It happened again. One of them grabbed my ankle, dragged me under, and then swam on top of me. I knew not to make a scene. Fighting will only make them more determined to keep you under. Unless you play possum, the next one in the lane will come along and hold you down until you're sucking water through your nostrils.
Zombies chop through water like propellers of an out-board motor, but their stroke lacks human finesse. If a zombie whacks you in the face or on the back, yell and scream all you want–the zombie won't notice as long as you're not in its way. These blows, while painful, don't draw blood, since swimming zombies lose their fingernails after their first month of laps.
It's not unusual to find stray toes and fingers floating on the water's surface. If there's blood, lifeguards blow their whistles to clear the pool of the still-living. Blood means the digit belonged to a human. The guards come down from their perches to fish out the body parts with nets and dump more chlorine into the pool. No bathers scream, even if a digit is torn from a socket. It's better to lose a finger or toe from an over-zealous zombie's grasp than to lose your life. All the zombies want is to reach the end of the lap lane before you do. Yesterday I saw two big toes, but they were flaky and bloated, no blood. We know zombies cast off stray body parts while they swim. Wikipedia says scientists don't know for sure why the sloughing off occurs. They theorize that there are trace amount of chi still animating the cells, even though the astral body has abandoned the organism. All swimming zombies die an un-death. No one has ever seen a zombie head bobbing along in a lap lane.
Many think swimming zombies don't eat, but almost every lap swimmer I know has a friend or relative who has gone missing at the time they were expected home from the pool. Nowadays, people leave the natatorium thirty minutes before closing time–staff members have reported seeing zombies leave the water after the overhead fluorescent lamps are turned off. One lifeguard said they mill about aimlessly in the locker room at night.
In his black and white photo series, ‘Zombie Towel Dance,' Pulitzer Prize winner Raul Bledger captured startling images of zombies with bathing trunks on their heads, waving towels at each other like matadors. My own theory is that swimming laps is the first stage in the un-life cycle of a zombie, a precursor to the more aggressive phase marked by their insatiable hunger for human flesh. In fact, because of Bledger's photos, I'd say a zombie graduates from the relatively innocuous swimming phase after finding an unwitting, still-living straggler in the locker room. One taste of human blood is all it takes, and then they begin their ceaseless search for the next meal.
You might wonder why I continue to swim at the natatorium in spite of the zombies. It's safer than a jogging path or the gym, because at least if a zombie is swimming you know it's not going to eat you. Only walking zombies search for human grizzle. Zombie-free pools can't stay that way for long. Everyone knows zombies love chlorine. It's because of the bacteria-killing properties, the ability to render lifeless and colorless that which was once thriving. Even pools cleaned with triple-osmosis filters attract their fair share of zombies. It's because of the absence of microbes in the water. It's called lack. Zombies can smell the essence of lack. It draws them. One day I'll submit this journal as evidence to the Department of Health and Human Services. If we find a way to keep the zombies swimming, we can incinerate the sloughed body parts until all the residual zombie chi has dried up. The plague will end.