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The zombie sat at her kitchen table, face twice as ghoulish in the faint light from his phone. Keiko did her best to ignore him. She had a lot going on these days. There was the trip to the doctor tomorrow and this whole fiasco with her mother’s cat. She pressed the button on the zojirushi and focused on the tepid water gurgling over her peppermint tea.
The zombie moaned mildly. Keiko shot a glance at him. She had fed him, hadn’t she? Pig brain was not easy to come by and Okamoto, the old butcher, was getting suspicious. She told him it was for her pet snake. The moaning grew insistent. Keiko put down her cup and reached for the phone. He had let the screen lock again. She unlocked it and put it back in his mildewed hand. He quieted and recommenced scrolling. A little dribble of black ichor fell from his chin onto the screen. Keiko frowned.
“Darling,” she said. “Hey, you!” It was so difficult to get his attention. “I’m going to watch TV now. There’s a documentary about Menopause.”
He made no reply. She took her cup into their front room and settled under the kotatsu. It always took some fumbling to figure out the remote. It had more buttons than a keyboard. He used to navigate it for them. All of his complicated entertainment options went neglected now. Eventually the screen jerked alive. A cartoon of an ageing woman, age indicated by her slight hunch and lined face, contorted with exasperation from a hot flash. The graphic had thin lines indicating inadequate hormones coursing through her body and into her brain.
Keiko sighed before deeply inhaling from her cup. Despite the tea’s aroma, the foul fug of his rotting cadaver permeated the house. She hated his stench most of all. She had tried opening all the windows to air the place out but he had groaned at the sunlight. After a small sip, she put the cup down and closed her eyes. At least they didn’t need to heat the place as much. Cold didn’t bother him. As the documentary droned on, she put her head down on the table and closed her eyes.
Tottori sand dune. Struggling up that impossibly high slope of sand. Laughing at each other and kissing at the top. School kids pointing and giggling. A school trip, maybe? Running back down to fading shrieking. A quizzical camel traipsing back and forth offering rides. Later, staying at a cheap inn in Matsue: their room long and narrow with old bachelors snoring behind thin walls.
Keiko startled awake, looking around and dry-swallowing absent-mindedly. Her tea was cold. The program had changed to some interminable variety show. She got up, stiff, and turned the TV off at the source. She listened to the silence for a moment or two, then went to bed.
She was dead asleep when he ambled into the room, noisily making his way under the covers. His withered lips were pulled back, revealing a rictus of teeth and a distended tongue. He rolled towards her, a lusty rattle emerging from his throat as he attempted to touch her.
“Hey!” said Keiko, pushing him away. “Don’t you touch me!”
The zombie slumped back, quiet. After a while, he turned over. Keiko stared at the ceiling. A spear of streetlight came through their half-closed curtain and landed between them. She realized it was coming through the hole in his chest cavity.
Ronan O’Driscoll is the author of Poor Farm, published by Moose House Press, and Chief O’Neill, published by Somerville Press. Poor Farm is an imagining of what might happen to an autistic young man in nineteenth century Nova Scotia. Chief O’Neill covers the life of Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), another wandering Irishman who ended up in America as Chicago chief of police, remembered today for his collections of Irish tunes. He lives in Nova Scotia with his wife and three children. For more details visit https://ronanodriscoll.com.
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Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.