With all the buzz of cutbacks over at Nussey, Zucker & Milch, I knew it was a matter of time before the rumor mill started up here in Operations. I noticed because Ned was preparing for the worst. That’s not unusual. He had his hammer and rope ready to repel down the side of the building as usual, but this time he’d barricaded himself in his cube. So I stopped to see what had him particularly agitated.
"Hi Ned! Anything wrong?" I asked.
"Only EVERYTHING!" he snorted incredulously.
"Care to be more specific?" I probed.
"I just heard that they’re laying off at ‘Mummy, Zombie & Witch’ and they’re all headed this way! I hear Tammy and Jan have already been possessed and are bringing them all on board! This is it boss! This is the moment I’ve been waitin’ for!" He stacked a few more boxes between him and me.
"Ned, Nussey, Zucker & Milch is not an undead factory, they’re a competitor of ours and we’re just being opportunistic by hiring away their best people," I tried to assure him.
"You may be sellin’, boss, but I’m not buyin’. The attack has already begun! They’ve brainwashed the management," Ned exclaimed. He started looking at me a little strange-wise. "They got to you, didn’t they?"
From over the wall other workers began a feverish whisper as Ned’s near psychotic rant took over the entire floor. People stood up and looked at me like I was eating brains and using my BlackBookBerry to wipe it off my face. The more I tried to explain that Ned was just over-reacting to something completely normal, the more life his story seemed to gain. I soon realized that there was a zombie in the building, but it wasn’t our competitors it was the rumor circulating.
I had to do something so I did the natural thing. I went on the defensive.
"Dude, I’m not a zombie!"
"That’s exactly what a zombie would say to lull me into a false sense of security and then sneak up behind me and eat my brain."
I sighed. This was going to take a while. "Man, how can I convince you I’m not a zombie?"
"You’ve gotta tell me something a zombie wouldn’t say."
"Well I have no idea what a zombie wouldn’t say because I have no idea what a zombie would say because I’M NOT A FREAKIN’ ZOMBIE!"
"Sounds like more your problem than mine, buddy," said Ned from behind the barricade. I heard him start working on a second layer of boxes.
I tried a different tactic. "Well what would a zombie say?"
"Well, he might start out talking about the weather, then nonchalantly ask how big your brain is. Or he might say he’s on a campaign to eradicate the earwig and ask to inspect your ears, for public safety reasons. Or he might just cut to the chase and ask if he can cut your head off and eat your brain."
"Dude, you seem to know a lot about what zombies might say. You sure you’re not a zombie?"
Ned froze behind the barricade. I heard him begin to sob quietly. "Oh man, oh man, oh man. I think you’re right. I must be a zombie to know so much. Dude, get outta here! Save yourself! I’m gonna finish boxing myself in before I totally go zom-bozo, so I don’t get out and start infecting everyone. What are you standing there for?! GET OUTTA HERE!"
And with that I heard him stacking a second layer of boxes, only this time instead of barricading me out, he was barricading himself in.
Well, that pretty much stomped that rumor flat, and there wasn’t anything more about it until a few days later. I ran into Ned in the hallway, and he was looking a little sheepish about our last encounter.
"Okay, Phil, about Thursday … there’s good news and bad news."
"Sure, buddy. What’s the good news?"
"I’m not a zombie."
My eyes shifted slightly at the though that if this is the good news I can expect, surely the bad news is pretty much a freakin’ disaster.
"Awesome, man. Good for you. And what’s the bad news?"
"I barricaded myself in pretty well, so I had to bust the window to get out of the building."
"Oh, I didn’t notice. Where was that?"
"Over by Tammy’s cube."
"No problem, man. I’m sure she doesn’t mind. She probably needs more fresh air anyway." Ned nodded and went back to whatever squirrely little thing he was working on, and I sauntered to the break room for another Red Bull, knowing I’d averted an office tragedy, quashed a pernicious rumor, and helped Tammy. All in day’s work, buddy. All in a day’s work.
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