Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zompoc 101-Outbreak Theories

There's just something about the zombie apocalypse that gets me thinking. I must admit I haven't read many zombie themed books, and up until a couple of years ago, I had trouble watching movies and TV shows about them as well. They are scary, and in many cases gross, but that's not what creeps me out. No, it's the plausibility of something like a zombie outbreak that does it for me. I can't help thinking about ways such a thing might actually happen.

Three Theories

It probably won't be exactly like in movies or shows, those are fiction after all, but several recent documentary-style shows, as well as fictional shows, have presented some interesting theories, which I think might have some merit.

The Virus

One of these theories revolves around the cause, namely a virus. Not just any virus, but one that fits many of the commonly cited symptoms: violence/aggression, lack of self-awareness, lack of recognition, decay (even if that's just in the brain), and the tendency to bite and claw.

Interestingly, some believe that the Rabies virus fits the bill. Anyone who's seen or read Old Yeller or Cujo probably has a general idea how it works. Basically, it infects the brain and begins to destroy it. As that happens, the antisocial and violent tendencies surface. Victims are losing their minds. They are also unable to drink, which doesn't help matters. Eventually they die of thirst. Sure, there's a vaccine, but the scary thing about Rabies is that it only works if given before the symptoms. So, Rabies is not quite zombie material, because if someone is bitten by someone or something thought to be rabid, they are vaccinated. Apocalypse averted.

But, what if the virus changes? It could be that it is modified in a lab or just naturally evolves. Perhaps it could change route of exposure, no longer limited to contact with infected bodily fluids, but perhaps airborne? That may not even be enough to reach apocalypse status. Perhaps an accelerated time to first symptoms would make it harder to stop. Or even other tendencies, like infected becoming paranoid and hiding from civilization until their thirst and madness take over, followed by rampage and many more infections.

The Chemical Agent

Paired with quicker action by the virus, the results could be devastating, though probably not quite end of the world devastating. After all, the victims wouldn't be walking dead, they'd be ill and dying of thirst. They wouldn't last long, no matter how many are infected.

Another theory explores the idea of chemical agents that alter the psyche of their victims. This could cause the violence and destruction. It could cause chaos and death. The problem with this, however, is transmission. I think this might cause only localized zombie outbreaks. Those exposed go into a frenzy of madness, but their exploits do not infect others or spread the agent's effects.

Also, consider that the agents would have a limited half-time in the body. So, after a while, the worst of the symptoms might fade and you'd just have a bunch of exhausted victims that manage to survive, so long as no one kills them while they are out of their minds. Of course, the effects could be permanent, in which case those who are infected would need to be captured and cared for in a secure environment. Anyway, it's an interesting theory.

The Paranormal

And, let's not forget that the idea of zombies has a beginning not in illness, but in religion/mysticism. The zombie outbreak could be the result of a curse. And with that and the power of suggestion, perhaps some people could be convinced they are zombies and act accordingly, despite there being nothing physically wrong with them. This is would put more of a paranormal spin on it. I imagine it would take some work to create enough zombies to lead to the end of the world, but perhaps a local outbreak could be generated by a single person or group of people working together.

Again, this would likely be localized and in my opinion, easier to contain. That is unless the zombie creation process is shared over the Internet and adopted by satellite groups. Wouldn't that be horrific. It would be like flash mobs, but with zombies. Perhaps a trigger given in several distant locations at once that would turn on the zombie suggestion for those who have been cursed or programmed for it.

I suppose that the undead variety of zombie would also fall under the paranormal category. Instead of the power of suggestion, perhaps the curse or event that spawns this type of apocalypse targets those who are already dead. I'm thinking Ghostbuster style. We might have more than just zombies to worry about if that's the case.

So how do I think it might happen?

My own theory is that it would be a virus, because viruses are contagious and can have devastating effects on a body without necessarily killing their victims.  Would it be the Rabies virus, like some believe? Could be, but I'm leaning towards something brewed in a lab, or perhaps a vaccine gone wrong developed to combat some sort of biological weapon.

Whatever your favorite flavor of the zombie apocalypse, let's all hope it stays in the realm of fiction. But if it doesn't, it never hurts to be ready.

Do you have any zombie survival tips? Share them in the comments.

This is Zompoc 101 #1 of 4. In the next Zompoc 101 post, I'll propose some ways to prepare for the worst. Click here to read on.



A survivor's account of the zombie apocalypse

After a vaccine meant to protect against a biological weapon backfires and turns those who are inoculated with it into zombies, a young woman, having survived the initial outbreak, now runs with a group of others who stick together for safety, not that it does them much good. When she picks up a notebook in a grocery store her group is looting, she decides to begin a journal for future generations (if there are any). (NaNoWriMo 2012)

Fearless is available on Amazon and other fine booksellers' websites.

Fearless on Amazon.com