Live Like a Human Again

Threatening to escape her gnarled grasp, the receipt fluttered in the summer breeze; Lena stared at it as if she’d forgotten what it was for. At least not yet; her zombified brain still functioned. What she couldn’t grasp were the figures that were printed on the slip. Lena thought she had calculated the numbers correctly; it should have been about $1,200, not seven hundred. Then it hit her; she had loaned money to her friend, whose birthday was coming up. He had asked to have his organ wishlist funded.
Lena sighed and shoved the receipt into her dirty purse. She shuffled back to her car and drove home to her empty house. Her roommate of two years, Alfonso, had passed away recently and was taken for recycling. He had multiple organ failures and hadn’t had the money to buy new ones. Lena headed to the kitchen and grabbed her tumbler of blood. There wasn’t a lot left; she realized she should have bought some before leaving the supermarket.
Plopping onto her bed, she picked up the catalog full of markings and folded corners off her nightstand. Flipping through it, she saw an image of a human not seen in years or at least on her side of town. Zombies could go back to looking like the striking model on the page if they had the money for it: new skin, new heart, new everything. No more having to eat organs and blood, no more body failures, and no more waiting for death to take you – again.
A piece of paper fell out between the pages; it was Lena’s organ wishlist. With the income she was making at the supermarket, there was no way that she would even get one thing from that list. She regretted giving that birthday money to her friend. Turning onto her side, Lena stared at a picture of herself; it sat precariously on the nightstand; a photo taken before she and the rest of the world became zombified.
It took a little over a year for the world to change; what started as a coughing fit turned into body rot and the desire to feed it with brains. The disease didn’t discriminate against anyone; children and the elderly alike were mutated. Unlike the typical zombie flicks the humans used to watch, the zombified weren’t slow, ravenous, and inarticulate. They functioned almost as well as any human, except for their appearance and lack of healthy lower organs, and they all shared a new American dream – to go back to being close to humans.

Scanning the bags of blood at the supermarket, the scanner blared at Lena, making her head rattle. After the last bag, she gave the customer an intentional dull look, even though it was a permanent expression she wore. The customer swiped her card to pay, grabbed her bags, and shuffled off. Lena sighed; she noticed her boss, Mr. Serkus, rambling with two other people she’s never seen. She wondered if the man and woman were here for inspection or to help interview for the assistant manager position she was vying for. Standing straight and pulling her dry, cracked lips into a smile, Lena assisted the next customer, glancing up often at her boss.
Peering at the dangling clock on the wall, Lena realized it was almost time for her break. She glanced back towards the office, expecting to see Leo approaching. Is he late again? Taking deep breaths, Lena focused on what her doctor told her; she couldn’t get overly agitated; it could cause her heart to stop.
“Hello!” The customer in front of her yelled.
“Sorry,” Lena mumbled, and she caught Mr. Serkus glancing at her.

Leo strolls in to replace her fifteen minutes after the time she was supposed to take her break. Restraining the instinct to take a bite out of him, Lena headed towards the office where her lunch of liver was waiting for her. Walking past Mr. Serkus, she waved at him. He paused.
“Lena, would you see me in my office, please.” He said as he turned back and opened the office door.
Lena forgot all about taking her break and slipped inside. She slid into the grimy office chair in front of Mr. Serkus’s cracked desk. He swung around, his slim frame quaking with each step, and gently sat into his chair.
“Lena, I see you applied for the assistant manager position.” Mr. Serkus said, rustling some papers he had on the desk.
Lena nodded.
“How long have you been with us? Three years?”
“Almost six, Mr. Serkus.”
He glanced down at his papers.
“I haven’t advertised the job opening. To be quite honest, I’m not interested in conducting interviews. Especially if I have to interview Leo.”
That moron applied for the position?! He barely makes it to work on time. Lena tightened her smile.
“Look, why don’t I just give you the position, keep it internal? I’ll let the regional offices know I went with a senior employee instead of opening the job for any Joe blow to apply.” Mr. Serkus said, smoothing his patchy hair down onto his blotchy scalp.
Lena could barely speak but moaned as if she was a full-blown zombie from a George R. Romero flick.
“What are you? A zombie?” Mr. Serkus said and wheezed out a laugh.
“I’m sorry. I’m just surprised. Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Serkus. I won’t disappoint you!” Lena said; she jumped up and extended her hand.
“Sorry, I can’t shake hands. My doctor said my arm would fall off the next time I did.”

Driving back home in her beat-up Honda Civic, Lena laughed out loud. She wanted to call someone to tell them the good news. Rick! I can call him and shove it in his face. I’ll be making up that birthday money that I gave him. She decided to call him once she got home; part of her ear crumbled the last time she was on the phone while driving.
After her phone call with Rick, Lena reviewed her organ wishlist. She was deciding on which organ to replace first. Looking up the price on the catalog, she calculated that she would have to start with the cheapest and save up for the more expensive organs. Lena called the local Revive clinic and made an appointment to have her kidney replaced.

Lena fiddled with her stitches while lying on the hospital bed after surgery; she was excited about having a new kidney. She was drawn to the surgery; she was awake the whole time; since there was no need for the zombified to be put under. The allure of having her body cut open and changed was intoxicating as if she was smelling blood for the first time after she had changed. Lena’s goal was to be the woman in the organ catalog.

Surgery after surgery, Lena transformed. She had replaced everything except her skin, which was the one organ that physically made her zombified. It was also the most expensive. Working overtime at the supermarket, Lena squirreled away her earnings feverishly and avoided going out much.

The day before her final surgery, Lena decided to go to her favorite lounge, where she used to hang out with her old friends to celebrate. At the bar, she cradled her Bloody Mary; she was about to take a sip when someone called her name.

“Lena? It’s Rick.” He stood there in his worn-out formal wear, his lazy, protruding eye prominent. Lena saw that he had tried mashing his patchy hair with oily pomade.
She turned to see that Rick was accompanied by five of her other friends. “Hi, guys!”
“You want to join us? We have a large table reserved.”
As soon as they gathered around the wooden table, Rick spoke.
“Where have you been? We haven’t heard from you in a while?”
“I’ve been working overtime at the supermarket,” Lena said, glancing at the others. They were muttering and stealing looks toward Lena.
“All this time? Many of us haven’t seen you since you mentioned getting promoted.” Rick said.
“Well, between going to work and having the surgeries, there hasn’t been any time to do anything else.”
“You’re here now.”
“Is this an interrogation?” Lena said.
“No, no. Of course not. We’re just wondering what you’ve been up to.”
“Nobody else is asking the questions.”
None of the others could hold Lena’s stare for too long. She felt anger bubbling up inside.
“Lena, Rick is right. We’re just worried about you. You seem distracted and different now.” Another one of Lena’s friends said.
“It’s not my fault that you are all jealous that I’m getting replacements done,” Lena said, twirling the glass of Bloody Mary.
“Jealous? That’s definitely not it.” Rick said.
“No offense, but you always used to make fun of people that would go crazy getting replacements and acting all arrogant, and now you’re becoming one of them.” Another chimed in.
Lena stood up all of a sudden, growling. “I came here to celebrate my last surgery. You guys were the ones that invited me over. Now I can see it was just to take jabs at me. Don’t you ever contact me again!” She tossed back her Bloody Mary and stormed off, with Rick calling after her.

Brushing her hair viciously, Lena paced in her bedroom. Her anger bubbled low in the pit of her stomach. The replacement surgery was early the next day; she figured she would head to bed early, yet she couldn’t let what happened at the lounge dissipate. Lena was heading to the bathroom when the doorbell rang. Who could that be?
She sprinted to the door and peered out the peephole. Lena sighed. What is he doing here? She yanked the door open.“What do you want, Rick?”
“Sorry, it’s kinda late. I just wanted to apologize.”
Rick had his hands behind his back; he searched Lena’s eyes. She waited for him to speak. Rick lunged at Lena, throwing her backward. She hit the floor bottom first, and he was upon her. Lena tried to scream, but he placed his scaly hand over her mouth. Shadows appeared around her. All of her friends stood by, staring down at her. Each one’s corrupted features worsened by shadows.
“Your new organs are going to help us get our own. Bet you didn’t know they fetch quite a bit of money on the black market.” Rick said.
Lena’s eyes widened. One by one, the group pulled out a surgical tool. One of them began to cut her PJs as Rick held her down. Lena peered towards her abdomen, a scalpel glinting from the ceiling light lowered down onto her belly. She leaned back and smiled.


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