How to become a real zombie

You open your eyes for the first time since your death and see a man standing above your grave in the moonlight. Suddenly, hands grip your arms and legs, pulling you out into the land of the living. You are too weak to resist, barely strong enough to stand as you are force-fed a foul tasting paste. You look again at the figure in front of you - he is your master, and you are now his zombie…

Sound intriguing? Then read on. This is your best guide to the process of intentional zombification and recovery.

Despite the hordes of living dead out there in modern media, few people are knowledgeable of the origin of zombies, that is, outside of a World of Warcraft subscription or an infection of African sleeping sickness. True zombies are products of Voodoun (read: voodoo) sorcery and have a history that stretches back hundreds of years in the history of the western world, with older roots tracing far further into southwestern Africa.

There have been numerous accounts of zombification within the last century, with few being medically authenticated. The most notable case was reported in 1980 by Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis, popularized in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow, and the film that followed. The investigation dealt with a man named Clairvius Narcisse, who, after a land dispute with his brothers, was given to a Voodoun priest called a Bokor. Narcisse was then made into a mindless zombie slave.

How to get dead

If we read that account as an instruction manual, however, we have a step-by-step guide to the grave.

First thing you need to do is travel to Haiti, well known for the practice of Voodoun magic. Pack lightly – you won’t care much about fresh clothes once you're undead, but a collection of your cherished items will be useful to have on hand. Say goodbye to your friends and family. Tell them you're traveling far away to go tree planting, which won’t be far from the truth. Arranging a flight to Haiti is pretty much the easiest step. You can fly from Vancouver to Port Au Prince (Haiti's capital) for about $1000.

Once you've arrived, try to find a small, isolated town. There is a secret society within Voodoun culture called Bizango who are typically responsible for warding off evil spirits and illness. They are acolytes of the ancient Yoruban religions of Africa, devoted to the Orishas, or nature deities. The case of Clairvius Narcisse is an exception to their mostly benign activities, however. On very rare occasions, this group punishes those who have fundamentally wronged others within a community by turning the unlucky victim into a zombie. This fate is considered worse than death, so you're going to have to go all out to deserve being turned into the living dead. Be prepared to shit in a lot of cereal bowls, and I don’t just mean metaphorically.

So, lets say you've managed to upset your town so severely that you've got The Bizango after you and you've already got that nice new coffin all picked out. What now? Well, don't be surprised when someone comes to your door and blows white powder in your face. This arrangement is called “Coup de Poudre”, or Powder Strike. We'll go over the ingredients in a moment, but you should know right now that you have less than 30 minutes of consciousness left, probably less. Don't worry though, if the Bokor mixed the powder right you'll only come very close to death, so sit back and enjoy the round-trip to the pearly gates.

The main ingredient found in zombie powder is tetrodotoxin, found in many animals including several puffer fish species surrounding Haiti. Tetrodotoxin is some pretty hefty stuff, about 100 times more deadly than cyanide, but it can be given in low enough doses to put zombie victims into a comatose state. You'll also be inhaling ground up toad skin, which contains several substances that will poison the human body, but in this case act as an anesthetic. Most of the other ingredients associated with zombie powder are specific to the locale and preference of the Bokor in question, so anything extra is just for flavour, like crushed glass and bone fragments. Yummy.

Once you've fallen unconscious, you'll probably be left to be discovered, as you'll be giving a very convincing portrayal of a corpse. The tetrotoxin will lower your body temperature while slowing your circulation and breathing to almost a standstill. Lucky for you, bodies are buried as soon as possible in Haiti, as the humidity and general lack of refrigeration cause real corpses to ripen and decompose rapidly. You might not have a choice of where you'll be buried, but don't worry – you won’t be staying there long.

Six hours later and you'll be exhumed, for any longer and you'll asphyxiate, and what good is a dead zombie?

As soon as you're on the ground, you'll be force fed some nasty paste, made mostly of Jimson Weed, a dissociative that will give you some hallucinations and swiftly separate you from reality for up to several days. You're going to have a pretty bad trip, or at least you would if you weren't already coming off the poisons of the powder cocktail. After a couple minutes you will become more suggestible and psychologically malleable than Reveen ever dreamed.

After your rebirth, your Bokor will use a small jar to trap your “ti-bon-ange”, or little-good-angel, (basically your soul) which apparently brings great luck—just not for you. He will then sell you to a zombie master, who will put you in charge of a job involving long hours, hard labor, and just enough breaks to keep you alive. Expect to work on a plantation, as Clairvius and other ex-zombies were purportedly kept. Haiti's main exports are coffee and mangoes, so you'll probably see lots of them, but hey, perhaps you'll luck out and be a servant for the 20 percent of the country that aren't living in poverty, living the high life with no life at all.

Eventually the Jimson weed will wear off, leaving your fractured mind to re-assemble itself. If you managed to decide that the zombie life isn't for you, try your best to hide your mental awakening, since the Bokor will be making regular check-ups to esnure everyone is maintaining a state of mindlessness. It's advisable to leave as soon as your first dose of Jimson weed wears off, as years of it will more than likely leave you with some pretty brutal brain damage. In rare cases, such as the one of Mr. Narcisse, victims will end up with relatively minor complications, though expect it to take a while to completely come down off the Zombie cocktails; Clairvius spent 16 years returning to a stable mental condition.

If you do end up with functional independent thought and can get a hold of some Antilrium, which should lessen any remaining mental confusion and hallucinations caused by the Jimson Weed, then you'll need to figure out an escape plan. Clairvius Narcisse was lucky enough to have his zombie owner die only two years into his service, but what if your library books need to be back tomorrow? A good plan is to rouse the support of your fellow ghouls and storm the workplace, freeing them from their lives of endless labor. See if there's any zombie dust left around by the good witch doctor and use it on your zombie overseer for a good measure of poetic justice, then feel free to say an outrageous one-liner.

//Mike Lindsay


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