Love in an Undead Age by A.M. Geever ©2018
Tuesday, September 15, 2026 - Palo Alto, California
Emily pushed the sleek glass door open, squinting as the bright afternoon sun assaulted her eyes. Super-heated air, dry and hot, radiated up from the black concrete sidewalk. She dug in the debris field that doubled as her purse as she stalked across the parking lot of Disruptor’s cookie cutter tech company campus. Her high-heeled shoes clicked against the pavement.
What a bunch of pretentious assholes, she thought. She yanked her keys free of a tangled charging cord and jammed her sunglasses over her nose.
“Where did I park?”
Angered by the interview, she had walked out of the building blindly. She started clicking the unlock button on the car’s ignition dongle, heard a bleep, and realized she had passed it. Once inside, she turned on the air conditioning and reached for her phone, then backed out of the parking spot. The handsfree speaker picked up as the line began to ring. Almost immediately the call went to voicemail.
“This is Miranda and you almost reached me. Leave me a message and I’ll return your call… maybe.”
“You were right, Miri,” Emily said. “High tech is a boy’s club and the interview was a total waste of my time. The guys interviewing me, all guys, were such dicks. At the end they asked me one of those stupid brain teaser questions like people said Google used to do. ‘Why are manhole covers round?’ but stupider. I was so fed up I told them the only thing that question demonstrated was their need to feel superior by trying to make people squirm because they couldn’t figure out a question that has nothing to do with being a marketing intern.”
Emily pushed harder on the gas pedal. The shiny smoked glass and steel building, the pretentious organic mini-orchard of orange and lemon trees on both sides of the winding main drive of Disruptor’s campus, she couldn’t get away from the place fast enough.
Three short beeps pinged through the car speakers.
“My phone’s almost dead, Miri. I hope your interview goes better than mine did. Talk to you later.”
Emily pushed the ‘End Call’ button on the steering wheel, then pulled at the charging cord for her phone. She glanced away to plug it in. When she looked back up a man staggered from the fruit trees into the path of her car, his hand upraised as if he were hailing a cab. She slammed on the brakes, saw his eyes go wide as he realized she couldn’t stop in time. The thud as her car and his body collided made her stomach turn somersaults.
Emily fumbled with the button on the seat belt. First her hands, then her entire body, started to shake. She scrambled out of the car on unsteady legs.
“Please don’t be dead. Jesus, please don’t be dead!” she pleaded as she ran to the crumpled figure. The man had landed yards away from where she had struck him. He moaned and stirred as she knelt beside him.
“Oh Thank God,” Emily said, relieved that he was alive, before taking in his awkward landing and ripped shirt. Blood from a gash on his temple coursed over his face. “Oh shit, shit, shit!”
Emily dropped her keys and pulled off her suit jacket, stuffing it under the man’s bloody head. His light brown eyes came into focus. He raised his arm.
“No, don’t get up,” Emily cried, catching his arm.
The man pulled free and pointed in the direction he had come from. He whispered something, but she couldn’t hear what he said.
“I’ll call an ambulance,” she said, realizing that her phone was still in the car. “Don’t get up. I’ll be right back.”
Emily started to stand but the man grabbed her wrist. The strength of his grip startled her. Then he let go and pointed. His voice was weak but urgent.
Confused, Emily followed the line of his pointing arm. There were people walking through the little fruit tree orchard, a lot of them. They stumbled and shuffled, many obviously limped. They bumped into one another without acknowledgement. It was… odd. Why were they walking on a private corporate campus at least a mile from a pedestrian walkway?
“Help!” Emily shouted as she jumped to her feet, shoving the strangeness of the people aside. She needed help.
A woman walked out from the leafy fruit trees. Her floral print dress was ripped at the shoulder and stained with something dark and brown. She wore one shiny red pump so that the gait of her stride alternated: up down, up down. Her skin looked gray and leathery.
What the hell, Emily thought, taking a step back.
Then another person, and another, neared the edge of the orchard. They too were injured and blood-soaked and looked sick. But worst of all was when they started to moan. Emily’s skin began to crawl as the most unnatural sound she had ever heard filled the air. But the moaning wasn’t just in front of her. She turned around to discover more people nearing the tree line on the other side of the drive.
Fear shot through her body, sudden and electric. Emily looked down at the man she had hit. He was unconscious, maybe dead, outweighed her by a hundred pounds, but she couldn’t leave him. She slid her hands under his shoulders, gripped him under his arms and pulled. He barely budged. She looked back up at the moaning, bloody people beginning to stumble out of the trees. They didn’t seem to move very fast but were closing the distance.
Emily pulled again, every muscle in her body quivering with effort, to no effect.
She looked down at the man.
He had told her to run.
“My phone is in the car. I’ll call the police.”
She sprinted for her car. Jumped inside, slammed the door shut, and fumbled for her phone. Panic making her fingers feel like jelly.
One by one, people staggered out from the trees.
911 picked up on the first ring. “All circuits are busy. Please try your call again. All circuits-”
She would have to drive back to Disruptor. People were there, normal people, and they could call 911. They could help her. She jammed in the clutch and stabbed at the start button. Nothing happened. She looked to the center console, but her keys weren’t there. Frantic now, she searched the passenger seat and the floor. She cast a desperate look out the windshield to see how close the people were.
“Oh my God! NO!”
They were attacking the man she had hit, snarling and biting, falling on him like wild animals. And then she saw her keys, glittering in the sun while blood pooled around them. She had dropped them when she took off her jacket.
The staggering, moaning nightmare of people from the trees who had not stopped to attack the man were almost to the car. She started to push the door lock button when a sudden clarity descended on her: if she stayed in the car she was dead.
Emily flung the car door open. A man in a green tee shirt and blue jeans lunged at her. He looked almost normal, except for the twisted, unnatural angle of his neck. Emily ducked away from him as she pivoted away from the car, away from the man she had hit, away from the murderous mob pursuing her. She did not stop as she kicked off her three inch platform sandals. Fear propelled her up the long drive, towards the building she had only minutes before hoped never to set eyes on again, as if the devil Himself snatched at her heels.