By Kelly Swails
You knew that sooner or later the bomb ticking inside you would explode. You are only surprised at the rapidity of the change. Yesterday you were human; today, you are not. The change isn’t complete, not yet, but you’re one bite of flesh away from your destiny.
Your mother before you and her father before her had the anomaly, the specific sequence of genes on chromosome 15 that turns humans into cannibals. Zombies. You have always liked that term better. Less like the girl next door who happens to like human pancreas on the weekends and more like a monster from which you can’t hide. You have always felt that monster inside you.
You’re not sure what triggered the metamorphosis. Why today, a wet day in October, why this year and not three years ago or five years from now? It doesn’t really matter. Your grandfather turned when he was thirty during a business trip; your mother, after she’d delivered you. Your father has told you story of how your placenta was still warm in the metal bowl beside him as she turned, how she’d been cooing at you one minute and on her hands and knees the next, licking up her own still-warm blood from the delivery-room floor. The doctors had whisked her away before she could eat anyone. The doctors had said it’d happened before, something about the pain of birth triggering the change.
You find you don’t care –much– about a woman you never knew. You only know that she’d passed on to you what had been given to her. Now that your change has happened, you are relieved. It happened in the night, without a traumatic event or a painful moment preceding it. You are grateful for that. And hungry.
The craving for flesh hits you before you can swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Since you knew this day would one day come, you are prepared. You slide into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and head out the door.
You arrive at the feeding ground after the late-morning rush. It’s a converted warehouse, small, its walls rusty and worn. You smile at the bouncer. He is human and looks delectable. You can smell his blood pumping through his veins and you clench your hands into fists to keep from grabbing him. You want to feel his firm skin giving way beneath your teeth but you resist; you know what you’ve come here to do. He gives you a once-over and motions you inside. The air smells of marrow and iron and sweat as Nine Inch Nails pounds over the sound system. Music to eat by.
Bodies lie everywhere, some over barstools, others writhing on the cement floor, still others draped over each other in a grotesque dinner dance. In the corner you see a pile of bones picked clean; a man in a janitor’s uniform dumps a box of femurs onto the pile. You wonder how he manages to work here without being eaten and then notice his long hair and grungy nails. Homeless. Disposable help.
You walk into a back room, smaller than the main one, but hotter and smellier because of it. The aroma of internal organs and juices makes you dizzy, and you wonder how much longer you can last. The room is full of zombies eating each other but a threesome on a leather couch in the back catches your eye. Two on one, though enough of their flesh has been eaten that you can’t tell if it’s two guys or two girls or three of one sex. The two on top eat slowly, ripping muscle from bones as though caressing a lover.
The one lying on the couch is writhing in pleasure—male, now you can see the appendage—his skin gone, so much of his face missing that his eyes seem to bulge from his skull like a freakish Halloween mask. His head rolls on his neck as he looks at you. He opens his mouth, but without a tongue his mouth forms no words. His eyes call for you to join them, make their threesome a foursome, end your curse with them.
You have never wanted anything so desperately in your life. You join them, your stomach grumbling and your mouth watering. You wonder if it will hurt and find you don’t care. Knowing your first meal will be your last is anesthetic enough.