September 27, 2011
“The Tank” by Lance Mungia
I just woke from a bizzare yet memorable dream and thought it worth sharing with you. Occasionally I will share interesting dreams or meditations here on my new blog that I feel may need expanding upon and which I may turn into fodder for screenplay material. I have a backlog of entries that I’ve been keeping as more of an inspiration for my screenwriting so I may pull some past stuff out occasionally as well to get feedback on. Eventually I’ll create an archive of them all so check back in for that. Subscribe off to the side with the “Wake Up” button if you haven’t.
WhenI was a little kid I had thing for tanks. I’d spend hours building models of them. Whenever I watch a zombie movie even now I always wonder, “Why don’t they just climb in a tank, it’d be zombie proof for sure, wouldn’t it?”
You see, well… I had another one of those zombie dreams this morning, just ended maybe ten minutes ago. Only this time it began with this big, bad ol’ tank come rumbling out of the darkness of my imagination right at me. It was a shelter, a safety net, a world unto itself. A last refuge from the zombies, or so I thought…
Various times over the years I’ve had these bizzare zombie dreams and I always treat them with a strange mix of dread and majesty. They’re always vivid, highly cinematic and they’re always scary to me. There’s something about zombie movies that freak me out more than any other horror film. They are too real, too close to home. Zombies represent a breakdown of society, chaos run amok, humanity giving in to it’s basest instincts that occur when we feel we are cut off and alone, at those times we look for help and know for a fact it will never come.
Sometimes I’ll have a zombie dream with a beginning, a middle and end like a movie. Sometimes I’ll even dream theme music and credits. Go figure, I’m weird like that.
Last night was one of those. It reminded me of a Twilight Zone. I don’t mean the cheesy 80’s remake, I mean the real deal ’50’s cult favorite series by my main man Rod Serling.
Rod Serling, American badass, the creator of Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, was always my hero from the time I was a child. I’d go around quoting him and making my voice like his, clenching my teeth like he did. (I later learned he did that because he was so nervous on camera.) He had a way of putting the weird world into perspective, of using often brilliant and deceptively simple sci-fi elements to get a serious point across with so much pizzaz it was as digestible as it was delightful. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street“, (about the dangers of rampant paranoia during the witch hunts of the Cold War), “Eye of the Beholder” (about blind conformity) and so many others did wonders to shed light on the times, on the enduring shadows we all face as much or more today as back when they were produced.
Although I’m no Rod Serling, this dream I just woke from felt like a similar metaphor about something deeper put into a horror context.
It was a complete short film, with beginning music, intro voiceover and all and I will recount it exactly as it just came out of my head via dreamstate.
The beginning voice over started over black, and it was in a woman’s voice. She sounded intelligent, quite the analytical scientist forced to separate herself from her emotions if she was to survive the zombie epidemic that had some while back claimed sensible society. She talked of how the world had slowly blinked out, how one after another her compatriots had fallen to a “sickness” and that she was the last.
She alone had survived, by finding a trusty tank, once painted tan but now battle scarred and with pieces of it’s armor held together by chicken wire and primer. It was more leftover Sherman than M1 Abrams, a jigsaw tank of mismatched parts that looked like they may fall off at any moment.
First I saw only the tank, then the black surroundings turned into city scenery at night. A landscape that had once been an American city that now looked like a deserted, dirty war zone.
I could hear the treads of the tank moving closer. It was very dark, only natural light. It seemed even in this world the moon was still up there watching. We were in a playground, once festive, now charred and burnt.
The woman in voice over continued to speak, saying she only dared to move at night, that it was easier to travel in the dark, the tank her own and only friend, her world and savior. She’d been using maps to skip from military base to base looking for fuel and ammunition for the tank and was running low on food and stamina.
Before she would decide to settle in a place, she’d always jam a shell into the turret and fire straight ahead. The ensuing explosion of noise and fire would clear out the ”zombies” from her path. They hated the noise and destruction. She’d rather sleep in a place that had been shelled and could possibly be radioactive due to the depleted uranium dust from the expended round than have to deal with the locals face to face. She’d been successful at staying away from them thus far.
In voice over the woman told that she’d managed to stay alive also by her ability to block some sort of router, a wireless hub.
I’m actually now not sure if she was blocking it or putting out a wireless signal through the tank that allowed her to keep from being “zombified.” She said that at times the zombies were able to use their own signal to block her from turning or firing her gun turret. These zombies were not like the ones you’d heard of…
they were smart.
Say what? What did she mean by that? I actually had that thought in my dream.
BOOM! The landscape lit up as the tank turret fired, straight ahead. For a momentary flash, strange bodies, grey and different yet once obviously just people, were illuminated atop monkey bars nearby. They were just sitting there stradling the top of the bars, as if contemplating or waiting. It was odd to say the least.
I thought to myself as I took a moment as the observer, (as that’s all I was, much like the way a camera sees a movie scene and can dolly, cut and float), to study those on the monkey bars, “what sort of zombies are smart enough to block a wireless signal in a tank? This is a new take on the genre”.
The woman came to an apartment complex of sorts. I was with her, sort of hovering as an observer out of body in the scene as she exited the tank and walked forward into the complex. She, and I, were both afraid. I never got a good look at her, I was at times hovering in front of her, seeing what she was seeing. She’s a blur to my memory now. All I know is that she moved through the dark with such a mix of confidence and haste that I admired her. Badass.
For lack of a better word “the camera” hovered further into the complex ahead. From this perspective it looked more like a hotel, once respectable in a Miami Vice sort of vibe. She had pointed the turret at a particular part of the complex and blasted out a large room, where I assumed she would now go to forage food and supplies, and perhaps to rest, figuring she’d cleared the area out. Then we saw the first of them up close.
It was a woman, visible in the moon light spread cross legged on the roof of the next level of the apartments. She had long red hair flowing in the breeze and was sitting rather tranquilly, for a zombie.
It was strange but also very peaceful. I noticed there were others on the roof doing the same thing. It was some sort of group meditation. They were all meditating I was sure of it, and it amused me because I thought, “where is this going exactly?”.
The woman from the tank walked into the room she had noisily “prepared” via 70mm rounds. The whole place was empty. There was nothing, not even furniture, in any of the rooms. It was as if the entire complex had been neatly cleaned out in the mother of all rummage sales.
Tank Girl was vastly disappointed. In fact it was a breaking point for her. She couldn’t take the isolation and hunger anymore.
She marched out into the open air hallway of the complex, a sort of courtyard. There was a man, maybe forties, balding, standing vanguard still at the railing.
One of them.
Giving up the last of hope and reason for eager despair, she walked up to the edge of the railing and right up to the zombie. She eagerly invited him to grab her, to throttle her, to eat her flesh, and yet he did nothing but look at her, vaguely sad.
I noticed how gentle his eyes were. It disturbed me, honestly. It did.
She then tried to throw herself over the railing and something snagged her. She dangled over the edge a moment as she, and I, stared straight down at a large red stain on the ground many stories below, the stain left by someone else who’d also made allies with despair.
The zombie’s hand had been what had stopped her, the balding zombie had reached out and grabbed her collar, to steady her, to prevent her from jumping.
She was shocked at the realization of this. It simply did not compute. She looked up and studied his face for the first time. She too now noticed the thoughtfulness there in his eyes that I had seen.
The zombie looked down at a young boy, also grayish in color, maybe ten, lying prone on the ground, face partially covered by a newspaper, suddenly disturbed from slumber.
The woman, and I as observer, caught an exchange of dialogue between the “zombie” man and boy, neither of which looked so scary afterall. It occurred to m the grayish color of their skin may have been merely an artifact of moonlight.
They were father and son. The son, looking tired and half asleep still, was curious as to what had disturbed his father’s contemplation. The father looked down at him gently and said, “I’m fine son. You can sleep some more until morning. I’ll keep watch. I love you.”
The son looked up and responded, “I love you too dad”. The problem was, neither one of them had really spoken. They had allowed Tank Girl and I to hear just a snippet of their conversation, but it had happened telepathically.
Tank Girl was still utterly lost. How could these “zombies”, that serve no useful purpose and do nothing with their time all day but stand or sit around, express things like love and compassion and do it all with superior mental capacities like telepathy?
She’d just thought that question in her head, when yet another woman, older, a bit dumpy and European looking with short red hair peppered with gray, laying half asleep against a wall behind us, looked up sleepy eyed to respond. She seemed quite human enough and annoyed at being awoken so soon.
This one really spoke, as you could clearly see the dumpy woman’s mouth moving. Her lips curled into a surprised grin, a bit amused at the state of fear our heroine tank driver was in. “You’ve been on the wrong frequency, haven’t you?” The European looking woman said, “Oh my, you’ve missed the grid completely. You’ve been tuning in to the wrong signal dear. The correct one isn’t originating here, it’s somewhere else, Germany (she said a city but I can’t recall it) or somewhere else maybe, I’m not sure but I know it’s beautiful and I’ve been waiting for it. I’m so sorry, but all you have to do is open your ears, close your eyes, and listen.”
Off Tank Girl’s confusion, the dumpy lady added with some added annoyance, “Just look within.”
At once I realized that these people, these “zombies” we’d been passing were not zombies at all, they were all intelligent, thoughtful beings, once just like Tank Girl but now somewhere else along a path, deep in contemplation. Some slept, but only because they were going within while waiting for the dawn.
It was simply that the heroine of our tank story, and by default myself as observer, had been last to get the message.
The destruction I saw across the land as we entered the place in the tank was caused not by zombies meandering about, but by those who would live in fear, who would fight to the last to prevent change, those who would stop progress first and foremost within, those who would block themselves out and shut themselves off for the fear of becoming “zombies”.
One by one those that had wrought destruction had done one of two things; either put down their arms and forgave, having listened to one another and accepted, or else fled over railings of various types into the darkest stains of themselves that they would not accept.
By traveling only in fear and only at night, we in the tank had never experienced joy or companionship or even seen clearly. We had never bothered to find out more about the “zombies” we perceived, preferring to shoot first and ask questions later, content to scavenge off the rubble of civilization until the last scrap of flesh was gone.
Who were the zombies then?
As I felt the love between the father and son standing on the railing together a final moment upon waking, I realized that the zombies were us. The joke was a cosmic one and we were just the last to get it.
The Tank had been our world for so long. Our prison. Sealed off in a daily reality, toiling aimlessly from place to place in the dark, firing first, looking for the scraps of something beyond ourselves that would never sustain us and could never provide the answers to the problems we have created, becoming victims of our own daily destruction. We stand idoly whilst wheels grind.
Those failing metal gears were our last holdout against the dawn and they were breaking and aching as they ran out of gas. Our last bastion of fear, regret, anger and self loathing slowly spinning to an inevitable end.
We feared as always what we could not understand, the darkness, the shapes looming there, assuming them to be flesh eating foes, never bothering ever to look for the souls present in the eyes of those who had accepted that their lot had been to sleep and wait, to pass through the dark if only to appreciate the most beautiful dawn.
What would happen when the dawn came and everyone stirred?
That’s another dream I hope to have soon and will relate. I’m going to keep developing this tank idea into a screenplay so I’ve registered it with the WGA West and Library of Congress as usual. Let me know your thoughts on making the movie into reality.
- What does it mean if you had a dream that you were being attacked by zombies (wiki.answers.com)