art by Billy Sagulo
The Christmas Zombie
by Marissa James
Every year the Christmas Zombie came, bringing not just the seasonal scents of pine and cinnamon, but also the aroma of fresh meat.
Grrg had waited and waited; finally, fresh meat! Christmas morning was still hours away but already he imagined the warm flesh on his tongue, the juices flowing between his teeth. Last Christmas, his first in undeath, he'd had no hopes whatsoever--there was nothing in the world that he wanted except brains, and Santa Claus seemed unlikely to bring those. But the Christmas Zombie had come instead, and so he and his parents had feasted on a sweet (though leathery) little old lady.
The long months of dog food, courtesy of their neighbors the Cambleys, would have made him weep if his tear ducts remained functional. Still, Grrg knew undeath was even harder on his parents. Dad's commute to join a flesh-crazed mob got longer every day, and he rarely managed to bring home more than pre-gnawed long bones or stiff road kill anymore. No, it was the dog food that really sustained them: beef-flavored, or chicken pate, or sometimes the Cambleys would leave a few of those cans with the big chunks of actual meat.
They were lucky to have such understanding neighbors; most breathers' minds, confronting undeath, swung compulsively to extermination, decapitation, conflagration. But since Grrg first encountered the Cambleys' youngest son, Ripley, and didn't eat him, they'd understood. Just like Grrg's family wasn't wholly dead, they weren't wholly bad, either. And while dad went out rending breathers limb from limb in ever more distant neighborhoods, mom stayed home scrubbing the floors just as in life, and fending off the odd undead menace so the Cambleys could save their bullets. Because if you couldn't depend on your neighbors, then who was there?