Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance (8 page)

BOOK: Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance
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not. At this moment, we were just two really good friends on the cusp of becoming lovers.

There was, of course, the small matter of Brody standing in the way. Mark insisted on being told all about him, and I obliged. “You should meet him,” I said.

“You’d really like him.”

“Do you love him?” Mark asked

“Yes. Yes, I do.” I drained the last of my coffee. “He’s bright, he’s funny, he’s an amazing lover. He’s all the things I’ve ever wanted.”
All the things I know you would
have been
, I almost added.

“But you’re still sitting there, thinking of what it would be like if we were together.” Mark put his hand on top of mine. It was the first time I’d ever been touched by a zombie and, remarkably, I didn’t immediately recoil. “You know if you come home with me it will change everything forever, don’t you?”

I nodded, prepared for anything which might be about to happen. Nothing more needed to be said. We paid the bill and made the short walk to Mark’s apartment. It took a while, as we were moving at Mark’s pace, but with his big arm wrapped around my shoulders I was completely comfortable. We got the odd scandalized look from people who still weren’t happy with the idea of mixed-mortality couples, but I didn’t care. Let them think what they wanted; I had been given a second chance with Mark, and if I didn’t take it, I knew I would always regret what might have been.

Behind Mark’s closed front door, I surrendered to my desires. His skin was cold to the touch, but no colder than the night air outside. All the comparisons Brody had made the night he’d fucked me in the ways he said Mark never could came flooding 70

back, but I was so caught up in the thrill of finally being with Mark after all this time that it really didn’t matter. He pleasured me with all the skill he could muster, everything slow, everything measured, and my body opened for him willingly.

Afterwards, I knew I had crossed the line. Cheating on Brody with anyone was something I had never planned to do, but with Mark? How would I explain that? And if I didn’t tell him and he somehow found out, would he make me choose between the two of them?

If I covered my tracks carefully enough, I thought, Brody need never know. I could keep on seeing Mark whenever he was away and it would just be our dirty little secret. But Brody and I had built a relationship on being honest with each other, and in the end I just couldn’t lie to him. When he got back from Chicago, I sat him down and told him I’d been for dinner with Mark. The expression on my face let him fill in the blanks.

Strangely, he didn’t react the way I’d expected. There was no row like the one I’d witnessed between the couple in the restaurant, no threats to leave or flat-out declaration that everything was over between us. Instead, he asked me to invite Mark over to our apartment one evening. “I want to meet him,” Brody declared. “I want to see what a dead guy could possibly have that I don’t. God, talk about the living envying the dead.”

What could I do but agree to his request? Brody could tell I was upset by everything that had happened, and he took me in his arms, kissing my tears away.

Gradually, the kisses grew more intense, until we were peeling off our clothes, suddenly hungry for each other. Brody threw me down on the bed and buried his head between my 71

legs, licking the petals of my sex until they blossomed, allowing him to enter me with his strong, hard cock.

As he fucked me with long, powerful strokes, my legs wrapped tightly around the small of his back so I could pull him further into me, I knew I couldn’t break up with him. What we had was just too good to throw away. I needed Brody, but I was sure I needed Mark, too. Maybe a meeting between the two men would be for the best; it might help to clear up some of the confusion I felt.

Mark came over to our apartment a couple of nights later, bringing a bottle of red wine. He had on the same grey suit I’d seen him wearing at each of our previous meetings; like all zombies, he didn’t seem to be comfortable in anything other than the clothes he’d been buried in. I introduced Brody to Mark, then went to the kitchen to find glasses and put the kettle on. I’d left a jug of milk out overnight to go sour, just in case Mark fancied a cup of coffee.

The three of us sat a little awkwardly making small talk in the living room, Brody and Mark eyeing each other up like a couple of prize fighters.

When Brody started talking about the latest manuscript he was editing, Mark chipped in, “So how much do you enjoy your job then, Brody?”

“Well, obviously it’s not as satisfying as working on my own book would be, but...”

“You see,” Mark said, “this is why you and I, and Millie, too, for that matter, really aren’t so different from each other. I serve people in the shop every day, people who look down on me because they’re alive and I’m—I’m like this. But all those people who aren’t really doing the job they love, or work for a boss they can’t stand or are stuck 72

in a relationship that’s gone sour—well, every day they die a little bit more on the inside.

And in the end, they aren’t any better off than me, after all.”

Brody looked at Mark with something approaching respect. “You know, I think I’m beginning to realize what Millie sees in you. And it’s obvious you’re in love with him, Millie. Just the way you look at him tells me that. But I have no intention of giving you up without a fight. I’ll do whatever it takes to be with you, so what the hell do we do to sort this out?”

I looked at Brody, then Mark. How could I choose between the living and the dead? I loved Brody’s passion and vitality, but I had tasted dark, forbidden pleasures with Mark and I didn’t want to give them up. If there was only some way I could walk on the dark side with Brody—and that’s when the answer hit me, elegant in its simplicity.

Brody died a week ago tonight. It was a beautiful death. He swallowed a quantity of sleeping pills, washed down with the bottle of champagne he’d been saving for the day I accepted his marriage proposal, and I held him in my arms as he quietly slipped away.

Mark was there, too, to bite him as he faded into unconsciousness. It’s the one sure way, the doctors say, to turn someone into a zombie. Given Brody’s powerful desire to be with me, whatever it takes, I know it won’t be too long before he’s pushing up through the dirt they so recently shovelled over his coffin and knocking on the door of this apartment, ready to join Mark and me in the most unusual of threesomes.

I’ll admit I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but I’m dying to find out.

73

Through Death To Love

by S. M. Cross

"It's a good strategy," she says. "You just have to make it your own, put your mark on it. We all use fillers to maintain our turn, to signal interest and attention.

Frankly I've never heard that particular one put to such elegant use."

It's a bit disconcerting actually; a hunger sound slowed and softened, an

‘mmmmmmm’ with the slightest breath in front, an oddly appealing mix of rampant desire and precarious restraint. Fear and anticipation flutter against her stomach walls, a delicious feeling she hasn’t had since high school.

The fear isn't surprising since it hasn't been that long since zombies and humans were predator and prey. The world has changed a lot in ten years, economic necessity turning the lemons of a near depression into the lemonade of a miraculous global economic recovery, all thanks to ex-consumers who no longer are dead but not ex-.

No, the fear she gets. It's the anticipation that startles her, a delicious frisson sweeping over her, something akin to reading a horror story late at night all alone, hearing a thump and a bump, and the accompanying mix of dread, despair, hope, wanting and not wanting, tumbling together. And isn't that the essence of attraction, the fear of ends, the dread of them, the despair at all that has passed and yet, when confronted with the promise of what could be, the hunger rising, the risk you’re willing—no, forced—to take?

"Now let's see how you are doing with your oral motor exercises." These are drudgery; there’s no way around it, but critical if he's to keep his speech intelligibility, 74

not to mention a prosody that's more music than growl. Speech therapy for zombies is all about compensatory strategies, blurring the lines between dead and living so we can all just get along.

As he goes through the exercises, following each with production of the target sound in a word and phrase, she carefully observes the pursing and retraction of his lips, the movement and accuracy of his tongue, the lovely, miraculous dance of speech, one motion following on the heels of another, future sounds shaping the present, molding the memory of the past. He's so fluid it's startling, nearly human in rate and rhythm. Shows you what's possible with money, opportunity, and force of will. One thing you have to admire about zombies is their single-mindedness. They may not get points for imagination, but for sheer stick-to-it-tiveness, they can't be beat.

Yes, he's had every opportunity and it shows. Beyond a slight hesitation now and again, a gesture that seems more appreciation than inability, as if he chooses to linger as opposed to being forced to it, his speech is nearly human. There's not an ounce of self-consciousness in his attempts; even his mistakes seem delightfully purposeful, designed to enchant. You've gotta love a man with this much aplomb, even a dead man.

"You're doing wonderfully."

"Mis-s-s-stakes," he sighs.

He’s so hard on himself, another zombie trait she can’t help but admire. It pushes him toward excellence, being all he can be, resolving to do better next time, always sure there will be a next time which, because he’s a zombie and already dead, is a pretty much guaranteed. No they don’t give up and they never take no for an answer. If at first they 75

don’t succeed, they try and try and try again. She finds herself blushing at where this thought leads, watching his tongue dart forward for production of a ”t”, then disappear for an open vowel, only to emerge slightly thrust between perfect teeth, capped to hide deterioration, giving him a killer smile. Who would have thought the word ‘tooth’ could be so damn sexy?

She shakes her head to get back on track. This is therapy, not a date. She hears him focus on an “s”, try and miss it, an almost that only her trained ear can discern, and of course his more exacting one. Sibilants are always going to be trouble for him; they require motor planning that takes a toll on a system past tense instead of present. The lips want to retract, the death's head grin, distorting his “s”'s, making them sound more last gasp than full of life. And therapy three times a week can slow the loss but never stem it.

She’s explained this all to him, yet every week he returns for his Monday, Wednesday, Friday sessions, her last appointment, and frankly the highlight of her week.

"Perfect," she insists. "Charming," she adds. It is charming and sweet these small faults in a body that will never age quite like the living.

"Bias-s-s-sed," he says, his lips retracting into a wide grin. He forgets himself in real emotion, and because of that she can't find it in her heart to correct him. He wants so to please her. It’s been a long time since a man has made her pleasure his.

"Maybe. But there are worse things.” She laughs, and he smiles, a wide, childish,

”cheese” of a smile, so endearing she’d kiss him then and there if they were other than what they are.

“You ready to practice your conversational skills, Robert?" she asks, thinking a change in task and subject is just what they need to get back on track.

76

He nods stiffly as if he's afraid his head might detach from his body. It won't.

He’s still fresh. He's careful, though, just the same. It gives him an old world quality that carefulness, reminiscent of more genteel times, of gentlemen and ladies. She's not really sure how old he is. Embalming does that to a zombie. He was in his late twenties when he died, in prime physical condition, and it shows. He won't live forever, but he does have a fair span of able-bodied death ahead of him, certainly more than she has life.

There are worse things then turning zombie. He's proof enough of that.

She stands; he follows her lead. She understands this is a compensatory strategy, this mirroring that mimics interest, attraction, love. And that’s how she reads it at the heart of her, even while her head notices how well his occupational therapist has done her job.

It’s as if they’ve found the best in humanity, she and her fellow therapists, and passed it on, modern-day Pygmalions, making the perfect men in death they cannot find in life.

He holds her jacket for her. She slips her arms through the sleeves, thinking how long it's been since this simple courtesy was offered her. Again, it's more than likely some sort of therapeutic "homework,” although good manners can’t be discounted.

Zombies like rules, like to know what's expected and possess an admirable follow through. And yet there's something so appealing in this courteous gesture, something so natural she wants it to mean something more than shaping and task analysis, breaking behaviors down to their components and teaching each scope and sequence to ease fitting in. His successful integration into society depends on it. The living dead are tolerated but still not quite accepted, except in L.A. In L.A., everyone's accepted; perhaps why it’s the Zombie capital of the world.

"Coffee?” she asks.

77

They practice out in the community these days to help his generalization.

Coffee’s a universal, with date and business potential. And with a Starbucks on every corner, carryover is that much more likely. Of course, he doesn’t drink coffee, not really.

He could, but it messes with a digestive system that needs one thing and one thing only brains. It’s a trick, really, a strategy, part of any good zombie rehabilitation. Keep a glass in front of you. Lift it. Set it to your lips. Leave room for cream, add that and sugar, humanness located in gestures and preferences than the necessities of life—eating, drinking, breathing.

BOOK: Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance
13.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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