrative and makes it onto my list of survival weapons. Running is a premium as this scene shows (it’s at this point you know things are on in this movie).
  • A dark room with lots of entry points and noises nearby – 28 Days Later works. You go to bed staring at doors and windows. Seriously, you want to find a secure position that defensible and has food. A bunker is also premium. Anybody got a good one you’re willing to share? BTW, if your dog runs into one like I Am Legend, it’s foreshadowing. The dog will soon be a zombie coming after you, just bug out rather than go into the lair.
  • Revolving door – Walking Dead episode. Hilariously creepy. I’ll never look at a revolving door the same. Zombies to the left, zombies to the right. Stuck in the middle. That’s when you want body armor and the ability to run like a fullback (a la Glenn escaping form the prison on his own in Walking Dead).
  • A cruise ship – Just no. I’ve been on one, but ugh, what a place to be. The only worse place is a basement mortuary behind a gurney or a revolving door. If you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse in one of those 3 spots, you might re-think your life – or resign yourself to a stumbling, shuffling afterlife.
  • Huge dance party on the roof of a building – It can be defensible, but not if the SHTF in a crowd of people. This is worse than a train station in a panic. Somebody’s going off the side… Just not a good place at all.
  • Surgery – Yikes. Don’t go there. You have no chance. Think cheerful thoughts before going under. The same goes for a colonoscopy.
  • Dentist chair – Better, but sometimes it feels like I’ve been through a zombie event when it’s over.
  • A restroom – See the revolving door, basement, dark room. Really, a crowded restroom at a sports bar is bad enough with handsy drunks trying to pick your pocket. When they become zombies trying to take a bite, that’s the end of enjoying the football game and life becomes a weird form of it. It’s then you go offensive lineman and throw some pancake blocks – nothing fancy, just be the pulling guard and truck everything in your way.
  • An airplane – I’m sorry I thought of this one. Protect the pilot at all costs.
  • A high bridge – See the one about the restroom and the building dance party. You don’t want to be in that traffic jam. At least with Gallopin’ Gertie there was a chance to escape. 

So there you have it. That’s tongue-in-cheek. Laugh a little at the dark humor and stop taking life so seriously. We’ve got enough to worry about. Just enjoy the Halloween fun and move on. Personally, the news is scary enough. I stopped watching it at all and I’m much happier for it.

Tell me your worst zombie apocalypse nightmare in the comments. Please share this if you liked it. That’s about it for Scary Moments this week. Also, what are your favorite zombies? Slow, fast, smart? 

Scary Moments: 5 Times Life Felt Like The Apocalypse

We’ve all seen the post-apocalyptic movies and shows. Walking dead neatly created sets which were empty of people. I Am Legend and other movies depicted life devoid of other people. Of course, those are zombie apocalypse genre and we’ll get into those later this week. I guess this subject is good for Halloween.

There’s a fixation with drastic events in the American psyche. There are entire genres of books and films. The word is from ancient Greek and means “Revealing”, and is most associated with The Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle. It famously contains events which add to the entire social outlook of the world based on the events. Oddly, Revelations isn’t really about the dire events, but I suppose how we deal with uncontrollable events reveals much about us.

People prep for extreme events whether for hobby or serious intent. Personally, I’ve been through several weather events in my life that led me to create a certain amount of prep to deal with these situations as necessary.

These past experiences left an impression on my memories. Here are five times life felt like the Apocalypse:

  • 1974 Tornadoes: I wrote about this event earlier this week as one during which I was close to death. The aftermath of the storm left many people without power for days as well as many trees down everywhere. Our street was blocked at both ends. School was dismissed. Dire reports came over the radio. People wandered around looking at what happened. It felt like our slice of the world had been reduced to living life like a hundred years earlier. Eventually life got back to normal, but we cooked from camping gear or the fireplace and it was easy to imagine at time when it’s the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI for short). This was the biggest tornado outbreak recorded and the stuff of epic movie thrillers. I don’t watch movies about tornadoes, I’ve lived them until…
  • 4/27/2011: This is a date remembered in Alabama, and across the south, for the devastating tornadoes that swept through the region. That morning, death passed by my back door as also noted in my former post this week. This was another event where we were without power for about six days, while cleaning up around the house. It took months to recover. I can remember video of people wandering around Tuscaloosa in shock at the enormity of the damage. There were many other communities with widespread damage and deaths. This was certainly an event that felt Apocalyptic. You could not find items at the store, but I was lucky to get my hands on a bigger, newer, working chainsaw. Generators were nowhere to be found in stores. It was hard to drive anywhere in the area due to all the downed trees. Here are a few links regarding the Tuscaloosa Tornado:
  • 1993 Blizzard: Alabama doesn’t get too many snow events and most of them involve wet snow that turns to ice. These are usually about a day or two of inconvenience and kids out of school as roads are cleared and schools are confirmed not to have burst pipes and heat. We just don’t have these enough to warrant handling these events with a short shut-down in the region. But in late winter of 1993, we got a blizzard which is extremely rare for this region. Cold air swept south under an incoming major storm from across the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody took weather reports seriously the few days earlier, after all, the day of it was in the 60’s and partly sunny. They said it was getting cold and when I saw the radar on the weather, that was and uh-oh moment. We were inundated with a lot of precipitation while the temperatures dropped at least 30 degrees. It was thundersnow with iridescent green-blue lightning. We ended up with about 3 feet of powdery snow (very rare for this region) and the state locked down. I was able to drive around in a 4-wheel drive I owned at the time and it was eerie to drive around without anyone on the road. It was serene, but strangely empty.
  • Snowpocalypse/snowmegddon – this storm in 2014 even got its own apocalyptic nicknames. It started as a snow storm – wet snow – on cold ground and streets and turned into a mass traffic quagmire. The snow surprised local meteorologists in that it stuck. I thought the ground was plenty cold since we’d had several days of dry, cold weather. It started snowing mid-morning after everyone in Birmingham arrived at work. They all started bailing out of work at the same time causing traffic jams. The roads quickly iced over and entire sections of highways were jammed with cars and big trucks. People were taken in at hotels by the droves. My wife and daughter got stuck coming home and walked to a friend’s house for shelter. Somehow, I got in my trusty Honda Pilot with all-wheel drive, got on the interstate and found my direction free of almost all traffic. I cruised at a top speed of 20 mph, climbed a few inclines safely, and made it home. I got off easier than several years earlier when I tried to go to work for an early shift during an ice storm. My rear-wheel drive Ford Explorer slipped one way rear-end first. I got it under control. It went the other way, and I got it under control. the third time it never gave me a chance as it swung the SUV entirely around and I took a giant sled ride down a hill and dropped a rear tire in the ditch. This time, I got home safely, but it felt like an Apocalypse, hence the local name. The pictures look like something from the Walking Dead with snow, wait, that right out of Game of Thrones and the snow-walkers. It makes you think how much art imitates life, or vice versa…
  • Pandemic commute – after the lockdown in March of 2020, I was deemed an essential worker and kept going to my job. The first week was a matter for discussion among us in the cube-farm. We all commented about how creepy the commute was. Driving on empty roads was a welcome change, but we all expected to see zombies wandering the roadways. I suppose all the genre movies and shows have that effect. I’ve been there with snow events, but this was way creepier since it wasn’t a weather event. Seriously, creep factor kept playing tricks with me to the point where a cyclist was mildly alarming. I shouldn’t watch Walking Dead re-runs again.

Bonus Story

I have a lot of adventures as I dredge through my memories. Life’s been far more eventful that it seemed over the years.

Once, before I was married, I was driving late-night to Nashville to visit my soon-to-be wife. The night was frigid in the low twenties and expected to drop to single digits. I was making good time in my old 1980 Plymouth Champ, but the gas level was heading toward empty. But I knew I had enough to make it to my exit to fill-up.

About three miles from the exit, the car sputtered a couple of times even though I had plenty of gas left. Then, it died and I costed to a stop on the shoulder.

The gas line had frozen.

Almost made it.

What was I to do?

I thought of walking, but it was cold so I started running. Not too far along, a sheriff deputy stopped and picked me up. I got a short ride in the back to my exit where I placed a phone call on a pay-phone (I’m really dating myself – hey, I saw one in the middle of nowhere a month or so back). My fiancé drove out and picked me up.

For a few minutes, it was a lonely run on the side of a dark, cold highway.

Guess what? It snowed and it was several days before I could get out to gas up my car. Thankfully, it was in one piece.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I could go on about roadside breakdowns (that’s not the only time I took a run for for a gas station, but maybe another time). Feel free to share your apocalyptic stories in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I’ll be back with a creepier topic later this week.

Scary Moments: 8 Times I Could Have Died

This week, I’m focusing on Halloween with a few spooky posts.

People visit haunted house events during this time of year. I’ve been to some over the years and was never impressed with these, rarely unnerved by them. I’ve been through my own scary situations enough that fake ones just don’t get to me.

Here’s a list of scary moments that stick out to me:

  • Mauling by dogs – I wrote about this one in a Father’s Day tribute a few years ago so if you want to read the entire story, you are welcome to click the link. In short, I was walking home one Saturday afternoon when I was about eight and was surrounded by about eight menacing dogs. I could have been a mauling victim and died except for my father running from the house and yelling at the dogs and causing them to scatter. Scary moment if you think long about it. Werewolf movies and such monsters in haunted houses just don’t compare to the real thing.
  • Almost shot in the house – I can’t remember if I wrote anything about it, but I walked through the dining room Sunday afternoon as a teenager. I heard the tinkle of broken glass but noticed nothing wrong. Later, we discovered a bullet had come through a window in front of which our china cabinet stood. The bullet pierced the window, the china cabinet (front and back, the front being glass) and lodged across the room in the wall. It was a random shot from a hunter in the woods below our house. The bullet missed me by mere inches. The realization was very unnerving by how random the event was.
  • Fire in the chimney – my sister and I arrived home to a roaring fire in the fireplace and the heat turned up by a family member who left. The furnace cause a swift draw of air up the chimney when we opened the door. I told my sister to get out while I called the fire department. They argued with a kid about reporting a fire in the chimney, but I won that when I told them to just come and that I was getting out of the house after dousing the flames in the fireplace. It did nothing for the chimney which was spewing flames like a rocket. We could have died, but somehow the house was undamaged. Another sobering moment that stands out in my mind.
  • Bike accident – I grew up in the seventies and nobody wore a bike helmet. I rode an old bike with pedal brakes. For those who done know how those work, you reversed your feet on the pedals to brake the bike. The harder you jammed a foot back, the faster you stopped. With a hard one, you’d skid. Footwork was important to slow the bike, so having the pedals horizontal was best for a fast stop. Anyway, our street attracted kids from all over and we could easily have fifty bikes tooling around on the street. I rode down the street at top speed when my older brother turned in front of me on his five speed. I was moving so fast I couldn’t brake or steer clear. I ended up ramping off the front tire. Perfect! We couldn’t have rehearsed it any better. Except, I was unprepared for the sudden flight and landed, falling in my back. I don’t remember hitting my head, but they were watching me all day for a concussion. I easily could have ended up with severe head trauma the way I landed. I was lucky I walked away.
  • Neighborhood shooting – As an adult, I lived a few years in a rather edgy neighborhood. It was mostly fine, but you had to watch for things happening. One evening, we exited a neighbors house to a kid wheeling around the corner on a bike without a chain. The next door neighbor yelled to stop him from stealing the bike, Without a thought, I gave chase. The kid jumped off the bike, pulled a gun, and fired it wildly, then ran away. That was a stop in your tracks moment.
  • Spinouts on the highway during a storm – I used to be a delivery driver during that same time. Summers in Alabama often have thunderstorms that pop-up. It will pour rain and the interstates will be slick as ice if it hasn’t rained for several days. One such storm happened and I slowed my speed in the center lane, especially crossing over another interstate on an S-curved overpass. Suddenly, multiple cars passing me began hydroplaning in circles around me, smashing into retaining walls and bouncing back into the traffic. With a tooth-grinding grimace, I somehow steered clear of all the mayhem and felt like the Millennium Falcon bursting from the Death Star just as it explodes. I could have been crushed, rolled, or knocked over one of the walls. I couldn’t have pulled off a better death-defying stunt if I tried.
  • Tornadoes 1974 – A lot happened when I was a kid, but there was one night when tornadoes struck all across the country. Alabama had a large number of twisters touch down everywhere. We lived in a stone-mortared house on a ridge. If you aren’t familiar, tornadoes will hope ridges and follow valleys. They were coming from everywhere. We had a semi-portable basketball goal on a wooden frame and went out to pull it down, then shove it next to a wall for some cover. During all that, I was looking the right direction when the sky lit up with a massive lightning bolt for several seconds. I saw a massive funnel cloud rolling by in the night. Very scary moment. We took cover in the basement which was like a bunker. Incidentally, that old house was sturdy and had a large tree fall on it in another storm some years later. Aside from some cracks in the interior wall, the house had little damage. House – 1, Tree – 0.
  • Tornado 4/27/2011 – That day a famous tornado churned through Tuscaloosa, AL. It ran on the ground just about the full length of the state into the north Georgia and Chattanooga, TN area. The debris cloud was visible on TV radar and pieces of Tuscaloosa were dropped across the state as far as Chattanooga or further. It was an EF5 tornado and those can suck up pavement. Another one that size ran through the state and flattened a few small towns. But the Tuscaloosa storm has the most filmed footage of any tornado I know of – check out the results of a YouTube search.

What does it have to do with me? Aside from it passing within a few miles of my house, that morning was marred by fast moving squall line of thunderstorms around dawn. Sirens woke me and I let the dogs out as I checked the weather on the TV. When they came back in, I started to check the TV again since the warning was for a storm across the county. Lights flickered and I held my breath, turned to get my daughter out of bed and then the power failed entirely.

The noise of a tornado is like standing next to a freight train. It’s a rattle and hum like you’ve never heard and moving fast. I thought it was straight-line wind as I stared out the back into the near darkness and thought our deck furniture was wrecked. Nope. An EF3 tornado went past the back door. I was standing a mere 20-30 feet from death when it whirled past the house. When I checked outside is when I realized how close to death I had just been.

Tornados lose power when they go through something and this one arrived from a stand of trees on one side. It threw down several trees onto our fence and one swiped along our chimney. No damage to the back deck occurred because those woods took some steam out of the twister. By halfway across the length of the deck, it tore the top of a gum tree out forty feet up. Twenty feet further and it was past the house, regained power, and tossed a massive white oak over like nothing. That’s how fast a tornado regains power.

It was one edge that stretched behind the house several hundred feet. That’s a big twister to dodge. Tuscaloosa was a half-mile wide. I was very thankful to be alive because a lot of people died that day and the date is still remembered statewide.

Bonus Story

As if those weren’t enough, barely a month later, we were traveling back from a funeral in Indiana. It was another bad day where we dodged tornados back to Nashville. It was raining so hard and so much water was down, the big, hanging gullies from the bluff over the Cumberland River were full, raging waterfalls.

We stopped by my youngest brother-in-law’s house to visit, thinking the storms would blow over. Within minutes all the interstates – I-65, I-24, I-40, and I-440 were closed due to flooding and we were stuck. Storms never abated all that night as the system was just stuck like a train of storms rolling overhead and dropping water on Middle Tennessee. 

When we got up, the interstates were open and I said, “If we don’t go now, we won’t get out of Nashville.” I saw from the radar that the rain stopped just south of the suburb of Franklin going south on I-65. We got in my old Honda Pilot and started for an entrance. We couldn’t get out of the neighborhood for all the flooded streets, even finding a police car underwater with the lights somehow still flashing. 

My wife remembered one street and we found water just barely lapping over the center. I drove through and got to the Interstate. It rained so hard, the interstate was standing with inches of water and we drove less than 30 mph. When we finally got to Franklin, the water stopped like someone turned off a faucet. Going over the ridges south of town, the winds were very rough – this was what kept the storm system in place.

Later we found out where we got on the interstate, a small hill had collapsed onto the ramp – literally minutes after we passed. Not only had we escaped that mishap, but we had lived through the infamous Nashville flood of 2011. Yep, we lived through two major natural disasters in less than a month. Now that’s something spooky.

While you’re celebrating Halloween, pause and be thankful in all the fun. Life is precious and can be snuffed out in innumerable ways within mere moments. I’m sure many people have similar stories to mine, but those stick out to me and serve as reminders to take each day with a thankful heart. And, yes, I have more stories than those, but this is long enough.

Let me know your scary close encounters with mayhem in the comments. Please share this post and stay safe!