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Post by ifer on Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:15 pm

I'm going with a semi-scientific (and long-winded) zombie virus theory.

The zombie virus is transferred through infected tissues and fluids entering the bloodstream. Thus, zombie-ism is contagious through being bitten, scratched, or flying debris making contact with unprotected open wounds. Waterproof band-aids are your friend.

The virus causes numerous biological changes, but isn't actually fatal, though death is common even among survivors of the initial attack. Zombies are notoriously unhygienic and infection is rampant among survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

Upon entering the bloodstream, the zombie virus begins the zombification process by improving upon the host's natural abilities. Muscles are enhanced, senses sharpened and reflexes are heightened. The body is made to run more efficiently, even with very little fuel. The blood thickens, carrying more oxygen and bleeding less, and there is an overall preservative effect on the afflicted tissues. In addition to these general improvements, mutations can also occur, causing physical malformations or mental problems. These mutations can prove either beneficial or harmful to the host.

All of these changes take a significant amount of time, and can only take place while the victim is among the living, though the tissues cannot transfer the virus until after death. The longer the individual is able to survive with the virus, the stronger they become and the more dangerous the resulting zombie. More mutated zombies also tend to be more potently contagious, with the virus causing more and faster changes in subsequent generations. Luckily, stronger zombies more likely to kill a victim outright than allow it to live long enough to mutate.

The most remarkable modifications that the zombie virus makes to the body are to the brainstem. Though there are drastic changes, most afflicted (with notable exceptions occurring when mutations take place in the brain) will retain their mental functions while alive, and it is only upon death that identifiable zombie behaviour begins.

Due to the different lengths of time possible between infection and death, zombies come in many forms. (Please note that though I have used human bases for all of these descriptions, zombies can be of any species, though the virus tends to effect animals less and in different ways.)

- The shambling horde (Shamblers): Most people die within a day or two of being attacked. The virus did not have time to make major changes to the body, leaving animated dead with only numbers on their side. These zombies move barely above a crawl, are somewhere between weak and above average in strength, and have little to no reasoning skills. These zombies cannot use weapons. Their senses are dulled, so only fast movement, bright lights or loud noises attract their attention. These zombies deteriorate rapidly, having only minimal preservatives in their blood. If they lose a limb the thickened blood clots quickly, preventing blood loss, but the skin never heals under the scab. For the shambling horde, hunting is pre-programmed but serves little purpose other than to make more zombies. The digestive system is largely non-functional and what little energy gained can only be used to keep the zombie functioning, as it has no healing capabilities. Because of this, they tend to lose interest after the prey item is dead, leaving the corpse relatively untouched. Shamblers tend to congregate in large masses, easily a hundred or more, drawn together through hunting the same victim.

- Fast zombies (Runners): Individuals succumbing after months of being infected are reborn as fast zombies. Runners have animal intelligence and are both strong and agile. They can run and climb and have some limited problem-solving skills. Fast zombies are intelligent enough to be able to hunt as a pack, carry out an ambush and turn a door knob. They have average senses and can use basic bashing weapons. The zombie virus had enough time to make some major changes to internal organs. Unlike the shambling horde, runners have a working digestive system, and can use the energy to repair damaged tissues. Sever a limb and an impulse from the brain causes the muscles near the wound to squeeze, closing the veins and stopping blood flow to the missing appendage. The veins are soon redirected, allowing the muscles to relax. After that, the wound heals in a similar fashion to a living organism. This ability, plus an increase in preservatives, allows the zombie a considerably longer un-life than a shambler. Runners are usually found in groups of a score or so.

- Super zombies (Ghouls): Super zombies arise from years-long survivors. These zombies can perform truly superhuman feats of agility and have the strength to match. They have below human intelligence, the ability to learn, and may even retain some memories of their former life. Super zombies are able to use complex weaponry, such as guns; set traps, understand a few spoken words, and the forethought to modify their environment to suit their needs. They store food for future use, scavenge for useful items, and may manipulate/herd lower forms of zombies for strategic effect. If a ghoul were to have an appendage abscised, the member will slowly regrow over time. This type of zombie is very conscious of it's surroundings. It will look for an area that provides for several necessities: relatively frequent visits from the living, an alternative food supply, a defensible position and available weaponry. Once a ghoul finds an ideal location it will be unlikely to leave it. A small cooperative group may hold a location and will jealously guard their territory from additional ghouls. The digestive system of a super zombie is quite different from that of a fast zombie. While fast zombies can only digest raw flesh and bone, super zombies are adept scavengers and are able to supplement this diet with practically anything organic. This can add substantially to the zombie's lifespan. Ghouls are rarely found in groups exceeding five individuals.

- Mutant zombies and Living zombies (Freaks): When a zombie has a significant mutation, they are classified as a mutant zombie. This group of zombies is the only one to include the living as well as the dead. If an infected person's behaviour patterns, personality and sentience are compromised enough, they can begin to act more like the zombies they will become than the living being that they are and can be classed as living zombies. Freaks can fall into any of the previously mentioned categories, but have one or more mutations that significantly alter their behaviour or abilities. This could be as simple as a shambler with the mental aptitude of a of a runner, or it could be something that changes the zombie so completely that it can no longer truly be classified as a zombie. Abnormal numbers of limbs, natural armour plating, giganticism or any number of supernatural abilities may be present in a freak. Mutant and living zombies are more dangerous than any other zombie type for one simple reason: they are unpredictable. Mutant and living zombies are often solitary, due to their relatively small numbers and vast differences from other zombies.

Please note that all non-living zombies are subject to material decay. The zombie will eventually degenerate into a lower class as time goes by. To slow this process, zombies can go into a form of hibernation during periods of little activity. While hibernating, a zombie acts like a corpse, preventing further damage and decay to its tissues. Loud noises and other indicators of action will rouse the zombie, who will then resume normal function.

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