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Human/Animal Bond

An Alpacalyptic Halloween Tail
October 24, 2012 (published)

This is a dark tale, a saga of things that lurk in shadows, of inhuman hungers and fears. It is a story to curdle your bones, chill your blood, and mix your metaphors. Here you enter a world of disease, violence, and alpacalyptic despair. Read further … at your peril.

Our story unfolds in a bucolic college town, innocent in daylight, filled with unsuspecting students and young families bicycling to and from their daily activities, never guessing at the horror lurking in the corners of night.

On the outskirts of Davis, California, where the fences of backyard subdivisions abut tomato fields and pastures, residents may hear an eerie howl some nights. The sound is usually chalked up to the neighbor’s beagle, swamp gas, ball lightning or to the coyotes that roam the fringes of the town. But is there something else that stalks the night?

A veterinarian, vacationing from Kentucky, visits an alpaca farm owned by a colleague, little realizing the horror about to be unleashed upon her. While walking the paddocks with the farm owner, the veterinarian is taken aback when a young, male alpaca named Roy lunges over the fence, raking her face with his fighting teeth.

The farm owner mentions that this animal has had a few bouts of aggression, and that he’s decided to have Roy castrated to determine whether the behavior is hormonal or the result of the more insidious camelid “berserker” syndrome. He has also lost a couple of crias (baby alpacas) to coyotes in the past month. In fact, Roy was injured fighting off a coyote. At the time, Roy had only a couple of minor bite wounds, but the owner has noticed that the alpaca has been reluctant to eat in the last day or so, and his behavior has been listless – almost disoriented. In the bright sunlight, neither veterinarian nor farm owner notice the animal’s strangely glowing eyes, or the fact that (even for an alpaca) Roy is considerably shaggier than his companions. Nor, occupied as they are from staunching the flow of veterinary blood, does either person remark upon the animal’s odd, lopsided gait as Roy stumbles away from the fence.

Later that evening, the full moon shines like a gravid pumpkin through the veterinarian’s window. Unable to sleep and lured by the lunar siren, she decides to go for a walk to calm the nerves still humming from the alpaca attack. She has felt disoriented all day but figures the feeling is the result of a combination of shock, blood loss, jet lag, and possibly the tainted shrimp she had for lunch.

As the veterinarian enters the park, the moonlight bounces off of the concrete path, the trees spin, the world lurches, and reality cracks. As she lies on the sidewalk, a dark figure steps from the shadows of the trees.

Closer and closer the figure looms, seeming to fly across the ground. She shudders, sensing the predator drawing near. A sharp pain in her neck, and all goes black. As her blood spills onto the path, her humanity hemorrhages from the body.

Now, as all men, women, aardvarks, and worshippers at the altar of Joss Whedon know, the bite of the vampire (Vampyrus fictionalis) has a 24-hour incubation period. The newborn vampire will not turn until the next sunset.

Meanwhile, on the alpaca farm, Roy has succumbed to a baffling neurologic disease. Testing by the farm veterinarian and the public health department confirm that Roy was infected with rabies. Post-mortem test results also revealed that Roy was indeed a were-alpaca.

Back in the park, in the pale hour just before dawn, the vampire’s blood-feast is interrupted by a rustling in the bushes. The vampire turns, hissing at the rising sun, and vanishes, leaving his victim to the scavengers. The rustling leaves part and a groaning figure shuffles forth, arms outstretched.

The creature is hideous, a human form covered with a putrid skin of decay and disease. Reeking of death and uttering the guttural, mindless cry of a dying beast, its sole purpose is the consumption of flesh.

It bends over the inert body, opens its jaws, and begins to feast. Before it can take more than a bite from the corpse, however, the zombie is struck in the head by a coconut dropped by a passing swallow and killed.i

With that bite, the zombie creates a new and terrifying creature – the rabid were-vampire-zombie!

Editor’s notes:

While one clinical anecdote does not provide definitive evidence for any condition, this particular case study highlighted a number of complicated zoonotic conditions that might have been avoided with proper preventative medicine. And garlic. And a chainsaw.

Rabies is a highly contagious, highly fatal disease of the nervous system. All mammals may be affected. The virus is spread in the saliva of diseased animals. In North America, carriers include: dogs, cats, bats, opossums, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, and – pertinent to this case – alpacas. According to camelid expert Dr. Ned Gentz (interviewed by email from his secure were-vampire-zombie-proof bunker), “Once in Peru, 20 alpacas were bitten by a rabid dog; 13 died or were euthanized. 29 alpacas from another herd also were reported to develop rabies. There is even a report of alpaca-to-alpaca rabies transmission via bite.”

Were-ism has been documented throughout human civilization. Though no previous case reports of were-ism concomitant with vampirism or zombie-virus infection exist, it can be speculated that the effects of the other conditions could be enhanced during the period of the full moon.

While variations of the vampiric condition have been reported throughout multiple cultures over many centuries, the definitive study of this malady was conducted by Bram Stoker in 1897. Vampirism appears to display some clinical variability, but most experts agree that a vampire can be killed by:

1. Sunlight/burning (exception to the sunlight rule has been stated in a controversial 21st century report by Stephenie Meyer)

2. Decapitation

3. Cardiac penetration by a wooden trochar (stake).

However, the propensity of the deceased vampire to transform into a readily aerosolized dust makes this patient’s concurrent infection with rabies and the zombie virus particularly problematic as these pathogens pose a significant public health hazard.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 2012 report denying the existence of a zombie virus epidemic. However, from this case study it would appear that zombies are among us. Cranial trauma and/or decapitation is generally recommended as the ideal way to dispatch a zombie. However, euthanasia of this patient will be singularly challenging as the vampirism will lend unusual speed and strength to the zombie condition. The aforementioned vaporization must be considered and contained as well. Above all, DO NOT attempt to burn a zombie – open flame merely aggravates the patient and is contrary to municipal fire codes.

OFFICIAL RECOMMENDATION: If you see this patient, do not engage. Run. Barricade yourself and your loved ones inside using a tarp and duct tape. Above all, do not question her data.
_____________________

i A swallow can, too, carry a coconut.

Editor's note: Two months after this article was published, four people in Georgia were exposed to rabies by a pet llama. A veterinarian was called to the house because a llama was showing signs of aggression, including biting himself. The llama tested positive for rabies.  The caretaker who was spit on by the llama is being treated for rabies.

3 Comments

Christy Corp-Minamiji 
November 1, 2012

European.  No.  African.  No.  European. Wait!  AAAAAH!


Dr. Toad 
November 1, 2012

But was it a European or African swallow??

Dammit, these details matter!  Lives are in the balance!


Eden 
October 27, 2012

Fun as this piece was, I woud in all seriousness like to add two comments.  The first is that this points out the importance of keeping rabies vaccination current for any animal which will be in regular contact with people.  This includes not just household pets but also horses, dairy cattle, milk goats, locker lambs, exhibition alpacas, 4h project pigs, club calves- if it's a mammal in contact with a human, it should be vaccinated for rabies.
Second, I would like to recognize Colleen Povey for the AWESOME makeup artistry.  Granted I don't get out much, busy as I am trying to figure out how to diagnose rabid vampire zombie werewolves, but I was amazed at what Colleen created.  If you are in the Bay Area and you need to be made up as a zombie- mother daughter tea, perhaps, or the family holiday card- you definitely want Colleen for the job.



 
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