Z ombies. They're as trendy these days as vampires and werewolves.
We've got "The Walking Dead" on TV and its new video game. Then there are movie favorites like "28 Days Later" and "Zombieland." Visit stores like Hot Topic and you're bound to find zombie T-shirts and even bikinis. Kansas City just had the eighth semiannual Zombie Walk for Hunger. In four years the event has gathered more than 3,000 pounds of food.
But as I watched the gory, slow-moving costumed monsters take over the downtown streets last weekend, I thought of the recent threats of a zombie apocalypse.
For real. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually felt the need to speak about zombies.
"CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," agency spokesman David Daigle told The Huffington Post.
Did you ever think we'd live to see a time when the nation would need reassurance that there is no mad zombie virus? I never saw it coming. But despite all logic, it feels like we're stuck in "The Night of the Living Dead."
And it started with Rudy Eugene. The 31-year-old has been described by loved ones as a Bible-carrying, kindhearted man. But on May 26, a video shows him naked, chewing off the face of a homeless man in Miami. The victim survived, but police shot and killed Eugene to end the assault.
In the weeks since the gruesome scene, similar crimes have gained media attention. Wayne Carter, 43, stabbed himself repeatedly and threw bits of his flesh and intestines at New Jersey police. Twenty-one-year-old Alexander Kinyua of Maryland dismembered his roommate and ate his heart and brain. And then there's Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, a Canadian porn star who cops say dismembered his victim, ate the flesh and mailed body parts to politicians.
The most recent cases of flesh chomping happened last week in Louisiana and Connecticut. Carl Jacquneaux, 43, bit off a chunk of his Lafayette Parish neighbor's face. And 38-year-old Lowpel Davis, of New Haven, Conn., stole a wig and when she got caught, bit a chunk off the owner's arm and spit it at him. She then bit a few officers.
One case is horrific enough. But when a rash of them happens, people start to wonder, what's going on?
At least one or two of the cases are being linked to "bath salts." Not Calgon, but synthetic cocaine that can produce paranoia, hallucinations and "super strength." But the drug isn't new. And that doesn't account for the other attacks. We're living in strange times when zombie attacks are called a trend in crimes.
People can't quit talking about this bloodthirsty turn of events because it's not the kind of crime we're used to. Unfortunately, if they were shootings, gang rivalries or drug overdoses, the media hype probably wouldn't be there.
We've become desensitized to everyday murders and self-destruction despite the loss they bring. But zombies? That wakes us up to the violence.
Because when you sit down to watch a horror film, although it might scare you, there's safety in knowing it's not real. We dismiss monster attacks because they're not going to happen to us.
But murder has been happening to us. We've been eating away at our own humanity by becoming the kind of society numb to violence. Flesh eaters or not, if we can't hold onto our humanity, we're all the walking dead.