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Art by Cesar Toscano

Dead Folks Talkin'

Imani Wagner

    At the front of the classroom is a teacher’s desk. It’s very large and tan like the desks meant for the students. Behind the teacher's desk is a black leather chair. There’s a huge white board on the wall behind it with the words, “GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS,” written in black marker. There are more large windows opposite the ones connected to the hallway, which look out onto the baseball field. Someone I know is standing at one of the windows, staring at all the walking dead folks in the field. Luca.

    I turn the doorknob of the classroom and walk inside, to meet my friend at the window. He’s wearing a tattered red hoodie. His blue jeans only have one full leg, and the other has been torn off right below the knee. There is dried blood and dirt on his pants leg. The blood on his hoodie almost blends in with the redness of it. I walk up close to him and put my shoulder up against his. Immediately, I can hear what he’s thinking, always.

“Why are you standing here,” I asked him through my thoughts. 

“There is literally nothing else for me to do.” We both laugh a little. It is a throaty, deep sounding, and heavy chuckle. It is the only laugh any of us have, and it is ugly as fuck. 

    I look up at him, as he towers over me. Even when we were alive, he was tall. We’ve both shrunk just a little since death, but he remains the taller one. “When was the last time you’ve eaten?” 

    He looks down at me, and closes his eyes to recall the last moment he fed. In his mind, I can see his last kill. He’s playing it out for me in his head like a movie. His visions after death have this yellow hue to them. Everything dead folks see has that yellow hue. All the visions we share from before have color. He shows me a woman with bright hair and skin, dark and hollow looking eyes, surely from the stress of trying to outlive the dead for the past decade. I can see his face getting closer to her and eventually there's blood all over her and a chunk of her left shoulder missing. She’s stopped screaming and begins to doze off until she’s completely blacked out. We like to call it the death wish, because it's what anyone would wish for if they were being eaten alive, to pass out in hopes of not feeling the rest of you get eaten. It’s what each one of us wished for when we were being killed.

    He opens his eyes, “She wasn’t that good, pretty sure she turned into one of us, because I didn’t finish her,” he thinks. “That was about three days ago.”

    “It’s been almost a week for me, so I need to eat again.” I turn around to the door, and make my way into the hall. Luca follows behind me, dragging his feet along the ground. We walk through to the end of the hall and open a heavy black door, which leads us to a stairwell with windows along the walls. The sunlight shines through, lighting up the deep brown steps. We walk two flights down and are met with another black door, but this one has a long window along the door's hinges. Through the window I can see the parking lot of the school.

Luca walks up close next to me and puts his shoulder up against mine, letting me into his head again, “let me walk in front, I still have both eyes.”

    I huff with as much air as I can muster in these dried out lungs, pretend to flip my hair over my shoulder, and push the door open. We walk out onto the hot pavement of the parking lot. The sun is bright and burning the damn flesh right off of my bones, or at least that’s what I think it feels like. It should be uncomfortable, but things like this make me feel alive. My decaying nerves still allow me to feel, but just not how things used to feel. No pain, no pleasure, just an awareness over the surface of my skin.

We head towards the opening of the parking lot, which takes us onto the sidewalk and the street. We walk shoulder to shoulder, so that we can still communicate on our hunt. “Some have come with us,” Luca thinks. I turn my head to look behind me, slowly, to see that there are about ten to fifteen other dead ones following us. Neither me nor Luca complain. The more of us the better.

Imani was born and raised on the west side of Chicago by a huge family. She is an Alumna of Columbia College Chicago, and graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing. Imani has always had an interest in storytelling, and later discovered a passion for literature and writing. In elementary school and high school Imani had two teachers who pushed her to pursue her love of writing. They encouraged her dreams of one day publishing her own novels. One quote that inspires Imani is “Every story I create, creates me, I write to create myself,” by Octavia Butler.

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