Every now and then, my mind will go off on a tangent and come up with some crazy ideas. This happened not all that long ago, after watching Zombieland with my brother and sister. Normally, I'm not much of a fan of zombie movies, but I started wondering about how to make a plausible zombie.
Of the zombie flicks I've seen, there seem to be two general types: the undead and the infected. The undead arise through some supernatural means, typically magic. Sorry, but I don't do supernatural. The natural world holds enough wonder for me. The infected zombies are far more interested, anyway. I suppose the types of zombies that dance with Michael Jackson are interesting in another way, but don't really fit in with our discussion.
The first question to arise about infected zombies is the type of infection. I've seen movies where the infection is spread through contact of bodily fluids, usually by getting bit by the zombie. While this works locally, I don't see how it would spread globally, like in the aforementioned Zombieland. Those zombies started, somehow, with a bad sandwich and spread throughout the world. If these zombies could be put down with two bullets, how could it spread that far? Zombies killed and ate people, not always in that order, but did not try to let people live long enough to become a zombie.
The second type of infection, as seen in I Am Legend, is through the air. I could easily see this causing world wide zombieism, and thus the end of humanity as we know it. Unless some were immune, though, how would any humans be left to try to survive against the zombie hoards?
As someone with too large of an imagination, it fell to me to come up with a more plausible zombie. Sadly for all of the non-original movie makers, this took about an hour.
My zombie is created by a bacterial infection of the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the part of the brain that controls higher cognitive abilities, such as planning, short-term memories, and motivation. The infection eats away one of the neurotransmitters that allows this lobe to function correctly. Once infected, the amount of the neurotransmitters drops slowly until the person has no control over themselves and seeks to find a new source of the chemical. This can be found in the brains of humans and other higher-order mammals. Once a new source has been found and ingested, the zombie returns to their human state.
This type of zombie leads to some interesting possibilities. How would you be affected if you regained your humanity to find that you killed and ate the brain of a loved one? Or found that your loved one was infected? Would you willingly leave your house? Or trust anyone? What about people who discriminate against the infected? Or those that embrace their new found zombiehood?
I thought about writing a book series about a town dealing with this. Some would start/join a zombie cult. Others would turn on anyone accused of being a zombie. Some would be understanding. Others would seek to find either a cure or a synthetic version of the neurotransmitter. I saw family turning against each other. I saw infected strangers helping each other.
Incidentally, if anyone wants to write this book, all I ask is an acknowledgement thanking me and a free copy of the book(s). I'd write it myself, but my writing skills aren't good enough. Or if someone wants to coauthor with me, that would work, too.