Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Living Dead, Lying Deed (3)

Thom was the living dead.

He had only recently revived, and was not a morning person.

Managing not to sleep there at his desk, he ran numb fingers on his numb face, trying to coax it into letting his eyes stay open awhile. So far this was doing the opposite of the intended effect on rather bloodshot-feeling Thom.

Although he had already eaten, he wondered about taking bites out of his co-workers. Especially the cheery ones who said presumptuous things like "good morning". Lot of tossers.

Eyes screwed up and stiff against the fluorescent light, he shuffled from his desk for coffee - the blackest breakfast tea was never enough, not even if some shaman from some Caribbean island used the blackest of voodoo on it to create true zombies of office workers.

Even the lights worked to keep Thom from becoming fully reanimated, probably decaying his flesh with the aid of his monolithic computer screen.

This morning, what he really wanted was brains. His own were clearly damaged and should probably be put in a jar - or maybe he'd already pickled them in his skull. At any rate, it would be great to take a replacement from the morning people. That might jump start things a bit, and it would certainly shut them up. Nothing like a lobotomy to make noisy chattering idiots into silent drooling ones. Of course, he might become his own object of loathing, but that was a small price to pay for a functioning brain. It's not that anything is wrong with being cheerful, he thought: it's just them being cheerful around me now that's the problem.

Out the window behind the coffee machine was an overcast sky, which cast the already drab city in a dead-flesh grey, almost the tone of Thom's skin in the office lighting. It was the sort of morning you wanted to jump out into and promptly end on the pavement below.

This may be the worst Monday in my life yet, he told himself. The only thing that redeemed it was the fact that his bloody idiot co-workers had kept their traps shut all morning. Had he been more lively, he'd have realized it was nothing short of miraculous. It may have been that Thom had finally put on the right expression to deter any cheerfulness - this pleased him in a way that almost returned some feeling to his dead insides.

Had it been drinking? Something had made the weekend (and therefore this morning) especially nasty. It had been a holiday, hadn't it? And there was a lot of drinking, and Thom had driven. What a fool, he realized. I'm lucky to be here at all, if I drove after getting pissed enough to forget the whole night.

He shook his head and rubbed one drowsy eye to remove the sleep from it. There was still more remaining afterward, and the scrunching and closing of his eyes made him feel more like sleeping right there on his feet.

Or no, it wasn't sleeping he wanted. Thom wanted to lay down and to never get up again. They could bury him in his coffin of a cubicle for all he cared; so long as he didn't have to type away at those damnable reports anymore - his bosses could even use his skull for an ashtray with his blessing if he never had to think about those god-awful reports again. It seemed like his bosses never even read the things, surely they were just busywork to keep him in line and jumping through hoops?

This morning, they'd have to settle for Thom's mere approaching of said hoops and gingerly sidestepping through them, because clearly he had not slept the previous day. Or had he done? What else had he got up to? It was all so hazy.

What had he had to drink Saturday? Absinthe? Something had put him out of his mind, and however much sleep he'd had, it hadn't been enough to bring him back to it. All he could remember was - suddenly one part of the night became clear. He remembered a dark-haired bird who'd chatted to him most of the night. Or he thought that was how it went. With her ruddy brown complexion, she must've been Indian. Accent was a bit off too, wasn't it? Sounded good, just not quite English. Close enough that she must've been in London awhile already. Well, she was from somewhere ex-colonial. But then, how many places hadn't been colonies back in the empire? Fewer than had been.

Whatever - Thom didn't even like the idea of an empire. Mind your own sodding business, he always said. What he did like was the idea of exotic birds from India winding up in his flat for the night.

To his great dismay, he remembered with some degree of certainty that this was one thing that hadn't happened. How had that night ended? Which club had he and the lads been at? So many unanswered questions, so little living brain tissue to help answer them. Maybe she'd used vedic medicine to bewitch him, but he'd never heard of zombies from India. It was supposed to be voodoo witch-doctors, right? Maybe she was one, and he was wrong about her being from India.

Whoever she had really been, it seemed like something she'd said that night had been important, but for the life of him, Thom had no idea what that could have been. Perhaps in his inebriation he had mistaken something she said as being important, misunderstood it in the noisy thumping club. Probably she'd said he should piss off, and he'd convinced himself she'd asked his number. It wouldn't have been the first time that he'd ended a disappointing night out with the drunken impression that he'd made some vague sort of progress toward getting some girl to drop her knickers. And thought something important had happened because of it. This was getting all too abstract for a Monday; it'd be at least Wednesday before he could once more think rationally.

Still idling by the coffee machine, he had been unknowingly flanked by two co-workers. Apparently the hand of God intervened, because they minded their own sodding business instead of asking about his weekend or otherwise disturbing him. The coffee machine sputtered pathetically, and this had taken Thom's full, dim, glowering, impatient attention.

"Machine's going haywire and there's a queue. Might be a long wait."
"That's it, I'm taking tea instead."
"Suit yourself, I was out all night. I need coffee or methamphetamine."
"Seen Thom this morning?"
"No, why?"

Turning, "I'm standing right here, you - " Thom held is tongue and settled on a stern glare at one of the living - she looked in his direction almost confusedly and furrowed her brow in a distant look. Before she had responded to Thom, her eyes widened and she pointed with one finger, practically putting it in Thom's face, while the other hand covered her gasping mouth.

"My God!" said the other co-worker, starting and mouth agape, dropping his tea in a splatter which just reached Thom's trouser leg.

"What - "trying very hard not to call her a stupid cow and not to yell at the bastard who'd dropped his tea, he slowly realized they were looking past him and out the window.

Turning, he instantly saw the same thing as his coworkers. "Christ!" shouted Thom, pressing up against the large window in vain as a brownish girl in the smaller building opposite the office stepped from a narrow window ledge and into mid-air.

"Good God!" Forgetting about his coffee and suddenly full of energy - recalling more recent imaginings of zombies in film - Thom ran to the lift.

It would never be clear - he couldn't have been sure in the split second he saw this girl - but he'd sworn that it was - though it couldn't have been - the Indian woman he'd met Saturday night. Had she been suicidal? That didn't seem right.

It seemed to take his entire life to reach the bottom, but he stood perfectly still until the lift doors slid opened - and again he was running with surprising speed and agility. He practically ran right through the people waiting in the lobby and out the building, where he looked around frantically for a gathering crowd.

Finding none, he was suddenly a very bewildered undead office worker. There was no sign that someone had just plummeted to her death from above. He thought he spied the window she'd leapt from - it was now just partially open to the dismal rain - and he could swear there were still motion lines where she'd fallen!

Once he crossed the street, he was even more perplexed. About where he expected she would have landed, he saw two feet painted on the ground.

They were the outlines of women's shoes, two pointy heels punctuating small triangular soles as if they were exclamation points. Their bright, pinkish-orange color - it was almost iridescent, in stark contrast to everything else. Thom couldn't say why, but he was certain that the Indian bird at the club had been wearing these shoes. The whole city suddenly seemed lifeless next to these two markings, but they must have had nothing to do with suicide.

Bizarre, he said aloud, desperate for some sort of answer.

Had there been a girl? Had he imagined it all? But his co-workers had seen it first!
Then where were the police? Ambulances? Were the government on Holiday? Where had she fallen?

What in blazes just happened? What the fuck is this, a joke? Practically dizzy, it felt to Thom as though he'd just come unhinged from reality; surely he looked like a madman, standing in the rain without so much as a sweater.

It was too much to take. He had to sit down, had to lie down; this urge came back to him now and he wanted to sleep and never awaken. Maybe when he woke up, he could cope. For now, he needed to be a regular, lifeless corpse. Turning in a disoriented fashion, he found no benches, nothing to sit on, so he settled for the pavement itself. He lay down on it, curling up atop that strange graffiti, looking up for a moment at the gray raining sky, and back down at the fluorescents footprints.

As he watched, as his eyes closed themselves with no intention of reopening, Thom thought the color of the shoes was doing something, shimmering somehow.

Maddest of all, he imagined he saw them begin walking away as his eyes sealed themselves shut and he passed from awareness.

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