Mr. Floopy.

Once, a long time ago, there was nothing much you could do to stay alive. Most were already dead, even if they were moving. Oh yeah you think that those movies could never be reality, until it happens. I live with a small group of the living, but our time is running out fast. What most film makers didn’t realize was that the virus that causes this mutated death march isn’t restricted to just humans.

I first noticed the strange new world when my guinea pig died. I was nine years old and Mr. Floopy was my best friend. He died quietly in the night, but that didn’t help my heart. I cried so hard for days. Mom and dad tried to comfort me, even had a funeral for him. Mr. Floopy was buried in the yard in a Nike shoe box. It was a lovely service, got to give credit to the folks.

I stuck to my room as I grieved. I think it is hard for everyone the first time death comes knocking. I laugh at it now though, mainly because when death comes knocking you better get running or death will eat you up. Back then though all I wanted was Mr. Floopy to be in his cage nibbling on a bit of carrot and cooing in his soothing sing song chirp.

The morning of the third day I looked out of my window and noticed a strange pile of dirt at the far end of the yard. I jumped off my bed and ran out to the yard. I was terrified and angry at the same time. All I could think of was that some creature had come and dug up my best friend and snacked on his remains. I half expected to see bits of Mr. Floopy all over the place. I didn’t, in fact when I looked closer the hole wasn’t that big.

The box was still down there except for a flap that looked like it had been pushed up. Even at nine years old I knew that could only mean something had escaped the box. Mr. Floopy was alive; we had made a terrible mistake. I began to search the yard looking and listening for my pet. I was frantic, thinking about how hungry my guinea pig would have to be. I ran back into the house and grabbed a carrot from the fridge. Carrots were his favorite treat and I was sure one of those orange goodies would draw him out.

I sat there waving the carrot around for what seemed like hours. My dad had arrived home from work and obviously had been cornered by mom. He was walking up to me in his work clothes which meant he had not had a chance to change.

My dad was big on routines. In the morning he had his coffee and one piece of toast thing. No one talked to him until the toast was gone. In the evening he had his changing thing. He didn’t believe he was really done work until he was out of his work clothes. Mom and I called him Jekyll and Hyde. Mom would say to him in her loving but commanding voice, “You best find Jekyll; I am in no mood for Hyde.” I always laughed at their relationship; it was a continuous battle of wills. Mom always won.

He sat down beside me and put a hand on my knee. “What’s going on Haley?”

I pointed to the hole at the end of the yard. He craned his neck and stared at it. After a few minutes he looked at me and I stared into his big brown eyes. He had a look of sad understanding and wanted to tell me that it wasn’t Mr. Floopy in the box anymore. I stopped him before he said it.

“The box is open from the inside Dad,” I blurted out.

Dad got up and walked over to the hole. I saw him inspect the hole quite thoroughly. He raised his head and looked around the yard as if he too acknowledged that something had dug its way out. He stood and brushed his hands against his work pants. His head didn’t leave the hole for a few moments. He turned to me and frowned.

“I think your right Haley,” he said without even an attempt at making up a story. This is why I loved my father. He wasn’t one to discredit the word of his son or evidence put in front of him, like most grown ups.

AS he walked toward me I heard the faint chirp of Mr. Floppy. My father did too and moved toward the noise before I could. I started to move, but he raised his hand to stop me.

“What the fuck?” I heard my father say. He was not a man who swore frequently, so I knew I should stay where I was. He reached down to grab something I couldn’t see.

“Oh my God, Haley go get me a towel and quick. Poor thing is in rough shape, but alive.”

I didn’t ask questions I ran toward the house to get the towel. As I was nearing the door I heard my dad scream in pain. I turned and looked over at him. The world seemed to darken as I saw what was going on. My dad’s shirt was covered in blood, his own blood. Mr. Floopy was biting into my father’s chest. The shape of my pet was different somehow. It seemed larger and stronger. My father was trying to get it of him, but its jaws held on tight to his chest.

I didn’t think, I acted, grabbing the garden shovel I ran toward my father. I swung hard at Mr. Floopy, connecting squarely on its head and body. The thump broke my heart as well as my guinea pig. It fell to the ground broken but still moving. I hit it again, and again, I couldn’t stop. Finally my dad took the shovel out of my hands just before he fell to his knees. There was a lot of blood. I remember the blood.

I laugh now at the absurdity of it. I mean my father killed be a zombie guinea pig. I know that it wasn’t the animal but the virus it carried that killed my father, who then killed my mother, and tried to kill me. Circle of life in the dead zone, you live, eat and die, then eat.

So here I am, a little older than nine, twenty years older to be exact. Twenty years of the virus has left very little living. It is a world that has become a nightmare. Those that get infected change a bit. They get larger, wider, and stronger and I think they get smarter. Their senses become acute, like an animal on the hunt.

The group that I am with is organized. I have been with them for thirteen years. They are my family and we protect each other from the knocking. Originally we were a group of thirty-four, we are down to twenty now. Death knocks quite a bit this new world.

We have become quite adept at protecting ourselves. All doors and windows are sealed, cracks and venting is grated and nailed tight. We must keep all of the dead out, even the mice. We would venture out to look for canned goods, but over the years our supply has dwindled. Now we ration it as best we can. We dare not travel too far so we had to think of alternatives.

I remembered Mr. Floopy and suggested an alternative to starving. It seemed the only logical option…Once we were thirty-four, now we are twenty…until I knock again and we eat.

Mr. Floopy.

Paul Rees-Jones

Toronto, Canada

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Artist's Description

Halloween wouldn’t be halloween without a zombie story!

Happy Halloween Everybody!

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