Our writing teacher’s main rule was, no zombie stories. No fighting zombies, he said the first day of class, no parallel reality where everyone here was a zombie there, no stories from the point of view of zombies. Such an outcry about zombies we figured he probably was one. We looked closely for tell-tale signs like nasty head wounds, upturned eyes, and snacking on flesh jerky packed in Ziploc bags. I don’t care about what you do at home, he said, shooting zombies in video games, watching zombie movies, dressing up like zombies for masquerades, but don’t bring it here. This is literature fiction writing, he implored, pale face turning shades of pink meat.
So in defiance I wrote a story called “Dead of the Night Living” that was about, you guessed it, zombies. But I didn’t call them zombies. Instead they were angry accountants. They weren’t undead just overly stoic, devoid of personality. They sported thick black-rimmed glasses instead of bloody fatal head wounds. The protagonists didn’t shoot them but engaged in costly, time-consuming civil litigation. We workshopped it and he said, you’re not fooling me. I threw up my hands like, what’re you talking about, and everyone laughed.
So we spent the rest of that semester chasing mister anti-zombie, with varying subtlety, with zombie stories that didn’t have zombies. He didn’t like it. You’re all playing me, he often snarled, his face turning into a nasty grimace of undeadishness. For a moment in one late semester class, it felt like it got darker outside, the walls closing in and those of us in the room the only humans left standing, but it released as he said, all right, time for a break, swinging the door open, the halls full of oblivious bodies pressing relentlessly to their next classes.