It was late already. Outside the sky was - no, not black. Dark purple stretched over the valley, with specks of clouds and a thin sliver of silver moon. Theresa knew the scenery by heart, and she hated it. She spent almost every night at the office, between stacks of paper, looking for THE STORY. Most things her reporters brought her, however, were rubbish.
Tonight was no different. The sad leftovers of a Subway sandwich lay on the desk, pushed aside so Theresa could go through the stories that had been handed in late. Her phone was right next to her, with the printers' phone on speed dial, just in case she actually founf THE STORY. But that was rather unlikely. They had the usual U.F.O. sightings, someone claiming to be a werehyena, a haunted house and a conspiracy involving tab water and alien microbes. This was pretty strange even by their standards.
Theresa believed that the truth was out there, somewhere, beneath that purple night sky, but so far she hadn't seen any of it. Since starting as a young and excited reporter here at "USA Truth", she had been looking for the real thing. And there had been good stories, but nothing that wouldn't make her former class mates laugh. Now she was closer to 40 than 30, and had nothing to show for her life. Over the last few months, she had felt herself become increasingly bitter and desperate, and this morning she had detected the first hint of gray hidden between her deer-colored ringlets.
A knock at the door, and only a moment later Peter pushed his head into his room.
"Hi Theresa." He coughed. "You know, I wanted to talk to you about that story I handed in last week..."
Theresa sighed. "We had that already. No. No way am I going to print this short before Halloween. We will be the laughing stock of the press."
Peter looked sad. In fact, he didn't look good at all. His skin had a yellowish wax appearance, and his eyes had sunken back into his skull so far they were hardly visible in the weak light of her desk lamp.
"You know what", she said and pushed her chair back, "we should both go home." She knew that she wouldn't head straight home, but do her routine at the gym first. All this fastfood was starting to take its toll. She wanted to look good and happy when the old gang reunited in December.
Peter shook his head. "No, Theresa, you gotta listen. I've done some more research over at the ruins. And my informant was right, there are dozens of oildrums with strange stuff in them!"
She stopped in her tracks, halfway bent down to pick up her purse. "Tell me you didn't open them." Stories about toxic waste always increased their circulation, but she rather liked Peter. Although he certainly was stupid enough to take a sip of any strange glowing liquid, just to know what it would do.
"No, I didn't... one of it was leaking, that's how my informant knew about it. I took samples and brought them to different labs to be tested."
Great. Just great. In her head a new headline appeared, "USA TRUTH REPORTER SPREADS DEATH THROUGH VALLEY!"
She looked at him, her stomach tight. Considering his looks, that stuff had not been orange juice. "Okay, and now what?"
"Well, the labs haven't answered my calls, and when I went there, no one answered the door." Peter moved in closer, his feeth eavy, gait tired. "My informant seems to have disappeared as well."
Maybe he was onto something after all. "Okay, I give in." Theresa pressed the speed dial button. "Your story will make front page tomorrow. I want it down at the press in ten minutes. But you have to make some changes. No way are we going to print anything containing the word 'zombie' in the headline."
Peter grinned. His teeth glistened, stained and crooked. As he came closer, his body odour crept through the room. Definitely unhealthy, she'd take him to the hospital herself right away.
"Now jump back to your office! They're waiting!" Theresa forced a smile on her face. She'd have herself tested as well, just to be sure. "Tell you what, after that we're grabbing a snack somewhere to celebrate, okay?"
"Sound great", Peter's grin widened, "can I have your liver?"