The zombie traveled deep into the nuclear winter. The cold no longer bothered him nor made his limbs ache, but the nights when his body froze he had to wait for it to thaw to move on. The cat had followed him from the Southern coast all the way up to this winter wasteland.
He moaned to himself as he shuffled forward with the cat still following. She sometimes left for days on end, hunting rats and other vermin, but the cat always found the zombie again.
Sometimes the cat would jump to the zombie’s shoulder and curl up around his neck, sleeping in the soft rocking of the zombie’s constant shuffle. The zombie would attempt to sing a lullaby for the cat, but it generally just came out as one long moan.
One day, a few hours before sunset, they saw another zombie shuffling towards them. The zombie moaned a greeting, but his compatriot only had eyes for the cat. The second zombie reached for it with a happy moan, but the zombie stiff armed him.
The second zombie moaned as if to say, “Cat taste brainy. Give.”
The zombie moaned back, “Cat not brainy. Cat taste footy.” He lifted his foot in a shuffle step for emphasis.
“We taste. See brainy or footy,” the second zombie moaned.
The argument continued over the “brainy”ness or “footy”ness of the cat until the second zombie lunged (slowly for zombies don’t do anything quickly) for the cat.
The cat jumped easily off the first zombie’s shoulder and dodged the second zombie. It strutted off. The second zombie turned to follow but the first zombie stuck his foot out and tripped the second zombie. The first zombie shuffled off after the cat, but the second zombie grabbed the first’s leg and both were flat on the ground. The first zombie’s eye popped out. It bounced forward and skidded past the cat. The cat perked up its tail and ran after the eye, batting it around and chasing it.
The zombies continued pushing and shoving and tripping each other as night fell and the temperature dropped. The zombies froze in place but the cat played on with the eye until it got tired and curled up between their frozen legs. Both zombies watched it. They couldn’t move anything but their eyes. They watched the cat breath in and out and lay like a baby on the soft grass, curled into a ball for maximum warmth.
The next morning the zombies began to thaw, their heads first. The second zombie said, “Cat not taste brainy.”
The first zombie agreed.
“We care cat,” the second zombie said.
The first zombie nodded.
Nearly an hour later their arms thawed enough to be moved. At about that time the cat stirred. It got up and started heaving. The zombies, unable to move, stood there, clinging to one another. The cat puked all over their shoes.
And despite their soggy feat and the unpleasant smell there, they smiled, for they had felt something they supposed lost when they were men. And for the briefest moment the cat smiled.