The company I work for just hired a survivor of that zombie outbreak that happened earlier this year. He’s apparently been certified 100% virus freed and we hired him on a re-assimilation program where the company gets kickbacks for his hire. I love the spirit of the thing – I mean, the guy was . . . is a person and this is the least we can do after all that he’s been through. But still. The decay-reversal process is super slow and even once I get past the fact that he stinks and occasionally has to put his eyeballs back in when they fall out, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he spends his entire shift Googling images of human brains and muttering to himself in a gravelly, melancholy way while gazing at my head.

I said something to HR about maybe rotating his desk position so that I don’t have to ALWAYS be sitting next to him and I’ve now been flagged for discriminatory behavior. Am I being a terrible person here, or is my discomfort justified?

Helmet-Wearing in Swindon


You are, in the end, being a terrible person. You file him under “that zombie outbreak” without even bothering to consider which outbreak you refer to. Are you referring to the Tokyo outbreak, the St Petersburg outbreak, either of the New York outbreaks, the Little Italy outbreak, or any of the dozen smaller outbreaks? This is a very important part of the undeceased’s identity, and you lump him in with the entire batch.

If it’s St Petersburg, though, he’s probably not cured. Run like the dickens. Or at least request a move.


Uncredited Back-Up Dancer


About a month ago I met my brother for lunch and as we sat in the cafe, he started talking about some challenges in his work. Almost immediately, music started playing – seemingly from nowhere. My brother looked as surprised as I, but was soon singing a catchy song about his work in which effort all the patrons and employees of the cafe joined him. I found myself overpowered by unseen forces and compelled to join in. Alistair, I knew words to a song I’d never heard and steps to a dance I’d never seen. Eventually, we spilled out onto the street where the song ended in a flurry of jazz hands. I have seen this strange phenomenon repeat itself several times since, and my brother – who claims not to know what’s happening either – says that it is happening to him several times a week.

So why is my brother’s life suddenly so fabulous?

Uncredited Back-Up Dancer in Georgetown

Dear Uncredited,

This sort of thing happens on a regular basis to people going through a specific emotional crisis. Typically, it will be an emotional estrangement from a potential lover, though nothing tragically horrific; rather, it tends to be somewhat lighthearted to the objective observer. It will play itself out of the course of – at worst – a year. At that point, your brother will either fall for and marry someone he’s wildly unsuited for, or he will ironically turn his back on them and forget they exist. In the meantime, be a supportive brother and do your best to get a speaking role.


Unwilling Librarian and Losing Custodian


Bought a used bookshelf about three weeks ago. It came with some old books, which I threw out. Every day since then, the shelves have been refilling themselves with books. Anything I set on the shelf is pushed out the next day and replaced with a random collection of old books. What, exactly, is going on here, and what should I do about it?

Unwilling Librarian in New Delhi



I got a bookshelf from a garage sale, as I’m an avid collector of first editions. It seems, though, to be “eating” the books. I’ll fill it up, and then the entire batch will disappear overnight. I can’t figure out where they’re going. Help!

Losing Custodian in Nassau

Unwilling Librarian and Losing Custodian,




For almost three weeks now, it’s been June 12th. What is that about? I wake up in the morning and find the rest of humanity going through exactly the same motions with variance only existing as I influence events. I am the only one who has any memory of the last 20 versions of this exact day. I’m the only one who drives into work and sees the same cyclist nearly get hit by a SmartCar every morning. I’m the only one who receives exactly the same text from my mother every single day, asking exactly the same questions. How am I transcending this time loop, and how do I make it stop? I dream of waking up in the morning and seeing June 13 on my phone screen, but it hasn’t happened. Help me, Alistair.

Broken Record in Taphouse


Broken Record,

My assistant told me about this email on the 12th of June, because it seemed urgent to him.

So I slept on it.

It’s now the 13th. You’re welcome.


Flipped Switches


I live about three miles away from a local nuclear power plant. There’s an energy creature that feeds on the waste energy every night, and then makes its way home. Seems taking a longish walk immediately after is hard on the digestion, because it seems to be (I’m embarrassed to write this) passing gas as it reaches my house. At any rate, the power goes out. Every breaker in the house is flipped and any lightbulbs on at the time blow out instantly. It’s a pain and kind of expensive. What do I do about it?

Flipped Switches in Kentucky

Flipped Switches

First of all, this energy creature isn’t “passing gas,” as you phrased it in an attempt to avoid offending delicate second grade sensibilities. He’s off-shooting. When raw AC is taken in by a creature made of energy (static), there will be a natural reaction to the reversed flow. In other words, it’s going to have to go somewhere. It’s basic electrobiology, and you don’t need to go out and humiliate the creature for its allergies.

Maybe try LED lights.


Daylight Savings


While recently testing a time travel device, I think I accidentally flipped the schematics; my maiden voyage sent the entire universe forward by one day, rather than myself. Unfortunately, the power demands of a move like that mean that the only way I’ll be able to reverse the move is to hook up to a nearby star. The hitch is that it would take a few billion years to establish the connection. I considered using time travel to skip ahead, but the power demands for that are even more ridiculous. Any advice on fixing the situation?

Daylight Savings in Brussels

Daylight Savings,

So everyone’s lost a day. In the end, nobody’s going to notice. Oh, there may be a schedule slip or a few lost items as people misplaced things in the missing interim, but in the end, it’ll be chalked up to exactly the same thing as it always is: ‘Gee whiz, where did the time go? Seems like just yesterday it was last week.’

Besides, on the scale of all things, people are constantly doing this nonsense. In the end, the universe won’t be ten years off in any direction.


Ask Alistair: Series 2

Ladies, Gentlemen, and The Rest,

After a short hiatus – inflicted by an infovoric sentience, two lost passwords, and enormous staff turnover – the next series of Ask Alistair letters is prepared for release. Whether your prophetic dreams have taken a worrying turn vis a vis your wife; a magical HUD appears in your sleep; or local deities are trying to draft you into the latest MLM scheme, Alistair is dispensing his usual wisdom. Or at least his advice.


From the Desk of Alistair

Unsigned, Unread, Unendorsed



Just found a lamp. Djinni can’t do anything right. Constantly bringing me random things, never what I want. How do I fix this?

Aladdin in Wyoming


He might not be bringing you what you want, but is he perhaps bringing you what you need? Given that he’s a lamp-bound Djinn, this means he was almost certainly a prisoner of the last Great Djinn War of 563, which means he was born at minimum around 200 AD. This ethereal being is probably over 1800 years old. He has some wisdom to offer . . . Or he is suffering some seriously overdue dementia. Either way, he is giving you stuff that is free. Start and ebay account and make a little money on the side.


Lizard Lover


My pet iguana believes he is a colonial-era British explorer. Do I play into the delusion or try to bring him around.

Lizard Lover in Calgary

Lizard Lover,

Cost of a lizard-sized pith helmet: $45

Cost of reptile therapy: $180 per session

Do the math.




I think my boyfriend is a vampire. Should I cut him off or try to reform him?

Sparkles in Washington


Men never change – women invariably change. If your girlfriend was a vampire, I’d give reformation a shot. As it’s your boyfriend in question, there’s only one thing to do: cut that sucker off (note that in this instance ‘sucker’ is not a slur for vampires in general).