Leticia cut into her wrist with the razor blade, praying to feel something, anything. She was so tired of being empty, a husk of what she once was. She remembered laughter and joy but she hadn’t experienced either in a long time. Even her ability to feel sorrow or fear had disappeared. She was nothing, hollow, void of emotions.
She’s lost too much and seen too many atrocities; she was numb. Even memories of her daughter didn’t stir anything in her anymore. Everything she remembered from her previous life was as flat and lifeless as Sherita. There was nothing left of Leticia’s family but remnants of their lives in those who knew them and she couldn’t summon up any emotions for them, not love or grief.
She sliced deeper into her arm, hoping the blade would awaken something inside her, bring her back to full consciousness, to awareness. She couldn’t continue to live as she was; she couldn’t bear another day in a gray, colorless existence punctuated only by hunger.
She watched as the silver blade slipped easily through the layers of her skin, into the muscles and tendons. There was no pain, no blood, nothing. She twisted the razor inside her wrist, trying to find some trace of humanity inside herself.
It was useless. She might as well cut out her dead, withered heart; there was nothing within her.
She screamed and threw the blade across the room. The sound roused someone from another room and a shuffling gait could be heard in the hallway. Someone fell against the door, fumbling with the doorknob, before getting it open.
“Tish?” Nica slurred her name, the lower part of his jaw nearly eaten away by decay. She looked at him and knew that at one time she loved him but that, like her life, slipped away with the zombie virus.
“Food?” she asked. Saying the word awakened the beast within her. Hunger was the only real thing she felt. It gnawed at her insides, threatening to digest what was left of her if she didn’t feed it. She was empty, emotionally and physically.
He nodded, his head wobbling on atrophied muscles. They were among the first infected more than two years ago. No one knew how long they’d survive if given enough to eat but, with most of the world now infected, food was scarce. There was never enough to eat.
She followed Nica into the kitchen. The three others they shared the house with were sitting at the table. Decay and hunger affected them all; they were pared down to sinew, bone and decomposing flesh wrapped around a stomach starving for real nourishment. None of them were really living, only surviving.
They looked up and grinned when she entered the room. Jamal handed her a water glass containing a generous measure of Bacardi 151. The open bottle was on the table between them.
“What?” she asked. Like their bodies, speaking had been stripped down to nothing. They must have brought back a real treat for dinner – they’d been saving the bottle of rum for a special occasion. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of something other than a house pet.
Roland got up from the table, the grin on his face so wide Leticia couldn’t see anything other than his straight, square teeth over his sunken eyes. He lurched to the door and stepped into the garage. She heard him dragging something over the concrete and her stomach rumbled with anticipation.
She took a sip of alcohol; she felt nothing until it hit her empty stomach with a searing burn. She closed her eyes and relished it; any feeling was better than none, even pain.
Roland staggered into the kitchen, pulling something behind him. Leticia opened her eyes to see what tasty morsel they’d brought home. She blinked in surprise.
It wasn’t a deer or a golden retriever. Instead, a child of about nine stared up at her with huge brown eyes. Its hair was matted into dreadlocks; its face coated in so much grime that she couldn’t tell its nationality or if it was male or female. Regardless, it reminded her of Sherita. If she had survived the first wave of the virus she’d be about the same age as this child.
The memory of Sherita’s death flashed into Leticia’s brain. She came home from work to find her parents pulling apart the remains of their granddaughter. They slavered over Sherita’s body like wild animals; their minds completely overtaken by the virus.
Leticia killed her parents with a butcher knife that night, infecting herself in the process. As she looked down at another innocent child she couldn’t bear the thought of its death.
Kashana already had the machete in her hand. She had no qualms about killing a child. It’d been too long since they’d captured an uninfected human and the idea of real sustenance overrode everything else.
“No!” yelled Leticia. She threw her drink on Kashana. The zombie dropped the machete and pawed at her eyes.
Leticia grabbed a book of matches off the counter; she struck one and threw it at Kashana. The alcohol ignited with a whoosh and the zombie lit up like a candle. Kashana tried batting the flames out but her flailing arms caught fire, too.
Leticia didn’t think, she acted. She grabbed the bottle of Bacardi and splashed it on the others before they could react. She didn’t have to toss another match on them; Kashana took care of lighting them on fire as she thrashed around the kitchen, trying to put herself out.
Leticia grabbed the child and pulled it into the living room before it was caught in the blaze. She ran back for the machete, grabbing it off the floor. Her housemates were silently dancing within the flames that engulfed them. Leticia felt nothing for them.
She returned to the child. She raised the machete above the cowering child. It cried out “don’t!” as the long knife descended.
Leticia slashed the bindings around the child’s wrists and ankles. She dropped the weapon at her feet and said “Go.”
The child didn’t need to be told twice. It scrambled across the room on all fours. Leticia didn’t watch it leave; she did the best she could for it.
She turned around and walked into the flaming kitchen, her heart finally full.