08 October, 2015

#Drawlloween #Inktober 8 - Zombie

The presence of chromosomally focused fungal infections are a well known phenomenon throughout the Darkhive. Those bearing XX chromosomes gain heightened regenerative biology, while those with XY chromosomes find it hard to regenerate from even the most minor ailments. Just because these effects are well known, it doesn't mean everyone stands by and accepts them.

While one type of fungus, Manbane, is responsible for this effect, there are other infections that render a host virtually immortal. One of these infections has already been described as the Darkhive's version of "Vampire", another parasitic infection retains a host's mobility, but unlike vampirism it does nothing to prevent the body's decay through injury. In females this infection is hard to detect, but when this infection takes hold in the men of the Darkhive, it is referred to as the "Zombie Plague". Men with both the fungal infection and the zombie plague are still prevented from healing their injuries, but regardless of how damaged they may be, they remain mobile and active. 

After the first few months of parasitic infection, the infection is virtually undetectable in females and makes no real difference in their lives. Infected males at this stage may be wandering around with injuries that should kill them (such as broken legs, stab wounds, or cracked ribs), but most have the sense to keep these injuries covered.   

After a few years of infection, both males and females start craving fresh meat as a source of food to sustain the parasite. For females, this tends to be accompanied by a growing strength, and for males it accompanies a necrosis of muscle tissue. The longer the infection is sustained, the stronger this craving becomes.

After ten years of infection or more, most males have rotted beyond even the zombie plague's ability to sustain them, they are typically dismembered, cremated and planted into fungal gardens to prevent infection spreading further. Females start showing flesh degradation at this stage, and the craving for fresh meat has become enhanced. Without a regular supply of still living flesh, an infected female starts to lose her memories, which may only be regained through the consumption of brain matter. The risk here is tht the memories regained by a female zombie eating brain matter may be the memories contained in the brain being consumed.

After a few decades of infection, even most females have succumbed to the worst of the infection. If they have completely lost their original memories, they descend into a primal state and are dispatched by exorcists and monster hunters. Those who retain their original memories typically require a fresh brain daily to keep sustaining themselves, this often proves such a drain on their local communities that exorcists and monster hunters are called anyway. In many cases, females who manage to survive this long are ostracized into the shadows of the hive, here they degrade into savage monsters before finding a fungal patch to lay their bodies to rest. On such a fungal patch, their bodies degrade away only to provide heightened sustenance to the mushrooms and toadstools, which in turn infect a new generation of travelers who might eat from the fungi during their explorations through the hive.

The Zombie Plague seems highly susceptible to dehydration, and some Khar-Tui scholars have hypothesized that the parasites share certain proteins with slugs and snails, these thoughts come from the fact that those infected have a strong aversion to salt. Being sprinkled with salt causes visible flinching among those who are mildly infected by the parasite, and this reaction only gets more dramatic in those with more pronounced infection.

The combination of an acceptance of the "Zombie Plague" throughout the Darkhive, the limited effect it has due to existing fungal effects, and the knowledge of how to deal with the symptoms, has meant that there have only ever been a few major recorded outbreaks, and in most cases, the reduction in mental faculties after a few years has led any infected settlements to be cleaned up by roving Shellbrood.  
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