Fiction: 6/27/2013 – Tough Commute

Zombies. Again with the zombies. Okay. Why not. Let’s have some fun. Been listening to fiction recently. Been in a writing mood. Started posting fictional, stream of consciousness entries back in 2007 (and stopped in 2007). Been reading World War Z which I am digging. That’s some smart fiction. I think zombies as a cultural whatever are well overdone, though. I’m tired of it. Doesn’t mean there’s no entertainment in it, but … just not my thing these days. But if you can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em.

Let’s go.

BORED WITH DEATH

Here’s the problem with zombies. Other than the fact that writing this is going to give me zombie nightmares within the next week. The upside of that is that my zombie dreams usually have music in them. Go figure.

The problem with zombies as a genre or trope is that they’re presented for the sole purpose of mass entertainment. That automatically means that the actual zombies end up being a backdrop for … something. A romance, a bromance, a buddy movie, a comedy or action comedy. They could just as easily be werewolves or killer bees or giant, carnivorous worms. Right? Zombies just happen to be the in-thing.

Every fantasy/horror movie has rules. There are rules that apply within that universe. During the course of the movie, through efficient exposition, the rules are presented to the audience and the plot can move along in such a way where we can say, “Oh. I get it. The maniac serial killer can’t be killed by any ordinary means of violence. But the old gypsy lady said that there’s a legend where this type of killer is allergic to Old Bay seasoning. And that girl’s last name is McCormick. Oh wait! They’re in a grocery store! GO TO THE SEAFOOD SECTION! RUN, BITCH!”

As trite as this can get, I admit that there are some movies that are just stupid because they make up s— as they go along. Superman 2, anyone? Erasing memories with a kiss? Saran Wrap “S” symbol? Bad synthetic kryptonite causes some kind of spontaneous generation of an evil twin? Whatever.

Anyway, don’t get me started. Problems, zombie genre. Right.

1. Just about every zombie story is an origin story. The characters have to figure out the rules in just about e-ver-y movie with a few exceptions. We have to assume that in the universe we’re seeing that zombies aren’t overdone schtick and an expression of the socioeconomicotechnopolitico zeitgeist of paranoia. Of, what. Cancer? Alzheimers? Communists? Vampires? Vegetarians?

2. Bad guys are often portrayed or written as one-dimensional, but that’s what gets me. That’s what peeves my pet. It’s either fast zombies or slow zombies. Brain-hungry or rage virus. Like that. The smarter movies attempt scientific or medical explanations, which I do appreciate, but it all adds up to supernatural, unstoppable, terrifying evil. Just … a very predictable form of it.

Maybe it’s an expression of our nihilistic, morally relativistic cynicism. We’re all doomed. The question is, how long do you want to fight the inevitable. Or do you just pack it in.

That’s the problem with zombie movies and books and such. The problem with actual zombies is that they’re unpredictable. And the real problem is that I think they’ve gotten into the parking garage and guess where my car is.

You may ask why did I go to work when Homeland Security and the NWS sent out text alerts saying that there’s a level 3 zombie infestation in the DC Metro region? That is a good question with a good answer. I gots to make that paper, baby. That and I’m out of PTO days. Luckily, I filled up my tank just last night. You know how we get those gas shortages every time this happens. Unluckily, my car is parked down in P3. S— snacks!

I could just try to take the metro home but their hours are shortened. Even with the extra Anti-Zombie security and the Guardian Angels stepping up there presence, I just don’t feel safe in underground tunnels. Zombie outbreak on a metro train? Power goes out, air conditioning goes off, Mr. Lobbyist dies of heat stroke, resurrects? No thank you.

Well, maybe it won’t be so bad. I mean, if it’s not many. And if there aren’t any newbies. Or Einsteins. Or runners. I should probably call security for an escort. Yeh. That’s what I’ll do.

Okay. No answer from security. Damn it. How the hell am I going to get to the gym on time? I haven’t even changed clothes yet. I am not in the mood to warm up on that freakin’ Jacob’s Ladder again.

Alright. Here’s what I’m going to do. I have a spare Annihilator wrecking bar here at the office.

20130628-205527.jpg

I can make it from the elevator — maybe I should take the stairs. Alright, suffering from a little analysis paralysis here. I’ll flip a coin. Heads = elevator. Tails = stairs. Aaaaand damn it! It rolled under the desk. Okay. Elevator down to the lobby. Then stairs down to P3. I’ll let you know how it goes. If I don’t — no, I’m going to make it. The only question is how many heads I’m gonna have to bash in in the process. Right? Right.

Get back with you later.

Okay. Okay. That wasn’t so bad. I was late to the gym, though. 300 ft. on Jacob’s Ladder as a warmup. Whoever invented that machine is a grade A asshat.

Let me tell you how it went down. Oh! Next time, remind me to tell you about the kettlebell women hunting down zombies in the park near the gym. Classic. Got photos, too. Badassery.

Anyway, it’s easy to take elevators for granted, isn’t it? You forget that you’re standing in a claustrophobic metal box hanging on wires hundreds of feet in the air. Or being raised and lowered by winged fairies, for all I know. I don’t know anything about elevators. Point is, you forget that if any type of emergency takes place you’re in a small metal box. When there are zombies nearby it feels like a death trap. With each floor the elevator dinged and I hoped that it wouldn’t stop. But it did stop. On the fifth floor. I almost brained a woman standing there when the door opened. It was that woman who wears the dresses and smells like she falls into a vat of musky perfume every morning.

She noticed the Annihilator in my hand and said, “Going to the garage, huh?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t have much of a choice. My car’s down there on P3.”

“Oh P3. I wouldn’t,” she said with sincere pity. “I heard there are some newbies down there and the smell is awful.”

Well, she eye it. That’s exactly what I didn’t need to hear.

“But don’t worry,” she continued. “A clean up crew is headed over here.”

On a day like today a clean up crew could take hours. I didn’t have the time. I got things to do and I really didn’t want to be on the 13th floor by myself if things turned sour. Too many people nearby in highrises. Thousands and thousands. Worse case scenario, that’s thousands and thousands of those things. So no.

We both got out on the ground floor. She wished me good luck as she walked out of the building wafting a trail of perfume behind her all the way.

The security guard wasn’t at the front desk and there were no signs of carnage so he was probably hanging out with the parking garage attendant waiting for the clean up crew and keeping an eye on things. I knew from past experience that asking them to help me get my car wasn’t going to go anywhere. It wasn’t worth the risk for them and they would play it by the rules. Good for them.

I walked to the stairwell door and put my ear against it. Nothing. I wrapped slightly with my knuckles. Still nothing. Good. The special handles on the stairwell doors should keep any hordes out. Maybe except for the Einsteins and then only the smartest ones. Some Newbies are Einsteins but not all. In the first few days after someone is infected they’ll sometimes retain a lot of that front cortex. They look at you like they’re confused. Like they just walked into their kitchen and forgot why. The good news is that they’re still intelligent enough to be more curious or distracted than hungry. Sometimes. A sound, a bright light. Sometimes you can call their name and they’ll stop in their tracks trying to remember with the futility of catching a wisp of smoke in your fist. It can buy you a few seconds, which can make all the difference.

Einsteins are smart but only relatively. Smart like a dog is smart, at best. Then again that’s smart enough for a predator. Runners generally aren’t the brightest. My theory is that it takes so much for the smart ones to use whatever they’ve momentarily got left that it doesn’t leave much for coordination. Runners, though, I’ve seen them sprint. All-out sprint. Get a few of them in a pack and they will run you down. If they seem to be ignoring you for whatever reasons that zombies will ignore you — not hungry, distracted, asleep in that eyes still open and still shambling way — best thing is to walk as quietly as you can. Run or make a sudden movement and you’re off to the races. On the other hand, they might smell you if they have a sense of smell. So you never know.

Think of it like the animal kingdom. Conventional wisdom is that bears, say, or snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. But I came face to face with a rattlesnake once and it didn’t seem to be afraid of me at all. In fact, it stood its ground and the more of a scene I made trying to scare it off the more determined it seemed to be to bite a black man. Make noise when you’re in the woods so that you don’t startle a bear and it’ll run off to avoid you. Unless it’s a predatory male black bear or a female with cubs. But you just know that every now and then a bear looks at a person and thinks, “I don’t like your face.”

Take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected.

Newbies. That’s bad news. They could still be limber, have good eye sight, good sense of hearing. But they don’t stink. If there’s a stench down there that means that there are more seasoned critters. Those suckers are mean. They’re the hungry ones with anger management issues. Oh well. There can only be so many. Two? Three?

I opened the stairwell door and heard nothing. Clear. I descended to P2 and put my ear to the door. Still nothing. I took a breath, readied the wrecking bar and walked down the steps to P3. The fluorescent light was flickering dimly like my nerves. I put my ear to the door. Contact. I could hear shuffling feet and an occasional guttural moan. Don’t let anybody tell you different. They communicate. It’s not language but there’s something going on there. Some of them do still try to talk and will even manage a word. The smart newbies. Creepy as hell.

Time to get a lay of the land. I cracked the door a sliver to get a peek. All movement and all sound ceased abruptly. Uh oh. P3 had been pitch dark, which is one way to keep the critters docile barring any stimuli. You don’t want frustrated zombies smashing things if you can help it. They can do some property damage. Here are three things that count as stimuli:

1. A shaft of light piercing an otherwise pitch black environment.

2. A door handle click-clacking so loud that it might as well have been a gun shot.

3. The smell of a sweaty nervous man.

I shut the door. Okay. The car’s not too far away, right. Fifty yards. I can sprint 50 yards in a few seconds. No problem. Here’s the plan. Open the door, run like hell, unlock the car door remotely when I’m close, jump in, calmly start the car (remind me to get a remote car starter, please) and then drive right the hell over anything that gets between me and the garage door exit.

That was the plan. Until I opened the door.

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