A Zombie by Any Other Name
I hate zombies. There, I said it.
Being a lifelong fan of monsters, mythical creatures and supernatural beings, I do have an appreciation for the concept. But zombies bore me. They stagger around, looking ugly, moaning, “Rar rar rar,” and who cares aside from the fact that one could eat your brains or something if you’re daft enough to get caught. The only advantage they have is numbers.
It is interesting to consider zombies as a psychological metaphor. We all have things we try to bury: shameful memories, a guilty conscience, something devastating we never got over. We want that thing to stay dead, and we’re horrified when it claws its way out of the ground and comes after us. No getting away from it. The psyche needs to be whole, won’t tolerate bits being buried, and if you try to ignore them, they will terrorize you and eat your brains. So there’s that.
I don’t think of these things when I’m writing. the story unfolds from the depths somewhere, and I’m often startled by what comes up. In the early stages of Outpost, my latest release, one of my protagonists is set upon by nonhuman warriors stinking of death and resembling once-human men. As I got into this, I suddenly stopped in horror and thought, Zombies? Am I writing about zombies?
Oh, no no no. No zombies here. So I did some digging into my tricky mind and remembered an undead creature in Norse mythology called the draugr. This creature is a bit more sophisticated. In Old Norse, draugr means “ghost,” but it’s closer to a vampire. Accounts vary, but generally, the draugr are described as walking dead warriors with superhuman strength, the ability to shapeshift, and the unmistakable stench of decay. They are implacable, seek vengeance and will kill anything that crosses their nightly rampages.
In Outpost, these beasties bear some traditional attributes: the smell of graves, unnatural strength, the ability to move with uncanny speed or to vanish into mist. But they are also created by a warlock and given life by an immortal with its own agenda. The essence of a mortally wounded warrior is captured as it flies and imprisoned in the last body it knew. They are not bound to the night and, because of their otherworldly origin, they appear half somewhere else, are demonic and malevolent, cannot be killed and can only be released by the magician who captured them.
This ancient magic is forbidden, of course, but who ever listens? When dealing with the draugr, one experienced warrior’s advice goes something like this: Forget honor. While inhumanly strong, the draugr are only as skilled in arms and familiar with the land as the men they once were. Distract and disable. If overrun, flee.
Well. At least they don’t eat brains.
A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.