By Audrey Bowers, Ball State University
2028 – The Change
Nothing can stop me. I’m a survivor of the zombie apocalypse.
“Come along Toby,” I say to my dog. My eyes squint to see what this abandoned city might offer me.
Toby, my corgi, trails after me through the brick streets of what I think was once Kent, Ohio. Kent was nothing like New York, where I’m from before the apocalypse. Now the entire Earth is in ruins and the cities all look just about the same, although Ohio has proven itself to be less chaotic. This place is not anything like the old New York, but I thought that this place could provide me with what I needed: food, water, and safety. I miss the days when I had sparkling water at my fingertips and fresh vegan food at the market around the corner. Now I’m lucky to be eating anything.
Five years ago, I would be binge watching Gilmore Girls. There isn’t time for that now. Netflix is long gone. I’m not the same person I was back then and Toby isn’t the same happy pup I met a few years ago when I adopted him. We no longer live in that world, the one I took for granted. I used to be a writer, and the worst thing to happen was my barista messing up by order.
At this moment, I’d be totally fine with non-soy milk in my latte if it meant not fighting zombies every day. I just live my life, without trying to impress anyone. I scavenge for food, kick zombie ass, and take care of my corgi. I assume that I’m one of the only humans left. I don’t believe I have seen another living human being since 2026, a few months after the apocalypse began. Most beings even resembling humans were flesh eaters.
I wander into the remnants of what I imagine to be Kent, Ohio. I think there was a college here at one point and an Applebees or something perhaps. Around the corner I see a zombie that seems stranger than usual. The thing gnaws and yawns and groans at me while half of its face hangs dutifully above its shoulder.
This isn’t good, I think. My stomach twists and turns, but there is still fresh ammunition in my gun. I should just kill it but then it starts speaking to me. I can’t believe what I am hearing, feeling befuddled by it all. What happened to the zombie slayer I once was?
Then all of a sudden, the groaning stops and a real, human voice comes out of this undead body.
“Hello…” The creature says to me.
“He…Hell…Hey.” I say. Talking was hard in this moment. If the zombie wasn’t speaking to me, it would already be dead.
I turn around and a mirror image of that creature appears, similar but not exactly the same as the other one.
“Hello…” This creature says to me, in the same voice.
In this moment, I feel really afraid. Two talking zombies? Part of me wants to shoot them. The other part of me longs for conversation.
“Um hi?” I ask, knowing that I should have been pulling the trigger.
Then another talking zombie appears on my left and another one appears on my right. Their voices are like a sweet song, calling me home, yet they are also harsh enough to remind me that this is really the end. I fire my gun into the air because I feel desperate for a way out. The zombies don’t back off. They continue closing in on me, pulling me into a warm embrace while ripping the skin off of my arms and legs. I won’t lie, it hurts like hell and I scream out, but eventually the pain subsides and I am still alive, but in a different way, perhaps even more alive than I was before.
My throat closes up and I see a thin lens of blood coating the outer layer of my eyes. My thoughts become muddied and incoherent, leaving me to lose sense of who I am and what I am even doing, yet I find comfort in this strange community for whatever reason.
We go searching for our next victim, singing a bitter but somehow sweet song.
2030 – Life After the Change
It’s been two years of wandering around with these people. While we may not be alive anymore, we are still very much people, just functioning in a different way. Nothing much happens here in Ohio, but it’s okay because I don’t have to worry about dying anymore. All I do is sing and eat flesh. It’s a pretty rad life. I remember how I used to be consumed by the weight of the demands of life, and now I’m just kind of here. There’s something nice about that.
The “real” humans are dying out and they aren’t breeding. I worry that we will run out of food, but we can’t seem to control our appetites. Each and every day goes by and I feel my cognitive functions muddied by the weight of hunger. We’ve survived this far; however, I’m sure that we will figure something out or maybe we will die once and for all. Maybe we deserve that.
Being a zombie doesn’t completely fit with the stereotype that the media used to have. I am nothing like Romero’s zombies. I’m pretty much the same, except for the flesh-eating thing. Us zombies still have smart conversations sometimes, and we keep on singing our songs because they’re beautiful yet dead in a certain way.
My friend Julia says, “Alice, we met this nice human and we think we don’t want to eat her yet!” She has this unwavering enthusiasm and optimism that makes me want to punch her in the throat, but I don’t because she’s my friend.
“But I’m so hungry!” I snarl back.
“Gah, Alice, just listen to her voice,” Julia practically whines.
So I try to restrain myself as I stumble with Julia on over to the human, “Okay, but I can’t promise that I won’t try to eat her.”
Julia just rolls her eyes at me.
Samantha is nice, I guess. She seems tired and weak, and, if I had a heart, it would be hurting for her. She sings this song, and it pours out of her mouth like a fine wine.
“Fine, we’ll keep you,” I say to her, “but I can’t promise that we won’t try to eat you and if you try to kill us, you’re done. Kapeesh?”
“Uh, okay,” Samantha says, “I really like your singing and I hope that you’ll let me live, you know, the way that I am.”
“No promises,” I smirk. Even if I didn’t eat her, that wouldn’t stop the rest of us from trying.
A look of horror flashes on her cold, tired face. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say that she’s one of us. I imagine that all she did before the apocalypse was work and after the apocalypse hit, she probably wondered around aimlessly looking for food and shelter. Now, she’s joined us: wondering around aimlessly, finding food to eat, and singing because well, there’s nothing else to do.