“BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS“. The voice cut through me as I instinctively drew my book bag closer to my torso.
“I SAID BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS!” I turn my head, the voice now unmistakable.
“Brains?” Leticia grinned widely at me as she pointed to some brain-shaped cookies that had been set out for sale.
I paused and took in the sight. The table was covered with fresh baked goods- cupcakes dripping with fake blood, donut holes decorated like eyeballs, drooling gingerbread men with torn clothing. Leticia and several other students stood behind the table, a banner behind them reading “STATE UNIVERSITY ZOMBIE STUDENT UNION.” They all wore long sleeved shirts and long pants to cover their pale grey skin. Their hair was long and stringy, and they all had dark circles under their yellowed eyes. Yet, despite their ghastly appearance, all of the members of the group seemed happy and full of life. Leticia pushed the plate of cookies closer to me, offering me a better look as I approached the table.
Leticia had been my freshman year roommate. When we met, she had black shiny hair, and skin that was tan from the Hawaiian sun. Although we’d gotten along rather well, I was rather perturbed by her fascination with the zombie kids on campus. I had never understood the desire to be a monster for the rest of one’s life. She decided to have a zombie roommate for sophomore year, and soon she became one of them. Although I’d seen her around campus, lurching about with the rest of the zombies, we hadn’t spoken much since we’d lived together.
“Uh, hey, Leticia,” I stammered as I approached the table. “What’s this all about?”
Leticia’s eyes locked with mine, the old familiar spark still there. “It’s one of our fundraisers for Zombie Awareness Month. Come on, I know you wanna buy something.”
I blinked. “Zombie Awareness Month? Um, I think we’re all perfectly aware that you exist.”
Leticia giggled and shook her head. “Of course I know that. But that’s not the type of awareness I’m talking about. People are really ignorant about what it means to be a zombie in this day and age.
I crossed my arms in front of me, tossing Leticia a skeptical look. “You’re half dead and you eat people’s brains. What’s not to understand?”
“Oh goodness. Brianna, you have no idea. None.”
“Well, since you’re the expert now, enlighten me. What do I need to know about zombies?”
Leticia grabbed a pamphlet from a stack next to her and handed it to me. “I’m giving you some reading for later. But for now, let me clear up some misconceptions about who we are. And while I do that, you can buy something.”
I open my wallet and take out a dollar. “Fine, let’s hear it,” I say, passing her the money.
“For starters, ” she said, placing my dollar in a box and handing me several small cookies in exchange, “we don’t eat people’s brains. Not all the time, anyway.”
I took a step back, and she laughed as she noticed my dismay. “We don’t attack innocent people, or anyone who doesn’t want to get changed. We prefer to eat animals, and if someone wants to join us, of course we’ll have part of their brain.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why would I believe that you’ve never attacked a random person?”
“Bri, if we were attacking random people, half this campus would be zombies by now. Think about it.”
I took a bite of one of the cookies and nodded. “You raise a good point. But something I’ve always wondered about you… why did you even want to be a zombie in the first place?”
She smiled and nodded. “Why not? After all, I’m never going to get older, and I’ll always have a family around. I wasn’t really that close to my real family. Now I’ll have one forever.”
“So what makes you different from vampires?”
She laughed. “We don’t sparkle and we actually exist.”
Another zombie lurched over to join our conversation. “Leticia, is this girl giving you a problem?”
Leticia laughed. “No, not at all, this is my old roommate Brianna. Bri, this is my boyfriend Marcus. He’s also president of the Zombie Student Union. He’s been a zombie since he was in high school, so he knows a bit more about this than I do.”
I reluctantly offered my hand to shake his, not wanting to seem rude. “I, uh, wasn’t really giving her a hard time, I swear!”
Marcus firmly grasped my hand. His palm felt clammy to the touch. I almost jerked my hand back, but his hold was firm. “Hey, it’s no problem. Any friend of Leticia’s is a friend of mine. I’ll let you ladies catch up.” He let go of my hand, whispering something in Leticia’s ear as he kept his gaze on me. They both laughed softly as he staggered away.
I glanced at Marcus shuffling away, then looked back at Leticia. “What was that all about?”
She giggled a bit nervously this time. “Oh, nothing, just a little inside joke. Hey, we’re having a formal dance coming up soon. it’s not until the end of the month, but maybe you’d like to come and support.”
“I’ll think about it. Listen, I’m late for class, but I’ll see you around, ok?”
“You will, Brianna.” She gave me an ominous smile. “I know you will.”