A short story…

C. Foley

I knew when I was five about the zombie in my house. My uncle pointed out the innocent looking panel of sheetrock that stood out from the rest of the wall.

“Knock three times,” he said, “and it will come out.”

I didn’t know then just what a zombie was. A monster, maybe. Something horrible from beyond the boundary between life an death.

All I knew, as I passed that panel daily to play in my backyard, or to go take something down the cobwebbed, cement stairs to my basement, was that knocking would release the zombie and leave me vulnerable. My fear, like a zombie in its instinctual feast on my fevered brain, made me avoid that room with its sheetrock panel and scary noises.

I didn’t find out until years later that my monster was simply a water-heater, hidden behind a sheetrock panel for aesthetic reasons. I’d been controlled by an illusion–forced to walk a narrow path because of fear of the nonexistant. Or so I thought.

Now, nearly twenty years later, I have another zombie in my house, eating at my brain one bite at a time. All because, one overcast, boring day, I knocked at that proverbial panel.

I knocked because it hadn’t harmed me when I was five, because if all of my zombies were just water-heaters there was nothing I couldn’t do, no horrible thing to keep me in check.

Only now I know not every zombie is a water heater. Now the contagion pours into my blood with each nibble. Soon I will be a zombie. Unthinking. Motivated only by a horrible, cannibalistic impulse. I will destroy the lives of others as surely as my life has been destroyed.

Every time I pass a mirror, I look less alive. There’s a manic glow in my eyes that was never there before, behind my excellently styled hair. I smell the reek of death, too, under the fruity scent of perfume and beneath my designer shirt and jeans.

My face is not my own. The colors–carribean shimmer, strawberry burst, smokey cobalt–reveal the decay in my skin.

The zombie in my house bares its teeth when it sees me; a grotesque attempt at a smile that chills me to the bone.

I see it in my TV screen, on my computer, in the faces of friends who flocked to my side after that first, painful bite. I was a loner before, when I thought my own thoughts–when life flowed through my veins.

Now, life leeching out of me, I join the ranks of my murderers. Stumbling along in the crowd. I know, somewhere deep inside, that this zombie is as imaginary as my five-year-old monster. All I have to do is strip off the paint, bolt the sheetrock panel onto the wall once again. Stand alone in an empty room.

I can’t go back.
I smile–a dead grimace.
I’m not alone anymore.
Do I miss myself? I can’t tell now.
There is no “I”.
Only a mass, chasing after something…

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