Stant Litore. I’m here with Devora, a twelfth-century BC prophetess who has graciously joined me for this interview. Devora, truly, it is especially gracious of you, as I know you’re staying up nights trying to hold your people together against the thousands of walking dead moving into your land. How do you do it?
Devora. Sometimes it’s easier to stay on your feet, to keep fighting. Better that than lay down to sleep. Easier to keep going than to close your eyes and face the dreams.
Stant. What do you see when you do close your eyes?
Devora. —- a pause —- I don’t think I want to talk about that.
Stant. I’m sorry.
Devora. No. It’s – it’s been a long year. The winter isn’t half over yet, and there wasn’t much of a harvest. You know what is more difficult than protecting the tribes from the wandering dead? Feeding them.
Stant. I can imagine –
Devora. No, you can’t. You really can’t. I mean look at you. The fat in your body. You have never gone two weeks without more than a bite of bread to eat. You’ve never had to choose between feeding yourself and feeding your infant. You’ve never dug through the barren field outside your encampment while the ash from your burned tents is still falling through the air. And all the while watching the trees at the edge of the field for any motion, listening for any moan on the air. You can’t imagine it.
Stant. No, I—I suppose I can’t.
Devora. And do you know what else you’ve never done? You’ve never buried those who mattered most to you.
Stant. I’m grateful for that. Devora, how—how did you do it? How did you pull the tribes together? You’re a woman in the twelfth century among a people who barter women like cattle. How did you do it?
Devora. Do what? Young man, half the land is burning. The burial cairns for the dead are like forests of stone on the hill slopes. Young man, just what do you think I’ve accomplished?
Stant. The People – they’re alive – they’re still alive, and you’re leading them, you’re keeping them that way.
Devora. Ah. When the spring comes, then we’ll see. Then we’ll see if God’s hand still covers this land and if the People still breathe. Right now we’re only standing against the wind.
Stant. But you are standing, and men and women throughout the land are standing with you. How did you do that?
Devora. Do what? I saw the People being eaten. God, I have begged to forget what I saw. And I could not watch one more person be devoured. No more. So I rode against the dead. Mishpat my blade like a slice of moon against the sky. While boys shivered in their tents or pretended the dead were someone else’s problem, I rode against the dead.
Now, please, go in to your wife and your children and your table laden with food and milk. This—chair, you called it?—this chair you have given me to sit in while we talk is very comfortable, but I cannot rest in it. The dead are nearly to Shiloh and there is butchery ahead. Then more to bury. Always so many to bury. When the spring comes, boy, then we’ll see. We’ll see.
Stant. Ladies and gentlemen, that was Devora, the heroine of Strangers in the Land, the newest installment in The Zombie Bible. I don’t think your applause will mean much to her, but if you will stand and show your respect?
And then read of her. She has a long winter ahead, and whatever she might tell you, she is going to win this. She is going to keep her people safe. You can see that, can’t you? You can see it in her eyes.