The Union Square Horror



4th Ave. & E. 14th St., NY, NY 10003

Neighborhood: Union Square

I got all dressed up for the opening night of Land of the Dead at the United Artists Union Square Multiplex. It was June and I wore a fine white picnic dress. My new boyfriend wore his usual tee with a funny message and ordinary jeans.

I have a tendency to scream. When I attended a scary movie with my last boyfriend, I accidentally ripped the collar off his shirt while crying out causing his ears to ring for days. Three days later, the ringing implacable, he decided, very loudly, WE OUGHT TO BREAK UP. People are partial to different thrills, I guess. I like to scream at movies, on roller coasters, and in the beginnings of relationships.

I had been looking forward to the opening night of “Land of the Dead” for many weeks and had even prepped my boyfriend with at-home viewings of the Romero Zombie film parade.

My boyfriend said he wasn’t scared; why should he be? “They don’t exist.” he noted while I looked around warily. Finding the coast clear, I shook my head. “That’s how they get you!” I explained.

“A slow-moving ghoul might very well put the teeth on you – though you could easily outrun him – simply because you wouldn’t expect that a zombie will appear and then bite you. You’re caught off guard, because you don’t believe in zombies and THAT’S how they get you!” I poked him in the chest. We came upon the large red ticker listing the night’s features. I breathed, steeling up, while he bought the tickets and we joined the crowd on the escalator up, ushered inexorably toward whatever fate.

The movie was bad. Not so bad really as not good. I screamed nevertheless, being sure to get his (my boyfriend’s) money’s worth. But, there were some legitimately good scares here and there. It was the PC treatment regarding the predicament of the zombie population that I minded mostly. “They’re just looking for a place to go,” says one of the characters at the movie’s end, while he holds back a co-protagonist from slaughtering a pack of them on their trek out of the city. Never mind that they eat people alive! I thought. The problem with politics! These flesh-eating ghouls deserve our understanding apparently. Just ‘cause YOU don’t have a taste for human intestines, that doesn’t mean eating them is wrong. It’s just different, I guessed was the moral.

We left the theater discussing the movie on a spirited walk south on Broadway. I was in love and clutched my boyfriend’s arm; breathing in the night, glad not to be undead, in my white summer dress, I wondered if there was a place for us too, a home like that for the zombies. Would we be left in peace? I looked up.

He stopped in an allnight deli just a block down from the theater and I waited outside and thought about this as I watched the Friday traffic rain down, when a man suddenly staggered into the street. A car stopped short. The figure swayed, slammed his hands against the car’s hood and–groaned. I was jostled from my revelry.

I watched the man who groaned stagger a bit more and then stagger to the sidewalk.

My date emerged and I pointed to the swaying shadow. Another pedestrian slowed in front of him. The figure stopped. His arms rose, and he stumbled toward the passerby who wrestled him off. The zombie fell to the ground. Getting up with difficulty, he began again undaunted.

The bodies of the living continued unsuspectingly down Broadway. He turned toward the locked doors of a furniture shop and pounded on it with his fists. People stopped at all corners of the street to witness the spectacle. My manfriend moved forward too. I grabbed his arm trying to hold him back, but curiosity took him.

I stayed hidden behind a phone booth watching, frightened, before I quickly turned with a yelp, fearing an unanticipated rear attack (That’s how it happens in horror movies, I’d learned.).

Finally, the shop-owner opened the door, yelled something at the figure before the ghoulish arms rose again and the man was finally forced to clock him. The zombie stumbled back and fell once more. The man approached concerned, as did others trying to help. But when he came again to his feet, he jumped out at them snarling and gnashing his teeth.

I crept up carefully to tell my date “let’s go” before the situation got the better of us, before THEY did. The street began to gather round, closing into the scene. Fire trucks blared across the city. Three trucks stopped in front. Two police cars, an ambulance.

A few cops tried to calm him while he bared his teeth demonically. The ambulance men worked to wrestle him into a gurney, strapped him down with some effort, and then, “Look!” I pointed, “They’ve muzzled him.” The attendants rolled him out of sight into the van.

“It’s begun!” I noted as we walked away.

“It’s probably just some NYU kid on acid,” my date said imitating calm, “who saw the movie and thought he was a undead.”

“There must have been a zombie in the theatre,” I looked cautiously, as I hurried him over to University Place. “He must have gotten bitten. It could have been us!”

“It’s just some messed up kid,” he repeated.

“That’s what they all say, before it’s too late.”

“Very well,” he acceded. “So would it be safer to hole up at your place or mine tonight?”

Our first night together! I screamed.

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