Well, it’s Friday once again, despite all the odds against that happening*. I’ve now been writing these quasi-daily posts for almost two weeks. Really, I suppose, it’s closer to being a week and a half, but that’s a difficult measure to use, because half a week, of necessity, involves half a day in the middle, since weeks have an odd number of days, but days, and daily things, are whole numbers.
I’m told that the number of days in the week was originally related to the number of “non-fixed” celestial bodies that are visible to the naked eye: the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Of course, our modern. English names for the days don’t completely match up with the names of the planets/moon/sun, but we do have a Sunday, a Moon Day, and a Saturn Day**. That’s almost half a week worth of days…but, of course, since weeks are made up of an odd number of days, we can’t have a whole number of days equate to half a week, anyway, as I said before.
It’s good that the number of minutes, hours, and seconds in our standard time measurements are more sensible. It’s my understanding that this comes from the Babylonians, who were not only good with hanging gardens*** but with highly divisible numbers, such as 24 and 60. Just look at all the ways you can divide sixty evenly: by 2, by 3, by 4, by 5, by 6, by 10, by 12, by 15, by 20, and by 30! And 24 isn’t a slouch for being a smaller number; you can divide it by 2, by 3, by 4, by 6, by 8, and by 12. Just imagine if the number of minutes in an hour, or seconds in a minute, or hours in a day, were odd numbers. Imagine if they were prime numbers! How cool would that be?
No, wait, I mean that would be highly inconvenient. And it would be inconvenient.
Presumably there were other attempts to devise systems for measuring time during a day—I think I recall reading that sometime around the French Revolution and the creation of the Metric system****, there was an attempt to innovate a decimal clock of some variety. You can sort of understand where they were coming from, if this story isn’t apocryphal.
But there appears to be a sort of natural selection with secondary inertia that applies to things like systems of time division, and it’s very difficult to knock out an entrenched one that functions reasonably well, and upon which many dependencies have evolved, without some truly catastrophic breakdown of the prior system. Just look at the QWERTY keyboard layout!
None of the preceding was what I had “planned” on writing about this morning. Well, I say “planned”, but it was just a vague notion, and I distracted myself right from the start with stochastic and tangential thoughts, which is almost always how these blog posts happen. As it was written by the great Robert Burns—you know he’s great just from his first name—the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. And my plans are rarely among the best laid; in fact, I don’t think my plans have gotten laid in more than ten years. No, not even on Frigga’s Day, which you’d think would be good for such things.
I had thought about a post detailing a movie or story idea, about a person who wakes up one day to find, or perhaps discovers gradually, that he has become a zombie. He’s not a philosophical zombie à la David Chalmers, but a horror-style zombie…of sorts. He doesn’t start shambling about (much) and he certainly doesn’t have the urge to bite and/or eat living humans, except maybe when they’re being really annoying. He’s just gradually rotting and falling apart and wearing away. He has no vivacity, has low energy, and his face and body are steadily decaying and becoming disgusting.
But none of the people around him seem to realize what’s happening to him, even when he tries to call attention to it and see if anyone can help. He’s gone to doctors and sought out zombie-therapy (it’s not a unique problem to him), and tried medications, and meditations, and supplements, and lifestyle changes and all that sort of stuff, but it doesn’t seem to help…or when it does, it only helps a little, or for a very short while.
I’m imagining his appearance degenerating sort of in the fashion of David’s friend, who was killed by a werewolf, then showed up more and more rotten every time while he urged David to break the bloodline of the wolf in An American Werewolf in London.
And our protagonist is unable to rest, because, well, rest doesn’t really help a zombie feel better. It’s just immobility, after which, if anything, he’s stiffer and sorer than before.
A big part of the story would be him feeling tormented by the fact that the people around him don’t seem to realize that he’s got this problem, even when he tries to ask for help. And he could really use some help, because—being a zombie—he’s unable to help himself.
Finally, he decides he just has to try to figure out what ways there are to destroy zombies reliably, and with reasonably little pain and mess, so he can end his torment. Some versions of the zombie lore say its enough to “shoot them in the head” as in George Romero’s movies, but others say zombies will keep moving as long as any part of them remains intact.
He considers using fire, but that would be very difficult to force himself to use. He still feels pain, you see. Indeed, he feels it more than most, because his body is slowly falling apart, and his nervous system is fairly screaming at him that something is wrong, all the time. So, if fire didn’t work, or if someone “rescued” him after he’d doused himself and lit the match, he’d be in that much more pain and his existence would be that much more horrific. Similar issues arise with notions like walking into the depths of the ocean to be crushed or jumping from a very high cliff. If he shot himself but didn’t aim perfectly, he’d be “alive” but with part of his brain destroyed, assuming destroying the brain even works on zombies.
And the people around him might still not realize that he had a problem.
I’m not sure how this story would end. Is there ever going to be a way to cure this affliction? It seems unlikely. There are treatments that sometimes relieve symptoms (in the story world), but there is no known cure, because the cause is nebulous. Zombie-ism is at least somewhat genetically influenced, since it tends to run in families, but no one is quite sure how, and it appears to be too thoroughly multifactorial even to conceive that there might be one single root cause.
It’s a bit ham-handed as stories-that-are-metaphors go, but if it were well done and well-acted, it could be decent. If someone did it, I might watch it, or read it, seeing as I am a zombie myself.
Let me know, please, if someone makes that movie or writes that book. Thanks!
*As far as I know, there was almost no chance that it wouldn’t happen, but it sounds more dramatic the other way.
**And you could sort of make the case that Wednesday, from Wotan’s Day, is a Jupiter Day, but that’s stretching things a bit. I’m not sure that in Norse mythology Wotan or Odin was ever actually associated with the planet Jupiter. And Friday is supposedly named after Frigg, or Frigga (played by Rene Russo in the MCU), a Norse goddess of fertility or some such, very loosely similar to Venus—and apparently, many languages (as in the Spanish “Viernes”) refer the name of this day of the week more directly to Venus.
***You’ve gotta be careful with hanging gardens, though. If they fall, your former garden can become a dwelling place of demons, as in the line from Revelation 18.
****Which is quite a logical, internally consistent, and excellent system.