Ever since I read ‘Warm Bodies’ by Isaac Marion last year, I have been trying to imagine what I’d do if there was a real live zombie apocalyse. I mean, would me and my white-belt-in-karate go down fighting against the grizzly undead? Or would I run away screaming and lock myself in my tiny apartment till the food runs out, in the hope that the zombies would get bored trying kick my door in, or at least have the decency to be killed by someone who is a bit more hard-ass than me.
‘Warm Bodies’ (which inspired a blockbuster zom-rom-com movie of the same name) was one of the best novels I read last year. In fact, it is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. Period. Unfortunately though, because of my brain injury and it’s associated problems, most of the plot is now receding from my memory faster than the living deadly gorging on a patè of grey matter. Off the top of my head, I can remember it was narrated in the first person from the point of view of ‘R’, a zombie who appears to have died in his late teens to early twenties and has no recollection of anything that happened to him before his death: all he knows is the first intial of his name – and he’s not even convinced he’s got that right.
R lives in an abandoned airport alongside his friend ‘M’ and a community of ‘fleshies’ (zombies that are in the early state of decay) and ‘boneys’ (zombies that have decomposed to the point where they have no soft tissue – these guys are meaner than your average fleshie and appear to be the leaders).
Now, I don’t know if this was deliberate (probably not), but through R’s narrative, Isaac Marion paints an eerily accurate description of what life is like for many survivors of acquired brain injury: R admits to feeling vague, empty and frustrated by his inability to read or properly process his own thoughts; and although his fellow flesheaters are dogged with similar deficits (plus a shared lethargy that makes speaking in more than monosyllables difficult), it is made abundantly clear from the beginning that R is different from the other zombies because he has some degree of empathy towards the humans he eats and because he hankers after a life that involves more than simply shuffling, groaning and guzzling guts (– thus the idea slightly mirrors those high-functioning survivors of the ABI community who have a more acute awareness of their cognitive limitations).
Anyway, whilst R and M and some other random corpes are out hunting, they come upon a group of young resistance fighters led by a nineteen-year-old called Perry. R kills Perry and eats part of his brain. During this time, R is able to feel alive for a few brief moments through the memories and emotions of his victim – this I suppose is not unlike the lightbulb moment a brain-injured person might have when they finally grasp how to relearn something that they’ve previously struggled to remember. R, then, experiences a fleeting sensation of remorse – although not enough to stop him from pocketing the rest of Perry’s brain to savour later – and on seeing Perry’s girlfriend, Julie, feels physical attraction and is moved to save rather than savage her.
Anyway, after wiping zombie-gore on Julie to hide her from his hungry cronies, R takes her home and they bond over old records… and then R starts to feel more and more alive… and then Julie eventually wants to go home to her living pals and there’s a bit of a kerfuffle involving a ‘meet-the-parents’ scenerio and … well… you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next…
Antonia, my gorgeous paramour who’s previously claimed to have my back ‘no matter what’, has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment in terms of zombie-defending-kickassness: she said if the living dead swarmed Sudbury then she’d just kill herself because there would be too many to get away from; except for if I was bitten by a zombie, because then she’d become one with me. I really excepted more: I thought she would have acquired a Land Rover or equivalent heavy vehicle that could be used to mow some of the grave-dodging fuckers down – that’s what I would have done if I could drive! And she could have at least broken into Sports Direct across the road and stolen a few baseball bats with which she could have protected me… or exacted her revenge in the event of my demise. Poor show, Madam, that’s what I say.
I did a ‘Will You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse’ quiz on Buzzfeed.com and my result was: ‘torn apart in one week’. Apparently, I’d make a really good effort but would be slaughtered due to poor decision-making and lack of ruthlessness. Sounds about right!