It begins with pitch blackness as the infinite waking world slips away, replaced by an infinite dream world. Daylight sets each minute detail of the horrific scene. For now, this is reality.
The undead are everywhere, stalking me, voraciously attempting to take me over, to assimilate me into their multitude. Wanting me to be like them, to live how they live, to desire what they desire. But while undesired, I wonder what would happen if they were to be successful.
There are four of us; each figure representing a part of me. There’s the fragile, young woman who keeps her blonde, silky hair tied in a ponytail. She’s Emotion. There’s the intelligent-looking man with short, brown hair and thin-rimmed glasses that make him look like the ideal cross between a nerd and a handsome doctor. He’s Logic.
Then there’s the guy who I can only describe as Danny Trejo; a big, tanned Mexican with longish, black hair and a tough exterior to match his attitude. Judging by the sheer size of his mustache, I can only assume he represents my ego. And finally, of course, is myself; the intuition leading their way.
Climbing the rickety, exterior metal stairs of a tall, older, white building, we run as if we’re taking flight; only we can’t. The toxic stench of death would overwhelm us if we weren’t already familiar with it. Seeking to achieve higher ground, each step taken by each of us makes a clanking sound as we feel the reverberations of the undead in their own reckless ascensions in our wake. The sounds in unison form a haunting melody that almost masks the reality of the hordes tirelessly in pursuit.
Whenever I look back at the unstoppable mass of decaying bodies, I don’t feel like I’m running to live. I don’t fear them. Perhaps it’s because I’m accustomed to them. It could be that I know I’m in their world and, therefore, I’m the outsider. They are simply doing what they do.
Surviving the way they know how. I don’t blame them for following their instincts. But I also have to follow mine.
We make it to the roof. It’s a small victory, as the undead still trail us. Our one hope is a raised concrete platform. It’s a good jump’s height just to grab hold of the ledge. They won’t be able to follow us up there.
Our group splits in half. Logic and Emotion are first to attempt their jumps while Danny Trejo and I hold off the oncoming frenzy. I prefer using my shotgun as a blunt object as noise only attracts more of them and there are enough to deal with as it is.
Danny Trejo prefers his machete; slicing, rather than chopping, then shoving and kicking the bodies away. Nothing worse for him than getting his weapon stuck in one of them. Having to pull it free slows him down. In a crowd of ravenous beings bearing down all at once, the only advantage he has, the only advantage any of us has, is to be faster than them, to be one step ahead of them.
The first waves are easy kills, with the fallen lifeless bodies serving as obstacles for the desperate others. But we know it won’t last long. They will come through. They will swarm us. As we make our stand, we both know the time will come when we lose. The smaller will inevitably be enveloped by the greater.
Logic and Emotion quickly hoist themselves up onto the platform. They don’t yell down at us to hurry and join them in safety. They’re not panicking. Neither are we, despite the ferociously hungry groans calling out into the calm, clear sky. Urging Danny Trejo to go, I take position to cover him. The small stairs create a bottleneck; I can hold them on my own for a short time.
The undead bodies stack up as I slowly inch backward, allowing more and more of them to come up to the roof at one time. I’m losing the bottleneck. Fast.
But it was inevitable. That’s why I’m not scared. It was inevitable.
I take a quick peek behind me, spotting Danny Trejo having trouble getting up to the platform. Logic and Emotion are struggling to help. I want to buy them more time, but as the growing sea of corpses surrounds me, the only option is to dash away from the horde.
As Danny Trejo laboriously rolls up onto the platform, I toss my shotgun aside and leap up, taking hold of the cold, rough concrete edges with my fingers. Pulling myself up, I bring one foot on top of the platform. The other foot I bring up as withered, grasping hands fight for a hold of the last living flesh to be within their reach.
This time, I will not be amongst them. As the sun sets, and the light draws further away, I will not be amongst them.
But as I now lie in wake, I know there will be more opportunities for them. They have had their chances before and they will try again. There is no getting away from them. They will always come.
I can’t stop it.
At first, I can scarcely feel its presence. But I can feel it more and more. As I let out a deep breath, everything around me settles. The walls crumble into themselves. The door creaks in contraction. The empty space folds in on itself. Everything settles in: the bed constricting me, the ceiling looming above me, the floor ascending beneath me along with my body. Along with my mind as it steadily draws itself into the dream world once again, softening more and more to a frightening point at which surrender is all that’s possible.
We’re in a two-story house. They’re rushing in at us. They’re in. But we’re not afraid. We’re fighting. We have to fight. We have to get up the stairs. We have to get to higher ground where they can’t reach, where we can take ourselves from their reach.
Danny Trejo is the first to make a move toward salvation, clearing the way to white plush carpeted stairs, but still staying near us. We protect him, he protects us.
He starts up the stairs, moving as swiftly as he can. Emotion heads up next, Logic covers her. I’m last once again. I’m always putting myself last. I can handle it.
Stepping off of the scarlet-stained plush carpet and up onto the stairs, soon to be colored as well, I force a bottleneck, an advantage I’ll soon lose.
They charge at me. Furiously. Incessantly. I can only stab them away with the baseball bat I’m wielding as there’s not enough room to swing. There’s only room to knock them back, to keep them at bay just long enough.
Logic spots an attic entrance on the ceiling, tugging on the rope to bring the attic steps down. Danny Trejo slashes the rope off with his machete as Emotion hurries up the stairs. Logic follows, with Danny Trejo close behind.
At the top of the steps, I make one final push to create some space, some breathing room for those who still breathe. One of them has a firm grip on the bat, forcing me to let it go. I dash across the hall. Scurry up the stairs. Dive to safety. Danny Trejo emphatically pulls the attic stairs up, closing them behind me as the tide of undead rushes in to fill the hall.
We huddle in the attic. Blackness and emptiness cradle us as do the demonic moans of hunger below us. We’re just out of their reach once more, in the confines of our own secure darkness.
The external light is now extinguishing, opening back up to the other solitary reality.
The dreams are a mirror of waking life, of walking around, not giving thought to the many places; places to seek satisfaction. Satisfaction of cravings, filling bellies with the things of this life that this life says they are to be filled with. Everybody is going through the motions of this existence. Just doing what they do, instinctively. Filling themselves, constantly.
It’s difficult seeing this, being aware of this, being aware of myself. Knowing everyone who surrounds me, who closes in on me, who tries to bring me into their fold, have no idea. This is what drives my feeling of isolation.
As in my dreams.
Amongst the volume of the undead.
We’re hold up in a single-story house, barely enough space to contain the four of us. Danny Trejo rests on a soft, green chair in the living room as Logic and Emotion are sleeping in a bedroom; Logic wrapped in a comfortable bed, Emotion lying on the hardwood floor. She’s accustomed to rough conditions.
I’m alone in keeping watch while the others slumber, hoping the undead simply walk by the house when they come.
They will come. They always come.
There’s no running this time, no fighting. We only hide, trying to blend in with the serenity of the silent night, hoping to not draw their attention.
The lights are off.
I can feel them all around. Walking through the interior of the house, I check the perimeter, carrying a crowbar; another blunt object.
In the dining room, I notice through the glass sliding door, standing directly outside is a female zombie; her face I’ll never forget as long as I live to dream. Young, light skin contrasted with her raven black, straight hair hanging well past her petite shoulders.
Freshly dead, she’s actually quite beautiful. Magnificent, actually. She’s looking in with interest, her head turning to one side ever so slightly, scanning to find someone; to find me.
The way she stares into my window with those dark, hollow eyes is remarkable, reminiscent of someone in my waking life gazing into my eyes, trying to see who I am inside. But as in the dream, they can’t see me. I won’t let them see me.
I won’t let her see me.
Creeping into the adjacent study, I hope she doesn’t notice me, but rather loses interest and departs.
Peeking back into the other room and out the window, I find she hasn’t gone away. Neither of us can get what we want, it seems. She’s still there. Still staring in, trying to find me. So I stay in this room. Stay away. Where there is distance, where she can’t see me. Yet there she remains, wanting to find me.
Black surrounds her. Black surrounds me. As the dream dissolves into the reality I know, I’m not entirely sure I wanted to leave her.
I wonder if deep down inside, I sincerely want to join them. Become one of them. Be one of them. Give in for the sake of giving in, for the sake of maybe being able to finally rest and to not have to face the exhaustion of running and not knowing when I must run again. Not knowing how much of a reprieve lay before me or how much time remains before the next tiring run.
I wonder if I truly may already be one of them, in a way. When awake. Living the way they live. Desiring what they desire. Maybe the dream isn’t a warning of what I’m seeking to avoid, but a contrast attempting to make me realize what I was before becoming what I have become in my own indiscernible, oblivious way: walking dead. No reason to live, just doing what is called surviving. Living and yet dead, and decayed and decaying.
With nothing to find solace in save for one enviable option: inevitably, to die again.
Just as I die every night when I lay down to realize the living I cling to in the other reality. That is, unless I’m willing to not cling anymore. For her. There. In that place I now travel to, desiring to see her again.
She’s inside now. I let her in. I had to.
To survive, I need her. I need her to overwhelm me. I need her to contain my struggle within her secure embrace. To engage my soul with her exquisite kiss.
Her kiss. A kiss that transforms her before my jaded eyes to reveal another extraordinary beauty lying beneath what I once looked upon. A kiss I’ve been longing for. A kiss I’ve never had. A kiss I wasn’t aware that I always desired. A kiss I found myself begging for the moment the hunger in her eyes offered it.
Her hunger for me. What transforms me to reveal underneath what I once feared I would lose. What I’ve been longing for. What I’ve never had. What I wasn’t aware that I always desired. What I found myself begging for the moment the offering in her eyes sparkled.
An offering to be one of them. To be normal. To crave what they crave. To have what they have. To exist how they exist.
An offering to belong with her. To not want stillness. To not want distance. To not want to wake.
Always in her embrace. Not having to let her go while I sleep.
Though I have to wonder, with her, if this is not the dream.