Dave sighed, or at least attempted to sigh. In his mind, that was exactly what he’d done: exhaled heavily, air forcing out of his mouth while his body hunched over slightly. Yet, in reality, his torso remained steady and his mouth remained as open as always. His breathing, although purely habitual at this point, made no actual effort at expelling oxygen at any increased rate whatsoever.
Dave no longer had any physical control over his actions, no more ability to manipulate his muscles than he could tell the future. He was trapped inside a shell of himself, simply along for the ride while some other being controlled his actions and killed for nourishment. And he was okay with that, he’d come to terms with it. Sure, there were a few weeks where it was rather testing to be trapped in the body of a carnivorous, murdering monster, but—as his mother always said—time healed all wounds.
“Ughnnm,” Dave’s body groaned, limping forward, eyes locked on the contorted face of a thin, frightened female. She was trapped in the back of an alley, her pale, dirty skin sun-stained and bruised, hands clutched around the handle of a blood-soaked aluminum baseball bat.
Dave had been hit by countless bats since he’d lost control, punched by so many flailing arms as his own dug into their owner’s entrails. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t retained all of the other sense a normal, living human had. Pain, taste, smell, vision—everything was the same, minus the whole “controlling his own actions” aspect. He could feel each wound, feel the smack of the bullets into his fetid, necrotic skin. He could smell the stench of the decaying bodies that absolutely littered the city he’d grown up in. He could clearly see the victims while his uncontrolled body, whom he’d given the name Carl to distance himself from its horrid actions, drained their lives to continue his own.
“Please,” whimpered the woman, her voice triggering a completely unrelated thought of Dave’s first job just three years earlier. He’d been a database engineer at a start-up a few blocks south of Times Square, spending his days pretending he knew what he was doing. In fact, Dave had no reason to be working in that position. His abilities with computers were limited to turning them on and searching the internet for niche pornography. Yet, for whatever reason, they called him back for a second interview, in which they asked him not a single question related to databases or computers, and then hired him on the spot. He remained there for three months before the start-up failed, no one once even questioning his complete and utter lack of credentials.
“Blurrgh,” Carl said, Dave continuing to stare at the woman’s face. She looked familiar, now that he really took in her features. The blue eyes, the slightly crooked nose, the blonde hair: he’d known her. That explained why he’d thought of the job. She was there. She was the interviewer. Oh, what a coincidence. What was her name? Sandy? No, Susan. Definitely Susan. He hoped she was well, although she didn’t exactly seem it. Had Dave been able to control his actions, he knew for sure he’d be half-way through his own interview of her by now—how she’d been, what she’d been up to, whether or not she was single. All the basics of a fine, mentally-stimulating conversation. Instead, Carl continued to moan.
“Help!” Susan shrieked, her voice cracking and echoing through the dark alley. Boy, she really didn’t look as good as when he’d last seen her. She was actually quite attractive back then, her hair way more primped and her face caked—smartly—in makeup. She still looked good, but certainly a bit more distraught and aged. Definitely not as well-kept, which was rather typical for folks living in the post-apocalyptic, undead world they now shared.
To be fair, Dave wasn’t exactly looking his best either. While he hadn’t seen his reflection since Carl had wandered past one of the rare, unbroken store windows about a week prior, he assumed his looks hadn’t changed much. His mouth had hung open then, his lower lip peeling off and exposing the remainder of his jaw. His left arm was scabbed severely, the skin red and broken. His shirt, once a spotless, white button down, was now absolutely caked with dirt and blood—most of which was not his own. Then there was his hair, which was now the opposite of styled—in that his scalp was mostly gone, with his skull and brain exposed instead. No, he probably didn’t have any merit for his judgment of Susan’s looks.
“Eeeeaggh,” Carl moaned, bending down toward Susan and taking a direct hit to the face from her aluminum bat. He stumbled slightly, then lunged at her. She clearly had no memory of him, couldn’t recall that they’d interviewed together once, otherwise she probably would not have hit him. If he could just remind her, maybe things would be different. Dave tried to mouth the words, contort his lips in a Hey, you once gave me a job at that start-up a few years back. Do you want to get dinner some time? And by dinner, I don’t mean human flesh? It was no use. Carl was in control, he was the one leading the actions.
Dave stared at Susan, hoping she might recognize him, might see some sort of familiarity in his face, as Carl dug his hands into her chest, ripping at her intestines and tossing them aside. Instead, she only stared back in horror, her eyes wide as her voice faded from a scream to a whimper. Dave again attempted to sigh, his mind going through the motions of what a typical exasperated exhale would be, but knew Carl was too busy stuffing his face with former coworker to even consider the idea of letting Dave win for once.