Author : Grady Hendrix

It was the most virulent pandemic the world had ever seen. An airborne virus raging in fast-forward across the planet. Exposed humans experiencing hyper-dehydration, mummifying in seconds. It burnt itself out in 12 hours, right before the 6000 employees of the Florida Experian Call Center stumbled out of their sealed building at the end of their 12-hour shift.

Most of them lived alone and so no one noticed that humanity had been deleted until their next shift when an unusually high number of unanswered calls were recorded. Management put their heads together, analyzed the problem, and called a meeting.

“It seems,” said the Senior Supervisor, “that everyone in the world is dead.”

The room rustled.

“I know that this makes many of you very sad. In fact, we feel a bit at loose ends ourselves. For the rest of this shift we will form communication pods where we will safely address our feelings.”

The pods were formed. Feelings were addressed. The Senior Supervisor sat alone in his office gazing at a digital slideshow of his children and weeping. The shift ended but no one left the building. Rumors reached him of an orgy in the File Management Center, that printer ink was being snorted, that one cubicle pod had descended into cannibalism. He locked his door. But still, no one left.

Finally, a Floor Manager came and asked him to address the staff. There had been an outbreak of suicides, hundreds were psychosomatically paralyzed by despair. The Senior Supervisor reluctantly agreed.

“Many of you seem to be very upset,” he said. Thousands hung on his every word, their eyes red, their nostrils caked with printer ink. “So am I. There is nothing in the Management Manual about this. I am at a loss.”

“No!” a voice cried from the back of the room. “We’re not upset by the deaths.”

“Oh,” the Senior Supervisor said. “What are you upset by?”

“The outstanding accounts!”

The crowd roared in agreement.

“We live to close accounts,” the man said. “And now we are robbed of our purpose. Everyone’s not dead. It’s a trick.”

“I don’t think it’s a trick,” the Senior Supervisor said but the crowd didn’t believe him and he had not become a Senior Supervisor by ignoring the majority.

“It is no trick,” he shouted. “But out there are survivors. Remnants of humanity with overdue loans and open accounts. And they’re laughing at us. Do we let them laugh?”

The crowd roared again.

A strange procession exited the Call Center sending up a mile high column of dust. Minivans yoked together into rolling battle platforms, Honda hatchbacks converted to war wagons, SUVs transformed into mobile torture chambers, carrying the army of the 4,000 brandishing cruel weapons made of office supplies. Survivors were found. Debtors were enslaved. Accounts were closed. The Collection Crusade was unstoppable. Their cruelty was legendary. And, parents would tell their terrified children in their hidey-holes and in their burrows, most horribly, they always struck during dinner.

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