Whether caused by chemical fallout, natural disasters, or wayward comets, we love post-apocalyptic stories. What is it that drives us to them, though? Why do we love to watch the aftermath of such destruction?
I think it’s because these stories are the ultimate in do-overs. Imagine: you get to keep all your knowledge, all your skills, but none of the baggage of your past. You are no longer tied to your job, your bills, your expectations.
When the world ends, and you’re left to survive or die, you find a way to go on. The past no longer matters. The future is sketchy at best. All you have is the now. The isolation, desolation, and destruction are side effects, tools that drive our leading characters to become heroes.
The zombie chasing you, the one that was created when a virus was inadvertently let loose on society, doesn’t care how much information you have packed into your brain. It only cares about how tasty it is going to be.
The comets falling from the sky don’t care how populated a city is. It’s just heeding to gravitational laws. There is nothing that will direct its course. (except for possibly giant brain bugs living on another planet, but that’s probably another post)
The water crashing down the street taking out everything in its path doesn’t care if your car has a high-priced status symbol logo or your car rolled off the economy line of a domestic brand. It’s coming, and there’s nothing either car can do about it.
So you ride the tide, swim to shore, and begin again when the waters recede. There’s not a lot else you can do. Sure, you can help prevent becoming a number. Stay indoors during the night. Don’t crack open the long-forgotten military waste canister. Grab a life vest. But in the end, it’s what you’re doing right now that matters.
Night of the Comet, or I Am Legend, The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 (*checks calendar….uh-oh….*), and while they have horror elements, underneath it all, they’re stories of hope. Stories of the human spirit, triumphing over elements so far outside their control, they seem hopeless. But the human spirit takes over. It overrides our natural programming, leaving us a binary choice: fight or flight.
Just like Mad Max and Alice, we flee until it’s no longer feasible to fly. Then, we fight. And we will fight tooth and nail to survive. We’ll gather food, hunt for proteins, rebuild our infrastructures. We’ll cloister together, patchworking our way to a new society. We’ll have to, for our own sakes. For our own species.
So, who’s ready for a do-over? Let’s stop waiting for the zombie infestation or the alien invasion to give us permission to take charge. Your do-over is waiting for you to take it.
Think about how you will react when the world falls apart, and you’re the only thing left to keep it together.
Now, go do it.
**Super powers not necessary