Zombie Apocalypse

“Bad day, hon?” Cheryl asked as she was chopping carrots at the counter. Her husband, Harold, flopped at their small circular kitchen table. He sighed and put his head in his hands. His hair was thin and scattered over his fingers. It took a while for him to respond as if he was trying to figure out the words.

“I don’t know where to begin, sweetling. A woman came in. She had been shot in the head, but she was convinced she was perfectly fine. Wouldn’t even let us help her. She was fine.” Harold explained.

Cheryl grimaced and mused what a gory sight it must have been.

“Oh, it was awful. Gore everywhere.” Harold shuddered. “She would speak and it would come flying at me, just.. everywhere. I could have thrown up. How she could be in such denial is beyond me. It was disgusting and she wouldn’t even let us help her change.”

He gestured at his outfit and continued, “I had to change. Just get rid of everything, I was positively splattered in it. All I could smell was gunsmoke, char, copper, and halitosis. That alone. That alone was enough, my dear. Except that is just where I am starting. You see. Actually, could I get a drink? A smoke too. Do we have any?”

Cheryl thought her husband’s timing was impeccable. She needed a minute to get away from all that, as she thought she herself would get sick. She went to the garage and grabbed a beer and a couple cigarettes and a joint, just in case. She lingered for a minute, sick with the vision of the woman just as Harold had described. Something wasn’t quite right though, because Harold has had all sorts of encounters. The feeling she had was not so much about what he had said but about what this all meant. Something about this wasn’t quite right, she knew. And she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know anymore. But, she chided herself, that’s not too supportive, is it? So Cheryl took a deep breath and braced herself to hear all the things she didn’t want to, but apparently would.

She put everything on the table, fished a lighter from her pocket, and sat in a chair facing Harold. He picked up the beer, nodded, and popped it open. He tipped the can towards her and took a long drink. Cheryl lit a cigarette and waited for Harold to continue, hoping he would just change the conversation. Cheryl had always found the simplest way of going about stuff you don’t want to do is to let happen, let it be just what it is, ask no questions about coulds and shoulds, then go from that moment. So, she waited.

Harold did continue, “I don’t know how it happened. And it was a whole mess too because the husband did it – shot her I mean. She wasn’t just defending him, she was denying it even happened. He didn’t shoot her and she wants to go back home. Case closed with her, you know? As far I can tell, she was supposed to get fixed up and go on to another life, he was supposed to spend his life in jail. Everything seemed pretty open and shut. Nothing seemed exceptional, special, anything. There was nothing whatsoever. And I’m telling you, she won’t let us help her – anything! Usually, even those in the worst states of denial will still change at least!” Harold paused to drink more, “But, no. There’s nothing wrong with her and she doesn’t even understand why she’s here. She’s screaming that she’s being held against her will, everything. Mind you, every time she screams more of that .. viscera flies everywhere. I’ve already changed, fortunately, I put a shield on to keep my mouth…” Harold shuddered again. He sipped more beer before he continued. Cheryl waited quietly, unsure what to think or say.

“And of course, as you know, I have seen all sorts, letting go of it can be hard, but this? It’s…” Harold stopped, not sure of what to say next. “It is quite incomprehensible. Usually, they at least let us help them first.” He repeated.

“So what happened? What did she do? Or what did you do?” Cheryl asked.

“She left.” He said simply, too stunned to say more.

“She left? She couldn’t leave. She can’t possibly! She was shot! She’d have to come right back of course!” Cheryl stammered out.

“Precisely. Just what I thought. So, I and a few others – we went looking for her, of course. This happens from time to time, too, so even then I was unconcerned beyond having to change a second time so quickly. Some people just do not want to be helped and whatnot, of course. They go wherever they go. Of course. But, of course, they have nothing, they can’t…We just find them to confirm and let them be unless they wish to come get help. But-but we could not find her. She was gone. Simply gone. She left. You see. Of course.” Harold babbled, his voice raising as he finished.

“She just needs to get found, Harold. That’s all. You simply didn’t find her, she probably has come back in the time you’ve been home.” Cheryl reassured him as much as herself.

“My dear, I wish it was that simple. It always has been. Generally. But no, she left. She cannot possibly come back. Well, of course, I mean she can. She can go anywhere she bloody well wants. Of course. But, as I’ve said. She left. She um. Well yes. She went back to – I suppose. Um – we – we don’t know. Well, we know where she went, we don’t know what to do about it.” He shrugged helplessly.

“But that would mean…she…” Cheryl gasped, unable to speak the words. “Like that? in that condition?” She gagged.

Harold nodded grimly, “She wouldn’t even let us clean her up. She wouldn’t change.”

“But that… that’s only happened a few times before. What does that mean? Could you get… Could you get blamed for her..if she really…?” Cheryl asked. “Surely this cannot be your fault.”

“That’s the thing, dear. I have no idea. I don’t think fault comes into it of course, I have no fear of my judgement in this. I didn’t make her leave or send her away. She did so of her own accord…I just… Well, no one has any idea. I mean, certainly, we’ve been expecting this sort of scenario since the last, but I suppose I thought there’d be an alert or some kind of guidance. Absolutely no one knew until she left. Nobody is getting back to us about what to do. They told us to just go home for now, I guess.”

He paused, then seemed to think out loud, “They came back, eventually, but we all knew they were going to, you know? Nobody just left. Left. Like this. It was more.. prearranged? She has no idea- as I’ve said. We had no idea. Nobody told us, clearly no one has told her. It is just the strangest…” he trailed off.

He resumed after a few moments of quiet, “we didn’t know until she left that she could or should or I maybe could have said something more helpful perhaps. Cheryl – I don’t know. If I had known, perhaps, my tone could have been adjusted accordingly. It would have been nice to have known what to do or anything more than this. A head’s up, bulletin, memo, something. I feel utterly blindsided and foolish! Imagine me…talking to…her as if, as if she was a normal person, and here, all along…mortifying. Simply mortifying. I can’t handle it.”

Cheryl took a long drag of her cigarette and put it out in the ashtray. She looked out the window, considering everything. She was right, she certainly did not want to hear this. She tapped her foot nervously or expectantly on the ground feeling everything Harold was saying as she tried to comprehend it.

“Well, what happened the last time?” Cheryl asked.

“Oh I don’t really know precisely, I wasn’t in the same role…was a lot younger and all. So far as I know, it made quite a mess for a bit, and generated a bit of a backlog. Lots of confusion, turnover, people weren’t sure where to go, what to do, what have you but it certainly wasn’t the end of the world.”

“Right, right. So this time won’t be the end of the world either.” Cheryl brightened.

Harold grimaced and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t precisely know.. that-that you are entirely accurate my dearest.”

Cheryl grabbed the joint and lit that now. She took a long drag and looked at Harold expectantly.

“You know.. they said last time that a next time would be.” Harold mumbled.

“Yeah but not for this, she was just shot in the head. She left. That’s not. That. It’s different. clearly. Like you said, it was different before. It’s probably just going to be a bit of a mess-“

“Cheryl,” Harold interrupted her. “You are not hearing me. It’s done. We don’t know. They told us all to go home, whichever one we’d like.”

Cheryl gasped. “Whichever…? Everyone?”

“Yeah we don’t know how it’ll all work out, last time was different, we, well they – they fixed him up first. They knew what was expected, you know? People knew him and expected him. He didn’t leave like that, he was…he was fine, obviously. He was supposed to .. well it was more, there was more of a plan in place. Everyone knew beforehand, and all. He certainly knew what he was doing, too. And He was certainly a lot friendlier. She was terrifying, frankly. I’ve never seen such rage and She had no idea — well, maybe she does now. I suppose she certainly must now, huh? What a shocker.” He chuckled and fell quiet considering more and continuing.

“It wasn’t like this, as you know. This is just rather, ah, unexpected to assuredly say the least. ” Harold took a deep breath, lit his own cigarette, and continued, “But either way, you know, we can go back and forth and all now. You know, since – she — well, it’s the – uh, well. Yes, wherever we’d like. Watch and see what happens next, I guess.”

“Oh My God.” Cheryl breathed.

“She wouldn’t even let us give her a new…” he gestured towards himself. Harold’s eyes grew wide as he shook his head uncomprehending. “I can’t imagine the smell.”

“So nobody knows what happens next?” Cheryl asked.

“Oh well, you and I both know what happens next. They’ve certainly talked about that enough. I don’t know what happens with her, of course. How can she go on like that? Will she teach anything to anyone? The whole judgment, living and dead…I don’t think I expected it like this – beyond the obvious, of course. I don’t know that I had even considered it would be a woman this time.” Harold replied. “I suppose that was rather blind of me. It makes sense, now that I think of it.”

Cheryl sighed and took another long drag of her joint. She patted Harold’s hand with her free one. She could hear shouting in the distance and the commotion of panic and many leaving quickly and unexpectedly. Doors were slamming as goodbyes and well wishes were being given. They were too far off for visitors, so it remained the two sitting and talking.

After a while, Cheryl began laughing and said, “So, she just goes back, then, she comes back there – to her home, her body – just like that?”

Harold nodded.

“I suppose the humans all knew something we didn’t, Harold. I thought all of the revelations were going to be more figurative, not literal.” Cheryl laughed some more, “Surely you see how their whole zombie worship makes so much more sense now, doesn’t it?” Cheryl asked, laughing harder.

Harold sat straight up. “My God…”

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