Old lady Elza was alone. She toyed with her unsalted food while inaudible chatter filled the cafeteria. Over the first few months at the Secure Hearts Retirement Home, Elza tried to make new friends as one does. She tried small talk, offering a hand to those who had trouble walking, letting others win at card games. Nothing ever worked. If anything, they began making an effort to avoid her. She could feel their voices whipping gossips behind her back. Since her hearing had declined a bit, she couldn’t make the exact words being whispered. That is until the day a resident decided to be loud and clear.

“Filthy tranny nigger” – the frail lady in a flowery gown spouted

Elza fled the scene. Years had gone by since she was called such horrible names. Bingo night was completely out of the question. She couldn’t face anyone, her eyes stared at the vanilla colored corridor floors as she escaped to the safety of her room. The situation asked for a strong, and prescribed, sleeping pill earlier than usual. Hurt as she was, self-medicating was no longer an option. She flinched at the memory of the day an entire bottle of pills tried to make it all go away but just amounted to the expulsion of her lunch. Elza promised to never allow herself on that same pit of despair and she would make damn sure to live to see better days. Came dawn and Elza went to bed. Alone, as always. However, thanks to that little chemical wonder that put her out like a baby sloth, Elza was the only one to survive at the Secure Hearts Retirement Home.

Her eyes blinked heavily as the sun shined shyly through the blinds. The analog clock ticked five past six in the morning. She had overslept big time. Elza hurried out of bed, breakfast would last two more hours and she took one just to get to the cafeteria. It wasn’t that far; the truth is she was snail like. As she slowly made her way to her delicious sugar-free pancakes and mouth-watering vegan sausages, Suzana, the Brazilian woman whom once had a nasty fit when she saw Elza wearing a red dress, grunted a “good morning”. At least that’s what hard of hearing Elza thought Suzana said, but it was more of an “AAAHRNG”. Nevertheless, she replied with a “good morning to you too, dear” with a smile so warm it could melt the Artic.

Finally arriving at the cafeteria, poor Elza was out of breath. She needed a moment to sit and rest before digging into the most important meal of the day. Approaching her usual table, a kind sir moved the chair for her. Surely, he stumbled upon the chair causing it to move, but who’s to say it wasn’t intentional? He was also unblinkingly dragging his feet forward and moaning which felt extremely odd to Elza, though she chose to dismiss the behavior as a bad night of sleep for the old sod. She quickly forgot her fatigue and hurried to thank the kindness in that man’s heart, but soon enough he was gone without saying a word.

Now, her Mama taught her never to think ill of others when no ill intentions are plain to see. Therefore, Elza clung to this belief even though she was time and time again deceived and betrayed. Make no mistake, she was no fool. She could see the dog running towards her, but preferred to think he was coming for a lick, not a bite. Moreover, acceptance was the only way to go, so she took those little acts of cordiality to her heart. That is until one of her brand-new friends coughed up theirs.

The same frail lady in a flowery gown was having a violent coughing fit. She looked like a cat with a fur ball stuck in her throat. Alas, it was her own blackened heart that was splurged on the linoleum floors. The woman paid no mind and, just like the chair stumbling gentleman, went on about with a dead gaze. In fact, she was dead all over. They all were. Bingo night was their doom. One of the young and agile residents, aged 75 or so, had been infected while visiting her family and passed it on to all those who weren’t locked in their rooms crying.

Elza adjusted her glasses to better observe the Secure Hearts Retirement Home’s residents hobble around. They were bloodied and bitten. Some of them had limbs and eyes missing. Most of them had their clothes torn. None of them seemed to take notice that Elza wasn’t like them. She was slow like them and, apart from the blood and guts, smelled like them. That old people smell most grandchildren learn to associate with childhood. Elza relaxed her entire body on the chair and drew a sigh of relief. Among the undead, she was safer than ever before.