Feature Short Story
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
                         The Box House
                                                                 By Greg Cole


 In a dark, dark land there was a dark, dark town and just outside that dark,
dark town there was a dark, dark building… well, you all know how the rest of
this goes right?

 There is a building in this country that very few people know exists and
fewer have ever entered but it is a building that some of us at some stage
might have the misfortune to go to just after we pass from this mortal coil.  
The place is commonly called Alida House but also known by those that know
as the Box House.

 Now the Box House from the outside looks just like any other rural
warehouse building that you have ever seen, the same silver metal siding
panels, the same corrugated grass green roofing even down to the large red
roller shutter doors at the front of the building.  And just like every other
warehouse you may have seen vehicles come and unload and then trundle
off on their merry way.  But it’s what’s inside that makes this place so very
different, it’s what they trade in that makes this place a little hush-hush.

 Have you ever wondered what happens to those people that have no family
or friends when they die, or what happens to people that die in prison with no
spouse of children to collect the bodies?  Have you ever wondered what
happens to those tramps and bums you see necking cheap fortified wine and
super strength lager in the park when they are found dead under a motorway
flyover?

 You probably think that the local council or government body foots the bill
and the bodies get cremated, right?  Well your half right but also so very
wrong.

 You see funerals and cremations cost money, and the one thing that the
government hates to do more than anything is waste money, so they started
this project see, to take the dead and mess with them, chemically to try to
reanimate them, took several years to perfect but they got there in the end.

 Then with an army of controllable walking corpses they put them to work,
cheap labour, doing all the jobs that the living just don’t want to do.  Have you
ever driven past road works and seen some of those guys digging holes in
the ground, the way their jaws just hang open coughing out the occasional
grunt or shout with a glazed look in their eyes.  That’s right, they’re not just
hole digging morons with their arses hanging out of the back of their trousers;
they are in fact dead.

 So you have to have a place to store these things and a place to make
these things, but our story starts in the place where they take the bodies and
prepare them to become those things and with a young fellow named Adam
on his first day in the Box House.

 “So young Adam, you’ve joined us from the grave services down south, am I
right?”

 Everything was a question with Mr Edmund even though he knew full well
where Adam had transferred in from, his greying moustache twitching as he
spoke, the light from the strip lights above bouncing off of his highly polished
bald head.

 “That’s right sir, corpse dispatch and burial recovery, Gravesend branch.”  
Adam scratched at his mop of golden hair as he gazed around the room at
vast array of charts, timetables and certificates.  

 “Gravesend eh, rough area for recovery, lots of people willing to hide the
dead down that way, nothing but a pack of animals if you ask me, corpse
raping animals lad.”  His northern accent barred out of his fat head and he
leaned back in his chair to reveal that his fly had burst, probably from the
extent of his large beer belly. “Now, says here you requested to come up
here, requested, from a cushy deal like recovery?”

 “I’m trying to work my way into the labs sir, I would like to go into reanimation
but without the formal education I have to work my way in sir.”

 “Yes, might take some time, mind.  You ever seen one of them things when
they aint all doped up to the eyeballs son?  We don’t have ‘em on this side of
the building but there is plenty of ‘em in reanimation, you’ll get to see ‘em.”  
Edmund heaved himself from his chair and his gut flopped over his broken
fly, he probably didn’t even realise that they were broken.  “Grab ya coat and
I’ll take you down to warehouse, meet Bilbo, he’ll be showing you the ropes.  
He’s a twat but he can drive a forklift, can you drive forklift son?”

 The warehouse floor was massive and had the unmistakeable rotten tomato
scent of formaldehyde and chilled meat and was made so cold by row after
row of refrigeration units.  Small red forklifts zipped and buzzed through and
around the lanes of fridges in a maze of the frozen dead.

 Mr Edmund’s radio crackled on his hip and the voice of a woman cracked
through, “Les, Bilbo has dropped another one in rack five, it’s a bit of a mess.”

 “Bollocks.”  Rack five was on the other side of the warehouse and Mr
Edmund showed Adam the sights as they strolled over passing fire doors and
through security gates.  The pair also passed an area that lead to the labs, it
was guarded by two armed men in green boiler suits and matching gas masks
surrounded by high, black metal fencing; Adam couldn’t wait to get clearance
for those areas, but knew he would have to hold his curiosity for now.

 Five minutes later and Mr Edmund looked a little worse for wear when they
reached the site of the accident.  They arrived to find the woman from the
radio, and a short spikey haired forklift operator staring down at a dropped
coffin. The corpse inside had burst from where it had bloated due to its fridge
being faulty and at pretty much room temperature.  He could see the
squirming of maggots inside the dark of the splintered and smashed open
coffin.

 “I’ve proper dropped a bollock here, oh Mr Edmund, I’m sorry,” Bilbo looked
uneasy and looked down at the floor like a dog that knew it had done wrong,
“it just went as I got it down from the racking.”

 “You’re a fucking twat boy, you know that don’t you?  We’ll have to get a
clean and burn team down here, not to mention maintenance to check the
cooling racks, bugger!”  He rubbed his big bald head, his hand making a
squeaking sound as it slid across the high sheen dome.  He turned to Adam
“Lad this is Bilbo, you’ll be working with him for the next couple of days until
you get a feel for the job.”

 He turned and walked away leaving the three to wait for the clean-up team
to arrive, muttering under his breath.  “He’s a twat that lad, what am I gonna
do with him… nob-head… bloody drunk tit…”

 The stern, yet wildly attractive looking woman in the lab coat and red rimmed
glasses pointed down to the smashed casket. “And I’m getting away from this
worm feast before I lose the bagel I had for lunch!”  She strode away into the
maze of racking, Adam almost hypnotised by her long legs, her heels clicking
on the hard floor and was gone just as the clean and burn team turned up
with their shovels and bin bags.

 “Fucking Helen, she’s a stuck up bitch that one, needs a good hard…” the
little bloke with the spikey hair held out his hand, “Bilbo, nice to meet you
geez.  Adam yeah, the fat-man shown you around yeah?”  Adam shook the
man’s hand.

 “Yeah, briefly I guess.”

 “Good, saves a little time, lets head over to the break room and sort you out
a locker and all that while these dickheads scoop up all that rotten stuff,
fucking stinks bruv.”  

 Bilbo was your average bloke in the pub type, joking and messing about with
the other workers as they made their way over to the break room and Adam
got to see the vastness of the operation.  They passed loading bays where
truck after truck were being unloaded of caskets by the little red forklifts as
radios crackled and workers buzzed around.  The whole place was like an ant
colony.

 The break room was small in comparison to the rest of the building and
rather unclean for a place where people come to eat and relax during their
shift.  Banks of lockers lined the far wall and there was a table with a couple
of grimy microwaves and a kettle on; an old fridge rattled and hummed over
in the corner and the place was filled with plastic chairs around tables littered
with empty machine coffee cups and crisp packets.

 “This is yours,” Bilbo said handing a key over to Adam and opening one of
the blue lockers, “the time sheets are over by the microwaves, fill it out every
shift if you want to get paid.”  Adam glanced over to the table to see a tray
heaped with paper. There was a small blue bookies pen on a piece of string
tapped to the tray.

 “So Bilbo, how long have you been down here?” Adam asked turning back
to his ward.

 “About two years, you’ve come up from recovery right?  I started out in one
of the deployment depots, dispatch, loading the boxes on trucks to come
here, shitty job, but this aint much better right?”

 “I dunno recovery can be a bit hairy.  Those things can be pretty hard to
bring down once the tranquilizers have worn off; wanted to do something a
little more… well, mellow.”

 “Yeah, this job is mellow.  Do you know how many times we have had a
zombie picked up and shipped over here because it’s been over tranquilized
and mistaken for dead?” Adam sat at one of the tables while Bilbo filled the
coffee machine with change.

 “I give up, how many?”

 “At least once a week, you want milk and sugar?”

 “Just sugar… really, that often?”

 “Mate seriously, and they aint happy when you open up the truck to unload.  
Come screaming out of that thing pissed off let me tell you.  About a month
ago we had three in one truck.”  Bilbo handed over the piss weak coffee.

 “Jesus.”

 “Real bloody mess, jumped on a goods-in guy called Raj, ripped him up
before the lab security could get there; everybody else ran like fuck.  I
jumped up in the racking, them dead fucks can’t climb.”

 “Wow, sounds like this place might get interesting from time to time.”

 “Yeah it has its moments I guess.”  Bilbo sipped his coffee and pulled a face
like he had smelt something bad. “Hmmm, nice.”

 The quiet chuckling of the two over the rancid coffee was suddenly broken
by a loud alarm going off in the building and the flashing of red emergency
lights.

 “Bollocks!” Bilbo got on his radio. “What’s going on out there? Someone talk
to me!”  There was a pause and the hiss of static then a voice came through
panicked and shouting.

 “It’s going off down here Bill, the gates of the zombie pen have gone down,
and a load of the fuckers have got out into the warehouse.”

 “Barry?  How bad are we talking, do I have to finish my break?”

 “Yeah… pretty bad mate.  Security are on it but everyone’s gonna have to
get into the safe zones and lockdown till they can round them up.”

 “Arse!”

 “Got to go mate, it’s getting a little mad down in racks two and three mate.”  
The sound of gunfire ripped through the radio then it went dead.

 “Looks like you have a bit of action on your first day Adam my son.”  Bilbo
threw his coffee on the floor, “We better head over to the safe zone, and
quick, some of those dead bastards can move quite quickly without
tranquilizers.”

 The two walked out into the warehouse that was now full of noise and
flashing lights, a woman’s voice came over the buildings PA system,
“YELLOW ALERT, YELLOW ALERT, ALL FLOOR PERSONEL TO SAFE
ZONES ONE AND TWO, YELLOW ALERT, YELLOW ALERT…”

 “I hate that posh bird’s voice, does my head in!”  Bilbo stuck a finger up at
one of the speakers up in the roof and started through the racks with Adam
just behind.

 People were all running in the same direction and Adam could see the sign
for ‘safe zone 2’ on a wall some way from where they were.  Lights in the floor
flashed in sequence in the direction of the safe zone and the sound of gunfire
was getting closer.  

 The pair broke from the herd and down a parallel set of runs when a woman
came from around a corner screaming, closely followed by a naked man with
a crudely sewn up ‘Y’ scar on his chest, plastic sheeting flapping around him
and some kind of dental framework screwed into his head.  It slammed the
woman against the refrigeration units in the racking and clawed at the flesh
on her soft neck which burst in a fan of blood against the fridge doors.

 The woman fell to the floor clutching her throat the blood pumping from
between her fingers as the zombie stood over her chewing upon the lump of
her neck; then its head turned to the pair of them.

 “Fuck this!”  Bilbo was away before Adam could tell what direction he had
scuttled away in but he was frozen to the spot.  It wasn’t fear, it was advice his
old supervisor on recovery had told him ‘if you move they will chase,’ so on
the spot he was.  

 The thing looked, stared at him for a moment, then just as it was about to
make its move, two men in red boiler suits and gas masks came around the
adjacent corner, one shooting the zombie in the back of the head spraying its
rotten brain over the floor; the other opened up with a mini flame thrower
before the body could hit the ground.  

 The two men in red marched past Adam, one giving him a nod then around
another corner then the fat, balding frame of Mr Edmund followed by the
slinkier frame of Helen who looked down at the burning corpse and ticked off
something on her Hello Kitty clip board.  

 “That’s cell 125, only another three to locate…” the sounds of a single
gunshot and the whoosh of flames over in the racking somewhere, “… make
that two Mr Edmund.”

 “Thanks Helen love, better run along and get the tag on that next one lass,”
he turned to Adam and put a sweaty bloated hand on his shoulder, “so how’s
your first day going then lad?”

End.
About Greg Cole

Greg Cole works out
of the south east of
England and is just
starting out on the
long road to
eventually retiring to
the coast to make
jams and pickles in a
dusty old shed by day
and write gory horror
in an even dustier
drawing room by
night.