If you’re not familiar with the Christian bible, the biblical apocalypse has a lot of confusing and diverse elements. One of these is the heralds who show up on horseback. When we see the four horsemen, that’s when we know we’re good and screwed. They are War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. I had the sudden… shall we call it a revelation? Such a bad pun. It occurred to me that zombies fill all four slots rather nicely, meaning they become a modern day metaphor for a world-ending scenario that’s been talked about and debated for some time. Let me explain.
War. Wars are generally fought by armies, and when a horde of zombies gets large enough, it comes off as something of an army, doesn’t it? An unstoppable force destroying everything in its path. When a disaster like a zombie outbreak begins, the military is usually one of the first organizations (after local law enforcement, fire departments, and hospitals) to get involved. Most of the depictions of outbreaks show the military being overwhelmed, unable to stop the hordes, broken and scattered and turned into monsters themselves. It’s a war. And the zombies win.
Pestilence. Whatever it is that makes the dead rise, it usually takes the form of a disease. A blood-born pathogen that can be spread via a bite. Like rabies, once a bite breaks the skin, chances are you’re infected. Only in this case, the rise of the zombies has happened so quickly that there’s no treatment and no cure. It’s a disease that, from the standpoint of what a disease is meant to accomplish, is perfect. Its infection rate is superb, and the chances that you’ll be able to outrun it forever are limited.
Famine. Whenever we think of famine, we think of people starving to death, a food shortage, a water shortage. Let’s look in a different direction. A vastly spreading group of creatures that are always hungry. They will never stop, and their only motivation is to feast. They will eat you alive. If you’re lucky, there will be so little of you left, you won’t get up. If you do, you’ll join them, infected with that same, insatiable hunger. Unable to stop. Always starving.
Death. They defy the very definition of life. For all intents and purposes, zombies should not be possible. The body needs blood flow carrying oxygen to all parts in order to function. You have to breathe to move. Your heart has to beat. Yet they’re dead and they walk. Natural life as we know it would have to cease and whole new laws begin. Namely… the world must be ending.
Maybe then the Horsemen don’t have to be literal riders we see in the sky with scythes and skulls for faces. Maybe the fruits of their labor would be witnessed in one perfect army, one perfect disease, one perfect hunger, and one terrifying form of death that isn’t death.
I hope I freaked you out. And I hope I made you think about the deeper metaphor behind our zombie fiction. If you want to support this clearly twisted blog, check out my Redbubble shop. As always, happy geeking!