What remained of Jerry hobbled down aisle five at Walgreen’s Pharmacy, with each step a long and hollow wheeze and pop in his right knee lurching him forward.
It had been six months since a “virus” electrified the recently dead—who woke with uncontrollable desire for human meat and emotional intimacy—and ten months since his last visit to the physio.
Jerry had woken up on a Tuesday in his moldy basement studio, crawled out of bed and made his way to the electric kettle to brew the last of his instant coffee. He stumbled over his own weight, catching himself but falling again, this time his face coming down on the kettle’s metal plate, running a hundred and twenty volts through his already pale body, and for a moment he forgot about his knee dysplasia.
Halfway down aisle four, somewhere between the pool noodles and seasonal gift cards, Jerry thought about this word, dysplasia.
He rolled it around in his mouth, silently exaggerating each syllable. A brown liquid oozed from a gash in his lip. This made it easier to say the word, his mouth now lubricated.
Jerry stood for a moment, noticing his decaying arms hanging limp at his sides, his eyes fixed on the water balloons, suspecting that the buy-one get one-free offer would not convince anyone to take them home in October. Someone planning far far ahead, perhaps.
Six months since the dead rose and Jerry couldn’t help but think the vitamins in aisle three hadn’t been organised since long before that. Gendered, effervescent multivitamin tablets recklessly set next to generic folic acid, and Flintstone’s gummies caught between diabetic mineral supplements and orange flavoured immune boosters.
This mayhem had nothing to do with the newly formed un-dead world order, speculated Jerry: law and society had broken down long ago, by the looks of the corresponding barcode tags tucked neatly into the plastic pockets lining the metal shelves.
The whole thing was deliberate.
The half-baked configuration screamed underpaid teenager working overtime to manage a few extra grams of dope for him and his skate buddies to light up under the bleachers after school, sometimes making out altogether then pretending nothing happened the next day in period one algebra.
I mean, read the room! chuckled Jerry, as his arm fell off. Who in their right mind would go for store brand zinc when the cold-EEZE right next to it are 30% off?
Misguided at best. At worst, a misstep that ignites a series of marketing slips tanking retail value, investors lose trust in the board of directors producing an unmanageable, vicious cycle of Walgreens’ humiliation in global markets and the fulfilment of a corporate destiny that only Oedipus could have thought of.
Jerry hails from divine lineage: his great-great-great grandmother was the gnarliest surfer on Oahu’s North Shore. Legend has it she once shredded a 30-footer, high fiving a shark on the way down and getting so much momentum she ripped across the sand, South over hills and valleys, making it all the way to Diamond Head crater before slowing down.
The top part of Jerry’s head slid easily off his body and made a squelch as pieces of brain hit ground, sparingly showering the left side of aisle two.
Jerry hadn’t been close to anyone in months. He found it hard to love another person when he couldn’t always love himself. He also didn’t like the way his body looked since becoming un-dead, but he didn’t hate it either. No one’s touched me in months, he murmured with an air of surrender.
He had been seeing someone—Eric—before the Rising, but it didn’t take the deceased roaming the planet for Jerry to realize he was giving more than he got.
Do you think I could be little spoon today? If not it’s ok, Jerry practiced anxiously in the mirror before seeing Eric for the last time. Jerry never got to be little spoon before the end of the world.
Now reduced to part of a head, torso, one arm with two fingers and his left thigh, Jerry dragged himself down aisle one, making his way towards the cash registers.
He noticed Crest soft-head toothbrushes on the shelves, toothpicks and dental-floss, travel-sized deodorants, decks of playing cards, lube, lavender laundry detergent, adult diapers, apricot-scented moisturiser, prescription sunglasses, fruit flavoured condoms.
He arrived at the end of the aisle and slowed at the sweets, stopping to check if any chocolate bars were left. His favourite bars—Milka Nut & Fruit—were four shelves up and his arm didn’t extend far enough. The only candies in reach were fun-sized Almond Joys.
Jerry sighed, his lips falling completely off his face, and relented: he seized the bag of almond-based candies with his two remaining fingers, recalibrated and continued to the exit.
Jerry arrived at the checkout, the rubber conveyor belt advancing and halting fitfully, sputtering like a faulty truck engine. He found himself automatically reaching up to place the bag of candy bars on the moving counter-top, giggled and rescinded his blackening arm, Don’t mind if I do, he teased.
Jerry proceeded left towards the motion-activated sliding doors, passing the Salvation Army donation can and “Final Sale” signs on garden hoses, arriving at the magnetic theft sensors immediately before the exit. He passed the sensor, triggering a loud, blaring alarm, and bright red cone-shaped lights on the wall. Suddenly the doors slid shut.
Halfway out the door, Jerry’s body, now dissected in two, twitched as his remaining eye dimmed and his fingers unclamped the bag of chocolates.
Written by: Matthías Cohen Cosentino