You are reading part IV of this periodical. Click here to read part III.
That evening, as the other zombies harass a broken-down Ford Explorer full of an unfortunate group of survivors, and the chirping of crickets mingle with the moans of the dead, Fred and Tiffany stroll shoulder to shoulder down the street.
Fred had thought for a long time how to say what he needed to say to Tiffany, but he is no closer to forming the words now in death than he was in life. The surge Fred feels in his heart is almost enough to start it beating again, but his tongue lie still in his throat.
After an hour of silence, Tiffany decides to speak: “Where is Fed taking me?” she says.
“I want to tell Tee-fee-nee… things,” Fred mumbles. “Things I… never say, but…”
Tiffany stops Fred gently by the arm and positions herself in front of him. The red glow of the Ralph’s sign in the background illuminates their faces. “Just… tell me Fed,” she says.
Tiffany’s eyes widen. Her eyebrows lift. She raises herself slightly on her toes, staring directly into Fred’s perspiring face.
Fred wipes the sweat from his brow (there was no help for it even in death). A bone-rattling tremor flows from the back of his heels to the base of his skull and he shudders. He wrings his hands, tugs at his collar, jerks his head this way and that. Slowly, Fred opens his mouth to speak, but his throat — it convulses. He makes a series of violent hacking noises as if he is choking.
Concern shows on Tiffany’s face. She holds out her hand to Fred, but Fred waves it away and tries to smile as his eyes bulge and overflow with tears.
A moment later, exercising all his will power over his panicking body, Fred regains his composure. He breathes deeply and takes Tiffany’s hand in his. He smiles as warmly as he is able, opens his mouth to say the words he wrote down, the words he never forgot, the words he never delivered. Then all at once, his tongue slithers up his throat, tumbles past his teeth, through his grasping fingers and onto the floor at Tiffany’s feet.
Fred clasps his hands to his mouth, staring in horrified disbelief at his disembodied tongue collapsed on the dirty sidewalk. His knees tremble violently and for a moment he thinks he will pass out. Oh traitorous tongue! Rather than say the words that must be said, it has abandoned him. Fred can’t bring himself to look at Tiffany. He is, at last, defeated.
But then, a gentle finger lifts Fred’s face. Tiffany is… smiling? Fred’s brows knit in confusion. Tiffany reaches into her front pocket and produces a crumpled piece of paper, stained with blood and dirt, with that soft look paper acquires when it is handled too often. Fred’s eyes widen.
“I know,” Tiffany says, unfolding the paper with the care of a museum curator.
She holds out the paper to Fred, who stares at the words he wrote what seems like a lifetime ago: “I love you Tiffany. —F.”
Fred stands up straight. His eyes well with tears, not of pain now, but genuine joy. She must have found it in the trash can the next day. And all this time… Then his face changes again, as he spots the key pendant still hanging around Tiffany’s neck. He gestures at the trinket with inquiring eyes.
“No boyfriend,” Tiffany says with a laugh. “I try to tell Fed that night… No boyfriend. I tell Killem it is from boyfriend… to stop Killem asking.” Now she leans over to whisper in Fred’s ear. “I ate him.”
Fred’s eyes light up; he claps his hands and makes a hollow hoot in his chest; he takes Tiffany’s hand, pushes the note back in her palm, and shuts her fingers around it, nodding enthusiastically. Tiffany’s face flushes.
An invisible force takes hold of the back of Fred’s head, pushing his face closer to Tiffany’s. Tiffany leans forward too, her eyelids closing. Their mouths come closer and closer together, bound to seal their love with a kiss, but oh, what happened? Since neither of them have lips, their teeth collide with a skull-jarring click!
But what is decomposition to the power of love? They settle for this undead kiss, holding the backs of each other’s heads, nuzzling each other as best they can. And so Fred and Tiffany find in death what alluded them in life, and they were truly happy.
Yes, Fred was a typical zombie. But that was months ago now. Since then, Fred and Tiffany have been properly engaged. They enjoy long shambles on the streets of downtown, staring blankly into the setting sun, and — what is that? — out from a pile of toppled trash cans, a small stray terrier appears, his fur tangled and greasy. He freezes upon seeing the two zombies. Fred and Tiffany look at each other, exchange a knowing smile, then turn, groaning, jaws snapping, to chase after the little dog — together.
So if you’re ever in Lowe, somewhere near the Ralph’s on Jackson, keep your eye out for two zombies going hand-in-hand with joy on their faces and love in their hearts. Ask yourself if there is anything typical about two creatures truly in love, anything more powerful. And tell Fred and Tiffany I say “hello”. Oh, and… Try not to get eaten.