Eve and Mason left the house this weekend, so I couldn’t grill Eve. Their being out of the house gave me time to spend with Dr. Cohen, which was mostly lovely, but we did have one disturbing conversation.
One wing of his medical research lab is examining zombies. He and I started discussing what happens to zombies in winter.
“My perception was they’re like Canada geese,” I said. “You go long stretches without seeing any, then one day hundreds are out in some open field, walking around on the ice and in the puddles.”
“That’s the geese or the zombies you’re talking about?”
“Geese. But zombies, too. You don’t see any for weeks, you don’t think much about the fact they aren’t around, then out of the blue, bam! You run into a big gang in a parking lot.”
“Right. Well, one theory was that there was a lot of winter die-off.”
“Zombies can die? Aren’t they already dead?”
“Jane.” Dr. Cohen sounds exasperated.
“But that’s what zombies do—they’re dead but trot around acting like they aren’t.”
“When something is perfectly ambulatory, when it isn’t being consumed by microorganisms, and if its entrails aren’t being pecked out by crows, well, then, it’s pretty difficult to call that something ‘dead.’”
“Brain dead, then.”
“The zombie brain is not a marvel of excellent mental health, I’ll give you that. But no. Zombies are living.”
“So how do they make it then? They’re outside almost all the time—winter can’t be easy.”
“Well, that’s what’s so interesting. It turns out their survival strategy is the frog strategy. They lower metabolic activity to such a slight level, they essentially freeze solid as rocks. You know what Child’s Pose is, right?”
“In yoga? Is that the one where you’re on you’re hands and the balls of your feet and your butt sticks up in the air?”
“That’s Downward Facing Dog.” Dr. Cohen stepped away from his chair and knelt on the carpet. He bent forward, dropped his face toward the rug, and rested his arms next to him, with his hands positioned near his feet. He stayed like that for a few seconds, before lifting his head and saying, “This one is Child’s Pose.”
“The zombies curl up like that in winter?”
He stood up easily, with no sign whatsoever that a pose meant for a child might cause strain in a frame that is six foot three inches tall and seventy-something years old.
“They do in the lab anyway. Zombies seem to have the capacity to freeze to death. Without actually dying.”
“So the big winter die-off that maybe researchers were hoping for…”
“Definitely not happening.”
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.