The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

Where the Ideas Come From: Zombie Limbs

The world is full of strange things, some of them so batshit crazy they seem to have fallen straight out of a gonzo horror novel. A mediaster aequalis suffering from the wasting diseaseThe starfish wasting disease is one of those things. Imagine a disease that dots your skin with unhealing lesions. As it progresses, the syndrome twists your limbs into knots. You can do nothing but lie there, body in open revolt, wondering when your luck turned so shitty.

And then the bad thing happens.

Your left leg unknots itself, stretching out nice and straight so fast your knee pops like an old log in a campfire. For one moment, there’s relief from the pain of having all your limbs twisted around like a contortionist’s summer camp workout. Your anatomy has returned to something resembling normal. Then the muscles in your leg begin to ache as they flex and strain to their utter limits. Your heel digs into the dirt, twisting and grinding into the earth. You watch in horror as it ignores your pleas to fucking stop and it keeps on grinding, digging. Burrowing out a hole, a socket, for your foot to wedge into.

Once your leg is locked in nice and tight, your right arm starts acting up. It flails out straight out and your fingers hook into the earth. Then it pulls, dragging your body behind it, one painful inch at a time.

Something in your ankle gives way with a wet crunch, like a fistful of bubble wrap being squeezed in a bathtub. The pain blasts up your leg and sets your spine on fire.

You plead and cry, but your arm doesn’t give a shit. It keeps right on pulling, pulling. Your knees goes next, twisting and popping apart like a turkey leg coming off the Thanksgiving dinner. You black out, the pain eating your mind.

Until your hip goes next and the fiery pain drives back the darkness and brings you screaming awake. Your arm lashes out, flopping out straight, extending its reach so your fingers can hook in to the ground and begin pulling again. There’s a sound inside your jeans, a moist ripping as your skin splits and the muscle fibers underneath fray and snap apart.

Then your right leg starts to twitch, the heel grinding . . .

That’s pretty much what our little starfish buddies are going through right now. This weird ass disease forces their legs to crawl away from their bodies, tearing them apart and leaving nothing behind but goopy smears of starfish guts.

Like most crazy, gross, zombie diseases, no one knows what’s causing the sea star wasting syndrome, though there are some theories. It seems to be spreading,with starfish affected all up and down the West coast of the US, from Alaska all the way down through California.

This kind of stuff gives me all kinds of ideas for stories, words I can write to keep me from wondering too much about the real horror: What the hell is happening to the ocean?

Here’s a video with some more info on the disease. The money shot is at around 3:50, but it’s well worth watching the whole thing.

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.