There was a loud thud and Russell turned to see Hannah passed out on the floor. Bob jolted up to help her but Russell stopped him with a raised hand. “Just, just stay seated, Mr. Samson. She’ll be all right.” Secretly, he hoped he was speaking the truth and she hadn’t, in fact, had a fatal heart attack. He felt a ball of vile rocket up his throat and covered his mouth with a handkerchief as he swallowed it back.
Okay old man, time to get off your heels and take charge of the situation, he scolded himself. Bob may be dead, but this is still an employee issue. He’s coming to you. You have the power, Russell. You hold the upper hand. Now deal with it!
Ignoring Hannah’s prone form behind him, Russell adjusted his tie, placed his handkerchief back in his breast pocket and straightened in his chair.
“Mr. Samson, let me first tell you that I appreciate your thirty years of hard work and dedication. No one, not even death, can take that away from you.”
“No, thank you. I think you’ll agree that you’re in a,” here he struggled for the right word, “unique situation. And you most certainly now possess some very intriguing qualities.”
Bob nodded his head vigorously and there was a squishing sound, like pockets of trapped bodily fluids were shifting from the movement of his neck. “You’d sure be hard pressed to find someone else that’ll be able to work a non-stop shift like I can.”
“True. However, there are laws I have to abide by, and one of them prevents me from letting a man work those kinds of hours.”
Russell was beginning to feel more like himself with each passing second. Here was the granddaddy of all conundrums and he was about to whip its ass.
“Plus, there’s the matter of personal hygiene. I know it’s not something you can control, given your state of being. I just don’t think it would be a good idea to have you in an enclosed area with dozens of other folks who might be a tad offended.”
“I was fixin’ to change that by getting some of those colognes.”
Hannah moaned when Russell moved his chair back into her leg. “Mr. Samson, you can put a tuxedo on a sow and bring it to the prom, but everyone will still know you’re planning on fucking a pig before the night is through. You get my point?”
And there it was. The white flag of utter defeat there in Bob Samson’s eyes.
“I do appreciate the offer, Mr. Samson, but we both know it won’t work.”
They sat in silence for a bit, then Bob hung his head and rose from his chair.
“Mr. Banks, if you’re telling me no, I honestly don’t know what I’m gonna do with myself. Working for Banks Textiles is all I know.”
Russell smiled, the head man in charge, and replied, “You have a new lease on life. Now that’s something only Lazarus and Jesus got the privilege of receiving. You don’t want to waste it in some old textile mill. Go out, do things you only dreamed of before you died.” Even he was shocked by the words as they fell from his mouth with such ease. “Hell, start a support group. I hear that’s a great way to get things back on track.”
Two phone lines rang at once and Russell Banks snapped the headset back on.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, duty calls.”
Bob Samson left with stooped shoulders, too polite to argue with the man, too sad to say so long.
Three weeks later, David Benderman, twenty year employee of Banks Textiles, died of a heart attack while attending a minor league baseball game. Four days after that, he returned home, dirt stained and confused, only to be cast out as a leper.
Buford Jackson had passed away a year before Bob Samson, only to “revive” a month after Bob’s failed attempt at re-employment. Buford was the worst for wear, his skin sloughing off at the slightest contact. He was nothing more but a skeleton with bits of hanging flesh within a week. He’d worked at Banks Textiles for eleven years before succumbing to cancer of the balls.
Melinda Wahlberg found herself standing on the outside of her crypt three weeks after a vicious car accident that killed her instantly. It was hard going, what with the twisted legs and torso, but she eventually made it back to her apartment, only to find it had been rented out to a nice Mexican couple. She hadn’t worked at or even heard of Banks Textiles, but she was damn sure in the same boat as Bob, David and Buford.
They had no homes and no one to talk to but each other. They met at the church in the Serene Pastures cemetery every night after closing. It seemed a fitting place to congregate.
As the weeks grew on, more people suddenly and inexplicably came back from what was formerly known as the permanent dirt nap. Within two months, they were over fifty strong. Most folks that had come in contact with them either refused to talk about it for fear of ridicule or sold their story to such reputable tabloids as The Weekly World News.
They had becomeGeorgia’s dirty little secret. For all they knew, it was only happening here, in this run down little town forged in heat and humidity.
It wasn’t until about their tenth meeting when a realization hit Bob Samson.
He had started a support group, just like Russell Banks had told him to.
And though he had found solace in a group of outcasts like himself, it did little to mend his shattered self worth. Here he was hiding by day, lurking in shadows, and congregating by night in a cemetery with its share of hollow graves. He was back, but what the hell was he doing with his time?
“I don’t know about you all,” he said one night, “but I need to find something constructive to do with my time. It wears on a man, all this hiding.”
There were a few murmurs of agreement, then Buford stood up and said, “I feel the same way you do, Bob, but what do you expect us to do? We’re zombies, for Christ’s sake. It’s not like the rest of the world is welcoming us with open arms.”
Now the murmuring was escalating to a chorus and decaying heads were nodding as one.
Bob answered, “First of all, I ain’t no zombie. I think we need to come up with a better term for ourselves, help build our self esteem. Zombies make me think of bad movies and filthy drive-ins. Second, we need to get off our rotting asses and get to work!”
“You already tried that and look where it got you,” someone chirped.
“Sure, I tried and failed. But did you? Or you?” He scanned the pews brimming with the undead. “Before we leave tonight, I say we better have a new name for ourselves and a plan to get gainfully employed. Maybe if we all try, someone will get hired.”
“And maybe we’ll all be hunted down like dogs,” Melinda Wahlberg interjected.
Bob sighed and said, “You’re right, maybe we will be hunted down like dogs. But I’d rather that than skirting around tombstones all day and night.”
And so it came to pass that the twentieth assembly of the recently undead came to officially call themselves Re-ans (thanks to the input of Thelma Donaldson, a former historian before her brain aneurysm) and set forth to win their jobs back.
To Be Continued…
Check out Forest of Shadows by Hunter Shea : "Dark, intense and not afraid to get down and dirty."
For the past several years, zombies have been all the craze in the horror world. Personally, I’ve been obsessed with the subject ever since my father took me to see the original Dawn of the Dead.
Job Security is my little addition to the zombie genre. I’ve broken it up into easily digestible bits (kinda like nice, soft brains) and will post a new section each week. Enjoy!
By Hunter Shea
The sun was out that day for the first time in over a week, but Russell Banks didn’t have the spare time to notice. Every day was the same as far as he was concerned. Wake up, piss, shower, change and go to work until the sun went down, even on summer days when the Georgia sun reluctantly said goodnight at nine o’clock every night.
Banks Textiles was built with Russell’s sweat and blood and while he was still on this earth, he would continue to pour his very soul into the business at the expense of his own social life. Just ask his ex-wife, June, and the two boys he hasn’t seen in close to three years.
Thanks to the cancer that was outsourcing, the textile business in America was fast becoming a by-gone industry. You could hear Russell Banks decry the goddamn foreigners about ten times a day, along with countless other colorful epithets.
So it came to be that Russell was immersed in his duties as captain of the sinking ship on that bright, humid Tuesday when his secretary Hannah barged into his office looking waxen.
“Excuse me, Mr. Banks?”
“Hannah, I don’t have time,” he barked behind his imposing oak desk. A phone headset sat atop his balding scalp and he scanned the data on two computer monitors that sat side by side amidst the clutter.
He was too busy to notice that the old girl looked about ready to faint.
“But, someone’s here to see you and…”
He cut her off with a sharp wag of his finger and spoke into the fiber optic tube by his mouth. “Don’t give me excuses. Call me back in ten minutes with an answer.” He angrily punched the disconnect button on his pone, cursed the entire country of India and began poking through a mound of loose papers.
When he looked up and saw his secretary leaning against the door with eyes as wide and terrified as soon-to-be road kill, he asked, “Why are you still here. I told you, I don’t have time.”
“Bob Samson is here to see you,” she blurted out, her voice rising.
Russell removed his headset and gently placed it on the desk. Hannah had never acted like this before and he prayed it wasn’t some change of life episode. Sometimes women could be as irritating and life draining as the foreigners.
“Who the hell is Bob Samson and why the hell are you getting so worked up about it?” he said in a calm, even tone that barely masked his simmering anger.
Hannah moved away from the door and sat across from him. She looked about ready to jump out the window.
Her chin quivered as she said, “Bob Samson used to work in the factory. He was a line worker until last week. He came to get his job back.”
Ah, a former disgruntled employee, Russell thought. He probably came in all full of piss and vinegar and put the fear of God in her. Well, that was nothing a quick call to security couldn’t fix. As he dialed the extension for security, he said, “If he lost his job in the first place, it was for a good reason. I’ll have security come up and fetch him.”
Hannah leaped up and swatted the phone away. Russell jumped back in his chair, stunned.
“You don’t understand, Mr. Banks. Bob Samson died last week!”
Before he could retort, come up with something to gently suggest Hannah had lost her mind, there was a knock on the door, just three soft taps. The doorknob turned and Hannah dashed behind Russell sitting in his big swivel chair.
The smell made its greeting moments before Bob Samson came waltzing in. He looked as if he’d been black in life, but death had cast a gray pallor to his livid flesh. Removing his baseball cap, Russell noticed a tuft of wiry black hair pull from his scalp and plop onto his floor, weighted down by a small chunk of skin.
“I’m awful sorry about that,” Bob Samson said, reaching down to pick up that small part of himself and stuffing it into his pocket. “Seems I’m still getting used to my, ah, current condition.” He smiled, revealing a perfect set of pearly whites, the end result of Banks Textiles’ superb dental plan. Seeing such a set of choppers in a walking, talking corpse was about the only thing that kept Russell from losing his lunch, for no amount of polite banter could mask Bob Samson’s stench. It reminded Russell of the time he had found a dead deer while hiking in the woods. It had been sitting in the sun, bloated and gnawed upon by bugs and other animals beyond recognition, for close to a week.
Oblivious to their terror and disgust, Bob went on as if talking to a corpse was an everyday occurrence. “Now I know this is a bit of a shock and I don’t have an appointment and all, but I really wanted to talk to you personally, Mr. Banks. I mean, the first time I was alive I never got the chance to thank you for the job you and your company gave me. Why, it kept a roof over my head and food on my table for close to thirty years and I can’t think of anyone else that would do that for a man like myself.”
Russell and Hannah sat in mute silence.
“I know I’m not the most educated man in the world, but I was always a hard worker.”
“But…but, you’re dead,” Russell said. There was no need for a death certificate. His nose and eyes were all he needed to confirm the truth.
Bob laughed and slapped his thigh. “Was dead, was dead. When I woke up in that box, believe me, I was just as surprised then as you are now. Took me a better part of a day getting myself out of that fix. Now, I don’t profess to know how this happened or why. I never was much for goin’ to church and I stopped my schoolin’ when I was about nine. All I know is I’m back and I can’t think of a better thing to do with myself than come back to work for you, Mr. Banks. You might say I’m a new and improved model, because I don’t need sleep or food, so if you’ll have me, you got yourself a 24/7 employee.” He leaned back in his chair and marveled at the possibilities. “Well, maybe I’ll take a smoke break every now and then. At least now I know the smokin’ can’t hurt me.”
Check out Forest of Shadows by Hunter Shea : "Dark, intense and not afraid to get down and dirty."