“Something…bad is happening.”

On our final night in Jinja, we stayed a backpacker’s lodge that was outside of town. We got caught in a massive lightning storm and got a ride to the office in town from two strangers who thought we were idiots (and rightly so) for hiding under a large tree during the downpour, but we still managed to miss the last shuttle for the day.

The young man at the front desk told us that he would drive us to the lodge in his car, but not until we played about 10 games of pool with him and his friend. He insisted that he had just learned a few weeks before, but I later learned he was the fourth-ranked billiards player in Kampala (which explained how he somehow knew how to make balls hop over other balls and still land in the pocket).

After I soundly lost multiple times, the four of us piled into his old red Volkswagen sports coupe and rumbled over the unlit, bumpy dirt roads to the lodge. Bicycle bodas and pedestrians briefly appeared in the headlights before dodging out of the way. Jimmy put on some reggae and soul, and it blasted through the speakers so that Stevie and I in the back couldn’t hear anything said in the front of the car.

On a long stretch of road, Nash slowed the car down and said something to Jimmy. Up ahead, I could see a man standing motionless on the side of the road, facing away. Jimmy turned off the music, and the car continued to slow down until it stopped just past the motionless stranger so that he was standing parallel to the backseat. I could see that he was not urinating, as I had initially assumed; he was just standing there.

“Jimmy, do you hear that?” Nash asked.

Voices were coming from far down the road, and I could see the flickering light of fires in the distance. The man on the side of the road turned around very slowly and stared vacantly into the back window at Stevie and me.

“Something…bad is happening,” Nash said, leaning forward into his dashboard to listen.

Now, while Stevie was apparently wondering whether we should have trusted these strangers, all my training told me that this was most definitely the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. And I knew we should not leave the car or the undead could get us — this man with the vacant stare included.

Fela Kuti and Afrika ’70 – Zombie

But Nash climbed out of the car and looked underneath. I was confused. Was there a zombie under us?

“Yes, Jimmy, we are leaking oil,” Nash called out.

Car trouble. The man wasn’t a zombie, just drunk perhaps, and the lights and voices ahead were just that: lights and voices. I was just as disappointed as you. Especially because we had to push the car 500 meters over the muddy roads to the lodge. The night ended with a rat crawling over my bed and me taking Xanax so I could actually fall asleep.

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1 comment
  1. Fred Teuscher said:

    Extremely well-written and suspenseful. Great read.

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