Blood, pooling on cement. The flicker of overhead lights inside a factory. "It's over.” the girl says, holstering her pistol, running a hand through her perfectly coiffed hair.

It looked like art, her bodyguard thought, how she tousled it and glanced at him, her face softening into something like interest, that little smile...

On the floor, the source of the blood - an expensively-suited man - coughed once, twice. "Not... quite." he wheezed. "Shoulder. No one taught you to aim... for the center of mass."

Quite coolly, the girl redrew her pistol, inspected it, and fired downwards. A splatter of blood crossed one angled, ivory cheek. A gurgling breath in, then silence, fading with the echo of the gunshot.

"I never liked him," she pouted, posing for a moment, gun on hip, eyelashes lowered at her partner. "Now, where were we..."

From the floor: "Brains."

"For fuck's sake..."

My Sister still Speaks

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reQuest 2019

"For Auspice, Chord, BookReader, Zeph, and anyone else who feels the urge: And we killed him and he's dead. needs some zombie flash fiction."


8a.

On the seventh day from the dead town, they came across an odd sight. Meridian spotted it first, she had the sharpest eyes, but it was Alaska who said they should investigate.

A lone figure at the tree line, not moving very fast. Or not at all, really: a zombie caught in a bear trap. The flesh around where the rusted teeth gripped has worn away leaving bone, but those teeth were embedded deep and the zombie hadn’t the presence of mind to chew its leg off.

It lunged at them, but as the trap didn’t have much of a lead, it came up short.

“Oh, wow,” Alaska said, keeping a good distance away, holding her hands behind her back like a visitor to an art museum. “I’ve never had the chance to see one this close.”

“What are you talking about?” Meridian asked. “You see them up close all the time.”

“When I’m fighting them, sure,” the other returned. “Maybe we can do experiments on it.”

“Let’s not,” Meridian said drawing her sword.

“Hold on,” Alaska said. “Just one second.”

Male. Late twenties, rotting clothes. Fungus set into the cheeks and eyes, pieces of flesh falling off. But no flies, or any other type of bug. Insects avoided zombie flesh.

“It will bring every zombie in the area,” Meridian said. “Better to kill it and move on.”

“Can I try?” Alaska asked. “It’ll be good practice.”

“Sure,” Meridian said, reversing her grip on the sword and offering it.

The other woman took it and made to swing it.

“No,” Meridian said. “It’s not a baseball bat. You don’t need that much force.”

The zombie snapped at them, pulling on its chain. The chain held.

“The cutting edge doesn’t need much force. The power comes from your legs. Step forward as you swing, one clean motion.”

Alaska adjusted her stance. Meridian shook her head, and demonstrated.

“You want to have as little motion as possible so you don’t telegraph your attacks,” Meridian said. “You want--”

There was a tearing sound as the zombie’s left knee joint tore from its socket as it hurled itself at Alaska. The leg tore free as it launched itself.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Alaska screamed as she was knocked to the ground.

Meridian moved very quickly. The sword had been thrown. Too far away. She kicked the zombie in the head, hard enough to send it spinning. She then charged, smashing its remaining leg with her boot.

Once it was immobile, she retrieved her sword and calmly beheaded it.

“Did it bite you?” she asked.

“No,” Alaska said. “God. I thought it was trapped.”

“That was an old one, they’re falling apart. I wonder what happens when they completely rot away. You suppose the bones keep--”

“Meridian!” Alaska said. “Please, not now. I need-- I need time to breathe. Shit.”

They waited by the forest for a few minutes before continuing on.


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"How long has he been like this?"

Home visit. I only do home visits for hospice or the super frail elderly where the family can't even get them in the car.

He is 87. He's in pajamas. He is in a chair, zoned looking, drooling a little. I am impressed that his 84 year old wife could get him to a chair. She weighs about 2/3 of what he is and he's well over 6 feet, though gaunt.

"Well, he," she swallows. No tears, I can see the effort. "Thank you, doctor, for coming out."

He missed a visit three weeks ago. When people are getting frail, I ask them to come in every 3 months. I want to know when they can't make it. Also, the end stage of dementia is when people's neurons melt until they return to the womb. They stop eating. They don't need to eat. It's best to let them.

The wife is amazing. She is clean, dressed and the house is cluttered but not a mess/death trap/full of rats. They are not hoarders. The husband is also clean though not dressed. He is not clearing his airway and now has frothy bubbles coming from his mouth. His wife meticulously wipes his mouth. He still sounds like his lungs are full of fluid, but it is upper airway, not asthma. He just doesn't remember to cough.

Finally his body coughs, and the airway clears. The cough racks him and he moves hardly any air. I look at my notes. Fifty years of cigarettes, quit at age 67. Twenty years ago.

"What did he smoke?" I ask, as I put the pulse ox on his finger. He doesn't move at all. 02 sat at 91, heart rate 56. Bradycardia, but the cardiologist won't care as long as he's not "symptomatic". And would we put him through surgery? Hell, no. His beta blocker was stopped two years ago.

"Unfiltered camels." she says.

Blood pressure should be taken standing, but well. Sitting his is at 106/58. I look at the meds.

"We could stop the hydrochlorothiazide."

"Then his legs swell."

His legs already are swollen. 1+ to the knee, which is pretty good all things considered. Let's see, dementia, coronary artery disease, mild to moderate heart failure, emphysema, he's been diabetic for 20 years, last lab work a year ago. I should examine all his skin, look for pressure sores, but the house and his cleanliness tell me how well his wife is taking care of him.

Speaking of zombies, she looks worse than he does. Exhausted. Grey. Her hands are trembling a little. She has lost weight as well.

"You have two children, right?"

She nods. One is a university professor of anthropology in Hamburg, Germany. The other is an engineer and lives 3000 miles away. There are 4 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

"Our son came at Christmas. Our daughter came at Thanksgiving. They are very busy."

Yes, I know. "Are you in a church?" I say gently.

She is looking out the window now. I see the flash reflecting off her cheek. "No."

"I can get home health but they do not do round the clock care. You need people here at night so you can sleep. Or he needs to be in an advanced care unit." He has multifactoral dementia. Small vessel disease, alcohol, tobacco, then the progression of Alzheimer's on top of that. His PhD doesn't matter any more.

"I promised we would stay home. And he hates other people coming in. I promised."

"You will die before him if you continue this way." I do have a prescription pad. "You can afford night time help?"

"Yes. And we have long term care insurance."

For a moment there is a light in his eyes. He gropes and she comes and takes his hand. He relaxes again.

"All right. I will order home health. They will send a team, not all on the same day. A nurse, social work, occupational therapy to help with equipment and physical therapy. Maybe a bath aide. How much weight has he lost?"

"I feed him!" she says.

"He is reaching the stage where he forgets to eat." I say gently. "If he doesn't want to eat, you should let him not eat."

She looks down.

"Home health will weigh him. When he is losing weight, that is end stage dementia. He will qualify for hospice. I can see that he has lost some weight already." I touch her shoulder. "I will help you keep him home. He is going."

Silence.

I write on the prescription pad. "You have to have a minimum of four hours of help a day, when someone else is watching him. How have you been getting groceries?"

"My neighbor." she says.

"Is he up and wandering at night?"

"Not every night."

Most nights, I'll bet. "You have to have three nights where you can sleep and someone else is here. Three nights minimum. And I would like you to go stay at a friend's one night a week, so that you really rest."

Nod.

"I will be back in a month." I have written when SHE needs the time on the prescription. Orders. "You need a clinic visit as well. Within a month."

She doesn't say anything else until I leave. Whisper. "Thank you, doctor."

This is a fictional pair of patients. But I see variations of this over and over. With husbands doing the care, too, or an adult "child".

His eyes opened with a thunderous crack only he could hear. He gasped with lungs that had not held air in years, and still held no air as he choked on darkness, the pressing, crushing darkness threatening to consume him-- no. That had already consumed him. He flailed wildly with brittle arms and brittle legs that struck out, unable to move much, but moving more than they had in centuries. The darkness around him shifted, slowly. Somewhere above, wood splintered and broke, and he pressed himself upwards against the weight.

It was dawn when his gnarled hands broke the surface.

* * * * *

She didn't know why she'd woken up.

She didn't know how long she'd been asleep.

There were vague recollections, memories that had been fresh when she was still in the ground, but faded with the rising sun once she was out. Memories of a family whose faces are blurred around the edges, and of a fever that swept through the town.

But that was all a long time ago, a time growing farther away by the second. She looked down at her arms and saw by the weak light that the flesh was returning, covering her dry bones again.

Around her, others were making the same journey from the dirt in a morbid rebirth, experiencing the same return, the same fleeting memories, the same miraculous healing.

They were alive again.

And, like her, they all felt the same sudden craving.

* * * * *

It was fitting that he had slept like the dead. It was also fitting that wakefulness should come to him with difficulty. With a moan and a groan, he tried to heft himself up, only to wind up rolling awkwardly to the side. His cheek met with the jarring sensations of strange prickliness and chilling dampness. He reached out blindly for the blanket and found there was none, only more cold and wet. That was enough to finally rouse him, and he forced himself into a sitting position.

The necromancer blinked blearily into the morning light and tried to get his bearings.

He was. . . Outside. Sitting on wet grass in the shade of an enormous oak. Orange and brown leaves carpeted the ground around him, damp with early morning dew.

Why was he outside? And why, among the leaves, were there so many mounds of loose dirt?

He rose, legs wobbling, and tried to steady himself on a nearby tombstone. Nausea hit him like a punch to the gut, and he tried very hard not to vomit. Hunched and miserable and supported by the grave marker, he tried to remember what happened last night.

They'd been at a party. There was some recollection of jello shots. Of Terra scarfing them down like candy, and him trying to keep up with her.

He groaned.

No fucking wonder he felt so bad. Trying to keep up with a fairy drinking was like trying to ride a hurricane, and in his experience it tended to end up with a comparable amount of property damage.

"Pretty crazy, right?" said a voice behind him.

He turned around and saw a nothing but cemetery and dangling feet. Then he looked up and saw a young woman sitting in the tree, her thick white hair floating around her head as though she were under water.

"Hey, Terra," he said. "What d'you mean?"

She she chuckled and jerked her head, gesturing behind him.

He turned with a frown, wondering what she was looking at. it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing, and his jaw dropped.

Off in the distance, just beyond a short partitionary wall separating the cemetery from the hillside, Two dozen-- no, more than that, had to be-- over two dozen corpses in various stages of decomposition spun, snapped, waved and jiggled unpleasantly in unison.

"Did- uh. Did I do that?"

"Noooo," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "They all just decided to do that on their own."

She slid down from the branch and floated gently to the ground, landing delicately on one foot.

"I probably should've stopped you," she said, "but I wanted to see what would happen."

They watched the bodies wave their arms to the sides, their hands curled like claws.

"So what are they doing?" she said.

Tom winced and rubbed his temples. "Ever see Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'?"

"Wanna know what I just heard?" she said cheerfully. "'I was just that drunk, Terra. Thank you for finding me and helping me fix this.' To which I say, 'no problem, Tom. You know I'm always happy to help."

They headed for the hill, Tom leaning on her shoulder and aching every inch of the way. He didn't know what he'd done the night before, but he just knew he'd be covered in bruises by lunch time.

"Thanks, Terra," he said meekly.

"No problem, Tombo. I'm always happy to help."

"You realize we're gonna have to rebury them."

"Oh no we don't," she said. "They crawled out, they can crawl right back in. Go on, tell 'em."

His head pounded. "Why me?"

""Cause you're the one who called them up! Go on, go on."

"Ugh." He tore himself from Terra's side and clambered over the short wall. It was only knee-high, and clearly decorative only, but it still gave him trouble.

"Okay, everyone," he said once he was in front of the undead mob. "Listen up." He let a little magic flow with the words. "You're all going to go back into the ground. All of you. You're going to pull the dirt back over when you do, and you're-- oh for the-- will you all just stop dancing?"

Reluctantly, the rhythmic shambling ceased. Disappointment hit him in a silent mental wave.

"Jeez," he called to Terra. "They really liked the dancing,"

"Dance with death. The dead can dance. Isn't that a song or something?"

"Don't know. Okay everybody, back into the ground! Come on, chop-chop!"

Sadly, the group of dancers trudged back to their graves. If they'd had the vocal capacity, they'd've been groaning and muttering like school kids.

"I feel kinda bad for them, now," said Terra. "You're such a buzzkill."

"Me?! You were the one who woke me up. Besides, they can't just dance like that. Someone would have seen them."

"I guess. Still wish there was something we could do for them, though."

Tom thought about it as he watched the undead bury themselves. Once everyone had gone under again, he took back the spark of not-quite-life he'd given them all for the night. Six feet below ground, they were once again empty husks.

"You know," he said as they walked to Terra's car. "I don't think that really counted."

"What?"

"I mean, I apparently went all crazy necromancer last night, and I don't even remember it. I didn't get to have any fun. There wasn't even music, so you can't call it a proper dance."

Terra's face split into a wicked grin. "And Halloween's coming up."

"Got any plans for the thirty first?" he said.

"I was going to throw a party."

"I'm throwing a better one."

They drove off, leaving the temporarily quiet cemetery behind them.

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