Uncle Rami handles most of the funeral arrangements. He thinks picking out the casket so you don't have to will make you feel better, so you let him. He's been drinking, which makes him talk nonstop. You don't mind. The more Rami Nadir talks, the less you have to. He talks about you as a child, he tells you stories about your parents when they were young and happy. Well, young anyway.
You look at the photograph display next to Rami's affordable, yet elegant choice of coffin. Annie and Britta helped you with the photos. It's not like you couldn't sift through the photographs yourself, you just didn't want to. You can't figure out how to act. You find yourself pretending to be Buffy Summers (although you've always considered yourself more of a Xander) from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode The Body. There are plenty of television shows that deal with the mechanics of death, but very few that deal with the aftermath. Except for Six Feet Under. But you gave up on that halfway through season four. Besides, it would take the combined efforts of Weta Workshop and Industrial Light and Magic to make your dad look like himself again. The boiler blew up at the restaurant. It looks like you won't have to take over Falafel Forever after all.
When you told the study group what happened, they thought you were joking. Exploding boilers are the stuff of TV sitcoms. They're a third-act deus ex machina, a chance to give the well-muscled action hero the opportunity to leap out of a burning building. Or maybe they're the stuff of Looney Tunes . A boiler explodes, and Bugs emerges stumbling through the smoke, birds chirping around the giant pink lump on his head. But no. Nobody emerged from the smoke this time. Your father is gone. No more weary sighs or eye rolls when you tell him about your latest film. No more complaints about how you only come home to do laundry. No more awkward hugs. No more affectionate mutterings of shakheef , Arabic for "misfit", when he passes you on the stairs.
Thinking about your father makes your stomach hurt. Your palms are sweating, so you think about being a shakheef instead. You wonder if there really is an island for misfit toys somewhere. Maybe that's what the island on Lost was. And if you lived there, what kind of toy would you be? You're trying to decide between a pair of stilts with malfunctioning springs and a plush stork filled with popped bubble wrap when Rami pulls you out of your thoughts.
"You're such a mo'jiza ," he tells you proudly, sliding one big arm around your shoulders. "A real miracle. Your father ever tell you about when you were born? So small, so skinny." He pulls you closer, exhales alcohol fumes into your face.
You want to be somewhere else. Back in the dorm watching Farscape . Playing hide and seek with Troy. Coloring Human Beings Rule! posters with Annie. Even making a diorama would be better than this. You pat your pocket and feel the familiar shape of your cell. You wonder if you can tempt Pierce to come and get you with the promise of energon cubes.
"You were born two months early, Abed." Rami wipes at his eyes with the palm of his hand. "No one thought you would live. Even the doctors did not have hope."
You're familiar with the story. You know you were born premature, that you were a sick baby. Fussy. You cried all the time. The only thing that quieted you was when your father finally had the good sense to put you in front of the television. Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch stopped your crying. Even now you can still sing along to Sunny Days without missing a beat.
There's a good crowd here. Miscellaneous aunts and uncles, some cousins, your father's friends. Heads are bowed, faces grim, eyes wet. Everyone is connected in their grief. Everyone except you. The room is a network of sorrow and here you are, a stand-a-lone computer. You wish Abra was here. You could take her someplace with a bouncy castle. Someplace where you could think. And bounce.
The funeral home is over a hundred years old. You're surrounded by antique furniture, velvet curtains, and flowered wallpaper. An ornately framed painting depicts two children crossing a bridge; an angel hovers protectively above them. You contemplate the painting, lips pursed. You decide your mother would like it. Your mother is Catholic, your father was Muslim. The existence of angels was the one thing your parents agreed on when it came to religion. Sometimes you envy Shirley her faith. Your belief in God feels tenuous right now. According to Islamic tradition, there are 99 names for God. You can't remember more than 15, but you can name all 97 episodes of Newsradio in alphabetical order.
"--and then you died," Uncle Rami says through a cloud of whiskey vapor.
You're no longer interested in the comedic stylings of Stephen Root and Dave Foley.
"I...what?" This is new.
"Didn't Fadel ever tell you?" Rami taps your chest with a finger. "You were a week old and you stopped breathing. The doctors couldn't get you back for almost three minutes. They had to use those little paddles on you." Rami momentarily removes his arm from your shoulder and holds imaginary paddles over an imaginary baby and blurts, "Psssssht."
You've seen enough episodes of ER to know that's not what Defibrillator paddles sound like, but this doesn't seem the time to point that out.
Rami pats your cheek a little too hard. "And poof, you come back to us. Such a mo'jiza . My brother was so proud of you."
You smile dutifully at the compliment. Fadel Nadir was many things, but he was not proud of you. He never understood you. But he did love you. You never doubted that.
There's a familiar figure in the doorway. Jeff is standing there in a suit. It's not a $6,000 suit, but he still looks movie-star good. Britta is on his right, Annie is on his left. And there's Shirley. Peirce looms behind Shirley's frizzy and your eyes sting. You didn't even have to bribe him. And peering out from behind Pierce's shoulder is Troy. Thank God.
Pierce barrels past the rest of the group and heads straight for you.
"Sorry for your loss," he mutters, glancing around. "Hey, is there food at this thing?"
Annie and Britta look as if Peirce just licked the coffin. Shirley punches Pierce's arm in disgust. Jeff sighs.
" What ?" Peirce huffs. "Sadness makes me hungry."
You point through the doorway into the next room. "There's coffee and hors d'ouvres right through there."
"Thanks Abed," the older man says, mispronouncing your name. As usual. He hurries off toward the snacks.
Somehow, Britta and Shirley remove your uncle and Rami's arm is replaced with Jeff's.
"How are you holding up?" he asks.
You don't have time to answer because Troy throws his arms around you like you're his favorite football. He hugs you hard--too hard--but you don't mind. You hug him back. You make sure to pat his shoulder so he can tell you're glad to see him. After a moment Troy steps back and you look at each other. His eyes flick to the doorway, then back to you. You nod your permission.
"Go for it."
Troy beams, takes a few steps, then stops. "Is there a big cookie?" he asks hopefully.
"Sorry," you tell him. "But there are three kinds of cheese." You pause. "And falafel." Not that you'll ever eat that particular dish again.
Troy nods thoughtfully and follows Pierce.
Jeff moves to the photo display, leaving Annie and Britta to flank you. They both pat your arms, as if they're trying to put out tiny, invisible flames. Or maybe they expect you to literally fall apart any moment, and they're trying to hold you together. Shirley hands you a folded tissue, clearly prepared for some kind of imminent breakage.
"Thank you for coming," you say, and pocket the tissue.
Annie rests her head on your shoulder. "Oh Abed," she says in a watery voice, "I'm so sorry."
You look down at her dark hair, and wonder if you're supposed to comfort her . She's so young. She's really just a kid. Like Buffy's little sister, Dawn. So yeah, you are supposed to comfort her.
"It's going to be okay," you tell her. Because that's what people say.
* * *
You stare at the ceiling.
You can't sleep.
The bottom bunk is too low.
The top bunk is too high.
You've taken to lying in the dresser drawer Jeff stuffed you in during the Night of the Drunk Dial. You can't sleep, but it's fun to swing your legs in time to the music. Right now you're listening to Corey Hart sing about a boy in a box. It's night, but you're not wearing sunglasses. You are wearing a purple boa though. It's very soft.
It's good to be back in the dorm. Troy's been spending a lot of time with you, Pavel too. Rami has been cleaning out the house. You already packed the contents of your bedroom and a few pieces of furniture into a storage unit. Rami's wife is a realtor; she'll take care of selling the house. At least you don't have to worry about getting a job for a while. The insurance money will cover the next three semesters, maybe four. You could probably even afford a studio apartment if you drop cable. Like that'll ever happen. But if worse comes to worse, you can switch from Lucky Charms to the generic Magic Stars. They're delicious, just not magically so.
You don't bother counting sheep. There's only one thing that gets you to sleep when you feel like this: counting movies. You start with Emilio Estevez and work your way through the rest of the Brat Pack.
You've always liked counting things. Numbers are easier to understand than people. Although you're better at understanding people--and their emotions--than you used to be. You can generally figure out how people are feeling through facial expressions, tone of voice, and context clues. But expressing your own feelings? That's hard. That's why you use movies. Movies and television aren't just entertainment, they're language.
You love television because every episode has a resolution. Plot lines are tied up. There are too many questions in life, too many plot threads left dangling. And there's one dangling now, you can feel it. There's something wrong, something besides what happened to your dad. You can't put your finger on it, but you'll figure it out. You always do. That's why you observe everything and everyone. You catalog what's going on around you as easily as your DVD collection.
So far, your left foot is the only part of you that's managed to fall asleep. Your mind drifts from movies to Uncle Rami. You can't help thinking about what he said at the funeral home. You died. You were dead. You wonder why Mom or Dad never said anything.
* * *
You stare dully at the fish sticks in front of you. Jeff and Britta are arguing over this morning's Anthropology assignment.
"I just don't see what the big deal is," Jeff says. His tone is reasonable, but you can still hear the thread of annoyance wound through each word. You know Jeff pretty well.
"How is watching George of the Jungle going to teach us anything?" Britta demands angrily.
"Well, for one thing," you point out, "it teaches us Brendan Fraser will accept virtually any role for a paycheck."
Jeff's expression goes smug. "Thank you, Abed."
"But that doesn't mean it's a good assignment. I'd rather watch The Gods Must Be Crazy again."
"You're right, it is a stupid assignment," Jeff agrees. "But it's also easy. And easy is the main criteria I look for when it comes to school assignments."
Britta snorts. "Easy is the most important criteria in your choice of--"
"Overruled," Jeff snaps quickly.
Troy notices you're not eating. "Something wrong with the fish sticks?" he asks, taking a bite of his own hot dog.
You point at the offending sticks. "These do not look appetizing."
"We could always play Fish Stick Jenga. It's almost as fun as String Cheese Jenga."
You nod in agreement. "It is fun, but it only works if the fish sticks are burned on the bottom." These sticks look a little on the soggy side. Nobody wants greasy Jenga pieces that crumble in your hand.
Jeff grins slyly. "You could always eat...a baggel. "
Britta rolls her eyes through everyone's laughter. "I wish you would," she tells Jeff . She sticks her tongue out in a display of maturity. "And then choke on it."
You inspect everyone else's food. There are hot dogs, soup, salad, more fish sticks, and Pierce has a tuna sandwich.
Tuna. That's the answer.
"I want something pink," you announce.
Annie frowns. "What do you mean?" She tilts her head, her ponytail bobs. "I think I have a pink pen in my purse."
Jeff smirks. "As alliterationally appealing as that statement is, don't you mean you have a principle in your backpack?"
Troy's eyes go wide. "You have a principal in your backpack?" He stares in wonder at the backpack beside Annie. "Like a tiny Dean?"
Everyone--except you--stares at Troy.
"Please tell me you're kidding," Jeff says.
"I'm kidding," Troy says obediently. Then, in an aside to you. "But wouldn't that be cool? I'd teach him to sit on my shoulder like a parrot and he could tell me the answers to every test."
"Very cool," you agree. You hold up a hand to Annie. "Thank you, but I don't need a pen. I want pink food."
"Me too," Troy says automatically. "Wait." He considers. "That's girly. No offense, Abed. I want something more manly." He taps his chin, then brightens. "Something blue."
"Why don't the two of you eat a couple of Crayons and shut up," Pierce mutters.
"Pierce's tuna is pink," Britta points out.
"Hey!" Peirce glares at Britta, clearly affronted. "That's just uncalled for." He blinks. "Oh. You mean my sandwich."
Tuna is the right color, but it doesn't have the right consistency. You don't know exactly what you're looking for, but you know what you don't want.
"You could try the vending machine," Shirley suggests doubtfully. "There are lots of unnatural colors in there."
"We could always use markers," Troy suggests. "I could color my hot dog blue."
Pierce opens his mouth, shuts it. "Forget it. That one's way too easy."
You spot the refrigerated case by the sundae bar and mentally snap your fingers. Perfect.
You walk over and Troy follows. You peruse the case hopefully. There's a little collection of yogurt containers, a pile of egg salad sandwiches, some plastic fruit, and a single, misplaced sneaker. You check the yogurt flavors: lemon, key lime pie, blueberry, and--jackpot. Strawberry.
Five minutes later you're back at the table eating pink yogurt. It doesn't taste as good as you thought it would, but at least you don't feel as nauseous. Although having someone hold your hair while you vomit is on your college trope to-do list.
Troy pokes sadly at his blueberry cup. "I thought blueberry and blue raspberry were the same thing. Like, blueberry was just an abbreviation."
Jeff shakes his head. "And yet ."
Troy pushes the cup toward the middle of the table. "Anybody want some nasty yogurt?"
Britta chuckles. "With a sell like that, who could resist?"
"Wait." You look from your cold, congealing fish sticks to the yogurt. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Troy's brow furrows. "That we should build a magnificent tower out of fish bricks and blueberry mortar?"
"Cool cool cool." You lift a finger, inspired. "And, we could use the little tooth pick flag from Pierce's sandwich on top."
"Do you think we could make the Eiffel Tower?"
"We're going to need more fish sticks."
* * *
The tower doesn't end up looking much like France's famous landmark, but it's still pretty awesome. At least until one of the cafeteria workers kicks you out and sends Blanketlandia's Video Gaming Castle of Awesome into the nearest garbage can. Oh well.
The rest of the day is uneventful. Except your stomach still hurts and it takes you hours to fall asleep. Your emergency horsey pillow doesn't even help. But eventually you slide into a fitful sleep where you dream someone is chasing you. Or maybe you're doing the chasing. When you wake up to pee around 5:00 you can't remember which.
You pad down the hall and pee, still half asleep. You wash your hands and that's when you glimpse your reflection. And just like that, you're wide awake. Your skin is pasty, sickly. You look almost as pale as White Abed. Your eyes are bloodshot. Large purple-black bruises ring your eyes like a mask. You swallow, stunned. Your lips are tinged blue. You look down at your hands. So are your fingernails. Your arms are mottled with bruises. You sway and grab the edge of the sink. There's a loud buzzing in your ears.
You're so afraid your heart should be pounding out of your chest--should be breaking your rib cage in two--but nothing happens. You're silent as a cave. You put a hand to your chest, then your neck, trying to find a pulse. There's nothing.
You put a shaking hand to your head. Your hair is matted. When you run your fingers through it, a huge clump comes out. A piece of your scalp comes with it. You stare at the bloody hole in your head, mouth open.
You try to swallow. Your red eyes look back at you. You decide you're dreaming. This is a nightmare, that's all. You flick the light switch and the shadows evaporate beneath the fluorescent light. Except for you. You look just as dead in the light as you did in the dark. You look dead because you are dead. Uncle Rami said you died, and he was right.
* * *
You wake to find Troy standing over you.
You're curled on the love seat in your room, Star Burns' top hat pulled low over your face. You've been here, barring bathroom breaks and late night forages for strawberry yogurt, for the past two days.
"Dude, are you okay?"
Troy holds out his hand and you manage a weak high five.
"Yeah." Your answer is automatic. The truth is you're not okay. You're about as okay as the second Star Wars trilogy. You feel lost and alone, like Buffy when she crawled out of the grave in season six. Which is ironic, since you're in the process of crawling into one. Your head feels like it's been stuffed with cotton. Your mouth tastes like rusty nails. You can see the love seat cushion beneath your arm, but it feels like you're floating a few inches above it. Weird.
"How come you've been skipping classes? Anthropology sucks without you, man. And we're supposed to be working on the Kick Puncher prequel, remember?"
Oh, right. Fist Jumper.
"I need you to write a script where fists have the power of jumps. I tried, but I just can't get Fist Jumper's motivation right."
You close your eyes. Open them. "I'm sorry, Troy."
Troy looks worried. You're pretty good at recognizing this particular expression. It's almost exactly how that laundromat attendant looked when he pulled you out of that clothes dryer a few years back. And how Britta looked when she thought you were going to get kicked out of school last December.
"Um, Abed? You don't look so good."
Crap. Troy knows . If anybody on campus could recognize the living dead besides you, of course it would be Troy. You turn away from him and mumble into the back of the love seat.
"I know. Don't look at me."
Troy chuckles uncertainly. "I've seen your face before. Sick or not, I still like you," Troy says, sincere as always.
You don't answer. You don't know what to say. If Dean Pelton finds out you're the żywy trup --living dead--he's going to kick you out of Greendale for sure. You wish you could live the rest of your life on a couch in Central Perk on Friends . You wish you were a silicon doll with a foam head and ball and socket armatures instead of a zombie. And strangely, you really do wish all dogs were blue. But most of all, you wish--just for now--Troy would go away. You turn yourself off like a television, let your thoughts grow smaller and smaller until they're nothing but a pin point.
* * *
" Abed ."
You jerk awake. You're still on the love seat, turned toward the wall. So much for waking up next to Joey and Chandler. Jeff is here. And Annie and Troy are whispering behind him. Great. You don't want to deal with them, you don't want to see their fear and disgust when they look at you. You replace them with fictional characters instead. Fictional people don't seem to mind zombies all that much. They certainly never have trouble believing they exist. Maybe because until very recently, zombies were fictional too. Betty Suarez would probably be nice to zombies. She was always good about not judging people. Joey Tribbiani would freak out of course, but he'd probably be okay once you gave him a meatball sandwich. President Jed Bartlett could even pass a law protecting zombies. Buffy would probably kill you, but Willow might try and cure you with magic first. That would be cool. You're wondering how long it would take for Betty and Willow to become friends when you feel yourself being pulled upright. Crap.
Your top hat tumbles off.
Jeff is staring at you and you stare back. You wait for him to scream like a girl, to jump back like you're radioactive.
"Okay, that's it," Jeff snaps. He looks upset, maybe annoyed, but he's a nowhere near horrified. "We're going to see Nurse Jackie right now."
"He can't help me," you tell him. The words take a surprising amount of energy to get out.
"Nurses help all kinds of people," Troy says. "He's gonna help you too."
You're about to argue when the floor disappears and your legs turn to string. Your head is the size and density of a watermelon. Jeff grunts in surprise as you go limp, Troy swears. Annie calls your name. Your last conscious thought is regret at missing tonight's Cougar Town.
* * *
When you open your eyes you're in a hospital bed. You haven't been in the hospital since you were a baby. Since you died. Jeff is seated in a plastic chair watching you. Troy is in a chair leaning against the other side of the bed. His head is pillowed on your chest and he's holding your hand.
Annie is standing guard at the door. Shirley's leaning against the far wall, large purse clasped in her arms. Pierce takes up the bathroom doorway.
"Hey," you say groggily. "What's going on?"
Troy snorts and sits up. He blinks at you, tears in his eyes. "You're alive."
"Not really," you admit.
Jeff takes charge. "Okay Abed, do you mind telling us why you've been starving yourself?"
You haven't been starving yourself. Not really. It's not your fault the living dead only have one food group. Besides, you've got strawberry yogurt coming out of your ears.
"The doctor said you were dehydrated," Britta says, her face pinched with concern.
"I don't have to be Doc Potterywood to know prolonged dehydration can lead to kidney and heart failure," Jeff says seriously.
Troy nods. "And your electrolytes were all crazy and stuff! You're gonna burn them out."
"Electrolytes aren't actually lights," you explain patiently.
"Honey, you don't have to look like those models in the magazines," Shirley tells you.
"I'm not trying to look like a model," you say, although you do have the height.
"Red alert!" Annie whispers, gesturing furiously toward the bathroom. "Wait. Downgrade that to a yellow. Nurse Busybody took the other hallway."
"How come you're all allowed to be in here at the same time?" you ask. On television they always allow a million people to visit the patient's hospital room, but in real life you're not supposed to have this many visitors, are you? You feel like you're on a soap opera, but with better lighting.
"As soon as somebody comes, everyone hides in the bathroom except for Annie and me," Jeff says.
"And that actually works?"
"We haven't had to do it yet. But I'm sure, like everything else we do, it'll go off without a hitch." Jeff gives you a wry smile.
You return it.
You push yourself up against the pillows, glance around the room. At the IV in your arm. "How come I'm not at the campus clinic?"
"Because we couldn't wake you up," Annie says. "And Troy started to hyperventilate so Shirley called 911."
Troy holds up a paper bag. "You would not believe how much air this thing holds."
You look from face to face in confusion. Your confusion is fading only to be replaced with more confusion. Why isn't anyone afraid of you?
You turn to Troy. "Why aren't you scared?"
"I am," he says, shuddering. "Hospitals always freak me out."
"No. I mean why aren't you afraid of me. " You point to your face. "How I look."
Jeff and Britta exchange a glance. "And...how do you look?" Britta asks uncertainly.
"Like a terrorist," Peirce blurts.
"This is just a warning," Jeff says, "but if you say stop-motion I'm going to get the nurse."
" No ," you say, exasperated. "I'm not stop-motion, I'm dead. I mean, just look at my face." You hold up your arms. "My skin." You're still marbled with bruises, your veins are purple-blue worms beneath your skin. The strange thing is--stranger than being a zombie even--your stomach still hurts. Aren't the living dead supposed to be impervious to pain? Then again, you still seem to have a surprising amount of brain function, so maybe the two things are related.
"You're...dead," Jeff repeats flatly.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you."
Jeff rubs his face wearily. "Abed, you're not dead."
You roll your bloodshot eyes. "You're telling me you don't see the chunk missing from my scalp? I've got enough bruises around my eyes to be Robin." And everyone knows you make a much better Batman. "How are you not seeing this?"
Shirley puts a hand to her mouth.
Britta looks like she's just been punched in the boobs.
Jeff shakes his head, apparently as confused as you. " What ?"
"Dude, you're wrinkling my brain. Are you trying to say you're a... zombie ?" Troy asks slowly, eyes wide. Finally, there's a little of the shock you've been waiting for.
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying." You gesture to your face again. "I mean, it's pretty obvious. Frankly, I thought there'd be a lot more yelling." You're careful not to look at your best friend. "And maybe some crying."
Jeff stands and walks to the bed. He puts his hand on your shoulder. "Abed, the only thing that's obvious is you're having another delusion."
"I'm not delusional."
"But Abed, you look normal. You don't look like a zombie," Annie protests.
It's strange that they can't see the truth. Maybe they don't want to. That must be it. You point a finger at Jeff. " You're in denial."
"Only one of is in denial, and it's not me," Jeff says.
Well then what's the problem? You need to ferret out the truth like Mulder. And there's your answer. The truth is out there. It's exactly where it should be, in an episode of The X-Files .
"Folie à deux," you say quickly. "It's a French expression that means 'a madness shared by two.' It's also the name of a season five episode of The X-Files . It was about a man who could see his boss was a monster. Eventually Mulder and Scully could see the same thing; they experienced a shared delusion, only it was actually the truth. You guys think you're sharing truth, but you're the ones having a delusion, not me. You see me the way you want me to be, not the way I really am."
Nobody says anything. Jeff's face goes tight. You can't tell if he's angry, sad, or both.
"You should all leave," you say. "Before I start trying to eat your brains."
"Oh, Abed," Annie whispers. She's wearing her sad-eyed Disney Princess look. You picture the Ark of the Covenant and look away.
Troy shakes his head. "I'll never leave you," he says defiantly.
"Well you're not getting my brain," Peirce says, moving back toward the bathroom. "It's full of good ideas. And all my computer passwords."
"I know zombies are popular right now," Jeff says. "Just look at the Walking Dead franchise. And maybe, for some reason, you wish you really were a zombie. But you're not ."
You fold your hands in your lap. Most of your fingernails have fallen off.
"This isn't some Rankin/Bass Christmas Wonderland," Jeff continues. "You're trying to force us into Night of the Living Abed."
Troy nods in approval. "I like it."
Jeff shoots Troy a disgusted look. "Really? You're not going to like it when your BFF gets kicked out of school because he can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. You're not going to like it if Abed ends up in a padded room."
Troy blinks back tears, stamps his foot. "I don't like it!"
"Jeff is right," Britta says, and takes one of your hands. She doesn't even flinch at the feel of your skin. Britta might be a technophobe, but at least she's badass. "You've got to--to snap out of this, Abed. It's not funny."
"Death is never funny," you agree. "Unless you're talking about Weekend at Bernie's. " You check with Troy. "Am I right?"
Troy still looks weepy, but he slaps your outstretched hand in solidarity. "That movie isn't funny," he declares. "It's hilarious ."
Annie gives the hallway a quick glance, then moves to the foot of the bed. She looks down at you, hands twisted together. "Is this why you're not eating anything? You think you're supposed to eat--" she tries hard not to make a face, fails. "--brains?"
"I keep trying to fool myself with strawberry yogurt, but it's not working." You shrug. "I'm on to myself."
Troy sits on the edge of your bed. "I need my brain for making up awesome jokes, but you can have my left arm. Then I could get a robot arm with a net attachment," he says, eyes wide with excitement. "I could catch footballs like butterflies!"
You have to admit, a robot arm with a butterfly net attachment does sound cool.
Troy takes a deep breath, then rolls up his sleeve. He pulls a few fast food packets of ketchup out of a pocket. "I hope ketchup is okay. I'm all out of mustard." He holds his arm out in front of you, offers a ketchup packet with his non-edible arm. "Go ahead. Eat me."
Pierce nearly shrieks. "You can't honestly tell me I'm the only one who just heard that!"
"Troy, I don't think medical science has advanced to the point of robot net arms yet, so why don't you just give Abed the ketchup for now. I won't even ask why you're carrying condiments around in your pocket." Jeff lifts an eyebrow at you. "Can't you just pretend it's blood or something? It's still really creepy and this way everyone gets to keep their limbs."
"I started carrying ketchup around during our chicken finger days," Troy says wistfully. "It's a hard habit to break."
You gently lower Troy's arm back to his side. You wish you had the words to tell him how much he means to you. You can quote dialogue from hundreds of movies, but actually communicating is difficult without a script.
You keep hold of his hand. "Thank you, Troy. You're the Turk to my JD. The Rizzo to my Gonzo. The Chuck to my Morgan."
Troy smiles. "Thank you, but I don't know what that means."
"It means you're my best friend and I could never hurt you." Also, you're not hungry.
"You know, Abed, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and Lazarus wasn't a zombie," Shirley says sweetly.
"I know the story." You read the New Testament, after all. You quote a passage from John 11. "'He cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus come forth!' And he who died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Loose him, and let him go.'" You tilt your head, considering the passage. "It doesn't say what Lazarus looked like under that cloth. Or what he wanted for dinner."
Shirley's eyes narrow and her voice drops at least an octave. "Jesus don't make no zombies, Abed."
"Shhh," Annie whispers, admonishing Shirley. She steps in front of the black woman. "Do you think this could be another version of you, Abed? Only this version is a zombie instead of a vampire?"
It's a valid question, but no. This is you. You shake your head. "I'm sorry Annie, but this is me. I'm being myself. I can talk like Don Draper or Jeff if you want, but I'll still be dead."
Britta folds her arms, leather jacket squeaking. "You're not a zombie. There's no such thing."
You sigh, annoyed. "Don't lampshade me, Britta."
Britta unfolds her arms, throws her hands in the air. "I'm not. I don't even know what that means! I'm not doing anything but--but worrying about you, Abed. I think you need to--to talk to someone about this."
"I'm talking to you."
Britta doesn't look particularly comforted.
Your friends are clearly upset, even scared. But they're scared of what you're saying, not what you are . There are several explanations for this anomaly. One, they don't see your true appearance. Two, they do see it, they just don't care. Either you're a zombie and they can't see it, or you're not, but think you are. You have been taught to believe what you see. This is the wonder of television and film. But there is no green screen here, no special effects. You flex your fingers into a fist. The skin cracks around each knuckle, green liquid oozes out. You have to believe your own eyes. If you can't trust yourself, how can you trust anyone else?
Conclusion: your friends can't see the real you, the same way Buffy and her friends couldn't see Dawn was the Key in season five. But eventually, they saw the truth. You have faith your friends will too.
Jeff exhales loudly through his nose. "What do we have to do to convince you that you're not dead?"
"Technically I'm the living dead," you correct, "I may have misspoke. That's żywy trup in Polish." You meet Jeff's eyes. "And you can't convince me to believe something that's not true."
Jeff looks up at the ceiling in frustration. "But that's exactly what you want us to do!"
"What the hell?" A nurse stands in the doorway, hands on hips. "You're not supposed to be in here."
Jeff bends down, whispers in your ear. "This isn't over." He taps your arm with each word. "To. Be. Continued."
Wow, a two-parter. You didn't see that coming.