September 13, 2017

Book Excerpt: James Breakwell aka:@XplodingUnicorn "Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse"

James Breakwell is a professional comedy writer and amateur father of four girls, ages seven and under. He is best known for his family humor Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, which has more than 700,000 follow- ers. The account went viral in April 2016 thanks to a feature article on the front page of Buzzfeed. The resulting attention from media outlets around the world transformed Mr. Breakwell from a niche comedy writer into one of the most famous dads on social media.



Mr. Breakwell has been profiled by USA TODAY, Us Weekly, Daily Mail, Metro, The Telegraph, Cosmopolitan, Better Homes and Gardens, The Huffington Post, Upworthy, theCHIVE, Bored Panda, various ABC and FOX TV news affiliates, and countless other TV, radio, and internet outlets. Pictures of his smiling girls have been displayed in newspapers as far away as India. His articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Federalist, and AskMen. He has been a guest multiple times on HLN’s The Daily Share.




CHAPTER 1
THE BEST BAD DAY
OF YOUR LIFE
You can’t pick when and where zombies will attack. Even if you tried, the undead are notoriously bad at keeping appointments. That’s why you should be prepared at all times to fight for your life. This readiness should start well before civilization collapses. It’s easy to be on guard when the dead are already walking the earth, but it takes much more discipline to be vigilant when the biggest dangers in your life are being late for a PTA meeting or burning a frozen pizza. For the record, the instructions were not as clear as they could have been, and the smoke damage was minimal. Remind me to send a gift basket to the fire department.
The zombie apocalypse won’t start everywhere at once. In some areas, it could be underway right now. It’s easy to mistake an undead assault for something else, like “civil unrest” or “boy band concerts.” In other areas, zombie attacks could take months or even years to begin. Portland will be ground zero for the outbreak. People there do everything before it’s cool. San Francisco will be the last to fall. The undead can’t afford the rent, even for homes damaged by unexplained pizza fires.
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The zombie apocalypse won’t start with fireworks and a laser light show. The undead are more understated than that, and besides, they don’t have the budget. Instead, it’ll be up to parents to look for subtle signs the dead are walking the earth. In some places, this will be easy to spot. In Canada, where the crime rate is zero and no one has said a swear word since 1982, even one zombie could throw the whole country into chaos. In other places, zombies could destroy everything and nobody would notice the difference. I’m looking at you, New Jersey.
As a parent, it’s crucial that you time your response exactly right. If you quit your job and pull your kids out of school too early, you’ll starve to death before the zombie apocalypse even starts. But if you wait too long, everyone you love could be eaten by zombies, which would make for an awkward family newsletter. Making the right decision requires maturity, vision, and excellent judgment. Too bad it’s up to you.
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There are simple steps you can take every day to ensure you catch the end of the world right at the start. The first thing you should do when you wake up is look out the window. As a kid, I checked if there was enough snow to cancel school; now I check if there are enough zombies to cancel work. Most days, I’m disappointed. Never get your hopes up when it comes to Mother Nature or the damned.
Remember to always do a visual check. Zombies, like weather, are local. Just because the entire region is expecting a big storm doesn’t mean your house will get a drop of rain. In the same way, just because nobody else has seen a zombie yet doesn’t mean the very first one isn’t lurking in your bushes. Cut down all hedges as a precaution. At the very least, you won’t have to trim them every year.
Next, check the news. That term is misleading. As anyone who has ever watched or read it knows, there’s very little news in the news. If important stories get covered, it’s strictly by accident. Reporters are mainly interested in celebrities, sex scandals, and sensational crimes. Sure, they might mention a politician every now and then, but only if they’re involved in the sexy murder of someone famous. Even the most obscure legislator can make international headlines if his mistress dies in a sex swing accident at a petting zoo. That’s how “sexident” and “zooscrew” made their way into the dictionary.
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Carefully screen any news story that sounds vaguely zombie-related. There are a lot of false positives. Stampedes and mass groups of panicked people killing each other aren’t proof of anything. Look at any Black Friday sale. If you won’t bite off someone’s ear to get a discounted TV, you don’t deserve it. The same goes for riots. Chaos in the streets proves the existence of a local sports team, not zombies. Nothing shows civic pride quite like torching your own city.
IF IT’S ALL CLEAR
If there are no zombies outside your window or in the news, prepare for the worst: real life. The most awful moment on any morning is when you realize the world isn’t going to end and you have to go to work. Until humanity reverts to a post-apocalyptic barter economy, you have to earn a paycheck. I look forward to the day when I can pay for my daughters’ braces with a bag of pinecones.
The area might be zombie-free when you walk out the front door, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way all day. A good parent needs to be ready for all hell to break loose at a moment’s notice. Undead swarms seldom call ahead. My wife and I both work, and it’s my job to drop off the kids at school and daycare. Parents still have a duty to protect their partners and children, even if they have to do it from a distance. If my family gets eaten, I won’t get another one. I beat the odds when I found one woman willing to reproduce with me. I will never, ever be that lucky again. Most other dads find themselves in the same situation. In a way, families with bumbling losers for fathers are the fortunate ones. Our wives and kids know we have to protect them because we don’t have a plan B.
Pushed Away.svg To keep your children safe, carefully vet their daycare provider. This means daily, not just once a year before you pay your deposit. Shockingly, many parents refuse to take an extra five minutes before dropping their kids off to verify their daycare isn’t overrun by zombies. Children in that age range are unlikely to defend themselves effectively against the undead. For unknown reasons, the government discourages firearms training for toddlers.
The chances of a zombie outbreak beginning in a daycare are alarmingly high. Toddlers are walking Petri dishes. Every major illness starts with them. They are so contagious that NATO’s current germ warfare policy is to parachute preschoolers into enemy countries. A single runny nose could wipe out North Korea. Little kids have undeveloped immune systems and love to eat food off the floor. To diseases, they’re Disneyland. Put twelve toddlers in a room together and you’ll have the deadliest germ laboratory in the world. Everyone knows the bubonic plague started in a daycare. I don’t see why the first case of zombieism will be any different.
Daycares may be child death traps, but they’re also convenient. The only alternative is to have one parent stay home with the kids, and that’s a sacrifice most families won’t make. Love is good, but disposable income is better. The best compromise is to minimize the risks at daycare as much as possible while still working full time. Every day when you drop off your kids, ask four lifesaving questions:
1. Does the teacher have any obvious bite marks?
2. Is the play space covered in dismembered body parts?
3. Are the children trying to satisfy their unending hunger for human flesh?
4. Is anything on fire?
If the answer to even one of these questions is “yes,” keep your kids home that day—unless you’ve already paid for the whole week. Then leave your kids there, because money doesn’t grow on trees. There’s no point in asking for your check back. Zombies don’t give refunds.
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The same plan works for school-aged children. Unlike daycare, school is mandated by law. You’ll need a very good reason to keep your kids home. Ongoing zombie attacks qualify, but only with a doctor’s note. Always know what classrooms your kid will be in at which times of day in case you need to pull them out in a hurry. Make a special note of any skylights should you need to enter through the ceiling later. I have a grappling hook for just such an occasion. Unless my wife is reading this, in which case I’m joking. Please don’t check the trunk.
Stay-at-home moms and dads can skip all these precautions and sit at home, smugly judging the rest of us. But there’s a tradeoff for this haughty superiority. Stay-at-home parents don’t answer to a big boss at a corporation, but they do answer to multiple tiny bosses in their own homes. There are no sick days from that job, and good luck quitting. It’s against the law to give up on your children. So much for employee rights. I can’t protect my family as well as a stay-at-home parent, but at least no matter how bad my day at work gets, I’ll never have to change my boss’s diaper.
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The rest of us have to monitor our family members’ safety from a distance. My kids don’t have cell phones due to school rules and my own cheapness, but I text my wife throughout the day. I shoot her cute messages like “I love you” and “How are you feeling?” What I actually mean is “Are you still alive?” and “Should I leave work early to smash zombie skulls?” I can’t say either of those things outright, though, because it always leads to a huge fight with lots of crying. I can’t help it that I have overactive tear ducts. When I phrase my text messages more generically, my wife is more likely to reply. Once she messages me back, I know she hasn’t been eaten or turned into a zombie. The undead don’t text. It’s their best quality.
ON-THE-JOB SAFETY
The safety of your family is important, but your own wellbeing matters, too. You can’t protect anyone if you turn into a zombie—unless your family members tie you to the front of their car to use you as a meat shield. I don’t recommend that unless you want to void the warranty.
Your mission is to stay alive at work, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. At the start of the zombie apocalypse, the modern office is almost as dangerous as a daycare, just with fewer life-threatening diseases and more paper cuts.
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As with escaping school and daycare, the key to getting out of work and back to your family is to make sure it’s actually time to get out. Fleeing work because of zombies is a one-shot deal, so it has to be done right the first time. If you’re a husband and you quit work when there’s no danger, your wife will kill you. Literally. There’s no way a story about resigning from your job for imaginary zombies doesn’t end with spousal murder. The judge will let your wife off with a warning.
Here are a few scenarios to help you figure out when to take a personal day for the end of the world.
Scenario 1:
You hear screams from the other side of the room. A man fights for his life against a coworker who is on top of him. As they roll, they knock a stack of Styrofoam cups and an empty doughnut box off a table. Should you panic?
No. Somebody ate the last doughnut. Given the level of anger involved, they likely ate two or more and left someone else with none. What you see isn’t a zombie attack; it’s good old-fashioned vigilante justice.
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Scenario 2:
Janice from accounting viciously mauls Stan, the guy who always shows you pictures of his cat. Stan appears to be dead. There’s blood everywhere. Inexplicably, you’re the only one who notices. Is this a zombie attack?
Maybe.
It’s possible Stan simply showed Janice one feline snapshot too many. Everyone has a breaking point.
However, there’s one sure sign this attack is real: Everyone else is ignoring it. When a situation is serious, your coworkers will pretend they hear nothing while eavesdropping as intensely as possible. If Janice and Stan were having a normal disagreement, everyone would stand up and gawk. But since one or more people could be fired—Janice for being a zombie and eating Stan, and Stan for bleeding everywhere and ruining company property—your colleagues look the other way.
Congratulations, this is a real zombie attack. This is great news for you since you get to leave work early. It’s not such great news for Stan.
If you find a real zombie attack, take a moment to collect yourself. It’s a big milestone. It means most of the people you know and love will die horrific deaths. It also means you’ll never have to sit in a cubicle again. On the whole, it’s a good day. One victory fist pump is acceptable, but two or more is bragging. Your dying coworker might find that a bit classless. Besides, you’ll need your fist to fight off this zombie and any others on the premises.
SHOWTIME
Now is when the real fun begins. Retrieve your kids, rendezvous with your spouse, and settle in for the apocalypse. The whole experience is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. It’s exactly what you felt when you first became a parent.
© James Breakwell
All text, artwork, and photographs courtesy of James Breakwell

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