Zombodie that I used to know


Photo credit: Graphic illustration by Maia Alvarez

This image depicts characters Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) from the live-action “The Last of Us” series. I am an avid watcher and enjoyer of post-apocalyptic media, and I bonded with my cousin over the genre. 

By Cadence Callahan, Voices Editor

I remember wrestling with the silver-colored wrapping paper to discover my birthday present four years ago and finding a video game titled “The Last of Us” — a game I had seen on my cousin’s television console but never picked up. On the cover, an older man was pictured, whom I would soon come to know as Joel Miller, and a teenage girl named Ellie Williams.

I scanned the writing on the back of the DVD case, and I was instantly intrigued when I learned that I would play as Joel. In the game, I would be fighting off flesh-eating creatures while journeying across the country with Ellie in search of a cure for the fungal infection that had overtaken society.

I spent weeks on end making my way through difficult checkpoints and watching YouTubers play through portions I found challenging. It’s safe to say this game further fueled my interest in the undead.

I am a fanatic when it relates to “zombie,” “walker,” “infected” and post-apocalyptic media. “Z Nation,” “Train to Busan,” and the too-soon-canceled “Daybreak,” are all programs I enjoy watching and rewatching. There is something so utterly captivating about the idea of the living dead — people, once like us, turned into ferocious creatures who wish to consume us like a hamburger.

Regardless of the show, network or streaming site, there is one aspect of zombie media that is always the same: the “Found Family” trope, commonly used in series such as “The Walking Dead.” It traditionally consists of a group of strangers — ranging in ages, genders and races — who come together to survive, create strong relationships and build brand new societies out of the rubble of the world “P.Z,” or “Post Zombie.”

I can credit my absolute love of all things zombie to my cousin Keitrick. While I originally started watching “The Walking Dead” with my mother, I would have intense discussions with Keitrick about recent episodes, characters and potential storylines. Almost every conversation we had, regardless of the subject matter, found its way to what we’d do and where’d we go if an apocalypse happened at that moment.

While I still believe the best place to go would be a Big 5 store, I can see the logic behind his decision to stay at my great-grandfather’s home — he does have a lot of canned goods.

Nonetheless, I say all this to reflect on the relationship I have — or had — with my cousin. It’s weird, once we were so close, the bestest of friends, arguing over the optimal weapon to have in an outbreak (a machete, of course), and now we barely say more than a “hello,” or “goodbye” when we see each other at family gatherings. How does that happen? Aging, I assume. He found other hobbies, football and driving, and I stayed the same, relatively. I do have my driving permit though.

I reminisce on the time we spent together playing “apocalypse” with my dolls and using Nerf Guns to fend off imaginary “walkers.” Now, with the recent release of HBO’s live-action “The Last of Us,” I have the urge to pick up the phone and call him, talk about how we’d prevent getting bitten by a “clicker” and why Joel Miller is a better protagonist than Rick Grimes  a controversial take, I know.

Although the last time we talked on the phone was incredibly awkward and lasted approximately two minutes, perhaps it’s worth a shot. I’ll bite.