Chapter 9

The Good Parts

BY LES DANIELS

In life, he had been huge but hardly menacing; his four hundred and eighty-three pounds had been all fat and no muscle. It had actually been hard for him to move.

But now it was hard for almost everyone to move. Their muscles, their tendons, their bones, all were soft as slime, soft as rot, soft as his.

But he was bigger.

Instead of hunting with the pack he hunted behind it, waiting till they brought a victim down and only then moving in to help with the kill. The others in the pack never seemed to notice what he did, never fought against him as he shouldered them aside with his bloated bulk. They only had eyes for the meat, and they fell where they were pushed when he leaned down into the crimson trough and went for the good parts.

If there was any thought at all left in his jellied brain, it would have been expressed in those three words: the good parts.

He had always liked the good parts, even when he was alive. He had liked them in his books and he had read them over and over again, marking the margins in red so they would be easier to find next time. And he had liked them in his movies. Actually he never went to the movies (the seats were too small), but that didn't matter since he had his VCR. He could sit in the dark and watch the good parts over and over again. Forward and back, forward and back. In and out. Up and down. And while he watched, he ate.

He had books like High School Gym Orgyand Hitchhiking Harlots, he had films like Romancing the Boneand Debbie Does Dallas, and he had magazines like Eager Beaversand Hot to Trot. In a way the magazines were the best: if he found one with the right kind of pictures, there was nothing in it but good parts.

But all that had been back in the days before civilization had collapsed, before the dead had risen to devour the living. Now he was even better off. Once he had only stared at the good parts and stuffed himself, but now he had achieved his destiny. He was eating the good parts.

He didn't realize how safe he was; he didn't understand that being big and slow kept him out of the firefights till they were over and the living ones were down. The good parts were hard to reach, but that was lucky too: the quickest hunters were still pulling at extremities, arms and legs and heads, when he lumbered up and bulldozed his way toward the good parts. Sometimes he had to settle for a breast or a buttock, but most of the time he got what he really wanted. His favorite food tasted like a fish and cheese casserole basted with piss: no one had time to take a bath.

His yellow teeth were matted with pubic hair and mucous membrane; he never brushed.

He might have been a sexist when he was alive, but all that was behind him now. Anybody's good parts were his meat.

He was a virgin.

There wasn't much to do but eat and look for more to eat. One day he lurched into the Naughty Nite Bookstore, and he almost remembered it. A few of the usual crowd were there, bumping into the walls and moaning with dismay because no food was in the place. They left, but he lingered. He picked up a magazine called Ballin'. He couldn't read the title, but he could see the pictures, and he was still looking at them when he walked out of the store and found himself in a small apartment in the back. The couch looked cozy. He sat down on it for a few minutes to look at his magazine, and then went out to look for food, but later he came back again. He had to go somewhere.

He had a home.

Once in a while some of his friends followed him home (they had to go somewhere too), but after milling around for a few minutes they decided that nothing was happening there and went away. Nobody understood him.

A meat shortage developed. Sometimes it hardly seemed worth getting up. He had quite a collection of magazines after a few months, and he was losing his teeth. Some of his fingers fell off.

Still, a guy's gotta eat, so sometimes he would haul himself up and look for lunch. Everyone he saw on the street looked sad. The city echoed with their howls. Some tried munching on each other, but the meat was rotten and the trend never caught on.

One day a female followed him home. He might have looked like he knew something, and he certainly looked well fed. In fact, he was a mountain of maggots, and he let her eat some. It was better than nothing.

Her clothes had rotted clean away, and he noticed that he could see her good parts. She looked like a picture in a magazine. Well, close enough. Some instincts never die.

He had an inspiration, and then he had a wife.

She didn't seem to mind. When he pulled away from her, vaguely confused, he left his penis inside of her. He never really missed it. It was too far gone to eat in any case.

After that they hunted together. The pickings were slim. Once he got a few bites out of a leg, which wasn't what he felt like having that night, but it was better than nothing. He didn't notice that she was getting fatter even though they hardly ever ate.

One day she took him to the Stop 'n' Shop, a place she knew almost as well as he knew the Naughty Nite Bookstore. She showed him how a can opener worked. He wasn't really interested, and he didn't care much for the food, but she was wolfing it down as if it still was hot and fresh.

Of course he didn't know that he would be a father soon.

After all, who knew what a zombie could do?

The human scientists who studied them had other things to think about than the possibility of zombie sex. The zombies seemed to be too busy working on oral gratification for anyone to worry about their genitals. Nobody had their minds in the gutter anymore; they had their bodies there instead.

But the female was pregnant. She was expecting. She was what used to be called full of life. And you know it could have happened, because it did.

The female began making regular trips to the Stop 'n' Shop, coming back home with all the cans that she could carry. He didn't get the point, but he began to go along to help her. It was something to do.

Their friends thought they were crazy.

Actually, they didn't see that much of their friends anymore. A lot of them were falling apart, especially the skinny ones. Decay was in the air. Parts of bodies lay in the streets. Some were moving and some were not. Being fat became suddenly fashionable: it made it easier to stay in one piece. Bulk was beautiful.

When the day finally came, the birth was unorthodox. The baby simply crawled out through its mother's bloated belly, and after that the female had trouble getting around. In fact, she came apart at the waist, and she would have died if she had been alive. He propped her top half up in a closet and gave it food from time to time, but it lost interest and disintegrated.

The child was a girl, and it was human.

When he first realized that, he almost took a big bite out of her, but suddenly he noticed that something was wrong. Her good parts weren't really good enough to eat yet. She wasn't ripe.

It was tempting, no doubt of that, but for all he knew this was the last fresh food that he would ever see. He wanted to wait. He wanted to care for her. He wanted the perfect banquet for his last meal. Not only would she be riper, but she'd be bigger, too. He might even invite some people over for a party.

They didn't wait for invitations. Only a few days later, while he was stuffing some concentrated chicken noodle soup into his daughter's little pink mouth with some of his stumps, he heard the old gang shuffling through the bookstore, their voices rising in a ravenous chorale. It was just like them to spoil his surprise.

He was protective of his only child, and he was still the biggest man in town. He shut the door that led into their little home and leaned his massive bulk against it. Of course the zombies tried to break it down, but most of them broke up instead. Their arms and legs snapped like spaghetti strands. Some of them crawled away as best they could, and some of them didn't even bother, but none of them got in. They just rotted and liquified and merged with the floorboards of the Naughty Nite Bookstore.

The little girl was fine. She grew stronger as the days and weeks and months sped past, and it was just as well she did, because her father was growing steadily weaker. Pages fell from the calendar, and pieces fell from him. He was still waiting, but the truth was that he had waited for too long. Now she was the one who opened up the cans and gave the food to him. His teeth were gone, and in fact there wasn't much left of his mouth, but she cheerfully packed what she could into his dripping, reeking, gaping maw. He couldn't move. He was trapped on the couch, a festering mountain of pus, and after dinner she would climb into his lap and turn the pages of his favorite magazines so they could enjoy them together. She liked the funny pictures, and they were pink the way she was.

Daddy was gray and green.

We can't go on like this, he would have said, but he couldn't speak, and he couldn't think much either. Of course that was nothing new, but he sensed dimly that things were getting out of hand when she perched on his knee one night and sank into it up to her armpits. She laughed and clapped her hands at Daddy's little joke, and in response he gave a sort of sigh, but that was about it.

The next morning, when she woke up, Daddy had soaked through the couch and spilled onto the carpet. At first she thought he might be kidding, but a few days later she decided she would have to face the facts. She'd been wondering about him for some time, but now there could be no doubt in her mind.

Daddy was history.

She stuck around for a while just to make sure, noticed that her supply of food was running low, cried for a few minutes, and then toddled toward the door. Armed only with her can opener, she went forth naked into the world.

There were some bones and puddles lying around, but nothing moved. She would survive, and perhaps she would find others like her, new humans born of dead desire. They might be living near a porn store, where only the will was wanted. There might even be, in time, an outbreak of new life.

She had seen her father's books, and she knew what to do with the good parts.

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