After all, the zombies were, well, winning may not be the word exactly, but we lagged so far behind on eliminating them that we could feel it, feel the point of no return approaching. That's when Dr. Vernon had her breakthrough. Yes, I was part of that team.
She postulated that scavengers should take care of the whole problem. After all, zombies are dead. Animated, sure, but dead, and their tissues begin decomposing right at the start. Scavengers clean up dead things, all part of the ecology. So she turned to the subject she'd gotten her doctorate in, and started working, and we modified the DNA of the scarab beetle.
She hiked up their metabolism a bit, because that hiked up their appetite as well, and that would mean they'd really dig in to their meals even if they were moving. Then after they'd feasted, they'd do what scarab beetles do and mate and be fruitful and multiply, and the next generation of zombie-eaters would come along.
That's where she had the really good idea. I mean, at the time there were more insect species in the world than individual people. We'd learned that modifying something, even introducing one species to a different area, could lead to devastating ecological changes. We needed something to just make sure humans would survive the zombie onslaught, but wanted to limit the effect to keep it useful. So only 85 percent of the eggs each female scarab would lay would mature to adults. Fifteen percent seemed quite sufficient to keep eating into the zombie horde.
Right. Only 85 of every 100 eggs, mature beetles. We deployed them. It worked. People who saw the start of it described it as awesome, amazing, wierd. The scarabs would swarm into a mob of zombies, climbing onto them, eating them while they shuffled along. There'd be zombie-shaped mobile masses of scarabs. Eventually when their leg muscles were sufficiently eaten away, the zombies would fall into the swarm and more scarabs would pile on, and then ... there'd be nothing but bones.
And the scarabs then went and did what scarabs do, and laid their eggs, and that's when it happened. We still, now, don't know exactly what happens, but we do know that nearly all the eggs hatch. Right at the point those grubs are going to metamorphise into adults, the 85% that die...
They become zombies. We don't know why yet. Maybe one day we'll be able to find out.
We can hear them now. They're nocturnal, just like the unaffected scarabs, and we haven't turned on the lights just yet. Conserving resources, and letting them get closer so our flamethrowers will have the maximum effect. We can hear them, though, that shuffling slithering chittering of their legs on the pavement. Because our flamethrowers are most effective when we can get the swarms onto a big paved area, like old mall parking lots.
It's time; AJ just turned on the lights. The parking lot looks like black water rippling. The good news is, there's a dozen or so whorles, circling either clockwise or counterclockwise. Those are made up of scarab zombies that lost all three legs on one side, all they can do is shuffle in circles. They can't climb anymore, so when we take care of the rest of the swarm we can crush them with the heavy construction equipment. Learned early on that crushing scarabs with all their legs intact didn't work. There were always enough of them to climb onto the 'dozers or rollers. No matter how well sealed a cab the operators were in, the zombie scarabs would get in.
But when they can't climb, we can crush them. So we might make it through this.
If the petrol holds out.
NOTE: Behind a cut for a reason. Do not read if subject to triggers, particularly to insect triggers.