January 8, 2013
In the house of horrors that we all occupy from time to time there are many unwelcome visitors: ghouls, goblins, demons, witches (whose reputation has improved in recent years), ghosts (the words "ghost"and "guest" spring from the same root), vampires, shades and maybe the most horrid and disgusting of all, the zombies. Like their frightful brethren zombies have a human origin that is denied any semblance of kindness or mercy. They have lost all sense of hope and they spread that sentiment to unwitting subjects who may still have the full measure of their humanity.
The notion of the zombie -- a person risen from the dead with a need to draw the living into the realm of the lost -- is ancient and enduring.
The word itself is of West African origin, from the Kongo "nzambi", a name for the deity. The concept was carried to the Caribbean and came into voodoo belief as a snake god or "a will-less and speechless human" that takes control of the dead. But such a vision is not confined to that tradition. The novel "Detour to Armageddon" opens with a quote from Revelations 19:18 of an angel standing in the sun and calling to the fowls that fly to gather "unto the supper of the great God" and feast upon "the flesh of mighty men."
The detour begins at that narrow passage between sacred and scared. The opening chapters take place in a typical American town trying to deal with a blood shortage caused by the continuing casualties in an unending Middle East conflict. But commercial development of artificial blood held out the promise of saving countless lives. As it turns out, "SynthoPlas" killed its patients and then reanimated them as zombies, whose uncontrollable need to bite the healthy living would infect victims and instantly transmogrify them into zombies. The action moves from a quiet wodland retreat to a village that seems to be in a state of war, and then to a river resxcue scene. At each moment the zombies are on the march, and with every assault a new zombie is created. Hardly anyone survives in this horror story. Innocent victims are gunned down by people who had once been friends.
They took what they needed, with Nick grabbing a machete as he headed out the door for what he thought was the last time. Richard's kids were already waiting in the car, panic on the threshold of their expresssions, as another group of ghouls staggered through the forest brush, closing in on the cabin. Branches whipped at the zombies, tearing at their dead flesh, but they continued closing in, undaunted, not feeling anything except a desire to consume the living members of the frightened group. Mary, in a panic, ran back into the now vacant cabin, and no sooner had she disappeared from the rest of the group's site did the screaming start.
The cabin was not completely vacant.
The novel "Detour to Armageddon" is the collaboration of David Gerard Fico and Solon Tsangaras, two transplants from downstate who now live in Afton, NY. Dave is an avid collector of horror films. Solon is a musician and organizer of the band Chemical Pumpkin. He's also acted in movies and theater. Both men nurtured their interest in zombic life with the creation of the satirical "Zombie in the Mourning". "Detour" is intended to be the first in a zombie trilogy. They join Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about zombie life (such as it is) and the art of the horror story.
This program was originally meant to be presented on Halloween Eve but superstorm Sandy threatened, more destructive than any ghoul, and it was pre-empted by special coverage. Tsangaras and Fico have been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 8th; the program is live at 1:00 PM and rebroadcast (one more way to bring back something that was once live) at 7:00 PM.
D. Gerard Fico