After the zombie cure there was a lot of paperwork. I’m talking massive amounts of missing persons reports, death certificates that needed to be filed, some even needed to be reversed, not to mention all the disability claims. Depending on how much brain decay had set in, certain individuals were—how do I put this delicately?—relegated to more mundane tasks. The progression of brain deterioration played a huge factor in finding a job in the new world.
My brain was mostly intact, so a bureaucrat for me, then.
Entire new identities needed to be made from whole cloth for thousands of people who couldn’t remember their old selves. Most people end up assigned to construction, though you had to have both your arms and legs to do that. With the rampant fires from the apocalypse, nearly every city suffered extensive property loss. And do not even get me started on housing paperwork.
A staggering number of applications for homes had been dropped off at my desk just this morning. Hundreds of new applicants. Some claim to have owned this home before, or this land before, and wonder why they can’t just move back in already. Some just looking for a place to stay. To start over. It’s said our bodies, though ravaged by the virus, recall behaviors we’d instilled in ourselves during life. What’s it called? Muscle memory. That’s what it was. Lately, my thoughts took a while to coalesce, and often they didn’t stay long; like trying to hold water in your bare hands.
My wife and daughter stare at me from their picture-frame-prison on my desk; I wonder how they’re doing. A ding chimes from the computer and I’m eating my wife’s thigh, meat dripping with blood, gushing, slurping. There’s so much blood, and screaming. Ding. The computer again. Where was that damn pen? These forms wouldn’t sort themselves.
Pressing the intercom button, I ask, “Hey, Becks. Were there more pens in the storage room?”
I wait for her response, which tended to be on the longer side. She was missing a large chunk of her head, you see. “I brought more in there before lunch, sir.”
I glance around the office. I rifle through the drawers in the desk, which had sustained some burn scars in the apocalypse but was certainly still usable. We had to use what we had left.
“No, Becky, I don’t see any. Would you be so kind as to bring some more?”
“Those were the last, sir,” she says.
Well shit. I absent-mindedly chew the pen I’m holding. I’d kill for some damn supplies in here. “Could you please look around and see if there are any lying around unused? Thanks, Becky.” I click off the intercom without waiting for her response.
I stare at the form in front of me, mind wandering. An image teases at the amorphous edges of my mind. I’m biting something; I can taste the hot blood. Not something then. Someone. And I loved it… She was only a child, my little one. Taken far too soon, by the virus.
The computer chimes yet again and that image snaps into crystal clarity. My wife and daughter in pieces. Both dead. Both tasty, so tasty.
The intercom buzzes again, snapping me alert. “I’m sorry, sir. What did you ask me for?” Becky says. I unplug and throw the contraption across the room where it bounces around in the corner, shattering.
I put my pen down and look out the cracked glass of my window. My corner office. I’ve always wanted my own corner office. I think.
I rub my face with my good hand, careful to avoid the hole in my cheek where my molars can be seen. I need to get those looked at, a few were missing chunks, and some had fallen out, and one was embedded in my cheek still.
Outside, a long line snakes around the building across the street. The old Apple store. And I can’t help but notice how empty and numb they all look.
I wonder what my wife is cooking tonight. I hope it’s steak.
This story previously appeared in Elegant Literature Magazine, 2022.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Kyle was born in Missouri but doesn’t remember it. He grew up in Texas and bounced around a bit before ending up back there, for better or worse. He spends his days hanging out with his daughter, Harper, reading and writing, playing video games, and obsessively listening to death metal (send some recommendations his way!) He's been published by The Arcanist, Elegant Literature Magazine, Crystal Lake Publishing, Witch House Magazine, Bag of Bones Press, and Black Hare Press. He's also had works appear on The Other Stories horror podcast, and A Fistful of Demons, an anthology of the weird West.