If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with zombies. This is a relatively recent obsession starting with The Walking Dead on AMC. And the interest surprises me as much as it does some of my friends.
The first episode Mark and I caught was the sixth and final episode of the first season, TS-19, otherwise known as the CDC episode. What I found most powerful about that episode is that it contains one of the most poignant and searing moments in the whole series.
When Jenner shows Rick’s group the time-lapse MRI video of infected Test Subject 19, a person (later revealed to be his wife), his explanation brings up such profound questions of what makes you human, what makes up the soul.
The video shows the disease attacking the brain, ultimately killing the victim. But then brain activity restarts a few hours later, simultaneously reanimating the body to mere basic functions, the humanistic traits do not return. [So much of this comes from this wiki article on this] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TS-19
This question of what makes up existence is what compels me about zombies.
Ignited by The Walking Dead, as of this date I have read many Zombie novels. Whenever a new one comes out, I have to restrain myself from instantly purchasing.
I think the zombies horror phenomenon speaks to some of the most basic (and basest) qualities of the human condition and what it would be like to be alive but without a soul or a spark or if that spark is dulled into greater and greater oblivion.
And then there are my personal reasons for being fascinated.
From the age of 16 until 26, my mother started to disappear.
Or perhaps that isn’t the right word, maybe erode or subsume? She became buried within herself. She began to fade. I’m a writer, I should pick the right word but it felt like all these things.
The person I knew and loved was still in there but increasingly unreachable.
The first incident of her eroding was subtle. My parents took me out to dinner to discuss applying to colleges and my father did most of the talking but he kept asking my mother to talk about her crazy college roommates, a story she told often and hilariously. My mother looked at him blankly saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Peter.” He thought she was kidding, he kept nudging her but it became obvious she actually didn’t remember.
Other forgetting and unresponsive incidents followed and increased in frequency over the years. Then she ate less and less and would sleep all the time but appear exhausted and almost catatonic.
At first, my family ignored these changes in my mother. Then later on, they thought it was depression. And no one except for me wanted to talk about it if it was psychological.
Finally six months before I was getting married in 2000, my mother passed out on my parents’ driveway. A roof contractor found her and told my father he should have my mother undergo an MRI. They found a tumor.
It turned out to be a congenital brain tumor that had started to grow and apply pressure to her brain creating all these depression, catatonic like symptoms. She was operated on and miraculously overnight she was back to her old self. It was amazing how quickly she returned. I’m very thankful for that.
So I guess one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by zombies is I want to see the impossible return of that irreplaceable soul.