My relationship with Alcohol has been generally agreeable. While I realize that it can twist minds, create violence, and ruin lives, I've been able to avoid that and merely suffer from the "acting like a silly arse" scenario. From the fairly common: throwing up in a cab and being kicked out in the middle of nowhere, to taking a lady out to dinner and then blowing it by making ludicrous observations. My "every meerkat can play the trumpet" comment didn't go down especially well.
For me, the onset of inebriation makes everything glitter and shine so that the possibilities of creative endeavour become almost endless. A bottle of red wine gets things going nicely, helping along a sublime mix of artistic planning combined with a hint of madness. Perhaps the sibilant voices I sometimes hear are merely the hissing of ruptured water pipes and not the gentle mocking of demons surrounding me. Lovecraft made insanity work for him as he conjured up his evil Mythos, inhabited as it was by hellish creatures wanting to destroy humanity.
(There comes the sound of blood-red wine pouring into a slender, crystal glass...)
The whispering gets louder as wine is swallowed. The sun slips down, its final shafts of light dappling the encroaching darkness with a watery gold wash as I sway softly, enjoying the sharp clinking of glasses as celebrations echo around me. My eyes half close as pallid faces, eyes dull yellow, peer at me from the long grass while blood-splatters trickle down their porcelain skin. I am insane and these creatures understand, their mouths curving up appreciatively as they begin to suspect that we are similar. Jagged nails grip withered rose bushes, faces twitching in delicious pain as the thorns tear flesh.
The clip-clop of high heels arrests my attention, and there she is: skin flashing seductively; her hair a tumble of curls and crimps. Full red lips partially hide razor-sharp incisors which make me shudder excitedly. My head drops and I rest heavily on a rickety beer garden table, a glass tipping over, as I try to gather my thoughts.
I slurp more wine, finally draining the bottle as her cold breath touches my glowing face. With a snigger, I pick up a bottle of quality red although I know not where it's come from. Soon I'm filling the glass and then begin to sup deeply. The weakening sunlight seems to spin around me, shimmering weirdly as skinny, cadaverous shapes move and twist in the background. She smiles as she loosens the belt around her stylish dress, the soft fabric falling open to reveal her large, pale breasts and slim waist. A glinting silver choker merges with her alabaster skin and her small, yet strong hands yank my head up to hers - for she is tall - and she kisses me forcefully before pushing my head down. I indulge her frantically, ignoring the soft laughing of the creatures around me, and she groans as she stares upwards into the sinister trees. More wine is imbibed and I feel like a god, clutching my face as I scream my immortality to the evil stars suddenly gazing down. She falls to her knees and I glance at the red lips around my nether region and raise my shaking arms to punch the air, tears slipping from my watery eyes.
Half empty glasses surround me and I stare at the sunken faces peering up. I shift position on my throne, feeling the cold steel sending goose pimples spreading over my skin. The blood squelches beneath me and I glance at her as she views her minions, blood dripping down between her engorged breasts. Her crown of bone is splattered in crimson, her eyes enraptured as her skinny cohorts whisper to her, their wavering voices gaining power.
I come to, my breath in unsteady gasps as I prop myself up as I try to remember. Delicate leaves fall onto me from the gold-brown canopy above, the boughs creaking in melancholy protestation. My tired eyes widen at the ribs poking through my tattered clothing. Old, dried blood covers me as does a layer of crispy, disintegrating leaf matter. As I struggle up, a number of opened and empty wine bottles - dozens of them - clink together and roll away. With a soft snarl, I crawl along the floor, parting the bushes and easing myself through. After reaching the High Street, the screaming starts. One female shopper, too slow to retreat, utters a whimper as my fevered face finds her bare legs, my yellowed teeth sinking into her smooth skin. Her uneven screech pleases me as I tear a section of flesh from her, the youth falling to the floor and thrashing around. My heavy breathing becomes more excited as I claw my way up her torso, finally biting off a thumb and snarling savagely -
(I'm sure I can hear laughing from somewhere...)
- before swallowing the small lump of meat. I rip her ears off and raise my face and look into the shop window. My bloody reflection stares back at me and I can hear more screams - and the first sirens. My jagged teeth gore her neck, my throat gulping down the torrent of blood.
I pluck a bottle of wine from her blood-splattered cloth shopping bag and my eyes widen. Chateauneuf-du-Pape! Soon I'm desperately swallowing the Alcohol, my crimson, puckering lips tasting blood and booze and I start to cackle hysterically at the semi-circle of terrified faces staring at my emaciated form. I stagger to my feet to hold forth:
'"What a piece of work is a man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties. In form and moving, how express and admirable. In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god..."'
I'm swigging more Alcohol as the first bullets strike me, shattering the bottle and puncturing my frail body. Blood and wine merge in the listless air and I fall onto the dead girl, my dying eyes resting on the advancing policemen, their guns still smoking.
A dribble of Alcohol escapes my mouth to be replaced by a surge of blood, and I smile a last crooked grin as my memories of youth, vigour, and lost dreams begin to fade.
How must it feel to turn into a Zombie and become the vicious, relentless beast of legend? To live purely for the slaughter of the living, killing them without mercy, is a terrifying prospect. And to do so without having the mental capacity to question your actions renders us fearful of these lumbering creatures of evil.
But as you stare at the festering wound on your arm, would you be able to recognize your final moments as a human, with ideals and dreams fading away, before they are replaced by a surging, unhinged violence which cannot be sated? The yellowed eyes see only the next blood-splattered meal, with humans only registering as just another food source. The expression changes from dislike to hatred to bloodlust as your loved ones scream in terror as you cross the appalling rubicon into Undeath. Your lips fold back, baring your teeth, as you advance upon friends and family but recognizing no one. The stiffening of muscle, aiding physical strength, contrasts markedly with the weakened brain, reduced to little more than pulp, as you claw your way towards your next victim, snarls escaping between your bloody lips.
To know you're infected with the Zombie Virus means a lingering death sentence, brought into effect as the incubation period is finally ended. Your eyes close and your last feelings of rage and fear are hopelessly confused. You feel sick with worry, shaking with the knowledge of what awaits you.
Your eyes snap open and a bloody grin creeps over your face. For a short while you lie there gazing up at the grey sky with its dark, brooding clouds and brief glint of sunlight. Your dull eyes are momentarily distracted by birds squabbling up in the tree tops before human activity finally rips you from your torpor. Your grin widens as you embrace a satanic call of the wild, mindless and fearless, as you struggle to your feet. Other corpses, also risen, stagger towards the terror stricken civilians while your clawed hand catches hold of a young man who struggles to break free but fails. Your eyes, relaying little to your destroyed brain, lock upon the subdued male who seems to have frozen in fear, accepting his ghastly fate.
Blood covers your mouth, with more trickling down your clammy forehead, as you feast on the glistening entrails of the fallen man. Bodies lie everywhere with ghoulish figures leaning over each one as they tear the flesh from the still-warm cadavers. Growls and snarling fill the air as corrupted bodies embrace the insanity of what is unfolding. The trees sway in the weak breeze, with their leaves whispering softly - a backdrop of normality while all else is chaos.
In the High Street, blood trickles into the gutter, some of it finding its way into a rusty grating in the road where it falls into the Stygian darkness. Standing in your bloody clothes you stare into a shop window and watch the TV screens with vacant eyes. The straggly meat of a consumed rat hangs from the corner of your mouth and you turn clumsily upon hearing movement behind.
You celebrate another death with a savage cackle while the town dies around you. Its shattered windows twinkle in the dying light as dusk closes in. Screaming merges with the car horns from wrecked vehicles; some are overturned, while others burn brightly with smoke billowing out from beneath crumpled metal.
A droplet of blood drips from your thumbnail and falls onto the face of an elderly woman, her face still caught in a silent, endless scream. Her shopping bags lie nearby with meals for one spilling out of the torn plastic. But you stare at this uncaringly, uncomprehendingly as you bite through her fingers one by one...
But how did this cataclysm arrive? Was it through a particularly virulent strain of rabies? Or, perhaps, a military experiment gone wrong? Given Man's track record of widespread inhumanity - even with our rational brains - it seems quite possible that if there ever is a terrible Contagion then it may well be because of a government's meddling in genetics. This prospect is extremely unsettling when one considers the fact that scientists are often reckless individuals only too eager to try out new drugs on an unsuspecting society. Today's test subject guinea pigs could be tomorrow's flesh-ripping Zombies eager for a taste of human meat.
So what about you, now you've transmogrified into a rabid killer?
You're now in the story as just another grotesque with a dead mask face overseeing the collapse of humanity. It's irrelevant to you how this started, and irrelevant to you how this will end.
"Zombies and their Enduring Popularity"
Do you fear the end...?
Given the enormous contribution the Zombie has given to the horror genre (books as well as films) - and the proliferation of soundtracks, mugs, T-shirts, board games et al - it’s quite clear that this particular form of Undead is driving all before it, and has been for some considerable time. In this article I’ll attempt to give my own reasons as to why this might be, and to ponder what the future holds for the relentless evil of the walking corpses.
As described in this site’s introduction, the unconvincing, blue-faced shuffling dead of the 70s’ movies occasionally provided an interesting glimpse into the potential of this creature type. Roll the clock on to more recent years and the viewer is rewarded with the wonderfully rendered prosthetics of series such as the Walking Dead. Close ups of Zombified faces are detailed enough to send shivers down the spine, while the sight of rotting teeth slicing into bloody entrails reveals a godless world that humankind could eventually inhabit.
I think the Zombie works on different levels. Firstly it’s an allegory which is linked to dementia: when a person no longer recognizes his or her loved ones and might even turn violent with them even though they’re attempting to ease the stricken person’s last few years on this earth. Some horror films have dealt with this and the scenes can be surprisingly disturbing, such as when a wife no longer sees her partner as a husband anymore, but merely as meat to be ripped apart. The fact that Zombies cannot be bargained with or convinced to stop partially mimics the awful downward spiral of diseases of the brain.
Another reason for the Zombies’ successful career is more obvious - that they represent the end of the human species and embrace the gory, blood-crazed existence that continues afterwards, and this challenges one of the last great taboos: death. We humans are terrified of shuffling off our mortal coil and, as a result, the prospect of cheating mortality in whatever form - however rudimentary - captivates us. As people age, their thoughts must inevitably turn to their own demise (on occasion) and they wonder when the fateful act will happen and whether the lurid stories of white tunnels and angelic voices are true. And then, possibly, come the ideas of cheating this process and considering if it’s feasible to continue with life even if it’s without a pulse.
Would you want to live after your human death if it meant ripping the flesh from those still in possession of a functioning brain? In the lucidity of a moment’s contemplation perhaps not, but if in a weakened state with the possibility of the end fast approaching and when deals with God have fallen through...then perhaps the answer would then be a hesitant “yes”. So the lust and zeal many of us have for life would possibly lead us to take our meat undercooked if it were possible - and in so doing convince us that we had cheated the inevitability of death. I also find it thrilling to think that several bullets punching through my chest wouldn’t stop me; that the unpleasant grin creeping over my face wouldn’t lessen as my leathery, blood-caked hands still reach out to the terrified human I’d soon be feasting on. There’s something quietly awesome about this: to cheat death; to shrug off the knowledge that every human life will end this way and then rise again without a beating heart - is a lessened form of the divine.
Zombie fans get this idea, I’ll wager: that there’s something after our last breath which waits for us...
The majesty of Undeath.
Another reason for the Zombies’ success is that over the last few decades many different writers, artists, and directors have brought their own ideas to the party thus ensuring the genre remains flexible. This means it’s able to move with the times thus making sure that the Zombie concept is always relevant. As each new generation experiences the cold embrace of dead flesh, this builds a creative friction, just as two seas meeting smash against each other in spouts of violent foam and force.
Of course, the original idea of the Zombie came from Haiti and Africa, and generally within the sinister grip of Voodoo. Many of these Zombies were villagers reduced to vacant slaves by black magic or the application of various substances which dulled a person’s will to resist. According to ethnobotanist Edmund Wade Davis, toxins from the toad Bufo Marinus result in producing numbing agents and hallucinogens, while Puffer fish have toxins that cause paralysis, depress respiration, reduce circulatory activity, and cause a victim to believe he’s floating over his own body. As a result, it’s easy to see how this state of affairs mutated as the legend of the Zombie spread, and the idea was then adapted by writers and other creatives who adjusted the folklore for their own varied projects.
It seems there’s plenty of “life” left in the Zombie genre (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) considering the other different types available to the crazed musings of writers and directors. There’s Atomic Zombies (created by chemical or radioactive contamination); Necromantic Zombies (created by black magic to reanimate the bodies of the dead); Viral Zombies (created by a contagious virus that infects the living and turns them into Zombies following the rapid onset of death) - the list goes on.
It seems the Zombie is here to stay - and not just because its own twisted DNA makes this possible, it’s also because these snarling, vicious forms are wanted by fearful audiences all over the globe.