Well Mari, this is what happens when you talk me into something. Don't say I didn't warn you!
'Ma! He's doing it again!'
Maggie sighed and, apologising to the spirits, opened a door in her circle, stepped through and carefully closed it again behind her. Picking up the candle she'd left burning on the dresser, Maggie hurried through the darkened cottage to the kitchen.
Bartholomew stood on his hind legs in his cage on the counter top, nose and whiskers quivering as Maggie snapped on the light and set the candle down on the kitchen table. Bramble sat on the floor staring intently at the mouse in its cage, swishing his tale back and forth and moaning, flexing his claws against the tiles. Mike was over by the sink, giggling.
'See Ma, Bramble's at it again,' Mike slurred.
'Bramble! What have I told you?' Maggie scolded. Bramble turned, fixing her with a pair of milky, dead eyes.
'Yes, you!' she continued. 'Leave that mouse alone. Come on, shift.' She flapped her hands at the cat, who lurched unsteadily to its feet and shuffled stiffly across the floor towards Mike, the tip of his tail hanging at a strange but jaunty angle. Midway across the floor, Bramble's left ear quivered then dropped off onto the tiles.
'Oh not again,' Maggie muttered, hunting through a drawer for the glue.
Bramble let out a low, moaning meow as he approached Mike. Mike grinned a lopsided grin.
'You hear that?' He sounds like me.' Mike stuck his hands out in front of him and shuffled towards the cat. 'M-O-U-S-S-S-S-E,' he moaned, and even Maggie had to smile. It had never crossed her mind when she'd raised Bramble that a zombie cat would retain the instincts it'd had in life.
Mike stooped awkwardly to pick Bramble up and Maggie froze. As he straightened up she released the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding, nothing important had come adrift. While Mike wasn't looking, she poked his eyebrow out of sight under the table with her toe; she'd stick it back on later while he was sleeping.
Seeing the love Mike still had for Bramble brought a lump to Maggie's throat, casting her instantly back to the night of the accident. She'd been driving them back from the vet's after getting Bramble's booster injection when their car had been T-boned by a drunk driver in a horse box. Mike and Bramble had died instantly, yet she'd walked away without a scratch.
It had taken her months to perfect the spell, Bartholomew was proof of her first successful attempt. She preferred not to think about the previous ones, and wouldn't be caught outside after dark for love nor money. Even so, it was neither as simple, nor as quiet a procedure as she'd thought, so Maggie had sold up and moved to the cottage – nothing for miles around in all directions except fields. The perfect place to re-build her family.
She'd done the best she could with Mike, even shopping online for a preparation popular among undertakers, which really did seem to help arrest the decay. It had even seemed to help Mike retain his speech, at least for a few weeks, but recently she'd noticed his vocabulary diminishing and he seemed to be having increasing trouble forming words. Regular baths of strong-smelling herbs helped with the odour, whether Mike enjoyed them or not. The only thing that saddened her was she could do nothing about the ugly gash running across Mike's face, loosening his right eye, which had ended up in his dinner on a few occasions.
Mike seemed happy to be back, though isolated as he was in their new home, he was lonely. When the nightmares had got so bad he'd stumbled into her room and tried to wrench the top of her head off, Maggie had resolved to get him another pet. A zombie mouse was hardly the pet for a growing lad she thought, so Maggie had performed the ritual again to bring back Mike's beloved Bramble.
Seeing Mike cuddling Bramble and tickling him behind his remaining ear had Maggie all misty eyed. She recalled vividly as she dabbed her eyes on her sleeve, their first night together again as a family. A pet-food commercial had played on TV featuring a small boy and his cat. Mike had dissolved into hysterical moaning, which Maggie took for laughter, and when she'd asked him what was so funny, he'd fixed her with his lopsided grin and moaned, 'My cat loves braiinnnsss, and I love my cat.' He'd even emphasised the “t” of cat, just like the little boy in the advert.
* * *
Completing the ritual for the final time, Maggie exhaled slowly as the body of her husband William, dead from leukaemia these past four years, began to twitch within the circle. As she lay down next to him, Maggie prayed this ritual would work. William had been dead longer than anyone, or anything, else she'd raised, and she'd had the devil's own job exhuming his body and driving it to the cottage by herself.
A single tear slid down Maggie's cheek as the spell took the last of her life-force to power William's awakening. It would be okay, it had to be, she thought as her heart finally stuttered and stopped, she'd built into the spell that she would join him, an undead wife to an undead husband, undead mother to an undead son. The spell had been complex to construct, but after all, a growing boy needed both his parents. William's eyes flickered open slowly, his head lolling to the side where Maggie lay entwined in his arm. Recognition seemed to flicker across his face.
'Hello, love,' he moaned softly, planting a passionate, foetid kiss on her lips, his cold, clammy tongue tentatively exploring her mouth. Maggie shuddered with elation – it had worked, it had! Her family was complete again.
We will have to do something about that formaldehyde breath though, Maggie thought as she returned the kiss.
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Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest: Story Title
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