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Title: You Don't Have to be Crazy Dead to Work Here (But It Helps).
Part: 13/22
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 Thirteen

The Dinner Dance of the Living Dead

At exactly 9:56pm the fire fighters at the warehouse fire in Guisely discovered that the fire had spread to the electrical sub station at the edge of the industrial estate through the underground conduits that the card printing warehouse had illegally installed to siphon off electricity without paying for it. To be precise, they found out about it when the fire burned through the cables under the substation causing massive feedback into the local grid and plunging the local area into a blackout, the only light coming from the raging fire which was flickering away as if laughing at the fire brigade’s attempts to quench it. Within a minute the mobile command unit had the manger of Yorkshire Power’s emergency incident team on the phone and the streetlights were starting to come back on as power was diverted from other, less vital circuits. Unfortunately one of those was a rather awkwardly installed circuit whose sub station was up on the moors, right next to a small industrial estate.

At exactly 9:58pm Don Grady and Alan Kerr were dismembering a sheep carcass when they were plunged into darkness. Freezing place they could hear the zombies moving about in the cage to their right but with all the windows boarded up they had no light at all coming into the room. “Don, is there a torch in the kit bag?” asked Alan a touch nervously.

“Nope,” replied Don, “but there’s one in the lab room. I’ll go get it.”

There was a clang as Don gingerly placed the machete on the floor and Alan heard footsteps heading in the direction of the door while the zombies shuffled about in the cage like normal. There was a sudden clang as the brain damaged one walked into the fence again but no sound of sizzling or the normal thump of the electricuted body hitting the floor. A cold sweat dripped down Alan’s back as he heard the pinging of metal links pulling away from each other and flying across the room with some force. The realisation that the fence was now useless chilled him to the core and he tried to remember his basic training. What do you do in a zombie outbreak?

His legs felt like lead and didn’t respond when he tried to move. Terror engulfed him and he started to hyperventilate as he realised he had to get out of the room as soon as possible. Trying to calm himself, not particularly successfully it had to be admitted, he managed to force himself to start walking quietly towards the door. About halfway there he collided with another body and screamed, scrambling backwards. There was a noise from outside as Dan came running back in, this time with a small, low-powered torch held in one hand.

“Alan, are you ok?” asked Don with a small amount of hysteria in his voice as he pointed the torch over to where Alan was standing.

Alan sighed with relief as he realised that he'd only walked into the second sheep carcass that was still suspended from the ceiling hooks rather than something that could rip his face off. “Yeah, I just bumped into our dead woolly friend here. I’m fine.” He stopped for a second to catch his breath. I’m more worried about the fence. I can’t hear it buzzing any more and with the leccie being down the electrification could have stopped. I’m sure I heard links breaking.”

Don swung the torch over to scan the fence, “Can’t be. The backup generators should have kicked in. It was probably just the sound of the metal cooling down.” He could see a few of the zombies over by the window in the fence, looking up expectantly. Some of the others were fascinated by the new light source and were heading on a direct bearing for Don, making it difficult for him to illuminate behind them.

“Um, Don?” queried Alan with an uneven tone in his voice. “If the backup generators had kicked in wouldn’t the emergency lighting for the fire exits and the smoke alarms still be on?”

Don swung around to check the ‘Fire Exit’ sign above the doors and found himself starting the brain damaged zombie who had positioned herself behind him, right between the two men and the way out. He let out a strangled scream and swung the torch at the zombie, leaving Alan with no light to figure out what was going on. Her crisply burnt skin was as tough as old leather and the zombie ignored the blow from the torch completely lunging at Don, eyes wild and blood stained teeth open to bite at him.

Behind him the fence started to rip as the zombies attracted by the wildly swinging light crushed against the cage wall in order to reach the target of their attraction.

Alan stood transfixed with terror as his colleague was eclipsed by a horde of undead.

Not giving up without a damn good fight, Don dropped the torch to the floor and head-butted the brain damaged zombie, breaking several of its teeth with the combined force of the lunge and head butt. It now seemed to smile at him ominously with the massive gaps in her front jaw. She still grabbed at his suit, getting a good hold on the left side of his neck and twisting the biohazard helmet around enough that he could only see out of one eye, and even then only partially. “Alan, help me!” he gasped out as zombies tackled his lower legs from behind, all trying to get to the bright, shiny thing rolling about on the floor.

Paralysed with fear, Alan stood silently, a warm fluid dripping down the inside of his biohazard suit legs.

The brain damaged one lunged again, this time managing to trip Don over the crouching zombies behind him and rip his biohazard head gear off as he fell away. The zombies crouched on the ground stopped, sniffed, then as one turned their gazes to where the smell of fresh, living meat was coming from. Scrabbling back, Don pushed back against the cage wall, trying to raise himself to his feet but it was too late. Three of the zombies lunged towards his head, throwing themselves across his body and pinning him down. Behind him another zombie threw itself at the fence, jarring him and slamming his body back towards the crawling throng. One of the zombies grabbed him under the chin while another dived forward and sunk jagged teeth into his jugular. The resultant blood spray was enough to call the other zombies to the feast, ripping and tearing at the biohazard suit to get to the soft, squidgy, delicious internal organs inside.

Hearing the wet, gurgling screams of his co-worker but unable to see what was happening with the torch being pointed at the wall, Alan gathered enough courage to pick up the machete that Don had left on the floor. He took two small steps towards the noise until one of the zombies kicked the torch, illuminating the full horror of the feast. Alan stumbled backwards against the sheep carcass, trying desperately not to vomit inside his suit. The noise attracted some attention until Alan forced himself to be silent again. The zombies sniffed the air and most went back to their feast, only two shambled forward to investigate whether the noise had been anything edible. Manoeuvring himself behind the sheep carcass, Alan started to cut small strips off it, hoping the noise wouldn’t be too loud. Taking the strips, he threw them at the advancing zombies, in the hope that’d they’d stop and investigate the food. He was rewarded by both of the advancing undead stooping to pick up the strips of delicious, tender raw meat but his relief was short-lived. Drawn by the familiar feeding time noise of the machete dismembering their meals, more of the zombies had got up and were shambling towards him, completely blocking his route back to the door.

He ran for the back wall, vaguely remembering one of the boarded up windows was around there. All the zombies had now figured out that there was extra food in the room and the eleven of them were shambling his way. Reaching the back wall a bit faster than he’d expected and having run into it at almost full tilt Alan bounced off. He started to feel his way around and was rewarded by the texture beneath his hands changing from the rough brickwork to the smooth striations of the wooden planking. Pulling back the machete he delivered a massive blow on the wood, splitting a plank and sending sharp splinters flying through his suit. Ignoring the pain he drew back the machete again, this time higher. He was rewarded by more splintering sounds and a line of moonlight shining in from outside. Emboldened, he tried for a vertical cut to link the two horizontal ones. The machete hit with force but at an awkward angle, sending shockwaves of pain through his wrist but rewarding him was the sight of more moonlight and the panelling was starting to pull away from the wall. With a last, mighty, vertical swing he chopped through the remaining securing bolts and the panel fell to the floor with a massive crash, moonlight flooding the room and illuminating the zombies less that two feet away. Pancked, Alan swung the machete, decaptiating one of the males but it was to no avail. As the momentum from his swing took the machete out of their immediate eye line, the rest of the zombies jumped him en masse. The machete fell to the floor as one of them bit straight though his wrist ligaments. The clang was the last thing he ever heard.

****

At exactly 10pm everyone in the meeting room tried their mobile phones to try and figure out what was going on. The realisation that no one had a mobile signal had terrified both of the telesales girls who were convinced that it was the first sign of a nuclear explosion. “I’ve seen this happen on that documentary on what happens if terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in London”, pointed out Beth. “It was on Channel 4 so it must be true.”

“It’s just the tres stupide English mobile phone masts. There is not another for kilometres around here,” said Antoine, looking for the technical staff to back him up on this one.

“Yeah,” agreed Pete. “The landlines will be working. I’ll just go next door to the office and ring out. No problem.”

Raj looked a little uncomfortable and whispered to Pete, “that won’t work, you know. All the office lines go through the network and as the switches are down you won’t be able to get out. There’s an analog phone socket in reception, though. That should work – as long as we can find a normal phone to plug into it.”

“Now hang on a minute, everyone,” shouted Holt over the din. “The backup generator should be kicking in any second now.” The mood in the room brightened and everyone waited with baited breath. Still no electricity.

After a minute or so the grumbling started again and Gerry coughed politely.

“Yes, um… security person?” stammered Holt, having never bothered with the security staff in a general sense, certainly not enough to know their names.

“I’m afraid the backups might not be coming on. It was Errol’s job to keep them topped up and he had complained several times about leaks, well before he was made redundant anyway. He was topping up the tank every few days and as he’s been gone over a week chances are it hasn’t got enough fuel in it.”

“What!” Holt was enraged. “If you knew about his why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“Errol had put in several written requests for the generator tank to be fixed so I assumed you already knew. And as this was part of his job I’d assumed that you’d taken it into consideration before you handed him his P45.” Gerry was starting to sound rather smug.

Holt started to get frantic. “If YOU knew about it why didn’t you top up the tank? It is obviously a security task if the other bloke used to do it.”

Shrugging indifferently, Gerry replied, “sorry mate. I don’t have a hazardous substance handling certificate. Only Errol had one. It was down on his HR file. Besides you’re making me redundant in three weeks time. I didn’t see the point of defying the union over an annoying little prick like you. ‘Sides, if that’s all you thought about Errol, I’m off too. Sod you all.”

Gerry turned and walked out the door, back ramrod straight, flipping a perfect salute at Kim who opened the door for him.

Over the other side of the room Holt was ashen in the moonlight. “Right,” he said pointing at the IT team, “you lot get the phones working. You,” pointing at Internal Audit, “go round the other buildings and see if they’ve got the same problems. You,” he pointed at Antoine, “get off your fat French arse and find the generator, and you,” he pointed at the whimpering telesales girls, “stop snivelling and go make us some coffee.”

Outside, opening the door to the stairwell Gerry heard a yelp from upstairs. ‘Must be those workmen’ he thought. His professionalism wouldn’t let him leave unescorted contractors alone in the building while the lights were down; they wouldn’t know where the exits were in the case of a fire. Putting his cap back on he headed up the stairs to the top floor.

IT, Internal Audit and Antoine all trudged down the stairs to the ground floor, Geraud muttering under his breath about Holt in explict sounding French, “Sa caissemarche au sans plomb et luiil carbure auwhisky.”

At the bottom of the stairs they split off, Geraud going towards the rear fire exit where the electrical cabinet connected to a large pipe that ran to a small hut outside, while all the rest went to the main reception to search for the analog phones.

Back in the meeting room April whispered to Holt, “what happens upstairs if the power goes out? The fence is enough to hold them isn’t it?”

Holt looked at her worried then took a swig of the glass of whiskey in his hand. “I think we’d better check with Dr Perez.” He put the glass down and headed off to his office with April in tow.

****

Downstairs, going out through the fire exit, Antoine headed for a small brick outhouse that he’d always assumed was a converted English outside toilet. Here the smell of petrol was noticeable even over the cigarette haze that usually enveloped him. He tried to push open the door but it was locked and he swore repeatedly in French before giving up on trying to open it by sheer brute force alone. As he turned back to the building to search for the keys he noticed that someone was hammering on one of the windows on the top floor, he was trying to figure out who it was when their head leaned slightly, then toppled off their shoulders leaving it tethered by only a short length of muscle. Deciding that maybe he really shouldn’t go back in, he circled around to the main entrance to see that one car was still in the Holt car park – a small black Citroen. Smiling at his good fortune he picked out a large brick from where the road had been badly repaired and lobbed it through the window. Calling on skills from a misspent youth he never thought he’d have to tap into again he jump started the little car and sped away, not putting the lights on until he reached the main road junction.

****

Coming out of the stairwell onto the top floor Gerry called out, “hello! Is anyone still up here? It’s ok, it’s just a power cut. We’ll have you out and back to your van in no time at all.” It stank up here. Gerry had been warned not to come up as the workers were using some new building materials but he hadn’t expected it to smell like a field hospital bivvie tent. There was a crash outside but it sounded like it was coming from one of the other buildings so he ignored it for the moment, assuming that someone out there must have panicked in the dark. Hearing shuffling, quite close up ahead, he made for the double doors that were swinging open with the wind at the far end of the corridor. Stepping through the doors he could see very little. The boarded up windows blocked the light except for one which looked like the panelling had come loose and fallen to the floor. There was a small torch resting on the floor in a puddle of liquid that Gerry assumed had dripped from the unrepaired ceiling. Reaching down to pick up the torch he noticed that the liquid was slightly warm and sticky to the touch, running it through his fingers he realised it was blood and jumped to the immediate conclusion that one of the workers had injured himself when the blackout occurred.

“Hello!" He shouted, "I’m here to help. We can get you an ambulance, just let me see how bad your injuries are.” There was a groan from a voice he thought might be a woman over to his left and he gingerly headed towards it. There was another shuffling noise from behind him but before he could turn his shoulders were caught in a vice-like grip and a jaw bit clean through his spine, the shock killing him instantly.

****

Having hidden in the toilets for a few minutes to get out of doing some actual work Liam meandered back into the meeting room and started helping himself to more beer while the two telesales girls looked almost relieved to have someone else they actually knew in the room with them. The girls practically jumped out of their skins as a dark shape passed by in the corridor but Liam just laughed. “Looks like Antoine is dragging his feet reporting back to the big man, eh?” He helped himself to another slice of cake and settled down for a night of laughing at how jumpy the rest of the department was.

****

Down in the reception area, Hella and Pete were waiting for Gerry to return with the external door shutter keys while Raj wriggled under the desk to find the analogue phone socket and Nat, Shona and Kim went through all the junk that had accumulated in the drawers of the security desk. Just as they were about to give up Raj declared that he’d found the socket, cheering as he made his way back from under the table. As he moved over to help look for the phone itself the quiet was broken by the sound of a window being broken outside and the six of them raced to the shutters to try to see what was happening. They couldn’t make out much in the gloom but there was the sound of a car being started and a large, low, dark shape moved out of the car park towards the road. Nat was practically pulling his hair out in frustration. “That’s my car! Someone’s stolen my bloody car! How much god-damn worse can this night get?”

****

Getting to his office Holt ushered April inside then locked the door to make sure none of his underlings were listening in one the conversation. Trying the desk phone there was no answer. Trying his mobile again there was no answer. Opening his desk drawer to get out his old late 90s mobile phone, which still appeared to work everywhere despite looking like a plastic wrapped brick. Pressing the ‘on’ button he was rewarded with a dial tone and he looked over to April to announce the good news, only to see her staring into the corridor outside with a horrified expression. He went over to the door to see what was causing the problem, only to recoil in terror.

Looking at James through the window in his office door was the bruised, bloated and slowly decomposing face of Gordon McKay.

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Jashyr

September 2010

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