So, it was three years ago. The summer before my senior year of college. And I was just so ready to get on with my life and get out of that damn town. I got a job at this little deli. It was like hell on Earth. I was working with these kids right out of high school and they were bossy as hell.
Dalia was the worst. She’d only been working there for two weeks, but you would have thought she was my boss. Then there was Martin. Whitest kid you ever saw, but acted like he was straight outta the projects. Just turned eighteen, but he had a different girl every week. Don’t think one of them was ever over fifteen years old. He would just say the most inappropriate shit. Funny as hell. He asked me if I was a virgin on my first day, then winked at me and said I wasn’t his type anyway. I thought he was gay for about two weeks.
And Connor, of course. He had the dirty job. Cleaned the bathrooms, swept, kept the kitchen clean. Only worked a few hours a day, but every time I saw him I smiled a little too big. I was not the flirting type, but between Connor and Martin you would’ve thought I was the type of girl to date a different guy every night. But I never liked Martin that way, and Connor was just… so awkward.
I did like him, I really did. He wouldn’t believe me if I told him that now, but he believed it back then. If I could go back and change how that all went – I don’t know. We did have fun. But when I left on that last day, he just looked at me like I’d ripped up his heart like an old receipt.
It’s kind of a long story.
I haven’t published any fiction in a while, so I may be a bit rusty. I’m going to try to post at least one fiction piece per month. We’ll see how that goes… Anyway, this was just something I was experimenting with, it might be awful – but there is just something I kind of like about it. Hope it’s somewhat enjoyable (I swear, I’m not crazy):
So, I was walking through the forest the other day and I just couldn’t stop looking at the dirt. It was one of those moments in life when you see something totally mundane, something that you see all the time, but this time it’s just super interesting for some reason.
What is dirt? What is it really? Bits of all things dead? Bits of all things living? Or is it some strange combination of the two? Can you imagine if all things were a combination of dead and alive? This is the point where I started imagining people going about their days, just like everything is normal, but with dead bodies everywhere.
Your grandpa dies in bed of a heart attack, and you just leave him there. Maybe someone chokes to death at dinner, and you never need to find anyone else to fill their chair. Road kill remains in the road, half eaten by vultures, or whatever. Dead bodies floating in rivers, filling up convalescent homes and hospitals. And the living just go about their day as if there aren’t rotting corpses in every corner.
A crazy thought, I know. But looking down at the dirt, it sort of occurred to me that we kind of already do that. The dead are underground or burned to ashes, but they’re still somewhere. We can’t make them disappear; we can just pretend they aren’t there. That’s what the dirt is really made of: the things we want to ignore.
Sometimes I do feel crazy. But I figure everyone is feeling at least a little crazy right now. I hoist the limp body of Bootsey over my narrow shoulders and continue on down the hill. He’s not dead, just lifeless. There’s still hope for him, at least that’s what I tell myself.
I guess it’s a bit sad when the only living being you know is scraggly gray cat. I guess it’s even worse when that cat is partially zombified, and isn’t technically living. But he has the potentiality of coming back to life, and that’s more than I can say for anyone else I love.
All I have to do is find the healing flower. It’s rumored to smell like honey and be the color of the perfect sunset. I may not know where to look, but I’ll know when I find it. Bootsey is all I have left, I will find that damn flower if it kills me. It’s not like I would have anything to live for if it weren’t for Bootsey.
He fought off the zombies the best he could, clawing and hissing at them until he was cornered. He managed to get away with his crazy acrobatic skills, but when we finally got to safety I noticed a small scratch. A zombie scratch.
He started turning slowly, his eyes fading from yellow to red and his fur becoming coarse and dry. I put a muzzle on him to keep him from biting, and little cat booties to keep him from scratching. He wasn’t yet bloodthirsty, but he was already poisonous. Now he has entered into the final phase of the transformation: hibernation. The calm before the storm.
He will sleep for exactly twenty-four hours before his eyes open for the last time. All of who he was will be gone. I’ve got my watch strapped securely around my belt. The change will be complete in four hours and fifty-two minutes.
Thant means that I have four hours and fifty-one minutes to find that damn flower. I continue on through the dense forest, looking for the color of the sunset.
It was October in that little northern California town not worth naming. Pine needles covered lawns and a cool wind blew in from the west. In a week or two it would start snowing, and it wouldn’t stop until mid April. She walked down the familiar road to the local high school and watched as that familiar blue Chevy pickup truck pulled into the parking lot.
She walked slow, hoping he would catch up to her. But instead he stayed a few feet back and they both just went along listening to each other’s footsteps. This had happened too many times. She wanted to turn around and say hi, act like they were good friends. Or maybe she wanted him to say hi first because then she wouldn’t embarrass herself. But nothing happened. She wondered if he still knew her name.
That night she stood in her family’s kitchen cleaning cherries. Her uncle had brought them when he came to visit. But now they had begun to mold. She sorted through them, meticulously discarding any that did not look perfect. Some were obviously not edible, covered in mold or deformed and discolored. But others looked ok from a distance, maybe they were too soft or had a small tear. She wondered briefly what would happen if she ate one of these bad cherries. Probably nothing, she assumed, but better to be safe than sorry.
She ended up throwing half of the cherries away. She watched them sink into the garbage and disappear under used plastic bags and other discarded food. But the cherries left everything they touched stained with their deep red juice. She cleaned up the kitchen and tried one of the perfect looking cherries, it wasn’t as good as she expected.
The next day she walked to school again. It was colder than the day before and she thought the snow might come sooner than expected. Once again that blue Chevy pulled into the parking lot and he started walking behind her. Today though, she tried to walk fast and leave him walking alone. He would never say hi because he would never like her. And she would never say hi because she was too scared to know.