Home > The Zombie Survival Guide(2)

The Zombie Survival Guide(2)
Author: Max Brooks

C. Smell

Unlike with sound, the undead have a more acute sense of smell. In both combat situations and laboratory tests, they have been able to distinguish the smell of living prey above all others. In many cases, and given ideal wind conditions, zombies have been known to smell fresh corpses from a distance of more than a mile. Again, this does not mean that ghouls have a greater sense of smell than humans, simply that they rely on it more. It is not known exactly what particular secretion signals the presence of prey: sweat, pheromones, blood, etc. In the past, people seeking to move undetected through infested areas have attempted to “mask” their human scent with perfumes, deodorants, or other strong-smelling chemicals. None were successful. Experiments are now under way to synthesize the smells of living creatures as a decoy or even repellent to the walking dead. A successful product is still years away.

D. Taste

Little is known about the altered taste buds of the walking dead. Zombies do have the ability to tell human flesh apart from that of animals, and they prefer the former. Ghouls also have a remarkable ability to reject carrion in favor of freshly killed meat. A human body that has been dead longer than twelve to eighteen hours will be rejected as food. The same goes for cadavers that have been embalmed or otherwise preserved. Whether this has anything to do with “taste” is not yet certain. It may have to do with smell or, perhaps, another instinct that has not been discovered. As to exactly why human flesh is preferable, science has yet to find an answer to this confounding, frustrating, terrifying question.

E. Touch

Zombies have, literally, no physical sensations. All nerve receptors throughout the body remain dead after reanimation. This is truly their greatest and most terrifying advantage over the living. We, as humans, have the ability to experience physical pain as a signal of bodily damage. Our brain classifies such sensations, matches them to the experience that instigated them, and then files the information away for use as a warning against future harm. It is this gift of physiology and instinct that has allowed us to survive as a species. It is why we value virtues such as courage, which inspires people to perform actions despite warnings of danger. The inability to recognize and avoid pain is what makes the walking dead so formidable. Wounds will not be noticed and, therefore, will not deter an attack. Even if a zombie’s body is severely damaged, it will continue to attack until nothing remains.

F. Sixth Sense

Historical research, coupled with laboratory and field observation, have shown that the walking dead have been known to attack even when all their sensory organs have been damaged or completely decomposed. Does this mean that zombies possess a sixth sense? Perhaps. Living humans use less than 5 percent of their brain capacity. It is possible that the virus can stimulate another sensory ability that has been forgotten by evolution. This theory is one of the most hotly debated in the war against the undead. So far, no scientific evidence has been found to support either side.

G. Healing

Despite legends and ancient folklore, undead physiology has been proven to possess no powers of regeneration. Cells that are damaged stay damaged. Any wounds, no matter

what their size and nature, will remain for the duration of that body’s reanimation. A variety of medical treatments have been attempted to stimulate the healing process in captured ghouls. None were successful. This inability to self-repair, something that we as living beings take for granted, is a severe disadvantage to the undead. For example, every time we physically exert ourselves, we tear our muscles. With time, these muscles rebuild to a stronger state than before. A ghoul’s muscle mass will remain damaged, reducing its effectiveness every time it is used.

H. Decomposition

The average zombie “life span”—how long it is able to function before completely rotting away—is estimated at three to five years. As fantastic as this sounds—a human corpse able to ward off the natural effects of decay—its cause is rooted in basic biology. When a human body dies, its flesh is immediately set upon by billions of microscopic organisms. These organisms were always present, in the external environment and within the body itself. In life, the immune system stood as a barrier between these organisms and their target. In death, that barrier is removed. The organisms begin multiplying exponentially as they proceed to eat and, thereby, break down the corpse on a cellular level. The smell and discoloration associated with any decaying meat are the biological process of these microbes at work. When you order an “aged” steak, you are ordering a piece of meat that has begun to rot, its formerly toughened flesh softened by microorganisms breaking down its sturdy fiber. Within a short time, that steak, like a human corpse, will dissolve to nothing, leaving behind only material too hard or innutritious for any microbe, such as bone, teeth, nails, and hair. This is the normal cycle of life, nature’s way of recycling nutrients back into the food chain. To halt this process, and preserve dead tissue, it is necessary to place it in an environment unsuitable for bacteria, such as in extreme low or high temperatures, in toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, or, in this case, to saturate it with Solanum.

Almost all the microbe species involved in normal human decomposition have repeatedly rejected flesh infected by the virus, effectively embalming the zombie. Were this not the case, combating the living dead would be as easy as avoiding them for several weeks or even days until they rotted away to bones. Research has yet to discover the exact cause of this condition. It has been determined that at least some microbe species ignore the repelling effects of Solanum—otherwise, the undead would remain perfectly preserved forever. It has also been determined that natural conditions such as moisture and temperature play an important role as well. Undead that prowl the bayous of Louisiana are unlikely to last as long as those in the cold, dry Gobi desert. Extreme situations, such as deep freezing or immersion in preservative fluid, could, hypothetically, allow an undead specimen to exist indefinitely. These techniques have been known to allow zombies to function for decades, if not centuries. (See “Recorded Attacks.”) Decomposition does not mean that a member of the walking dead will simply drop. Decay may affect various parts of the body at different times. Specimens have been found with brains intact but nearly disintegrated bodies. Others with partially rotted

brains may control some bodily functions but be completely paralyzed in others. A popular theory has recently circulated that attempts to explain the story of the ancient Egyptian mummy as one of the first examples of an embalmed zombie. The preservation techniques allowed it to function several thousand years after being entombed. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of ancient Egypt would find this story almost laughably untrue: The most important and complicated step in preparing a pharaoh for burial was the removal of the brain!

I. Digestion

Recent evidence has once and for all discounted the theory that human flesh is the fuel for the undead. A zombie’s digestive tract is completely dormant. The complex system that processes food, extracts nutrition, and excretes waste does not factor into a zombie’s physiology. Autopsies conducted on neutralized undead have shown that their “food” lies in its original, undigested state at all sections of the tract. This partially chewed, slowly rotting matter will continue to accumulate, as the zombie devours more victims, until it is forced through the anus, or literally bursts through the stomach or intestinal lining. While this more dramatic example of non-digestion is rare, hundreds of eyewitness reports have confirmed undead to have distended bellies. One captured and dissected specimen was found to contain 211 pounds of flesh within its system! Even rarer accounts have confirmed that zombies continue to feed long after their digestive tracts have exploded from within.

J. Respiration

The lungs of the undead continue to function in that they draw air into and expel it from the body. This function accounts for a zombie’s signature moan. What the lungs and body chemistry fail to accomplish, however, is to extract oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Given that Solanum obviates the need for both of these functions, the entire human respiratory system is obsolete in the body of a ghoul. This explains how the living dead can “walk underwater” or survive in environments lethal to humans. Their brains, as noted earlier, are oxygen-independent.

K. Circulation

It would be inaccurate to say that zombies have no heart. It wouldnot be inaccurate, however, to say that they find no use for it. The circulatory system of the undead is little more than a network of useless tubes filled with congealed blood. The same applies to the lymphatic system as well as all other bodily fluids. Although this mutation would appear to give the undead one more advantage over humanity, it has actually proved to be a godsend. The lack of fluid mass prevents easy transmission of the virus. Were this not true, hand-to-hand combat would be nearly impossible, as the defending human would almost certainly be splattered with blood and/or other fluids.

L. Reproduction

Zombies are sterile creatures. Their sexual organs are necrotic and impotent. Attempts have been made to fertilize zombie eggs with human sperm and vice versa. None has been successful. The undead have also shown no signs of sexual desire, either for their own species or for the living. Until research can prove otherwise, humanity’s greatest fear—the dead reproducing the dead—is a comforting impossibility.

M. Strength

Ghouls possess the same brute force as the living. What power can be exerted depends greatly on the individual zombie. What muscle mass a person has in life would be all he possesses in death. Unlike a living body, adrenal glands have not been known to function in the dead, denying zombies the temporary burst of power we humans enjoy. The one solid advantage the living dead do possess is amazing stamina. Imagine working out, or any other act of physical exertion. Chances are that pain and exhaustion will dictate your limits. These factors do not apply to the dead. They will continue an act, with the same dynamic energy, until the muscles supporting it literally disintegrate. While this makes for progressively weaker ghouls, it allows for an all-powerful first attack. Many barricades that would have exhausted three or even four physically fit humans have fallen to a single determined zombie.

N. Speed

The “walking” dead tend to move at a slouch or limp. Even without injuries or advanced decomposition, their lack of coordination makes for an unsteady stride. Speed is mainly determined by leg length. Taller ghouls have longer strides than their shorter counterparts. Zombies appear to be incapable of running. The fastest have been observed to move at a rate of barely one step per 1.5 seconds. Again, as with strength, the dead’s advantage over the living is their tirelessness. Humans who believe they have outrun their undead pursuers might do well to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare, adding, of course, that in this instance the hare stands a good chance of being eaten alive.

O. Agility

The average living human possesses a dexterity level 90 percent greater than the strongest ghoul. Some of this comes from the general stiffness of necrotic muscle tissue (hence their awkward stride). The rest is due to their primitive brain functions. Zombies have little hand-eye coordination, one of their greatest weaknesses. No one has ever observed a zombie jumping, either from one spot to another or simply up and down. Balancing on a narrow surface is similarly beyond their ability. Swimming is also a skill reserved for the living. The theory has been put forth that, if an undead corpse were to be bloated enough to rise to the surface, it could present a floating hazard. This is rare, however, as the slow rate of decomposition would not allow by-product gas to accumulate. Zombies who walk or fall into bodies of water will more likely find themselves wandering aimlessly across the bottom until eventually dissolving. They can

be successful climbers, but only in certain circumstances. If zombies perceive prey above them, for example, in the second story of a house, they will always attempt to climb to it. Zombies will try to scale any surface no matter how unfeasable or even impossible. In all but the easiest situations, these attempts have met with failure. Even in the case of ladders, when simple hand-over-hand coordination is required, only one in four zombies will succeed.

2. Behavioral Patterns

A. Intelligence

It has been proven, time and again, that our greatest advantage over the undead is our ability to think. The mental capacity of the average zombie ranks somewhere beneath that of an insect. On no occasion have they shown any ability to reason or employ logic. Attempting to accomplish a task, failing, then by trial and error discovering a new solution, is a skill shared by many members of the animal kingdom but lost on the walking dead. Zombies have repeatedly failed laboratory intelligence tests set at the level of rodents. One field case showed a human standing at one end of a collapsed bridge with several dozen zombies on the other side. One by one, the walking dead tumbled over the edge in a futile attempt to reach him. At no time did any of them realize what was happening and change their tactics in any way. Contrary to myth and speculation, zombies have never been observed using tools of any kind. Even picking up a rock to use as a weapon is beyond their grasp. This simple task would prove the basic thought process involved in realizing that the rock is a more efficient weapon than the na**d hand. Ironically, the age of artificial intelligence has enabled us to identify more easily with the mind of the zombie than that of our more “primitive” ancestors. With rare exceptions, even the most advanced computers do not have the ability to think on their own. They do what they are programmed to do, nothing more. Imagine a computer programmed to execute one function. This function cannot be paused, modified, or erased. No new data can be stored. No new commands can be installed. This computer will perform that one function, over and over, until its power source eventually shuts down. This is the zombie brain. An instinct-driven, unitask machine that is impervious to tampering and can only be destroyed.

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)