All of this work was done in haste for an Undead Halloween party my friends and I decided to throw way back in 2007. This was a year before the presidential elections, and, living in Iowa, home of the early caucuses, we were already caught up in the autumnal gusts of a windy election season. It was the final year of Bush, and I’ve a distinct memory of the Republicans being especially vehement in their campaign to find the perfect nominee. There were commercials and rallies, and I knew of a couple people that got to shake hands with some politicians. But all this hubbub was at the back of our minds the weekend of the party.
I got off work at six and the festivities started at seven. I rushed home, scuffed up my t-shirt, and covered myself in chocolate flavored blood. Other than my syrupy soaked shirt sticking to my skin, it was a great costume. We drank and took pictures and ate food that had been prepared to look like body parts. As I grabbed a piece of a stomach-shaped cake, I heard bemused shouts and turned to witness my friend Josh dressed in one of the best homemade zombie getups I’d ever seen. He’d burnt holes in his coat, wore contacts that turned his eyes a sickly yellow, and used make up to put giant bloody gashes on his face and hands. Everyone thought it was great, until it soon became apparent that Zombie Josh was not going to leave character. He spoke of “braaiins” in labored groans and barely discernible mutterings.
His devotion to the role of zombie was admirable. He never walked without a limp. His mouth stayed open to ensure everyone could hear his raspy breath. The lot of us decided that we couldn’t be the only people who enjoyed this spectacle. So it was to our cars that we ran, vampires and zombies, and all creatures undead. We were headed to Campustown, the strip of bars and fast food shops across the street from Iowa State University, for an impromptu undead walk.
Now, I’m certainly not the first to draw this parallel, but there’s something to be said about zombies and politics. During campaign seasons, I often get caught up in the electricity of it all and allow myself to stump for people I know will not live up to the rhetoric they use to get themselves elected. I’m a zombie supporter, once I catch the fever of a certain politician, I’m more than willing to spread the infection of support. But very much unlike the brainless zombie, I do put quite a bit of thought into who I chose to get behind. But once I’ve made the decision, it’s difficult for me to not spread the plague.
Of course, zombieness is often synonymous with brainlessness. So there my friends and I were, limping our way through Campustown, groaning and wheezing, and covered in sweet, sticky blood. We turned the corner and passed by a gentleman who shouted, “Hey look, these guys are coming from the Ron Paul convention!” And though I’d promised myself to stay in character like my buddy Josh, the beer in my system only aided the comment in catching me off guard, and so I broke into great spasms of laughter. It rippled through my friends and the people who stared at us.
That is, of course, except for Josh, who used the opportunity to single out a girl, using her giggles to combat the eerie feeling he gave when he stared at her with those vacant yellow eyes. A moment later he’d chased her onto a pillar, on top of which she stood, screaming for help from her friends. They laughed and took pictures, and it wasn’t until the other zombies and I pulled our friend away that the girl was able to go back to the safety of her friends.
And isn’t that really the way of the zombie? Their singlemindedness is their weakness, but also their greatest strength. They’re unstoppable, unmovable, and will continue on toward their goal no matter the cost. They appear thoughtless because they are motivated only by their hunger. And it is exhausting. Whether you’re supporting candidates or covering yourself in candy blood, zombie life (if you can call it that) is really only worth living on occasions when you’ve the energy to afford it. And even then, perhaps it’s better to use your own brain, than try to find someone else’s to feast on.