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Title: You Don't Have to be Crazy Dead to Work Here (But It Helps).
Part: 12/22
Author: Jashyr
Genre: Horror/Black Comedy
Word Count: 50,000
Disclaimer: These characters are mine. They live in my head and make me do crazy things like entering NaNoWriMo...
Rating: PG-13? Probably.
Warnings: Some gore. Written for NaNoWriMo last year and while it has been re-edited the punctuation police are still looking at it suspiciously.

Chapter Twelve

Party Manners and Other Unnatural Things

Nat emerged from the server room and almost ran into two large men carrying huge crates of alcohol based drinks with trays of sandwiches and party nibbles balanced on top. “You alright there, lads?” He asked conscientiously, “I can give you a hand if you’d like.”

The two guys shrugged off the offer. “We’re fine, thanks mate. Couldn’t get you to help if we wanted to, health and safety and all that.”

Nat nodded, commiserating and went to check his e-mail while Don and Alan wondered how in the seven hells they’d managed to pull this crappy detail, especially as the zombies had been a bit restless all day. Still feeding the living sheep was the same as feeding the unliving ones and they just worked as efficiently as possible to get this over an done with so they could return to their undead charges..

It wasn’t long before strains of 80s pop music drifted from the speakers of the audio-visual system in the first floor meeting room into the stairwell. The stairwell doors that had been left open to facilitate the movement of food in and out of the meeting room meant that ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ could be heard all around the ground floor. As Hella arrived back in the office Gerry the security guard was singing along with the rather differently worded ‘Do You Really Want To Squirt Me’ skit, half remembered from an old episode of the Two Ronnies.

“Do you really want to squirt me, evening miss,” Gerry greeted her while carrying on singing slightly out of tune. “Do you really want to make me wet. Spoil my makeup and my hairdo. Do you really want to make me damp?”

Hella smiled at him briefly before disappearing into the IT office to see if anyone else had arrived back before her. Nat popped his head up from behind his desk partition as she came into the office and quickly, as surreptiously as he could manage, he clicked over the web pages he’d been looking at. It wasn’t fast enough, however, and Hella cornered him before he could close the web browser. Towering above him in staggeringly high heels she smirked as he shuffled backwards looking embarrassed. “Ok IT boy, what HAVE you been sneaking a peak at on the company network, eh?” She clicked the back button on the browser and was a little taken aback by what she saw. “You do know Raj knows exactly where everyone’s been on the web if they go there using company computers, don’t you?” Nat muttered something quietly and stared at the floor intently. “And do you really think he’s going to be best please when he finds out you’ve been going to necrophiliac web sites using our equipment?” Nat muttered again, even more embarrassed. “So what do you say you never, ever discuss this again and I tell him I asked you to look at a site referenced in a legal case I’ve been researching. Hmm?” Nat looked up and nodded apologetically. “Good,” said Hella, “I wouldn’t want to ruin the party by bringing this up in front of people.” She gently patted Nat on the head and went off to text herself a reminder to blackmail him into fixing her home computer on Saturday.

Next to arrive back at the office was Liam, followed in by James Holt and April Lawrence who were doing their best to look like they might actually enjoy an evening socilising with the lowest rung of their employees. Antoine skulked in from where he had been enjoying a ciggarette after them, eager to get at the booze; his two subordinates, Bethany and Vicky - the telesales girls – wandering in critiquing everyone’s outfits. Shona’s taxi pulled into the car park at the same time as Pete’s and she graciously allowed him to hold the front door open for her as she sashayed through. Leaving the managerial staff to congregate around the food tables, the IT staff all gathered around the AV system ready to fight over the choice of music.

“Got any trance?” asked Liam with a malicious twinkle in his eye. “Bet it’d piss off Holt.”

“Nope,” replied Nat flicking through the CD pile next to the speakers, “got The Best of 90’s Boybands, though.”

“God, no way,” whispered Pete looking mortified.

“There’s some ABBA,” suggested Liam, sniggering and sparing a glance at Hella.

“I quite like ABBA,” declared Hella, “just because they’re a Swedish national institution doesn’t mean they're not good.”

“Oh this’ll get everyone heaving,” said Liam with a grin, “The Best of the New Romantic Sound! Ultravox, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, David Sylvian – absolutely perfect for annoying everyone.”

“I quite liked ‘Vienna’,” admitted Pete.

“And I’m quite partial to a bit of the early eighties,” added Shona.

Groaning Liam tried to look over Nat’s shoulder at the selection again, then his face lit up. “How about ‘The Best of Bucks Fizz’?”

“Put that on and we won’t let you escape,” warned Shona, menacingly.

“Frankie Goes To Hollywood?” suggested Nat quietly.

“I’d actually like to still have a job tomorrow,” glared Hella.

“I’ve got it, Russ Abbott’s Greatest Memories! ‘What an atmosphere, I love a party with a lot of atmosphere!'” whooped Liam.

“No!” There was a chorus of disapproval and the general manhandling of Liam out of sight of the CD box.

“So are we going for the safe option then?” asked Nat holding up a copy of School Party Classics of the 80s.

A wave of assent rolled across the assemble workers and Nat inserted the CD into the sound system to be rewarded with the mellow sounds of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. Dejectedly Liam slunk over to a corner by the alcohol to await the opening of the makeshift bar only to be glared at by the Frenchman who had taken up the exact same position at the other side of the drinks.

There was a high pitched beeping and Holt took out his mobile phone to read a text that had just arrived. “Oh, what a shame,” he intoned with mock seriousness, “Piers can’t make it tonight, Family emergency or something. Never mind chaps and chapesses, all the more booze for us!”

April smiled at James slyly and Nat moved back to where Shona was sitting, humming along to Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ pop-folk classic ‘Come On Eileen’. “I thought Piers’ family was in Kent? Bit of a long way for a ‘family emergency’ don’t you think?”

“He probably didn’t want to spend the night having to hob-nob with Holt and Lawrence, especially seeing as they’re flaunting the whole office romance thing in everyone’s faces,” replied Shona in a low whisper.

“True, they do seem to all lovey dovey over there. Pity Raj isn’t here yet to share the excruciating embarrassment. He didn’t say he’d be late did he?”

“Big traffic jam down by his, he probably can’t get a taxi unless he gets one over by the train station. It’s a good twenty minutes’ walk from his place.”

“Oh well, looks like he’s about to miss the best of the food.” Nat went silent as Holt cut the ribbon on the first plate of nibbles with a flourish to a round of applause. “He’ll just be left with the crappy sandwiches.”

Out of breath and looking thoroughly miserable, Kim finally made an entrance while the others were still queuing for the buffet. Hella looked over and smiled sympathetically. “How are the little darlings?”

“Oh, they’re being holy terrors as usual but it was the muppet of a taxi driver that made me late,” explained a breathless Kim. “He wouldn’t come onto the estate. Said all that graffiti from the summer was proof that the place was cursed so he wouldn’t drop me off any closer than the turnoff from the Ilkley road. I had to walk all the way up here. In heels. I’ll have blisters on my blisters by the time this is over.”

There was a muted agreement from the other two women as they started an involved discussion on the perils of modern fashionable footwear, which was quickly joined by Beth and Vicki, while they tucked into the various savoury dishes on the buffet table. They were on their way over to the dessert table for a heaped tablespoon of the tinned fruit salad that had been rather obtrusively presented in a cut glass punch bowl when Raj finally staggered in, looking completely fed up and smelling like wood smoke.

“Hey, Raj”, greeted Shona carefully as Raj made his way to the buffet table. “I heard about the fire, it sounded really close to your estate. Your house is ok isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it just stinks of smoke,” said Raj dejectedly. “I might have to get the carpets and couch professionally cleaned or they’ll smell like that forever.” He reached over and snagged the last samosa, a couple of breaded fish goujons and a heap of the cooked king prawns from the buffet selection. “The police reckon there might be escaped asbestos as well so that’s something to look forward to when I clear out the double glazing vent filters. It could have been much worse though.”

“Have they found the scum that did it yet?” asked Liam with a mouth full of black forest gateaux.

“They haven’t mentioned it on the news coming back up here but I’ve got a bloody good idea of who did it. I’m not going to antagonise the vengeful little hoodie bastards though.”

“Well, look on the bright side,” said Shona, spooning herself a bowl of the fruit salad, “a least you’re not there now, breathing in smoke and waiting around listening to fire sirens all night.”

“Yep, I may as well look on the bright side,” Raj smiled. “Hey, has anyone asked the security guard if he wants some? It seems a bit mean to leave him out?”

“I’ll go down and get Gerry,” volunteered Pete and he headed out the door down to the lifts, passing two of the workmen for the top floor who graciously allowed him to use the lift first.

While he was gone, the alcohol was dragged out of the crates and the first bottles of stella were opened with a toast to James for having footed the bill to the strains of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule The World’ which everyone agreed was rather fitting. As Pete and Gerry re-entered the meeting room there were cries of “Speech! Speech!” from the assembled staff towards Holt who stood up on one of the crates.

“Ladies and gentlemen, valued colleagues without whom Holt would not have made this momentous milestone, let me thank you all today for your hard work over the years. In the previous twenty-five years the company has grown into what it is today, may it have twenty-five more to propel it as a market leader!”

There was cheering followed by a sudden silence as all the cd player cut out, as did all the lights. Outside the street lights flickered off, one by one, and the whole estate as well as everything the Holt staff could see through the meeting room window lost electrical power.

In the dark all the partygoers could hear was the sound of shuffling and clanging from directly above them.
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September 2010

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