About this title:
R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.
About the Author:
And then he meets a girl.
First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.
Isaac Marion was born near Seattle in 1981 and has lived in and around that city ever since. Deciding to forgo college in favor of direct experience, he dived into writing while still in high school and self-published three terrible novels before finally hitting his stride with Warm Bodies, his first published work. He currently splits his time between writing in Seattle and hunting inspiration on cross-country RV trips. Visit IsaacMarion.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I AM DEAD, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it. I’m sorry I can’t properly introduce myself, but I don’t have a name anymore. Hardly any of us do. We lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries. Mine might have started with an “R,” but that’s all I have now. It’s funny because back when I was alive, I was always forgetting other people’s names. My friend “M” says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off.
None of us are particularly attractive, but death has been kinder to me than some. I’m still in the early stages of decay. Just the gray skin, the unpleasant smell, the dark circles under my eyes. I could almost pass for a Living man in need of a vacation. Before I became a zombie I must have been a businessman, a banker or broker or some young temp learning the ropes, because I’m wearing fairly nice clothes. Black slacks, gray shirt, red tie. M makes fun of me sometimes. He points at my tie and tries to laugh, a choked, gurgling rumble deep in his gut. His clothes are holey jeans and a plain white T-shirt. The shirt is looking pretty macabre by now. He should have picked a darker color.
We like to joke and speculate about our clothes, since these final fashion choices are the only indication of who we were before we became no one. Some are less obvious than mine: shorts and a sweater, skirt and a blouse. So we make random guesses.
You were a waitress. You were a student. Ring any bells?
It never does.
No one I know has any specific memories. Just a vague, vestigial knowledge of a world long gone. Faint impressions of past lives that linger like phantom limbs. We recognize civilization—buildings, cars, a general overview—but we have no personal role in it. No history. We are just here. We do what we do, time passes, and no one asks questions. But like I’ve said, it’s not so bad. We may appear mindless, but we aren’t. The rusty cogs of cogency still spin, just geared down and down till the outer motion is barely visible. We grunt and groan, we shrug and nod, and sometimes a few words slip out. It’s not that different from before.
But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s, because I’d like to love them, but I don’t know who they are.
• • •
There are hundreds of us living in an abandoned airport outside some large city. We don’t need shelter or warmth, obviously, but we like having the walls and roofs over our heads. Otherwise we’d just be wandering in an open field of dust somewhere, and that would be horrifying. To have nothing at all around us, nothing to touch or look at, no hard lines whatsoever, just us and the gaping maw of the sky. I imagine that’s what being full-dead is like. An emptiness vast and absolute.
I think we’ve been here a long time. I still have all my flesh, but there are elders who are little more than skeletons with clinging bits of muscle, dry as jerky. Somehow it still extends and contracts, and they keep moving. I have never seen any of us “die” of old age. Left alone with plenty of food, maybe we’d “live” forever, I don’t know. The future is as blurry to me as the past. I can’t seem to make myself care about anything to the right or left of the present, and the present isn’t exactly urgent. You might say death has relaxed me.
• • •
I am riding the escalators when M finds me. I ride the escalators several times a day, whenever they move. It’s become a ritual. The airport is derelict, but the power still flickers on sometimes, maybe flowing from emergency generators stuttering deep underground. Lights flash and screens blink, machines jolt into motion. I cherish these moments. The feeling of things coming to life. I stand on the steps and ascend like a soul into Heaven, that sugary dream of our childhoods, now a tasteless joke.
After maybe thirty repetitions, I rise to find M waiting for me at the top. He is hundreds of pounds of muscle and fat draped on a six-foot-five frame. Bearded, bald, bruised and rotten, his grisly visage slides into view as I crest the staircase summit. Is he the angel that greets me at the gates? His ragged mouth is oozing black drool.
He points in a vague direction and grunts, “City.”
I nod and follow him.
We are going out to find food. A hunting party forms around us as we shuffle toward town. It’s not hard to find recruits for these expeditions, even if no one is hungry. Focused thought is a rare occurrence here, and we all follow it when it manifests. Otherwise we’d just be standing around and groaning all day. We do a lot of standing around and groaning. Years pass this way. The flesh withers on our bones and we stand here, waiting for it to go. I often wonder how old I am.
• • •
The city where we do our hunting is conveniently close. We arrive around noon the next day and start looking for flesh. The new hunger is a strange feeling. We don’t feel it in our stomachs—some of us don’t even have those. We feel it everywhere equally, a sinking, sagging sensation, as if our cells are deflating. Last winter, when so many Living joined the Dead and our prey became scarce, I watched some of my friends become full-dead. The transition was undramatic. They just slowed down, then stopped, and after a while I realized they were corpses. It disquieted me at first, but it’s against etiquette to notice when one of us dies. I distracted myself with some groaning.
I think the world has mostly ended, because the cities we wander through are as rotten as we are. Buildings have collapsed. Rusted cars clog the streets. Most glass is shattered, and the wind drifting through the hollow high-rises moans like an animal left to die. I don’t know what happened. Disease? War? Social collapse? Or was it just us? The Dead replacing the Living? I guess it’s not so important. Once you’ve arrived at the end of the world, it hardly matters which route you took.
We start to smell the Living as we approach a dilapidated apartment building. The smell is not the musk of sweat and skin, it’s the effervescence of life energy, like the ionized tang of lightning and lavender. We don’t smell it in our noses. It hits us deeper inside, near our brains, like wasabi. We converge on the building and crash our way inside.
We find them huddled in a small studio unit with the windows boarded up. They are dressed worse than we are, wrapped in filthy tatters and rags, all of them badly in need of a shave. M will be saddled with a short blond beard for the rest of his Fleshy existence, but everyone else in our party is cleanshaven. It’s one of the perks of being dead, another thing we don’t have to worry about anymore. Beards, hair, toenails… no more fighting biology. Our wild bodies have finally been tamed.
Slow and clumsy but with unswerving commitment, we launch ourselves at the Living. Shotgun blasts fill the dusty air with gunpowder and gore. Black blood spatters the walls. The loss of an arm, a leg, a portion of torso, this is disregarded, shrugged off. A minor cosmetic issue. But some of us take shots to our brains, and we drop. Apparently there’s still something of value in that withered gray sponge because if we lose it, we are corpses. The zombies to my left and right hit the ground with moist thuds. But there are plenty of us. We are overwhelming. We set upon the Living, and we eat.
Eating is not a pleasant business. I chew off a man’s arm, and I hate it. I hate his screams, because I don’t like pain, I don’t like hurting people, but this is the world now. This is what we do. Of course if I don’t eat all of him, if I spare his brain, he’ll rise up and follow me back to the airport, and that might make me feel better. I’ll introduce him to everyone, and maybe we’ll stand around and groan for a while. It’s hard to say what “friends” are anymore, but that might be close. If I restrain myself, if I leave enough…
But I don’t. I can’t. As always I go straight for the good part, the part that makes my head light up like a picture tube. I eat the brain, and for about thirty seconds, I have memories. Flashes of parades, perfume, music… life. Then it fades, and I get up, and we all stumble out of the city, still cold and gray, but feeling a little better. Not “good,” exactly, not “happy,” certainly not “alive,” but… a little less dead. This is the best we can do.
I trail behind the group as the city disappears behind us. My steps plod a little heavier than the others’. When I pause at a rain-filled pothole to scrub gore off my face and clothes, M drops back and slaps a hand on my shoulder. He knows my distaste for some of our routines. He knows I’m a little more sensitive than most. Sometimes he teases me, twirls my messy black hair into pigtails and says, “Girl. Such… girl.” But he knows when to take my gloom seriously. He pats my shoulder and just looks at me. His face isn’t capable of much expressive nuance anymore, but I know what he wants to say. I nod, and we keep walking.
I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. He disappears, and I stay. It’s simple but senseless, arbitrary laws from some lunatic legislator in the sky. But following those laws keeps me walking, so I follow them to the letter. I eat until I stop eating, then I eat again.
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