The Zombie Zone
Marcy Pendergrass was putting up the Halloween decorations. The one hot girl in the office. He’d been promoted but his cubicle was the same. Gray desk behind a gray wall five feet high. She held two rolls of fake police tape with cartoon letters. Do you want the vampire zone or the zombie zone, she asked.
I don’t have a preference.
He’d been looking at a grid of consumer packaged goods branding executives. Now he tried not to look too hard at Marcy Pendergrass. She wore a black tennis dress to work. She’d crouched to pick up plastic spiders to embed in the webs she had stretched outside his boss’s big glass office. Right across from his cubicle. He saw her panties. The color of toothpaste. Then just pick, she said.
I knew you’d pick that.
She said it sweetly. But he still thought: then why the fuck did you ask. She slid behind him to string up the tape by his printer. Got on tiptoes. Her hip grazed his arm, shifted the cloth of his dress shirt and gave him ASMR. His neck hair stood up. He hadn’t been touched in three weeks. The warmth coming off her made him self conscious about his posture. Her breath made the cubicle humid. Jesus Christ, he thought, I am turning into a vampire.
You picked vampires because they’re sophisticated, she said.
She’d caught him in the parking lot once. He was in his car with the stereo playing Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. It was the Otto Klemperer instrumental. Operas were ruined by the tenor. They sound like retarded men crying.
She was walking down the concrete ramp with a cardboard tray of low calorie bobas for the sales staff. She had on a gray pleated skirt like a Japanese porno. She saw his face in the open window and he got nervous. By the time she asked what is that he’d been thinking for seconds about how to pronounce Richard Wagner. It’s German opera, he said.
Well that’s surprising about you.
I think it would be surprising about anybody, sitting in a parking garage listening to this.
I wouldn’t have thought you were so cultured.
I’m just waiting for the guy to pull up with my Grey Poupon, he said.
It was a mistake. Kraft-Heinz Grey Poupon was a client. The line of mustards had its own branding team. Sales were strong thanks to an iconic 80’s ad campaign. But millennials lacked awareness of the condiment. Now he was thinking about work. Her hair was tied back, perfect black like the girls in the Mel Gibson Mutiny on the Bounty. He wanted to throw Anthony Hopkins overboard and take her to a beach and eat breadfruit. What was breadfruit. Why is she being nice to me. What else do I not know about you, she said.
Jesus Christ, where to begin, he said. He turned the music down. I wish I could say I have nine secret kids and once killed a man. But I pretty much go to work and floss regularly.
I don’t believe that.
On weekends I go the pond and look at aquatic birds.
She was about to laugh.
Recently a belted kingfisher took up residence. An engaging bird. Lot of personality.
I’m about to turn 41 years old and I pay old prostitutes in Koreatown so someone will touch me, he thought. It got so bad I thought about joining a terror cell. I just want to die but suddenly I want to bury my face in your jet black cunt hairs and burrow into your hot musk like a weevil. I think that’s amazing, she said. That you like birds and the opera.
I’m glad someone’s amazed.
I was an Audobon Society Junior Birdwatcher. And I play the flute.
He was surprised. He’d heard a song coming from her headphones once in the break room. It was about drinking cough syrup.
Maybe we can go look at birds over lunch some time, she said. There’s that sanctuary.
Oh yeah I know it, he said. I would love to. There’s a breeding pair of pied-billed grebes.
I don’t get to do stuff like that much anymore, she said. Since I moved in with my boyfriend.
What about you, he asked. Which one.
I think vampires have too much to worry about, she said. He heard her snip the tape. She grazed him again as she left his cubicle. Zombie life seems more simple.
How’s Chad doing, he asked.
We broke up, she said.
There was a bright light. For a split second everything looked like an x-ray. And he thought: oh God– they did it.
He saw the boss’s glass wall. Marcy come back here, he said. She didn’t hear. Her eyes just said what the fuck. He grabbed her arm and pulled her under the desk and she started to scream but then there was thunder and the building blew in. When the car alarms woke him she was gone.