Death in the Apocalypse
If you’re gonna die in an apocalypse, you might as well go out in style. Here are ten of the most iconic ways to get wrecked by Armageddon, and ten books to read that follow these themes:
- Nuclear Fallout
Uh-oh. Someone got an itchy finger near the big red button. Or maybe hackers took control of a bunch of silos directly. ICBMs are hurtling across the ocean towards population centers around the world, and auto-response dead hand protocols are firing back. Within 30 minutes half of the global population has gone in a blinding flash of light, and the rest are about to enjoy radiation poisoning and a chilly nuclear-winter. Worst after party ever.
Check out: Swansong
- EMP detonation
After three years in a nuclear bunker your supplies are spent. You and the others bravely take to the surface, armed with shotguns, baseball bats, and questionable hairstyles. To your delight, you find the city around you survived the blast and is a bustling metropolitan hub. For a moment you relish the bustle of traffic, the blinking adverts, the tapping of smart phones. Then a boom rings out overhead. A hypersonic missile just detonated above the city. There’s no explosion this time. Just the harrowing silence of every electronic device on Earth being rendered useless. A solar flare could have had much the same effect, but this was intentional; an attack. Devoid of technology, this civilized city will unravel within days. Looting, gang wars, and starvation are the new reality. Anyone missing their bunker?
Check out: One Second After
It’s been 12 months since the EMP detonation. The crop fields are barren. With no manufactured fertilizer, no artificial irrigation, and no mechanical labor, modern agriculture is over. Worse still, the city’s supermarkets and private homes have been stripped bare. Marauding gangs of hungry survivors roam the streets. You’ve only got one decision to make: eat, or be eaten. (Serving suggestion: don’t eat the brains or you’ll get prion disease).
Check out: The Road
It turns out you were a principled vegan before the apocalypse, and no apocalypse is going to change that. With cannibalism off the menu, your only option is to flee the city. You trek to an abandoned, secluded farmhouse and prepare to eke out a grueling subsistence life. Thankfully you brought that copy of The Knowledge with you from the bunker, and are swatting up on the Norfolk crop rotation system. Your evenings consists of research about the nitrogen-fixing properties of legumes. Just when you thought survival couldn’t get any sexier.
Check out: The Death of Grass
- Viral pandemic
Ah crap, someone spotted the smoke from your chimney. Another survivor has turned up begging for shelter and a few of your lovely potatoes. You let them in: a) because you were brought up well, and b) because they have a gun. You two settle down and swap campfire tales of the apocalypse. They’re obviously psychologically scarred from the past few years, but you’re kinda digging their sexy-smoldering vibe. Wait, what’s that rash on their arm? They’ve brought an infection with them! In your scramble to get away, one of you knocks over a candle. You two are wrestling for the gun while the fire spreads. The whole farmhouse is soon ablaze. The infected guest perishes as the ceiling caves in. You escape outside, watching your sanctuary burn to the ground, and praying you weren’t infected too.
Check out: The Andromeda Strain
You’re back on the road, with no place to call home, and you’ve got through your last potatoes. There’s no choice but to raid an abandoned gas station. You’re creeping through the gloomy aisles when you notice a streak of blood across the floor… There’s a clang from the row behind you. “Hello?” you call out, drawing your pistol. There’s an ominous groan. Like a human with a really bad hangover. Closer inspection reveals a zombie lurking in the shadows. God dammit, you told those city cannibals not to eat the brains. Now they’ve all mutated into true monsters. Quick, aim for the head!
Check out: The Girl with All the Gifts
- Death by alien
You race out of the gas station, outpacing the zombie, but disaster strikes: an alien spaceship is hovering overhead. It’s not a retro 50s saucer, more of a 21st century drone ship. You’ve got a sneaking suspicion it was them who detonated the EMP, and now they’re here to spank you again. But as the ship touches down your heart flutters – these aliens are plant-based! Maybe they’ve come to rescue all of Earth’s surviving vegans? That thought is dashed as one of the aliens snatches a passer-by in its tentacles and ingests her for breakfast. Ugh, this is so unfair. Don’t they know you drink almond milk?
Check out: The Day of the Triffids
- Old school infection
The aliens are closing in. You’ve not washed properly in a year but that doesn’t seem to deter them – if anything, it’s added seasoning. Suddenly, a rocket-propelled grenade smashes into their spaceship. A rag-tag band of human rebels are fighting back! The aliens vaporize them in a matter of seconds, but the commotion lasts just long enough for you to make a getaway. However, in your bid to escape, you vault a rusty fence and cut yourself. Over the coming days, the cut becomes infected. Yup, after years of fleeing futuristic threats you’re gonna die slowly and miserably from Tetanus. All because your anti-vaxxer parents wouldn’t let you get the jabs as a kid and you were too lazy as a college student to get it yourself. Karma’s a bitch.
Check out: The Perfect Predator
- Failed raid
So, now you’re desperate and infected. There’s only one way to survive: you gotta go back to the cities and find a pharmacy. You buddy up with another straggler on the road, each making a super-solid pact not to eat each other and enjoying some overdue sexual tension (despite you clearly looking like shit and running a high fever). You two reach the pharmacy but it’s guarded by a gang who are controlling all the supplies. You try bartering with them but you’ve got nothing to trade and they chuck you out. So you wait until night time and raid the place. The only problem is: post-apocalyptic law demands that one of your duo dies in a tragic act of self-sacrifice. Will it be you?
Check out: The Wandering Earth
Not the self-sacrificing type, hey? Fair enough. This is all about surviving the apocalypse, after all. You needed those meds, and the gang was demanding something of value in return. What better than your new friend’s organs? The raid is a set up, and the gang captures your companion. Betrayal complete, you schlep off with a bagful of Tetanus meds. You make a note to yourself to tell the story differently, if anyone asks what happens.
Check out: The Quiet at the End of the World
Congratulations, you made it to through Armageddon alive! All you had to do was compromise every single one of your principles in a brutal, amoral race to the bottom. I hope it was worth it. Enjoy repopulating the Earth with your fellow sociopaths, I’m sure it’ll be a really terrific place to visit.
Wish you’d done things differently? Check out the next issue – I’ll be bringing you the Top 10 Ways to Survive an Apocalypse.
About the Author
Marcus Martin is a bestselling sci-fi author. His post-apocalyptic series Convulsive became an international bestseller and won three literary awards. His latest trilogy People of Change is a near-future sci-fi thriller with dark humor throughout. His recent standalone works include the acclaimed philosophical novel Finality, a metaphysical sci-fi fable exploring mortality in a Gaslamp world. He’s currently working on a new near-future trilogy inspired by climate change and the battle for Earth’s future. For updates, and to read book one in the Convulsive series for free, join Marcus’s mail list. All of Marcus’s books are available in digital, print, and audiobook, everywhere. Visit marcusmartinauthor.com/books.