***** Scene cut *****
A man staggers to the mouth of an alley. He leans against the corner of the building. The coolness of the brick soaks through his clothes but he barely notices. His breaths come in short gasps. His eyes scan the street while his fingers tighten around the stock of the rifle. Empty husks of broken cars clutter the pavement. Here and there, a low fire crackles in the night. There is no wind and the debris lies still across the ruined city.
The man shifts his weight, ready to take a step into the avenue. Before he can move, a flicker of movement catches his eye. A form shambles out of the darkness. A cadaverous gaze stares vacantly at the man. Soiled clothes hang from a bloated corpse. The figure raises its arms and staggers forward. A weird moan emanates from its throat as its grime-encrusted finger stretch forward towards the man.
He raises the rifle and fires. A gout of coagulated blood plops from the back of the figures head and it slumps to the ground. The man shivers; the sight never fails to disturb him.
And then, a chorus of moans arise from the street. In front and behind. The man glances down at the rifle in his hands. Two rounds left. His mouth feels dry and he can not help but tremble.
***** End Scene Cut *****
I love zombies. Not in the biblical sense, you freak, but as a story device.
To me, the living dead are a superior embodiment of terror precisely because of their mindless nature. Let’s face it: vampires are cuddly now. They were once portrayed as pure evil – a plague on the living. Modern books and literature rarely portray vampires as evil, or terrors, or something of dread. Hell, half of the teenage girls out there want to be one. Not scary. Ditto for werewolves. They’re just misunderstood puppies these days.
But zombies…. They generally don’t have it in them to be sympathetic. They are driven by base instinct. They want to eat. Zombies spread like a virus (another genuinely scary topic) and don’t have the capacity to contain themselves.
You rarely see a zombie cast in a positive light. There are exceptions but those are generally smaller productions (in film) or lesser known books. They aren’t evil, they just …. are. Like a virus, or a meteor crashing into the earth, or a tsunami, I think that mindless destruction produces a different fear in us than the measured fear of a serial killer or vampire, or demonic cheerleader (though that example was comical).
Personally, I think the scarier zombies are the shamblers. The "fast zombies" of 28 Days Later or the remade Dawn of the Dead created tense situations, but I think the steady, inexorable march of the shambling zombies creates a greater sense of inevitability: "You can run but it doesn’t matter. We’re patient. We’ll get you." That’s kinda like an incarnation of death itself.
Finally, the idea of being rent and devoured alive is a possibility when dealing with most monsters. But most seem to kill you pretty quickly. Vampires? A stab in the neck and lights go out. Werewolves? Once they get to the jugular, it’s over pretty quick. Jaws? Chomp, the end. Not the zombies. Remember, they’re only human. They don’t have the superhuman strength to tear your head off or pull your heart out. They have to do it one human-mouth-sized bite at a time. Not only is it a slow death, they will probably be seeing you again. You’ll be joining them, like it or not.
And the real genius of having the dead walking can come from so many sources. Infection. Contagion. Alien radiation. Virus. Cell phone signal. Bad Mexican food. Lots of possibilities.
Pardon me. I need to go scour the news and see if there have been any outbreaks of unusual nature. I have my Zombie Survival Guide right here, just in case…..