When the deer bites the sister, there’s no blood. The sister’s hand was past the fence, and the deer was curious, or perhaps unhappy. There’s no telling with deer. The issue of disease arises. Deer can become zombies. It’s scientific. The prions enter the bloodstream. The proteins fold abnormally. The deer was behind a fence. It will be dinner soon.
The charts are checked. The country is devoid of zombie cases, or chronic wasting disease, as it’s really called. Never has a deer turned zombie in these parts, the man who owns the deer says. The disease isn’t transmittable to humans, the other sister reads from the internet. The parents study the databases and come up with nothing. The family goes home. The wound closes.
There is no telling how long someone could have the disease before their proteins go awry. It could be weeks. It could be years. The sister’s scar fades. The deer stands in the pasture for months. No one else attempts to pet it. Eventually, it becomes stew.
It happens slowly. At first the sister loses weight. Then she stops eating. The usual things are suspected, but nothing comes of it. There is nothing left of the scar. The sister’s parents take her to the doctor. Medically, she is fine, the doctor says, and the parents nod wisely.
The sister knows there is something wrong. She begins to forget things. Her siblings show her photos from their photo albums. We went here, they say, and here, and here. We climbed this mountain, the three of us. We raced to the top.
The sister does not remember the mountains. The sister only remembers the deer on the other side of the fence. She wonders if it infected its friends, stuck in the fence with it, waiting to become soup, if it was even sick at all. The sister walks around the house, climbing imaginary mountains, trying to win races against no one. The sister takes a microscope and examines her blood. She asks herself if the proteins are twisted. She asks herself if she is twisted. She can’t stop trembling.
The sister watches zombie movies to pass the time, watches the undead stumble in the snow. They’re always together, zombies. They go in packs. One infects the other, so that they don’t have to go on alone. They don’t do it on purpose, she thinks. It just happens. The sister begins to think of leaving. She knows that soon she will step out the door never to return. She doesn’t do it yet. She waits.
When the siblings begin to forget, begin to tremble, begin to ask, again and again, the sister is not surprised. There is nothing the parents can do but watch as the three of them stumble, leaning one against the other for support. They leave the house behind, become a herd, a pack, losing themselves to the wilderness.
Noa Covo‘s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Passages North, Blue Earth Review, and Jellyfish Review. Her micro-chapbook, Bouquet of Fears, was published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press. She can be found on Twitter @covo_noa.
Lead image: “golden eye” (via Flickr user Chris McInnis)