Frank barely heard the soft, arrhythmic tapping on the front door over the bedlam of the cartoon show Davey and his friend were watching. He picked up the pistol, which lay on the table between his beer and ashtray. The young ones ignored him as he stood up, walked over to the door and put his eye to the peephole. It was zombies, two of them. Frank pulled the door open with his free hand, keeping the gun pointed low and his finger off the trigger.
The first creature extended his arm towards Frank, and slowly turned his palm up.
“You finished, already?” a slow shake of the head, accompanied by a death-rattle of a breath, that Frank took as a yes.
“Front and back? Another painfully slow nod.
“You trimmed the hedges? Cleaned the gutters?”
“OK. Honey!” Frank yelled down the hall. “Can you bring me the package of synth-flesh on the counter?”
While he waited, he looked over the twisted shoulder of his gardener, and assessed the one behind him. “You brought help this time.”
“Not with you?” Gina handed him the paper-wrapped square with the US FDA approved sticker. It was still cold. “We are down to three kg’s, hon. Should we order more?” Frank grunted a yes.
Frank passed the package to the zombie, whom he caught looking at his wife’s neck. He brought the gun to bear on the undead-American’s rotting cheek. “Don’t even think about it.”
It hissed and twisted its mouth; what may have been a growl escaped the loose, spittle-shiny lips. Then it quietly turned and shuffled down the walk, past the second of its kind who carried an axe in one greenish hand.
“Yes, what is it?” The news was coming on, Frank wanted to hear if the Supreme Court had decided the case of gunther vs. gomez. If they decided that zombies were entitled to the rights and assets they held at the time of their conversion, lawyers will have a cash cow on a verdant pasture.
Frank noted that two fingers were missing on the hand that pointed at one of his maple trees. “No, I don’t need any trees cut at this time. Not today, not next week, okay?”
A nod of understanding, then out came an expectant hand. “We’re short, sorry.” Frank backed into the house and began to close the door.
“”RATTLE!” The flesh-eater had inserted the axe in the doorway, preventing Frank from shutting it completely. Frank opened the door wide enough to allow the axe-holding arm all the way inside, then he kicked the door shut, pinching the arm between wrist and elbow. The hissing scream started just before the axe hit the faux-wood floor. The hand formed into a fist and beat the wall. One more solid kick, and the limb fell beside the axe, the still-twitching hand seemed to be trying to grab the handle. Frank managed to lock the door as the zombie repeatedly threw himself against it.
“Should I call the police?” Gina was in the hallway with a shotgun. Behind her the young ones had stopped watching a coyote getting flattened by a steamroller in order to check out the real-live action.
“Kids! Go watch TV! It’s all over!” More quietly, to Gina, he said, “Get another pound of synth-flesh. No, make it two. I’d rather he split than mess with all the damn paperwork the zigger-lovers require.”
Gina came back with the flesh-substitute. She chastised him for using that slur, a corruption of Zombie re-Integration Act. “Especially in front of Davey and…”
He cut her off, it was an old argument. “Yeah, sorry.” The thumping had stopped. Gun ready this time, Frank opened the door, and whistled to get the retreating figure’s attention. He threw the package at the zombie’s feet, noting that only one was shod.
“Tomorrow. When you walk by tomorrow, there will be an old pair of shoes for you by the street. Understand? Don’t come in the yard, just take the shoes, keep walking.”
The screaming had stopped, it, Frank saw that ‘it’ had been a woman at one time, held her good hand over the wound, which had already stopped bleeding. Their wounds don’t heal, exactly, the zombie just keeps going until it becomes structurally unsound. “The axe will be there too.” Last year, romero vs. krueger had established their right to own property, as long as it wasn’t used to ‘procure, steal, bargain for, or in any otherwise obtain human flesh for the purpose of consumption…‘ One last snarl and, the government package tucked under it’s shortened appendage, she/it walked across the yard to the street. Two houses away, Frank saw the gardener pushing his mower with one hand as it tore off and swallowed hunks of the test-tubesteak that it held in the other.
Frank sighed. The world was changing too fast for his taste.
First there had been the accidental release of the zombie-virus, and humanity’s existence had been threatened before a vaccine was invented. Then, advances in recombinant-DNA engineering had led to the development of an alternative source of food for the zombies, whose numbers were astronomical. They took to the synth-flesh readily, as it beat chasing down emaciated prey that fought back. And slowly the bartering system had developed; was still developing, as the afternoon’s events showed.
He went back to his easy chair, set the gun down on the table again. He no longer had a yen for zombie news, so he left the TV on the cartoon channel, and settled back as a car of some sort transformed into a robot of some sort. On the floor in front of him, Davey and his friend were eating from a tray of snacks Gina had brought out. Davey, transfixed by the action, absent-mindedly ate a cookie. His new pal rasped out a hideous laugh as he dipped a synth-flesh nugget in a glass of synth-blood. Yes, things are just changing too fast, he thought, and upended his can of beer until the contents had settled in his stomach.