I don’t want to lecture you about your boyfriend. You already know what I think. Instead, let me tell you how we met. It’s either that or you’re grounded.
So I’d gone to the zoo a week ago when the zombie apocalypse started. Your mom was wearing a leopard-skin wrap with the claws still on and she was climbing through the penguin exhibit to get to a couple of zookeepers who’d locked themselves in off-exhibit cages. She was enchanting. Her legs were covered to the knee with dried blood and she had brains in her hair. I couldn’t help following her.
You were stalking me, you mean.
Oh, I admit it. I was stalking her. By then we’d mostly run out of humans and were starting to eat the fresher zombies.
Your father. He was one of the first to turn. Tell her, Rich. Tell her how you became a zombie.
Who’s telling this story, you or me? I was one of the original volunteers. They warned me at the clinic. “Look, this will cure your cancer, but there are going to be side effects. Extremely negative side effects.” “Like what,” I asked, ready for about anything. “Hair loss? Erectile dysfunction?” “Zombieism,” they said. “Sign me up,” I said. I was always a big fan of zombies.
So I was stalking your mother in the penguin exhibit when a horde of humans burst into the building and sharted shooting. I mean, it was inevitable. The survivors were bound to get their act together eventually. Your mom, of course, didn’t have the least bit of cover whatsoever. There was no fading into the background for her. Gorgeous, curvy, red dress, leopard skin…there was no missing her. The humans went straight for her.
I was terrified.
Were you? I’ve always wondered.
Distracted by the humans, she fell into the penguin pool and had to duck down under a cement outcropping to keep them from shooting her.
I had to decide, right then and there, what I wanted more. To eat that delicious zombie woman…or to go after the humans.
People pretty much always taste like people, but I’d acquired a taste for zombie meat. It’s aged, you know. It’s an acquired taste, but that’s where the gourmets always gravitate, to the rare, the unwanted, the unappreciated.
Are you saying I’m unappreciated?
Oh, you know I appreciate you, babe. [Growls.] And as soon as Amber’s out of the house…Imma appreciate you all over the place.
Instead of trying to eat one of those humans–look, I know how most people your age think. Eat the fat ones, nibble the cute ones, and injure the kids and leave them out for bait. But the thing is, sometimes you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with your soul mate. That’s what you should go for. Not some scumbag in a tattooed human-skin jacket.
—Oh, Dad. Andy isn’t a scumbag. He’s a poet.
Yeah, yeah, so you say now. Someday you’re going to see that he only love you for your brains.
But this isn’t really about you and scumbag, I mean, Andy. This is about me and your mom. Being one of the original zombies, I’ve always had a better nervous system than most zombies. I can shoot guns, drive cars…open doors. Can Andy open doors?
–Just leave it alone, Dad.
All right, all right. I mowed down those humans with a pair of .45s. I didn’t even stop to lick ’em. Except the last one.
Him, I just shot out a knee. Then I did the first, best act of self-sacrifice that I’ve ever done. I smashed my skull open, infected Mr. Kneecap with my brains by shoving about half of them down his throat, and with my last, feeble motions, stumbled over to where your mom had fallen into the penguin pool. It was empty, of course, and full of stripped penguin carcasses. And she just wasn’t agile enough to climb up the disguised ladder, which was really just a set of grooves cut into the cement of the pool. I jumped right in with her.
And then she ate me.
That’s right, missy, you heard me. Your mother ate me. And in eating me, she acquired the nervous system that I’ve always had. Which is why she–and now you–are one of the top predators in the world. You’re at the top of the foodchain because of your parents.
I won’t say it wasn’t painful. It was. As my consciousness infected Mr. Kneecap, I saw myself scream, and suffer, and die. I did that for your mom, and, later, I did that for you. When you were a baby, I let you eat my brains on a regular basis. I’m on my, what?
That’s your twelfth body now, dear.
My twelfth body. So when you look at Mr. Poetry, Mr. Scumbag the Poet Master, I want you to ask yourself two questions.
One, would you want to eat his brains?
And two, would he die for you? Could he watch himself get eaten by you, see you at your worst, and still love you?
I got no problem with you toying with him. Gettin’ a little nookie. I’d have to be a hypocrite to say otherwise. I mean, me and your mom get it on all the time, am I right?
But when it comes to true love…you gotta think in terms of sharing your brain, and him sharing his brain. You’re bright. I’m not worried about you supporting yourself or even supporting that loser for the rest of your lives. But–hear me out, I’m almost done–I am worried about you spending the rest of your life with someone you wouldn’t really want inside your head. Really deep inside your head. Love isn’t about the sex. It isn’t even about chewing off each others’ limbs. It’s about brains. It all comes down to brains. And who you want to share them with.
Someday you’ll understand.
Now go out and have fun on your date with scumbag.
[She kisses him, laughing.] —I love you too, Dad. I love you too.