Night of the living dread

- Nicola M. Sebastian - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - I’m in the shower, when I hear a knocking on the bathroom door. It’s locked, so I ignore it, the steam from the hot water fogging up the bathroom mirror. The knocking persists as I go for the conditioner. Annoyance twitches my face. “What is it??” I shout, but there’s no answer, save the sound of water hitting the tiles.

I’m ready to rinse when the sound returns. But this time, louder  banging, not knocking. The pounding of fists on my door, like the whole household is outside my bathroom. And not just fists. Fingernails scraping, breaking. Bodies thrown again and again.

And then I hear it: that growl of something not quite human, not quite dead. The zombie apocalypse has finally come, my entire family wants to eat me, and I’m all alone, butt-naked and soapy in a shower that smells of rice flower and shea butter.

Irrationally terrified

That’s the gist of the scenario that has me hopelessly terrified of zombies. A movie night with Dawn of the Dead  marinated by my overactive imagination and innate fearfulness  and one bright morning I woke up with a full-blown phobia of the living dead.

I could have picked a madhouse of other phobias; more realistic ones like big dogs, the ocean, or carbs. But nope, it’s zombies for me, even if I know that for many people, zombies are truck-loads of fun  daft invaders of front yards with a taste for brains; evil video-game hordes to practice your baseball bat (or chainsaw) swing on; or a great excuse to plan your post-apocalyptic survival strategy (mac ‘n cheese stockpile, flamethrower, zombie-proof vehicle). Laughing, are you?

Outbreak manila

Reliving the memoirs of a geisha at Outbreak Manila, July 28, 2012, Bonifacio Global City.

It’s all a little ridiculous. I can admit that. Which is why I decided to kill this thing once and for all by running away from zombies in real life. Outbreak Manila, they called it. Thirty-five waves of survivors running from hordes of zombies in the dead of night through Bonifacio Global City.

After my boyfriend’s reaction, which, to paraphrase, was “No! You’ll die!” I signed up with my younger sister. Both of us were afraid of the dark up until our teens; both watch horror movies with our eyes shut; both trying to conquer our fears. And to face our fears, we fell back on that most sage of advice, passed down to us from generations of superheroes: when in doubt, suit up. In our case, the suits were as a pair of perky ‘80s aerobics trainers. You really can’t go wrong with neon pink and legwarmers.

I had a good start. I made it past the starting line. Running for our lives (okay, for flags) wasn’t exactly a steady jog in a park: it was like the 5 D’s of Dodgeball or a game of patintero, all stops, starts, fakes, and dives; running away from zombies as much as running to keep up with the crowd. All that sprinting made my heart feel like it was trying to jailbreak my ribcage, and a generous dose of fear egged it on. It reminded me of that first rule of Zombieland (which I never watched because I was too scared  yes, even that movie): Cardio.

Undead ‘Manong’

Sure, I was about a nine on a scale of “don’t panic” to “panic,” but, man, survival is tiring business. After a while, it was just too much effort to scream every time an undead manong jumped out from behind a car, or a zombie bride chased me down the street. I didn’t have enough energy to freak out, I just needed to reach the finish line and get out of there. I guess I had survival mode to thank for that. Or maybe the still-rational part of my brain, which knew the absolute worst thing that could happen would be losing all my “lives”  or pissing my pink shorts.

I also realized that zombies are people, too. At least, these zombies, decked out fabulously in fake blood and ripped garments. These poor zombies were dead tired, and seeing them huffing and puffing, their sweat smearing their makeup, made me think that maybe the reality of zombies isn’t half as scary as the idea of them.

Reanimated flesh

I mean, if you think about it, a hulk of reanimated flesh couldn’t really do much to you except spatter guts on your clothes and seriously deteriorate the air quality in your immediate vicinity. Dead things rot, rotting things fall apart, therefore a zombie sumo wrestler grabbing your arm is more likely to rip off his. And that’s without rigor mortis, which would produce piles of undead stiffs, rolling menacingly on our streets. If science presents the most plausible zombie scenario, scientifically accurate zombies would be dangerous for a day  two, tops  before the hordes of bacteria descended to feast on their dead flesh. Unsightly, yes. Life-threatening? Not so much.

So I think I finally get the joke. Zombies might happen, yeah. A possibility that’s as ridiculous as a bloodthirsty reanimated stump flopping about. I have yet to test my newfound courage against a zombie flick  real-life armageddon doesn’t come with scary violins. But I’ll work on my cardio, picture those flopping zombie stumps when someone plays dead man walking, and if and when those dead finally do start walking  or running  I’ll be ready. With a steaming bowl of mac ‘n cheese and a really good hiding place.

* * *

Tweet me @nicolapops.








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