Face the truth: You’re a zombie now, but not moaning and shuffling like in the movies. You’re still you, who you always were: intelligent, conscious, and endowed with free will. They get it all wrong when they put it on screen, of course. (On purpose, so nobody thinks it’s real.) They show Skags, sure, but they don’t show their masters… They don’t show us.

 

Let’s make one thing clear: We don’t call ourselves zombies. That’s their word. We call ourselves “Toxic.” Never use the Z-bomb—that’s our motto. Speaking of shit you should never do, now that you’re Toxic… It’s time you got educated on the finer details of what your affliction and condition is all about. So hold tight. We’re going to move fast and not take questions.

 

You Are Not Alone…

 

No one knows how many of us there are, but there aren’t that many. Most think we number in the tens of thousands, though if you’re counting Skags, it will amount to many more. Fact is, even though they do try to conduct a proper census, they’ll never find us all. For starters, lots of us don’t play along. Certainly, the Zaraza don’t comply with any census, and no one knows how many old ones live at the bottom of the ocean. Some Toxic haven’t left their burrows or well-hidden hospices in decades and have no plans to do so, while others are Supermaxed or otherwise indisposed, thanks to BLEACH. When you think of all those who choose to live underground, in glaciers, or even beneath the waves, the range gets pretty wide. We might be hunted, nearly extinct, out of control, and even anarchic, but we are also most certainly feared.

 

What we do know is that, for every one of us, there seem to be at least 1000 Skags, active or buried. We also know that many Toxic are buried in the earth, under a state of withering, waiting for something to awaken them. Sometimes we know exactly where they are—hospices try to keep track of such things—but typically, no one has any idea. Those old kurgans (burial mounds) often hide one or two of us, trapped for an eternity in a nightmarish half-life.

 

We also know we are growing in number. A hundred years ago, we were a dying breed, but then… everything changed. Things started getting out of control: war, famine, the “flu pandemic,” and massive outbreaks suddenly started happening. The shit hit the fan, and ever since, we and the breathers have been trying to put the lid back on Pandora’s box. Never has it been more clear that the Final Outbreak is close at hand.

 

“We’re nearly impossible to kill. Even if they bury us, we don’t die and can arise decades or even hundreds of years later. So it isn’t death we fear but the undying suffering of one who can experience endless pain without being consumed.”

– H. “G.C.” R.

The Amirani Virus

From its patterns of contagion, remission, and outbreak, we know the Scourge is a type of infectious disease, but it is neither a virus nor a bacterium. It is something else. We just don’t know what, exactly. While seemingly organic, it also has some self-organizing, almost intelligent properties, which makes it very difficult to study. It seeks to preserve itself first and at all costs. We know that it is elusive, inscrutable, and prone to dissolving into inchoate goo when examined too closely. Dealing with the Scourge isn’t easy, and the symptoms can be traumatic to deal with, especially at first.

 

The Scourge both revitalizes and destroys us. It gives us some unique capabilities, such as rapid healing and near invulnerability to death, but it also comes with serious side effects. Some of the infected claim that it “speaks” to them, and so they try to reason with it, while others claim it is a form of alien nanotech. (Yes, even we Toxic have our share of conspiracy nutjobs.) It is oft-repeated, usually with some irony, that the Scourge “wants you to be happy.” When you have little or no Odium, it works hard to make you look good—turns you into the perfect you.

 

And this much is true: After Purgis, you look vibrant and alive; your skin is tight, your eyes bright. You don’t display any sign of decay and have a real color to your face. It shapes your features into something a lot more pleasing to the eye, and it brightens your mood. The Scourge seems to know what appeals to you and even tries to make you happy in both obvious and subtle ways.

You Are a Carrion-Sculpted Super-Organism

 

Written by Balthazar Black

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