Author: Mike Gillan
Illustrator: Janine Van Moosel
The Rot is a very brief story. Only nine pages long, it is not a very time-consuming read, but one which makes an impression.
The first scene is that of someone barricaded in a wooden shed in the midst of what appears to be a zombie apocalypse, and has seemingly been trapped in there for quite some time, all alone. Zombies being zombies, however, they will neither die nor go away, but they have now drawn closer again due to the arrival of another living person, more alive than the zombies anyway. But can this man be trusted? More importantly, in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, does it even matter anymore..?
The illustration, by Scottish artist Janine van Moosel, is detailed and unflinching, bringing about as much “life” to zombies as is even possible. What makes these ones stand out in particular is the intense glowing of their eyes, a feature never explained but can merely be speculated upon. Drawing the visiting man with as little colour, or even less than, the zombies is telling of just how little life there is now in the outside world, and perhaps only the fire, which is somehow kept going inside, is what gives any colour to the young woman. Enough detail is also provided to let us know that it is the year 20** (recent past or not too distant future) and that it takes place in Scotland, so the tale is lent that touch more reality.
The name, The Rot, is also dual in its meaning, in that it can refer to the zombies, or the gradual fading of life within the shed, so worn down that it’s a surprise that it’s still standing. It is never clear if there were any other survivors besides this young woman, she has either been alone the whole time or she’s been left alone by losing people, either way it’s a grim tale.
The ongoing popularity of zombie-themed stories in films and TV programmes may have put anything else sharing the same theme at risk of being ignored or rejected due to the market being at peak zombie saturation, however this story, with its brevity, sparing use of dialogue and absence of gratituous violence (although there is a fair bit of blood here and there) all allow the reader to ponder what may happen next, and perhaps in particular, what makes the zombies’ eyes glow…