Zombie wanted to go fishing, but I told him it was a waste of time.
‘You should spend more time doing things like this. Believe me, I know.’ He said.
‘But I’ve got so much stuff to do, loose ends to tie up.’
Zombie tried to look sad, but it just didn’t work with his jaw all crooked.
‘Look, you said that if I didn’t try and kill you, you’d let me do a few things that I want to do.’ He groaned, as zombies do. ‘Besides, nothing you do now really changes anything. So live a little.’ He smiled at his joke, but his lips flapped away from his teeth making him look quite scary.
‘How long have I got?’
‘Not sure; not long.’
Zombie appeared last week. One morning he was sat there at the side of my bed when I woke. After I calmed down, he explained that I’d had an accident, but there’d been some cock up with death admin and I had a ‘kind of’ reprieve. Zombie was there to guide me toward my final resting place.
‘An admin cock up?’
‘They have admin?’
‘Of course, there’s tonnes of paperwork. Lots of people die, yeah?’
‘Am I going up or down?’
‘Hmmm, not sure, I’m kind of a middle man, they don’t give me the full details.’
‘Does this happen a lot?’
‘Well, I’m new to this, but I hear it happens all the time.’
‘Yup, terrible admin. Temps apparently.’ He rolled his eyes. They looked like they might fall out.
Sowe had a bit of time to play around with and he wanted to make the most of it. He also explained that his natural instinct was to kill me, and that I was to watch out for this.
‘But why fishing?’
‘Surely you can’t get any more relaxed than dead?’
Zombie didn’t like this; he also didn’t like being called Zombie. He was quite the sensitive soul, not how I imagined a zombie to be at all.
‘Pleeeeease can we go fishing?’
‘Because it’s reaaaaally good. I used to fish…’ he broke off.
‘But this is my time.’
‘Have you ever been fishing?’
‘How do you know that you won’t like it?’
Zombie waited in the car whilst I purchased all the necessary gear from the angling shop. He waved excitedly at me whilst I chatted to the guy at the counter. I ignored him.
‘You need to lighten up, mate.’ he said as I got back in the car.
‘I’m practically dead and you want me to be happy?’
‘There are not many people in your position. You should be thankful.’
‘Thankful that I am going fishing with a zombie?’
‘Hey, not many people can say that,’ he smiled.
‘True. Please stop smiling.’
I drove, not really sure where we were going. Zombie kept grabbing for the steering wheel in an attempt to force me off the road, which was a bit irritating. I gave him my phone and told him to Google for the nearest fishing spot to take his mind off killing me.
‘Says here there is an angling club about seven miles away.’
We drove in silence. Zombie tried to put his lips back in place and was fiddling with his eye socket whilst he gave directions. He didn’t look good.
‘Got any tape?’
‘Yes, sticky tape.’
‘My eye, it’s fallen out.’
‘Push it back in then.’
‘It wont stay, look.’ He turned to me.
He poked his eye back into the socket, but when he moved his head it just came loose again.
‘Take it out. No one else can see you anyway.’
‘But then I can’t see.’ He continued poking at his eye.
‘Stop fiddling with it! Look in the glove box.’
He flicked the glove box open and had a rummage.
‘This car is full of shit; old CDs, empty crisp packets, dirty tissues…scissors? Why have you got scissors?’
He lunged at me with them.
‘OY! Stop!’ I swerved the car.
‘Sorry, force of habit.’
‘I’m gonna kick you out next time.’
‘You can’t. I need to stay with you, besides, you never seen zombies in films? They ALWAYS catch up with you….braaaaaiiiiiinnnnzzzzzz’. He laughed and his jawbone fell off. ‘UCK!’
We finally arrived at the angling club. Zombie looked a complete state. He had wound fishing wire around his head to hold his jaw on and his eye had been padded into its socket with dirty tissues. He looked like a badly-put-together quilt. It was a good job no one else could see him.
It took a while to get the guys at the angling club to let me in. They banged on about red tape, membership and how the secretary wouldn’t like it. In the end I told them that I was terminally ill and that this was on my bucket list. They looked at me a bit strange, but it worked. They allowed me a day pass. It felt like a minor victory.
We set up at the water’s edge. I had bought two fold away chairs for us to sit on. I cast my line and we both sat back and relaxed.
‘This is the life.’ Zombie said looking genuinely relaxed and happy despite his bad-quilt-face.
‘What’s it like?’ I asked him.
‘Well, this is a new role for me. I’m on probation. I’m not too happy about it to be honest. I’m enjoying being here though. Maybe if I’d done a bit more of this and a lot less working and worrying, I’d still be around.’
‘Nothing feels different?’
‘Not yet. Physically I’m not in good shape and my memory seems to be failing. My brain must be turning to mush like everything else.’
‘So, you have no words of wisdom to pass on? Surely there is a reason for all this, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol?’
‘Nope, no purpose, just shitty admin.’
‘Seems a bit pointless then.’
‘Maybe that’s the point.’
‘That it’s pointless.’
‘Look, I’m no philosopher; I’m just here doing my job. We might as well enjoy it whilst we can though, eh?’
‘Well, then, if there is no purpose to this,is there any way we can hurry it along?’
‘See, that’s the problem these days.’
‘Everybody in a rush.’
‘Can’t I spend the extra time with my family?’
‘Nah, it doesn’t work like that.’
‘So is this the point where I have an epiphany and get to change my life?’
‘Nope, that only happens in stories.’
‘Because I get it, if it is.’
‘I’m sorry. Oh, whilst I remember, before you head off…err in whatever direction…’ he gestured up and down, ‘ will you fill in a feedback form?’
‘To comment on my service, whether you thought it was good or not. Like I said, I’m on probation.’
We sat in silence for a while. He seemed caught up in his thoughts, whatever they were. Maybe there weren’t any, maybe his brain was slowly turning to mush like he said. Either way he looked content. I contemplated that this would be me soon. It entered my mind that life was a necessary transition towards a more natural state. I was destined for mush too.
It was silent around the lake. I loved this time of year, observing the daily changes, the leaf’s furiousness as it clung to the tip of a branch, only to be defeated by the wind and blown far away; a regular reminder of the cycle of life and death. I sat for hours watching leaves race down the river. Being surrounded by the burnt colours of autumn felt almost warming.
Zombie looked like he was asleep. Maybe I could sneak off. I looked around for the nearest escape route. I had just got to the edge of the path behind him when he stood up.
‘Where you going?’
‘Hmmm, I bet. Sit down.’ He looked serious.
‘There’s been another cock up.’
‘Shit, what now?’
He started smiling. ‘It’s good news!’
‘Yeah, apparently they’ve got another agency in. The last one made massive errors.’
‘They got your timesheets all wrong.’
‘Which means you’ve got more time than initially thought.’
‘That’s brilliant news!’ I wanted to grab hold of him and hug him but feared he wouldn’t stay in one piece.
‘Well, they don’t really say.’
‘Can I go home then?’
‘I don’t see why not.’ He smiled but looked sad. I think he wassad;it was hard to tell with his face hanging off. ‘Will you complete the feedback first?’
He handed me a piece of paper. I ticked ‘outstanding’ and made no comment in ‘areas for improvement. He glanced at it and smiled weakly. I thought about asking him back with me, but I didn’t want to take a chance with his death-wish ways.
In anticipation of my half-hearted offer he said, ‘‘Go then! I’m going to finish up here and head back.’
I felt bad for Zombie.
But not that bad.
Home beckoned, the air smelled good, and I was alive.
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