THE UNDEAD: MYTHS AND REALITIES
He comes from the grave, his body a home of worms and filth. No life in his eyes, no warmth of his skin, no beating of his breast. His soul, as empty and dark as the night sky. He laughs at the blade, spits at the arrow, for they will not harm his flesh. For eternity, he will walk the earth, smelling the sweet blood of the living, feasting upon the bones of the damned. Beware, for he is the living dead.
-Obscure Hindu text, circa 1000 B.C.E.
ZOM-BIE: n. also ZOM-BIES pl. 1. An animated corpse that feeds on living human flesh. 2. A voodoo spell that raises the dead. 3. A Voodoo snake god. 4. One who moves or acts in a daze "like a zombie." [a word of West African origin]
What is a zombie? How are they created? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their needs, their desires? Why are they hostile to humanity? Before discussing any survival techniques, you must first learn what you are trying to survive.
We must begin by separating fact from fiction. The walking dead are neither a work of "black magic" nor any other supernatural force. Their origin stems from a virus known as Solanum, a Latin word used by Jan Vanderhaven, who first "discovered" the disease.
SOLANUM: THE VIRUS
Solanum works by traveling through the bloodstream, from the initial point of entry to the brain. Through means not yet fully understood, the virus uses the cells of the frontal lobe for replication, destroying them in the process. During this period, all bodily functions cease. By stopping the heart, the infected subject is rendered "dead." The brain, however, remains alive but dormant, while the virus mutates its cells into a completely new organ. The most critical trait of this new organ is its independence from oxygen. By removing the need for this all-important resource, the undead brain can utilize, but is in no way dependent upon, the complex support mechanism of the human body. Once mutation is complete, this new organ reanimates the body into a form that bears little resemblance (physiologically speaking) to the original corpse. Some bodily functions remain constant, others operate in a modified capacity, and the remainder shut down completely. This new organism is a zombie, a member of the living dead.
Unfortunately, extensive research has yet to find an isolated example of Solanum in nature. Water, air, and soil in all ecosystems, from all parts of the world, have turned up negative, as have their accompanying flora and fauna. At the time of this writing, the search continues.
The timetable below outlines the process of an infected human (give or take several hours, depending on the individual).
Hour 1: Pain and discoloration (brown-purple) of the infected area. Immediate clotting of the wound (provided the infection came from a wound).
Hour 5: Fever (99-103 degrees F), chills, slight dementia, vomiting, acute pain in the joints.
Hour 8: Numbing of extremities and infected area, increased fever (103-106 degrees F), increased dementia, loss of muscular coordination.
Hour 11: Paralysis in the lower body, overall numbness, slowed heart rate.
Hour 16: Coma.
Hour 20: Heart stoppage. Zero brain activity.
Hour 23: Reanimation.
Solanum is 100 percent communicable and 100 percent fatal. Fortunately for the human race, the virus is neither...