Zombie Apocalypse Now: The Making Of

By Cathy Linh Che

Cue soundtrack.

The undead include:
my grandmother, my older sister,
my uncle, who was a priest,
four cousins, still children.

They eat the pomelos we set at the altar,
all in a circle,
peeling the membranes,
dropping the segments into each other’s mouths.

I am the director.

The zombies don’t look like zombies.

Just my grandmother,
unable to speak,
the flies reanimating
her body’s giving up.

Just my older sister, all grown now.
She was a little VC sacrificed
to show the depravity of war.
She died and died and died again.

I yell, Cut!, and they ascend into heaven.

Makeup!  I call across the set.

I ask the artists to bruise the undead.
I provide a mood board, artist sketches
composed by my brother,

happy to paint again. It’s a family
production. My father fiddles
with the Super 8. He shakes his head

at the last reel: Too dark.
My mother in costume design,
her head down at the sewing machine,

a measuring tape hangs from the curtain.
She is burning incense,
pouring holy water into the iron.

She stitches the tatters and hand-hems the silk.
She is careful, but we are running low on time.
The light is starting to dim.

I call down my uncle, my cousins,
their faces at the side of the road—
the red terror, a tableau.

I tell them,

Here is the script. Act natural.
This is just like the story
of your lives.

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