Authors: Shanti Krishnamurty
Tags: #AN ALMOST ZOMBIE TALE
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE:
AN ALMOST ZOMBIE TALE
Copyright 2015 by Shanti Krishnamurty
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely incidental.
Wild Seas Formatting
Cover Art by
Nikki, when you told me this quirky, silly short story would make an awesome novel, I was absolutely skeptical. I’m very grateful you convinced me to take a chance on such a funky project.
Amy, your eye for detail has been profoundly needed…and I’m so thankful for it. You are amazing.
Rama, you are part of every novel I will ever write. Your support has gone far beyond words and actions. You are the truest definition of the word ‘sister’.
Isis, thank you for letting me use your name. You’re the perfect half-zombie.
And, as always, there are more people than I can possibly name who have kept me moving forward when those dark moments hit. Thank you for your belief in me. Thank you for ‘spreading the word’. You are the reason I write.
This book is in all ways dedicated to God, who created the platypus; my husband, whose presence in my life proves God’s sense of both timing and humor, and my boys, who love me enough to let me write.
And so it Begins.
Andrew and I stroll across the sand to where the thick wooden timbers creak above our heads and the only light I can see is through the cracks in the thick slats. I relax and take my boyfriend’s hand in mine. We haven’t been dating long, but he’s everything I’ve always wanted: smart, funny and pretty much all around drop dead gorgeous. Truly dark gray eyes I could sink into forever, long black corkscrew curls and, to top it all off, he’s thin but not skinny. I mean, there are abs. What’s not to love?
“Where are you taking me?” I grip his hand as he leads me deeper into the shadows under the pier; the shadows that house the druggies and the homeless. This is starting to feel less romantic, and a little more than scary.
“I just want to be alone with you,” he whispers.
I shiver at the velvet honey of his voice.
“I—I want to be alone with you, too,” I reply, though it tastes like a lie on my tongue. What I really want is to go back to where light is, even if it’s the artificial light of carnival rides and open stores. But my body has other ideas. It sways toward him as he tugs me closer.
“Relax, Isis. You’ll enjoy it.” He starts to nuzzle at my neck.
I do enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot. My limbs feel like a marionette’s and my eyes slide shut. Right until the moment his teeth actually pierce the delicate skin covering my jugular vein.
“What’re you doing?” I shove him as far away from me as I can. He falls and just sits on the sand, staring at me.
I glare at the shadow of him. His eyes look like they’re kind of glowing. I hide behind my words. “You’re such a jerk!” Okay, the word I want to say is a lot stronger than ‘jerk’, but there’s no way I can say it. My mom would
me if she ever found out.
“Wait, you don’t understand—I’m not done…”
“Done with what? You know what…never mind. I don’t even want to know. Whatever it is, you can keep it to yourself!” I slap my palm over the spot he bit, and a warm wetness oozes over my fingers. “You drew blood? I’m so outta here!”
Andrew rises to his feet. “It’s just a scrape…Isis, you need to let me finish.” His voice deepens into honey again, but by then I’m done buying whatever he’s trying to sell.
“It’s not just a scrape! I’m
He holds out a hand; I think to stop me from leaving. It doesn’t work. I run as fast as I can back to the light, and then continue all the way to my car. I scramble for my car keys, clamber into the VW Bug’s front seat and peel out of there like my butt is on fire. I don’t even care that I’m leaving him stranded in Savannah. Let him find his own way back to Atlanta. I’m done.
I get home and just collapse into bed, fully dressed. I don’t even brush my teeth. By the time I wake up the next morning, I’m really hoping everything in Savannah was just a blurry nightmare, but my fingers creep up to my neck and I feel the scab. My boyfriend actually bit me. I can’t even come up with a plausible reason why he’d do it. I
misjudged him. What a freak.
I fumble my way out of bed and into the kitchen. The coffee maker burbles its version of ‘good morning’. I’m beyond grateful it’s one of those programmable ones, because I feel like there’s sand in my eye sockets. I fill my cup to the brim and take a sip of the inky goodness. The coffee burns its way down my throat, tasting like liquid mud. I shove the cup away and it spills across the table. Perfect. Today just keeps getting better and better. I decide right then that I’m not going to try cooking anything. With my luck, I’d set the apartment on fire and how would I explain
to my mom when she gets home?
It takes around two seconds to stick my feet into a pair of flip-flops. I pull the front door open, and a folded paper drifts to the floor. I bend down, grab it, and cram it into my back pocket. It’s most likely a flyer for a church event of some sort. Thankfully, the elevator’s empty and it doesn’t take long to get to the ground floor of the building. I walk through an unexpected summer rain shower to the little hole in the wall that almost always has lines around the block. Today I get lucky. At least something’s going right.
I amble inside. The owner, Ms. Adwell, waves me over to a booth. “Hey, honey, how are you? Is your mama still in China?”
I nod. “She called me when she got there, but then decided that in order to experience the ‘real’ tour she’d better turn off her cell.” My mom’s been gone for two weeks, taking an in-depth tour of the Silk Road. Honestly, I have no idea when she’s coming back, other than ‘eventually’. I’m in charge of the apartment in her absence. Luckily, she’s got a full bank account, thanks to figuring out how to grow watermelons vertically and some very curious farmers. Last I heard, she’s trying to figure out how to grow square grapes, and I’m not really sure why. I think she just likes the challenge of it.
The old black woman hmphs her reply. I don’t think she approves of teenagers being left home alone for weeks at a time. Never mind that my mom’s been treating me like an adult for years and I’ve been a primary on her bank accounts pretty much since time began.
The scent that suddenly weaves its way through the restaurant makes my nostrils flare. It’s eggs and…something else. Something unrecognizable, but utterly desirable. My stomach moans its disapproval of my neglect. “What’s Carl cooking?”
She stares at me from across the nearly empty restaurant. “Umm… honey, I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.”
I’m pretty sure she’s wrong. “No, it’s exactly what I want.” My stomach rumbles again, backing up my statement.
“White folk around here don’t usually order pig brains and eggs.”
That can’t possibly be what I smell. Gross. What kind of person eats brains for breakfast? Not me, that’s for sure. I order my usual, instead. “Can I get French toast with powdered sugar, orange juice, and a side of cheesy scrambled eggs?”
“Of course, darlin’. Give Carl a few minutes to finish up Lucky Rickard’s plate, and I’ll bring it right out.”
“Thanks.” I lean back against the worn plastic booth, glancing over at the other regular in the diner, Lucky Rickard. I have no idea why he’d order brains for breakfast, but anyone who’s survived as many heart attacks as he has can eat any darn thing he wants, I guess. I shift in my seat and feel the folded paper in my pocket. I pull it out and look at it.
“Are you experiencing odd changes? Craving even odder foods? Visit 2089 Vista Round Terrace if you need guidance.”
It’s written in beautiful, curvy letters. It reminds me of how I imagine the Victorian era people would write. Elegant. It’s weird that some stranger’s writing me, though. Maybe it’s one of those help centers that dot the metro Atlanta area. I close my eyes and tilt my head back until it rests against the cool vinyl.
“You sure you’re okay?”
I open my eyes as Ms. Adwell places my breakfast in front of me. It looks
. My nostrils flare. I very reluctantly pick up my fork. “Yeah, I’m just tired.”
She shakes her head. “Honey, you look beyond tired. You look almost dead. Eat your breakfast, then go home and get some rest. You obviously need it.”
I need some food, is what I need. “Thanks, I’ll do that.” I stick the fork into the cheesy eggs. The idea of eating them makes the utensil weigh about a bazillion pounds.
‘Just let me know if you need anything else,” Ms. Adwell says.
I can’t bring myself to actually bring the fork up to my lips. The eggs just sit there, looking cheesy and yellow. I take a deep breath in and that incredible smell wafts over me. I know Ms. Adwell said it was eggs and brains, but maybe I’m just craving the eggs. I close my eyes, say a tiny prayer. Eat the forkful. And throw up. All over the plate. My face flares bright, tomato red.
“Oh my gosh! I’m so, so sorry!” My stomach is determined to expel every single bit of food in it. I stumble to the tiny bathroom in the back of the diner, Ms. Adwell hard on my heels.
“Honey, are you all right? Sit down; let me get you a glass of water.” She fusses over me as I collapse into a ball, pressing my face against the cool tile.
I moan around my dry heaves. I’m so unbelievably hungry. When Ms. Adwell opens the bathroom door, my stomach rumbles at the smell wafting inside. I give in. It’s obviously
the eggs. “Can—can I have a small plate of brains?” I talk to the floor, partially hoping she can’t hear me.
“Wash your face and come back out to your booth.” She obviously heard me. My hopes are dashed.
I push myself to a sitting position and just…stay, head hanging. I can’t believe I just asked for brains on a plate. I have no idea what’s wrong with me, but this seriously sucks. But my mom’s always telling me to face the world that exists, not the one I wish I had, so I do. I get up, rinse out my mouth and splash lukewarm water on my face. I look haggard. My wavy black hair still frames my face, the ends tickling at my chin, but my black eyes look haunted. I shudder and look away. I don’t need a reminder of how sick I feel. After wiping the excess water off with a handful of paper towels, I’m sort of ready to go back to my booth and face the music…errr…brains.
A rush of saliva soaks my mouth when I see the plate Ms. Adwell left for me. All those little curls of meat mixed through the eggs. The eggs don’t do much for my appetite. I push them out of the way, take a miniscule forkful of the brains and start coughing almost immediately.
“What’s a matter? You swallow wrong?” Carl ambles toward me, his white apron tied around his middle. I have no idea how he keeps it so clean while he cooks behind the counter. But then again, it’s not like I’m an expert on the whole cooking thing. “Told Adina white folks have no business messin’ with brains n’ eggs, but she wouldn’t listen.”
I smile up at him wanly. “They taste like pork. I didn’t know they’d taste like pork.”
He crinkles up his forehead. “Course they taste like pork. They’re pig brains. Were you expectin’ something different?”
I shrug. “They smelled
when they were cooking…” My eyes widen as my brain processes what I just said. “Raw,” I murmur. “Holy cow, I need ‘em raw.” My stomach heaves at the idea, but there’s nothing left to throw up.