I had to do it. Couldn’t help myself. Here’s a little zombie tale just in time for Valentine’s Day. Hope you all have a more normal Valentine’s Day than Marcie did…..
Marcie had gone out with Greg once. On Valentine’s Day six years ago. He had worked in the same office as she did but she had never really noticed him, intent as she was on her department manager Filippo who had the physique and face of a Greek God. An Italian Greek God.
Marcie lusted after Filippo. He had the most perfect pecs and abs she had ever seen. She came in early and stayed back late, dusting the filing cabinets, in an attempt to impress him. But Filippo didn’t know she was alive.
In the build up to Valentine’s Day six years ago, Marcie began to receive heart shaped cookies, chocolates, love notes and a book of love poetry – from an unknown admirer. She convinced herself – foolishly – that they were from Filippo, placing them shrine-like on her dressing table along with all the photos she’d taken of him with her iPhone, Instagrammed and perfect.
Even more foolishly, after a few weeks of receiving the romantically-themed gifts, Marcie became convinced they were in fact from Filippo and approached him one afternoon as he was in the midst of formatting his Powerpoint Presentation on the most efficient use of office stationery.
‘You look really nice today. That pink tie suits you,’ Marcie said. Filippo looked at her with suspicion, wondering if she was angling for more access to the document shredder or an extra pack of those rainbow-patterned paperclips the office girls liked so much. Either request would blow his monthly stationery budget, which would mean a grilling by Sonia in accounts. Sonia had a monobrow, which she seemed unaware of. Filippo had a phobia (that he mostly managed to keep hidden) of monobrows. So he tried to avoid Sonia at all costs. And consequently tried to avoid anyone who would bring him into contact with Sonia. At all costs.
‘Thanks, Maisie,’ Filippo said. ‘Gotta go. Presentation in half an hour. Don’t be late.’
‘I won’t,’ Marcie said. ‘And it’s Marcie, not Maisie….’
The Powerpoint Presentation was where it all began. Or ended, depending on your point of view.
Angelica Porter, who claimed her mother had modelled for Vogue in the 1960s, assisted Filippo with his slideshow. If you could call it that. She was all over him like a rash. A rash. And he seemed to like it, announcing he and Angelica were spending Valentine’s Day together.
Marcie realised as her stomach hit the floor with a sickening thud that she had been wrong about the gifts. Very wrong. She looked around the conference room and wondered which one of her co-workers was the perpetrator, the gift horse giver.
Greg Green. It suddenly became clear. Smiling at her behind the photocopier. Offering her the first Tim Tam from the pack at morning tea. Giving her a new pack of Stick-It Notes before she had even run out. He was the one who had given her the gifts. He was smiling at her right now. Engrossed.
Marcie didn’t know how it happened but she ended up agreeing to have dinner with Greg on Valentine’s Day. In the still foolish part of her heart she thought Filippo might find out about it and be miffed; but in the cold light of day part of her mind she knew he couldn’t care less, hellbent as he was on Angelica Porter.
Greg was attentive, polite, the perfect gentleman. They went to the renowned restaurant Gore-Met where the food was bloodily themed. People had to book months in advance to get in. Marcie batted her eyelids over her Bloody Mary Soup Shots with Shrimp and Pickled Vegetables and began to pout suggestively over her Beef Blood Sausage Bourguignon. She didn’t know if it was the sight of all the apparent blood or a desire to erase the memory of Filippo from her head but by the time dessert came round – a bittersweet chocolate pudding with a blood orange jus – Marcie was positively panting.
At Greg’s place he began to talk, expressing his desire to read some of the poetry he had written about her, but Marcie would have none of it.
‘Get your gear off,’ she said, throwing him on the bed.
Greg was surprisingly adept beneath the sheets. Marcie couldn’t believe how close she’d come to never noticing him at all. She congratulated herself as she drank really good sauvignon blanc in bed afterwards, feeling the high thread count of Greg’s sheets with satisfaction. Impressed by the postcode of his flat on the water. Greg had done well for himself. Very well.
After about an hour when Marcie was half asleep and totally drunk she didn’t even notice Greg’s clambering, gawky protestations of love for her.
‘You will always be my Valentine,’ he said. ‘Always.’
Greg didn’t turn up for work the next day. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. Greg didn’t turn up for work because Greg was dead, knocked over by a Valentine’s Day reveller who had overindulged on the all you can drink Lambrusco at Mamma Maria’s Valentine’s Amore Festa; thinking he was all right to drive at 7AM although his blood alcohol reading was still three times over the limit.
Greg’s funeral was a quiet affair. He had no family and very few friends. The guy with the lopsided glasses who worked in software development read the eulogy. Marcie hardly paid attention, intent as she was on Angelica Porter adjusting the fall of Flippo’s hair so that it sat just so, emphasizing the attractiveness of his jawline.
‘You will always be my valentine. You will ALWAYS be my valentine,’ the software development guy’s whiny voice rang out through the empty church. Marcie realised he was reading a poem Greg had written about her. An anxious feeling began to sit at the bottom of her stomach.
A lawyer grabbed Marcie’s arm after the service. He handed her a thick envelope. ‘It’s all yours,’ he said. ‘The estate of Gregory Green. He left everything to you.’
Inexplicably, Greg had left everything he owned to Marcie. His car, his investments, his flat. She was sitting pretty, mortgage free and cashed up, but the anxious feeling in her stomach remained.
It began a year later. The night before Valentine’s Day. The eve. Footprints on the stairs leading to the flat. Wet, ridged, as if whomever they belonged to had been walking in mud. There was a smell – stagnant river water and rotted leaves – that permeated the flat all day; so bad that Marcie had to close all the windows.
When she came home from work the next evening there was someone in her flat. Something. Sitting at the dining table, an empty plate in front of him. It was Greg. Or what remained of him. Putrid, festering, fingertips sticking to the table.
‘Happy Valentine’s Day,’ Greg said. Marcie could only catch part of what he was saying because half of his mouth had mouldered away and when he spoke it sounded as if he was shouting in a wind tunnel, but she managed to decipher that Greg wanted food. A very specific kind of food. And he wanted it at that moment.
She ran to three different shops before she found what she needed. The butcher raised one eyebrow as he wrapped her purchase. ‘An unusual dish for Valentine’s Day,’ he said.
Marcie rushed home. She could feel her purchase squishing around in the butcher’s paper. When she opened the door to the flat she was overwhelmed by a smell of putrefaction, oppressive, nauseating.
She opened her purchase, pulled a frying pan from the cupboard.
‘No,’ shouted Greg. ‘Raw. RAW.’
She put the food on his plate, retching as he ate it raw, smacking what was left of his lips. A slivering, slimed, glistening plate of brains.
Greg left shortly after he ate the brains, his left foot breaking away from his body, dragging behind him like a rudder. It took Marcie two weeks to get rid of the stench of him.
Every Valentine’s Day he was back, leaving the muddy footsteps on the stairs, sitting at the table waiting for his dinner; rancid, rank. Saying what he said every time – ‘You will always be my Valentine. You will ALWAYS be my Valentine.’
Marcie dreaded his return, dreaded the sight of him even more, but it was only once a year; and a girl had to do what a girl had to do for a flat on the water and sheets with a three thousand thread count.