“Jesus Krishna,” I said out loud to my TV – I was all but paralyzed by the sheer idiocracy of Marion Barry’s announcement. It amazes me that this man keeps getting reelected year after year. People that have lived here long enough remember him as some kind of great community activist, but I can’t even see a trace of that in him. Obama, you’ve been warned. If you’re not careful, this could be you in 30 years…

My phone rang and I snapped out of it. It was my mom calling. She’d probably heard the news by now about the city-wide curfew and was most likely calling to make sure I didn’t stay out too late tonight. I didn’t pick up. “This is just great,” I thought, “I’m practically 30 years old and I’m back to having a curfew, and my mom is checking up on me.” I may as well still have braces.

***********************

It got dark quickly, and cold. I couldn’t stop thinking about the curfew and Mayor Diggs’ press conference earlier in the day. Why the curfew? I was pacing back and forth, talking out loud to no one in particular. “It has to be related,” I said, “The ban on food, the curfew, the privacy laws. There must be a connection.” I was getting stir crazy and frustrated that my brain wasn’t giving me the answers. I’ve seen people pace back and forth all the time in movies, and it always seems to help. There always seems to be a Eureka! moment, but I was starting to realize this wasn’t a movie.

So fuck it, I’m going out. The Mayor and my mom be damned! I’m breaking curfew tonight. I can’t stay inside any longer.

I pulled out all the black clothes I could find – ski mask, sweater, pants, old sneakers – and put it all on. I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I’d worn this outfit before, the night I killed for the first time. It seemed like so long ago, but it was only a few weeks past. The cover up had worked, and I’d simply moved on. I was remorseful, but mainly just relieved that I’d gotten away with it. The me starring back at me in the mirror confirmed this ambivalence. Everyone’s had moments like this, I’m sure of it, when you get an undistorted view of yourself. It’s sobering to stand as your own audience – and to not like the show. But the past is only prologue, and there is always a second act.

I perched myself by the window and waited for midnight. Fewer and fewer people passed by as the deadline approached, and there were now just a few dogs walking their humans one last time for the night. At 11:30pm the police started to circle my neighborhood in their cruisers. I looked at my watch, and timed them. Every seven minutes a cop car drove past. At 11:58pm I could hear the officer before I saw the car, he was on his loudspeaker.

“You have TWO MINUTES to get inside before you are breaking the law. TWO MINUTES.”

As he passed my building, he made the warning again, then again as he trailed off down the block.

“You have ONE MINUTE to get inside before you are breaking the law. ONE MINUTE.”

“That’s your queue, Dingle,” I said as I laced my sneaks and pulled my mask down over my head. No golf clubs this time, I reasoned, this will be a stealth operation.

As I stepped outside, I could feel the cold air enter my lungs. I pictured my bronchioli taking this air and putting oxygen into my blood. I could feel my heart pumping in my chest, delivering this oxygenated blood to my brain and legs, where it will be needed the most.

I was taking a risk just stepping out of my front door. I could be attacked by zombies, I could be arrested by the police. I’ve never been known for subtlety, but I knew I would need every ounce of discretion I could muster. Getting caught – by anyone or anything – was not an outcome I was willing to entertain. “Every seven minutes,” I whispered, “every seven minutes I need a place to hide.”

Jogging down the street in between the parked cars and the sidewalk, I crouched as low as I could while still maintaining a decent pace. I stayed away from Mass Ave. to avoid the cops, I stayed away from alleys to avoid the Zs. Before I knew it, I was headed in the direction of my first real zombie kill. Once you take a specific route, you are twenty times as likely to follow the same path again and again. It makes you wonder about free will.

As I reached 11th St. I crept up to a brick retaining wall and looked north, then curled my head around and looked south. All clear. I stayed low and scurried across. Just as I made it to the other side, I saw two headlights to my right, turning on to 11th from M St. “Fuck, the police!” I found a trashcan behind the Latin Grocery and slid behind it. As I knelt there, I could see the high beam of a searchlight passing between the buildings behind me. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” I thought to myself, “they have a searchlight!” I really had to pee, but fought the urge.

I could hear the sound of the engine getting closer. It was loud and grumbly like a school bus. It got closer and closer, and I was giddy with fear. It stopped at the intersection I had just crossed moments before. I could see the searchlight turn in my direction as the engine revved. What I would have given for a regular old zombie in place of the cops! The vehicle started to turn down my street – it was headed straight for me – and I could feel my shadow getting longer behind me. I couldn’t breathe.

But the searchlight quickly turned to the left as the vehicle lumbered past me down the street. Then, I did the one thing you should never do in a situation like this: I peeked my head out to make sure it was gone…

It was headed away from me, they hadn’t seen me. I gulped for air.

But it wasn’t a cop car. It was a black military humvee with a spotlight attached to the roof. There was a man in full fatigues operating a turret with the searchlight. The rear of the truck was a reinforced metal cage with a padlock.

And it wasn’t Metro Police. The man was wearing a tac vest that had three large yellow letters on the back: Z.C.A.

Advertisements