From the beginning of the horror/fantasy writing gig I took on three years ago, I was determined to be original. I wanted to create the new monsters of our time. No retreads, no fan fiction, none of the traditional oogley ghooglies of days past, the ones most of us were raised on, certainly me. But I had to get them out of my system, those vampires, werewolves, mummies, and giant city destroyers; I knew them too well to not use, and they came in very handy in honing the craft. But even then, I tried to throw a different spin on their ugly monstrous mugs, putting them in odd settings, or painting a different picture of them.
And then, there are zombies, one of the biggest, most popular, culturally immersed monsters of our age. They’re everywhere: movies, books, comics, television, festivals, and CDC SoP training. It’s gotten where you can’t turn around without being bit on the rump by the undead. They have, as intended, taken over the world. It’s starting to get annoying. But, despite my trepidation to write something that’s been ran over more times than a road-kill raccoon, I knew it had to be done. I had to walk the gauntlet of fictional zombie land. And somehow, I had to make it stand out from the rest.
When the idea came to me, I latched onto it like a crawdad to crackers. Or bacon. (The reference is a personal one, so don’t overthink it. But believe me, those snappy crustaceans love their crackers and bacon.) The thought was, this is a worldwide phenomenon, so why don’t we see zombie tales in the Australian outback? Or the South American jungles? Or the South Pole, for that matter? That would be interesting, right? Now, I’m a Buddhist student from way back, the seed planted many years ago by the seventies TV series, Kung Fu. Then it came to me–what about Tibet? Rough terrain, tough people, and a culture steeped in Buddhism and the animistic Bon religions.
I had my tale and it had my hard-earned interest. What started out as a short story called Hungry Ghosts, with a vision of a Buddhist monk and a young boy dealing with the sudden onset of the zombie apocalypse, soon blossomed like a lotus into a full fledge novel.
A strange land to westerners, and characters with a POV unlike any I have ever seen or read within the zombie genre, Hungry Ghosts: Path of the Dead had all I needed for an original recipe of horror and adventure. It became the original novel I wanted to write, and read, in a zombie land overrun by mirror image plots.
Nestled on the foot of Tibet’s sacred Seche La Mountain is the village of Dagzê. The normally quiet streets are bustling with the steady stream of arrivals and preparations for the coming Festival of the Medicine King; a time of celebration, healing, and renewal. But a shadow is sweeping the world, a plague of apocalyptic proportions—the dead are rising and devouring the living, and no place is safe where humanity thrives.
As Dagzê burns, overtaken by the hungry undead, five people come together: Lama Tenzin, an elder monk; Gu-lang, the silent warrior nun and Tenzin’s protector; Cheung, a private in The People’s Army, driver and escort of the Lama; ten-year-old Chodren Dawa, witness to his sister’s death and rising; and Dorje Cetan, a Shaolin-trained hermit monk of Seche La and a dreamer of a dark portent. Together they must fight their way out of Dagzê to an abandoned Buddhist hermitage clinging to the mist-shrouded cliffs of Seche La.
With the undead following and gathering at Eagle’s Nest gate, they barricade themselves inside their dead-end haven, and are soon forced to battle the beasts without, as well as the ones within.
Timothy Baker is a retired firefighter and an aspiring, perspiring, horror writer. He is published in Fading Light: Anthology of the Monstrous by Angelic Knight Press, and the forthcoming Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed from Tor. Tim has also received a commendation in the Australian Horror Writer’s Association 2009 Short Story Competition.