Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications), and Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction (NAP). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. His latest collection of prose/poetry is Void & Sky from Outskirt Press.
Another Zombie Tale
The dead girl infiltrates our house, becomes the sister who tended towards fatal car crashes, had sex with amputees. My mother, addicted to planting mouse traps and watching reruns of Bachlorette, welcomes the dead girl with arms open.
"You've returned," she says, hugging her, until she realizes that the dead girl can't talk. My father, weakened by years of fast food & false lab reports, kneels down before the dead girl, kisses her hand.
"Is it really you, Marni?" he says.
Moments later, he's clutching his chest, complaining of a painful pressure. Mother runs for the nitroglycerin.
The dead girl sleeps in the guest room. At night, we dream of her waking up and becoming the sister with the big bunny teeth, the one who could recite verbatim the German fairy tales about little girls lost in the woods and who could outwit the monsters in the shape of family members.
We picture the dead girl at night, lying still, staring up at the ceiling. My little sister and I creep into the guest room and whisper through both sides of her ear, "Marni, please wake up. We love you."
The dead girl sits up like a wooden puppet. Her eyes are empty tombs.
Things start to disappear from our household. My little sister accuses the dead girl of stealing her mechanical mice and open-toed rattle socks shaped with turtle heads, ones that clink and clang as she walks, of destroying her playhouses and her plastic smiling frogs. I find bits and pieces of the frogs under my sheet at night. I dream of a giant frog's eye, red and unblinking, staring at me through the window. When I awake, I am too cold to sweat. My sheet is gone. I am naked.
My little sister hides in dark corners of the house. She tells mother that the dead girl is not her sister.
My little sister and I decide to rebel.
We ambush her while mother and father are sleeping. We attack her with chemical glow night-sticks and toy catapult arrows. The dead girl reaches down at our small army of toy elves, ones with oversized hands and red flashing eyes and deep mechanized laugh, the ones that can march and destroy by voice-activation and tears each one in half. Her eyes are wide and in the dark give off a green luminescence. While the mechanized laugh of the last elf fades from our ears, my sister and I run and hide in a corner of my room. We vow never to speak about this. We promise to give our martyred army a proper burial in the backyard.
In bed, I find the dead girl standing over me with fists clenched. Our revolt weakens.
We read to the dead girl snippets from our departed sister's hidden diary in hopes of affecting a cure. A single tear streams down her cheek when I read the part about the crippled boy in love with mirrors, who had the habit of walking into them. In time, he became so fractured that he no longer answered when being called.
My hard-headed mother says to give the dead girl time, that love will bring her around. I tell her that the dead girl will destroy our family, that I'm having nightmares of men with webbed fingers and rodent masks. My mother says that this will pass, that she can hear from a distance the dead girl's heart beating, that at night, she hears a river running under her bed. I do not, for one second, believe it.
My mother talks to the dead girl with the same warm and gentle tone she used with her oldest daughter. My father points out that one night, he caught the dead girl gnawing the dining room table, leaving deep teeth marks.
My mother said it was because of repressed anger. She had given too much attention to the youngest daughter.
One day, the dead girl begins to talk. We cannot understand her words and sentence fragments. I believe she has stolen mother's voice. She then disappears. In a fit of rage and despair, mother searches everywhere in the house. She cries and runs her fingernails against our best furniture. She leaves the splinters sticking in her palm. Tiny circles of blood form under her finger pads. They will never go away. Mother regains her voice.
Years later, I'm sleeping next to a girl that I've picked up from a bar. There was a Halloween party and she was made out as Gretel and I was dressed as a vampire. Waking up next to her in the dim light of morning, I make out the set of teeth marks on her arm. Mine. Her makeup is starting to wear off—some of it has stained the pillowcase. She looks so much older without it. But then again, she was dressed up to resemble a young girl from a fairy tale, one with deep sad eyes and a small crooked mouth. I shake her to make sure she is still breathing, that she will not spend the rest of her life as someone else, walking with eyes closed. When she does awake, she is nothing more than a stranger to me. I want to ask her where is the girl you were last night? Can we save her?
Instead, I tell her that I'm late for work and that she must be on her way.
"The Brain, within its Groove Runs evenly -- and true -- But let a Splinter swerve --" Emily Dickinson
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