Welcome To Lazarus

Instead of a "BANG", humanity is passing away with the shuffling of dead feet, and hungry moans. Desperate men and women fight against the rising tide for the newly risen dead.Sometimes, though, the undead are not he most dangerous things out there. Civilization has failed the test; the only thing left is survival.

Lazarus is just one of many places where humanity holds on by a thread, and life and death come as easily as a roll of the dice.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fast vs Slow And The Pathology Of Zeds (Pt. 2)

Well, if you're back, then I haven't chased you off thinking I am a complete loon.  If you are just getting here, go back to the previous post, before continuing on; things will make a lot more sense, if you do...we'll wait.

Good, now that we are all on the same page, let me lay out my reasoning on why fast and slow zombies can coexist in the zombie genre in general, and in my zombie world specifically.  Mind you this all only in regards to the undead variety of zombies; even if some of the reasoning about speed and strength can be applied to the "rager" types.

The Pathology Of the Zombie Cycle

STAGE 1 (Infection and 1st Death): A person is infected.  Through whatever means a person "catches" whatever it is that will eventually re-animate them.  They are still alive, but usually just barely.  Eventually, the person dies; brain functions cease and the body starts to decay immediately.  The brain is the last to go, as it slowly dies from lack of oxygen.   Even if resuscitated, higher brain function can be irreparably damaged. 

STAGE 2 (Re-Animation):  The dead body is re-animated, usually within hours, if not minutes.  The reanimation agent, usually described as a virus, reanimates the brain first.  Higher functions are gone; due to brain death.  Reasoning, communication, and all the other skills that separate us from the animals are gone.  Base instinctual functions, such as locomotion, hunger, etc.are all that remain.  The body is clumsy and slow to respond; this accounts for the Romero-esque view of the newly undead shambling zombie.  They can attack quickly from short distance, usually from behind it seems, but can't chase prey down if they run away. 

STAGE 3 (Rigor):  For whatever reason decay is slowed down to a snails pace.  How else can we explain zombies hanging around, rotting, for years?  Rigor mortis will eventually set in.  The process can start before re-animation, depending on how long Stage 2 takes to manifest itself.  This accounts for the stiff legged, stiff armed zombies we see.  Eventually, rigor mortis will go away naturally.  How long this takes, seems to vary from person to person.

STAGE 4 (Evolution): After rigor mortis goes away, and sometimes before, the zombie "evolves", for lack of a better word.  Limbs become more pliable and the body's natural healing processes take over, as best they can. The brain begins to re-route signals and gain more control over the body.  Coordination increases and the instinctual processes become more focused.  This accounts for two types of zombies we see:

  • Fast/Strong Zombies - Some zombies will still suffer from rigor, or injuries sustain at or after death.  They may be slow, but the pack mentality of the horde manifests itself.  Others will not suffer from things that could slow them down.  The bodies can move, almost as if they were still alive.  Because they are dead, though, they have a distinct advantage over their human prey; they do not suffer from the regulation of pain.  As a result, the zombies who may have been average in life are super fast, or super strong, or both in death.  Even though they may be more dangerous, these types of Zeds tend to fall by the wayside quicker than the shambler type, as tendons are pulled, and muscles and ligaments are torn, as the bodies are pushed beyond all tolerances in the pursuit of prey.  Eventually, the bodies are unable to function; physically destroyed, because of the abuse.
  • Intelligent Zombies:  These are rare, but they do pop up from time to time.  These are Zeds whose brains were not damaged as badly as the normal type of zombie's is.  As the body tries to heal itself, some higher reasoning is restored.  These types of Zeds are extremely dangerous, because they can reason out the hunt and see potential dangers in their environment.  On rare occasion some have an intellect on par with the living; and even higher at times, as in the  "Monster Island" books.
In both cases, the key is the body's natural healing process.  The inability of the natural healing process to overcome the decay of death is also the ultimate demise of every zombie.

STAGE 5 (Decay and 2nd Death):  Despite the fact that the body will try to heal itself, it is dead.  Because of that, it is a losing battle.  Barring being killed by the living, or falling prey to environmental dangers, eventually, the body will decay to the point that it is nothing more than a pile of bones and ooze.  Remember the danger posed by these types of Zeds in the first person accounts in "World War Z"?  This decay may take years, but can apparently happen in days/weeks/months, as seen in "The Walking Dead".  Eventually, the body is unable to sustain any type of activity, and the brain rots away to nothing, bringing about a 2nd and final death.

There you have it, my explanation as to how the fast and slow zombie crowds can live in harmony, without completely destroying canon in any of the zombie worlds pop culture has brought us.  Now back to gaming the Zombie Apocalypse.


  1. Good job sir and well put. It's kind of how I view things and will happily watch a movie with any type of zed in without it 'not being right'.

  2. I have to respectively disagree with your logic, especially on healing, once the infected individual dies that's it, their body no longer produces any new cells, so there can't be any healing going on. So any damage received prior to "death" or after "death" will still be there.

    I can see fast zombies to an extent, these would be the freshly reanimated corpses, that havent received a lot of damage prior to reamination. As they "exert" themselves they will experience muscular damage, slowing them down, one reason a living human is able to get stronger (physically) is due to the fact that when we exercise we are doing minute damage to our muscular system, which our body in turn repairs (heals) so that it can continue functioning, as you exercise more your body starts to repair itself to stronger levels to try to limit the damage being done. A zombie cannot do this, since their bodies no longer manufacture the cells needed to repair and heal any damage done. So in this case you have a fresh cadaver rise up within minutes/hours of death, it theoretically will have the same strength and speed as it did when it was alive, unfortunately the brain will still be starved of oxygen since the circulatory system isn't pumping blood through the body and the respiratory system isn't working either, causing the brain damage you mentioned previously. As such even if the zombie is able to move at fast speeds, due to the brain damage it more then likely lacks the coordination to run, just like it will lack the coordination to do other actions that we find mundane and don't really think about when we preform them. Yes initially while the brain may still be intact after resurrection as a zombie one may have the required motor skills, but as time goes on one would lose those skills as the brain damage sets in, resulting in the slower clumsy zombies we are all familiar with from Romero's movies.

    Though that's not to say that somewhere locked in the reanimated zombies brain isn't some spark of intelligence, it might just take longer for the zombie to process that if I do X then Y happens, ie if I pull instead of push then this door will open. Even then the intelligence will be a simple one that you might closely equate to that of a young child.

    Again I am not saying you wont have the rare smart zombie that is able to comprehend, it all depends on how well the brain is preserved. Though you wont have legions of fast zombies, at least not for very long, since muscle decay will slow them down fairly quickly due to the inability to repair the damage caused by exertion.

    Also no matter what people try to say the Rage infected in 28 Days/Weeks Later are not zombies, they are living individuals who have reverted to a very aggressive primal state, the smae goes for the Ragers in ATZ, they are living individuals that while infected with the Z-Virus, the Lazarus project caused a mutation in the virus, the virus doesn't kill and reanimate like it does in its unmutated form, instead it causes those infected with the new mutated form to revert to an aggressive primal state, where they attack anything that moves that isn't them. Just like in 28 Days/Weeks Later, though it was never really explained why they don't attack each other, I theorize it could be a pheromone based identification, but then again it could also be something else entirely such as a psychic (telepathic?) link identifying each other as infected.

  3. thats pretty reasonable, you could also have the humans that have just been infected, before death, the virus sends them mad, the virus has a reproductive drive and similar to rabies drives the victim to attack and pass on the virus, the victim (being still alive) is fast, similar to 28 days.

  4. What a great read.... thanks for posting that, I like the idea of all zombie types co existing at different stages of the viral cycle, very believable, and also makes for some interesting gaming.

    @Doug - a really good response, except for the psychic part, moving from a physical explanation to a supernatural explanation....I dont know...if that works, but I enjoyed reading what you had to say.

  5. I like reading your post, this is a very good material for a campaign, or a Zombie setting.

    But I have to disagree about Fast Zombie, for me technically they are not even Zombie. Apparentely fast Zombie are living people, maybe they ignore pain cause heavy brain damage and are rabid, but nonetheless are living, and a "simple" fatal wound is enough to stop them.

    This is, for me, a little more scaring, as good people are not putting bullet in dead body, but killing ill people, that may can be cured.

    Of course IMHO :D


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