I killed a black widow in the bedroom last night.
The lady had spun a web about two feet from my nightstand and was making herself pretty cozy in the nook underneath the window. Growing up in Las Vegas, you get used to living around black widows—they’re everywhere. Thick and glossy, the red hourglass is visible from across a dark room and I heard from my Grandpa Jack that they sting like a son of a bitch.
Black widows are also no match from a size 14 Nike.
Even though we live in a world of creepy-crawly critters ranging in leg count from two to 100, I’m glad most of the things that are dangerous tend to be smaller than a paperback book. Can you imagine if a Hobo spider was the size of a run-of-the-mill beagle? You’d crap yourself every time your hand touched a cobweb.
If I ever saw a Boxelder Beatle bigger than a nickel, I’d know in an instant that nuclear testing has mutated our worst nightmare and it’s only a matter of time before downtown Salt Lake is laid in ruins. (Speaking of which, Laid in Ruins is a good name for both a metal band and an adult period piece. Also, adult period piece is also a good sub-genre for the latter).
Hopefully, some mustachioed fellow named General Thunderbolt would have the moxie to order the nuclear strike to kill the Boxelder beetles before civilization as we know it is erased from the surface of the planet.
As terrifying as an insect the size of a Volkswagen is, there’s something exciting about the world going all topsy-turvy. I think this is why folks, myself included, enjoy watching horror movies and more specifically, zombie shows.
When you’re a character in a zombie show, you are forced to ask and answer the most obvious question: what would I do if my barback suddenly bit my bouncer and the club turned even more bloodthirsty than usual?
Do I start stabbing victims of a biting attack immediately in the head? Or do I wait for them to turn into violent cadavers before I bash them with a ballpeen hammer? Do I push friends and loved ones into the waves of undead as I run for the door? Or do I just say, “screw it,” and jump Eddie Vedder-style into the crowd?
In the pantheon of great horror movies, none made more of an impression on me than George Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead. It was perfect balance between gore/horror plus heavy-doses of nostalgia from the big malls of my youth. Even during the day in a hot, un-air conditioned living room in Las Vegas, I could never watch it without building a pillow fort to keep the marauding zombies at bay.
And it repeatedly hits you over the head with the simple question, “What would you do if there’s no more room in Hell and the dead started walking the Earth?”
I loved the idea that when you-know-what hits the fan that the best place to hide is at the mall—not a police station, not a military base, not even a hospital. When zombies are craving a healthy heaping of brains, you best get your butt to Fashion Place USA immediately to wait out the storm.
And while you’re there, help yourself to a free outfit from Chess King, a tasty Orange Julius, a board game from Kay-Bee Toys, lunch at a Woolworth’s, penny loafers from Kinney Shoes and a meat log from Hickory Farms. All you have to do is just barricade yourself in there and ride out the apocalypse while napping at a Mervyn’s.
Of course, the scariest thing in Dawn of the Dead isn’t the zombies—it’s the humans. Finally, lawless bikers get to run wild, raping and pillaging with no fear of repercussions. It’s Thomas Hobbes state of nature as only the strong survive and everyone collectively agrees that the sleeveless leather jacket is the mode du jour.
I finished Season 3 of Fear the Walking Dead last night and was left wanting more. Sure, there was blood and guts and lots of people wandering around like headless chickens and the future is gloomier than my next physical. The fatal flaw of these zombie movies is there is no end in sight. It’s just a drawn-out soap opera where the only three possible conclusions to the show:
- Zombies kill all the humans
- Humans kill all the zombies
- Zombies form a representational government and build a wall to keep all the humans out AND make the humans pay for it
That’s it. And I think we’re suckers for tuning in each and every week to watch characters play out non-stop morality plays with who deserves to live or die.
I think that’s why I root for the zombies. Why not? They didn’t ask to be walking undead. If anything, they’re victims and deserve special protection from hicks threatening to thrust a rusty screwdriver through their heads. And maybe that’s why I should have tried capturing the black widow and moving her outside so she could re-spin her web.
Ben Raskin is a communications writer for USANA, a bartender at Keys on Main and owns a pit bull named Magpie. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. His DVD of Dawn of the Dead is a pirated Italian copy.