Today’s contribution comes from Carla Billinghurst. I first met Carla about … oooh … well, I know it was before the apocalypse. She’s a smart, funny, and inspiring writer. You can find her online at Carla Billinghurst.com, or follow her on FaceBook.
If you are in the Blue Mountains in late November, you can go along to a fabulous workshop she’s running called A Big Stone Rolls Inside. The workshop is all about using theatre tools to enrich your writing.
We all know this story: the blood smears on the white walls; the glass-eyed corpses that blink and start to move just as you look away; the shambling horrors loose in the antiseptic corridors of the medical facility.
The first zombies breach security and are out on the streets. Sydney panicks. The Harbour Bridge is a litter of abandoned cars. People flee to the bush. Zombies follow them. The bush notices.
This is the smell of the Australian Zombie apocalypse:
Putresence, fear and that slightly tinny smell you get when insects gather in large numbers.
This is the sound of the Australian Zombie Apocalypse:
“Braaains, pteh pteh.”
Bzzzt. Bzzzt. BzztWOAAR!
In the Australian Zombie Apocalypse humans are minor players.
“Braaains!” moans one of the newly created undead, lurching unsteadily towards his intended victim, his hands reaching out in front so that he doesn’t swat away the first fly that bzzt-thwackets into his rotting flesh. Or the second one. Or the one after that. Or the-
“Urgh, yuck!” is the national verdict. One brave cameraman films a mass of shiny, buzzing black. We watch it on YouTube: the mass slowly flattening until there is almost nothing left. Pieces of bone. The skull. We watch and watch and try not to throw up because that attracts flies.
We close the fly screens and the curtains, flick the AC to high and follow the Apocalypse on Facebook.
There is some debate about whether the flies that eat the zombie humans become zombie flies. We watch them buzzing fat and persistent around corpses, walking or not, and can’t see any difference to their usual behaviour.
What the flies don’t eat, the Kookaburras and Butcher Birds and Kurrawongs deal with. Meat-eaters carroll and cackle and fluff their feathers; Insect-eaters chirrup and swoop.
The really good footage goes viral: zombie kangaroos in the city hopping and dripping gobbets of flesh until they can’t move and lie kicking under an onslaught of insects and birds. There are rumours some of the footage is taken by zombies. We knew that isn’t true because all the human zombies are gone. Dead. Dead-dead.
In October we took the usual precautions, checking our shoes every morning for malevolent killer spiders and snakes. In November we check them for malevolent killer zombie spiders and snakes. There are rumours of zombie Great White Sharks feasting on unwary swimmers. By the third day all the human zombies are gone. The French want to know: will we take their zombies?
Taking all the usual precautions we go back to work and school and shopping. Crunch, crunch, crunch in our heavy boots over the layers of dead flies and bird skeletons. We wear long-sleeved shirts, sunglasses and hats. We aren’t attacked by birds any more than usual. A tree drops a branch in Queensland, killing a man. We follow the news carefully in case it is the first of the Zombie Gum Trees. But no, just another unfortunate encounter with nature.
This one was Patrick’s idea. In our house we debate shades of blue, whether or not Aldi products are designed for zero gravity and the realities of magic, space warfare and zombie apocalypses. Apocali. There is technically no plural for Apocalypse because there is only supposed to be one.
I suppose there are some resonances here with various countries sending their unwanted to Australia. Mostly, though, this is about our unease with nature. Living on the edge of the bush we deal every day with intrusive nature – it would eat us if it could. And the house. And our children. Everything. When we holiday, we go, by and large, to places much more civilised than our homes. Safer places where children can run in long grass and outdoor eating is less … athletic.
We are right to treat nature in the aggregate as fragile in the face of our depredations, but at the same time we need to remember, always, that nature’s smaller components are engaged in a kill-or-be-killed calorie hunt that never stops. And we are part of that.