Thanks to Luisa for her great guest post!! Here is Luisa:
You never forget your first time.
Me, I was on my parent’s couch. It was Saturday night, the lights were off, and the VCR was paused.
“Please,” I said, giving my parents my best puppy dog look. At ten, it was my strongest weapon. They’d rented a horror movie; I LOVED horror. I slept with a Bunnicula book, I’d watched the black and white version of the Wolfman, like, FIVE times. Whatever it was that my parents had rented, I had to see it.
“I don’t know,” my mom said. “This is more of an adult thing.”
Wrong thing to say; my parents had used that phrase when they wanted me to try something new. Gee, I don’t know honey. Salad/veal/fractions is more of an adult thing. Now that my mom had said it, I knew I had to watch the movie.
“Please,” I said, looking from her to my dad.
My please look was my dad’s kryptonite. He smiled and looked at my mom.
“Let her watch the first few minutes,” he said. “If she doesn’t like it, she can leave.”
My mom sighed. “Okay,” she said. “You might not like it, though.”
Yeah, sure. She said the same thing about spinach. I loved that stuff.
My mom pressed play and then got comfy on the couch. I plopped down at the end, beside my dad, and watched as Night of the Zombies began.
I lasted five minutes.
By the time the zombie scientists finished hunting their prey, I was on the stairs, racing for my room. I dove under the blankets, terrified that the zombies would find me. When I finally fell asleep, I had the first of many zombie nightmares. It was dark. I was surrounded by zombie scientists. They thought I was yummy.
You never forget your first time. Neither would my parents. While they were bemused by my initial sprint, that amusement faded when my teacher called them in for a meeting a week later. Did they know that I kept talking about zombies and had asked her if she knew what human flesh tasted like?
“Chicken?” my dad wondered.
“Not likely,” my mom said. “I suspect we’d be closer to pork.”
The teacher worried for my sanity. My parents assured her I’d be fine. I’d seen a scary movie. Chances were, it’d spooked my love for horror things out of me. Maybe now I’d focus on normal things like My Little Pony.
Fast forward to a year later. I’m still watching horror movies, albeit I’m sticking to the classics. No one runs from Bela Lagosi (not unless he crawls out of his grave, anyway). Black and white movies were my friends. They didn’t freak me out.
One night, I learned that Night of the Living Dead would be on. From the commercial, I knew it was black and white.
At last! I thought. A zombie movie that won’t scare me. Maybe it’ll help me conquer my zombie nightmares.
That Saturday night, I sat alone on the couch. In the dark. Hugging my Bunnicula book.
I lasted through the whole movie. I think it was shock; where other black and white horror movies had a pleasant cheesiness (at least it seemed that way to my young 80’s mind), this one had a grim reality that transcended the era it was made in. The hero was African American. I was Hispanic and connected with being the only minority in the room (I certainly was that in my class at school). The zombies just kept coming (just like bullies and bad grades and surprise quizzes). Well meaning adults didn’t always help. Being in love didn’t protect the young lovers. Infected children would eat their moms. You could survive the night but not the morning.
I fled for my room.
Despite the ensuing nightmares, something was born that night. Despite the gathering dead, people still fought. They might’ve done that during the first movie but I never saw it. Here, I saw it. They fought and someone survived, if only for a little bit. Was that enough?
In every zombie film I’ve seen since, I’ve watched people play out that question. There’s so much working against them, sometimes even the very people they need to be working with. Against them are a growing army of hungry dead. The zombies keep growing and hiding under the blanket won’t stop them. They’ll never tire, never grow bored, never quit.
People are stubborn, though. Just as child-me kept returning to the television to see horror movies, people keep fighting. They run, they bicker, they step backwards into elevators filled with zombies, but they keep trying.
Sure, some of them don’t last longer than I did when I first saw Night of the Zombies but their grisly demises serve as a lesson to us all (do not step backwards into an elevator that just opened behind you).
Zombies may never tire but they are slow learners. We, though, can grow. With every new zombie movie or book that comes out, our knowledge will keep growing. Our bank accounts may lessen, but hey, should there ever be a zombie apocalypse, it won’t be the bills that’ll be coming to get Barbara.