The screen door slammed behind me and with a slightly bleary mind and my camera hanging around my neck, I jogged down a sandy path to catch up with Nigel and London and our now sleep-deprived sexagenarians . . . they were no longer angry about the drums of Garifuna Day, they were too exhausted to be angry; they had given in to their predicament, something all travelers eventually learn. And besides, we were leaving at noon for Warrie Head Lodge, west of Belmopan and east of San Ignacio, where the drums would be replaced by gentle breezes and the sweet songs of vireos and honeycreepers.
But at the moment we were witness to the settlement of Dangriga. We weren’t the only ones running on fumes—all of Dangriga’s citizens were in a sleepless frenzy. My head seemed full of soft smoke and there was a heady mix of smells around me; sweat and sea water and tea and marijuana and coffee and fried plantains. The sky was brighter than the meat of the cassava roots that the Garifuna settlers were bringing to shore on their overloaded wooden boats, vessels that can only be described as something akin to the dugout canoes we learned about in elementary school. But these boats were large enough to carry a dozen or so Garifuna, were they made of Mahoghany? Probably. And they seemed like they could capsize at any moment with all the dancing that was going on—these re-enactors were taking their roles to a level of joy that I doubt the original settlers maintained, but then again, they had not come all the way from Honduras like the original settlers either.
I started taking pictures, lots of pictures, and my camera felt good and solid and heavy in my hands. The push of shoulders around me was energetic and jolted me. I was with all these people, but my camera made me feel as though I was invisible among them. We followed the boats along the shore line and into town. We crossed a two-lane concrete bridge that must have been built by the British at some point in their reign over the country and there were kids jumping from the bridge into the fast moving channel below. They were soon followed by revelers of all kinds . . . everyone was jumping off the bridge. I had lost Nigel and London and my group, I was just being carried along by the throng of the morning carnival.
I kept shooting photos, of the boats and then of the crowd. I had my old manual Minolta with a good zoom lens on it and no motordrive . . . click, ratchet, click, ratchet . . . I scanned the crowd with my lens and drew my bead on a zombie. He was at the far extent of my zoom’s capability and so I threaded through the crowd to get closer to him. He was a zombie alright. He cheek bones were like knives, his eyes were not seeing what the surrounding crowd was seeing . . . he was witnessing visions that only my malaria pill nightmares could compare to. His lips were parched and his skin was stretched black hide burned by the sun. His shirt hung on him like a sail torn by a storm. As I got nearer I began to shoot pictures of him and he traveled through my lens, through my vitreous humour, along my optic nerve to electrify the hairs on the back of my neck. The drums were my beating heart and the crowd was gone, it was just me and the zombie.
He saw me. He awoke from his momentary nightmare and he laid his colorless irises on me. The crowd no longer existed for him either. I was all he saw now—me and my camera—and he lunged toward me. His dreadlocks swung and his teeth flashed. I put down my camera and spun to fight the current of the crowd. They were all headed to the settlers’ landing spot, a protected cove just on the edge of the town, where they would ceremoniously disembark and lay their cassava and banana leaves at the feet of the crowd. But I needed to flee the zombie—ceremonies be damned. I pushed and gasped and nobody seemed to know that the zombie was after me. He was pushing upstream too and he was shouting at me, “White girl! Fuckin' White Girl!” I had taken his picture and he was not happy about it. I pushed and pushed and found myself up on the bridge again and the crowd was dissipating now and only a few stragglers were diving off the stone walls and I saw them descend like black angels. I held my camera to my belly and began to pick up a jog, I had room to run now. I turned and saw the zombie breaking away from the tail of the crowd, “Fuckin' White Girl!” I felt dizzy and sick and began to run up the sandy road that I remembered would lead me back to the hotel. The sun was very high now, and the drums were just blood pulsing in my ears. What had I done? What was I thinking? Time was very thick now and I was bargaining with a higher being to get me out of this mess. And then, like the higher being heard my plea and dropped a coin in the wurlitzer, the song of London’s bus was idling under a tree only a few yards from my panicked steps. I flew in the door and met London’s gaze -- he was sitting in his driver’s seat, with one skinny leg propped up and a cigarette burning softly in his mouth.
“Girl? Where have you been? You look like . . . ” and his words kept coming at me, but all I could do was look out the big dusty windshield and see the zombie. He halted as though the front of London’s bus had repelled him. He threw his hands up in the air and disappeared down an alleyway. He was gone. I took my camera from around my neck and put it on the front seat of the bus. I sat next to it and started to breath again, my lungs stung, as though the wind had been knocked out of me. My ribs pressed against my sides and I started to cry. London looked out the window and back at me. He took a drag on his cigarette and the smoke curled up and made him close one eye. He reached into the little cooler he kept at his side and produced a glistening bottle of Elephant Beer. He popped the top, “I tink you need dis.” And I did. I had run from a zombie. The beer felt cold in my hand and like lightening going down my middle. London didn’t ask me any more questions, we sat quietly and waited for Nigel and the others to return from middle of town. I was safe for now. My camera rested on the seat next to me, but it was haunted now, possessed by the zombie. . .