By Bron Treanor
By the time people begin to wash onto shore, I tell myself they are too rotten to eat. The first one—a young blonde with an old man’s name: Abner, Elmer, Bertrum—appeared just yesterday. Crumpled, and broken in a lot of places, still wrapped in the giant Barry Manilow tee shirt he was wearing on the cruise. I had looked at his face for a long moment before I plucked the tiny crabs from his wounds and ate them whole. A shard of shell cut my lip.
Now, I shiver and hug Barry Manilow around my knees. It’s cold as fuck and foggy. My lip is infected. No tropical day. No white sand. No coconuts clumping to the ground in the middle of the night. No water. This fucking island is fucking rocks. Crabs everywhere, cold salt, grey skies, grey rocks. Fuck.
I am trying to ignore the new body by my feet.
I recognize her hair. Mermaid hair. Long, dark, tight curls. It’s the college professor I met at dinner. Cracking against the shore in front of me. Clumping. Clump. Clump Clump. I should bend down and pull her in. By her hair, I guess. She might have something that I need: a backpack with bottled water, a pencil to write with, Tums, a survival tent with a military radio and a non-dead, non-infected person from the mainland who knows how to operate it. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The college professor had eaten only a tiny bit of the bread and fish at the dinner on the cruise. Then she sat and stared at her plate with a funny, little smile on her face. I think I remember her because she was the only person who had anything interesting to say.
“Storm’s coming,” she’d said, and picked up her glass of boxed wine. I nodded.
“You want to hear something interesting?”
“The night before I came on this wack-a-doodle cruise, I found a nest of cockroaches in my old band clarinet.”
She shook her head. “A nest of them. Little whitish babies, big shiny adults. Every stage in between. All alive and kicking.”
“I put the whole lot of it out in the snow.”
“Did that kill the cockroaches?”
She shrugged and went back to not eating her portion of dinner.
I put my hands over my ears so I don’t have to hear her body against the rocks, and I groan into Barry Manilow. I’m hungry. My mouth waters. The saliva stings my infected lip. So I stand up and stare at my feet. There is blood between the toes because of the goddammed rocks, but I climb slowly to the other side anyway. No bodies on this side anymore. Abner or Elmer has washed away or sunk. Or sharks got at him, maybe. I squint into the fog. I can’t see the boat. I can’t see any land, but even if I could, there wouldn’t be anything better to swim towards. A mainland all dead from disease, a boat full of people who poisoned themselves to escape it, a slash-toothed death from the deep if I’m lucky. Why not, though? I came out of this cruise to die, didn’t I?
Changed my mind, I guess. I try not to think of the college professor. I plug my ears and bite my weeping lips. I am hungry.
I am drifting, the grey fog is drifting by. I don’t know how long it’s been. I am wrapped in the shreds of the college professor’s dress, wrapped in the tatters of Barry Manilow. Trying to live when I came out here to die, how dumb. We were on that shitty boat because the world had ended anyway, weren’t we? Taking our destiny into our own hands, right? Dinner Cruise for Christ, oh my god, that’s what they had called it. One last joke. Why not. I thought it was funny and morbid, but now it just seems so dumb.
The bread, poisoned; the fish, poisoned; the shitty boxed wine—rosé, not even red—poison. I thought it was funny. I mean, the symbolism—loaves and fishes, the rosé of Christ—it wasn’t well thought out, but they were so serious, drinking out of their glasses, reverently with both hands, eyes squeezed shut.
It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. I couldn’t eat it, couldn’t drink the wine. The professor and I held hands as the boat crashed into the island after everyone died from their bread and fish.
I’m laughing now, and it hurts my face, makes me feel like I am going to split open like a rotten melon, but it’s so funny because I closed my eyes when I pulled her towards me and I held my breath when I stripped her dress off and I cried when I ate all the crabs that were feasting around her body. And I am laughing now because the crabs made me hungrier, the contents of their cold, little stomachs made me hungrier too, and I’m laughing because I am a cannibal, one step removed. A zombie one step removed.
I kept pushing her body away from the rocks with my foot, but she keeps washing back. And so now I’m hiding from her body on the other side of the island. I don’t want to be like the people on the mainland. Cannibals. Weird zombie diseases. End of the world shit. That’s why I came out here, isn’t it? On this Dinner Cruise for Christ with a bunch of idiots that didn’t want to be cannibals or zombies. Eat of the flesh, drink from the blood, rise from the dead. They were cannibals worshiping a zombie. And I came out here to die with them as a joke?
Changed my mind, I guess, didn’t I?