Decompose (part 2)

 

I want you to understand what it was really like. Yeah, the idea of being mauled, Cujo style, by one of those walking monstrosities was terrifying. It was bad, seeing them torn and broken– with bite marks or chunks of skin and muscle missing from when that moment 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 evil god.

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 livor mortis or hypostasis if you’re into all those crime dramas, like Law and Order and CSI…  and a lot of that stuff on CSI is pure bullshit. But one thing that is true is that 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 starting to split 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 its own by about 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 alarmingly quick on their feet.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, though, there’s more.  When a person dies, their muscles eventually relax and bladder and bowels evacuate.  Yep.  That’s right.  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.  After death, bacteria multiplies in the gut and the body’s own enzymes start to break down cells. These processes result in the excretion of gas as a biproduct, and a dead body will eventually begin 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 it seems as if the aggressive movement of the zombies probably dispelled most of the gas in their bellies. I’d guess they were belching and crop dusting everywhere they went.  Otherwise, their bellies swell up to massive size as the body cavities fill to capacity with the gases.  Eventually the gases diffuse to other parts of the body, the circulatory system, until the skin tissues rupture, and the gas can be released.  Bacteria continues to spread throughout the body, turning veins various shades of ugly brown, bruise purple, and black.

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, much worse. The initial victims of the plague, or whatever you want to call it, had started to enter into the stage of active decay. What I mean is, they were starting to fall apart– splitting open, spilling their liquefied insides or leaking decomp fluid from their bloated lips or down their legs… their skin slipping, their skeletons collapsing as their disintegrating muscles and connective tissues 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 almost 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.

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Decompose (part 1)

I love getting requests for posts. It makes me feel special because it lets me know there are some people out there who like my writing enough to ask for something. The idea for this story was based on another post I wrote about The Walking Dead.  There in the comments section, I got a request from my friend Dianda, over at Cats & Co. So here goes the first installment of my serial on what I think a zombie apocalypse would really be like once the zombies get…gooey.  

Fair warning, people, it’s gonna get nasty. 

 

When it actually happened, it was nothing like the movies. Sure, the first week or so was crazy. Zombies everywhere. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but dead people were up and walking around, so what would you call them? People were dying all over the place…and then getting back up again. And chasing people. They could move as fast as you or me too. None of that George Romero shambling shit. These guys were aggressive– like they were pissed off about being dead and all. They weren’t hungry, they were just angry… or crazy, like a rabid animal, something reduced to its basest instincts. On the second day, when shit really started to go south, I saw my neighbor tear apart her own dog like it was made of cheesecloth. He was a Corgi named Farley.

Whatever happened, it happened fast. Saturday night I was heading home from my shift at the store, feeling pleased with myself for scoring a phone number from the hot girl at the pizza shop next door. I should have known it wouldn’t last. Nothing good ever happens to me. I stayed inside playing Halo and eating day old pizza all day Sunday, and Monday morning I woke up to Ms. Russo giving Farley a close shave with her teeth. Once I realized what was happening out there, I did what any self-respecting convenience store clerk would do; I holed up in my apartment.

I don’t mean to be glib. Well, maybe just a little, but only so I don’t go completely nuts.  I wasn’t gonna try to be brave.  My initial plan was to stay put until whoever was in charge of fixing really major league fuck ups… The National Guard.  The CIA.  I don’t fucking know.

After a few days, it became apparent that no one was coming to rescue me.  After days of witnessing the chaos from the safety of my second story window, I closed the drapes and just stopped looking… like I could ignore it all away if I just tried hard enough. The random screams that pierced the days and nights came less and less frequently.  A couple more days after that, I even stopped hearing the sounds of people, living or dead, in the other rooms and on the other floors of the apartment building. I stayed put though, barricaded in my apartment, with my heavy oak dresser against the door and my sofa in front of that, for good measure. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that when you finally think it’s safe, that’s when you get your ass handed to you by a guy wearing someone else’s face. By then I was starting to run out of food…and toilet paper.

Now you’d think at that point that things couldn’t get any worse, but you’d be wrong, and this is where the movie guys got it wrong too. Because no matter what you’ve seen in the movies, zombies can not walk around indefinitely. It’s not physically possible. It was the following Monday when the smell started to seep into the apartment, and what should have been obvious snuck up on me and sucker punched me in the back of the head.

I grabbed my SmartPhone. I don’t know why I even have one. I don’t call anyone. I don’t really have anyone to call. There’s maybe six or seven numbers total in directory, and two of them are for work. That first Monday, I tried to call the cops, an ambulance, anyone. After getting a busy signal four different times, I gave up. I put the phone on the charger and didn’t touch it again until that smell, that stench… There’s really no way to describe a smell like that. And it was still mild. I knew it would get worse. It was October. Temperatures pogoed up and down almost daily, and there was no telling who had their AC off or their heat on, or whatever. Do you see where I’m going with this?

I could still get a WiFi signal with my mostly useless phone, so I hopped online to confirm what I already knew, and I learned more about dead bodies than I ever wanted to know.