The first hour or so is routine enough to sleep walk through. Wake up stressed. Try to relax in shower. Grab the uniform. A pair of jeans, single colored polo shirt (blue today). Eat a small breakfast (eggs(scrambled) and coffee (cream & sugar)). Resist the urge to check email while eating. Give in to the urge.
Not much this morning. Some stuff that’s probably automated, TOC alerts, will look at that later. No talks? No “the office will be closed at noon today due to vicious microwave popcorn allergy?” hmm
In theory Marcus has several transportation options of varying levels of comfort and environmental guilt. Several bus routes, a meandering bike path and of course walking. He’d decided during the last election to identify as moderately-liberal, as opposed to liberally-liberal. This meant nothing to his voting record, but he could now forgo the guilt and take the comfortable option: the car.
The ease of the commute (10mins!) was balanced by an increasing lack of resistance to the small day to day ebbs. The road was not large so a single problem could vastly increase the time of commute (13mins! 18mins!).
But today was all flow. Hit all the greens. Cruise into the lot in below average time. Only 9 minutes on autopilot, as he’d driven the route so many times he hardly had to think about it.
Oh here I am. Well that was easy. Kind of zoned out there. Like I turned into a driving zombie..
where is everyone?
By this time in the morning the lot is generally 75% full, now only half a dozen cars were parked, and they looked like university cars. The physical plant guy’s trucks.
The walk to the building which generally involves dodging texting and taking students was as free and clear as the ride had been. Marcus walked right down the center of the sidewalk as a kind of luxury. It took a minute or so to further adjust. Slow down the pace, relax attention. Marcus eased up and ventured to swivel his head left and right, to look around, as opposed to the usual fixation: the ground 20 feet ahead.
The squirrels here are an odd color. Almost reddish brown.
Did they redo this section? I don’t remember those trees or bushes. Or maybe they’re just fuller now. A bird’s nest on top of that lamppost. Clouds coming in, will probably rain later.
After his impromptu campus sidewalk tour Marcus arrived (eventually) at his building.
The entrance of this particular building has great acoustics. You might not know that, since there aren’t any open mic karaoke nights held there, and you probably aren’t a member of the local a capella group (those guys know their acoustics). This gave Marcus the opportunity to fully appreciate the sound of the doors slowly close behind him. With all the ghostly creaks and sudden(loud) slam, that he’d of course never noticed before.
Marcus stood just a few feet inside the doorway, staring at the empty entry way waiting to see if the echo would truly end as creepily as it had begun (yes).
What’s going on here?
Truman show? Pandemic outbreak? Langoliers?
Yes. Zombie emeritus professors.
There was probably a good joke in there to tell if get got out of this alive, and there is anyone to tell it to.
Marcus briefly considered some more realistic equally grim possibilities. And reflexively looked to the sky for F-18s flying in sentry. Nothing. The nation was probably not at high red (or orange) alert.
At this point he was about halfway between:
Don’t be silly, nothing is going on. Your imagination is just too much.
Maybe something is going on? It’s possible, just unlikely. This could be something. Don’t overreact.
The lights in the hallway weren’t on, but the power wasn’t out. He could see a light or two on in the distance.
Had there been talk of furlough: personnel or electricity? There had been a flurry of official seeming emails he’d sent directly to the trash after reading the initial boilerplate.
What were the words? Cutbacks? Proud? Our great institution? Had some unknown professor won her fields highest honor? Maybe a student had created the next whatever? Was there a new Dean? Vice Dean?
Marcus decided he would check his email archives once he got to his office. That was probably the best chance at narrowing things down.
If the zombies don’t get me first.
As he quickly and quietly skirted down the hall, a slight flush to the face and a vague remembrance of high school self defense class. He dug into his pocket to get his keys, for door opening, and if needed, zombie eye gouging. Will that even work? Zombies don’t need eyes. Blind zombies are just as dangerous.
Two doors before his office was a busy place in the corridor. Pamphlets, posters and people. The undergrad advisement office. Generally he kept his head down and rushed by, as you might if a bee’s nest appeared in your path. With the bees apparently gone (zombified?), Marcus took in the display:
Are you taking the right classes?
Wash your hands! SARS!
Graduate school: The Right move?
Library tips: Not just books!
The bottom right corner caught his eye. Being the only section not filled with a peppy slogan or florescent color. It looked like perhaps a spread sheet, numbers and columns.