It all began most innocently, as most things do. A festive Sunday evening, celebrating the birthday of someone I barely know with a moderate crowed of good, interesting people. I was mostly a stranger but warmly welcomed, sharing bread, stories and laughter. The 1905 historic building of the Columbia Restaurant was most comforting. The surroundings were hauntingly familiar, though I’ve never been there before. Memories seeping through the rich history and decor as though they were true memories of eras past, but it was just my imagination getting the better of me again.
Soon, the festivities were to come to an end. Photographs clicked through various brands of smart phones, and we embarked on a long exit through the building, still enchanted by the beauty of the surroundings. We all collected along the outside facade, blocking the doorway of the restaurant as the warm Floridian night air fell hard and closing time had recently passed. We lingered there a while longer. Annoyed by intrusive cabbies begging for work, we took it upon ourselves to annoy them back. Taunting them with prospective business then quickly waving them on–an economic tease. The humor seemed to be lost on the victims.
Eventually we all began to part ways. A few crossed the street to their cars, and the rest of us grouped together and rounded the corner behind the restaurant to the rear parking lot. As we all took part in that strange female custom of hugging one another, and making plans for the next meeting before departing, a strange man approached us. He wanted a hug.
“I have this map, and I was hoping you all could help me,” he said. “The map said this is the place you get hugs. Can I have a hug?”
All of us were smooth and swift, laughing uncomfortably and darting to the interiors of our vehicles. As for me and my co-pilot, we had to walk a few steps to get to my car. Just short of running, we got there in a flash, and I quickly unlocked the door. Not quick enough.
As we walked, we noticed one very thin and disturbing looking man with a very long and flimsy tree branch in his hand. He was walking towards us. Suddenly, another thin and disturbing-looking man turned the corner, also heading in our direction. They looked like zombies! Then, just as my friend and I were safely locked in the car with the engine running, the huggy guy comes up to us again.
“Hey, what’s wrong with me? I can’t get a hug? I’m a likeable guy,” he says.
We wave at him, and I begin to back up the car, until I notice that the two zombies are dead-on in front of the car, the one with the tree branch appeared translucent in the glow of the headlights, staring straight at us. The huggy guy was directly behind us. We’re trapped.
I quickly maneuver the car, trying to back up in an angle, away from the two zombies and the huggy guy. They seemed frozen, though I was fearful that at any minute they would dart in front of the car, making me hit them. Yet, they just stayed still, staring at us in the car. I was able to drive around them and escape. Perhaps, despite what many zombie movies show, perhaps zombies move quite slowly. At least that was my experience.
I am happy to report that my co-pilot and I escaped all physical harm from this experience, but today we find ourselves more vigilant of the presence of zombies than ever before! You may not believe that these persons I’ve described are in fact zombies. I will remind you that you were not there, were you? No. So, maybe a bit of healthy caution and awareness of real zombies in your town would be in your best interest. Just a thought.