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Zombie Rush-Hour

Dreamed 1993/12/14 by Chris Wayan

The mudflats of Silicon Valley. I'm lying on a trimmed lawn by the bank of a pond in the middle of an apartment complex that's designed to be semi-communal.

I smell barbecue smoke. Follow the scent around to the end of the pond, where reeds grow from the water. Kids play as their folks sit on the lawn above. Every race. I ask "What's it like living here?" They say, "It's a tight-knit community. We have to be. We fought off a bunch of drug dealers and developers working together. The dealers would move in and drive down the value of the apartments and then use the drug profits to buy up whole blocks, cheap." Several people get up and show me around, inviting me to join their community. They have a newsletter that goes out to even former members. I've seen it somewhere... Oh! My friend David used to live here long ago. I didn't realize--that means I'm forty miles down the Valley! It's gonna be a LONG bike ride home, I've never ridden that far before.

They have a file of index cards that every member of the community contributes to, showing the skills of everyone; if you need anything done, you can swap services. Even if you pay, the money stays here, and you earn goodwill. Everyone gets 3 entries-- I like the fact that they refuse to believe anyone does only one thing well. You have to think of three. What a confidence builder!

What would I put for my three skills if I joined?

I pull up a card with a portrait of a girl with a strange but sexy face. She has heavy angled eyebrows and lidded sleepy eyes and a wide full mouth, her features all so big and coarse she's like a cartoon. She doesn't look very smart, but full of sex and earthy humor. Her top skill says "saving lives." The others explain it's a local joke: she became a local celebrity for bravely pulling someone away from an oncoming truck just before it hit. So call her up if your life needs saving! She'll be glad to help.

I turn to find she's standing next to me. I say "I love your card" and I'm so turned on by her I just hug her. She leans into me and I feel wonderful. Hold her a long minute.

Next to her is another girl, more normal looking, but plainer too. Lacks that force of character. She says "I want a hug too". I hug her. Feels good too. Much safer, because my sexual attraction to her is mild. She doesn't intimidate me. Lifesaver scares me, I want her so much.

She purrs "Mmmm" and clings to me. I forget Lifesaver and walk away with Normal Girl! Wander around on the lawn, lie down under a thin sun-softening canopy. Almost sit on a man, so absent-minded. Apologize. Still very happy that I'm touching someone and not being rejected. Lie down on the grass and massage her feet. Completely forgotten how I left Lifesaver!

Slowly though I get uneasy, pull out of my trance. Forty miles from home. I decide I have to go. And my unease grows as I think of the drug dealers and developers circling the community like wolves.

As I leave, on foot-- I seem to have forgotten my bike now as well as Lifesaver-- I tear loose a couple of scraps of wood from a construction site, nailed together in a narrow cross or a crude hilted sword. I'll fight the developers if I meet them. Then I come across a long piece of metal, eight feet or more. Even better. A spear! It's sharp enough at one end. At the next corner in the complex, I notice how empty the place is all of a sudden. Feeling of danger. A car ahead. I hide behind a hedge, feeling suspicious. I feel trapped in this complex. I climb up a rough stone bank to the street at the top. Still inside the apartment complex. I climb up another level. From this higher vantage point I can see the whole place is surrounded by this rock wall: sunken like a crater. Or a cage.

But I've climbed the fence! I'm out.

Still, I'm up here I'm in plain sight. Jump down the other side of the ridge, using the spear as a vaulter's pole to slide down and cushion the shock. Two drops of ten or fifteen feet, a little jarring, but I manage, and in only a few seconds. Run toward Bayshore Freeway. I want to get out of here FAST. zombies all walking the same way

Reach Highway 101. It's jammed with people. Walking! No cars anywhere. The people move slowly, wrongly. My skin crawls. They stop and start, as if they're driving hallucinatory rush-hour cars. They're possessed! The developers have taken over their minds. They're making their play for power, taking over the Bay Area!

I run across the freeway and wade out into the muddy Bay water. Somehow I know the commuter zombies avoid water: maybe it shorts out the brainwashing. If I can wade forty miles back home, I may survive. I'd rather risk drowning than face this human tide.

I see faces I know, people from the apartment complex. Their community spirit was steamrollered by the sheer power of the big brainwash. They leer at me strangely, but don't wade in after me. But they know I'm here, and not one of them. If I come out...

The horde of zombies shuffles on, a thousand of them eying me. The weight of horror on me is so unbearable I flee the dream; wake up still shivering at their cold glinting eyes...

NOTES IN THE MORNING

A NOTE SEVEN YEARS LATER

I thought this dream was just about my personal ambivalence toward community. I was wrong: this dream was political--and predictive. It foresaw the fate of the most politically and culturally radical region in the US. As the Web boomed, and cash poured in, the Bay Area was suddenly flooded by workaholic capitalist zombies. Developers bribed mayors, and evicted the artists, the poor, and the radicals. The freeways slowed to walking pace, then froze to gridlock.

Cursed by cash,
My people half-died.
And no one noticed:
Glassy-eyed.


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