SOLANUM: THE VIRUS
Solanum works by traveling through the bloodstream, from the initial point of entry to the brain. Through means not yet fully understood, the virus
uses the cells of the frontal lobe for replication, destroying them in the process. During this period, all bodily functions cease. By stopping the
heart, the infected subject is rendered "dead." The brain, however, remains alive but dormant, while the virus mutates its cells into a completely
new organ. The most critical trait of this new organ is its independence from oxygen. By removing the need for this allimportant resource, the undead
brain can utilize, but is in no way dependent upon, the complex support mechanism of the human body. Once mutation is complete, this new organ
reanimates the body into a form that bears little resemblance (physiologically speaking) to the original corpse. Some bodily functions remain
constant, others operate in a modified capacity, and the remainder shut down completely. This new organism is a zombie, a member of the living dead.
Unfortunately, extensive research has yet to find an isolated example of Solanum in nature. Water, air, and soil in all ecosystems, from all parts of
the world, have turned up negative, as have their accompanying flora and fauna. At the time of this writing, the search continues.
The timetable below outlines the process of an infected human (give or take several hours, depending on the individual). Hour 1
ain and discoloration
(brown-purple) of the infected area. Immediate clotting of the wound (provided the infection came from a wound). Hour 5: Fever (99–103 degrees F),
chills, slight dementia, vomiting, acute pain in the joints. Hour 8: Numbing of extremities and infected area, increased fever (103–106 degrees F),
increased dementia, loss of muscular coordination. Hour 11: Paralysis in the lower body, overall numbness, slowed heart rate.
Hour 16: Coma.
Hour 20: Heart stoppage. Zero brain activity.
Hour 23: Reanimation.
Solanum is 100 percent communicable and 100 percent fatal. Fortunately for the human race, the virus is neither waterborne nor airborne. Humans have
never been known to contract the virus from elements in nature. Infection can occur only through direct fluidic contact. A zombie bite, although by
far the most recognizable means of transference, is by no means the only one. Humans have been infected by brushing their open wounds against those of
a zombie or by being splattered by its remains after an explosion. Ingestion of infected flesh (provided the person has no open mouth sores), however,
results in permanent death rather than infection. Infected flesh has proven to be highly toxic. No information—historical, experimental, or
otherwise—has surfaced regarding the results of sexual relations with an undead specimen, but as previously noted, the nature of Solanum suggests a
high danger of infection. Warning against such an act would be useless, as the only people deranged enough to try would be unconcerned for their own
safety. Many have argued that, given the congealed nature of undead bodily fluids, the chances of infection from a non-bite contact should be low.
However, it must be remembered that even one organism is enough to begin the cycle.
4. CROSS-SPECIES INFECTION
Solanum is fatal to all living creatures, regardless of size, species, or ecosystem. Reanimation, however, takes place only in humans. Studies have
shown that Solanum infecting a non-human brain will die within hours of the death of its host, making the carcass safe to handle. Infected animals
expire before the virus can replicate throughout their bodies. Infection from insect bites such as from mosquitoes can also be discounted. Experiments
have proven that all parasitic insects can sense and will reject an infected host 100 percent of the time.
Once a human is infected, little can be done to save him or her. Because Solanum is a virus and not a bacteria, antibiotics have no effect.
Immunization, the only way to combat a virus, is equally useless, as even the most minute dosage will lead to a full-blown infection. Genetic research
is under way. Goals range from stronger human antibodies to resistant cell structure to a counter-virus designed to identify and destroy Solanum. This
and other, more radical treatments are still in the earliest stages, with no foreseeable success in the near future. Battlefield experiences have led
to the immediate severing of the infected limb (provided this is the location of the bite), but such treatments are dubious at best, with less than a
10 percent success rate. Chances are, the infected human was doomed from the moment the virus entered his or her system. Should the infected human
choose suicide, he should remember that the brain must be eliminated first. Cases have been recorded in which recently infected subjects, deceased by
means other than the virus, will nonetheless reanimate. Such cases usually occur when the subject expires after the fifth hour of infection.
Regardless, any person killed after being bitten or otherwise infected by the undead should be immediately disposed of.
6. REANIMATING THE ALREADY DECEASED
It has been suggested that fresh human corpses could reanimate if Solanum were introduced after their demise. This is a fallacy. Zombies ignore
necrotic flesh and therefore could not transfer the virus. Experiments conducted during and after World War II (see "Recorded Attacks," pages 216ff)
have proven that injecting Solanum into a cadaver would be futile because a stagnant bloodstream could not transport the virus to the brain. Injection
directly into a dead brain would be equally useless, as the expired cells could not respond to the virus. Solanum does not create life—it alters
1. PHYSICAL ABILITIES
Too often, the undead have been said to possess superhuman powers: unusual strength, lightning speed, telepathy, etc. Stories range from zombies
flying through the air to their scaling vertical surfaces like spiders. While these traits might make for fascinating drama, the individual ghoul is
far from a magical, omnipotent demon. Never forget that the body of the undead is, for all practical purposes, human. What changes do occur are in the
way this new, reanimated body is used by the now-infected brain. There is no way a zombie could fly unless the human it used to be could fly. The same
goes for projecting force fields, teleportation, moving through solid objects, transforming into a wolf, breathing fire, or a variety of other
mystical talents attributed to the walking dead. Imagine the human body as a tool kit. The somnambulist brain has those tools, and only those tools,
at its disposal. It cannot create new ones out of thin air. But it can, as you will see, use these tools in unconventional combinations, or push their
durability beyond normal human limits.
The eyes of a zombie are no different than those of a normal human. While still capable (given their rate of decomposition) of transmitting visual
signals to the brain, how the brain interprets these signals is another matter. Studies are inconclusive regarding the undead’s visual abilities.
They can spot prey at distances comparable to a human, but whether they can distinguish a human from one of their own is still up for debate. One
theory suggests that the movements made by humans, which are quicker and smoother than those of the undead, is what causes them to stand out to the
zombie eye. Experiments have been done in which humans have attempted to confuse approaching ghouls by mimicking their motions and adopting a
shambling, awkward limp. To date, none of these attempts have succeeded. It has been suggested that zombies possess night vision, a fact that explains
their skill at nocturnal hunting. This theory has been debunked by the fact that all zombies are expert night feeders, even those without eyes.
There is no question that zombies have excellent hearing. Not only can they detect sound—they can determine its direction. The basic range appears
to be the same as that for humans. Experiments with extreme high and low frequencies have yielded negative results. Tests have also shown that zombies
are attracted by any sounds, not just those made by living creatures. It has been recorded that ghouls will notice sounds ignored by living humans.
The most likely, if unproven, explanation is that zombies depend on all their senses equally. Humans are sightoriented from birth, depending on other
senses only if the primary one is lost. Perhaps this is not a handicap shared by the walking dead. If so, it would explain their ability to hunt,
fight, and feed in total darkness.
Unlike with sound, the undead have a more acute sense of smell. In both combat situations and laboratory tests, they have been able to distinguish the
smell of living prey above all others. In many cases, and given ideal wind conditions, zombies have been known to smell fresh corpses from a distance
of more than a mile. Again, this does not mean that ghouls have a greater sense of smell than humans, simply that they rely on it more. It is not
known exactly what particular secretion signals the presence of prey: sweat, pheromones, blood, etc. In the past, people seeking to move undetected
through infested areas have attempted to "mask" their human scent with perfumes, deodorants, or other strong-smelling chemicals. None were
successful. Experiments are now under way to synthesize the smells of living creatures as a decoy or even repellent to the walking dead. A successful
product is still years away.
Little is known about the altered taste buds of the walking dead. Zombies do have the ability to tell human flesh apart from that of animals, and they
prefer the former. Ghouls also have a remarkable ability to reject carrion in favor of freshly killed meat. A human body that has been dead longer
than twelve to eighteen hours will be rejected as food. The same goes for cadavers that have been embalmed or otherwise preserved. Whether this has
anything to do with "taste" is not yet certain. It may have to do with smell or, perhaps, another instinct that has not been discovered. As to
exactly why human flesh is preferable, science has yet to find an answer to this confounding, frustrating, terrifying question.
Zombies have, literally, no physical sensations. All nerve receptors throughout the body remain dead after reanimation. This is truly their greatest
and most terrifying advantage over the living. We, as humans, have the ability to experience physical pain as a signal of bodily damage. Our brain
classifies such sensations, matches them to the experience that instigated them, and then files the information away for use as a warning against
future harm. It is this gift of physiology and instinct that has allowed us to survive as a species. It is why we value virtues such as courage, which
inspires people to perform actions despite warnings of danger. The inability to recognize and avoid pain is what makes the walking dead so formidable.
Wounds will not be noticed and, therefore, will not deter an attack. Even if a zombie’s body is severely damaged, it will continue to attack until
F. Sixth Sense
Historical research, coupled with laboratory and field observation, have shown that the walking dead have been known to attack even when all their
sensory organs have been damaged or completely decomposed. Does this mean that zombies possess a sixth sense? Perhaps. Living humans use less than 5
percent of their brain capacity. It is possible that the virus can stimulate another sensory ability that has been forgotten by evolution. This theory
is one of the most hotly debated in the war against the undead. So far, no scientific evidence has been found to support either side.
Despite legends and ancient folklore, undead physiology has been proven to possess no powers of regeneration. Cells that are damaged stay damaged. Any
wounds, no matter what their size and nature, will remain for the duration of that body’s reanimation. A variety of medical treatments have been
attempted to stimulate the healing process in captured ghouls. None were successful. This inability to self-repair, something that we as living beings
take for granted, is a severe disadvantage to the undead. For example, every time we physically exert ourselves, we tear our muscles. With time, these
muscles rebuild to a stronger state than before. A ghoul’s muscle mass will remain damaged, reducing its effectiveness every time it is used.
The average zombie "life span"—how long it is able to function before completely rotting away—is estimated at three to five years. As fantastic
as this sounds—a human corpse able to ward off the natural effects of decay—its cause is rooted in basic biology. When a human body dies, its
flesh is immediately set upon by billions of microscopic organisms.
These organisms were always present, in the external environment and within the body itself. In life, the immune system stood as a barrier between
these organisms and their target. In death, that barrier is removed. The organisms begin multiplying exponentially as they proceed to eat and,
thereby, break down the corpse on a cellular level. The smell and discoloration associated with any decaying meat are the biological process of these
microbes at work. When you order an "aged" steak, you are ordering a piece of meat that has begun to rot, its formerly toughened flesh softened by
microorganisms breaking down its sturdy fiber.
Within a short time, that steak, like a human corpse, will dissolve to nothing, leaving behind only material too hard or innutritious for any microbe,
such as bone, teeth, nails, and hair. This is the normal cycle of life, nature’s way of recycling nutrients back into the food chain. To halt this
process, and preserve dead tissue, it is necessary to place it in an environment unsuitable for bacteria, such as in extreme low or high temperatures,
in toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, or, in this case, to saturate it with Solanum. Almost all the microbe species involved in normal human
decomposition have repeatedly rejected flesh infected by the virus, effec- tively embalming the zombie. Were this not the case, combating the living
dead would be as easy as avoiding them for several weeks or even days until they rotted away to bones.
Research has yet to discover the exact cause of this condition. It has been determined that at least some microbe species ignore the repelling effects
of Solanum—otherwise, the undead would remain perfectly preserved forever. It has also been determined that natural conditions such as moisture and
temperature play an important role as well. Undead that prowl the bayous of Louisiana are unlikely to last as long as those in the cold, dry Gobi
desert. Extreme situations, such as deep freezing or immersion in preservative fluid, could, hypothetically, allow an undead specimen to exist
indefinitely. These techniques have been known to allow zombies to function for decades, if not centuries.
Decomposition does not mean that a member of the walking dead will simply drop. Decay may affect various parts of the body at different times.
Specimens have been found with brains intact but nearly disintegrated bodies. Others with partially rotted brains may control some bodily functions
but be completely paralyzed in others. A popular theory has recently circulated that attempts to explain the story of the ancient Egyptian mummy as
one of the first examples of an embalmed zombie. The preservation techniques allowed it to function several thousand years after being entombed.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of ancient Egypt would find this story almost laughably untrue: The most important and complicated step in
preparing a pharaoh for burial was the removal of the brain!
Recent evidence has once and for all discounted the theory that human flesh is the fuel for the undead. A zombie’s digestive tract is completely
dormant. The complex system that processes food, extracts nutrition, and excretes waste does not factor into a zombie’s physiology. Autopsies
conducted on neutralized undead have shown that their "food" lies in its original, undigested state at all sections of the tract. This partially
chewed, slowly rotting matter will continue to accumulate, as the zombie devours more victims, until it is forced through the anus, or literally
bursts through the stomach or intestinal lining. While this more dramatic example of non-digestion is rare, hundreds of eyewitness reports have
confirmed undead to have distended bellies. One captured and dissected specimen was found to contain 211 pounds of flesh within its system! Even rarer
accounts have confirmed that zombies continue to feed long after their digestive tracts have exploded from within.
The lungs of the undead continue to function in that they draw air into and expel it from the body. This function accounts for a zombie’s signature
moan. What the lungs and body chemistry fail to accomplish, however, is to extract oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Given that Solanum obviates the
need for both of these functions, the entire human respiratory system is obsolete in the body of a ghoul. This explains how the living dead can "walk
underwater" or survive in environments lethal to humans. Their brains, as noted earlier, are oxygenindependent.
It would be inaccurate to say that zombies have no heart. It would not be inaccurate, however, to say that they find no use for it. The circulatory
system of the undead is little more than a network of useless tubes filled with congealed blood. The same applies to the lymphatic system as well as
all other bodily fluids. Although this mutation would appear to give the undead one more advantage over humanity, it has actually proved to be a
godsend. The lack of fluid mass prevents easy transmission of the virus. Were this not true, hand-to-hand combat would be nearly impossible, as the
defending human would almost certainly be splattered with blood and/or other fluids.
Zombies are sterile creatures. Their sexual organs are necrotic and impotent. Attempts have been made to fertilize zombie eggs with human sperm and
vice versa. None has been successful. The undead have also shown no signs of sexual desire, either for their own species or for the living. Until
research can prove otherwise, humanity’s greatest fear—the dead reproducing the dead—is a comforting impossibility.
Ghouls possess the same brute force as the living. What power can be exerted depends greatly on the individual zombie. What muscle mass a person has
in life would be all he possesses in death. Unlike a living body, adrenal glands have not been known to function in the dead, denying zombies the
temporary burst of power we humans enjoy. The one solid advantage the living dead do possess is amazing stamina. Imagine working out, or any other act
of physical exertion. Chances are that pain and exhaustion will dictate your limits. These factors do not apply to the dead. They will continue an
act, with the same dynamic energy, until the muscles supporting it literally disintegrate. While this makes for progressively weaker ghouls, it allows
for an allpowerful first attack. Many barricades that would have exhausted three or even four physically fit humans have fallen to a single determined
The "walking" dead tend to move at a slouch or limp. Even without injuries or advanced decomposition, their lack of coordination makes for an
unsteady stride. Speed is mainly determined by leg length. Taller ghouls have longer strides than their shorter counterparts. Zombies appear to be
incapable of running. The fastest have been observed to move at a rate of barely one step per 1.5 seconds. Again, as with strength, the dead’s
advantage over the living is their tirelessness. Humans who believe they have outrun their undead pursuers might do well to remember the story of the
tortoise and the hare, adding, of course, that in this instance the hare stands a good chance of being eaten alive.
The average living human possesses a dexterity level 90 percent greater than the strongest ghoul. Some of this comes from the general stiffness of
necrotic muscle tissue (hence their awkward stride). The rest is due to their primitive brain functions. Zombies have little handeye coordination, one
of their greatest weaknesses. No one has ever observed a zombie jumping, either from one spot to another or simply up and down. Balancing on a narrow
surface is similarly beyond their ability. Swimming is also a skill reserved for the living. The theory has been put forth that, if an undead corpse
were to be bloated enough to rise to the surface, it could present a floating hazard. This is rare, however, as the slow rate of decomposition would
not allow by-product gas to accumulate. Zombies who walk or fall into bodies of water will more likely find themselves wandering aimlessly across the
bottom until eventually dissolving. They can be successful climbers, but only in certain circumstances. If zombies perceive prey above them, for
example, in the second story of a house, they will always attempt to climb to it. Zombies will try to scale any surface no matter how unfeasable or
even impossible. In all but the easiest situations, these attempts have met with failure. Even in the case of ladders, when simple hand-over-hand
coordination is required, only one in four zombies will succeed.
2. BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS
It has been proven, time and again, that our greatest advantage over the undead is our ability to think. The mental capacity of the average zombie
ranks somewhere beneath that of an insect. On no occasion have they shown any ability to reason or employ logic. Attempting to accomplish a task,
failing, then by trial and error discovering a new solution, is a skill shared by many members of the animal kingdom but lost on the walking dead.
Zombies have repeatedly failed laboratory intelligence tests set at the level of rodents. One field case showed a human standing at one end of a
collapsed bridge with several dozen zombies on the other side. One by one, the walking dead tumbled over the edge in a futile attempt to reach him. At
no time did any of them realize what was happening and change their tactics in any way. Contrary to myth and speculation, zombies have never been
observed using tools of any kind. Even picking up a rock to use as a weapon is beyond their grasp. This simple task would prove the basic thought
process involved in realizing that the rock is a more efficient weapon than the naked hand. Ironically, the age of artificial intelligence has enabled
us to identify more easily with the mind of the zombie than that of our more "primitive" ancestors. With rare exceptions, even the most advanced
computers do not have the ability to think on their own. They do what they are programmed to do, nothing more. Imagine a computer programmed to
execute one function. This function cannot be paused, modified, or erased. No new data can be stored. No new commands can be installed. This computer
will perform that one function, over and over, until its power source eventually shuts down. This is the zombie brain. An instinct-driven, unitask
machine that is impervious to tampering and can only be destroyed.
Feelings of any kind are not known to the walking dead. Every form of psychological warfare, from attempts at enraging the undead to provoking pity
have all met with disaster. Joy, sadness, confidence, anxiety, love, hatred, fear—all of these feelings and thousands more that make up the human
"heart" are as useless to the living dead as the organ of the same name. Who knows if this is humanity’s greatest weakness or strength? The debate
continues, and probably will forever.
A modern conceit is that a zombie retains the knowledge of its former life. We hear stories of the dead returning to their places of residence or
work, operating familiar machinery, or even showing acts of mercy to loved ones. In truth, not a shred of proof exists to support this wishful
thinking. Zombies could not possibly retain memories of their former lives in either the conscious or subconscious mind, because neither exist! A
ghoul will not be distracted by the family pet, living relatives, familiar surroundings, etc. No matter who a person was in his former life, that
person is gone, replaced by a mindless automaton with no instinct other than for feeding. This begs the question: Why do zombies prefer urban areas to
the countryside? First, the undead do not prefer cities, but simply remain where they are reanimated. Second, the main reason zombies tend to stay in
cities instead of fanning out into the countryside is because an urban zone holds the highest concentration of prey.
D. Physical Needs
Other than hunger (discussed later), the dead have shown none of the physical wants or needs expressed in mortal life. Zombies have never been
observed to sleep or rest under any circumstances. They have not reacted to extreme heat or cold. In harsh weather, they have never sought shelter.
Even something as simple as thirst is unknown to the living dead. Defying all laws of science, Solanum has created what could be described as a
completely self-sufficient organism.
Zombies have no language skills. Although their vocal cords are capable of speech, their brain is not. The only vocal ability appears to be a
deep-throated moan. This moan is released when zombies identify prey. The sound will remain low and steady until physical contact is made. It will
then shift in tone and volume as the zombie commences its attack. This eerie sound, so typically associated with the walking dead, serves as a
rallying cry for other zombies and, as has been recently discovered, is a potent psychological weapon. (See "On the Defense," page 74.)
F. Social Dynamics
Theories have always proliferated that the undead function as a collective force, from an army controlled by Satan to an insect-like pheromone-driven
hive to the most recent notion that they achieve group consensus by telepathy. The truth is that zombies have no social organization to speak of.
There is no hierarchy, no chain of command, no drive toward any type of collectivization. A horde of the undead, regardless of size, regardless of
appearance, is simply a mass of individuals. If several hundred ghouls converge on a victim’s location, it is because each one is drawn by its own
instinct. Zombies appear to be unaware of one another. Individuals have never been observed to react to the sight of one another at any range.
This goes back to the question of sense: How does a zombie distinguish between one of its own and a human or other prey at the same range? The answer
has yet to be found. Zombies do avoid one another in the same way they avoid inanimate objects. When they bump into one another, they make no attempt
to connect or communicate. Zombies feasting on the same corpse will tug repeatedly on the meat in question rather than shove a competitor out of the
way. The only suggestion of communal effort is seen in notorious swarm attacks: the moan of a ghoul calling others within earshot. Once they hear the
wail, other walking dead will almost always converge on its source. An early study theorized that this was a deliberate act, that a scout used its
moan to signal the others to attack. However, we now know that it happens purely by accident. The ghoul that moans at the detection of prey does so as
an instinctive reaction, not as an alert.
Zombies are migratory organisms, with no regard for territory or concept of home. They will travel miles and perhaps, given time, cross continents in
their search for food. Their hunting pattern is random. Ghouls will feed at night and during the day. They will stumble through an area rather than
deliberately searching it. Certain zones or structures will not be singled out as more likely to contain prey. For example, some have been known to
search farmhouses and other rural structures while others in the same group have moved by without even a glance. Urban zones take more time to
explore, which is why the undead remain longer in these areas, but no building will take precedence over another. Zombies appear to be totally unaware
of their surroundings. They do not, for example, move their eyes in a way that would take in the information of a new setting. Shuffling silently,
with a thousand-yard stare, they will wander aimlessly, regardless of location, until prey is detected. As discussed earlier, the undead possess an
uncanny ability to home in on a victim’s precise location. Once contact is made, the previously silent, oblivious automaton transforms into
something more closely related to a guided missile. The head turns immediately in the direction of its victim. The jaw drops, lips retract, and, from
the depths of its diaphragm, comes the moan. Once contact is made, zombies cannot be distracted by any means. They will continue to pursue their prey,
stopping only if they lose contact, make a successful kill, or are destroyed.
Why do the undead prey upon the living? If it has been proven that human flesh serves no nutritional purpose, why does their instinct drive them to
murder? The truth eludes us. Modern science, combined with historical data, has shown that living humans are not the only delights on the undead menu.
Rescue teams entering an infested area have consistently reported them stripped of all life. Any creatures, no matter what their size or species, will
be consumed by an attacking zombie. Human flesh, however, will always be preferable to other life forms. One experiment presented a captured specimen
with two identical cubes of meat: one human, one animal. The zombie repeatedly chose the human. Reasons for this are still unknown. What can be
confirmed, beyond any shadow of doubt, is that instinct brought on by Solanum drives the undead to kill and devour any living creature they discover.
There appear to be no exceptions.
I. Killing the Dead
While destroying a zombie may be simple, it is far from easy. As we have seen, zombies require none of the physiological functions that humans need to
survive. Destruction or severe damage of the circulatory, digestive, or respiratory system would do nothing to a member of the walking dead, as these
functions no longer support the brain. Simply put, there are thousands of ways to kill a human— and only one to kill a zombie. The brain must be
obliterated, by any means possible.
Studies have shown that Solanum can still inhabit the body of a terminated zombie for up to forty-eight hours. Exercise extreme care when disposing of
undead corpses. The head in particular possesses the most serious hazard, given its concentration of the virus. Never handle an undead corpse without
protective clothing. Treat it as you would any toxic, highly lethal material. Cremation is the safest, most effective way of disposal. Despite rumors
that a pile of burning corpses will spread Solanum in a cloud of smoking plague, common sense would dictate that any virus is unable to survive
intense heat, to say nothing of an open flame.
To reiterate, the zombie brain has proved, so far, to be tamper-proof. Experiments ranging from chemicals to surgery to electromagnetic waves have
yielded negative results. Behavioral modification therapy and other such attempts to train the living dead like some kind of pack animal have
similarly met with failure. Again, the machine cannot be rewired. It will exist as is, or it will not exist at all.