The following short is inspired by Jessica West’s #10 Weeks of Horror writing challenge. With only two weeks of the challenge remaining, I was excited to be able to write this piece, an element of which I’d thought about for some time. Each week has been dedicated to a variety of monster themes; with Halloween being a mere two weeks away, this week’s theme is Zombie Teens. So here it is:
“Not Your Ordinary Zombie”
As usual, I lifted dad’s head so he could give mom a kiss and, just like every other day, I took him to work. Though he was itching for a new body and I told him I’d take him out looking for one, today was a big day and I couldn’t just ditch school.
There was a new kid in school—a girl—and she was just like me. Though he didn’t like it at first, he helped me find the courage to ask her out. But I’ll tell you, those first few days after I breached the subject, I didn’t hear the end of it on those long walks to the factory. And it took everything for me to not just leave his head right there on the side of the road for someone else to find. Once I even thought about even shooting it through that old basketball hoop.
He, tucked under my arm, asked me how I was going to do it as we (that is I) walked down the street and before he could answer, he said, “Ooh, ooh, how about that one?” He gestured across the street with his lone eyebrow.
“Doesn’t look too good Dad. A little too rotten.”
Dad needed another eye too. His newest one was getting quite bad.
“So, how are you going to do it Adam?”
I hadn’t a clue. I’d never seen anyone like me before. Her name was Hawwāh. If you’re like me you’re probably thinking that’s a weird name. I thought it was weird, at least at first. But after saying it—oh, I don’t know, maybe a <i>thou</i>sand times—I got used to it.
“I don’t know Dad, I’ll figure it out.”
“Do your friends know?”
“That you like her.”
I didn’t know if they knew. But they did tease me nonetheless. Finally, there’s someone else like you, they’d said. Some kids at school actually tried to get rough with me. Sure, sometimes they’d corner me, push me around a little, but when you have two good strong legs and they don’t it’s easy to get away.
Of course my friends were few and far between and those I did have took a long time to take a liking to me. I was different, like Hawwāh was different, and I don’t know what it was like for her, but it was sure rough for me.
In middle school, I spent a lot of time in libraries and read about times long past. No one could really tell me how long ago those times were, but my best guess is that it has been a very long time. I’d read about times when people’s skin color mattered and if you were of the wrong color, you could even get killed for it. Now nothing like that ever happened to me, but I got called plenty of mean names.
I looked down and knew by the look in my dad’s face, the way the muscles under his ragged cheek tense up, that he was worried about me.
“You okay Adam?”
I sighed. “I’m okay Dad. Just a little nervous.”
Dad laughed, and I laughed too.
I dropped him off on his desk at the factory and said good morning to Ms. Flimberhurst, Ms. Jones, and Mr. Kirkpatrick. They’d been working at the factory almost as long as my dad and they were like family to me. They wished me good luck and set about filing their paperwork and getting ready for a new shipment.
Dad’s factory was <i>the</i> number one factory in the city and he was the head of it all. They made the best clothes in the tri-county area, maybe even the whole state. See, what set dad’s factory apart from the others was its standards. They weren’t satisfied (like most other factories) with just sewing together old used clothes. They weren’t satisfied with just putting patches over old bite marks.
They were about finding the most appropriate color matches and would never, say, mix polyester with cotton, or silk with wool. Cotton went with cotton. Silk with silk. That was it.
That being said, dad’s factory targeted working professionals and he could only shake his head (as best as one can shake one’s head when one lacks a body) at today’s trend (especially among kids) of wearing clothes with bite marks like they were badges of honor. To say nothing of wearing clothes still stained with blood. Dad thought it was barbaric and a regression to former times.
So I said goodbye to Ms. Flimberhurst, Ms. Jones, and Mr. Kirkpatrick before promising Dad I’d take him out to find that body tomorrow.
I ran out the door to my dad’s “knock ‘em dead” and hurried on to school.
I looked for her everywhere.
Rick and Gary (two brothers) were trying to play catch with an old football they found two days ago, but it’s awful hard to play catch when you only have two arms between the both of you. Their dad had long promised to take them out looking for new arms, but, thanks to his long-standing drinking problem, he fell and broke his leg. The dog, Rick and Gary, tell me, took it, and ran off with it. They hadn’t seen it since.
I found her when I heard a group of girls screaming and yelling. They were teasing her about her hair, about her breasts, calling her fat and all the other mean things girls say to one another.
I ran up behind them and when I took Sarah’s hand to pull her away, I actually broke her entire arm off. Good thing that it was a clean break (it snapped off quite easily) and while she called me an asshole, Mary and Jane told her the nurse could put her back together easy.
So they left and I told the others (some of whom I didn’t know) to amscray. Two of them only had one foot each and while it took them awhile to hobble on out of there, the others got the message quick.
Hawwāh smiled at me and tucked her long blond hair behind her exquisite ear. She didn’t wear makeup, which was refreshing, because so many girls these days try to put on, say, lipstick even when they only have a half a lip. Some even put on eyeliner when one of their eyes hangs out of its socket. And, let me tell you, nail polish is never ever becoming on anyone who has no fingernails.
All the ads and commercials that say otherwise are just lying.
And yes, she had breasts. I don’t know if they would be considered big or small or what. I hadn’t really anything to compare them to. I’d read about what they are for (biologically that is) in one of those old textbooks, but seems to me that since girls (that is women) no longer feed their newborns in such a way, “evolution” as I heard it once called, had done away with them for the most part.
Anyway, yes, those breasts, they did something to me. And if you’re reading this you probably know what I mean.
So we were there, alone.
I toed my feet across the ground and looked down.
“Thank you,” she said.
“No problem.” I tried to act tough, like it was no big deal.
“I like your jacket.”
“What? This old thing?”
And that’s how it went. She saying something, me saying something stupid. I didn’t ask her out that day, but one day I did.
And if you’re reading this today, you can thank Hawwāh.
I can already hear you asking “how?” You’re probably skeptical. Trust me, I understand.
So here’s how it happened, because it was after Hawwāh that everything started to change.
You see, like me, Hawwāh had always worried she was the only one.
We got to talking one day at lunch, and she said this to me and it was something, she told me, she often thought about as she lay awake at night while her parents fought.
“When everyone in the world is a zombie, don’t they stop being zombies? Aren’t they just people then?”
Such, of course, had led her to questioning herself. “If everyone in the world is a person and I am not like them, what am I? If I am not like other people, then I am not a person. Doesn’t that mean <i>I</i> am a zombie?”
She’d looked at me then as if she sought in me an answer.
I, of course, didn’t have one, but felt obligated to respond.
“If you’re a zombie, then I’m a zombie too.”
“So what do we do then?”
I straightened my back and smiled. “Be proud of it.”
So we were proud of being ourselves—the “Zombie Crew”—we’d begin to call ourselves. So what if we had two good arms, two good legs, a beating heart?
It was what made us different that made us special.
And in finding someone else who was different, we could both learn not to hate ourselves.