What if R and Julie hadn't met outside the city? What if R had been captured, and taken by soldiers inside the fortified city of the Living? A different version of the R/Julie story, one where they meet in her world, not his.
Isaac Marion owns Warm Bodies. I just enjoy playing with the characters.
A Dark Negative of Love
Chapter 30 – Epilogue
-Two weeks later-
I was finally getting my strength back. My recovery was slow, as, I was recovering not only from being shot in the back, but from actually being Dead for…who knows how long.
The medics wanted me to stay in the hospital, but I couldn't go back. Every time I thought of those rooms, I could only remember seeing the knife descending. No anesthesia. Living the nightmares of my early transition to a Living.
The surgeon explained later that he thought that because I was a Dead, I would not experience pain. But even back in the Operating Room, I sensed that he thought he was wasting his time, removing a bullet from a zombie.
General Steiger quietly assured me that he had put a nurse on the surgeon's team in order to monitor his contacts with the "Transition Dead," as we were now called.
I let it go, as it was in the past. The Dead were beginning to recover, none as quickly as me, though. But some did not recover. It seemed that those who died quickly from the trauma of being bitten, without any other injuries or illnesses, had the best chance of making the transition completely. Others became consumed with infections during the transition, and their bodies finally seemed to just give up.
But all those who died were given burials. Some of the Transitioning, when they realized they would not make it back to the Living, requested burial in the new park, where the Dead who had met their final deaths during the battle with the Boneys had been laid to rest. Generals Steiger and Rosso had declared the site a memorial and designed a park with a monument to the Spirit of Bravery. They planned to dedicate it to those who us who had fought either for, or to become, Living.
As for the others, those who were successfully transitioning, it seemed that just spending time around the Living aided the process. After the soldiers made their sweep of the city outside of the fortified wall, shooting any Boneys they could find, they came back and opened the gates to the rest of Dead.
I had to watch from our apartment window, but I saw them all standing by the gate, patiently waiting. The Living arrived in clusters for the first meetings. It took a little while, but finally a few Living stepped forward to meet with the Dead. They paired off for talks. I was told that most of the contacts on that first day lasted about 15-20 minutes. Most of the early contacts were made by soldiers who were a bit more comfortable with the idea, as they had fought with the Dead and had more faith in the process. But overcoming years of fear was understandably hard on them all.
Slowly, the Dead were allowed to come beyond the gates and their assigned space by the tunnel into one of the sectors. They waited in the colorful little parks that were dispersed throughout the city. The Living felt comfortable there, and were more likely came out and join the Dead for a few minutes. Time that grew longer as the days passed.
On one of my walks with Julie, as I continued in my long, slow attempt to recover my strength, I found a soldier waiting outside our apartment building.
He stepped forward awkwardly, asking abruptly, "May I shake your hand?"
I said, "Of course," extending my hand in his direction.
He hesitated before taking my hand, and then said, "I'm the one who shot you out there. I thought you had turned on her and were eating her." He paused and then blurted out, "I'm sorry. I just wanted to say that I'm glad I didn't kill you that night."
I couldn't think of anything to say, but Julie stepped in. "Thank you for coming. We understood that you thought you were defending me."
He nodded, and said, "Yes, Ma'am. That's exactly what I thought. It was so dark, and everything was so uncertain. I just reacted." Then he turned and left, disappearing into the streets of the next block.
Julie and I exchanged glances, and then she reached out and touched my cheek. "It's happening, though it's slow. It will just take time."
I knew she was referring to the warming up of the relations between the former Dead and the Living, but I was thinking it might refer to our own relationship. I loved her so much, and the feelings seemed to increase each day as I found my way closer to being a healed, living human being.
But I also knew that she needed time. We had barely known one another a week before I had been shot, and it was her boyfriend Perry's death that had brought us together in the first place. She needed time to do her own healing.
Nora and M were a different story. M had known immediately that Nora was for him, though he was having a tough time convincing her.
Nora had been assigned an apartment next door to Julie's. There was an adjoining door between the two apartments, and the girls left it open. M always started out visiting me, but quickly made his way to Nora's.
In the early days, trying to break the awkwardness between them, she showed him her medical text books, but he said he was still struggling with reading.
"But you knew what to do in the surgery that day," Nora reminded him.
"I knew because…you needed it. That's why it came…back," he told her.
"Yes, and Julie was there," Nora added.
M shook his head. "No, it was you. And…R, of course. But you."
"Julie," she said softly.
"You are my Julie…then," he replied, reaching for her hand.
She gave a quick smile and then bit her lip, blushing.
"So beautiful," he said quietly. "You don't see yourself…clearly."
"I've seen myself all my life," Nora retorted. "I'm the girl who the guys in study hall ignored."
"They were blind…and you smell so good, too," M said.
"OK, that's just weird," Julie chimed in.
"No, it's true. And as long as I'm…this way…I want to enjoy it," M said firmly, bending over Nora's hand, inhaling gently.
I looked over at him. "It doesn't completely go away," I said. "But now, the smell doesn't make me hungry."
Nora jumped up, yanking her hand away from M and knocking over the chair as she leapt away.
"Sorry," I added. "That was thoughtless."
M laughed, reaching for her. "Not hungry. Not to eat…anyway."
Nora picked her chair up and sat back down cautiously, but put her arms behind her back. It took a while for M to coax her in to putting her hands in front again.
-One month later-
M is now almost full Living. His eyes are still gray, but he has color in his face, and sometimes his heart sputters into action, then stops. He and Nora are inseparable, though this is mostly due to his dogged determination. She is beginning to get a sparkle in her eye when she looks at him, though. I think she started to feel something for him while they were in surgery with me that terrible night, but she didn't trust the feelings. This world has not been kind to Nora.
Today, he and Nora are leaving for a trip with Miles, the truck driver.
"We're going out to visit the Memphis dome and maybe a few other places. See if they need anything," M says. His speech is almost normal, not breaking up several times a sentence.
"You got your shotgun?" Julie asks Nora.
Nora grins as she pulled it out of her shoulder holster. "Old Faithful is right here. You had to ask?"
Julie laughs. There are still occasional sightings of Boneys, but most of them are dispatched quickly when found. They are usually discovered walking aimlessly, often in circles, or just sitting on the ground, not moving. Final Death seems to be a gift for them.
The few Dead that are found are no longer hungry for the Living and seem eager to get to the cities. Whatever transformation is happening, it seems to have spread like wildfire and is covering the entire globe. Was it Julie that started it? Or did it just need a spark of trust to turn the tide of the plague that nearly eliminated mankind?
Now our work is to restore the world back to the Living, and to remember where we came from so we don't go back.
After waving to Nora and M as long as we can see them, I take Julie's hand in mine. Fingering the small velvet box I've been carrying in my pocket for days, I keep trying to get up the courage to ask Julie for her hand in marriage.
The world is looking beautiful again. Just like the final lines of the Louis Armstrong song I played for Julie on my airplane so long ago, on the morning after we met, "Yes I think to myself ...what a wonderful world."
I have appreciated all of your support for this story, including reviews, alerts and favorite. Thanks again!