Sharon’s note: I started writing this for a splatter punk anthology. I didn’t make the deadline, but I thought everyone here would appreciate it. Warning: Foul language and family drama.
“Put that back. The .22 is fine for land bound zombies, but for these wet suckers you need a shotgun.” Dad tossed me Old Rosalee from the back of the truck and I bit my lip. Communication. The key is always communication. That’s what my shrink said, anyway. This was why I never came home.
“I’ve been hunting zombies for seven years, Dad. I don’t need pointers, or a gun that’s so old I’m afraid it’s going to explode if I use it.” There. That was almost civil. I tossed the shotgun back to him, and he caught it single handed.
There was that look. The one that said I was a disappointment and I was stupid and . . . nope. I wasn’t getting sucked down that rabbit hole again. Dad had never said anything like that to me, and it was unfair to assume that he was thinking it every time he looked at me.
“Don’t be such a freaking Prima Donna, Jess.” Penny hopped out of the cab, resettling Bruce over her shoulder. My twin had named her pump action twelve gauge after a movie shark and decorated her sling with maritime themed stickers. It was hard to believe that she and I shared genetics. “Dad’s been doing this a lot longer than seven years, so if he says we need shotguns, we need shotguns. Besides, I checked Rosalee over this morning. She’s fine.”
“Girls, if you start shit I swear to god that I will make you wait in the car.” The old threat made us both wince. He tossed Rosalee back. “Jess, just take her. Grab whatever else you want, but I won’t feel safe unless you’re properly armed, alright?”
I rolled my eyes, but took the stupid gun. “Fine.”
“Hey! I got a floater over here.” Uncle Ray waved us over to the water’s edge.
Dad hopped down out of the truck. “What’ya got, Bubba? Is it just a body?”
“Yeah. It’s pretty torn up, too.” Ray struggled against a tangle of weeds as he tried to drag the body onto land. He slipped, nearly falling into the water, then let left it where it was, half in the muck with blank, bleached out eyes staring at the sky. One cheek had been ripped completely off, and as the body rocked, the eyeball fell out of its socket, gushing gray liquid as it dangled off the side of its face by a dull red tangle of nerves.
“Ugh, would you at least put some gloves on?” I wrinkled my nose as the stench of rotting corpse increased to stomach churning levels. Swamps were always putrid, full of stagnant water and decaying plants. Dead human always made it so much worse.
Penny prodded the body with her boot. Before it had died, it had been a white male in its mid forties. It was swollen and gray, so it was hard to estimate weight. The head looked clean shaven, and other than recent damage, the hip-waders it wore looked brand new. A weekend fisherman, maybe? He looked familiar under the rot. Something had been taking bites out of it, but it hadn’t been a normal critter. Human teeth made very distinctive marks. The eyeball lost the fight and fell from the head into the swamp with a thick plop.
Bile rushed up my throat and I turned away, hand covering my mouth. Maybe if I kept it on there tight enough, I wouldn’t throw up. Sometimes the smallest things got to you. After a few seconds I swallowed and said, “And you wonder why I don’t eat breakfast anymore.”
“Shut up, pussy.” Penny hit me with her shoulder as she walked past.
“Fuck you.” I flipped her off. Hey, renewed childhood rage was good for nausea. Good to know.