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Plague Town - How Long Will They Last?

Published on 27 March, 2012

Authored by Titan Books

Zombie Rules – How Long Will They Last?

So I got this question from my friend Ciaran today:

“Hey. I was wondering if you have an opinion on the longevity of zombies? If they behave like corpses (well, other than the walking around, snarling and eating anything with a pulse) then season three of Walking Dead should really be called The Falling Apart and Turning Into A Black Tarry Goo Dead. More-over a good, inaccessible shelter with a few weeks food and water should see you through. How long does your version of the Zombie Apocalypse last?”

Fresh (and really happy) zombie from Hell of the Living Dead

It’s a good question, doncha think?  And it also gave me an insta-topic for my next Zombie Tuesday post here, so thank you, Ciaran!

As with most things to do with zombies, I definitely have an opinion on the topic of zombie longevity, but I also acknowledge there isn’t one correct answer. Individual authors and filmmakers have handled this issue differently, depending on the rules set up in their particular corner of the Zombieverse.  Some posit that the virus or bacteria or magic voodoo juice or alien space beams that turn people into walking corpses also slow down the rate of decomposition so it could take many years for zombies to actually rot enough to stop chasing and eating humans.  Others go with the theory that sure, they’ll eventually fall apart and we can just walk around and stomp on their heads … if we don’t get eaten first. 

A little more worse for the wear (and not nearly as happy) zombie from Hell of the Living Dead

I personally think that regardless of how fast or slow the zombies decompose, if the magic voodoo alien space beam virus is still out there then there will always be fresh zombies until there are no more living humans, so either way the human race is kind of screwed.  You either have extinction or a lifestyle where constant vigilance is required. As Ciaran put it (because you know we had to discuss this at length), Absolutely everyone would have to be permanently armed and the old or very ill would become almost an outclass. I could imagine more than one narcoleptic being beaten to death by the twitchier members of the now-walled communities...”

“Hey, mister, can you spare an arm or a leg?”

Sure, we could have walled off communities secure from attack from the outside, but what if someone has a sudden heart attack or brain embolism and there’s no one around to cap ‘em with a head shot?  Instant Patient Zero and the possible end of said walled off community.  Although honestly, if the residents have their act together and these are shamblers instead of sprinters, odds are decent they could contain the outbreak relatively easily. But the point remains: constant vigilance.  You’d want those words printed on T-shirts and posters all over the damn place.

All in all, I’m happy to speculate about these things for hours on end … I just don’t really want to experience it first hand.  But if the Zombocalypse does hit, at least I won’t be one of those annoying characters who wastes precious time going “No way, man!  Zombies don’t exist!”  And if I do say anything like that, you have my permission to bonk me on the head.  It’s the only way to be sure I won’t say anything that stupid again.