Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swan Song

In recent years, Hollywood directors have shown a great love for using shaky-camera filming in order to provide a realistic depiction of the chaos and frantic nature of war and other life threatening situations. Something always seemed unnatural about that sort of camera work, and Maureen was discovering exactly why she felt that way. If a member of the IATSE was presenting her actions and experiences on screen, the camera would have scanned wildly side to side as she fled from the undead assailant before her. The image would have jerked sharply downward as she stumbled off of the curb and almost tumbled to the ground after her muddy boots failed to assist her in accelerating on the blacktop of the parking lot. After a few sickening jostles to bring the view level again, the screen would swiftly jerk to the right providing a wide scan of the area displaying the wild traffic and panic all around her. It would settle on the zombie, a very short distance behind her, lumbering as quickly as it could after her. With a snap, the camera would be back in front of her, frantically shimmying as she scrambled to fit her key into her car door. The door would swing open just in time to strike her attacker and send it crashing to the pavement. Screams and sirens would cry out sharply and then be swiftly muffled as the door slammed shut next to her.

Perhaps a close-up of the door locks would appear as she smashed her fingers down onto the electronic lock button, sending the set of small silver protrusions, slightly worn on the edges to a copper tone, smashing down into the door frame in order to secure her mobile fortress. The view would shift to look upwards towards her from the passenger seat in order to catch her gasp and shriek as the zombie smashed itself into the driver's side window, causing her to fumble her keys as she rushed to insert them into the ignition. Repeated thumps against the glass would echo off the plastic interior as the camera shook from the abuse the vehicle was taking. Whimpers full of barely intelligible words would escape Maureen's lips as the car's starter jumped to life with a less than confidence building grunt. The audience would now be staring at a wide shot out the front window. The wheels would turn as the four cylinder engine, which would much rather still be asleep, was forced into action by her foot, now captured in a close range floor shot, slamming the gas pedal down to the floor. The camera would slip side to side in a violent drunken manner as she swung the car around every obstacle in her path: human, automobile, and used-to-be-human. Then, perhaps they would close this segment with a wide angle crane-cam shot as she sped around the back side of the store.

Thus, would the director of photography capture the wild nature of a person fleeing for their life.

In reality, it felt nothing like that.

The most alarming difference was the sound. There wasn't much of it at all. The wails of the people, the crashing of the cars, the not so distant sirens of the emergency vehicles traveling in every direction, these things made it to her as if filtered by wads of cotton in her ears. The whole world seemed muffled, with two notable exceptions. The first was her breathing. The sound of her own surging breaths enveloped her. It was as if her inhales and exhales formed the cocoon around her head which dampened all of the other noise besetting her. A sheath which would only be penetrated by the blood soaked creature before her. Its moans and hisses sliced straight into her mind. Even as it followed her, she would swear that she could see the contortions of its face just from the creaking of it gnashing its teeth.

As for the shaky cam, it would be hard to say that the movements of her eyes and head were completely unlike the movements of the cameraman. That may have been the way it happened, but a person's vision is nothing like a camera. All of that visual stimuli had to be processed by Maureen's brain, so the final product was a bit different than what would have appeared on screen.

She floated.

Not literally, of course, but everything she experienced seemed to come at her in one smooth and steady stream. Her stumble from the curb felt less like the erratic flight pattern of a gnat and more akin to the bobbing flow of an old Cadillac with shocks that needed replacing. Her scan of the area revealed nothing but blurred masses of nondescript movement, and even the zombie on her heels appeared as nothing more than a shifting multi-hued blob. The moment it took for her to line her key up with the slot in her car door dragged on with intoxicated swaying, and the door striking the ghoul was barely noticed as she slumped into the worn cloth seat with a forceful expulsion of breath that made her eyes squint and her brow furrow in distress. The zombie's lurch towards the window elicited naught but a moderate lean away from the glass. The vehicle parked in front of her was gone, so she was able to shift into drive and pull straight through. There was no floor shattering stomp upon the pedal, as even in her state of panic, she looked both ways before entering the lane. Which was smart, seeing as how a non-drivable car would have been unbelievably inconvenient at that time. There was no violent swerving back and forth as she avoided the people and undead in her way, because she didn't avoid them. While Maureen didn't aim for them, the glaze which covered everyone in front of her made discerning their state of living difficult.

The greater factor was that she just didn't care.

A person who thinks little of other people, when faced with a life or death situation of mythic proportions, will, apparently, drive through and over whatever human shaped figure happens to be unfortunate enough to be in their path. It was a short drive for her to reach the back lane of the parking lot, and the way was quite clear of other automobiles, since it was in the opposite direction of the entrance. Behind the supermarket was a short driveway into a shipping and distribution complex. Her idea was to slip out the back way, which was a great plan. The wrench in the works appeared as she turned onto the drive and crossed into the neighboring lot. A rather large trailer was flipped onto its side and was completely blocking her only route past the long warehouses to her left and right. It was still possible to spin the car around and try to squeeze out of the supermarket entrance, so she popped the car door open and shook her head to clear the last wisps of fog from her vision.

As the door swung to its widest, Maureen's ears began to grab onto the unobstructed audio headed her way. Sharp screams and a choir of groans assaulted her. She looked back, with eyes ready to bulge from their sockets, upon the scene she had just exited, and horror began to set in. She slunk backwards, sliding against the cold sheet metal of her car's fender. The chaotic racket around her beat down on her ears, and her eyes squinted as if in response to a massive weight settling on her head.

As she rolled around the corner of her car and took her first few hurried steps towards the toppled trailer, she was overcome with the desire for some cotton.