Fighting Mother Nature
Also Known As: Insectfluenza First Observed: Indonesia (2013) • Est. Max. Speed: 20 mph • High-Risk Groups: Birdwatchers, First Responders • Look Out for It In: Tropical Areas • Threat to Humanity: • Risk of Encounter: • Fin’s WTF Factor:
An antdemic occurs when a deadly flu virus is spread to humans by infected mega fire ants. These six-inch winged insects are aggressive and highly contagious, and their bites are excruciating. Even if you survive an attack, your time is limited. Within hours of being bitten, the flu virus reduces you to a violent zombie. Death is the only cure.
STUDY nnn The first antdemic began in 2013 with a series of mega fire ant attacks on a remote chain of Indonesian islands. As the body count climbed, scientists descended upon the region. Among them was University of Indonesia researcher Eva Sims, who linked the attacks to a deadly flu outbreak also occurring on the islands.
“No one had connected the influenza to the mega fire ants,” she says. “But that’s exactly what was happening. The ants contracted the virus from attacking infected birds, then passed the virus to humans—who started attacking each other. It was chaos.”
Unfortunately, Sims couldn’t convince a skeptical World Health Organization (WHO) of the threat. “They told me to stop watching so many zombie movies,” she says. If the WHO wouldn’t do anything, Sims would. There was still time.
“The virus was not spreading from person to person. If it made that leap, the antdemic could spread worldwide,” she says. Her theory was simple: Eliminate the mega fire ants, eliminate the virus. Sims found their breeding ground—a towering mound hidden deep in the jungle—and wiped the ant colony out with the most effective insecticide available: dynamite.
AVOID nnn The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests you take the following actions to protect yourself from the next antdemic.
•Get a flu shot. This will defend you against the three most common viruses circulating in any given year. Will it protect you during an antdemic? Depends on what flu strain the ants are spreading. Get your annual shot regardless. Not getting vaccinated is like leaving your front door unlocked—you’re just inviting trouble. Unless you live in Canada, where no one locks their doors and everyone has hardy immune systems.
•Avoid contact with anyone exhibiting flu symptoms. While the last antdemic did not spread from person to person, the next might. Even if it doesn’t, people infected with an antdemic flu strain are kind of a pain to deal with (see the “Antdemic Flu Symptoms” above).
•Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to kill germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Don’t let anyone else touch those areas either. What kind of weirdo would want to touch someone else’s eyeball, anyway?
Antdemic Flu Symptoms
•Red, swollen marks where a mega fire ant’s pincers penetrated your skin
•Runny nose, usually with blood
•Coughing up blood
•Sore throat (from coughing up blood)
•Fever, body aches, and chills
•Headache, fading as you turn into a zombie
•Unusual aggressive behavior, i.e., chasing and trying to bite strangers
SURVIVE nnn According to Sims, you can’t fight back against mega fire ants in any meaningful way. If you’re attacked outside, here’s what she suggests doing.
•Dive underwater. Mega fire ants can fly, but they’re poor swimmers. They drown quickly, especially in saltwater and chlorinated pools.
•If you’ve been bitten, see a doctor for an antiviral drug. Unless you receive treatment within two hours, you will turn into a zombie. If there’s a full-scale outbreak, the doctor’s office may be closed. Postapocalypse rules apply. Join the angry, infected mob ransacking the local pharmacy for antiviral drugs.
Also Known As: Spiders of Unusual Size First Observed: New Orleans, Louisiana (2012) • Est. Max. Speed: 6 mph • High-Risk Groups: Former Child Stars, Mardi Gras Revelers • Look Out for It In: Warm Climates • Threat to Humanity: • Risk of Encounter: • Fin’s WTF Factor:
Survive the first tremor of an arachnoquake, and aftershocks are the least of your worries. The real danger emerges hours later, when subterranean spiders crawl to the surface. These albino arachnids measure up to thirty inches from skin-piercing fangs to spinneret and possess the terrifying ability to shoot six-foot streams of flame. Don’t worry, though—they use that as a last resort. An arachnoquake spider is much more likely to spit paralyzing venom in your face and plunge its mandible claws into your abdomen, draining your insides. It may spare you for the purpose of laying eggs under your skin. This will prolong your agony several hours, until the newborns hatch and feast on your paralyzed body.
STUDY nnn When the 4.5 earthquake hit New Orleans in 2012, officials feared the worst. The epicenter was just twelve miles from the French Quarter—a direct hit to a community still on the rebound from Hurricane Katrina. While structural damage was moderate, the city thankfully suffered no casualties.
It was a short-lived miracle. Thousands of giant spiders soon emerged from fissures in the Crescent City streets, setting their fangs into the unprepared populace.
Although the situation appeared dire, scientists soon discovered the spiders’ key weakness. Arachnoquake drones require instructions sent telepathically from their queen to perform even basic tasks such as breathing. Kill her, and the rest die.
Destroying the queen was no small task. The enormous monster was as large as a two-story house. Non-nuclear military weapons had no effect on her. Fortunately, a brave (or foolish) civilian found a way to use the queen’s own offensive arsenal against her. Tour guide Paul Grace donned a divesuit and entered the spider’s mouth. Once inside, he located the gas tank that fueled her fiery breath. He hooked a copper cable to her tank, slipped out of the spider, and sparked the cable. The queen exploded from the inside out, spraying guts on the buildings surrounding her nest. On cue, the drones fell dead.
“It was like using a burning rag to ignite a car’s gas tank,” Grace says. “Not that I’ve ever, uh, done that. How long is the statute of limitations in Louisiana?”
While scientists believe exploratory drilling in the Gulf triggered the arachnoquake, politicians have been reticent to halt exploration or issue moratoriums on new permits. The real question isn’t whether more spiders are still living deep below the Earth’s surface. Since arachnoquake spiders lay their eggs in living hosts, we want to know . . . how many are still out there?
AVOID nnn Your survival hinges upon how well you can avoid the spiders’ paralyzing venom. Side effects include trouble breathing, muscle rigidity, and blurred vision—if you live that long, of course. Therefore, your life depends on what you wear.
•Avoid fibers that burn easily. This includes cotton, linen, rayon, and any blends containing those fibers. Also, ditch the vinyl hot pants—they’re liable to melt and stick to your skin when exposed to an open flame.
How to Escape from a Spiderweb
While all arachnoquake spiders are capable of spinning webs, only the queen’s web is large enough to trap a human being. So what should you do if you’re stuck in her web?
1.Even if you can’t see the queen, don’t struggle. She may be nearby monitoring her web with a signal line, waiting for good vibrations. The more you move, Marky Mark, the more likely you are to attract her attention.
2.If you have a knife or other sharp weapon, cut yourself free. The first strand to snap will alert the queen to your presence, so work fast. Chop chop!
3.When making your dramatic exit, crawl along one of the web strands that extend outward from the center. Avoid the webbing that runs in concentric circles, as it’s the stickiest.
4.Once you’ve escaped, say something snarky to the queen, like “Sorry I couldn’t stick around.”
•Layer your clothing. Don’t worry about trying to match colors, because by the end of the day you’ll be covered in spider guts. Tuck your shirtsleeves into your gloves and your pants into your socks. You can’t pull this off without looking like a dork. That’s okay. Body bags look even dorkier.
•Wear a gas mask. Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs had stunning gas masks in their spring 2014 collection. No high-end clothing stores in your area? Try your local Army Surplus.
Arachnoquake spiders live in a colony. While this isn’t unique, it is rare. Out of close to 40,000 species of spider, less than two dozen exhibit social behavior. Forget dinner and a movie—most spiders don’t socialize outside of mating.
SURVIVE nnn Since buildings will likely be compromised due to tremors, you may not be able to find a safe place to hide from the spiders. Be prepared to go on the offensive.
•Fight the drones. Despite their thick exoskeletons, arachnoquake spiders are no match for firearms. Shotguns are preferred. Buckshot will tear right through these suckers.
WARNING: Some arachnoquake spiders may be small enough to smash under the heel of your boot. Doing so would be the equivalent of stepping on a land mine, as their gas tanks are highly explosive.
•Fight the queen. Unlike the drones, this arachnid’s exoskeleton is thick enough to protect it from heavy artillery, including grenades. Your best bet is to follow Grace’s example and use the queen’s gas tank against her. “If you can figure out a less messy way to do that than jumping into her mouth, be my guest,” he says.
•Even after you kill the queen and the drones drop dead, you’re not out of the clear. Following an arachnoquake, look out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines, and (most important) flammable spider corpses. Report all hazards to either utility companies or animal control as appropriate.
Also Known As: BatastropheFirst Observed: Austin, Texas (2011) • Est. Max. Speed: 25 mph • High-Risk Groups: Alt-country Musicians, Internet Celebrities • Look Out for It In: Anywhere • Threat to Humanity: • Risk of Encounter: • Fin’s WTF Factor:
During a bataclysm, irradiated vampire bats are flushed from underground caves by seismic activity. Disoriented from the quake, these oversized mutants attack anything that moves. They have wingspans of more than four feet, with grotesque bodies to match. Their ability to navigate and locate prey in total darkness makes them difficult to escape from. Once they’ve found you, they’ll sink their teeth into you and drain your blood (they’re called “vampire bats” for a reason). Even brief contact leads to radiation sickness, especially in children and the elderly.
STUDY nnn Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, nuclear waste buried in the outskirts of Austin began leaking out of faulty tanks. While the water supply miraculously avoided exposure, the toxic material seeped into underground caves used by vampire bats. The bats mutated, growing large and hideous.
“We’re still trying to discover how they went undetected for so long,” says Quentin Rodriguez, a bat researcher with the University of Texas. “These things are big. They walk upright while on the ground. To farmers who caught them feeding on livestock, they probably looked like bloodsucking chupacabra.”
When a rare earthquake hit South Texas in March 2011, the mutant bats flooded the streets of Austin. Thousands of people died in the initial onslaught. More perished days and months later because of radiation poisoning.
Rodriguez used a sonic beacon to lure the bats to the newly built Austindome. While the bats slept in the football stadium’s rafters during the day, the Texas National Guard demolished the $400 million structure. “The collapse crushed the bats,” Rodriguez says. “It also crushed the Texas Longhorns season-ticket holders’ new luxury seats. Not a day goes by that I don’t get an e-mail about that.”
AVOID nnn This wasn’t a one-time event, warns Rodriguez. Radioactive waste is buried around the world. Bats live on every continent except Antarctica. That means another bataclysm is just an earthquake away.
•Wear night-vision goggles. Bats are nocturnal. Thanks to their use of ultrasonic calls—a technique called echolocation—they can “see” you at night. With a pair of night-vision goggles, you can even the score. Put them on every time the sun goes down. Never be surprised by a bat or burglar again.
•Shave your head. Bats are notorious for getting tangled up in human hair. If a mutant vampire bat gets stuck in your thick mane, you’re almost certainly a goner. Don’t risk it. As Patrick Stewart has scientifically proven, bald is sexy.
There’s an urban legend that says if a bat flies over the head of a child, it’s bad luck and the child stops growing. As strange as it sounds, there is a little truth to this story—at least when it comes to bataclysm bats. If one of them flies close enough to a child, he or she may contract radiation poisoning. While they do stop growing, they also develop special mutant powers. Kids love mutant powers.
SURVIVE nnn Once you receive word that a bataclysm is happening, seek shelter. If you have important business to conduct that simply can’t wait—a Starbucks run, for instance—follow these tips to navigate the bat-infested wastelands outside your front door.
•Deploy an acoustic jammer at night. Acoustic jammers interfere with bats’ use of echolocation. For an everyday fix try blasting some Barry Manilow from a portable speaker. “For some unknown reason, his voice is on the same wavelength as the echolocation signals of mutant vampire bats,” Rodriguez says.
NOTE: Remember, however, that bats are not blind. Echolocation simply lets them “see” in the dark. If a bat is heading straight for you during the daylight, not even the dulcet tones of Mr. Manilow will slow it down.
•Choose your weapons wisely. There are too many bats in the air during a bataclysm for single-bullet firearms or throwing stars to be of any use. Pick up a weapon that can take out multiple bats at a time, like a shotgun, flamethrower, or reinforced tennis racket.
•Watch your step. Be alert for guano. It’s not just a pain to scrape off—it’s also radioactive.
Also Known As: BeeruptionFirst Observed: Mount St. Helens, Washington (2013) • Est. Max. Speed: 20 mph • High-Risk Groups: Lumberjacks, Grunge Musicians, Seahawks • Look Out for It In: Areas Near Volcanoes • Threat to Humanity: • Risk of Encounter: • Fin’s WTF Factor:
When volcanoes erupt, they typically release hot gas, debris, and lava. During a beeclipse, however, volcanoes launch something quite different into the air: billions of gigantic honeybees. The bees are the size of fists, with exoskeletons as tough as steel. They crowd the sky, blocking the sun. Don’t stare directly into a beeclipse. Not only will you go blind . . . you’ll go dead. A single sting is enough to kill you unless the stinger is immediately removed. They move in swarms, meaning you’ll probably be stung multiple times, decreasing your chances of survival.
STUDY nnn Since 2006, worker honeybees have been disappearing in record numbers from beehives throughout North America and Europe. Scientists have blamed “colony collapse disorder” on everything from genetically modified foods to cell phone radiation. No one could have guessed the real reason: mass migration to volcanoes.
“Over the years, increasing pesticide use throughout the US drove billions of honeybees to Mount St. Helens,” says Violet Steele, a beekeeper who lived near Washington’s notoriously active volcano. “The bees found protection there. They turned it into a gigantic beehive.”