Decay theory is perhaps the most popular topic of zombie research. However, the majority of our observations and assumptions come from the study of cadavers, corpses, and the dead. But zombies aren’t simply dead, they are the living dead; and this is an important distinction when it comes to understanding the inevitable zombie apocalypse!
Previous discussions tend to focus on the four stages of human decomposition: autolysis, bloat, active decay, and skeletonization. But it’s obvious that these rules simply don’t apply to zombies. A more apt comparison would be the necrosis found as a result of gangrene or leprosy, as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The disease can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa). The bacteria attack the nerves, which can become swollen under the skin. This can cause the affected areas to lose the ability to sense touch and pain, which can lead to injuries, like cuts and burns. Usually, the affected skin changes color…
A communicable disease resulting in changes to skin color, and the loss of feeling or pain, certainly sounds familiar; zombies often exhibit no response to physical attacks, injury, dismemberment, etc. And combined with the necrotizing fasciitis of a condition like gangrene, an infection that can enter the body through a break in the skin, we begin to have a much better understanding of zombie bite transmission and the resulting decay.
The appearance of the living dead also aligns more closely with a “flesh-eating” disease than it does with the natural stages of decomposition.
And when these factors are placed in context with the Zombie Research Society’s official position; that the modern zombie is the result of a biological infection, it becomes clear that zombie decay should be viewed as an infection resulting in the slow and eventual death of the body’s soft tissue rather than another stage of our natural human decomposition.
To learn more about gangrene, leprosy, or necrotizing fasciitis, please visit the official website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you have anything to contribute regarding zombie decay theory, simply leave a comment below!