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Title: Zombie Co-Addiction
Author: jsblume
Style/Genre Prose / Fiction / Fantasy
Description: In Love with the Undead

The room was empty. The orderly had just left with an armload of supplies, intent on carrying them to their destination, post-haste. Straightening her candy striper uniform, Kayla padded out of the vacant patient room and across the empty hallway. She slipped into the supply room and closed the door softly behind her.

Kayla unfolded the hospital bag she carried and, in quick movements, filled it with as much gauze, tape and antiseptic as she could. As soon as she finished, she tip-toed over to the door, opened it a crack, and peeked into the hallway. Once she ascertained that the coast was clear, she hastened along the hall to the stairway, down three flights, and from there out the back of hospital to where her car waited.

Her next stop was the liquor store. Tom's favorite was 151. And it had to be dark rum, not light. Kayla entered the store and walked straight to his favorite brand, just as she had hundreds of times before. Hefting the 1.75 liter bottle, she carried it with both hands and set it down on the counter.

"ID?" the salesperson asked as she pulled her wallet out of her purse. She placed her driver's license and credit card on the counter, avoiding his eyes. The salesperson picked up the license, glanced at it, and then stared at her hard for a moment. Dropping the license, he took the credit card and rang up the sale. As she put away her license and card, he bagged the bottle and dropped the receipt inside.

Parking the car in its spot in the apartment complex, she gathered the two bags in both arms, kicked the car door shut and walked as fast as she dared to the front door of her apartment. She juggled the bags and her purse to unlock and open the door. Wrinkling her nose and catching her breath at the smell in the house, she kicked the front door shut and headed straight for the bedroom.

"Tommy, dear," she said, stifling her gag reflex. "I'm home." She smiled in the direction of the bed as she set the bags down on the dresser. "Can I fix you a drink?"

Pulling a tissue out of a box on the dresser, she moistened it with a little spit and ran it across the lip of the two glasses, empty except for a sticky spot of dried rum at the bottom of each. Opening the bottle of rum, she filled both glasses and then took a gulp from one, scowling at the burn in her throat.

"Ew," she said, exhaling hard and pounding her chest. She picked up the other glass and walked over to the bed with both, setting hers down on the bed table and bringing her hand to her nose.

Tom was sitting up, but leaning at an odd angle. His hair was disheveled and his rotting skin had an odd, gray pallor. Kayla brought the remaining glass in her hand to his lips and attempted to pour some of the liquor into his mouth. One of his teeth fell into the glass as liquid dribbled down his chin. Tom tried to lift his arm from where it lay on the bed, but he lacked the leverage to raise it - the arm was barely hanging on at the shoulder by a few frayed tendons.

Kayla put the glass down, walked back to the dresser and returned with the bag of first aid supplies. She spread them out across Tom's lap. Taking the scissors out the bed table drawer, she picked up a roll of gauze and measured out a length.

"Now, let me just fix up that arm for you," she said, reaching across him and wrapping the length of gauze around his bicep and over the shoulder. Holding that in place, she picked up the tape, ripped off a piece with her teeth and fastened the gauze.

"Rth," he mumbled, loosing another tooth in the process. Kayla picked up the tooth and stuffed it back into the gap in his gums, wedging it to stop it from falling out again. She reeled and almost passed out from the stench of his breath.

Kayla continued to tape his arm as she pondered the situation. She still hadn't come to terms with what had happened two Saturdays ago. Tom was very well saturated when they left the bar, but that didn't stop him from getting behind the wheel. Kayla never questioned his ability to drive. He misjudged the curve and the car rolled. Kayla was thrown clear but managed to land safely and with minor injuries. Tom wasn't so lucky. The car stopped, upside-down and with the driver's side against a tree.

He appeared to be aware but strangely absent. Kayla managed somehow to pull him out of the car and guide him home. They had crashed just a little over a mile from their house. She tucked him into bed and there he remained, slowly decaying. He neither ate nor drank, despite Kayla's best efforts to push food past his lips. Mostly, the food fell back out as he moved his jaw in a feeble attempt at chewing. His tongue simply would not push the food in the down his throat.

Kayla finished the bandaging and dabbed some antiseptic on a jagged tear in the skin on the back of his wrist. She wrapped that with gauze and tape, and then packed up the supplies and put them back on the dresser. After washing up in the bathroom, she changed into her night gown, choked down another gulp of rum, and climbed into bed, her back to Tom and clinging to the edge. As usual, she passed another restless night.

Five o'clock seemed to come earlier and earlier these days. Kayla turned off the alarm and rolled off the edge of the bed. Tom grunted as she left the room to take her shower. Returning to the bedroom an hour later, affixing her left earring, she then poured another drink and carried it over to Tom's bed table.

"Here you are, honey," she said.

"Rth," he mumbled.

"Now, honey, please stay in bed," she said, tucking the covers around him. "I don't want you getting, uh, more, um, hurt. Okay? I'll be home soon." Her lips approached his forehead, and she kissed the air about a foot away before rushing of the room. She circled through the apartment making sure all the shades were drawn. It wouldn't do any good to have the neighbors seeing Tom in his current condition, especially if he continued to wander aimlessly around. Fortunately, he seemed unable to unlock the doors and get out.

Kayla had a hard time concentrating as she drove to work. She was exhausted for one thing; it had been a while since she'd had a decent nights' sleep. And she couldn't stop thinking about Tom. What happened to him? By all rights, he should have died in that accident. It's like he was not quite dead and not quite alive. Like a... zombie? Kayla shook her head violently and nearly plowed into a car in the next lane.

"Heya, Kayla!" Sandee called as Kayla came off the elevator. Sandee was standing at the nurses' station, giggling at the rhyme. Sandee's perkiness was getting on her nerves even more lately. She had plenty on her mind, what with Tom's illness and all. He needed her even more than ever now. She didn't need the distraction of Sandee's high school antics.

"So, what is it we have to do today?" Kayla asked, ignoring the greeting and picking up the assignment clipboard. "Hmm, nothing urgent. I guess I'll begin my rounds in the west wing." She handed the clipboard to Sandee, turned smartly and headed down the west hall before Sandee could say anything more.

Eventually, the day passed and it was time to go. Kayla had no stops to make today, so she drove directly home as fast as she could. As she pulled into the parking area, she was surprised to see a police car. Two policemen and the manager were standing in front of her door. Kayla was about to step on the gas and get away, but the manager noticed her and waved. She parked the car, got out and approached with great trepidation. She could see snoopy old Mrs. Garrity next door peeking from behind her curtain.

"Kayla," Mr. Lafferty said. "There was a report of loud noises and an awful," he wrinkled his nose, "smell. We were afraid something had happened to you or Tom. That's why I called the police. I was just going to open up your apartment to investigate.

"Oh! Uh, no. Everything's fine." Kayla squeezed past the men and blocked the door.

"There is a terrible smell coming from your apartment," Mr. Lafferty said.

"Really," Kayla said with a nervous laugh. "It's nothing. I'm just a little behind on cleaning. That's all it is."

Officer Patterson cleared his throat. "A vehicle identified as belonging to Mr. Tom Caulfield was found off the road not far from here. Do you know anything about that?"

"Oh, that! Yes! We swerved to miss a car coming the other way and lost control. Tom was supposed to have it towed. He's been so busy at work he must have forgotten."

"We asked for him at his place of employment," the officer replied. "He hasn't reported for work in two weeks."

"Ha, ha! That's because he started a new job. He doesn't work at the factory anymore."

"Where is Mr. Caulfield working now?"

"At, uh, the garage over on First Avenue."

The officer tapped his pad with the pencil and squinted at the sky a moment. "That garage closed a year ago."

"It's going to open again under new management."

"I see. Ms. Hanson, we need to speak to Mr. Caulfield. May we enter?"

"Ah, I don't think so."

The officer glanced over at Mr. Lafferty.

"Kayla," he said. "Under the lease agreement, I have the right to inspect the apartment at any time."

"With a day's notice."

"Notice may be waived under certain circumstances if I feel it necessary. Now, please, either open the door or stand aside."

Kayla slumped and stood aside. Mr. Lafferty unlocked the door and opened it. A stench assaulted their senses, and the three men fell back a step. Holding a hand up to his nose, Mr. Lafferty ventured across the threshold. The two police officers followed.

The apartment was in a shambles. Little bits of rotting flesh dotted the carpet. A tall stand had toppled, littering the floor around it with CD's and DVD's. Mr. Lafferty walked over to it and noticed an arm sticking out from underneath.

"Oh my God!" he cried. The two officers came over and lifted the stand.

"Rth," Tom mumbled. He had been trapped under the stand when it fell. He rolled onto his side and attempted to sit up, but one of his arms had fallen off. It still lay beside him on the floor. His skin looked and smelled like moldy cheese that had been in the sun far too long. Most of his teeth were missing, and his chin was covered in some kind of icky drool leaking out of his mouth, which hung partially open. Tom looked at the men with a vacant stare through eyes that looked like they were about to fall out of their sockets.

Mr. Lafferty gagged at the sight. Covering his mouth, he ran down the hall to the bathroom and threw up.

"Ms. Hanson..." Officer Patterson began. He turned and could see through the open door that she was taking off in her car. Turing to the other officer, he said, "Mendez, call the coroner. I'll call in an APB on Ms. Hanson."

The coroner put her knife down, crossed her arms, and watched as what remained of Tom's body squirmed on the exam table. She turned as Detective Dave McNamara entered the room.

"So, Gail, have you figured it out yet?" Dave asked.

"It's got me swinging," she said. "I've never seen anything like it."

"He's a zombie, like I was saying all along."

Gail snorted. "Get real. There's no such thing."

"Okay. You're the expert." He followed her out of the exam room and back to her office. Gail sat down heavily in her chair. He looked back out the door and down the hall to the exam room. "Aren't you afraid he's going to get loose and wander around?"

Gail shook her head. "He doesn't have enough leverage to roll himself or sit up."

Dave shrugged. "No zombie invasion, then, I guess."

"Only in your dreams. Did you ever catch the girlfriend?"

"Yah. She wasn't much help. Just kept babbling about rum and trees and that he should be dead. Personally, I think she's fallen off the deep end."

"Hm. So she can't help us." Gail drummed her fingers on the desk for a moment. "Well, it's out of my hands as of tomorrow. Specialists from Washington will be here to take the body for further study."

"What do you say about getting out of here a bit early? We can try that new place on First Avenue and take in a movie."

Gail looked up with a tired smile. "Great idea."

Copyright @2012 by jsblume. All rights reserved.
jsblume has granted JS Blume Publishing™ non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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