Case File: Zelda Romero


I want to be upfront about something: I run a respectable upstanding business. My mortuary is fully licensed, bonded, and insured. That said, the supernatural aspect of my industry requires some... shady transactions on occasion. The existence of monsters is still not ready for public consumption, so many of my clients demand secrecy. Especially those that experience a sudden and unexpected bout with the supernatural.

Because of this you'd be surprised how often I get walk-ins with a dead body all ready to go. I once had one such gentleman pull up in front of the mortuary and park directly in the middle of the fire lane. 

I was in my office when the screech of his tires first drew my attention. I then looked up and saw him speeding through the parking lot. By the time I stepped outside to confront him he was already getting out of his car.

“Sorry, sir,” I said as I approached. “You can’t park here.”

Of course, he was some kind of college bro wearing shades and a tank top.

“Okay,” he said as he came around the back of the car. “I’ll move it as soon as I unload her.”

I had to step up and stop him. “Unload who?”

“My girlfriend Zelda Romero. She’s dead in the trunk.”

And there was red flag number one. 

“Whoa. Hold on a minute. I run a funeral home. Not the county morgue. You need to call the police.”

He shook his head so fast the sunglasses almost fell off, and I didn’t need to see his eyes to read the fear in his face. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Something…happened to her. And I heard you were the guy to talk to about this stuff.”

I took a slow, deep breath and actually felt kind of bad for the guy. This sort of stuff happens more than you think. I run a business, though, and can’t be helping out every sob, tragic story that comes my way.

“I’m sorry. But what exactly would you like me to do?”

He stood tall, fighting to push down the anxiety and stress clearly weighing heavy on his sweaty shoulders. “I want her to have a funeral. A real one. I’ll pay you. Whatever it costs. I just…don’t know what else to do.”

As I said, this wasn’t the first time a customer wanted me to take pity on them and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Normally, it was easy to tell monsters to get lost. I wasn’t operating a charity here. But humans managed to pull on my heartstrings in a way other creatures couldn’t. Mainly because this wasn’t their world. The majority of them fell into the supernatural by accident, which caused me to feel sorry for them.

“Fine,” I sighed. “Let’s have a look at her.”

The guy managed to crack a relieved smile as he popped open the trunk. I stepped up to look inside and nearly lost my lunch. His girlfriend looked like she died a week ago and smelt like it too. Her ghostly pale skin was molted and flaky. Not to mention the gigantic, puss-oozing gash in her head.

It was at this point I met red flag number two.

“Oh no,” I said backing away. “I don’t do zombies.”

Confused and dejected, the boyfriend’s jaw dropped open. “What? Why not?”

“I specialize in dead things. Zombies are very specifically undead. Not my field of expertise.”

He still didn’t understand, just kept gesturing at the rotting corpse in his trunk. “But she’s dead. Look at her.”

“Zombies are never dead. They’re just napping.”

“No. Seriously. I hit her in the head with my Louisville Slugger. Brain damage, right? That’s how you kill a zombie?”

He wasn’t exactly wrong. That was one of the few supernatural clichés movies actually got right.

Still, I cringed. “In theory…”

“Then the danger’s over,” he said, full of hope.

I leaned forward—very, very carefully—for a closer look at where the boyfriend played home run derby on her skull. He definitely made good contact. The wound was especially juicy with brain matter. I couldn’t exactly check the girl’s pulse, though. Zombies didn’t have a heartbeat. Or breathe. Or look remotely alive. But there didn’t appear to be any activity. She looked about as corpse-like as a corpse could get.

I stood up and shook my head at the bad decision I was about to make. “I know I’m going to regret this.”

College bro, whose named turned out to be George, pumped his fists as I went back inside to get a gurney. He was kind enough to help me load Zelda’s cold body on top of it, leaking brains and all.

“So what turned her into a brain eater?” I asked as we wheeled her inside.

His face twisted in complete confusion. “Huh?”

“Was it natural or magical?”

The expression remained as he shrugged. “There’s a difference?”

“Of course there’s a difference. Haven’t you ever watched a—?” I had to break with a sigh. It was either that or get a headache. “If it’s natural like a virus then you should probably find a new place to live. But if it’s magical—like, say a curse—then I have some incense I bought off a Haitian witch doctor that should do the trick.”

George shrugged again. “I’m not sure. I think she ate some bad pork.”

And finally, we encountered red flag number three.

“You think your girlfriend became a zombie from eating bad pork?”

“It’s possible, right?”

This poor boy was clueless. It was a miracle he wasn’t eaten.

We entered the preparation room and I immediately got to work trying to preserve rapidly decaying Zelda. “So the thing about zombies is they’re essentially walking corpses. That’s why they eat living flesh. To keep their own from decomposing. The trick with giving them a funeral is to keep the body from rotting long enough so my parlor doesn’t smell like a slaughterhouse for months. Will this be a private affair?”

George took his glasses off and just stared at me like a deer in headlights. “Excuse me?”

“Will there be guests attending? Friends? Family?”

He slowly shook his head in a stupor. “Nobody else knows that she turned into a…”

He couldn’t even finish the sentence.

“Don’t worry about that,” I assured him while grabbing a jar of embalming fluid from a cabinet. 

“Won’t they think I killed her?”

“Well, you did.”

He put his hands up to declare his innocence and backed away from me, bumping into his girlfriend’s gurney. “Hey, man. I don’t want to go to prison or anything. She was a friggin’ zombie!”

“Relax. I have contacts on the police force that help with these kinds of things. It’ll be fine. She’ll get a legit death certificate with a natural cause of death listed. So there won’t be any investigation into her OH MY GOD LOOK OUT!!!”

George just looked at me surprised, which was unfortunate as Zelda suddenly sat up sunk her teeth into his neck. George, not surprisingly, screamed bloody murder, and I stumbled backwards. In an instant, Zelda was on top of her boyfriend and going to town on his flesh, ripping and tearing chunks of it by the mouthful. George's screams only lasted a few more seconds, and my eyes were already darting around the room looking for something to handle the situation. Unfortunately, there wasn't much.

When Zelda got bored with her meal she looked up and eyed me for dessert. Then George sat up with two glossy eyes and did the same. Crap. They both slowly lumbered to their feet and started the trademark zombie limp in my direction. 

A normal person would've already been out of here by now, but I didn't have that luxury. This was my funeral parlor. I couldn't just leave two zombies alone to wreck the place, and without anything to bash or shoot their brains in I had to think of something. And fast.

That was when I recalled my customer for tomorrow. A toadman from a tribe that lived out in Ohio. Why Ohio? I have no idea. But there were rumors their skin contained hallucinogenic properties. I wasn’t about to lick one and find out, but my two hungry friends here would probably have no qualms about chomping down on some frog legs. 

I sidestepped around the edge of the room, drawing their attention to the wall of storage cabinets. The zombies trudged towards me with their arms out, and I waited for them to be within striking distance before opening the cabinet and pulling out the shelf.

The zombies were instantly interested in the weird anthropomorphic toad on the rack in front of them. I could’ve sworn their eyes even grew wide a bit before they leaned over and began chowing down. 

I stepped back from the action but still watched curiously. It wasn’t every day I got to see a couple undead go to town on the corpse of a man-like amphibian. They started with the meaty thighs before working their way up to his ribs, arms, and eventually his neck.

That was when I could tell the psychedelics kicked in. 

Honestly, I had no idea if it would even work, but it made sense. Zombies were nothing but a brain with sensory input running on instinct. There was no reason why those senses couldn’t trip on drugs like the rest of us. 

George and Zelda both looked around the room in a daze, high out of their minds. They didn’t even notice I was there, and I would’ve given anything to learn what zombies hallucinated about. Good thing whatever they were seeing was strong enough to overcome their craving for flesh.

It wasn’t long before the two of them were waddling around on the ground like a bunch of kittens on catnip. My guess was they would be like that for at least a couple of hours, long enough for their swiftly decomposing bodies to become too weak to move.

Another crisis averted. Now I just had to figure out how to tell the toadman’s family I fed his body to a pair of ravenous zombies. Didn’t I say something about regretting this?