Sunday, October 31, 2010
Love & Zombies [Short Story]
The blood was running down the side of my neck as I stared into her wild eyes. I reacted quickly, pushing her off of me. The old woman fell backwards, slamming her head into the railing on the side of the bed. She lay unmoving after that. I didn't stop to check on her though. Starting to lose consciousness I stumbled out of the room and collapsed on the hallway floor.
I've seen a lot of things in my time as a caretaker for the infirm. I've seen the best and worst of people. Never before had I seen a woman rise up from a bed after flatlining. I had just stood there rooted to the ground by shock. The wires were still hooked to her body. I could hear the steady hum indicating her heart wasn't beating. I say this because, as a 29 year old man who works out regularly, it's a little embarrassing to let an 89 year old emaciated dead woman get the drop on you.
Lucky for me, I wasn't alone at her house that day. Having expected Mrs. McClerick to pass soon, we had a rotating shift, just to be sure someone was with her at all times. I can't imagine what it looked like to the paramedics when they arrived. I just know that when I woke up I was in a hospital bed, surrounded by a group of doctors who all had the same perplexed look on their faces.
"Gentlemen," I groggied.
"Hello, Jefferson. How are you feeling?" Dr. Mitchell, the administer of Sister of Mercy asked.
"Is his name really Jefferson?" A doctor in the back queried.
"I feel..." I managed before promptly drifting back to unconsciousness.
As you may imagine, there were a lot of tests done on me. I don't know what the initial autopsy on Mrs. McClerick had revealed, but I know they were keen to hear my story. Experts flew in from all over the world to interview me and to run their own tests. For the first month after being bit, I felt like a pin cushion; stuck by anyone who happened to have a needle in their vicinity. I think a couple of orderlies may have even jabbed me a couple times for fun.
After awhile it became pretty clear that they weren't going to find anything out through me. I was released with a clean bill of health. Whatever the cause, the world's first documented zombie had not infected me with that bite. The place I worked at nicely offered to let me take another month off to rest and recoup. I accepted the month with pay, but knew I would be spending the time looking for another job. Sure it seemed unlikely it would ever happen again, but then, you could have said that about the first time.
I did have to return to the house at least once. I had left a lot of my stuff over there while on watch. It may have been a bit freaky returning, but hey, we're talking a laptop here. I mean, I do alright, but I'm not made of laptops. I nervously made my way back to the house. I hadn't expected anyone to be there other than a few guards. The house had been seized by the government for the most part. Scientific interest and all that. When I rang the doorbell imagine my surprise to find it wasn't a guard that answered but a pretty young lady.
She was a brunette with her hair done in such a way that she reminded me of Anette Funicello. I managed not to tell her so but instead introduced myself. All color drained from her face. She began ushering me into the place apologizing profusely.
"I am so sorry!"
"For?" I asked, slightly confused.
"Anna McClerick was my grandmother," she explained while leading me to the sitting room.
"Ah, " I said. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Grandma was old and sick for some time. I'm sorry and more than a little embarrassed that she bit you."
"Well, I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it Miss..."
I sat on a short white couch that I'd always thought looked comfortable but had avoided since the entire room had been kept in pristine condition. I figured the old lady owed me the honor at the very least.
"Oh, I'm sorry, how rude of me. My name is Anette," she said and sat down beside me.
"Funicello?" I joked stupidly.
She smiled, saving me some humiliation.
"McClerick," she answered. "The last one too by all accounts. Now that Grandma is gone."
"Sorry," I muttered. I could feel myself digging the hole deeper and deeper.
"Oh that's alright," she said, a faraway look in her eyes. Then perking up, "hey, can I get you something to drink?"
"Actually I just came here to pick some things I'd left."
I decided I wanted to get out of there before I could make even more of ass of myself.
"Oh," she said, frowning, "of course. I can't blame you for wanting to get out of here. After such a traumatic experience. I'll show you where they put everything."
She led me to a room in the back of the house. We didn't talk again till I'd collected my stuff and returned to the front door. Everything I could think to say just seemed awkward. How does one comfort the grieving when the deceased had recently tried to eat you? Finally as I was about to leave she spoke again.
"Listen, I would like the opportunity to properly apologize on behalf of my late grandmother. Not that I expect it to make up for anything but would you have dinner with me sometime? Away from this place I mean."
There were a million reasons to say no. But as I said, she looked like Anette Funicello and I've always had a thing for old Disney actresses.
"Sure," I said. "How's Friday?"
A smile lit her face up as she said, "Friday is perfect."
Okay, so I'm willing to admit that it probably wasn't the greatest idea but one dinner quickly led to another. Next thing I knew we'd been dating for six months and were getting engaged. What can I say? Her grandma may have taken a piece of my neck, but I had given my heart to Anette. Speaking of the dead...
During our courtship a legal battle over the disposal of the body had raged on. Scientists around the world argued that the body needed to be studied. If they'd had their way, every one of them would have their hands inside of that woman. On the other side so many different activists fought to have the body buried that I lost track of who was fighting for what cause. Of course my darling Anette was at the center of everything. I did my best to help steady her through the storm.
When it was finally ruled that the body would be laid to rest with the provision that a number of samples be taken first, the argument quickly turned to 'how many?' Needless to say it was a closed casket funeral. Between you and me, old Mrs. McClerick looked like swiss cheese by the end. When what was left was buried Anette and I at least felt like we had some kind of closure. After that it became a question of setting the date.
Which brings me to the day of the wedding. It was a beautiful morning when I awoke. Birds sang as they are privy to do on such occasions. The sun did its shining in a blue sky thing. Everything was perfect. Until the phone call that is.
"Hello?" I answered.
I cradled the phone with my neck as I did up the buttons on my suit. Quick look in the mirror and I had to admit, if I were an immodest person, I could easily let me go to my head.
"Mr. Jefferson?" The voice on the other end was unfamiliar, with a heavy accent. One of those confusing ones that never seems classifiable.
"It's just Jefferson. Or Mr. Adams if you prefer."
"It's not Adam Jefferson?"
"Only if there's a comma in between."
"Oh, yes of course, I see. My assistant make mistake."
"No problem. It's something I'm used to by now. What can I do for you?"
"Well, uh, my name's Robert Brinn. I'm one of scientists who haz working on Martha McClerick."
I rolled my eyes for no one to see.
"Have been working, not 'has working'. You're not a cat wanting a cheeseburger."
"Skip it. Listen, Dr. Brinn, I've had a thousand tests done on me. There was nothing special to see. I'm sorry but you're just wasting your time if you want to examine me." I started to hang up but his voice caught me.
"You be misunderstanding me laddie. It's not you I'm concerned with but your bride to be."
Fear flooded me.
"Anette?" I asked.
"Yar, Anette. My department has been studying her grandmother's DNA and we've located a gene that's exclusive to her line. We're calling it the Z-Gene for the moment."
"But isn't there already a Z gene?"
"Fine, zen. Call it ze Zombie Gene. Ze point is, that your beloved could very well come back to life after she dies. Any children you have could be monsters in waiting. Meester Jefferson? Hullo?"
I hung up the phone. I didn't want to hear anymore. A second later the phone started ringing again. I threw it against the wall hoping to shatter it. Instead it bounced off the wall and kept ringing. And you want to tell me cell phones are a good thing?
So now you're caught up. Me in front of the preacher and God. Anette across from me, staring through the veil, her brown eyes beautiful dark pools in the lace.
"Do you take this woman..." The preacher asking.
Anette, unknowing. Hopeful.
Can I? What consequences might come about by our union? Might I be helping keep alive a line that would eventually damn mankind? Could I be a part of creating a generation of ravenous monsters?
"I do." I said.
Well hell, I survived didn't I?