Chuck glanced down at the severed head in his palm, its eyes staring blankly up at the perpetually dark sky above. It wasn’t as heavy as he thought it would be. Maybe three pounds, but definitely no more than five. A girl he had dated years ago, back before the outbreak, told him that the human head was actually heavier than one might think, which put Chuck off slightly. He didn’t feel it was really the right conversation to be having on a first date, nor did he feel comfortable being alone with someone so knowledgeable about dismembered body parts. He broke it off with her just a few months later, after he was relatively certain she would not decapitate him. Regardless, she had clearly been wrong about its weight.
He did not know the owner of the head. He guessed it was a man’s—he didn’t want to make any rash assumptions, though. He’d met a few “masculine females” in his life, and had been slapped once or twice after assigning them the wrong gender. Regardless, his familiarity with this person began with their scalp and ended just below his or her chin. He figured it was better that way. It would’ve been even more awkward had he known the person whose particular head this was.
Chuck turned the head over in his hand so that its nose pressed firmly into his palm. It was awfully messy. He didn’t have much experience with detached heads. He’d seen a few severed limbs here and there, but he rarely picked them up in the past. He’d usually just look at them from afar and shake his head solemnly at the people that were now without their trusty arms, legs, fingers, toes, and whatever else was unfortunately—and probably quite painfully—detachable. While it had become normal in the years after the outbreak to see such things, after explosions stopped making him jump and instead reminded him of home, it was still always a little weird. He tried his best to keep his distance around the dead.
Lately, however, Chuck had been suffering from what he considered a “terrible case of morbid curiosity.” He wasn’t sure when it began exactly, definitely sometime in the past two weeks, but he’d found himself slightly less “inhibited” around bodies. It began with a torso outside of the compound, which he’d stumbled upon late in the evening two weeks prior, far after the call of curfew. He’d been searching for bandages, something to cover and conceal the forbidden wound he’d received from a limping creature in the night. The torso was just lying on the ground, shirt tattered at the bottom, some sort of intestines-or-something cascading out from where the hips should have been. He wanted to look away, to go back home and hide in his shelter, but for whatever reason, he didn’t. Instead, he stuck his finger into the mess of organs, swirled it around like a busy man mixing his coffee, and plunged it into his mouth.
Chuck wasn’t exactly sure what had inspired him to taste the torso’s intestines. In retrospect, it was a very weird place to begin a career in cannibalism. The only organ he could think of that would’ve possibly made a worse area to start was the colon, and he wasn’t exactly far off from there. Still, it tasted nice. He pretended it didn’t at first, even forced himself to vomit after savoring the moistened, bloody taste of his dirt-stained finger, but it did. It tasted very nice. He dreamt about it that night and all of the next day, constantly trying to convince himself that it didn’t taste good. That it didn’t satiate him so much more than the canned refried beans he’d eaten every single day for the past two years. That it wasn’t so sweet and vinegary, salty and comforting. He tried his best to assure himself that it wasn’t the finest thing he’d tasted since before the outbreak, but he knew damn well it was.
Whatever the case, Chuck was now holding a severed head in his hands. It wasn’t exactly his own doing—he didn’t simply wake up from the shelter, wander down the road, and rip off the first head he saw. That wasn’t even remotely the case. Nor was it because he no longer stayed in the shelter—he didn’t exactly feel he fit in anymore and hadn’t seen anyone in about two weeks. No, Chuck had simply found the head. It was just lying on the ground, totally and utterly disconnected from whatever body it had once belonged. That torso and everything else that came with it was missing, weirdly enough, which only meant they’d be back to reclaim the best part. Chuck had picked up the head, balanced it in his palm, and tried his best to pretend he wasn’t eyeing the scalp and imagining the best route of entry toward whatever type of brain lay inside. He—
“Hey,” shouted a voice from behind. Chuck turned around. A man in tattered robes stood maybe ten yards away, a startlingly amber torch in hand. “Over here.”
Chuck tilted his head and stared at the man. He looked strangely familiar, yet more attractive than any man he’d seen before. Chuck typically found that was not exactly gay. He tended to find women more attractive than men. However, this guy had some sort of allure to him. He just wanted to run over and kiss him, sinking his teeth deep into his flesh and tearing at his skull to get at his—he wanted to kiss him. That’s it. Just kiss.
A second figure appeared behind the first, this one a woman yet just as attractive as the man. Chuck squinted. So maybe he wasn’t becoming a homosexual, but simply a bisexual. It was still a little weird after having been heterosexual his entire life, but he couldn’t ignore the attraction. The survivors had clearly been doing something new to make themselves more alluring. Maybe they had some new fragrance or something.
“Is he still human?” said the woman, staring directly at Chuck. She had a pitch fork in her hand, or at least what looked like a pitch fork. It might have been a trident. He wasn’t exactly sure of the difference.
“Not anymore,” said the man. He seemed to have a bit of grief in his voice, as if Chuck was more than just a stranger to him. The man lifted the torch above his head and waved it. “We’ve got him over here,” he said, almost shouting.
Chuck stared at the two. What did they mean “not anymore?” Of course he was a human. He had two arms, two legs, two heads, and everything else humans had. The second head wasn’t even his. It was someone else’s. Sure, maybe he was slightly more “cannibalistic” than the others, but he certainly wasn’t a inhuman. And yes, maybe he did now walk with a limp and have trouble socializing. So what? Chuck decided it was time to protest, to let them know he was a survivor like they were.
“Mmmmm, uhhggmmm. Mmuhhhgg,” Chuck said. He hadn’t intended to mumble. He’d actually been planning on saying something like, “No, I’m a human. You can put your pitch-tridents away,” or “I’m a human, come on over here unarmed and close your eyes. It’ll be fun.” He’d been having speech issues lately, but that was probably normal.
A third man appeared behind the woman, an old rifle in hand. He aimed it at Chuck. God damn did he look good, that massive head resting on broad shoulders. Chuck just wanted to sink his nails into his skull and tear at the skin, dig until he reached the brain. He just wanted to have a totally normal taste, that’s it.
“Mmmgguuhh,” Chuck said, fully intending to tell the man to lower his weapon and instead come over for a quick hug. He slowly began limping toward the man, his left leg dragging behind him, as a rifle shot pierced both the air and his left lung—just below his heart. He barely felt a thing. The man bent over and cursed, shouting something about a “rifle jam.”
Chuck placed his hand over the wound and lifted it back up to his face. His finger was dry, save for a few splatters of blood from the severed head in his other hand. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t as human as he had thought. Still, was it so wrong for him to want, to crave for a little human touch? To want to rub his nails against their foreheads until their skulls cracked and their exquisite brains seeped out? Chuck continued limping toward the three figures, desert-dry lips threatening to moisten for the first time in weeks. He didn’t even mind that he’d have to share them with the others who were silently limping their way up behind them.
Writing Prompt: A man trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world slowly realizes that he has already become a zombie.