If this doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.

We’re All Zombies in the Employee Lounge

Inspired by the work of George Romero, RIP. This post is part of weekly series of original short stories.

Romero was right. We only wish it was zombies.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and I suppose I’m no different.

The employee lounge is big. The two industrial refrigerators are opposed by an island with a sink for people to wash their hands or dishes but, as the laminated sign spells out in comic sans, not to leave them. Off to the left there are several booths and tables, and beyond that a door out to the terrace where you can eat in the sunshine, unless it’s too hot. Or raining or whatever.

Most corporate lounges are the same. Hell, most offices are the same, same grey cubes, same fancy Cisco telephones, same antiquated Dell computers.

At least this one has endearingly bad carpet. Its like one of the absurd ties your Uncle Mack used to wear when he’d come visit for the holidays, smoking his pipe in your living room and spilling an after dinner brandy down his silk 3-D geometric patterned purple and teal atrocity. Maybe it’s gone so far beyond ugly that it’s hip, something you’d scour the thrift stores hoping to find.

The woman in the cube next to me is at least 30 years older than I and wants to be my mother. She coos her advice to me like I’m her baby. I half expect her to start packing me a lunch. But beyond our adjacent desks, we don’t really socialize in the office. She eats with Jenny everyday at 1pm. I don’t know how she can wait that long before getting hungry, but she says it makes the afternoon go by faster if you’ve only got 3 hours left.

“It’s like the carpet at PDX, it’s so bad it’s worthy of pop culture deification,” I say to Kerry, my lunch buddy from legal. We eat everyday at 11:55am. “People should come to the office just to post pictures of it on Instagram. And then it can become a line of socks and stationery.”

She laughs at the joke, but it comes from a place high in her throat, so she ends up coughing.

This is what I mean when I say we only wish it were zombies. The real disaster is all the little things that we allow to erode our sense of self. You find out who you are in a zombie film. You lose who you are in real life: laughs so shallow and forced you choke on them.

“Okay, well, I gotta get back to my desk. I have a one o’clock and I haven’t prepped for it yet.” I pick up my paper plate and plastic fork, only to realize I don’t have a free hand to grab my lunch bag, so I put it all down again. Kerry looks up at me.

“Blah, sorry, I can’t pick it all up at once. Okay, bye,” I say and walk away.

“Mmmm, brains,” I mutter to myself once I’m out of earshot.