When it all goes to shit, the corpses will be everywhere. No, not the zombies, but the dead. The regular dead. The bodies of people who didn’t make it. You think I’m kidding? Take a look on the news about what happens to regions after a natural disaster hits. In places without a unified emergency services, the corpses just lie around decomposing until volunteers and citizens can get to burying them. Post-Apocalypse, there won’t be emergency services, or groups of volunteers, and citizens are going to be too busy fleeing for their lives to dig out the corpses and lay them to rest.
Initally, you’ll be among those fleeing citizens, and that’s fine. But when you start settling down, building your community, you are going to need to do something about all those corpses lying around. Why? Two reasons – 1. Health, 2. Morale.
Lets get down to the nitty-gritty here. Not wanting to be indelicate, but a decomposing corpse is a health hazard. Bacteria, rot, rats, to mention only the most obvious. Several hundred or thousand corpses are worse. You don’t want to do all the dreadful things needed in order to survive just to end up dying because you didn’t clear out the houses, do you? Plus, the knowledge that all those dead people are there, behind their locked doors, just rotting into oblivion, is bound to be too much for some of your community.
So what do you do? In Stephen King’s The Stand, the survivors who massed in Boulder set up a house-clearing team, who went from house to house, removing corpses and planting them in a mass grave. It sounds harsh and cold, but it’s a good idea. You don’t have time to bury everyone individually, and while a funeral pyre seems like a nice idea you probably have more important things to do with the wood.
Make sure your burial pit is well outside of town, far enough that your farmers won’t accidentally dig into it in ten or twenty years. Set your team up – ensure they all wear masks and protective suits – and have them go from house to house, clearing out the bodies. If you have any religious leaders in your compound, this is a good time to have them bless the pit. You can’t have them buried individually, but such a guesture will make you look good and make the more faith-inclined among you more comfortable with the idea.
If you feel guilty, remember it’s a perfectly legitimate choice. During the Black Death, the victims were interred in Plague Pits. These places are now remembered by stone markers. The survivors of the plague- an apocalyptic event if there ever was one, in which around 60% of the population of Europe died – didn’t have time to find out the names of the dead or give them a proper burial, and neither do you.
It’s best to do this task sooner rather than later, especially if the apocalypse happens in the warmer months. It should be one of the first thigns you do, in fact, just after building your barriacdes and setting up your government. The volunteers who do the task should be well rewarded, with extra rations or luxury goods. When all the dead have been removed, and the pit has been filled, apply some consideration to the feelings of your people and put some kind of memorial there. Maybe plant a tree, or some flowers. It’ll grow good and strong.
In 500 years, when it’s all long gone and a new society has arisen, the archaeologists of the future will find your mass grave and make assumptions based on it. Here is a good chance to put an explanation in with the corpses, if you care about that sort of thing.