“How is she DOING THAT?!” Kate stepped slowly back, still holding the lamp high over her head, but now less like a weapon and more like an exclamation point.
“I don’t know!” Calvin kept his empty coffee cup held in front of him. “Mrs. Wembly!”
It seemed logical to Cal that if he could just catch Mrs. Wembly’s attention, he could have a civil conversation with her and work this all out. If he could get her attention and point out the significant hunk of glass sliding out of her stomach – with not a bit of blood, mind you – then everything would return to normal. He leaned over to catch her eye, thinking that moment of recognition would clear all this up.
“Well Calvin, what a surprise! My word, what’s happening here?” a surprised Mrs. Wembly would say, craning her neck to smile up at Cal while she lay across the windowsill in her housecoat that had cats all over it. Cats juggling, cats with surprised expressions, cats in lab coats, cats writing their memoir, really quite a lot of cats on that housecoat. And slippers, of course she had slippers on because it looked like maybe she had just gone out to get the paper.
“I just came out to get the paper, you see. But now I see I’m in your living room and I’m sure I don’t know how I got here!” Pinned to the sill by the shard of glass that had clearly penetrated a space previously occupied only by scrambled eggs and coffee, Mrs. Wembly would look down at the table and then look side to side at the window sill confusedly before picking her head up and seeing Kate with the lamp.
“Good morning, Kate! I’m sorry for your window here,” she’d say, gesturing to the 8 inches of glass protruding from her abdomen. She’d be polite, even while halfway in their front shrub and halfway laying across their coffee table because that was just Mrs. Wembly. She was a delight, even if she was a little quick to believe the conspiracy theories she saw on Facebook. Mr. Wembly was a different story, what with his obsession with the raccoons getting into his garbage and how that anger splashed over all his neighbors.
Cal’s mind played all this out in his mind like an old episode of I Love Lucy because it was easier than trying to process what was going on in front of him. Still holding his coffee cup as if – even empty – it had the power to protect him from evil, when he bent down and caught her eye, there was no recognition. Cal saw that her eyes were open but glazed over with a milky cast and pus dried in the corners. The thing that used to be Mrs. Wembly looked at him then and, forgetting its attempts to free itself, reached for Calvin while smacking its lips and moaning.
“Holy shit!” stumbling back and dropping his coffee cup shield. Cal first watched his cup shatter before watching Mrs. Wembly struggle to get herself off the shard of glass that had sheared her almost in two. Struggling and grunting, Mrs. Wembly was pushing herself up on the windowsill, but her arms weren’t quite strong enough and she slumped back onto the glass, moaning each time she fell.
Kate took another step back. “Cal, what the FUCK IS HAPPENING?!”
“Kate, I don’t know! It’s Mrs. Wembly, but she’s definitely not herself. I mean, not not herself like she’s in a mood, but like she’s possessed or something!”
“For real, you think she’s in a MOOD?”
Zombies or no, Calvin knew a landmine when he saw one. “No, Kate! I said it’s exactly NOT like that!”
“Is she a zombie?!”
“I don’t know!” But even as he said it, Cal knew the answer and dreaded admitting it because if Mrs. Wembly was a zombie then what else was possible?
Before finishing that thought, the zombie formerly known as Mrs. Wembly’s foot caught purchase on a sturdy branch of the boxwood and managed to push itself forward. With a loud crack, the huge shard of glass snapped off of the frame, staying embedded in the zombie formerly known as Mrs. Wembly’s stomach. The thing pushed itself into the living room with its slipper-clad feet and, pulling on the side table, pulled itself into the room. Calvin and Kate watched, frozen and horrified, as the former Mrs. Wembly pulled on the side table, slipped and twisted, then landed on its back. Momentarily struggling like an upended turtle, it righted itself and pulled itself upright. Kate, Calvin, and the zombie considered each other for a moment.
Kate, never one to let a moment pass uncommented on, decided to take action.
“YAAAA!” with a war cry, she rushed the zombie with her lamp. The zombie made no attempt to protect itself as Kate swung the lamp. Although it had been many years since her high school softball career, she still secretly considered herself quite an athlete and so she choked up on the lamp base as she had done when Mary Jo pitched those softball fast pitches. All her training came back in that moment, picturing the ball rocketing toward her. Kate put her hips into her swing, keeping her eyes on the former Mrs. Wembly’s ear and imagining it was a softball. Had she been there to see it, Mary Jo would have commented on Kate’s form. She stepped into the swing and brought the lamp in contact with that ear as if drawn there by a magnet.
Had the lamp been a sword, the zombie’s head would have bounced down the hall. Had the lamp been an softball bat, the zombie would have taken a blow from which it likely wouldn’t recover. But as Kate had neglected to remove the shade from the lamp, the shade wrapped around the zombie’s head, completely cushioning its head from any impact. The thing’s head barely shifted, except to swing around toward Kate. Moaning, the former Mrs. Wembly reached for Kate and started ambling jerkily toward her.
“Calvin! HELP!” Kate screamed and ran around the couch, putting it between herself and the zombie. The monster shuffled forward, still reaching for Kate and moaning, seemingly unaware of the couch. It smacked its shins against the couch with a loud clunk and toppled over onto the cushions, the half-exposed shard of glass immediately slicing through the fabric. The thing flailed about on the couch, pinned again by the shard of glass in its belly.
Cal, disgusted with how his day off was shaping up, had had enough. His shattered coffee mug had left a large piece of broken ceramic. The handle was intact, and the base of the mug had broken off in a long sharp fragment. Grabbing it off the floor, Cal noticed how the luck of the break provided a knuckle guard, much like a sword might have. Striding over to the former Mrs. Wembly, he grabbed its stringy gray hair and yanked its head back from where it flailed on its stomach on the couch. It’s milky eyes found Calvins and it began to reach for him. He aimed his coffee cup dagger at its right eye and drove it in as hard as he could.
The former Mrs. Wembly went limp as if it had been a marionette from which the strings had been cut, one of its arms falling into the crack between the couch cushions, and the other thumping the floor.
Trembling, Calvin rushed around the couch and hugged Kate, who had begun to cry hysterically. They both held each other as the adrenalin pumping through their veins calmed, and their hearts stopped pounding. Over Kate’s silent sobs, Cal heard the radio news again.
“…we’re just hearing an update on this new virus. The CDC has found out that the virus is NOT limited to a province in China. In fact, cases have show up in Europe, other countries in Asia, and even right here in the United States. In fact, the comparatively small town of Riverton, Washington had the very first case in the United States. We’ll keep you informed as we learn more.”
Kate’s jaw dropped. “Cal, do you supposed there’s another Riverton in Washington?”
“Nope. That’s here. That’s us.”
They both looked again at the corpse face down in their couch and Kate began softly crying again.