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. He has been published in Wigleaf, Storyglossia, Elimae, Match Book, This Zine Will Save Your Life, and other zines. Kyle lives and writes in New Jersey.
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 Bachelorette, welcomes the dead girl with arms open.
“You’ve returned,” she says, hugging the dead girl, until she realizes that she 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 some 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 rattle socks, 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 against the dead girl. We ambush her while mother and father are sleeping. We attack her with chemical glow night sticks & toy catapult arrows. The dead girl reaches down at our small army of automated blue elves & tears each one in half. Her eyes are wide, & in the dark, give off a green luminescence. When I awake in the middle of the night, I find her 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 a fractured image of himself & 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 & 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.
Weeks pass. My mother talks to the dead girl with the same warm & 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. I believe she has stolen mother’s voice. She tells my mother that she will never return again because she is dead. In a fit of rage, mother kills the dead girl. She 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 & she was made out as Gretel & 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 make-up is starting to wear off–some of it has stained the pillow case. She looks so much older without it. But then again, she was dressed up to resemble a young girl from a fairy tale. 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.