The Zombies
Vincent Poturica

At first, we slept peacefully. We dreamt of ships without sails navigating a placid, grey ocean. But then our stomachs began churning, and a storm transformed the pink sky into a premature night. Lightning struck the violent waves, and the water became flesh. The ships halted suddenly. We tumbled headlong from their sterns and feasted instinctively on the viscous matter beneath the hulls. When the flesh was gone, we ate each other.

We awoke ravenous. We dug upwards through the soft, wet ground. Dark birds sang when we stumbled past the yellow pines surrounding our headstones. The moon looked close enough to kiss. The sun replaced it, and we followed the day’s slow ascent towards a steeple.

The fading, white cross led us to a tall man carefully washing his motorcycle. We
tried to tell him we were sorry, that we didn’t want to convert him. But our ecstasy made us mumble. He called out a woman’s name—Linda, Linda!—then he screamed, which made us hungrier.

We found our next victims under a sad bridge. We visited their makeshift, cardboard homes one at a time. We dined beside marigolds growing from cans. A picture of a little girl blowing out birthday candles hung from fishing line looped around a staple. Unlike the biker, these men did not resist us.

Soon after we arrived at an elementary school. The kids dutifully followed their teachers in speedy, orderly retreats, reminding us of little ducks. We devoured the older cafeteria ladies as well as several chubby boys who were not fast enough to flee. One of these boys was Richard’s son. Richard was one of us.

We took a break to meditate on the swings. Rachel chainsmoked the biker’s unfiltered Camels. Ruth and DeAndre stuffed themselves with sand. Jasmine ate her left arm up to its elbow. Richard bashed his skull against the monkey bars. (We ate his quivering body out of kindness.) Scott and Zeinab debated whether our living death was the first door in an infinite series, or whether our karmic wheel had stopped spinning for good. Miguel wondered out loud what our hunger meant.

He proposed it had two goals: one practical and the other unseen, but perhaps more important. The first goal was, of course, physical: to alleviate our intestinal discomfort by bingeing on flesh. The second goal, though theoretical, made sense: to distract us from an interminable afterlife. We hoped Miguel was incorrect.

The police intercepted us in the playground. Over half of us were happily dismantled by their assault. But, when their ammo ran out, our relentless appetite drove the rest of us to eat the officers.

By nightfall, the town was silent, save for TVs programmed to automatically record missed sitcoms and football games. We decided to free the horses from the stables. These noble animals guided us toward the city.

On the way to the bright lights in the distance, Miguel suggested another reason for our hunger.

There is virtue that has its source in guilt and the need to be redeemed, he said. Then there’s the manufactured sort that stems from wanting always to please others in order to feel worthy, he continued. Lastly, there’s the rarest kind that has no discernible origin, that comes from a sort of innate clear-sightedness, that knows that to do good isn’t something to be analyzed, but simply what should be done. In other words, our hunger may serve a higher purpose that shouldn’t be questioned.

We did our best to convince ourselves of Miguel’s alternate theory. We pondered it while we approached the young family whose car had stalled in a ditch beside the country road on which our horses raced. We refused to look at the young mother, the young father, or their infant daughter. It is easier to accept what we must do when our eyes are shut.

Vincent Poturica lives in Long Beach, CA, where he teaches at local community colleges. His writing appears in New England Review, DIAGRAM, New Ohio Review, Western Humanities Review, and other journals.