Living forever and how long do Zombies ‘live’?

I read an interesting article (URL at the end of this blog) and it got me thinking. Apparently our chromosomes are tipped like the end of a shoelace with a thing called a telomere. Our body’s cells have built in obsolescence and make copies in order to replace them as they die. This can happen something like fifty to sixty times before they are ‘used up’ for want of a better expression, leading to aging in humans and most animals – apparently not so in lobsters. And that’s because these telomeres shorten each time the chromosome is copied, leading to frayed and useless laces.

Now, let’s think about Zombies. If the people they originate from have to die before they turn, then it follows that zombie cells don’t copy themselves as they wear out. Ergo, they will use up their existing cells and cease to function and fall apart in time. In a living person we need between 2000 and 2500 KCalories a day to survive. A large proportion of this energy is used for cell maintenance. So if we take this particular energy requirement away then a zombie could require about 1000 to 1500 KCalories a day to exist, but be forever on a downward spiral of bodily integrity.

Photo by Zaldy Icaonapo
Photo by Zaldy Icaonapo

The source of the energy is easy – meat, preferably fresh. Brain will be a higher fat content than muscle hence the preference for the grey matter. So, if the cells are dead what is using the energy? Zombies don’t remain human-looking for very long, turning to shades of green and puss colours. Mmmm, nice! Why did they turn into zombies in the first place? Some form of infection mostly, therefore foreign cells are using the energy in a zombie to keep their transport mechanism (the body) alive to pursue more energy. Repetitive cycle but that’s the way most of nature works. It’s only humans that get bored and want to watch the telly (unless that’s what made them bored in the first place).

The real variable in the overall energy equation is the bug that eats our energy. Can it shut down metabolically like a spider, waiting days or even months for a meal? As an author of zombie fiction, one of the things I have to contend with is how a zombie will react to lack of food, freezing temperatures, injury and the everlasting question, why is the brain of a dead person so bloody important to a zomb? I know there are probably more important questions to ponder in life, but this one keeps on coming back to haunt me.

Any thoughts, anyone?

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  1. I finally have a chance to comment on this post! I think zombies have a finite life. They only live for so long before they become a bag of mush. I think the zombie state only slows down composition but doesn’t stop it. Eventually, they’ll die off like everything else on earth. If you notice in the show The Walking Dead, the walkers are starting to look darker and kind of disturbing (not to say they didn’t earlier). That’s the decomposition effect running amok on their systems. I’m looking forward when one of the survivors hits one of them in the face and the head explodes like a massive watermelon…but that’s a comment for another day!

    1. Now that’s an image 🙂
      What if the medium for change from human to zombie is alien? Perhaps they aren’t rotting?
      I have to say my hope is for rotting flesh as I’d hate to see the world over-run by zombie aliens! That’s an avenue I might pursue in the sequel to Return of A King. What do you think?

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