Like most young children I made the mistake of trying to bite my ma when I was a toddler, and she gave me holy hell. Here we are Thirty Eight years later, and she’s bitten me but all I have to give her is love. Well, I guess she isn’t really herself anymore. She looks like herself but also doesn’t. Nobody’s home. The lights aren’t even on. The electric works but the power has been transferred to a new supplier. The thing you need to understand is that my ma died today, but then she woke up and I don’t know what lives in that body now but it isn’t her. I keep trying to tell myself it’s her but I don’t know who I’m trying to convince, maybe she’s still in there. There’s no cure but I live in hope. A false hope perhaps, but still hope.
I saw it on the news this morning. It’s like something you see in a movie. There is an infection, an epidemic and it’s affecting the dead. They are starting to walk and they’re hungry. It’s like rabies on speed, the word I want to use is Zombie but that’s madness, isn’t it? The press is trying to sugarcoat it, they’re calling it Corpse Reanimation. I don’t know where it started but I suspect a lab, isn’t that always the way? All I know is that some people got this infection and it killed them and when they died they rose again. They bit some other people, and then they died, and they rose again and so it continues. Those who were already dead aren’t gonna start rising from the grave or anything like that. They aren’t infected and can’t get infected so that’s a plus I guess.
Dolores Spencer was a strict mother, but she was also very loving. Her son Tommy was all she had in life, and she wanted to raise him right. She had raised a good boy and on the day when it all went pear-shaped Tommy was right there at the door. He should have been in work, but he decided that taking into account the state of the world, going to work was not on his to do list. Tommy lived two hours drive away from his mother and the traffic was horrendous and there were a few infected wandering in the road which caused problems but Tommy followed the lead of the other drivers and knocked them down at full speed if they got in the way which included his mother’s neighbour Helen Rafferty. She was wandering about in the street not too far from his mothers house. He came to an abrupt halt when he got there, jumped out and didn’t worry about the car door being open. He didn’t just knock on his mothers door he beat the hell out of it.
“Ma! You OK?” No answer. “Ma? It’s me Tommy! Open up”. There was still no answer.
Under other circumstances Tommy would have been more patient but not today. He needed to make sure his mother was OK and the fact that she wasn’t answering and hadn’t even called out rang alarm bells for him. He was frightened. He threw the whole weight of his body into the door and knocked it right off its hinges.
“Jesus, boy!” His mother shouted at full volume. She was on her way to the door when the door was on its way to her.
“Ma! I was worried. Why didn’t you answer?”.
“I ain’t no spring chicken boy, takes me a little while to get to the door these days”.
“Sorry Ma, I’m glad you’re OK”.
“I’d be more than OK if you weren’t being all kinds of crazy”.
“Crazy? Have you seen it out there? You seen Mrs Rafferty?”.
“No. You seen her? How is she? Not seen her in a while?”.
“She’s been better, Ma! She’s dead, but she went for a walk anyway”.
“Boy, didn’t I tell you that you are crazy already”
“Didn’t you see what’s been going on? Put the news on Ma!”
“I don’t watch the news, nothing going on there but negativity”
“Yeah well things about to get real negative round here Ma!”.
Tommy gave his mother the full story and waited for her to react. Dolores was now convinced her son was crazy. He had always been a good boy, and she knew she had raised him right but in her mind nobody talked crazy like this unless they were on drugs. It didn’t take long for Tommy to convince his mother though when Helen Rafferty came round the corner and her head was only half attached to her neck and it was hanging upside down on her back.
“We need to move, Ma! This is serious!” Tommy told his mother sternly.
“Son, you ain’t wrong” his mother began, “You know what I think?”
“What’s that Ma?”
“When cadavers are getting lively that’s about as serious as it gets”.
Tommy smiled. Even when things were dark his mother always had to have her say, and she really did have a way with words. Tommy loved that about her. From that moment on Tommy didn’t think of it as an outbreak, an infection or even an apocalypse. To him it was the dead getting lively.
I drove over to Ma’s place as soon as I heard the news, and she didn’t believe me at first. She hadn’t heard or seen a thing about it but when she saw Mrs Rafferty walking around with her head hanging off she knew that I was talking sense. I was worried about having to deal with Mrs Rafferty, but she wandered off in the opposite direction which was a relief. I didn’t know if I had what it would take to take her down. I told my ma to go pack her bags, I didn’t know how safe it was there. I didn’t know if it would be safe anywhere but I didn’t want to take any chances. She was a stubborn woman, and didn’t want to leave, but she was also a wise woman, and so she nodded at me in agreement but I could tell by her expression she felt as though she was leaving her soul behind.
I stayed on guard outside while she went inside and packed a bag, I didn’t want us to get caught unawares by unwelcome neighbours who might forget they are dead and wander in, it had never occurred to me that the back door may be open which I found out the hard way when I heard a blood-curdling scream. It was my ma, I had never heard her scream like that but it was her, she was unmistakable. I ran inside post-haste, stepping over the front door which now lay in the hall. I ran into the Living room knocking over my Ma’s favourite vase in the process and not caring a bit when it shattered all over the floor. (I didn’t think she would mind under the circumstances).
I found my poor old mother being pinned to the ground by what used to be Henry Rafferty, who’s wife had taken an impromptu ride off my bonnet only a few moments earlier. I ran over to pull him off her but I wasn’t quick enough, and he took a hefty bite out of her neck. I pulled and pulled at his arm, his skin was yellow, it was hard and crispy like plaster and cracked like plaster would and when it cracked I could see brown residue beneath his skin, it smelled absolutely putrid. Is this what dead people smelled like? I thought this might be even worse. I continued to pull at his arm which was now mostly skinless and managed to get him off my mother, detaching his arm in the process and taking a big chunk of my mother’s neck with him in his mouth. If screams could knock foundations, that one would have knocked the whole house down. I knew what this meant, she would change, she would be a danger to me but in my denial I pretended there was no problem. She was bleeding profusely and I needed to tend to her but The coast was not yet clear.
Mr Rafferty was still a danger to us both. He only had one arm now but that wouldn’t slow him down. I lured him away from my mother and ran for the kitchen, I didn’t want to leave her like that but I had to get rid of this lively dead nightmare. I turned back, he was following me as intended, I kicked the kitchen door open and pushed my weight against it as I entered to ensure that the door would stay open. I searched for a weapon, I didn’t know how to stop him or even if I had the stomach to do what must be done but I’d do anything for my Ma. I wished she had an unlikely sword or chainsaw collection somewhere but obviously she didn’t. I found a large kitchen knife and that’s the best I could find, it would have to do. That was when lively dead Rafferty took me by surprise. (I had got lost in my own thoughts and momentarily forgotten to keep track of his location). I ducked out of his path just in time but dropped the knife and it landed behind him.
Suddenly I was overcome with anger, I needed to get to my ma and this guy was in the way. I grabbed his head and squeezed it, he fought me but I kept hold, I kept squeezing hoping it would just cave in but that didn’t work at all. I kicked him in the chest which forced him up against the wall and then I pushed my foot against his chest again to keep him pinned and I pulled his head with both hands. I was playing with fire now, one false move, and he could bite me but I didn’t care. I needed him out of the equation. I pulled and pulled and finally his head came right off, I threw it through the open doorway and watched it roll. I assumed his body would drop then and there but it didn’t. I released my foot from his chest, and he started to move. He was still lively. I assumed he was no threat now he had no head but I couldn’t be sure. Did he need to bite to pass the infection on or could he simply scratch me with the rotten nails on his one hand and infect me that way? I couldn’t be sure. I was taking no chances. I don’t remember thinking about what happened next I just remember seeing the kitchen knife on the floor that I dropped earlier and picking it up and hacking at his left leg. I hacked and I sawed at it and I smashed the knife into it with all my might fuelled by anger and fear of losing my ma until finally that leg came off. I repeated the same technique with his right leg until he lost that leg too. I dropped the knife. His torso dropped to the floor. He still had one arm but I didn’t see him as a threat now. I thought he might still be able to use his arm to pull himself along after me but I wasn’t worried. How fast could he be now? I ran over to the other side of the kitchen and searched the cupboard under the sink where I knew I would find the first aid kit. I grabbed it and then ran back to my ma.
She had lost a lot of blood and was dying. I expected her to be dead already, but she was a tough old warrior my ma. I attempted to clean up her neck but I didn’t know where to start. I paused and then I lied to my mother. She didn’t have all the information. She didn’t know what being bitten meant for her mortality. I didn’t want her to worry herself about it.
“You’ll be fine now, Ma. You don’t look so rough”
“I don’t feel good, son”.
“You don’t look a day over Forty Five, Ma”
“I love you, Ma”
“I love you too, Tommy”
That was our goodbye. I knew it and she knew it too. She never called me Tommy. I was always boy or son to her. The fact that she used my name told me that was her saying goodbye to me and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I didn’t cry a river for my Ma I cried an ocean. I didn’t want this for her.
She fell unconscious then and I didn’t know if she was dead or asleep and I didn’t want to check her pulse. I was afraid of what I’d discover. I held her hand for a moment and her skin had a yellow tint to it and was starting to crisp. That told me everything I needed to know. She was gone, and she was going to rise again. She was going to be hungry. I knew I should be on my guard, but I was distraught, and I was exhausted. A tougher man would have chained up his mother at that point but not me, not this man. I was still holding onto the hope that this nightmare was all in my imagination, it was denial of the worst kind. I didn’t know if I had the strength to do what must be done, how could I? I cried some more. I cried myself to sleep.
The pain was so intense it woke me. I could feel the flesh of my neck being penetrated. My eyes widened. It felt as though a wild animal had bitten into my neck but it wasn’t an animal, I knew it had to be one of the lively dead. I tried to push them off me, but they were insatiable. I pushed and pushed and eventually I got them off me. That was when I saw that it had been my ma, and she had a big chunk of meat in her mouth. I was bleeding severely just as she had but I didn’t rush to the first aid kit which was just across the room. I was in shock. I took a look at the being that looked like my ma with my neck flesh hanging from her mouth and my blood dripping from her lips and chin. Who was she now? What was she? Her eyes were blank. There were no pupils all that was left were the whites of her eyes, but they had turned yellow! Then there was the smell, that putrid smell again. You could spend three weeks in the worlds filthiest sewer and you would never smell anything like that. I came to my senses and ran for the first aid kit and then ran to the bathroom, narrowly avoiding the one armed torso that I used to call Mr Rafferty and locked myself in, I knew they would both be coming for me and I wasn’t ready to die.
My wound wasn’t as severe as my ma’s, so I had a chance of patching it up but I knew that in the end it wouldn’t matter. I cleaned myself up and patched up the wound with bandages and then I just sat there on the floor and that’s where I still am. It’s been an hour and I still feel like me. My ma started to change much sooner, but she had a sleep not long after she was bitten, maybe that’s the key. If I stay awake, will I always be here? Something started banging on the door a while ago but I won’t let them in. I don’t know it’s her, that thing wearing my dear old ma or that one armed monstrosity, but I still want to be near my ma (is that insane?) so I’ll just sit here and wait until I change or until I starve to death, whichever comes first. She always wanted the best for me. I just wanted to make sure she was OK. I guess I messed up but if worse comes to worst I’ll become undead too and maybe in some form I’ll always be with her and I’m fine with that and I’m sure she would be too.