Father already had the breakfast on the table. Wholewheat cereal and half fat milk, toast, fruit juice. Neither of them had been given opportunity to develop a taste for sugar or E-numbers. Zombina was perched elegantly at the end of the breakfast table, sipping tea. Father was encouraging her to slouch more.
`You'll never inspire terror at a world gone suddenly mad if you sit around all dainty. Good morning Susan.'
`What,' asked Zombina `If I do not want to inspire terror?'
`I know that you want to be your own person, follow your dreams and all that, and I'm behind you all the way, I really am, but you're young yet and I feel I would be remiss in my duties as a parent if I didn't teach you a solid skill you could fall back on if things go wrong.'
Zombina finished her tea and, concentrating furiously on her deportment, walked out of the room without lurching once.
`I just want you to have a chance to be in the forefront of the lurching legions of undead when hell is full and the dead walk the earth!' Father's cheerful voice came up the stairs after her, and she resisted an urge to moan wordlessly. As many world leaders had cause to regret, father's patience, imagination and cheerful demeanor were apparently the one inexhaustible resource that the planet had. She still wasn't sure how reports of her had become first a crowd, then a `thousands strong army of the recently deceased', and finally an inescapable reason for Kim Jong-il to let father inspect his weapons of mass destruction, but she had. `REPORT SAYS MISSILES UNLIKELY TO ANIMATE THE DEAD BUT OTHERWISE VERY NICE'; the newspaper was framed at the top of the stairs.
Bathroom. Toothpaste on brush. Scrub. Taste of carrion in mouth. Wordless scream.
`Farrrfer!' She was slurring, dammit! She never did that anymore.
`I'll be up in a minute, just putting the breakfast away'
Some parents, Zombina reflected, would panic when their children started screaming. Then again, some parents wouldn't have planned making their children scream.
`Harmless vegetable extract. Thought it would help.' his voice preceded him up the stairs.
`From the Amazon, it flowers about once every 30 years. Very rare, but not too hard to find; you can smell it from about eight miles away'
`Ersatz rotting meat scentable from eight miles away will help?' There was emphasis on the last word but no hysteria in her voice. Zombina, he reflected proudly, had a spirit equal to virtually any challenge. Susan was already fighting against his early conditioning. He was only eight, or eleven, or one of those ages.
`Your breath, its been a bit...fresh recently. Not really becoming in a shambling undead, fresh breath.'
Zombina put the toothpaste tube back, opened a fresh one, and resumed brushing. It was too much to hope that any chemical compound provided by father would wash off, but plaque and gum disease would give bad breath in the long term, if not to such monstrous proportions, and only a fool suffered unnecessary nerve damage, even to the stupid nerves in teeth.
`It attracts blowflies you see, for pollination. I doubt it will have that sort of range around here though; we've got a lot more wind than you get in the rain forest'
Zombina spat a stream of foam into the sink. `Blowflies.'
`My mouth. Daddy, it does not need pollinating. It is a perfectly functional organ already. It does mouth-things like speech and eating and breathing and so forth.' Although it was not, she was forced to admit to herself, going to be involved in kissing boys, at least not while it smelt of a (vegetable-based) charnel pit.
`It could provide rotting meat to a family of maggots.'
`I have no rotting meat for the dear little maggots father. Now, I need to get ready for school. Don't you have a regime to measure?'
The maggots had been one hell of a challenge, as he was virtually phobic of wriggly things without skeletons, but he had managed, largely by lying unconvincingly to himself, so he was very happy to hear about them still being dear to her. Both of his children flew with an easy unconcern he could only imitate through vast effort of will, too.
On the way to school, Susan took her to the pharmacy, and they bought toothpaste.
`Hide it. Don't let him know you've got it. Squeeze a dollop of the stuff in the bathroom in to the sink every morning and scream at him if appropriate, brush your teeth with this.' He worried that being machiavellian for goodness was a bit dubious, but he had sworn off evil, rather than masterminding.
I didn't mention before, but The Sarah Jane Smith adventures are the king of France. They are so in my land it is untrue. The first episode, they had a boy who wanted to be called Susan, and copious lurching hordes. In conclusion: They have seized my castles, tied my seneschals to their house’s tails and are doing as they will with my lawful possessions.