After a big discussion with Liberty about this ‘Zombie Romance’ book that she reviewed a bit back, the whole ‘Zombie Romance’ thing began to play on my mind. Mostly it played on it in a ‘EWWWW, NOOOO!’ kind of way – why would you enter into a relationship with a decomposing, dead person who at some point or another is going to try to eat your brains? You just wouldn’t.
But the idea wouldn’t go away, for some reason my brain wanted to problem-solve this zombie issue and come up with a solution. Could it ever be plausible and non-disgusting to be in love with a zombie?
The solution I dreamed up in the bath one evening turned into a very definite story. It is a story of three parts which all involve death, zombies and love.
Here is Part I:
Saying Goodbye – Part I
Tessa stared at the monitors as they flat-lined again.
There was no coming back this time, no hope.
The doctors and nurses stepped back and carefully made Mitchell decent again. One of them had pushed the button on a large five minute counter on the wall. There were four minutes and forty-seven seconds left on it by the time the last doctor turned to leave the room.
Before he went, he paused and unlocked a small metal case beside the door and turned to look at Tessa. “Five minutes, you know the drill. Don’t worry about anything but you and him, we can fix everything else.”
Tessa nodded. She knew.
Five minutes. Two bullets. Three choices.
Option One: Use one bullet. Put it through Mitchell’s brain, now, before the five minutes are up and he comes round. Admit the fact that he is dead, accept it, finalise it and move on.
Option Two: Wait. Let him come round, say your goodbyes, share one last kiss and sort out any final wishes he has for things and messages for people. Then shoot him and move on.
Option Three: Walk out of the hospital hand in hand and spend up to the next 365 days saying your goodbyes and setting things in order. Go to Turn Camp, have a final holiday together, say goodbye, let somebody else shoot him when the virus hits his brains and he starts baying for blood as his body shuts down. Move on.
Of course there was always Option Four, the reason for the second bullet, but Tessa didn’t really want to consider that one. There were already too many horrible ways to die in the world without adding ‘shooting yourself’ to the list.
She looked at the clock. The green numbers were counting down, oblivious to Tessa’s emotions and confusion.
Four minutes and two seconds.
Four minutes and one second.
Three minutes and fifty-nine seconds.
She closed her eyes, as if doing so would stop the clock.
There’s never enough of it when you want it.
She had wanted to spend the rest of her life with Mitchell. Yesterday they had the rest of their lives.
Hell, an hour ago they had the rest of their lives.
Then Mitchell tripped on a paving slab and cracked his head on a kerb stone, had some kind of crazy fit and there was nothing anybody could do. His heart couldn’t handle whatever stress his body had thrown at it and gave up.
The rest of their lives had gone without them ever having chance to taste it.
They’d only been married for nine weeks.
She opened her eyes.
Three minutes and twenty-six seconds.
Turning her back on the clock and forcing her eyes away from its reflection in the mirror on the wall, Tessa walked over to the gun and picked it up.
She’d never held a gun before and the feel of it in her hand surprised her. It fit nicely, like it had been designed to be held by a woman with fairly small hands. It wasn’t too heavy but had enough weight behind it for it to feel as dangerous as it was.
The safety wasn’t on. There was a big sticker on the lid of the case telling her so, even though it was common knowledge these days. It was a precaution – if you accidentally shot yourself in the arm because you weren’t being careful, then you couldn’t sue the hospital because they’d put a big red sticker on the gun case and you should have been paying attention.
Whilst your loved one lay first-time dead on the table behind you and the seconds were counting down before they Resurrected. Or before you had to shoot them to stop them from coming back.
Tessa could understand how you might accidentally hurt yourself.
She was quite afraid of doing it herself.
Mitchell was dead.
Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds.
Was this the ending she wanted for them? Just this. No goodbyes, no final words. Just memories of twitching limbs, rolling eyes, doctors, wires, shouting, flashing lights and, ultimately, a gun in her hands at the base of his skull.
She couldn’t even remember what they had been talking about when they were walking together.
Not a clue.
That rubbish song at number one in the charts?
It could have been anything. Mitchell could have just told her how much he loved her – or that he fancied chips for dinner.
Tessa had no idea.
Two minutes and fourteen seconds.
Gun in hand, Tessa walked over to the metal table Mitchell was lying on. It looked cold.
She still hadn’t decided what she wanted to do.
Two minutes and one second.
There was a beep and the numbers turned red as the clock began to count down the final two minutes.
Tessa gripped the gun, careful not to squeeze the trigger or point the barrel at any part of herself. Or Mitchell.
She wanted to roll him over onto his side.
She didn’t want to press the gun to his forehead, she wanted to point it at the base of his skull. A clean kill. Break the spinal cord in one neat shot, destroy all chance of Resurrection.
The table wasn’t wide enough.
One minute and forty-two seconds.
She didn’t want to shoot him.
She wanted to see his eyes again. Clear and blue, not rolling blindly into the back of his skull. She wanted to hear him say her name, to feel his arms around her one last time.
Yes, she’d wait. They could say goodbye properly and then she would just have to close her eyes and pull the trigger and accept that everything was over.
All she needed was the chance to say goodbye. The thought of him leaving without that broke her heart almost more than the thought of living her life alone.
One minute and thirty-five seconds.
She’d never be able to do it.
She put the gun down on a cabinet, pointing at the wall.
Tessa was capable of a lot of things, but pulling the trigger on that gun was not one of them.
She dragged an uncomfortable looking, folding metal chair from the corner of the room, over to the side of the table and sank into it.
Mitchell looked like he was sleeping. All his muscles were relaxed and it was hard to imagine the expressions his face had twisted into as he had been dying not so long ago.
One minute and twelve seconds.
He’d wake up again soon.
One minute and nine seconds.
In a way, the virus was kind. The over-active electrical impulses it created preserved the body impeccably for a year after death. It couldn’t make your heart beat or your blood flow, but it kept your brain and nervous system working.
You didn’t need to eat, or breathe, but you could if you wanted. You needed to sleep just the same as you did before and you could dream and think but it was all on borrowed time.
The virus kept you alive as you for just one year. 365 precious days of living with your own mind and personality, your own bad habits and nervous tics before the virus wiped out everything and replaced it with a feverish and insatiable need to bite everyone and spread itself as far as possible.
Once you hit that point there was no saving you, the virus gave up on preserving your body and you began to degrade like the corpse that you were. You just shambled along, biting any thing that moved until your body fell apart and you finally, really died. Or until someone shot you in the head and put you out of your misery.
Tessa stared at her reflection in the mirror on the far wall.
It was clearly a one-way mirror and at least one of the doctors who had been in the room before would be standing there behind it, watching and waiting.
The second Mitchell stirred, they would start the timer on a tag. Counting down the months, weeks, days and hours until Mitchell would Turn.
He would have that tag attached to him before he was allowed to leave the hospital.
If he left the hospital.
Tessa paled as a thought struck her: What if he asked her to shoot him?
For all they were married and had grown up in a world of zombies and fear, not once had they spoken about this. Would he want to kiss her goodbye and then end it all, here in this room? Would he be angry at her for letting him come back at all?
He eyes flashed to the gun on the cabinet and then to the clock.
There wasn’t enough time.
Option One was out of the running. Mitchell was coming back.
Tessa felt sick.
Nervously she put her hand on his, pleased it was still warm.