Episode 595: Inside Voices

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Don’t Agitate the Zombies

Zombies aren’t exactly known for their incredible tracking abilities. Like the living, they have to rely on imperfect senses, and in many cases their senses are even worse off thanks to injury and decay. That said, they’re typically not devoid of all senses. How zombies find victims tends to change a bit from story to story, but sight and sound seem to be the most common, with smell a distant second. As a perfect counter-example, look no further than the clickers from The Last of Us, who were blind and found prey through sound alone.

If you can break the zombies’ line of sight, your chance to escape increases. Of course, those chances don’t increase that much if you’re trapped inside a building and the zombie knows you’re in there and is perfectly content to wait you out. Regardless, beating the pursuit is important, but can be easily outdone should someone in your group clumsily knock over a pile of cans, or something like that.

About this Episode:

Kids are loud. They can’t even help it. Even when they think they’re being quiet, odds are they’re screaming. I’ve got two of my own, and I’d hate to have to try to keep them quiet through a zombie siege.

Discussion Question: How Do Zombies Hunt?

Since there aren’t any real rules for zombies – both a strength and a weakness of the genre in my mind – every writer is free to change things up. In fact, they’re often encouraged to do so. If you were to write a zombie survival story, how would you want your zombies to track down prey?

I’m pretty simple, myself. I think they should act like living people as much as possible, which often means a dependence on sight foremost, with all the other senses that simply to enhance what they can see. Now, if they can’t see anything, then they’ll certainly follow their ears or noses.

9 thoughts on “Episode 595: Inside Voices”

  1. Typo alerts:

    Zombie Cliche Lookout, first sentence: know–>known 😀

    Same section, second paragraph, first sentence: zombies–>zombie’s – you have the plural, you need the possessive with the apostrophe included. 😉

    Discussion Question, last sentence: they’re–they’ll 😀

    Three isn’t exactly riddled with typos, but a few, nonetheless! Dave’s been doing pretty well overall the past few weeks, and I want him to know it makes me happy when he does have an error-free day, as that means he’s concentrating! 😀

    • Fixed all. Yeah, three isn’t bad, but I was really enjoying the zeroes.

  2. If I were to make a zombie, based on the fast-movers, they would hunt in a variety of ways:

    If they hear a loud noise or see a bright light nearby, they’ll definitely be attracted to it.

    If one zombie starts acting agitated, the others will come to investigate why. It’s kind of like a horde in the Walking Dead; if you disturb one, you disturb them all.

    Crippled zombies may prefer to feign death and attack when an unsuspecting human wanders too close.

    Once prey is sighted, the zombies will be near relentless in their pursuit. They will attempt to overwhelm it in large numbers, scale fences and walls, tear and smash their way through boarded windows, make their way up the sides the buildings through parkour style movements and/or ant pyramid-like behavior, and will not hesitate to pounce or lunge at their target to quickly close the distance. Even a zombie with its legs recently severed will still aggressively crawl after their prey.

    Despite their seemingly mob-like mentality, they still have some sense of self-preservation. When they encounter humans equipped with ranged weaponry such as guns and crossbows, they will run towards them in a serpentine motion in order to make themselves harder to hit and may even duck and dodge projectiles thrown at them.

    Finally, they also have the ability to use various items/tools as blunt weapons. While they prefer living, fresh prey over dead ones, they will attempt to kill their quarry by using said blunt weapons, beating with their fists, clawing, and biting before settling down to eat. Much like wolves hunting and devouring a moose, it’s easier and safer for them to eat prey when it is dead rather than trying to eat it when it’s still kicking and screaming.

    • Wow, Sang, I love how thorough your response is! Thanks for taking the time to write it all up.

      It’s really interesting to see just how different your idea of a zombie is from mine, once again showcasing how malleable they are as monsters.

      One thing I found interesting is the idea of playing dead, which shows some sense of intelligence, or at least instinct. Definitely a cool idea.

      Do your zombies have a sort of hive mind, or do they just pay a lot of attention to their fellow zombies and react en masse?

      • The latter.

        Here are some other abilities I forgot to mention:

        They possess an acute sense of smell; as such, if they detect a scent such as perfume or deodorant, they’ll recognize it as a sign that humans are around and will react accordingly.

        The ability to use the environment to their advantage; going off of the moving in serpentine ability, they’ll even move from cover to cover as they close the distance on targets armed with ranged weaponry. If the zombie hears a human, it may duck and wait behind a corner for the perfect time to ambush the human. Their ambush tactics include but are not limited to jumping off from a high elevation to attack unsuspecting prey below.

        Finally, they also have a heightened sense of night vision, which I probably don’t have to tell you about the advantages that provides. While this does make them susceptible to flash bangs, the chance that your average survivor is carrying these grenades is highly unlikely.

  3. I suppose that the zombies don’t exactly hunt. The only thing they do is follow noise and whenever they see something moving, they limp towards it.

    • Yeah, that’s probably a better way of looking at it. “Hunting” implies far too much intelligence.

  4. I’m in the middle of a zombie-esque storyline in my comic. In that case, I’d suppose my skeletal zombies are the typical “slow zombie” type. They don’t think or use weapons, they just pursue food, and relatively slowly at that. They pose a danger through surprise and (as they mass in the town toward the end) numbers.

    This allows me an interesting setup, as they climb out of the ground in the countryside, it takes them some time to work their way into the populated center of Ballinabricky. This gives the townspeople time to batten the hatches and prepare once they realize what is happening on the outskirts. They’re surrounded, so they can’t exactly escape, but instead they draw inward to mass in fortify-able buildings.

    There will be scenes where people will be quietly and slowly picking their way through streets full of walking bones while looking for supplies in the stores, something that only worked in TWD after coating themselves with gore. In my case, they’re fine as long as they can see the enemy and keep their distance, but it’s the one they didn’t know was behind them that can become trouble…

    • God, I’ve always loved the “zombies crawling out of the ground” scenes in old movies. It’s just so damn evocative.