H is writing a short story. Like most teenagers she is more intent on finding an original title and researching ideas for the plot than she is in actually getting down to write the content. She flies into the kitchen, where I am desperately trying to finish some work of my own, to ask, "Which title do you think is best - 'Blood River' or 'Rot and Live'?" At this point the word 'blood' has made its way through my semi-listening filter and she now has my full attention. I enquire nervously as to what kind of story this is going to be exactly. "A zombie apocalypse story, of course!" she answers me as though I am either very slow or very old (probably both in her youthful opinion).
I wonder why it is that teenagers seem so obsessed with the undead? Is it because they share a number characteristics - the preference to stay horizontal in the darkened pit of their room rather than get up in the morning, the mounting collection of black unwashed clothes on the floor and the 'uneven' skin tone perhaps. Or, I suppose, it could be the mistaken belief that they too are immortal and whatever crazy suggestion or dare they choose to follow there will be no consequence.
I find myself getting caught up in H's research. I learn that the wonderfully onomatopoeic word 'zombie' originates from the Haitian Creole 'zonbi' and Wikipedia defines one as 'an animated corpse' (an oxymoron if ever there was one) that has been resurrected by the use of witchcraft. In popular fiction of the 'Night of the Living Dead' variety the witchcraft element has been replaced as a cause with the idea of a modern-day plague causing hordes to join the zombie army that is threatening to eradicate all human life. We have the added disturbing complication of zombies' cannibalistic desire to eat living flesh, especially brains, which are incorrectly depicted, so I'm told by my resident expert Dr H, as being 'bright green'.
"What would you do?" enquires my teenager, "Would you fight, run or give in and become a zombie?" Clearly, this is an easy question to answer - give in, of course! I'm always one for a party and the idea of an open invitation to rampaging revelry all night and not having to worry about whether I have something clean to wear or getting my hair done is much more appealing than wielding an axe or hiding in a cellar.
"After all, I was a zombie once," I inform her. She looks incredulous. "Yes, for a whole year after you were born I was a 'mombie'. I didn't sleep and looked frightful. My eyes were open but I was in a new mother trance with no will of my own and incapable of finishing a sentence."
"You didn't want to eat me though, did you," she says with a wry smile on her face.
"Oh, yes, I did." She looks worried now. "I wanted to eat you up with hugs and kisses. Consume you with love - my little zombie!" She gives a relieved laugh and wanders upstairs to use her bright green brain and finish her story.