by Stacey Graham
Anna left the theater with the theme song swelling her head. Escaping through the fire exit door, she skirted around couples holding hands as they whispered about the credits. She had candy stuffed into her bag and a soda stain on her skirt, who would care if she stuck to the shadows? Stepping out of the alley, she attempted to hug the dirty brick walls lining New York City’s Time Square and avoid the tourists dressed in their best vacation gear, price tags still attached to the collars.
Eyes fixed on the filthy oil and God-knows-what stained concrete beneath her feet; Anna crossed Broadway, her hands clutching the cheap purse she’d bought on Canal Street weeks before. The smell of formaldehyde still clinging to the fabric, the bag reminded her of her last boyfriend: small, stinky and not worth the money she’d spent on it – but she loved it. It was unfortunate that the chemicals used in making the bag had created an adverse allergic reaction, seizing Anna’s ability to breathe and slowly suffocating her a few days later. When she awoke in the morgue, she held the purse in a death grip not content to release the faux Coach bag she’d died for, even in the half-life of the undead.
Through the excessive noise of the car horns and music of a half-naked cowboy, Anna’s eyes strayed from the pavement to a pair of lovers, caught in the harsh illumination of the street lamp that clashed with the gaudy lights of Times Square. Their hands wandering and lips smashed in unnatural angles against skin, Anna lingered too long watching, mentally betting against herself on how long it would be before one of them took a breath; one that didn’t include the other’s carbon dioxide. Her head turning back a moment too late, her body crashed into the figure dead ahead. As her cheek assaulted the soft gray wool of his suit jacket, she felt her skin tear away, leaving a rough spot that would take forever to patch up in the morning.
“Awesome,” she thought. “How much more putty does a girl have to go through to leave the house lately?” Clutching the torn skin on her face with her fingers, Anna turned to apologize. Zombie maintenance was getting expensive. Soon she’d be filling the holes with Spam in order to make it to the corner store, she thought with a wry grin.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see.. What are you doing?” she said. The man in the suit was on his hands and knees in the deepening twilight searching the ground for something.
“Don’t step on it! I can’t get another one and those things squish. Sounds awful.” His hands groping blindly, she dropped beside him to help. Her eyes darting under the tabloid paper boxes, their innards stuffed with news of the apocalypse, she heard him chuckle. “I finally get a girl to notice me and she’s helping to find an eyeball.”
“I’ve heard worse pickup lines,” she joked. Having a bond with someone who understands the delicate nuance of rotting flesh and protruding cheekbones made up for any awkwardness over missing orbs. Dropping her purse to the ground to get a better look under the paper boxes, she heard a distinct POP.
"Oh crap, I’m sorry.” With a grimace, she raised her bag to find the squashed remains of a blue-veined eye, stuck to the bottom of her fake Coach Hobo. Peeling what was left from the leather, viscous eye goo leaving a trail from the bag, she gave it to the man now standing over her, one hand covering the gaping hole in face.
“Blech. I hate it when this happens, it was inevitable, however.” His auburn hair tussled from the hunt and patches of dirt on his knees, he looked more of a teenager than a grown zombie male slowly losing his parts due to a clumsy girl. Smiling at her now, she saw how his face was losing elasticity around the mouth, giving him a lopsided grin that she hoped he was going for.
For more of Eye of the Beholder in HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE, please click on the graphic above to purchase. Thanks!