Sneak peak!

From The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies                                                  Introduction: Why Date a Zombie?

If you’ve bought this book, then you’re either dating a zombie or thinking about dating a zombie. You know that in this postblight world, your chances of getting hijacked by a terrorist, being staked to a bamboo pole in the Heilongjiang Province of Inner Mongolia and having your spleen eaten by a saber-tooth tiger are eight times greater than meeting one of the estimated 344,923 men left on the planet.

You’re a practical young woman who isn’t willing to waste her time on impossible fantasies sold to her by the Hollywood dream machine.

Welcome to the rest of your life.

Naturally, as sensible as you are, part of you can’t help but wonder if dating a zombie is settling. Can’t a woman like you—smart, funny, attractive, kind—do better than an animated clump of rotting flesh that lives only to consume brains?

No, you can’t.

With 99.9999 percent of the male population transformed into zombies, all that are left are animated clumps of rotting flesh that live only to consume brains.

But you don’t have to be a glass-half-empty girl. Your cup runneth over. You just have to be able to see it.

And that’s why you’re reading The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies. This book will help you understand and navigate the challenges and rewards of the zombie-dating lifestyle. You’ll learn how to…

• Meet zombies. Discover where they hang out and who they hang out with. The best zombie hotspots are just around the corner!

• Talk to zombies. Chatting with the reliving is easier than you’ve ever imagined! All you need to know are a few key phrases and you and a zombie can have hours of deep, meaningful conversation.

• Dance with zombies. They might not have brains but boy, do they have rhythm. Master the step-drag-step of their beloved merengue and dance the night away with the zombie of your dreams.

• Make love with zombies. Physical contact doesn’t have to be icky or gross. With the right accessories and hygiene products, the fetid flesh of a zombie can smell as lovely as a garden rose.

• Cohabitate with zombies. Zombieproofing your home has never been so easy! A few simple changes will make your living room a safe environment for any zombie, however oblivious to fire, sharp corners and the precious Ming vase your grandmother left you.

• Medicate zombies. Medication is domestication. All a zombie needs to be a productive member of society is the right dosage. The chart in chapter 21 makes it easy for you to figure out which pills your zombie needs and when.

Remember, at the heart of every relationship is companionship, and this is what zombies provide—in spades.

Zombies are steady.

Zombies are reliable.

Zombies are here.

Plus, they love to go shoe shopping (more about that later!).

I’m not saying that zombies are better than men. Perish the thought! But men are gone and now we women have to do what we’ve done since time immemorial: Make the best of what we have.

And it’s a pretty darn good best!

Trust me, I know. I’ve been having satisfying zombie relationships for over six years and with the help of this book, you will too. Turn the page to get started right now.

.

The Sweet Treat Sofa

The High-Fiber Breakfast Hour’s Sweet Treat segment kicks off every morning with a flashing red light, a piercing police siren and a dancing pink panda carrying a sign that says, i love high-fructose corn syrup fluff from funfoods, across the set. The crowd hoots and hollers because everyone loves a pink panda hopped up on sugar.

The director points to the host, who smiles into the camera as it cuts to her from the audience. “Good morning and welcome back to The High-Fiber Breakfast Hour. Joining me on the luscious pink sofa today is an extra sweet treat for you: Hattie Cross, author of The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies.” Delia Fortune, a former Miss America with a towering strawberry bouffant and sparkling superwhite teeth, turns to me with a searching look. “Hattie, we have lots of ground to cover, but I’m going to get right to the nitty-gritty and say, Zombie sex. Ewww.”

I laugh. It’s completely forced and fake, but I’m on a national morning show with a pink panda and a strawberry bouffant. If I can’t roll with a few ewwws, then I should have stayed in bed. “Fair enough. The thought makes a lot of women go ewww.” I look to the audience. “Am I right?”

The response is mixed. Some women clap, but an almost equal number boo. I’m not surprised. Zombie sex has been around for almost as long as variant Y zombies.

“I can tell from the response that some of the ladies here have tried it.” Another round of cheers follows. “I’ll admit that sex with a zombie isn’t the ideal situation. The ideal situation is sex with a human male. Who here has had sex with a human male?”

Dead silence.

“None of us, right? Because human males haven’t existed for the average woman in twenty years. So if you keep that in mind, zombie sex isn’t bad at all. It can certainly be more satisfying than masturbation.” I turn to my host with a twinkle in my eye. “I’m sorry. Can I say masturbation on morning TV?”

Delia twinkles back. “Of course. It’s 2020. You can say anything. But let’s get really real: Zombies smell. They lose body parts. Their flesh is decaying.”

I nod profusely. “All valid points. However, with the right drug regimen, these conditions can be controlled. For example, Zombreeze neutralizes zombie smell from the inside. It can even make your boyzomb smell like roses. I devote an entire chapter to zombaceuticals in my book.”

“I’m glad you brought up drugs. Isn’t it true that you have to medicate zombies for them to have sex? Doesn’t that underscore how unnatural the act is?”

“All living and reliving things have a sex drive,” I explain. “It’s the basic nature of the beast. Sure, you have to use certain chemical stimulants in order for the zombie to perform physically, but the drive is there. Think of the late-twentieth-century male suffering from erectile dysfunction. It’s the same principal.”

The audience cheers again. “All right. But kissing. You have to admit that’s pretty gross.”

“Oh, completely,” I say with girlish glee. The effort of being so aggressively upbeat is starting to make me lightheaded, but I stay the course. “Kissing a zombie isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly not for me. But that’s a decision each woman should be free to make. Again, I refer you to late-twentieth-century practices that some women chose to perform and others didn’t. I think of kissing as the equivalent to what used to be described as swallowing.” I nod to the audience. “You know what I’m talking about, right?”

The cheers turn into howls and last a full thirty seconds.

Delia quiets the audience with a wave. “All right. We’ve talked about the worst part of dating a zombie. Now let’s talk about the best. What tops the list?”

“Never having to sit by the phone waiting for him to call. No mind games. No wondering if he likes you or doesn’t like you. No obsessing,” I say, referring to the common neurotic female practice that was at the heart of dating human males two decades ago.

“I can get behind that,” Delia says.

“So I’m starting to win you over?”

She tips her head slyly but doesn’t concede anything. “How many women would you say in the United Provisional Authority are dating zombies? Just how big a phenomenon is this?”

“According to a survey conducted by Geiser and Meyser Zombaceuticals, thirty-eight percent of heterosexual women worldwide are currently in zombie relationships,” I say. “And that number is growing daily. More and more women are realizing they have no other options and are opening themselves up to new experiences. I think in the future one hundred percent of hetero women will be dating zombies.”

“What do you say to those critics who claim dating zombies is an abomination?”

I shrug. “To each her own. But I don’t tell them how to live, so I’d appreciate it if they don’t tell me how to.”

“Zombie marriage?”

“Unnecessary. But not because the reliving don’t deserve full civil rights. It’s merely that marriage was a defunct institution long before the H1Z1 variant Y zombie virus wiped out almost all men on earth. We don’t need it.”

Delia nods thoughtfully. “As you yourself mentioned, you believe zombies should be kept on a strict drug regimen. Many in society believe that in medicating zombies we are in fact turning them into, well, zombies. What do you say to that?”

As the topic turns serious, I let go of the exaggerated enthusiasm and feel a bit more like myself. But I’m still lightheaded. The set is hot and stuffy; the lights are beating down with more force than a dozen suns. “There is indeed a strong movement afoot to stop medicating zombies. The organization Zombie Love Now, for example, likes to argue that zombies shouldn’t have to conform to mainstream expectations through artificial means. They believe zombies are perfect the way they are. Naturally, I respect their opinion and their right to hold it, but of course I disagree. Without medication, zombies would be a chaotic force on society the way, say, a schizophrenic would be. Medication controls their hunger impulse, so that they feed only three times a day rather than all the time. Medication helps with limb retention, so arms and legs don’t fall off. According to reports, Geiser and Meyser has a drug in the pipeline that will actually regenerate neurological growth, making zombies capable of rudimentary thought.”

“Thinking zombies?” Delia asks. “That sounds like science fiction.”

“I know. It just goes to prove that with the right drug regimen, there’s no reason why a zombie can’t be the perfect life partner,” I continue. “Lots of human females take medication for a variety of conditions. I think we owe it to zombies to give them the same consideration we give our mothers, daughters and even ourselves. Anything less is treating them like a special category, which, I believe, is exactly what groups like Zombie Love Now are opposed to.”

This argument earns additional cheers from the audience. I smile appreciatively. Prepping for The High-Fiber Breakfast Hour has been completely draining. For three days I worded, reworded and honed my answers to the obvious questions, ignoring my work, no doubt to the annoyance of my colleagues. A little controversy can only help book sales, but I don’t want to inflame Zombie Love Now. I’d rather not have a national organization coming at me with both barrels loaded.

“Tell us about you,” Delia says. “How did Hattie Cross become a zombie-dating expert?”

“By going on a lot of bad dates.”

The audience laughs.

“But I also have a bachelor’s degree in zombie psychology and a master’s in men studies,” I say. “My dissertation was on the male response to the plague and how that affected the rate of its spread. Having a keen and clear understanding of men and their behaviors is integral to the experience of dating a zombie, so I try to impart those insights to my readers.”

“And you write the Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies column in The Daily Scoopage,” she says.

“Yes, once a week I relate my dating ups and downs for public consumption as well as answer reader questions and give tips. It was while working on this column that I realized there was a huge demand for accurate information in regards to zombie dating. Like me, most women didn’t have a clue.”

Delia raises an eyebrow in surprise. “You didn’t have a clue?”

My face heats up as I answer the question honestly. “Not a one. My mom had never dated a zombie, nor had any of my girlfriends. I had to figure it out on my own through trial and error. Eight years ago, I would have given my right arm to have something as informative and practical as the Girls’ Guide. Realizing that is what made me decide to write the column in the first place,” I explain.

The real story, of course, is a little more complicated. When the executive editor of The Daily Scoopage suggested the column, I was horrified. The last thing I wanted to do was spoon-feed advice to dim-witted, sad-sack singletons who couldn’t be bothered to pick up a real newspaper.

Oh, no. I was too good for that. As an intern at the high-minded weekly The Xombie Review, I had a healthy contempt for the down-market Scoopage and its partially illiterate readership. Every issue was the same relentless mix of gossip, rumor and insidious insinuation that the world isn’t quite the straight-laced place we think it is. Conspiracies on the origins of the plague abounded, with a new theory presented every week or so.

I was far, far too good.

And yet…

I owed tens of thousands in student loans, my two-bedroom apartment was a three-way split with an agoraphobe and a slob, and my internship paid peanuts—literally. The only benefit aside from prestige and access was a free PB&J sandwich for lunch on the third Wednesday of every month—if you were one of the first ten interns to line up in the cafeteria.

Compared with cleaning thick clumps of hair out of the bathtub drain every morning for the next twenty years, dispensing advice to Daunted in Danbury didn’t seem so bad.

I took the job, rented my own place and told everyone I was working for a top-secret Xombie Review spin-off that would launch soon.

By the time my friends figured out a spin-off wasn’t forthcoming, I’d been thoroughly seduced by the Scoopage’s mainstream ethos. Daunted in Danbury needed me. She had no idea how to meet a zombie and not a clue what to do when she did. She didn’t know what to wear on a first date or if a zombie could give her herpes or when to broach the subject of commitment

And Daunted in Danbury was worldwide. She was Confused in Copenhagen and Baffled in Beijing and Hapless in Harare.

My goals as a journalist had always been modest: to make people think, to challenge their assumptions, to give them a different perspective on a familiar topic. I never expected the big C—to change people’s life.

But when the letters started pouring in and I began connecting with women who weren’t all that different from me (despite their appalling taste in reading material), I realized the big C was already in motion: I was changing people’s lives.

Two years later, I still find the notion stunning. I still wake up every morning, amazed and bewildered by it.

“So tell us,” Delia says, her tone suddenly intimate as she leans in, “who is Hattie Cross seeing right now?”

My heart lurches as she asks the dreaded dating question. I knew it was coming and yet I’m still thrown. “I’m between boyzombs at the moment,” I say, giving the answer I practiced with an overly bright smile. But it’s not enough. I can tell from the look on Delia’s face that the smile doesn’t compensate for the inadequate response. “But I’m out there and I’m looking and I’m hopeful. And that’s all it takes—hope.”

The police siren wails again, not as loudly as before but just as insistent. “Uh-oh,” Delia says, “Sweet Treat time is over. Fanny in the newsroom is waiting to give us an update on this morning’s top stories as soon as we return from this commercial break. But first I want to thank Hattie Cross for being here and sharing her story with us.” She holds up a copy as the bright red light begins to flash. Cue pink panda. “The book is called The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies. It’s packed with a lot of great information, so pick it up.”

The camera blinks off.

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