“Atheists don’t believe in souls, Jane.”
I’m standing with Uno Cohen in the alley where the the pair of coyotes who live in my yard carted off what I think was a zombie coyote. A few pigeons are back here with us, pecking at the cracks in the asphalt. A mylar birthday balloon sticks up out of a dumpster. When Uno flips open the lid to peer in to see if the coyote might be there, the balloon is set free. It’s partly deflated yet still game for adventure and rises, slowly, like an elderly person.
“You never said you were an atheist. Just that your mom was.”
“I am not so positive and devout as she, but yes, I find God to be, let’s say, convenient. And unfortunately, improbable.”
“So do you believe you and I have souls or not?”
“Our souls aren’t really the question here. You want to know if zombies are creatures whose souls have left them. You want to know what zombies are.”
We’ve been out here fifteen minutes already, and the carcass doesn’t seem to be here anymore. I see no signs of it. I hope Uno will believe me that it really happened, that I saw what I described.
Uno looks once more inside a different dumpster, but I know it’s one we already examined.
“Here’s what I think,” I say, determined to get him on my side at least a little. “The human zombies who keep bugging us—they didn’t really die and then rise up days later, even though that’s what appeared to be happening at the time. Whatever zombies are, I don’t think they were ever dead to begin with. I think some force acted on them that put them into weird zombie limbo.”
“And based on your observation yesterday, human beings aren’t the only organisms that got transformed into zombies.”
“Exactly. So keep your eyes peeled. Watch those pigeons, for example. Keep your eyes on housecats and seagulls and crows, maybe even cockroaches. Any of them could be a zombie.”
“And what should I do, do you suppose,” Uno says, “if I encounter in my kitchen, a zombie cockroach?”
“Crush him with your cold atheist beliefs.”
“Not my boot?”
“That could work, too.”
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.