Tuck and I had worked at the same job so long we had literally watched generations of employees come and go. Most generations were like us, but something began to change about 15 years after we started working there.
It began with a wave of young employees who seemed determined to get everything they wanted immediately. They didn’t want to work for it, they felt as if everything was supposed to be handed to them. They were to Tuck and I the bully generation, the me generation, the selfish generation.
Needless to say, they didn’t last long as employees of Zim’s company. But what came in the following generation was even worse. Young kids that had to be told what to do, all the time. Not only that, but they loved it. We called them robots or zombies, addicted to money and who did what to whom on reality television. They could not see any future and only lived in the present moment. It was a catchy way of living and within five more years there were more zombies walking in Zim’s store of all ages than Tuck and I thought to be possible.
Tuck and I did not admire the zombies, we admired the artists; I tended to call them the creatives. Creatives were artists of life. They were creators of ideas, paintings, music, they inspired people. Creatives did not live like parasites off the work of others like the zombies we saw. Most creatives had little to no money and were driven to survive by their creations. It was not an easy life, they were very emotional beings; their emotions being the seat of their inspiration.
Tuck painted and I wrote music. They were hobbies, but studying the zombies, that was the real treat. Co-workers, customers, television personalities, it didn’t matter. We would make bets on how many zombies versus creatives would walk inside the door on any given day. We spent hours with some, trying to get them to think for themselves, or trying to tease out creative aspects the zombies didn’t know they had. But the creatives that came through were always a real treat to speak with.
Every day was almost the same for Tuck and I. Show up early, unlock the store, clean the store, count the register, complete the books for the previous day, go to the bank, make the deposits, come back and serve customers when they walked in. We took turns at most of the duties, often finding time during the day to compare notes on the people we met. After twenty years, we had amassed a lot of information about the society around us.
When the call came to Zim, the store owner, there was so much commotion in his office that no one knew what the call could have been about. Eventually he seemed to calm down a bit, shaking his head behind a glass wall. He then grabbed a personal tablet computer and told Tuck and I to come with him. He said there was a client he had to personally see and wanted to introduce us to.
We picked up our tablets but Zim said we would not need them, so we left them behind. Also he told us to ride in the back of his truck. Tuck and I both lifted our feet to the bumper and climbed over the tailgate feeling kind of stupid and kinda like kids again. Zim handed me his tablet before climbing into the cab and told me to hang on to it, just in case. “In case of what?” I asked, but Zim was already climbing into the cab.
“Why the heck would he...” but I didn’t get time to finish the sentence. Zim backed up rather erratically and spun out a on the concrete of the parking lot. Tuck and I rolled around a bit in the truck bed before grabbing a hold of the railing around the edges and stabilizing ourselves.
Zim drove down an empty avenue that led out of town totally neglecting the speed limit. He had mentioned that the client lived in a lake house about twenty minutes outside of town, but there was obviously something else he hadn’t mentioned.
We were just outside of town, passing a steel mill and approaching the underpass of a railroad bridge. Tuck started to crack a joke or two about how maybe Zim had lost it since the business hadn’t been doing to well lately when he spotted a smoke trail from the surface of the Earth some distance away heading through the sky like a really fast and large bottle rocket.
“What is that?” Tuck asked as he pointed up. Zim starting slowing the truck down a bit.
“It looks like Patriot missiles,” I replied. “But what the heck are they doing...”
Just then one exploded in the air way up high. In the same moment something else was coming down, straight at us. Some kind of warning sound went off on Zim’s tablet I was holding and Tuck and I jumped out and ran about twenty yards away yelling back at Zim to get out, but it was too late.
We fell to the ground just before the explosion that lifted Zim and his truck into the air. The noise shattered Tuck’s ear drums. I had my hands over mine and the tablet beneath me; I could feel warm blood dripping from within my ears. We turned to see Zim’s truck come crashing down on the cab in a twisted heap of metal.
I tried to tell Tuck to get up and run but it was too late, another missile took out the train track we were close to. The shrapnel caught me in the leg and Tuck in the head and chest. I rolled him over but he was already dead.
An ambulance that had been following not far behind pulled up and the back doors swung open. A woman started to jump out when another missile struck the bridge. She motioned for me to climb in. The tablet was still beeping so I took hold of it once again and dragging one leg I managed to climb in.
“You Tuck?” The woman asked as the driver of the ambulance took off, no lights or sirens blaring. “No, he’s dead,” I replied, tears now starting to fill my eyes. My whole body was numb, I couldn’t even feel the pain that should have been pounding in time with my heartbeat coming from my leg. “How did you know Tuck?” I started asking. But the driver of the ambulance slammed on the breaks.
“More refugees! Look there, it's Sable!” The driver yelled.
“Pick her up, too,” The woman replied.
The backdoor flew open and a very scared young woman holding a young child with a partially charred face climbed in. Others wanted in but they were left behind.
“Sable, are you okay?” asked the woman in the back of the ambulance with us.
“How did you see me; is it really happening?”
My body was already in shock as the female EMT started taking a look at my leg. We were moving again, the ambulance bouncing around as the driver was clearly not on a paved surface. I looked out the window and saw them for the first time. Drones filling the skies in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They weren’t big enough to have pilots but they had weapons and I watched in horror as those we were leaving behind were cut down right and left.
“Hold still!” the EMT shouted.
“What is happening?” I asked or rather demanded to know. The child Sable was holding was crying incessantly.
“Where have you been, living in a bubble for the last ten years?” Sable asked and exclaimed at the same time.
All my studies of zombies versus creatives disappeared in the question she asked. All the news I had watched in the retail store, while waiting for customers to walk in, hadn’t been reporting everything. Even all the websites I surfed on the net and the people I had been speaking to all this time, no one had told me of the underground movement that had been underway for over a decade.
“What’s that?” Sable asked pointing at the tablet.
“It’s Zim’s,” the EMT replied. “We picked him up holding it after they took out Zim.”
“What about, Tuck?” Sable asked.
“I’m sorry, dear. Tuck’s dead too.” Sable began to cry and held up the child pulling him close.
“Both of you knew Tuck, and Zim?” I asked.
“This is Tuck’s child,” Sable replied wiping tears away with one hand, holding the child with the other. “I am Tuck’s wife.”
The shock in my body now filled my brain. It was too much to handle.
“We’re here,” said the driver pulling into an automotive repair shop in an alley.
The back doors to the ambulance opened and an older man dressed in military fatigues stood stern. His first concern seemed to be the tablet I was holding, next the child and Sable, then the EMTs and finally me.
“Who the hell is he?”
“He was an employee of Zim’s. We don’t know him but we sure are glad Zim decided to include him; otherwise we would never have gotten the tablet.”
“Hmph,” said the military man. “Can you walk on that leg?” he asked.
“I think so. What the hell is going on?” I asked.
He led me into a back office where more men in fatigues pushed back a desk and opened a trap door that led into a bunker below the automotive shop, a very large, very deep bunker. An entire military installation sat beneath the street; it was huge! Personnel were running from one area to the next.
“They are looking for us, but haven’t found us yet.”
“Who are you? Can you tell me what is going on?” I asked feeling as stupid and small.
“You could say we are the old school, now at war with the new school, son. Say you didn’t live on those social networks did you?”
“No, sir.” The “sir” felt appropriate at this point in time. “I hated that stuff,” I said.
“Good man,” the military man replied. “The social networks are how they took over the country; hell it may be how they take over the world.”
“The younger generations, my boy. They have been gathering information on people for more than a decade. They have amassed more data on the lives of human beings and their connections to others for purposes we are still trying to work out than the entire history of the police, FBI, CIA, NSA, and Homeland Security Departments combined. Worse, people voluntarily handed over almost everything about their lives to them.”
“Damn zombies,” I replied.
“That's one way of looking at it,” the man replied.
“General?” A woman walked up to him. “General,” he replied back. I saw the stars on the shoulders of their uniforms now but I had never been in the military, I didn’t really know what they meant.
“We have the intel provided by agent Zim decoded.”
“Agent?” my head begin pounding within once again; it felt swollen.
“It’s good intel. We know where the primary hub is. The communication center where the pipes are thickest go to a data center in CAT Tower 2, downtown.”
“Well, what are you waiting for; bring it down.”
“An airstrike is already inbound, but they are meeting resistance. It may take a while.”
“Damn devolution!” the first general replied. “If the legislative and executive branches hadn’t handed over the power of those data pipes to commercial ventures they never could have pulled this off.”
“Sir,” I felt so small interrupting. “Just what is going on?”
“Revolution, my boy. On a scale this country has never seen. It's the digital age against the analog one. Old school versus new school. One age of government claiming to be for the people against the next claiming to be for the people. Sad as it is, the people are the ones getting hurt.”
“How did this happen?”
“You leave that up to us,” the female general replied.
I felt tiny, so stupid. I should have seen it coming in the attitudes of those generations coming through the store. While I was busy being stupid all those years, others were out learning how to overthrow countries or defend them and by doing so some were trying take over the one I lived within as well. Reality television, social networks, we who weren’t in on the control over others who were all being duped, hoodwinked, bamboozled. For all my little games, as it turned out, I had been the zombie all along.