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‘The Last of Us’ Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI), Explained In Depth

The year is 2013, and life is going as it should, with bustling streets and the usual humdrum going about. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, but there are rumblings of a deadly virus with a handful of cases but nothing to pay too much attention to. As the year progresses, more and more cases show up, with the numbers rapidly increasing and the health authorities remaining clueless as to what this is. The situation seems contained, but the time to not worry slowly approaches its end as with every passing day, the numbers keep rising.

In September 2013, on just another regular day, things took a turn for the worst as all hell broke loose in Texas, with the number of people infected getting out of control and a massive spread of panic. The days that follow are not easy for anyone. Massive riots and panicked stampedes erupt everywhere, the doctors confused and unsure of how to handle the situation, the government trying its best to contain the situation but with no other choice left, sends military troops out on the streets. Nothing improves, and things go from bad to worse. Families crumble, and society falls with death as far as the eye can see. What happened?

According to the FDA and the World Health Organization, a virus emerged from infected crops that traveled into the United States and the rest of the world from South America and then started infecting humans and turning them into freaks. The virus in question got coined the “Cordyceps Brain Infection” (CBI), and as the name suggests, it attacks the host’s brain. As the days went by, more than 60% of the population was infected by the virus and killed, with nobody able to do anything to prevent or stop the spread. No cure, no hope

The virus progressed in stages and turned the infected into freakish monsters that later came to be known as “Clickers.” Why clickers? Because of the clicking noise they made. The virus left the infected (the hosts) in a manic state, not realizing or understanding what was going on with them as they slowly lost control of their senses and turned into these freakish zombie-like monsters. The virus spreads and progresses in four stages and can be contacted through the air or through physical contact with someone who is already infected with it.

The host needs to be alive for the virus to do its job on their system, and the signs of the infection starts to show two days after the virus injects itself. Stage one begins when the host loses brain function and, with it, their ability to be reasoned with. During this stage, just two days after the virus enters the body, the host turns freakish and manic, loses his or her ability to talk and communicate using words, and becomes extremely hostile. The subject during this stage is nothing more than a bag of aggressive flesh that will charge at you, attack you, and try to kill you, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot talk them down. The human you once knew isn’t a human anymore but a monster. As time progresses and the virus develops inside the host’s body, the host enters Stage 2 within two weeks of being infected. There isn’t much change in their behavior or appearance during stage two other than the obviously putrid rotten stench, but in terms of brain function, the host starts losing their ability to see as the fungus inside their brain literally grows and obstructs their view. Yikes! That sounds horrible, painful, and incredibly stinky. So, basically, they turn into a blind aggressive zombie instead of a normal aggressive zombie during stage two.

Stage three is where things go from bad to worse as the virus starts scaring all over the host, and as I mentioned in the beginning, they start to make clicking noises to communicate, thus the name “clickers.” Stage three usually begins a year after getting infected, and this is when they start losing their human appearance and becoming more and more monstrous with each passing day. Finally, if the infected host has survived for a decade, this is where things get truly horrifying, disturbing, and disgusting. The host will now grow plates of hardened fungus all over their body, with their faces covered in fungus and hardly recognizable as human faces anymore. The sights and sounds of these “creatures” at this point will literally send shivers down your spine, and they are not pretty to look at. It’s even more horrifying when you realize that these “creatures” were once one human, and now if you look at them, all you will see is a disgusting and deformed monstrosity, and to imagine the pain they must have gone through or are going through just makes me shiver. The worst part of a stage four host, other than all the things I mentioned, is that if and when they die, they sort of turn into a plant that emits spores that, once inhaled, will infect another person on the spot. Even after death, these monsters are a pain in your buttocks.

The infection, these monsters, and the spores thrive and prosper in enclosed areas like sewers, tunnels, and such, with open areas being relatively safe. That is the cordyceps brain infection in a nutshell. A brain virus that develops in stages inside a living host and grows as a disgusting fungus inside your body alters the human psyche and physical appearance over time, turning them into unrecognizable monsters. With time, this virus took over the entire country and presumably the rest of the world, crumbling the whole society and leaving the survivors in pocketed areas known as quarantine zones across the country. There is nothing that can be done to stop it as of now, and the future of the world looks as dark and gloomy towards the horizon as it does now.

Here’s some nightmare fuel before we leave. This virus is real (to a degree) and only affects insects. In the real world, the cordyceps virus is a fungal bacterium that originates from mushrooms and affects insects and arthropods, it does pretty much the same thing to its hosts in real life and grows stalks of fungus out of their heads and bodies, and just thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect humans, at least from what we know so far, and I don’t want to know or learn if it can or what the infected host goes through or feels like. Imagine being in a state where your brain loses function, and a literal parasitic fungus is growing inside of you and erupting outward in the form of hardened shells and stalks. Are you even human at that point? What will happen? What goes on inside your body? Do you still have consciousness with zero control? Yeah, these are questions better left unanswered, as this is the stuff nightmares are made of.

See more: ‘The Last of Us’ All The Monsters Shown In The Video Game, Explained In Depth

Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.


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