In the Heartland
by Klaudia Bara
short story published in the premiere issue of Three Crow Press e-zine
IN THE HEARTLAND
In the dead of night two weeks ago, a pack of zombies had burst through the front door into their home. June didn’t recognize the first to hold her down and clamp a drooling mouth upon her shoulder, biting off the first chunk of flesh. But she did recognize the small face tearing into her ankle—he’d been in one of her older son’s classes. She’d been so confused—hadn’t he died in a car accident?
The smell of the roast wafted through the kitchen and into the dining room as June opened the oven door. The meat was golden brown, liquid bubbling in the bottom of the pan. Perfect. June transferred the roast to a porcelain serving platter and took it to her family, already seated at the dinner table.
"Smells great, Mom!" her son said, smiling at her.
"My, aren't you hungry," answered June. She placed the platter at the center of the table, removed her apron and sat down. "Darling, could you carve?" she asked, looking at her husband. "It seems one of us can't wait."
"Make that two," replied her husband with a grin. He picked up the knife. The roast faded from brown to a delicate shade of pink as he worked the knife inward, the center of the meat showing dark and red.
Plates were passed and filled and the three tucked into the meal. June's husband paused in mid-bite and laid down his fork. "How's your week been, son?"
"It's been marvelous," June jumped in. "He's been just fine. I told you he'd make the adjustment quickly and he has."
In the dead of night two weeks ago, a pack of zombies had burst through the front door into their home. June didn't recognize the first to hold her down and clamp a drooling mouth upon her shoulder, biting off the first chunk of flesh. But she did recognize the small face tearing into her ankle-he'd been in one of her older son's classes.
She'd been so confused-hadn't he died in a car accident?
Now that the family was zombified, June, her husband and sons learned to cope with the enormous changes in their lives. They trained the constant, unbearable hunger into socially acceptable appetites-or ones that at least wouldn't get them arrested. They adjusted to the disturbing, ever-growing loss of motor skills and resigned themselves to the bluish-purple-yellow-black discoloration of the skin. And they learned to walk off and leave the frequently sloughed rotting chunks of flesh.
It was tough. But they were determined to remain law-abiding citizens, no matter how dead.
June's youngest son couldn't adjust. He attacked classmates and neighbors repeatedly. Only one fatality so far, thank goodness, evidenced in the skeletal remains of a neighborhood cat. The owner had contacted the SPCA. At least the boy just ate a cat, which was better than, say, being arrested for eating someone. Nevertheless, June and her husband had carefully explained the consequences of further transgressions to him. But it hadn't helped.
Luckily for the family, Ward had the answer.
June sighed. Things would turn out for the best. They always did. She chewed her dinner. An incisor fell out of her mouth and plopped on the table. A pocket of pustulant green clung to the root. Sighing in annoyance, she wiped the tablecloth, capturing the infected mess in the folds of her napkin.
Unaware of his mother's minor trouble, Wally chewed blissfully. His eyes were closed, working the lump of meat in his mouth. "Best dinner you ever made, Mom," he said, a beatific smile lighting his face. He opened his eyes. "Can I have more?"
"I second that," said his father cheerfully, taking the plate Wally passed. A shadow passed over Ward's face. "I wish your brother could be with us."
Tears formed in June's eyes, but she wiped them away and took another bite. "Really, Ward, if you think about it . . . he is."