The image of the zombie kept playing in John’s mind as he rode quietly through the desert. He had figured that perhaps he was just destined to walk the desert and die. But deal with zombies? That was something he had no experience nor care for. Or maybe if the world had really ended, did that allow the dead to rise again since there was no more life? If so, then why was John alive? Or was he alive?
John shook his head. He needed to rid his thoughts and keep a clear mind.
“These thoughts are like poison,” he said. “They’re going to eat me alive. Or make me find a way to kill myself.”
Mystery stopped walking. The horse arched its back and tossed John to the hot ground. John stood up and brushed himself off. He looked at the horse and swore the horse was making a mean face.
“You don’t want me dead, huh?”
Mystery shook its head.
“Well, am I alive or dead?”
“What does a blink mean? Okay, let’s try again. Am I alive?”
Mystery shook its head.
John’s heart sank.
Wait a minute, he thought. My heart.
John pulled his shirt up and placed his hand against his chest. He could feel it – a heartbeat. A real heartbeat.
“How can I have a heart beat?” John yelled.
Mystery rolled its eyes.
“A horse rolling its eyes at me?” John sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m not yelling at you. I’m just confused.”
Mystery nodded its head.
“Okay then, I’m not alive. Am I dead then?”
Mystery shook its head with vigor.
“I’m not dead. I’m not alive. What am I?”
John couldn’t be sure but he thought he saw the horse shrug its shoulders. It look so real (and weird) that John wiped his face and then reach for his pouch full of tobacco.
“You’re something Mystery, you know that?” he said in gurgled voice as he spat. “I guess we’re stuck together. Don’t worry, I won’t kill myself. That was just a dumb thought. I’d really like to find more of those zombies and see what they are all about. Do you think they are real people, I mean, people like me? Or creatures from somewhere else.”
The horse just stared at John and blinked.
“I know, you don’t have all the answers. Don’t mind me, I like to talk. Do you like to listen?”
“Good. We make a great team then.”
John spat again and then looked out the vast, empty desert. The illusion of desert and sky seemed to always mix. It almost felt like John was in a dome. Maybe a giant desert version of a snowglobe. That thought should have scared him but it actually gave him a little hope. If he was able to ride in one direction and find an end to the desert, even if it was glass (even it meant he was stuck forever in a glass, desert dome to be attacked by zombies), he would still feel a little better than having everything be a hot mystery.
“I don’t know about you Mystery, but I’m hungry. I need a full belly and a nap if I’m going to figure any of this out. How about you?”
“Too bad there isn’t any food though. . .” John’s voice trailed off. He hadn’t thought about that yet. He had a heartbeat. He a rumbling stomach. If he wasn’t alive, he sure as hell felt like it. And how long could he survive without food? And if he were inbetween life and death, would he need to eat? Or would he just have his stomach distracting him, begging for food?
Mystery began to neigh. So loud that it broke up John’s thoughts.
Mystery moved its head up and down fast. John turned around. Less than twenty yards away was a bar. Neon signs suggesting beer and burgers. A banner that claimed “best fries in what’s left of the world!”.
“That wasn’t there a second ago was it?” John asked.
He didn’t turn around to see Mystery shaking its head “no”.