This was an interesting day of writing. I put 1,500 words into the next Silo Story (retiring the WOOL moniker, maybe), and then I played around with the unpublishable mess that is I, Zombie. I wouldn’t even be touching this thing except that a few fans as nutty as I am loved the idea of the book during the Proof Unveiling last night.
Here’s the gist: Being a zombie is not at all what we’ve thought all these long years. It turns out that zombies know exactly what they are doing, they just can’t stop themselves. Not only is this just as sound scientifically (there are disorders where motor control is subverted or lost while mental faculties remain intact), it’s also much, much more interesting.
Imagine the horror of being a zombie if you knew everything your body was doing! If you could taste the brains, smell your own rotting corpse, feel every survived wound, be a part of a frightening herd, watch yourself tear after survivors that you are pulling for but cannot protect!
Before you get your hopes up, this is an unpublishable mess of an idea. I’ve been toying with it, and the results are too disgusting for me to sit through. So why was I playing around with it today? Because some of you insisted that I keep at it. If this ever becomes anything, it’ll be your fault, not mine.
Here’s the first chapter of I, Zombie. Keep in mind, this is rough draft nonsense, straight from my warped imagination and into Pages. Please do not enjoy it.
1 • Michael Lane
Michael remembered being a boy. Michael could remember everything. He remembered the doctors in the white coats telling him his catatonic mother was still in there behind those glassy eyes and that distant stare. He could remember holding her hand sometimes and hoping this was true. The wheelchair would squeak and rattle while she had another shaking fit, and he would hold her withered and trembling hands and talk to her, try to reason with her.
When he wanted to believe the doctors, he would talk to her like this. Calmly. When he didn’t believe, when he couldn’t—he would scream.
Michael Lane remembers screaming at his mother. He remembers this as he staggers through the apartment, knocking over furniture, chasing the hissing cat.
“Wake up!” he would yell, back when he could.
“Wake the fuck up!”
And he would shake her. He would want to hit her, but he never did. It was tempting, not because he thought it would do her any good or snap her out of this degenerative palsy, but because punching a hole in the wall didn’t make him feel better. He wasn’t pissed off at the wall.
The black cat stood in the corner by the radiator, its spine arched, fur spiked, pink tongue visible as it hissed at him. Michael closed in, remembering the doubts he’d had. The doubts nagged at him.
What if his mother was just acting? What if this was her way of avoiding the world? He’d watched his father crawl inside a bottle and die there just to not have to get up and go to work. Now his mom had retreated behind a vacant gaze, leaving him and his sister to pay the bills, to change her stinking bags, to roll her from one sunny patch by the window to another like a plant turning its head during the day.
He fell forward and seized the cat. Sharp claws gouged his hands, burning where they broke the skin. Michael concentrated on the past, on being a boy. The screaming at his mother was a painful memory, so he orbited that one. He tried to remember if he had ever hit his mother, even a little. He can’t. Can’t remember. Maybe he had.
The cat claws at his face as he bows his head into its fur. It bats at his unblinking eyes, and Michael—the memory of Michael—recoils in fear. But the body he is in does not pull back. He can feel teeth, his teeth, sink past the fur and tear at the flesh. The cat is a screaming, writhing blur. It claws at his eyes, tears at his ears, while Michael eats.
He can’t stop himself.
This is not him.
The blood runs down his throat, warm and foul, the screeching fading to rattling groans, and he can taste it. But this is not him. This is not Michael Lane.
He remembers being a boy, once.
He remembers the doctors telling him things he never believed.
Not until now.
17 replies to “I, Zombie”
I’m interested to see what causes the zombieism. Genetics? Viral/bacterial? Parasite? Trauma? Aliens?
I’m all for the gore, especially when this ends up airing on syfy after Mansquito or something, but the science behind it could be really cool, too. If you want to chicken out and do less cat eating (but don’t do that).
This chapter isn’t part of the bad stuff. Michael Lane does more than hit his mom.
Unpublishable, I say.
And the science behind my zombies is based on real-life stuff. There are all kinds of parasites that can hijack another animal’s brain. There’s one that’s specific to cats and mice (Toxoplasma gondii) that can turn a mouse into a zombie and make it APPROACH a cat so that it will be eaten and the parasite shat back out of the cat’s anus to start the process all over again. Hundreds of examples like this exist, believe it or not!
Indeed I’ve heard of such bad ass parasites. I was hoping it would be a parasite – and I’m wondering what the goal is for the human zombie parasite is. The mouse parasite probably reproduces in the cat or its shit so that’s why it infects mice – what do the human based ones do? One chapter is just a taste, but I think after you write a few more rest-of-the-books all my questions will probably be answered :)
I resemble that “nutty fan” remark.
You got me–I tried to turn my head away as he started on the cat.
Parasites want what we want: to reproduce. Well, “want” is a strong word. If you have a chemical chain that copies itself, it will. I see all of biology as complex chemical chains that copy themselves simply because they can.
It gets in the brain, it makes you want to bite brains, it moves from the brain to your teeth, it moves from your teeth to another thing with brains.
It isn’t a smart parasite, of course. Just as the flu kills some people, it might not know when to stop eating. Maybe it relies on the victim to fight it off and get away on its quicker legs long enough to “turn.”
(And it relies on that victim’s friends being such sad-sack pussies that they refuse to kill said friend before it’s too late!)
I’m in your brains compelling you to finish this 10 part series of I, Zombie books. I’m also reproducing up in there, but you probably don’t want to imagine how …
Count me scared shitless
Love the idea! How creepy! I say, if you are up to it, keep working on it! You never know, it might turn out to be more popular than Wool. Some people like to read some messed up stuff!
Nice start, Hugh. Personally, I’m a fan of a good zombie tale.
I think there is a tendency to look down on this genre and horror fiction in general. But, if written with care, this kind of story can also present themes that we all can relate to. Sometimes extreme situations can help get to the crux of fears we don’t normally like to think about. Losing control of one’s body, mind, morality… I see this theme in the genre.
Also, this is kind of a morbid subject but, I wonder if the zombie tale in our culture is a manifestation of evolutionary programmed fears about cannibalism. When a species expands well beyond its resources, does it turn on itself?
That’s a fascinating theory! I’ll have to give that one some thought.
I remember hearing about these ants that get attacked by a fungus that turns them into “zombies” and wondering if something like that could happen to other animals (especially people). Kind of freaky when you think about it. The other thought that freaked me out a bit was not about human zombies, but animal zombies. Maybe it’s because zombie stories always seem to be about human zombies who need to eat our brains. What if it was zombie critters that were after our brains… Remember how scary the movie “The Birds” was? Scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.
I love the concept of the zombie’s perspective of zombiedom. What a nightmare!
Here’s two stories about zombie ants. It’s interesting how the effect is so different on the two ant species:
Love the idea for I, Zombie but am totally stoked to hear more Silo goodness forthcoming. I just finished Wool 5 last night and have never in my life wanted to re-start and re-read a series of books so quickly. LOL! Any ideas on when this next Silo instalment might be coming to fruition for us readers to dig into? :)
Good question, Starr. Which has inspired today’s blog post! (up in a minute or two)
It is an interesting premise – I published a flash fiction by Rick McQuiston a few years ago about a self-aware zombie who hated himself for not controlling his appetites. Check it out – http://residentialaliens.blogspot.com/2007/09/misunderstood.html
Loved yesterdays blog post. Woot! And somehow when I originally read this yesterday I missed the first chapter of I, Zombie. I just read it now and really enjoyed it. I really like the idea of seeing things from the zombie side. Everything I have read, watched (loooove “The Walking Dead” on AMC as of recent) about zombies always shows them as mindless but especially while watching “The Walking Dead” where you see interactions between family members (one Zombified, one not) I had wondered myself if there wasn’t still some shreds of humanity, understanding, compassion? inside that the zombie just was not able to bring above the base need to eat flesh/brains/whatever. I do hope you end up finding a way to bring I, Zombie to fruition. I think it is a very unique idea for a story. <3
There’s a zombie movie that shows the perspective of the zombies themselves. It’s a low-budget film.
Someone sent me the trailer for that. It looks hilarious! And yeah, it put a damper on the originality of my idea. Except that my people very much know what they are. Much darker. Disgusting, really.