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Monster Mash

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February 20, 2024

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Monster Mash: When you bring the dead back to life

I have a confession to make that will get me kicked out of civil society.

In November, I wrote about how I got ghosted and boo hoo for me. Also just boooo. Publicly sharing elicited condolences/sympathy for my silent snubbing, and reinforcement in my resolve to gratefully move on. Of course, anyone who knows anything (mostly on YouTube) said never ever contact the ghoster. Not while it’s happening (I broke that rule for the first few terrible days) and especially not when confronted with the ghost’s inevitable return from the grave, just play possum. The ghoster in time will revive, they said, maybe even in years, and thus become a zombie version of his former bad self and like any B movie heroine, the theme for us sensitive-hearted souls wrapped in nonrotten flesh is: run for your dear life.

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A few months passed post-ghosting, all the major holidays: Thanksgiving without the lasagna we planned to make together, Christmas without the little yet significant (outer-spaced themed) gifts I had gathered long before I even met him, New Years without the mocktails and early bedtime because, dammit, we’re tired teetotaling parents. I had recovered from the shock/pain of it, sort of, and had been dating others, if robotically, with one pinkie still secretly stalking the ghoster’s Instagram. I wanted to see if a woman surfaced there, or really any signs of life or, worse, joy. Instead what I saw was a raw naked Thanksgiving turkey getting stuffed, a raw steak in a frying pan, at the rate of one post maybe every few weeks. Just cold meat with no offals (heart)—robotic too. By New Year’s the message was clear, he too was a gutted turkey. Definitely doing the opposite of celebrating with a special rebound. Because I’m empathetic and/or endlessly curious about what’s going on under people’s surfaces, I reached out a few days into the shiny new year, with a light greeting of hello, and “of course I wonder what the heck happened to you,” but mostly just “hope you are well and here’s to a better 2024.” He wrote back immediately, eagerly, as if I now opened a portal of possibility for him to start anew. And I guess I had. And he did.

I reanimated my ghoster. I created my own zombie. I revived him and, for a second time, had a new fairly instant-boyfriend, just add water. But this round, I would be cautious and slow, he needed to prove himself. If he could be so cruel (or perhaps more accurately, selfish and blind) one time, he could certainly do it again. He needed to regain my trust. I needed constant, unflagging, honest communication and, on my side, to erect for myself some serious armor. If he was about to freak out again with “feelings” he couldn’t handle, I’d need a heads up. If he did anything that resembled the beginnings of a second ghosting, I’d be out. I’d have to be the puppet master in this.

But I’d like to step back and take ownership of this act before the angry mob comes for me. There was, perhaps counter-intuitively, power in this. I am in charge of this brave new world scenario where there’s hope for second chances and someone who stuck in my craw for long enough that it seemed significant gets to prove himself anew. I believe jail should be about rehabilitation, that we shouldn’t be sanctioning killing a man with torturous nitrogen gas who wasn’t supposed to be on death row to begin with. Call it playing God…or the God nickname for the Willem Defoe “Godwin” character in the crazy romp of Poor Things, who gets to take a dead pregnant Bella, washed ashore post-bridge-jump, and replace her brain with her infant’s—making her both her own mother and her own daughter in a dizzying metamorphosis.

And so, with this revival, I’ve launched another phase of my love life, and another of my favorite things: a trilogy, this time on Monsters. First Zombies, then Bugs, then more abstractly and grandly on Metamorphs.

As is always helpful, it’s time for zombie research and getting schooled on how to effectively manage my own personal zombie.

An important distinction to make is a zombie isn’t alive but rather “undead.” Speaking in double negatives like this that don’t really match the same level as the positive linguistic framing (“undead” is definitely not equal to “alive”) is something my zombie does. It’s not that he seeks out smart girls, he said, but rather is averse to dumb ones. I told him a better compliment would be to flip that around please. This will do: your brain is hot. It’s really like I have to teach his mouth muscles proper romantic speech.

From the Britannica page on zombies:

Although the word zombie has been applied to different types of creatures, they generally share a few defining characteristics, perhaps most importantly a lack of free will. Zombies are usually wholly subordinate, either to an outside force, such as a sorcerer, or to an overwhelming desire, such as the need for human flesh or revenge or simply to do violence. Another important distinction made by some is that a zombie is the animated corpse of a single being, usually a human. Zombies are frequently depicted as shambling and rotting, although in some instances their bodies may be preserved, especially when magic is involved, and they may sometimes display superhuman characteristics, such as increased strength and speed.

This very much discounts Bella in Poor Things whose whole journey is about her free will that resists any cage, especially male ones. There’s the risk I am fooling myself with this operating idea that I’m in charge of reanimating my zombie, forming what he’s going to be and how he’ll behave, when it might just be his “overwhelming desire, such as the need for human flesh…” that powers him and could have sent him chasing anyone who tried. But less shambling and rotting, my revived corpse is perhaps more magically superhuman, which is part of his charm.

I am also very much looking forward to the movie Lisa Frankenstein, newly launched in theaters, in which a teen creates a boyfriend for herself in this zombie fashion who looks a little bit Edward Scissorhandsy and comes with an 80s soundtrack the kids who never lived this era now love thanks to Stranger Things.

LISA FRANKENSTEIN - Official Trailer [HD] - Only In Theaters February 9

I have The Cure. No not that kind of cure. But I can make you better. Emotionally.

I can’t tell entirely from the trailer how exactly Lisa created her stinky beau, except by hanging out near a handsome statue in the graveyard, but here’s more on creation in general from Britannica:

Zombies may be created in a variety of ways. Early depictions, drawing from Haitian Vodou, often represented witchcraft as a means for reviving corpses. Haitian zombi are said to be created by maleficent priests or sorcerers for the purpose of doing their bidding. There are two potential parts to the Vodou process: first, a zombi astral is created by removing part of a person’s soul. Then this part of the soul may be used for further magic, including the revivification of the person’s corpse, or zombi corps cadavre. Methods of zombification developed in fiction include radiation exposure and contagion. Especially noteworthy in the latter case is the danger of a so-called “zombie apocalypse,” in which the eventual zombification of the human population through virulence seems inevitable. Zombies are often depicted as proliferating by killing or infecting others—usually by biting—who then become zombies themselves.

Am I at risk of becoming a zombie too by fraternizing with a zombie, in the same way that his ghosting me turned me into the ghost (of mutually haunting)? Will this sort of dating redo become so popular that I stir a virulent plague that leads to a zombie apocalypse? And this brings up the next essential question of what does one do in the face of that—which, by the way, is a popular prompt on the dating app…

Apparently, as dimwitted as they might seem, what animates the zombie is the brain, and it’s also how you must kill them:

It is generally accepted that the impulse and drive experienced by the walking dead resides in the brain. Therefore, removing the head or otherwise destroying the brain-body connection will stop them. Because zombies are in most cases already deceased, it is usually deemed impossible to kill them by conventional methods such as gunshot, poisoning, or stabbing, unless the brain is damaged or destroyed. In instances where zombification is caused by magic, a zombie may potentially be stopped by the death of its master.

So I die and/or his brain dies, should this all go haywire. Again, even if she’s not technically a zombie, I can’t help but bring up Bella in Poor Things since the movie (and how I, Bad Mom, errantly brought my teens to see it) is burned in my brain forever. In my mind in a good way—but for my daughters probably in a sexually overwhelming and uncomfortable way that will require lifelong therapy. It all starts for Bella via brain, her baby’s brain implanted in her skull. Played astoundingly by Emma Stone, she grows clumsily through the movie as a baby brain adjusting to an adult body, learning to eat, walk, talk, and then experience a ton of arousal around a fantastically-staged Europe.

Zombie Walk, Paris, 2017 by Kevin Decherf from France, CC BY-SA 2.0

The history of zombies roaming the earth, according to more Britannica, starts in popular culture with the nonfiction book The Magic Island of 1929, detailing observations of Vodou zombi. Three years later comes the first feature-length zombie film, White Zombie. “In it a lovesick man conspires with a sorcerer (played by Bela Lugosi) to turn the object of his affections into a zombie just after she weds someone else, so that he may have control of her. The woman ‘dies’ and is given a funeral but later rises from the dead through the powers of witchcraft.” Sequels follow and interestingly, as the US enters the Atomic Age, “zombie and alien stories began to merge” and in pulp fiction and comic books zombies are rotting rather than preserved. Then comes director George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, pictured above, and an endless chain of walking dead sequels. These films often say more about the living than the undead—their inability to cooperate to make a plan to save themselves, the consumeristic culture they are trapped in. By 1983, we have Michael Jackson dancing with a zombie troop in “Thriller,” the dawn of zombie comedies, and a new idea to add to the lore: undead hunger for human brains. The 1990s bring video games, more movies, and by the turn of the 21st century we have books, a rom-zom-com in Shaun of the Dead (2004), and then, zombie mobs around the world and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a “zombie preparedness” pamphlet in their public health blog “to generate health about disaster preparedness in general.” There’s no putting this feral cat back in the bag.

With zombie entertainment spanning from plays to video games to screens big and small, it was clear by this point that the zombie menace was impossible to suppress.

I’m not totally reckless, there is fear. Stage one of being with a recovering ghoster is any time he goes silent for a block of time I tend to assume he’s offed himself again. The first time I thought he’d expired, he was napping. The second time: napping. What species of undead is this who sleeps so soundly? Perhaps the transition between states—human to haunting to zombie—has mortally exhausted him. Or he needs to rest up and build strength for the inevitable: that I will write about this.

Popular culture just loves a zombie. And I heart mine.


Krista Mad­sen is the au­thor be­hind word­smith­ery shop,  Sleepy Hol­low, inK., and pro­ducer of the Home|body newslet­ter, which she is sharing reg­u­larly with The Hudson Independent readership. You can  subscribe for free to see all her posts and re­ceive them di­rectly in your in­box.

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