Family Business

Posted: May 17, 2010 in Short Stories

I’m pretty bad with writing ongoing fiction; but I like this concept. I want to stick with it.

“I have lived. I have died. Now what?” Selena plopped down lifelessly on the couch, hungry as usual. “How are we supposed to function without eating? I don’t get this arrangement at all.”

“You’ll understand soon enough, dear.” Her mother glanced at her worriedly. She had died about an hour before her daughter — not exactly lifetimes of previous experience.

“What’s there to understand? You’d think all the movies about the undead would explain how we’re supposed to flourish on a dying planet! And I just see a bunch of us, faces frozen in our last moments, fighting over the little scraps of muscle in the bodies we mutilate. There’s a scarcity of food where we are; why don’t we have undead airliners or undead transportation? I’m sick of running everywhere with no food!” Selena cracked a finger backward and forward, disinterestedly as she spoke.

“Selena, stop that. It’s disgusting.” She reluctantly obliged, looking at her mother with outraged, hollow eyes. “Anyway, you are bringing an entirely animate perspective to what we do. Don’t waste time worrying about how to cure your hunger in conventional ways.”

“Why not? When I was alive, if I were hungry, I could grow food in the ground! I could go to a fast food place and have it be open, for Christ’s sake! Everything’s so desolate now, and everything’s a deactivation trap. Smell a human; expect a gun. Smell a human; expect fire. Smell a human; expect everything but food and I’m HUNGRY!” Selena stood up suddenly, leaving behind bits of decaying flesh. “Why don’t you and Dad ever bring home food?”

“Honey, we are no longer living. It’s every undead American for herself. Stop acting as if you are the only victim here. Dad and I stuck around here for you so you’d have some semblance of family structure, not so you could blame us for being unborn. Your dad is out, trying to do something remarkably human and noble. Show some appreciation.” Her mother went to the kitchen to try an experiment. She filled a glass of water and took a single sip. Her lips fell off and she felt her tongue turn to mush in her mouth; debris flooded her throat. Selena tried not to look worried as her mother gagged. Not like she was going to die again.

“How did this happen, Mom? Everything was fine at one moment, then the next moment we’re just dead? Like that? It sucks. I see a few of my living friends, and it’s as if they don’t even recognize me. I try talking to them; but who knows what they hear coming from my mouth?” Selena started reciting her ABCs rapidly for the 20th time since she died. “No one wants to negotiate with us. No one wants to pretend we exist. And please,” she added before her mother reminded her again they were undead, “we do exist, even if we are not living fully at this particular moment.” Her mother finally shrugged. Who knows what they are now?

They sat staring at each other, and her mother suddenly remarked, “It’s funny how even after death, we look similar. You’re decaying around the hips, just like I am.” They both laughed, trying not to go too far out of risk of losing a limb. Both of them desperately needed to feed on something living. Animals simply weren’t filling. They weren’t vampires and part of the eating ritual involved transference of sentience.

Both women looked at each other and sniffed the air hungrily. Living flesh. They also smelled familiar decay. They both crouched out of sight: mother in the kitchen, daughter under the dining room table in the dimly lit rancher. Best thing to hear was the absence of military boots.

The door noisily banged open as four humans, tied together by a thick rope around their waists, were thrown onto the floor of the house. They struggled against the rope knot, screaming and panicking about some zombies being unusually smart and needing something sharp. Selena could hear her mother straining, fighting the urge to leap out of the kitchen. There was enough food to last them for the next couple of days, so long as they kept their wits about them.

“Selena, help me with this last one.” Dad! Selena happily climbed out from under the dining room table and helped her dad pull in a completely naked, hogtied storm trooper. They set him down in front of the four roped humans. He immediately started shouting to them to shut up, how he’d help them escape, asking if anyone had a knife. Selena took a lamp and knocked him unconscious. This, unfortunately, was a war.

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