The snow was falling outside, though the steaming beverages in front of them radiated enough heat to warm their chill-stiffened fingers; people passing by might’ve noted the four young men – their faces lit with animation as they discussed, fondly, their memories of Speculative Fiction – if not for a consuming preoccupation with last minute Christmas shopping.
“Man, that class was excellent!” said Nick, banging his fist on the table as if to fortify his point.
“I know” responded Paul wistfully, with languished undertones of nostalgia; “Why does nothing like that ever happen in real life?… boy, what I would give to beat up some dumb zombie. I’d be like Cillian Murphy in that movie… what was it?”
“28 Days Later?” proposed Sam – always the movie guru – “That one was a fuckin’ riot.” He took a sip of his coffee. “You know, if something were to happen, it would be today right.” His eyes rose mischeviously, forming a question, while his mouth remained low over the cup, blowing silently: “they always make these too bloody hot.”
“I suppose you’re right” Nick nodded, “everyone’s been waiting for it… I mean, that’s the reason we’re so hungover, is it not?” He grinned.
“Twenty twelve, the party from hell!”
They laughed – which now John thinks, retrospectively, is ironic.
The sound of their laughter is distorted in his mind, it’s been four days now and any glimpse of happiness seems as foreign as the plague that stole it away. If only they had known what was about to happen, their energies might better have been spent barricading themselves behind the counter, or acquiring a broom, a chair, a weapon… any weapon – instead they sat, expending the last whispers of human merriment over coffee. COFFEE! A groundless social practise: obsolete now, he supposes, for who remains to converse, to ‘chat’, ‘to shoot the shit’?
He wishes now he hadn’t thought of shit. The room in which he now resides – if you can call it a room – is no larger than a generous closet – a majority of which is made inhabitable by a vast shelving system. John, In a final statement of human dignity has refrained thus far from voiding his bowels; “don’t shit where you eat” his father had always said, and John – never a figurative thinker – didn’t feel like shitting where he slept either. But this time it was uncontrollable, unsupressable, unignorable! Doubled over he swore profusely, his obscenities ricocheting off the walls, magnified in volume by the confined space; he wonders if they heard him, he wonders if they’re there. “It’s only across the hall” a voice whispers, chiding him, “so close.” But he knows what’s out there, beyond the door, between himself and the bathroom.
“It’s time to nut up or shut up” says Woody Harrelson; John smiles wryly. Of all the movies his mind could’ve picked, why a zombie movie? It’s too close to reality now; no Jesse Eisenberg, no funny rules for survival, no pretty girls with which to have an unlikely romance, no; just John in a closet, desperate for a shit. “But he’s right” John thinks; in all the movies, all the books, what hero was ever caught taking a dump in a closet? It’s a matter of honour. And with that, resolved in his decision, stomach aching, John snaps a broomstick over his knee, letting the brush end drop to the floor. Stake in hand, balls in his throat, John reaches for the handle…
“Time to nut up or shut up.”