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The Christmas Zombie

When not inhabiting a variety of fantastic worlds, Marissa James lives, works, and studies in Portland, Oregon. Her interests include obscure archaeology, peculiar books, eclectic knowledge, and her husband, who is quick to remind her of his inimitable, muse-like properties. You can find her short fiction in the anthologies Daughters of Icarus by Narcissus Press, Winter Well by Crossed Genres Publications, and Playing with Fire by Third Flatiron Publications. You can also visit her at marissajames.blogspot.com, where she wouldn't mind at all if you say hello.

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?
He'd even play with Ripley sometimes. Ripley's parents and four siblings were too old to understand the boy's lonesomeness, but Grrg wasn't. They were just kids, and when they played catch (admittedly, Grrg wasn't the best at it), Ripley's delectable nature didn't even cross Grrg's maggoty mind.
Which proved he'd been good this year; if anyone had earned a heaping bucket of sweetmeats, it was Grrg.
In the living room, a creak. Then, wafting through his bedroom door, the unmistakable scent--bloody and intense, mingled with cocoa and nutmeg. He peered into the living room; a shadowed figure was placing glistening gobs of flesh and organ meat into battered-yet-festive boxes, sticking lids on them, then limping over to place them, one at a time, by the fireplace.
That limp was familiar--dad's limp, from when he'd closed his leg in the car door once.
Dad was the Christmas Zombie? Grrg's desiccated heart seemed to skip a beat when he realized what this meant: there was no such thing as magic in the world.
And yet--and yet there was, for where had his dad possibly gathered those brains and livers and a dozen succulent eyeballs from?
Dad straightened, saw him in the dawn light of Christmas morning, and gurgled him over. Grrg shambled out, arms stiffly forward, and they caught each other in an undead, yet warm, embrace. Dad smelled of filth and gore and Christmas.
The best Christmas ever.
Next door, Ripley let out a bloodcurdling scream.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Author Comments

The idea of a Christmas Zombie came to me well before I ever had an inkling of a story to put him in. Naturally zombies, being undead, still have instincts for human activities like commuting, cleaning house, and celebrating holidays--and what could a zombie kid want for Christmas except brains?

- Marissa James
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