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Mirror zombie. Word count: 26436. Word 25k: guttural

Photo of Westy courtesy of Erica

So, Zach now has this voice in his head, which he has named “Westy.” Debated about translating Westy’s words (Westy only ever says “brains”) and decided that A) It would be more clear what the conversation was and B) translation = words. Always go with the word count, says I. Zach and Westy step out on the town, dressed in Zach’s Sunday best…. And we have our first interaction with zombies! Scaaaaary!

The streets were emptier than they usually were; in fact, there wasn’t another soul around. Even late at night, this part of town remained pretty busy. With several night clubs, late-night bars, and music venues all in a three block radius there was plenty to do and see and people would come to do and see it. But not tonight. The windows of the bars and restaurants were dark; the marquees of the clubs were unlit and devoid of the names of bands that usually graced them; the liquor store was closed.

The liquor store never closed.

“How long was I out?”


The voice — no, it wasn’t a voice. It was just a guttural growl, a low moan, an angry, hungry groan. And it hadn’t come from inside my head; it came from the shadows, from a dark alley to my right. There was movement there: a slow, awkward shuffling. A figure emerged from the darkness. It was a Z, shambling out of the night. Slumping forward, arms slack at its sides, it lurched towards me.

It was instinctual fear that froze me in place. I’d never come face to face with a zombie before, never seen one this close (unless you count my own self examinations in the mirror) and though all the zombie preparedness videos and pamphlets had told me exactly what to do in case of a zombie encounter, the tips and tricks all left my head and I was rooted in place, unable to move.

It walked right past me and on down the street.

I stood there, in shock. I had just had a close encounter with a Z and it hadn’t attacked me! I watched as it walked into the distance, just shuffling along, uttering the occasional growl, not a care in the world (save for the constant, never ending acquisition of brains.) So absorbed was I in my observations that I didn’t notice the group of 30 more Zs which subsequently emerged from the alley and streamed around me as they followed the lone scout before them. They passed me close enough that some even bumped me as they went by. At the contact, they would utter the occasional grunt or groan but there was little reaction to my presence beyond that. They all seemed driven and focused on something at the end of the road, something beyond my sight or knowledge.

    I realized that while some part of my brain that was still rooted in the past had felt fear, had caused me to mentally panic at the sight of the walking dead, I hadn’t actually felt it. There was no chill up my spine. No goosebumps or hair standing on end. No physical fear response. And no emotional fear response either: my life hadn’t flashed before my eyes, I hadn’t begun bargaining with God for my life. Whether this was a product of my dead nervous system or that I had just known that the zombie wouldn’t harm me in any way, I do not know. What I did know was that I was the best-dressed zombie in town.
And that made me smile.
“Westy. Seriously. How long was I out?”
“Brains.” You took some time. Longer than we expected.
“‘Some time?’ ‘We?’ Can you elaborate?”
“Brains.” Three of your years have passed since we entered you.
“Three years?” I managed to muster up some righteous indignation, just out of sheer habit. But I wasn’t really feeling it. The thought depressed me — if I couldn’t work up a sweat getting angry about something, was there any point in living anymore? But then, I didn’t really feel the depression anymore either.
“I’m like Dexter!”

“He is…or was?… a character on TV.” I sensed confusion. “Television. Little box. Moving pictures. That’s not important right now. What is important is… well, I couldn’t say this is important either, but it is the point, and that should count for something. Dexter is this guy who’s got what he calls the ‘Dark Passenger’ riding with him, and it makes him kill people, but since Dexter has a conscience, he follows the code that his father showed him, and he only kills people who need killing, like serial killers and rapists and stuff. But his whole deal is that he’s a monster and he’s pretending to be human and pretending to have feelings and whatnot. Like me!”

“Brains.” Except that you have no code to follow. You will kill the next living thing you see, eat its brains, and be done with it.

“Well, we’ll just see about that, Westy.”

“Brains.” Indeed. Now, shall we see where those fellas are going? The voice in my head somehow nodded towards the group of zombies who were just now disappearing into the night.

“Fine. Yeah. Whatever.”

Catching up to the Zs wasn’t hard. They don’t walk all that fast unless they’re chasing food, and there wasn’t much in the way of food on the street. I was tempted to stop in the Taco Bell, but it looked as if it hadn’t been a functional food source for quite some time. The rest of the fast food joints on the street were all in the same state. Windows were either boarded up, or broken, doors hung loose on their hinges, lights were off, nobody was home.

The Zs were headed north, which suited me fine. I didn’t really care where we went, was just along for the ride, there to see what I could see.

The commercial zone gave way to a residential area, but it was just as empty. Houses were boarded up, barricaded however the owners could imagine to do it. It looked like everything had come on in a hurry, like people were a bit rushed when trying to build their fortifications. This zombie thing had been going on for years and it still took these folks by surprise. It didn’t look like these fortifications worked all that well — windows were broken, doors torn down, worse….

Here and there,  you’d see it. A lone Z, or maybe a couple of them, on hands and knees, tearing at entrails, feasting on a kill. What was left of my humanity caused me to wretch. What was left of my stomach was completely empty, so nothing came out.

“Brains,” said Westy. C’mon kid. The first one’s always the hardest. Like this was a murder scene and Westy was the grizzled veteran homicide detective and I was the young rookie looking to prove himself. Except that here, proving myself meant finding some living thing, preferably a human being, and eating it. I wasn’t all that eager to get that first notch on my belt.