I look in the mirror. I do it every day. Pretty much most people look in the mirror every day.
I see a girl. That’s a relief. A girl with hair, two eyes, a nose, one mouth, and as I push the hair back as I’m brushing it to check – yes, still got two ears. Phew.
My housemate, whose name escapes me most days, has forced me into this, the reason I’m awake and brushing my hair at the ungodly hour of ten a.m. How dare she go for her abortion today, and pack me off instead to do her media studies homework? Couldn’t she have had her termination some other time?
I have to go and interview some vending-machine business mogul. The company is called Dry Goods, Inc, and the owner, Crispin Dry, supplies our University with all of its vending machines. He’s notoriously hard to get appointments with. When you ring his office, you have to press so many buttons on the phone to finally get through – only to be told that your request is no longer available, and to choose an alternative.
Miss Whatsername, my housemate, says that she’s got to get this interview for the University paper. I don’t know why, they only use it to wrap take-out cartons in the refectory. Maybe it’s to promote a new drinks machine range.
So I’m having to forgo my weekly visits to the body farm and the morgue for my own research project. I don’t even know if I’ll be back in time for work later.
She’s going to owe me big-time for this. If I don’t get to see a corpse this week, I don’t know what I’ll do. There’s one I’m rather fond of in a wheelie bin under a silver birch tree at the body farm, where I like to sit and eat my sandwiches. He’ll have changed so much the next time I see him…
I leave Whatserface, my best friend, packing her nightdress for the clinic.
“Good luck!” says Thingummyjig, as I head out. “Make it a good interview!”
“I’ll bring you back some sanitary towels,” I concede, and slam the front door.
It’s a long drive to Seaford West Industrial Estate, but luckily I have my father’s trusty bullet-proof Hummer in which to navigate the rain-soaked roads. I don’t think my Pizza Heaven scooter would have made it. When I put my books in the insulated top-box, it always skids over in the wet. And sometimes nasty people put other things in there, when I’m doing a delivery.
Dry Goods House is a huge monolith of connected storage containers, converted into offices on the seafront industrial estate, an illegal immigrant’s dream. Mirrored glass windows inserted into the corrugated steel keep out prying eyes.
The revolving doors swish as I enter the Customer Enquiries lobby. A brain-dead-looking blonde is sitting at the stainless surgical steel counter.
“I’m here to see Mr. Crispin Dry,” I announce. “I’m Sarah Bellum. Miss Thing from the University sent me.”
“I’ll text him,” says Miss Brain-Dead, picking up her phone. “Have a seat.”
She eyes me as I sit down on the plastic chair between two vending machines, one for hot drinks, the other for snacks. I feel over-dressed. Maybe stealing my housemate’s Christian Louboutin studded Pigalle pumps and Chanel suit had been taking it too far. The receptionist looks cool and comfortable, in turquoise blue overalls and a neon yellow hi-visibility industrial vest.
“He’s on his way down,” she says, after a moment. She reaches under the desk. “You’ll have to put this on.”
I get up again to accept the hi-visibility yellow vest she hands me, which has VISITOR stencilled on the back. I pull it on grudgingly over my borrowed Chanel.
The adjoining door creaks, and I turn, still adjusting my Velcro.
I know, the moment I see him.
The black suit. The pallor of his skin. The attractively tousled, unkempt bed-hair. The drool. That limp… oh, God, that limp…!
“Crispin Dry?” My voice catches in my throat.
“Miss… Bellllummmm,” he moans softly, extending a dirt-encrusted hand…
To read on, the first chapter ‘Filthy Shavings of Gray Matter’ in The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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