Thinking Too Much

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...
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I’ve been thinking about a buddy of mine, and his love of zombie fiction.  I have another friend too, who wrote a nice piece of zombie fic.

So I started thinking about zombies.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is always trouble.

I started to think about zombies and their incessant eating.  Do they digest their food?  Metabolize the nutrients?  How does a reanimated corpse work, exactly?  Part of the creep factor for zombies is that they’re rotten, falling apart … if they have functional metabolisms, though, that’s a problem.  They would have replenishing cells, even if the ratio of replenishment to destruction is less than one to one; they’d age, but not fall apart.

Then I started thinking — if they’re not metabolizing, then what’s going all with all the flesh they eat?  Or brains, or whatever?  Let’s go with the more popular notion of just flesh consumption.  If they’re not metabolizing the food, their stomachs will get full.  When that happens, continued ingestion will lead to a burst stomach, which has all sorts of other problems associated with it.  In short, the acids in the zombie’s stomach will flood through the body cavity and do severe damage to other organs.  They’ll … well, die.  I guess.  So does this happen?  If a zombie’s left alone in a room full of meat does it self-destruct?

Lately, zombies aren’t the result of voodoo or witchcraft; they’re the result of a virus.  But the human host of said virus is dead and only the corpse remains.  Since there’s no “magic” involved with zombies anymore, there’s no room for the “it’s part of the magic” explanation for things.  I’m getting this right, aren’t I?  Any aficionados are welcome to correct here.

So the virus is reanimating the corpses.  And they’re eating a lot.  If the metabolisms aren’t working, we have an issue with undigested meat filling — and then destroying — their stomachs.  If they are metabolizing the food, then we have the matter of defecation to consider, don’t we?  I mean, they have to do something with the waste, right?  Even viruses aren’t going to be able to extract 100% utilization from human flesh; nothing can do that.  And viruses don’t tend to be colonial, setting up a “hive mind” or working in cooperation.  So … what happens?  When and where do zombies poop?

If zombies are corpses, and rotting, eventually dessication and dehydration (they never drink and there isn’t enough water in human flesh to keep a human body hydrated) are going to destroy the corpse so much the musculature won’t move the body anymore.  This is going to happen after about six days, when the body would normally dehydrate (if it were alive) and die.  Or enough cellular damage will happen through decomposition that the nerves and muscles can’t fire anymore.  Then what?  A twitching, quivering zombie in the middle of the floor?  What happens?

These aren’t smart-ass questions.  I’m not being a jerk or raining on anyone’s parade.  I’m trying to think this through.  Reason: I thought about writing a zombie short last night.  I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wondered how to do it.  I started thinking about zombies, their constant eating, metabolism, and here I am, over-thinking this as usual.  And yes, I have the same problems with all other fiction monsters — werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, etc.

So, who can clear this up?  Anyone?

Thanks for sounding off!

-JDT-