Not that I’ve ever gone to any trouble to deny it, but I can’t, for the life of me, sit through even 5 minutes of a zombie movie. Hell: I even put off watching Zombieland, a comedy. It’s never the zombie film itself that scares me. It’s more about what happens after. Each time I see a zombie on screen, I dream of zombies that night. And that’s the part I try to avoid.
My zombie dreams are terrifying and rather difficult to get out of. The set-up tends to be the same. Whether I’m in the city or country, it’s down to me and maybe 1 or 2 other living people. We know the world’s been taken over by zombies, and we simply wait for them to close in on us. I’m either lucky enough to wake up just as they’re about to get us, or I have to endure becoming one of them. Just to be sure, in my dreams, there’s never a way out. No heroic Woody Harrelson figure bursts through my door wielding a bazooka. I usually don’t scream much either, not because I’m paralyzed but because what’s happening is inevitable and the only thing to do is wait. I’m trapped. End of.
If I’m transformed into a zombie, I don’t suddenly scour the neighbourhood for non-dead brains. I just stop…being. I don’t do anything, really. I don’t move around or think things or want things. I am nothing. For a very long dream-time minute, until I wake up, my existence is nothing.
Save the brain-chasing, that pretty much sums up your average zombie reality. They seldom, if ever, get characterized in movies, because you can’t give “nothing” a personality. Vampires? Werewolves? Man-eating monsters? They sometimes get the artistic treatment. But zombie stories tend to focus on the experience of the living rather than the thing that’s challenging their living experience.
For many years, I’ve tried to figure out why I have a zombie phobia. Then recently, it dawned on me. I believe what scares me about zombie dreams is what’s scary about zombies in general: they are death itself.
Zombies force us to deal with death. They even force us to look death square in the face: warts, decomposed flesh and all. Zombies differ from vampires, monsters and aliens in that we can’t assign them any sort of “otherness”: they’re us. Not now, but soon enough.
And it’s a bleak future. They weren’t rescued by a forgiving god or a noble scientific process. They just laid there rotting in the ground until some unknown source animated their bodies. But they’re not sentient. They’re not really beings. They’re just piles of worthless flesh that we don’t even pity once they’re shot dead(er).
If zombies took epidemic proportions, we probably wouldn’t have much of a chance against them. We’d all die, but not just because zombies would kill us or turn us into them. Zombies’ food supply would eventually run out and they’d just starve to death. In other words: Buh-bye human race!
Death is already an idea most of us aren’t comfortable discussing. It’s the usual things: the lack of control, what the afterlife has in store, the possibility that there is no afterlife.
Extinction is far worse. It confirms our vulnerability as a species. It’s death with no legacy. It’s as if we were never there, which invites us to wonder if it even mattered that we were. This, of course, suggests that we believe we matter only if we are.
Meaninglessness is something people have never been very good at reconciling. Nihilism comes close, but it’s just no fun. And that’s the problem. Maybe life means nothing at all, but that’s hardly a reason to not have fun doing it. If anything, it’s an incentive to have a massive party.
So while people are hosting Walking Dead parties, I’m still working up the courage to watch the pilot. Some of you might egg me on, telling me to face my fear. And sometimes, facing fears can be fun. But I understand this phobia. I think I’ve been working it out in this post pretty efficiently. What scares me now is the prospect that having figured out the wherefore of this thing won’t prevent me from having more zombie dreams.
Believe me. They’re no fun.