My favorite view has always been from the kitchen window. It faces the backyard, the scenery so beautiful it makes me ache. The flowers I planted in the spring have become a kaleidoscope of color. White petunias growing next to my light orange rose bush. The tall sunflowers sway in the autumn breeze while the hydrangeas show off their deep red hues. I can smell the plums growing in the trees, sweet and ready for picking. The leaves are various shades of burnt orange and crimson, reminding me of a fire. The aromatic scents from the herb garden drift through the open window. Despite the chill wreaking havoc on my old bones, I love my outdoor slice of paradise. My personal Garden of Eden is so peaceful and so safe. Then I hear Abner, and I'm back in my sunshine yellow kitchen. It's lunchtime, and he's starving. I shuffle over to the fridge, reminiscing about the past and how life used to be when we first met. We both worked at the phone company. I was an operator, and Abner was a technician. He came by to fix some of my lines that went haywire, and my mouth dropped when I saw him. He was so handsome with his black hair and sparkling hazel eyes. I must have looked like a fish, the way I kept opening and closing my mouth. I struggled to talk to him, let alone explain what help I needed. I was sure I looked like a moron after our initial encounter. Abner didn't think so because he'd always stop by to say hello after that. This turned into friendly banter, which I enjoyed since he was charming and easy on the eyes. Then he asked me to dinner, and I accepted. Ten months later, we got married. Sure, that may seem fast, but we didn't see the reason to waste time. When you know, you know. We've had many different events happen since we've been together. Of course, the Vietnam War was happening when we first got married. Abner received an occupational deferment because of his position at the phone company. A cloud of guilt loomed over our household during that time. We were both happy that he was home safe but also grieving for our friends who lost loved ones. Later, our marriage faced its worst challenge when we learned I couldn't have children. I was sure it was the end for us. Divorces were becoming quite the thing after all. But no, we stood by each other and became the designated aunt and uncle for all the children in our neighborhood. We were the favorite babysitters on the block and had the best house to visit on Halloween night. All in all, we've weathered many storms together and have kept trucking along. And now I'm standing at the stove cooking lunch while my husband sits in the living room and watches TV. Occasionally, he'll mumble something inaudible at the TV but never in my direction. Oh, we used to talk for hours! We'd have our quiet moments, yes. It's hard to always have something to say when you're going on fifty-four years of marriage. But when we did talk, Abner was so attentive, even if all I told him was some gossip I heard from the salon. He'd say, "Lori, you have such a way with words. When you talk, I feel like I'm right there with you!" Now, all the conversation I get is grunts and groans. I can't remember the last time he said my name or "I love you." I finish fixing his plate and head to his chair. I make sure I'm smiling and chipper. I don't know if it helps, but anything to keep him from biting my head off. Being ever so careful, I step over the big chain and set the plate of brains on the TV tray before him. I should be more patient with Abner. Obviously, there are bound to be changes when one becomes a zombie. I was the one who couldn't bring myself to chop his head off. It had been him and I for so long, and the thought of being alone during the apocalypse was unbearable. Besides, I love him, undead or alive. "Bon appetit," I chirp and turn away. I decide to sit with Abner and spend some quality time with him. He can struggle against his chains while I work on my crochet projects. I have a blanket I want to finish before winter comes. As I walk to gather my crafting supplies, I feel a hand against my back, shoving me to the ground. I roll over and see Abner above me, his left hand missing from the wrist. I didn't notice his skin and tendons had decomposed enough that he could get the cuff off. That was something I didn't plan for. And I had been so careful this entire time. Each step was meticulously designed to keep Abner and myself alive despite our "situation." Now, it appears that I've become complacent. I've been on autopilot for so long that I don't notice my zombie husband chained to his favorite chair. Perhaps I've stopped seeing because I'm tired of trying to survive instead of living. Abner bites on my neck, and the blood spurts on the faux wood paneled wall. Oh good, my carotid artery has been punctured. I pray I'll bleed out before he continues to eat me. But he doesn't take another bite. He sits there, watching me. My heart is breaking as I stare at my longtime sweetie. Poor Abner will be all alone with no one to look out for him. Will he be able to find food on his own? I've always ethically sourced the brains, I fed Abner from animals or recently dead corpses. But I know a zombie does not have that kind of discernment. What if a survivor comes and kills him? Will it matter since he's already dead? Is he waiting for me in the great unknown, or will I travel this journey alone? Is there even an afterlife? What if this is the last time I see my love? I can't help but think about my garden. It's lush greenery and scents. Sometimes, birds would soar through and stop to make a nest in the trees. No songbirds, of course, only crows making a home while they feasted on the buffet of rotting flesh. But I'd take any living creature I could find. That's why I love my garden. In a world of death, it was alive. With it, I wasn't so alone; I didn't feel like the last old woman on earth. And now it's gone. No one will tend to my vegetable patch. There will be no reason for birds to stay. The thought of it adds the finishing touch to my heartache. If any pieces of my heart were left, they would have become dust and sorrow. My vision is fading, so I look at Abner one more time. His hair turned silver long ago but has fallen out steadily since he’s been infected. His eyes clouded over like spoiled milk, the twinkle gone. I don't blame him, honestly. When it first happened, I tried to look for any signs that my Abner was still in the walking meat suit he had become. It didn't take long to realize that finding humanity in a zombie was a fool's errand. I only have myself to be angry with, the dimwit who kept him around. But I knew the risks of taking this on, and I have no regret except that I am leaving him alone to defend himself. I realized too late that I should have used the little strength I had left to take him out as well. My vision is tunneling, and the area around Abner starts to darken. I could have sworn I saw him wink… It's night when I come to. I try to move, but the motions are clumsy, like Frankenstein's monster in the movies. My body won't bend properly, but I don't feel the chronic pain caused by my stiff joints. I remember what happened earlier and touch my neck. The wound is still there, but it's no longer bleeding. Abner is standing nearby with a decomposing smile, waiting for me. And even though I can no longer feel my face, I know I'm smiling too. He holds out his remaining hand, and I take it, feeling the giddiness that's been gone for so long. We head to the front door and walk outside. It's dinnertime, and I'm starving.
About the Author Jennifer Parker is an aspiring writer pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing. Jennifer believes everyone has a unique story to tell and highly esteems the power of words. She believes stories are integral to a larger tapestry that can transform lives. Although she is just starting her writing journey, Jennifer's commitment to learning drives her to hone her craft continually. When she's not immersed in her studies or exploring the written word, Jennifer lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with her husband, daughter, twin sons, and two dogs. Despite living in the Rocky Mountains, she does not ski or snowboard.
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