“We’re both dead,” he says, “long dead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t grow alive again!”
She can hardly believe what she’s hearing, of course. A fellow zombie, wanting to be human? Aspiring to be like them? If she didn’t know any better, she would think he was still one of them. But his pallor, his fetor, his unkempt appearance, his bulging eyes, his expressionless countenance, even the moan in his voice, all point to the sophistication that characterize their kind.
How? she wonders, Again human? One cannot undo death, cannot un-lose one’s innocence.
“No,” she says. “They want. We good.”
He shakes his head at her. “You have it all wrong. They don’t strive to be like us, and we don’t fulfill their wishes. They just want to be accepted, to be included.”
“We give them!” she shoots back.
“We give them neither acceptance nor inclusion. Don’t you see? We are the ones who have lost our souls.”
He presses on, and she hears his voice quickening, and wonders how he can talk so fast. “We tell ourselves that we’re better than them, but we only believe it because we hear it all the time. We don’t hold their answers; they hold ours.”
She stares at him a moment, processing his words, almost too much for her. He’s wrong. He’s sacrificing everything she’s worked for, everything she is. She considers destroying him, like the humans sometimes do. Has a zombie ever destroyed one of his own kind?
“You used to be human,” he says. “Have you forgotten already? Don’t you remember what it was like to think, to feel, what it was like to live? What it was like to love?”
She wonders: is that why he’s doing this, betraying their kind, out of some misguided love? Indeed, love was a powerful emotion.
He reaches his hand out and caresses her face. “I remember how you used to be filled with life, how you used to smile at me. How long has it been since we smiled?” And the corner of his lip inches up, stiffly, just a little.
Clearly he is not a full zombie. He is still somehow part human. “You, human,” she says, and she moves to grab him, to attack him as she would a human.
But he does not try to escape. Instead he says, “You can no longer hurt me, my sweet. You can no longer destroy me. I have journeyed to death, and I am on my way back. I’ve met those who have returned to life, and they’ve shown me the way. It all starts up here,”—he points at his head—”in the mind, and here,”—he puts his hand to his chest—”in the heart. None of us has really lost the ability to live; we’ve just forgotten how. All you need to do is to accept it.”
He gazes longingly into her eyes, a stare she just barely remembers. She used to be human, an existence she shed a lifetime ago, an existence that embarrasses her, that she wishes she could forget. His gaze bores into her long-forgotten soul, and she wants to lash out at him, to destroy him. But she also longs for it, for his affection.
She takes his hand in hers and brings it to her lips. She has forgotten how to kiss, but the feeling of his skin against hers reminds of all she has forgotten. She looks to him for a reaction.
“It’s okay,” he says. “You’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to live. Don’t ever let them tell you otherwise, never again. Join us, and I’ll show you how.”