“When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”–George Romero, “Dawn of the Dead”
Evening, folks. It’s Mason again, back and recuperating from my trip to San Francisco. If you’re wondering, yes, there was a Red Court nest–and if you were in the San Francisco area, a gas leak didn’t cause that explosion. A rocket launcher did.
JSB’s busy dealing with the Infected outbreak in the Czech Republic, so for the time being I’ll be your guide through the modern day world of the Walking Dead–what I like to call the “Rager” variant of zombie. Bear with me, ’cause this one’s going to get strange.
Most of you may know that the United States Government has been waging an active war against countries that develop “weapons of mass destruction” since the ill-fated events of September 11, 2001. America’s official stance is that foreign enemies have no business holding weapons that can kill lots of people, be they nuclear, chemical, or biological. What most people don’t know is that the United States has been actively involved in the development of biological weapons–specifically viral weaponry–since 1965.
During that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson, at the direction of a shadowy organization known only to SASR operatives as “The Company,” signed an executive order authorizing the development of biological weaponry that could be used for combat purposes. The Company took possession of federal funds designated for this purpose, and started work on a virus that would reanimate dead tissue. Their research finally came to fruition in 1968 when they combined ancient Haitian techniques for reanimating corpses with modern chemicals. This new viral weapon was an airborne pathogen that re-started electrical activity in the brain stem of any newly-deceased human body. The risen corpses had basic motor functions restored and possessed an insatiable thirst for human flesh. They were essentially walking stomachs that couldn’t be put down for good by the normal means of dispatching a human.
To make matters worse, the virus was transmitted through bodily fluid contact. The saliva accompanying one bite from the Infected was fatal to a human within anywhere from four to six hours, and when the bitten human died, they rose as yet another zombie. The Company found this out the hard way through field tests in 1968, when the first batch of pathogen was released in a secluded Midwestern cemetery. This outbreak ended with some measure of containment and official federal funding ceased at the end of the Johnson administration.
This didn’t stop The Company from continuing private research through funds earmarked for DARPA. They’re powerful like that, and they have the ability to influence any branch of government they want to get what they want. Testing continued on what I’ve called the “Haitian” strain until 2000, when a branch of The Company located in the United Kingdom managed to develop a brand new variant of the Haitian pathogen.
This new virus was airborne, slowed the process of blood congealing in the body after death, and prevented the onset of rigor mortis. In layman’s terms, it means that the walking dead created by this new “Rager” strain were faster than the earlier “Haitian” counterparts–which tended to be somewhat mobility challenged. Rager Infected were also able to transmit their virus beyond just a simple bite–if a human got so much as a drop of blood from a Rager in an orifice they were doomed to become a Rager zombie within about 3-4 hours. The last bit of misery associated with a Rager zombie is…well, the rage. These zombies are possessed by some sort of testosterone-boosted anger reaction that causes them to become relentless attack machines.
Spotting and Killing the Walking Dead
Now comes the area where I’ve got some expertise. First off, if you want to make a distinction between the Haitian and Rager variants of zombies, just watch how they move. Haitian zombies are slow and easy to maneuver around. They’re not that flexible and can’t follow you without a very easy path available for them to travel. Ragers, on the other hand, are fast. They can run, climb, jump, and will do all of the above to get at their human targets.
Killing zombies in either case is easy in theory but hard in practice. SASR has confirmed through extensive field research two ways to kill a zombie: massive trauma to the brain or severing the head from the body. Most people will try and resort to shooting zombies in the head, especially if they have guns. This is a good idea in theory, but a couple of problems result from this method. First, you’re more than likely going to be limited in the amount of ammunition you have in a given situation and zombies tend to travel in packs. Second, it takes a skilled marksman to put a bullet in someone’s head and do it with one shot. If you’re going to use a gun, make sure every bullet counts.
Melee weapons are good in a pinch. I keep my handy-dandy field shovel around for burying in zombie skulls. The key here is to make sure you swing with enough force to either break the skull and get into the brain, or go for the neck and sever the head from the spine. Be careful if you’re attempting this on a Rager zombie, though, because the blood spilled from a Rager in death still carries the virus and can infect you if you’re not careful. Blunt force trauma weapons also work (baseball bats, frying pans, shovels) but they’re not as effective as something with an edge that can cut if necessary.
My last suggestion for weapons? Explosives. Most of you won’t have access to grenades or other bomb-making materials, but if you do–blowing a zombie to bits means that they can’t attack you. It’s the old Cobra Kai principle put to good use against the Walking Dead–if a zombie can’t stand, move, crawl, grab, or bite then they can’t hurt you. Blowing one to bits will take care of them, but make sure you have the job done before you relax.
Finally–and this is a point I’m never going to stop stressing–keep your cardio up. If you can’t run from a Rager, they will get you. Make sure that you can get away from a pack of Infected and seek high ground whenever possible. It could be the key that saves your life.
Keep the faith, readers. I’m sure JSB’s going to school me on the finer points of the Infected, but that’s his job. I’m here to give you what works in the real world.