There is nothing like getting told you look like shit the second you get to work. It really takes the air out of anything you may accomplish that day.

Finish all your TPS reports? Well, you look like you’re coming down with something.

Fix the copier? Looks like someone is having a bad hair day!

Catch up on 3000 emails? Are you feeling alright, you don’t look so good…

You think I don’t know I look like shit? Trust me, I know. I own mirrors. The truth is, I feel like I’ve had a low-level fever for a couple of days now. But just not bad enough to stay home from work. So here I was.

I sat down at my desk and took a deep breath. With half of the office out sick, I could just feel the crap storm coming my way. I opened my email and saw this:

URGENT! FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: There has been no breach of the Zombie Containment Site. There are no zombies on the loose, and there have been no reported attacks. Please disseminate this message immediately and through all available channels.

I clicked “forward” and typed in the District wide email list. SEND.

“Well that was easy. I’ve already gotten stuff done!” I thought, imaginarily patting myself on the back.

My phone rang, it was my name-calling secretary, Betsy.

“What, Betsy,” I answered shortly.

“What’s this email you just send out Robert? Why are you sending out mass emails about something that everyone already knows? We’ve been zombie free for 28 days according to the Mayor’s sign. Quit pussyfooting around and get to work already!”

“I was just doing what the email said to do,” I replied, “Cut me some slack, I feel like garbage.”

“Ok, Capt. Obvious!” She replied, and hung up.

But she had a point. Why would we start yelling from the rooftops that there was no problem if there was no problem? Was this just a political tactic to keep people on edge and then take credit for keeping them safe? Did I just participate in spreading government propaganda? Crapnuts.

When people start yelling “Don’t Panic,” it’s usually time to start panicking.

I picked up the phone and called the Mayor’s office – I was going to get to the bottom of this! The receptionist answered and told me that the Mayor couldn’t take my call right now, but I could leave a message. I called his blackberry, but it went straight to voicemail.

I sat at my desk pondering what to do next, when my phone rang. I snatched it up and was about to start demanding answers, but the other voice spoke first.

“Um, hello, is this DDUM?” It asked.

“Yes, it is.”

“Ok, I heard a rumor that the fences at the zombie containment site had been broken and all of the zombies got out last night. Is that true?”

“No, ma’am, that’s not accurate. There has been no breach. No zombies have escaped, and no one has been attacked. I assure you that everything is under control.” I told her. It’s easy to lie when you don’t know what the answer really is.

“Well, it’s scary. Everyone is getting sick and I think it’s happening all over again.” She said, her voice shaking with concern.

“Ma’am, it’s just a bug that’s been going around. Nothing to worry about. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

“No thanks, it’s just…it just doesn’t seem safe outside anymore.”

“Calm down, I promise everything is going to be fine. The Government is doing everything it can to keep people safe and to cure the zombies so they can be released. You have nothing to worry about.”

But now I wasn’t so sure of it. I have to see for myself. Was I delusional when I walked by the containment site this morning? Everything looked fine. There were no sirens, no people screaming and running and the fence looked intact. Could I have just walked past disaster and not even know that it happened?

It took me 10 minutes to walk from the office to the containment site. Downtown was eerily quiet. As I turned the corner the expanse of the barricaded site opened up to view. I stopped dead on the sidewalk.

The fencing and barricade stood tall and intact.

The zombie horde was inside the containment site where they belonged.

But the crowd was gone.

At the main gate where the crowd was always largest, there were just a pile of sandbags being dragged by the Police to inside the barricade. I started to run towards the officers to ask what happened, why everyone went home. I lost my breath within a quarter block. My head was swimming. I rested my hand on the barricade to catch my breath.

“DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE BARRICADE OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO OPEN FIRE,” declared a loudspeaker coming from one of the towers.

I jumped back and put my hands in the air. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Jesus, what the hell is going on here?

I walked slowly and deliberately towards the gate. “Hello?” I called out.

“Stop and identify yourself,” shouted one of the officers, his right hand down by his waist inches from his handgun.

“My name is Robert Dingle, I’m with DDUM and I work with the Mayor.” I yelled back.

The gate opened and I went inside the barricade. There were only two officers there: the one that just yelled at me and the one who was dragging the sandbags around.

As I looked around, my knees buckled, my throat tightened and my stomach evacuated on the barricade. Those weren’t sandbags, they were the bodies of people from the crowd, dozens of them. On the other side of the fence zombies were reaching out for their lunch, just out of reach.

“Jesus, what the fuck happened here?” I cried.

The officers looked at each other. The first one spoke up.

“We don’t really know man. Everything was fine this morning, but then at about 10am all hell broke loose. People started screaming and running off in every direction. At first we thought that the fence had been breached, but we checked the perimeter and confirmed it was intact. When all was said and done, the crowd was gone and only the bodies were left.

“So you shot people trying to cross the barricade?” I demanded.

“Sir, no shots were fired. We lost men too. During the commotion they collapsed with fever and never got back up – I’m assuming that’s what happened to the others. We’ve just been taking the bodies inside so people don’t start freaking out. Our orders are to protect the barricade…but I don’t know how much longer we can stay here.”

I just stood there, staring at him blankly.

“Well,” he paused, “what is your office’s plan here? How do you want us to proceed?”

“I…I don’t know. I just release a statement that there hadn’t been a breach. I guess that’s still true. I tried getting in touch with the Mayor, but I haven’t gotten through.”

“Isn’t there anyone else we can call?” the second officer asked.

“Well, there is one guy – a Doctor – that I could find, he knows about the zombie affliction. He’s not going to want to see me…”

“You gotta go get him, man, I need a Dr.” said the second officer, clutching his side and grimacing.

He was right: we all needed a Dr. I surely wasn’t going to be able to figure this out without him. I know I’m the last person he wants to see right now, but I have to try…

“Washington, D.C. – Zombie Free for  29  Days.”