A Reluctant Zombie

By Natalie J E Potts

sfgenreKait curled over as the first bolt of pain clawed at her chest. She was missing the end of Master Chef and she wanted to know if the grilled snails were as rubbery as everyone had predicted. She tried to listen to the judges, but the pain tapped into her pulse, blasting her ears with a staccato of angry blood.

And like that it was gone.

She sat back. The judges were pulling faces that could be pleasure or dislike, it was impossible to tell. The guest chef shook his head; rubbery.

Kait let out a small laugh of schadenfreude and switched off the TV, signalling to the cat that it was bedtime. Bed did not hold its usual appeal, two weeks over 35°C each day meant the nights rarely dipped below 27°.

Slipping into a sexy nighty that no-one ever saw, Kait lay on top of her bed and prayed for exhaustion to take her. Missy finally jumped up on the bed, hissed, then sprang back off.

Clearly the heat was getting to everyone.

If Kait slept at all she wasn’t aware of it. She gave up looking at the clock at two am. When her alarm finally went off she was out of bed and in the shower without the usual morning torpor.

She pushed her face deep into the spray of the shower and stood there for a long time. When she lifted her hands to wash her face her fingers were etched with wrinkles. A sneaky fart slipped out. The reek was so toxic Kait ended the shower just so she could escape the glass cubicle.

Shocked that such a smell could come out of her, she did a mental audit of what she had eaten the day before. Perhaps it was time to add some vegetables to her diet? Her doctor had been suggesting it for years.

She let out another even more putrid fart on her walk down to the bus stop. She subtly waved her arm behind her, hoping to sever any miasmic tendrils that might have hooked into her. This was getting embarrassing.

When Kait got into work her boss looked up at her. “Good morn — ” He stopped. “Are you okay?”

“Sure.” It was the truth. Kait actually felt better than she had in ages.

“You just look a little... pale.”

“I think I ate something bad, but I’m fine now. I didn’t sleep well.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It was hot last night.”

Kait paused. Despite having not slept she couldn’t recall feeling warm at all.

By ten she could feel the rumblings of another fart building. There was no way she was going to be able to quietly let this one out and peel an orange to cover it. She rushed to the bathroom, got into a stall and pulled down her undies in the nick of time.

It felt like her intestines were emptying into the bowl. The smell that rose up behind her didn’t do much to dispel the impression.

“Eeurkk.” She heard from another stall, followed by the sound of vomiting. Kait buried her face in her hands. Should she try to hurry up so she could get out before the other person identified her, or wait for them to leave first? The spewing didn’t give any hint of letting up, so Kait decided to make a dash for it. She hurriedly wiped and flushed, not noticing the soup of black and red she had left behind.

Kait sat back down at her desk. She couldn’t tell if the pong was just tattooed to her nasal passages, or if it really was hanging onto her. No-one near her reacted, so she figured she was okay. She reached for her tea.

A blue-black line on the underside of her arm caught her eye. She poked at it hesitantly. The colour moved around like jelly under her skin. She looked at her other arm to find the same weird bruising.

“Kait, I need...” He boss fell silent. “Are you okay?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Maybe you should go home.”

“Yeah.” Kait got up on wobbly legs. A fart slipped out before she could stop it. Her boss let out a whimper, then crashed to the ground. Kait ran.

***

Missy hissed at her as she came into the house, so Kait responded with a fart that dropped the cat. She looked at the small mound of fluff and was relieved to see the little chest still rising and falling.

“Damn!”

The voice came from her bedroom. By the bubbling of her stomach, Kait knew she was still armed, so she decided to investigate.

A tall, gaunt man dressed in a flowing black robe was pushing through her bedclothes as if he might find something if he persisted in digging. His rusty old scythe was against the wall.

“Are you looking for me?” Kait asked.

Despite his lack of soft tissue, Death looked surprised. “Oops!” he said, taking up his blade. “I think I read the date wrong.”

“I think you did.” Kait said.

“I know how it looks... I’m new.”

“New?” Kait wondered why he hadn’t yet cut her down. She could feel what remained of her internal organs slipping down inside her.

“With the apocalypse around the corner recruiting’s been crazy, and training’s gone to shit.” He actually leaned on his scythe as he nattered.

“My blood is turning to pudding,” Kait said, “and you think you’re having a bad day?”

“Oh yeah.” He quickly took up his scythe and swung at her, looking away at the last moment.

Kait’s arm hit the floor.

“Want to try that again?” she said.

“I hate the blood...” Death looked down at the puss-white arm twitching on the floorboards. “Oh, you’ve already coagulated!”

The last thing Kait felt was the searing heat of the blade as it cut through her chest.

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About The Author

Natalie J.E. Potts

Natalie J. E. Potts has worked in everything from Air Traffic Control to Zoology, but writing has always been a constant. She writes spec fic for adults and young adults and has been published in Australia, the US and UK. She is a member of Melbourne's SuperNOVA writers group and Adelaide's Hiro's Ink writers group and is eternally grateful to them both. For more information see <www.nataliejepotts.com>.

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A Game Of Strategy
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by George Nikolopoulos

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Brew
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Deadline
by Kevin J. Phyland

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by Dianna Zaragoza

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by PS Cottier

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by Eugen M. Bacon

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CSFG/Conflux 13 Short Story Competition (Closed)
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