Zombies with a conscience

Christine Verstraete

You never forget those first frights—the
creak of the pendulum in the Poe-based film, The Pit and the Pendulum…. the
scare from reading Stephen King’s Pet
— and the dog decides to make a noise at a crucial moment… staying up
all night reading when the house starts making strange noises…

I’ve filled my mind with enough
“gruesome” over the years that it’s no surprise it’s started to bleed
out in my own writing, though I tend to take a “lighter” approach
with the blood and gore. Then I got attracted to zombies. Yes, dead things.
Dead people walking

Nothing new, of course. I’ve long been a
fan of old 1930’s horror movies like Frankenstein
and The Mummy, both with Boris
Karloff (and both could be considered the first “living dead”), along
with White Zombie with Bela Lugosi.
Then I saw George Romero’s Night of the
Living Dead
(1968) and was initially creeped out, but later fascinated. Horror,
and zombies and monsters, even in all their gruesomeness are like a car
accident—you can’t stop looking.

What many people, even those who typically
don’t like horror, find compelling is the humanity. It’s the people and what
happens to them in the movies or series like The Walking Dead that keeps them
coming back. It’s the way that the story makes you nearly jump out of your
chair, despite the gruesomeness of it.

Romero is credited with starting the
flesh-eating zombie, quite different than the voodoo-made zombies in a trance
state from Haitian legend and in the early films. But… could it be real?
Journalist William Buehler Seabrook is credited with introducing the term
“zombi” (without an e) to the public through his 1929 book on Haitian
voodoo, The Magic Island, where he describes
reportedly seeing actual zombies.
Of course, he also had an alcoholism problem and
later dabbled in the occult, too. But some sources have pointed to certain
toxins, like from the puffer fish, as being able to paralyze a person and turn
them into a “zombie”. Haitian witch doctors also reportedly have used
plant toxins to render persons into semi-conscious “zombies” in
addition to casting voodoo spells on them. (See CNN

In fiction, of course, zombies are often
the heartless killers, all vestiges of humanity gone and forgotten.
Or some
authors, including me with my book, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie,
have created zombie characters that still hang on to some of their humanity and
struggle to survive in a different form, with a different reality.

Whichever approach, zombies usually are
scary; the real life boogeymen of today.
They’re the representation of all
things evil. They’re devourers and symbols of the end.

Thank God they’re not real…. right?

Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie
Young Adult winner in the 2013 Halloween
Book Festival

Life can suck when you’re sixteen. It can suck even worse when you’re
not- quite- dead.
Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Herrera Hayes faces every teenager’s biggest
nightmares: bad skin, bad hair, and worse . . . turning into one of the living
Becca’s life changes forever when her cousin Spence comes back to their
small Wisconsin town carrying a deadly secret—he’s becoming a zombie, a fate he
shares with her through an accidental scratch.
The Z infection, however, has mutated, affecting younger persons like
her, or those treated early enough, differently. Now she must cope with weird
physical changes and habits no girl wants to be noticed for. Then she meets
Gabe, a good-looking part-Z like her, and fears falling for him. After all, how
can he, who shows hardly any Z symptoms, be interested in someone like her?
But time is running out… Becca needs his help as she and her cousin
Carm search for their missing mothers and fight off hungry Zs.
Most of all, she needs to find something, anything, to stop this deadly
transformation before it is forever too late…

Christine Verstraete is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who also likes to write fiction on the scary side. 

Her book, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, was recently named the Young Adult winner of the Halloween Book Festival. Her short stories and flash fiction stories have appeared in various anthologies. 

Learn more at her website www.cverstraete.com and blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com.

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