In the wake of the news from NASA this week — that there may be evidence of water on Mars — we’re taking a quick look at the science fiction literature that focuses on the Red Planet. Barsoom. Mars. It’s captured the imagination of generations, and it’s been a setting for so many stories. […]
Many people fear zombies. Not only are there manuals, kits, and other supplies offered to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, some government emergency management agencies are preparing for the same. With the appearance of skin-eating microbes and people eating each other’s faces, some believe even more that we’re doomed to facing a zombie uprising.
So what exactly is a zombie? Legend holds four types of zombies. One is the Voodoo zombie which is a person killed by a witch doctor and brought back to life as an empty shell answerable to the magic practitioner. It’s similar to the magic reported in Haitian Vodou and African Vodun, both of which it is related to. The second type of zombie is another magic type, the reanimated corpse. Third is the corporate peon which is perpetually drained of its soul within the confines of a chamber commonly known as a “cubicle”. Finally is the one which is most feared, and is the one we will focus on in our quest to make monsters in the real world. That is the viral zombie.
Popularized by George Romero’s classic horror film Night of the Living Dead, the viral zombie seems to be the most troublesome. Reanimated corpses can be quite dangerous, but the viral zombie actually infects humans! This means there are no winners in a zombie apocalypse, only survivors.
Much like the Vampire, the zombie is caused by a virus which is spread through a bite. If the victim survives the attack, the virus begins to infect the target. The zombie virus can be spread by any body fluid exchange, but the bite would be the most likely and most common. And if you think it’s the initial attack that really bites …
The Virus Takes Hold
Once the virus takes hold, the victim begins to experience some flu-like symptoms. The complexion becomes pale and the person begins to break out in sweats. Fever and cold chills begin to set in. This is followed by headaches and aching in the joints and muscles. There will be no recovery. This is the only opportunity for suicide before the higher functions in the brain shut down. Failing to kill one’s self at this point will result in a couple of weeks of horrible agony, an absolute living hell which is unimaginable by any normal human being.
The Body Begins To Fail
One of the first organs to fail is the liver. Like with the Vampire, the body can no longer metabolize food properly. But it’s not a complete shutdown. Some metabolism is still there. However, it’s not quite enough. Food is no longer processed like it’s supposed to be. And there isn’t enough glucose produced to maintain the brain properly. The higher brain functions are the first to go. Then the body begins to burn its energy reserves such as fat.
As if the body eating itself wasn’t bad enough, the virus spreads and begins to eat the flesh, other internal organs, and structural components of the body. It is in some ways related to leprosy. The ability to walk and otherwise move properly is completely out the window.
As the brain’s higher functions begin to erode away, the thinking becomes cloudy and the memory quickly fades away. It begins to resemble Alzheimer’s disease. As that happens, the logical rationality gives way to pure emotion, then depletes to the point of an insect-like survivalism. The zombie no longer has the mental faculties to comprehend suicide as a release from the agony. The zombie does realize that it’s dying though. It realizes it’s quickly starving. The zombie lives in a constant state of panic, complete with surges of adrenaline. Zombies are strong, but can’t think clearly. They have the urge to feed or die, even though feeding only slightly delays the inevitable death.
Since the liver is no longer holding up its end of the biological bargain, the zombie needs a source of nutrition. Normal nutritional sustenance will no longer suffice. The lack of ability to metabolize like a human being should leaves the need for a different kind of “people food”. It’s the only way to get nutritional components which are pre-processed.
When a person is stranded on a raft out at sea, that person learns to grab fish out of the water and eat it raw. Over time, the body will instinctively crave parts of the fish that the person would otherwise consider too disgusting to devour. Pretty soon, even the eyeballs will become a delicacy as the body craves the nutrients they provide. By the same token, a zombie will find parts of a human being to be more desirable as the virus continually causes the flesh, as well as other parts of the body, to rot away.
Probably the main organ to become extra yummy is directly related to the primal survival instinct of a zombie. When a person goes into hypothermia, the body automatically begins drawing warmth from the extreme appendages and concentrates it at the vital organs in the inner core. Similarly, when a zombie rots away, it tries to preserve the brain first since it controls the rest of the body. The zombie craves the highest concentration of glucose (which the liver is supposed to produce for the brain) that it possibly can. The now verbally-challenged zombie begins to offer a panicked cry for the thing it craves most, much like someone stranded in the desert might beg for water. That glucose source is brains.
It doesn’t last long though. The zombie will starve to death very soon.
The Infection Spread Pattern
Unfortunately, the spread of the virus prevents population reduction from that starvation. Zombies will attack anyone and everyone who they think will provide the munchies that they crave. If any one of those tasty treats survives the attack, another zombie rises. The biggest concentration would be, obviously, where the human population is most dense. When the supply of unprocessed Soylent Green is mostly expended, only then will the zombie population head en masse to the country. They’ll go to the country early on, just not in large numbers. Like humans, zombies like to hunt in packs. All dense populations are at primary risk. Modern transportation makes effective quarantines nearly impossible.
Luckily, there are a few things one can do to survive. After all, a zombie apocalypse will likely only last a matter of months. There is hope.
– First of all, one must be able to wait out the event. Much like Tribbles, the buggers will drop dead if you simply stop feeding them. If one can avoid the undead for just a few months, then that person is home free.
– One must limit the size of a team that one would be involved in. The more people, the more noticeable and attractive to zombies one becomes.
– A person needs to stay put, but be ready to move. The more area one covers, the more likely to run into zombies at some point. But if zombies find the person’s location, it’s time to vacate very quickly!
– One must be heavily armed and stocked up on ammo. Pop culture is dead on accurate with this one.
– Finally, if one is infected, one must figure out a way to die very quickly. Not only will this protect others from becoming infected or killed, it will keep the person from prolonging death to a mindless, panicked agony while wasting away from rotting and starvation.
Just a few simple things can save the human race from total extinction. Sure it’s not too reassuring since the remaining population would be so minimal. But as long as humans can survive, humankind will survive.
So there you have it, the real-world zombie. Frightening in every aspect, true. But still defeatable … in the end. But that’s only for those who know how to survive. So learn, prepare, and try not to get bit.