“It’s been three days,” Wally whined plaintively.
“You know there’s no one here to see you but me, right?” I replied without looking at him. I was back at the window seat, watching the street.
There had been another flurry of activity moments ago, with one of the groaning humans taking a beating from a pack of other humans. The “winning” human pack hadn’t eaten their adversary, though. Perhaps it was just an expression of dominance on their part … like the sparrow I had threatened through the back window yesterday. I’m pretty sure she understood my hiss, even through the glass. Wally says most birds will drop dead of fright before taking on a real cat. I don’t know that he’s right about that, but I prefer a panel of glass between us just in case.
“This is unbearable,” Wally repeated, rolling around on the floor in mock-agony, “a standing army must have provisions.”
I rolled my eyes but was careful to keep my back to him, and not to show any disrespect. Wally had lived here for many years; his pets were the parents of mine. I owed him much for my training. Plus, I didn’t want to be demoted to whatever was below a Private.
“Uh oh,” I hissed, standing up.
“What?” demanded Wally from the floor.
I didn’t need to answer, though, as the object of my concern bounded up onto the roof, slowly walking towards the window where I now stood at the ready.
“Well, look who’s people-watching,” Ginger said, sitting on his haunches and trying to look casual. An orange tabby with very long whiskers and eyelashes. Ginger had white paws that looked like slouchy rolled-down human socks, a genetic feature he loved to take credit for, as if he picked his feet out of a Gap catalogue.
“Get lost, riff raff,” Wally said, landing beside me with more grace than usual.
“Or what?” Ginger replied, eyeing the slightly open window. It would be a squeeze for me to edge through to reach the orange-haired cat on the other side, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Just scram, Ginger,” I said, slipping my paw through the space under the window to demonstrate my intention.
“Hey, I just came up here to get a view of the zombies,” Ginger replied, turning his back to us and slowly walking away. Every move this cat made looked like he was posing on a literal catwalk. As if photographers followed his every move.
“The what?” I blurted out, hating myself the second the question left my lips.
Ginger turned around, his smirk wide. “The zombies. You know, the dead humans wandering the streets, eating anything that moves.”
“Never heard of ’em,” said Wally, but his ears (and mine) were pointed directly at Ginger.
“Zombies?” I repeated. I looked at the bookshelf behind us. Where had I read about zombies? Or had I seen them on TV? I spent most of my reading time immersed in graphic novels and manga.
“Maybe your pets don’t have a name for them, but mine do,” Ginger replied, sitting down to examine his claws, an action that usually got Wally’s back up.
Not today, though.
“Zombies eh?” Wally repeated, trying the word out himself. “Are they a new kind of human?”
Ginger rolled his eyes dramatically. “They’re not new, they’re just dead.”
“So, this isn’t just what happens to humans when they die?” I asked. I’d never witnessed a human death before.
“No,” Wally said before Ginger could answer. “My pet’s father died before you were assigned, Pickles. He died, got stiff, never moved again. I got a good look at him before he was discovered.”
Wally turned his attention back to the fluffy orange cat on the other side of the glass. “What makes you say they’re dead?”
“The smell, for starters,” Ginger answered, crinkling his pink nose for emphasis. “And the fact that they’re impossible to kill.”
Wally snorted. “Nothing’s impossible to kill.”
Ginger sat back down on our roof as if he had all the time in the world. “You watch. That zombie down there — he’ll get back up.”
I fixed my eyes on the still figure in the road, ignoring Wally’s repeated snorts.
Minutes ticked by, but cats are patient: we watch.
Our patience was rewarded. The zombie began to stir, and I took an involuntary step backwards. Even Wally was amazed. The man’s two arms had been lost in the battle we’d witnessed, but somehow, he pulled himself to his feet, silent but for the groans of his battered body.
“Well, I’ll be a long-haired Siamese,” said Wally through his teeth. We were all up, our tails twitching as the zombie slouched away, his movements as unnatural as the body that still moved.
I turned wide eyes towards Wally, new worries forming in my head. “Where is Connor?”