Most operate in a simple way. They shamble towards smell or sound, and they bite whatever moves. If it tastes like flesh, they keep biting. One time they broke into Westers’ pantry. The Westers are vegan, but the zombies ate every last ounce of their chicken-flavored tofu. Noise, smell, the taste of flesh, shambling slowly and biting whatever they found. Most were simple like that.
During the outbreak, parishioner Rev. Calvin was helping evacuate local elementary schools. He was on his third, Fleetwood Elementary, when a sallow, middle-aged woman bit him. He looked so scared, but held the woman away from the others until police could quarantine her. When the authorities nabbed her, he got himself as far away from the flock as he could. His parish thought he’d run into the woods and gotten eaten.
Two weeks later, with the outbreak mostly over, people returned to East Parish and began opening places back up. When they entered the church, the pair of officers heard scuffling somewhere. They stood still, and it stopped. They talked, and it started again.
The two traced it to the confessional booth. Something was pawing at the priest’s door. They asked for verbal confirmation to no reply. One lost a coin flip and the other covered him as he opened the door.
It was Rev. Calvin, shirt soiled, but collar intact. He sat in the booth, his flesh clearly rotten. After a moment he turned and reached for them, at which point the officers slammed the door shut.
The officers were Catholic and couldn’t bring themselves to shoot a priest in his own confessional. And how had he even gotten in there? What sort of zombie enters a room, then closes the door behind himself? They’d never even seen a zombie sit down before. They peeked through the sliding panel on the other side, and sure enough, he sat at peace unless they made noise.
They put a sign on his door, warning that a zombie was inside, then went back to dispatch.
They asked around. No one in the department had seen a zombie that used doors. The idea of zombies working doors scared all of them, and they considered going and re-killing Rev. Calvin just to keep him from teaching this trick to other biters.
But he wasn’t a biter. Upon the return, there were no signs of any others, live or dead, on the premises. Zombies were pack creatures, yet Rev. Calvin had apparently been alone in his church since the outbreak.
A lapsed deputy was stationed to watch him, specifically to see if Rev. Calvin would eventually open that door. If he did, she was to shoot.
Except for when the deputy checked her cell phone, the zombie never made a noise. If it rang, he scuffled. If she talked on it, he scuffled louder.
People do dumb things if left alone. For instance, unrelieved of duty by the end of the day, the deputy entered the confessional. Rev. Calvin scratched at the screen partition until she said it had been six years since her last confession. He scratched less and less as she imparted things she’d never say elsewhere. She got so carried away that at the end, confessing that she’d left somebody behind during the evacuation, that she shouldn’t have, had been too scared to think straight. She got so carried away that she asked the zombie what to do for penance.
She went quiet, realizing how absurd she was being.
After a moment of peace, Rev. Calvin scratched at the screen again. If it’s to be believed, he scratched twice, making the sign of the cross.
If it wasn’t to be believed, there were other things to believe. The dead had risen, and maybe they could work doors. A family of vegans claimed that zombies had broken into their pantry and ate all their chicken-flavored tofu. Zombieism was, supposedly, making the leap to other species, and had replaced mad cow disease as a major farm scare. That farm scares were even an issue after the dead had risen took some of its own believing. So if you didn’t believe a zombie providing absolution, there were other things to do.
Rev. Calvin got a lot of visitors. First other cops, curious. Then civilians. One-by-one, and when they came in groups, only one entered the church at a time. Any visitor could tell you, it was something you had to do alone. There’s something about loneliness. People and zombies alike are social creatures, and being alone makes them do bizarre things.
Rev. Calvin had been alone for almost two weeks before receiving his first undead confession. He still hasn’t figured out how to open up the door and get out. Nobody’s gotten rid of him, either. In a post-zombie world, he’s kind of an attraction.
This story originally appeared at Alienskin Magazine. May they rise from the grave.