It was just another summer day. The sun was high in the sky and warm on my face. The air was full of the scent of jasmine. The street was quiet. I was pretty much on my own and I walked. Then it dawned on me how quiet it was. Not just peacefully quiet. I couldn’t hear anything.
Nothing at all.
I raised my hands in front of me and clapped. Nothing. I breathed hard. Still nothing. Curious, I thought. Had I been struck deaf? When I’d left my home half an hour earlier, I had been listening to the radio. I had heard the slam of the door, heard my footsteps on the pavement.
How long had I been experiencing this silence? It must have just happened for me to have noticed it. In its way, it was like a sudden loud noise. But the complete opposite. Sudden, all encompassing silence.
It was horrible, I decided. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. What if it wouldn’t be over? Was I indeed deaf? I realized that I had lost track of time. I looked at my watch, but I had left it at home. Why? I never went anywhere without my watch. I looked around me and I realized that I had never been in this street before. I knew it was my neighborhood, and it was a perfectly nice suburban street with semi detached houses and manicured lawns, but I have never been here before. What was I doing here? Why indeed was I out walking? I never walked very far, unless I was playing golf. What had possessed me to go walking? And why was I in this damn street?
I turned around and headed back in the direction I had come from. The sun was getting hotter, it was starting to be a little uncomfortable on my head. It was funny but, this side of the street was like a mirror image of the other half. The houses looked identical, right down to the colors of the curtains, the rust on the mailboxes, the trees in the gardens. I realized that I had in fact completely lost my sense of direction. And still this drowning silence! I yelled in frustration. Just a quick burst – I didn’t want the residence of this unfamiliar street to think they had a lunatic in their midst.
I yelled louder, more out of frustration that anything. Still nothing. Where the hell was everybody? And why was this street so long? I wasn’t walking fast, just ambling really, but I couldn’t see an end to it. I was sweating now. And I was starting to feel light headed. God damnit! This was becoming a nightmare! In the middle of the day!
As I walked I looked through the windows of the houses I passed, hoping to see someone I could call out to for directions or maybe a glass of water. But I couldn’t see anyone. Not a car had passed, nor a dog. I decided to knock on someone’s door. I walked up the garden path of a nice, normal house, not unlike my own, and rapped on the door. To me, it was a silent rap, but I knew it would have resonated inside the house. I waited a few seconds, and then I tried the doorbell. I rang it several times, then knocked again. I looked through the living room window. I couldn’t see anyone, just a couch and some chairs.
I turned and walked into the road, looking back at the house, hoping someone would answer. But nobody did. I continued in the direction I had been walking, not really sure if it was indeed that or if I wasn’t just back-tracking. I paused for a moment, glancing backward then forward again when I suddenly realized that I had just seen something in my peripheral vision when I had looked back. I thought I had detected something – (a person?) – standing in the street. Or had I? I wasn’t sure, and I knew I needed to turn and look again, but why did I feel a pang of fear in my gut? I should have been elated. Why wasn’t I?
I even had a sense of dread in just the thought of turning around to look.
But I did.
A man was standing in the middle of the street two hundred yards from me.
Staring right at me.
And the man standing in the street staring at me was dead.
I knew it as soon as I saw him. He was about forty and was wearing a suit. His face was ashen and gaunt with dark shadows under his eyes. He was standing rigidly straight, but his head was tipped at an angle. His mouth was open, and was a black hole just the hint of a smile there. His dead eyes were wide and staring. He looked pleased to see me.
He didn’t move. Neither did I. I couldn’t. I was frozen with fear. Funny really, considering how hot I was. Every cell of my being screamed that this apparition in front of me was not of my world, and whatever world it was from, I wanted no part of.
And then he started to walk toward me.
Not a slow, staggering trudge, legs dragging, arms outstretched like in a movie, just a straightforward walk, with his head cocked at an angle, and still the expression of pleasant surprise written across that most unpleasant face.
I still couldn’t move. I just stood, rooted to the ground, watching him stride toward me. I could smell him, I realized. It was indeed rotting flesh. He had halved the distance between us, and I still hadn’t moved. I could see his expression had changed. Now he looked positively elated, in a horrifying way. Because I was making whatever he had planned for me so easy, no doubt. He was just seconds away now. I closed my eyes and willed myself with all my might to move. And I did! My legs and arms sprung into action. I turned and opened my eyes. But I saw nothing, just blackness. I turned back to look at the man, but I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see anything. But suddenly I could hear! I could hear his footsteps. I could hear my gasps for breath. I could hear the pounding of my heart!
What cruel trick was this?
I turned and ran blindly, my arms outstretched, as I heard the man’s footsteps behind me. The smell of him was intoxicating. I staggered and fell to the ground. I felt his cold, clammy hands on me. I knew it was over. I screamed as hard as I could, although I knew it was worthless. It was over…
“God dammit Jack, not the scream! I hate the scream!”
I opened my eyes and I was looking at my wife’s beautiful but annoyed face. I was in bed, not in a strange street.
“Which one was it? The zombie in the street? The vampire cop?”
I looked around me, still disorientated.
“The zombie…” I uttered eventually.
She smiled that slightly disingenuous smile, like a concerned parent.
“Remember what Doctor O’Hara said? The night terrors are a symptom of the feelings you’ve had because of your redundancy. Basically, you feel inadequate because you lost your job, that’s all. Redundancy has made you feel vulnerable. And ass soon as you get a new job, these dreams will go away.”
She got up and walked to the bedroom door. She looked back at me and smiled, although there was something off-kilter about her smile, her eyes.
Then she opened the door.
The zombie from the street was there. So was the vampire cop.
“Morning fellas” she said as she walked past them, pausing to glance back at me one last time.
And then I realized the screaming I could hear was coming from me.