|The government of Haiti,
desperate for investment dollars,
challenged the world’s medical establishment
to rediscover the lost art of zombie making.
The applications of zombies in the modern
economy were obvious,
if distasteful. With visions of outsourcing
dancing in their heads,
six multinational corporations
put up the prize money—no strings attached.
The US was not even in the running.
Under pressure from religious extremists,
Congress quickly outlawed all post-life research on humans.
The Chinese also were disadvantaged—zombies,
an invention of the decadent West,
could not exist.
In the end, the French were the first to succeed.
Réanimation Medicale had spent two years in Haiti.
The team, led by Dr. Irbah Amal,
sought shamans who worked the old-fashioned way.
They finally found one who talked the talk,
a beaded expatriate from the Middle East-
but she knew nothing.
Failing to find authentic practitioners,
they scoured the hills for unliving examples
of the necromantic arts,
but found only rumors, folktales,
fragments of paraphernalia, and a horribly
disfigured old mute
with a blank stare.
His lips appeared to have once been sewn together.
Electricity, radiation, all the usual gimmicks,
what they could learn of the old tried-and-true
methods, using herbs blended in obscure ways,
recipes handed down from ancestors in central Africa,
ingredients they brought with them to the New World,
Ils fait rien!
The breakthrough came when they discovered,
deep in the hills of Hispaniola,
remnants of the cannibals
who had given their name to an entire Sea.
The Carib, the French,
they combined their knowledge
to make a new voodoo,
old and new worlds cooked in a single pot.
Enfin, les scientists français
marche toujours a la soleil noir;
it shines upon the Styx;
in some times and places the watershed
of dreams approaches the surface,
there engendering outbreaks of madness.
One has only to look at recent history
to realize that,
as we withdraw water from the ground,
a darker, psychoactive fluid rises closer to the surface.
This is why eventually the French succeeded.
As in most zombies
only the body was animated;
the mind was gone.
An empty body is a vessel into which
things can be put:
actions, motivations, even entire minds.
But the French were amateurs,
they unwittingly tossed
metaphorical pebbles into a subterranean lake,
announcing the creation of a vessel,
and there were answers,
first by the crocodiles, they’re not really crocodiles,
but they have sharp teeth (not really teeth);
then creatures more dangerous than
also heeded the call of the
laboratoire scientifique de Paris, which
became the site of numerous unexplained occurrences.
A few poodles disappeared
and nobody thought much about that,
but one morning a large mass of stinking green slime
fell onto the sidewalk from somewhere…
this was surprising, even around l’université, and was followed by
defacement of certain enigmatic religious objects
pres de la laboratoire,
a blizzard of potato-chip like things
resembling the scutes of turtles
left drifts that sublimated in the morning sun
with a sulfurous stench,
and the statue of liberty on the Isle des Cygnes
somehow exchanged her torch
for a spiked mace.
Something that did not really fit tried to
squeeze itself into the empty zombie
and actually succeeded in breaking
the chains that held it,
standing up and taking a few steps
towards the door. At this point
the rest of whatever it was
must have fallen into the zombie;
the resultant explosion left an interesting
cleanup job for the maintenance crew.
It took quite some time
before zombies were accepted by the general public.
Now, of course, it is hard to imagine
how we got along without them.