The hallway was as quiet as church on a Friday night, that was not good. The main entrance was past Max’s desk and though he hated to do it, he stopped by and picked up his ‘office’ bat. Signed by Steve Garvey this Louisville Slugger was a minor prize among the items in Max’s collection, not too valuable to keep in his shrine at work, just impressive enough to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ his co-workers. Now if Garvey ever made it into the hall of fame, the bat would become something more treasured and might have to be brought home for the ‘wall of fame’ that Max was slowly building next to his mantle. For now, it should prove useful if Fred or Nancy would come calling. He made his way to the front doors of MAC CO. without seeing anyone. The security guard the company employed to sit at the desk in the lobby didn't start until seven forty-five, so this was not unusual.
He did not see anyone. Something was definitely wrong, a few phones were ringing, he did hear a muffled conversation, but he saw no one. In a busy office building, during business hours, on a Friday, people had to be around. Sure, sure, it was only seven in the morning, but a few of the ‘regulars’ should have been in by now. Max held his bat and waited, shifting his grip around, looking at the number ‘six’ on the end of the handle and the ‘Good luck, Steve Garvey’ in faded ink near the top of the bat. Bloodstains, were now evident from Max’s grip, he looked around, thought for a moment, propped the front door open with a trashcan and then ducked back into the hallway towards the men’s room. It had only been a couple minutes, no way could the police get here that quickly with the rush hour just starting but he didn’t want to take a chance of missing them.
Stepping into the men’s room the first thing Max saw was a pool of dried blood on the floor in front of the handicapped stall. That door was closed, but not completely. Max stopped, looked around and slowly lowered the tip of the bat down onto the floor then used it to lower his body down and get a look under the stall door. Two sets of legs; one, obviously on the pot, feet pointed towards the stall door and the other set shuffling about slightly, pointed towards the toilet. Suddenly a slight sucking/chewing sound came from the stall, as if an animal had continued feeding, but was briefly interrupted and then decided to start eating again. Blood was running down the basin of the toilet bowl, towards the rear of the stall and the industrial sized drain located there.
Blood. Right. Max slowly stood up, looked over at the paper towel dispenser, at the door, at that handicap stall, then at the blood staining his precious bat. Tick. Tick. Tick. Between the sounds of eating, Max could hear the sounds of his watch hand ticking in what seemed like thunderous noise to his ears. He took a step towards the paper towel rack, the eating sounds stopped, after a few seconds they resumed. Max took another step, the eating did not pause, two silent steps later Max was at the paper towel rack slowly easing towels out of the dispenser onto the counter next to the sink, steadily watching the stall door and listening to the sounds within. As he reached for more towels his hands found empty air, he swung around to see what the problem was and caught the bathroom view in the mirror above the sink.
A zombie! Right there!Max let out a scream and swung his bat up, the same time the zombie swung his arm up and around toward him. Max whirled around swinging behind him and in an instance, no one was there. He was still alone in the area in front of the sink. After a second Max realized he had not seen a zombie, he had seen his own reflection, bloody shirt, a thin line of blood vertical over his lips from when he ‘shhhh-ed’ Steve and wild eyes. He even had drying blood in his hair on one side, congealing and making the hair stand stiffly out from his head at a ninety degree angle. Max started laughing at his mistake, a kind of ‘whew glad that was nothing’ sort of laugh, that he could not stop himself from releasing. The noise from the handicap stall door swinging outward and hitting the wall startled Max from his revelry.
No one or better yet, no ‘thing’ immediately emerged from the stall. Seconds felt like minutes. Slowly Max again placed the end of his bat on the floor and used it to lower himself again for a peek under the stall.
There were still two sets of legs but now both pairs of feet were pointing away from the toilet.
Fight or flight?Max had remembered hearing that statement but could not remember where. Maybe it had been used to describe animal instincts on the Discovery Channel once but he could not recall. All he knew was that he had a decision to make and he had better make it quick.
Fight or flight?
The decision was made, flight sounded pretty damn good right about now especially since the close confines of the bathroom didn’t allow Max to swing his bat as freely as he would like. With three giant strides, Max ran towards the handicap stall and with his right hand, he slammed the door back towards the occupants inside. If Max could make it out into the hallway, he was sure he could out run any pursuers.
Max didn’t know if it was his imagination but he sensed hands clawing at his back. This feeling caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end and gave him a queasy feeling in his stomach. He lowered his shoulder and blasted into the men’s room door swinging it wide open as he left the room. The door clanged against the adjacent wall and slowly the pneumatic closer fastened at the top of the door started to return the door to the closed position; too slowly.
The collision with the door spun Max around and he lost his balance and tumbled to the floor. He could hear the familiar sound of wood clanking on the hard tile as his bat bounced away from him. Max loved that sound, it reminded him of hot summer days spent watching overpaid baseball players and drinking overpriced beers.
Max rolled onto his stomach and then frantically crawled on all fours back towards the men’s room door. From inside he heard a low moaning. When he reached the door, he spun around, put his back to it and braced it shut with his feet. Something tried to open the door, slowly forcing it up. Max sensed himself once again starting to slide on the highly polished floor tiles. The door cracked open an inch.
“Steve!” he yelled as he tried to dig his heels in. Was he still on the telephone?
Max tried to hold his position but the thing on the other side of the door had better leverage. Slowly he started to slide a little more.
“Steve! Get your ass over here! Help! Steve!”
Would Steve ignore his calls for help? He couldn’t, could he? Not at a time like this. They had their differences but this was life or death; not who gets the next promotion.
Max heard footsteps, quick footsteps, running footsteps. Steve was coming. If he could hold, the door for just a little longer Steve would be there and they could trap the thing in the men’s room.
The door was now about a foot open. Above his head, he could hear the slapping of flesh on the metal of the door.
“Hold it right there!” The yell came from the lobby and it was a woman. Max lifted his head and looked right into the barrel of a pistol. It was a police officer, a blonde female police officer. Her feet were spread apart for stability and she held the gun firmly clasped between both hands. Her left eye was pinched shut but Max could clearly see her right eye looking down the barrel at him.
“I said, hold it right there!”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“There is a…” 'There’s a what?' Max thought.'A zombie eating someone on the other side who wants to eat me you if you don’t blow his head off? Would a trained officer of the law believe this story?' It’s not likely.
“…I’ve got a murderer trapped and if you don’t do something about it we are both in big trouble.”
Max then heard two sounds; the first being the squeaking of his hands sliding across the floor and was soon pinned between the door and the adjacent wall.
The second sound was a loud explosion that was amplified by the hard surfaces of the floor and walls. His ears were left ringing in the aftermath of the shot.
Max pushed his hands against the wall and fell back against the floor. The men’s room door did not completely close; there was a set of blood stained designer suit pants pinned between the door and the frame.
“Murderer, huh? Looked more like a zombie to me.” The officer said. Max turned his head towards her. She was standing above him with an outstretched hand. He grabbed it. It was warm but not sweaty, must be the training. Regardless, it made him feel a little safer. She pulled Max to his feet.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, I think most of this blood is someone else’s. What took you so long?”
“Hey, count yourself lucky, we’ve been dealing with these problems all morning. Had I not been on my way back to the station when I got the call you would have been on your own.”
She grabbed the radio from her belt and spoke into it: “HQ, Alpha 6, over?” They both waited for a response.
“This is Alpha 6; I have a possible 11-56 requesting a Code10. Do you copy?”
As they listened to the silence on the radio, Max took survey of the officer. She looked to be in her mid-twenties and stood a little over five and a half feet tall. She wore the standard Denver Police uniform, dark blue, with a black leather belt housing multiple items; handcuffs, pepper spray, a club, and a holster for her side arm. Her left forearm was wrapped with a bandage. She wore no hat but her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. 'To Serve and Protect' read a small gold pin above her badge. Max thought that she was surprisingly cute for a cop.
“Are there others like him wandering around here?” She asked, as she pointed at the feet sticking out the doorway.
“Yeah, two more maybe, or possibly three now, that I know of.”
“What about normal people, any of those left in here?”
Normal?That sounded funny. Max guessed that Steve could pass as normal.
“Ah, yes, one more, Steve, back the other way. But that’s all I’ve seen this morning.”
“Actually, I’m right here.” Steve said as he crept from an office entrance.
Just how long had Steve been there? Had he witnessed the entire thing and not attempted to help him? Max wouldn’t put it past Steve to do a thing like that. It seemed unimaginable but he guessed that some people would do anything to protect themselves. Max retrieved his bat and looked at Steve and the officer, “What do we do now?”