A mask made of disgrace and decay covers my face. I am the worst of my wandering nightmares. I am a killer of men. I tear up their warm bodies, rip away their flesh and bury my hands deep in their chests. I squeeze their hearts until no life is left; I shred their veins until their blood is spilling all over my hands, my arms. I am what I am. I am Death wearing the damaged costume of a man.
‘Do not linger, do not stay. Run away. Run away.
Do not linger, do not stay. I am a Zombie on its way.’
Why do you laugh about my silly rhymes, brother? You are the first to fall. I stare at your tear-streamed face the moment you break. I break you. Always the strong one, but gone within the blink of an eye – who would have guessed you had a heart after all? See how small it is in my monstrous hands.
My brother. My beautiful brother. Born eight years prior he was already father’s big boy when I was still screaming in my crib. How I adored my brother, how I looked up to him in those early years when I was too small to be of any interest to my father, before he started to form me into a man. I was a sweet little boy with curly blonde hair and a bright smile on my lips. Mama, I laughed so often when you threw me in the air. How my brother must have envied me all this time.
My stoic brother never spilled a tear when father’s wrath fell upon him, he, who took all the beating without even flinching. So studious and bright and still not bright enough to prove my father he was worthy. ‘Do not cry, little brother,’ he said when father finally found some interest in his younger son. ‘Do not let him get to you.’ How could I not? The little boy so adored by mother and brother, never touched by anything foul and cruel. I was five years old and stopped speaking for a month. Long enough to prove to my father I needed further education. How could I, the unruly one, ever fit into shoes that were too big even for my brave older brother?
When he left for boarding school I was suddenly all on my own, my father’s attention focused on me alone. I never forgave my brother for that. Even as we grew older and my mind began to comprehend he was no more at fault as I had been, the small little boy in me still refused to forgive, to forget. And so all he ever earned were snide remarks at best and complete rejection at worst.
He cared, my brother. I knew it all along. When I became an unruly teenager only to be beaten back into discipline, when I fell into depression and refused to eat, to sleep, to drink – it was always him who nudged me to come back to life. My saviour. My brother. And when finally the day came, I was prepared to tell him he was loved after all, I killed him instead. A look at my broken body was enough to make him understand.
I became a Zombie in front of your eyes, brother. I did nothing to stop it – and neither did you. How could you? It was my demon to fight, my dragon to slay. Instead I allowed it to devour me from the inside.
I wish I could have spoken to you the moment your heart broke. I broke it. I wish I could have told you that I have forgiven you a long time ago, ask for forgiveness myself. But I could no longer open my worthless mouth, the tongue is so heavy and my body no longer listens to any of my commands. I am dead to the world. I am no longer human.
Blood. Blood. Blood. Is it still flowing in my veins? Or has it stopped like everything else that once was part of my human form? Blood. Blood. Blood. I have spilled far too much.
I drink their pain. I drown. I swallow their despair. I choke. I lick away the last traces of life. I die. Every time I leave a bit of myself behind. I am no longer human.
I do not hunt. It is not part of my nature. I stumble along the streets, creep through the flat and corridors. Do not cross my path: I cannot guarantee your safety. I do not hunt and none the less I kill. I am no longer human. I am the shadow you see through closed eyes, the creature we all fear to become. I walk, yet I am dead to the world.
The second to fall was the girl in love. I devoured her heart. It tasted delicious.
But the third was the one I regret most: my friend, my companion, my soul mate. I saw how he started shivering when he first approached the body that once had been me. I begged him to go, I begged without words, my lips again failing me. He was stubborn as ever. I was careful this time. I ate him slowly, bit by bit. He grew thinner every day, wasted away after each time he visited me. Oh, my lovely one, why do you never listen, when it really matters? Why did you have to come here over and over again? There is not much left of you and all I can hope for now is my own death. May it come before I have the chance to destroy you. I am a Zombie. I am an eater of men. I am your death. Run, dear God, please run!
You might look at me and think I do not feel. That is what the mysteries tell, is it not? That the heart dies along with the brain, shrivels like rotten flesh. It does not. I am no longer human but my heart will not understand, it still clings to a reality that is no longer a truth. My heart has no eyes to see, no mind to comprehend, no mouth to swallow the taste of death. I am no longer human. But my heart still is.
I still remember the day we met. I never understood why I spoke to you in the first place and even less why you responded the way you did. With a smile and not with the stain of regret and loathing plastered upon your face, as I had seen far too often. But not with you. Never with you. I warned you I was not an easy person. I warned you that I would destroy you one day. But you never believed, you were here for all these years. No matter what I did, you refused to go. You always said it was what friends are for: staying when everyone else had gone. Fidelity. Friendship. Trust. Why did you have to stay? Why did you let me break you?
They have sedated me now and most times I am drifting somewhere between worlds. My brain is rotten, eaten up by this parasite, this cancer that claims more space than I would allow it to have if I had a chance to forbid. To live. I am hallucinating. Not the doctors, the nurses. The others. The ones that mattered.
My brother holds my hand while I desperately try to breathe. My lungs are the first to fail. He is crying like a little girl. ‘You don’t deserve to die, brother.’ Even the woman in love is stronger, holding my brother from behind as sobs shake his whole body. ‘You don’t deserve this. You don’t…’
Oh I do, brother. I do. Because now I see most clearly how I have ripped you all apart. Every man leaves a trace in other people’s lives but today I wish I never had. I should have been all on my own. All alone. It would not have hurt that much. I am a Zombie, my body destroyed by medications and an illness I can no longer fight. I am an eater of man. I have devoured your souls. And I am sorry. So sorry.
And there you are. You do not cry. I knew you would not. You touch my bold head with soft fingers, tracing the lines the operations have left on my skull. You sit down on the other side of my bed. You do not look away. You have become so thin my friend, there is not much left of you. And it is my fault. All of it is my fault alone. I am so sorry, my friend. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave you. I want to tell you but my traitorous mouth fails me. Only a single teardrop falls from my eye and slowly flows over my cheek towards my lips. ‘Don’t be’, you say. ‘This is not your fault. I know you did your best.’
My eyes are never leaving yours even as my eyelids start to flutter and the heart monitor starts making these nervous sounds. It mixes with my brothers weeping and her comforting whispers. ‘I am here, I always will be,’ you say. And so will I. Long after my body is gone I will be lingering around. With you. Always you. I ate away your soul day after day; still you came visiting me in hospital. Now I am giving it back to you. Take a part of mine as well, my friend, so you can feel me long after I have passed away. I am no longer an eater of men. I am eaten. Death devours me, death takes me.
I take a last deep breath but no air fills my lungs. I try to hold on to you. I try. But I feel myself fading away. I open my lips one last time. One last time I try to tell you all how sorry I am. ‘I know,’ you say again and my brother holds my hand a little tighter. The girl in love finally starts crying as well. And then I close my eyes to never open them again. I hear you sucking in your breath. A loud beeping sound rings in my end. I know you cannot hold back your tears now. You think I never heard you whisper my name in regret. But I did. It is the last thing my ears will ever listen to. The last word. And I will take it with me, now that darkness has finally claimed me. I am no longer an eater of men. I am eaten. Eaten alive. Death devours me, death takes me.
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