“Hey Chuck,” Brian said, limping into the cafeteria, his right foot dragging behind him as he strolled. He was carrying a pink, half-eaten brain in his left hand, his right hand picking at what looked like a piece of hair clinging to it.
“Hey,” Chuck said, glancing up from the blood-stained newspaper he was attempting to read. Someone had spilled their breakfast all over it earlier in the morning and he couldn’t quite motivate himself to buy another. The comics were still intact, anyway, which were all he really cared for. He felt it was important to keep up with what Blondie had gotten into that day.
“Don’t you have a meeting to go to?” Brian said, lifting the brain to his mouth and taking an impressively large bite. It squished against his lips with a wet splat, a stream of red liquid pouring down the side of his mouth. The undead were always so messy with their food, although Brian had never exactly been a careful eater. He still had a bit of a belly, even after his diet changed drastically from fast food to human remains.
“What?” Chuck said, glancing down at his watch. 12:45. He was already late. “Oh shit.”
“You living folk, always behind on everything you do,” Brian said, laughing.
Chuck crumpled up the newspaper and pushed himself to his feet, half-sprinting to the mirror in the corner of the cafeteria. His hair looked fine and the bite marks from last week didn’t seem to be visible anymore. They had been from Patty, received during a particularly intense dinner date that he later deemed would be their last. It wasn’t that she was unattractive or or uninteresting or anything, it was more the fact that she spent the majority of the evening trying to convince him he didn’t exactly need his brains to live anymore. “Us zombies are so much better at everything than the living,” she argued, licking her lips. Sure, it was mostly true, but Chuck valued his mortality. He didn’t quite want to give that up yet, especially to someone who only wanted him for his brains.
Chuck brushed past Brian, ducking down slightly to avoid his hand. It was instinct, he knew it, but still incredibly rude. Every time he came within a few feet of him, or really any other of the recently un-deceased, they tried to dig into his skull. Yes, they were technically dead, but Chuck felt that was no excuse for poor manners, especially in the workplace.
The office hallway was relatively busy, several limping coworkers chatting amongst themselves as they carried files, folders, laptops, and various other corporate knick-knacks. Chuck turned left out the door, heading in the opposite direction of his undead peers and making his way toward the “Resources” conference room. They had previously been known as “Human Resources,” during the days of the living, but that had been deemed insensitive by Resources, who were now made entirely of the recently undead. The “human” was stricken from the title, allowing for a more diverse and sensitive naming convention.
Chuck stopped outside the Resources conference room and gently tapped on the glass door, the shade pulled down over it.
“Come in,” slurred a voice from within.
Chuck reached down and wrapped his hand around the warm doorknob, twisting it and pushing it open. Trisha sat inside, a desk separating the two of them. Her greasy, unwashed hair draped down to her nearly-green shoulders, her jaw hanging half open. She was dressed the same as she did while living, although her sense of style had apparently taken a severe hit after death. Then again, most of the undead tended to wear whatever they could find, no matter how torn and unappealing it may be. A partially eaten brain sat in a Ziploc bag on the table, just beside a blank notepad and manila envelope.
“Chuck, great to see you,” she said, “please have a seat.” She gestured toward the empty chair across from her neatly tucked into the wood table. Chuck stepped into the room and pulled the chair back before plopping down into it.
“Thanks,” he said, placing his palms on the table. He’d forgotten to bring paper, or a pen, or really anything. He hated being in meetings without something to occupy his hands and make him look busy. Most of the time he was spaced out, his mind thinking about something completely and utterly unrelated. Scribbling in a notebook or tapping a pen at least made him look focused.
“As you know,” Trisha said, her speech slurred slightly, “we’ve had some fundamental changes over the past year.” She opened the Ziploc bag and picked a small piece of brain off, sliding it into her partially open jaw.
“Yes,” Chuck said. Change was to put it lightly. Half of his coworkers had been promoted due to their new-found diligence, specifically thanks to how they no longer needed to sleep and seemed to find great pleasure in mindlessly working. Chuck knew he was next on the promotion line, as he was effectively the only person to have remained in his low-level position since the outbreak.
“Great,” Trisha said, taking another bite from the remaining brain in her bag. “Have you given any thought to zombification?”
“What?” Chuck said. He thought they were past this, he had been pretty clear that he liked being a human. Sure, he was essentially the last one in the office to remain un-undead, but he had been born living. He expected to remain living until he was intended to die. Perhaps then he might consider returning as a zombie. “I have,” he said.
“And what are your feelings toward it?”
“I’m not so interested right now,” he said. “I quite like who I am.”
“Therein lies the problem,” Trisha said. She closed the Ziploc bag, then lifted her right hand and carefully adjusted her hanging jaw, doing her best to prevent the stream of drool from continuing its unending flow. “You see, we’re really looking at transitioning this company into an undead organization. We’d like to keep you on board, but we do not feel humanity can keep up with the progress we’ve made.”
Chuck shifted in his seat slightly, pushing himself forward and placing his hands flat on the desk. This wasn’t exactly going as he expected it would.
“Do you understand what I am saying?” Trisha said.
“No,” Chuck said. He knew exactly what she meant, but he hoped he didn’t.
“We are going to have to let you go,” Trisha said, “unless you’re willing to be a team player and make the transition.”
“You can’t do that,” Chuck said, his eyes growing wide. “I’ve been here for almost a decade. I have a cat to provide for.” Technically, his cat had died a few months ago and no longer needed any real food, save for the brains of various animals it killed, but Trisha didn’t know that.
“We understand that,” Trisha said, “which is why we’re willing to provide you a generous severance package. Of course, we’d rather keep you around, but I’m afraid we cannot afford to staff a human at this time.”
“That’s god damn racist,” Chuck said, rising to his feet.
“You can’t fire me based on my race.”
“Humanity is not a race, they’re a species,” Trisha said, tilting her head. “A dying species,” she added.
“What? Of course it is! The human race, humanity. How could you even say that?”
Trisha adjusted her jaw with her left hand, then stood up and wandered over to the bookshelf. She pulled open a large, black book and began flipping through its pages. Chuck sat back down, breathing slowly to try to calm himself down. He knew his outburst had been inappropriate, but he didn’t exactly want to be fired.
“Ah,” Trisha said, slapping her bony finger down onto one of the pages. She turned and made her way back over to the table, book still in hand. “See, there’s nothing in here about firing based on species. It’s perfectly legal.”
Chuck grabbed the book and spun it toward him, skimming the page. It was pretty clear that firing based on skin color, sexual orientation, and the likes were considerably illegal, yet the word species made no appearance.
“I’ll sue you,” he said. “I’ll sue the whole company.” Chuck slammed the book closed and stood back up.
“We’re trying to be generous here,” Trisha said. “Three month’s pay is the severance, plus continuation of dental and eye care for that period. Obviously we no longer offer life insurance.” Trisha paused. “Of course, you can also kill yourself and stick around with us.”
“I am going to set the precedent,” Chuck said, “that firing based on species is incredibly illegal. You cannot simply remove me because I identify as human. I do good work, I am a great employee. This will not be the last you hear from me,” Chuck said, turning and walking toward the door. He knew it would be hard to find a human lawyer willing to represent him, especially since attorneys were the ones to originally spread the zombie infection. As far as he knew, there were no human ones left, with just as many remaining judges. It would be an uphill battle, but he would not go down easily.
“Please leave your key card with security on your way out,” Trisha said, diving onto the table and swiping institutionally at his head. Chuck closed the door just as her hand smacked into its glass pane.