I am a morning person. I hop out of bed before the alarm rings, make coffee, read the paper, listen to the radio, feed the cats, empty the garbage, make breakfast, read my email, surf the net, pay some bills, and pad around the house trying not to wake the undead woman upstairs.
Three hours later, I hear movement. An hour after that she appears, walking zombielike to the coffee machine. I know better than to say “good morning.” I keep perfectly still, hoping she won’t notice me and bite my head off. Then she pads away to her private den where, behind drawn blinds and closed doors, she makes secret potions out of chicken bones and eye of newt. Not that I’ve ever seen her do it, but what other explanation could there be?
Years after we were married, I found out the morning zombie trait runs in her family. When her sister’s new husband said he had cooked his wife breakfast, the rest of the family looked at him with stunned “Are you out of your mind?” expressions.
“She eats breakfast with you?” someone finally asked in shock, knowing firsthand how dangerous and foolhardy that would be.
“Oh, no, I’m not crazy,” he said. “I just drop it and run. It’s like feeding the raptors in ‘Jurassic Park.’”
The undead, zombies, raptors. Is that any way to talk about our loved ones? Hey, if the bloody fangs fit ...
I used to think all these vampire/zombie/living dead movies and TV shows were based on bad dreams or some kind of primal fear. Now I’m starting to wonder if instead they have to do with real experiences living with the real undead.
I’m thinking that Bram Stoker was probably a fun kind of guy who got up before the alarm rang, made the coffee, etc., etc., but that his wife was one of the living dead until noon. How much of a stretch would it be to write “Dracula” about people like that – the fear of the sun, the insomnia, the aversion to mirrors, the shuffling walk, the odd mechanical speech pattern, the way animals hang their heads and skulk away from them. Sure, there is very little blood sucking and sleeping in coffins in real life, but that was poetic license. Maybe “The Thing,” “Night of the Living Dead” and “Zombieland” were all written by the spouses of non-morning people. After all, it is only the people who live with them who would see this side of their personalities. By dusk, the undead are as alive as the rest of us. Dinner guests would never know that this morning, Stephen King would have been afraid to knock on our front door.
How is it that some people are morning people and some are not? Is it because they lie on the sofa all night in front of the TV, jerking completely awake now and then to deny that they are dozing at all? Suddenly at midnight, they’re not tired. Maybe a few more hours of catnapping and they’ll be ready for bed, but not yet. Then they complain they can’t seem to fall asleep. Hmmmm. I wonder why? If only there was something simple they could do that would help them get an entire night of deep, renewing sleep. But what? Pills? Hot milk? Back rubs? Hypnosis?
Around noon, the zombie starts to come to life. The color returns to her face, she stops walking like a mummy, her trancelike state seems to break, she’s even able to say a few simple words. She has no memory of her body being taken over by the forces of evil. It’s like a before-and-after moment from “The Exorcist.” Now I think I know where they got the idea for that story.
Jim Mullen’s new book, “Now in Paperback,” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.