They don’t tell you about the hunger.
It’s all about numbers for them, sales and commissions and profits and retirement funds. After the bottom fell out of the stock market, those who didn’t kill themselves found salvation in the latest phase hitting the country: zombies.
And they had the pick of the litter, too. There was no lack of desperate souls willing to trade in their chips for a chance to change their life. Even if no one really knew what they were signing up for.
Zombies saved the economy, starting with reality television. We did for mass media what porn did for the Internet. And then there were the merchandise tie-ins, the spin-off shows, the novel adaptions, the signings, the conventions, and the interviews.
Before the zombie thing got out of control, the government stepped in and wrote all kinds of regulations and requirements to make sure that down-to-earth, honest, hard-working homeowners weren’t tricked into giving up their lifesavings in exchange for a guaranteed cash payout. I guess they were worried about it being some kind of pyramid scheme, but it’s nothing like that, because there’s no end to this pyramid. The hunger makes sure of that.
The hunger hits like a garbage truck crashing through your grandmother’s reception at the local funeral home. It’s loud and Technicolor. You want to look away, but you can’t, you can’t pry your eyes off the hideous spectacle unfolding in front of you. You can’t think about anything aside from digging your teeth into the hot, wet, flesh that beats behind the ribs of the nearest human.
This is your first hunger cramp. Congratulations, it’s about as fun as giving a cat a root canal.
The real kicker is that not a single one of the government’s regulations concerning the zombie industry require the Wall Street brokers-turned-zombie-aficionados to disclosure what will happen to us after we undergo the change. No one cares about us. We’re the refuge of society: the poor, the broken, the lost.
When the stock market imploded, the rich managed to collect enough pieces of their fortunes to put themselves back together again, even if it meant giving up their ski house in Aspens or their membership to the country club. But the rest of us, we were lucky if we knew what we were going to eat for dinner.
Now what we’re going to eat for dinner is about the only thing that isn’t a question anymore. Most of us give in to the hunger within days. It’s not exactly easy to turn away, not like the Jehovah Witnesses who used to come to everyone’s doors in this neighborhood with their copies of The Watchtower. Wanting to save our souls. Last time I saw a Jehovah Witness, his suit was in tatters, and he was dragging one of his legs behind him like it had been dislocated at the hip. Goes to show you that there isn’t a single person these days that isn’t hurting for money.
I wish I could tell you that if you make it through your first hunger cramp, the next one is easier. It isn’t. From the first moment of the change, you’re burning up from the inside. Your tongue, your stomach, your intestines become a phoenix, disintegrating into ash only to be reborn with a taste for meat.
Blood dribbling down your chin, white stringy flesh caught in the cracks between your teeth, bones splintering underneath the force of your molars; it’s shots like these that sell. The paparazzi film-crews that follow us always get their money shots. Some of us even have followings. Middle-aged women run websites devoted to us on the Internet. Kids, disillusioned with the world, wear sweatshirts with our faces plastered on them, as if we are rebels.
We’re not. We’re just the sad sacks who made the wrong choice. But unlike a bad tattoo that you can cover up, we’re stuck with our choice. We have to live with the hunger forever.
Why am I telling you all this? I just want to make it clear: I do not, in any way, endorse becoming a zombie. It’s simply not worth it. The change reduces all of us, without question, to a quivering mess of hunger and desperation. It’s only a matter of time.
But, in the unfortunate event, that you, like me, became a zombie before you knew the truth, then listen up. There might be no magic cure, no way to sate the hunger, no way to escape the mess that is now your life, but there is a way to contain it.
It helps to start a routine. Get a gym membership and actually use it. If you can’t find a gym that caters to our kind, then invest in some personal exercise equipment. One of those stationary bikes or some weights would probably suffice. If you’re willing to brave the streets, take up jogging. Anything helps. It might seem counterintuitive that burning calories will help you forget the hunger, but the slow burn of your muscles during exercise helps distract from the fire in your stomach. Trust me. There has been so many times that I’ve been tempted to give up my diet and take a bite out of my next-door neighbor, Will, who likes to play the drums at three in the morning no matter how many passive-aggressive notes he receives. A few sets of crunches later and the need to sink my teeth into his flesh is more of a footnote in my mind than a blaring headline. You cannot exercise too much.
An upside of exercising is that you’ll start looking good. Better than you ever looked before the change. Some zombies let themselves go, like that Jehovah Witness I saw the other day. There’s no need for this to happen, though. Your stomach might have restructured itself to process nothing but a diet of bloody protein, but your body won’t change significantly. Your skin won’t begin to peel off in flakey layers and you won’t be pulling out clumps of your hair in the shower.
The more people comment on your looks the better your self-esteem will become. You’ll start taking pride in the way you look, zombie or not. You’ll make regular haircut appointments, something you never did before the change. You’ll bathe and get dressed in actual clothes, not just your stained pajamas you used to wear (but only when you absolutely had to, like when the pizza delivery driver rang the door bell).
None of these things make for very good publicity, though. So don’t be surprised if the ex-Wall Street broker crowd tries to bait you with a good ole ding-dong ditch, leaving a fresh heart or maybe a tasty leg on your doorstep.
The key to handling these situations is to remain strong. Never give in. You take that first bite, that’s it. Game over.
Which is why it’s good to test your resolve in small doses. Whenever I’m at the local grocery store, stocking up on laundry detergent for all my sweaty workout clothes and deodorant for the under-the-arm emergencies, I swing by the meat department. Don’t go right up to the counter, not right away. They’ll ask you want you want–a cut of flank steak, pork, sausage–and while it’s true that all of these pale in comparison to a chunk of human, they’ll still test your resolve.
That’s the key to living as a zombie. Test your resolve on a regular basis and make sure it’s solid. It’s easy to be a vegetarian if you only ever shop at the local co-op, surrounded by all that granola and flax seed and rice flour. If you can make it through an entire evening at the best steak joint in town without once giving in and ordering something more than water, then congratulations, you’re ready.
But if you ever feel your resolve start to slip, even a little, you better look up your local Zombie Anonymous meeting. We don’t advertise in the yellow pages, but if you’re one of us, you’ll know where to find us.