What happens when you curse all your ex-boyfriends into lovesick zombies?
|Caitlyn is planning on having a carefree summer before she goes off to college. She has left the past behind her, and is happy for a fresh start. But, her four ex-boyfriends have shown up on her doorstep, and oh yeah, they're zombies.
Without knowing, Caitlyn, has put her exes under a zombie love spell. Now her task is to choose just one of the guys to save, leaving the others to perish. Caitlyn must devise a plan that will save them all. With zombies that are love struck and brain dead, we follow Caitlyn on her journey to save her exes. Can love prevail with a zombie ex-boyfriend?
Copyright © 2013 by Susan Soares and Featherweight Press
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author.
Clark kissed my neck with reckless enthusiasm. His strong hands pushed and pulled at the soft flesh of my thighs. With each breath he took, his mouth consumed a different part of me. His wavy, sun-bleached blond hair felt like angora, soft and fine, as I weaved my fingers through it.
“Clark, don’t stop.”
“I can’t,” he said. “Not until you’re mine. Not until I have your heart.”
Then he brought his head up from my chest, and I opened my eyes to gaze at him.
“I love you, Caitlyn,” he said.
I shot up in bed. My heart was racing. My hands shook. The television was still on, and the morning sun shone on my face. A dream —that’s all it was. Get a grip, Caitlyn. I clutched my knees to my chest and tried to erase the images of Clark that were burning in my brain. It had been a few weeks since we’d broken up, and I knew I had done the right thing. So why had that dream alarmed me so much? I pulled my dream journal out from under my pillow and began my log.
Clark-Passion-Love-Wants my heart
I sat looking at the words. I studied the way the word ‘heart’ wasn’t totally visible as my pen was starting to run dry. Reviewing my week of dreams, this marked the fourth night I had dreamt about Clark. The fourth time he mentioned wanting my heart. I flipped to the front portion of the journal that had a page of common dream symbols and their interpretations; I searched for ‘heart’.
Hearts often link to getting to the heart of some issue. At this time you need to focus on what is truly important to your heart.
Okay, dream symbol interpretation page you didn’t really help me out there. Figuring out what’s important to my heart is like asking a five-year-old what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now, I had shelves full of reference books pertaining to the second half of that statement; books on photography, videography, journalism, media advertising, broadcasting, writing, and tarot card reading. Granted, tarot card reading wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life but it did come in handy at parties. So I knew career wise that my degree program in communications at Emerson college was the right way to go. As far as what was truly important to my heart…not having it broken was all I could think of.
I creased the corner of the dream symbols page so I could reference it later. I wondered what it would say if I searched online for ‘fear of closeness’. It’ll say get off the Internet, Caitlyn, and you’re being stupid. I closed my journal and went to take a shower.
Half an hour later, I sat at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of French vanilla coffee. My wet auburn hair sat in a loose bun on top of my head. The pile of birthday cards from two weeks ago still cluttered the tabletop. I searched through to find the one from my mom. The glittery cutout of the number eighteen peeked out from under a plain pink card. Taking a long sip of coffee, I slid the sparkly eighteen out and pulled it towards me. I opened it and reread the inscription.
My darling Caitlyn, 18! I can’t even believe it! The kid is legal now! I’m sorry I can’t be there to celebrate with you. I’m sending all my love, and I hope you do something fun (and legal) with your gift. Talk to you soon. I love you. ~Mom
Mom’s gift had fallen out of the card and onto the table. The check was for more than I had expected. I got a check every year on my birthday —correction, I had gotten one every year since I turned eleven, anyway. ‘Your Daddy Went Away, You’re 11 today!’ is what that card should’ve read. I looked at my mom’s fancy handwriting and wondered what I would do with the five hundred dollars. Maybe buy a mother who’s around more. I also wondered whether she missed me. I assumed so, even though she hadn’t said it. I mean, she was my mother.
I hadn’t tried to fight her when she said she was going to spend the summer down in Florida. I said it was fine with me as long as I didn’t have to leave New Hampshire. Some people might call me stubborn —and those people would be right —but I couldn’t see spending my last summer before college anywhere else. Here I knew what to expect —a carefree summer. At least that was what I hoped for. I traced the outline of the eighteen, getting glitter all over my index finger, sticky and gritty.
My phone vibrated on the table. I grabbed it and saw that I had one new text message from Sandee. What time do you want to leave?
One hour. I’ll call you when I’m on my way out the door, I texted back. Hampton beach was going to be a welcome retreat for us today. I had enough time to paint my nails, grab my perfect bikini, the blue one with the halter top that makes me look like I have more cleavage than I actually do, and drive to the bank to deposit my check since my bank account now had one dollar and thirty-five cents as its balance, before picking up Sandee. I was enjoying my last sip of coffee, when my phone starting ringing. I scanned the caller ID and saw Sandee’s name.
“Hey, I just texted you,” I said.
“I know, but I just did my nails and they’re still tacky so I wanted to call instead of risking ruining my new mani.” I wondered if she could hear me roll my eyes. “So I’m totally excited for today by the way.”
“Yeah, me too.” I was picturing laying on the sand and soaking up some much needed vitamin D.
“And I’m ready to meet some hot guys while we’re there.”
“Whatever,” I said.
“Oh right. Maybe only I should scope for guys. You’re too dangerous.” She laughed.
“What does that mean?”
“Oh come on, Caitlyn. I think I’m going to rename you Heartbreak Queen.”
That was kind of harsh. “I’m not that bad.”
She let out a puff of air into the phone that sounded sarcastic. “Oh right, you’re not that bad. I think Clark and Frank and the others might have something to say about that. I’d ask them, but they’re probably all still crying in the dark somewhere trying to mend their broken hearts. Heartbreaker.”
There’s sometimes a moment when your best friend can say something to you that even though they don’t intend it to hurt you, it does.
“I’m not talking about this. Besides I have to go get ready. I’ll text you when I’m leaving.”
“Okay, sounds good. Heart-” I hung up, cutting her off. A second later I got a new text from her. The word blazed on my phone.
I got up from the table, slipped on something, and crashed to the floor.
“Seriously?!” I shouted to no one. I sat up and searched the floor for what had taken me down. Then I saw it; the outside of the fallen birthday card had a painting of purple lilies dotted with glistening drops of dew. I picked up the card and slowly opened it. I ran my hand over the writing inside, and I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt.
Caitlyn, although we’ve only been together a short time, I feel like I’ve known you all my life. My heart beats faster when you’re around, and, as corny as it sounds, the sun shines a little brighter, even on a cloudy day. I hope you continue to let me into your life a little more each day. Happy 18th birthday, beautiful. Love, Clark.
I closed my eyes, and all I could see was his face. I pictured the way his blue eyes had looked at me with confusion.
The night of the prom, Clark had picked me up in his Acura, and I was glad to see the sun reflecting off the water droplets from the carwash I had suggested he get before coming to get me. It was a hot and humid June night. I had sprayed on extra hairspray to try to prevent the poufy mess that this type of weather normally made of my hair. I prayed that Clark had gotten his air conditioning fixed.
“You look amazing,” Clark said as he strolled up my walkway with corsage in hand. I noticed that each leg of his black dress pants had a perfect crease down its front. Why does he have to look so dashing?
I tugged on my tea length skirt, second-guessing whether I should have gone with something full length. Are you kidding? You’d fall and break your neck! “Did you get the a/c fixed?” I patted at the perspiration already forming on my forehead.
“Yes, my dear. I wouldn’t want the prom queen to melt, now, would I?” He slipped the purple carnation corsage onto my wrist.
“I’m not prom queen yet.” I shifted in my heels, which were two inches higher than I normally wore.
“Oh, please, you have it in the bag, babe.” He held out his arm, and we walked to the car.
At the prom we ate tasteless salmon off gold-rimmed plates. I tried to smile for our obligatory prom photo but was unsuccessful. I pulled on the hemline of my dress again as the king and queen ceremony began. Clark brushed against me from behind and took my hand, and we stood near the front of the crowd. To no one’s surprise, we won king and queen.
My ears rang as Clark thanked the crowd. He turned to me and motioned for me to step forward. I waved weakly, and the room filled with music. Clark guided me to the dance floor. I felt like I couldn’t swallow properly. We danced in the middle of the floor with everyone gathered around us, watching us, like we were a spectacle.
“I like dancing with you like this,” Clark whispered into my ear.
He smiled at me. “With everyone watching. I hope, with the time we have off this summer, we’ll be able to get closer.”
I felt my cheeks start to flush. “Clark, we really need to talk.”
“Uh-oh, no one likes to hear those words.” He loosened his arm around my waist.
We had stopped dancing and were just gently swaying. “I think we need to think about this summer.” My throat began to feel incredibly dry.
“What about this summer?”
“Clark, I just feel like the best thing is for us both to move forward. To a new future, apart from one another.” I wondered if he noticed the sweat forming on my brow.
“A new future?” He repeated the words as if they were choking him.
I slowly moved my body away from his. The music had shifted to a faster song, but we just stood there in the middle of the dance floor.
I didn’t want to, but all I could think to say to him was the one line that was now starting to feel like a crutch. “It’s killing me to say this, but I just don’t think I love you. I’m sorry.” Then I turned and walked away.
The birthday card still rested in my hand. Somehow, I got myself back into the moment and realized that I probably didn’t have enough time to do my nails, after all. I got up, stacked the pile of cards on the kitchen table, and had started upstairs to my bedroom to find my bikini when a strange sound stopped me. I heard a kind of scratching from the kitchen.
I crept back towards the entryway to the kitchen. Normally, a strange sound would have me running the other direction, but today was different. Something propelled me to investigate. My knees felt weak, but my feet kept walking. Scrape, scrape, scrape.
A loud knock on the kitchen door made me jump. Through the curtains that covered the glass pane portion of the door, I could see the outline of someone tall standing on the other side. There was another knock, louder and harder. I gripped the doorknob and flung the door open.
“Clark?” My tongue and lips felt numb, as if I was going into shock or something.
He just stood there. He looked disheveled and tired. Three figures stood behind him. They all were wearing sunglasses and black zip-ups with the hoods pulled up.
“Clark, you look exhausted.” His eyes were sunken into their bruised sockets. He was pale, and his cheekbones were more prominent than usual. What is he doing here?
“We need to talk,” he said in a low voice as he pushed past me into the kitchen. The three figures followed him with their heads down.
“Clark, what’s going on? Who are these people?” I was completely disoriented. My heart was beating so loudly, I was sure everyone in the room could hear it.
“Sit over there in the living room,” Clark ordered the three strangers. They stood motionless. “Go sit!” he commanded. The figures dutifully walked towards my living room.
I wanted to be angry. I wanted to ask Clark who the hell he thought he was to be yelling orders to some strangers in my house. Who had invited any of them here, anyway? I wanted to tell him they all had to leave. But I couldn’t. My mind was suddenly void of all thought. I wasn’t sure if I would’ve been able to say what my own name was if someone had asked me.
I cleared my throat. “Okay, I’m officially freaking out now. Please tell me what’s going on.”
Clark and I stood several feet away from each other in the kitchen. I walked closer to him, but something in the energy around him and the look in his eyes made me step back again.
“I don’t know where to start.” He rubbed his hands through his wavy hair. He made a face of disgust when several tufts fell out, clumping in his hands. “You see this? This is what I’m talking about.”
I had an instinct to try to help him, to call a doctor or something, but I was too scared. My knees started to wobble, and I sat on a stool from the breakfast bar. “Are you sick?”
He laughed a cynical laugh. “Oh, boy, Caitlyn. You don’t know the half of it.”
Random grunting sounds came from the living room where the other three strangers waited, still with their hoods up and sunglasses on.
“I’m trying to tell her!” Clark shouted back to them.
I was shaken a little at his anger. I had never heard Clark yell before.
He took a moment to center himself. He stood very still and closed his eyes. “You know the expression, ‘Just bite the bullet’?”
I nodded. It was like I didn’t have control of my emotions or actions. I was robotic.
He motioned for me to follow him as he walked from the kitchen through the open doorway that connected to the living room. “Take off your disguises, boys.” In unison, the three figures removed their hoods and glasses.
I couldn’t fully take in what I saw. I scanned from facial wounds to blackened eye sockets to lips that looked like they had been burned. I gasped in horror and hid behind Clark.
“Look at them,” he said.
“No, no, I don’t want to. I don’t like it.”
One morning, when I was a kid, I snuck downstairs to try to find some cartoons to watch, but, when I turned on the television, it was some sort of horror movie. The image of a man with half of his face hanging off scared me so much that I peed my pants. The image of the mutilated flesh of the men in my living room was fresh again in my brain, and I felt that same terror now.
“They don’t like it either,” Clark said.
I stayed behind Clark, trying to erase the brief image of what I had seen: the decayed skin, hollow eyes, stitches, and flesh wounds.
“You need to take a deep breath and look at them again. Please.”
I felt his body move aside. I stood squinting at the floor. Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked up. This time, I looked. Hard and long, I looked at them all.
Through the mangled flesh of their faces, I recognized my exes.
“Oh my God. What have you done?” I said. Rage bubbled up from deep inside me.
“What?” Clark said, sounding annoyed.
“I said, what have you done, Clark?” I turned on my heel to look at him. My cheeks were so hot it felt like someone had branded them.
His vacant eyes stared at me. “I haven’t done anything, Caitlyn!”
“Oh, really? Clark, you bring my ex-boyfriends here to my house and they all look like death and you haven’t done anything?!” I ran to the kitchen, away from the smell permeating the air, a stench I couldn’t compare to anything. I wanted to run out the kitchen door to get some fresh air, but I felt like my feet were cemented to the floor.
I heard his footsteps come after me. Instantly, he was in front of me. His hands grasped my shoulders. “Caitlyn, listen to me. I didn’t know how to do this. I still don’t. But we’ve come here to figure this out.”
“Figure what out?” I tried to squirm free, but he was too powerful. I wanted to get out of the house. I was afraid of this version of Clark, and here he was, squeezing my shoulders, confronting me with animosity.
“Listen very carefully. From what I can deduce, you’ve turned all of us into zombies.”
I was running, frenzied, through the forest. The only light that shone through the trees was the light from the full moon. The eerie black and dark blue shadows reminded me of something you’d see in one of those old-school horror movies. Dead leaves crunched under my feet. My lungs began to burn as oxygen forced its way in and out of them. I could hear the zombies getting closer. Even though they were moving slowly and I was running, they were, somehow, still gaining on me. Their guttural calls rang in my ears. I could see light from my house ahead. If I could just make it there before they did, I’d be safe. I’d lock the doors and call the police, and everything would be fine.
Then I tripped over an exposed tree root and fell squarely on my jaw. The pain emanated through my entire face. I touched my chin and pulled my hand away to reveal my scarlet fingers. Blood would surely heighten their chase. There was no way I could lose them now. It sounded as if they were walking with tree stumps for legs instead of feet, heavy and dense. I picked myself up and began to run again. Sharp pain shot up my calf where I must have twisted my ankle. But the light was getting closer —my house was getting closer. Somehow, I managed to pick up speed. The sound of them behind me faded the closer I came to my house.
I hurled myself onto my front steps. Reaching up, I tried twisting the doorknob —locked. My hands searched feverishly under the welcome mat for the spare key. I jammed the key hard into the lock and collapsed inside. The warm glow from the house lights filled me with energy and relief. After a few deep breaths, I opened my eyes, and there they were, standing in front of me, the four of them. They were drenched in sweat, with limbs hanging on by crude threads and gashes on their faces that still looked fresh. Their eyes were black pools of death. I silently screamed as they lunged forward, ready to feast on my brains.
Pain shot up the back of my head. That must be where the zombies ate my brain! My eyelids fluttered open, and I saw Clark, Hayden, Frank, and Josh all staring down at me. I didn’t mean to scream, but I did.
“Give her some air, guys. Back up.” Clark pushed the others away and helped me up. “Are you all right?” He rubbed my back.
I shoved his arm away and recoiled from him. My hand went to the back of my head, searching for a hole. “Did you eat my brains?”
The room went silent as the four of them looked at each other. I felt a moment of terror before they all burst out laughing.
“Caitlyn, you’re a riot!” Josh said.
Clark took a moment to compose himself before he spoke to me. “You fell and hit your head on the ground. You just blacked out for a few seconds.”
Frank came towards me with an ice pack. “Here, put this on the back of your noggin. It should help.”
I skittered my body away from him. He let the arm that held the ice pack fall to his side and then he shuffled a few paces back from me. I collapsed to the floor and began doing deep yoga breathing, the way they did on my mother’s yoga for relaxation DVD.
“Why don’t we get her over the couch? Hayden, help me with the other side,” Clark said as he moved towards me.
I curled up into more of a ball, afraid of his touch.
“Dude, wait, she could have a head injury. Like, what if her neck is messed up? We shouldn’t move her.” Frank stepped in front of the others.
“When did you go from being a musician to an EMT?” Hayden asked.
“No, no, he’s right. We should see how Caitlyn feels,” Clark said.
They were talking about me as if I wasn’t in the room, like how parents talk about their kids when the kids are standing right next to them. Hello? I’m in the room. I took a longer look at Clark’s face. Something about his eyes still seemed familiar. I started to unravel my body from the tight ball into which I had clenched myself.
“Caitlyn, how do you feel?” Clark inched his way towards me.
I suddenly laughed —that inappropriate nervous laughter —because he looked like a lion tamer approaching a hungry predator. He seemed almost fearful of me. That made the knot in my stomach loosen a bit, and I let out a long exhale.
“I’m —okay, I guess.” I wasn’t sure what I was. Numb, mostly. I stood up. After taking one step, I swayed to the side and into Clark’s arms.
“Whoa there. Okay, let’s get you to the couch,” Clark said.
My feet felt heavy as I walked, like I was wearing steel-tipped boots. I looked to my left and saw Josh smiling at me. Somehow, being closer to them made me less afraid, as weird a thought as that was.
“There you go. Now, do you want a cup of tea or something?” Clark’s voice was different, deeper or something, and I suddenly wanted to collapse in his arms and cry. What are you, crazy?!
I took the icepack from Frank and placed it on the back of my head. “I think what I need is to understand what the hell is going on. Either that or to wake up from this insane dream.”
“If any of us had the choice to wake up from this, I think we would, Caitlyn,” Clark said. “Let me explain.”
I listened as Clark told me about the night I had broken up with him, that he had gone home and had been struck with a terrible headache, the kind of headache that scares you so much you think you might need to go to the emergency room. Before he could make his way to the phone to call 911, he felt his heart start beating erratically. Frantic, he tried again to make it to the phone, but instead, he collapsed. He lay on the floor of his room, staring up at the ceiling. His whole body began to feel ten times its original weight. He saw shadows on his ceiling, shadows that formed a picture of me. He remembered sleeping, but his eyes never closed, they just stayed on the shadows on the ceiling. When the sun came out, he was finally able to move off the floor. He looked at himself in the mirror and was shocked. He looked like he had been in a fight, with two black-and-blue circles around his eyes. His complexion had paled several shades, and his cheeks had sunk in. The only word that had come out of his mouth was my name.
“‘Caitlyn. Caitlyn. Caitlyn.’ It was all I could say. I wanted to say the word ‘breakfast’ or ‘shower’ or ‘mom,’ but I couldn’t. The only thing I kept uttering, over and over again, was ‘Caitlyn.’”
Josh and Hayden were sitting on the floor, and Frank was standing in the doorway to the kitchen as we all listened. Clark continued to tell us about his transformation. He talked about how he felt his essence leaving his body, as if a dark spirit had come and reached inside him, pulling out all the light and joy and everything that made up who he was. It took three days before he left his room. On that day, he felt a surge in his brain, as if some sort of switch had been turned back on. He went to his computer and pulled up his Internet browser. As the cursor flashed on the search engine screen, he thought of only one word to type in: zombie. After reading pages and pages for hours and hours, he knew he had been changed. But he didn’t know how, and he didn’t know if it could be reversed.
“Then the smell started,” Clark said.
“Our smell,” Josh added. “It’s really bad.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that,” I said. Once he mentioned it, the scent seemed to intensify. It smelled like a mixture of hot tar and skunk to me.
Clark shifted before he began again. I was enthralled by him, as if he were an actor giving a perfect monologue.
Clark talked about the stench that seemed to follow him everywhere. It was all through the house. It was outside in his back yard. It wasn’t just that he smelled it —it was in his head, and it began to guide him. He made his way through the woods, following the scent. The cover of night made it easy for him to conceal himself, and somehow, his night vision was now better than his day vision. His travels took him to a small, blue, cape-style house he didn’t recognize. The stench guided him as he jumped a fence to the back of the house, and he stood looking down at the basement door. With a quick tug, he realized it was locked. With two hands this time and not much force, he pulled the door open. His body was nearly knocked backwards as the smell hit him. He made his way down the basement steps. That was the first time he had ever been at Josh’s house —he didn’t even know it was Josh’s house until later. That’s when he saw the three of them, looking morbid and pitiful, repeating the same word over and over again: Caitlyn.
“That’s the night we all found each other.” Hayden moved from the floor to sit closer to me on the couch.
I shifted a little further away as the wave of his stench began smothering me, and made me feel nauseated again. “Is that when you all knew what had happened to you?”
“Not quite,” Frank began. “That night Hayden, Josh, and I found each other —it was the smell thing. Somehow, we were just all drawn by it to Josh’s house. But we didn’t really know what had happened till Clark got there. Clark’s got all the brains.”
I felt as if I were putting together pieces of some morbid jigsaw puzzle. “So you were the only one who knew you were all zombies?”
Clark leaned back on the sectional, and all I could think about at that moment was whether I would ever be able to get the stench out of the furniture. I wanted to tell him to stand, but he looked comfortable, and the guilt I felt over zombifying him made me at least want him to be comfy.
“Since I’m the one most recently changed and the one with the highest IQ. So, yes, I was the only one,” Clark said.
“Oh, man, here he goes again with the ‘I’m the smartest’ deal,” Josh scoffed.
“So, tell me, Josh, were you also accepted to Harvard? What’s that? Speak up? Oh, no, you weren’t, were you? And if you can’t tell by my tone, that remark is meant to be flippant. You can look that word up later if you have to.”
Josh’s body tensed and he got up from the floor and started to walk towards Clark.
I stood up in front of Josh. “Hey, now, Josh, let’s not do anything we’d regret, okay?” He looked down at me, and his body started to soften. There was something still oddly attractive about him, even as a zombie. His looks had always been his biggest asset, but I wondered how he could be half-dead and still look kind of hot at the same time.
“So what do you all want?” I sat back down on the couch near Hayden, and Frank quickly sat on the other side of me. I felt suffocated again. Josh stood in the center of the room.
“Caitlyn, we want you.” Clark’s eyes were foreboding.
“I knew it. You do want my brains.” Every hair on my body was standing on end.
“That’s nasty, Caitlyn.” Frank feigned gagging.
“Seriously, though, that’s what zombies do, right?”
They looked at me like I was crazy.
Clark ran his hands through his hair again. More chunks came out, and I felt a pang of guilt. “Okay, let me try to explain,” Clark said.
Clark detailed for me that zombie is a term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as via witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person who is without consciousness and self-awareness, yet can walk and is able to respond to surrounding stimuli.
“Basically, you’ve put us under some sort of zombie love spell. We literally can’t live without you. You’re all that matters to us. We’re consumed by thoughts of you. We want your love.”
I had a mixed sensation of feeling flattered and sickened at the same time. “But why? I mean you aren’t the first guys I’ve dated and broken up with.”
“That’s where I’m stuck.” Clark scratched his head. “If we were the only guys you’d ever dated, it would make sense that you somehow were a witch or something like that. But since it’s only the four of us…I haven’t pieced that part together yet.”
“What?” My head was throbbing again.
“Are you now partaking, or have you ever before partaken, in the art of witchcraft?” Hayden sounded like a lawyer cross-examining me.
“No, Hayden, I’m not a witch!” I rubbed my temples.
Clark made a motion for Frank to move so he could take his place beside me on the couch. “Caitlyn, can you think of anything that can connect all of us?”
I wanted to look him in the eyes, but I couldn’t. “No. Nothing besides the fact that you’re all my ex boyfriends.”
“Which I still think is a mistake,” Josh stated. “I mean, come on. Me, Caitlyn? You dumped me? I’ll never understand that.” He shrugged.
I remembered exactly why Josh and I broke up. He was too…Josh.
“What about how you did it? Was it similar?” Clark sounded almost pleading now.
“I don’t know, I don’t know. They were break-ups.” The stench was clouding my mind, and I couldn’t recall details; in fact, all I could focus on was not vomiting.
“Okay, let me think.” Clark stood up and started pacing the room. “We were at the prom. You talked about us having different futures or different paths, something like that. Then you said that thing about killing you.”
“What?” I shouted.
“No, not like me killing you or anything. It was something about it’s killing you to break up with me, or something.” He pounded on his forehead.
“It’s killing me to say this, but I can’t love you, or I just don’t want to love you. Damn it, something like that.” He crossed his arms and stared at the ceiling.
“Wait,” Frank chimed in, “that sounds kind of familiar. That killing me line.”
“Did you use it in one of your lame rock star songs?” Hayden used air quotes around the words “rock star.”
“Shut up, Shakespeare. I’m thinking here. It’s killing me to say this, but I…” Frank closed his eyes, and he looked like he was reading the words on the back of his eyelids.
“But I just don’t think I love you,” Hayden blurted out.
Clark slapped his hands together. “That’s it! It’s killing me to say this, but I just don’t think I love you! That’s what you said to me. Wow, finally, that was going to drive me crazy.” He looked pacified for a moment, and then he looked at Frank and Hayden. “Wait, she said that to both of you too?” Hayden and Frank nodded.
“Josh,” Clark snapped at him. “Josh, focus!” Josh stopped looking at his fingernails.
“Did Caitlyn say that line to you too?”
Hayden let out a groan and Frank laughed.
Clark was visibly losing his patience. “When Caitlyn broke up with you, did she say, ‘It’s killing me to say this, but I just don’t think I love you?’”
“Oh yeah,” Josh replied. “That sucked.”
The quote lingered in my ears, and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach by my own words. “I did say that to all of you. So I’m a witch or something then. I say some stupid meaningless crap to all of you and now you’re all zombies? When did I become a witch?” I tried scanning my family tree in my head looking for some signs of witchery.
“Caitlyn, I’m not saying you’re a witch. I don’t know why this happened, but at least now we can connect us together. Even though that doesn’t help much.” Clark knelt near me.
I wanted to punch myself in the face. I wanted to reverse the origins of the English language. I wanted to go back in time and never have spoken that stupid quote to any of them. Wait, the quote.
“The quote!” I shouted and they all stared at me like I had six heads. Zombies are staring at me like I’m the weird one.
“The quote!” I shouted again.
“I need to get my laptop.” I jumped from the couch and ran upstairs to retrieve my laptop. When I came back downstairs, I sat near Hayden and opened up my Internet browser.
“What are you doing?” Hayden asked.
I typed in the search bar: Ways to nicely breakup with someone.
“I found that quote online. I just can’t remember where.” I opened and closed websites, feverishly trying to find the one that had that particular quote on it.
“You Googled how to breakup with us?” Clark stood near me with his arms crossed.
I gave him a sheepish grin as I kept searching. “This is it!” I shouted. The bland webpage glared at me. Its black background and white printing were making my eyes strain.
Do you need a quick way to breakup with someone and you don’t know quite how to do it? Do you feel bad about breaking up with them but have no other choice? Have you searched high and low for the answer to all your problems? Worry no more! Doctor Vlockenberg has the answer for you. It’s simple and will allow you to move forward with your life. When you feel the moment is right, look with intention into the person’s eyes and say:
It’s killing me to say this, but I just don’t think I love you.
I had read the entire passage aloud to all of them, and the room had fallen.
“You’re kidding me, right?” Clark finally said. “Some guy online told you how to breakup with us?” I watched him roll his eyes.
“He’s a doctor,” I said in my defense.
“Really? A doctor of what?” Clark asked.
I had never looked into what type of doctor he was. I was just looking for a quick and painless way to breakup with Josh at that time. I searched the very bare website for more information. There were only two pages, this main page and an ‘about’ page. I clicked on the about page.
There was no photo, just a paragraph, which Clark read over my shoulder.
“Dr. Randolf Vlockenberg. Doctor of explicit voodoo and mind control. Dr. V is a renowned hypnotherapist who specializes in helping people unlock the power of their minds and achieve the unachievable. Holy crap, Caitlyn!” Clark threw his arms in the air.
“A voodoo doctor?” I felt a lump in my throat.
“Caitlyn, did you not learn anything in AP English? Always check your sources!” Clark was now mumbling things under his breath. The only word I heard was “unbelievable.” He sat down on the edge of the couch.
“That’s pretty rockin’ actually,” Frank said. “I mean my old band and I wrote a whole song about voodoo. And Hendrix was totally into voodoo, so I’m actually cool with that.”
“You’re cool with being a lovesick zombie?” Hayden asked.
Frank paused. “I’m cool with voodoo, not the whole being a zombie thing. That’s pretty messed up. But otherwise I’m still down with voodoo.”
I looked over at Josh, who was staring at the hairs on his leg like he had never seen them before.
“But why would his stupid quote even work? I mean, it’s not like I’m a hypnotist.”
Clark began to pace again. “It must have something to do with the formation of the words and the intention you put behind them.”
“Time to watch the brain at work again,” Hayden said.
Clark ignored him and continued, “It’s as if the ‘it’s killing me to say this’ statement actually transposes to ‘it’s actually killing us.’ Leave it to a mind-controlling voodoo doctor to turn your dumpee into a decaying mound of lovesick flesh.” He tossed himself on the coach, visibly exhausted.
“Wait, guys, this is a good thing. Maybe I can contact him. You know, email him and find out what we need to do now.” I searched the page for some sort of email link.
“Caitlyn, you’re really smart.” Josh’s voice sounded slow and distant.
There was no email link. There was nothing. Nothing more than that stupid bio and that stupid quote. This may kill all of them now.
I began typing Dr. Vlockenberg’s name into the search engine to attempt to find any more information on him, but as I was typing Clark moved next to me.
He closed my laptop. “This isn’t going to help us right now.” His tone was flat.
“So what do you all have to do with me? Kill me or something so you can be human again?” My breath felt staggered. I made a plan in my head: I would tell them I needed to go to the bathroom and then I’d sneak out the bathroom window and run until I got somewhere…anywhere but here.
Hayden knelt in front of me. “We could never kill you, Caitlyn. We love you, and we want you to love us.”
What did he mean, ‘love us?’ Did he mean intimately —ew, please, no! —or love like a friend? My vision blurred. Maybe I did have a concussion. Maybe I was in a coma.
Hayden’s cold hands were wrapped around mine. His fingers felt like sandpaper.
“We’ve come up with a plan.” Clark stood up, and then they all stood in a line in front of me.
Clark looked to the others, and they all nodded. “You must choose one of us to love again,” Clark said.
Josh took a step forward from the line. “Basically, you choose me.”
“Shut up and get back in line.” Frank grabbed Josh’s hood and pulled him backward.
Clark gave them all a stern look. “Yes, Caitlyn, you must choose one of us. We all want to win your heart, but you must decide who it is you want to be with. Once that person receives your love, the zombie love spell should be lifted.”
“And what happens to the others?” I scratched a nervous itch on my neck. Then my entire body felt itchy.
Hayden’s gaze met mine as he spoke. “Death.”
“Death?” The word fell limply out of my mouth.
Frank smacked the back of Hayden’s head. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Ouch, man, what the hell?” Hayden rubbed the back of his neck. “You could knock my head off, you know that?”
Clark looked at the floor and shook his head. “Seriously, Hayden?”
I crossed my arms and felt annoyance spread through my body like a virus. How dare they stand around in my house, excluding me from this conversation!
“Why’d you have to say it like that?” Clark asked.
“Like what?” Hayden said.
“‘Death,’” Clark repeated in a mocking tone. “You may be the liberal-arts-slash-poetry-slash-drama club guy, but you scared her to death. No pun intended, Caitlyn.”
“No worries,” I said, still confused.
“I don’t understand the problem here.” Hayden looked flustered. “I mean, Clark said we’d end up dead if we weren’t chosen, so all I said was the word death during his explanation, and everyone is now all bent out of shape.”
“You’re so dramatic,” Josh said.
“Shut up, pretty boy,” Hayden snapped back.
“Hello?” I shouted. “Can we please get back to the matter at hand?”
They all froze and then brought their attention back to me.
“So.” My tongue felt heavy. “I need to choose one of you to love, and that will make that one fully human again, and upon doing so, the rest of you will die?”
Hayden opened to his mouth to speak, but Clark interjected, “Before anyone opens his big mouth again, let me jump in here.” He crossed the floor and sat down next to me. “I’m not positive about the death part. But my best guess in this situation is that since we can’t live without your love, and some of us have been deteriorating longer than others, I can only assume that, once you choose one of us, the others will cease to exist.”
My eyes filled with tears. Sure, I had broken up with all of them, but I wasn’t so heartless that I wanted to see any of them dead. “There’s got to be another way.”
“Caitlyn.” Clark softened his voice. “I know this seems extreme, and trust me, I tried to think of anything else that might work. But I know for a fact that even though our brains are slowly turning to mush, some of us more quickly than others.” He glanced at Josh, who was pulling on a loose thread of his hoodie. “What I can feel —what I do know deep within me —is that you’re what will make me whole. You’re the answer, Caitlyn. I’ve never been surer of anything. There’s no other way.” Clark looked remorseful.
“I can’t bear the responsibility of allowing only one of you to live.”
The room was silent.
“Then you’ll kill us all,” Hayden said in his overly dramatic tone.
“Hayden!” Frank yelled.
“Sorry,” Hayden said. “I was just thinking about how Shakespearian all this is. You know—life, death, and choices. It’s deep.”
We all stared at him.
“I’ll shut up now.” Hayden left the room and went into the kitchen.
Josh stepped in front of me. “Caitlyn, I want some time alone with you first. I’ve been dealing with this thing the longest, even though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. But I think I should go first. You know to like, plead my case.”
Clark moved towards Josh. “You are impatient, even for a zombie.”
“Clark?” I whispered. Maybe it was because I had been with Clark most recently, or maybe it was because he seemed to be the most in control, but I wanted him to stay close. To…protect me. Somehow, he didn’t belong with the rest of them.
He leaned in close to my ear. “Don’t worry. I won’t be far away.” He and Frank went into the kitchen, and I was left alone with Josh.
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