The people recovered quickly from the outspread of the zombie virus. It was really surprising. No panic, no riots, no mob destroying the cities. Maybe it helped that the epidemic spread slowly, and there were - no, not incubation periods, more like long periods of slow transition. The people would die, conscious all the time, except for the fact that they would not be dead by the end. Eventually, though, they would rot and disappear. Once the flesh was off their bones, they simply stopped.
Of course there were the usual ultra-right nationalist calls for extinction of "these monstrosities". But the churches jumped right at the chance. If cities sent out zombie exterminators now, what would be next? Killing Alzheimer patients? Now, as formerly healthy human beings zombies deserved the respect of the population. And so they gathered them in larger nurseries and offered prison inmates sentenced to life the opportunity to serve a certain number of years as nursery staff, and after that their crimes were forgotten and they were free to go. Unless they were bitten first, of course.
And this was the place where they had brought Aunt Hanna. My therapist had suggested confronting her about her strict rules and frequent physical punishment inflicted on me and my sisters when we were children. The fact that she was, as some philosophers argued, dead didn't change the value of such a confrontation. Or that was the idea. Personally, I did not feel too hot about going in there now. I couldn't even stand visiting my grandparents at their senior people's residence, and now this? Wow.
My therapist looked at me expectantly. Obviously she was very pleased with herself for coming up with this. I couldn't even begin to imagine how much work it must have cost her to find Aunt Hanna. After all, the personal information on the zombies - uhm, life-wise challenged was kept top secret, to avoid requests by life insurance companies or such. Fresh zombies were simply declared dead and brought here, if they could be caught.
The walls of the visitors' room were pale green - the kind of color you expect in hospitals. Dark smudges were spread evenly, as if someone had put their hands in molten chocolate (or something else) and then leaned against the wall. I sat down on an uncomfortable orange plastic chair, still wearing my trusted leather jacket, when they brought Aunt Hanna inside.
She was the model for any zombie horror movie I had ever seen. One of her eyes had shriveled and lay in its socket like a sad raisin. The other one wandered as if trying to take in her surroundings, but it was milky and just plain wrong. Her skin looked like pork left out of the fridge over the weekend, blueish gray and smeary. She had been dressed in simple pajamas, probably by the six-foot monstrosity of a nurse who accompanied her, tattoed arms crossed over his ginormous chest. His head was shaved, his stare deadly, and I watched with surprise just how tender and gentle he was with my aunt. Okay, maybe he was just trying not to rip the flesh off her arm while carefully lowering her into her chair. There was a wet sound as she relaxed and leaned back. The front of her shirt clung to what once probably had been breasts.
I shook my head. This was absurd. Memories danced through my head, of afternoons spent in the closet, of homework forgotten and of the wooden spoon she sometimes used for cooking. "I forgive you", I mumbled and jumped to my feet, and then I left the room quickly. To any spectator it might have looked as if I was running away. My therapist had a hard time catching up. She was quiet as we returned to my car. Someone had slapped a sticker on my bumper. It read, "Zombies are people, too."