Jared Wurston had been waiting for this week all year.
It was Christmastime, which meant two-thirds of the office was out on vacation and the remaining workforce was unobtrusive and blissfully quiet.
In his six years at Vector Corp, Jared had endured six agonizingly banal Christmas parties full of, from his perspective, fake joy and forced merriment. As frustrating as the parties were, it was all worth it when the majority of the building’s workers disappeared a week or so later. It was at this time that Jared was gifted with the only thing he ever wanted for Christmas: quiet.
Quiet from the insufferable buzz of social pleasantries that added up to meaningless drivel.
Quiet from the incessant blather about pointless reality TV that leaked from over the cubicle walls.
Quiet from the clueless management whose only discernable purpose seemed to be making Jared’s job more difficult.
Most people planned trips and visited family for the holidays. Jared Wurston stayed home and pretended the world didn’t exist.
Unfortunately, as Jared Wurston settled into his unapologeticly introverted Christmas tradition—turning up the ambient white noise generator in his little gray cubicle in order to drown out the faint tinkle of Christmas music a few aisles over—certain diabolical forces had already been set into motion. Forces that would, ultimately, ruin Jared’s much awaited week of peace and quiet.
It started with a gluursh.
Jared quirked an eyebrow at the small, plain box that the white noise was rumbling from.
A shadow fell across the entrance to Jared’s cubicle and he sighed in exasperation. He figured it was one of his four managers—whichever one drew the short straw and had to work the holiday shift—making some kind of half-assed attempt to assert himself as someone who deserved the grotesque salary he was earning.
The good news for Jared was that it was, in fact, the short-straw-weilding manager.
The bad news for Jared was that working the holiday shift wasn’t the only short straw the manager had drawn.
The manager—now zombified and sporting an insatiable desire for human brains in place of that irrational need to justify his salary—crashed into Jared’s cubicle. It left a trail of mushy gore leaking from the side of his torso where his shirt and flesh and been ripped apart by the edge of some kind of mildly sharp object. His shoes squelched from the muck of his own spilled innards.
Step. Spill. Stumble. Squelch.
Jared turned his chair just in time for the manager to descend on Jared’s head, sinking his gnashing teeth into Jared’s skull.
Jared screamed. At first it was out of shock, but then it turned to pain.
The zombie-manager’s fingers clawed at Jared’s head and found his eyes, pressing until the balls popped in their sockets and oozed down Jared’s twitching face. The zombie’s jaw worked, teeth cracking against Jared’s skull.
Blood streamed past Jared’s hairline and coated coated his face. He twitched and spasmed and his mouth hung open, letting out vocalizations that were somewhere between screams, grunts, and moans. Rivulets of blood went splattering against various sheets of datasets and TPS reports pinned to the cubicle wall.
Eyes gorged, the zombie-manager’s fingers continued pushing and pressing into Jared’s head through his eye sockets, clawing for those brains that were just so damn close. The zombie’s other hand grabbed at Jared’s trembling, flapping jaw.
The flesh of the zombie-manager’s fingers split as Jared’s teeth met bone. Black and green gore poured from the lacerations and mixed with the crimson of Jared’s widening head wound.
The zombie wrenched at Jared’s jaw with undead, inhuman strength. Bone snapped and the flesh of Jared’s cheeks tore, splattering even more blood against the manager’s seen-better-days bue button-down dress shirt.
And then the six-inch blade of a steel letter opener rammed into the base of the zombie-manager’s skull.
The hand on the letter opener twisted and pulled, sending a spray of black blood cascading across the gray walls of the cubicle. The zombie tumbled onto Jared before slowly slipping across his blood and gore soaked body and collapsing to the ground with a wet glurch.
The letter opener belonged to a 24-year-old girl standing over the corpses. Her name was Gwen and she worked in the mail room at Vector Corp. She was small and slight for a mail clerk—at least by Vector Corp standards where her immediate colleagues were at least two or three times her size. Her short hair was light, her features soft, and the fire in her eyes was intense.
Gwen had lost track of the zombie-manager ten minutes earlier when she stepped into a wrong aisle of cubicles and saw a festive group of cubicle zombies (the undead kind, not the brainless kind) temporarily twisted up in an explosion of tinsel and garlands. She had backed slowly out of the aisle before the writhing zombies could notice her and she quickly decided that instead of trying to catch up with the zombie-manager, her time would be better spent trying to recruit help.
And Gwen had just the person in mind. He was a perfect mix of young and bitter—the fact that it was Christmas wouldn’t distract her future recruit from doing what needed to be done.
As Gwen bee-lined for Jared Wurston’s cubicle, she hoped that the zombie-manager would have headed a different direction, buying her some precious minutes.
Now, Gwen the mail clerk stood over the pair of corpses inside the small gray, blood-spattered cubicle. More blood dripped from the steel blade of the letter opener she clutched in her hand.
Gwen wrinkled her nose.
"Fuck me. He went to Jared."