Kc’s Forward: This morning I received some grave news that our super-fan and dear friend, Nikvoodoo passed away last night. Words cannot describe how much he meant to me and the rest of us here at We’re Alive. I haven’t stopped crying since I heard the news of his passing. I have my own ways in which I want to honor his memory in the series, but I wanted first to dedicate this to him. Nikvoodoo kept me going in times when I wondered if anyone would ever truly liked what I did. I miss you dearly. -Kc

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An original copy of Dr. Tanya Tink’s letter was recently recovered. These were made into pamphlets and distributed amongst traders as a way to educate survivors still living in “Red zones.” This companion piece followed “The Story of Survival”, which was a compilations of journals edited together by Tanya and distributed freely on compact disks (CDs).

This letter contains information all the way up to and after the events of “The Story of Survival,” so if you have not yet experienced all 48 Chapters of the publication, there might be some aspects of the facts concerning the infected that might be considered “spoilers”.

Picture of the original letter, very well preserved. And I do mean VERY.

The first page of the letter Tanya wrote after the events of TSOS

To make things easier, the text has been transcribed below:

June 2nd, 2010

From the desk of Dr. Tanya Tink – The Colony, Westminster, CA.

 

“What is an Infected? Is it a zombie?”

These are questions that I’m asked often, and realized that it would be beneficial to start writing down what we know so far.

 

What do we know?

It’s been over a year since the first infected appeared in southern California, early in the morning of May 8th, 2009. The cause of the massive outbreak, I believe, had to do with the exposure to gas coming from deep beneath the city of Inglewood, CA. How long it might have been seeping through the ground prior to making the locals “turn” is not known. The most concentrated location of infection then emanated out from that city. From what some described as a “wave of death,” the infected exponentially grew. One became two. Two became four. Four became sixteen. Sixteen to 256 to 65,536. The exact math isn’t known, but the devastation is apparent. From my math, the survival rate for those non-infected is only .03%. That does not leave many to fend off what still remains of the other 99.97%.

 

Are the infected alive?

Yes. It should be made clear that these are living animals that require the same basic needs that we do. Like any other mammal, they need oxygen, food, and water to survive. They are still warm-blooded, grow hair and nails (albeit at a faster rate), and, as far as we know, could be fully capable of reproducing. These are NOT re-animated corpses or the work of some sort of spell/magic. Their bodies function as blood flows from their heart through their veins, and their brains tell them where to go and what to do. Infected have their own hierarchy of needs, governed by an insatiable hunger.

Killing an infected is the same as any other biological system. Headshots are the quickest way to cease all nerve functions. Other effective methods of termination are lacerations to major arteries, severe trauma to the heart, and other instances of full-bleed-out.

 

Are they still the same person?

No. The moment someone’s bloodstream has been compromised and the infection process takes over, the person you once knew is gone. Some close to the experience have described it as “taking a back seat” in your own brain as you watch the scene play out, unable to stop what’s happening. Pieces of their former selves may still be apparent to others, but they have been hijacked. The only way to let that person go is to take the killshot, thereby setting them free.

When someone becomes infected, it’s typically from a physical attack. Any break in the skin becomes the entry point for a chain reaction that cannot be stopped.

Not every attack equals infection, but if an ally on a team becomes an enemy, chances of survival for everyone decreases. For this reason, each attack must be handled tactically and tactfully. A person’s life is at stake, and that is a very precious thing.

Panic is not a sign of infection, which is why it’s best to try and calm the person down for assessment. If the suspected infectee decides to flee, it can be a sign of turning: a common survival technique of an individual who is changing is to immediately distance themselves if they feel their life is threatened. Survival is a key component to their behavior in some infected. Others will enter a state of frenzy without any regard to their own personal safety.

 

The Yellow Gas and its origin.

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” [A: Egg]

Over the course of the last year, we have discovered that once an infected’s tissue starts to decompose, it emits its own “yellow gas.” That leaves the question of origin incomplete. If the gas is created from the infected’s body after they die, perhaps the start of this infection was merely the end of another?

What is known about the gas comes from what few experiments I was able to do. While doing field testing at Ground Zero in Inglewood with another colonist, Victor, I was able to discover that short-term exposure to the airborne substance does not yield in “infection.” How much exposure is needed to fully “turn” is not currently known. I suspect there was around 20 seconds of gas exposure to Victor over the course of our expedition. We were able to collect samples of the Yellow Gas for further testing after, what I’m guessing, a local air pocket ruptured deep beneath the surface. Photos and references are available in the Colony’s Archive of the cracks found in the ground around Inglewood.

I wish I had a more scientific name for it; after all, I discovered it. That does give me naming rights. Yellow Gas is fine for now, I will find a better name in time. The same goes with “Infected,” for that matter. We still need to know more. There’s still so much we don’t know.

The gas itself is a mystery. How was it contained for so long? Why did it release? Analyzing the air sample that I collected from Inglewood was inconclusive. The only information I was able to gather is that, whatever it is, it’s very small. Smaller than a cell, virus, protein, even a lipid.

Rumors of other “hot spots” that emit this gas have been reported along the west coast. These whispers have trickled in from a few colonists, both regarding Oregon and Washington, and at least one other foreign “hot spot.” I have yet to verify any of those other locations.

What we do know from separate witnesses is that multiple humans turned into infected within minutes of each other. Simultaneously, all over the world, more “turnings” occurred between 9:00 and 10:00 AM PST where there were no known “hot spots.” I have theorized there might have been a catalyst of exposure. Once the internal tipping point of the scale is reached, the human side is lifted away and the infection side brings everything else crashing down.

Small bits of information about other locations still trickle in as I talk with incoming refugees. Word has spread about the growing colony in the west. I hope to know more soon.

 

Is there a cure?

No.

And I don’t mean that as in, “we can maybe do it someday.” It is simply not feasible. Inoculations, possibly (against what?), but once a human body starts to turn, it cannot change back. Much like how a frog cannot turn back into a tadpole, an infected can never be human again. The body undergoes too much of an internal change to ever be able to return to its original state. Everything within the human biological system becomes “re-wired.” The infection has two current known ways of transmission: bodily fluids and prolonged gas exposure. Gas exposure is still a bit of an unknown as it is hard to test or see, but we have many records of fluid exposure.

When infected attack, it’s usually done hand-to-hand, rarely with any tools. I’ve found that infected will often sharpen their own fingernails with their teeth to better equip them as weapons. Even if an infected has no blood exposure, it’s still possible to turn from just a scratch. How long it takes to completely turn from the point of infection varies from person to person. There are those who change almost instantly, while others have taken take weeks to finally turn. In rare cases, there are humans immune to exposure entirely.

 

To Kill or Turn?

Why does an infected attack? Sometimes for food. Sometimes for sport. Sometimes they see a threat and will kill for that reason alone. However, there are accounts of infected choosing alternatives. I, myself, was one victim of such an attack. A “grabber” stalked me and knocked me unconscious with no intention to personally infect me, but to retrieve me. Fortunately I was rescued, but others were not so lucky. There are those who might doubt some of the eyewitness accounts in the journals I published and distributed called “The Story of Survival.” They are, unfortunately, all too real. Certain individuals have been known to be singled out or chosen as an inductee, rather than lunch. How or why that happens has yet to be determined.

 

“Creatures”

A young boy in the tower a long time ago wanted to call the infected “Creatures,” as he felt that they didn’t really fit the “zombie” narrative. He was right. Once someone goes from Human to Infected, they are no longer homo-sapien, they are an entirely new species or genus. They are capable of their own wants and desires outside of our understanding of them. There are traits that can be passed on from one person to another. These can be physical or mental attributes or both: fast-runners, smart-ones, jumpers, etc.

It’s difficult to divide infected into classifications as these do not create a subsection of the species, but rather specify more enhanced individual personality traits. Whatever you are in life, you are in death. I forgot who said it now, Burt? Whoever it was, it’s spot-on. An infected soldier is more dangerous than an infected flower-shop owner.

Outliers are everywhere. Just as there are those who are immune, there are infected that present unique circumstances and qualities. Take for instance, “Ink”, aka William Roberts. Reading into his medical history I am convinced that his brain was already unique. If he was properly diagnosed with the mental conditions on his records, then I have no doubt that it created a one of a kind reaction. He was special in that his brain must have blocked out certain receptors and kept others. In other words, I firmly believe he was stuck halfway between human and not: a hybrid. This allowed him to retain what he knew and do what he did.

The question that still remains for me:  where did his mark come from? Most of what’s on his face and hands can be traced to somewhere, but not that one. The only way to truly know might be to go back to where he was last before the outbreak.

It must have been an accident. Something that even he may not have been fully aware of, that one tattoo in the stack that was more than it seemed, the protection symbol we now plaster on our walls and flags to keep them away. We use it everywhere and yet have no idea what it means…

 

What does the average infected look like?

Assuming you have never had the privilege of seeing one for yourself…

The first thing that anyone notices about the infected is their eyes. The eyes are a good indication of the level of infection, aside from a blood sample testing Keratin levels. As the infection grows inside a person, the eyes continue to cloud until the pupil is almost entirely distorted. The retina will lose pigment. Known exceptions to those cases are Ink, who retained his green eyes, and another infected known as “Randy,” who may have been an outlier similar to Ink.

The skin will begin to harden and lose coloration over the first few days of infection. The beginnings of this process are noticeable within minutes of turning. Once the body has started turning, several internal changes start happen almost at once, including increased bone density and reconfiguration of internal organs. Because of the obvious risk posed by exploratory surgery, it is difficult to know what is exactly happening inside an infected’s body.

This initial transformation period is crucial for the development of an infected because this is when most of its internal “enhancements” take place. It is during this time that I have theorized Ink would most likely have introduced outside components to alter those “enhancements.” What those components are we now keep confidential, as the outcomes are fairly unpredictable.

Infected humans appear to age slowly. Regrettably, this was observed and documented by an anonymous survivor who kept their daughter alive well after she turned. She did not grow at the rate which was consistent for her age… over the next year. That… is all I’m comfortable writing.

Aside from the color of skin and eyes, it can sometimes be deceiving who is infected and who is not. Infected have been known to continue to wear clothing well beyond the point of infection, even known to change them altogether. This could be a regurgitation of a previously learned behavior, or adaptation for survival as they do add layers when cold. Infected are some of the best at adapting for an environment.

Infected will eat anything. They will tear into canned foods, dog chow, whatever they need to survive. Their sense of smell is uncanny. Much like wolves, they hunt in groups, and in these packs will go after survivors.

Socially, they stick together. Humanity’s survival was based on cooperation and so is theirs. They find areas to live and nest. They’re territorial as well, only ranging so far from their homes. These social traits are still developing as their regionalism continues to establish itself. Infected “neighborhoods” are now a reality.

The tunnels that Michael discovered are even more concerning. Looking at the footage recovered from the modified ordinance drone, K.O.D.I., it’s clear to see that this was not something learned overnight. No, rather, it is something that is intrinsic to their nature that I still don’t quite understand. There were complex fungus gardens inside a network of reinforced tunnels. It looked like they mixed their own kind of cement, even. Were these instructions from INK? Or was this something like the symbol… it came with the infection?

There is still a great deal to be learned from this process. I believe we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in understanding what these “things” truly are. Michael doesn’t like people calling them “zombies” and I agree, these are something completely different. Complacency kills and basing tactics off bad information can cost lives. Spread this information to others. I will continue to publish copies to distribute to other survivors out there.

 

More to follow,

Dr. Tanya Tink, DVM

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Kc

Creator of "We're Alive: A Story of Survival" and "We're Alive: Lockdown". Writer and director, with a current focus on audio drama production.
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