Here is the second chapter of my novella, Zombie Reflux (Meandi Books, 2014), a satirical poke at contemporary UK society, with elements of horror. If you like it, you can buy the paperback for £3.99 from Amazon UK.

Read Chapter 1

—————

Chapter 2

Eric ran home barefoot. His dried soles slapped on the pavement, making a sound like fists hitting a buffalo-hide punchbag. He felt aware that as he ran, he didn’t need to gasp for breath. Those days were behind him. The days of being restricted to earthly turmoil.

This was a new turmoil, he decided. An existential crisis. What was he? Not living, but technically not dead. He had no death certificate and in fact didn’t even know if he had passed away or not. Maybe he was suffering from a tropical disease? Porphyria?

No, that didn’t make sense. He needed to stop all the hypochondria, forget reading the Medical Dictionary at home. It wasn’t in his head this time; this was real life. He couldn’t have a tropical disease because he hadn’t been abroad. Yes, rational explanations first. He couldn’t afford a holiday with the move to a new town; Bury St. Morts, out in the countryside of Norfolk. It was supposed to be a fresh start, away from his gold-digging distant relatives in Cheshire, who were after his inheritance money. But all the stress had started a nasty stomach illness. And this doctor; who was he to jump to conclusions like that? Maybe he’d got his Medical certificate out of an Easter Egg. What sort of small town hospital doctor made jokes about being dead? That was it, it had to be. He had an illness, a new kind of immunity, like the doctor said. Something living, something alive, that was eating at him. Yes, had to be alive. The thought of anything else killed him. No, no, no! Not killed him. Another word, think, quick. The thought of anything else… befuddled him. Yes! That would suffice. No talk of death, killed, dying, anymore… evermore.

The thing the doctor had pulled from him had been a tapeworm, not his intestines. Tapeworms grew to over ten metres in length, wound themselves the whole length of a person’s gut. That explained it; that was why he didn’t feel any more pain. Stomach problems in the past had been excruciating, but in the doctor’s room at the hospital, he had been numb. Now he had an explanation. The tapeworm had caused him pain, and now he was free of it. He was free of his parasite, not his guts.

Eric jogged up his garden path and fumbled in his pocket. He found his key and stuck it in the lock. His fingers jiggled, twisting it. Then there was a crisp snapping sound. A twig breaking? Eric looked down. His index finger lay on the doorstep.

“Oh God – oh Jesus, help!” Eric dropped to his haunches and picked up the offending item, then shoved it in his pocket. He gave a fleeting look to either side, his eyes skirting the living room windows. Had the neighbours seen? Hoped not. He didn’t want to get off to a bad start in a new area.

Gotta get inside his house, quick. He was safe. He slammed the door and leaned against it, then forced himself to inhale and exhale. Humans breathed, and he was human. For the time being, he would have to feign normality. Act to fit in, yes, that was the ticket.

He looked in the hallway mirror. His colour was worse than before; a sort of duck-egg blue. Gotta do something about it, at the double. But what?

A-ha! In the bathroom, there was a compact powder. Nina had left it there, right before she had dumped him. The cow was happy to move all her junk into his new pad, and then leave it there once she walked out.

Upstairs he went, taking the steps two at a time. He felt fit and flexible, now that the stomach pain had been alleviated. How could he be dead if he was still energetic? He was thirty-five, in the prime of life. He was simply offish, a bit under the weather because of his gastroenteritis. As he pulled the lid off the compact, Eric ignored the stump of his missing finger. He applied generous amounts of foundation all over his face and neck. The peachy tone on top of his blue skin gave him a greyish hue. Whatever. Grey was better than blue; more natural. Made him blend in better with the English weather, at the very least.

Job done, what now? He felt excitable, hasty. The doctor had got under his skin. His eyes travelled down to his pocket. What about his finger? He needed answers. He had to know what was going on. How? Why? Why him? Why today? He’d just bought his new place and he couldn’t even enjoy it. Boy, did it make him cross. Sod’s law, for sure.

Answers. So be it. He would have to do a self-autopsy. Eric closed his eyes and shook his head. Not a self-autopsy, a self-examination. Gotta stop with all the negative thinking until he knew for sure. Living until proven dead, not the other way round.

He went downstairs, in a slow, calm and collected manner. How would he do it? Sitting seemed best. If he gave himself a fright, he might faint and that wouldn’t do; what if, in his tender condition, he didn’t wake up again? He went into the kitchen and found a bread knife in a drawer. The serrated edge would cut well, if he worked it like a saw.

Kitchen chair at the ready. He plonked his ass down and gripped the knife handle with his intact hand. “Here goes nothing,” he said. Best start with the existing hole in his stomach. Gentle pressure pried it open, enough to wedge the knife in. No pain, but he’d expected that. He was in shock after all; the pain would set in later as normal. He began to saw. A sound like fabric being cut reached his ears.

No blood, no guts. He lifted back the skin of his stomach and looked in. It was darker than he’d imagined inside his torso. He saw an item that looked like a dried fig dangling from a dessicated branch. A few other organs looked as though they’d been tipped right out of a canopic jar.

Eric heaved and vomited up the dried-fig organ. He picked up the rubbery object and put it back inside. “This isn’t happening… this isn’t right…”

Gotta sew it up. Yes; sew it quick. He had fishing line in another drawer. Didn’t have needles, but if he made holes using a nail, he could poke the vinyl line through and pull it tight enough to cover the ghastly hole. He worked as quickly as he could while still being neat. Strange that he felt devoid of emotion as he worked. Was he even capable of emotions anymore? Feelings were human, products of a working brain. He wasn’t human. He was a monstrosity.

Negative thoughts, but he couldn’t deny it any longer. The doctor said he had no heartbeat. Eric clamped a hand over his own chest. The doctor was right.

He had to face facts. Somehow or other, through some miracle, or the opposite; a perversion of nature, he was alive but dead. Denial wouldn’t help him and he needed what he could to help him deal with his unholy fate.

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About Leilanie Stewart

Leilanie Stewart is a writer, poet and literary blogger. Her debut poetry pamphlet, A Model Archaeologist, was launched in 2015 with Eyewear Publishing. She is a prize nominated poet, having been longlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014, and her poetry and fiction was selected for the 'Best of the Web' Storm Cycle Anthology 2014, published by Kind of a Hurricane Press. Leilanie is also Editor in Chief of Bindweed Magazine, a poetry and fiction online magazine that also publishes a quarterly print anthology. She currently lives in London with her writer and poet husband, Joseph Robert. Literary blog: https://leilaniestewart.wordpress.com/ Meandi Books: http://meandibooks.bigcartel.com/ Bindweed Magazine: https://bindweedmagazine.wordpress.com/

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