Whenever I find myself alone in the office, late at night or on the weekends, my mind often turns to how I would defend myself if I was attacked by zombies. Inside the perimeter of offices along the exterior, the core of the floor is a dense warren of narrow hallways and alcoves. There are elevator shafts no one uses, doors that are never opened, behind which you can hear the building groan and howl. Coming up through the night elevators deposits you in a dark, empty room, and a security card is required to gain entry into the offices beyond. When the partitions to the main elevators at shut, even the old print-out sign seems ominous: "Use the night elevators as a LAST RESORT."
Six months in, with a lingering confusion over those inner hallways, the mysterious elevator shafts, and most of all, the constant whine from behind those doors -- honestly, it's as if we're a couple dozen floors above the gates of hell -- I do find myself thinking of zombies. Not the slow, stately kind, with their predictable lurching and almost adorably simple agendas -- I'm talking about the hyperactive, "28 Days Later"-style zombies: fast, enraged, and mean. Presumably these zombies were lawyers once.
Sometimes when I look down the long, empty corridors, lined with vacant offices and silent from the usual weekday din, I imagine seeing some agitated zombie scuttling down the hall, mouth agape and screaming a loud shrill cry, like the sound from that damn elevator shaft. I dart into a nearby office and slam the door behind me. It won't or can't lock, and the Aeron rolling chair is useless to keep it shut. Leaning against the door with all my might, there is a sudden thud as the zombie throws himself against the door from the other side, and I feel a ringing in my body from the impact. I can briefly see the zombie's twisted face mashed against the frosted glass panel beside the door. Enraged, he snarls and momentarily retreats. Holding my breath, knowing what's coming, I try to ground my feet into the muted colors of the carpet, desperate to find some leverage to keep him out, to strengthen my hold on the door. With a piercing scream, a sound like the air itself tearing away in front of me, the zombie hurls himself against the door. I am filled with horror as he comes blazing into the office, a gust of bitterness, coppery and pungent, filling my lungs as as he tumbles on top of me and we fall behind the desk. Animal panic rises in me as I sense the zombie's teeth gnashing near my skin, as I realize that his brittle dry fingers are clamped on my body. Feeling as if I am on fire, as if there is nothing else in the world besides my own survival, I slam him against the credenza and he yelps -- I shove his head back with the butt of my palm, momentarily disgusted by the softness of his forehead, and drive him into the cheap wood paneling of the office furniture. Taking advantage of his confusion, I reach to the shelf above to grab a copy of Siegel's New York Practice, 5th edition -- 900 pages, hardback, of everything a young attorney needs to know about the practice of law in the Empire State. Standing up and gripping it tightly, I strike him backhandedly and shove him upwards, over the credenza and against the glass of the window -- after a moment of pressure there is quick sharp rush as the glass shatters, and the zombie is yelling in fury and then horror as he goes tumbling out the window, a thrashing figure engulfed in a rain of glass, plummeting down to 50th street far below. I am standing there in the wrecked office, breathing heavily as a new wind gusts inward from the street, holding my New York Practice as loose papers -- cases and briefs and memos and articles -- swirl around me, until eventually the coppery bitter smell is gone and all that is left is the air of the city, forcing itself inside this new unexpected home I have created.
That's what I end up thinking about, being alone in the office on weekends or at night. There are some benefits in realizing you're the only one around. Obviously, you can bring reading materials to the restroom with impunity. Yet eventually my thoughts always turn to this kind of thing: the rooms I haven't seen, the hallways I can't master, and the constant churning sound of the elevator shaft, rising up from someplace unfamiliar into the the office we think we know.
Boy, this turned out kind of weird, didn't it?