I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this interview. I mean, a romance novel with a zombie hero? What if I get eaten? But author Nora Fleischer insisted, and off we went.
The offices of the Boston Zombie Support Group are in a rundown office building between a psychic and a failing yoga studio. Inside, the place looks like the sort of thing Tony Stark would design if he had Peter Parker's budget.
Spokesperson Jack Kershaw-- a handsome man a couple of inches shorter than me-- has the distinctive bluish skin of the zombie. When he speaks, he has a noticeable South Carolina accent. He hands each of us a cup of coffee that could peel paint and sits on the other side of the recorder I've placed on the table.
First impressions: he's very smart and observant. He's determined to make me like him, and he's succeeding, but I'm not sure I can trust a word out of his mouth.
Liza:*dumps coffee in a plant urn* Hi, Jack. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to talk with us.
Jack: Of course, Liza. I'm always delighted to clarify some misconceptions about us.
Liza: How do people become zombies?
Jack: Actually, there are two important points here. Zombies are people, otherwise I wouldn't be having this conversation with you; I'd be grunting and gnawing on the microphone. The second is that it's very difficult to become a zombie. The person must have become infected before his death by a virus, and this virus survives only briefly outside the body.
Liza: How did you get infected?
Jack: Me personally? I was part of the incident that infected at least thirty people in Boston about three years ago. We still haven't been able to pinpoint when, where, and why it happened. But I can also tell you that being infected didn't affect my quality of life in any way-- I only learned it had happened after I died.
Liza: And how did you die?
Jack: I'd really like to focus on the larger issue here: how Boston's zombie population can contribute to the wellbeing of the community as a whole. If our nutrition issues are properly taken care of, then we're just like anyone else.
Liza: Which is a nice way of saying that you need to eat people.
Jack: Yes, but they don't have to be living people. Let's put it this way: Boston is never going to run out of cemeteries. Zombies eat locally, we have a minimal carbon footprint. We're actually contributing to the greening of Boston.
Liza: Being grossly ignorant about zombies, I've invited an expert on the subject to assist me in this interview.
Jack: *squints at Nora* Have we met before? You look very familiar.
Nora: I'm sorry, no. I was hoping you'd tell Liza some more about how zombies can actually be an asset for Boston.
Jack: Right. We seem to come back with a compulsion to be useful. For example, I work at Alioto's Pizza.
Liza: *writes note to self: Don't eat at Alioto's.*
Nora: The restaurant belonging to your girlfriend Lisa Alioto?
Jack: She'd kill me if I didn't get the name in the interview somewhere. Can you link to her website?
Nora: Sure. It's in Somerville, very close to Winthrop University. In fact, other journalists have noticed several interesting links between the zombies and Winthrop University. For example--
Jack: Please turn that recorder off.
*Nora turns off the recorder Jack can see. Liza leaves the one in her jacket pocket running.*
Jack: I would like to be nothing but open with both of you. The thing about Winthrop is that they're very good at making their problems disappear. And I don't want them to see Boston's zombies as a problem.
Nora: Did Winthrop University intentionally raise the dead?
Jack: No. Who told you that?
Jack: Trust me, you really don't want to know the answer to that question.
Liza: If you know, why haven't they gone after you?
Jack: *Stands up.* It's been good talking with you both. Please, stay in touch-- I'd love to see a link to the story when it appears.
Liza: But we've barely started talking!
Nora: I think you should listen to him.
*Liza shakes his hand. His skin is room temperature. As the two women walk down the hallway, Liza turns back, and sees him through the glass door. Jack looks terrified.*
Liza: I wonder what happened at Winthrop? Can't wait to read the book and find out.
"Jack Kershaw just wants to hold on to his new job at Lisa Alioto's pizza parlor, and to keep Lisa from finding out that he's a zombie. But Jack learns that he and Lisa are in serious danger. His second chance at life is the inadvertent result of a lab experiment by two graduate students, and Winthrop University-- a school which knows how to keep its secrets-- will do anything necessary to conceal that someone on campus raised the dead.
With the help of Boston's zombie horde, can Jack and Lisa escape Winthrop's sinister clutches?”
All the peace that had come over Jack in the morgue was gone. Even though he was jogging back to Lisa’s apartment-- and getting some strange looks because he was wearing a set of scrubs and a pair of flip-flops he’d liberated from the hospital-- he felt a terrible restlessness. Like he couldn’t be still, ever again.
No, that wasn’t it-- he felt the sort of prickly awareness of a mouse being watched by a owl. It felt as though something was after him, something with a stride matching his own, something that reached out with a pale cold hand...
He reached the door of Lisa’s apartment, thudded up the stairs, and pounded at the closed door. She opened it like she’d been waiting next to it for hours. Out the door came the rosy scent of her body, the heat of her, and in the center of the candle flame, Lisa’s beautiful daredevil smile.
“You're back! How'd it go? I dropped off the satchel, just like we planned, and the guy seemed to know exactly what it was for,” she said. He followed her in. “I’ve never done anything like that in my life. Wasn’t that crazy, wasn’t that wild?”
“Stick with me, honey,” he said. “We’ll have fun.”
She smiled and squeezed his bare upper arm roughly enough for him to feel it. Heat seared his cold skin. “And tomorrow, we go back to work, and I know I’m going to be standing there, giving people their pizza and thinking, ‘All you people, you don’t know a damn thing about me, you don’t know what I’ve been up to.’ Me and my secret life.”
And then it all made sense. He knew what he wanted. He reached up and kissed her. For a moment she seemed surprised, but then she pressed closer to him, and he became aware of how thin his scrubs were, and that her body heat flew through them as if he were naked. And the way her mouth tasted! He could feel it over his tongue, the unique taste of her body, as if it was sinking into his body, changing all of his cells, drawing a little of her into him, forever...
“You smell like lilacs,” he said, “did I ever tell you that? Like lilacs and cinnamon. And you’re so warm.”
"Nora Fleischer has a PhD from Winthrop University, and promises every word of this story is true. She lives in Minneapolis with her lovable husband Sven and children Wolfgang and Anastasia. She tweets as @zombinanora and blogs at norafleischer.livejournal.com."