This is the second installment in a series began as request from my friend Dianda, over at Cats & Co. on what a zombie apocalypse would really be like once the zombies get…gooey.
Fair warning, people, it’s gonna get nasty.
I want you to understand what it was really like. Yeah, the idea of being mauled, Cujo style, by one of those walking things was terrifying. It was bad, seeing them torn and broken– with bite marks or chunks of skin and muscle missing from when they became someone else’s snack. But what was worse was imagining the person they were before. Someone’s brother, someone’s daughter, but reduced to empty sacks of flesh, wall-eyed and filled with stupid fury. Puppets of some dark God’s malign will.
But then, like I said…it got worse.
See, when a person dies, a series of chemical changes begin. Cells lose structure and enzymes start to break things down. I won’t bore you with a lot of technical terms, but this process usually starts in the gut. Also, the body starts to cool and the blood starts to settle. You may have heard terms like lividity or hypostasis if you’re into all those crime dramas, like Law and Order and CSI… and a lot of that CSI shit is pure crap. So anyway, a body that lays in a fixed position for a significant period of time after death will exhibit a dark purplish stain, where ever the blood has settled. Except these guys, these zombies, most of them were walking around, so the blood traveled to the lowest point of the bodies fairly quickly, the legs and feet. The people that had been wearing shorts or skirts, or maybe died in their nightclothes– you could see where the skin on their legs was turned a dark purple, and in some cases even splitting like a sausage busting out of the casing.
Another thing those crimes shows always talk about is rigor mortis, which, depending on the ambient conditions, kicks in anywhere from three to four hours after death and peaks around twelve hours or so. Normally, it goes away on it’s own by a bout the second or third day, but I guess in this case, all that moving around must work the stiffness out pretty fast, because for dead folk, these walking skin-sacks are pretty limber and disturbingly quick.
As if all this isn’t bad enough, when a person dies, their muscles eventually relax and bladder and bowels evacuate. Yep. A bunch of zombies walking around with a load in their pants.
These are all changes that take place fairly soon after death. They ain’t pretty, but they’re a good bit more tolerable than what comes next. The bloating. Bacteria multiplies in the gut and spreads. The body starts to take on greenish tones and bloats significantly where gas builds up, namely the abdomen. I don’t know whether you’d exactly call it fortunate or not, but the aggressive movement of the zombies probably dispelled most of the gas. I’d guess they were belching and crop dusting everywhere they went.
Anyway…this is about the time maggots may start to hatch, and the skin continues to turn colors, eventually taking on a black appearance. This is all stuff I read, you understand. At this point, I was still holed up in my apartment, actively not looking out my window. When I finally screwed up the courage to venture out of hiding (more out of necessity than desire) I’d see some of these “early stages of decomp” first hand, in some of the newly infected.
I know this is beyond foul. Actually, that’s what I’m really trying to drive home to you. This is where Hollywood got it wrong. Because unlike the movies, where the zombies seem as if they’ll go on shambling around and eating people til the end of time, what actually happened was much worse. The initial victims of the plague, or whatever you want to call it, were entering into the stage of active decay. What I mean is, they were starting to fall apart– splitting open, spilling their liquefied insides, their skeletons collapsing as their disintegrating muscles became unable to hold them together or support locomotion.
I don’t know why it seems so important for you to understand, why I felt compelled to start this journal. Maybe it’s because there’re so few people left around here, and everyone I knew from before, which was few to begin with, are gone. I think I just wanted a record of what happened, in case someone could maybe use it one day. Or maybe I just wanted someone to know that I existed, because even though it’s been over a month now, I don’t know how much longer I’ll last.
At any rate, what I’m trying to get you to understand is that the zombies attacking and killing living people was not the true horror of this whole mess. Although some nights images of Ms. Russo and Farley still chase sleep from my exhausted mind. The real horror was the fact that eventually, despite their inherent unnaturalness, nature reclaimed the bodies of the dead. Where they fell the final time, they stayed, and when I finally left my apartment, I was walking into a reeking abattoir.