To zombie, or not to zombie? (Why even ask?)

6:45 a.m. I wake up for work, rubbing my eyes, trying my best not to hit “dismiss” on my phone alarm. I get up about ten minutes later, and walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I look in the mirror and I look like hell. I get over it. I put on my gray work slacks, find a top that I can stand wearing for eight hours, knowing that it’ll keep me comfortable, not itchy and annoyed.

I make my coffee: an extra strong brew that will last me maybe an hour at work, tops. Walking downstairs, I hear random noise from outside but it doesn’t matter. At 7:30 a.m, my eyes are barely open and everything sounds like the grown-ups in those Peanuts cartoons: “Womp, womp womp.”

I put my coffee down and look for my shoes, grabbing random heels. This is like an adult game of “match the cards.” I’m too lazy to turn on the light because, well… I’m not sure, actually. I finally find the right pair,  sit on the third step of my staircase, and put them on. More noise.

I reach for the door knob but forget that the door is still locked (a daily habit). I open it and look over my shoulder to say good bye to my mom. She tells me to bring a lunch. I decline, “I do NOT want to bring fried fish to the office because it stin-…” Mid-sentence I turn back around to face the driveway.

Two eyes that are neither alive nor dead, one barely inside of its socket, and the other not staring at me but looking through me–there’s a difference. Flesh the color of a gloomy Chicago overcast with botches of decomposition, like little pools of contaminated waste burrowed into the skin. Blood that is black. Hair that is stringy, loose, and thin. Decayed teeth, red bits stuck between them, and lips that seriously need a tub full of carmex. One mouth that does not speak, does not breathe. A mouth that looks like it’s ready to gnaw the hell out of my bones, much like Cujo did to his little farm family. Looks like I’m calling in sick today. *Closes door*

—-

This is the stuff I think about now and then. Okay, I think about it more often than I should but what else am I supposed to do when the monotonous tasks of everyday life turn me into a… zombie. (How ironic.)

I love zombies. Zombie movies, cartoons, books, video games–whatever imparts knowledge on me regarding the zombie topic, I receive with an open mind and thirsty imagination. If you know me, then you’re probably already aware of my so-called “obsession,” which to me seems to have a derogatory connotation. I see it as a “profound interest,” an interest that was brought upon by my love for scary things in general.

I adore the horror genre, and horror flicks are my thing.  I’m not its “go-to” expert but I enjoy watching them. From the Exorcist (pretty much traumatized me from 3rd grade to 5th) to Halloween (one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time), I relish it all. But why zombies? What the hell is so “obsessive” about them?

I grew up with my sister, Lorraine, and my brother, Allen. Lorraine was about 16-17, while my brother was a little dweeb around 10-11. (When’s the last time you heard the word, dweeb, right?) Because I was insistent on being like them, because my parents entrusted me so many times to the loving care of my older siblings, and because I was “Abet,” I watched whatever movies they watched on any given day.

There was Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero: a classic black and white movie, with that opening scene of a naive couple at the cemetery. Pet Sematary, which wasn’t exactly a zombie movie but there was that dead 2-year-old who could definitely pass for one. Evil Dead, which was super gory and hilariously gross.  Despite the fact that I was too young to see them, each movie was just as entertaining as Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

In the mid-nineties, Japan introduced us totally awesome 80s kids to the PlayStation. In 1996 a, now timeless, zombie video game was released. “Resident… Evil.” I can still hear that demonic voice from our old TV. My brother and his friend, Randy, sat in front while I cowered in the back by our couch. The game was set in an old-fashioned mansion, with fancy carvings, wooden interior, twisting hallways, and secret doors. I remember our eyes traveling down that first dark hallway. Walk, walk, walk, BAM–zombie eating a cop.

From that point on, it was no holds barred. I was sucked into this apocalyptic world where zombies could take over at anytime, given there was some crazy biological outbreak of an unknown strain of virus, or a day of judgment when all the dead came to life. How it happens wouldn’t really matter. What would matter is how you’d stay alive.

Any zombie fan knows the basic rules: “To kill a zombie, take off its head.” “When you get bitten, you become one.” “Where there is one zombie, there are others.” “Don’t make loud noises, it will attract a horde.” And I won’t go into details because almost every imagination has its own version of what a zombie is: slow and wobbly; fast and agile; running zombies; walking zombies; zombie animals.

What’s even more interesting is that zombies are people. They are, or once were, humans.  They could be your neighbors, the cashiers at Wal-Mart, the hot guys at the mall,  coworkers, or more frighteningly so, your own family and friends. And I think this is where the “obsession” really takes root. Not so much that a flesh-eating monster is chasing you, but that you once told this thing, “I love you.”

If you’re like me, you’re into a series called “The Walking Dead,” which returns on February 12th by the way. What I especially like about this show (besides the grotesque hordes of zombies) is not only its focus on the relationships among the survivors, but also between survivors and the living dead. I hear plenty of people complaining about the series, “Come on, get to the zombie killing already!” But honestly, I’d rather the director spend time highlighting the humanity of the genre than just the horror alone. (If you want nonstop zombie killing, I suggest you watch a B-grade movie, which are made for gore and blood seekers like you.)

That humanity is by far the best part about this genre. The fact that one day you’re a regular person on her way to work, and the next you’re a certified zombie killer, equipped with knives, shovels, an ax, anything to keep you from dying a horrible flesh-eating death. From corporate slave to zombie-slaying badass. That, my friends, is one hell of a dream.

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