Categorized | Fiction

Halloween Horror: Cheap Labor

Posted on October 17, 2008 by Flames

A new twist on a classic horror favorite is today’s entry in the Halloween Horror series. New monsters and more every day this month. Game designer Jared A. Sorensen (InSpectres, Requiem Chronicler’s Guide) brings us a story about the dead, although not in the way you might be expecting.

A new “working class” with only a few minor drawbacks…

Cheap Labor

Created by Jared A. Sorensen

There’s a stain on the floor and he’s scrubbing it like it’s blood and the police are on their way, lights flashing, tires squealing. Not fast but vigorous, relentless. We’re watching him. We’ve been watching him through the window for going on ten minutes and he hasn’t let up, hasn’t slowed down a beat. Constant, like a timepiece ticking away the seconds, minutes. Soon to be hours. Jim breaks the spell.

“Gus? Gus.”

The scrubbing stops. The man crouched over the coffee stain on the carpet stops and looks up. His face is old and gaunt, skin stretched tight over razor cheekbones. That vacant stare. Dead eyes.

“We’ll take care of that, Gus. Lots more office to clean up before morning.”

The carpet was less than a year old but nobody wanted to tear it up. It was a rich blue, the color the Mediterranean (Aegean Azure, said the swatch’s entry in the catalog). The old man rose to his feet and wandered around for a few minutes while we watched on in amazement and morbid curiosity.

“Damn. I’m not sure I’m ever gonna be used to this.” he said, blowing out his breath in a long, low whistle. “It’s disrespectful? Creepy?”

Gus found a mop and bucket and wandered into the break room to clean up. I grabbed my coat from the back of my chair and we left Gus to his work. He might be done when we returned in the morning.

“He takes forever,” I said, “but he doesn’t sleep, take cigarette breaks, take bathroom breaks, stop for lunch. He’s slow but he doesn’t stop. Not for anything.”

Jim waves a cab down and we get in the back. “Where’d you get him?”

“Some website. He’s domestic, which is a plus as it’s really hard to teach them new languages. Besides, shipping them in isn’t cost effective.”

“But he’s cheaper than a, you know, living crew?”

“Not at first. There’s the initial purchase, reanimation fees, licenses but after all that is taken care of it’s pretty affordable. Over the long run, I mean.”

Jim nods, seeing the wisdom. “It’s more of an investment. Long-term savings.”


“Sure, smart.”


The driver’s bony hands on the wheel, taking us where we need to go.

* * * * *

The reanimated human corpses you see shuffling along the streets of 21st century New York are not zombies in the strict sense of the word, but mechanized cadaver lacks the punch of the “z” word so that’s the word that stuck. Some religious groups might balk at the idea of bringing the dead back to a semblance of life but it’s a victimless crime.

The societal rules are simple: nobody killed in an accident, nobody with living relatives, nobody famous. Most of them are older people who died in hospital beds, sixty and seventy year-olds in fair to good condition at least according to the Zimmler Scale that measures “corporeal integrity.” A missing arm isn’t too bad but legs that don’t work are deal-breakers. Ditto for the blind, the deaf. They have to be able to perform menial tasks and in most cases this involves being able to sense their surroundings and hear and understand simple commands. The ones with “near-mint” ratings on the Z Scale are pricey but worth it. These primo corpses have limited capacity for independent thought and speech (not that they have anything to say). There are rumors that the military has all the mint-condition models and are training them for suicide missions but seriously? That’s just stupid.

A few guidelines:

Know the source. There’s nothing like unwrapping a new hire and finding out that you didn’t check the fine print. Sure, he can mow your lawn but that missing face is going to cause problems with your squeamish neighbors.

Never, ever go black market. Not only are your goods going to be of inferior quality, they might be illegals: homicides, suicides, bio-hazards, or worse.

Get the most for your money. If you can afford near-mint quality, splurge. The initial cost will soon be frayed by time and money saved. If you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to shop for a bargain.

Maintain them. Keep a list of licensed corpse tailors close at hand and make sure your payments come on time. These guys are in high demand and a talented tailor can keep your purchase in tip-top shape. If you don’t have corpse tailors in your area (or more likely, can’t get added to their client list), make friends with med students or anyone studying mortuary sciences. These kids are hungry for experience and work cheap.

Make sure they’re dead! The most important tip is to always check for a pulse. You never know when some shady bokor is going to load up an otherwise healthy illegal immigrant with tetrodotoxin and pass him off as a walking dead.

About Jared A. Sorensen
Jared is a game designer, he’d tell you to “just Google it” and leave it at that. However, here at Flames Rising we’re happy to help out by letting you know you can find some of Jared’s games at the Flames Rising RPG Shop and even more at his website,

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