I’m on an autopsy table.
The steel is cold under my body,
I cannot move to get away; my corpse cannot warm the steel.
My mother bends over me, her face soft with concern. “We’re almost finished.”
I know what is coming next.
Dull pain unfurls from my stomach as she pulls out length after length of intestine, the sensation of soft tugging somehow worse than the pain.
My other organs have already been removed, my chest feels hollow, the emptiness an echoing sorrow.
She stitches me up again, finishing with a neat knot on my sternum. I touch it, gently, experimentally. It is sore to the touch, a spark of pain dissuading me from further exploration.
“There.” She smiles at me, loving and proud. She is the medium through which I’ve entered this world again, albeit a midwife this time. My life in undeath started by her removing that which she had once given me.
We move through life as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Just a normal mother and her unliving daughter.
There are no odd looks. No one stops me for an additional search at the airport. I trail along behind her, much as I’ve always done, observing, quiet, careful not to draw attention to myself.
After a while, I tire of being ignored. It is disconcerting.
People talk about me. Around me. Over me. But never to me.
It is a subtle ostracizing. There is not much to differentiate it from the usual superior disregard of adults for those of the younger generation. But I can see it in how their eyes dance around me, never meeting my gaze. They stare when they think I am not looking. They probe and pry, hinting at their willingness to hear all. What travails to venture back to the living from the land of the dead? What news from the other world? Which gods have we sacrificed to and what?
I frown, realizing that I, being the walking dead, will be caught forever in a limbo where I am not alive, not dead, and thus never to succeed at earning enough respect, never to be heard and heeded. No children will spill from my loins, elevating me into one of the adults. I will gain no cachet from becoming one of the ancestor spirits as I am clearly still here and obviously limited in what I can do.
My chest aches. I try not to touch it, but it is difficult not to worry at the sore spot.
I’ve never been good at refraining from poking barely healing wounds.
The knot is hidden by my clothing, but I know it is there. Will I carry it forever, a second symbol of birth?
I never used to like zombies in fiction, especially not the romances.
What could possibly be attractive about the undead? The walking flesh. The only-just-not-rotting?
Now that I am one of them, I want to scream my awareness to the world. I am sentient. I am not simply a bundle of ambulatory bones wrapped in a facade of skin.
I am who I am. I am who I was. I am who I will be.
Spirit resides within me, as it ever did.
But I remain silent. I do not speak. I do not shout. I do not even glare.
I am who I always was, and that is my mother’s daughter, child of thousands of years of weighty bonds.