An Idle Conversation

“You just shoot ’em in the head! ” John says. Ever the Romero devotee, that one.

“That’s your answer?” Jason has that look. The one that tells me he’s not gonna let John slide on this one. “Just because practically everyone who makes a zombie film follows him doesn’t mean it would work.”

“Anthony would agree with me.”

“The fanboy? Yeah we should ask him.” Jason snorts. “Of course he’d say that. All fanboys would.” His tone changes into his best attempt at a mimic of Anthony. It’s not even close. “Zombies don’t run, they shamble and they’re not sick people, they’re reanimated corpses. That’s why all those new ‘it’s a virus making people crazy’ movies aren’t zombie movies.”

I rub my eyes as my vision starts to blur, tuning Jason out. I’ve heard this rant before, including the non-sarcastic version. God my head hurts. I force my eyes to focus on the clock above the fridge. Almost midnight, seems like it should be later, like the four of us have been sitting around my kitchen table for hours, maybe because I’m so exhausted or maybe because this discussion has been going on that long. Everything after the restaurant’s a blur.

“Well he’s right. They’re not zombie movies.” John’s clearly trying to resist the urge to scratch at the bandage on his arm.

Jason has the look of a man who just found out he’s not the real father. “What!…How can…”

Regroup.

“The point is many of them have the overall feel of a zombie movie and that’s what matters.”

Could be a good counter, depends how he backs it.

Dan grabs a beer from the fridge and takes a seat at the table. He’s moving slowly like his muscles are sore and looking increasingly annoyed at the other two. Dan never was big into zombie flicks like the rest of us. Jason bought him one as a gift, but he never got around to watching it, much to Jason’s chagrin. I suspect it’s a point of perverse pride on Dan’s part. Always wondered what he got out of the group. “All I know is it’s good zombies eat brains,” he snaps, cutting Jason off and putting an end to the no doubt masterful point he was about to make. “Otherwise you two’d be in some serious frickin’ trouble.”

“Real funny.” Jason says turning to Dan, his volume increasing, “We’re trying to have a serious discussion here, if you don’t mind.”

“Hey,” I cut in, gesturing upstairs with my eyes.

“Sorry…I forgot.” Jason mutters.

“How is she?” John asks.

“Tired, not feeling well. Said she was going to bed.” I reply.

Dan laughs softly. “I remember when I met Jessica,” he says. “I still say a guy like you had no right bringing a girl that good looking to a party.”

I smile at the memory of him saying that at said party, in front of Jessica. Then I give him the finger.

“Zombies don’t eat brains,” John’s voice is barely audible.

“What?” Dan already forgetting his comment.

“You said it’s good they eat brains. That was only one film series, normally they eat flesh.”

Dan looks at me for confirmation.

“It’s true.” I concede. “The consensus in Hollywood seems to be that they eat flesh, not brains.”

“Well, I don’t think you’d get much help from zombie movies when it comes to the real thing.” I’ve never seen Jason look so hopeless.

“Yeah,” John shrugs, “all the movies would give you is a bunch of dead ends.”

I laugh quietly despite myself. That pun was awful, but that’s what happens when I’m exhausted–the stupidest things are far more funny then they should be, and while I chuckle I realize it’s happened. The one thing that’s destined to happen in any group conversation.

The Pause.

You know, that moment when everyone runs out of things to say at the same time. You know what I’m talking about. I’d bet everything I own it’s been part of every conversation since the beginning of time, and it occurs to me in that moment there’s true silence. No more sirens in the distance, a break in the screaming that’s been ringing in my ears since we fled the restaurant, no more moaning from the bedroom. The best time to end this discussion.

“Well guys,” I stand ,stretching, “I think I’m gonna call it a night.”

I pull out the pistol I took from the mangled cop we ran into and I put two rounds through John’s forehead. That possibly dead cop took a chunk out of John’s arm. I’m gonna trust the movies on this one. I shoot Dan four…maybe five times before he can protest. He’s done too…wasn’t bitten, but he’s definitely showing the signs of infection, at least I’m pretty sure he is. I notice then that I didn’t score any headshots. Don’t know if it will matter, I don’t think anyone does yet. Maybe they’ll both be back. Maybe Romero knows.

I turn to look at Jason and he stares at me a moment before slowly nodding. Nothing wrong with him, but he wouldn’t make it two minutes out there and he’s a smart enough guy to see that. I raise the pistol and he quickly raises his hand.

“Do you think it hurts?” he asks.

I pause.

He sees my confusion, clarifies. “Being one…one of them, I mean…do you think it hurts to be dead?”

I shrug slightly, the best and most honest answer I can give. Then I pull the trigger.

In the silence that follows, I ponder Jason’s question, but before I can form any real thoughts on it I am interrupted by the uneven clicking of a woman who’s lost one of her high heels walking across a hardwood floor. The kitchen door opens and I turn do find myself looking into Jessica’s ravaged face. She’s still wearing the cocktail dress she wore out to dinner tonight. She’s so beautiful. I hear a clatter as the gun slips from my grasp.

Jason’s question comes to mind. I bet Jessica would know.

So I ask.

Her remaining eye focuses on me.

Her lips twist into a mockery of my favorite smile.

It looks like I’m gonna get my answer.