“I don’t want to be a part of this family any more,” I said, and I saw the look of anguish, of anger, of frustration, of disappointment on my Father’s face. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself, you never have, and the only reason you want me around is to control me.”
And with that I walked out the door and slammed it, and moved to Mexico. That was in 1987.
I told myself I’d never feel bad, never regret it, and I never did. When Dad fell sick in the 90’s, somehow Catherine found my mailing address, I don’t know how, and told me to come as soon as I could. I put the letter in a drawer and forgot about it.
The funeral invite came two months later. I threw it in the trash with a banana peel.
It’s November 2nd now, a big day here in Mexico, Día de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. I’m out in the market and I see people everywhere, their faces painted like grotesque skulls, all black and white.
In the distance near a stall with bananas I see a figure that is strangely familiar, something about the shape of it, the way it moves, the slow deliberateness.
I watch in horror as it makes it way toward me, and the thing locks it sightlessness face onto mine and does not stray. There is no make-up, no pretend, there is only the bone white of skull and dark empty pits. I see the shirt of the thing is open and there are white ribs poking through rotting flesh and insects wriggling out of burrowed holes.
My feet are frozen in place and I cannot run. The sun beats down on my head, and the spectre makes its way toward me. I see its bleached jawbone waggle and I hear the word only in my mind: Son.
For the first time, I feel bad. But it is too late. Now there is nothing I can do.
The pale white moon hung bright and full in the dark sky of night. Sheriff Michaels back up slowly, back towards the center of the street, his revolver held out in front of him, his hand steady and firm, and joined the circle of the other men doing the same. They stood in a cross, backs pressed against each others’, weapons held outward, on high alert.
“It’s madness,” said Fricks, the town doctor. “Madness! This cannot be real.” The shotgun he cradled atop his forearm shook violently.
“It’s as real as the nose on your face,” Stevens replied from next to him, not turning his head, eyes sharp and scanning the dusty deserted street and town buildings. “Though wish to God it weren’t. Fightin’ braves ‘ll be easier than falling off a horse after this.”
“Is it just us left?” the last one chimed in, Patterson, who kept the general store. He had a six-shooter in either hand, one from his own holster, the other a rusted, blood-smeared affair he’d pilfered from a fallen corpse.
“Quiet everyone,” Michaels said, waving his downturned hand. The wind howled and kicked up dust against the boots of the four men. “Quiet.”
Then the noise came, the one for which they’d all been waiting. It began as a low groaning, a growling, then rose, many voices together as one. Ten voices. Twenty. More. The sound rose in pitch and volume into a frantic kind of screaming, coming from all around.
“They’re everywhere!” Fricks shouted. “We’re doomed!”
“Quiet!” Michaels scolded him. “Stand ready, men.”
Doors of the town’s buildings swung open, fell open, were knocked off their hinges, as townspeople exploded out of them, screaming their inhuman cries and running toward the group of terrified survivors. In the darkness they could see the horrible distorted bodies, covered in blood, chunks of flesh missing, bones showing through.
The dead swarmed the circle of men.
“Fire!” Michaels said. Gunshots rang out into the cold sky of the desert.
They were doomed.
“Howdy Folks, this Chip Thompson with your early morning traffic report, brought to you by Sunny Brand Orange Juice. It’s a beautiful day here on the South half of the island, and a great one to be alive! Pack up your swim trunks and grab your surf boards because today’s also a great day to head to the beach and forget all about the traffic on the 317 because it is a disaster out here!
“I’ve seen some bad snare ups in my day folks but this is one for the record books. Me and my co-pilot here Jon Spence have a view all the way from the South Beach up to the city core, and my, every single lane is backed up as far as the eye can see. I’d recommend just enjoying the beautiful sand and surf today and forgetting all about making it downtown for work today if you’re commuting, because things do not look like they’re going to be getting any better any time soon!
“We here at KRCH-11 haven’t received any word of major accidents so we’re not sure what the problem is, alright… alright… we’re just coming up around the bend now and… my God… this is a disaster! There’s cars on fire! Overturned vehicles. It’s a big accident folks and it sure looks like a bad one, a real bad accident, a tanker truck’s overturned and is spilling gasoline onto the road and…
“Jesus Christ, there’s people down there running around! Even from up here I can see blood. It looks like they’re surrounding one man… my God… my God! What are they doing? Oh Jesus! Sweet Jesus! Jon, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. What is this? What is this? Oh God, they’re overturning some of the other cars now and pulling people out… sweet Jesus, there’s blood everywhere…. everywhere…. on the pavement, I can see it even from here…. they’re covered in it… more of them are coming out of the others cars now and.. oh God they’re eating each other. They’re eating each other! What is this? What is this? What is happening?!”
Do you want to live forever? he said, as we kissed passionately, his voice smooth as silk sheets.
Yes, yes, I said breathlessly, more than anything, and he plunged his fangs
into my neck. I cried out and felt my warm blood escape.
I tried to move, to stop him, as he pitched clod after clod of earth down onto me, but I was already too weak. I felt my vision fading.
This, he said, this is how we live forever.
By not living at all.
Lightning streaked in the night sky, illuminating the soaked mud of the cemetery grounds in a flash, then booming thunder followed. One lone man stood in the center of the field, surrounding by rows of tombstones and ornate mausoleums. One lone and frightened man, cold, soaked to the skin, and afraid.
The boom of thunder was followed by that of his shotgun. One of the approaching bodies fell.
Antonio shivered violently. This was insanity. He didn’t believe in ghosts. He didn’t believe in monsters. And zombies were definitely just something from the movies. But here he stood, the center in a circle of them, approaching reanimated corpses moaning with arms outstretched, shuffling toward him to feed.
Boom. Antonio pulled the trigger and the gun bucked in his arms and rammed his shoulder hard. The zombie’s head exploded into a pile of blood and bone as lighting flashed again. Thunder rumbled over the cemetery.
Chuck-chuck. Boom. Another fell, never to rise. An empty cartridge flew. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Another fell, its torso a gaping hole. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Blood. Chuck-chuck. Boom. Rotting intestines splattering everywhere, then the shuffling undead falling atop them. Antonio shivered.
There was only one left, off in the distance and obscured in the darkness. He could hear her groaning, calling out for his flesh. With shaking red hands Antonio lowered the gun and fished shells from his pocket and pushed them into the bottom of the 12-gauge.
He raised the weapon, finger on the trigger, ready to fire. He hesitated as he stared into approaching monster’s rotting face.
The face of his wife.
There was just something about her. Something about the way she moved. She wasn’t like the other girls at the party – she was dark and mysterious. She had this aura, this silken web spun out from her, tantalizing me, calling me, pulling me in. But she was clearly out of my league – she’d never even talk to someone like me.
And so I was surprised to find us in her dorm room, her hands all over me and mine on her, caressing her pale skin and tracing the long flowing lines of her tattoos as we kissed.
She pushed me down onto her tiny unmade bed and it creaked. She kissed me hard on the mouth and stood back.
“I wanna put on a record,” she said. She unearthed some vinyl from a mess of LPs in the corner, piled in their dust jackets like bones, and set it onto the player nearby. The record spun and music filled the room.
She crawled back onto the bed and mounted me and we kissed passionately. How had I come to be here? What had we even talked about? Who was she? God, I was drunk. She fell down onto me and began kissing my neck.
My surprise only grew when I felt her teeth plunge into me, two sharp fangs, and then my hot blood gushing into her mouth. I tried to scream but I couldn’t. I heard the music filling the hot impassioned air of the room as the life drained out of me and my vision faded:
It’s in the blood, it’s in the blood
I met my love before I was born
She wanted love, I taste of blood
She bit my lip and drank my warmth
From years before