On the surface, the words "zombie sociology" seem to be the ultimate oxymoron. It was long thought that zombies were incapable of social interaction beyond determining whether or not the person before them was a zombie. To make matters worse, the catatonic state of zombies meant they weren't able to offer any personal testimony to abet empirical findings. Nevertheless, modern researchers have uncovered a surprisingly complex social order among zombies, an overview of which is presented here (my thanks to Waxman Himmelburger for his assistance).
The Newly Transformed
Unlike vampires, newly transformed zombies have little or no acclimation period. They do possess and are able to access memories, but there is none of the nostalgia or pining for the past often found in vampires. Memories allow zombies little more than a rough sense of geography. A newly-transformed zombie might try to return to its home, but the trip is motivated by hunger rather than nostalgic yearning. Relatives of newly-transformed zombies often make the mistake of trying to help their diseased loved ones and soon find themselves joining the ranks of the undead.
(Courtesy: Coroner's Office,
Macon County, Georgia, )
Using their strong sense of smell to lead the way, newly transformed zombies will instinctively gravitate to other zombies. Solitary zombies are very rare. Zombie packs are typically much larger than vampire packs. Within days of the onset of a plague, packs made up of dozens of zombies will have formed. While vampires form packs to improve their hunting capability, it is actually disadvantageous for zombies to pack together. It makes them more conspicuous, as well as making it more difficult for all to get to feed. Zombie researchers believe that the pack fulfills some primal need for community and connection.
While hunting, zombies are all business. But in moments of repose, they show evidence of affection. They will cluster together and rest against each other. They show particular warmth to child zombies. Within the pack, zombies will assemble themselves into approximations of family units, with children, parents and grandparents huddling together.
There is a pecking order in a zombie pack, although it is much more subtle than in vampire packs. A group of stronger, quicker zombies will take the lead in hunting and will eat first. Any zombie who disrupts their feeding will be dealt with viciously. Less powerful zombies seem to accept their fate and try to make the best of it. While vampires often use their cunning to improve their standing in the pack, zombies are relatively guileless. All zombies possess a chilling single-mindedness when it comes to hunting. There is no such thing as a cowardly zombie. This is not true of vampires, who have been known to succumb to malnutrition because they lacked the stomach for hunting.
Zombies show a surprising adaptability when it comes to hunting. Contrary to popular opinion, they are observant, fast learners. A newly transformed zombie may stagger around mindlessly for a few days, but once it joins a pack its learning curve rises sharply. Since they cannot speak, zombies communicate with gestures. A favorite hunting strategy is to have a few pack members drive prey towards an area where many others are hiding.
The cooperation zombies show in hunting generally vanishes when they start feeding. Many zombies receive serious wounds from other zombies during a feeding frenzy. Hungry zombies leave nothing but the bones, which they break open to get to the marrow. Well fed zombies will stick to the nutritious brain and bone marrow, leaving the rest of the viscera for the weaker members of the pack. Only in times when the food supply is plentiful will a zombie share.
Zombies have a very limited range. While a vampire can move quickly and tirelessly, covering up to 20 miles in one night, a zombie is lucky to cover a few miles in 24 hours. Just as with vampires, a given swath of real estate can only support so many zombies. For this reason, zombie plagues tend to be self regulating. A zombie plague will usually start fast, hit a plateau, then die out quickly as food supply diminishes.
The Zombie at Home
For the zombie, home is nothing more than a safe place to rest before the next hunt. Whether holing up in an abandoned building or a fully furnished house, they make no effort at decoration or comfort. As for the finer things in life, zombies do respond to music. A favorite song will cause them to move their bodies in a kind of stiff-limbed dance. Since zombies can go out in the daylight, their choice of hideouts is somewhat more varied than that of a vampire. A zombie can simply rest against a tree in the woods, while a vampire must find a cave or construct a crude hovel before the sun rises. Because they lack the vampire's supreme adaptability, zombies rarely proliferate in urban areas. Zombies do much better in the country, where they can disappear into the landscape.
|Agents looks over the remains|
of a home in which 24 zombies
were found and destroyed
Unlike vampires, zombies are not sophisticated enough to infiltrate crowds and public places. Thus, there is no need for them to practice personal hygiene. They will wear their clothes until they are in tatters.
While vampires are predominantly males in the 18 to 35 age group, zombies come from all over the demographic spectrum. The average zombie is 55 years old, and females outnumber males. A disproportionate number of the elderly and infirm are found in zombie populations for the simple reason that they are less able to flee when zombies attack.
As for mortality and life span, the zombie faces an even bleaker prognosis than the vampire. Rare is the zombie who lives even one year. The two leading causes of death have always been extermination by zombie hunters and malnutrition, often due to injuries sustained in fights with other zombies.
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