Gris-Gris: Post Virus By Sterling Warner

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Although many COVID-19 victims had become mortally ill and died, the rest of us trudged on with renewed appreciation of beauty’s mutable nature. Peter Beagle wrote that he’d slept with Lyla for a month before discovering she was a werewolf. Well Peter and Lyla’s fictional romance has nothing on me.

One night at Kelsey’s Bar in New Orleans, I met Marnie—a sweet anorexic-looking blonde thing with dull blue eyes, manicured nails, and bloodless lips. Our relationship began the moment after I introduced myself, and she issued an odd warning.

“I think I should tell you something,” she purred. “I’m a Zombie.”

Admittedly, under the right light, Marnie did have a somewhat ghoulish appearance. However, as a former hard-core goth, I could see past society’s mainstream definition for beauty and need for artifice. Then she addressed me again, this time with a deep, throaty voice.

“Didn’t you hear me? I said I AM a Zombie!”

Looking down at her empty glass, I replied, “Not yet—but you’re getting there! Let me buy you another drink.” She nodded agreeably, and then, somewhat transfixed, I watched the bartender mix a concoction containing four types of rum and three kinds of fruit juice. All the while, Marnie secreted rarified pheromones arousing my sexual awareness as never before. Additionally, her lustful stare pierced my guarded persona, leaving me with an exhilarating sense of vulnerability.

After downing five or six cocktails, Marnie ceased talking about her Zombie pedigree, and suggested that we split, allegedly to meet her parents. Oddly, from the moment she strode outside the bar, she began to dip and sway like the dancers on Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video. As we walked along, more and more contorted bodies crawled out of side streets and alleyways—all of them gliding forward, slinking step by step, weaving side to side.

As we moved along, Marnie noticed another bar and suggested a nightcap.  Needing little coaxing, I let her pull my arm in any direction she wanted en route to Tina’s Twisted Tavern.

“Those actually weren’t my parents,” she confided, glancing towards the door, moving her index finger in circles around the lip of her glass.

“I had my doubts, Marnie.”

“Well, they’re family—of sorts….”

“Sure…. Hey, how ‘bout we finish up here and kick it at my place tonight?”

“All right,” she coyly answered. Then, as I gazed into Marnie’s milky blue eyes, I realized that she seemed hungry for something.

Yet, I can personally testify, Marnie didn’t desire human flesh. She assured me that collecting my fingernail clippings and chewing on them merely took the edge off painful withdrawal symptoms directly related to former bad eating habits.

On the other hand, Marnie made no bones about being a connoisseur of fleshy pleasures; she claimed sex made her existence worthwhile—and occasionally brought blood to her lips. That fateful night, after I got past her front tooth falling out while kissing, we made passionate love until dawn. Once or twice, in between sighs, I could swear I heard her faint heart beat like timpani drums (atypical of the undead)!

Some rituals are hard to quickly abandon. Thus, even though we’d managed to get beyond our “social distancing” mind set, both of us headed to the shower after sex. Therein, we washed each other’s bodies, spending 20 seconds soaping all parts—faces, arms, necks, breasts, backs, arms, legs, and privates—instinctively singing “Happy Birthday” twice, much to our sleepless neighbors’ chagrin.

Now I’m not certain where Marnie disappeared to the next morning—or any of the mornings after spending the night with me. Nonetheless, by early evening, I’d find her at Kelsey’s Bar, nursing her drinks, waiting for me to take her home.  Initially, I grew suspicious, thinking she found another man to fulfill her daylight sexual appetite. Afraid to directly ask where she went every day, I followed her one morning, but, despite superb sleuthing skills, I only caught her visiting a health spa.

“What are you doing here?” she asked me as I burst in on her body treatment.

“Looking for you, Marnie, wondering why you’d be intimate with me at night and then leave me come daylight.”

“You know that I’ve got bad skin,” she noted, “so I do salt glows and body wraps—as well as facials—to revitalize my appearance daily—especially so close to the Mardi Gras.”

“Really? Does this place do your nails for you, too?” I laughed, making light of an embarrassing situation—noticing apparent liver spots on the back of her palms.

“Yes, dear,” she snapped sarcastically, “So give me some space; I’ll see you later at Kelsey’s.” Then she winked, “Someday I’ll bring you along for a little aromatherapy—or an exfoliating experience.” Looking at her hands, she quickly added, “Purell damaged my skin; guess I crossed the line practicing excessive hygiene during my self-imposed quarantine!” Clearly, I misjudged Marine’s philanthropic temperament; she didn’t have a cheating gene in her body.

Believe me, Hollywood’s demonization of zombies does them a great injustice. In the following days, Marnie and I mixed with those moon-walking street strutters—the slinky individuals she once called family members. I actually looked forward to them buying me drinks, tipping glasses, and toasting Marnie—who they referred to as my ghoul friend. Some might say disparate life forms have been kind to us. Soulmates since marching with the dead on Fat Tuesday, Marnie and I’ve been an item for over two weeks!

Meanwhile, I’ve learned not to judge her peculiar habits. In fact, I now share Marnie’s fingernail obsession, often chewing and savoring her cinnamon flavored clippings from dusk until dawn! During that time, our wildest sexual fantasies have become mere foreplay to the real thing. Granted, relationships are rarely perfect and at best, unconventional. Peter’s ladylove’s a werewolf, and I’ve hooked up with a zombie! Kinky? Hell yeah! Besides, unlike most lonely coronavirus pandemic survivors—habitually entrenched in social distancing—neither Peter nor I sleep alone at night!

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Sterling Warner

A Washington-based author, educator, and pushcart nominee for poetry, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as In the Grove, The Flatbush Review, Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape, Stardust Review, American Mustard, the Atherton Review, Visual Verse, Metamorphoses, and the Scarlett Leaf Review, Warner also has written several volumes of poetry, including Rags & Feathers, Without Wheels, Edges, ShadowCat, and Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux. (One may order print copies of any or all of them available through Amazon.com,, Barnes and Noble, and other international publishers.) Currently, Warner has emerged from self-quarantine and is working on a collection flash fiction.

Sterling Warner
jsterlingwarner@gmail.com

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

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