#4: Night of the Living Deadline
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
So many people love post-apocalyptic and zombie fiction.
Why? I think it's because often we like to fantasize about living in a world where everything is simple. Where we're not always doing seventeen things all at once, desperately trying to balance work, chores, health, family, sleep, entertainment, hobbies, relationships, finances, errands, and so much more.
Post-apocalyptic life would be pretty simple, all things considered. It'd be just the basics. Safety. Food. Water. Shelter. Katanas.
Best of all: no scheduling. No multitasking. No time management.
I don't know about you, but I suck at time management.
Figuring out how to fit everything I want to get done in a typical day feels a lot like when I try to cram my family's nine open cereal boxes back into our tiny pantry after the kids have swarmed all over them, fighting tooth and nail over any leftover scraps of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
I don't get it. Everything fit perfectly before, but no matter what I do, I can't squeeze all the boxes back into the pantry. To an observer, I probably look like an undead gorilla trying to play Tetris with his eyes closed.
By the time the pantry explodes in protest against my pathetic attempt to Berzerker-rage the door shut (leaving me standing in a sea of dusty, scattered Cheerios), I've usually given up. Time to move on to the next task. Which is now to clean up the kitchen, go buy more Cheerios at the grocery store, and secretly do an online search for bargain-priced anger management therapy.
And that pretty much sums up my time management skills. Multitasking seems pretty workable at first, but eventually, everything blows up.
My wife doesn't have the same problem. In my family's organizational ranking, she's at the top, followed by my kids. I'm tied for last place with Steve, the elderly groundhog who sometimes crashes through our backyard fence to glare at me for being such a poor gardener.
My wife is also nice enough to make handy little lists to help keep us all on track. Lunch schedules. Grocery lists. Calendars. Important chores. Deadlines. If it weren't for these well thought-out lists, I suspect my family would run into the forest and turn feral. But somehow having my wife's reminders posted in plain view, right there on the fridge, makes them invisible to me. I think there's a special Instagram filter inside my brain that blurs over anything unpleasant, inconvenient, or carefully scheduled. Indian food, house painting, income tax statements, and rectal exam appointments are basically invisible to me.
If a zombie apocalypse ever happens, there's a very real possibility I'll just lie there in my hammock, drinking a mojito, babbling to myself about the countless classic homages to old westerns in The Mandalorian while a pack of slobbering revenants chases my family up a tree.
When the zombies find me in my hammock, I'll become the world's biggest burrito.
With reminders, I'm more audible than visual. If it weren't for Alexa's passive aggressive voice prompts ordering me to take out the compost, or reminding me to remind the kids to brush their teeth, everything would fall apart. My house would be filled with old coffee grounds, chicken bones, and half-decomposed banana peels. And my children would be wearing dentures.
Yes, I need reminders just to remind my kids to do things.
If there's ever a real zombie apocalypse, I'm taking my Amazon Echo with me. If Alexa can help me remember to lock the doors of whatever abandoned roadside massage parlour we'll be sheltering in, or give me a gentle nudge so I think to flip the safety off of the post-apocalyptic machine gun I'll have looted from some random Mafia stronghold before spray-n'-praying a horde of incoming rotters, my life as a wasteland wannabe will be much more pleasant.
But end-of-the-world parental multitasking may be beyond my one-track mind's limitations. If I'm in the middle of a heated life-or-death backyard machete battle against eleven post-apocalyptic, death-worshipping cannibal cultists, there's a slight chance I'll forget to scold my daughter for picking her nose. Then again, zompocalyptic nose-mining might be the only thing staving off starvation by that point. So maybe I should just let her go at it. If turning a blind eye to questionable pre-apocalyptic bad habits helps my kids go to sleep in their fortified cardboard boxes with a full belly, I'm sold.
While I'm at it, maybe it's time to revise the dropped food three-second rule and make it the three-week rule, well ahead of the zombie apocalypse. When the world is falling apart around you, there's nothing like a stray sidewalk pork chop to brighten up your day. Just pinch your nose, scrape the fuzz off, squirt on a healthy dollop of Sriracha sauce, and you're good to go.
One of my problems is triaging competing priorities. I always find it hard to decide what's more important to do, what's more critical to accomplish. The mundane and the urgent blurs together in a whirlwind of potentially catastrophic failures as an adult human being.
If I were an ER doctor, I'd be terrible at emergency triage. God help my patients if there ever were something big, like a helicopter crash, a dinosaur attack, or a catastrophic super-volcano eruption triggered by an overenthusiastic volcanologist convention. I'd probably get distracted by somebody's awesome Thundercats ringtone, then drag over some hippie with a mild hangnail to the front of the queue, bypassing some other victim whose face was literally on fire, right there in the lineup, gurgling in annoyance and agony as her nose melts and her eyebrows turn to bacon.
Hey, speaking about zombie apocalypse survival, how about Tactical Bacon?
I'm kidding. I've never tried this before. For all I know, tactical bacon tastes like soggy zombie earlobes. Sometimes it's okay to judge a bacon by its cover. Still, if you've sampled this specific product, please convince me why I need this. I'm very open-minded when it comes to most salt-cured pork products.
Sorry, I got sidetracked there, kind of like a badly trained police dog spotting a squirrel. My childish inability to juggle competing priorities and distractions is almost certainly what caused me to get so badly injured on that frigging trampoline, back in December.
Until August last year, I was pretty disciplined at doing half an hour of exercise bike per day, usually while watching a zombie flick or TV show. There's really nothing to get you pedalling like witnessing a pack of snarling zombies chasing down some poor, soon-to-be disembowelled urchin. Try it sometime. Although depending on your tolerance for horror and gore, you may want to wear an electrocardiogram. And a diaper.
Pedalling that fast can play tricks on your bladder control. Or so I've heard.
I concluded that while this modest daily workout was unlikely to bless me with Michael B. Jordan's musculature, it would at least be enough to prevent my middle-aged body from dissolving into a puddle of pasty-colored man goo.
Problem is, when I got serious about my writing, I completely stopped exercising. I couldn't seem to fit both priorities into the same day, not with the kids being home so often, all too eager to scream at me about wet pants, torn mittens or about some misplaced plastic toy they consider central to their psychological well-being and self-esteem. With all this in mind, I chose finger keyboard pushups over basic body maintenance.
By the time I hit that trampoline after three months of sedentary basement sloth, my knees had gotten about as weak as Betty White's uppercuts. Actually, I take that back. Betty White looks like she can probably pack a decent punch when cornered. Maybe I should test this out sometime. I could sneak up on the 99-year-old TV legend at a Golden Girls' convention, dangle a rubber snake and yell "Ooga-Booga!" or something. I betcha she'd hit me so hard even Google won't be able to find me.
Anyway, lesson learned. Don't let your knees go to waste. No matter how knobbly, scabby or hairy they may be. They're more important than you think. Knees are what we humans use to shut the fridge door when our hands are full of beer, salami and ice cream. Knees help us beg for seconds of dessert, or express remorse to our wives and husbands. Knees are what we use to pedal, pray, and prance around. Sometimes we even use them to punish muggers.
Also, you can't very well sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes if you exclude the knees part. Head, Shoulders, Crotch and Toes just doesn't have the same ring to it.
So protect your knees. You'll probably need them when you're running from the dead.
Sidenote: what's your own top personal health advice, something that has made a lot of difference for you in your life? Please let me know. I'm legitimately curious about this. If you read my first ever blog/newsletter, you'll remember that I learned the hard way how ignoring some good health advice can have some pretty cringe-inducing consequences. So if you tell me that waxing your buttocks every three days staves off seasonal allergies, there's a decent chance I'll jump on your bandwagon.
My physiotherapist suggested I get rid of my busted up old exercise bike and buy something better to use for my rehab. He says that doing three half-hour sessions of exercise bike per week can prevent almost all future knee injuries, short of a shark attack. So I figured I'd round up, commit to a full hour of pedalling every single day, and hopefully upgrade from miserable housebound lurching around to being able to deliver Chuck Norris-level spin kicks to imaginary bad guys in my living room within a few weeks' time.
But my time management issue remained. How the heck was I supposed to bike for an hour every day and still get some decent writing time to put some zombie mayhem on paper?
I found out that some Einstein-caliber genius somewhere had invented actual exercise bikes with integrated desks - meaning people could work out WHILE using their laptops! For time-pressed, moderately health-conscious, stuck-at-home workers such as myself, you can't really get anything more brilliant than this. Unless maybe somebody figured out how to integrate potties into dining room chairs, allowing you to multitask your entire consumption-excretion process, all at once.
Dinner parties might be a little awkward, sure. But think of all we could accomplish if we reclaimed that extra thirty-eight minutes of wasted bathroom time to play with every day! Facebook's stock price would probably fall off a cliff, however. How would anybody ever post meaningful status updates without their private daily throne time?
In any case, I now have a bike desk. I'm using it right now as I write these words. I absolutely love it. It's fantastic and has totally solved my main multitasking productivity problem. I can now be a writer AND be healthy at the same time, which I previously thought was impossible. Believe me. I've met plenty of writers. Most of us look about as healthy as the mangy, squawking, half-rabid seagulls you see flapping about in the parking lot behind McDonalds.
One small downside: given how fast I pedal while typing, you may notice an uptick in my typos... but that's a prrIce Ime wwwillinG two paiYe.
If you want to join my totally made-up bike desk revolution cult so you can also write, eat, read celebrity gossip, work (yawn) and/or play zombie killing video games while trimming off a few pandemic pounds, here's the model I bought - the Exerpeutic Exerwork 1000. If that model is out of stock, you could look for the Flexispot, or the Fitdesk instead - both are very similar to what I got. I mean, it's a bike with a desk on it. There can't be too many variations on the concept.
Keep in mind that for some unknown reason, much of the planet is stuck working at home these days. Just like puppies, toilet paper and video game consoles, in-stock exercise equipment can be hard to find (unless you're just looking for big, heavy rocks; you can still get those in most places). So keep checking. If you can't find a legitimate bike desk anywhere, maybe you can D.I.Y. by attaching some nasty old abandoned desk to an actual bicycle, and ride it around town, looking like a complete maniac. Just please don't tell the arresting officers I was the one who gave you the idea. I hear that indoor exercise bikes and aluminium crutches make terrible getaway vehicles.
If you don't have space for an exercise bike-desk Frankenstein hybrid like I got, you can even get a mini version like this one to fit under your regular desk. These are so neat I'm tempted to get one to put in front of the toilet. Let me tell you: once you really commit to large scale healthy multi-tasking, embarrassment quickly takes a backseat to practicality.
If you're a true zombie fan, there's a pretty good chance you've watched the original Night of the Living Dead, the epic 1968 classic by George Romero (whose birthday was just a few days ago, on February 4th). Although there were a few other zombie-ish movies before NOTLD, this really is the movie that launched zombies as we know them today, in all their moaning glory. If you've never watched it, or if you'd like to re-watch it, the movie is in the public domain, available on YouTube. You can view the original black and white version RIGHT HERE, or if you'd rather watch the colorized version, CLICK HERE INSTEAD.
Why is Night of the Living Dead in the public domain, and available for free? It's a very interesting story. It all happened because of a super crappy mistake which caused George Romero, who died in 2017, to lose millions of dollars. If you're interested in knowing the backstory, read the article RIGHT HERE, or click on the link below.
HOW NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD ACCIDENTALLY BECAME PUBLIC DOMAIN
Some of you know that I'm working on my upcoming series Zombie Vale, an exciting zompoc action comedy set in Sparrowdale, my fictional mountain town in Colorado where I also set Dom of the Dead. What I haven't told you yet is that one of my main characters - whom you caught a tiny glimpse of in Dom of the Dead - will be a Park Ranger for the National Parks Service.
Right now I'm doing a lot of research into the NPS Ranger profession, learning as much as I can about what makes these brave men and women tick, and what their work really entails beyond rescuing intoxicated hikers and dodging moose poop. I'm watching lots of documentaries and videos about the National Parks, mountain climbing (check out The Dawn Wall on Netflix - even if you aren't into mountain climbing, it'll take your breath away) and wilderness search & rescue.
I'm also reading some fantastic books about the lives and adventures of Park Rangers, including Ranger Confidential - Living, working and dying in the National Parks, by Andrea Lankford; and Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, by Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan. No zombies in there, but you'll learn a lot about bears. If Zombears ever show up, these books could give you a leg up on the competition.
Hint: with zombears, always keep your legs up. Most zombears really enjoy legs, just like most humans really enjoy drumsticks.
I'm hoping to dry run some of my story ideas with an actual Park Ranger at some point soon. Have you ever worked as a Park Ranger, or do you know anybody who does? If so, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm dying for some expert insight!
I've always been a sucker for giveaways and freebies, so I decided this is something I wanted to incorporate into my mailing list in the near future. Right now I'm figuring out the best way to run fun giveaways of cool zombie paraphernalia and books, so stay tuned. Anybody who subscribes to my newsletter will be automatically entered, so if you're getting these, you'll be included, nothing else to do!
FREE BOOK PROMOS
Dan Soule's Night Terrors Book Bundle
Ian Woodhead's The Unwashed Dead
MEGA FREE BOOK BUNDLE - FEBRUARY ONLY
Ring in the new year with some chilling post-apocalyptic stories!
These authors have teamed up to offer a gnarly selection of post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories. Grab them quick, the giveaway ends February 28th!
That's it for me right now. Thanks so much for reading! Have a fantastic February, full of books, zombies, sour candies and other unmentionable guilty pleasures. Talk to you again next month.
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