Dale often poses medical questions to me but one question that seemed pertinent for his writing vice was whether or not zombies are a real-life medical possibility. The truth, even for the fiction writer, has to be grounded in realism for the reader to buy in. You either have to work from reality or create a believable story world from scratch.
So, are there real life examples of something dead coming back to life? In fact, there are. There are three aspects to consider.
One: Let’s examine the compliant aspect of being a zombie. Is it possible to create a wholly compliant individual? Someone without individual will power?
The answer seems yes.
Let’s consider TTX, the neurotoxin found in the blue-ringed Octopus. If this toxin is absorbed through the skin, it’s akin to having a frontal lobotomy and may lead to a compliant individual. Your personal zombie minion. You can find out more about TTX at the Writer’s Forensic Blog hosted by D.P. Lyle: http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/q-and-a-what-are-the-toxic-effects-of-a-poisonous-octopus-bite/
Two: Someone that is alive is actually declared dead.
One truly frightening aspect is that sometimes lay people and even medical professionals aren’t all that great at determining whether or not a person has a pulse. This influenced changes to how the American Heart Association teaches CPR. Now, it’s encouraged to not spend more than 10 seconds trying to figure out whether or not a person has a pulse. If they’re not responding to you and you can’t find one—just start CPR. If they are conscious, they’ll let you know. If not, they likely need CPR anyway.
We’ve all heard the legends of corpses being found with nail marks in the lid. Well, how about the recent story of a South African man who was presumed dead and brought to the morgue by his family and placed in the freezer– only to wake up about a day later amongst the truly dead and decomposing. You can find that story here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/south-african-dead-man-wakes-screaming-day-morgue/story?id=14154534.
Three: Are there real-life examples of things that are truly dead—no pulse, no breathing, no brain activity—yet, come back to life.
Let’s take the case of the wolf spider. A French researcher, Julien Petillon, decided to find out and submerged them in water for several hours—like 16. Now dead, they did come back to life. Check out more on this story and what he says about the 16 hour time frame and its significance at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30348224/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/drowned-spiders-come-back-dead/
So yes, I would say there are examples of zombie behavior in our world. The compliant individual, those presumed dead but still alive, and those that have died yet are reanimated.
What zombie-like plot can you come up with based on these real-life examples?