Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Nightmare

The other night I had a nightmare. I don’t blame myself for having it, considering I write about zombies, and I’d gone through a Walking Dead marathon recently. But yes, I had a full-blown nightmare waking up in a cold sweat and trying to catch my breath. I fell short of screaming–thank goodness for that. Then again, what would I consider scream-worthy?

Spider nest
Spider nest

For today’s Monday Mayhem, let me tell you about this nightmare.

Some of my friends have asked me pointblank where do I get my ideas. In all honesty, because I write every day, I figured it had to do with the writing habit. But more and more I’m finding I draw much of my inspiration through my dreams, and yes, nightmares. I have yet to experience night terrors, such as those few unlucky people I’ve met in my lifetime, however my dreams are so vivid at times that when I wake up I’m confused as to what is real and what is not.

Knowing this, let’s get back to my nightmare.

One night I find myself running through a wheat field. I could hear the stalks breaking under my footsteps and I could feel the grain scratching my hands as I attempt to make my way to an exit of some sort. The night is cold. It feels more like the end of October, early November. I can see my breath. I remember wearing my jeans and sneakers, but that’s not important until later. And there’s very little light, although I can see ahead to what is coming next.

I then find myself at the mouth of a cave. At least it looks that way. The rock outside glistens in the moonlight. Now that I think about it, I wonder why everything looks brighter than the wheat field. I notice the rock appears wet to the touch. I can’t understand why it seems wet, yet I can’t see a source of water anywhere.

Inside the cave, I look around and notice that the walls are also wet to the touch, much like the outside. I move forward until I stop next to a crag where a small shaft of light appears. I find this weird, but I’m not afraid. Then the light disappears only I find the tunnel ahead contains a fire burning in the background. I can smell the charring wood and can feel the warmth from a few feet away.

I can’t move, though. I try to lift my feet, I try to pull my legs from where they stand, but something’s keeping me there. It’s funny, I feel as if I have lost my will to use my lower half.

When I peer at my feet, expecting I may have stepped into glue, I see things crawling on my sneakers. They are black. They have legs. Now, I’m afraid. Their legs bend as would a spider’s legs bend. It’s not a spider, though. The hand-sized bug has seven legs, three on two sides and one in the back. It crawls around and has now begun climbing my legs.

Having regained the use of my legs, I run. I scream. I shake. Yet I don’t go anywhere other than two feet from where those bugs had attacked me. I turn around and stare at them. I find I had stood frozen in place under their nest.

Then I hear a familiar growl. The undead. I’m sure of it.

That’s when I wake up.


Have you had any nightmares lately? What was the last one you remember?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Swarming

The opening titles to the movie World War Z contains an interesting scene where the audience witnesses ants swarming. The scene, which foreshadows what will happen later in the film, is so brief that it wouldn’t surprise me if folks missed it. Later in the film, the swarming happens again, but this time the creatures are zombies.

Zombie Horde [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]
Zombie Horde [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]
For today’s Monday Mayhem series post I would like to talk about zombie swarming—how it takes place, who is susceptible, and why. It’s all about theory today, folks. If you like to talk about the Horde Effect—I just made that up—then you’ll want to keep reading.

Ants are one of the most interesting insects in nature. They come together, disperse, forage, warn and even lead, all by a chemical built within their small bodies. The chemical they possess goes by the name pheromones. Simply stated, ants produce pheromones to assist their complex colonies in multiple ways.

Ants Eating [Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos]
Ants Eating [Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos]
For instance, when an enemy approaches their colony, ants spray pheromones to warn other ants of impending doom. They also spray their pheromones when they want to ward off ants from other colonies, in effect, protecting their territory. They do likewise if they come across something of interest. This is how they lead other ants to food sources. Have you ever seen how ants seem to follow each other in a straight line to and from a picnic table? That’s how they do it. They spray pheromones from the location of their catch all the way back home so that other ants can follow their trail. It’s quite interesting to see this process at work.

Now, as for zombies, they aren’t much different from insects. Similar to swarming ants, the “modern-day” undead have a way of communicating in order to get things done. I’m talking about their shrieks.

In the old days, zombies lumbered and dragged and lurched. They were slow. They were feeble. Today’s zombies, however, sprint, jump and ram. Hard to deny the power the undead possess when they’re in full attack mode. Their shrieks lead other zombies to potential kills, and the other zombies do the same. On and on it goes. I call it the Horde Effect, but you can call it anything you’d like. The point being, like ants, zombies lead each other to a food supply without knowing they’re doing it out of instinct.

I’m sure there are other similarities between insects and zombies. This post only concentrated on zombie swarming. Perhaps one day I’ll also look at the zombie dormant state and its similarity to bat behavior. Until then, ants can provide a great lesson for humanity, not only in organized social structure, but also in zombie swarming. It’s time to appreciate nature more than for providing us food and resources.


Have you seen ants lead other ants to food? Do you think zombies function the same way?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Insects

Ever hear of zombie bees? Me neither. I didn’t know about them until my wife sent me an article posted on Facebook featuring these unfortunate creatures. For a while there, I thought it was a joke. You know the kind, “Two-Headed Dog Discovered in Ecuador.” But after having read the blurb, I knew I had stumbled upon something different. And different is what Monday Mayhem is all about.

Honeybee [Photo Credit: Used in accordance with the GNU Free Documentation License]
Honeybee [Photo Credit: Used in accordance with the GNU Free Documentation License]
In a nutshell, the behavior of these bees is nothing short of zombie. They fly around without a sense of direction, veer toward the light, then drop to the ground wandering as would the undead. No two ways about it, something wicked happened to these bees.

Scientists call the flies Apocephalus borealis. What they are really is parasites that latch on to European honeybees, laying their eggs and causing nothing but chaos to these gentle insects of nature. As the eggs grow, the bees lose their ability to control their motor muscles. Once the eggs hatch, the bees die.

Reminiscent of the movie Alien where the creature inhabits the body of its host until such time that it explodes in a birth of gory proportions, the parasite’s eggs reside in the bee’s body and feeds on its host’s nutrients.

Discovered in Maine in the 1920s, the parasite had infested yellow jacket hornets and bumblebees. This is the first time these critters have ventured to attack honeybees.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis [Photo Credit: Used in accordance with the  Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license]
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis [Photo Credit: Used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license]
This is not the first time insects have exhibited traces of zombie-like behavior. For instance, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitoidal fungus infecting ants, altering their behavior, killing them to feed off their dead bodies. This dreaded organism infects the ant causing the insect to wander around disoriented until it hooks its mandibles to the stem of a plant and dies. The fungus then grows from the remains to reproduce spores that will eventually infect other ants, thereby continuing the cycle.

What makes the fungus so fascinating is how it infects the ant by invading the cuticles and consuming the non-vital tissues much like a yeast infection. As the infection spreads to the brain, the ant begins to convulse, dropping from its canopy and losing the ability to control its muscle functions. At this point, the ant becomes a zombie, slave to the infection that inhabits its body. The infection leads the ant to a suitable plant where it causes it to lock its jaws on one of the veins of a leaf and die a miserable death.

It gets better. Whole ant colonies have died due to the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infection. The cure? There isn’t one. Fossil leaf from the Messel Pit in Germany indicates the fungus may have been around for more than 48 million years. That’s a long time for something to have outlasted extinction. Nonetheless, the ant colonies’ only recourse has been to drag the infected from populated areas in order for them to die alone, away from the multitude.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for all of us.


Have you ever heard of the Apocephalus borealis parasite or the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus?