Zombies….. What a wonderful phrase…
Zombies…. Ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries, for the rest of your days
It’s our problem free…. philosophy.. zombies
(No copyright infringement intended…)
If asked to describe me, those who know me would mention my love of zombies in their first sentence. In fact, those who don’t know me but that have spent 5 seconds in my presence could tell you that too. Zombies are my favourite conversation point, they’re reflected in my reading and viewing preferences, and you can even see them on a lot of my clothes and in my jewelry. I absolutely love them; running, slow, undead, infected, whatever – it’s all good to me. As the last few years have rolled by, my film and book collection has grown so that it can barely be contained within one room, and that’s not to mention my figurines (they’re not toys, damnit!).
People always ask me why. What is it about these particular monsters that get me so excited? Why am I so comfortable about sleeping in a room full of images of them? I’ve pondered this for a while, and now, with the start of the New Year, I’d like to share my thoughts.
The movie that really ignited my love of these shambling, munchy freaks is one that was made in 2010 and most of you have probably never heard of it. It’s about a girl in her early twenties that is involved in a horrible car accident that leaves her very injured and lucky to be alive. One night, she wakes up in hospital in a blind panic because she can hear zombies heading down the hall towards her ward. Thanks to her broken spine, she can’t get up and run away. It’s one of the most terrifying moments in cinematic history – the poor lass is lying there helpless, with horrible images of the zombies shambling in and ripping out what’s left of her intestines (some were already claimed by her accident, you see!).
Luckily, the girl isn’t eaten alive because as it turns out, there aren’t zombies in the hall at all – she was just really high on morphine, in a high state of anxiety, and had woken up from a nightmare. Her brain just mixed those factors together and created a panic attack.
However, that zombie nightmare plagues her for the entire first year of her recovery. The dreams are vivid and scary and she often wakes up feeling confused and emotional. During the counseling she is assigned to help manage her PTSD from the accident, she is asked what she thinks the dreams mean. She assumes that the zombies are a visual representation of her fear that death is surrounding her, that it’s everywhere, and that she can’t escape it. Even though she’s recovering, she often fears that her time is up. She’s scared of everything: a pipe makes a funny noise and she’s convinced that somehow it will blow her flat up and kill her in bed; she has two helium ‘get well’ balloons that bump together and she gets hysterical because she thinks they’ll combust and burn her alive in bed; she hears a car start and becomes terrified that the driver plans to drive right through her bedroom wall and kill her in bed (this sounds mental but PTSD is a cruel mistress). She’s afraid of falling asleep in case – yep, you guessed it – she dies in bed.
At some point, she realises that she herself has become a zombie. She’s emotionally numb to the feelings of others around her because they haven’t suffered like she has and they just don’t understand her. After losing 3 stone because painkillers have annihilated her appetite, her clothes hang off her pale, ill, slouched over body. All she thinks about is eating, and forcing herself to keep taking steps forward, because it’s all she can do.
As she shambles along in her state of reluctant resentment, she can’t help but notice that everyone around her is a zombie too – but they’re different. They’re just like she was before she got broken, but like her in her current condition, all they’re doing is putting one foot in front of the other, consuming things. She feels that she’s lost her previous life, that too many things were stolen from her, and that she’s been reduced to something else that she doesn’t want to be. All of a sudden, she becomes conscious of her shitty, self-pitying attitude and snaps herself out of it because not every zombie movie has to end with a screenshot of a horde shambling into the sunset.
I can’t give the movie a full review because it hasn’t ended yet. Also, it’s not really a movie, and the girls name is Kayleigh *waves*. But everything else I said is true. The reason I’m telling you this is purely sentimental. We’re just starting a new year, and I want to begin by telling you, the horror community, that you saved my life. You brought me back from the brink of zombie-ness and have become the building blocks of the life I’ve managed to make so far out of all that mess from 2010.
Remember those shambling, munchy freaks I mentioned a few paragraphs back? I really, really felt like one for a while there. I had my Stephen King books and my Nazi zombie kill count on C.O.D to distract me when I couldn’t sleep or if I woke up from a nightmare. I thought my surgery scars were ugly and disfiguring (and a few girls from uni confirmed that they were), but to the people I met in the horror community, they were cool and even sexy because unlike other folk, people who are entertained by violent lunatics, paranormal terrors, and fanged demons don’t scare easily!
My unhealthy obsession with the undead resulted in my dissertation centering around The Walking Dead, and because of it, I got a 1st for my degree (thanks Robert Kirkman, and my awesome horror-fan lecturers who took that interest seriously!). I wrote a comedy/horror zombie play at the same time that’s since been staged twice (thanks fellow, weirdo, zombie lovers who made/went to see it).
Lastly, with all that recovery and a very long, drawn out legal situation over and done with, I finally made a start on what I hope will be a long career in horror related writing in 2015. I’ve started this year with a small collection of published stories of my own, and a bigger collection of published articles.
If this seems like something I’ve just written to list and celebrate my own achievements, I apologise, because that’s really not the intention. I’ve written this because for a long time, I’ve wanted to try to explain how sincerely and deeply thankful I am to the horror community for turning the worst experience of my life into the reason I recovered. It’s not just the books, films, and games that became distractions to get me through things like coming off those painkillers (those who’ve been on morphine or tramadol for weeks at a time know what I’m sayin’). It’s also about the writers, publishers, editors, etc., that I’ve met (I’m looking at you Jim!), who have given me, and the things I’ve worked on, the time of day. Not only have you guys proofread, edited, and published my ramblings, but a lot of you have become great friends, many of whom have been there for me when things have been tough in my personal life too. There genuinely is no other community like this one, my freaky horror amigos. Only within this group can I say things like ‘I once had some intestine on the outside of my body for like 6 months’, and the response is ‘that’s awesome, can I see a picture?!’ Before you ask, I stupidly didn’t take any pictures of Wiggles (the bit of intestine that lived in a colostomy bag before they prodded him back inside my body and stitched me up… and just when I’d got fond of the little fella too! And don’t judge me for naming him, he was cute!).
As well as the hardship of those physical injuries, I had my fair share of depression to deal with during those darker days, and sometimes that was harder to deal with than the broken spine. It’s incredible that as well as my family, some of you (most of whom I’ve never even met in person), always had the time to talk me through my woes, and you genuinely helped me through it. And all because we met online, or through an anthology, and we had horror in common.
So why zombies? Because, to me, they have a depth that other spooky things don’t. Because they’re just those of us who’ve had horrible circumstances forced upon them, and they’re just trying to get by the only way they know how. Because maybe all is not lost and maybe, with a bit of TLC, they can fight their way back and rejoin the ranks of the living (hey, it happened in Warm Bodies after all). And lastly, for me, they’re a reminder that as much as I felt like one of them for a while there, things just don’t have to be that bleak. Life….. finds a way. (Fine, I stole that from Jurassic Park, but it applies).
So thank you, you kind-hearted, warm, and awesome bunch of weirdos for giving me a place to hide and resuscitate myself in. Here’s hoping that 2016 will provide us with enough brilliant horror to make us forget the shit stuff!
Happy New Year, ya filthy animals!
KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARDS