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November 21, 2011
Posted at 10:12 pm

The zombies that were left out in the cold

I received the following feedback from a possibly invalid address (I've gotten feedback from the address before, but never a response to any of the replies I've made).

I figure that if one person was bothered enough to say something, then there were probably others who wondered.

Warning, my reply will contain spoilers, please do not read this if you do not want to learn things the characters do not know.

> One of the things that always bugged me is writers
> that forget that dead creatures don't metabolize,
> so they don't generate body heat (aside from the
> little heat generated by bacteria decomposing
> flesh). Therefore, the walking dead would turn
> into "deadsicles" the first good frost. From
> there, the rate of decomposition would accelerate
> as remaining cells burst from freezing and then
> quickly rot when it thaws. Depending on the
> ambient temperature, the dead in shadows and
> unheated buildings might never thaw until spring.
> So, it's a matter of waiting until winter and then
> moving. However, the risk lies in buildings with
> still-active heating--the walking dead would
> remain as active as ever.

I didn't forget, I have made a deliberate inversion of the frozen zombie cliche.

The question assumes two points that are not true in my ZPAW universe, and glosses over a third issue.

1) That zombies freeze at the freezing point of water
2) That zombies are subject to natural decay.
3) Where do zombies get their energy for moment if they do not metabolize?

Taking these in order:

1) The zombies in my universe *do* freeze, but not until their internal temperature hits -40 degrees. Even then their cells will mostly not explode

As the temperature gets colder, they get smarter, this is not noticeable until temps dip below freezing. The inverse is also true, above 80F they slow down, and they seek shelter from the sun at higher temps. If there is high humidity, the effect on their intelligence and mobility is not as pronounced. Above 100F they are effectively blind. twelve or so hours of heat (~120 dry/ 130 humid) will roast their brains permanently.

2) Zombies are not subject to natural decay, dogs and birds won't eat them, flies won't lay eggs in them (and if they did, maggots don't eat them either). There is no bacterial decay either (note that they won't bloat). They *do* smell bad, but not as bad as rotting meat, eggs or even milk.

If they decayed, then all the characters would need to do is bug in for 6-8 weeks and all the zombies would have rotted away.

Zombies will however *erode*. Joints will wear out, skin will get rubbed off, eyes will get scratched up by wind blown sand, etc. Think years, or possibly decades.

3) Zombies do not metabolize. The characters have many theories as to what powers them, top contenders are some kind of virus, cosmic radiation, alien nanotechnology, and demonic possession.

I'm not saying. Every story I've ever read that tried to explain has fallen flat. I've enjoyed those that don't attempt to explain so much more. So taking my cue from GAR, I'm never going to say anything.

Feel free to speculate though, the characters certainly will.