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Survival of the Fittest

Matthew Bailey hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, having also spent time in California and Alaska. A professional ghostwriter by trade, Matt devotes his free time to huffing, puffing, and plinking on several different instruments, the saxophone first and foremost. He also loves romping in the Wasatch Mountains with his wife and three sons. He has a story forthcoming in Lightspeed. You can find out more about him at matthewjordanbailey.com.

I saw my first one in 'Nam after clearing an NVA machine gun nest near the Laotian border. We left the bodies where they'd fallen while we secured the area. By the time we returned, two of them were back on their feet, staring at us with heads cocked like we were an interesting, potentially delicious solipsistic problem to be solved. When they went for our throats, we explained that Cartesian philosophy had no place in the bush. I don't know if they ever bought our arguments, but the 5.56mm cartridges we used sure ended the discussion.
After their bodies hit the ground for the second time, after Pvt. Higgs stopped saying, "What the fuck just happened?" over and over, after each of us had come to terms with the fact that apparently only taxes were a sure thing in life, we realized the third body, the one who'd originally gone for Connors with a knife, was nowhere to be seen. We looked and looked but never found him.
I've been preparing ever since.
You see, I always knew it was comin.' Every one of us who came back from 'Nam alive agreed you developed a kind of sixth sense in the bush, a third eye for danger lurking just over that ridge or behind that tree. So when I went for groceries forty-eight years later, I was ready.
He was standing across the street, dirty and disheveled. If I hadn't known better, I would've assumed he was just some junkie... until I saw the way he looked at me. Head cocked to one side, fixed gaze, the mindless, hungry curiosity of the damned.
I looked away, looked back. He was still there, staring.
Okay, I thought. Keep calm. Maybe it's nothing.
But deep inside, I knew: it had started.
I figured I still had time before the proverbial solid waste hit the metaphorical air displacement machine. The shelter beneath my house was well-stocked with provisions, enough to last for years... but I also knew this would be my last opportunity to go outside for a while. I hurried down the aisles, choosing only the lightest, most valuable items: tinned fruit, canned vegetables, multivitamins, batteries, matches. I even plucked the most recent bestseller off the rack by the checkout stand, because "most recent" also meant the last.
As I waited to check out, tapping my foot impatiently, I stared around at the other shoppers. They were so oblivious. So unprepared. Most of them had nothing but perishables in their cart of little nutritious value. I guessed that none of them had emergency rations or an apocalypse shelter at home. Worst of all, none of them would see it coming before it bit them. They were too busy shoving their noses into their smartphones or whatever fad device had recently come out, using "social" media. My own son had given me one of the silly things for Christmas. It was still on the kitchen counter, unopened. I didn't have time for such nonsense, not when I knew what was really out there. Waiting.
"Smart" phone, my ass.
Well, no one said natural selection was pleasant. And as I emerged back into the sunlight and saw what I had to deal with, I knew the upcoming purge would be a bitch.
It took me twenty minutes to get home. On the way I spotted two, four, eight more of them, cocked heads all, looking, looking.
"Shit," I whispered.
My home was in sight. Get in. Lock the doors. Get to the shelter, seal it off.
That's when I heard the first scream.
I didn't stop to look back. But I did when I saw my neighbor's daughter on her front lawn, phone in hand. Texting someone, probably. I should have ignored her, it was her own fault for not preparing, but she was a nice girl and didn't deserve what was coming.
"Get inside!" I shouted. "Lock your doors!"
She looked at me, eyes wide, before turning back to the horror unfolding behind me. Then, to my disbelief, she raised her phone and started snapping pictures.
Cursing this modern world I'd lived to see, I went inside and sealed myself off from it forever.
Three days later, I flicked my emergency radio on, wondering if there were any survivors left.
* This is KJAM 97.5, comin' at you with the latest hit from hip-hop sensation
I twisted the dial. Clearly, someone at the station had left something running.
* In other news, Prime Minister Kutner confirmed his state visit would still go on despite the recent
* a game-high twenty-eight points for Gordon who said
*Up next, an exclusive interview with Lacie Pinyon, the source behind the video that went viral three days ago, stopping what authorities say might otherwise have
I gasped at the name of my neighbor's daughter.
The article my son forwarded me was labeled "How to Use Social Media to Stop an Undead Apocalypse Before it Starts." I skimmed through it.
1) Preparation is key. Master multiple social media platforms and build up a large following on each, Twitter and YouTube especially.
2) Build a reputation. Only post/tweet quality content. That way, people will know to trust you when the time comes.
3) Don't panic. It can be hard seeing someone being bit, but resist the urge to simply run. Use your mobile device to quickly inform the world what is taking place. This way, no one will be taken by surprise, and the authorities can react quickly. Remember the Lacie Rule: "Tweet, then retreat."
4) Try to gather visual evidence to give yourself extra credibility. Remember, "Pics or it didn't happen."
There was more, but most of the lingo was beyond me. Besides, there was work to be done. When things got bad again--and they would--I would not be caught unprepared.
I reached for the box on the kitchen counter and began unwrapping the smartphone inside.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Author Comments

Having read about how Twitter and other forms of social media have ostensibly driven such world events as the Arab Spring, I got to thinking: what else might social media be used for in the future? The role it might play in the event of a zombie apocalypse struck me as an interesting and plausible one--interesting, in that many of the stereotypical criticisms of social media could be turned on its head, and plausible, in that we all know the zombie apocalypse is going to happen someday. When it does, remember the Lacie Rule: "Tweet, then retreat!" In return, I'll be sure to follow you from the safety of my underground bunker.

- Matthew Bailey
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