In the simplest terms these zombies are more or less like you would imagine them to be – many of their traits falling into what can now be considered retro-zombie (in line with the more original ideas, as opposed to neo-zombies.) I will list the details here:
Solanum works by travelling through the bloodstream from the initial point of entry to the brain. Through means not fully understood yet the virus uses the cells of the frontal lobe for replication, destroying them in the process. During this period all bodily functions cease. By stopping the heart the subject is rendered ‘dead’ but the brain however remains alive but dormant, while the virus mutates its cells into a completely new organ. The most crucial trait of this new organ is its independence from oxygen. By removing the need for this resource the undead brain can utilize, but is in no way dependant on, the complex support mechanism of the human body. Some bodily functions remain constant, others operate in a modified capacity, and the remainder shut down completely. This new organism is a Zombie, a member of the living dead.
Also it may be worth mentioning that the Solanum Virus appears to be specifically attuned to humans, as animals infected do not reanimate as they die before it is able to replicate throughout the body, though all animals do seem to all share a natural reaction to the virus – terror.
One already infected – the virus can continue to spread even if the human dies (though more slowly due to loss of blood flow through the body) and can still become re-animated. Though this depends on the viruses’ progress – more research is needed.
The zombies themselves have been said to possess superhuman powers, though the actual true abilities and potential are as so:
Never forget that the body of an undead is for all practical purposes, human. What changes is how this reanimated body is used by the now infected brain. It is unable to create any new abilities – but it can use the current tools in unconventional combinations or push their durability beyond normal human limits.
Sight is an interesting one – as the eyesight range remains that of a human. However the major difference is that they can easily spot the difference between humans and one of their own – even when humans attempt to disguise their movements by mimicking those of a zombie. It has also been suggested that zombies may have a night vision – which could explain their skills at nocturnal hunting. This theory has however been debunked by the fact all zombies are expert night feeders, even those without eyes.
Sound. There is no question that zombies have excellent hearing, being able to detect sound and determine its direction. They are attracted to all sounds – not just those made by a living human, they also notice sounds we do not. This may be explained by the fact that zombies use all of their senses equally, where humans are sight oriented from birth.
Smell, like with sound appears more acute than in humans. In both combat and laboratory situations they have been able to distinguish the smell of living pray above all others. Given ideal wind conditions they have been known to smell fresh corpses from over a mile away.
Taste is mostly unknown – other than the fact zombies have the ability to tell the difference between human flesh from that of animals, always choosing human over the latter. Also it is not known whether it is due to taste, but undead will reject a body that is older than twelve to eighteen hours as food.
Touch is the greatest and most terrifying advantage that the zombies have over humanity, their nerve receptors throughout the body remaining dead after reanimation. They literally have no physical sensations. The undead as such feel no pain and wounds will not be noticed and therefore deter any attacks. Even if a zombie’s body is severely damaged it will continue to attack until nothing remains (of either the zombie or the target itself).
Possible sixth sense? Maybe – with historical research coupled with laboratory research and field observation has shown that the walking dead have been known to attack even when all of their sensory organs have been damaged or completely decomposed. It is not known how this happens – one theory is that the virus can stimulate another sensory ability that has been forgotten by evolution – however this is speculation.
Healing abilities are one thing that we can safely say that the undead do not posses. Cells that are damaged stay damaged. Any wounds, no matter their size and nature will remain for the duration of that bodies reanimation. We take our abilities for regeneration for granted – take into account the fact that each time we physically exert ourselves we tear our muscles. With time these muscles rebuild to a stronger state than before. A zombie’s muscle mass will remain damaged, reducing its effectiveness every time its used. Given plenty of time and physical exertion the walking dead will be eventually reduced to a crawl, which brings us to my next point.
Decomposition. The average zombies ‘life span’ before completely rotting away is estimated at five to ten years. This is down to the simple fact that the microbes that cause decay in normal human dead tissue reject flesh infected by the virus, effectively embalming the zombie. If it were not for this then combating the living dead would be as easy as avoiding them for several weeks or even days until they rotted away to bones. Research has yet to discover the exact cause of this condition. Though it has been determined that at least some microbe species ignore the repelling effects of Solanum – otherwise the undead would remain perfectly preserved forever. Also other factors seem to have some effect when it comes to the rate of decomposition, such as moisture and temperature. Undead that prowl bayous and swamps are unlikely to survive those in the cold. For example a frozen zombie in theory could exist for hundreds of years before defrosting and roaming around as if nothing had changed. (Now the very first initial wave of zombies are starting to reach this point, however different areas were infected at different times, meaning that sadly the zombie horde is still very numerous and it will be many more years before the treat lessens.)
Digestion. Recent evidence has once and for all discounted the theory that human flesh is fuel for the undead. A zombie’s digestive track is completely dormant and as such any ‘food’ that they ingest remains in its original undigested state. This partially chewed and slowly rotting matter will continue to accumulate the more the zombie devours until it is either forced out of the anus, or literally burst through the stomach or intestinal lining.
Respiration. Though the lungs of an undead continue to function in that they draw air into the body and expel it, which accounts for the signature moan, they remain obsolete in the fact that they do not extract oxygen and remove carbon dioxide – as Solanum obviates the need for both of these functions. This also explains how the living dead can walk underwater or survive in environments lethal to humans.
Circulation is practically none-existent with the circulatory system being little more than a network of useless tubes filled with coagulated blood. This also applies to the lymphatic system and all other bodily fluids. This is luckily a godsend to humanity – preventing the easy transition of the virus – as if the above were not true then hand to hand combat would be nearly impossible with the splattering of infectious fluids.
The only other factors to mention are that they have unrelenting stamina and determination, though no more strength than that the original human possessed. The average living human presents a dexterity level 90 percent greater than the strongest ghoul. They are unable to swim or even run – an attempt to climb a ladder would be failed by more than 3 in four zombies. Zombies will attempt to scale any surface no matter how unfeasible or even impossible. Their intelligence is practically none existent, failing the most simple of intelligence tests that even a laboratory lab rat could complete. The dead have absolutely no memory or emotion – contrary to what some may believe.
Other than hunger they express no other physical needs or wants expressed in mortal life and as such do not need to sleep.
Communication. Zombies have no language skills, although their vocal cords are capable of speech, their brain is not. The only vocal ability appears to be the signature deep-throated moan that they emit when they spot pray. The tone will remain low and steady until physical contact is made. It will then shift in tone and volume as the zombie commences its attack. This sound unfortunately serves as a rallying cry for other zombies – which causes them to swarm and attack seemingly together despite the lack of any social organisation.
Motivation is an interesting thought for the undead – as they do not physically need to eat, why does their instinct drive them to murder and consume? The truth alludes us, all we have observed is that areas swept by zombies is devoid of all life – though human flesh is preferable to that of any other.
Killing the undead where simple, is far from easy. The brain must be obliterated plain and simple – nothing else will suffice.