Accidental zombies and other work day incidents

It was a gorgeous morning, a fine sunrise blazed across the Colorado hills, birds chirped merrily, fluffy white clouds scudded happily across the dawn sky; whether one was going to bed or just waking up, it was a sight to behold.
For some people anyway.
Shelley was not one of those people, he saw none of this as he had hit the snooze on his alarm for the fifth time and stuffed his face into the pillow.
Tuesdays were somehow so much worse than Mondays; the last dregs of weekend laziness that clung on through the first day of the work week were thoroughly banished when Tuesday's alarm blared.

Two cups of coffee -black- and one piece of wheat toast -dry- later, Shelley was in the car and driving to the local funeral home to begin his shift.
He rubbed a hand across his stubbled jaw as he pulled into the parking lot, yawning widely as he parked neatly behind the old brick building.

"Mornin'" Shelley muttered to the secretary, adjusting his tie as he waited for the elevator to the lower levels of the building. He paused at the door to the small office outside the morgue proper, making sure his pager was turned on and fully charged; there wasn't good reception in the basement, and he clipped the little black box to his belt before unlocking the office and heading inside.

Parker was, of course, early as she always was. She was dressed in dark clothing, her hair neat and clean, nails manicured and trimmed. She worked quietly on cutting out blank prayer cards that would be included in the upcoming funeral, intending to have them finished before Shelley got in. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. Her sensitive ears would pick out the elevator opening, and the approaching footsteps that she had heard enough times in these past months to place as her mentor's gait. When the door opened, she would look up from the card at hand, and offer him a cordial smile. "Good morning."

Shelley was a casual man, rougher than her but not at all unfamiliar. Reminiscent of both people she had know as a child, and even some she knew now. She found she liked him well enough. He was easy for her to work with, though Parker was the type to mold herself to be capable of working with just about anyone. She was quiet, non-argumentative, and took direction without question. Her eagerness to learn was likely a good quality, and she supposed that made her likable in this setting.

"Morning, Parker," Shelley returned her cordial smile with a nod, shrugging out of his plain grey jacket and hanging it on the back of his chair.

"Thanks for getting started on those cards; good to get those out of the way early." He adjusted his tie again but it slipped loose regardless; Parker's neat appearance had a tendency to make him look shlubby by comparison but he didn't care all that much. Interacting with clients wasn't part of his job and so a less than perfect tie knot was hardly important. Sitting down at his own desk, Shelley rifled through a stack of papers, seeing if anything new had been delivered over night.

"Looks like we got another one to prep; want to sit in?" His assistant was always eager and willing to learn, a quality he appreciated. She also didn't seem to feel the need to fill silence with small talk, which he appreciated even more.

She would nod to him in agreement that it was best to get smaller work like this out of the way. Nothing he needed to worry about. She would watch him briefly as he settled in, curious about the details of the paper work. When he spoke up, she straightened in her seat, folding her hands in her lap. An intake, someone to prep. She would be allowed to sit in on this one, and Parker found herself nodding eager, "Yes." She agreed. It would not be among her first, but she found excitement in each opportunity she had to help with a body. An opportunity to learn, a sate to her morbid fascination. Parker would move when he did, mindful not to seem too eager. When he deemed it time to get started, she would rise from her seat and head for the white coat she had hanging on a rack nearby. There would be gloves and booties in the morgue proper for her to fit on.

Shelley paused in his paper shuffling, glancing up at Parker for a moment. They hadn't spoken all that much, other than the usual work chat, and he usually liked it that way. There was peace to be found here in the cool and quiet basement; the hum of the refrigeration units was a pleasant white noise, a soothing background for careful work. Important work, that didn't need to be interrupted by idle chit-chat.
Shelley knew why he was here, but he'd never thought to ask why Parker had decided to start working in a morgue. Not that it was really any of his buisness; personal choices were just that, and it certainly wasn't his place to probe. But he found himself in a curious mood that morning.

"Just out of curiosity Parker, why'd you decide to start working in mortuary science?" Shelley started filling out the intake paperwork as he talked.

She would work quietly on the prayer cards while she waited, eager but practiced in subduing herself. She would not look up from her work until Shelley spoke to her, and she found herself momentarily taken off guard as he asked her something a bit beyond the norm of workplace communication. She knew Shelley was here because his parents had been funeral directors, as well. He had a linage, a duty to uphold the family practice. Parker's decision was hers and hers alone.

She would blink away from him, finding herself sheepish as she smoothed the hair behind her ear. "I expressed interest in decomposition and the biology of death in college. A professor suggested it to me." After she had been expressly thorough and invested in a dissection of a lamb her class had done. It had not been her first encounter with a dead animal, and while the other girls in the class ew'd and squawked, she had been attentive and interested. To say that her interest had started there would be a lie. She could remember to a time when she was still with her mother, living in a crowded apartment with two other families. She would hold funerals for cockroaches in empty cigarette cartons, and when she found a dead rat on the stairwell, she kept it in a box hidden on the back patio to study how death took it. Her mother had screamed when she found the box full of maggots.

Shelley listened patiently as Parker spoke, his pale eyes focused on the intake paperwork. Her response didn't surprise him, but he had an inkling there was more than detached interest there. But he didn't see any problem with that; Death was fascinating, enthralling and inescapable. Everything and everyone died-who wouldn't be interested in the particulars?
Shelley certainly was, even though he had been raised in this business his parents had encouraged him to explore other opportunities and interests; but he always came back to the dead.
He couldn't ever imagine himself doing anything else.

He signed his name at the bottom of the form, the handwriting surprisingly elegant, and handed it to Parker.

"Well I'm glad to see you took their advice, not enough talented people in this profession." he nodded towards the form as he continued,

"You're gonna need to sign this too, since you're sitting in."

Parker would press her lips into a waifish smile as he praised her, her gaze following the form as it was offered to her. She would take the pen, and scrawl her name, and in a move she often did when signing her signature whilst distracted, she would begin her last name with a 'J'. The pen stopped abruptly, and she frowned to herself as she did what she could to scribe it into an awkward looking C, and continued into the rest of her adopted surname. Finished, she would set the pen atop the paper, and slide the form back toward Shelley. "Thank you."

Shelley grunted non-commitally as he took the form back then went to staple it and put it away, filed with the hundreds of others just like it, but paused.
He couldn't recall if he'd had Parker fill out an intake form before. He probably had, it was standard operating procedure but he didn't have a distinct memory of her practicing. Pulling a fresh form out and setting it aside, Shelley collected the necessary papers-copies of the birth and death certificates, addresses of the deceased and next of kin, the special funeral request form-and stacked them neatly together before setting them on Parker's desk. He set the blank intake form on top and smiled, a bit sheepishly.

"This is me getting old but, I don't remember if I've had you fill one of these out yet. I'll get the body prepped and be back in a minute." he pulled a pair of blue latex gloves from his desk and tugged them on before heading in to the morgue.

The sterile room was cold; not only from the refrigeration units going full blast, but from the feeling of Death all around him. It settled comfortably on his shoulders, like a weighted blanket and he hummed a little as he walked to one of the tables in the center of the room. Never was Shelley more comfortable than when he was enveloped in the cool embrace of Death.

Still humming, he unzipped the body bag on the table and looked down at the body of one Mr. Collins; an elderly gentleman who'd gone peacefully in his sleep just the night before. The dead man's face was grey and still, paper-like skin heavily wrinkled at the corners of eyes and mouth and Shelley half-wondered if they were from a lifetime of smiling or frowning.

It has been a while, hasn't it?
A little voice whispered in the back of his mind, a voice he thought had been tempered by age and-hopefully-wisdom. It was the voice that had gotten him into so, so much trouble-the rebellious little devil that always urged him on to stupid things with pointed jabs of its proverbial pitch fork.

Can you still even do it? C'mon, just a quick test-see if you can get this old cold fella up and runnin' again.
Jab jab jab.
Shelley glanced towards the door. It would take Parker a few minutes to get the form filled out.
He sucked his teeth.

"So much for age-tempered wisdom..." Shelley muttered to himself as he quickly peeled off a glove, hesitating for just a second before gently resting thumb and fore-finger at the corners of Mr. Collins's eye and eyebrow.

She had, in fact, done the form before. But Parker would not say as much, not wanting to make Shelley feel forgetful. So, she would nod obediently, and go forth into filling out the information required of her as Shelley went off to begin prep work. It did not take her quite as long as it might have if she had never done it before, as she glazed over most of the required reading throughout the form, and hurried to tick boxes or scrawl where it was required. Soon enough, she was finished with it, and was preparing herself to enter the morgue. Jacket, gloves, booties over her shoes. She would approach in the near silence that was natural of her, opening the door carefully so as not to startle Shelley, which made the squeak of it muted and hard to catch. She did, however, hear the words the man was speaking to himself, given the cat's boon to her senses. Parker furrowed a brow, lingering at the door, one hand still propping it open as she peered across the way at the man as he removed a glove and placed his fingers against the corpse's temple.

What's the harm in a little experiment, you're sort of a scientist-right? C'moooon, just do it!
The little voice continued to jab; Shelley could almost picture the little devil dancing around inside his skull, gleefully going to town with it's pitchfork.

Shelley didn't hear the quiet squeak of the door as his assistant cracked it open; Parker was almost unnervingly quiet, even when he was paying attention.
He certainly wasn't paying attention now.
This was stupid, he knew it was stupid-but here he was anyway.

The air inside the morgue seemed to cool even further, the steady hum of the fans almost seemed to slow, dulling to a near heart-beat like rhythm as he let out a long, slow breath; the air fogging slight in front of him.
The color leeched from his eyes, pale blue turning to white, leaving nothing but the pupil as Shelley concentrated.

Mr. Collins's cold, stiff fingers, twitched.
Slowly, death-tightened tendons creaking with the effort, the dead man's hands curled and flexed. Glassy eyes popped open and the wrinkled mouth gaped; yellowed teeth bared against the sudden harsh light of the morgue.

Shelley felt his energy being drained, quickly, too quickly; he was losing control.
The body, so recently fallen past the threshold of Death, eagerly latched on to this metaphysical connection and the head turned towards him, gnarled fingers reaching up to latch onto his wrist.

She was tentatively curious, unsure of what Shelley was doing, exactly. It was no standard procedure to touch corpses without gloves, and the way in which her mentor was doing so was strange and looked purposeful. She might have spoken up then, or made some noise to indicate her approach. But she felt then the sudden shift in temperature, spotted the billow of condensed breath billow around the man's turned away face.

Then; the twitch of a hand. Not Shelley's, not her's, but the corpses'. Movement rustled the bag he was laid in. In a moment of puzzled confusion and icy fear that bloomed in the pit of her stomach and rooted up her spine, Parker watched in abject horror, unmoving and silent. When the hand shot up to grab at Shelley's arm, she managed a broken cry of alarm that sharpened suddenly as pain shot through the small, slender bones of her hands. They flexed into fists, the tendons stretching uncomfortably, the knuckled cracking and nail beds prying open to make way for claws that forced themselves to appear first, the cat within her wholly uncomfortable and hellbent on equipping her better for this situation.

Parker gasped sharply, and pulled her hands against her chest, pressing them close and gritting her teeth as she stumbled backward against the door. No, no, no, no. Not here. Her eyes, a crystalline blue now, watered furiously as he heart hammered in her throat and she glanced fearfully back up to the horror that she'd just witnessed.

The little devil inside his head wasn't jabbing now.

The corpse of Mr. Collins grinned, gnarled hand holding on with unearthly strength to the mortician's wrist as Shelley's lack of practice with his power made itself very apparent; he wheezed out another puff of icy breath, dimly registering someone yelping in alarm, far away.
Oh shit, Parker.

Stupid stupid stupid
Shelley tugged, desperately willing the metaphysical connection between him and the reanimated corpse to sever. He couldn't let this thing run wild-he couldn't let it get at Parker.
Mr Collins's rictus grin stretched even wider and his yellowed nails dug into Shelley's wrist.

"Leggo you fuck-" he tugged more, curling his fingers to try and break the connection. In Life, Shelley was sure Mr. Collins had been a perfectly fine individual-but this wasn't Mr. Collins-this was simply his body, a sack of meat and bones now running exclusively on the most basic of human instincts.
Primarily hunger.

A hairsbreadth of a second later-although it felt like a lifetime, Shelley freed himself from the corpse's grip.
The nails left deep scratches in his flesh as he fell away, legs like jello and he hit the cement floor, hard.

But it was too late, and as Shelley felt his consciousness slipping,
Fucking idiot-what were you thinking!
the newly animated body of Mr. Collins hopped up off the gurney, the hospital gown they'd left him in flapping as the body did a bell kick in jubilation, tendons creaking.

That's the problem, Shelley thought as he slipped into unconsciousness,
You never fucking think...

No, no, no, no. This wasn't real. It couldn't be real. And if it wasn't then she was making a spectacle of herself, fighting back a shift that had no trigger. Parker's heart hammered as Shelley grappled with the corpse, and she took heavy, gulping breaths to force down the hyperventilation that threatened to send her spiraling into something she couldn't control. Out, out, out, she needed out.

But the terror of what she was witnessing cemented her to the ground, and she was forced to watch as Shelley crumpled, and the corpse clambered from the table. It stood, cold and dead, smelling of the first stages of decay, skin hanging pale and loose along its bones as it creaked and cracked. Parker was screaming, but she could hardly hear it. The pain in her hands ignited along her forearms, her wrists threatening to snap and break into some new shape. She did not linger to see if the corpse would approach her, to watch any more of this nightmare unfold. She found the door handle, and wrenched it hard enough that the door knocked into her as she threw herself backward out of the room and back into the office. Hurriedly, she would slam to door shut, and drive her heels into the linoleum as she forced all of her weight against it.

Mr. Collins's corpse capered about the morgue, stretching it's stiff limbs and relishing the feeling of motion once again. It chattered its teeth and wiggled its fingers, toes tapping against the cold cement with out any discernable rhythm.

After a few moments of getting its bearings, the body came to the realization that it was hungry.

The corpse was an odd thing-a semi-sentient creature that teetered somewhere on the line between Life and Death, existing solely to satisfy the base needs of a body. There was no soul lighting the glassy green eyes, no glint of intelligence; just a hunger, and a basic understanding that it was Something, and it Wanted Things.

The wretched voice that croaked from the throat would not have been recognized by Mr. Collins's friends and family. It turned it's head, recognizing dimly that there was a Door-an exit-across the way. It turned slowly and shuffled along, narrowly avoiding tripping over Shelley's unconscious form.

The body reached the closed door and attempted to walk right through it, with little success.

"...Two Bagels..."
It croaked, bouncing off the door.

She needed to go, run, flee. But she was shifting, she couldn't take the risk of riding the elevator up, and running through the lobby as a cat. She needed to stop, to get a handle on herself, then get out. She could not help but hear the horrible voice from the other side, but the word was lost on her for the moment as she shoved herself against the door and braced her heels into the ground. It served as an anchor, the cold door against her, and she gasped in loud breaths, then exhaled shakily. Tearful eyes squeezed shut, and she let out a yelp as she felt something thud against the door on the other side. Her hands ached, her body felt like it was being torn in all directions. But she needed to. Focus.

Focus. One... thud, two... thud, three... thud. In and out she breathed, and though her hands throbbed and arms ached, there was no further shifting otherwise as she forced the cat into a proverbial box, pinning down the lid with the ferocity that she did with the door she was jammed against. For as small and lithe as she was, she acted as a brick wall against the door, powerful beyond natural capabilities. She worried for Shelley, whom she'd seen crumple to the floor. But she had to go. In just a few more moments, when she was truly sure, she would pull herself from the door and make a dash for her desk, where her bag that contained her keys and her phone were.

The body continued to hurl itself against the door, it's croaking voice lisiting off more Things it Wanted.

" pie...cannoli..yellowtunapopcorngoulash!"
Realizing just walking into the door wasn't working, it lurched back and stared with its glassy eyes, minimal neurons firing haphazardly as it tried to recall how doors worked.

It raised a fist-slamming it against the metal with shocking force, bouncing the door handle.
When that didn't work, it let out a gargling growl of frustration.
Another few neurons sparked back to life as the residual rattling of the door handle reached its ears.

The gnarled fingers siezed the handle and yanked, pulling the handle clean off the door-leaving a hole.

Puzzled, the body peered at the now thoroughly useless handle and then to the hole. It shuffled close, bent over with a groan and pressed its eye to the opening.

It moaned.

The jiggling of the knob encouraged her to move faster, and with a squeal of horror as it was yanked from the socket, she pushed herself away from the door. The words, muffled as they were, were clearer now. He was... reciting food items. In a wretched, horrible voice. She moved like a blur through the office, toward the hook on the side of her desk that she hung her bag. Parker gave a single, panicked glance back. At the sight of the man's eye peering through the hole, her spine threatened to snap and force her to double over. No, no, no.

Heart hammering, sweating and terrified, she would move then toward the door on the opposite side of the room, out into the hallway and toward the elevator. The force at which she jammed her palm against the button cracked the outer layer of the button itself, but didn't do more damage than that. The wait for the elevator felt like an eternity in which she couldn't help but glance back multiple times and hope to see Shelley coming out of the office, asking her what was wrong, what she'd seen, why she was panicked. This could not have been real.

When the doors opened, she jumped, then hurried to throw herself inside and hit the door close button, then the lobby. There, she'd sink to the floor, and brace her head on her knees as she rode the elevator up. Agonizing as it was, her body seemed to relax when she was not in immediate danger, the cat resigning itself to pacing angrily. When on ground level, she'd pick herself up and head through the lobby, forcing her eyes down and ignoring the questioning of the receptionist as she headed out and toward her car.

The receptionist watched Parker hurry away, the older woman's face crinkling into a frown. Ah well, none of her buisness, and besides it was time for a cigarette break.

Downstairs, in the cool of the morgue, Mr. Collins's body pushed the door open, not sure why the resistance from a few moments ago was now gone. It didn't matter, there were Things to Eat.
It tottered out into the hall, bare feet slapping against the cement floor and met another barrier at the elevator.
Frustrated, it bounced itself against the doors until by sheer luck, a flailing hand caught the button and the doors dinged open. A guttural oooo left the dry lips as it shuffled inside.
After several long minutes, a thought crossed the vast gulf between two brain cells and the body slapped at the control panel, another oooo escaping as the elevator began to move up.

The doors dinged, and Mr. Collins's hospital gown clad body fell into the foyer, scrabbling clumsily up before nearly rolling towards the side door in its haste to get out, to where it knew Things were, Things it Wanted-Things it Needed.
A pigeon fluttered off as the body stumbled into the side street, but no human eyes saw the corpse re-enter the waking world at large.

Back downstairs, Shelley frowned and rolled onto his side-head splitting as if an axe had been driven through it. He lay still for several more seconds, stomach churning, as he tried to recall what he had been doing.

"Parker!" Shelley shot up off the floor in one movement, nearly falling back down but scrambling gamely on.

The zombie-his assistant at the door-they were both gone! The door handle lying on the floor nearly did him in, but he managed to slam through the door into the empty office. Looking around furiously, Shelley saw nothing amiss-other than Parker's bag being gone from her desk.

Taking that-and the lack of any blood or general disturbance- as a good sign, Shelley ran to the elevator and then-nearly hopping in frustration at how slow it was going-dashed through the sliding doors into the lobby.

No one was around.


Certainly, there was no one in the lobby. No one immediately outside the building either. But there was a bat hanging from a tree at the end of the block, and eventually the zombie would cross her path. She'd seen some woman flee, caught a faint scent of cat, and now there was this.

How curious, mostly because she could not hear into its head, nor could she hear the beating of its heart. The skin bore death's pallor. And yet, it wasn't a vampire.


Seeing no one else around at this point, she'd let go to morph back within a second.

"Excuse me," she called to the animated man, calling his attention to her. Curious, curious, curious.

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