The horde of zombies moved quickly, despite dragging their stiff legs. Slack-jawed and devoid of expression, they had slashes on their cheeks and shrapnel embedded in their eye sockets. There were dozens, and then hundreds. Looking around in panic, my mind raced with questions: Where might they strike first? What would happen to the children of Middle America if this madness was not stopped? And, most important, would they would prevent me from getting lunch?
Just a short while ago, I had wandered out of my hotel room in search of a bite to eat for my wife and me. The streets were filled with innocent-looking tourists enjoying the fine weather. Helpful police officers directed traffic. Children laughed, just within my range of hearing.
Now, I watched in horror as the zombies swarmed a man on the street. “Take our picture!” they demanded. I took off running, not stopping to ponder how they could talk or operate digital cameras.
The zombies seemed headed for the convention center across the street. I swiveled my head in panic, desperate for an idea of where to go or how to escape. Then I saw a sign: “McDonald’s 3 blocks ahead.”
There was no way I was walking that far. Hunger made me brave. I had no choice but to go to the convention center—the belly of the beast.
Around me zombies, muttered, “Brains, brains”—but also “Instagram” and “Season Seven.”
Somehow, I made it to the convention center without injury. I braced myself for the chilling sight of piles of zombie victims and the cries of the damned as they succumbed to the horde. Instead, I saw red banners proclaiming, “WALKER STALKER CONVENTION” and “Welcome Walking Dead Fans!”
Wait. So this was not the zombie apocalypse? It was just a gathering of fans of a basic cable TV show, which depicted valiant survivors battling a zombie takeover. The gashes and scars were only makeup.
We were spared. Now that the planet had a future, I could redirect my energy from making a stand for humanity to finding an inexpensive meal. With my brain on overdrive from my near brush with the end of the world, I was relieved to see there was only one option to consider—Starbucks on the first floor of the convention center. (The irony of going to Starbucks to escape a mass of cultural apparatchiks bent on conformity was not lost on me.)
While walking across the convention hall, I got a better look at the zombies-cum-fans. They were not braindead monsters, but they probably did spend too many waking hours in front of a television screen—just like everybody else they knew. Undoubtedly they were middle-aged loners without any true friends.
Distracted from my smug, superior thoughts by my persistent hunger, I juggled two sandwiches and two drinks, with no means of carrying them back to the hotel. After rotating the consumables and contorting my limbs into Nadia Comaneci-like positions, I asked the cashier a simple question: “Could I have a bag?”
She looked at the first sandwich between my knees, the bottle of water under my chin, the second sandwich under my right arm, and the Venti black iced tea balanced on my head and replied, “A bag? For what?”
Just as I opened my mouth to give a sarcastic reply, a zombie lurking in the background spoke up, “He’s got a lot to carry.” Her blood-smeared mouth (okay, so it was lipstick) curled into a sympathetic smile.
Behind me, there was a line of fans, waiting patiently to place their orders. I took a good look. They were not middle-aged loners, but mostly teenage girls. Some wore costumes, but most wore jeans and t-shirts. Their laughter was more reminiscent of high school homeroom than high strung horror.
They pointed at their camera phones and compared photos of their favorite Walking Dead celebrities. The conversation was dominated by how much fun they were having and who they hoped to meet next. Their faces brightened in recognition of fellow fans as they caught up with each other on events since the last con.
It was actually rather charming; they were just there to celebrate a shared joy. I felt a little guilty that I had prejudged these fans so quickly and harshly. How could I have seen such friendly people as mindless brutes? I had seen them as weird and thought them to be a nuisance because I reacted on first instinct and proceeded without thought. When I stopped being a zombie myself, I saw them for who they really were.
I still held on to one last bit of bias—I was sure *I* was too cool to attend a fan convention. Then I heard someone ask a friend, “Hey, are you going to the Game of Thrones con?”
Oh. My. God. Or “OMG,” in the language of the fangirls. I love Game of Thrones! I would totally dress up as a Stark, and buy a great sword, and maybe take a picture with Peter Dinklage and meet the other fans and…
Damn. an obsessions are not limited to zombies. I decided I had better eat my sandwich, and just be happy that we are all human beings.
David Klesh works in human resources in Queens, NY. He lives with his family in Rockville Centre, NY. This is his first published essay.