Don't shoot! A tale of late-night adrenaline

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Assault, zombies and muggers danced through my head this morning when I left work.

Yesterday morning, a house near mine was broken into. The occupant was tied up at gunpoint and left in the basement while her house was burgled. Neighbors called 911 after they heard her screaming. This was the second such incident in four weeks. Both were in 'safe' neighborhoods.

It's Humans Versus Zombies week on campus. Swarms of brain-sucking undead wander campus, especially in the nighttime hours. If a human gets tagged, they die and are resurrected as a member of the horde. The humans' only defenses are Nerf guns and balled-up socks. This early in the game, all humans are paranoid. Walking alone is a bad idea.

Early Monday morning, my coworker was mugged on his way home. He went to the hospital with a concussion, and is out on medical leave this week. I'm taking over his duties this week, which means that I get to leave the building at 2:30 in the morning to walk back to my apartment alone.

Every shadow on campus could be hiding a zombie. Silhouettes appear in the distance, shadows bracketed by sodium-vapor orange glare. The walkers keep their own business. Campus, for now, is quiet.

I cross the northern border of campus and the shadows darken. Where the university erects street lamps and light pollution, private enterprise saves money and the environment. The shadows are deeper, and more dangerous. Nooks and crannies abound - walkways hidden by opaque shrubbery conceal the imagination's nightmares.

The alley leading to my apartment is wide and well-lit, and cluttered with dumpsters. Gravel shifts underfoot as I walk. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

A sudden rustle from the shadows as I pass a dumpster dumps days' adrenaline reserves into my bloodstream. My zombie-slaying firearm leaps into my hand, aimed at —

Two little eyes in a black face. A trash bag, torn open for a meal. Black fur with a white stripe. The skunk stares at me, its tail erect, as scared of me as I was of it. I back off and continue on my way. The adrenaline buzz wears off as I enter my apartment through a door left unlocked by a careless roommate.