art by Indiana Joel

I had a dream the other night about the Zombie Apocalypse.

Quite often, I don’t remember my dreams. I’ll wake up with the fragile remnants of the dream still lingering at the edge of my consciousness, but the more I try to hold on to them, the quicker they slip away.

But this dream was too good to forget. In my head, I was in full-out Bruce Willis mode. I heaved myself through ravenous hordes of the undead with a hatchet, slicing open skulls and watching bloody bits of brain smatter my arms and chest.

Normally, I’m not a very violent person. My single attempt to punch someone, back in high school, was an astounding failure (I completely missed my opponent’s enormous head, and the force of the punch spun me around and threw me off balance.). I rarely lose my temper, and when I do my voice is my primary weapon. I find it hard to imagine anything making me angry enough to physically attack someone.

But here’s the thing: the rules change during the Zombie Apocalypse.

In my dream, I was struggling to find safe passage to Venice to warn my girlfriend, Darby, of the coming onslaught. I was worried that I was too late. And I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure she was safe. This included gleefully massacring a countless number of the moaning, rotting undead.

 “We’re sorry, sir. But all the airports have been closed,” I was told once I reached the Vancouver Airport. “There are no flights to Europe.”

 “Then get me a fucking boat,” I rasped, my shirt torn and blood-drenched.

Sadly, my mission was incomplete. My last memory of the dream, before being rudely awakened by my damsel in distress (she was calling me on Skype, from the real world), is of hacking my way through a pile of rotting bodies as they clawed at me. Their gaping maws drooled blood as I slashed open their skulls.

This dream didn’t come without inspiration. Every Sunday night I watch The Walking Dead with my roommates. Sometimes we even watch the follow-up show, The Talking Dead, where celebrities gossip about their favorite parts of the show. I’ll admit it, I’m hooked.

I’ve written before about my soft spot for bad television, as evidenced by my former obsessions with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood and Battlestar Galactica. But my newfound interest in zombies is a different beast altogether.

The sex appeal of vampires is readily evident. So is our interest in immortality. But why are we drawn to stories about walking corpses that rove around, trying to kill us? Why do we find these creatures so interesting?

I’m sure there are a multitude of answers, but I think one of the basic interests boils down to this: we all want the chance to be a survivor, to be the special person singled out to battle the rest of the world. And at the heart of most zombie narratives is the desire to protect our families, and our loved ones.

When I surfaced from my dream and answered Skype to talk to my girlfriend, I was relieved to see her body devoid of rotting flesh and oozing blood. I felt thankful to see her pretty, smiling face. And I felt it, just a little bit stronger, when I told her how much I love her.