Corporate Zombie

 

Corporate Zombie cover

 

This is a suicide note.

I’ve known people who hate their jobs, who feel insignificant in a world where we’re told everyone is a unique and valuable individual. I’ve known people who, after giving years of their life to a company, are convinced that if they weren’t there tomorrow, nothing would change. I’ve known people who realize too late that doing a job solely for financial rewards is draining and can ravage your soul — that is, if you believe in such things as souls.

Not only have I known those people, I’ve worked with them, watched them go prematurely gray, turn to alcohol, destroy their marriages — just to feel something again.

But I’m not one of those people.

I’m actually deathly afraid to come to work, not like a normal person who’s afraid to be fired, afraid of missing out on a promotion, afraid of the stress and strain. I’m mortally afraid.

Take what I’m seeing in front of me right now. I’m at my desk. It’s a nice, ordinary desk with one of those dealies that has metal balls suspended by fishing line. When you swing one line, the balls click together and then the end pops off and swings back and….

Sorry, I’m getting nervous. Let me wipe my palms on my lab coat, since they’re starting to perspire.

Okay, so I’m at my desk. Directly in front of me there’s a triple-paned glass wall that connects to my observation room. Inside that room is a man, but don’t ask me where he came from. I’ve never asked where they come from, although I’ve often wondered. Could he be a convicted felon who’s agreed to take lab tests in hopes of a commuted sentence? Or a terminally ill patient who’s been promised a miracle drug if he submits to this experiment?

I don’t know who the lab test candidates are, but sad to say, it doesn’t really matter. Since by medical and legal definitions the men are brain-dead, that’s probably how the company justifies the experimentations. “The irreversible end of all brain activity was due to necrosis by loss of oxygenation,” the crisply worded report will say.

But he isn’t exactly brain-dead at the moment; he’s watching my every move with piercing eyes, and he looks hungry. His pallid, gray hands are pressed against the glass and there’s a vacant stare on his decaying face. I seem almost to be an object of his longing. Come to think of it, nobody else looks at me that way anymore. In fact, this lab subject might be the most intimate relationship I have at the moment!

Oh, and one more thing: he doesn’t breathe. His neurological scans show no activity, true enough, though to look at him, you’d say something is alive up there. I’m not going to go into detail about how that is possible. Corporate espionage is fierce. Let’s just say that it is possible.

I’d like to make something painfully clear: the man in front of me is what would classically be called “undead,” a zombie. If you don’t believe me, I’m glad, because that means my plan has worked. But it is scientifically possible, and not that far a leap. Science has always been trying to reproduce science fiction. Flip cell phones, among other things, were inspired by Star Trek. Science fiction inspired Bluetooth, jet packs, retinal scans, wormholes, even flying machines came from Leonardo Da Vinci. And now, zombies.

And you’d be surprised how close fiction got to real life, most likely because life imitates art. I won’t tell you what the company got right, but I’ll tell you a bit about how our zombies are different from popular fiction, since it’s pertinent to my plan. Our zombies are smart, very smart. Not smart like a bright child or a teachable dog. These test subjects are as smart as they were the day they died. They can open doors, and some even use weapons. But there’s one huge limiting factor: zombies cannot learn.

In one experiment, we told lab test Subject A the code for getting through a door before we gave him the serum. After he died and reanimated, he immediately punched in the code to get out of the room. We told Subject B the code after his transformation and even pressed his hand against the right buttons (while he was restrained, of course) by the door. But it didn’t work. He wanted out of the room desperately, but he could not learn the code.

Absolutely no learning takes place once you’re dead, zombie or otherwise. Someone who’s a martial arts expert, or an accomplished handgun shooter, will use their skills to attempt to kill you once they’re reanimated. That is their only goal, to try to kill any living thing, man, plant or animal. The only discrimination zombies make is to bite people rather than just kill us. They want to infect the rest of us. And, given a choice, they’ll go for a human over any other quarry — no matter the barriers in place.

I said I’m afraid of coming to work. I’m not afraid that the zombie is going to eat me, at least not in the immediate sense. I’m afraid of the future implications. I’m sure it’s the same for an engineer who develops cybernetic intelligence; he must have Terminator in the back of his mind somewhere, haunting him.

I don’t want to cause the apocalypse. I came here to cure diseases, to extend life — but not in this way. I’ve tried speaking out, but I’m not a confrontational person by nature. I guess that’s why I’ve been driven to writing this note.

All my coworkers think this program is great. The other dissenters quit before we made any progress, before the rest of us had been forced to stay. We “know too much.” I had to sign a letter of commitment, but I couldn’t really have understood just how far we’d go. Can you believe this kind of totalitarian BS exists in America? You probably can. Me? I’m just too much of an idealist, I guess. I feel like I’m in 1984 working at the Ministry of Zombies. MiniZom.

There’s still that first line of my note lingering in my consciousness. I suppose I’d do well to address it. You see, I’m going to kill myself, and everyone else in this building, with the help of the man behind the glass. I call him Jesus, or J.C., in honor of the most famous zombie in history. . This offends some of my colleagues, so I usually reserve my opinions for when we are alone. Which is often. Of all the names I’ve heard here, from the fourteen guys who named their zombie Rob, to the particularly lovely Daisy Pusher, to the ’80s Weekend at Bernie’s film-inspired Bernie, I don’t think my name for him is so far out there. Some people named their zombies after family members, in fact, which I just find creepy.

A few of you readers may have been shocked in that last paragraph when I said I’ll be killing my coworkers. But they’re turning people into zombies, for Christ’s sake! (J.C. just looked at me oddly when I had that thought; gave me the shivers.) People are doing experiments on other people — how much more abhorrent behavior can there be?

Look, the point is, my corporate bosses – my coworkers – are not good people, and I’ve been powerless for far too long. I’ve started going to a gun range recently; mastering the art of shooting is supposed to make me feel empowered. It’s worked to some extent, I guess. Otherwise I would still be lying to myself that everything’s okay.

I have an opportunity here that many people never will. You know when people say if they could travel back through time, they’d kill Hitler? Well, here I am in an office building full of Hitlers. I’m witnessing the formation of the Manhattan Project, and Dr. Oppenheimer won’t listen to my objections. I have a responsibility to do something, don’t I?

All right, at this point you’re either with me or against me. And if you’re against me, then you probably belong in this building. Anyway, I’m going through with it, and there’s no stopping me.

Once someone sees that J.C. is loose, we’ll all be summoned to the group theater for quarantine and containment. Then security will be called in. So I know that my actions won’t reach the outside world; justice goes only to those who deserve it.

I’ve only got to enter the secure code, 5-9-4-0-4, and it’s done; I’ve released J.C.! The door hisses and slides to the side as the air lock is released. J.C. takes notice and moves out of the room quickly and purposefully. I know the first thing he’ll do is come for me, but that isn’t part of my agenda just yet.

“Jesus loves you,” I say calmly as I press the intercom. I can imagine everyone looking up from their workstations with their dopey faces, wondering exactly what that announcement meant. Well, they’ll know soon enough.

Next, I back away from the workstation and go out the door, securely locking it from the outside with my key card. I stop a moment to write all this down in this note, pressed against the wall right next to the door. J.C. is in my lab now, and moves right past the Newton’s cradle on my immaculate desk (that’s what the dealie is called!) to attack me. I see him through the window slit on the door. He wants me. It’s good to be wanted.

“Turn around,” I say, but he doesn’t. All he has to do is go out the other side of the lab and he’ll be in the main hall. Ah, hell, I’m sure he’ll figure it out. Time to get moving toward the group theater.

I’ve got my duffle bag with me, which is key. I would be in a world of hurt without that.

“Hey, Bill,” I say to a coworker in the hall. He nods to me, his eyes constantly looking at the floor, and walks right past my door. Asshole. I don’t see J.C. in the window anymore.

“Please proceed to the group theater,” a soothing female voice says on the intercom, “We have a real-world situation, but please remain calm.” Apparently J.C. figured it out.

The employees go running out of their labs toward the group conference room, clutching the emergency baseball bats and clubs they’ve smuggled in. Everyone is anything but calm, however, because they know there’s been a breach in security.

I walk briskly, so as not to arouse suspicion, but I’m not running. I love the concept of saying “This is not a drill” at the same time an alarm is sounded. What’s the point, when you say “Exercise, exercise, exercise” before making a serious announcement?  Everybody knows that nobody ever acts the same if they know it’s a fake announcement as they do when there’s real danger. People are running past me, looking at me strangely. Fine, I’ll run, too. It’s not like the group theater is that far away, but, whatever.

Soon we’re inside the theater with the doors locked, waiting to be released. Some of the women are crying. Please don’t have second thoughts; this is the only way to do it. I’ll listen to some of the guys to take my mind off what’s going on.

“Did one of them get out?”

“Yeah, and I hear it got Murphy.”

“Oh, man. Murph? Really?” Thank God J.C. got Murphy, now I can die in peace. Murph. What a total tool-bag.

“Does anybody know whose experiment got out?”

“No, but whoever it is, is screwed.”

“That’s for sure.”

And there’s my cue. Not much left to write now. You don’t write when you’re dead, or undead, for that matter.

There are curtains running along the aisle, so I’ll go over there. This isn’t a theater for entertainment, though the stadium seating seems like it could have been. There’s no movie screen or thespians here; it’s a briefing room.

Everyone is huddling in small cliques. No is one looking at me, so in the safety of the curtains, I open the duffle bag. My assault rifle is there, along with a half-dozen reversible clips. You know how in the movies, someone duct tapes two clips together so they can reload faster? I was going to do that, but there’s no need. Gun stores actually sell a band that lets you fasten the clips together. God bless America!

Then there’s the small medical kit; time for that first. Inside I find a vial of the serum and insert it into an injector. That’s it; I’m infected now. I’m Patient Zero. I can already feel my pulse begin to slow, my hands get steady. I’m not sweating anymore and my stomach has stopped churning because of nerves.

Only a few more minutes and I’ll be completely relaxed. Only a few more minutes and my body, my hands, will do what I couldn’t make them do before. Only a few more minutes and then I too will be unable to learn. But I’ll still remember; I’ll remember that these people deserve this, that they’re despicably evil people, and I’ll remember my target practice.

Sorry, mom.

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