“Mallory, you and your friends keep clear of that yellow house.” Mama told me. “It’s not for kids.”
Until then, I hadn’t even thought about that house. After the second time she warned me, it was all I could think about. The house was a magnet and I was a bit of metal. Whenever I walked past, my head would turn even as my body walked on.
The first time I entered, I took my friend Josh. He was always showing off how high he could climb. I’d use him like a trained monkey. If the front door was locked, I could send him scampering up to the second story window, he’d climb in, and come down to let me in. I’m not so good with heights.
The door was unlocked, which was a terrific disappointment. If you’re going to sneak into a place, you want to break in like a thief. How can you break in when the front door is unlocked?
We wandered about but didn’t see anything unusual. Then, as we were about to leave, I discovered something that thrilled and terrified me. When I looked through the peephole in the front door, I saw Sheridan Drive sure enough, but there were zombies walking around. I opened the door carefully and peered out. The street was empty. I closed it and looked through the peephole; there they were, stumbling along Sheridan Drive like they owned the place.
I showed it to Josh.
“Probably a little TV screen with a scary movie playing,” he said, “I don’t care for zombie movies. Too real. Can we go?”
How can you be afraid of zombies that don’t exist and not afraid of heights which do exist? Next time, I’m coming alone.
I read up on zombies before going back. Turns out zombies died from some sickness but keep walking around. If they bite you, you get the same sickness and turn into one of them. Don’t know what possesses them to bite people, but that’s how it works. Get bit, get zombie-fied.
“Mama,” I said at dinner. “Why do zombies wanna bite people?”
“Where are you getting such thoughts?”
“It’s just that Josh is afraid of zombies. But they should be fine so long as you don’t get bit.”
“Stop thinking about being bit by a zombie and start thinking about taking a bite of your spaghetti.”
But I didn’t stop thinking about zombies. If you cured them of their biting habit, we could get along just fine.
I went back to the house on Sheridan Drive every day to watch the movie through the peephole. Only, I figured out it wasn’t really a movie on account of two things. First, nothing ever happened. Zombies just wandered up and down the road. Boring. And second, it took place on Sheridan Drive, and nobody would make a movie about Sheridan Drive. So, I decided the house sits on some kind of gateway between the regular world of good, normal people like me and a zombie world.
By my fifth visit it had become tiresome. What’s the good of just watching a zombie world if you can’t interact with it. But just as I was about to walk away, I saw a zombie girl walking up the path to the house. She put her hand on the doorknob and rattled it. She couldn’t open it. I reached down. A shower of pins and needles traveled up my arm. I turned the handle. The door opened.
We stood there staring at each other. She might have been older than me. I say, “might have been,” because neither of us said a word. I suppose we were too stunned. Her hair was a mess, her dress torn, the skin on her body drooping or torn in places. It was scary, but she never tried to bite me. She pulled the door shut. I opened it back up right away. There was boring old Sheridan Drive with no zombies. I closed it and looked out the peephole. The girl was running away.
I came back the next day at the same time. After a while, she was there in the peephole again. So long as we both touched the handle of the door, I could open the gate between the two worlds. On this occasion, she wasn’t so afraid of me and came inside. If I talked, she’d run away. So, I learned to be quiet and we’d just sit and look at each other.
Finally, on our eighth visit together, she tried talking. It was garbled groaning. I got the feeling that she was trying to tell me something. Like she wanted to be normal like me. I felt so sad for her. Maybe zombies don’t want to be zombies, don’t want to bite other people.
Then the thought washed over me like a wave. I could heal her! If a normal person bites a zombie, they turn normal. The idea possessed me. I sat next to her. She didn’t run. I held her hand. She let me. I picked it up and put it to my mouth. She began groaning and trying to pull away.
“This will heal you,” I said, but she started screaming.
I had to do it, had to heal her. I opened my mouth and bit her hand. It felt good to bite down hard, digging my teeth in. She pulled away and fell back howling in pain. I stood to congratulate her and caught a glimpse of myself in the living room mirror, blood dripping from my chin.
It was a revelation; one I had known all along but had been blind to. I was the zombie. My world was the zombie world and hers the normal one. I watched the transformation come over her.
Wait ‘til Josh hears about this.
About the Author: Scott Bessenecker has traveled and written extensively about marginalized communities and published several non-fiction books. Turning his attention now to speculative fiction, he is seeking an agent for his post apocalyptic trilogy. You can read his non-fiction articles or listen to his podcasts at overturningtables.com.