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.

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.

Omega

[Friend and fellow blogger Emmie Mears is having another one of her flash fiction competitions, so I thought, what better time to flesh out an idea that’s been knocking around in my head for a couple of days?  I get to satisfy my urge to write without being committed to a full-length novel or story…yet.  Her contest isn’t quite open for submissions yet, but I just couldn’t wait to get a little feedback on this post.  Hoping it fits neatly enough into the dystopian/horror sub-genre…  Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to expand upon it at a later date.  *See notes related to story’s particular plot at the end of the post.]  

Omega-E spreads fast, but there is about a month from the identification of patient zero to the time when the dead start to outnumber the living. The CDC and the government try to manage the numbers, with mass cremations to control the spread of the disease and to keep the corpses from piling up. Americans are pissed. Until their fear trumps the need to mourn and bury their dead. The situation declines fast and martial law is declared, but it’s a token gesture, with soldiers stationed only where there are valuable resources the government deems “in need of protection.” In most of the cities and suburbs, there is no law anymore.

This makes gathering supplies a lot easier, but also a lot more dangerous. There are other dangers besides contamination. Looters, psychos. The marines guarding the supplies will shoot to kill with the slightest provocation. But the worst, other people like us, people whose desperate minds have turned black with panic. Sometimes you can actually see the madness, flapping around, like a bird with a broken wing, behind their too-bright eyes.

And then there are the Infected. Like zombies, only worse. They’re sick, shambling…and bleeding copiously. Omega-E is almost entirely hemorrhagic. Makes the cases of Ebola in Africa look like a head cold. The Omega virus dies more quickly outside of the body than it’s African predecessor, so chances of surface contamination are lower, but once infected…there is no recovery. The only upside is that incubation for Omega-E is brief, the tell-tale rashes, fevers, and vomiting appearing within 24 hours of contamination, with death only a few days later. This makes the Infected pretty easy to identify.

It also makes them very dangerous. Almost up until their last breath, usually dragged laboriously through lungs filled with blood, they are aware… and terrified. If the uninfected have a panic-bird behind their eyes, the Infected are infested with whole flocks. Like drowning victims, they’ll drag down anyone who chances close enough.

It’s easy to stay inside for the first week or so. As the pandemic ramps up, we make pilgrimages to the store and start setting supplies back. But eventually we’ll need to go out there again. We have a little girl. Even if we could live on next to nothing, she couldn’t. And although the electricity and water remain on for the moment, there’s no telling how long it will last.

I heard a rumor about the government instituting rolling blackouts to manage the power supply and “ensure continuity of service” for everyone. The pretenses are breaking down. Pretty soon they won’t even bother to lie to us.

We need a plan. A few more trips out for supplies. Right before dawn seems to be quietest. The pharmacy. The grocery. Guns if we can find them. And then we’ll go out into the country, or maybe the woods. Somewhere there are no people, where we can wait this thing out. It has to end sometime, right? Right…?

 *Due to the word count constraints imposed by Emmie, I didn’t get to delve too deeply into my desired plot  concept.  It may seem like “just another” zombie story, but what I really wanted to explore was how a couple like myself and my hubby would get along with our toddler in the midst of a pandemic crisis.  See, in horror films, you don’t often see many really young children portrayed and my guess is that it’s due to the “logistics” of trying to survive when you have to care for someone who not only completely dependent on you for their well-being, but also not yet cognitively developed enough to realize the necessity of basic evasive and survival skills.  For instance, how do you keep a frightened two year old quiet so you can hide from a passing zombie horde?  I want to follow a couple with no special skills (no ex-green berets or weapons experts here) as they endeavor to survive and protect what is dearest them, and I want to do it without taking the easy way out and “killing off” any characters that could be seen as a hindrance or potential “baggage” to the flow of normal horror stories/ films.  Of course, I have not gotten that far yet. 

My Christmas Wishlist

When I was at Walmart the other day, I couldn’t help but notice all the candy that was out (chocolate ~drool~)  And then I realized with something like shock that it really IS almost Halloween.  I can’t believe it’s already almost the middle of September.  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and it’s almost here again!  And you know what that means…

…time to skip right over Halloween and Thanksgiving and break out all the Christmas shit and carols waaaaay too early!

So in the spirit of consumerism, I’ve decided to get a jump on my Christmas Wish list.  Just in case all you faithful bloggers want to get me something, here are a few ideas:

1)Heat-seeking Nerf blaster-  For those pesky mid-night feline disturbances.  With this, I’ll be able to “discipline” the cats whenever and WHEREever they get into trouble, even around corners, all without getting out of bed.

“Here, kitty, kitty…”

2) Universal Remote – With settings for every gadget in the house, including but not limited to; TV, PS3, DVD player, Game Cube, washing machine, vibrator.   AND multi-function settings; (Husband) “do dishes”, “change baby”, “massage butt”, (Cats) “clean litter boxes”, “shut the hell up” (aka Mute)

Because the Husband’s Remote was just sooooo clever….

3) A New Tattoo– I’m not gonna be able to afford one on my own anytime soon, so I might as well put it on my Wishlist.

4) Gear for the Zombie Apocalypse- Preparation for Z-Day has the potential to get very expensive.  I’m going to need provisions, lots of provisions.   Like freeze-dried astronaut food, and a first aid kit that has a hefty supply of morphine and sodium pentathol (for those pesky field euthanizations.) Lots of leather clothes, cuz I don’t know what these skinny bitches in the movies think they’re doing wearing skirts and shit.  Also, I’ll need some tools for when I break into the pharmacy to steal my lifetime supply of Zoloft (the zombie apocalypse is not the time to give into those pesky anxieties and compulsions!)  And let’s not forget weapons, because, somehow I don’t think a Nerf Blaster is gonna do the trick, not even a HEAT-seeking one.

Really, Jill?

Come to think of it, as long as I have the universal remote, I don’t really need anything else.  I can just click the “zombies off” button.

Resident Evil: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead

I’m not going to do an in depth point-by-point comparison or deep philosophical analysis on the difference between the ‘old’ Resident Evil (RE) games and the ‘NEW-er’ generation of RE.  Both have their merits and deserve recognition.  Also, I have JUST finished playing my way through RE 5 for the first  time (yes, yes, I know I’m a bit late,) and though I have played through the original RE (the Gamecube remake) SEVERAL times, it’s admittedly been a while since I broke bad on some O-Z (that’s Original Zombie, yeah yeah.)   The point is, I don’t feel equal to the task of comparing their merits in any detail, given it’s been a while and the details of the original are not as fresh in my head as I would like.  But I do want to discuss a couple of significant differences in the ‘old’ and ‘new’ and how they effect my gaming experience.

Alright…let me collect my thoughts…deep breath…and GO! Continue reading