The zombie chases me. He’s frothing at the mouth, his shirt and pants are ripped and he ― more animal than human ― walks with an uneven shuffle.
I run up the stairs to get away. Even with his limp, he keeps coming. He’s now about ten yards away. I run down the hall. He keeps coming. His grunting and growling sound like thunder in my ears. I run faster, but he’s right behind me, maybe two or three yards away. I can’t get away.
The fatigue from the chase is catching up to me. I can’t seem to catch my breath. My lungs are burning and I can feel his breath on my neck. He’s reaching for me. His hand grabs the back of my shirt . . . and then . . . and then in the dead of night I wake up in a cold sweat.
Have you ever been here? Is this just me?
I get up and go the bathroom to wash my face and drink a glass of water. I stand over the sink, look into the mirror and shake my head. I spent another night watching The Walking Dead with my 16-year-old son and it’s coming back to haunt me.
I curse myself for being so silly.
Since I was a little kid, I’ve never been a fan of horror movies. I’ll watch Michael Myers from Halloween, Freddie Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and even the stupid little Chuckie doll for a while, but eventually they send me running to another room.
Oh I’m fine with the stories, the suspense, and even the blood (and I hate seeing blood). My problem with stories about werewolves, vampires, wild psychopaths, and every other violent creature is my very own active imagination.
I look around me and every closet represents a hiding place for a suicidal murderer, every kitchen knife a possible weapon for a crazed lunatic, and every locked door, one less exit for my get-away. I love my imagination most days because it’s usually a blessing, but when it comes to horror shows or movies, my imagination is most definitely a curse.
Since I know what I’m getting myself into I normally avoid the genre, but Sean loves them and I’m trying to watch with him. You know . . . manly-man, father–son bonding time. So instead of watching the NFL match-up between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos or Madam Secretary or any other show this Sunday night, I’ll be tuned into the Series 6 Mid-Season finale of The Walking Dead. I’ll have one hand covering my eyes with my fingers spread just wide enough so I can continue to watch and my other hand holding tightly to the arm of my chair, so tightly in fact that you’ll be able to see the veins bulging in my hand.
Yes, I know I’m destroying any respect anyone might have had for me . . . but I can’t lie.
I remind myself that it’s all make-believe. I remind myself too that I’ve faced bigger challenges than made-up zombies. However, when I see a character facing impending doom, I’ll still yell out for them to run the other way or to run faster. Sean usually shushes me to be quiet when that happens. He gives me a dirty look. He shakes his head as if to day: “Can’t take my dad anywhere.”
In the end, when a character falls and gets killed by the horde of the zombies. I want to look away, but I can’t. I know that I look foolish, but I don’t care. Whatever it takes to get through the show. And whatever it takes to spend time with my kids.
I’m convinced that watching with Sean is the right thing to do, at least until I wake up at 3 in the morning.
I wash my face one more time and promise myself that the first thing in the morning I’ll find another hobby for the two of us to share. Who’s up for some fantasy football? Target shooting? Bowling? Something tame like bird watching or stamp collecting?
The specific hobby doesn’t matter, just as long it doesn’t include zombies or crazed killers.