Time: now-ish. Probably either right before Christmas, or right before Spring Break. Location: ideally, western Colorado, though I can move them if I *have* to.
I have fungal zombies. The fungus is transmitted by basically any fluid-to-fluid contact (biting, sex, kissing, blood transfusions, etc). Infection doesn't turn you, however. You only turn once you die, and the infection doesn't generally kill you. You could be infected for decades, then turn when you, eg, have a heart attack.
Single zombies are slow and stupid, small groups (packs, ~10-90) are fast and dangerous, and large groups (hives, 100+) are people-smart and basically friendly, if only out of self-interest. A pack or hive will form when the necessary number of zombies are within ~1mi of each other, whether or not they are from the same source.
But I'm trying to form the first zombie hive, back when only... maybe a few thousand people in the world are infected, and there have been a single-digit number of actual cases of zombieism.
So, I need a situation where:
1. ~100-120 people are in a relatively confined area.
2. One of them dies, at a time/in a situation where the rest of them can't get away easily, but are at least mostly still alive, though I'll need at least a few to be on the verge of dying.
3. Once we have ~100 zombies, I need them to be able to walk away from said confined area, *without* anyone being able to be *sure* that they did so (after death) for at least a month. This is the part that's proving tricky.
My prevailing thought at this point is to use some sort of camp or wilderness retreat or the like in a remote, backwoods bit of Colorado. That could easily be remote enough for my purposes, and there would be plenty of time between death and when anyone would be checking up on them for them to arrange things such that it looks like they could have, eg, been buried in an avalanche, or died in a fire, or something. The question now is how, exactly, to kill them. I want a majority to die of something other than (though it can be something at least exacerbated by) acute zombie mauling, and I need at least 10 or so to die without zombie mauling as a significant factor. Bonus if it leaves at least some relatively "pretty" (ie alive-looking) corpses.
1. Food poisoning. Someone brings a popular foodstuff, that happens to be tainted with botulism or listeria or something. Everyone or nearly everyone ate some, they're all sick and barely mobile, the infected person (there's probably at most 2 or 3 zombie-infected people in the group, and if it's more than 1, they're probably dating or family) dies, then bites several others, some of whom also die. The rest are then easy meat for the zombie pack.
2. Flat out poison poisoning. Someone wants to kill the group, or wants to kill someone in the group and doesn't care about collateral damage, or is suicidal and wants to "share". They poison something communal (like the water supply), and from there it goes like 1.
3. Infection. Someone has some really nasty contagious disease (aside from zombieism), it passes around, and as per 1 and 2 from there.
4. Blizzard. A bad blizzard wipes out both their communication, and some crucial element of their supply of heat, food, and/or water, and basically traps them in the camp. They're miserable and weakened, and huddled in their cabins/tents, waiting for the roads to clear or whatever. One person dies in his sleep, and bites all his cabin-mates before they can subdue him. Some or all of them subsequently die of their wounds/their weakened state (maybe throw in some carbon monoxide here), a pack forms, and they get bitey on whoever's left.
5. Avalanche. Kind of like 4, but moreso, and on fast forward. Part (or all?) of the camp is buried in the fringes of an avalanche. One group of 10+, including the infected person, is buried alive. One dies, gets bitey, the rest asphyxiate (?), and when the rest of the camp digs them out (hoping they're still alive), you've got a pack ready and waiting. Munch, kill, oh no what have we done.
Of these, or any other ideas you have, what seems least implausible or unlikely? Any suggestions for refinements or improvements? Any other thoughts?
I don't mind unlikely, as long as it's not actively implausible, or at least not so implausible that it breaks anyone's disbelief suspenders.