And so I find myself in the deserted backstreets of some British town or city. Disregarded refuse strewn across the road and pavement. Empty cars come to a violent rest at obscure angles, some partly consumed by what look like mouths created the broken walls of dirty buildings. I’m alone. It’s deadly silent. I creep along the road, careful not to get too close to the broken and cracked windows, openings to the big black unknown, the abyss, the holes to hell. In my hands, I can feel the cold of the scaffolding pipe I carry, raised above my shoulder, ready to strike at any minute.
And then I hear it. It’s slight at first, somewhere in the winding maze of streets, echoing off the endless, cavernous walls; the scuttling of numerous feet on the tarmac, the high pitched screeching. It gets louder, louder, louder. I freeze. I search around, wide eyed. I know what’s coming. But where do I have to hide? They occupy every part of this place and I am the last of the prey, the last morsel remaining in this place. The scuttling and shuffling become thunderous and the screeching becomes deafening. This is a dream, this must be a dream. Wake up! I concentrate everything I have on opening my eyes. For Christ’s sake, wake up! A crowd gathers at the end of the road, all eyes fixed on me. Each of them lets out a high pitched howl. Please, God, let me wake up! The mass come careening in my directing. I can start to make out twisted, hate filled faces in the swarm. Red eyes, sallow, broken and decomposing flesh, black and splintered teeth, hands outstretched. I can even smell them. And here they are, getting closer by the tick of each millisecond, another few faces becoming clearer, an endless river consuming the entire street. I can’t run. I can’t wake. I just stand there as the wave crashes upon me. I feel their icy grips as they grab hold of me and the first of the cold corpses with his open, rotten mouth launches for my face.
This was the first of my reoccurring nightmares. I can’t remember what age I was when this one came to me, but I can remember that I wasn’t that young. It was the first in the unrelenting and ever haunting nightmares of ‘the zombie apocalypse’ that continue on to this day. Even now, when I comfortably reside in my twenties, an age of growing ‘rationality’, they are still a near nightly occurrence, even though I haven’t watched a zombie film in months (still waiting to see Rec 2). Some say that nightmares such as these should cease to plague us in adulthood, that dreams of horror film material are the fear of kids, but I disagree. The zombie film is still the one true horror film that I look forward to whenever a new film one is released. I still find them truly disturbing and undeniably terrifying. A psycho with a knife, a ghoul that haunts your dreams, the deformed monster; none of it really has that much effect on me. However, the zombie, well, that is a whole other kettle of fish.
When it comes down to the single psycho, then, despite all their skills in stalking and precision killing, you can always escape, but that’s only if you’re good enough, of course. If you hide in a big group then, well, it’s unlikely they’ll strike. I know this theory has been disproved in various slasher films, such as the Scream series. However, you will know from life how safe you feel in a group, the whole safety in numbers theory that was taught to every child growing up. Usually in films of the knife-wielding maniac genre, the killer will slink away when their intended victim reaches the safety of society. The weird mutant mountain men, such as those in The Hills Have Eyes have no power within civilization, away from their dwellings in the unpopulated wilderness. When it comes to zombies on the other hand, then society becomes dangerous, towns become dangerous, company and numbers become dangerous.
It is not so much the reoccurrence of that one dream that disturbs me on a near nightly basis, but the continuous outbreak of the ravenous dead and the infected in my subconscious dream world. In the vivid zombie nightmares you really get a sense that there truly is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run to and really, no possible escape. Even when you’ve put yourself in the best possible hiding place you can come up with, you then have the problem of having no escape; besieged by the infected. I remember a particular dream where I looked down from a loft window in the center of London, the city I live in, as chaos ensued on the streets below. I saw panic stricken individuals chased down and half consumed by unrelenting, cat-like zombies, leaving the freshly deceased corpse only when more potential prey ran into their flesh seeking radar. The corpse would lie still for a few seconds before twitching into life and sprinting off in a random direction, screaming. This dream ended with the sharp stab of panic that hit when one of the newly formed zombies caught my petrified face staring from the window, before bolting toward the building I occupied.
The basic pattern for these dreams sees me wake when I’ve made a mistake, when my death seems inevitable. A bit like a video game in that I wake up rather than die and get to have another go at surviving the zombie apocalypse the next night. Only I don’t survive. In fact, I never have. The problem is, as I said before, there IS nowhere to go. I’ve had dreams where I’ve been part of an expedition of friends who have all survived the initial outbreak, making our way through the deserted London streets during fading sunlight, trying desperately to think of a place where we can start a new life, some kind of easily fortified place, which can protect us from those that hunt us while also offering us the ability to sustain ourselves so as not to die of starvation or thirst. On the tiny little island of Britain where almost everywhere is going to have some kind of human society and thus, potential zombies, this is rather an impossible feat. Still, we try and, inevitably, fail. I seem to remember this particularly long and bitty dream ended with us being cornered in some field in the countryside, which was surrounded by high stone walls and had a massive tree in one of the corners. In this dream, the zombies weren’t the rabid sprinting type, but rather the clumsy, lumbering masses you got in the earlier films, and while my friends escaped I found myself cornered beside the tree that turned out not to be quite as sturdy as it looked. I was able to climb it, which the zombies couldn’t do, but was ultimately stuck as more and more gathered around the bottom waiting for me to fall. As the tree rocked back and forth I realized that I was going to plunge into the gaping mouths and freezing vice-like clutches of the dead below me, it was inevitable. All I could do was avoid the pain. The disturbing end to this dream saw me committing suicide by jumping from the tree and aiming my neck at the wall so as to snap it before I hit the ground. I woke up on impact. Either this says a lot for the effective instilling of fear that the zombie provides, or that I’m a little messed up in the head.
My troubling psyche aside, this is what watching modern zombie films makes you consider and fear. In the films we see a world overrun by zombies and a few fledgling survivors scrambling for some kind of piecemeal safety, which they never find. There is always a flaw in the plan, a chink in the armor. If you can get in, then they can get in as well, be that with sheer force of numbers of just waiting for you to come out for the unavoidable supply run. The zombie is the perfect besieger; it never gets hungry or dies from malnourishment. You, on the other hand, will. Uncomfortably. Perhaps it’s best to become a zombie after all?
So what does that leave? Fighting back I suppose. My brain has delivered this to me also in blockbuster movie dream form. In this I and some others my brain seems to have made up escaped from the chaos of a zombie outbreak at a festival, (probably spurred on by the fact I’m going to Glastonbury this year, which, incidentally, if it were to have a zombie outbreak it would mean the slaughter of everyone inside and would be the ultimate containment unit for the zombies and their thousands of victims) except this was a small festival on a park hill and was fairly easy to escape, though not without a fair amount of near misses and horrendous and gory scenes. I seem to recall one of the ‘highlights’ being a zombie bursting out of a toilet and biting a chunk out of the neck of some pretentious Marxist Cambridge git that my brain had invented, which subsequently led to my female companion running him and the zombie over in a Land Rover. After wrecking the vehicle, we managed to make it on foot through the carnage that was unfurling around us to a small village that was occupied by the army. They had set up a road block on the main road and were handing out guns to “anyone that could shoot”. Having had a slight fetish for air guns when I was younger I was handed a sniper rifle by the made up army officer, who looked a little like Christopher Eccleston (28 Days Later), and being sent to occupy a roof window of a church. Perhaps dream-me is a little dumb or perhaps I was a little distracted by the mass of zombies shuffling in unison down the road toward the village but it slipped my mind that both people that had been bitten were being taken care of by doctors in the church and that I had entered the village, where people were being brutalized around me, from the other direction. This revelation hit me just as I turned round in time to see a middle aged woman, dead eyes, mouth aghast, lunge clumsily for my throat.
Once again, I woke up bathed in sweat and unable to move. Each time I die in a zombie dream, and I have yet to survive, I wake up thinking for a good couple of minutes that that is indeed the world we inhabit and that I am hiding out, ever so quietly, from the rampaging dead around me. I suppose the reason that this dream haunts me so much is that in modern films the cause of the outbreak has become man-made weapons. Maybe this is rather misanthropic, but I would not put it past today’s humanity of develop a weapon of this destructive multitude. We are not content with building a bomb that can demolish the planet, but want something chemical or biological that can make the people destroy themselves too. Except, of course, this could never be used on and contained in order to just destroy an enemy. If some mad scientist were able to develop some style of rage virus like the one in the 28 series, then the world would be infected and infected quickly. It would be the ultimate planet buster, or at least species buster.
So I suppose that is my fear and the reason that zombie films are so scary, it is the fact that it’s man-made, the product of science and that there are people who are made enough to do it. I have also come to the conclusion that there would be no escape, no surviving the zombie holocaust. If it were to happen we’d have nowhere to run to where they couldn’t follow, nowhere to hide where they couldn’t find us and most definitely no way to fight and defeat their ever swelling ranks. It would mean the destruction of the human race in the most horrific fashion imaginable. The zombie apocalypse, the most terrifying thing the creative mind has ever put to paper.
Author: David Crudge Copyrighted © paranormalhaze.com