The Filth and the Fury

Thirty years ago, a plague came to Garth, Missouri. “I learned about it in school,” remembered one local. “About how the sickness fell from the sky when a meteor passed by and how people infected with it don’t die like they should. They just rot and bite.”

In other words, a large group of people living in rural Missouri turned into zombies. The word “zombie” wasn’t used by the townsfolk, however. Locals preferred to call them dead critters or dead folks. “They’re dead, that’s all they is,” said an old-timer. “Dead and unwillin’ to go to Hell.” 

The dead folks couldn’t go to Hell so they made a little hell on earth for themselves. They lived in an 80-acre quarantined zone called the Dead-Land and spent their days munching on brains and offal like it was brisket and cornbread. For dessert, they ate mud. 

Normally, the Dead-Land was a restricted area—no one was allowed to mingle with the zombies. But once a year the town sponsored a Hunger Games-like event called the Gauntlet. A pot of money was left in the center of the sanctuary. It was a mystery who put it there, but everyone was encouraged to claim it for themselves. This year there was $2 million waiting for the person who could outmaneuver the shambling dead critters, the clattering disembodied heads and the giant mutant parasites of the Dead-Land. 

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of filth and fury in a book called Zombie Vomit Shitshow. Author Judith Sonnet didn’t miss an opportunity to add gobs of snot, puke, smegma and various organ meats to the narrative. It’s gross, but also surprisingly funny. 

Beyond the explicit carnage, Sonnet was smart enough to turn the annual Gauntlet into a metaphor for how fucked up our world was today. Everything that was horrible in Dead-Land was horrible in normal society too. The Gauntlet allowed people to do all sorts of bad stuff to capture the caldron of cash. Steal, murder, rape—for one night, it was all part of the game. 

The winner (and loser) of this year’s competition was a teenage greaser wearing a Cannibal Corpse T-shirt. He beat everyone to the final prize, but the whole rotten game ruined his soul. For money (or maybe shredded newspapers, pebbles and grain) he had killed innocent people. 

Said the author in a novel-ending hillbilly elegy: The Dead-Land wasn’t just cursed … it was sick. It had a sickness that’d spread even to those that didn’t get bit. It tainted the soul and ruined the body. “Be prepared,” wrote Sonnet in conclusion. “You ain’t gonna come out the way ya came in.” 

[Zombie Vomit Shitshow / By Judith Sonnet / First Printing: December 2022 / ISBN: 9798366525138]