Kage Baker had a peculiar conviction that the Bible – Testaments Old and New – was full of zombie stories.
This is no way interfered with her religious faith. Kage considered herself a Christian, probably a Catholic; but also a proponent of one of the oldest strains of Christianity: a protestant. By preference, an Anabaptist, for which you can blame all the research that gave birth to Nicholas Harpole. Kage worked so hard on his philosophies, she ended up agreeing with them. With him. Whatever.
Anyway, to Kage’s infant understanding (when she first began to be read Bible stories), the Bible was full of stories of decided weirdness. As a corroborative point, people are still debating whether or not the prophet Ezekial saw a flying saucer. There are kings and queens popping up all over the place; people talking to animals (and still expecting to today. Consider the snake handlers.); disguising themselves as missing heroes and heroines, and coming into their power by a sort of spiritual sleight of hand. These tales were not appreciably different from the faerie stories we were told, as well.
Lots of them seemed to involve people coming back from the dead, too. There are numerous ghosts, few of them friendly; demons and angels wander around, possessing pigs and beggars and pools of water. And the dead do not lie quiet – even if they wanted to (and they are not usually consulted), there is always some importunate relative mopping and mowing and begging someone to re-animate them.
Kage said she was not sure if the Centurion’s servant minded too much being saved long-distance, although the fellow was probably tired. But Lazarus might have had a few cross words for his sisters – after all, the guy had been dead for three days when Jesus gave in to Mary and Martha’s tears, and summoned their brother from his tomb. There is no clear account of just how Lazarus fit back into village life, either.
Of course, the star back-from-the-dead turn is Jesus’ own, rising from his own tomb three days after dying on the cross. The nuns taught us in grade school that Jesus did not actually die, though: only the mortal part of Him did, leaving the Son of God as immortal as He had always been. Kage was dubious. Not of the miracle, which is after all part of the foundation of Christianity – she was unconvinced that the trick was manageable at all. Either you were dead or you weren’t. Did anyone really get to mix and match those states? And if they did – weren’t they a zombie?
As an adult, she was considerably less doubtful of the capabilities of God. She stopped worrying about the possibility of Biblical zombies, and just decided to rest on the even rise and fall of the energies of Time. She herself claimed to be unsure if the change was the growth of faith, or of fatigue: but I do remember that she was making zombie jokes even in our teens. And long before old age began to leer at us from the shadows, Kage was praying firmly to rest safe and easy at her death, and be gathered to the bosom of Whomever was in charge.
I certainly have no reason to believe she was not. She hasn’t haunted me, so I have assumed she was contentedly slow-dancing with God. She lived. She died. She was fairly satisfied with all of it, and has gone on to whatever comes next.
I, on the other hand, am still trying to claw my way out of the grave. Some days it all seems a lark, a travail easily borne in the sweet airs and daylight of the world. During those days, my feet don’t hurt. I am never short of breath; I don’t need to eat or sleep; I can dance all day and drive all night on a 2-hour nap under an oak tree. And I’m not looking back with futile longing to my 20’s and 30’s; I was footing it with real energy and vigour as recently as 2 years ago. Then, like the Famous One-Hoss Shay, I fell apart.
Now it’s a case of finding out just what I can still do, and buckling down and doing it. I’ve had to keep ratcheting my expectations down, until last year I ended up in a coma with a tube in my throat. Spending 7 months flat in a hospital bed leads (ultimately) to some serious thought. Sure, for quite a while I complained and moaned about my misfortunes, and was a decidedly antagonistic patient – but, had I not been, no one would ever have taken seriously my oft-stated determination to stand up, walk, and go home.
I’d still be on a ventilator, warehoused in a skilled care facility after the tracheotomy had taken my ability to breathe; while months and months in bed had turned my muscles to goo and my mind to oatmeal. However, by Spring covid-19 patients were flooding even my little hospital on the Hollywood Presbyterian campus; and anyone who looked like they had half a chance to graduate from assisted breathing was being pushed into rehabilitation to make room for some poor sod with the virus.
Consequently, even some quite daft suggestions on my part as to what I could actually do were taken seriously by my over-worked nurses. It got me out of the bed, it got me off the ventilator (which was whisked away within the hour for some unfortunate who had lost control of their lungs), it got me access to solid food after 6 months on fluids, and ultimately it got me released on my own recognizance.
I cannot regret any of my tantrums or demands now, when I am home at last. I had to beg, plead, and finally threaten a power-mad hospitalist with a lawsuit if he didn’t let me go. I only got out on the middle of the night, arriving home of 2:30 in the morning to find my family waiting for me with open eyes and arms. Life has been much better since then.
Breathing is still an adventure, and one which sometimes leaves me gasping. I think I could actually take a walk outside, but no one – not even me! – thinks it’s a good idea to chance an encounter with an infected neighbor. So, still a bit of that old zombie vibe hanging around to make things interesting; and anyway, if I’m wrong, I’d run out of oxygen half a block way and have to crawl ignominiously home. Like a second-string lungfish …
There may yet be a zombie apocalypse on the horizon when all 100 million of those vaccine doses are administered – but probably not. I am confident there will be some other, amusing weirdness coming along any moment now. Something to make it even more worthwhile to have fought off the shambling fellow with the sexton’s spade who haunted my sparse sleep all spring and summer, my own private Igor coming to intern me under the checked linoleum floor of my hospital room.
He hasn’t bothered me since I came home. I am beginning to believe he’s gone for good.
Life is much too interesting, and weird as hell right now anyway, to worry about it.