Friday Fiction – Interview with a Zombie


I’m going to try to make Friday Fiction an at least semi-regular post on this blog. It think it will make for a good way to keep me writing things that aren’t entirely work related.

This first entry came about shortly after I finished reading Max Brook’s very excellent World War Z, which provides just a startling well thought out account of a world under seige from the undead. Told through a series of fictional interviews with key survivors, the book outlines the struggles and eventual “triumph” of humanity over the zombie menace.

Well, I felt there was one voice missing from the narrative…

Interview with a Zombie

Anyway, I guess we should get started? You probably want to know how it is that I can still talk? I’ve heard that they believe the disease attacks the brain’s various centers. For most, it shuts down all but the most basic biological imperative: to feed. I’m not sure why it shuts down the desire to reproduce, but I would imagine it has something to do with both shutting down the hormone production that makes it possible in the first place, as well as the ability to function with enough coordination to pull the act off.

I’ve read the scientific journals on the topic already, actually.

Well, you’ll forgive me, but the ridiculous helmet that you’re wearing, by the way, didn’t really inspire confidence that you’d done your research before stopping by.

At any rate, I appear to have been partially immune. So here I am, chatting away, still able to process thoughts just like anyone else among you Breathers, but without any real drive of my own. I’m numb to everything except the need to feed. I suppose that you could say the virus turned me into a pure sociopath. I see that you are human. I can converse with you, as we are clearly doing now… but to me you are a hunk of flesh.

You don’t really need to wear the helmet.

No?

It’s not because I won’t attack you (I won’t, I had a snack just before the interview so I could focus). It’s because it’s sort of a ridiculous notion.

We don’t eat brains. Not primarily anyway. You’ve seen. Have you noticed any fussy eaters? Exactly. So if you’re going to wear a helmet, you may as well throw on some chain mail to boot because you’re presenting a lot of other options there.

The head is not a convenient place to bite, either. More often than not the height differential will make it an unlikely target. We all tend to slouch, so we’re effectively shorter than our frames would be otherwise.

I’ve seen people get bitten in the head.

I’m sure you have, but that was probably a bite of convenience, so to speak. They probably were lying on the ground already or that was really the only spot left on them available. There’s almost no reason to start there, though. It’s not meaty in the least and the skull takes some work to get through. It’s a meal you’ve got to earn.

Do I need to be—

Relax. I told you I already ate. We’re not like dogs, gorging ourselves because we don’t know any better and then vomiting up the result.

But it’s not uncommon to see your kind roaming about, flesh falling from a gaping mouth.

Well, they probably just didn’t have the ability to swallow anymore, or maybe they had just put too much in their mouth and you saw it just tumbling out. I don’t think we vomit. That requires a lot of nerve signals and communications through the body that we no longer have.

How long before you’ll be hungry again?

You’re concerned. I get it. The helmet.

I’ll actually stay sated for a fairly long time. In the wild, the stomach contents tend to decompose faster, freeing up space and triggering the need to feed further. Just like vomiting, have you ever seen us defecate? We eat, but then where does that food go? It just sits. It will eventually go its own way. Try leaving a steak out in the grass one day. Even if you shoo away all the major predators that try and come to take a bite, it still won’t last too long before it’s not there anymore. All the tiny scavengers will do their work in time.

It takes longer for us because the meat is fairly well hidden and for me, in here, sterile as it is, it will last almost indefinitely.

I had to eat before you came because they pump my stomach regularly to simulate the hunger. They have a lot of studies to conduct. How I feed and process food and what nutrients my body still does absorb are of much interest to them.

Does all the testing bother you?

Of course it doesn’t bother me. You could stab me in the eye and it wouldn’t bother me, nor would I feel it. Again, my nerves are as dead as the rest of theirs, functionally. I’d like to tell you I’d prefer that you not stab me in the eye, but really, I don’t think it would actually affect me in the slightest if you did. I’d simply stop being able to talk. I have no fear about what would result from it. The notion that maybe I would be “all the way dead” is one that is equally numb to me as most other conceits.

And that’s why the phrase “The Living Dead” doesn’t feel right to me. This isn’t exactly “living” is it? This is shuffling around and moaning and taking bites out of things. It’s surviving at its most basic. We have no art and no culture. There is no innovation, no fun or games. Can you imagine what our theater would be like?

Enter Rodrigo and attendants. Rodrigo moans and stumbles. Attendants moan and bump into each other. Exeunt.

Do you have a name for your kind?

Well, as we have no real language: no. Do I have a name for us, though? I’m not sure. I’d like to say I’d given it some thought, but I’m really only capable of stream of consciousness. I retain a bit, but it’s like a goldfish. I can really only recall enough to keep going down the path I just started on.

The recognition centers are okay, as they are with all of us. Otherwise we’d be attacking trees and rocks and things because we can’t distinguish one thing from another. I don’t keep forgetting who you are.

The name?

What do you mean?

You were talking about a name for your kind?

You asked about that before? Right. See what I mean? Like a goldfish. We’ve become a sort of virus, though. We’re clearly not the Living Dead. That’s just a poetic contradiction. We’re alive, just not in any traditional sense of the phrase. But we live like a virus, don’t we? We reproduce ourselves by supplanting the defenses of the host and our only biological imperative is to feed. Reproduction, as it were, is totally asexual and, in fact, a byproduct of the feeding. The rest is details I suppose.

Do the authorities here seem to be worried about you?

About me specifically? Because I can talk? Would you be worried that a talking dog would somehow foment the Great Canine Rebellion? No. I can talk, but they can’t listen. If some of them could listen… it would never be enough to be a problem. We are a pretty ungainly horde. Plus I can’t remember things for very long. I really only exist for whatever thread I’m currently on, or moving on to. Have I told you that already? Probably.

Speaking of dogs, you’re lucky that this plague is affecting humans and not the greater animal kingdom. I’m sure you think it’s bad enough that it affects humans. I guess I can’t blame you for being too preoccupied to really think about anything else. I don’t have that burden.

Humans evolved away from all of their natural defenses. No natural armor, no sharp teeth, no claws, no particular speed or strength. We sort of just shuffle around and slap at things and get lucky enough to take a bite from time to time. Think of bears. Not exactly a picturesque scenario for you. But even then, they’re not very numerous, or global. How about wasps? Flying creatures consumed by a need to attack and sting and feed on anything they can see. Too small to see coming from far off, able to nest and hide in most anything. Wouldn’t that be fun? And ants. You are so far outnumbered by ants that you can’t even comprehend it. It’s something like 150,000 to 1. And if they all started to go on a murderous rampage that your poisons couldn’t stop? Good luck with that.

GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN.

What was—

Sorry. Instinctual trigger. It’s your scent, another thing honed for us. It’s really the only sense that we need, so I think what’s left of our faculties are devoted to sharpening it.

Will that call all the others?

No. All the others are confined to their own cages. I think the walls are thick here, so they likely didn’t hear the call. You should be fine. Though, the call only really triggers when the hunger is present. They did feed me earlier, but I don’t recall how much.

Where are you going? Why are you wearing that stupid helmet?

It won’t save you.

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