As I return to the land of my zombies I feel I need to preface this by telling (or warning) you that although this is story #10 of my zombie collection it may be much earlier or later in the actual telling of the entire work. I’m still working on it off and on, but have put it aside for now as I try to complete my novel. This collection, I hope to finish sometime next year. In the meantime you can view the rest (so far) here . Each story is a stand alone, but also leads further into the zombie world I’ve created. 

Encore Performance

By Jason Warden

Myra rolled her latest piercing around in her mouth. How odd it felt, how exciting, the metal scrapped over her teeth again, and she smiled in spite of herself. It had been a last minute addition to the procedure, and she found she loved it.  Quickly though, she pushed the excitement and happiness away and looked at the cutesy little bitch cashier. 

“How much?” 

“Fifty dollars.” 

Myra counted out the money from a wad of bills in her pocket and handed it over still crumpled. 

“Thanks so much, I hope…” 

But Myra was already halfway to the door, her hand raised in silent disdain. “Whatever.” 

*** 

For her, playing the part had always been the way to love. Until she was seven, she had spent much of her life in the backseat of her mother’s car, riding from town to town, city to city, place to place. At each stop she said the lines her mother had written, danced the dances her mother had choreographed and practiced all of it in dingy hotel rooms along the way. They didn’t stop at restaurants, instead they stopped at grocery stores and bought only organic foods that tasted like cardboard. They chose orchards instead of toy stores, health food shops instead of carnivals, and Clinique makeovers instead of playdates. 

She remembered her first loose tooth, and her mother’s reaction. It had been a month before the state competition, and they had immediately found an emergency dentist in Montclaire. Becky Deaver’s mother said he was the best around. The taste of the superglue had been terrible, but it had worked, at least until the competition was over. She hadn’t won, she never did, but it never stopped her mother from dressing her up, caking her face with makeup that left her skin sore and puffy and parading her little princess around for judges whose eyes always made her feel just a little dirty.. 

That had been her last competition. That night lying beside her snoring mother in the too hard bed of a Comfort Eight, smelling the sticky sweat of the previous night’s inhabitant, she reached her hand to her mouth and wiggled her front tooth. It hurt. She knew it would, her gums had begun to feel swollen and puffy ever since the dentist had “fixed” them. She tasted the blood as it filled her mouth. It tasted like hope.  She wiggled it more, pushing and pulling harder until tears sprang from her eyes, but she did not cry out. She continued for what seemed like hours while the cars droned by outside on their way to happy places where they would be loved regardless of their stumbles, their smudged makeup, their misspoken lines. 

Finally, the tooth came out and a terrible guilt came with it. Myra’s reality had been formed through her mother’s passion, but Myra didn’t want to be what her mother had always wanted to be. She didn’t want to live someone else’s dream, she wanted her own. She lay in bed until the early morning sunlight washed between the heavy curtains. As the blood dried on her face and pillow, she began to doze. She woke a short time later, startled by the sobbing cries coming from beside her. 

The sobs turned to sniffles, and the sniffles gave way to nothing. Myra chanced opening her eyes, and found herself staring directly at her red-eyed mother. The look on Mirriam Nelson’s face was one she had only seen once in her short seven years. 

It had been at the Sunnyvale pageant preliminary qualifier. Myra had only one line, and she had messed it up. She immediately looked to her mother, Mirriam had given her a smile, the one she always gave when others were present, the one that said, “That’s my wonderful daughter, and I love her so much.” Later, when they were alone, and no one was there to hear, Mirriam had asked if she was deliberately trying to screw up her life. 

“Do you know how much it costs to enter these things? Just be glad you’re not a boy, or that would have been our last shot.” She wished for nothing else for the next three years. Myra knew she was right of course, boys could only compete until they were four, then, if they hadn’t made it, it was all over. Myra thought they were lucky. 

Looking at her mother’s tear streaked face, she tried to imagine doing this, travelling, dancing, putting on her fake smile and wooing the judges for the next twenty years and began to cry. She closed her eyes tightly so she couldn’t see the disappointment on her mother’s face. To her surprise her mother’s calm voice said, “It’s okay baby, we’ll be fine. We’ll just take a break. By this time next year, all of this will be over, and you’ll be the youngest in your age group. You know how they love the younger kids.” 

Myra only cried harder. She brought her hands from under the sheets to cover her face, and heard the gasp. She knew at once her mother would never forget the blood stains on her tiny fingers, and never forgive her. She never did, and Myra knew she never would. 

*** 

Myra didn’t think about how that decision lead to this one. How being the child who never lived up to the expectations that were set for her had become the child who would revolt against anyone and everything that tried to restrain her. She was her own person now, an outcast among outcasts, but even the small group of friends she had joked that no matter what they did they would never out do Myra. When Allysa, her closest friend, got a tattoo, Myra started cutting, then branding. Myra looked forward to tomorrow, the day she would trump them all. 

The day started hot. She woke early for her last day of life and sat in the swing in her black Pantera t-shirt, black pants, and black boots. It grew steadily hotter as she prepared for the 4PM appointment, but instead of going inside to the comfort of the AC she thought about how quickly she’d made the decision. Before the commercial was half over she knew the time was right, and better, she knew the method would do the most harm to all those who supposedly cared. Like thousands before her, she decided being one of the living dead would be a much better existence than continuing as one of the dead living. Words were only words after all, actions, as they say, speak louder. This action would scream and all would see and hear her loud and clear. 

The commercial said it would be painless, it said she would feel nothing. It said she could live HER forever today. It spoke truth. 

 As she exited Mary’s Contraries the heat of the day was gone, the feel of the T-shirt against her skin, the gentle rub of her jeans, the wind in her face, the smell of traffic, all of it, gone. She felt nothing. It was everything she had ever hoped for. She stood at the curb outside the little shop. Her grey eyes peeked through the jet black hair that fell on her face. She stared at each of those who passed by, and a feeling finally came to her. Hunger. She found it was better than nothing, and Mom would be home soon


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