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Our “Go Kit” for the Zombie Apocalypse

How to remain spiritually hale in a crumbling world and useful to a society emerging from the ashes

Los Cuentos - Meghan Hildebrand

Hmm. Would you want to stay alive?” I wonder aloud.

My wife and I are sharing wine in the living room, and my question hangs there. It’s not blackouts we fear, nor natural disasters. It’s other people made aggressive and prejudicial by a trance of imagined scarcity, imagined separateness, and erroneous fears. Samantha (not her real name) is a first-generation American whose parents were raised in Germany and Hungary during Nazi rule and Soviet occupation, and she grew up hearing stories of hunger, darkened midnight trains, and the Knock at the Door. She describes an archetypal mild-mannered “Franz the baker” who is transformed by propaganda and economic pressure into an SS guard who arranges mass killings.

How are we to be of best service in a world like that? I muse. Would it be any good for the world to try to stay alive in those times? Or, unafraid of death, do we just allow ourselves to die, and remove the burden of two more human mouths? I know we, as white lesbians who have experienced slurs, fears, and discrimination, might be tortured, raped, and executed in the process. “I vote for death.” I say, only half in jest. “I don’t feel the urge to struggle to remain alive. We’re all going to die eventually, anyhow.”

Samantha disagrees. “All I know,” she announces, “is that my family has always waited until too late, and this time I will be ready. Besides,” she adds, smiling at me, “you might be useful in the rebuilding process. You have such spiritual imagination.”

Reluctantly, I agree. “All right. Let’s assemble the go kit.”

Reluctantly, I agree. “All right. Let’s assemble the go kit.”

A go kit—recommended by FEMA and conspiracy theorists—is a bag prepacked with survival essentials, so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Typical go kits include food, water, batteries, copies of your will, cash, and other essentials. But we are only mildly interested in our individual survival. Instead, we wish to remain spiritually hale in a crumbling world and useful to a society emerging from the ashes.

So, what to pack?

First, surviving the horde. How can we make ourselves more valuable alive than dead? If the system fails, what will people want? What will make good bribes? We consider cigarettes, painkillers, or opioids, but we can’t reconcile the ethics. So we buy tampons, diapers, chocolate, and—my favorite—50 mini-bottles of booze.

Next, if the banks fail, what wealth would Samantha and I still possess? Well, I can gentle horses and teach people to ride. Samantha has a strong 12-step community, relationships, and folks we could call upon. I imagine phoning my rancher friend: “Hey, Max, the city is rioting. Could we come hide at your sheepherder’s cabin for a few days? The one near the spring?”

Last, how to sustain our bodies? As frequent backcountry campers, we readily thought of these items: compass, water, tents, sleeping bags, solar panels, and first aid kits. Dog and cat food, and, of course, their toys and blankies. We shop right-wing prepper websites to buy 50 freeze-dried MREs. But Samantha is, in her words, a “dairy-free corn-free glutard” and can’t eat the foil-packaged pasta or cream sauce. So we are now on the hunt for gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, vegetarian, organic, freeze-dried MREs. No luck so far.

And, of course, we pack items of deep value as well. My go kit includes a book of Rumi poems and some incense.

Then one day at breakfast with another lesbian couple, we chuckled as we described all this to them. One is a military general and her wife is a real estate agent/musician/hunter. To our surprise, the general reported she’d been at “officer camp” the week before, studying apocalypse scenarios. “We should team up!” she said with a grin.

And so, to our mutual surprise, we did.

Over a series of breakfasts, the four of us—half in jest, half for real, and all in disbelief—developed “Operation Flower.” We discussed meeting points, transportation, the location of mountain springs, airports, full-size spare tires, checkpoints, and populations friendly and hateful to lesbians. We debated whether to get guns (distasteful to all, including the general, but not ruled out), whether to bring our pets (yes—dogs, however small, are great alarms), and whether to head north to the cold Colorado mountains or south to warmer Mexico. The hunter shared when and where the elk graze, and I called my tribal friends for advice on living long term in the Southwest desert.

Samantha attended a “Zombie Apocalypse Survival” course offered by REI and returned with tips on solar panels and water purification. The REI staff revealed that when the course was titled “Outdoor Survival,” no one enrolled, but when they changed the name to “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” enrollment overflowed. Are we modern humans reluctant to address these existential questions head on, and do we need instead to enter them sideways and through humor?

Along the way, we agree on something: If the Knock at the Door comes, we won’t hate the knockers. Like us, at that moment they will be trapped within larger systems and, like us, will believe they are doing the best they can with what they have.

Nevertheless, Samantha and I are reluctant preppers. Given an emergency, we would rather remain in our communities, helping, but we realize that, as lesbians, we may become persecutees. Remember, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage only in 2015, and it’s currently legal to fire me in most states because I’m gay. This vigilant, go-kitting stance is not our natural state of mind, but one we could all be forced to adopt if others with more firepower fall into a fearful, us-versus-them trance. Paradoxically, most people at risk of being targeted in such a trance time—people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, differently abled, and others—possess rich wisdom about how to rebuild a just and egalitarian society that welcomes and nourishes us all.

If such a time comes, I’m ready. Are you?

—Rebecca Puck Stair