(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
Author's Note: Romero fans shouldn't expect the sterotyped formulaic genre tropes they so adore.
Zombie Kumaramangalam walked into the store and slapped the
tin can down on the counter so hard that it bounced.
"I want a refund," he moaned.
The girl at the counter looked as flustered as it was
possible for someone whose facial muscles have lost their mobility to look.
"Why, sir?" she groaned at last.
Kumaramangalam pointed angrily at the can. "Thatís
inedible," he snapped, but not too hard in case it knocked a tooth loose.
The girl picked up the can and studied it dubiously with her
one functioning eye. "I donít see whatís troubling you, sir. It looks like any
other half-kilo can of Hrawnk Ghrawk Meat Treat. Itís our most popular brand,
as you know." Instinctively, all three of their eyes rose to the huge red
poster on the wall, on which jagged white lettering proclaimed the virtues of
Hrawnk Ghrawk and all the assorted flavours in which it was sold. A smiling
zombie mom was shown spooning meat from a can onto plates while ecstatic zombie
children waved their spoons around. "Weíve never had a complaint before."
"Well," Kumaramangalam ground out, "you have one now. I want
my money back."
"Maybe you could tell me the problem?" The girl reached
unobtrusively for the button below the counter which would ring a buzzer in the
managerís office. It was the first time sheíd ever had to use it, and she had
to fumble around till she found it. And then it wouldnít depress, no matter how
hard she pushed on it. She smiled desperately, pressing away, and wishing the
manager would bother to look at the closed circuit TV screens in his office.
"We could work something out."
"The only thing Iím willing to work out is a full refund,"
Kumaramangalam said, banging his fist on the table. His wrists and hands were
intact and still strong, so he could do this without fearing permanent damage.
"Donít imagine youíre getting off with anything less."
The girl gave a final frustrated push on the alarm button. "I,
I think Iíd better get the manager, sir," she slobbered. "Iím not authorised to
handle this kind of thing."
Kumaramangalam snorted. "Youíre authorised to take my money,
though," he told her. "All right, go and get the manager. Iíll wait."
Relieved, the girl escaped. Kumaramangalam leaned on the
counter, glaring around the store. It was mostly empty, except for a couple of
other salesgirls peering curiously at him from behind their counters, and a
customer in a black raincoat over by the far side, bending to rummage in a
shelf. Outside, lightning flickered, and the sky through the shopís windows
looked as dark as night. There would be rain soon, and Kumaramangalam wished he
had a raincoat. Even a zombie, he thought morosely, deserved protection from
the rain. Maybe he should buy one, or an umbrella. But not from this store.
"Not from this store," he mumbled aloud. "No, that wouldnít
do at all."
"What was that, sir?" The manager had come hurrying from his
office. He was a short plump zombie with a scraggly beard and a bad suit.
Dandruff from his long, greasy hair sprinkled the suitís shoulders,
demonstrating clearly that he hadnít changed it since heíd zombiefied. Only
living scalp after all, produced dandruff. If heíd been alive heíd have been
stinking of old sweat by now. The girl was behind him, her hands still
gesturing urgently. "My colleague here says you have a problem."
"Yeah," Kumaramangalam confirmed. He fished out the receipt
from his pocket. "I bought that can yesterday from you," he said. "And now I
demand a refund."
The manager took the receipt and peered at it dubiously.
"Whatís wrong with the product?"
"Everything." Kumaramangalam glared at the can. "It should
never have been sold."
"Why? Were the contents spoiled?" The manager picked up the
can and examined the date stamp. "If so, I can assure you it isnít our fault.
The best before date on this is still seven weeks away."
"No, it wasnít spoiled. I wish it were that simple."
Kumaramangalam prodded the can. "Look what it says on it. Gun Nut flavour,
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