I have a confession. I don’t like gore. I watch psychological thrillers with one eye closed, but I can’t sit through slasher films at all. This is in part because I don’t like to see people in pain, but it’s also because so many of these films are just gross.
So how did I manage to write a zombie novella being kinda squeamish? Well, I’m a writing tutor, but I’ve coached enough students through Anatomy & Physiology to know the reality of death. And amazingly, it’s not as gory as you’d think.
Autolysis or chemical tissue breakdown begins almost immediately when the heart and breathing stop. Without oxygen, enzymes began to dissolve cells. Blood pools from lack of circulation and lactic acid builds up in the muscles, causing rigor mortis. Some don’t experience rigor at all because they don’t have much muscle mass. Mostly the newly dead look like pale sleepers.
Within a few days, the 1st signs of decay become visible. Microbes that normally live in moderation in the intestines take over, secreting gasses with distinctive odor. This stage is known as bloat because the body becomes swollen and bacteria, moving along the circulatory system, make the skin look marbled. The skin can also split from gas pressure.
Active decay is the look most often associated with zombies, but while the body breaks down muscle to mostly liquid, it also loses the ligaments and tendons that allow it to move. This is due to the decomposition process and to the effect of maggots and other insects using the body as a host.
Depending on heat and humidity, a body can decompose to a skeleton within a few months. Perhaps that’s why people have gone to great lengths to preserve bodies, to try to hold on to loved ones.
But really, death is a pretty straightforward chemical process. Which is kinda reassuring. Horror movies trade on the fear of death. We know we could die from blood loss, so blood spatter frightens us. But the aftermath is no more bizarre or threatening than digesting lunch.
Course, this also means the dead can’t walk, any more than your lunch can. But the science tutor swears Giovanni Goes To Med School is a true story. Since he got into medical school, he would know right? Right?
You don’t have to be a medical student to know the dead do not get up and walk around. Anyone who’s buried a pet in the backyard knows the dead don’t walk. They don’t even lurch.
The night-shift in the morgue was supposed to be a chance to study in quiet and off-set ridiculous student loans. So Giovanni is stunned when his patient sits up and starts scolding. Now he’s got to convince an unbelieving medical community to take action, so he can get back to learning about the dead – not the undead!
The 1st in a series of novellas about B-movie monsters in today’s world, Giovanni Goes To Med School is available on:
About the Author
Kathy Bryson knew she wanted to be a writer when she finished reading through her school and local children’s libraries. She honed her writing skills on marketing brochures, websites, and several unfinished manuscripts before going into teaching and finishing award-winning books where she happily skews convention. Kathy lives in Florida where she caters to the whims of spoiled cats and wonders what possessed her to put in 75 feet of flower beds.