The Only Thing That Matters


I’m surrounded by corpses. People I knew. People I cared about. For hours, I sat in the stillness of this supermarket-cum-abattoir and waited. The growls and groans outside waxed and waned as each wave passed by. Waves of former friends. Waves of strangers who I never had the opportunity to befriend. Limitless potential gnawed away by the ravages of plague.

After some time, the movement started. Bodies. Body parts. It didn’t matter. That which was once animated got reanimated. A severed head blinked and opened its mouth. A puddle of viscera convulsed in peristaltic spasms. A pile of fingertips and toes wiggled. And corpses, more-or-less whole, stood.

Dylan began to squirm in my lap, still leaking. His bleating, which had been cut off by his father 80 minutes ago, resumed. It was lower. More guttural. The optic nerve protruding from his left eye socket slapped wetly against his soft cheek. My boy was awake, and my last act as his mother would be to feed him. It’s what I was here for, no matter the shape he was in. I put my thumb in his mouth and waited for his few, sharp little teeth to sink in.

His cool tongue prodded at the digit. But his jaw didn’t close. He didn’t bite. I spoke to him, encouraging him to go ahead. He shook his head and tried to spit out my thumb. I persisted. Dylan vomited a pink froth of blood and breast milk onto my hand. Still, nothing.

Three of the reanimated bodies had started lurching toward us. I knew if Dylan wasn’t going to be the one to change me, they would. But they’d tear me to shreds. Just like the others had done to his father while I was locked in the bathroom. I started to panic. I didn’t want to be torn apart and have Dylan left alone to squirm pathetically on the supermarket floor forever.

The three were practically on top of us. I’d failed. Their teeth were coming. An image of Dylan struggling in the dried tangle of my twitching entrails six months from now brought an involuntary sob. I begged him to bite me. He just growled and choked.

The first one moved in to bite. Then he stopped. He stared at me, teeth snapping together over and over, drooling shards of enamel and blood and saliva onto my shoulder. The other two did the same. Then they turned around and walked away. Nothing. They didn’t want me.

A surge of relief combined with confusion and sadness. My boy didn’t want me, either. No one did.

Time went by and waves of fresh dead entered the supermarket. They inspected me, and, like the others, rejected me. I gave up on trying to make Dylan bite. He’d never eaten anything that solid before in his life. I knew it was useless. He seemed content to thrash and flail and leak and cool.

During the quiet moments between waves, I heard soft crying. I knew who it was. As I was running out of the bathroom after the initial attack to check on Dylan and my husband, I saw a young store employee shutting herself in a small closet near the floral department.

Dylan drooled and moved his jaw as the sounds of the teenager met his ears. It had been hours since he’d eaten. It was then I realized what I had to do. It’s what any mom would do for her son.

A couple minutes later, I had control of her. She was easy enough to knock unconscious. Easy enough to tie up. But I knew if she changed, Dylan wouldn’t want to eat any more.

She yelled very loudly as I cut off a piece of her calf. I placed it in Dylan’s mouth. He tried to chew, but it was just too cumbersome. He wasn’t used to something that solid. I sighed and gazed into my son’s eye. I took the chunk from his mouth and cut off a fresh piece.

After I’d chewed and spit it into his mouth, I could swear he smiled at me. And that was when I knew our mom/son connection wasn’t broken. Even though the rest of the world didn’t want me, Dylan still did. That’s the only thing that matters.

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