Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let The Zombies Howl

I remember looking for a parking space. I remember having dinner, some Guinness and a burger, in the little,old village of Pearl River: a fortress of Irish bars with a train running through the main artery. I remember walking through the street and having a conversation about a hotel that looked like a place where writers lock themselves in for months to work on a book they can't finish and blow their brains out. I remember getting in the car, but then something went wrong. I came to in the back seat of the SUV, a blond female at the wheel and a wild eyed passenger raving in a conversation I came into far too late to have any grasp of. "Best to pretend you're still asleep", I thought, "who knows where these deviants were headed." Maybe I had too much to drink. Couldn't be though could it? The world wasn't spinning, and the lights outside weren't leaving trails. Maybe I'd been living a dual life, two personalities and I'd just become aware of it. Either way it didn't matter now, we pulled into the parking lot of a college that looked hidden inside of a mountain.
"Hey, wake up!" I recognized the voice instantly. "Are you awake?" The chief's voice grew irritated.
"I'm awake. Where are we?" I asked, feigning exhaustion.
"We're at the Zombie Prom" the girl behind the wheel quickly answered, applying blood to the side of her mouth in the rear view mirror. "Do you want some?" she held the bottle up offering some of the red corn syrup.
"No, hell no" I shot back, "What the hell is a Zombie Prom?"
The chief spun around in the seat and looked me straight in the eye, the shadows across his face made him look insane. " Don't worry about what it is, just pay attention to anything that might happen in there." Quickly, we were walking up a stony path, then down a dark stretch in the back of the school, I was waiting for some punk to pop out of a bush to give us a cheap scare but there were two police cruisers in front of the hall waiting for someone to get out of control, nothing to fear for now. My head started to feel like it was full of helium, that frightening feeling of a strong buzz lost, when your muscles and bones double in weight; no condition to be facing an auditorium full of fanatical ghouls. Outside the doors we crept through a pack of smokers in blood drenched t-shirts and ripped up thrift store suits.
"And why are we doing this?" I mumbled to myself.
"Because it will be fun, there's bands,a pie eating contest, and you know a bunch of zomboes." the girl answered.
"The fuck is a zombo?" I answered, weary of participating.
The chief turned around and shot another maniacal stare, "We're going in here because it's Zombie weekend at the school, and quite frankly you're in need of something to write, that last story was shit."
"You said you liked it." my voice went up a defensive octave, never bothering to ask what else was included in Zombie Weekend."No, not really, but enough about that, you get your head straight and get in there. Find an angle." his finger pointed at me, I knew he meant business.
"And don't fucking embarrass me in here." the girl's blue eyes shot violence at me followed by a hard poke in the chest.
I slinked past the smokers into a great open hall, likely used for sunnier purposes in daylight, but now it was transformed into a sleazy club: leather couches and old concert posters, groups of sloppy, sweaty teens and random garbage on the floor. The echo of a beat and that water splash feeling of not belonging flashed me back to a high school dance. I looked around, I was overdressed in a long black trench coat and collared shirt. I felt completely out of place and hoped that no one had noticed. I quickly retreated to the bathroom where a handicapped stall seemed to be where the bar was located. Kids, around 20, sipping cans and 40's then hiding them away in their backpacks. Random girls made their way in to flirt a few beers away from the naive. 'Bastards," I thought, ' I should have been prepared." My toxic levels were far too low to get comfortable at this event, but no more chances to improve on that, I was locked in. Before I could lament further, one of the bands started and we made our way through the giant black curtain, separating the straggling drunk anti-socials from the mob of sweaty dancing, costumed fanatics. There were 200 strong filling the area and pushing towards the stage, singing along with a band I'd never seen nor heard of. A wave of body odor carried over the room and reminded me of being young and excited to be at a show. But that wasn't necessarily a feeling I was prepared to channel this evening, and I was struck with an idea. I headed back towards the bathroom and approached the nearest chap with a beer in hand. "Hey, you want to sell me a few beers? I'll pay you whatever you want for it." seemed like a good deal to me, plus I wasn't aware of any American law against buying beer from a minor. "Um, yeah, let me check if I have any left" he seemed confused by my proposition."Yeah, let me know. I'll pay whatever" I assured him, convinced I sounded exactly like a TV narc. He went into the stall to talk it over with someone. "Sorry dude, we're out." he said quietly. Before I could get disappointed another voice entered."What are you doing in here? Get out here we're going backstage" the chief fired at me from the doorway."It was hard to determine which room was designated as backstage, several of them had people hanging out, but the chief and his girl had been slithering around like reptile-bloodhounds sniffing out a story. We stopped at the area directly behind the stage where the push to the front was visibly violent: young girls screaming lyrics and gasping for breath in the same motion. Behind the stage there were scattered people watching attentively before scattering to run to the room behind us, most of them trying to look like they belonged there. And I was no different really, I felt that just being there I probably came off like I was looking down my nose at the whole thing, but in truth I was really more fascinated by how quickly it seemed this whole world had passed me by and maybe secretly wished I was a little more involved in this event. The chief was bold and lead us into the area where the performers had gathered to drink cheap wine and watery beer. Instantly I tried to find a way to invade someones stash but they were all quick to keep their supplies tight to the chest, perhaps anticipating a predator like me, so I scanned around for pretty girls or drugs, anything that the chief might think would make an interesting story. After a few glances at anonymous tits and female arm pit hair I deducted there wasn't much here.
The bands that were hanging around were much older than most of the audience, but they all seemed to be chemically altered together in perfect harmony. I thought this might be a good time to go outside for some air. I looked at the chief who was mumbling notes into his tape recorder. He nodded at me in agreement that it was time to rejoin the mob of zombies. We parked in the main room and looked for some photogenic zombies I could get some shots with. "Hey, you look exactly like my cousin, can I get a picture?" I 'd say as I rushed to them. Most were good natured and agreeable until we encountered a mustachioed, bare chested, hippie-villain who wouldn't comply with our request to take a picture. The urge to swing a chair at his forehead and strangle him with his peace beads rushed to my temples but the girl reminded me about not making a scene. I shied away from what appeared to be the only real zombie of the evening : a young Paul Giamatti looking creature with tinted glasses and a grotesque sneer that he flashed around the room every 13 seconds until he stumbled off dragging his leg. "No make up on that freaky bastard" I said under my breath."What?" the girl asked with a sharp glare."Nothing. Shouldn't we be getting out of here?" "Not yet." the chief insisted. "I want to see the last band, maybe we can salvage something out of this night just yet." The last band was a ten piece, who graduated from this school what must have been many semesters ago. Dressed entirely in suites they worked the crowd into a lather with their completely non-unique brand of sort-of punk rock. We were pressed off to the right side of the stage just in range of a large girl loosely hanging on to a stair ladder that went up to the ceiling lights. She was one mis-step away from completely squashing the three of us flat. "Forget it" the chief declared, "let's get out of here. I feel nauseous."
The chief and his girl exited through the curtain but I waited for a minute. Wondering if there was anything left for me in this place. I could feel myself getting older by the second and I didn't miss this kind of thing anymore. I'd retired from it, retreating to the old bastard bars and nights at home with my television and books. So let the zombies howl while they still can… "Will you come the fuck on" the chief shouted and I listened. It wasn't long before we were away from the thick, sweaty air and outside, passing the real zombie's glare, the cloud of smoke, the ominous shadows from the police car, and through the dark alleyway and the empty college building and finally at home in the back seat of the SUV. The car engine ignited and we headed south. Somewhere over the Tappan Zee bridge I started to nod off, no idea where I was heading.

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