One morning a dark-haired woman in her mid-twenties walked into my office. A flowing blue dress dangled off her small frame, while her gaunt face hid under a wide hat containing enough feathers for flight. A fraying at her elbows suggested her blouse had been in the family a while. Her pale lips fluttered. In respect, I rose to my full seven-foot height, and then she spoke.
“My husband is a zombie.”
I stare down from my perch and think about suicide for the thirtieth time today, but I can’t do it. If the five story fall doesn’t kill me, I don’t want to be at the mercy of the hoard.
I snap open another soda and stare at the horizon as a rainbow forms through the distant rain clouds. It’s beautiful. Then I look down at the writhing ground beneath me and I want to vomit. They crawl over themselves, crushing those at the bottom as they try to reach me. Each day the pile gets a little higher.
Before pregnancy became extinct and babies stopped being born, the greasing of death’s once firm grip caused a lot of worry about the potential of the revived. Would they turn vicious? Could they be restored to a responsive state? How much humanity do we ascribe to an animated cadaver?
I stayed apart from it all. I had my farm, my family. Cora was marrying age, but once it became clear there wouldn’t be any grandchildren forthcoming, Ma stopped needling her. When the corpses wandered through, stinking, twitching, chattering, Bub and I ushered them off our land, gently, respectfully. Then we went back to work. Outside, the world clashed and gnashed its collective teeth. I had less use for it than ever.
Cora got sick first. I drove her into the city, threading my way past thickening crowds of the dead. She wheezed from the passenger seat of my pickup; pressed her fingers against the side window as if she were reaching for those grim mannequins.
“When did there get to be so many of them?”
To: Grove Lake HOA
From: Katie Kennedy, Secretary
Re: Holiday Preparations
Patrick parked near his in-law’s graves. The sunset was nearly finished, and the graveyard was appropriately dark. He flashed Lilly a glittering rockstar grin—clearly visible despite the coming gloom.
“About my allowance,” he began an old discussion, keeping the grin while talking. He somehow avoided looking like he was gritting his teeth.
“Not now,” Lilly interrupted opening her car door.
“No,” Patrick grabbed Lilly’s wrist. “I need more for my research.”
“No.” Lilly pulled away but he held her wrist, bruising her again. She struggled, finally getting out of the door, pulling him half way out her car door in the process. She stomped off into the grass and granite, listening for him behind her, but not looking back.
She stopped in sight of her parents’ graves. The soil was piled to one side and the fresh sod pushed to the other side. One of Patrick’s devices stood at the head of each grave. Lilly pivoted on one foot, looking back at Patrick and the car, both hidden in the dark.