Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"On Zombies: An Essay"

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. However, I acknowledge that this isn't the case for everyone. Some people just don't enjoy candy, Boo Berry, slinky costumes or fun in general. For others, Halloween isn't fun because they genuinely don't enjoy being scared.

 My wife, for example.

Her particular fear is zombies. She can't quite nail it down, but they terrify her.  If you're in my position and have to watch The Walking Dead in the other room with headphones to keep from giving your wife nightmares, please direct your significant other to today's post. 

Zombies aren't scary. And here's a ten year old to explain why.

“On Zombies: An Essay”
Aaron M. Smith- 22 Oct 2013

“Ahem,” Caleb cleared his throat in front of his fifth grade class. “I’ve been working on my essay for a few weeks, and I’m really excited to talk about it today. My older brother helped me do some of the research and helped me write some of it. Thanks Matt.”

He glanced at his teacher, Mister Abernathy, to make sure that was okay. Mister Abernathy nodded for him to continue. Caleb took a deep breath, then began.

“Zombies have been part of our culture for many years. They’ve appeared in movies, books, TV shows and music, and they’re almost always portrayed the same way- as terrifying, unstoppable killing machines. Zombies are so awful, in fact, that if there’s even one of them around, it usually means the world is ending. But why?

“Why are zombies so terrifying? Something about a shambling, brain-munching monster that used to be a human sets off an age-old terror so elemental to the human condition that we scarcely bother to consider what it is about them that makes them scary at all.” Caleb glanced at this teacher, who was looking at him from beneath half-lidded eyes. “I did say that Matt helped me write some of it,” Caleb explained.

“Let’s look at some other predators and consider what makes them scary, and compare their behavior to zombies.” Caleb flipped to the next slide on the PowerPoint presentation. The slide showed a screen print of three wolves howling at the moon. 

“Consider the wolf. They’re fast, strong, and hunt in packs. But zombies are none of these things. They can’t work together to isolate prey. At best, they move slower than a normal person can run.”

“What about fast zombies!” Shouted a girl with pigtails in the front row.

“Those don’t count,” Caleb answered. “Those are Rage-infected, a whole different subclass from regular zombies. I won’t get into those today.” Caleb clicked the slideshow forward, to a scene of a huge animatronic shark eating a boat- by far the scariest shark picture Google could produce.

“Consider the shark. Sharks will follow the smell of blood and attack already wounded prey. But zombies can’t do this either. They don’t know to go after weakened prey before attacking strong, fighting prey. They just go after whoever happens to be nearest at the time.”

Some kids looked like they wanted to argue, but nobody interjected. Several heads nodded. He clicked to the next slide, showing a cartoon lion picking its teeth with an antelope horn, a look of utter contentment on its face. 

“Consider the lion,” Caleb plowed forward. He was on a roll now. “The lion uses stealth to sneak up on unsuspecting prey and attack it. Zombies don’t seem to be able to tell day from night, and even if they could, zombies don’t sneak. A shuffling stroll is as good as any of them can seem to manage, and even then they’re usually growling or spitting. Not a good tactic for sneaking up on your meal.”

Several of the kids chuckled.

“My last example: Consider spiders,” Caleb said, changing the slide dramatically. Several kids gasped at the scene he’d taken from the climax of Arachnophobia, where the guy finds the basement full of spiders. “Spiders are tiny, and easy to accidentally stumble across. Given a limited food source, they can reproduce almost indefinitely. Also, they’re poisonous; they have a natural weapon. Spiders are the scariest thing I can think of that’s least like zombies.”

“Not bigfoot!” Shouted a jerk named Timmy at the back of the class. Several kids laughed. Caleb waited until they were finished before resuming.

“Nobody’s afraid of bigfoot, Timmy,” Caleb said. Timmy looked like he wanted to argue, but a look from Mister Abernathy silenced him. Caleb continued, “Zombies are big and easy to spot. The only way they can reproduce if they bite somebody and then don’t eat them- they have to give up their own food source for reproduction. Also, they have no natural weapons, beyond fingers and teeth. They can’t punch or kick, and they can’t use weapons like normal people can.

“In conclusion,” Caleb said, scrolling to the final slide. It contained a cartoon drawing of a zombie with a red circle with a slash through it, “As far as zombies go, there is nothing to be scared of. They’re slow, big, dumb, loud, and wimpy. You’re more likely to die of a moose bite than from a zombie attack.” 

Mister Abernathy started clapping, prompting the rest of the class to join in. After a moment the applause stopped and Caleb returned to his seat.

“Thank you Caleb for that enlightening essay. Very informative,” Mister Abernathy said, stepping up before the class. He turned and glanced at the clock, then out the window into the playground yard. 

Several shambling corpses had begun lumbering through the yard toward the school- as he watched, one of them stumbled and fell over the edge of the slide and landed face first in the mud at its base. A handful of others had gotten tangled in the swingset. One or two of them had actually managed to clear the playground equipment and were within stumbling distance of the front doors.

“Alright kids, it’s Wednesday, so that means it’s our turn to clear the yard. Everyone, get your weapons from your cubbies and follow me. And no, Timmy,” Mister Abernathy called, anticipating Timmy’s question, “Firearms are not allowed. You have to be in sixth grade to use a gun, those are the rules.”

“Aw, man!” Timmy cawed as everyone hurried to the back of the room. Soon each student had a weapon in hand- Caleb was extra proud of his cricket bat, which his dad had used to defend their home four nights prior. 

“Alright everyone, find your buddy,” Mister Abernathy said, readying his own aluminum baseball bat. “Remember, aim for the heads. If you can’t reach the head, aim for the knees and let your buddy take him out when he falls. We’ll have juice boxes when we get back. Jodie,” he said, pointing with his bat, “spit out that gum. Okay, let’s go.”

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