Whatever ills you see in society, or perhaps your self, can be personified in zombies.
Before I delve into the world of flesh-gorging zombies, I’d like to describe a dream. I know what you’re thinking. There’s nothing duller than another person’s dream. While that’s often true, in this case it serves a purpose, and besides, it isn’t even my dream …
Kill Them All
A few years ago, over coffee, an Argentinian friend of mine told me about a dream she had. She was standing atop a long and narrow staircase. Family, friends and lovers, as well as people she absolutely loathed, were crowded together at the bottom of the stairs. I listened to her as she rattled off some of their names, mostly people I didn’t know. Then she looked at me and smiled. “I had a machine gun in my hands,” she said, with the sweetest expression on her face. “And I killed them all. It felt so good.”
My own expression must have soured, because she reached out, touched my hand and comforted me. I’d never thought of her as a sociopath, and in fact she’s not, but I was taken aback. She smiled again, and explained that her slumber time massacre was okay, because, “it was just a dream.” Then she described how relieved she had felt after firing her gun. No one could ever tell her what to do again. She’d swept her problems away with one violent stroke. But of course, it was only a dream.
My initial reaction was one of slight horror. I wasn’t used to such murderous thoughts coming from my friends. But then I realized what upset me the most was her utter lack of guilt, and the fact that I understood her completely. You can talk things over and over, and deal with your problems and the problems of others until the day you die, and still never get anywhere. Sometimes it’s a hell of a lot easier to mow everyone down with a machine gun, and be done with them all.
Before you call the police, or perhaps a psychiatrist, I should advise you that I’m not harboring homicidal fantasies of any kind. My friend’s dream simply reminded me of the violent urges some of us have on occasion, and the extremely popular, and bloody world of zombies. And I don’t mean those ‘dead’ looking coworkers you face at the office every morning. I’m talking about brain-munching, decomposing pieces of meat that have overrun large swaths of the media, from books and movies, to fun runs and pub crawls (admit it, you’re probably working on a zombie book right now, or a vampire novel at the very least).
People are drawn to zombies for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s just good, messy fun. If your aim is true, you’ll be rewarded with a splash of satisfying gore. For others, killing zombies is blood sport, harkening back to the days of Roman gladiators and public executions. The destructive power of zombies can also be viewed as a symbol of a corrupt political system, a faltering economy, disease and war, or else a time when our enemy was clear (the Nazis, the Soviets), and survival was simply a contest of ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ with zombies exemplifying the ‘them’ in this analogy. All you have to do is shoot, and then forget they ever existed.
Aunt Rita’s Brains
My friend shot and killed everyone in her dream, no matter what that person meant to her in real life. “Why not just shoot the bad ones, and let the innocent ones live?” I asked her. She told me they would have been hard to sort out, and besides, that wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying.
Whatever ills you see in society, or perhaps your self, can be personified in zombies. These ‘ills’ might destroy you, but you have the power to destroy them as well. Just keep on killing until every last stinking zombie (problem) is dead. It might be hard work, but when it’s a question of survival, what choice do you have?
Zombies offer an escape from a convoluted world where right and wrong are often turned upside down, and you can’t always discern allies from enemies. Sure, you just splattered Aunt Rita’s brains all over the kitchen floor, but that’s all right, because she was a zombie. You might miss her Christmas cookies, but at least you won’t have to listen to her mock your uncle’s sexual inadequacies ever again, who, by the way, you put down last week. A world plagued by zombies might not be fair, but at least it’s easy to understand.
A Fresh Start
The most riveting stories about zombies come from hard drama, when someone has to confront, and possibly kill a person they used to know, or even love. This is how the living move on, despite the anguish, guilt and taboo they might feel.
If your boss, you know, the one you secretly suspect of being a child molester, turned into a zombie, you’d probably have no problem sinking an axe into his skull. Could you say the same for a parent? What if it was your alcoholic mother, who used to beat you and stub cigarettes out on your arm? Your parents, good or bad, brought you into this world, and you would never do them harm, unless…
Come the zombie apocalypse, all bets are off. People get sick and need constant care, or disapprove of the way you live your life. That’s a normal part of being human, but even family and friends can hold you back. You might have loved Aunt Rita, or your spiteful sibling, but when they’re trying to eat your face, the choice and the associated guilt of that choice is removed. The time for soul-searching has come to an end. Good thing you keep that shotgun handy.
A world beset by the dead is an opportunity for rebirth, albeit an extremely bloody one midwifed by destruction. When civil society is discarded, you can wipe the slate clean. True, you have to get rid of the bad and the good, but that’s what happens when you set the clock to zero. No more debt, no more job and no more family. And like all births, which are symbols of traumatic change, it can be an excruciatingly painful experience, yet filled with potential. What better way to begin a new life than with a zombie apocalypse?
—Photo credit: Michael R Perry/Flickr