I pushed the door closed and shuffled back into the living room. Noting the low murmur emanating from the black outline on my recliner, I gracelessly sidled past along the length of the coffee table and plopped onto the couch, which creaked and squeaked in protest. Shilah--surely the preferable guest to its weathered old frame--had (grudgingly) relocated to the couch's more favorable neighbor. Sleep had suddenly become elusive, so she watched my haggard frame with a nefarious stare (as cats are wont to do). I propped my foot against the bottom of the chair and began to gently rock it back and forth; her eyes fluttered closed; her muted purr began to crescendo, and sleep appeared attainable once again.
Outside, millions of silvery flakes fluttered from the heavens and immediately perished once upon the damp landscape. The window rattled with an errant gust; the flakes swirled spasmodically with the outburst, then returned to their graceful suicide.
Melody nodded in the direction of Gordon's concealed body, both hands cupped into an artificial surgical mask of sorts.
"Friend of yours?"
I winced at the question and nodded timidly, hopeful that she wouldn't detect any of my guilt in my demeanor. She watched me for a moment then turned suddenly, quietly retching into her cupped hands. She shuddered and looked back at me apologetically.
"I'm really sorry. I don't think I'll ever get used to that smell."
Her eyes dropped again to the pile of clothes; her brow creased into a pained expression, equally surprising and perplexing in its sincerity.
"Sorry for your loss."
A rather cliché statement, yes, but confoundingly heartfelt. Who was this seemingly sympathetic, unassuming figure standing before me? Is this not the same woman who pulled the trigger on Eduardo? Is that not the same pistol whose contents burst forth and pierced through the tight, pinkish coils housed in Eduardo's unsuspecting think-tank? Is this not the same woman who murdered, plundered, then fled, ostensibly remorseless and unhesitating?
There was a knock at the door. I looked up from the binder resting on my lap—away from the unsettling collective gaze emanating from its sleeves—and stared vacantly at the wall. What was she plotting?
Earlier today whilst mid-grapple, immersed in a fierce battle with my pilfered collection of cat food, I noticed her approaching in the distance. She was wearing that familiar look of ruthless determination, marching toward my residence with her pistol holstered at her side and her bag slung over her shoulder, swinging from side to side with each step.
I finally managed to slip one of the cans into a rear-naked choke; it struggled for a moment, wriggling in a panicked frenzy as I forced one of my crooked fingers under the pull-tab. Having accepted its fate, I peeled back the seal to reveal its goopy innards, equal parts precious and ungodly.
Our time is limited, dear friend. I made a promise that could not be kept. I was a fool-no, I will not allow myself to recklessly employ the past-tense so complacently; I am and remain incorrigibly foolish. I can only offer you a fool's apology: meaningless words of retrospection and regret that should be rightfully ignored. I ended Gordon's life and then injected you with false hope after leaving you for dead. Now, here I am, shamelessly opting to prolong the pain you've endured out of some form of guilt, believing that if I can save your life, my despicable behavior can somehow be redefined. Enough. Let us fade into obscurity together. Come, permit my selfishness once more and let us gaze upon times past, for these are likely our last moments on this depraved vessel.
The sun has begun its descent, forcing shadows to stretch from any object fortuitous enough to bask in its glow. There is an inequality in the distribution of this prestigious light, for only the tallest buildings in this city benefit from its glory. As the sun rises and falls, these concrete towers consume its light with voracity, casting stifling shadows that obscure those less fortunate. This is the way things are, and all have accepted it as such; it is a daunting task to dethrone the kings of the sky: they are too numerous, too strong, their shadows reach too far.
Behold, a corpse walks upon the sidewalk, arms hanging limply at his side. Three cans of cat food occupy his bony fingers. He drags his feet with each step; his shoes peel against the grainy texture beneath his feet. There is dejection in his gait; he lacks the capacity for grace. Eventually, his shoes will have deteriorated completely and it will be his skin that peels against the sidewalk. He is just another monster in a world saturated with millions just like him.
A man stood at the entrance of the store. He wore a black down-jacket. A red beanie clutched at his skull. He cradled a large rifle in his arms. A female zombie rounded the corner and shuffled toward the front of the store. The man jerked the rifle up to his shoulder, paused momentarily, then pulled the trigger, confident and practiced. Her head burst into a red mist and she collapsed to the floor. He pumped his fist and shouted triumphantly as two more men emerged. The man on the left - denim jacket, excessive belt buckle, thick brush along his upper lip - scolded the man in the beanie. The second man - bespectacled and oddly debonair - stood indifferently to the right, arms folded. The two seemed to quarrel for a moment before the man in the beanie turned his attention toward his recently downed target. He removed a hatchet from his waist as he approached her body - wriggling and convulsing on the ground - and plunged it into her neck, which offered little resistance. The blade clanged against the concrete and separated her neck immediately. Her freshly detached head rolled from its perch and came to rest against the base of a shelf, her nose propping it up like a kickstand. He swung wildly at her body, still to writhing and splashing in the expanding pool of blood beneath her, hacking at her limbs with reckless abandon. Having completed his task, he wiped the blood from his hatchet with her blouse, rose to his feet, smirked at her dismembered body, and casually rejoined his troupe.
"The hell you doing? Put the damn gun away!"
"Hoo boy! You see that right there! Right through her pupil, man. Like a damn bull's-eye!"
"Christ, you're going to get us all killed. Put that shit away."
"Ey, motherfuckers got Ed, boy. Tell me you don't wanna see they heads blow the hell up."
"You're entirely too enthusiastic."
"There could be a hundred in here and your dumbass just let them all know we're in here."
"We're fine. I wouldn't worry too much."
"Ey, listen to Dom and calm yo ass down, boy."
"Christ, just keep your guns holstered unless shit gets real, that's all I'm asking."
"The fuck you mean, 'holstered', boy? This ain't no wild west shit."
"Oh for the love of--Trev, you going to get that one?"
"Course, man. Imma chop a bitch right up."
"Like I said, too enthusiastic."
I spy with my little eye four blundering, brainless brutes shuffling about, bumping into things and being generally bothersome. I don't really have the best vantage point, so four is actually just an estimate from visual observation and from my futile attempts at echolocation. To err on the side of caution, I will proceed under the assumption that there are, at a minimum, twice as many as my projected estimate; over preparation is certainly preferable to the contrary.
Much to my dismay, my hurried and panicked inner self has erected an enormous mental blockade in my mind: a towering citadel eclipsing my thoughts within the darkness of its shadows. I have managed only two possible courses of action, excluding of course simply retreating for the door empty-handed, for to retreat outright would be to abandon Shilah and accede to her death, and I will not be having any of that. Unfortunately, both of these options have unknowns that could immediately render them unviable. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I cannot accurately determine the viability of either plan until fully committing to one of them, and if any of these unknowns were to rear its ugly head, the line will have already been crossed; no takesies-backsies; the ever-charismatic and lovely Xander will be relegated to the role of community chew toy. Let us hope not.
I have come to realize that I know so little about them, and therefore it follows that I know so little about myself… Agh, no, this cannot be expanded upon now, there is no time. The procurement of cat food is my primary objective, and Shilah’s wavering mortality will not wait on such labyrinthine discourse. Time is of the essence. I made a vow, and I am a zombie of my word.
Yet, here I am somehow justifying the construction of sentence after non-contributing sentence, providing little in the way of a solution to the situation at hand. Oh, the burdens I bear, subject to such distracted and convoluted thoughts; author to such triviality. Perhaps it is in my nature, this persistent creation of nonsense under the guise of insight, like free-flowing sewage posing as clean drinking-water… or something, I don’t know, a more suitable simile evades my mind. But wait, let us return to the notion of nature. How can this possibly be determined – that which comprises of my nature – if I am unable to define myself in any coherent manner? I imagine some form of self-awareness is necessary if we are to proclaim subconscious tendencies, and be honest in doing so, otherwise the very notion of nature can be abused, misused, and misconstrued. Oh, good lord. This is really getting quite ridiculous. Focus, Xander, you can do this. Wait a minute… Xander the zombie? Ugh, I shudder at the alliteration. I am surprised at not having noticed that before now. Okay, no more. Let us start again.
The notion of causation can be so fascinating. There I was, skeletal frame hunched over this laptop, the soft glow of the screen illuminating my saggy face like a campfire, staring into the false company of the clumsy words my clumsy fingers clumsily produced onto the screen. I had positioned myself onto the floor in a manner that mostly resembled sitting; the laptop rested on a coffee table I had been using for my latest in nonsensical jibber-jabber, and I was tap-tapping a broken melancholy rhythm in my continued effort to elude the ever-oppressive weight of silence, the latest work in my episodic series of despair. Woe is me. Occasionally I would pause and glance over my shoulder – entirely illogical, but necessary to ensure the absence of any nosy observers secretly imposing their curiosity on my disjointed discourse – before returning once again to my somber dialogue, grumbling about my involuntary reclusion from the confines of this voluntary cage. It was raining, as I recall, appropriately at that. Such perfect symbolism: the brooding cumulonimbus skulking across the sky, blotting out the sun with its bulbous grey form, saturating the city with its lamentations.