Brain Crazy

“So…my skin’s going to fall off in chunks and I’ll start walking around like a robot and moan all the time?” I tried for a smile, but only managed a grimace. “I’m joking.”

The estrie—Sarah? Sherry?—just shook her head. “You’re highly unlikely to start walking like a robot, but I wouldn’t rule any of the rest out.”

“Oh.”

“What, not insisting you’re human anymore?”

“I am.” It sounded hollow, even to my ears. It couldn’t be true. Could it? “I’m human.”

She shrugged. “Your call.”

“So…my issues aside, who do you report problems to? Like…an unregistered—” What had she called it? “—possession.”

“Law Office. It’s right up by the fence. But really, nobody’s going to care.”

“But you said, the thing about possession—how you couldn’t know who was to blame? What about that?”

“Here’s the thing you need to know about the dead side. Most people? They don’t care what you do. So long as it doesn’t affect the living side, the Immortals stay out of our affairs. And we like it that way.”

I frowned. “What’s your job, then?”

“What do you mean?”

“If all that matters is keeping off the living side, why don’t you just guard the fence?”

“Because I happen to think that keeping order will making keeping the border secure a lot easier. And the boss happens to agree with me.”

“The boss? Who’s the boss? And how do I talk to him? Or her.” That sounded like the perfect person for me to talk to about my situation. Why hadn’t she mentioned it before?

The estrie shook her head. “You really—”

She was interrupted by a loud sound that was a cross between a scream and a growl. I turned to see a half-grown girl barrelling towards us across the street. The next thing I noticed was that she had a zombie caste mark x-ed across her face.

I backpedaled instinctively, but the estrie swooped in front of me before I took more than two steps and grabbed the girl around the middle, pinning her arms and lifting her off her feet. The girl kicked and writhed and continued to make that horrible sound, but the estrie didn’t seem terribly bothered.

“What’s going on?” I demanded.

“Meet Meredith.” The estrie turned so I could see both her face and the girl’s. “This will be you if you don’t eat your brains. And brain crazy zombies are a pain to deal with, so please eat your rations. Would you untie my hair? My hands are a little full.”

I blinked. “I’m vegan.”

“My hair. Would you untie it for me?”

“Why?”

“Because I’d rather fly to the Distribution Office than walk.”

“But what does that have to do with your hair?”

“I’m an estrie!” she snapped. “Would you just do it?”

“Right.” I edged forward, not wanting to get too close to the zombie girl. When I got within a foot, she craned her neck toward me and bit the air, her jaws snapping shut. “What is she doing?”

“Trying to eat your brains.”

I tuned out the writhing child as best I could and focused on getting to the hair. When I tugged her hair free of its braid, it spread outward like it had a life of its own, shaping itself into delicate wings.

“Well, I’m off to the Distribution Office. You should probably come too, get your ration for the day.”

“Where’s the Distribution Office?”

“The person who let you out of the cells didn’t tell you?”

“No…”

The estrie let out a string of liquid-sounding words that were probably curses. “Some people just don’t give a damn. Anyway, it’s not hard to get there from here. Just follow in the direction I fly, and it’s the massive concrete building with the gates.”

I nodded. That seemed straightforward. Sort of.

Without another word, the estrie took to the air. Despite the flimsy look of her wings, her actions seemed graceful and effortless, even with the struggling child in her arms. With a sigh, I trudged along the street in her wake.

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