Love Eternal and True

Bruno loved Hilda fully and truly, no matter her feelings towards him. He loved her knowing that when she finally understood his love, she would finally love him in turn. Being told to fuck off countless times, hung up on beyond the number of stars in the sky would not deter him from what was surely the universe’s plan for him, for them both. But oh! Each second of the wait was agony, each moment away from her side burnt like lava in his veins. If only, if only there were a quicker way to her true heart.

These were the thoughts percolating in his brain on the evening he caught glimpse of a bright pink neon sign, blinking on and off in the night. LOVE POTIONS SOLD it advertised in the window of an otherwise unremarkable, shabby-looking shop labelled “Madame Tethys’ Charms & Elixirs.” Bruno hesitated, his disbelief and self-respect straining against entering, but his desperation won out.

The interior of the shop was not the haven for old incense and older occult props that Bruno had expected. Rather, it was clean, functional, all glass and metal frames. Displays offered vials, bottles, paper constructions, wood and metal gewgaws. Behind a counter stood a statuesque woman, olive skinned with horn-rimmed glasses that seemed professional rather than trendy, and coal black hair gathered into a bun.

“Welcome,” she said, genuine warmth emerging from her professionalism. “Anything in particular I can interest you in?”

“I—” Bruno’s voice cracked. He coughed. “I was thinking about the… love potion?”

“A popular one,” said the clerk. “It comes as a powder, you should know. You mix it yourself, in water or some other liquid medium.”

“T-that should be fine,” said Bruno, who hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. “But, ah, it actually, y’know, works?”

“Oh, yes,” said the clerk. “Very much so! Immediate and complete fascination and adoration guaranteed. So strong is it, in fact, there is no known means of reversal. An improvement over the original, you might say.”

“So, I get my money back if it doesn’t work?”

“Definitely,” she assured him. “Not that it’s ever happened.”

Mind alive with the hope of the requited love he had long awaited, Bruno paid the woman the agreed-upon price. He hurried from the shop, featureless plastic bag clutched furtively to his chest like a man with an eagerly-sought and particularly foul porno tape.


“This isn’t a date,” Hilda told him for the second time. “This is just because I don’t think you’ll get it unless you see the words coming out of my mouth: “I don’t love you. I don’t like you. I can’t stand you, so would you please just leave me alone. If you don’t listen to me this time, I’m getting a restraining order.”

They sat at the window booth of the bar. Bruno sat rapt in the presence of her perfect beauty, as usual, captured by each movement of her black dreadlocks against her brown forehead, each angry flicker of her deep brown eyes, each hissed insult from her perfect, full lips.

But Bruno could not allow himself to be distracted from his desperate mission. She couldn’t see him put the powder in her drink, lest she think he was slipping her roofies or some other nefarious date-rape drug.

“Oh, isn’t that terrible?” he said, pointing out the window, unable to think of a more convincing ploy. It still worked. Hilda looked.

“What?” she asked, distracted from her disdain. Bruno emptied the opened packet into her beer.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought I saw a crow carry off a puppy. Never mind. Let me make a toast at least? To new beginnings?”

“To new beginnings,” Hilda assented. “Amen.”

They both downed their beer. Bruno watched Hilda eagerly.

“What?” said Hilda. “Do I have foam on my face?” She wiped.

Bruno’s heart began to sink. The clerk had said “immediate.”

“Did I get it?” Hilda asked. “I—whoa….”

“What?” said Bruno. “Are you okay?”

“The room just got all… spinny. I think I drank too fast. Just let me….” She looked down, then looked back up again at Bruno. He could see her pupils dilate. His heart quickened. Was this it?

“What’s wrong?” he whispered.

“You… I’ve never really looked at you before, I think. Do you want to have another drink?”


“Let me rub your feet, love, they must be sore,” said Hilda, already removing the shoes from the feet of her husband of five weeks. Bruno pulled back.

“No, no, I’m quite alright,” said Bruno.

Hilda stood up and immediately scurried across the room. “A drink, then,” she said, eagerly, “to calm your nerves, love.”

“I’m—I’m fine. Thanks. Really.” Her beautiful form—she was still beautiful, achingly so—was seemingly overshadowed by the fervour of her love for him. Dampened. Tarnished. Cheapened. He broached the topic he’d been working himself up to for days.

“What—you see,” he stuttered, “Hilda, I don’t think it’s working out,” he blurted. “I think I want a divorce. I’m pretty sure.”

“Oh, love, that’s ridiculous,” said Hilda without hesitation. “We belong together, you said it yourself so many times, when I wouldn’t listen. Now I finally understand, and you say we have to part? Nonsense. The world will keep us together.”

“I don’t think you understand,” he persisted. “I don’t love you, not anymore. I just don’t, and that’s that.”

“Hmm…” she pondered. “That is a problem, then.”

“So you see,” said Bruno, “Divorce is the only option. I’m seeing a lawyer tomorrow. I want you to come.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” said Hilda, moving suddenly towards the door. “I’m going out. Don’t wait up.”

Unfortunate, thought Bruno, but he hoped this flight might at least indicate he’d broken through to her.


Falling asleep without her the night before, Bruno woke the next morning to the sound of her singing in the kitchen. As he propped himself up in bed and blinked the sand from his eyes, Hilda entered the room with a tray in her hands, a hot breakfast and orange juice carefully arranged.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to wake you, love,” she said happily.

“You didn’t have to do this,” said Bruno. “The divorce—”

“Oh, I don’t care about the silly divorce,” she interrupted. “Just take a gift for what it is.”
Bruno acquiesced, and started in on the meal. He was a trifle nervous, as Hilda hovered attentively over every bite and sip as he did so, but it was good. When he was finally finished

“Thank-you,” he said, levelling what he hoped was a stern gaze at her. “Thank-you but this doesn’t change—uh—doesn’t—”

“Yes,” she asked eagerly.

Bruno stumbled over his words, but somehow all he could think of in his head was “I love you.” Something’s wrong, he thought. I’m not in love with her anymore. I wasn’t in love with—the juice! Something was in the—

Then their eyes met, and he was lost in them forever.

Trophy

Andrew mulled a cigar, relaxing in his trophy room. Being there was a balm after a relatively unsuccessful hunting day, but with diminishing returns the longer this drought continued. Nonetheless, he meditated on the preserved female heads of the particularly pristine zombies he had come across, mounted carefully on his wall. “Immaculate” would perhaps be a better descriptor. Their beauty and serenity would not look out of place on images of the Madonna.

But looking at them now made him bristle. The latest forays into zombie territory had given up only decayed monstrosities. “Rotters.” Nothing worthy of immortalizing. The opportunities in finding and preserving female beauty as he had so done had proved a limited window.

A thought itched. A “what if?” He had dedicated his life too fully after this plague began to give up now that it seemed to be winding down. He placed his cigar in the ashtray, a decision reached. Andrew picked up the phone and dialled.

“Hello?” came an uncertain voice out of the phone.

“Maria,” said Andrew. “It’s Professor Dinklage. I apologize for how late is, but I just had the wildest idea about your thesis, and I wanted to strike while the iron is hot.”

“Oh, Professor Dinklage!” she said. “Of—of course. What is it?”

“I don’t think I can really get into it fully over the phone,” said Andrew. “Why don’t you come over to my place and we can hash it out here.”

“Okay…” she said. He hung up.

Andrew rose, took his machete from its place above the mantle, and sharpened it methodically until he heard the doorbell ring. He approached the door, the machete hidden behind his back, and opened it.

“Ah, Maria. Did I ever tell you how beautiful you look?” he told her.

Rotter

“Hey bitch! Hey rotter!”

The live boys laugh as they mock my shambling gait. There’re about six of them, white, I think. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. They’re slumming. You don’t need twenty-twenty to read that from their body language. Bystanders awkwardly avoid us as the boys follow me, walk ahead of me, still laughing.

“Hey, are you a girl or a boy, rotter?” asks the live boy I assume to be their leader. “Are those supposed to be tits?”

“Ghnarrghl,” I came back, unable to help myself.

“Fuck you, rotter!” dares one of the lesser boys in return

Their paths start to worry me; they’re closing me off from the street, steering me towards the entrance to an alleyway.

“Come on, let’s have some fun, rotter. In the name of human-rotter relations,” says their leader, sneering. I am human, just a dead one, but I can’t say so. Doesn’t matter, wouldn’t register with this lot.

I try to push back and regain my initial, stumbling route, but I have nothing near the coordination that the live boys have. No one else on the street notices, or cares, that a bunch of live boys herd a lone rotter into a dark alley in broad daylight.

“Thrrghl!” I try to protest, but I am shoved now, grabbed, pulled to the fence at the alleyway’s end. I turn on the leader, snap my teeth. Bravado, and he knows it, slapping me in the face.

“Keep her held down, guys,” he says. “We’re going to find out—” he gropes my crotch “—yes, it is a rotter girl! I thought I smelled rotter pussy.”

Some of the live boys hoot and holler at this, take turns grabbing my decayed vulva, the remains of my tits. A few stay back, awkward.

“This is too fucking gross,” says one, letting go of my shoulder. Another live boy is on me before I can push for my freedom.

“Pussy!” shouts the leader. “Fag!”

“Whatever, dude,” says another.

“Rotter-lovers!” accuses the leader.

I hear murmurs of the dissenting live boys, unwilling to help me, God no, but weirded out regarding how watching another live boy fuck me makes them feel about themselves. They flee, but there are enough left, malicious enough to hold me down as their leader unzips his pants audibly. He’s more than ready to do all the things he ever wanted to do to a live girl but couldn’t.

“Nrghl,” I hear from the street. “Argh.”

Fuck. I am relieved, infinitely, but just… fuck.

“What—” says one of the live boys, and then he sees what I know lie at the alley’s opening. “Oh shit,” he says.

“Look what you got us into, you dirty cunt!” screams their leader, his pants still down.

I cannot see, but I can hear, the shuffling of a dozen feet amongst the filth of the alleyway.

“Grrghl!”

The live boys are penned in against the oncoming micro-hoard of my fellow undead. They let me go, I collapse to the pavement, and they start to climb the chain-link to their escape. I can hear and feel the live boy leader struggling with his pants, thoroughly fucked. The undead move around me and the live boy screams as they do… whatever. I close my eyes. A tentative touch brushes my shoulder, helps me to my feet.

“Gurghl?” she offers.

I try to hiss my displeasure. All that comes out is “Hwqwahqw.” I open my eyes again. Her rotted face is friendly, but I am in no mood to accept her kindness. I had forgotten, willfully or not, the cardinal rule: safety only in numbers. Why should it be so? How is it fair to live tethered to the herd? But it is the way it is, and we literally have no voice to make it different. C’est la vie.

Ally

Glasses clinked at Piers’ quintuple-yearly graduate student party, celebrating… whatever.

“Well, I object to your use of the term ‘zombie,’” said Piers. “I don’t know if you know, but it’s really quite offensive.”

“B-but my point—” said Phonse. “—Isn’t it simply dangerous to have living humans and… the dead work side-by-side?”

“Ignorant!” said Piers. “Just ignorant! I won’t dignify that with an answer!”

“Have you worked alongside a dead person?” asked Phonse, gaining back his steam. “I’ll bet you haven’t even dealt face-to-face with the dead.”

“Well, ah, I have my own way of helping my much maligned brethren…” said Piers evasively.

“Your activism is just a function of your guilt as a living person!”

“I’m a dedicated ally!” protested Piers.

“I refuse to debate with you further until you correct your serious hypocrisy,” said Phonse.

After the party was over, Piers should have let the conversation go. Many in his place had, either accepting that they couldn’t fully appropriate the voice of the voiceless dead, or, rationalizing that some would always use an angle like this to undermine the dead cause. But Piers was of that particular social class which defines itself by winning debates at parties. He burned with embarrassment in ways that you or I can only imagine, erasing all thoughts of safety or prudence.

By the time he was on the street, Piers had cooled down enough to feel pangs of apprehension. The nighttime streets were not his place, per se. He’d never been accused of having “street smarts.” He’d never even had it implied. As far as Piers could see, however, those who did have them were lesser humans, so how hard could it be?

Piers walked tentatively, not wanting to disturb the denizens of the night who were not his current quarry. He began to feel like some ancient predator, ears pricked forward, intent on tracking down his prey. Piers had to remind himself he was not hunting to harm, but to help. At last he heard the telltale moans of diseased and rotten mouths emanating from a deserted lot ahead.

“Be not afraid,” said Piers, walking amongst these poor unfortunates with arms wide. “I have come.”

“Grr,” said one of the dead.

“Arrgh,” said another.

And then they all turned towards him, and the meat that was his only real contribution to their lives.

Late at the next party there came a slow, methodical knock at the door. Phonse opened it to find a familiar, if dead, person slouched on the other side.

“Oh, Piers,” said Phonse. “What did you do to yourself?”

The dead man smiled. He had won.