Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Zombie Girl and the Shopping Cart Serpent

Some time ago, I wrote about my de-evolutionary fears -- the fear that kids and teens are losing their capacity for "fight or flight" reaction as a result of exposure to too much daily neurological stimulation. I think I was right. I also think this phenomenon could be the reason for the current pop-cultural obsession with zombie stories.

Think about it. In the early fifties, with the growing national obsession with nuclear energy (and the constant afterimage of mushroom clouds at Hiroshima and Nagasaki) science fiction writers and movies makers spewed forth a cavalcade of radiation-mutated monsters, like giant spiders and giant women. Fear of the power of nuclear energy and the knowledge of its possible destructive (and mutative) powers yielded tales of science-gone-wrong. Movies and stories were a means to vent the writers' horrors that we might lose control of the very powers we had become able to release in great flashes of destruction or in seeping, silent, invisible rays that morphed the things with which we were familiar into three-headed deformities.

I think it is happening today with zombies.The explosion of movies and books on the subject of zombies is a reaction to the ghastly, plodding, unresponsive, foot-dragging lifelessness of our young people. Metaphorically, the zombies are coming, to swarm over us and to consume our brains.

From the original Night of the Living Dead
How do I know? Well, I don't, really. But I do know that, the other day, I stood in a crowded supermarket, in line, waiting, waiting...waiting. And, when I got up to the checkout, I was faced with the undead.

There stood a girl -- not unpleasant; not unattractive -- running each item over the scanner with the nonchalant air of a vacationing flower-sniffer. A great shopping-cart serpent squirmed backward from me and disappeared into the aisles, flicking its tail in the invisible distance. Customers were grumbling about the wait.

This had no effect whatsoever on Zombie Girl. She slowly scanned; she casually bagged. She yawned into the back of her hand. There was no concern over the angry, coupon-brandishing mob.

I watched, my jaw agape, thinking back to my busboy days of cleaning, running, sweating as I unloaded dishes in a hot diner kitchen, panicking under the pressure from the waitresses and from  the customers waiting in the vestibule to be able to be seated for their dinners. I remember knowing this was on my shoulders: they could not sit unless I cleaned. It was on me. I rose to the occasion or I was tossed onto the parking lot asphalt by my demanding Greek bosses...

Still, Zombie Girl falls prey to none of these pressures. Why? Her reptilian brain has been shorted out by flying images on video games; by flashes on the television screen; by dance club lights and the relentless untz-untz-untz of a synthetic bass drum.

She looks at me -- at my jaw sagging in wonder at her lack of response to the demands of the angry mob.

She stops. She bares her teeth at me. He irises and pupils go black. She reaches a hand out an tenderly strokes the top of my head...

"Juicy brains..." she says as the laser scanner drops to the floor, its sharp red light etching witches' runes on the supermarket ceiling.

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