his new work colleagues. One woman looked up to him and smiled. Another attractive blonde. Another woman, a redhead,
and a man also acknowledged his arrival. But the rest of the workers in the office he’d just entered, carried on with
their work as if he wasn’t there, without so much as a casual, inquisitive glance towards him. He approached the nearest
man. ‘Excuse me?’ The man carried on working as if deaf to him. ‘I’m new here today, can you tell
me where to find Roger Hamilton?’
He was still ignored.
The blonde who’d first smiled at him,
wandered over. ‘Can I help you?’ she asked.
‘This is my first day, I’m looking
for … Roger Hamilton?’
‘Ah, yes,’ she said,’
would you like to follow me?’
He followed her and couldn’t resist
gazing at her arse, shifting from side to side as she walked ahead of him. Tasty, he thought to himself.
‘I’m Samantha, Sam
most people call me,’ she said, as she stopped to let him catch up with her.
‘Jim.’ he said.
They reached a door that said MANAGER on
it, and Sam knocked, then she turned to him and smiled politely again.
‘Yes?’ asked the man, who came
to the door.
‘Jim Potter,’ Jim announced
holding out his hand.
The man ignored him and looked to Sam. ‘Well,
what are you waiting for, back to work, I don’t pay you to idle in my doorway, do I?’
‘Sorry, Mr Hamilton,’ she said.
She went back to her desk, trying hard to
hide the annoyance at the way she’d been spoken to.
Hamilton turned to Jim and produced a broad
smile, presenting him with two rows of perfect white teeth. ‘Jim Potter? Nice to meet you again.’
Now he did shake his hand.
Hamilton had a round, pale face, like the
life had been drained from it, and piercing eyes, almost hypnotic, and short black hair, slicked back severely over his head.
Jim was shown to his desk, Sam raised her
head again as he crossed the room with his new boss, and once more none of the other employees, apart from the redhead and
the man who’d acknowledged his presence earlier, looked up from their work.
Jim couldn’t resist looking over to
Sam as he got on with his work, pausing momentarily. She was something, very attractive, could have been a model
he thought instead of stuck in this lousy job.
‘Yes, Mr Potter, she is indeed a bit
of eye candy, but can we have some work out of you please?’
Jim didn’t know where the voice had
come from. It seemed a bit like Hamilton’s, but he had returned to his office. He looked around but there was no one
within close proximity who could have spoken. Then he got the feeling that someone had walked away from his desk, even though
there was no one to be seen.
Morning break came, and everyone rose and
made their way over to the coffee machine at the far side of the room. Sam made her way over to him. ‘How you finding
it so far?’ she asked, sliding herself onto the edge of his desk.
He looked over to the coffee machine at
the expressionless souls congregated around it, patiently waiting their turn.
‘What’s the deal with everyone
around here?’ he asked her.
Sam glanced over to them. ‘I don’t
know, I’ve not been here long,’ she told him. She looked back to Jim. ‘Neither has Mel and Pete.’
She nodded over to the redhead and the man as she said this. They had also made their way over to the coffee machine now.
‘I don’t think I want to be
here long, if I’m going to end up like these lot,’ Jim told her.
‘They are a bit odd, aren’t
‘Odd? They’re like zombies!’
She gave a laugh. ‘Have you seen Dawn
of the Dead?’ she asked him widening her eyes.
‘The remake or the original?’
he wanted to know.
‘The remake,’ she said.
‘No, I haven’t, sorry.’
‘I saw if at the cinema when it first
came out, with my boyfriend.’
‘You have a boyfriend?’
‘Had a boyfriend,’
she informed him.
He smiled at this. ‘So, are you seeing
anyone at the moment?’
‘No.’ Now it was her turn to
present him with a smile.
‘Are there any zombie movies playing
at the moment you’d like to go and see?’
‘Is that an offer of a date?’
‘I think it might be.’
‘And you’ve not got a wife at
home or anything?’
‘No, I haven’t a wife, or an
‘Miss Forester, what are you doing
sat on the desk?’ It was Hamilton, approaching them
Sam eased herself off Jim’s desk.
‘Just welcoming the new lamb into the fold,’ she told her boss.
‘Didn’t you do enough of welcoming
the little lamb this morning?’ asked Hamilton, and added: ‘I don’t pay you to sit around on the desks eyeing
up the new staff.’
‘I’m on my break.’
‘Well kindly use your break in the
way it was intended.’ He waved a hand over to the coffee machine.
‘I’m not thirsty,’ she
said to Hamilton.
‘You say that now, but in a few minutes
you’ll be wandering over to the water dispenser and wasting valuable working time. If it’s not that it’s
‘I don’t need the bathroom either.’
‘Well in that case, would you mind
retuning to your workstation?’
As lunchtime arrived, it was pretty much
the same story. Everyone made their way to the canteen in a similar manner. Jim sat with Sam, Mel and Pete, the only other
human employees as far as he was concerned.
‘Things are certainly strange around
here,’ he said to his new colleagues, ‘I’ve never worked anywhere quite like it.’
They peered around at the other diners,
staring straight ahead, eating. No one was talking to anyone.
‘It’s like a morgue in here.’
Jim had had enough of the silence of the
other co-workers. ‘Did anyone see the match last night?’ he called over to some of the men sat at a nearby table.
He was met with blank stares; most of them didn’t even look in his direction. ‘Great goal by Owen, eh?’
More blank stares.
‘Football not your thing, eh?’
He looked back to the others and made a face. ‘How long have you been here?’ he asked Pete.
‘Four weeks,’ he said.
‘Me too,’ said Mel, and added:
‘we started on the same day.’
‘I’ve been here a fortnight,’
Sam told him.
After Pete and Mel had eaten their lunch
and had left the canteen, Jim bent towards Sam. ’Well, how about tonight?’
‘How about tonight for what?’
‘Do you fancy the flicks?’
‘All right then, you’ve twisted
my arm,’ she said.
Jim smiled triumphantly, and then watched
as all the other employees rose, almost in unison, and filed their way out of the canteen.
‘I suppose we better get back to work?’
He looked at his watch it was almost half past one.
‘Yeah, otherwise Hamilton will have
our hides,’ Sam said.
‘I can well believe that.’
‘He’s a bastard.’
‘I second that.’
At that moment Jim noticed Hamilton stood
at the door, when he saw Jim looking, he glanced at his watch. ‘Almost half past, people,’ he said to them. ‘Every
minute lost is work going undone.’
That night the couple went to watch a horror
film, though Jim didn’t take in too much of it. He was too busy giving Sam sideways glances all night, and was met with
Sam’s cute smile. She had the kind of face that looked to be always smiling, full of fun and mischief. I bet she’s
a great lay, he was thinking. Her eyes were her best feature, wide and excited, permanently.
They went back to hers and Jim stayed the
night. They fucked. It was great; Sam was as good in bed as she was company, and later they lay there side by side, staring
up at the ceiling.
‘What do you think’s with everyone
at work?’ Jim asked her after he’d got his breath back from their exhaustive lovemaking.
‘I dunno,’ Sam said, between
breaths, ‘perhaps there’s something in the air-conditioning that blows out a gas, which controls everyone. You
know, like in a science fiction film?
Jim looked towards Sam.
‘I am joking,’ she
‘You mean like controlled zombies,’
he said, ‘and it’s only a matter of time before we become like them?’
‘You’re beginning to frighten
me now,’ she said.
‘There’s certainly something
wrong,’ Jim said to her.
‘Hamilton is such a slave driver though,’
Sam said, ’I’m sure it’s just that, I think they’re just keeping their heads down, that’s all.’
‘I hope you’re right,’
Jim said, ‘being a zombie wouldn’t suit me.’
‘Nor me,’ Sam laughed, ‘eating
all those brains, ugh!’
‘Although, Hamilton does have a look
of Bela Lugosi,’ noted Jim, ‘ever seen White Zombie?’
Sam gave him a look, and then laughed to
herself. ‘Now that I come to think of it, he does,’ she said.
Next day at work, as everyone was busy at
their desks, there was a cry from the other side of the room, from Pete‘s desk. Jim looked over. Pete was clutching
at his tie, which looked to be too tight around his neck; he was tugging at it frantically as if trying to loosen it.
Sam rushed over, Jim followed, and the pair
were soon joined by Mel.
‘It’s tightening,’ Pete
Apart from himself, Sam and Mel, none of
his other fellow workers appeared too concerned about Pete and merely carried on working.
Sam tried to help him undo his tie, she
couldn’t understand how it had got so tight, and it did appear to be tightening even more, as Pete had said it had.
Then Pete dropped to the floor, Sam continued
to fight to pull the tie slack, but to no avail. Pete gave one last gasp and then passed out.
Hamilton appeared behind the three of them,
who were still the only ones showing any concern for Pete.
‘What on earth is going on?’
‘Can’t you see,’ said
Sam, ‘Pete‘s passed out.’
‘Does it really need the three of
you to help him?’ Hamilton enquired. Then he picked up the nearest phone and punched some numbers, then waited with
the headset to his ear. ‘Hello, Frank?’ he said, after a couple of seconds, ‘could you get up here, one
of them’s passed out.’
He slammed the phone down, obviously irritated
that the incident was interfering with his workforce’s routine.
‘See, sorted,’ he said to them.
‘Now could you all go back to your workstations?’ He turned to Sam. ‘Everything’s taken care off,
I’ve asked Frank to come up and take him to the first aid room.’
‘Do you want me to go with him?’
‘And have two employees out of action?
We’re dealing with it Samantha, you just get back to work, and let’s see those sales figures rise through the
roof, or I might consider docking some of your money.’
‘Do you think he’ll be all right?
I mean …’ She looked at Pete, all the colour had drained from his face, and as Jim looked too he feared the worse.
‘It’s all in hand, all being
taken care of,’ said Hamilton.
Later that afternoon, Jim was sat at his
desk when he suddenly felt as if someone was stood behind him, watching over him. He hadn’t noticed Hamilton come out
of his office, but then he’d been busy working. Then he noticed a shadow cast over his desk and realised that it probably
was Hamilton stood behind him, checking up on him. He turned round, but there was no one there. Jim looked back to
the shadow but that had disappeared too now.
He shook his head to himself, and carried
on with his work.
‘Strangest thing earlier,’ he
told Sam later, ‘I had the feeling of someone being stood behind me, like that bastard Hamilton was checking up on me.
Then when I turned round, there was no one there.’
‘You’ve felt it too?’
she said. ‘Ever since the first day I started here, I’ve felt like someone was around, watching me.’
Pete never returned from the first aid room
the previous day, and when either Jim or Sam, or Mel had asked Hamilton about him, they had been met with a response of, ‘Everything’s
being taken care of,’ and nothing more.
Then Mel suffered a similar fate.
She was sat at her desk, when suddenly she
started sweating and loosening her clothing. It wasn’t a particular hot day, and anyway the office was fairly well ventilated,
but nevertheless she looked like she was suffering from the effects of a sweltering heat.
‘You all right, love?’ Sam called
over to her.
‘It’s so damned hot,’
‘Maybe you’re coming down with
Then Mel did an odd thing, she tore her
blouse off, not merely unbuttoning it, but ripping it from her.
Then she took her skirt off, and in doing
so lost her balance and toppled to the floor. And there the poor woman was, writhing on the floor, shouting: ‘The heat,
the heat!’ You’d expect her co-workers to have noticed, thought Jim, but as he looked around they were all still
busy working, completely ignorant to her extraordinary behaviour.
Sam rushed over again, as she had done with
Then Mel started clutching at her neck and
after emitting a gasp passed out.
Sam looked at Jim, whose jaw was on the
Hamilton appeared. ‘Well it can’t
be that I’m working you lot too hard,’ he said upon observing that another employee was now lying unconscious
on the office floor, this time wearing nothing but their underwear.
Thursday, Jim and Sam worked in silence,
Jim thought he felt the presence behind him again, but this time didn’t observe any shadow. He also thought he saw someone
approach Hamilton’s office from the corner of his eye, and when he looked up could have sworn he saw a large figure
walk through Hamilton’s solid office door.
Then Friday came along, and with it, another
shock. Mel and Pete, normally the bubbliest and liveliest of people, mysteriously arrived back at work and assumed their positions
at their workstations, and seemed to have now become identical in behaviour to the others.
Jim and Sam exchanged puzzled glances.
At morning break, Jim approached Pete, who
was waiting in the queue for the coffee machine with the others. ‘See that film last night? Channel Four?’ he
Pete half turned towards him, but then resumed
his vacant expression, looking ahead.
‘Come on, mate, is this some kind
of wind up?’ Jim gave a nervous laugh. ‘Funny, that business the other day, what happened?’
‘Something the matter, Jim?’
It was Hamilton.
He joined the back of the queue, passing
Mel on the way, who had the same fixed expression on her face too now. What the hell had happened to them?
Jim wandered over to Sam’s desk. ‘Have
you seen what’s happened?’ He hadn’t been able to spy the chance to talk to her before, being always under
the ever-watchful eye of Hamilton.
‘I noticed it as soon as they both
walked in,’ she said. She couldn’t say too much as their boss was lurking in his doorway, looking over.
That night the couple went out again, and
ended up back at Sam’s flat once more. Sex was just as good as the last time.
‘I’m glad it’s Friday,‘
said Jim afterwards as they lay in bed, ‘no work tomorrow.’
‘I have to go in.’
‘On a Saturday?’
‘I forgot to tell you, I work Saturday
‘I’ll lie in, if you
‘Okay,‘ she said, ‘if
you’re not awake in the morning, I’ll try not to wake you, I mean you need your beauty sleep, lets face it.’
Jim hit her with a pillow. She retaliated
with her own pillow, and a pillow fight ensued between them, until they eventually collapsed out of breath on the bed.
Next morning, Jim woke and Sam had gone,
but she’d left a note. It read: SEE YOU MONDAY, ANGEL, I hope we’re going to do it again soon!
Jim didn’t know whether she meant
the night out or the sex. He wouldn’t be seeing her Saturday night, he went out with his mates Saturday, and Sunday
he visited his parents. So the next time he would see her would be the Monday morning in work. He wondered if he could wait
that long. She really was something special, and not just between the sheets.
Monday morning came. Jim made his way up
in the lift as usual after passing the permanently smiling android at reception. He shared the lift with one of his colleagues.
‘Nice weather we’re having recently?’
he said to him.
His co-worker ignored him, as usual, and
just kept staring ahead.
‘Not a bad weekend too, eh? What did
you get up to?’
‘I screwed your wife,’ he said
to him. Jim had seen the photo on the man’s desk of his wife, and their two children out of a
science fiction film.
Morning break arrived, and Jim watched helplessly
as Sam rose and made her way over to the coffee machine with the others. Mel and Pete, the other newest recruits, were also
there, patiently waiting in line as usual. What did they do to these people? What was their secret?
No time to stand there mulling this over.
Now was his chance. He made his way over to the lift, checking first that Hamilton was in his office, and nowhere about to
see him. He pressed the request button for the ground floor, but nothing happened. It didn’t illuminate as it usually
did. He pressed it again, more forcefully this time, but it was still the same story. At that moment Hamilton emerged from
his office. Jim pretended to be making his way over to join the queue for the coffee machine, but then made a diversion to
the toilets instead. There was an emergency exit next to the Gents’ door, and that was out of sight of Hamilton.
He pulled at the door, but it was locked.
Not very good Health and Safety, he thought to himself, the emergency door locked. He could see the stairs leading
down, just yards away at the other side of the door, but it was no use, it was locked.
‘What are you doing?’
He spun round; it was Sam.
‘Nothing,’ he said, ‘Sam
‘Why are you hanging around near the
‘Just … Sam, listen to me …’
‘If you don’t come away from
there I will report you to Mr Hamilton.’
‘Sam? It’s me, Jim, we’ve
got to get out of here, you don’t know it but you’re being controlled in some kind of way …’
‘If you don’t come away from
the emergency exit immediately, I shall have no option but to report you to Mr Hamilton.’
‘They got you good and proper didn’t
they Sam? They really did. Well and truly brainwashed. How do they do it? Put you in a room with a lot of flashing lights
and images? Like in the films? What?’
She smiled and reached out her hand. ‘Why
don’t you just give in, Jim, let them take you? You don’t have to go the same way as Pete and Mel, I didn’t.
It was painless, and afterwards you feel so good about yourself. You feel so good about yourself because your whole
life will have a true purpose, you live your life for the good of the company.’
‘Yes, and if you let them, it’s
painless, trust me, you do trust me don’t you, angel?’
‘I did before they got you under their
‘Take my hand, I’ll take you
to the room where they do it, we can be together then.’
‘And if I refuse?’
‘They’ll get you eventually,
better if you give in now.’
Jim looked around and saw a fire extinguisher;
he made his way over to it, heaved it up, and threw it through the glass of the emergency exit door, shattering it on impact.
Immediately an alarm sounded. Jim made his
way through the door, and hurriedly began his descent down the stairs.
Then the sound of Hamilton’s voice
sounded out over the intercom. ‘You can’t escape, Jim, might as well join the others. Every worker gets a bonus
when they go through the transition.’
‘I have no intention of ending up
a fucking zombie!’
‘Just imagine, you’ll never
have to think about anything again. We’ll do your thinking for you. It doesn’t do for employees to think for themselves.
It’s not efficient for their mind, such a distraction. This way your mind is on your job the whole time. Your work is
the reason you live.’
‘Bollocks to that!’
‘You’re co-workers are much
the same as they were before.’
‘Except that they have no emotions!’
‘Emotions only get in the way of business.
Success is an empty mind, empty of everything except the work ethic.’
‘Bollocks to your work ethic!’
‘Mr Nelson will take your soul now,’
Jim halted his descent. ‘Mr Nelson?’
‘Your boss. You may have felt his
presence before, observing your progress, making sure you were efficient. You’re lacking in efficiency, Jim, so you
have to be altered. It needs to be done, for the good of the company’
Suddenly, Jim felt like he wasn’t
alone in the stairwell, like someone was stood behind him. He turned, but there was no one there, at least not physically
standing there, and yet he felt someone’s presence.
Then it seemed as if someone had placed
their hands around his neck, and were squeezing tightly. He could also feel someone’s body pressing up against his from
behind, someone large.
‘Just think of it as a new beginning,’
Hamilton continued. ‘Once your soul has been removed, you’ll feel much better about everything, be much more content
in your work.’
‘Who is this Mr Nelson, the fucking
Devil?’ choked Jim.
‘No, just someone with good business
sense,’ Hamilton told him.
When Jim came to, he was sat at his desk.
He looked around at his co-workers busy with their work. Hamilton was stood at the door to his office, staring straight at
him. Better get on with his work, Jim thought, it didn’t do to spend too much time idling.
He looked over to Sam. She glanced towards
him momentarily, then got on with her own work. He knew that’s exactly what he ought to do. After all, it was for the
good of the company, and he didn’t want to let the company down, did he? Not after they’d been so good to him.
Copyright David Barton 2005