On one side of the grocery aisle, there was a zombie. On the other side was a woman shopping for pasta sauce.
“There are just too many choices nowadays,” she whispered to herself, trying to decide whether 8 grams of sugar was preferable to 12 grams of unsaturated fat. The light jazz music of the store stole her attention for a moment and she bobbed her head. Placing one sauce back on the shelf and one in her cart, she kept moving through the aisle.
A nice Japanese glaze caught her eye. After looking around, she impulsively threw the item in her cart and thought, This is why you don’t shop hungry. Her morning shakes weren’t making the cut. But it was worth it to look slim when she took her kids to the pool. My next husband could be just around the corner.
Just before making her way to the next aisle, a bag of rice-chips stopped her and again, she looked around to see if anyone was watching her, then stuffed the chips into her cart.
A new jazz tune came on the store’s radio. She knew this one and hummed along. As her cart turned, she eyed the display of delicious meats, but held strong.
No more than five feet in front of her now, stood the zombie. Her name was Daisy.
“Fuck!” the woman said in a loud shriek. Her heart pounded and panicked.
Daisy was a dead, old woman dressed in a friendly yellow sun-dress. Her pale, stiff face was eerily skinny with her mouth opened uncomfortably wide. Shuffling at a snail’s pace, Daisy approached the woman who breathed at a monstrous rate and jumped around wondering what to do.
“Okay, okay. Okay. Shit.” She pushed her cart at the zombie, then pulled her hands back as if the cart was yucky.
It hit Daisy knocking her into the aisle, sending loaves of bread toppling to the floor. The woman ran off. With a moan, Daisy regained her balance and began clawing at a piece of bread that remained on the shelf. She grabbed the loaf and held it closer to the reading glasses that sat crookedly on her gaunt face. After a moment of deliberation, the zombified woman chewed at the bread, unable to break past the plastic wrapping. With little gnaws and uninspired bites, Daisy attempted to eat the loaf of bread for a minute or two until her dentures fell out. After that, she continued to suck on the plastic.
The woman returned with something from the gardening section — a pair of large hedge-shears with pink handles. Still in a panic, she pulled the cart out of the way and lunged at the grandmother, stabbing the shears into her face. Dark, chunky blood seeped out of her head.
The woman tugged and wiggled at the shears to pull them free. Daisy’s still-standing body spasmed as the blade shook around inside her skull. The woman managed to free the shears, opened them up and pushed the scissored blades around Daisy’s throat.
Moaning and groaning, the confused Daisy flailed around, unaware of what was happening. Chopping down on her throat, the shears made symmetric gashes that let out more clotted blood. Her destroyed brain continued to make her arms and legs twitch as the brutal attack carried on. Another chop of the shears added two wider and deeper cuts to her pale, blood-ridden, moaning throat. Louder, Daisy pleaded for freedom with her diminishing grunts. A third chop struck a nerve at the spine and sent a violent spasm around her body.
With a fourth chop, her head popped off and hit the floor, rolling for a moment, then settling between two loaves of bread. Her cold, wintery eyes stopped moving, her grunts stopped.
Daisy’s body fell forward and hit the woman square in the chest. She shrieked, pushing it aside and letting it drop to the floor, falling on top of its disembodied head.
“Ew, ew, ew. Oh my god. Shit. Christ.” The woman’s hands shook, and she assessed the situation. Covered in the near-black, chunky blood, she touched her pink sports shirt, but then drew her hands away, not wanting to touch the blood more than she had to. She pulled her cart away and took it to the check-out area at the front.
A young, spindly man stood at the one counter with a lit number above it. Number 4. As she got closer, he saw her and waved. Then, he saw the blood covering her and her feverish shaking.
“Oh my god,” he said, stepping out from behind his station, “Oh man, shit, are you okay? What happened?”
Her voice was scathing and stutter-filled, “There was a zombie in your store.”
“Oh shit, I’m sorry. Sorry about that. Oh my god, are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“Yes! Yes, I’m fine. I mean, I’m not hurt. I’m a little shaken up, but. Yes. No, I’m fine.”
The young man’s spotty beard highlighted his lack of experience with disgruntled customers. “I’ll go clean that up,” he said. Frantically, he left to clean the mess up, then stopped himself and stood back in front of the woman. “No, I’m sorry, do you need a… a towel or something? Should I call the police? Can the police help?”
“No. Well, yes, a towel would be… Just a towel, please.”
He ran to the back room to get a towel. It took him a while to decide whether to bring two towels: one damp and one dry. Ultimately, he decided it was a smart decision to bring both, even though she had asked only for one.
“Thanks,” she told him. After dealing with the blood, she checked out and paid for her items, then left the store.
The young man went to the aisle to deal with the body. “Fucking zombies,” he said to himself as he dragged the old corpse to the dumpsters, “They belong back in the fucking ground.” After clearing away the head, the blood, and putting the bread back on the shelves, the young man returned to his quiet Monday morning shift.
Before long, he was at the computer clocking out, typing in his employee number. 3277. Every time he put in his number it reminded him of his father. 2599. Double numbers, he always thought, Except mine’s not stitched into an inmate uniform.
The man walked out of the store to a sunny afternoon and a bustling parking lot. His car was parked in the back of the lot, adjacent to a large forested area. Treating his car as a simple pit stop, he grabbed his weed and papers from the back seat, then walked into the forest.
Sitting on one of his favorite fallen trees, he rolled a joint and smoked it while looking at the furry green and blue trees all around. Clouds peeked through the pines and the smaller his joint got, the more he felt he could see shapes and pictures in them.
Exhaling a large puff of smoke in the shape of a ring, his focus shifted from the clouds above to the circular creation that floated away from him. Tracking it the whole way, he watched it drift and dissipate. In its wake, the calm forest ahead of him was quiet and still, except for one thing that moved up in the distance.
With a blank, slack-jawed face, the man watched the subtle movement in the brush up ahead, trying to decipher what it might be. The marijuana thwarted many of the guesses and it took him several minutes of watching to understand what was rustling its way toward the parking lot.
“Mother fucker,” he said, realizing what he was seeing. He flicked his joint away and headed toward his car, “Piece of shit. You’re about to get a bat to the fuckin’ dome.”
It was a zombie.
This zombie’s clothes were all stained with oil. His hat had a red stripe and cursive words inside of a square. Upon his denim jacket, there was a name patch that said, Mario. His face was gaunt and his mouth opened unnaturally far, showcasing his dusty colored tongue and gums to the breathing world.
Mario stumbled as he tried to climb up the hill. His progress was slow, but he had plenty of time. As he came to the top of the slope, he saw a spotty row of cars just beyond the thicket of pine trees and bushes. With a moan, he doubled his pace. After a few more rickety steps, he came to stand at one car, a fifteen-year-old, red Exanima sports car.
Rubbing his stiff hands around the front of its hood, Mario tried to find its latch. His fingers were useless. He milled about the car, circling and eyeballing its various features with his foggy eyes.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doin’?!”
Mario turned his head to see who was yelling.
It was the young man.
Slow to jumpstart into action, the zombie moaned and turned about-face, fleeing back into the forest. Angry and stoned, the man now wielded a tire iron and walked at a confident pace through the parking lot, yelling things at the zombie along the way.
“Come here, deadsie! Where you off to, huh?”
Mario made it to the forest’s edge, over the retaining bush and, still with a hurried pace, he began back down the slope. Now close behind him, the young man took a moment to watch him struggle to get down the hill.
“Lookin’ pretty stiff there, riggy!” He laughed and looked around to see if his manager was around. Then he followed the zombie’s path down the hill.
Almost to the bottom, Mario tripped and fell.
The young man belted out a laugh and said, “Stupid fucking z-”
The young man also fell.
However, his live bones and flesh didn’t take the fall well. He tumbled halfway down the hill and launched himself up, attempting to stabilise himself upright. All this did was change his trajectory. His body toppled over itself, round and round, until his head was stopped dead in its tracks by a large rock.
As the lucky zombie stood up, dirt and leaves fell off his clothes and now crooked cap. He looked at the unlucky human laying awkwardly on the ground with a rock jammed into his bleeding head. Little twitches and spasms kicked around the young man’s limbs and he gurgled out various nonsensical noises.
Mario walked away.
Birds chirped and branches broke inside of the peaceful forest. Without a discernible path, the blue-clad zombie meandered about, but heading, ultimately in the same direction. Little bugs appeared along with the lively, gold, evening light that slowly turned cold and blue. They buzzed in a cloud around Mario as he trudged along. Eventually, the forest came to match his temperature, and the moon floated its way into the sky.
As the moon rose to a peak above the trees, Mario began to hear moaning in the distance. His attention piqued, he followed the ghastly sounds. Often, he stumbled over rocks and bushes and thickets of low or fallen branches. His eyes didn’t work as well as they used to. Once or twice, he thought he saw an old friend, or a car and he would drift off to inspect the thing. In every case, it was just an oddly shaped bush, or a large rock, and then he kept walking.
Crescendoing to a climactic volume, the moans conquered the night. Mario moved with more fervor and bobbed his head around, adding his moan to the choir.
He came to a clearing in the trees. Though the grass had grown to waist height, it looked as if it had once been manicured. In between the waist-high grass, stones jutted out of the ground. Each one stood at semi-even intervals with unique shapes and commemorative chiselings. For every two or three of the hundreds of stones in the large field, there was at least one zombie moaning and clumping.
Mario made his way further into the strange park and immediately felt at home.
Across the cemetery, two men with cut-off shirts hacked and stabbed their way through crowds of meandering men and women zombies. As the two men danced with the dead, their stage was lit by their lifted truck’s floodlights. Metal music played, though it was wholly drowned out by the soul-filled symphony of moans.
Mario found a group of zombies in similar collars as his. Making eye contact with one man, their grey, smokey eyes spoke louder than their moans. Together, they hung around a long, boxy monument that stood five or six feet above the ground.
Taking special interest in the presumed front of the monument, Mario ran his hands along its point hoping to find a latch of sorts. However, the monument was one concrete slab. The other three zombies began to follow suit and paced around the monument, looking for something to be done. They would bend over to look under the monument, only, there was no under to be found. Still, they carried on their strange ritual until it became routine. Sometimes they would bump into one another, make eye contact, moan and groan, then get back to work.
Along the edge, at the top of one side of the monument, Mario found an intricate pattern embossed. Running his skinny fingers over it, he took an interest and leaned to look closer. It was a long, symmetric pattern of flowers. With his permanently gawking, ghostly face now level with the pattern, Mario stared at, and appreciated, the memorial for more than a moment.
“Piece of shit!” One man yelled as his machete made it a quarter way through one of Mario’s companion’s faces. Dried, dark, chunky blood oozed out and down onto the zombie’s lifeless shoulder. The man pulled hard at the stuck machete and swung again with precision. Deepening the original hole, the weapon split through the zombie’s brain and, in turn, he went limp, falling into the monument, painting a streak of red as his body made its way below the grass.
As Mario turned around, just over the monument, he saw the other man with another blood-stained machete of his own being swung into one of his other friends. As fast as his rigid legs could move him, the lucky zombie moaned and hid behind a tall tombstone nearby.
“Fuckin’ brain jockey!” The second man yelled. Like a gorilla, he repeatedly swung his machete into his victim’s head that now lay in pieces, loosely attached to its body on the ground.
Mario walked for a few minutes away from the ruckus surrounding the monument. Every now and again, he would look back to see if the humans followed him. He couldn’t see more than one stone away at any point.
All around him, more zombies milled about and moaned, looking for something to do. Mario shook his arms and shoved them in a direction, hoping they would follow him away from danger. They never did. For a few minutes more, he walked with a purpose, then the memory of the two men with machetes and cutoff shirts faded from his cold, undead brain. Now circling another monument, this one taller than the last, Mario rubbed his hands all around it, looking for something to do.
After roughly thirty more minutes, a machete was swung directly into Mario’s skull. All he could hear was a crack and two or three subsequent chipping sounds. The surrounding moans of both the zombies and of life became muffled, and he felt his head jerk as the man pulled out the machete. Shortly, it reentered his flesh, this time at his neck. His own moaning turned into gurgling as he twitched around, hoping the men would leave. They didn’t. After one more mighty swing of the machete, Mario’s body went limp and his head rolled away, stopping when the small tether of skin and muscle still attached to his body came taut.
One man spit on him.
They continued the massacre for maybe forty-five minutes more, then got some pizza and beer to celebrate.