Monday Monster Profile: Zombies

What are they?

Zombies are essentially reanimated corpses. Once they reanimate their hunger for human flesh is usually overwhelming so they attack and eat the living.

What do they look like?

They look like the walking corpses that they are, which means that whatever killed them, whatever their level of decomposition (which often continues even after reanimation), and whatever injury they subsequently receive, they walk around with it. In addition, their desire for human flesh means they usually end up covered in blood and gore. They often sustain injuries from human attacks but, because they are difficult to kill, they keep going with horrific injuries that would have killed a normal human.

Because of the injuries and decomposition, some kinds of zombies can have difficulty moving about, limping around, slowly and lacking coordination. These are generally referred to as ‘slow zombies’. The other kind, ‘fast zombies’, look the same but retain human speed and agility without the inhibitions of fear of injury.

How do people become zombies?

Originally zombies were created by voodoo practitioners, bokor, who had the power to bring the dead back to life, though claims have been made that the people were never actually dead, instead they had been administered a combination of drugs, usually a small dose of tetrodotoxin (the poison found in pufferfish) along with a psychotropic substance in order to produce a death-like dissociative state. However these ‘zombies’ do not eat flesh (they were mainly used as slave labour) and are uncommon today.

Modern zombies are usually the product of a viral outbreak that causes ‘death’ initially, but then reanimates the nervous centres to create a moving corpse, hungry for human flesh. Because the virus is highly contagious, it can be spread through blood and saliva, meaning that victims are driven to ‘bite’ others, who then become zombies as well, infecting others in turn. Outbreaks spread rapidly and if left unchecked can claim entire populations in a very short period (see this academic study of the epidemiological patterns of an outbreak of the zombie virus).

Can only humans be zombies?

Though humans are by far the most commonly affected by zombie viruses, other mammals have been known to fall victim as well. In the case of animal zombies, similar infection mechanisms apply, with the virus sometimes able to spread from species to species.

Is there a cure?

It depends on the virus that causes the outbreak. Some have a companion ‘antivirus’ that if administered in time can either prevent infection or reverse the spread of infection prior to the final ‘zombie’ stage. Usually there is no cure once the person has ‘turned’. Some work has been done on ‘rehabilitating’ victims, with the aim of helping them to be useful members of society. This has had mixed success and appears to hinge on the ability to control the desire for human flesh in some way. In many cases the ‘rehabilitation’ is really a coded form of exploitation and should be considered with a healthy scepticism.

What should I do if a zombie is after me?

Run away if you can. ‘Slow zombies’ can be easy to outrun and outmanouvre and you want to avoid being bitten at all costs. ‘Fast zombies’ are a different story. It is unlikely you will be able to outrun them so your best bet is to take up residence in a defensible position (if you have a Zombie Action Plan, now is the time to activate it – if you don’t – you should! Gobbets will run a feature on making a Z.A.P in the near future). You must kill any zombie that threatens you.

To kill a zombie you must destroy their brain. Shooting is a good method since it allows you to keep at a greater distance, but shooting arrows, or if close quarters are unavoidable edged weapons or repeated bludgeoning to the head will get the job done.

What do I do if I get bitten in the process?

The virus acts quickly, sometimes over a period of just a few hours. If you are aware of an antivirus you need to get to it as soon as possible. But do not assume there is a cure. If you cannot obtain an antivirus in a timely fashion you must take action to isolate yourself from others because once you turn into a zombie you will no longer be able to control your actions and you will attack your companions. In general death is a preferable option to becoming a zombie, and if you stay with others they will in all likelihood be forced to kill you to protect themselves.

I want more information!

Max Brooks’ book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” (2004) is widely considered essential reading.

For reports of outbreaks in other areas, they way they have progressed and been dealt with, see:

Shaun of the Dead

George Romero’s  ‘… of the Dead’ series

The Resident Evil series

28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later

Any tips or sources we should be aware of? Comment and add to the Gobbets database!

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9 Responses to “Monday Monster Profile: Zombies”

  1. One of the main tropes of zombies is that they are unstoppable as well – it’s often shown that zombies never rest and keep going. Heroes in movies waking up to find their supposed place of safety has been surrounded overnight.

    The movie Reanimator, loosely based on a Lovecraft story uses a magic potion to bring back the dead, one of whom retains his intelligence. The movie is most notable for its flaws though, but does introduce a favourite actor of mine – Jeffry Coombs. Who does a lot of lovecraft (and Star Trek, which may be more horrific).

    There are a number of zombie RPGs, and nearly every system includes them in some way as a monster.
    All Flesh Must be Eaten
    and, my favourite – a Gasmaskpunk game – Unhallowed Metropolis. Which is set in London about 200 years after the zombie plague broke out in the Victorian Era. It’s all forbidden science, alchemical dabblings and tessla coils.

  2. Animal undead examples:
    Zombie dogs in Resident Evil
    Vampire/zombie/bald-psycho-thing dogs in I Am Legend (Will Smith version)
    Can’t think of any more though…
    🙂 (Sorry, procrastinating at work!)
    K

    • I loved the use of zombie dogs in resident evil – also the infected crows in 28 Days later come to mind. There’s also all the zombie animals in King’s Pet Semetary…

      Interestingly scientists have brought dogs back to life after they have been pronounced clinically dead (as part of a study on more effective resucitation techniques!)

      Zombie aniamls – I can’t think of better way to procrastinate!!

  3. Other zombie causes:

    8.30am ICT lectures
    exam/final essay periods

    😀

  4. There’s an interesting new boardgame out on BGG that’s worth looking at-
    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/36986/all-things-zombie-the-boardgame
    All Things Zombie: The Boardgame

    • This looks great! I’ve played Zombies!!! before – the pieces are cute but the gameplay is a bit repetitive – this looks like there is more going on…

      • I’ve got a couple of Zombies!!! (the first and third I believe – the one with the dogs). Yeah, it doesn’t have a lot of replay. I think i mostly bought it because the pieces look good.

        I used the core mechanic for my wedding board game (which I still need to make a 2nd edition of, and have been putting off).

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