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A Promise Goes Both Ways

by Alexandra Rivera

“Hey, bean…? If I ever become one of those things, I want you to put a bullet in my head.”

I was still maintaining my faith in societal restoration and keeping track of the days since the outbreak (it was day 59) when my partner, Sam, uttered those words. We were sitting at the top of a rickety, wooden watchtower on the west end of this abandoned gated community we found and inhabited a while back. It was nighttime, and the sky was illuminated with dozens of stars. Just like every clear night, I was staring at the dark blue sky, searching for constellations while she kept watch for walkers. It has become one of my favorite traditions of ours, since the others aren’t so wholesome (lots of killing and blood). Besides, the sky’s the one thing that has yet to decay in a zombie-infested world. I looked up from what I could’ve sworn was the Big Dipper to where Sam was looking.

It was a walker. It looked just as all walkers do – brainless. A husk, even, of a previous son, friend, or father. She kept her attention on the aimless walker outside the community gates, not allowing a single movement of theirs to go unseen. If a walker was in our proximity, there was no messing around with Sam. She may not have been a survivalist before the outbreak, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she read a How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse book or watched a ton of The Walking Dead.

Her medium-length, dirty blonde hair was tied back in its signature short ponytail as a safety precaution. She wanted to shave it off entirely, but I convinced her not to. I envied her hair length and texture since I was forced to cut mine after it got seriously matted. When I showed Sam my new hairdo, I told her I looked like a bean now; she chuckled and said I was beautiful and I was her bean (hence the nickname). She wore an oversized, plain white t-shirt tucked into a pair of gray joggers we found at one of the abandoned communities we looted. I had on a lavender shirt that Sam thought complimented my deep skin tone well. Her words and troubled expression made me tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear and offer her a warm smile when she turned to me.

“Listen, Miss ‘Captain of the Basketball Team.’ Those walkers could never catch up to you even if they wanted to. Me, however, I may run out of breath-”

“I’m being serious, Hannah. I need you to tell me that you will do that for me.”

My eyes widened– she doesn’t ever refer to me by my full name. She looked stern as she took my hands in hers and squeezed it.

“I need you to promise me that you won’t let me become one of them. That you won’t let my body be reduced to those things outside. I know you, I know you won’t want to do it if I end up getting bit, which is why I need you to promise.”

I paused, collecting my thoughts. She was right – I would never want to kill her, even if she turned into a flesh-eating monster. I mean, if she were a walker, I would probably beg her to bite me too. She stared at me with desperate, pleading eyes that said just agree to it. I could tell how much this meant to her, a simple promise. Even if I couldn’t uphold it, with the hopes of seeing her smile for the first time that night, I took a breath and–

“You know that a promise goes both ways with me right, Sam? If I agree to kill you before you turn, I expect the same from you.”

Her eyes gleamed in the starlight, but her expression turned somber. “If that’s what you want…” She pursed her lips and broke eye contact. It seemed she was considering our version of exchanging vows to each other, since I doubted we’d have a post-apocalyptic wedding. It’s not like she wanted a wedding anyways; Sam thought marriage was a social construct. She didn’t have even parents to walk her down the aisle before the world went to shit. But I always saw weddings as a beautiful tradition. Plus, it’s a fancy event where I would be guaranteed at least 4 hours of my girlfriend in a dress.

As if she could tell my brain was going on another tangent, she nudged my shoulder with hers and giggled. “Hey, what’s this about you running out of breath? You used to be in choir, Bean. I remember you singing that Bruno Mars song in the Spring concert – how did that go again? Was it –”

“Sam, no.” I groaned, not wanting to relive the cringy memory. She sang “Grenade” awfully. Even joking, she did not sing too loud, to avoid alerting walkers. I could tell she wanted to lighten the mood again, and I pretended that her attempt was adequate, but the pit in my stomach stayed until I fell into a deep slumber, nestled into her chest.

I don’t know why Samantha was convinced that walkers were lifeless creatures. I don’t know why I was either. My days consist of being trapped– mentally and physically. She keeps me in a room reminiscent of a jail cell, keeps me in a body that is no longer mine. As my body groans for human skin, I yearn for someone to put a bullet in my head. She comes to visit me every night, whispering sweet nothings from a distance, as she knows I will bite her if she gets too close.

One somber night, on what felt like two years since the outbreak occurred, she looked into my dull, dead, ugly eyes and insisted, “Do not worry, Bean. I will cure you of this illness. I promise.”

If I could speak, I would’ve told her that a promise goes both ways.

Read our Questions for Alexandra Rivera.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Alexandra Rivera is a student and employee at LaGuardia Community College studying Digital Media. She is developing her filmmaking and graphic designing skills in hopes of becoming a content creator. Representing marginalized people is a mandatory aspect of any piece of content Alexandra seeks to put out in her future.

Image credit: “Hamilton Day 1,” Sean Hurley. Flickr CC BY 2.0.