Ever since I became a zombie, my relationship with my roommate Jenny has been strained. I guess I can understand. I did stand over her bed one night debating whether or not I should eat her. She locked me in the closet for a solid day, and I guess now she feels bad about it because she gave me a gift certificate to the Magnolia Spa.
I’m not one of your typical Romero zombies. I was still alive when I contracted the virus, so I can still think and talk, but my flesh is slowly rotting away. My heart still beats… sometimes, and I’m not the only zombie like this. Ever since the outbreak there have been more and more of us cropping up. Once my brain deteriorates enough, I’ll devolve into a typical mindless movie monster, so I have that to look forward to.
When Jenny first gave me the gift certificate, I was skeptical. My skin is a leaden roadmap of blue veins. I smell like a jar of mayonnaise left out in the sun — yet somehow Jenny expected me to go to a spa where I’d be touched and smelled and looked at up close by multiple people who know a thing or two about hygiene. This wasn’t a gift. It was a ticket to someone’s science lab.
“But you need to pamper yourself,” Jenny said. “Being undead is no excuse to let yourself go. Maybe they can give you something to help with your, um, odor problem?”
I was lying on the couch, watching Wheel of Fortune while I tried to figure out what to do. Staring at Vanna White was making my stomach grumble, but I try to be a good zombie and not eat too many humans. If I’m starving, I might head to one of the skeezier parts of town and hunt for low-lives in wife beaters wandering out of strip clubs in a drunken stupor. I like to think that I’m doing my part to keep this town classy.
But I know I’m just fooling myself.
I looked down at the gift certificate and sighed. “What the hell,” I said to myself. So, after taking a long Lysol bath and putting on my best dress and plastering my slowly decaying flesh with a few pounds of pancake make-up, I headed to the spa. I only got a few sideways stares on the streetcar, and only two people moved away from me when I boarded.
When I stepped into the spa, I expected plants to wilt, customers to run away screaming, and the front desk attendant to throw me out on my festering ass. But either my Lysol bath was extremely effective, or the employees there already knew about my… condition, because everyone was surprisingly accommodating. They even had a special zombie package — embalming, fingernail reconstruction, skin re-pigmentation — everything a zombie could ever need. I decided to get the works. I deserved it, being undead and all. Sure, zombies are sort of immortal, but wandering around in a rotting, quasi-immortal body has its downsides. Like having a constant case of head lice. But Annie, who was taking care of me at the spa, was quick to eradicate them. She sealed what was left of my finger nails with some sort of mysterious solution, gave me a refreshing drink that was supposed to do something to my organs, and sprayed me down with something to slow my skin’s decay. After all that, I almost felt human again. Then, Annie had me lay on a bench in a dark room. The bench was firmer than I liked, but it could have been worse. There in the dark, I got sleepy and dozed off for a while. When I awoke, there were metal restraints on my wrists.
Annie entered the room, but instead of the peach blouse and floral skirt she was wearing earlier, she’d donned surgical scrubs and a mask. It was then that I noticed a tray of metal implements next to the bench.
“What are we doing now?”
“Now…” Annie picked up something long and pointy. “I’m going to practice performing open-heart surgery. It’s part of my final exam for medical school.”
That didn’t sound relaxing.
“Does that cost extra?”
Annie shook her head. “It’s a free service we offer.” Makes sense. The spa was located in the heart of the medical district.
She unbuttoned my dress and started to make an incision. I screamed as loud as my dried-out vocal chords would allow. It’s a good thing I can’t feel pain, because Annie had already made a four-inch slice down my chest. It’s also a good thing I can’t bleed, otherwise I would really be a mess.
“Please help me! We’re all guinea pigs! Med students are practicing on us!”
A pale guy with a nasty head wound burst into the room. A fellow zombie! He sunk his teeth into Annie’s neck. Her screams would have been disturbing, had she not been trying to cut my chest open. She didn’t last long, her bones snapping as she hit the tile floor in a limp heap of flesh.
“Thanks!” I would have hugged my hero, but I was still strapped to the bench. “Unstrap me?”
“Sure.” He quickly freed me, but I had another problem — the slice in my chest.
“Uh . . .” I motioned to the incision between my breasts (which were hanging out for God and everyone to see. Luckily, I quit feeling shame shortly after getting zombiefied. Why bother when you’re dead?). That’s when I remembered the tape one of the spa workers had used to lift a zombie’s sagging skin. I burst out of the room, holding my chest together as best I could, and tore apart one of the tables until I found a roll of the tape. Once I got myself taped up, I realized that I had caused an outright riot — zombies who had come for a little pampering had turned on the med-students-in-disguise. My rescuer chowed down on the front desk attendant. I found a manicurist cowering under a table and dug in. We were doing the zombie world a service, right? Plus, I could get my fill of human flesh without guilt.
And as soon as I finished here, Jenny and I were going to have a serious talk.
Stephanie Scarborough lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her two feline overlords. Her work has appeared in The Rose and Thorn, M-Brane SF, and A Fly in Amber. She has fiction forthcoming in A Thousand Faces and Sand: A Journal of Strange Tales. Visit her website at: http://hellostephanie.net.