By Jon Ingoldby
We had only been seeing each other for a couple of months when the question came.
‘Do you believe in zombies?’
Startled, as we had been playing Scrabble and drinking white wine at the time, I said, ‘Zombies?’
‘The living dead.’
Unwisely, not knowing, I laughed. ‘No such thing.’
‘There is. Want to meet one?’
We got into a car, and drove through the dark, and parked and walked into a brightly-lit atrium, then into a lift, and up, up, two floors, three, and at four we got out and walked into a long room with smaller rooms to each side, and then the room opened out, like a ‘T’, and on one side were women in beds, and on the other men.
I was led to the bedside of a man who was quite still, but his eyes were open. He turned his head at our approach, and I saw those eyes were wild, here-and-not-here, afraid and angry at the same time.
Then he began to shout, and wriggle and pull tubes from his body. Once a man, now a child again. People came, and we were gently ushered away.
In the car I was told: ‘He’s my dad. He circumnavigated the globe single-handed when he was fifty. He had two children, one of them being me. He built boats, sold them all over the world. Luxury, bespoke. He was a kind man. Gentle. Great skill in his hands, great mind. Visions, hopes, realisations. Bit of a temper sometimes. I loved him.’
‘You still do.’
‘No, I don’t. I hate him. For being dead and haunting me.’
We never had another date. I ran scared. And I regretted my cowardice for a long time.