Last year I was a zombie. And I don't mean that metaphorically as in, I was so fried all the time I was a total zombie. Or my dog died and I was so sad it turned me into an emotional zombie. Or I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever...that's why I acted like a zombie.
But neither do I mean it literally. And that's unfortunate because I'd kill to join the ranks of the living dead. What tenacity zombies possess! What single-minded determination! If only humans were that goal-oriented, we'd have a cure for cancer.
No, I was the middle ground, a simulacrum of a zombie, an extra in a local stage production of Night of the Living Dead. Where I was the oldest zombie by at least twenty years. The rest were teenage girls.
None of them knew zombie lore. The ones I talked to hadn't even seen Romero's original, which I found shocking. Even more disturbing, they had eating disorders.
I found this out while applying my death mask. The one with a purple gash on her cheek extolled the virtues of vomiting after dinner. It made her feel lighter, she said, better. The others agreed, and I watched them in the mirror, unsure if I, the elder zombie, should intervene. After all, I've had friends and family members with bulimia and a brush with anorexia myself: When I was 20, I weighed just 85 pounds.
Alas, I chickened out. They'd see me as the square middle-aged zombie, telling them what they already knew from television programs and school assemblies.
The director called us to rehearsal. "You're dead," he said. "Act like it." He took us to the blood room where we smeared gobs of sticky red stuff all over ourselves. I put some in my mouth and it tasted sweet.
Here's a fact about zombie invasions: A lone zombie is a joke, easy to outrun and evade. But a mob of the undead is a threat and we were a mob, fighting to live. We were rotten and decaying, groping in windows, standing outside doors. We attacked the actors en masse and the bulimic zombie bit into a man's forearm.
I slipped out of character for a second and smiled. At least she was eating.