At lunch today, Dr. N let slip that they were looking for a celebrity zombie to dezombify. Although there has been some support from donors, we are going to need much more if we are going to continue converting zombies at the rate we’re going. Otherwise, it’s actually more profitable to the Institute to leave them in storage. As part of our PR drive to drum up donations, we are trying to make a bigger splash. “Keep the momentum going,” as Dr. N put it.
To be clear, I don’t know what momentum she could possibly be talking about. The initial excitement regarding our zombie-conversion procedure has been entirely drowned out by the consternation, confusion, and outright horror and fear surrounding the Trump administration. No one is clicking on our Youtube commercial anymore – they want to hear about the latest outrage occurring in Washington. We don’t have any more momentum – all the oxygen has been sucked out of the public discourse by the slow-motion implosion of our federal government.
Nick and I looked up over our ramyun. The other person at the table, a Brazilian cryptothanatology fellow named Mattie, recommended that we find a zombie politician to convert. “After all,” she said, waving a bottle of pink flavored water, “that’s what’s on everyone’s minds right now. It’s politics, politics all the time. Ride the wave!”
Dr. N smiled and pulled a string of meat from a half-destroyed rotisserie chicken. “I like your style, Mattie. Can you think of anyone?”
We all drew a blank for a moment. Then Mattie brightened.
“How about Richard Nixon? Wasn’t he a zombie?”
Nick shook his head. “I think he went by natural causes. But Henry Kissinger’s a zombie, I’m pretty sure.”
It was my turn to demur: “No. I don’t think so. I think he’s still alive.”
Dr. N waved a chicken leg. “Pity. How about Robert Dole?”
Nick looked thoughtful. “No. I mean, I know why you would think that, but no, he’s actually still alive too. I think Jefferson Davis was a zombie, but they didn’t keep them in storage back then. I think he went on a zombie rampage, right? And they shot him with a cannon?”
I laughed. “No, no, that’s ridiculous. You’re thinking of Andrew Jackson. What about that cross of gold guy? Like, didn’t he become a zombie right after the monkey trial?”
Mattie smiled, showing a mouthful of braces. “No, that’s William Jennings Bryan. He died in his sleep.”
These cryptothan people; full of weird trivia about how everybody in history died. Nick gestured with his chopsticks. “Maybe a politician is the wrong tack anyway. People want a distraction from politics, not more of it. How about an entertainer?”
Dr. N beamed. “That’s a great idea! Our CEO actually feels the same way – we are looking through the Revenant Management Consortium’s records, but we have no one in specific in mind. What do you think?”
We thought for a moment. Mattie looked into her bottle of pink water. “Maybe…..How about that singer, Frank Sinatra?
Nick looked puzzled. “Wasn’t he a politician? Like, prime minister of, uh, Laos or Sri Lanka or something?”
I shook my head. “No, I think you’re thinking of someone else. Shinawatra, not Sinatra. Thaksin Shinawatra. He’s Thai. Sinatra was an Italian.”
“Oh. Was he in the mob?”
I frowned. “Just because someone’s an Italian-American doesn’t mean that they know people in the mob. Anyway, yeah, he was a singer…..what did he sing again?”
“Unforgettable. I think that was his big song.” Mattie was tapping at her cell phone. “He was never a zombie though. What about MC Hammer?”
“Also not a zombie. He’s still on TV, I think. Uhhhh…..what about Kirk Cameron?”
Mattie tapped at her phone and squinted at the search results. “Oh, no, jeez, he’s making movies about marital fidelity and endorsing Donald Trump. Not really a zombie. You could try biting him anyway, though. Can’t hurt.”
Nick sighed. “Man, I wish that they had preserved Nietsche. That would be a real coup.”
“I don’t want to bite Nietsche. Wasn’t he the guy who said ‘those who would bite monsters must be careful –’”
“Yeah, something like that. But Nietsche was never a zombie. You guys are thinking of Heidegger.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right. No way am I biting that motherfucker.”
Nick suddenly paused from stirring his ramyun. He looked up and smiled. “Ayn Rand.”
We all grinned. Dr. N raised her chicken leg in a sort of toast. “That’s perfect! The CEO loves Ayn Rand! Have you read her work?”
I made a face. “I read Anthem when I was in, uh, fourth or fifth grade, I think. I was really into it for a few months. I made a construction-paper collage in art period representing the individual triumphing over collectivism. But then I kind of got into building model rockets and forgot about it.”
Nick was looking her up on Wikipedia. “Yeah, I started reading one of her books, because this guy in my econ class was way into it and I thought he was sort of cute. But it was very poorly written with no sympathetic characters, and the guy in my class turned out to be some kind of crazy fetishist. A zombophiliac, in fact.”
Dr. N was emailing the CEO. “Yes, Ayn Rand is very popular among zombophiliacs, but her work is also extremely popular among our prospective donor class. We couldn’t do better as far as spokespeople go. Assuming that we are able to locate her zombie. That was all a long time ago.”
“Wikipedia says she was on Medicare…..aren’t we not converting zombies on public assistance?”
Dr. N finished her email and went back to stripping the last bits from her chicken carcass. “We’ll take the loss for this one. I mean, it’s Ayn Rand, for god’s sake, one of the architects of our value system. We can do a freebie for Ayn Rand.” She smiled suddenly. “We could make it back by filming it as a reality TV show. Or what do they call, like, a long reality show that’s just one episode?”
“Right, a documentary. We could call it ‘Biting Ayn Rand.’”
We went back to eating lunch. I am not really looking forward to biting the shin of the revenant corpse of the author of We the Living, but I suppose that there are people who would give almost anything to do so, or just to see me do it. So maybe this will be the shot in the arm that the administration is looking for, to drum up some donor support. But of course, first they need to find Ms. Rand.