Zombies on Old Highways
This is for you, Jeremy.
I spent quite a bit of time last Wednesday driving all over Austin. Whenever I’m in the car for an extended period of time without Steve, I replace our car’s iPod with my private playlist.
A song from my playlist called Ghost of Old Highways by Lovett caught my attention, and a story with zombies suddenly jump fully-formed into my head (yes, I know zombies are pretty much over-exposed at this point, but it’s not much stranger than what Lovett did with this song*). These imaginary music videos are nothing new, as some songs set me off and then I obsessively work out a mental storyboard–listening over and over to that one song–until I have it worked out to my satisfaction (and then I listen some more, still playing out these little videos in my head).
I rarely share these with anyone, although I’ve attempted to explain a few of them to Steve. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to put what I see into words and so he’s always unimpressed.
Anyway, after Wednesday, I jokingly mentioned tap-dancing cowboy zombies to Jeremy, not thinking he’d be interested. In fact, I’m not sure he’s being anything other than polite, but it’s giving me a chance to try something a little different. I’m going to publicly share some of the weird shit that goes through my head.
First of all, you need to listen through Ghost of Old Highways.
Now, play the song again, but this time follow along with what I’m seeing:
When the song starts, I see an exhausted soldier staggering down an old highway in the middle of Texas with the sun and dust all around him. Through the first few verses, there are washed out and abrupt flashbacks to various stages of a progressing zombie epidemic taking down both his family and civilization during the Civil War. This carries all the way through the bridge of the song, going back and fourth between his present and his past until he finally finds himself alone on the road with nothing other than a his few remaining weapons.
After the bridge (2:14), he notices multiple figures on the road slowly walking towards him through the glare of the sun. As they get closer, you can see they’re zombies.
Yeah, here’s where it gets kinda weird, but I swear it works. The zombies move with a forward movement that’s a cross between syncopated shuffling and slow tap-dancing, going along with the beat of the song (starting off with steps every few beats). As they get closer, they pick up speed (steps every beat to several steps to a beat). The man also starts walking faster towards them (2:30) as well. Then (2:45.05), he pulls his weapons and begins to run towards them as fast as he can until they crash together violently (3:05). That’s when the stylized dancing/fighting begins with blood, limbs, and internal organs flying through the air (seriously, I can see intestines bursting through the air like streamers) in a blended strobe effect of slow motion and normal speed set to the song’s tempo. I’m still working on how to end it, but I’d rather he didn’t survive the experience.
Now that I’m done, I’ve just realized that putting it together this way was rather fun. A little frustrating, but much more fun than I expected. While I’ll probably never share any of my other storylines–I think I’d like to learn how to use some sort of storyboard software so I can play a bit more with my lovely little obsession.
* When I started looking for a copy of Ghost of Old Highways on YouTube, I discovered Lovett had already made a short film based on this song. It’s described as “a man pursued by an invading army as he hunts down previous versions of himself amidst the purgatory of a fractured consciousness.” Yes, it’s classier than what I came up with, but I didn’t write the song either, so my interpretation is just that–my goofy interpretation of something someone else created. But it’s a damn fine song either way.