I have to prelude the following short story that I wrote by explaining what gave me the inspiration to write it in the first place. Right now, our society is caught in a zombie obsession. There is even a renaming of Easter as Zombie Jesus Day. There are websites and t-shirts/stickers for such an occasion. I think the phenomenon may have arisen (ha) from South Park. Zombie Jesus Day site
However, I've had the idea to write the following story for awhile. For about four or five years I have had this story stuck inside of my head. It started by having the image of the church service with a zombified Jesus entering and eating the churchgoers inside. Gory, yes. However, the point was to also make a social-political commentary about America's growing obsession with religious fanaticism. Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike are being bitten by the bug of extremist religious doctrine.
Personally, I feel that when any society becomes entrapped by the dogma of extremism, of any kind, that we become doomed. So, since Easter just passed and we are now in the middle of Passover, I felt the need to finally write down the following tale. I hope you enjoy it. And, please either write constructive feedback in the comment section or e-mail me personally and tell me what you think. This is obviously an early draft (it's the second incarnation of the story), and I will continue to make changes. Thanks. Enjoy!
Mary always loved Easter; it was her favorite holiday, next to Christmas that is. Though Mary preferred her holidays less commercialized, more religiously authentic. Yes, Easter has chocolate bunnies and Peeps, but people generally act more pious around Easter than Christmas (at least in her opinion, anyway). Easter was definitely Mary’s true favorite. So today, being Easter, she jumped out of bed and willingly threw on her church clothes. She put on a floral print dress with a doily collar and a pair of white stockings. She got out her black leather saddle shoes and put pink ribbons in her braided, dish blonde hair. Her golden cross lay peacefully on her collarbone.
Then she got out the most important item of all, her very own leather bound King James Bible. She hugged the bible to her chest. This was her Nana Ernestine’s present to her before she died. It was Mary’s most prized possession. At thirteen, Mary wasn’t like other girls her age. For starters, Mary’s mother still made her dress like a six year old. Mary obeyed because she did not like to fight. She was the peacemaker in the family. Mary also preferred the clothes her mother picked out to the tarty outfits that other girls her age were wearing. Mary was glad that her family still had meals together, had board game night, and didn’t use swear words. Aside from her brother, Chris, everyone of her family members were devout Catholics.
Speaking of her loving family, everyone in the house was still sleeping at this point. So Mary took in the calm, quiet atmosphere while it lasted. Soon, everyone would be rustling and getting ready; the shuffle getting to church services would be intense. The services began promptly at 9 a.m. Mary’s parents always made it a point to be at church on time. Therefore, the few minutes of peace and quiet would soon be shattered. Mary had just enough time to soak this moment in, as if time itself were frozen.
Mary liked Easter for this very reason. She cherished the stillness of Easter morning. Now that spring was in the air, you could literally just sit listening to the birds chirp all morning long. Mary looked out her window; no one in the neighborhood was awake yet either. Cars were still parked in driveways up and down the street. Multi-colored plastic Easter eggs still hid behind bushes and in-between flower beds. Bunnies rustled to and fro in backyards while the morning dew slowly evaporated off of each blade of grass. Mary wanted to imbibe the feeling of newfound spring and Easter by taking in the peacefulness out of doors; there, she would get the full effect.
Mary crept out of the house, letting the door quietly shut behind her. She walked down the street, looking at daffodils and tulips growing in her neighbors’ gardens. Each bulb peeped out of the soil as if this truly were the first day of spring. Mary looked inside her next door neighbor’s window and saw silhouettes of people getting dressed for church, putting on suits and dresses, silk ties and expensive hats. The air had the smell of linen and fresh cut grass. Mary smiled to herself. She crouched down to the ground to smell a yellow daffodil.
However, as Mary got back up to a standing position, she noticed something strange, at the end of her street. It appeared to be a person lying down in the middle of the street. As this individual came into view, she noticed that the person was a man. This man definitely was not moving. She had to see if he was dead or alive, if he was alright or if he needed help. Mary, however, couldn’t shake the feeling that something seemed out of place. She ran over to see about helping the man on the ground.
Something told Mary not to get any closer; this man was dangerous. She knew deep down inside, though, that he was probably harmless. Then, Mary began to change her mind as his appearance suddenly came into focus. He was bleeding on his neck like he had cut himself shaving (as he were using a chainsaw). In fact, his whole shirt front was covered in blood; the shirt was white so the crimson of the blood was hard to ignore. Then Mary noticed that the man was missing his right hand up to the wrist. The man had bone exposed on his left knee. There was flesh hanging loosely from his thigh as if he had just been hit by a passing car. Mary had no idea what to do. This man definitely needed an ambulance. Then suddenly, she saw the man’s face; it was covered in maggots and worms. Mary felt like vomiting. The sight was like something out of a horror movie (the type of movie Mary had no reference from). Mary screamed and cried for help, but nobody was around to hear her. Just then the man’s arm grabbed her and pulled her by the hair. At that moment, everything went black.
Just then, Mary heard an alarm bell sounding far off into the distance. Mary’s vision went all blurry and she saw a flash of light. Mary was in her bed again, and her clothes were resting, folded on her chair. Mary had been sleeping, dreaming in fact, and was having a terrible nightmare when, thank goodness, the alarm her mother set the night before, woke her up.
Mary was glad to hear shuffling downstairs and down the hall. Her parents and brothers were all getting ready for services at St. Aloysius Catholic Holy Christ Eucharist Church. Even though there were 9 am morning services as well as noon services, the Waltons always went to the early Easter church service because it was considered good manners to be in church bright an early on Easter Sunday. Any other Sunday, and the Waltons would be okay with a later service but not today. Today was Easter Sunday; and the only people more excited than Mary about going to church were her parents.
The Walton’s house had crosses in every single room (even the bathroom). Mrs. Walton always said that evil could be especially devious when one was alone and vulnerable in the ‘lavatory’. Mrs. Walton didn’t say ‘toilet’ or ‘crapper’; even such words as these were vulgar and common. The television had cable television access but the majority of channels were blocked. The only shows one could watch were of an educational or religious nature (or both). Mary always wondered why her parents paid for so many channels to only watch six of them. Mr. Walton always explained that many of Sunday’s sermons were no longer available on local access, as many of the channels had gotten rid of them to make room for cartoons and teen drama series.
Mary got dressed (for real this time), put on her golden cross, and opened the door of her bedroom to see her two brothers, Chris and Teddy fighting over a baseball card.
“Hey lame brain, get off of me. You’re going to ruin my suit!”, Teddy yelled.
“You’re such a spaz! Now, give me back my Derek Jeter autograph rookie baseball card. NOW”, Chris yelled back.
“Fine. Here. I was just looking at it. No reason to start pounding on me”, Teddy replied.
Even though Teddy was ten, five years younger than Chris, he always acted more mature about things. Mary, being the middle child, was very careful to observe the behavior of everyone around her. She didn’t like when any feathers were ruffled, and was the type of thirteen year old who felt that everything and everyone had its place. This rough housing on Easter morning, however, just would not do!
“Stop it, both of you”, Mary commanded. She often liked to play mother between Chris and Teddy, especially when her parents were preoccupied, which was often.
“What are you going to do about it, fart face? Don’t give me another lame Bible quote. The only reason I’m going to church today is so I can get my Easter basket and hopefully twenty bucks from Aunt Amelia. Church is so boring, especially on Easter”, Chris confessed.
“That is so immature. I can’t believe you. I think the Easter service is the most beautiful and harmonious of the year. It’s even better than the Christmas service”, Mary replied.
“At least at Christmas I can get through the long service by thinking about all of my presents under the tree. If we got presents on Easter, then maybe I’d be a little more excited about going to church”, Chris retorted.
“I can’t believe you. At least act like you care. I bet if Anna Rose were singing in the choir, you’d be a little more motivated about church”, Mary exclaimed.
“Wait. Anna Rose is going to be singing at St. Aloysius today? Oh man, I might get more into the service than I thought. I just hope there’s not too much standing if you know what I mean”, Chris joked.
Mary snickered, “Uch. You’re so crude. Can’t you behave like a Walton for once?
Teddy chimed in, “Yea, Mary’s right. Don’t be such a butthead on Easter! Right Mary?”
Mary agreed, “Right. Today is the day Christ returned from the dead to atone for our sins. What if Jesus Christ himself came back today?”
“Don’t give me that bullshit, Mary. We all know it’s a made-up story. It’s a hoax!”, Chris guffawed.
“Ha, that’s twenty-five cents for the cuss jar. By the way, it is not a hoax. Jesus died for your sins and today commemorates the miracle of Christ rising from his grave”, Mary retorted.
“Yea right. Okay, if Jesus came back from the dead, then he had to have been a freakin’ zombie. And if Jesus comes back today, then you better run for your life, Mary. Run, Mary. Run, Mary”, Chris laughed while jogging in place.
All of a sudden Mary remembered her horrible dream. The man lying on the ground, the blood all down his shirt, the wound in his neck. The worms and the maggots on his face. Mary ran into the bathroom feeling like she would retch. She could still hear Chris cackling outside the bathroom door and Teddy’s footsteps running downstairs and yelling for his parents.
The car ride over to St. Aloysius Catholic Holy Christ Eucharist Church was a quiet one. Mary stared out the window, still a little sick to her stomach at remembering her dream. Chris was reading a Christian comic book while Teddy texted on his Android phone, a gift from Christmas. Mary’s parents had the radio tuned to a Christian station and were listening intently to the sermon for Easter Sunday.
As their red Toyota pulled into the church parking lot, Mary noticed that most of the spaces were filled. It seemed like the Walton family picked the very last open spot, or at least one of the last. The parking lot had about 85 spots all in all, and on a typical Sunday, only about 30 of those spots were full. Only ten of them were usually set aside for church clergy and volunteers, so really only twenty of the spots were filled with regular church goers on a typical Sunday (people who weren’t forced to be there). The Waltons were one family out of six that were at church every single week.
The Waltons all got out of the car one at a time. Mary had to grab Teddy’s comic book away from him and had to nearly carry him out of the middle back car seat. Chris sat on the hood of the car laughing and texting.
“You guys, let’s go. We don’t want to be late”, Mary chided.
Teddy didn’t move. Chris shuffled his feet and kicked at the pavement. Mary finally started walking toward her parents, not wanting to be late. Teddy followed her. When Chris finally realized he’d look ridiculous texting alone in a church parking lot, he followed too.
The church was packed, even for an Easter Sunday. It was like the priest was giving away brand new televisions or sports cars. The rising humidity and abundance of body heat made things feel wilted. The air had a stiff, damp quality like stepping inside of a tomb.
Father Charlie was giving the sermon today. He was a short, stout man, mostly bald with patches of graying black hair and a funny push broom moustache that made Father Charlie look like a Muppet. Father Charlie was very animated during his sermons. People liked to watch his hand gestures and the way he articulated certain words like ‘fathuh’ or ‘smaht’. He was from Boston originally, so all of his ‘r’ sounds sounded like ‘ah’ with no ‘r’ sound audible.
Mary sat with her parents and two brothers toward the end of a pew right in the middle of the sanctuary, next to an antechamber door, the room where the choir rehearsed. Mary was at the end of the row, which she preferred because she got more elbow room and was closer to the collection plate when it passed by. Mary loved to pass all of the change and crisp bills toward the collection plate; it made her feel prestigious. That and she could also get up noiselessly to use the restroom rather than holding it or disturbing other parishioners.
The service was beginning. Teddy somehow got a hold of his comic book and Chris was beginning to dose off to sleep. The organ started playing ‘Easter Flourish’ and everyone stood up. Mary had to poke Chris to stand, as he was already half asleep. However, at noticing Anna Rose singing in the choir, he rose to new life as if being woken from a winter slumber. Chris stared at her strawberry blonde wavy shoulder length tresses and bright aquamarine eyes. If it weren’t for Chris’s strict views on dating, he would ask Anna Rose out on a date in a heartbeat. He brushed off his shirt and fixed pieces of hair into place. Chris popped in a breath mint and even began singing along to hymns he would usually role his eyes at.
The service was beautiful. The choir sounded heavenly. The whole congregation was passionately singing and becoming moved by the service, most of all, Mary. Mary was on the verge of tears. She clasped her golden cross, but for some reason she began to think of the terrible nightmare she had the night before. As the organ began to play ‘Alleluia, Christ is Risen’. All of a sudden the two wooden church doors opened and the blinding sunlight hid the figure, in the doorway, from view. Somehow everyone already knew who this ‘stranger’ was, though.
Everyone turned, as no one came this late to Easter Sunday service, not at St. Aloysius Catholic Holy Christ Eucharist Church. Mary looked too. She couldn’t tell if the figure was a man or a woman, but it looked like someone she knew very well. It seemed that everyone was having the same internal thought process at once. Everyone else noticed the similarity too, as they all stared with mouths agape and hands clutched to their bosoms. Some ‘hallelujahs’ were screamed out along with ‘praise the lord’ and ‘save us, oh lord’. It seemed that what Mary warned her brother Chris about had really come true. Jesus had finally come back; Christ had risen.
Mary noticed a devout parishioner, Mrs. Clark, get up out of her seat and run squealing down the aisle to the figure. She bent down beneath his robes and started to kiss this man’s sandaled foot. Mrs. Clark didn’t notice the figure’s hands reaching out to touch her hair. All of a sudden the familiar bearded face looked like it was going to speak to Mrs. Clark, give her a revelation from God himself.
Instead, however, the figure grabbed Mrs. Clark by the hair and started biting into her face. Mrs. Clark looked up one last time with flesh hanging from the side of her face, blood everywhere. She fell to the ground with a thump. Blood soaked the linoleum floor beneath Mrs. Clark’s lifeless body. It was like a Transubstantiation ceremony gone wrong.
Instead of mayhem breaking just then, however, other parishioners rushed to take the place of Mrs. Clark. One by one, devout members of St. Aloysius Catholic Holy Christ Eucharist Church lined up to take this perverse and irregular variant of communion. Anna Rose ran down the aisle in her white robe and knelt down by the figure who was still standing near the doorway. She crossed her chest and looked up, closing her eyes in silent prayer. As she bowed her head in devout reverie, however, the figure placed his hands on her head in suggestion of a shaman healer. Anna Rose looked up Chris’s direction, and at that moment their eyes locked. Chris noticed, however, that Anna Rose was no longer the saintly image of purity and virgin sanctity. She was foaming at the mouth and making animalistic, guttural grunting noises like a wounded animal. At that moment, all hell began to break loose.
People began running to and fro; they looked confused and upset. All of a sudden everyone was screaming and jumping over pews. Father Charlie, himself, walked down the aisle to talk to the figure. It looked like he would reason with this stranger, though still keeping his distance. Just as he approached the look-a-like Jesus, a hand grabbed his leg from below. It was Mrs. Clark; she wasn’t dead. She bit into Father Charlie’s ankle. As blood gushed out from his foot, he fell to the ground screaming in unholy agony.
Everyone was really scared now. They were trying to duck into aisles and vestibules, hiding behind saints and relics. The only door open was the antechamber door right next to Mary’s family. Mary looked over and saw her own father eating the earlobe off of my mother. Her two brothers looked like they were fighting again, but when she got a closer look, Teddy was gnawing on Chris’s jugular vein. It was really happening. All Mary could hear was her brother’s proclamation in her head, “And if Jesus comes back today, then you better run for your life, Mary. Run, Mary. Run, Mary.” She could barely think of what to do next. She had to get away from the ensuing chaos. She had to leave her now screaming, half-eaten family behind. Mary had no choice. ‘Run, Mary. Run, Mary.’ She opened the choir room door, and she locked it behind her. ‘Run, Mary.’ She was shaking and sweat had soaked through the front of her dress. ‘Run. Run. Run, Mary.’ She wasn’t prepared for this moment.
Mary barricaded the door with any furniture she could find: chairs, tables, bookshelves, music stands. She looked for an exit, any exit. There were four small windows at the top of the wooden wall opposite her. She had no choice but to try one of them. All of them were locked, all but one that someone had left open to allow a breeze to come in through. Thank goodness for menopausal old women.
Mary heard rustling on the other side of the door; screams were muffled with moans and unearthly, beastly grovels. Mary pushed a desk under the open window. She climbed on top, but the window wasn’t open wide enough to let her through. She was a tad too short to reach the latch. She needed something to pull on the latch to force the window ledge open more. She looked around the room and noticed the fixtures, she placed against the door, would soon break. She had to think fast. ‘Run, Mary. Run.’ Suddenly, she clutched the gold cross around her neck and snapped the chain free. She hooked the necklace around the latch and pulled the window down. It was now open wide enough that she could easily and safely climb through it.
As Mary ran away from the church, she realized that her religion had indeed saved her life. Mary reflected how funny it was that once this relic was used to ask for forgiveness and sanctification from the very same figure who almost ate her brains. The cross had saved her life, a lucky chance. Only this one time. Perhaps the only time. This particular time, she was saved by a cross. But how many other times would her religion be able to save her? She knew that the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the parishioners and church goers who all became reborn, infected with Jesus’ revelation.
Yes, Mary knew that from this day forward, only her growing disdain for religion could save her from the spreading poison, the plague of proselytizers who would stop at nothing until every living creature was ‘converted’ and ‘saved’. The irony: she was now saved while everyone else was damned.
What had God given her? A pair of long legs and an ability to think fast on her feet. This is all she would need from now on. This and an arsenal of heavy artillery.
Yes, next time would be different. She would have more than a golden cross to save her from Jesus’ undead army. She would have more than faith and a Bible. Mary Walton would have stamina and an AK-47 to boot. That’s the only kind of faith she needed now. This, the one and only faith that would truly save her.
Thank you for reading. Of course, my intention was not to offend. I hope you found the story intriguing. I will continue writing short stories like this one and hopefully, I will post most of them in my blog posts.
Beware of zombies,