Body parts. A flier on one of the school bulletin boards was covered with little drawings of them: dismembered arms and feet and heads dripping with blood. They looked the way I felt. Disconnected.
My friend Gunnar had been the first to notice the flier. He'd beckoned to me and my other friend Russel on the other side of the hallway.
"They're filming a zombie movie in town, and they need teenagers to be extras, and isn't that cool, we should totally do it!" he said breathlessly. I hadn't seen him this excited since the night they left the gate unlocked at the sewage treatment plant.
I glanced at the words on the flier. zombies wanted! it read.
Teenagers needed as extras for upcoming horror film, Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies, to be produced in local area. Come let us turn you into gruesome, monstrous zombies!
The dismembered body parts surrounded these words.
My name is Min Wei, I'm sixteen years old, and I confess I adore monster movies. I was also keen on the idea of giving this movie some racial diversity, because, honestly, when was the last time you saw an Asian-American zombie? At that moment, however, I was in kind of a pissy mood.
"Aren't they kind of late for zombies?" I said. "Halloween was two weeks ago." It was currently the second week in November.
"They're filming the movie," said Gunnar. "Not releasing it."
Gunnar is the kind of person who somehow always manages to be wearing the wrong shoes. I would never say this out loud, but Gunnar might even have a mild form of autism, something like Asperger's syndrome. He is very intelligent but can become somewhat obsessive about things. He's also not so skilled at the human-interaction thing, if you know what I mean. However, he is still an extremely nice person.
"And what's a 'brain zombie'?" asked Russel. Russel is my best friend. He is quite adorable, but he doesn't know it, which just makes him that much more adorable. He is also very smart, but pretty emotional, always waving his hands all over the place. When he does that, he reminds me of Kermit the Frog, except with reddish hair. He can sometimes be exasperating, because he always has to see every side to everything. Still, he's a great guy, with possibly the world's biggest heart. Russel is gay, and his boyfriend's name is Otto.
"I know," I said to Russel. "Brain zombies? That doesn't even make sense."
"I'm sure it's explained in the script!" blurted Gunnar. "Look, do you guys want to do it or not? I know Em will." Em is Gunnar's girlfriend. I'd point out that she's really intelligent too, but then that makes three people in a row that I've called smart, and I accept that that might strain my credibility.
"I don't know," I said. I did want to be a zombie extra in the movie. For some reason, I just didn't want to come right out and say that.
Russel looked at me. "What's wrong?"
The truth is, I knew exactly why I felt so disconnected. Russel had a boyfriend, and Gunnar had a girlfriend. Ironically, I'm bisexual so I would have been okay with either a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I didn't have either one, however, so I was feeling a little excluded.
"This zombie thing could be fun," said Russel.
"Yes, maybe," I said.
"We'll all be together, at least," he said.
"No, we won't," I said. "Not really."
"Yeah, we will!" said Gunnar. "Why wouldn't we be?"
"Because people are always alone," I said. "Sure, we're 'together,' but not really. We all might be doing the same thing, being zombie extras on this movie set. But we wouldn't ever really know what the others are thinking or feeling. It'd be a completely different experience for each of us."
I know all this makes me sound like a crashing bore.
As I said, I was feeling a little lonely, and this was just my not-so-desperate cry for help.
"Please," said Russel. "Zombie guts are zombie guts are zombie guts."
This was a reference to that Gertrude Stein poem, "A rose is a rose is a rose," which we'd studied in class. Like I said, Russel is smart. Funny too.
"Are they?" I said. "Zombie guts might mean one thing to you, but something completely different to me. Even if we were always together, which we won't be, it wouldn't be the same experience at all. I bet you ten dollars that if we do this, we'll have completely different experiences."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean—"
Suddenly Gunnar exploded. "Enough with the boring philosophy talk! Are we going to do the zombie movie or not?"
Russel and I both laughed. We couldn't make Gunnar suffer any longer, so we told him that of course we'd do the movie.
After that, Russel and Gunnar had to leave for class. I turned to go in the other direction when a voice said to me, "Nice hair."
It was Kevin Land, this big baseball jock. He's tall, dark, and handsome, if you go for that sort of thing. He'd been Russel's first boyfriend the year before, and their breakup had been an unpleasant one. For months afterward, I'd tried to help Russel mend the pieces of his broken heart. For weeks, he had sobbed in my arms, on my shoulder, and on various other body parts. Even before the breakup, however, Kevin had never been my favorite person. He's very popular, and like most people who are popular, he is a selfish weasel. I once asked him to stand up for this kid who was being bullied, and he'd been an absolute baby about it. In fact, Kevin's being such a selfish weasel is the reason why Russel had finally broken up with him.
Kevin's observation about my hair had to do with the fact that I'd recently given myself purple streaks. I could justify this by saying that I'd done it to express my individuality, but no, I'd really just wanted to shock people.Split Screen
Excerpted from Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brent Hartinger
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.