Ding.

The elevator was here, and I was headed up to the eleventh floor for my meeting with the Mayor. I stepped inside and pushed “11” with my shaking, sweaty finger. This is the part where the elevator doors close, I take a deep breath, and when they re-open on the 11th floor, I walk out strong and confident, the Bee-Gee’s “Staying Alive,” playing in the soundtrack in my head.

Of course, that scene can’t play out if the elevator doors never close. “Gahhh,” I said out loud and smashed my knuckle into the “11” button again. Nothing. I stood there for a moment or two, and still nothing happened. The door stayed open, and the elevator didn’t budge. I looked at my watch, 8:13. “Bah!”

I ran out of the car and down the hall looking for a stairway. About three quarters of the way down, I found one, and ran up the four flights to the 11th floor. I grabbed the handle to the exit and it didn’t budge. FUCK. 8:14.

So what do I do? Start banging, that’s what. Loudly.

A moment later, the door opens and there is a middle aged woman standing on the other side, quietly shaking her head in disappointment. “You could have just used your badge,” she said, as she pointed to my ID card and the ID card reader next to the handle…

With no spare time to feel stupid, I mumbled thanks, nearly out of breath from the climb, and brushed past her on my way back down the hall to the conference room.

The room was full, and the tables were set up in more or less a circle, with the Mayor standing in the middle on the far side. He looked like he was about to start speaking. Luckily I found Jim Benton’s name card on the table – the last one left, and a seat off to the side and quickly sat down, I felt about as inconspicuous as a little kid in the lingerie section at Sears.

The man cleared his breath. Everyone looked up. Mayor Diggs was tall, maybe 6’3” and built like a linebacker. His hair was thinning, but it seemed less to do with age and more like some of his hair was too scared of him to stick around. He owned the room.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for coming this morning. I’d like to start off by saying that it is an honor to stand before you as your new Mayor, and I look forward to working with each and every one of you closely in the coming months. We’ve been asleep at the helm for a long time, but now we are awakened, let’s get this city back on track! I am truly humbled to be with you all.” He gave a big smile and panned the room. “Hmmm,” I thought, still catching my breath, “this dude’s pretty good.”

“OK.” He paused for a moment, “now let’s get down to it, things hit the fan this weekend, and the questions are coming fast. We will have answers. Today.”

“Representative from Dept. of Health?”

“Yes sir?”

“Define: Zombie,” said Mayor Diggs.

“Well, sir, we’re not really too…”
“Wrong,” said the Mayor, loudly. “Try again.”

“Yessir, ok. A zombie is a diseased person who has been so infected that they no longer bear and resemblance to human beings in psychological and physiological presentation.”

“Better,” Diggs replied, “But too descriptive. I need you to come up with something more vague. Use more medical jargon. Make it longer, but say less. Until we know more, we need to be as broad as possible.”

“Now, this is a round table discussion. I want everyone to contribute. We are all equals here, and we are getting things done.”

“Department of Transportation?”

“Present.”

“Shall we allow zombies to use the Metro?”

“Well, Mr. Mayor, we are obliged to provide transportation to all paying customers. I’d say we have too, or else the ACLU would be all over us in no time.”

“Good point, but I don’t like your answer. Public Safety, where are you?”
“Right here sir.”

“Good, what about zombies on the Metro? That can’t be good for commuters, can it? If we lose commuters, we lose taxes and everything goes to shit. What do you have to tell me about zombies on the Metro system?”

“Well, sir, if I understand the issue correctly, they pose a risk to the health and safety of the paying customers, so we may be able to preclude them based on that, as well as the probability of disorderly conduct. That should do the trick.”

My jaw bottomed out. Where the fuck am I? This is not what I expected at all. I thought we’d be discussing media strategy and backlash from the families of the victims from The Massacre. But we’re talking about legal maneuvers to kick zombies of the subway? Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more uncomfortable…

“Legal Department? Where are you? Ah, yes, Mr. Benton, there you are,” said the Mayor as he looked right at me. “How does that sound to you?”

“Well, sir…I’m not Mr. Benton, I’m Robert Ding…”

“C’mon, Benton, what is Legal’s position on this?” He quipped.

I stumbled. I flashed back to getting called on my first semester of law school…ummm…err…..the whole world is looking at you and what you say next will determine your future…

“Ummm, well…you can’t eat on the Metro, right? So zombies will invariably try to eat people on the bus or the subway, they can’t help it. It’s what they do.” Where these words were coming from I’m not sure, but I just hoped they wouldn’t stop.

“So it follows that any zombie on the Metro system will break the law. If we know that someone, or something, is going to break the law, it is the Government’s responsibility to prevent it. We have a duty to the public.”

“Very good, Benton!” Said the Mayor. “You see? That is what I’m talking about. Problem solved.”

The discussion moved on to other pressing issues, like:

Can we revoke a zombies driver’s license? Answer: yes, as long as they fail a vision test.

Can you kill a zombie? Answer: No, leave that to the police.

Do zombies have Constitutional rights? Answer (me): we’ll brief the issue and get back to you.

Can zombies freeze in the winter? Answer: looks like we’ll find out this month…

I felt like I was coming out of a fog, still not sure what I just said. “Jesus Christ, zombies,” I mumbled to myself. But apparently I said that a little too loud, because the guy sitting next to me – the District Medical Director – smiling and patting me on the shoulder in congratulations for the good answer, jokingly responded, “Nah, Jesus wasn’t a zombie, he came back from the dead, sure. But he never ate anyone.” He chuckled to himself, inviting me to join him. I feigned a smile and a single ‘himph’ in approval.

As I sat there, trying to figure out which episode of The Twilight Zone I was in, the words of Mayor Diggs kept floating through my head: “We’ve been asleep at the helm for a long time, but now we are awakened…We’ve been asleep at the helm for a long time, but now we are awakened…

We’ve been asleep at the helm for a long time, but now we are awakened.

And so are the dead.

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