Almost every night when I was twelve, I was attacked — by zombie nightmares. I’d seen my first zombie movie that year, Return of the Living Dead, and it terrorized my dream-world; in this alternate reality, my home sat atop a hill surrounded by an endless cemetery, and I cowered in my attic as a wicked rainstorm battered the roof outside, and legions of mud-soaked, ravenous dead creatures rose from their graves and assaulted the house. They pounded the walls, calling for me. I’d hear splintering wood. They were inside. Charging up the stairs…
Some nights the dream would end there, jarring me awake as an act of mercy. Other nights weren’t so kind, and I’d feel the crunch of zombie teeth on my skull.
The nightmares continued for months, the angst steadily supplied by more and yet more zombie movies — Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead — as if George Romero had vowed that I should never sleep well again. But with repetition came familiarity… until finally one night in the midst of my nightmare, I gazed out the attic window at the corpses coming to eat me, and I blinked, oddly unperturbed, and suddenly understood.
Psychologists call this ‘lucid dreaming.’ The sleeper knows he is asleep, recognizes that the entire world around him is a figment. Empowered, a dreamer may actually take control and manipulate the imaginary events, like the God of their own subconscious. Or maybe more like Leonardo DiCaprio in your own personal Inception, given free roam of your dreamscape.
And that’s when it gets fun.
From that point on, I developed into an epic zombie ass-kicker when I slept. No more trembling in the attic, awaiting my doom. Now, enlightened, immune from death and consequences, I tore through graveyards and took the war to the streets. If anyone was having nightmares, it wasn’t me; it was the poor dead bastards upon which I unleashed bloody decapitations with shovels, brutal kung-fu spine-breakers, broken skulls and bullets shot perfectly between the eyes. Occasionally I would rescue a pretty girl. And, like, totally make out with her.
From midnight to dawn, it was clobberin’ time. I loved every minute of it.
Thirty years later, in my novel THE RETURN MAN, I enjoyed redirecting the wild, brazen action sequences of my young imagination — casting my beleaguered hero Henry Marco into reckless battles against the dead from Arizona to California. Now it’s your turn to share.
Tell us your last zombie dream. Was it a nightmare… or action movie?