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.

The Not-So-Walking Dead (*warning,graphic)

Most of my friends probably know I love all things zombie, so I’m not gonna complain much when I’m watching any number of walking-dead/returned- to- life themed shows or movies.

Ooookay, that’s a white lie.  Okay, so I’m one of those people who was so sucked in by the Resident Evil games and the multitude of zombie movies that I like to entertain the idea that I wouldn’t become zombie bait on the first day of the apocalypse.  It’s not uncommon for me to be watching  one of these shows or movies and yelling at the people on the TV,  telling them every stupid thing they’re doing.

AMC’s The Walking Dead is no exception.  I love the show.  It’s a very character-driven take on the usual zombie apocalypse theme; I’d imagine the characters have to have more depth if the show is going to keep viewers interested for more than a couple episodes.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon is just an added incentive for me to watch The Walking Dead

But these people do some stupid shit!  For instance, if you were concerned with a blood borne contagion, why would you stab a zombie through the head (or any other body part for that matter?)  An interesting tidbit you may or may not have gleaned from popular crime shows is that when a person stabs another person, there is a high likelihood of the assailant injuring themselves on their own weapon.  By all means, why don’t we just invite the infection in?

But anyway, as much as I love my zombie movies, I can’t quite get past this one fundamental flaw in the whole idea of an extended “zombie apocalypse.”  In most of these stories, shows, and films, the source of the pandemic usually ends up being traced to a biological or physiological cause, most often a virus of some sort.  The creators of these shows want it to seem as if the scenario they are positing could be scientifically possible, if not exactly likely. Bear with me, because this is relevant to the point I’m about to make.

For the zombies to reach such an advanced state of decay, one of two things would have to happen:

1) They have to have risen from the grave a’ la the original Night of the Living Dead

or

2) They “newly” dead would have to continue to decompose after death, despite the fact that they remained mobile.

“You don’t just wake up looking this good!”

Either way, after decomposition progresses to a certain point, muscle tissue and ligaments are going to break down and locomotion will then be a scientific impossibility.  There are a bajillion changes the body goes through postmortem, beginning with autolysis (in the gut) and putrefaction ( microbial growth.)  Ultimately, these processes lead to liquefaction and disintegration of the body.  Simply put…   the very dead no walkee.

Bloating in the abdomen as autolysis occurs and gasses collect in the face, abdominal cavity, and scrotum. This body has spent approximately a week in summer-like conditions.

**I found this photo on the internet, but can speak for its authenticity because this same photo appears in one of my school books for a Forensics class that I had.  The information regarding time and conditions of death came directly from that book.

So basically, the zombie apocalypse would really suck for about two weeks, three tops… until everyone started to rot and fall apart… at which point it would probably suck even harder.

You’re welcome. 😉

*Edit: A friend of mine brought up a good point that I need to clarify:  A zombie pandemic/plague/whatever could indeed be perpetuated beyond two to three weeks, assuming people continued to be contaminated by contact with either the bodily fluids of the dead bodies or the undead.  However, the main thrust of this blog entry is that each individual dead body could not be mobile for an extended period of time once decomposition began to break down the muscles and tissues necessary for locomotion…  

I’ve put too much thought into this.  Maybe I need a new hobby.