THE DEAD TIMES

DEAD ARE COMING...

Dead Are Coming…

Do not adjust your monitors. Do not tinker with your Internet routers. The words that follow here may seem entirely fanciful, and, indeed, my later speculation is the stuff of fiction but, I assure you dear reader, the stimulus for this future estimation is all true, bounded in the cold, hard, emotionless world of science and logic. This truth is not one which can be taken lightly or quickly dismissed as inconsequential torment. Prepare yourself friend, in a manner you deem fit, as, once read, absorbed and digested into your very soul, these words cannot be unread.

News has reached my ear of an enormously ambitious yet potential terrifying new scientific research project. Before I spew the proverbial vomit of information, however, be reminded once again that the words I write here are all true, this is actually happening in real-life and, yes, history will remember the day this project was started - it is that revolutionary. This project is to, deep breath, create Zombies.

Yes, that's right - within a few decades it is highly likely that the dead will, once again, walk the Earth. I kid you not.

I know this is hard to believe but, as reported by IFLScience, the US-based company Bioquark has received the financial backing and necessary ethical permission to perform experiments on 20 brain-dead patients to attempt to bring their brains back to full working order. Unsure if such a feat is even possible, several different techniques will be used including "injecting the brain with stem cells, giving the spinal cord infusions of beneficial chemicals, and nerve stimulation techniques" to determine if the brain-dead test subjects can - and I am quoting here - "…at least partly, be brought back from the dead."

That is a very bold statement (assuming you have at least a basic understanding of the concept of a Zombie) and I am sure that more than one of you is already pulsing with ideas, questions and dark images of pure horror. However, before, Zombie aficionados - and pretty much any sentient being who has seen George Romero's Dawn of the Dead - start running for the hills screaming something about "No more room in Hell", let's try to be scientific about this. The 20 test subjects - the human patients - have been pronounced clinically brain-dead, their bodies being kept in a "live" state by machines to avoid all the inconveniences of death like decomposition and rigor mortis. After treatment using the aforementioned techniques and more - lovingly dubbed the ReAnima project (a particularly unnerving Killing Floor 2 vibe to their website, http://reanima.tech/) - the patients will be monitored for several weeks to see if there are any signs of neural activity, ergo the previously dead and non-functioning brains having spluttered back to life. Initially, any signs of life will be enough to consider the project a success - as Bioquark CEO Ira Pastor explains - but this will only be the first step on a road that, once embarked upon, can never be left.

"It is a long-term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility, although that is not the focus of this first study. But it is a bridge to that eventuality."

© Is this really a good idea? | iHorror

Best Case

While it is easy to get sidetracked by the whole bringing the dead back to life thing, especially for undead enthusiasts like myself, it needs to be made clear just how amazing this news is. If successful - a human brain can be restarted as if it were nothing more than a simple car engine in need of repair - it has profound ramifications for mankind. Basically, humanity has just cheated death - a person that should technically be dead has been returned to life. While it wouldn't be immortality - the body would still age and wither, and the procedure could very probably not be performed on the same test subject over and over again - it would definitely be a substantial step towards the undying desire of mankind.

As grandiose as that vision may be - and it is definitely not to be taken lightly - it does bring a certain BBC series, stumbling and clattering to the forefront of my mind; the BAFTA-winning In The Flesh. In The Flesh was an often overlooked Zombie series of programmes that took the Zombie genre and thrust it, without the fuss you may expect from a subject concerned with action and horror, into the dramatic, morally-ambiguous and political, modern world. You see, all the Zombies - sorry, those affected with Partially Deceased Syndrome - were basically just normal people that had been infected with the Zombie disease, turning into flesh-craving freaks during the outbreak but then, after the horrific event had passed, somehow, through some unexplained scientific process, being "cured" - returning to normal 'everyday' citizens of humanity. Technically, they were dead and had many of the attributes that entails - not needing to eat, sleep, breath and so on. However, they were still walking around, still living with their families, still members of the community - well sort of, and that's my point. How will people react to the dead returning to life - with open arms or violent hostility? Just imagine, far in the future, if one of your brain-dead relatives suddenly arrives at your door, seemingly fit and healthy (assuming that the revived brains would be reinserted into their former bodies). And what rights will those brought back from death have? Can normal human rights apply to the walking dead, even if they are semantically "alive"? Could someone be refused a job because they are "dead" and are thought to react poorly in certain situations or require regular health-reports? I'm sure the idea of resurrected dead people walking around, even if they mean no harm, is going to ruffle some feathers in religious circles too - an area so marked by impale-points and pitfalls, I'm not even going to attempt to navigate.

Worst Case

Okay, let's not beat about the bush here - resurrecting the dead is a terrible idea, if the media is to be believed. Resident Evil, George Romero's Of The Dead hexalogy, World War Z, City of the Living Dead, Re-animator... the list of movies showing the terror, bloodshed and chaos (occasionally a splash of humour too) that ensues when the once dead rise again runs into the thousands - and then there are the multitude of books and lashings of video games. Still, one vision of dread immediately springs to mind; that of Umberto Lenzi's 1980 film Nightmare City (look out for the upcoming remake from legendary filmmaker and make-up artist, Tom Savini). In Nightmare City, the "Zombies" were not technically undead freaks - their state of mortality is never actually made clear in the film - though I like to think of them as beings twisted into something beyond the normal realms of life by unknown Nuclear contamination. They clearly should not be alive, one look at their hideous faces confirms this, yet, strangely and unfathomably, they are. These creatures of earthly Hell are driven by a solitary desire, the wish to kill, to maim, to murder, to bring ruination upon the world and all its inhabitants. They employ cunning and guile to achieve this goal, showing considerable dexterity beyond that of the regular mindless ghoul, even going as far as a primitive communication system - implying some form of higher level brain-power.

© The Zombies of Nightmare City are an ugly bunch | Jarvis City

This single minded goal of destruction coupled with the apparent retainment of only partial brain-power makes me, horrifically, believe that these damned humans are a superb approximation to what may stem from the ReAnima project. You see, there's no knowing the "completeness" in which a dead brain can be returned to functioning behaviour - some sort of cellular damage could have set in or, even if the brain does make a full recovery, how would said brain cope with memories of dying (if such a thing is even possible)? Our brains are incredibly complex things - organisms that no one fully understands - where even the slightest change could have catastrophic effects on behaviour and body control. Take the example of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad engineer, who had the entire frontal lobe of his brain destroyed in a terrible accident, removing all of his social and moral inhibitions, leading his friends to clearly state that he was "no longer Gage" - his behaviour and personality so altered.

Closing Headline

Whether Bioquark's quest to bring the dead back to life is a good idea for the betterment of mankind or a terrible concept surely to doom the world, make no mistake, we have started down a path upon which we cannot go back, sooner or later, 100 years from now or even as early as next month, the dead will rise (and, no, I never thought I would write that statement either). Books will be written about this day. Movies will be made imaging horrific portents of this research. I am, right now, beseeching George A. Romero to come back from his hiatus to work on the TV adaption of Empire of the Dead, to return to the world of Zombie movies riffing on the cultural state at the time, and create a new masterpiece, perhaps even starting a whole new series: Reanimation of the Living Dead.

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The Dead Times © Tom Clark 2013 onwards

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