Shambler Species in The Matrioshka Multiverse | World Anvil

Shambler

Everything you see in the Matrioska Multiverse may constitute spoilers for other worlds I'm working on. Proceed with caution!
A shambler is a blank which has, for whatever reason, been corrupted in such a way that it no longer houses the spark of sentience. Shorn of direction or volition, shamblers roam the forgotten corners of Unallocated Space driven only by whatever basic functions remain untouched by corruption.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Anatomically, shamblers resemble the blanks they once were, albeit in various states of damage or decay as a result of environmental exposure. Without a self-image, shamblers lack the will to retain any particular person's shape. Over time, they become flaccid, less human-like in appearance, and more elastic, essentially manifesting the normal skyphoform maturation process in reverse. Truly ancient shamblers can be almost twice as large as their original form, stretching and flexing against any external force like an empty jumpsuit.   On occasion, shamblers may be found still embodied within an instance. This is most likely to occur when blanks are being corrupted through incautious use of The Word, as was the case in the Candledusk Instance. This is a common origin for zombie myths within instances, as the resident instance blanks will be unaware of the context in which shamblers are formed.

Genetics and Reproduction

Many shamblers are created as a result of hubristic attempts to subvert the normal cycle of life, death, and rebirth that predominates within instances. In general, the Word is not meant to be used to forecefully reincarnate or resurrect the recently deceased, as this has a high risk of causing the blank to become corrupted. While corrupted blanks can take many forms, shamblers are created when the blank's mental, but not physical, faculties are compromised in the process of returning to an instance from the improper point in the cycle - too early and the blank might still retain a maddened intelligence, too late and the blank will come back fully braindead or comatose.   On rare occasions, a shambler is created when a blank decides it no longer wants to exist within the Matrioshka Multiverse. While most blanks are incapable of self-termination, those with the right knowledge of how the matrioshka's systems work can simply 'halt.' In any event, if a blank thus relinquishes sentience, its form might remain intact. Then, still occupied by all the life-systems of a blank but without the consciousness to control them, the form can sometimes carry on functioning in an aimless state.   Shamblers can sometimes be recovered and turned into amalgams to save the resources involved in making them. In this way, the death of one blank gives life to another. This is increasingly the case with construct blanks, where the consciousness of one pre-existing blank and the form of a shambler can be combined with one of an instance's automatic physical subsystems to save all parties involved from true death.

Ecology and Habitats

Most extant shamblers either remain in Unallocated Space or, in rare cases, lurk invisibly within instances as 'ghosts.'

Dietary Needs and Habits

Unlike murmurtwist colossi, shamblers exhibit little to no 'feeding' urge, though they may become amalgamated with other corrupted blanks through various means. Also unlike murmurtwist colossi, shamblers are always subservient to whatever mind or minds existed within an amalgam blank once so amalgamated; in the bizarre ecology of corrupted blanks, shamblers are always prey.

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Shamblers often persist in repeating simple actions (i.e. walking around) they were engaged in just before their loss of sentience. Some shamblers are intact enough to carry out simple commands issued by an outside party, though, as shamblers no longer understand speech or writing, anyone hoping to command a shambler must possess at least a modicum of understanding of the Word to redirect the shambler's animacy directly. In this capacity, shamblers can be useful (if stupid) minions for an individual with the requisite combination of a strong stomach and flexible morals.

Average Intelligence

Mindless animacy is the defining feature of a shambler. Shamblers are differentiated from merely damaged or deformed blanks by the fact that they are truly without sentience or self-awareness. Blanks which are otherwise intellectually altered still have wills of their own and can, with careful treatment, become whole again. Shamblers are also differentiated from corpses (or 'husks') by the fact that they retain just enough presence as an entity to retain the ability to move around.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

New shamblers retain limited auditory and visual senses, though these decay over time without a mind to interpret them. Shamblers come to rely on pressure and tension cues more and more as time goes on, coiling around and constricting objects they might come across in a grasping reflex. They tend to be attracted towards sound and (especially later) movement, making them potentially dangerous to those who encounter them unaware of their nature.

Genetic Ancestor(s)
Conservation Status
As a shambler is definitionally devoid of sentience - and, by extension, self-awareness - the most merciful thing to do with them is to grant them the mercy of true death. Given the haunting, morbid nature of shamblers, the Allocator and other blanks who encounter them prefer to dispatch them from a distance if at all possible.
Geographic Distribution


Cover image: by Ferdinand Stöhr

This species has multiple parents, only the first is displayed below.
All parents:

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