Zombies 101: An Introduction
A most fearful sight...
How Does It Begin?
Dawn filters through the curtains and the aroma of coffee brewing in the kitchen wakes you. A yawn escapes your lips and a nice, long stretch loosens your body. You get out of bed, have a hot cup of java, and go to the window to welcome the coming day. Unfortunately, the day doesn't welcome you. Shambling corpses dot the streets, feeding on the living. Blood is everywhere. While you want to remain rational and attempt to explain what you see as some epidemic of sickness spreading that soon might be righted by government or science, the itching at the base of your skull and the flutter of your heart tells you to simply run. Instincts take hold and above all else, survival becomes paramount. Welcome to the first day of the end of the world...
It Could Never Happen. Right? Right....?
What we see in movies, read in books, and play in video games is alluring when it comes to the undead. Some hidden fantasy or want to feel those most basic of survival instincts allows us to be inexorably entertained by the images and thoughts of a world torn asunder by the risen dead. Part of that entertainment is our minds telling us that none of this could happen. That we're more likely to be ended by some sort of nuclear accident, wiped out by an asteroid, or a pletheora of other catastrophic events. It's unfortunate to say, however, that a zombie apocalypse is likely. I would never say with any certainty how the world might end, or that by any means I staunchly believe that the dead will rise to consume the living. I would say, though, that enough research and events have happened around the world to suggest something of that nature coming to fruition. I'm going to make this hub a sort of series, releasing new pages on the same topic on different aspects as often as I'm able. I hope you'll join me for this little ride. And if nothing else, at least get a good read out of it.
Zombies in the World Today
In the modern world we live in, at this very second, there exists multiple signs and possibilities for a zombie outbreak. I'll list a few of them. Explain what they are and how it could potentially plunge the world into utter chaos. So, without further adeu, I introduce to you:
Brain Parasites: There exists many parasites in the natural world, never created by the human mind or hands, that causes a zombie-like state in its hosts. Of them, one is called Toxoplasmosa Gondii. This parasite lives in the brains of rats, but can only breed within the intestines of felines. The parasite knows that it must find a way there, and as such takes control of the rat's brain. Motor functions completely transfer to the parasite and it forces the rat's body to run in the direction of cats. Now, this may seem a little far-fetched. I mean, what purpose does that actually have? Especially as far as humans go. Sady, roughly half of the world's population carries Toxoplasmsa Gondii. Now, this may still not seem like a big deal. Humans carry tons of stuff that never really affects us adversely. Studies have shown, though, that carriers of this parasite in some cases have had changes in their personalities, sometimes radically so. They've also been known to have a higher chance to lose their minds to mental illnesses. Now, imagine for a moment that the parasite evolves, or is altered by humans in some way and then released. Imagine that the population becomes nothing but mass bodies with no sense of self-preservation or any signs of rational thought. And, of course, the parasite has to continue to live. And if it knows to make a rat run infront of cats to carry on it's species, then why not be capable of forcing humans to attack one another to transfer itself? Well, zombie my not be the right word for these people, as they may never have died in the first place, but that's the exact word that would come from my lips were I to see people thoughtlessly running about attacking each other. The difference would probably never cross my mind.
Neurotoxins: Neurotoxins are poisons that can slow down the body's functions to the point of being declared dead, if it doesn't actually kill you, anyway. One of the most notable and familiar is the poison of the Japanese Blowfish. Tests and sudies have proven that patients under this type of "death" can be brought back using alkaloids. Of these, a main one for blowfish poisoning is Datura Stramonium. Victims brought back in this way remain in a trance-like state and have little to no memory, though they do retain the ability to perform simple tasks such as eating, sleeping, some form of vocalization that rarely has words and is more like moaning, and walking around aimlessly. Truth be told, as most of you may be aware, this happened in Haiti. A man named Clairvius Narcisse, a Haitian man, was declared dead by two doctors in 1962 and was buried. Eighteen years later people began to report seeing him in the village, wandering mindlessly. It was later discovered that voodoo priests were using chemicals such as neurotoxins and alkaloids to create a mindless, cost efficient workforce to tend the sugar plantations. So, in this aspect, an outbreak already occured in a manner of speaking. Thankfully, the threat of an apocalypse occuring because of this is slim. Were humans to begin being given neurotoxins and alkaloids to make them zombies, they wouldn't really be doing anything more than walking around. At least, not until someone figured out a way to make them aggressive.
Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease: This is, in my opinion, one of the scariest cases and possibly one of the most likely. Many brain disorders have caused humans to go into a mindless rage, attacking indescriminately. And they aren't slow. These were never contagious, so being bitten by someone in that state would just hurt immensely and could cause death, depending on the circumstance. However, we all know about Mad Cow disease. And it is contagious. Cows affected become attack machines with no regard for anything else. When it came to humans, it was known as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. It's rare in humans, but it causes effects like changes in gait, muscle twitching, seizures, rapid development of delirium and dementia, loss of coordination, and hallucinations. While this disease isn't likely to cause a mass catastrophe, one must wonder: what if it evolves? What about other rage-type diseases come out to play that are highly lethal and contagious through bites, even clawing? It isn't as far-fetched as one would think.
Neurogenesis: Most people nowadays know of stem cell research. It's been a topic of major debate. What many people aren't so keen on is that stem cells are used to regenerate dead cells. When they're used for brain tissue, it's called Neurogenesis. Comatose patients have been treated with stem cells, allowing them to wake up and move. They're also able to place dead bodies in a state of suspended animation so that they might be brought back to life later. These two technologies combined, essentially, gives you the dead come back to life. A laboratory dedicated to reanimation research stated that, despite their efforts, reanimation causes the brain to deteriorate from the outside in. This means the cortex is the first to go. Subjects are still alive, only needing the brain stem to survive, but the cortex that makes everyone "who" they are is gone. They still function on instincts and impulses, but things like morality and emotions go out the window. The possibilities of an outbreak would be most prominent were someone to create a workforce of these zombies, or just start returning the dead to the living in this way. Doesn't seem so bad. Just your friendly neighborhood zombies in the fields, at the grocery stores, everywhere you would need to go to get your essentials and everywhere around you. The world shows us often, though, that if something can go wrong, it will.
Nanobots: Last, but not least, little robots designed to self-replicate and preserve themselves. They're being created to do anything from destruction to creation. It's a frightening aspect. Millions of microscopic machines in a petre dish. They can be put in the body and attach to the brain, creating their own neural pathways to replace damaged ones. There's something to be said about these robots in your brain, re-wiring it. How could this possibly be a good thing? It all depends on the programming, on the control, and on the ability of the nanobots to think and act on their own. Imagine them like parasites. They keep the host moving, "alive":essentially, but the life of the host is the life of the bots. In order to sustain themselves, they would need to spread. A nice, big hole bitten in a healthy person would provide the perfect pathway for the nanobots to stream in and take control. And, of course, they won't all leave. There is literally dozens of ways that this could co horribly wrong and create hordes of zombies that act together. Frightening, in the least. But, they are being created, and the imagination is the only limit.
A Quick Note
It is not my intention to create any sort of panic in anyone. I will not take responsibility for any brash or irrational actions taken in response to this and upcoming pages. I am not saying that this is indefinite. My only intention is to educate and prepare for the possibility. I also am not out to bash or put down any scientists or government, or their research in any related fields. I'm sure most, if not all, of it is for a good cause and without them where would we be today?
The next page in this little series of mine will be based on different types of zombies in popular media, such as movies, books, etc. and what their strengths and weaknesses are.