The problem with horror movies is that they never stay in the theater. They follow me for years to come and are somehow—in some quirky way—reenacted in my own life. Let’s talk about The Night of the Living Dead, for example. I was twelve, and my cousins were in their twenties. Going with them anywhere was a cool thing to do. Going to a midnight movie with them was an incredibly cool thing to do. Originally, we were going to see Willard. Remember that horror movie—two hours filled with wet, angry rats?
Willard, however, was sold out. The other movie that was showing at midnight was The Night of the Living Dead. I can still remember the scene in the graveyard with the zombie coming toward the couple. In horror movies, why don’t the victims ever start running before the zombie is chewing on some part of their anatomy? A half a graveyard away, I could tell that the guy wasn’t normal.
Anyway, at 2:00 a.m., I left the theater in downtown Atlanta and listened as my adult male cousins terrorized me all the way home. Six years later at 9:00 a.m., a zombie appeared at my door. I was a senior in high school. My dad wasn’t home, and my mom, who may I mention is absolutely no help in emergencies, was asleep back in her bedroom. The doorbell rang. I know you probably didn’t know that zombies ring the doorbell, but think about it, there is always some sound that draws the victim to the villain. In my case, it was a doorbell.
Now my house was constructed pre-Jeffery Dahmer and Charles Manson. You know in the old days when people trusted each other and didn’t have air-conditioning. My front door was made of glass panes that actually opened—great door for a horror movie.
Anyway, when the doorbell rang, I thought it odd that I didn’t see anyone through the glass, but I was expecting my best friend, so I opened the door. Immediately, a naked woman stepped in front of me. It was a cold February morning in Northeast Georgia, and there she stood with nothing on but a gold heart-shaped necklace. Her eyes were a glassy blue. When I looked in them, I didn’t see anyone there. Her skin was the color of snow with rebellious blue veins poking out here and there. Her arms were bent at the elbow, and her feet shuffled toward me. “Zombie!” I thought.
Now if I had been my mother, who I most certainly was not, I would have started crying, brought her inside, and offered her some tea. I, however, slammed the door, locked it, and called the police. I was not going to be Sunday brunch for some zombie.
When I was eighteen, we had no cell phones. All of our phones were hooked into the wall. I knew I couldn’t use the phone a few feet away from the door because the zombie would see me and probably break through the glass. So I made the unfortunate decision to use the phone in my mom and dad’s bedroom.
As my mother was waking up, I was saying, “I live on Chase Road, and there is a nude woman at our door.” Needless to say, Mom didn’t handle that bit of news well. She followed me screaming down the hall. I don’t know about you, but it is difficult to deal with zombies while your mother is screaming at you.
Luckily, I walked a little faster than Mom, and I reached the living room before she did. A screened-in porch—with no lock on the door—was connected to our living room. Double French doors—with no locks on them—opened onto the porch. They were separated by a chimney. The kitchen was connected to the left end of the porch, and there was another door that entered into the kitchen—which of course was not locked. On the kitchen counter was a big ‘ole butcher knife.
Our zombie had moved to the backyard and was picking up sticks and dead leaves out of the frosty grass, staring at them. Did I mention we had natural gas for heating? Of course, the gas meter was in the backyard, several yards from the zombie. All I could think about was the scene out of The Night of the Living Dead when the zombies discover the gas pump in the yard of the old farmhouse and end up having a little roasted human barbeque with the people trying to escape in the truck. I wasn’t in the mood for a barbeque.
I watched in horror as the zombie brushed past the gas meter and walked onto the back porch. “Please God,” I said aloud, “don’t let her go through the kitchen door.” She didn’t. Instead, she went toward me. She grabbed the door and turned the knob. I grabbed the door and turned the knob in the other direction. Mother was in the living room, screaming and crying now.
“She must be freezing!” my mom screamed.
I looked back over my shoulder at her like she had lost her mind. I was worried about being butchered or burned, and she was worried about keeping a zombie warm.
Finally, the police arrived. They came in through the backdoor and pried the zombie’s fingers off the doorknob.
“Uh, M’am, do you have something we can put around her?” I heard the policeman saying.
“What?” I said, barely coherent.
“Do you have something we can put around her?” he repeated.
I had been concentrating so hard on surviving that I had forgotten she was naked. “Oh, yes,” I said.
“We’ll return it.”
I couldn’t believe he thought I’d want something a zombie wore returned. “Just keep it,” I responded.
An hour later, I was sitting in church. By that time, I had discovered my zombie was actually a drug addict who had run away from her violent husband with nothing on but a sheet. As she crossed over the barbed wire fence, her sheet caught, and she left it lying across the wire. She arrived at my house both naked and in shock.
Sitting safely in church, I realized that I had not lived through my horror movie; I had simply been a guest star in hers.