I hate zombies. I used to like them, back in the day. This is a story about the kind of zombie I used to like.
The Happy Zombie
by Marian Allen
Harry was a happy man. He had been a happy baby, a happy child, a happy man, and now he was a happy animated corpse.
You might as well, was his motto. You only have one or two lives, after all, so why not enjoy them?
It helped that Harry was a nice, dry zombie, not one of these nasty, wet, oozing, decomposing ones you get nowadays. What the world was coming to, he did not know. It was getting so nobody waited to be asked, with the proper rituals performed or a jolt of good, clean electricity. People didn’t even wait to be buried, if you please, but just rose from where they fell and started lurching around, terrorizing the living. Eating brains and whatnot. Spreading the pandemonium. That wasn’t how Harry was taught to behave.
Every now and then, Harry did feel weary. The man who had raised him from the grave as a servant had passed away without releasing him, and eternal life in a world where time is experienced eventually got old. Sometimes, Harry considered covering himself in ketchup and pretending to be one of the scourge, just to be put back to rest.
But you played the cards you were dealt, didn’t you?
Harry sighed a dry, dusty sigh, startling a fox who shared Harry’s woodland cabin. Even though the cabin’s owner, Harry’s late master, had been gone for over four decades, Harry kept the cabin in trim. Gives me something to do, he always told himself, when continuing his work made him feel silly. Keeps me off the streets.
A whiff of wood smoke brought him fully alert. The valley where he lived was remote; he had never seen so much as a helicopter hovering over it. A forest fire would go unnoticed until it was out of control.
Frightened but admittedly invigorated, Harry navigated the trees to the source of the smoke.
He found a campfire, tended by a slender young woman with her caramel hair pulled back into a pony tail.
When she saw him, she picked up a pointed stick and sat, poised for action.
Harry waved reassuringly. “Nuhhhhhhh,” he said. He gestured to the fire, then to the surrounding trees.
The young woman said, “Yes, I’ll be careful.”
He made the OK sign and started to withdraw.
The young woman called, “Would you like to join me? You can have half of my baked potato, and I brought two vegan hot dogs, just in case I needed extra food.
Harry didn’t know what a vegan hot dog was, but he was game for anything. Nuts and berries were filling, and sometimes delicious, but he wasn’t about to pass up a real woman-cooked meal!
While she stuck the hot dog onto the pointed stick and roasted it over the fire, she told Harry about the group of friends who had arranged to meet at this spot for an overnight, and how each had cancelled at the last minute, leaving his new acquaintance – Joyce – alone.
“So I’m just going to have an early supper and go home.” She held up a finger. “I’ll put the campfire out, first. ‘Douse it, stir it, douse it again.’ I won’t forget.”
Harry took the proffered meat cradled in a bun so soft it was practically nonexistent. He bit into it. Mmmmm! It was a little bit gummy and tasted of parsley and chemicals. When one’s usual diet subsists of what you can grow or gather and the occasional overly trusting squirrel, though, any new taste is a treat.
There was a distant flicker of lightning and, a few seconds later, a long, rolling rumble of thunder.
“That’s my cue to leave,” Joyce said. “We thought it might hold off until midnight, but it looks like it’s moved in early.”
Harry helped her tidy the campsite. He dealt with the campfire while she struck her lean-to and strapped it and her sleeping bag onto her backpack.
A patter of large, warm raindrops signaled the start of a deluge.
“Gosh,” said Joyce, “it’s really bucketing down!” Even though it was hours before sunset, she switched on her flashlight. “I don’t look forward to driving in this.”
Harry took her elbow and pointed off to the right.
“You know a shortcut?”
He knew something better than that. He led Joyce to his precious cabin, his sanctuary, his home-away-from-grave.
Out of habit, Harry always kept wood chopped and ended each day with a small fire, even in the summer, to keep the cabin dry.
Tonight, for the first time in so many years, a living human was present to enjoy and benefit from his effort.
“According to my mother,” Joyce said, “when it rains this hard, it won’t rain long. Maybe I’ll dry out by then.”
But, although the rain slacked off, it continued. Harry made up his late master’s bed for his visitor.
Although Harry didn’t need rest, he climbed into his own resting place and pretended to sleep. He couldn’t read or work with a living human around. He had forgotten that. He had forgotten how smelly live humans were, and how their bodily processes made whatever went in come out very smelly, indeed. He had forgotten how much they talked, even quiet ones like his late master and Joyce.
The next morning, he joined Joyce for a breakfast of granola bars and water.
Afterwards, he pointed her in the direction of the road. He gestured to the cabin and shook his head. “Nuhhhhhhhh!”
She patted his shoulder. “I won’t tell. Thank you for the fire and the shelter.”
She left. He was alone again. And he was happy.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: instant hand sanitizer — Yes, I know there isn’t any in the story, but “instant hand santiizer” made me think of camping, and one thing just led to another. That’s how prompts work, sometimes.