We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself. And, Of Course, Zombies.

Warning: this post contains many run-on sentences. Proceed with caution.

I once watched the movie 28 Days Later right before going to bed. This was a mistake; watching a bunch of fast-moving rage-filled zombies viciously attack and eat people makes it kind of difficult to drift gently off to sleep. Technically, I probably shouldn’t call them zombies, because they’re alive and infected with a disease instead of dead and, you know, zombified — but it says “zombie” right there on the movie poster, and regardless of what they are, you still don’t want one of them biting you, because then you’ll get infected and all you’ll ever want to do is attack and eat people, which will put a huge strain on your personal relationships and also probably make you lose your job because you keep skipping work to go on violent rampages and even when you do show up you spend most of your time biting people even though you’ve already been warned about your company’s no-biting policy several times. And then you won’t have an income, and although your living expenses will go down because you no longer have to buy food because you’re eating people instead, you still won’t be able to pay your rent, which means you’ll have to move in with your parents, which will be even more awkward than you might have imagined because even though your parents never expressed any strong opinions about cannibalism while you were growing up, they turn out to be pretty closed-minded about it. So of course you’ll eat them, which will seem like a good idea at the time but will mean there’s no one left to pay the rent on their house, so you’ll wind up out on the streets and even worse off than before.*

The point is, it’s a scary movie. So I was still a little frightened when I went to bed after watching it — which only got worse when I started hearing frantic scratching and clawing noises right outside my window. I’ve heard these noises before: directly under my bedroom window, there’s a screened-off entry to the crawl space under my house, and I sometimes hear sounds that turn out to be either an animal trying to get into the crawl space for warmth or an axe murderer trying to get into the house to kill me. So far, it’s mostly been animals:

Type of intruder Number of occurrences
opossum 58
raccoon 42
skunk 15
axe murderer 0
unknown 23
zombie 0

Whenever I hear these clawing noises, I remind myself that there haven’t been any confirmed axe murderers so far. But then I think, well, I guess that means we’re due for one, until I remember that probability doesn’t work that way: the likelihood of it being an axe murderer this time is independent of the number of previous axe murderer visits.** But I still haven’t gotten around to looking up axe murder statistics for my neighborhood; all I know is that I’ve never seen a report of one in my local newspaper, which means they must happen so frequently that they’re not considered newsworthy. Often, by the time I finish with that line of reasoning, the noise has stopped, so I count that as “unknown” in my ongoing intruder tally.

But this time is different. This time, I’m not thinking about axe murderers; I’m thinking about zombies. And while I know that zombies don’t exist, that doesn’t make me any less concerned about the possibility that there’s one right outside my window. So I’m lying there in the dark, afraid to look at the window because if I do then whatever is out there will become real. As long as I don’t look, it’s simultaneously a harmless raccoon and a murderous zombie in the same way that Schroedinger’s cat was both alive and dead, or dead and not-dead, which means that whatever’s outside my window is basically a Schroedinger’s zombie, which I can almost deal with except for the fact that “dead and not-dead” also describes a regular garden-variety zombie, which means there’s a zombie in my garden — and as I’m pursuing this train of thought, my cat jumps onto the bed. I’m so startled by this that I leap three feet into the air, still completely horizontal, like a cartoon character,*** which frightens the cat, who jumps even higher, which apparently scares off whoever or whatever is outside. And I suddenly realize that my zombie was an imaginary zombie, just like Schroedinger’s cat was an imaginary cat.

*Some of this is speculation on my part. The movie tends to focus less on long-term economic and social outcomes and more on short-term murderous rampages.

**Well, almost. An individual raccoon or axe murderer’s decision to visit a particular house is likely to be influenced by his or her prior experience with that house, so the events aren’t entirely independent.

***I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. But that’s how it felt.

29 thoughts on “We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself. And, Of Course, Zombies.

  1. You have me in absolute STITCHES, Laura!!!

    I am laughing so much that tears are running down my face and I have the hiccups.

    I can’t believe you have been keeping an intruder tally! Good grief…

    As to leaping three feet into the air, horizontally, while lying on the bed – in response to a cat leaping ontop of me – boy, have I done that too! That cartoon image is based on reality, Laura.

    It scares the living daylights out of my cat, which I personally think is well-deserved because she didn’t give me any ruddy warning before leaping onto my legs, or onto my stomach, and I’m darned if I’m going to spend the next half-hour soothing her nerves and apologising profusely to her for wiping out one of her 9 lives, because I only have ONE, and she almost wiped out that one!

    1. Thanks. I hope your hiccups are over by now.

      My cats usually do give me some warning before they jump on me, but sometimes I’ll startle one of them while he’s sitting on my lap, which generally results in the cat’s rear claws digging into my legs as he runs off.

      I was exaggerating a little about the tally. I don’t record the species of every intruder, but I do keep a very careful count of the number of axe murderers.

  2. Where do i begin? You’ve touched on so many of my same problems that I’m at a loss at how to proceed when each topic is equally troublesome; unseen creatures scratching outside to come in (and i must now thank you for adding one more possible intruder to my very similar list – oppossum – which actually should have been obvious considering they live in the same habitat as raccoons and I’ve been dealing them for over eight years but I digress); the high likelihood of an axe murder in my neighborhood since we’re long overdue as well; the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse that shadows my every move since I first became aware of it’s impending doom; and of course, the ever frightening run-on sentence.

    I’m not really sure where to go to find relief (or at least some quality sleep) but I’ll be waiting eagerly to find out if you come up with a solution. I’m not sure whether or not I should thank you considering your post has brought these fears back to the forefront and I am sure to not sleep until I can undo the damage you did today.

    1. The first time I ever saw an opossum, it was dead, lying on the sidewalk, completely covered by ants that were swarming all over it. It was so ugly that I couldn’t make my eyes focus on it at first (the ant motion might have contributed to that effect).

      Why am I telling you this? I wanted to provide you with a lovely visual to brighten your day even more than I have already. You’re welcome.

  3. Have you considered hiring an axe murderer to prowl the yard and dispatch the Unknowns and Zombies?
    Sure, the Axe Murderer is scary as hell, but he’d be your scary as hell.
    Just sayin…

  4. Do you have hedgehogs where you live? They were always breathing heavily and scratching under my window when I was a child in New Zealand. Much scarier than opossums.

  5. You’re just lucky you don’t have any Wombies lurking in your neighborhood, as they often like to burrow under homes and set up shop there. And once under your house, they can be hard to evict. Of course, Wombies are not related to Zombies, despite their similar sounding names, and are in most cases much more friendly and less likely to eat you in your sleep unless you fail to leave them an offering of chocolate or wine gums.

  6. If you’ve never seen a report on axe murderers in your local newspaper, it’s probably because the reporters and editors are axe murders. Total cover-up. I know this because I work for a newspaper. That makes me an authority on the subject. (And also probably an axe murderer.)

  7. I want you to know that I awoke this morning to a strange noise outside my window, and your post immediately planted the notion that the noise stemmed from a zombie and/or axe murderer. So, thanks.

  8. “So I’m lying there in the dark, afraid to look at the window because if I do then whatever is out there will become real.”—That’s totally true. That’s also why I sleep with the covers over my head. I can’t see monsters, they can’t see me.

    1. When I was a kid, I thought monsters couldn’t attack through the covers; the monsters under my bed knew I was there, but as long as I was under at least a sheet, they couldn’t get me. I was very careful never to let a foot slip out from under the covers.

      I also knew that eating raw eggs could make you sick, but I was allowed to lick the bowl whenever my mom baked a cake — so I thought that adding flour and sugar to raw eggs made them safe.

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