Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man's Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformedby Matt Mikalatos
What does a transformed life actually look like? In his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos tackles this question in an entertaining and thought-provoking way: with monsters! As Christians, we claim to experience Christ’s resurrection power, but we sometimes act like werewolves who can’t control our base/i>/i>… See more details below
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What does a transformed life actually look like? In his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos tackles this question in an entertaining and thought-provoking way: with monsters! As Christians, we claim to experience Christ’s resurrection power, but we sometimes act like werewolves who can’t control our base desires. Or zombies—90 percent shambling death and 10 percent life. Yet through it all, we are longing to become fully human, the way Christ intended . . . we just can’t seem to figure out how. Night of the Living Dead Christian is the story of Luther, a werewolf on the run, desperate to find someone who can help him conquer his inner beast before it’s too late. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this spiritual allegory boldly explores the monstrous underpinnings of our nature and our quest for Christlikeness.
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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN
By MATT MIKALATOS
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2011 Matt Mikalatos
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Monsters don't exist. I had been telling myself that for nearly a week. But it was the sort of night you could almost believe in them. A bone-white moon hung in a field punctuated with bright stars, and dark clouds moved across the sky like slow-moving barges. It was nearly Halloween, and despite the cobwebs, giant spiders, tombstones, skulls, and electronic screams, it was a pleasant night. But I didn't feel pleasant. I felt nervous. It was a week ago today that I accidentally interrupted the argument between my neighbor and his wife, and since then I had felt jumpy in the neighborhood at night. Nervous. Always looking over my shoulder. But, I told myself, there's no such thing as monsters.
I was on patrol, like every night. My neighbors hadn't shown any interest in starting a neighborhood watch program, so I walked the beat myself, a solid pair of walking shoes on, gloves with no fingers, a pair of binoculars swinging jauntily around my neck, and my cell phone in hand, the numbers 911 already dialed and just waiting for an eager thumb to press SEND. In my other hand I held a long, heavy flashlight for bludgeoning ne'er-do-wells. I couldn't let a little incident like last week's keep me from my appointed rounds.
Up ahead, on the corner of 108th Street in the middle of a cluster of identical houses with the identically perfect lawns that permeated our neighborhood, stood a lanky man in a long white lab coat, a pair of goggles pushed up into his disheveled hair. A thick nest of electrical wires coiled out of a nearby streetlight and into a box he clutched with thin, white hands, and he was laughing and doing a sort of merry jig as I approached, the box squealing and flashing with a riot of handheld casino gaudiness.
"Excuse me," I said. Of course I needed no excuse since it was, after all, my neighborhood, and I was not the crazy person connecting wires to streetlights. But it always pays to be polite. Although when you're a neighborhood watch guy out on patrol, sometimes it also pays to be a no-nonsense guardian of the suburbs. I was just waiting for this guy to give me an excuse to go all "no nonsense" on him. He looked like the kind of guy who probably had too much nonsense in his life, and I was the perfect person to change that.
The man turned to me and grinned. He held the box out toward me. "No doubt you would like to ask me about the work of inexplicable genius I hold in my hands."
"As a matter of fact, yes." I shifted my stance and held the flashlight nonchalantly over my shoulder, making it clear that I could give him a glancing blow if necessary. "Do you have a permit for that big mess of electrical wiring there, sir?"
His eyes widened, and he tittered nervously. He glanced furtively up the street, then shoved the box into my hands. "One moment." He ran halfway down the street, his lab coat billowing up behind him, and shouted, "Hibbs!"
A gate swung open on the Murphy house, which had been sitting empty for three months. A man came walking from the backyard, easily seven feet tall. His arms and chest were thick where the scientist's were thin, and he gave the impression of a man who had been stuffed full of something, that he held more than blood and muscle and bone under his skin. He wore a tight shirt that showed off his muscles. Stenciled across his chest were the words THE HIBBS 3000. He regarded me coolly.
The scientist grabbed one enormous arm and asked, "Hibbs, do we have a permit for this endeavor?"
Hibbs looked at me and then back at the scientist. "Negative. This power source, which we require for our experiment, cannot be legally accessed, Doctor."
The scientist smiled at me, relieved. "Well, there you have it. Can't get a permit for something that's illegal, now can you?" He snatched the box away from me. "Would you like to watch our experiment, good neighbor?"
"You can't do illegal experiments here in our neigh borhood!"
The scientist cocked his head sideways. "Oh. Why's that?"
"It's breaking the law."
"Ha ha. So is speeding, my dear boy. But that doesn't stop anyone." He took my hand and shook it firmly, then chuckled to himself. "So is cloning human beings, ha ha, at least in one's garage, but that never stopped me, no!"
"That's it, pal," I said, and I set my flashlight on the sidewalk and whipped out the tiny little notebook and even tinier pencil I carried in my back pocket, wet the tip of the pencil with my tongue, flipped open the notebook, and put my pencil at the ready. "What's your name?"
The doctor looked at his box, which was humming now. I felt a mild heat coming off of it. "Hibbs, that last electrical boost seems to have done the trick." He jumped, as if his brain had prodded him that I was waiting for a reply, and said, "Oh yes, my name is Dr. Daniel Culbetron. And my associate there is the Hibbs 3000. He's a robot."
"Android," the Hibbs 3000 said.
Culbetron threw one hand up in the air. "Potato, tomato. Don't be so sensitive, Hibbs." He turned to me, as if confiding a great secret. "Robots are notoriously unbalanced emotionally."
Hibbs turned to me, another coil of wire in his hands. "You have yet to exchange your appellation with us."
"I'm Matt Mikalatos, Chief Officer of the local Neighborhood Watch."
The box in Culbetron's hand started warbling and beeping, and he laughed and waved it at Hibbs. "We had best find a safe observation point." He looked over his shoulder, as if he had misplaced something, then over his other shoulder, and then turned in a complete circle, wrapping himself in cords and giving the appearance of a circus clown looking for a small, collared dog. "Where is our benefactor, Hibbs? Do you think he'll want to see our device being tested?"
I tapped the box. "What exactly does this thing do?"
The Hibbs 3000 paused, then looked at me and said, "The apparatus creates a surge of auditory effluvia that is anathema to the lycanthrope."
Dr. Culbetron, midway through unraveling his Gordian knot of electrical wiring, sighed and shook the box at Hibbs. "In English, Hibbs. This poor neighborhood constable cannot possibly comprehend your robotic ramblings." He handed me the box and stepped gingerly over a cord. "It's a device designed to create sounds that will be upsetting to werewolves."
"I don't understand."
"It's quite simple, really. Perhaps you have seen anti-rodent devices that plug into an electrical socket. They produce a series of high-pitched squeals, above the range of human hearing, that drive away mice and some insects. It sends them scurrying out of their little hidey-holes, charging past the devices screaming their furry little heads off as they head for the woods." He snatched the box and held it over his head. "This box does precisely that—for werewolves."
I tightened my grip on my flashlight and a chill ran through me. "There's no such thing as werewolves."
Hibbs was setting a ladder up against the side of the Murphy house. "There is a 63 percent likelihood that the device will evoke a similar response from multiple monster species."
"There's no such thing as monsters!"
Culbetron put one hand gently on my shoulder. "Werewolves, of course, are rather rare in this part of the world. You're quite right about that. The vast majority of the lycanthropic population has been confined to Eastern Europe."
Hibbs shook his head. "Scientific research on this topic is irresponsibly scant. Dr. Culbetron does not represent scientific fact with his previous assertion."
"Well then, Hibbs, let us start some scientific research of our own!" With that he and Hibbs pulled earphones on, and Culbetron slammed his palm down on the button in the center of the box. A sound something like a mix between a jetliner, a baby crying, and fingernails on a chalkboard came screaming out of the box.
"One minute and forty-seven seconds, Doctor!" Hibbs shouted.
"Thank you, Hibbs. To the roof! Let the science begin!"
They climbed a metal ladder onto the roof of the Murphy house, Culbetron struggling to ascend with the box in one hand and Hibbs waiting patiently behind him. I put my hands over my ears, and Hibbs fixed me with a curious look. I shouted at him to ask if they had a third pair of earphones, but he didn't answer. I was about to ask again when Culbetron shouted from the roof, "Zombies!"
"There's no such thing as zombies!" I shouted back. I could barely hear him over the horrible shrieking of the machine. The volume was growing, and the lights in the neighborhood dimmed.
"Look, Hibbs! Coming from the south—a horde of the undead! It works, Hibbs! It works!" There was a popping sound from the roof, and sparks came flying out of Culbetron's box. Startled, he fell backward into Hibbs, who tried to catch him, and they both stumbled over the apex of the roof, slid to the edge, and nearly fell before the electrical cords caught on the gutter. The box, however, flew to the ground and smashed to pieces. The sound, mercifully, stopped. Culbetron and Hibbs hung from the roof, their feet dangling thirteen inches from the ground.
I took my fingers out of my ears. I heard a dull roar, a sort of rumbling echo in my ears. It appeared that Culbetron's box had temporarily deafened me. I looked to Culbetron, who was frantically trying to climb back up the electrical wiring and get onto the roof. I could hear him telling Hibbs over and over that they must get on the roof before the zombies came. So my hearing wasn't gone after all. Then what was that strange rumbling sound?
I turned on my flashlight for comfort and walked down the street, toward the rapidly increasing sound of riot in the southern part of the neighborhood. I looked back and could see the two crazy people clambering back onto the roof of the Murphy house. Maniacs.
I had walked half a block when I saw them come around the corner and turn toward me, just one or two at first, lurching out of the shadows and dragging their stiff legs along the sidewalk. But then a few more came, and then more, and then a terrifying conglomeration of people with green-painted faces and torn clothes and makeup that gave the appearance of torn flesh. My finger hovered over the SEND button on my cell phone, but I hesitated. What would I say to the dispatcher? I ran through the conversation in my head. First the operator would ask me the nature of the emergency. I would say zombies. The operator would ask me what the zombies were doing. I would say running around, but that I was afraid they might bite someone. The operator would remind me that this was, after all, America, and zombies are allowed to walk around and that I should call back if the zombies ate someone or a house caught on fire or something. By the time I got to this point in my imaginary conversation, the first zombie had reached me—a fast zombie in running shoes and sweatpants—and he snatched the phone away from me, hit SEND, and shouted into it.
"Hey!" I said, and I grabbed the phone away from him and shut it. "I'm Chief Officer of the local Neighborhood Watch, sir. You can just tell me the nature of your emergency." Looking frightened, the zombie pointed at the horde running up behind him. "Zombies?" I asked. He shook his head furiously and pointed again. "Zombies!" I said again. "I know. I see them." He shook his head and held up three fingers. "Three words." He nodded. "First word." The zombie made a terrible face. "Indigestion? No. Bad taste? No. Wait. Is it ... monster?" The zombie nodded and held up two fingers and started running in place. The rest of the zombie horde was almost on us now. "Run? Chase? Chasing?" The zombie nodded and held up a third finger, then pointed at himself. "Monster chasing me!" The zombie smiled and jumped up and down and pointed at my phone. Then he looked at how close the other undead were to us, gave a little shriek, and ran away. Zombies were nicer than I thought—or that one was, at least. The rest of the zombies were starting to speed past me now.
"Ruuuuuuhhn," one of them moaned. A snapping, growling sound came from behind it, and I looked past the zombie-things to see a large, furred creature biting at their legs and herding them toward me with a ferocious speed.
I stared in wonder at this vicious animal. "Is that ... a giant badger?" But before I could get a good look I was swept up into the tide of the undead. Against my will, my feet started moving, and the looks of real terror on the zombie faces convinced me I didn't want to get too close to that angry badger at the back of the crowd. I started pushing zombies out of my way. I could hear the badger-thing right behind me now, the snapping of its long, white teeth right at my heels. One zombie looked over at my scalp and licked his lips. My wife has always said she loves me for my brains, which is great, but attractive brains are a real disadvantage when there are hungry zombies around. I pushed him into a thornbush along the sidewalk, and a panicked laugh bubbled out of my mouth. "Sorry," I said. I wasn't sure whether being polite to zombies pays off or not.
The zombies were starting to scatter now, disappearing by twos and threes down side streets, under hedges, and between parked cars. The badger was getting closer and had a disturbingly wolflike appearance.
"A werewolf!" Culbetron was yelling at me from the rooftop. I kept running, but looking back at the badger I could see now that it was definitely more wolf than badger. It was, in fact, more man than badger too. It was bent over like a man running on all fours, its back twisted down toward canine legs and clawed, furred hands. A fountain of drool was pouring from the creature's fang-studded mouth, and I could tell as it got closer that it was bigger than me. Culbetron cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, "You should run faster!"
I considered shouting a sarcastic thanks to the doctor, but I was already short on breath, so instead, I took his advice. I could hear the snapping teeth of the wolf getting closer, and the sound of its claws clicking on the sidewalk. I threw my flashlight back at the wolf, but I heard it clatter to the ground and the wolf growled. Then I felt the sudden, considerable weight of a large, clawed mammal settle into my back, and I fell onto the cement, skidding along for several feet before we stopped.
The wolf rolled me over and huffed in my face. Despite my expectations, its breath didn't smell one bit like rotting flesh.
I put my hands on its face and tried to push it back. "Your breath is surprisingly minty." The wolf snarled, a menacing, terrifying sound. A small voice in the back of my head informed me that since the wolf took such good care of his teeth, he should have no problem eating me right up. I let out a low moan and tried to think how to get out of this situation. I felt like I was about to start crying, and the wolf was pushing his gaping maw uncomfortably close to my tasty face. Finally, I gave him the only compliment I could think of: "My, what nice teeth you have." As soon as I said it I regretted it. But I start to babble when I'm panicked, and before I could control myself I said, "Why do you think the wolf in 'Little Red Riding Hood' didn't just eat her in the forest instead of running ahead to Grandma's and waiting there to eat her?" Which, if you think about it, really is an excellent question.
The wolf shook its head, and its yellow eyes narrowed. Its ears perked, and it looked back over its shoulder. It looked quickly back to me just as a straight, silver arrow sprouted from its left shoulder. It let out an animal squeal of pain. I was so startled that I let the wolf fall forward onto my chest, and its muzzle brushed my ear. It snorted, but it almost sounded like it had said a word. Like it had said, "Help." It pushed itself up from my chest, and the look in its face seemed to change from savage hatred to an almost elemental fear. It looked in my eyes one more time, only this time its eyes seemed almost human, as if they were scanning me to see if I might be a source of help, as one soul crying out to another. It was as if the wolf wanted help, not just to escape the hunter, but to escape something inside itself. It jumped from my chest and loped up the street, then catapulted its body over a fence across the street.
I stood up and brushed myself off. My back hurt from the wolf 's claws, and my chest hurt from hitting the pavement. The wolf and the zombies had disappeared like sunbaked snow. The neighborhood was quiet again.
Excerpted from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN by MATT MIKALATOS Copyright © 2011 by Matt Mikalatos. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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