Had a super busy few weeks n spent today mostly working on owed art, so I gave myself a treat and busted out a bit of concept work I’ve had in my head for a while! More to come later, for sure–I have a lot of ideas for the how’s and why’s of these designs that I wanna address, as well as flesh out the setting.
I’ve been thinking about zombie-ish creatures created by infection from a type of mermithidae or nematomorpha worm (watch this vid ONLY IF U AIN’T SQUEAMISH) that specializes in humans. While the initial infection only seems to be discomfort from drinking contaminated water, when the worm devours/replaces ~50% of the victim’s guts it reaches sexual maturity and starts releasing control chemicals that radically alter host behavior and physical form, etc etc (for the fantasy human version, at least–the actual buggy predators are a little simpler). Since humans have a lower species turnover rate than bugs these particular worms can act as replacement organs and keep their hosts alive indefinitely…but will violently egress the body if it’s overly damaged, instantly killing the infected person.
Infected are typically placid (when left alone) and like to float in large bodies of fresh water. They become aggressive when approached by large animals, including humans, partially from their intense hunger due to parasitization.
Scientists discovered it’s possible to save the infected in a two-step operation that surgically fuses the worm to muscle walls (preventing it from killing the host by vacating) and neuters the parasite, which stops production of control chemicals. After a few months of physical and mental therapy the infected can safely re-enter society. Post-apocalyptic humanity is desperate for all the helping hands it can get and usually welcomes them back, with post-surgery infected making up about 40% of any given settlement.