I’m not ready for this.
Selena’s supposed to be dead, and not just dead, but undead.
I would know.
I killed her.
Yet there she was, human, on the other side of my door. Through the fisheye lens of the peephole, there doesn’t seem to be a mark on her face. I can’t see the rest of her body, only a dark blur beneath the neck. I hope the rest of her is all right but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I’ve finally lost it and all this is an illusion, some kind of wishful thinking that is manifesting before my eyes.
I can scarcely breathe. A dead weight is on my toe. I kick it away and hear my baseball bat roll awkwardly to the side, one of the pieces of glass glued to it breaking as it moves across the floor.
Hand shaking, one eye still glued to the peephole, I slowly unlocked the door, felt my way up the doorframe to the chain, unhooked it.
She stood there on the other side, brown eyes wide and uncertain, a million thoughts clearly racing behind them.
Something moves in the peephole, small, delicate, flesh-toned.
Then again, only louder.
“Yeah,” I said, but my voice is only a whisper.
Any strength I had within was gone and I found myself on the floor, a sharp pain racing up my tailbone and into my lower back.
“Marty?” I hear through the door. “Is that you? Please, let it be.”
For the longest time I would have given anything to hear her call my name again and now that it’s finally happening, I wish she was gone.
Like I said, I’m not ready for this.
Heart speeding, pulsing in my throat and thumping through every vein in my body, I braced myself against the door and, using it for leverage, slowly pull myself up.
“I’m here,” I said. Same thing. My voice was a whisper.
Fingers trembling, I turned the door knob and pulled, the door weighing a thousand pounds and then some. It took two hands to pry it open.
Still leaning against it, I took in the sight before me. My heart was empty, hollow, void of feeling and life.
Selena stood a couple feet from the door, barefoot, wearing nothing but a grubby garbage bag, which hung on her like a dress from the dark.
“You’re alive,” I rasped.
“Marty, I need to come in,” she said.
We stood there in silence, my mind void of thought. This was Selena, the girl from long ago and the one who changed everything for me. She was here, alive, at my door in a world of zombies.
“Then who’d I kill?”
I barely mouthed the words but she must have heard them because she said, “Who’d you kill?”
I killed you, I thought. I beat your brains out and unloaded on you all my hate and pain and— “Come in.”
I moved from the door and she stepped into my apartment.
Selena shrieked, dropped to the floor and cradled her foot. I knelt down beside her.
She had stepped on that piece of glass that had broken off the bat.
* * *
There was only one way to handle this: pretend she wasn’t her and clean her up. After that, I could figure things out. If living in a world filled with the undead had taught me anything, it was that sometimes you had to stop feeling, stop caring, stop being what it meant to be human and just go through the motions. Survival was like that whether physical or otherwise.
I always hated “otherwise.”
Selena was now sitting my cough, me kneeling before her, her foot in my lap. I ignored how good it felt to hold her heel in my hand and suppressed the memory of the time I kissed every inch of her body, starting with her feet. I gently removed the piece of glass with a pair of tweezers then pressed hard against the wound with a cloth. She winced. I told her it was going to be okay. A moment later she reached down and her hands replaced mine. Again I had to fight the resurgence of memory when her soft hands trailed against my own.
I stood, took several steps back, and began pacing.
It was silent for a long time and I wasn’t sure if it was because she was too busy attending to her foot or if it was because silence was what happened every time you ran into an ex.
But this wasn’t “running in.” She had come here intentionally.
“Everybody’s dead,” she said.
I stopped pacing. “I know.”
“Except me and you.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you can’t,” I said firmly.
“The city’s empty, Marty.”
“Some might be indoors, like us. Besides” —I strolled over to my window and looked down onto the street— “they’re out there.”
“I know. I saw a million of them on the way over here.” I turned to face her. She glanced up from her foot. “I don’t even know how I made it here without them touching me.”
“Where we you?”
The last thing that I wanted was to come across as a creepy ex-boyfriend even though I was one hundred percent certain that was how she viewed me and she was only here because she had nowhere else to go and it was better to be with someone than no one at all, but I had to tell her. “Selena, I was just at your place.”
Her eyes went wide.
“Yeah, for real. I was there. I came to see you. I had to see you.” The last bit obviously made her uncomfortable because after I said it she immediately went back to tending to her foot.
“Okay, fine,” I said. “Regardless, I was there. There were zombies in your apartment. You weren’t. I checked the whole place, so unless you were hiding somewhere over there that I don’t know about and didn’t bother even peeking to see what the commotion was about, you need to tell me where you’ve been and why only now you decided to come see me.”
She looked up from her foot but not at me. “Okay, I’ll tell you. Just listen and believe whatever you want. I was home. I heard the dead, the groans, the biting of flesh. I don’t remember you being there or seeing you and it may just be shock right now so I’m forgetting something, but I remembering walking and walking.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Wait.” She glanced down at the garbage bag covering her. “Oh no.” She sniffled. She glanced up at me, tears dripping down her cheeks. “I have lost something or something happened or…”
I came over to her, sat beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. She pulled away.
“Sorry,” I said.
“No, it’s just that I was walking and I don’t know for how long then I looked down on myself and…and I wasn’t wearing anything. Nothing. I—” She paused and took a deep breath. “I don’t know how I lost my clothes or if one of those things tore them off or what, but anyway I found this” —she touched the garbage bag— “put it on and realized I was close to your place.” She turned away and shame coated her voice. “I didn’t want to come.”
I took a deep breath. “I understand.”
“You need to get cleaned up. I’ll give you something to wear. We’ll take it slow and figure things out. Just know that we’re safe for now, okay?”
“Thanks,” she whispered.
I left the room and headed to my bedroom. Once inside, I leaned against the wall. She didn’t want to come here and only did out of desperation.
I wished I knew what happened to her.