Zombies walk among us.
I mean, I’ve known that since the news stories. You remember, the ones about the scientists who accidentally brought people back to life in their quest to hack death. The stories that said the same scientists had a multi-syllabic cure for the zombies’ need to eat your brains. And then some celebrity overdosed on a new designer drug and the family decided not to bring him back, and then zombies went to fight in the war, and then the stories died down, and zombies relatives became the ones you talked about in whispers and kept in the back room.
I knew, but I didn’t think about it much.
Not until one of them started following me.
* * *
He would have been average in life: a little taller than me, with dark hair and dark skin. Dead, he had ash-gray skin and faintly luminescent eyes which darted from me to my surroundings and back to me wherever I was.
My friends said I should be creeped out, and gave him a wide berth, but he never spoke, never demanded, never touched me.
Better than most men with their if you loved mes and wandering hands.
So we fell into a rhythm. He would escort me to work and back. To school and back. To my parents’ house and back. He waited outside until invited in, never presumed. And then one day, I invited him in. And still, he never presumed.
Most of my friends stopped coming around, complaining that I wouldn’t go to the human-only clubs anymore, that I was too boring, and—in hushed voices—that I was a zombie-lover.
When I sat next to him in a dim restaurant, and took his hand in mine, and talked about all the things I’d never told anyone, I didn’t care what anyone else said.
When I leaned into him in the hallway, and felt his solid strength, and pressed my lips to his, I wasn’t thinking about what anyone else would say.
And when I invited him into my bed, I was only thinking of the two of us, and how he made me feel.
* * *
When the war slopped over into our state and I worried, he patted my hand, and then watched everything around us. I missed his gaze always on mine, but I felt safe when I walked with him.
Others started walking with zombies too. I could see the way they watched each other that some were bodyguards, some were friends, and a few were lovers. Those of us with zombie lovers started to walk together, to join each other at the clubs that accepted our partners, and to speak in hushed voices of changing the law that said zombies couldn’t marry.
And then the enemy soldiers were there, in our town, and uniformed zombies fought each other between the buildings and in the parks and on the streets.
We ran out of food.
His gentle hands on my waist asked me to stay behind, but the nearest store wouldn’t allow zombies inside.
We ran through the street together, watching for patrols. I slipped into the store and gathered a few things, and paid exorbitant prices and slipped back out again. We walked home silently, groceries between us.
I never saw them coming.
He shoved his bag of food into my arms and pushed me gently away with a moaned, “Run.” Then he spun to face the enemy.
“Come with me,” I screamed.
We were so close. I ran inside our building, and dumped the groceries on the floor, and spun to lock the door behind him, but he wasn’t behind me.
They hacked him to pieces while I watched, then they saw my neighbor’s zombie bodyguard and chased her.
I went to him and held the pieces I could find.
“Looove,” he groaned.
“I love you too.”
I wept bitter tears while the light in his eyes went out. Then I went home, put the groceries away, mourned with my neighbor.
The war moved on. Life went back to normal, I guess. But I missed his ash-gray skin, and his luminescent eyes, and his quiet presence.
I would have spent my life and death with him.