Chapter 1: Survival Tip:
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Today has not been your day. First you woke up late, and had to wait behind the most indecisive person in New York—good god, how long does it take to order a tall nonfat latte with a doubleshot of caramel and no whip? Is this your first time picking out a goddamn drink? Moron.—So you were barely caffeinated by the time you made it into work, narrowly dodging a cabbie’s nasty road splash (but still winding up with something indescribable and sticky on your shoes). Your boss Lisette looked annoyed, and you hid in your cubicle, hoping not to be noticed, and spent the first hour staring at your ex’s photo on Facebook. Why did it have to end like that? Forget the other fishes in the sea, you two had somethinggood.
But you aren’t even able to cling to your reverie. A little before lunch (geeze, can you not even catch the smallest break?!) the first announcement came: CDC officials identified the outbreak in Chicago. It is some new virus, really dangerous. There are whispers of bioterrorism, but nobody knows for sure. It is now in New York, and probably airborne. Then, block by block, the mayor put the city into lockdown. This is serious, guys.
This is an official outbreak.
You’ve never been much for authority figures. If you followed directions every time New York faced some kind of threat, you’d have moved to Minnesota ages ago. So whatever. It’s time for lunch, and you’re hungry. You’re going out for a slice. Or maybe you should try that new salad joint down the street?
Just as you’re about to step out, Alyssa, the exuberant hippy from the next cubicle over, asks if you’d like to go to Thai Delight.
You’re really craving:
Pizza. Besides, it’s in the shop just outside. Who doesn’t love street food?
Salad. As much as you hate to admit it, you’re starting to lose the war againstflub. You should probably watch what you eat.
Thai. Alyssa is a decent sort, if you can look past that she talks faster than most commuter trains. And Thai is awesome.
You should at least respect the mayor’s wishes—for now. He only needs a few hours anyway, and he’ll have this crisis locked down. Once it’s dinnertime, all bets are off. Besides, your office has a sandwich machine, and you neverstop marveling at the way it works. Those little spirals whirring along to dispense your sandwich, the whole thing humming gently. Admit it—you’re enthralled with the vending machine. It’s kind of magical.
But just as you’re about to smooth out your crumbled cash to feed the machine, you notice something dreadful: it’s out of your favorite sandwich. There, where it should be, where it reliably has been every time you’ve needed it, is an empty metal gear.
You feel a little betrayed by the machine you’ve admired for so long.
With resignation, accept your sandwich-less fate, buy a bag of chips—knowing you’re going to have a hunger headache soon enough—and go back to your desk.
Punch the buttons for a ham on rye. It’ll do. You guess.
Get a salad. At least that’s healthy.
Ricardo is as enthusiastic about pizza as ever. Particularly his crazy combos. He tries to talk you, as usual, into a salami-with-pineapple. You’re still not interested. He wipes his runny nose on his sleeve as he hands you your piping hot pepperoni slice. Gross. But who cares? It’s street food.It’s not like there are standards.
Well, you should have cared. A few hours later, you’re starting to sniffle, and your head is pounding. Ugh. Stupid street food.
You don’t feel too bad about defying the mayor’s order, because you’re only going down the block to the deli; you can’t be in that much danger. This is New York!
The deli is moderately busy, but it’s the lunch hour, no big deal. You buy your salad—hold the extradressing—and look for a place to sit.
Sit outside. It’s a little chilly out, but you’ll live.
Elbow in at the counter, taking the last empty stool.
You meet Alyssa outside. She smiles at you and flags down the next yellow taxi. Thai Toweris only a couple of blocks away, but Alyssa is paying the fare, so who cares? You slide into the taxi after her and she gives the attractively unshaven driver the address.
“No problem,” he says, in a clipped Middle Eastern accent.
Alyssa can’t help but flirt with him. “Has anyone ever told you how good you look in a beard? Seriously, it’s such a good look for you. Beards are SO in right now!”
You mostly look out the window. Thank goodness it’s only a few blocks.
As you get out of the cab, Alyssa pays with a credit card, then slips her business card to the driver. He looks bored, not flattered. Heh. Strike one for Alyssa.
“You have a nice lunch,” he says, and drives off.
She’s extra-chipper during lunch. You order the pad thai, and Alyssa orders something gluten-free with tofu. To each their own, you guess.
You talk about a lot of nothing—mostly the drama from thelatest hot reality television show—and are grateful when the meal is done. The food was good, at least.
Not wanting to repeat the episode with the cabbie—the first one took 15 minutes off of your lunch break, more than enough to devote to Alyssa’s love life—you convince her to walk back with you. She’s so busy trying to refresh her lipstick that she walks right through the cloud of smoke between two escapee office workers and gets a lungful. She coughs raggedly for amoment, and you pull her inside the office lobby so she can catch her breath. After a few long seconds of heavy breathing, she says, “Thanks. Whew. Don’t know what came over me there,” and the two of you head back to the elevators and to your desks.
After awhile, you notice no one else is paying attention to their work, so you quit, too. No use working extra. Bruce in IT is the only one at his desk, and you can hear him cursing at the computer.
See what has halted the workday. Maybe something juicy has happened.
Check in on Bruce. Dude needs to chill out with the intense typing.
You ask the office pharmacy—aka. Janet—if you can have something, anything, to relieve this pressure in your head. She rummages around in her desk, sifting through an impressive stack of vials.Her drawer rattles portentously. After five long minutes, she offers you a handful of pills.
A bottle of cold medicine. You start to measure out a single dose, but then decide there isn’t really that much in the bottle anyway, right? So you down the whole thing.
A blue pill. Janet says shethinks might be an antihistamine, but then again, maybe not… Oh, what the hell. What doesn’t kill you, right?
Nothing. You just remembered a report you heard last week about unexpired antibiotics contributing to the outbreak currently keeping you indoors. And who knows where Janet got all those pills anyway. She seems shady.
By the time you make it down to the main floor, your head is pounding and your stomach churning. All you care about now is making your way home, and you’re so engrossed in the rumblings in your gut that you ignore a security guard telling you not to leave. The revolving door won’t turn, so you stagger against the bar of the hinged door next to it. The bar gives and you step onto the pavement outside.
Begin walking home. It’s not that far, and maybe the walk will help you feelbetter.
Hail a cab. No time for walking.
Take the subway. Might as well save yourself the cab fare.
You really aren’t feeling well, and really, you doubt you have time to do anything before you black out from the pain. Besides, your desk is big enough and the corner dark enough that you can easily scrunch under there and have a nap without anyone the wiser.You know from experience.
The office is at a low hum, but you wheel out into the hallway between cubicles and take a peek anyway. No sign of the bosses. All clear for naptime.
You roll back in and slide down to the floor out of your chair. You kick off your shoes and stretch out, hiding your face from the light as much as possible. It’s not exactly luxe accommodations, but it’s enough to let you fall into a soft sleep. After a little while, your low snoring dies off—along with your heartbeat.
Lisette comes by to check on your progress and pile more papers on the desk. She leans down to scold you for napping on the job—she’s had her suspicions about you for awhile now, this is the last time you’ll take advantage of the company!—but she doesn’t get to finish her rant. As soon as she rolls you over, she can see something isn’t right. When you moan “Uguuhhhhh” and bite her just above her watch, she’s certain of it. Herscreams bring attention, but your coworkers are a little slow on the uptake when there isn’t a meeting with management to explain what to do.
Besides, the boss wasn’t all that well-liked, so they don’t mind too much, beyond the usual of course, that she was just eaten by one of the underlings. They do, however, get a bit more alarmed when your blood-soaked corpse starts lumbering after them.
You’re a zombie now.