Everything is beautiful, she says under her breath. Everything is beautiful. I’m in love with Connor, and Connor’s in love with me. I’m going places. I’m going to the top. And nobody is going to get me down or take me down with them.
At the junction where Bank Street meets the Whitstone Corridor, the traffic lights change to red. Suzanne takes an audible breath, looks in the mirror, fusses with her hair and make-up, then glances in the rearview mirror at the vehicles queuing behind her. Suzanne’s assistant, Jenna, seems to be singing along to the radio, and Suzanne determines to speak to her about her laxity. After all, they were driving to a meeting of grave importance. Surely such a situation would call for meditation?
Suzanne notices the van that’s slipped in behind Jenna. A deep red Peugeot that’s battered and bashed around the edges. She could hear it chugging from inside her car, even contending with the white noise of the faulty aircon. Wasn’t that Pascal Babcock in the driving seat? He looked more like a homeless man than any ex-director had a right to. Suzanne’s neck twitched and shivered in disgust.
Come on lights, she thought, and practically sped into the back of Connor’s car, so keen was she to arrive at her location. Thankfully, the plaza was only a few streets away, and it wasn’t long before she pulled up in the car park with a relieved smile. She was thankful that Connor had chosen to travel alone and had selected a parking spot with only one free adjoining space.
‘Connor,’ she purred as she stepped from the car. ‘Hi. Are we in a good place for this now? I’m sure that Artie and Donald from CPC would love to see us fail, but I think I’m going to make it work.’
He smiled at her, but not as freely as he usually might.
‘Something’s happened, Suzanne,’ he whispered, and it was evident to her that the look on his face was no act. He seemed… What was it? Worried? Unsure?
‘Any doubts?’ she continued, ignoring his melodrama.
‘Suzanne, listen. Something terrible has happened. I don’t even know where to start. I can’t do this meeting. I can’t do anything. I have to go home.’
That was when a shot rang out. Connor’s forehead a bloody spot. And another shot splattered straight into Suzanne’s heart.
‘Right in the heart,’ came a shout. ‘She can’t have a heart anyway, not after what she did to me.’ Suzanne’s assistant’s words were victorious.
From behind a car park pillar came Jenna, her eyes blazing and her musical happiness caused by a few celebratory cocaine lines in the company loos. Never again would her boss take Jenna’s work as her own. Never again would a sweet, caring boss as Pascal had been, would be made to be a fall guy for Suzanne’s nastiness. And never again would Connor look at Suzanne in that way.
‘Gotcha’ Pascal shouted. Hie red van was parked nearby, and in it were the specialist paintball guns his new (and very successful) business was providing.
Suzanne wiped her blouse with a condemnatory pout.
‘Hey, Genna. Calm yourself down. Some of us are more accomplished actors than others. You just have to learn when to start the role-play, and outside the venue is not the right place. I need this blouse for a meeting later. Come on, you lot, this is pathetic. What kind of zombie team building event is this anyway?’
Connor wiped his forehead in an attempt to remove the stain.
‘Too right, Suzanne. We’re not even in the place yet, Jenna. Come on. And no face shots. That hurt!’
Pascal smiled and patted Suzanne on the shoulder.
‘Great role-playing,’ he said, walking over to his intentionally shabby van. How he loved that van. He read its logo for what must have been the hundredth time: ‘Can you survive the Zombie Apocalypse? Team Building Days. Multiple Locations. Mobile Service’.
Pascal had his role to play, as did the rest of his team. So, the apparent shabby down and out who lived in his van took out the large box and handed everyone other than Jenna one of the pretend zombie weapons. He admonished her. ‘No getting them out of the box, love. That’s my job.’
That was when Pascal directed the small group of secondary school teachers to site 1 of the zombie apocalypse experience.
‘For those of you who got into your characters earlier, that’s wonderful,’ said Pascal, with voice-projection skills borne from years in a board room.
‘But from this point onwards, no breaking character, no aiming at the face or groin, and no befriending the zombies. Are you all ready?’
The small group nodded in unison.
‘OK then, you lot, enjoy your apocalypse!’
Pascal swung open the double warehouse doors, triggering a flurry of activity from inside the cavernous stage set he’d spend months creating. From the interior’s urban soundscape came the clamour of an orchestra of moans and screams.
These three teachers from Broad Gate High were to be a quarter of the team that was to fight against twenty-four assorted zombies and a surprise vampire thrown in for good measure. It was all wonderful.
Pascal may have looked like a derelict, but he was anything but. Giving up the pains of the private school boardroom had been done without a single regret. He was raking it in.
#zombie #apocalypse #teambuilding #shortstory #meredithschumann