In grad school I wrote a post once about being the last person on the planet. I explored how I would survive in such a situation. I’d like to explore a similar topic but this time in the fictional universe of I Am Legend. Originally a book by Richard Matheson, it also has been translated into film three times now, most recently with Will Smith. While each film changes the details slightly, for the purposes of this post, I will go with details found in the latest movie. I do so because it offers slightly more information than the book for certain things and because I feel like getting jiggy with it.
Ok, in such a universe 90% of the human population is killed by a mutating virus that was supposed to cure cancer. The virus is spread by contact and also through the air. 5.4 billion people die from the virus alone. 9% are infected but do not die, instead they are changed by the virus. These people no longer exhibit normal, rational human behaviour. They degenerate into primal behaviour, showing mostly rage. They also develop an odd adversion to UV light, which can kill them. 588 million people are turned into such creatures. The remaining 1% of the world is partially or completely immune, numbering about 12 million.
To completely honest, if such a thing did happen, odds are I’d be in the 90% group. You’d have to be extremely (un)lucky to be in the 9% group and horseshoe/rabbit foot lucky to be in the 1% club. There actually wouldn’t 12 million immune humans left because those people would succumb to disorder, chaos, lack of nutrition, other human ill-will, and not to mention being attacked by the infected.
Anyways, for the purposes of this post, I am in the 1% group, completely immune, meaning I have immunity to airborne and contact methods of transmission. I technically could be not immune and be a survivor but that would be nearly impossible given the circumstances.
So, how would I survive such a calamity? Let’s go a-thinking! The first couple weeks would be critical and probably the most difficult. As the virus spreads worldwide, people die off in massive numbers. I’d have to watch that happen. Civilization completely breaks down all over the planet. Probably quite quickly there is chaos at unprecendented levels. My only priorities in life become food, shelter, and safety.
For food, I assume that I can, for at least a year, forage in supermarkets and other places for meals. Beyond that, it gets interesting but I’ll address that later. The biggest concern is safety. As things go to hell, I am convinced I’ll also face human threats. Perhaps I’m being cynical but I believe there would be other immune people who would want to kill me for anything they valued. For the record, I would not do such a thing to other survivors. So in my mind, I’d have to fight off a few crazies. Last but certainly not least, there’s the issue of the infected. They’d roam the planet at night and if they got wind of me, they’d try to kill me with the ferocity of a lion.
I cannot imagine how I would survive without procuring and learning how to use a firearm. It’s a given that I’d need a gun/rifle/carbine and become very good with it. For the thousands of bullets I’ve fired in video games, I need to fire real ones to save my life. The risk would be initial the days or weeks where I’d face threats but not have a firearm. I suppose I might use interim weapons like a baseball bat but getting to my first firearm would be crucial. If I had my choice, I’d go for an M-4 or HK416 with a 9mm sidearm for backup.
The issue of shelter is an important one. I’d need somewhere to live, eat, sleep, cook, and reflect. Where I would do those things would need to be safe. With the infected coming out at night, my shelter would either have to resist their attempts to breach my home or it would have to hide my presence. Again, the first couple of weeks are critical. How many of our current homes are secure from such possible attacks? I think initially, I would have to spend my nights in a more safe location. I’m not sure where I’d go, maybe a bank vault. Are bank vaults are airtight? Wherever I choose to spend my nights, it would have to be defendable or hide my presence completely. Also, whatever door or window I open to get out would have to open out into directly sunlight.
So for a while, I’d have to split my time between a daylight home and a nighttime home. I would try to consolidate the homes though. I would either move all my crap into my night home or spend the daylight hours securing a normal house so that it would be ok to be in, even at night. To do that, I’d have to learn how to use tools I’ve never used before. I’d have to procure construction materials like wood or more likely plates of metal. If I did choose a normal home, I’d pick a smaller house with wide open spaces around it. I’d hide my existence for as long as I could. That would mean blacking out all the windows and making very little noise at night.
I think in the end, if I could survive the first few chaotic months I’d be ok in the long-term. The key would be getting food on a regular basis, getting to that first firearm, and finding that first secure location where I could be safe at night. If I could do those things, I’d make to the steady-state where there is no longer chaos simply because are so few people left. It would be me and the infected.
In the long-term, I’d still have lots to worry about. Every night, the infected walk the planet, looking for food and looking to kill. Even in the daytime, I could stumble into a building looking for beef jerky, open the wrong door, and find a darkened room full of infected. I could get sick. I could get injured and not get back to my home by night fall. I could be driving and have an accident. I could run out of food and then be forced to grow my own. I could run out of gas for my portable generators.
The one question I have is, would I actively hunt and kill the infected during the daylight hours? Book Neville did but movie Neville didn’t. I think for the first few months while I was just trying to ensure my survival, I certainly wouldn’t. If I got settled though and if I felt more at ease about my survival, I think I would be tempted. I think I might do it out of sheer boredom. I might even derive some morbid satisfaction out of it. Hunting infected would increase the risk to my life drastically. Even hunting in the daytime could mean going into buildings where no light reached and I wouldn’t know what I’d be facing.
Lastly, beyond survival, what would my purpose be in life? Find a cure to the infection? I’m no scientist so I doubt I could do it even if I tried. Contact other survivors? Yes, I could try that with possibly radio communcation, just like in the movie. I think mostly likely, I would just document what happened and what happened to me. If I could do that and live as long as I could, that’d be ok.