What Tastes Right

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"Well," Fred said. "You should go."

"Yeah, about that."

The storm and the clanging were giving Fred a splitting headache. Possibly also the existential angst and the amount of blood Hank was wasting just by having an open cut on his hand. "What!"

Hank jumped up and backed away from Fred.

Fred felt a strange pang, but he didn't know how to explain. "You know, I was a heart surgeon."

"Whut?"

"Before I was this." Fred spread his hands. "Before all of us were this. To be honest, I got off on saving people's lives. The waiting list was—" he gestured tiredly. "But it was like being a wizard. You put this piece back into a person's body, and they would live."

"Oookay."

"I am just saying, that was the kind of person I was. I had this special skill. I saved people's lives. When I ever looked in the mirror and thought 'what's the point of you', I had this answer. And now I've been doing this, longer than I was doing that. But I still don't know how to be this."

Hank crept slightly closer. "But don't you see. That's why I can't just go home. Even... well. Whose to say I was exposed the same time as... the others. Or that I would turn as quick. I could go home, and kill them all."

Repressed memories pounded on the door to the memory vault where Fred had jammed them.

"And, um, honestly, Hank continued. "I wouldn't even know how to get there. I grew up in this little area, and we were told to never go outside a certain area. And I never did. I now I don't know how to get back."

"Oh lord." Fred started to laugh. "Do you know anything?"

"I know how to grow vegetables in shady areas, and raise rabbits. That's about it, to be honest?"

"It just struck me. You may be about as bad at being a human as I am at being a zombie. In this context, that is. Us throwing in together might be a terrible idea.

Hank just shrugged. He went to the door that was still swinging open. It was morning outside, but the storm was continuing. Fred expected Hank to go out and just keep going. Daytime would be the safest time for a human to travel. And he was taking all that precious blood with him.

But Hank came back. "So, do you have somewhere we can go?"

Their best bet was the hospital. He could make up some bullshit to get the security beefed up. And there were a lot of resources there, maps and such that Hank could use to maybe figure out where to go. I am not thinking this out of pure self-interest, maybe. But getting a source of blood and my experiments together in the same building doesn't sound like a terrible idea.

"About five to ten miles, that way," Fred said. "That's just what I can guess from how long it took to get here.

"Okay, so a two to four hours to walk?" Hank grabbed an old plastic bag from the ground and started throwing things in it that he seemed to think they might need.

Two to four hours? Forget zombies. I don't think this kid has ever even met a middle-aged man.

#

Under two blue tarps, the light filtering through still made it feel like being inside a microwave being pummeled with wet fish. They'd stumbled of a roadkill skunk a while back, and the stench had stayed under there with him ever since.

Fred held one foot of a Winsome Wendy and Hank led him by holding the end of the other leg. This is the least fun threesome imaginable.

"What can you see!" Fred shouted through the plastic sheets and the din of the rain.

"What?"

"What can you see!!"

"There's a sign here!!"

"What does it say!!"

"I don't know. I can't read so good!!"

"Ugh."

"Shit. Car!"

Fred lurched as Hank tackled him into the roadside ditch. He felt his ankles smarting under the light of the sun and drew himself into a fetal position. Ditchwater rushed in from all sides carrying with it a slurry of beer cans and used condoms. This is a new personal low point in my unlife.

An old clunking engine rumbled by. Some idiot must be driving by peering through heavy filters or a little slit. Or wait... "Is that a human!"

"Nah, windows cover in tin foil!! But there's a building up here!! We can take a break, eh!!"

Hank helped Fred up and led him awkwardly over an overgrown lot and through the shattered windows of some kind of building. They went further back.

"Shit, there's windows everywhere," Hank said.

He finally found a storeroom that was mostly dark and Fred threw off the sweaty blue tarpaulins.

"Wow," Hank said. "You look terrible."

Wiping his hand over his face Fred could feel the heavy slime coming out of his skin and dripping down this neck. "Yeah, it's the fungus."

"Fungus?"

"Zombies are human plus fungus plus virus. The fungus part can't hand ultra-violet light. This is what it does under UV stress."

Hank pointed vaguely at his face. "I meant more with the orange paint and eyeliner. You lookin' like a melting baby-doll right about now. And what's that stuff in your hair?"

"Kiwi dark tan shoe polish."

Hank stifled a giggle.

"It's not funny. I feel like death-not-warmed-up."

"Okay man. You just stay here while I see if there is anything we can use here."

Fred took a few minutes to close his eyes and rest. It was Friday so he would not be missed at work till the day later tomorrow. But Wiki would look for them along this route.

Hank came back empty-handed. "Who is Wendy; her name is all over this place."

"Just some guy's daughter. I wonder what happened to her. There's bound to be a zombie chain restaurant one day." Fred sighed. He thought of the noshers, those deviant zombies that liked to eat human flesh even though they didn't need to anymore. They said they had the right to eat people, just like people used to eat animals. "It really doesn't make much sense for us to stick together. We need different things right now."

Hank looked at him; his eyes were wide and worried. "Don't make me go away. I just don't want to be alone."

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