Smallish panel. An attractive young girl with trendy glasses, a babydoll tee with an angry cartoon squirrel, short, chopped hair and hip-hugger jeans walks by in profile. She’s the kind of hot girl you occasionally meet in a comic shop or at a con, the comic nerd wet-dream girl.
Caption: You learn to live by smell.
Splashy panel, probably a third of the page. This is a shot of the girl from the front. The left side (her right), the one we just saw is lovely, gorgeous. The right side looks like it’s been eaten by a dog. Claw and bite marks have opened her skin in a dozen places, and her shirt is mostly torn away on that side. Her skin is pocked with bite bruises [ref 1-5], and gashes where the teeth broke the skin. A canine tooth is embedded in her cheekbone. There’s a tear at the corner of her mouth from a bite [ref 6]. Her cheek has been torn through, and her tongue hangs out the hole.
The main character, Doc, ducks out from behind a tree. Doc is a man in his mid-thirties, handsome enough but frazzled, and poorly maintained. He wears a mid-length, suede tan coat that’s covered in dark stains, a pair of black leather gloves, and eyeglasses. He also has a small brown pouch over his shoulder.
Caption: The freshly dead are subtle- their bodies haven’t started to decay.
Extreme Close Up on the woman’s wounded eye, red with blood, as a fly crawls across it. Bite wounds surround the eye [ref 7]. In the background and to the side, Doc sneaks behind her.
Caption: The flies usually notice before we do.
Close on Doc’s side, only showing that he’s holding a small hatchet down low, and he’s walking faster towards her.
Caption: You feel it in your stomach first, but the stench doesn’t hit until you fight off the first heave.
Still close, as Doc hacks off her bad leg, covered in bite marks. He strikes at the hip joint, attacking the part of her thigh that was half-eaten before she died, easily cleaving the ligament that holds it in place. Her foot has also been gnawed on extensively, and doesn’t wear the stylish, polished black combat boot like her good foot [ref 8].
Caption: The smell comes off the rotten saliva from the bites that infected them.
She’s fallen flat on her face in the road, and Doc cuts her head in half at the level of the jaw. He doesn’t react to the horror of what he’s just done, just keeps moving.
Doc walks down the road. The panel is wide, and it shows a nice, clean landscape, and a large enough section that his walk seems peaceful.
Caption: The transition of the infected from life to death is seamless.
Caption: That’s why the first few hours are the most dangerous: they can appear totally human.
Caption: They may even continue to breath out of habit.
A cute little two year old girl suddenly stands in his way. She looks like she’s about to cry. Google “two year old girl” and pick one for reference; I want someone totally average and normal.
Girl: Have you seen my mommy?
Doc hesitates a moment, taken aback.
The little girl attacks him, and he hacks at her with the hatchet. Her brains have mostly fallen out of the back of her skull even before the first hatchet blow falls, but she has just enough in there to keep moving and asking where her mommy is.
Caption: Their bodies flood with epinephrine, and they become aggressive- almost feral.
Splashy panel taking up most of the page. Doc has wandered off the road and into a field of yellowed reeds nearly waist high. A corpse lies on the ground, immobilized by rigor mortis. Blood is pooling on the corpse’s back, leaving his face pale. His muscle mass deteriorates, but the skin remains the same size, giving the appearance that his entire body is covered in a thin layer of latex. His face is totally uninjured, but his shirt is shredded, and he’s covered in nail scratches and bite wounds. A large, half scabbed-over hole is in the side of his neck, horrible, but not deep. Maggots crawl across his skin, searching for an orifice and gathering at his nose, ears, mouth, and neck wound. If the artist would be more comfortable, this can be split into a wide shot of the field and a close-up of the corpse, with the captions split between them.
Caption: Several hours after death, rigor mortis seizes the muscles and joints.
Caption: The legs become dark and swelled with blood while the face becomes pale.
Caption: The muscles start to dissolve, and the skin dangles off the flesh.
Caption: Their imprisonment is signaled by ammonia vapors from the lungs, but the smell is mimicked by liver dysfunction, and shouldn’t be trusted.
Near the bottom of the page, Doc meets the stare of the corpse. His eyes are dispassionate and cold. He doesn’t hate it, or even care about what he’s going to do next.
The corpse seems to be pleading for its life with its eyes. It doesn’t want to die. If it could, the corpse would cry.
Caption: The corpse also produces cadaverine and putrecine as its proteins break down.
Caption: cadaverine gives semen its distinctive smell.
ECU as the hatchet cuts its way into the dirt behind the corpse’s skull.
Still in the field, another corpse begins to rise. This one is pale from the waist up. His shirt is torn open, and his distended, bloated stomach bulges. His torso has taken on a blue-green color, with a purple marbling about his gut. His internal organs have nearly all been liquefied, and slosh around inside his belly.
Caption: After thirty six hours or so, flexibility returns to the corpse.
Closer in, ostensibly showcasing the corpse, but in particular zoomed on his stomach.
Caption: By this point, the body’s digestive enzymes have eaten through most of the internal organs.
Caption: Microorganisms release methane and hydrogen sulfide, often purging via the rectum…
The corpse’s stomach erupts in a flood of decayed flesh.
Caption: sometimes rupturing the body cavity instead, smelling distinctly of rotten eggs.
Doc approaches the corpse, ready to use the hatchet. But others are rising in the field around him, stirred by the noise, the movement, and by him.
Caption: This can be exceptionally dangerous, because the strength of the smell can mask their numbers.
Long, wide, far shot: Doc runs.
Doc continues to run.
Doc slows down.
Caption: At about three weeks the hair, nails, and teeth detach.
A horrible old hag of a woman falls onto him. Her hair has mostly come out, and most of her nails are gone, and only a few teeth remain. Her eyes have shriveled up into thick raisins in their sockets, and one swings from the vine of her ocular nerve, resting against her cheek. Her skin is gray and papery, and dangles off her bones. Her tongue is a plump, sun-dried slug, sitting limp in her dry, open mouth.
The woman bites down on Doc’s arm, through his jacket. No blood.
Caption: Bacteria in the body metabolize glucose, creating butyric acid.
Caption: Butyric acid accounts for 3% of butter, and can be found in parmesan cheese and vomit.
Doc kicks the woman’s leg, snapping it in the middle of the femur, causing her to fall backwards.
Caption: The corpse is rarely able to stand at this point.
Very small panel, as Doc palms a pack of matches from a gas station. The caption actually appears beneath the panel, like the news broadcasts in The Dark Knight Returns.
Caption: If the corpse becomes too acidic, the microorganisms may use an alternative process…
Equally small panel, close up on a match lighting. Caption beneath panel as in 6.
Caption: One that creates butanol and acetone, giving the corpse the aroma of paint thinner or nail polish…
In the next panel, he’s standing with the book of matches in one hand, and cradling the place she bit him with the other. The corpse is burning extremely fast.
Caption: And making them very flammable.
Doc enters into a wooden cabin. The door is half-closed behind him as Doc sighs internally; he’s sneaking in, and the visual is a very personal moment. To assist that, Walt’s word balloons appear near the lower right corner, and are joined together.
Walt: Did you get the medicine for my Sady?
Doc hands him the pouch from around his neck. Walt notices something.
Walt: Your shirt’s torn, Doc. Let me see your arm.
Doc resists for a moment. Walt holds forcefully onto his arm as he rolls down his sleeve. There’s a grim frankness to Walt; he’s prepared to kill Doc right now if he’s been infected. Walt is bearded, in a plaid shirt.
Close on the arm: there are bite marks, bruising and indentations from her remaining teeth, but none broke the skin [ref 5, particularly points 7 and 10].
Doc sneaks out of the cabin. The sun is going down, and the world is a pale gray. He doesn’t shut the door, and dialogue comes out from inside.
Dan: We survived the apocalypse to be wiped out by the flu.
Doc takes a pull off a hip flask.
Walt: You shut the hell up. My Sady’s going to be fine, right, Doc?
Doc stares off at the horizon, and the setting sun. It’s been a hard day, and the end of it doesn’t touch him at all.