I'm posting this a bit early, since I'm going to be dismantling my computer over the weekend. Enjoy.
Anna hadn't meant to bite him. He didn't even taste very good. But she had been hungry, and he really seemed to be the only thing to eat.
“This is so dumb,” she moaned to Grace. “I hate meat.”
“What are you talking about?” Grace's voice was muffled behind the man's arm, which she was eagerly munching on. “Honestly, if I had known humans tasted so good, I would have started eating them before I became a zombie.”
Anna took another bite from the now-dead man and forced herself to swallow. She made a face. “It's repulsive,” she said.
“Whatever,” said Grace. “I think it tastes a bit like pork. Could use some barbecue sauce, though. I miss barbecue sauce. And barbecues.”
That was another thing that sucked about being a zombie. It really left something to be desired in the realm of movement and fine motor control. Deadbolts were tricky when you were on the right side of the door, and anything as fine as a lighter or the cap on a bottle of barbecue sauce was right out. Anna suspected it had something to do with the lack of a balanced diet.
She choked down a few more bites of the dead man and sat back. Her stomach felt heavy, but not really queasy. Nothing seemed to make her queasy these days. Grace motioned toward the man's head. “You gonna eat that?” she said. “I mean, it's your call. You're the one who caught this one, so you get the brains.”
“I think I'm good,” said Anna. “I guess I wasn't as hungry as I thought I was.”
Grace gave a sort of shrug and bent over the man's exposed brain. Anna rolled her eyes.
Grace was very much the stereotypical zombie. Half her right calf was gone, forcing her to walk with a limping shamble, and a series of nasty bites to the side of her neck made her head loll slightly sideways. And she loved eating brains.
It was part of why they had teamed up. Having two good legs and two mostly good arms made Anna pretty good at catching people. She would wander out and stand somewhere, keeping her head down, while Grace hid somewhere close by. Eventually some survivor would come close enough and shout, “Hey, are you alright?” And then they would strike. But Anna rarely got much past the scalp, which was really unfortunate when one realized that not getting to the brains meant there would be more competition for food. And a nice, brainless corpse could easily provide sustenance for a week or two. That is, if you liked eating corpse meat.
None of the other zombies seemed to have a problem with it, but Anna had never quite developed a taste for it. Grace theorized that she had been a vegan before she had been infected, but like all zombies, Anna remembered very little from her life as a survivor.
She pulled herself unsteadily to her feet. “I'm gonna take a walk,” she told Grace. “You go ahead and finish up.”
“Ok,” said Grace between mouthfuls. “Be careful, though. If this guy had friends, they'll probably be mad.”
“I'll be careful.”
Grace clumsily wiped at the blood on her face and grinned. “Remember, better undead than six feet under.”
“Right,” said Anna, and she shambled off down the street.
Jack fumbled with his keys at the doorknob, then flung the door open and slammed it behind him, flipping the locks closed in one swift movement. He stood there for a moment, back to the door, shotgun in hand, and took a few deep breaths. He didn't think they had followed him this far, but he hadn't survived this long by taking chances. And he still had to check the house to make sure no one had come in while he had been out.
And so he made his way around the house. He skirted carefully around the windows of the lower level. They weren't boarded up. That attracted something worse that zombies... other survivors. It was like hanging up a giant neon sign that said, “I have guns and ammo, and possibly decent food,” which at worst invited raids from larger survivor gangs, and at best brought in an incompetent who had somehow managed to survive on nothing but sheer desperation for God knows how long. The former always suggested he ought to join up with them while simultaneously stealing anything he had managed to stockpile at the location (which he generally thought was a poor technique for negotiating). The latter was only good for distracting the zombies while he got away.
No, the threat of zombies was preferable to the threat of survivors. At least with zombies you could shoot them and run. Jack supposed you could do that with survivors, too, but he really didn't like to use ammo if he didn't have to. Any survivor he shot was one less zombie he'd be able to shoot, and it was very important to be able to shoot zombies in this day and age.
The windows all seemed to be intact, and the back door was locked as tightly as the front. There were no signs of intrusion, zombie or otherwise. Jack let out a sigh of relief and headed upstairs.
He always felt more comfortable upstairs. It gave him a better view of the land, and zombies seemed to have an abysmal time with stairs. Sure, they could get up them, but not without a terrible amount of noise as they shifted and stumbled and fell several times. In Jack's opinion, the stairs were one of the finer features of this house. Well, the stairs and the back yard.
It seemed the house's original owner, a Mrs. Beatrice Barnaby, had something of a green thumb. While it apparently had not been enough to keep old Mrs. Barnaby from joining the ranks of the undead, it had provided Jack with a very convenient supply of fruits, vegetables, and even a few herbs. She had also stockpiled more canned food than Jack had ever bothered to count, but he preferred to keep those locked up in the pantry for emergencies. He didn't really know a lot about botany, but for now the plants in the back yard were proving to be a renewable food source. With that and the cans, he figured he'd be set for quite some time.
He slipped into the back bedroom and peered out the window at the garden yard, beaming at it like a miser over his treasure. So many lovely plants, green and growing, bright red tomatoes and deep purple eggplants peeking out from behind full leaves. He tapped his fingers idly on his shotgun, and then headed back downstairs to gather up a fresh salad.
Anna stared up at the street sign, but it really made no sense to her. She was sure she used to be able to understand these things, but now it was just a jumble of odd white shapes on a green background. Completely useless. How was she supposed to find her way back if she couldn't tell where she was?
She groaned and began shambling down the street. Maybe she'd find someone who could give her directions. Yeah, fat chance of that. Most zombies were at least as bad with directions as she was, and survivors would just shout, “Oh, god, they're here!” and try and shoot her. They never seemed to understand when she tried to ask them simple questions. She'd tried speaking slowly and using hand movements to convince them she wasn't there to eat them right now, but no. They just screamed, ran, and threw things. It was really frustrating, especially when all she wanted was something simple. Like directions.
A bit of movement in the window of a house caught her eye. Was it a zombie or survivor? She decided it didn't matter. She was terribly lost. She had to try something.
She stumbled her way up the path toward the door, but halfway there she noticed something else. Was that a lemon? Yes, yes it was. Several of them, actually, peeking over the top of the fence on leafy green branches.
Finally, some food that wasn't brains! Or even meat! Anna shuffled over to the fence and reached up, but they were further away than she had thought, and she couldn't quite reach. Darn. There had to be some way to get to the lemons. She'd been searching for a long time for some decent food, and she wasn't going to let it escape her now.
She gripped the top edge of the fence and began walking along it, feeling for some weakness she might be able to exploit. Then her hand touched metal. A latch! She pawed at it for a bit, and then there was a click and a gate swung open, nearly dumping her into the yard. She caught her balance and looked around. Several fruit trees dotted the yard, and vegetables and other growing plants sprawled out between them. And standing up slowly from where he had been crouched over the tomatoes was a survivor.
Crap. She had completely forgotten about the movement in the house. This was probably his garden, and now she was trespassing. She tried to think fast.
“Excuse me,” she said, clearing her throat, “I'm kind of lost, and I noticed your lemon trees....”
Jack had started at the sound of the opening gate, but before he could do any more than stand up, the zombie was in the yard. He stared at the tattered figure as its vacant eyes swept over the yard. Were there more of them? It had been stupid of him to leave his shotgun inside. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Did he have time to run for the door? Its legs were fairly intact. It might try to cut him off. He stood with muscles tensed, watching.
But the zombie did not advance. Instead, it stared at him with its vacant eyes and began waving its arms around wildly and groaning.
“...I mean, you look like you have a lot here,” said Anna. “And really, I just want something to eat that's not flesh or brains or... meaty.”
Maybe that was a bad thing to bring up. Survivors tended to be a bit sensitive about zombie diets. She should have just stuck to complimenting the garden. But he hadn't run off yet, or started shooting her. That had to be a good sign.
“Look, you seem to be just standing there,” she continued, “so I'm going to just take a lemon and leave. I'll even take one off the ground. I mean, it's not like it can make me sick, right?”
She gave a weak smile and reached for one of the fallen lemons.
Jack stared as the zombie finished its gesticulations and began to back towards the gate. It moaned something further at him, its lips curving up in some sort of grimace, and then seemed to stumble over its own feet and fall onto the ground.
Slowly, Jack started to ease his way toward the door. Perhaps the creature hadn't quite noticed him. He kept his eyes on it, stepping sideways, as the zombie pawed about in the grass.
Anna's hand grazed something smooth in the untrimmed lawn. Finally! It had been harder to find a lemon on the ground than she had thought it would be. But now she had one. At last, some sort of non-meat food. She sat back on her heels, the survivor forgotten, and bit right into the lemon.
It didn't quite taste right. She was sure she had eaten lemons before, but she couldn't quite remember what she was doing different. Maybe it was just because she had gotten it off the ground. She chewed on it a bit and spat out part of the peel. That part didn't quite seem to work. Was she supposed to peel it first? Well, fat chance of that happening. If she couldn't open a doorknob without difficulty, she certainly wasn't going to be able to peel a lemon. She's just have to make do.
Jack stood transfixed, one hand inches from the doorknob, watching the zombie. It seemed to have forgotten about him, and was instead attempting to get the insides out of a lemon. He watched as it spit out part of the peel, and then it nearly stuffed its entire nose into the fruit, apparently trying to suck out its juices. “Didn't know those things could even eat plants,” he muttered to himself.
The zombie started at his voice. It gurgled something in an annoyed tone and gestured at the fruit in its hand, nearly dropping it as it did. Then it shoved its face back in the lemon.
“You've got to be kidding me,” said Jack. “All you wanted was a lemon?”
The zombie grunted and took another bite.
“Well, you're doing it wrong,” said Jack, unconsciously taking a step away from the door. “You have to take the peel off first. And anyway, no one eats just lemons. They're too tart.”
The zombie moaned and stared at the lemon in its hands. Jack cautiously moved back to the tomato plants, pulled off one of the red fruits, and tossed it toward the creature. “Try that,” he said. “It's a tomato.” He let out a slight, wild laugh. “It'll even go squish when you bite into it.”
“I know what a tomato is, you idiot,” said Anna. Still, she dropped the lemon and crawled over toward where the tomato had fallen in the grass. She supposed she'd forgive him this time, since he had just watched her bite into the peel of a lemon. And he was letting her eat his food.
She found the tomato in the grass and picked it up. It squished a little in her clumsy hands, and seeds and juice ran down her arms. She licked them off and nibbled at the tomato. The survivor was right. It tasted much better than the lemon. And she had to admit, there was something to be said for the squish factor.
The survivor skirted around to another part of the garden, moving in that strange way that survivors did when they weren't quite bolting off somewhere, but were about to.
“I don't know what your problem is,” Anna said between bites. “I already said I wasn't going to attack you.”
There was the crack of a breaking stalk, and then something else came flying at her. She glared at the survivor. “Hey, what's the big idea?”
He pointed toward where the thing had fallen. “And there's some cauliflower to go with it.” He grinned. “You can pretend it's brains.”
Cauliflower? She clumsily licked the last of the tomato off her hands and moved toward the fallen thing. Sure enough, there in the grass lay a large, brain-shaped plant. She picked it up and looked it over. Wasn't the point of eating vegetables to be not eating body part things? What if it tasted like brains?
“If you like it, you can have all you want,” said the survivor, “so long as it keeps you from eating me. I never cared for the stuff myself.”
Anna grunted and took an experimental bite. A piece cauliflower broke off in her mouth with a satisfying crunch. It was delicious.
“I don't suppose you have any salad dressing to go with this,” she muttered, and took another bite.
Jack watched as the zombie took another bite of the cauliflower, and another. “Look at that,” he said to himself. “She actually likes it.”
He gave another nervous laugh and gathered up the rest of his own salad. “It's all yours, then,” he said. “Just try not to trample on the rest of the garden.”
As he made his way back into the house, he wondered what it would be like sharing the property with a zombie. He decided not to think about it too much right now. After all, at least with zombies, if things started going downhill, he could just shoot her and run.