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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meaning Behind The Story: I Am Disease

Some of you have read my short story, I am Disease, published in the PMM anthology Bleed. If you haven't, of course, you can go support cancer research by checking it out here, but in the meantime I really just wanted to spend an honest minute sharing what it means. Not because I'm some kind of guru of fantastic and great wisdom, but because there's a something in it that's important.

Bleed called for horror stories where the monster represented cancer. In I Am Disease, you read from the point of view of the cancer itself, pulsating with hungry, visceral desires to consume good and normal cells. It's a zombie who wants to eat your brains—a pretty obvious tie. What makes I Am Disease a little different from a lot of monster stories is that (spoilers!) the zombie isn't killed in the end—but he doesn't win, either. When we normally think of chemotherapy, we think killing cancer cells. What if we could come up with a therapy that changed them back to normal? That's the hope behind this zombie fairytale.

But I Am Disease isn't only about cancer, and it's this “not only” that I want to share with those of you who don't have cancer.

Fun-fact: I Am Disease was originally titled Zombie Pornography.

Yeah, like, what?

The story isn't just a biological metaphor, but also a psychological and spiritual metaphor. The zombie represented addiction.

Le gasp.

I'm not going to go into sordid details here, because life isn't about me, but I do want to be honest with you. I'm a fallen person and I struggle. I need. Addiction was a real experience to me. And I think addiction is something we need to talk about. Because honestly, addiction and cancer at their most fundamental, metaphysical level are the same. They're both a part of you that isn't you that's trying to take you over. One eats your body, and one eats your psyche and soul, but it's the same concept: self cells grow out of control and no longer do what you want them to do.

And you become a zombie. Anyone who's experienced this knows what I mean. And that's where the psychosexual, cyclic, repetitive high-low-need imagery of the story comes into play. You feel sick. You feel like you're only alive every high, when you're not on chemo and you're not fighting and the thing that's killing you has you in its grip, and the rest of the time you feel so...monotonous and hungry and moaning.

But we don't have to stay there.

In the end, the hunter with the medical dart who cures the zombie is a researcher, an oncologist who believes you don't have to be destroyed—that murderous, out of control cancer cells can be saved. The hunter's also pointing me to another kind of doctor. This doctor will put himself in harm's way to awaken the life in me and walk me through my internal struggle. This doctor's not a psychologist or therapist or any other kind of thing that waits in a chair for you to come to them: he seeks you out, and he's not going to stop until you're cured, no matter what it costs him, no matter what it costs you. My grandmother used to call her chemotherapy “mean little pills,” and sometimes it's like that! But my hunter sticks much, much closer than a brother, closer than even your own heart, and he loves your healing.

So, I've said three scary buzzwords—addiction, pornography, and spoilers!--in one post, and I'm about to say another. I should really quit while I'm ahead, but here goes:

Jesus.

That's all. That's all 'cuz that's my only hope.

Kay I'm gonna go hide from this post now. It's just that since I worked hard to make the story itself not preachy and obvious and dumb, I wanted to share my heart with you a little here. Whether you like my interpretation or not, I hope you got something out of the story, and I love you! I love you and believe your zombie—whether it's cancer or addiction or Alzheimer's or self-image issues or a horrible relationship or just a bad day—can be beaten. The doctor's here!

See you soon.

--love, a recovering zombie

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