Surprise. Guess who’s back?
The masks may be familiar, but this is a whole new cast of characters. I don’t want to give away story beats before they happen, but I think now is a good time to speak about the origins of Mercy’s Kill.
Like every other element in Unlife, Mercy’s Kill started with the question “Where do real life and zombie lore intersect?” This has always been the richest place to mine from, and when Mercy’s Kill was being developed… well, I want to say it was when there was a lot of violence motivated by hate, but using the past tense is inappropriate. This shit is disturbingly present in the US, and if we’re trying to be realistic, it’s probably safe to assume zombies would suffer the same fate. So who would be the first to put a gun to a zombies’ head?
A zombie hunter.
But that’s not enough for our story. The thing is, zombie hunters are normally good guys who shoot monsters. Monsters with no personality, aside from the drive to consume and destroy. So when the heroes of your story are those very same “monsters”, the implementation of the hunter characters becomes trickier. Applying them in a way that is tactful, powerful, and appropriate to the world, the story, and the tone of the piece is difficult, and though I know Unlife can sometimes feel like a gloom parade, it doesn’t mean I just throw random dark elements at you guys without considering whether it will play well into the story.
My main problem with the zombie hunters was how to balance characters and caricatures. As I pointed out, our main characters are not the monsters. But that doesn’t mean their adversaries are by default. On the one hand, if they’re just stupid, hateful bigots, they are no more than a threatening blob with no individual personalities, which is a no-no for me. Everyone, good or bad, is a person in Unlife, with a background and history that shapes who they are.
That said, going too far in the other direction can be just as much of a problem. Too much sympathetic background, and our zombie hunters would no longer read as adversaries. And that would be a problem, because this isn’t their story (though, they would probably argue otherwise). They are the latest challenge facing our heroes, pushing them, standing in their way, and asking James how hard he’s willing to push back.
I’m hesitant to call them, or anyone else in Unlife, a villain. They’re antagonists. Adversaries. The opposition. Not mustache twirlers, but people who struggle with their own pain and hold their own beliefs, which happen to run against James’ own. We all face people like this in life. I’ve known people whose ideas led them down darker paths. I have yet to meet or see anyone I would flat out call evil, and I think most people would say the same. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to stand against those darker paths when we see someone straying that way.
I hope we managed to walk that line correctly with Mercy’s Kill. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what their presence will augur. Their motivations, who they are, what they want, and what they’re willing to do to get it will unfold as Unlife’s story does. But like the unending violence and bigotry in this country, it’s not going away any time soon.
So what are we willing to do to fight back?