If there are any among you that have endured any immense physical pain in your lives, whether it be for a few seconds or, pitiful creatures, over days, then you may suffer from the same malady as I — an acute remembrance that strikes randomly at the very heart of you, akin to what some may call muscle memory, but to restrict this tribulation to the realm of mere muscle is to fall woefully short in its depiction. It begs a new semantic, for it’s more like the memory of the soul, something made forever intrinsic, a cancer fed by fear, purveyor of a thousand sweaty night-chills and sudden awakenings fleeing your own death. It’s a state familiar to all the zombis in our story so far — I know this now. They all suffered that moment of terror when, no matter how fleeting, they knew they were going to die. The thought registered — had time to register, for a second seems like hours when that moment comes. Compound this with the physical pain so severe that the soul transcends shock and escalates into a new realm of being — the most primal, most raw dominion — and all that’s left is horror, one becomes abstraction, pure in suffering, the very essence of what we mortals call Hell, an eternal scream.
There are times even now when I harken back to my final moments upon that platform, the three footballers tearing at me, my heart exploding as I comprehended my fate. When my first arm came out of my socket, that’s when I reeled, and everything that is my body took over, my eyes rolled back into my brain, and an immense shudder traveled through me, as every living cell of me cried out for mercy. It was not forthcoming.
For reasons that would appear obvious, I am unqualified to impart certain timely details of our tale, I myself having to seek out truth from witnesses and other sources one could only hope were reliable. Which brings us to a quandary — who on that day of my fate could report with steadfast accuracy as to the turn of events? The student body as a whole were left in terminal bewilderment. I have heard by now that most of them thought the entire scenario a prank, concocted perhaps by Chloe (known to them as “Anna”), foisting upon them a look-alike doppelganger to impersonate the dead. I could not tell at the time, of course, but apparently many in the crowd that night looked upon that platform in laughter, seeing upon it performance and farce. This is, of course, a fortuitous development, for to this day it keeps prying eyes away from the truth of the matter, the chain of deaths and zombifications that forms the very core of my tale. The first choice as narrator for this chapter would naturally be Chloe, beside me on the stage when all the mayhem ensued. But she has deferred, in no small part because of the trauma she suffered upon my demise, something she wants no part of in the retelling, bless her. She also admits that should she attempt to provide particular details of the story from that fateful night to the present day, she would lack certainty in the science, and thus fall short in accuracy. What’s needed is a voice keen in its objectivity, forthright in its words, experienced in the lore — all in all, a trustworthy and confident participant. So, without further ado, I shall turn our telling over to a narrator with whom you have familiarity, though it may surprise you to hear from him at this juncture. Fear not, all will be revealed. Mr. Spellman, the floor is yours.
Thank you, Anna, and I must say things sure did change in your story, from the last time I had a say, to my contribution here. Now that’s the understatement of the year!
I think I have a fair idea of what your readers want to know, so I’ll get right to it. Firstly, I can attest to the accuracy of Anna’s description above regarding what it’s like to die. The fear I knew in those last moments of my life, as Chloe first choked me then snapped my neck in two, well, it haunts me to this day. The pain and the fear combined is extraordinary, and I have new respect for the survival instinct of all living creatures, believe me. I’ve since become a vegetarian, out of this respect.
My next cognizant thoughts following this weren’t quite moments of epiphany, but rather glimpses of consciousness that weren’t yet fully mature. I suppose the easiest analogy would be childhood. You know you’re alive, and a person, but you can’t take it all in. In flashes I can remember being locked up in the basement, and I remember seeing Doris across from me. I think it was her presence that spurred me forward to a full recovery. It’s amazing how powerfully we all need interaction with our fellow humans. I truly believe that’s what saved me.
What as well may have played a part in my reawakening was my memory of science. Somewhere deep in my mind was the notion of using a “shock tactic” to stimulate my senses and my brain. I remember a study I read years ago in college where mentally incapacitated subjects regained some of their faculties by “behaving badly,” as it were, since doing so heightened their sense of what is “bad” and what is “good.” In short, their innate sense of morality gave them pause to think, so that their bad behavior made them, ironically, more civilized in the end. Again I can offer the analogy of the child, who, in his mischief, learns to recognize the boundaries of what works and what doesn’t work in a society predicated on order. So this is what led to the feces incident. It was extreme, to say the least, but it functioned well as a springboard to sanity for both myself and Doris. After the episode, we began to think more maturely.
I believe it was the next evening following this that events got even more strange (if that was possible). Chloe, wearing a prom dress stained in blood, came into the basement and seemed very upset. She began to tell myself and Doris that something horrible had happened, that Anna was in trouble, and that she needed help. Doris began to cry, and I could tell that as Anna’s mother she was too emotionally affected to assist the situation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I wanted to help, so I nodded, then uttered my first words since my rebirth as a zombie. The words were, simply, “I can help.” It was then that Chloe removed my restraints and led me out of the basement and upstairs to the garage.
Chloe walked me to the trunk of the car and opened it. I could never forget what I saw there. It was Anna, but she wasn’t in one piece. Both her legs, both her arms, and her head, had all been ripped from her torso. All her parts were stacked like so much firewood in that car trunk, all bleeding and oozing, still fresh. I have no doubt that in my previous life as an average high school biology teacher, I would have shrunk violently from the sight, and probably would have vomited profusely. But standing there then, knowing what I knew about death and rebirth, I was calm. I reassured Chloe by speaking my next words to her, which were, “we can fix her.” But I also knew it was best to act fast.
Chloe didn’t have any of the Haitian poison left, but I knew there was more at the school’s biology lab, and we needed all we could get. We had to wait a few hours until the
school dance was over and the coast was clear, and it was hard to be patient, since there was the sense that the longer we waited, the less chance Anna had to be revived. And, of course, no one had ever tried to revive someone who had been dismembered. All the previous zombies’ bodies were intact. Plus, Anna was the only one who had revived anyone, and she couldn’t revive herself. So much was untested. Theory alone was our only hope. Chloe and I removed Anna from the car trunk and took her upstairs where we placed her carefully in the bathtub. Then I drove to the school myself to get the poison. There was no sense in risking Chloe being seen again, after what happened at the school. She was lucky just to get Anna’s body out of there to begin with. Out of curiosity I went to the now empty gymnasium, where the horrible incident had occurred. I was surprised to find that there was no sign of any struggle, no blood stains upon the stage, nothing. To this day, I don’t know who cleaned it up.
When I returned to the Appleby home with the poison, Chloe had freed her mother from the basement, without divulging of course Anna’s condition or location. They were both sitting in the living room calmly. I told Doris to stay downstairs, and I had Chloe come upstairs with me. She had found the Voodoo book that Anna had been reading, the one with instructions about the rites. We both went into the bathroom, and shut the door behind us. I sat on the edge of the tub, donned rubber gloves, plugged the drain, then emptied all six gallon jugs of the Haitian poison all over Anna’s body parts. Then I proceeded to massage the poison into all parts of her. I didn’t find this task nauseating or repulsive. I considered myself her doctor, trying to save her life. Chloe, for her part, couldn’t watch. But I understood. She didn’t have to watch if she didn’t want to. I made sure the poison covered everything, even the open wounds, all the flesh and tendrils. Thankfully whoever dismembered Anna did so cleanly. Her limbs and head had been removed quickly and with great force.
Finally, when I was done anointing, I positioned Anna’s head gently upon her torso, sitting her head up a little so that it rested upright and independent against the edge of the tub. Her eyes were shut, and she looked at peace. Then I had Chloe read the rite from the book. She did so diligently, but Anna did not respond. Chloe explained to me that Anna had added her own words to the rite, and that these were the words that always triggered new life to begin. Chloe was distraught because she thought only Anna had the power to bring people back to life. Yes, I told her, that may be true. But then I reminded her that that she was Anna’s one and only twin sister, that if anyone could bring Anna back to life, it would be her. I asked Chloe if she ever felt something her sister was feeling, even when her sister wasn’t in the room. Yes, Chloe said, all the time. Good, I said, so I told Chloe to take a moment, and try and remember all those times, remember every time since she and Anna were small children, remember how she was happy when Anna was happy, how she was mad when Anna was mad, how she was hurt when Anna was hurt. Remember it all, I told her. Chloe did really well. I could see her getting emotional as she took a few minutes with her eyes closed, going back through her life with Anna. I could tell that Chloe was being very genuine about it. When she was done, and she told me she was ready, I had Chloe reread the rite again, but this time adding the two words that Anna had always used. That’s when Chloe said, “eveiller zombi.” And that’s when Anna’s eyes opened.
What’s most remarkable was how calm Anna was upon reawakening. I had half-expected her to start screaming, and her body parts to start thrashing about in the tub. But she simply opened her eyes, looked at both myself and Chloe, and smiled. Chloe smiled back, and the two sisters started crying soft tears of joy. It was a beautiful and tender moment, and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of it.