The change was bound to draw trouble. Krendel knew what would happen the moment the news hit the Internet, so he wasn't at all surprised when his new lackey . . . assistant appeared at his office door early the next morning.
"They're complaining and vociferously," Trent said as he stepped into the office.
"Of course they are," Mr. Krendel replied from behind the desk. "We expected such adverse consequences, but the masses will thank us once they realize we've saved humanity. Again."
Trent gave a slight nod and looked out past the doorway to the hall beyond. "Here's the test, sir. Amy Sue."
"Excellent, send her in."
Trent briskly stepped away, the very image of an up-and-coming young executive. In a moment Krendel could hear Amy Sue's dissonant laughter and the loud click of her heels on the floor. She appeared at the doorway, dressed in yellows and browns this morning; she gave the impression of a banana that had seen better days. Krendel gave her a nod to come in as he opened the drawer beside him, the pistol within reach. This could be dangerous, but he always insisted on doing the perilous work himself.
"Good day, Amy Sue. Did you use the tickets to the movie I gave you?"
"Oh yeah," she said with several quick nods as her hair fluttered like something alive pinned to her head. "That was like rad, man."
"You enjoyed the show?"
"It was awesomesauce!"
He gritted his teeth and his hand caressed the pistol while thoughts of mayhem spread through his mind. She began talking about the inane entertainment. He had to get her back on track or his ears would start bleeding soon.
"So, you found it amusing?"
Still not there. "You laughed?"
"Oh yeah!" she said and her face brightened. His hand reached for the gun. "I literally died laughing."
And there it was!
His hand took hold of the gun though he didn't lift the weapon yet as he stared intently at her. Amy Sue fell blessedly silent as she apparently realized there was something oddly wrong here. She took a tentative step backwards but Trent blocked the doorway, though he did move slightly to the side and made certain he was not in line of sight.
Mr. Krendel waited.
Amy Sue stood there, petrified by something she didn't understand.
Mr. Krendel reluctantly pulled is hand back from the gun. "Glad you enjoyed the movie. Take a long lunch today. You look like you need it."
"Ah. Yeah. Awesomesauce." She rushed out of the room, Trent barely moving out of the way in time. After a moment they could no longer hear her heels on the hard floor.
"You did it, sir! She said the words and she didn't literally die! She is not a zombie! The world is saved from the next Zombie Apocalypse!"
"But at what price, Trent? At what price? If literally can now mean figuratively, what comes next? Can black be white? Cool and hot have already become synonymous in some usages. Tell me what the difference is between me saying that you're really cool or that you're really hot."
Trent went red. "A world of difference in that case, sir."
"Hmm. Yes. Well, anyway -- monitor the literally tide as it officially sweeps through the world. I'd say we're still in for a hell of a war."
"Figuratively speaking, of course," Trent said.
Mr. Krendel pushed the drawer closed. "Of course, Trent. Of course."
(Merriam-Webster has announced that because of the over-miss-use of literally in the place of figuratively, the words have become synonymous in most common usage and literally can now replace figuratively in those cases. Many people see this as the end of civilization or at the very least, the destruction of the English language. I prefer to view it as a needed battle against the zombies so that people can now figuratively die laughing rather than literally. Or whatever. No matter, they're still here and I suspect some of them are zombies anyway, since if they literally died laughing and they're still here, what other logical explanation can there be? So be alert. The world needs more lerts. And fewer zombies.)