This is the excerpt of a short story “Portrait of a Young Zombie in Crisis” by Walidah, originally published in Obsidian’s Speculating Futures: Black Imagination & The Arts Volume 42 in 2016, then reprinted in the anthology Sunspot Jungle: The Ever Expanding Universe of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2018.
Portrait of a Young Zombie in Crisis
by Walidah Imarisha
Ralph tore the man’s scalp off with his fingernails, bit into the cranium, cracking it with his molars like a walnut. He revealed the gray contents and dove in face first.
“Brains,” he drawled contentedly, slurping like a child sucking the gooey center out of a Cadbury egg.
I rolled my eyes and sighed, looking down at the dead woman whose head I cradled in my hands. I used an incisor to pop a hole in her skull, inserted a straw and sucked gingerly. Most people think brains are a solid mass, but they’re actually mostly liquid. They take the shape of any container they’re put in. That’s why they get everywhere if you’re not careful. Most zombies didn’t seem to mind being covered in it. In fact, ones like Ralph reveled in it, always making sure to smear some around before finishing. Guess it’s like when people take pictures of their dinner and post it on Facebook – everyone wants to remember a good meal.
“Brains,” Ralph said again, a little more urgently. Bits of brain matter clung to his lower lip and his mouth had the same Kool-Aid ring around it I used to get when I was a kid.
Ralph tapped the side of the man’s head he was devouring, and then pointed toward the one in my head. He always worried I wasn’t eating enough. Gotta keep my strength up to continue terrorizing the world as one of the walking dead. He was right though - I was far skinnier than any of the other zombies I’d seen since I turned.
“Yeah, yeah, brains,” I grimaced, sucking a little bit more of her brain through the straw.
This is the level of discourse that happens amongst zombies. After a time I realized they were like little cannibalistic Pokemon, as they can only say one word, to wit, “brains.” That’s it. That was what I had to work with. “Good morning.” “Brains.” “Good afternoon.” “Brains.” “Oh that blood stain on your shirt is just darling.” “Brains.”
Why, you ask, if I am one of the undead as well am I able to converse at a higher level? Yeah, I definitely ask myself that question every day. Every day since I woke up to being dead. Or undead. The living dead? I never really understood the difference, but I remember an ex telling me once there was indeed a difference. Since he had seen every zombie film every made and had a tattoo of Dawn of the Dead spanning his entire back, I accepted his expertise. However, given that humans either scream and run or start shooting, I haven’t found anyone to help me clarify the distinction…
Obsidian link: https://obsidianlit.org/issue-42-young-zombie/
Sunspot Jungle link: https://rosarium.bookstore.ipgbook.com/sunspot-jungle-products-9780998705972.php