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The Killing Kind

The Cordyceps Brain Infection

a part of “The Killing Kind”, a fictional universe by Kaeru.

In the wake of an infection that wiped out 60% of humanity, we follow a ragtag group of survivors as they attempt to navigate the hellscape that is Seattle, Washington.

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This conversation is an Out Of Character (OOC) part of the roleplay, “The Killing Kind”.
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The Cordyceps Brain Infection

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kaeru on Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:32 pm

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CORDYCEPS BRAIN INFECTION
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The Cordyceps fungus enters the body via spores, growing mycelium inside of its host's brain tissue and quickly killing its cells. It takes around 48 hours from the initial inhalation of these spores for a person to completely lose their higher brain function (and with it, their humanity), rendering them hyper-aggressive and (presumably) incapable of reason or rational thought. The fungus alters its host's behaviour (keeping them alive) to seek no goal other than spreading the infection to others.

If left undisturbed for long enough, the host body mutates alongside the fungus and becomes more monstrous in strength and appearance, progressing through four distinct stages: runner, stalker, clicker, and bloater/shambler. The CDC produced a pamphlet with information on these stages during the early stages of the outbreak, but it's fair to say that most civilians haven't encountered more than a runner and lived to speak of it.

When the host body dies, it begins growing stalk-like fungal projections which release infectious spores. Spores are typically only encountered in areas with low human activity, wherein the infected will often die before they reach stages 3-4 of their mutation. You won’t encounter them very often in the woodlands, out in fields or on the road, or outside of buildings, unless a few stragglers have wandered through an open door or they'd succumbed to the infection there. As such, cities and towns are an especially dangerous place to reside.

The infection can also be spread through bites from living hosts.

The best way to protect oneself from these airborne spores is with the use of a gas mask. If you don't carry one with you while travelling, you're... kinda fucked.

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Kaeru
Member for 6 years
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Re: The Cordyceps Brain Infection

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kaeru on Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:36 pm

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STAGE ONE, "RUNNERS"
— Two Days (48 Hours) —
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APPEARANCE

• Despite appearing sickly and dishevelled, a runner is no different (physically) from an average person. The infection may have taken over their minds but as of yet, there is no sign of external fungi growth, though their eyes may appear milky and glazed over.

BEHAVIOUR

• Some people believe that an infected person’s mind remains partially intact during the early stages of infection; meaning they are fully aware of what they’re doing but are helpless to fight against it. If one were to listen closely enough, they may pick up on the Runners’ choked sobs or the faintest hint of retained language skills, but none have studied them close enough to make any definitive statements.

• Runners may have poor eyesight but are not blind yet and will typically attack non-infected survivors on sight. Despite their ability to see over marginally longer distances, some Runners won’t become aggressive until the non-infected person comes within a certain distance of them (i.e. 10 metres or so).

• They are terrifyingly fast and agile, often sprinting full-force towards visible enemies; aided by the fact that they don’t seem to run out of stamina. They can and will climb any barriers within reason (including ladders) to reach an NI, and doors/fences are not always strong enough to hold up against a swarm of them.

• When hostile, Runners will attack in flailed and erratic movements. Being the earliest and arguably the weakest of the stages, it is possible to engage them in hand-to-hand melee combat—although not recommended—if there is only one of them present.

• They group together and travel in packs, to compensate for their individual weakness. One Runner alone is a manageable threat. When they attack in a group, however, they tend to swarm and overwhelm their prey. If one Runner is alerted, it will scream to alert nearby infected, who will then responsively charge.

• When stood idly, Runners are usually hunched over themselves, arms drawn close to their bodies. They may twitch and stumble as they move, and gargle/moan incoherently to themselves. Their awareness of their surroundings is lacking while they’re idle (AKA not aware of the presence of non-infected) but they can be alerted by sounds.

HOW TO KILL THEM

• Straying from typical zombie rules, they don’t need to be impaled in the brain to die; they can be set on fire, bleed out from a stab wound, suffer blunt force trauma, suffocate, drown, etc. They’re not that much stronger than the average human, just more frenzied and relentless.

OTHER

• Runners, much like all other infected past this stage, do not respond to light; meaning a flashlight will not alert them to an NI’s presence.

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Kaeru
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Re: The Cordyceps Brain Infection

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kaeru on Sat Mar 27, 2021 4:59 pm

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STAGE TWO, "STALKERS"
— Two Weeks to a Month —
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APPEARANCE

• During the stage, the infection begins its corruption of their visual cortex as a result of progressing fungal growth over the head. In spite of this, they still retain a lot of their human features during this stage.

BEHAVIOUR

• As their eyesight grows weaker, the infected become more cautious and will no longer act aggressively towards an NI upon becoming aware of their presence. Instead, stalkers (as their name may imply) will duck behind cover and follow their prey, waiting for the most opportune moment to strike. They retain their habit of travelling in packs which, considering they’re more calculated, means they’ll often work in unison to ambush their prey when they sense a good chance for it.

• Stalkers will flee when approached by a non-infected person, and usually only become aggressive when provoked by loud noises or when they're attacked.

• Signalling their eventual mutation into the third stage, stalkers produce a soft clicking/croaking sound instead of the moans and whimpers of the preceding stage, which may be indicative of a form of developing pseudo-echolocation.

HOW TO KILL THEM

• At this stage, the infected begins to get stronger, making them harder to engage in hand-to-hand combat than a runner but nowhere near as difficult to best than a clicker. When they finally engage the NI in close combat, their attack style is almost identical to that of a runner, and they can be killed/injured by the same means.

OTHER

• Some stalkers who remain idle for long enough may begin to grow into the walls, with their spores hardening around them. They will awaken when an NI passes by them, allowing them to ambush their prey when they least expect it.

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Kaeru
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Re: The Cordyceps Brain Infection

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kaeru on Sun Mar 28, 2021 4:18 am

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STAGE THREE, "CLICKERS"
— A Year or More —
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APPEARANCE

• By this point in the host's mutation, clickers appear less human than runners and stalkers, with faces that are completely skewed and scarred by fungus developed from their infected brains, blinding them completely and resulting in the development of a primitive form of echolocation. There is also visible fungus growth covering the rest of their bodies.

• The skin of clickers visibly "chalks," or forms large patches of scale-like tissue that glow in the dark. The patches are seemingly an earlier stage of the fungal infection growing out of their hosts' bodies, before said growth engulfs the entire body as seen with the final bloater/shambler stage of infection.

BEHAVIOUR

• For clickers, their name is derived from the soft clicking and growling noises they make. When they are using their echolocation, as it were, they make a sound comparable to a bark or scream; if you’re within their line of ‘sight’ when they bark, they’ll become aware of your presence and charge.

• A clickers' echolocation is very crude compared to creatures like bats, as they will not notice that something is alive or moving unless it is directly in front of them. This supports the assumption of the front being where the clicks are sounded, as their face plates are shaped like a megaphone, directing it straight ahead of them, but not all around.

• Clickers are about as aggressive as runners when they become aware of an NI's presence, but their failing eyesight makes them much easier to evade successfully. It's also fairly easy to trick them, because clickers will attack anything that gets caught in their path, including other infected.

• Perhaps as another compensation for their blindness, clickers are hyper-sensitive to sound. They will typically charge in the direction of loud noises, meaning distraction tactics are a solid alternative for those whose aim is not good enough to deal a direct blow to a clicker's face (see below).

• When idle, clickers can be observed clawing and scratching the fungal growth on their eyes as if trying to get rid of their blindness.

HOW TO KILL THEM

• Clickers are greatly stronger than runners or stalkers, to the point that it is impossible to engage them in one-on-one melee combat without the use of a sharpened blade/weapon to impale through their skull, which kills them instantly, or being a fast enough shot to gun them down (again, ideally needing a direct shot to the head) before they reach the non-infected person. If they reach the NI and that person doesn’t have a weapon on hand, it is guaranteed that they will be killed or at least bitten.

• The hardened shell that grows around their face can be damaged enough that it breaks off, and in doing so the clicker will become stunned and lose their vision entirely; they lose their ability to echolocate until the fungus regrows. Throwing something large and heavy at a clicker’s hardened shell is always a safe bet for being able to evade their line of sight, but they do behave more erratically when this happens.

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Kaeru
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Re: The Cordyceps Brain Infection

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Kaeru on Sun Mar 28, 2021 5:06 am

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STAGE FOUR, "BLOATERS"
— A Decade or More —
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APPEARANCE

• On the rare occasion that an infected remains undisturbed enough to survive for a decade or more, they will enter stage four; depending on the environment in which they became infected, they will either become a bloater or a shambler. It’s said that bloaters develop in mostly dry environments, whereas shamblers mutate a little differently in areas with higher humidity or more rainfall—AKA more exposure to water.

• Shamblers and bloaters are very similar in both size and appearance. They’re heavy, seemingly overweight creatures with massive fungi growth that covers the entirety of their bodies, acting as armour plating that makes them impervious to melee weapons and standard bullets, and results in disproportionately large heads and torsos. Their jaws are stuck open, meaning they cannot bite an NI the same way other infected can, and rely on the spores they release from their body to spread the infection.

• Typically a bloater will stand at a height of 7-8ft or more, with age likely being a contributing factor.

BEHAVIOUR

• Bloaters can hurl their spore sacs as projectiles which, when they hit the ground, will explode and release their spores into the general vicinity. Shamblers, on the other hand, throw sacs of mycotoxins which eat through clothing and skin alike, burning and inevitably killing those that come into contact with it.

• Bloaters are extremely aggressive, but are rather slow-moving, making them more predictable than other infected.

• Much like clickers, bloaters are blind and rely on echolocation to pinpoint an enemy’s location. An NI who gets caught within their line of sight when they bark will be spotted, and bloaters will charge responsively. Because the fungus has completely deformed their face and blinded them, their echolocation is much less refined than the clickers.

HOW TO KILL THEM

• It is without a single doubt impossible to engage a bloater or shambler in close combat. Their herculean strength allows them to knock down solid walls in pursuit of their prey; they cannot be pushed away and no melee weapons stand a chance of penetrating the fungi armour that grows over their torso and heads. The most efficient way to take one down is by weakening their armour with fire first, followed by either explosives or a hell of a lot of gunfire.

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Kaeru
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