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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Love and Nerve Gas

***This is something I wrote while studying nerve gas in college. It was a little too fanciful to submit to my biology class, but I always thought it was sort of clever. I promise I'll make a decision on which major work to burn Monday, so enjoy the essays that will round out the week. At least they're less time intensive than a serial.***


Love is a lot like nerve gas.

People should marry for love. The idea that marriage is an institution for the genesis of children or to provide stability in life seems quite outdated to me. In these last few years, however, I have met more people than I care to recall who were interested in marriage only for practical reasons. Pragmatism is not a reason to marry.

The first nerve gasses were invented by the Nazis, but never used by them for pragmatic reasons. The Nazis couldn't launch their nerve gas as far as the Allies could, and so they restrained themselves for fear of reprisal. It seems ironic that the Nazis refrained from almost nothing save the use of nerve gas. Nerve gas, I suppose, is innately terrifying, even to Nietzsche's supermen.

Women are terrifying to men, whether they're supermen or not. The men who don't fear women inevitably abuse them. The self-loving jocks who were fearless enough to approach women in high school drove women away with the same arrogance that was their most attractive feature. The men who become husbands, though, are the same who scurried past women during their formative years, eyes locked on the floor. Nature's ironies are not subtle.

Neither is nerve gas subtle. Tetrodotoxin, a natural nerve agent, causes almost instantaneous paralysis that looks like death. Haitian voodoo priests use pufferfish, which contain tetrodotoxin, in their zombie powder. Zombies are supposedly re-animated corpses, incapable of emotions like love. According to popular American horror movies, zombies must feast upon living flesh to maintain their undead state. All this is the result of nerve gas exposure.
Nerve gas is unlike any other poison. Nerve agents strike at the heart of the nervous system, blocking the actions of acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholine is the enzyme which living beings naturally produce and use in muscle contraction. Within a fraction of a second, acetylcholinesterase destroys acetylcholine, halting the muscle contraction. Nerve gas blocks the action of that enzyme, in effect, causing organisms to be poisoned by their own hormones.

Poisoned by my own hormones, I began to lust after women around the age of 12. I suspect I was a late bloomer, but as any horticulturalist will tell you, the latest blossoms of summer are the finest. I was more mature than my peers when I first began to deal with the human sexual drive, and yet I was behind the learning curve. Curiously, I ended up believing in love, and was not consumed by the lust I saw in my peers. I was a fuck-up for a modern American male. I found Omar Khayyam more moving than Playboy. I must have had bad hormones.

Since nerve gas blocks the hormones necessary to stop muscle contraction, death actually occurs from the throat muscles pressing against each other. Acetylcholine poisoning, the result of nerve gas exposure, is also, I imagine, the cause of rigor mortis, the stiffening of muscles after death. Due to rigor mortis, coroners must break the bones of corpses to get that peaceful unmangled look. Do I detect the scent of irony again? Or does the fact that one must damage a corpse to make it look undamaged simply demonstrate that appearances can be deceiving?
I imagine zombies must constantly be breaking their bones as they move. Zombies are stronger than humans because of rigor mortis. Their muscles are naturally stiff and stronger than living muscles. Even facing down the zombie of a child would be dangerous due to the strengthening effect of rigor mortis.

Rigor Mortis is also the name of John Entwistle's solo band. Sadly, most people don't know who Entwistle is. Before Entwistle, the bass was an auxiliary instrument. It did little more than keep the beat for the guitar. But Entwistle played the bass like a guitar. He turned the bass into a lead instrument. He virtually created the bass solo. Suddenly, the bass could be brought to the forefront, rather than being banished to the corner like a red-headed stepchild. The man quietly changed the face of music. Today he's dead. And virtually unknown.

It seems a great injustice that Entwistle is not famous. But then again, fame is overrated. What is fame worth anyway? Not even a quarter of our planet is inhabitable, and only a small fraction of that is actually inhabited by our species. And there are trillions of planets in the universe. The most any of us can hope for is to be king of an anthill for a fraction of a second, and then be trampled underfoot.

The truth is that most people are unknown, even before their deaths. The quest for immortality, is, I think, a cry for acknowledgement, a desire to exist. Some are content to have children and be remembered as the root of a family tree. But others, like Ozymandias, demand to have their works stand after their deaths. But who built the pyramids, anyway? And even pyramids fade, in the end. Nothing is permanent in this temporal world, save love.

Objects are obviously not permanent. Mountains are ground to sand, beaches are swallowed by oceans, and oceans are dried up. Flesh has an even shorter shelf-life. But living things are capable of a feeling which is necessarily infinite. Nothing can be called love that is not permanent. The love that two organisms feel for each other must be eternal, and must outlive the organisms, else it is not true love. The permanency of objects is zero, but the permanence of emotions, which are ethereal and abstract themselves, are necessarily eternal. The concept of love will exist long after our civilization has fallen. The love that I feel for my wife does not end with us. It still exists even when we are not together. The love never disappears. It is like a radio wave beamed into outer space. It can not be recovered now, and it can never be destroyed. Love is the only permanent thing.

I have been warned on many occasions not to get tattoos, because tattoos are permanent. I have never heard such a ridiculous assertion in all my life. The human body is perhaps the most impermanent object on this planet. How can a tattoo outlive its owner? After I die, my ink will be interred with me, and rot and be consumed by worms. The only way you will see my tattoos after I die is if I shamble out of my grave to terrorize the countryside as a zombie.

Zombieism is a practical solution to a universal problem. Physically re-animating a corpse gives human being a longer lease on life. The life of a zombie also demonstrates the problem with desiring immortality. We will inevitably hurt the ones we love, and innocents, in our quest for immortality. The zombie simply eats brains, but the human questing for immortality ruins lives. Luckily we have in our arsenal a potent anti-zombie weapon.

Nerve gas is potentially a powerful weapon for combating the zombie menace. My logic is that zombies must generate acetylcholinesterase after their re-animation, or they would not be able to move. It is difficult for them, admittedly, to move, after rigor mortis has set in, hence the rather stiff movement of zombies on the prowl. Zombies are rather mindless (or single-minded, to be generous) and pain is not a concern for them, so they are able to fight through the rigor mortis to move. If, however, we were to expose zombies to nerve gas, their already stiff muscles would seize up violently. It would require clinical tests to prove, but I suspect that zombies, once exposed to nerve gas, would be unable to move ever again.

I find the effects of love similar to the effects of nerve gas, and, for that matter, zombieism. An inability to speak seems universal to all three. Also, a stiffening of the muscles seems common to all three. Love is its own antidote, though. Atropine is the antidote for nerve gas, and bodily dismemberment is the only way to destroy a zombie, but only love can cure love. As we love, we become accustomed to love, and it becomes less like a poison and more like an addiction. Every day that I see my wife I grow deeper in love with her, and I realize that I could not live without her. Being away from her, I feel my throat began to close, I begin to asphyxiate, and then she appears, and it's like a wonderful rush of atropine.

I feel sorry for zombies. They will only be immortal for a brief time. My love will bury them all.

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