It was starting to get dark--it was nearly Winter Solstice after all, and Meredith flicked on the headlights of her Land Rover, illuminating the narrow road the skirted the few buildings that made up the town of Forest Falls. There was still snow on the ground and the vehicle bounced down the asphalt road from one pothole to the next.
She’d left a note on her iPhone last week, and now Siri was reminding her to stock up on foodstuff tomorrow at the Elkhorn General Store. The chicken, liverwurst sandwiches and thermos of coffee she’d packed would do for dinner tonight, but Meredith didn't want to be snowed in without supplies. Meredith had her injection last week and an EpiPen that promised to be reliable in case of emergencies, in her handbag.
Beside her in the seat, Gertie sat upright, twitching her nose, unconcerned inside the protection of her metal carrier. Meredith pushed a gloved finger through the wire mesh to adjust the water bottle. She’d heard one of the other patients in the doctor’s office (yes, she had discovered she was part of a subculture) talking about having her pet ‘turned’. Glancing at the cute, pouchy-cheeked Teddy Bear hamster, Meredith shivered at the very thought or ‘turning’ her pet. Gertie was Gertie, alive, messy, and happy. Meredith still hadn’t adjusted to her new reanimated life; how could anyone even consider doing such a thing to a pet?
“It's just you and me, Gertie,” she said.
She let out a sigh when the cabin came into view. She had been behind the wheel for almost two hours. Outside of bringing in her luggage and getting Gertie settled in, she wasn't planning to do anything else tonight.
Shoving aside memories that crowded to the front of her mind, Meredith focused on matters at hand.
The cabin boasted two bedrooms and small loft that served as her office, living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom.
At least, she wouldn't be cramped during her stay, and of course, there was always the scenic outdoors when she wanted a change of pace. Her editor gave her a February 12 deadline for her novel. Two days before Valentine’s Day but also the anniversary date of the 1931 Universal Pictures classic movie, “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi (Meredith couldn’t help but notice the irony).
After the book was finished, she'd started looking around for a new place. Somewhere away from Los Angeles where there were just too many memories. San Diego or La Jolla, without excessive amounts of rain or extreme heat, with just enough cloud cover for her piece of mind. For now, this place would do nicely.
She didn't tell Pippa about putting the Ganesha Hills house up for sale. She knew that her big sister only wanted what was good for her. Meredith wasn’t confident she even knew what was good for her right now.
It would have been Pippa’s cue to start wondering if the divorce was such a great idea. She’d voice her opinion that maybe there was a chance Meredith could reconcile with Viktor. It just wasn't something Meredith wanted to hear, or even consider. If pressed, Meredith was afraid she might break down and tell her sister everything.
Inside the cabin, she pulled the sheets from furniture, folded them and shoved them on the closet shelf. Then, out of habit, she grabbed a pressed log and electronic log lighter to a fire started in the large stone fireplace. Gertie, released from the confines of the carrying cage after the long drive, was inside her exercise ball rolling manically around the wooden floor of the dining room.
Reaching for her iPhone, Meredith pressed the food diary app. After the tofu incident, she devotedly logged in all her meals. Adding 6 ounces of chicken and 4 ounces of liverwurst to the protein section and two slices of whole-grain bread under carbs, she eyed the other columns. Fruit and vegetables were foods she consumed only by accident. While water and coffee were a must! (Water and shark cartilage capsules kept her hydrated and her joints and bones together (literally); coffee, under no circumstances, undead or vegan, could she function without).
Meredith snagged a slice of roasted chicken and gnawed off a chunk. Since she still considered herself a vegan, it was a blessing that she could barely taste it. Much like Thanksgiving dinner at Pippa’s house, the flavors of food and drink were like a distant memory from childhood, faded and fuzzy around the edges. Meredith could recall just enough pleasure from the act of eating to remind her, of how much she missed it. After blotting her lips with a napkin, she poured her coffee into a mug, and headed for the bathroom.
Water is the enemy for a zombie’s skin. Meredith discovered on an above ground (yes, a play-on-words) weblog with surprisingly helpful information (password-protected login, of course). Cold cream-Shea butter-horse hoof cream combo, titled phantasm-cream, that kept her sweet smelling and her skin supple. Slathering the cream on from head to toe, she waited for about fifteen minutes for her skin to suck in the moisture. Slipping on a pair of latex gloves, Meredith leaned over the basin to shampoo her hair.
Bathroom ritual complete, she put on her favorite pajamas and slippers and placed Gertie in her large cage during the night. While zombies, as a rule don’t require a great deal of sleep, Meredith found, (pardon the pun) she slept like the dead.
Before turning in, she crawled onto the couch to enjoy the crackling fire and the sense of comfort it provided. Enveloped in the memories of less complicated times, she fell asleep.
She awoke, confused, and terrified, the sound of the front door opening. Grabbing a poker, she staggered to her feet just in time to see…
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