By McLane Funkhouser

    Allen always wanted to be called Al. So in this story, he will be referred to as Al. But keep in mind that no one in real life called him Al.

    Allen got out of bed on what seemed like a Wednesday. In reality, it was a Monday. Allen was cold. This seemed strange to him since he was assuredly deceased. So much so that, in fact, he had no toenails left. His toes were still there, but, to Allen, they looked very helpless without their nails. This thought made him sad on this Monday-Wednesday morning. He placed his green-hued feet, one at a time, on the floor, slowly guiding his rotting corpse to the bathroom to freshen himself up for his Monday at work.

    Once Allen was safely standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he avoided eye contact with himself as he brushed his teeth. His teeth, to his continuing surprise, were still white. It’s probably the toothpaste, he thought reasonably.

    He, with his somehow-still-functioning-brain, thought about rubbing the Crest whitening toothpaste on his skin to reduce his putrid greenness. He sadly dismissed the idea. He simply didn’t have enough toothpaste.

    He continued his slow, careful routine by wiping his face with a damp washcloth. He no longer had the need to shave since his hair didn’t grow any more. “This,” he said to himself, gently rubbing his stubble-less chin, “is the best part of being a zombie.”

    He slowly got dressed (the last time he got dressed in a rush he lost an ear). Remembering the incident, he tugged on the thread that held his left ear on. It was secure, he assessed. He still regretted that the only color thread he had in the house was green. Though Allen didn’t want to acknowledge this, the green thread was a lucky find.

    Allen’s last step in his process of getting ready was spraying himself with alarming amounts of Cotton Fresh Febreze.  Lilac was his favorite, but he stopped wearing it because too many people had given him strange looks. He sprayed it everywhere: in his face, his mouth (he also used mouthwash, but he had forgotten this morning), his hair, his legs, his feet, his armpits, and then enclosed himself in a smothering cloud of the mist just for good measure. He went through about five cans of Febreze each month. On top of the layer of Febreze, to disguise his rotting scent, he used deodorant, cologne, and dryer sheets. Allen, a few weeks in to being a zombie, had found it prudent to line his clothes and shoes with scented dryer sheets.

    Allen walked through his small apartment hallway and began his slow, precarious descent down the carpeted miniature cliffs. He had not yet fallen down the stairs, but the idea of falling had instilled in him enough terror to keep him walking as if he were ninety. The comparison, Allen thought, between himself and a ninety-year-old was quite fitting. They were both terrified of stairs and they were both worried that others would notice their repelling scents. There’s also a rotting brain comparison there somewhere, but Allen didn’t want to think about it anymore.

    Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, Allen made his way to the kitchen. He reached into his freezer and pulled out the value pack of cow brains. He found this to be a good substitute to killing people and eating their brains. He dropped a brain chunk into a bowl and put it into the microwave on defrost. Allen sat down carefully in his only chair. After the expected three beeps, Allen retrieved his bowl of bovine mind and sat down again. Allen remembered that he was cold. Looking over to the almost-opaque-with-grime sliding glass door, he realized that he had forgotten to close it, again. Come on, Al.

    Something bumped into his leg. He jumped back and unintentionally faced his fear: he fell. He scratched his elbow on the counter and had to enlist the help of a Band-Aid. But before he did that, he saw the thing that had disturbed his loneliness.

    A calico cat was sitting in the middle of the table. The cat, her name was Charlotte, as he would soon find out, had her paw in his cow brains and, deciding that it was good enough for her, proceeded to eat it.

    Allen sat down in his only chair and watched, what should her name be? She looks like a Charlotte. Allen observed that this tiny cat was very skinny, so he let her finish his cow brains and began to microwave her another frontal lobe. After she devoured that and had thoroughly licked her paws clean, she met his gaze. After about ten seconds of awkward eye contact, deciding that he was boring, Charlotte proceeded to trot nonchalantly up his stairs. He, throwing caution to the wind, quickly walked up the stairs after her. Charlotte had kneaded Allen’s mattress into submission and immediately faded into unconsciousness.

    “Hello, this is Al, I’m just *cough* calling to say that I’m not coming in to work today. I woke up this morn-,”

“That’s fine, I’ll let Winston know,” said Sheryll. Allen didn’t like Sheryll. Winston was alright.

    Allen hung up without saying goodbye, getting revenge in his passive-aggressive way. He sat down on Charlotte’s bed. She opened her eyes and looked at him, daring Allen to stay on her bed. Daring him to wait and see what happens. He stood up, but he did so like he’d just remembered something that he needed to stand up for. Allen didn’t want Charlotte to think that she had won.     

    Allen sat down on the floor in a corner of his room, his legs straight out in front of him. He was worried that if he sat with his legs crossed he’d tear something. Something that would stay torn.

    Allen woke up (Allen had fallen asleep). He wasn’t cold anymore. This was the first thing he noticed. The second was that Charlotte was sleeping soundly on his lap. He pointlessly took a sharp breath in through his teeth. This sudden motion caused Charlotte to twitch her tail threateningly. Allen, with his eyes lidless, inspected the lovely, feral cat. While he was alive, he had been a germaphobe. Now that he was a rotting corpse, he found it very difficult to be disturbed by germs. He was glad for this because Charlotte seemed to have lived outside her entire life.

    Charlotte stirred; Allen must’ve been thinking too loudly. He was afraid that he had insulted her by assuming that she had always lived outside. She stretched and started clawing at his Febreze-laced pants. Allen, again, was glad he was a Zombie. If he were still alive he would be in crippling agony. Charlotte looked down. Allen thought he saw surprise in her face. Unfazed, Charlotte went back to work, trying to dredge up any blood that still remained in Allen’s legs. Several minutes later, as this task proved to be impossible, she gave up and walked stiffly off, purposefully stepping on his useless, but still favorite appendage.

    Allen followed her back down the stairs. Charlotte led Allen into his round, carpeted living room. This particular room contained an old loveseat, a small TV that sat on top of a cupboard he’d made in his early twenties, and an antique coffee table that had ring-shaped stains sprinkled on its surface. Charlotte must’ve hated the thing because she immediately started scratching and chewing on the table’s legs. Allen hadn’t decided whether he liked this cat or not. But this was irrelevant. The real reason he wasn’t stopping her was that he was afraid Charlotte would scratch him and he only had so many Band-Aids.

    Allen decided that the only sane thing to do was the following: he microwaved two more bowls of gray cow brains, put one on the antique coffee table for Charlotte, ate out of the other, and turned on the TV.