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This Book Is Not Just About Brains: A Zombie Story

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A Tale Of Two Brains

Stepping into Teal’s bedroom, the sweet aroma of Frankincense filled Morgan’s senses. It always helped with the faint death smell that lingered from room to room. Although Teal didn’t carry it, she had never been repulsed by such odors yet, since birth she always favored the fragrance of sweet perfumes and not the stench most zombies carried.

As a human, Morgan loved the scent of oils and collected massive amounts of incense and the likes that she eventually used sparingly and passed on to Teal when she grew older and aware.

Shimmying her posterior onto the bedding, Morgan comfortably sat on her child’s old, thin, sheetless canopy bed mattress. Patting the empty space beside her she motioned for Teal to join her.

“Come.” Morgan’s voice shook and apprehensively she met her daughter’s eyes. After avoiding the conversation for so long she understood the inevitable was about to happen.

She cleared her throat uncomfortably. “What would you like to know?”

Teal’s breathy voice crossed the space between them. “Everything.”

Her mother laughed showing darkened teeth. “How about if we start when your dad and I met?”

Teal nodded crisscrossing her legs, elbows on her thighs, her head rested on her hands.

“Before I start, I want you to understand I never meant to keep things from you. But these are painful memories and realities I was not sure how you would handle. I guess we shall see.′

Teal’s eyes narrowed.

“Javier and I met at work. We were scientists. For years we worked for one of the largest laboratories in the country. I analyzed blood, urine, and tissue samples to detect and diagnose disease. Your father worked on treating diseases and creating vaccines for new, mutating, or rare illnesses.”

Teal’s eyes widened, half pride, half shock in them. She never knew her parents to be scholars. Especially, not her dad based on his present state. Sadness wrapped her like a veil. She had a slight understanding of the deep anguish her father must go through daily.

“One day, an interesting case fell on our laps. A man had the characteristics of someone who is dead but moved about as if he were alive. He wouldn’t eat, his sight grew sensitive to light and his skin became cold to the touch much like a cadaver. It thinned out, tarnished a light greyish and he lost his heartbeat.”

“The first!” Teal interjected.

Her mother nodded. “The first. No one knew what to do. Before they called us, many specialists were brought from all over the country, but doctors couldn’t figure it. They did however determine it was a virus.”

Morgan took a deep breath. Teal’s face was glued to hers and was as quiet as a mouse.

“We were told the military named him X because when they brought him, they didn’t want anyone to identify the man by name. The paperwork was signed with an X where his name was meant to be. Mystery surrounded this case, Teal. As if it was secret,” she sighed. “They sent your father and me blood samples but believing it impractical, your father and I felt it necessary to go to the source. We wrote the hospital and the lead doctor invited us over based on some prior studies we’d done.”

Morgan smiled at the memory, “We were excited at the fantastic opportunity presented to us. To travel and take more samples ourselves.”

Teal pressed her mother to move on.

“We left your brother with- my sister, Rita and-” The fact she had a sister, slipped out easier than she meant it to.

“I have an aunt?!”

“A human one, yes.” Morgan’s eyes watched her daughter’s reaction.

Teal’s expression went from shock to confusion, to pleasure, then back to confusion. “How can that be?”

“Humans have the capacity in their cells to neutralize viruses. That is why some people can fight illnesses better than others or why one person may end up with a disease others in their family do not have.”

“Go on,” Teal urged.

She was hurt her mother never told her she had an aunt. A human one. A spectrum of feelings bubbled-up to the surface. Teal knew if she said something regarding her disappointment, her mother would be discouraged, perhaps even stop talking about the truth she so desperately sought for years.

“For days we ran studies barely able to catch on sleep. We found an abnormality in his blood. We also ran DNA tests and compared them to those of his family members. They didn’t match! No longer did patient X have the DNA he’d been born with. No longer was he who he’d been before whatever this was, spread.” Her eyes shifted resting upon Teal’s face. “You barely ate anything, would you like some brains?”

“Mother! No,” Teal said exasperated. “I’ve waited long enough for you to tell me this.”

“Fine! Patient X grew desperate. He was hungry and enraged. In the process, he became crazed and attacked the nurse who brought him the daily rations of food and severely scratched him while trying to feed him. Although Patient X was restrained, the nurse didn’t say anything about his wounds. He was scared to be fired.”

“Days passed. The nurse began experiencing symptoms Patient X experienced. Panicked, he and X worked on a plan. T the time he was still communicating. Barely, but he could say a few words. They figured the more people infected, the quicker the cure would become accessible. And, they would have more people on their side to support them.”

“Is that how it started spreading? How selfish of them,” Teal interjected.

“Selfish. Ignorant.” She shrugged. “I think it was desperation.”

“How did they figure what to eat?”

“The nurse found himself attracted to the smell of corpses at the mortuary, cut the brains out, and ate. That’s how.”

“How did you and Dad contract the virus?”

“The nurse. The physical change is not immediate and we didn’t know he had it. He broke into our office and demanded we work faster. When we explained we were doing as best we could, he was furious. That’s when he threatened your dad.”

Looking out into the distance, Morgan recalled the incident. “He held me by the neck and made demands. Javier tried to calm him down. He asked him not to hurt me. He needed me to complete his work. That’s when the nurse passed the virus on to me. He thought your dad would work harder if I had the disease.”

Morgan began to cry. “Your dad lunged at him screaming that I was pregnant. They fought and his fluids made contact with your dad’s open wounds. That’s when Javier ... hmm, before then, the nurse didn’t know I was pregnant. He asked for forgiveness and left. I had passed out and your father was too concerned to realize where he was going or what he would do. Hours later, your father found him dead. He’d killed himself.”

“Clearly out of guilt.” Tears stained Teal’s cheeks. Unable to stop the flow, she used the pea-green T-shirt she was wearing to wipe them.

“We wanted to go into emergency mode but the government was low to act ... at the time we didn’t know ninety percent of the hospital personnel and patients had been infected. Most didn’t know, went home, and passed it on to their families. Many of the weaker ones died or became monstrous.”

“How horrible! And that you were there when it all started is unbelievable.” Teal shook her head sharing a look with her mother. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

Holding each other they cried for a very long time.

“I need to hear the rest,” Teal said between sobs.

“Your dad and I worked as fast as we could before the infection ate our brain or scrambled it up. We didn’t know what would happen with the pregnancy, you, or Jax once we fully developed the disease. We were making little progress. I called your aunt Rita and asked her to take Jax indefinitely. Keep him safe. She didn’t know we’d been infected yet, but I’m pretty sure she had an idea.”

“Oh no! Mom!”

“Halfway through a successful vaccine, the military barged in and found us. They held us at gunpoint and demanded we hand over everything we’d worked on. Instead of capitalizing on our research, they destroyed it, accusing us of trying to turn the entire population into zombies.”

“Couldn’t you tell them the truth?”

“We did but they’d already made up their minds we created the virus and were conspiring against humankind. They didn’t kill us because they would’ve had to murder too many people. They emptied the lab, locked us in an area until they were done building half the fence that surrounds the area we live in now. Most of the homes around here were where many of the hospital personnel lived. As the infected population grew, the containment area for us became larger.”

Teal could not believe her ears. The horror her family had been put through for trying to help!

“How did Jax get it?

“Jax got the virus at school. Rita crossed him over when she saw the physical changes. After that, and many other incidents, they began running daily mandatory tests at schools, work, hospitals. Although they’ve had a few more cases, it seems they’ve contained it for now.”

“Why doesn’t aunt Rita have it?”

“She’s immune,” Morgan shrugged her shoulders glumly. “Many people are.”

Teal took some time to register her mother’s words.

“I can’t believe our story. The history of this family with the disease... Couldn’t they use the blood of immune people to cure us?”

Morgan shook her head, “Apparently they tried but it hasn’t worked. Blood serums can take a very long time and they are extremely costly. Also, immune people don’t get to become like us but they can be carriers and pass it on to others. They’ve had the most difficulty with carriers because they are symptom-free.”

“What about Samantha?”

Morgan’s face was a mixture of pain and sadness. “Her mother didn’t have it but she was a carrier and passed it on to Samantha while pregnant. When Samantha was born, the hospital wanted to have her killed and studied. Suzanne ran away with her and found someone who would help transport her over this side of the fence, so she could at least be taken care of.”

“What?!” Teal gasped. “What happened to her?”

“As far as I know she was imprisoned for being a traitor.”

The shadows cast on her mother’s face hid the pain she actually felt. Teal understood why her friend would keep such a story from her.

“How do you know? Is that part of why Samantha has not lost her speech and thinking capabilities?”

“Probably, without a proper study, who knows? I learned about this at the farm. The lady who took her in worked there too. She’s human.”

Teal nodded in understanding. “I had no idea Samantha had been raised by a human mother! What happened to her?”

“One day she disappeared. We took Samantha in for a few years after her 16th birthday as you know, and she left us to live back in her home as soon as she turned eighteen.”

“Ah yes!” Teal interjected. “At the time she’d told me her stepmom was looking for a different place to live, that they might be moving to the Zombie area in Mexico. She didn’t come back.”

It was at that moment Teal clearly understood Sam’s comment earlier about heartache. Her friend never mentioned anything about it before and now that she knew, Teal would never want to push Samantha into ever telling her again.

“While you’re here answering questions, why don’t we have electricity?”

Our jobs and supplies are limited. Humans don’t run electricity to this side of the world. Luckily we have propane, water, a few power generators, and a few thinking zombies and caring humans who help with supplies.”

The reality of it crushed her. “Humans on this side?” She shook her head.

“We still have friends. People who support proper studies, and a cure.”

“Wow! I know now why you wanted to protect me but I was old enough to know years ago.”

“I think it was me who wasn’t ready, Sweetheart.”

“Why is everyone so afraid of us? Is anyone researching a cure?”

“I imagine so. They’re afraid because the disease spreads easily and it eats at your brain. Plus, we eat brains. Most humans find it disgusting but many cultures eat them.” She said this matter of fact. “The internal organs of animals keep us alive since for the most part, we don’t have any.”

Morgan collecting her thoughts.

“There are many misconceptions. They believe we attack and kill, then eat the brains off their heads. Heck! Most think that our hair goes completely white once we turn. Pff! Haven’t they seen ancient mummies? Their hair color is intact. It’s preposterous.”

She placed a hand on her daughter’s lap. “Attacks by zombies happened and that’s when the rumors started. As always, there are cases that break the mold. I’m sure there are zombies that murder people, but then there are humans who kill in cold blood and perform rituals of cannibalism too. Nowadays, any murder is attributed to zombies. As if humans never committed them in the first place. They want us to remain segregated.”

“That’s what they want? Not a cure?”

“I assure you some scientists are looking for a one. It’s not public information. The majority of humans want us to stay as we are but no one else turn. They’re working on a vaccine but not a cure for us. It’s all about money and power. It always has been.” She lifted her shoulders in defeat.

“That’s crazy. It’s been over twenty years. They would’ve had one by now if they let you continue with your work.”

Glassy, questioning eyes looked at her mother’s tear-stained face.

“There’s one more thing.”

Teal cocked her head.

“When the military stormed into the lab, I hid the vile of serum we were working on. They didn’t find it.”

“What did you do with it?”

“We felt our only opportunity to save you, it, and humanity was to use the serum. Preserve it.”

“What do you mean? You still have it?”

“In a way, yes.”


Morgan sighed closing her eyes. “It’s- it’s in you, Baby.”

“What do you mean, in me?!”

“Your father and I decided to give you the serum as a fetus. We had no idea if you were dead or alive, and we knew it was our only hope of survival.”

Teal stared at her mother dumbfounded.

“Wh-what does that mean? Am I a hybrid?! Or, half-human? Or what?” Teal shook out of control.

“Teal! Listen to me.”

Teal focused on her mother breathing deeply through the nose, and out her mouth.

“We are not sure. When you were born healthy, we were ecstatic. We couldn’t believe our luck. But when then noticed you were- ... had different characteristics than us, we didn’t want to grab any unwanted attention from other zombies here. Do you understand me?”

“What different characteristics? Like what?”

Teal’s skin was plump similar to young human skin and not quite as delicate as her family’s. Her eyes kept most of their brightness even though she did have deep, dark circles around them they weren’t as pronounced or hollowed as the majority of zombies. She could breathe and perspire. She didn’t have a heartbeat and only extensive medical examination would determine what else worked inside her body.

But her personality was the most noticeable difference. She was challenging and inquired about her existence. It was a characteristic that was almost erased from their DNA once they changed to zombies. Teal was extremely bright and eloquent, the fact she was a homebody always comforted Morgan.

On their side of the world, she looked like a zombie but on the human side, based on the grayish tone of her skin, she could pass for an iron-deficient, pale girl.

Morgan nor Javier ever put her skin to the test. What if it wasn’t? It could be fatal. Plus, if they had brought her up knowing she could, she wouldn’t have been risky.

For their daughter’s sake, they treated her as if she was one-hundred percent zombie.

“You know what they are, Teal. You can see and feel them. You know, that even though you resemble us, you also look and act differently.”

“True, but I look and act like you. Does that mean you might be a hybrid too?”

Morgan took in a ragged breath, “Not a hybrid ... Maybe. I don’t know. I definitely still have human characteristics. I administered the vaccine before I fully turned directly into the amniotic sac. As the carrier, it ran through me too preserving my brain and many of my human traits.”

With boney fingers, Morgan rubbed her eyes. Teal could tell her mother was extremely uncomfortable, her mother’s hand shook and her eyes wandered from hers. She never knew her mother as an assertive scientist, she knew her as an indecisive zombie. One who rather offer them food than words.

“Your father and I didn’t want others to give your differences any thought. At the time, we couldn’t risk putting your life in danger and the human side would’ve taken you away to study you. I’ve worked at a lab, I know what they do to test subjects.”

Her mother’s words chilling. Overwhelmed and overloaded Teal needed a break. The fact her parents worked on a cure for the illness that now devastated millions, was in itself incredible. The knowledge many humans are immune; including Samantha’s mom, and her aunt, and the fact that she still had a human side, or some small part of it locked inside, shocking.

“I-I can’t think clearly. I’m angry and confused.” And a tiny bit happy, although she would never admit it. She was glad there was a reason for her to feel different. Was she the missing key scientists needed?

“I understand why you did what you did, but–” dragging a breath she got off the bed. “You should’ve told me. It’s my life. I should be able to decide what to do with it. I should have a say in the way I live.” Shaking her head she headed to the doorway. “I need space, Mom. From you and Dad. I need to think.”

Morgan nodded. She needed space too. She had to let Javier know what she did. She hoped he’d react well to her actions.

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