Adam Sleeps Through The Zombie Apocalypse
by Brenna Ehrlich
Half-wake wake up — can’t move for a minute. Feels like there’s a whole other person lying all down my back and I gasp as I try to gulp/drink air. It’s a thing I think — phantom weight weighing down your limbs. A paranormal thing — ghosts lie on your back all heavy and crushing and groan and moan and try to have sex with you. Ghost babies — terrifying prospects when you really ruminate on a mewling, cold little creature covered in ectoplasm and jam.
Warm morning air eddying under the half-raised window into my bedroom. Green-smelling air. Squeeze my eyes closed again and the ghost baby weight dissipates — there’s a wine haze still there, though, pressing into my forehead. A wine haze or a whine haze. Something, nothing, something. Take a deep, deep breath through my nose until I can almost smell blood. All red and red and rushing through the spidering veins — hers were all covered with fantastic plastic. Lyla’s looping loops that jangle and jingle when she moved, moved, moved.
More green air in. More green air out. Dream shadow tries to step back into my brain but gets lost somewhere, pulling on the string it laid out and tied to find its way home. Press my cheek into the pillow, really get the creases in there. Cotton shroud for hooded eyes — ready, ready to rest. The sunshine creeps in, anyway, though the window only winks at a blank brick wall. A blank brick wall adorned only with a mysterious pipe that’s always drip, drip, dripping — a water torture kind of song. (You can sing along.)
Squeeze my eyes still tighter, listening for the water creeping down the side of the building, but all I can hear are distant voices. Distant voices raised and raised and raised — the volume dial on the day gone all wrong. There’s a few of them — male voice, female voice, ghost baby child voice. The voices all tumble on top of one another like waves and my eyes flutter open when one of them screams. There’s jabbering from the other two, a guttural shout from the man, then a chorus of screams — baritone, alto, soprano — adding vocals to the water torture kind of song (we all sing along).
The sound of distant pounding pavement, the man’s voice commanding, begging, the child’s scream reaching a continuous crescendo. All moving away from me, screams getting fainter yet more persistent until I can’t hear them anymore. I close my eyes again and strain to listen — a distant scream, a final shout, then nothing. Sun, sun, sun, dancing through the window, too bright to pale, pale eyes. Close them, sew them shut — click, click closed like dull doll eyes.
Running feet and open eyes again and look out at the patch of sky past the building opposite. Sun dapples all over the red brick and blurry greenery waves in the distance. Water drizzles down the wall — a lazy snake dance to water torture music (we will dance along). Then all outside is silence. No cars. No children jabbering to their mothers on the way to school. Just silence. Ankles sinking in sleep. Lyla floating in feathers and saying…and saying… and whispering saying. White straight teeth floating. Like that famous cat. Smiling, smiling, then little cat’s tongue flicks out with spiraling scream.
Eyes open and Lyla lilts away, but the screaming continues, this time close, close, close. I still can’t make out any words. Maybe there’re no words to parse. Maybe there’s only shrieking heat rising up the throat and burning. Any holidays today? Any driving-fast-down-the-street celebrations with horns and confetti? Flipping, snapping flags and cooking smells? The close, close, close screaming doesn’t sound like a parade, though — no order to the mourning ire. No marching or stamping feet. Red side of eyelids flicks to image of Lyla, waving and waving as the marchers march by — waving and waving full of flesh and free will. Burying my face into her flesh and breathe, breathe, breathe — open mouth and sigh. She opens mouth and – a car peels away from the not-parade-but-something-sinister and screeches, stops. A door opens and a muffled man’s voice shouts something, a woman babbles something, then the car door slams and the car scampers off. Sun, sun, sun, gilds my eyelids closed.
Her back… her back and bones and ridges and heart bumping like a cat against my hand, slowing, slowing down, down. Singsonging songs her mother knew — or she said she knew, but they sound new not knew: “Rat bone, blouse luggage, you’re a real pearl of a girl, clamshell, holy hell, an oyster brought you into the world.” Spiderwalk my hand down her bone ridges and picture the skin hanger inside. She spiderwalks a hand down the center of my chest and reaches for the skin hanger inside.
Doorside pounding and eyes close, close, close — shut out daytime light and explosion of screams. Phantom lies on my back again and makes me taste mattress.
Drip, drip, drip the water outside is wild now — painting the red brick red. Then whoosh, whoosh, whoosh the air outside the windows changes and flashes with colors and wailing and the pavement below explodes like watermelon meat. The sky screams. The world below the sky screams and there’s grinding and gnashing and crying and swallowing and sad, sad, sad.
Pillow creases turn to riverbeds and salt tears run through. Salt drip, drip, dripping to the floor below to pool, pool, pool with red, red, red. Dream finds its string and tugs again as the phantom — I thought phantom, but not phantom — on my back jingle and jangles as it moves, moves, moves.
Brenna Ehrlich is the Senior Writer/Editor for MTV’s O Music Awards, co-author of the blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate and frequent contributor to CNN Tech. She’s currently working on a Young Adult book about punk rock, the Internet, murder and love while listening to various and sundry songs on repeat.