Authors: James Marshall
In the corner of my sightless white eyes, I see her. Stiffly, I turn toward her. She’s standing in the hall, holding a white towel in front of herself. It loosely hangs down from where she holds it with one flat hand over her breasts. “Everything okay in here?” she asks. Her wings open and close, slowly, like a butterfly warming itself on a branch in the sun. Her green hair is dark and heavy with wetness. It’s gathered in wavy clumps.
“I’m just going to get dressed. I’ll be right out.”
I try to nod. It doesn’t really work. She turns to go before I can decide whether or not to look, so I look and I see her perfect bare backside. Then, unsure whether I’m glad I did or sad I did, I turn and stare off into the distance, in my mind separating her and her world from me and mine. It’s an unbridgeable expanse. No one even thinks of trying. It’s the one certainty in this game of chance: everyone loses. What the hell am I doing here? I have a zombie wife. I have to take her to buy zombie groceries. I start getting up.
That’s when Fairy_26, barefoot, comes dancing out of her bedroom wearing a short baby-blue backless dress from which her wings spring and spread and suddenly begin to flap in a blur when she sees me struggling to get up. Her naked feet lift off the floor. She flies to me. She hovers in front of me, holding out her small and alive hands with a look of concern on her sweet face in front of which strands of damp green hair hang. She takes my outstretched hands, gnarled like tree roots, in her soft flexible ones, supple like newborn leaves. Her beating-near-the-point-of-invisibility wings flap even faster as she flies backwards, pulling on me, helping me off the sofa. I almost think I feel what it’s like to be alive again, through her, through touching her, or more precisely, through her willingness, no, her eagerness to touch me, but it passes as soon as I recognize I’m just feeling something, anything other than the numbness, the sadness, and the dead-heart racing despair of being who and what I am, and who and what I wish I wasn’t. When I’m standing upright, Fairy_26, still hovering, still holding my twisted hands, says, “Okay?”
She pouts. “Do you have to leave now?”
I shake my head to say, “No.” I forget all about leaving Fairy_26’s tree branch apartment as soon as she helps me up. I fall back onto the mossy cushions of the sofa like I’d only stood up because a lady had entered the room and I’m polite.
Hovering before me, Fairy_26’s wings slow. She descends and lands lightly. As she stands there, looking at me, trying to figure me out, her wings open and close, wide open and tightly together, in slow, peaceful way that looks like it feels incredibly satisfying, like a good stretch when you’re human and you wake up first thing in the morning, completely rested from a good night’s sleep and you’re so alive you feel like you could do anything even though you couldn’t. She catches me staring at her wings.
“I know,” she says. “They’re strong for such fragile-looking things.”
Neither of us says anything for a long time after she says that and I wonder if we’re both thinking about living people, about being living people, about being strong and looking fragile, about being fragile and looking strong, about the two of us meeting under different circumstances, less complicated ones, or if it’s just me.
“You might be the perfect man,” sighs Fairy_26. “You listen and don’t say anything.” She brushes at something invisible on the front of her dress, on the façade, the lie. “Sorry again about that scene in the store. It’s my fault. I should’ve known better than to get involved with an elf. At first, it’s all singing and dancing in the forest and everything is wonderful and then you catch him getting it on with some bitch by a stream. I hate naiads. They’re sluts. I shouldn’t say they’re
sluts. Most of them are sluts. They’re usually gorgeous but this one wasn’t even that beautiful. I don’t know what he was thinking. I guess he wasn’t. Men.” She harrumphs. Then she remembers me and says, “Sorry. I didn’t mean you.”
I point at my head and move my hand away quickly, like I don’t think either and she laughs. It makes me so happy: seeing all these things happening quickly, her calm ocean blue eyes widen and her pretty mouth open a little and turn up at the sides, exposing her perfect teeth and her pink tongue, and watching her body shake with glee. Only a fairy can feel glee. I’m convinced of it when I see her laugh. When she laughs, she laughs completely. Even her wings laugh. They shake with her body. After a time that passes too quickly, Fairy_26 settles down. She smiles at me for a while. Then she looks away. Something heavy and hard inside me falls and thuds.
“Usually I go for giants,” she says, sitting on the mossy floor about five feet in front of me. “Before the elf, my last two boyfriends were giants. I like the brooding type, I guess.” She’s sitting on her left hip. Her left hand is flat on the natural carpet beside her, supporting the light weight of her upper body. Her slender legs are together. Her knees are bent. “Generally, giants have depressive personalities. Like you,” she says, glancing at me. “Depress
personalities, not depress
,” she adds, peeking at me. She laughs again. The laugh turns into a smile. The smile slowly fades. She frowns. “Giants don’t like the way they are, either. They wish they were normal-sized. They’re loners. I like loners: people who don’t fit. It’s probably because I don’t feel like I fit, either. Maybe nobody does. I don’t know. I don’t think it matters.” She rubs her right calf and I don’t think of all the things I’d do to experience what those fingers feel because I know it’d take several especially long eternities. “I used to sit in a giant boyfriend’s ear and talk to him.” With the same hand she used to touch her leg, she finger-combs her a freshly fallen clump of damp green hair behind her ear. The sunlight turns her hair into millions of different shades. It’s brighter in some places and darker in others. Where the sun puts its shape-shifting hands on her directly, it looks almost white. Fairy_26 touches her ear. “Not right inside his auditory canal. That’d probably tickle. I’d lay on the fleshy ledge just beneath it.” She shows me, smoothing her finger over that orangey-pink indented part of herself, just above her earlobe. Then she pulls her hand away. “He’d wander the countryside. I’d talk. His name was Troublemaker but he wasn’t a troublemaker at all. He was big, though. Talk about a tricky love life. Boy. I tell you.”
She lapses into silence then, leaving me to think about it. To imagine it. Are giants sized proportionally?
“I think that’s why I usually go for giants,” says Fairy_26. “Because they’re sad.” She plays with the hem of her baby-blue dress, staring at it. “I like to make people happy. I don’t know if I ever do but I like to try.” Without looking at me, she shrugs. When she does, the spaghetti strap on the right side of her dress slides off her right shoulder and falls against her right arm. Desperately, I try to communicate with her telepathically but in an anonymous way so she doesn’t know it’s me, to ask her to leave it there, but she hooks it up with her thumb and lifts it back into place. “Maybe it’s because I think if I make someone else happy, I’ll be happy then, too, because I’m really
happy but I think I’m happy enough. I told you I cry and cry sometimes but I don’t feel sad all the time. Really. I swear.” Tucking both legs beneath herself, sitting on her heels, she holds up her hand, swearing to me. Then she lowers it. “Anyway, I still miss Troublemaker sometimes.”
“What happened?” she interprets. She shrugs. “What always happens?” Suddenly her wings blur into motion, lifting her off the floor. When she’s at precisely the right height to stand, her wings stop. Her feet touch down so gently it’s like they were never off the ground. She walks over to her music player. “Do you like music?” She looks back at me over her shoulder.
I nod and nod. Zombie music all sounds the same to me. It’s sexual and rhythmic, the way human and supernatural music is, but zombie music is made up entirely of human screams, zombie groans, and the sound of things breaking and I get enough of that at home.
She turns on a song. At first I think it’s an orchestra of instruments but then I realize it’s a choir of voices. Fairy voices. They sing the wind whispering through spring leaves and gales crashing into winter cliffs. They intone a small fire crackling in dry fall branches and a raging inferno roaring through a hot summer forest. The room resonates with the clicking of stones and the tumbling of boulders. It’s the union of all things. The harmony of the universe. It’s all one big bang, breaking everything apart, perfectly, so it can be alone. Without us. Within us. It’s the sound of the supernatural, which is so natural it can’t be understood or accurately described. It can be reproduced, but why? Why isn’t it good enough as it is? The song Fairy_26 plays for me is the sound of everything people and zombies aren’t. “Do you like it?” she asks, swaying to its beat, turning to me.
Dumbly, I nod.
“Dance with me.”
Awkwardly, I try to get up. She flies over and helps. When I’m standing and I seem steady enough, she lands in front of me. “Okay.” Concentrating on the problem, she puts one hand on the back of her head. She ruffles her green hair. It’s still drying. “How are we going to do this?”
She moves in such amazing ways. Her elbows work; her knees bend. She curls her toes in the soft moss carpet. She smiles. She tips her head from side to side, cheerfully.
When she stops playing with her hair, her arms hang loosely at her sides, not rigidly out in front of her. She’s so alive. I try not to stare at the pulse beating in her neck. I try not to think of the blood and meat of her beauty. She’s constantly recycling. It’s such luxury, seemingly beginning again, with every breath.
I lower my outstretched hands onto her shoulders. She moves closer. I’m so surprised I almost take a step back but I’m slow and awkward and I recover before I have the chance. She comes as close as she can, wrapping her arms around me completely. She holds me tightly. She presses the side of her beautiful face into my undead chest. My arms reach out above her uselessly, touching nothing, pointing nowhere.
“I’ll help you a little,” she says. Her wings turn invisible, fluttering. She lifts me a few inches off the ground. She begins moving us in time with the music. She knows this song. She knows every bend and curve and dip and swell. She hugs the music as tightly as she hugs me. After I get over the surprise of it all, I can almost feel it. I can almost feel her. I can almost feel the fairy voices and the sound of everything. For a second, I understand the smallest part and the whole and how there’s no difference, just the illusion of difference. Just as the vast majority of humans can’t see the zombie world or the supernatural world, I’ve been unable to see the one thing I ever needed to see and as soon as I look at it, directly, I can’t see it anymore but even when it disappears, I remember what it looks like. I don’t know if I’ll ever see it again but I know I’ll spend every second searching and I won’t forget who showed it to me. It’s so fast but so important. I can’t believe I’m still dancing with Fairy_26. I can’t believe she didn’t stop and say, “You see?” But she doesn’t know I did and I don’t know if she ever has.
Briefly, I wonder if she slipped me something, some sort of hallucinogen, or if the perfume of her hair is intoxicating me but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter how or why I saw what I saw; I saw it. What am I going to do when I find it again? Will I worship it or destroy it? Is there any difference? No. Just the illusion of difference. I have to remember that. I repeat the words in my head, over and over, while Fairy_26 holds me off the ground and moves me to the music of everything she knows so well.
“Have you ever heard of Guy Boy Man?” she asks.
My zombie wife, Chi, and I are at the grocery store. I’m pushing the cart. It has a waist-high horizontal handlebar. It has four wheels. It has a metal cage into which you stuff the bodies of living people. The cage is six feet by six feet. It has locking gates on either side for your convenience. There’s also a smaller, easily accessible, non-locking cage on top for smaller items such as fresh brains, saliva for your wife’s coffee, and that kind of thing.
The fact that I’d never heard of Guy Boy Man excited Fairy_26 so much we had to leave her tree branch apartment right away. Holding me by the hands, she flew me from downtown Fairyland, over fields of flowers too beautiful to dream: irises, poppies, peonies, and violets. Laughing, she swooped down right above them and dropped me into them. They were enormous. Each flower was as big as a large room. I’d slide down the silky petals. I’d bounce down the velvety ones. I’d land in the soft centre. Awkwardly, I’d stand among pistils and stamens that were taller than I. The colours of the flower were so bright and sharp it hurt to look at them directly. I could see them with my eyes closed.
In the middle of a tulip, Fairy_26 showed me Guy Boy Man on the inside of bright whiteness that stretched up and curved over us, like it was protecting us. Guy Boy Man was ecstatic, brandishing the Pope’s hat, waving it at us, like we were the Pope or he knew the Pope would be watching and he kept saying, over and over, “I have your hat!” Fairy_26 explained to me who Guy Boy Man is. I guess he’s a real superstar in the supernatural world. Guy Boy Man is a sixteen-year-old pirate and spiritual leader who may have, inadvertently, caused a global financial crisis in the process of becoming unspeakably wealthy. He actually likes to talk about it but it turns out not many people want to hear about it.
Anyway, Guy Boy Man is one of the very few humans who can see zombies for what they are. With his vast resources, he’s managed to expose a number of zombie banks and zombie institutions. Currently, he’s in the process of rallying others to his cause, which is to end human suffering. Fairy_26 explained Guy Boy Man’s odd clothing choices. To reflect his role as spiritual leader, he wears a shiny, high-tech, white, plastic ceremonial robe. To indicate he’s a pirate, he wears a pirate hat. Apparently, Guy Boy Man pirated the Pope’s pirate hat—the tall gold and white one—and now it’s Guy Boy Man’s pirate hat.
In the tulip petal, Guy Boy Man wielded the Pope’s hat like a weapon and said, “It costs ten percent of your weekly salary to belong to the Pope’s religion. For a limited time only, if you go to www.howtoendhumansuffering.com, you can join
religion at the low cost of
percent of your weekly salary. “That’s a savings of one percent every single week! There are fifty-two weeks in the year. It’s simple mathematics. Just by switching from the Pope’s religion to mine, you’ll save
fifty-two percent a year
In the grocery store, my wife and the mother of my son is tearing up the list she made. She’s knocking items off shelves and down onto the floor. “I do the best I can, Buck,” she says. “I don’t know what else to say. I love you with all my heart. I look after you and our son. Are you happy? No. You’re depressed.”
“It’s not your fault, Chi. It’s a chemical imbalance.”
The aisles are wide enough to permit two carts to pass each other going in opposite directions.
“It’s a chemical imbalance,” she scoffs. “I know that. You know that. But that’s not what
are going to think. You know what zombies are going to think? Zombies are going to think there’s something wrong with
.” She mocks, “‘If Buck is depressed, things must be great at home. His wife probably keeps the house too tidy. I bet she cooks. Maybe she’s lousy at having sex in human blood and filth in front of horrified people she and Buck haven’t eaten yet.’ Oh God.” She turns to me, scared. “Is there something wrong with me, Buck? You’d tell me if there was something wrong with me, wouldn’t you? Is there something I do that you
like? Is there something I could do that you
like? I’m not talking about cleaning the house, taking a bath, or washing my clothes, Buck. Because that’s not happening. Okay? That’s just me. If you don’t like it, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Too bad. Tough luck. Be depressed.”
“You’re not doing anything wrong, Chi.”
The Pope and spiritual leaders of other organized religions are among the most important human beings with whom zombies have alliances.
The busiest and noisiest section of the grocery store is the “Fresh Meat” section.
When Fairy_26 and I left the tulip, I considered, mindlessly, how upsetting the Pope might upset the zombie hierarchy. I’d never knowingly encountered anyone from the upper echelons of the zombie world but I always assumed there was an upper echelon and it kept things going. Fairy_26 flew me to a stream where we landed on a twig that floated on the surface tension while the clear water below became a clear picture of Guy Boy Man ranting:
“Zombies ruin the environment and they want
to fix it? Forget it. Not me. I turn on all the taps and I leave them on. I buy regular light bulbs, not those dim little compact fluorescent pieces of crap and I turn them on and leave them on, day and night and I don’t have a smart car. I have a big, dumb-ass American bulldozer. And I leave my big, dumb-ass American bulldozer idling all the time even when I go to bed at night and in the morning, I get up and I don’t need to turn on any lights because they’re already on and I shave, shower, and brush my teeth but I don’t need to turn on the water because it’s already pouring.
“I get dressed in cheap clothes made by sweatshop kids because sweatshop kids need money too and I go out to my big, dumb-ass American bulldozer, get in and I don’t have to turn it on because it’s already running and I drive it uneconomically—speeding up to red lights and peeling out when they turn green—to the gas station and I fill ’er up.
One day, when the tank is full, I’m going to keep pumping. I’m going to pump until gasoline rivers run down all the streets in the world. Then I’m going to light those rivers on fire because fire is awesome. I’m going to watch the flames dance and the black smoke fill the sky and I’m going to laugh and laugh and laugh . . .”
Right now, Chi and I are in the “Frozen Foods” section where a zombie can get a TV dinner consisting of an unidentifiable cut of human flesh along with a dollop of artificial mashed potatoes and a rather pathetic looking serving of vegetables. There are also rows of frozen human legs and arms hanging on hooks behind glass doors that hiss a little when you open them, and spill out a cold wind over your lower undead extremities. The corners of the glass are usually covered with frost. Behind other glass doors, there are hands and feet sitting on shelves. For budget-conscious zombies, there are whole frozen torsos available that you can take home, thaw, and de-bone yourself. For those with a little more money to burn, individual frozen cuts are available: lungs, livers, kidneys, hearts. Nobody buys frozen brains. It just isn’t done. Sure, you could probably ask the butcher and, I suppose, he’d go along with it if you gave him a long explanation of why you want a frozen brain but who would? You want your brain fresh. Aisle Four.
Chi pulls a couple of human arms from the freezer. “I know you don’t want to hear this, Buck,” she says, sticking the arms into our cart. “But we need marriage counselling.”
“You need marriage counselling,” I say. “I don’t need marriage counselling.”
“Buck, all our friends are going to marriage counselling.”
After we left the stream, Fairy_26 brought me to a tree that filled the sky. It had more leaves than I could see and we landed a long way from it. Fairy_26 told me it was as close as we could get. She said it was as close as anyone or anything could get. It was an important tree. I wanted to get closer. I needed to get closer. Fairy_26 knew it. She picked me up and flew me toward it and even though the rest of the world sped by in a blur, the tree stayed the same distance away. Was it retreating? Were we just not advancing? On the leaves of that tree, I could see Guy Boy Man and in my mindless mind, I could hear his words:
“I want to make a brief point about the futility of everything. I know that sounds like it’s going to be depressing but it’s not. Really.” He paused, thinking about it, looking up at his own eyebrows. “Okay it’s going to be a little depressing,” he admitted, finally.
He paced back and forth but the leaves always showed his face or the side of his face and there were times I knew he was gesturing with his hands even though I couldn’t see. “Here’s my brief point about the futility of everything: it’s not for us. All the work we’re doing: the sky we’re scraping; the inroads we’re supposedly making. It’s for other people. People we’ve been told, lead to believe, convinced, will be around after us. We’re actually trying to make the world easier and better for people we’ll never even know. And we’ll never be done. And we’ll all die trying. To do something we don’t understand. For people we don’t know. And all that’ll be left of us, any of us, when we’re dead and gone, will be a pyramid, in one form or another, a testament to nothing and no one, a monument proving only our slavishness, ironically, to something which never had any real power, a shrine to the suffering we never needed to endure, but for which we volunteered ourselves, and worse, our children.”
“Fine,” I volunteer. “If it’ll make you happy, we can go to marriage counselling.”
“Really, Buck?” says Chi, guiding the front of the cart into the chaotic “Fresh Meats” section while I push it. “Do you really mean it? You’re not just saying that? Because I think we really need marriage counselling. I think we’re going to discover we have a lot of problems.”