Skip to content

Use Only as Directed

by Alexander Feinstein

The whole dumb thing began when this lumbering loser on our block bit Dad and then Dad bit Mom and then Mom bit Sis and then they all bit each other before they tried to bite me in what I guessed was some kind of wretched stab at making us one big, happy, undead family, but for weeks I ducked and dodged their staggering advances, barricaded myself in my room at night to eat frozen pizza and cram for the SATs and play video games and just go about living my warm-blooded life with the rotting three of them as decently as I could until they devoured Danny, my best friend—pulled him right apart like a roasted chicken when he’d come over to hang out after school and was cornered while I was busy microwaving popcorn with my headphones on—and I thought, OK, that does it, that’s the last fucking straw, and for the first time I really wanted my family dead, but I mean deader than the dead, deader than the dead they already were, and that’s when I remembered the prescription drug my dad had told us about over dinner one night, how he said the doctors and researchers thought they were getting a little closer to a vaccine, a cure, and so I ransacked Dad’s office, went through every desk drawer, until I found a stash, a handful of bottles labeled Zombilox, because Dad was a salesman, you see, for one of those big pharma companies rushing all kinds of clinical trials for the fast-spreading, flesh-eating mess the world was in, and even though the pills, which looked a lot like red Skittles, weren’t yet FDA approved, and the small print on the bottles said “Use Only As Directed,” with no directions at all, I started sneaking them anyway into the putrid human parts my parents and sister carried home, because what did I have to lose, and for a short while I thought the drug was working, was maybe bringing my family a little back to normal (if they were really ever normal to begin with), but then some nasty side effects kicked in, like vomiting and rash and hives and itching and swelling and shortness of breath and decreased appetite (a good thing in a lot of ways) and fatigue (also a good thing since it slowed them down even slower than before), and then, after a couple of weeks, the pills were gone, all used up, and without Zombilox my mother and father and sister quickly relapsed to their former ravenous way of being, and while I’d hoped the drug might save them and return us to the dysfunctional unit we used to be, I made some kind of peace with everything and at last I was able to set my anger aside, push it way down, because I realized that family is family, undead or alive, no matter what the gruesome circumstances, and so one night, exhausted, wrung-out, with nothing left, I surrendered, dropped to my knees and watched Mom and Dad and Sis rise slack-jawed and drooling off the couch and shamble toward me as I smiled through my tears and opened my arms to them and said, “I’m your son, your brother, and I love you all, so please, I’m begging, let’s make this fast.”

Alexander Feinstein‘s stories have appeared in The Quarterly and The Write Room. He is a private investigator living in Brooklyn with his wife and furniture.

Lead image: “Zombie Family Car Rear Window Stickers” (via Flickr user Mike Mozart)