The music played, the party-goers partied, the servers served and the bartender tended bar.
The 2011 Halloween bash was well under way and well-attended, at least from what I could see from my vantage point.
At a table near the back, I sat with my dear friend Danielle, engrossed in conversation.
“The lecture went pretty well,” I admitted. “I think everyone had a good time.”
“Maybe next time, you can do a talk on vampyres,” Danielle suggested. “Now that they know why their teenagers and college students are fascinated by zombies, maybe you can help them understand their obsession with the undead.”
I shrugged, doubting somewhat that a local fraternal organization would want me to do a lunchtime chat on vampyres.
But then again, if someone had asked me a month ago if the same organization would ask me to do a talk on The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“Their kids are probably into the whole Twilight thing, anyway,” Danielle grumbled. She rolled her eyes and shook her head sadly.
The ‘alleged vampire fiction’ of Stephenie Meyer was lost on Danielle and me, I’m afraid. One of the things that made us instant friends was our firm belief that the Twilight character Edward Cullen was the decaf cappuccino of vampyre fiction. Sure, some people order decaf cappuccino but… what’s the point??
Danielle and I are vampyre snobs. We are also, to be fair, zombie snobs or ‘Snombies’, as she calls us. We pooh-poohed the movie Return of the Living Dead, adore George A. Romero and bemoan ‘fast’ zombies notwithstanding the fact that we both liked 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, both of which films featured ‘fast’ zombies.
“Someone said to me the other day that the pirate crew of the Black Pearl were zombies!” Danielle exclaimed. “I thought I was going to smack her!”
I’d read somewhere that this was not an uncommon misconception among fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It was, however, the first time I myself heard of such faulty reasoning, albeit second-hand, from someone I actually knew.
“You should have smacked her!” I suggested. “You have to take a firm stand on these things!”
Danielle glanced over at the table next to us. Two young ladies (friends of Danielle’s) ordered the special Halloween ‘black fettuccine’ (and I mean black!). It looked like they were eating long black leeches or tape worms. It was deliciously gross-looking.
“That is so disgusting, you’ve no idea!” Danielle said to her friends as they grinned at us, long bits of black fettuccine dangling from their lips.
For a few moments, we sipped our respective soft drinks in silence.
“Why don’t zombies rot as fast as regular human corpses?” she asked suddenly and quite seriously.
It put down my can of Coke Zero.
“At all times, there are natural germs, microbes and bacteria around us and within us,” I explained. “When we’re alive, our immune system and antibodies keep these things in check. When we die, these tiny little entities flourish. It is what helps our bodies decompose after death. But germs, microbes, bacteria, insects, parasites and even carrion eaters… they all avoid zombies or even infected persons. Zombie flesh is toxic to all other life forms. Without any of the germs, microbes and bacteria in their bodies – without anything helping the body break down – this basically embalms the zombie to a large extent, substantially reducing the rate of natural decomposition.”
“That explains why zombies aren’t constantly being swarmed by crows, vultures, dogs, flies or maggots,” I concluded.
“Of course!” Danielle said, thinking it through. “Or else all we’d have to do is lock ourselves in our homes and the zombies would rot and fall apart in a week or two and get eaten by crows and dogs!”
“The real puzzle is… why do they crave human flesh?” I said, offering the question to her.
Danielle nodded some more, sipping at her straw.
“They don’t need to eat, right?” she began. “I mean, not like you and I need to eat in order to live. In fact,” she said, looking at me for confirmation, “their entire digestive system just shuts down, like their circulatory system, right?”
“Right,” I smiled. “Keep going.”
“So…” Danielle said, her eyebrows furrowed, “If they don’t need to eat… and even if they did eat, their systems couldn’t process the food… why the desire to eat flesh? They would simply fill up to the point where they would burst, no?”
“What if they don’t actually consume the flesh?” I said in an offhand manner, tempting her to consider the question more deeply.
Her face registered a wide-eyed surprise.
“You mean… attack, bite, chew, gnaw… but not actually eat?” she asked.
I shrugged, taking a sip of my Coke Zero.
“That would explain them not getting full. I mean, not only not literally getting full but also not feeling satisfied after eating. You always see zombies feeding, then abandoning their victims in order to go after another living human.”
I could tell she was enjoying the mental exercise.
“A compulsion to attack,” Danielle continued, on a roll, “to bite, chew, rip… but never actually swallow, never consume… never be satisfied… always hungry but never actually being able to eat.”
She shook her head as her ideas began to crystalize.
“A kind of zombie nymphomania!” she exclaimed. “Always desiring, always lusting after something but never being able to achieve satisfaction, no matter what. Never being able to… to…” She waved her hands in circles. “You know!”
I nodded, admiring how quickly and easily she worked through the hypothetical problem.
“You have achieved Enlightenment, Grasshopper!” I said.
We clinked our Coke cans.
“I’m hungry!” she announced and ordered a large plate of black fettuccine.
As she dug into her meal, she asked, “That ‘grasshopper enlightenment’ thing. That’s another cultural reference from the olden days that I’m never going to figure out, isn’t it?”
I gave her a self-satisfied shrug, enjoying the sight of her eating with gusto.
“Thank goodness for Google!” she said.
Danielle grinned at me, long pieces of black fettuccine dangling from her lips.