There seems to be no shortage of believers who would bet their paychecks on the coming ‘zombie apocalypse’. However, the true question on the matter is simple: what would an actual zombie catastrophe look like? Would it truly be an eruption of undead individuals, clawing out of graves from Bangkok to Omaha or would something else be the cause of such a horrifying event?
|Photo credit: Boogeyman13 on Flickr|
Perhaps, the real question is: what kind of zombies could actually walk the earth, feasting upon the flesh of those of us who are living?
Interestingly, the concept of an undead apocalyptic scenario actually predates Hollywood by about 6,000 years. Tablet VI in The Epic of Gilgamesh actually describes an event that has corpses wreaking some serious havoc:
“I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld, I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down, and will let the dead go up to eat the living! And the dead will outnumber the living!"
The point is simple, from ancient Sumer to ye olde folktales to voodoo; the concept of a zombie cataclysm is nothing new. However, the understanding of the idea has done a great deal of changing over the years. Historically, the zombie has always been more of a creature, provoked by spiritually cosmic forces, carrying religious undertones with it. But today, our understanding of the zombie anatomy is a bit different.
From movies like Resident Evil and 28 Days Later, Hollywood has basically projected the concept of a zombie outbreak, due to a biological outbreak, whether deliberate or accidental.
However, the difference is simple: once we remove the spiritual aspect of the rotting cannibals, we also nix the idea that corpses will be the formerly dead, flesh-craving culprits. Instead, we arrive at a different kind of zombie entirely. The menace might have become deceased in the way that a person is no longer living inside the body and now we’ve got a fully functioning crazed, cannibalistic body with ample motor skills. Thus, instead of ‘undead’, the person is more properly defined as ‘infected’.
What is the scientific feasibility of this kind of zombie? In the spirit of all that is creepy, there might just be something to this idea. All that is necessary is for ‘the powers that be’ to develop a bio-weapon, capable of changing an individual into an uncontrollable flesh-eating bloke. Their only purpose in death is to spread the infection and have a human snack every now and then.
So we move our focus from fictional Hollywood to a non-fictional news report from the 90’s.
It Came to Pass
Let’s face it, the outbreak is most likely not going to occur because a part-time basement biologist, who works 9-5 at a company that makes asphalt products stumbled upon the genetic mutation of a flu-virus.
No, this is probably going to come from some meddling Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company or military R&D. At which point, said laboratory would have a moronic mishap, which basically commits all humanity to hell on earth. Not likely? Not according to The New York Times.
In fact, a report from April 5th, 1999 featured a story, saying that a Soviet defector had actually leaked information about China’s bio-weapon program. The country had, in fact, caused two epidemics, because they had an accident when attempting to make HIV a weapon.
In addition, Moscow even admitted to the fact that they were attempting to monkey around with certain viruses that were impervious to five different antibiotics. The report also stated that the US was also trying to weaponize HIV in 1985, but closed the project due to the slow-moving nature of the deadly virus.
Many believe that the ‘zombie-virus’ is likely to come from a mutated or altered form of the rabies virus, which does, in fact, make sense. Especially since rabies itself has zombie-like symptoms, many (including those who are fans of World War Z) believe that our demise will come from the biological ancestors of that which killed Old Yeller.
Of course, all of this is speculation in its purest form. Yet, the fact that The New York Times admitted the existence of the murkiest parts of foreign and domestic bioresearch and development should clue us in to the possibility that the plot of 28 Days Later might not reside completely in the fictional universe.
But, what do you think? Will a likely zombie apocalypse consist of the undead rising to feast upon our flesh, as in The Epic of Gilgamesh? Or, could this event come in the form of an outbreak, caused by a blundering idiot in a lab coat?
Either way, it is always important to keep these rules in mind…aim for the head and be able to outrun your slowest friend.