Fiction: December 1, 2013 @ The National Zoo Zombie Exhibit

Fiction: You know how I do. The line between fact and fiction is blurry if you can find the weak spots.

Recently, I went to the zombie exhibit at the zoo. Sometimes taking photos is the only thing that makes me want to be anywhere near crowds of people. Not the regular outdoors exhibit, but the one where they keep the famous people in glass encased enclosures. One of them is even in water like an aquarium of the undead. They try to recreate the time of death, more or less. It’s good context if not too macabre for my tastes.

That’s the world we live in, though.

It’s a one-way mirror but a few times a day they shut off the polarizing filters and the famous dead can see its admirers. They tend to go ballistic with that typical rage hunger. Each is a little different, though. Like snowflakes that want to eat you alive. No two are the same.

(The snowflakes that eat you alive, by the way, are actually nanotechnology attack swarms. From what I’ve read, stay away from the Koreas’ demilitarized zone.)

I wish I had seen the Peter Falk exhibit. I have the complete Columbo DVD set. All the way from the first episode in ’68 to the last ABC Mystery Night movie in 2004. But considering that he died with dementia it didn’t seem right to have him on display like that in the raincoat and all. That was for the best. Hollywood big studios can have little to no scruples.

But all of those big stars that have reanimation clauses in their contracts. Oh wow. There’s quite a line up coming. Sometimes they go after family estates to try and get rights. So tacky. But a Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse zombie exhibit? Guillermo del Toro? All apropos.

I would say George Romero, but that’s old hat. Mira Grant already did that in the “Newsflesh” trilogy. (Read the first book.)

Anyway, the point is. If you go to one of the enclosures with the walking corpse of a great thinker or even public servant, it can be very reflective. Normally around the time of funerals, afterwards I feel the urge to be near water: streams, creeks, rivers, lakes. Since I was already at Rock Creek I figured I might as well stop by the zoo.

Two people I know died last week. An elderly relative and a relatively young friend. The former was in the making and the latter was unexpected. It’s the kind of thing that sparks a fire in you to live life more fully. To launch yourself out of your comfort zone and to leap before you look. At the same time it reminds you that there are consequences to what we do and it would be a good time to sit quietly and contemplate or meditate and mindfully appreciate everything you come into contact with.

It’s ironic for me to write about zombies because I think they’re done to death. No pun intended. The whole fad is kind of annoying and I wouldn’t mind if it passed and was dormant and out of style for the next twenty years or so. All the same, nothing says metaphysics and ontological crisis like a once world famous star — all beauty and glamour admired and even lusted after by millions or billions — ambling around with no soul. I can’t think of a better word for it. Call it higher brain function or whatever you want. It’s just that all of the neurological terminology can explain it, but it doesn’t capture the jarring, heartbreaking reality of what is missing. The almost-there.

When I pulled out the camera one of the guards walked over to tell me, “Sir. No flash photography allowed.”

She indicated a placard that explained that not only can the bright lights rile the exhibits up, but they also contribute to early decay. Hm. Gross. But fair enough.

The guard was in the full zombie resistant riot armor, of course, with some kind of Israeli sub machine strapped around her. The Israelis are very practiced at close quarters and urban combat so they make compact, short barreled but accurate firearms and they make them well. Also ideal for outbreaks.

Mercy. She had pretty eyes. For lack of anything better to say I said, “That’s some pretty sweet equipment you’re packing there?”

With no detectable humor she said, “Is this the part where I say, ‘That’s what she said?’ Sir.”

(Holy crap how do you punctuate a sentence like that? The English language has failed me. I’ve entered a punctuation wormhole. All language is in danger of imploding! All hands abandon ship!! Abandon s….eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Oh. Nope we’re back. I think the universe just rebooted. I hate it when that happens. Gives me the runs.)

I said, “What? Oh. No. That wasn’t a pick up line. I’m no good at sketchy pick up lines. I was just admiring — you know what? Nevermind.”

Still in a stiff, paramilitary ready-for-action posture, she grinned just a little.

I said, “Probably not the first time you’ve heard that.”

She said, “Not even the first time today. Sir.”

“Well. Um. Carry on,” I said.

She nodded and wiped all trace of expression from her face. Back to business.

Judging by her broad shoulders and the hint of some serious muscle definition even through partially armored action wear I’d say that these guards are all super-serum soldiered up. They’re pretty badass. (That’s also how you know that these are the real deal dead and not animatronics like Disney World or the Baltimore Zoo.)

If you’re ever in the midst of a zombie outbreak, gremlins, robot/android uprising, other-dimensional being invasion, genetic experimental prison breakout, alternate future timeline cyborgs, or something like that unfortunate dinosaur park incident in Montana, these are the people you want on your side. Even though I did read on the internet that they can be prone to outbursts or spontaneous rage. But a walking death exhibit would be a horrible place for that to happen so I’m assuming it’s just a rumor because no one would be dumb enough to guard zombies with rage-prone, biologically and technologically advanced meta humans. Right? Like, that would be a literal nightmare if one of them got bit.

And suddenly I felt very uncomfortable in the exhibit and I left to hang out at Starbucks for a while. Maybe go dangle my feet over the Potomac on the way home.

Anyway, my point is this. Life is short. Time is fleeting. Do something with it. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Doesn’t have to be something that other people will even know about. But do something good and worthwhile. Find your zone. Then step out of it. You don’t have to do anything crazy or YOLOstupid, but something. So that whether you die at the age of 35 or 88 or this weekend you can go out knowing that you did something. You contributed to your experience and weren’t just a bystander to your life.

Said the guy who spent the last 48 hours in his apartment unable to motivate himself to do anything productive while watching Man vs Wild and free solo climbing videos the entire time. It’s a wonder I didn’t die from Acute Irony Poisoning or Hypocrisitis C.

Excelsior, true beleivers!

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