[A short piece of surreal fiction about accepting our weird, gross bodies. -ARG]
I think I just died.
I can’t be sure yet. This could just be a very strange third-person dream.
Given that my body is lying on the ground below me, being munched on by the living dead, I’m seriously hoping that this is only a dream.
There’s definitely a dream-like quality to the motion around me. The bodies moving around the corpsified version of me leave behind trails of light, like I’m looking through one of those old school two-color 3D glasses. My body is the only one not moving. I watch for a bit longer, and decide that if this is a dream, I really want to wake up.
The zom-zoms, my personal pet name for the dullards, soon move on from my body to chase fresher meat- my companions, of course. I don’t much like them anyway. Everyone I’d really liked had gotten zombified weeks ago. Or however long ago. I’m having difficulty remembering timelines, which favors the dream theory I’m rooting for.
On the positive side, I’m sorta getting the hang of floating, if no one takes an objective measure. It feels like I’m on the first level of a video game, and all my controls are sticking. This level would be quite a bit less disturbing without my dead body on the ground, covered in zombie-bites like giant gross chicken pox.
I’ve never been a looker. But even as an acne-covered teen with an affection for Cheetos, Cheezits, Cheez Whiz, and other cheese products, I’d still never looked this bad. My skin has been replaced by slimy gray candle wax, and some white foam oozes out of my gracelessly slack mouth.
I avoid looking directly at the bite marks as long as I can, because I have always been very squeamish. I faint at needles, I can’t stand the sight of blood, and I both vomited and gotten crazy severe shakes after a documentary on poultry farms. Since then, I’ve been a life-long vegetarian. Even during this zom-zom rodeo, I shut my eyes every time somebody gets bitten. If this isn’t a terrible dream, then my weak stomach is probably the reason I’m corpse food. Zombies are gross.
Finally looking closer, I’m gross too. Along with red, angry bites everywhere, a whole huge chunk is missing out of my clearly broken right forearm. Those zombastards must’ve chomped right through the bones!
Perhaps this horrible maybe-dream is telling me to give up the guitar. Good riddance, I’d never excelled at finger picking notes. I’m better with chords, by which I mean I’m not very good at all. I can’t entirely blame my recent six-month hiatus on the apocalypse though. I’d stopped practicing long before I’d witnessed somebody turn from conscious person into gross hungry candle.
At least I don’t feel queasy! Thank goodness. I don’t want to vomit all over my own corpse.
My corpse, which starts to groan and twitch.
Oh no. No no no no no. I hadn’t considered this possibility.
Wake up, me!
Wake up, wake up, wake up!
The groan echoes throughout the room, and the twitches made by my body leave behind shimmering shadows as it moves. My own eyes open below me, now made of gray zombie wax. My body slowly rises of its own accord, groaning.
Even pinching doesn’t wake me up. Can’t even feel it. I’m watching my own corpse turn into a zombie.
My body pushes itself up and drags its own gore across the tile toward some small sounds in the house. I’d gotten killed in a kitchen. I hope I hadn’t been doing something stupid when I died, although there is a distinct chance I had been looking for Cheezits.
I follow myself, which sounds strange. What could I call my own zombified body?
Me-bie? Other, Grosser Self? Zom-me? Zombody? Zombuddy?
I favor the latter two, but can’t pick. I guess I’ll stick with “Body” for now. I watch Body shamble toward the… what was it? Living room? I float through the wall, frustrated at my lack of speed. Body hit the counter at stomach level, smearing blood from its limp, useless right arm as it stumbled about.
The living room is bright, sparkling almost, with sun-drenched draperies that left little star-shadows wherever they moved. Sunlight is incredibly bright, shining in the air like suspended zirconium. I can’t remember the house perfectly, but my blurry memories definitely disagree with my current senses.
While I’m distracted by the shimmering sunlight, Body runs into a coffee table and falls flat on its waxy dead face.
I whack my forehead with my own palm in annoyance. It doesn’t hurt a lick.
The realization hits me like my palm to the face didn’t: I am a ghost. I am a non-corporeal phantasm, separated from my mortal coil. And my mortal coil’s clumsy husk had just tripped over a coffee table.
I try to sit on the couch to think, but I accidentally float too far down and get hopelessly lost in the cantaloupe-colored foam inside the old-school flower motifs. I flail uselessly until I have the brilliant idea to just float my way out, which takes longer than expected. Honestly, having to float in three dimensions should really come with a freaking game controller.
When I exit the couch, Body is gone. I hyperventilate for two seconds before I realize that I’m not actually breathing, and it’s not affecting me. I guess it’d been a mental reaction, not a physical one. No shakes, no overwhelming panic.
Maybe being a ghost isn’t so bad, just as long as I don’t try to sit on any couches. Those things are deceptively dangerous.
I float toward the next room, and the next, before finding Body flush up against a bookshelf. Gross coagulated blood is smeared all over the wood, various trinkets, and useless shelved Blu-rays. The books had been spared, but only because Body’s sleeve snagged on a metal hook holding orphan keys.
Body could easily release itself, if it would just stop going forward. Its groans echo throughout the room. I never remembered zombies being this loud before, or echoing in the slightest. Body’s vocal complaints are matched by significantly more alive sounds from another room. Taps of boots, heavy breathing.
Body swings around haphazardly and attempts to shamble toward the alive-noises. Its sleeve is still stuck fast, resulting in the worrisome wobble of the bookshelf.
My worry is short-lived. One good jerk from Body topples the whole thing, with pale trails of the movement cascading as the bookshelf falls. Body collapses underneath, feet flailing like it had slipped on a cartoon banana peel. The heavy wood shelf pins Body’s shoulder and twists its leg in a strange direction. It’s even stranger to realize I don’t consider Body’s legs mine anymore. Does ghost-me have legs? I’m a little afraid to check. Procrastination seems like a solid plan.
The humans enter, glance at Body, and move on. A small train of zom-zoms pursue at a slower pace. The alive people are fleeing, and anybody (ha!) who isn’t trapped by a toppled bookshelf is following at as fast a pace as those dead little legs would allow.
The house is quiet soon, except for Body’s noises. The groans are starting to sound more whiny to me, like a puppy begging to go out and eat the tasty humans. I wonder uselessly if Body is housetrained.
I briefly consider trying to lift the shelf, before abolishing the thought. Even alive-me wouldn’t have been able to lift it. In addition to having a pizza-style face, I used to have laughable upper body strength that my meager prowess at guitar had not enhanced.
Lying down beside Body, I put my hands behind my head and crossed my ankles of questionable existence. I glance over at the gross, waxy thing beside me that I had once inhabited.
“Would you prefer Zombody, or Zombuddy?” I ask.
Body continues grumbling without recognition that I’d spoken. I roll my incorporeal eyes and think. I could stay like this forever, and might end up doing that. It doesn’t seem so bad. I do the exact same nothing every summer. My world is much more at peace now that I’m not running. This frightening thing has happened, is still happening, and I’m adjusting. I’m okay. Chances are this isn’t a dream, but it’s also not a nightmare.
By far my biggest concern about ghost-hood?