Child Zombie

Child Zombie

I met Lilian three months ago. She was six or seven. Quiet. Young zombies don’t really talk about the before days. Adult zombies, on the other hand, can’t stop yapping about their pre-zombie lives. I zombified in my mid-30s, and boy, what a life I lived! You know, before I became a zombie. Lavish, lavish life! I lived in a huge loft! High ceilings, concrete floors, the whole deal… hmm? Lilian? Oh yes, yes of course! I don’t remember her too well. It’s a side effect of being a zombie. We have something like anterograde amnesia… haha… I said a difficult word. My vocabulary is limited now. Every day I forget more words. That too is a side effect of zombification.

Why are you moving away? Don’t worry, it’s not like the movies, we don’t actually bite. Hmm? The smell? Yes… yes, I understand now. You see, zombies do not have homes, so it’s hard to clean up. Can’t help the smell. No, no. I’m not offended. But can you hear me from there? I’ve been told I have a low voice.

What was that? How does one become a zombie? Hmm. All of us have unique stories, but one way or another, we end up losing our homes and possessions, so we take to the streets. Street life is hard. Some zombies get better, their situations reverse, but most of us keep getting worse. Our memories fade, speech gets slurred. It’s a common story, really. There are more of us around than you think.

I came here because of that library on University Avenue. I thought reading books would help me with the memory thing. It has a bathroom with a shower stall, can you believe it? Don’t ask me why. You can’t imagine my surprise the day I discovered it. Books and a shower stall! I’ve been loitering around this neighborhood ever since.

If you ever need to clean yourself up, go to the first-floor bathroom, the one on the far East corner.

Uh yes. Lilian. You know what’s strange? I don’t think I ever saw her arms—don’t think she had them. Sometimes I wonder how she ate anything without hands.

Eat? Of course we eat! We don’t eat people, c’mon now! Don’t move away! Tell me, is it really the smell? Or are you afraid that I’ll bite you? I DO NOT BITE!

No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell, please come back. I’m not angry. It’s frustrating, you know? Please come back. I’ll tell you about Lilian. And for the record, we eat regular food. Like, chips and cookies from the gas station. I once saw an older zombie carrying a portable stove and a saucepan. He used the power outlets outside the library to cook instant Ramen. Smart if you think about it. Those are like 99 cents! But I like to stay light on my feet; carry as few items as possible.

Lilian, yes. Sometimes she cried, I think because she was hungry. Quietly. She didn’t like to bother anyone. That’s us zombies alright. We’re well-behaved. I mean, people think we bite! We become extra polite just so you non-zombie folks do not feel threatened by us.

No, no. It’s OK. I’m not offended. You should keep your distance; the smell is bad, I know.

Lilian’s parents died in front of her. She had a little brother. He died too. A building collapsed on them. Or maybe someone shot at them. It was a sad story, I didn’t pry. It’s bad enough that a little thing like that became a zombie. But she was starting to open up to me, you know? Perhaps because I’m the only female zombie in this part of the town.

I don’t know how she came here—didn’t ask. I’m not as curious as I used to be in my before times. I had so much more than what I have now. I lost it all. Does it matter how? Maybe it was a bomb. Maybe a lawsuit. Maybe I was married once, and the wife took everything after the divorce.

Lilian? Oh, she’s gone. I took her to the library a few days ago. Showered her, put her back into the same dirty, smelly, tattered gray frock she’d had on since the first day we met. It might have been white at some point.

Then I fed her. I fed her with my hands. I fed her chips that I bought at that gas station, yes, the same one behind us. She looked so pretty all cleaned up! You know what? She reminded me of myself when I was young; the same big, black eyes, olive skin, silky black hair. Oh yes, I was quite the looker back in my before days.

And then Lilian was gone. Maybe somebody took her. Maybe she just… vanished into thin air. Kids like her don’t last long. They don’t have the survival skills we adult zombies do.

I’m glad you asked about her. Nobody really cares about us zombies. We’re very forgettable—another side effect of zombification. We forget you and you forget us. I’m sure I’ll forget Lilian too. Once a woman came by and asked if I remember my daughter. Apparently, I had a daughter once—a six-year-old girl. My flesh and blood, and yet, I couldn’t recall a single thing!

So yeah, I’m glad you will remember Lilian even if I forget.

My name? Why do you want to know my name? It doesn’t matter and soon even I’ll forget it, just as I’ll forget Lilian’s name. You don’t have to tell me yours either, whoever you are. Just promise me you’ll remember Lilian.

Anyway, can you go now? Nobody will give me money if you stick around. These chips ain’t cheap. Also, it’s my territory. Leave. Shoo. SHOO! LEAVE! And please, never come back. I don’t like talking to strangers.


About the Author

Maliha is a Denver-based writer of essays and short stories. Their words have appeared in Porter House Review, Splice Today, Uppercase Magazine, and elsewhere.


Photo by Jason Moyer on Unsplash