Click for a larger image!
For almost 12 months now, I've been quietly working on the most important piece of zombie literature known to mankind. Or zombiekind, as the case may be. And by 12 months, I mean intermittently
. It's not THAT big of a book.
At any rate, I recently finished writing and editing the novella and the story is currently receiving it's semi-final proofing. My hope is to have print copies and an ebook version available within the coming weeks.
For anyone who's been following this story, you know that I haven't exactly had the easiest time nailing down the title of this novella. At the very beginning, the title was "On the Outside Looking In: Living Impaired Among the Unimpaired Living". This was the title that actually inspired me to write Zaphod's story. Unfortunately, I don't think that it was the most marketable of titles, so I tried to come up with something more fitting.
Draft two of the title -- which I used in a mockup of the cover located elsewhere on this website -- was "Don't Call Me Zombie". While this was more appropriate and certainly more marketable, it established an undesired premise and conflict in the story and the best way to remedy it was to simply not use that title.
Obviously, the book is about Zaphod Zombie. After spending weeks going over and over this problem about the title, I finally settled on the obvious, borrowing the subtitle from my original idea. I like it, and I hope you do, too.
While the full text of the book is still a few weeks off, you can read the opening chapter after the break. Also, feel free to catch up on the Zaphod Zombie webcomic
. And if you enjoy this sample of Zaphod Zombie, I would encourage you to visit my lulu.com page
and consider buying one of my other books.
Stumble on, true believers!
"IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. OR UNDEAD."
"Hi. My name is Zaphod. And I'm a zombie."
These were the words that were supposed to change my life. Well, my unlife, really. They were supposed to be some kind of admission of guilt. Here is my problem, now help me get past it.
"Well, technically, I'm living impaired. Or undead."
The group—a gaggle of unimpaired "lifers"--stared back at me. Call me crazy, but I think they were a little shocked.
"Okay, see, it's not that the term 'zombie' is bad or anything," I attempted to explain, realizing too late that it was perhaps a futile effort. "Obviously, it's not like 'nigger'—"
A large, muscular black man—I believe his name was Lawrence—shot me an indignat glare.
"But, I mean, it does carry with it some clearly negative connotations." I looked at Lawrence. "If someone walks around crying nigger, you just get offended. If someone walks around crying zombie, I get offended, too. But mass panic also ensues and I usually end up getting shot at. Have you ever been shot at before? It's not fun. Especially when you actually get hit. I've got the scars if you want to see them. And they never heal. They're kind of just stitched up really tight so that my bits and pieces don't start spilling out."
The gaggle of unimpaired lifers stared a little bit harder at me. Someone gulped, a sound that resonated unpleasantly within the the cold, brick walls of the Greenville Community Center.
"Y-you're really a zombie?" a lady named Marsha said in an all-too familiar, quivering, on-the-verge-of-hysterical-panic voice.
Narrow-minded meat-sacks, that's all the living are.
"Living impaired," I said again. "I just told you, the z-word is kind of offensive."
Another middle-aged lady—a homely woman name Linda who was in the group to cope with the loss of her husband—shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Um ..." she seemed unreasonably confused and unsure of what to do or say. She shifted again, mumbled something that was incoherent, started to get up and then sat back down to shift some more.
The living can be so intolerant.
Linda finally decided what she wanted to do.
It was a piercing, warbling scream, straight from the classic Universal horror flicks. The scream lasted for as long as Linda could sustain it, and then the room fell silent. Somewhere, a dog barked. Then, Linda shot to her feet, knocking the folding chair she sat on backwards to clatter against the wall and then ran out the door.
Unfortunately, the door Linda tried to run through was half of a double-door that led out to the rest of the community center. This particular half of the door was the one that was always locked. In fact, there was even a small sign that directed people to use the other door.
Linda ran and smashed into the locked door and then fell to the ground, unconscious.
No one in the group moved.
Finally, I cleared my throat. "... well, that was awkward."
I guess when you get right down to it, my anger towards life stems from the fact that I don't have one. It's unfair to blame my condition for everything that I perceive wrong in my unlife—at least, that's what group therapy tried to convince me of right before the group couldn't handle being in the same room as a rotting corpse and proceeded to flee from me.
Right. Like I've never seen that before.
My friends—all two of them—tell me that I can only play the hand I'm dealt in life. They say that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. The problem with these theories is that I don't have a life. I'm living impaired. Undead. A zombie. And there isn't a minority in the world that has suffered the trials, tribulations, and indignities that the living impaired must suffer every minute of every day.
It's not fair and that makes me angry.
My heart might not beat like everyone else's, but I still have a heart.
I have interests and passions, hopes and dreams just like everybody else.
I need physical and emotional connections just like everybody else.
I have parents and family. Most are dead, but that doesn't mean they never existed. Nor does it mean I've never dealt with the same kind of family conflict and drama that everybody else has dealt with.
I have to work at jobs that I hate to pay bills that I don't want just like everybody else.
Zombies are people, too, you know.
I wasn't born in Greenville, but I did grow up there. And I died there. It was a warehouse fire down by the docks. I wasn't actually caught in the fire or anything, but the warehouse contained a load of barrels which held a secret biological weapon, allegedly owned by the government. What the government was doing storing such dangerous material in an unguarded warehouse in Greenville, I don't know.
During the fire, there was an explosion. One of the barrels was cracked and was sent rolling under the docks. One night, several days later, I was under the docks. Long story short, I got infected and slowly died over the next three days.
Ever since then, life hadn't been the same. Specifically, life had been non-existent.
In the beginning, it was exceptionally hard to deal with being living impaired. I was living at home with my father at the time (my mother left us when I was eleven) and suffice it to say, he didn't approve of my new undead-life style and kicked me out. Surely, it's a traumatic experience for any young person to endure: having your own parent all but disown you and send you out to live on the streets.
What made it even worse was that it really wasn't my fault. I didn't choose to become a zombie. It wasn't my intention to pursue the unlife of a living impaired person. I couldn't be blamed for who I had become and I wish I could've told my dad that.
Well, I did tell my dad. I just wish he had understood it.
After my falling out with my father, I tried to finish my Associate's Degree at Greenville Community College. After what happened with my father, this was my first real taste of what it was like for a living impaired person to integrate in modern society.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20 and I can see now that a college degree of any type is useless to the living impaired. I had a hard enough time getting a job as a fry cook at Big Burger Boys and there was no way that a college degree would have helped me in the slightest.
I had a small amount of savings that kept me going as I acclimated to my new lifestyle. It wouldn't last forever, though, and things were just beginning to bite.
I had gone to the group therapy session at the suggestion of my roommate, Curtis. After bumming around the city for seven months, I finally found his ad on craigslist. He was renting out the spare room in his house for extra money. Unfortunately, as my luck would have it, by the time I responded to his ad he had already found a taker by the name of Beanie Boy. Beanie Boy wasn't the guy's real name, but the persona he had created for himself on the internet. He was so committed to this character that he insisted to be called Beanie Boy (or simply "B" for short) on a regular basis.
Curtis didn't tell me he had already rented the room until I came in to talk to him. I think he might have taken pity on me. Usually, my sense of pride would have forced me to turn tail and walk away ... but after everything I had been through since I went undead, I guess I was willing to take all the pity anyone had to offer.
"In the spirit of full-disclosure, you do realize that I'm undead, right?"
"As in the walking dead and moaning and stuff?" Curtis said. "Like a zombie?" "Living impaired." "Come again?"
We were sitting at his kitchen table. Curtis was in his late twenties and burly. He wasn't particularly fat, but if I was into that sort of thing, he would have made a decent meal. He wore a black t-shirt and jeans and although he spoke softly, I got the distinct impression that he could kick my ass. The house he owned was a small two bedroom, two bath that he had gotten majorly screwed on. Curtis paid about three times what the house was actually worth and now he was desperate to do whatever he could to make ends meet.
Which was probably the main reason why he didn't turn me away that day.
"Listen," Curtis said, "I gotta be honest with you, the room in the ad has already been rented."
Whatever was left of my soul was firmly squashed. When Beanie Boy came in through the front door a second later carrying a moving box, my crushed soul was further demoralized. Beanie Boy was narrow, clean-shaven, and had a buzzcut that he probably maintained himself. He wore what I would later learn was his go-to outfit: a white dress shirt with a black tie, slacks, and dress shoes. Topping it all off was a pair of black-framed glasses.
"Hey, Curtis," Beanie Boy said as he crossed the living room, "thanks so much for letting me move in right away. You have no idea what a jam you're helping me out of."
Curtis gave Beanie Boy a small wave. "Sure, no problem," he said awkwardly.
I cleared my throat and stood up. "Well then, I guess I'll just be going ..."
Curtis stood up quickly. "Look, I'm really sorry about this but—wait, I mean, you're really a zombie, right?"
I glared at him. I had been doing that a lot lately.
"Right. Okay, gimme a second," Curtis said. "I think I can make this work."
Curtis ran off to the room that Beanie Boy had just rented from him. It was the master suite so Curtis could collect a larger rent. He and Beanie Boy exchanged a quick, whispered conversation while I shuffle-paced in the kitchen. Curtis returned moments later and explained the arrangement that he got Beanie Boy to agree to. I was slightly flabbergasted.
"You want to rent me the master bedroom closet?!"
"It'll be substantially cheaper than the room you came here to rent."
"Yeah, but you expect me to live in a closet."
"It's the best I can do, Zaphod. And you said you're a zombie, so how much space do you even need?"
"Oh, because now that I'm undead my needs are different than, you know, the living."
"Look, if you don't want the room—"
"It's a closet!"
"If you don't want the closet—"
"You said it would be substantially cheaper than the main room. How cheap?"
Curtis told gave me the number. It was cheap. And since I didn't really have any possessions, I moved in right then and there.