Like all living creatures, humans die and our bodies begin to decompose right away; indeed, there’s no stopping it, even for zombies. Of course, we know zombies aren’t real, but death and decay certainly are.
In AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” returning Sunday, June 2, at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT, reanimated human corpses roam the world, terrorizing the living. Here at Live Science, we have a soft spot for the macabre, and we wanted to know just how closely zombies represent a real human corpse. So, what happens to a human body when it dies?
“First will be the lividity,” said Melissa Unfred, a Texas-based mortician who specializes in natural burials. Lividity is the discoloration process that results from blood sinking and pooling once the heart stops pumping. The part of the body that’s closest to the ground will turn dark red where the blood settles. After about 24 hours, the lower right quadrant of the body will turn a bluish-green color as the bacteria in the pancreas are the first to start digesting tissues in the gut. The skin takes on “a really interesting marbled pattern,” Unfred said “which is actually really pretty, but to each their own.”
Within about 6 hours after death, the eyes and mouth will begin to dry out and pull back a bit. “Right after a body dies, if you’re not embalming, it’s almost impossible to close the eyes or the mouth,” Unfred told Live Science. Embalmers often have to seal the eyes and mouth shut with special tools to make the face look at peace.