“It’s a little creepy, don’t you think?” Jimmy said to Jonathan, looking on to their aged uncle as he was being taken away by the authorities. “Once it was believed zombies were just a figment of superstitious imagination. But then, a couple years ago, it was proven they existed. And now Uncle Fred is being taken in, and destroyed, before he can wreck any havoc. Just think about it. A couple days ago he was alive. Now look at him. He’s dead, but continues to act like as if he were alive. A zombie.”
Just that morning, Jimmy had called the police, telling them of the zombie outbreak at their house. Uncle Fred had been living with their family since the holidays. He had brought the boys, Jimmy and Jonathan, sixteen and fourteen respectively, a great number of gifts, all of the newest electronic marvels, enough to keep them satisfied for the rest of the month. But soon after arriving, Uncle Fred seemed different. He was obviously dying – his mental capabilities were on the decline, as could be seen by his poor memory. Alzheimer’s, as it had once been called, had caught up to him. When he couldn’t remember what it was he had done earlier in the day, it was proof positive, if any were needed, that he had died. All that was left was the shell of a man imitating life. That this happened just a few weeks after Christmas was a great shame, but, Jimmy thought, people died and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
“What are you doing to me?” the would-be man yelled as the police were taking him away. “Don’t you dare! I.. I.. belong here.” But the police wouldn’t have any of it. They knew how zombies acted. They would do anything they could to imitate life. For far too long, they had imitated life, convincing the world that they were alive; but that was before Dr. Russmann. Dr. Russman had proven that for one to be alive, one needed to remember what it is one did on a given day; once that memory was gone, life was gone. Whether or not one wanted to call it the departure of the soul, Russmann didn’t care; what he desired was for people to see how so many zombies were active in the midst of society, corrupting it, destroying it from within. They had to be removed so they couldn’t endanger anyone again.
From what he had been taught in school, Jimmy was a true believer; he had read all the reports, and saw all the dangers zombies imposed upon society. He was saddened by the fact that his uncle had been taken over and had become one, but, once his uncle had died, there was nothing malicious about destroying a possessed body which threatened his family with its corruptive influence. Jonathan, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced. Despite his age, he was wiser than his older brother. He knew that there was something wrong with the “Zombie Act.” There was no way the dead could imitate life; only one with life could appear to be alive. The Zombie Act was an abuse, being used to kill living people on a pretense of unlife. There could be no such thing as the undead.
Hours later, when she saw he was still crying, Jonathan’s mother tried to alleviate his sorrows. “Now, now,” she said. “You know Uncle Fred wouldn’t have liked it if his body was used to hurt society. He would have wanted it this way.”
But it didn’t work. He wasn’t convinced. Something was wrong, and he knew his uncle was still alive. Law or no law, he was alive. He just didn’t know how he could convince others of this. Any evidence he could give would be seen as proof that zombies imitate life, and would serve as justification for their elimination. He felt the situation was hopeless, and no one would listen to him. And so the tears kept flowing as he thought about what was going to happen. Uncle Fred was going to be taken out by a “Life-Defense Squad,” which was the name of the police squad created to collect zombies. It was just an execution squad given a pleasant sounding name.
While Jonathan was crying, his dad, Brett, returned home from work. Fred was Brett’s brother, and he had been the one who asked his brother to stay with them when it was known he was starting to have memory problems – when it was clear Alzheimer’s was beginning to take over. It was a disease which had come into the family before: Brett had to experience his mother’s breakdown with it, long before the law had legally declared such people to be dead, and so he knew that the law was wrong. But he felt that there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t challenge the state. Its laws were to be followed. Anyone questioning them risked being declared “unalive” as well. He had hoped that, since his brother had been taken in by his family, he could protect him, ignoring the law when his brother’s faculties diminished. Brett didn’t know Jimmy had been indoctrinated by the system, and that was, of course, his mistake. Jimmy had called the authorities as soon as his father had gone to work. When Brett learned what had happened, he was more than a little angry – but he knew he couldn’t take it out on his son, because Jimmy was just following with what he had been taught. Society was to blame. Someone needed to do something about it.
“He needs to be rescued,” Jonathan pleaded. “Before they kill him.”
“You try to reason with him,” his mother said to his dad. “Nothing I say seems to help. He keeps going on and on like this.” She shrugged, and went into the kitchen, leaving Jonathan with her husband.
Jonathan looked up to his father, and asked, “How could he? How could Jimmy turn in his own uncle?”
Holding his son tight in his arms, comforting him the best he could, Brett replied, “He didn’t think it was still your Uncle Fred. To him, he wasn’t turning in his uncle, but something which imitated him.”
“But how could he think that?”
“Didn’t you read about Dr. Russmann’s discoveries in class?”
“But that’s not right,” Jonathan said. “Uncle Fred is still alive. He was eating breakfast as the police came in. The dead don’t eat!”
“Didn’t they tell you how the dead imitate life?” Brett asked, unconvinced, trying to find a way to ease his son’s sorrows.
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “And they’re wrong. The dead can’t imitate life. The dead are dead. They don’t move. The dead don’t move!”
Thinking back to his days in college when he took a class in philosophy, Brett had to concur with his son. One of the classical definitions of life involved movement; that which had self-movement was ensouled, and that which was ensouled had life. The soul, the psuche, was the life force. That which has soul is alive, by definition. That meant there could be no such things as zombies. No matter what the law said. Nodding to his son, he asked, “And what do you think we can do about it?”
“Go rescue him,” Jonathan replied. “Before he’s killed tomorrow.”
“No one goes to the pen. Everyone’s afraid to go. They don’t want to be infected with unlife. It can’t be too well guarded. Just sneak in, find him, and let him out. And anyone else who happens to be there. They deserve better. Someone needs to rescue them. Isn’t that what we were taught ? Life is sacred?”
And that’s my brother whose life is on the line, Brett thought, when his son finished. He’s right. Something needs to be done. But, his thoughts continued, who am I? What can one lone man do? The system is so well established, and there is nothing one can do. Any objection one could make could be countered by the claim that the dead imitated life. There was no way one could logically argue on behalf of life with someone who accepted such a polemic; it had been set up so that anyone, just anyone, could be easily killed. It was, Brett, thought, a nice and easy solution to everything. He could foresee the day when various criminals were eliminated by the same logic used to justify the classification of Alzheimer’s patients as zombies. “Living people don’t commit this kind of crime,” some future sociologist or psychologist will declare. “Therefore, such a criminal must already be dead. There is nothing we can do for them. Destroy them before they infect others with their sting of unlife.” We just define life to be that quality which is useful for a well-ordered society; those who lose that quality will be eliminated. Simple. Deadly. The future.
“You’re right, my boy” Brett answered. “Life is sacred. And we have, as a society, been far too complicit in its destruction.”
Jonathan looked up and gave a small smile, showing the change of emotion he felt despite the tears on his face.
“Tonight, we will go to the pen, where they took my brother, and we will rescue him. What happens after that . . . I don’t know. We will play it by ear. But it will give us time to do something. To protest.”
The two talked for the next half hour, trying to decide how they would stage the rescue. It wasn’t going to be easy. Despite the fact that no one ever visited the pen, and so it wasn’t too well guarded, they would still have to get in undetected. They decided that Jonathan would distract the on-duty guard, while his father broke in, and found Fred. By the time dinner was ready, Jonathan had somewhat recovered, and his mother was pleased that Brett had dealt with the situation and calmed their son down. Brett didn’t tell his wife what their plans were; he knew she, like Jimmy, had accepted the status quo, and would only hinder them. She might be able to be convinced, as she had been to let Fred into the house, but it would take time, and they didn’t have time. Instead, all he had said is that to calm their son down, he had promised Jonathan a trip out that night to watch the stars at the local observatory – which was believable enough, because Jonathan wanted to be an astronomer, and Brett had taken him to the observatory like this before.