John didn’t like to think that he lived for work, but he did. In this economic climate, he had to. Every day things seemed to get more stressful, more demanding. Other workers were vanishing faster than they appeared.
With less people and more work, John had to keep going through lunch, unpaid, of course. It showed willing. Despite the freeze on promotions, on raises, they were still encouraged to play to the whims of their bosses.
John was at work when his cat died, when his mother was put in the home. He couldn’t have left them, not with the deadlines due so soon. He was owned by them.
It was this realisation that made John decide to kill himself. He was at work, of course. He hadn’t seen anyone else around, so he stood on his chair, ignoring the constant health and safety training, tested the bars which kept the false ceiling in place, and tied his tie around it. He wasn’t required to have a tie on, but the bosses would have like it if they ever came to his floor.
John hung himself, and died quietly, like a good worker should.
John’s body remained in place for an hour after his death before the cleaners came. They worked in pairs in this building, specifically because of problems like John.
Ed and Travis sighed in unison. This wasn’t their first body, but it meant taking the lift to the basement and getting the trolley. Something John hadn’t thought about was how the body would unclench everything, ruining his trousers and the carpet. The first and last act John made against the company. If he was alive, John would feel like he let them down.
“You get to deal with that,” Travis said. “After we’ve sorted the body out.”
The trolley was large enough to fit John’s body, which they lovingly lowered from its place on the ceiling. The tie was almost embedded into his neck at this point, his girth from the sedentary job must have aided his passing.
Ed thought about covering John’s body while they took it away, but the only people staying this late were either going to be in John’s current predicament, or swiftly on their way there.
They took the lift up, inhaling the recycled air before going into the enclosed metal box with the body and its soiled trousers. That wouldn’t be the only thing coming out of it in time, gasses would pass from any orifice possible. Travis hated that the most, he’d been alone in the lift with a body when it made a noisy, gassy yawn.
When the lift doors opened, it was only Ed and Travis who inhaled, dramatically. John remained lifeless, staring up at the false ceilings, the stains on the tiles. If John still had the power of thought, he may have wondered why they were taking his body up instead of down.
The cleaners had a whole floor to themselves after they proved good at dealing with the dead workers. This floor was for them, the next floor was data entry, and after that just the heavens.
Several of the cleaners only worked on this floor. A pair of women, Daphne and Joyce, put masks on and waved the men over to the altar. It was a slab of some work-mandated beige colour, probably some horrible plastic thing made in China, not like the proper altars other businesses had. John’s body was dumped unceremoniously and Daphne consulted the process map. They washed the John more thoroughly than had happened when he was living. Joyce got the spray-bottles of preservatives and set to it while they talked about Eastenders until they had to consult the user guide. They measured out the correct amounts of pufferfish toxin and datura to force into his mouth. A tooth came out while Daphne was poking around, but she let it rattle down his oesophagus, as it wasn’t like he would notice. Inspections for this month had happened already, so the company wouldn’t mark them down.
The body’s brain was removed and replaced with pre-packaged stuffing, herbs and crumpled up process maps. Daphne hated saying the words, but it was her turn. Joyce turned her crappy portable cd player on and turned up the music of Simply Red which still didn’t drown out the screams.
The body lurched into life, a stiffened corpse smelling of sickly herbs and nostril-searing preservatives. Joyce made sure that his hands were intact, capable of moving, and went to the Pitman Typing Scheme default, index fingers twitching to seek out the bumps on the F and J keys.
John’s body wasn’t keen on walking, but made the best effort he could, pushed and pointed towards the lift, where two more bodies stumbled in place, hands reaching out. They made the occasional moan, but nothing much. Work didn’t require talkers, it required an obedient workforce who could meet their deadlines.
Travis had to escort the bodies up in the lift while Ed dealt with the mess John’s body left. It would be difficult, but there would be no trace of him ever having existed before his transfer. Once the lift doors opened, Travis pushed the three corpses out. A young blonde with a welcoming smile, several holy symbols around her neck and a spray-can of air freshener waved Travis forward.
“This way please,” she said. “We’ve always got openings for more people in data entry. We had one fall apart last week, so we’re a little down on our figures. This is perfect timing.”
Travis nodded. He’d always liked the blonde girl, Lucy, but was unsettled with how comfortable she was with the bodies.
They were escorted into place and immediately set to work. John’s fingers seemed made specifically for the keyboard, moving into action with a new-found dedication to the workplace which would have made living John jealous.