A hard breathing labored through the darkened and semi-metallic walls of a building that, according to the government, didn’t exist at all. It was stranded in the middle of nowhere for experiments too fanatical and unforgivable to ever allow anyone to know the experiments even took place at all. One such experiment had gotten out of control and with another stroke of brilliance from this government; the entire lab was sealed up so that the families and scientists on the grounds could not escape. It would cost them their lives, but wasn’t keeping dirty blemishes like this off your country’s record merely another way to serve it?
The last survivor of this terrible accident was currently running with sharp heels clicking in rapid succession as she attempted to escape the inevitable. Her arms swung back and forth in an inexperienced way, showing she obviously didn’t do much running. Her speed wasn’t helped much by the restraining lab coat she wore, or her skirt, or her heels. Evidently, she hadn’t been planning on running for her life today.
She couldn’t really be the only one alive, could she? That…That thing couldn’t have killed everyone, could it? Thoughts and horrible images flooded through her reason as her clumsy fingers fumbled to piece everything together. There had been those labs in the basement, the ones that not even she had been trustworthy enough to enter. They were taboo, forbidden, and rightfully so she now saw. But what could have been going on down there? What sort of sick demented experiments had been going on there?
And to think, she only took this job with hopes of helping people, not being the sole witness to a mass genocide of half innocent scientists.
The woman turned a corner sharply and nearly lost her balance, grasping at the smooth metallic wall for leverage before nearly hurling herself forward down the corridor. All the while her long red hair tore back behind her, lapping out at the dank air like the flames they resembled; her eyes were a completely different story. They glittered, yes, but with something not quite as brilliant as the fiery display billowing in the air behind her; they were something tamer, cornered, frightened.
She tried her best to calm her breathing, to get a grasp on her mind so she wasn’t only running blindly through dark passageways with no real bearing, but failed miserably as she rounded yet another bend.
Her breathing stopped.
Or she thought it did, at least.
Splayed out in front of her were shapes, shapes laying limply over each other in a heap that reeked of rancid death. The woman looked away quickly and let out a choked sob from disgust, fear, and the painful smell that burnt her nostrils. She wrapped her nose protectively in the crook of her elbow and gambled a look back into the darkened hall.
The blurred shapes quickly hardened into what she had previously thought she had seen and again she choked back a cry. Not just shapes, but bodies. Bodies heaped upon bodies upon more bodies. Scientists like herself, women, and even children lay discarded like used wrappers of an afternoon snack, their bodies flaccid and drooping this way and that. Some lacked limbs, some lacked any real facial recognition at all which she saw as both a blessing and curse. After all, her colleagues hadn’t been the only ones with family living at the base to protect the confidentiality of the facility.
At first she wondered rather morbidly why they had all been gathered right here. Had that…That thing herded them here? Had it simply carried them to its own personal dining room? The very idea made her stomach summersault forward and backward rapidly and forced her to cover her mouth as well as her nose for fear she’d vomit.
Her horrible thoughts were quickly subsided for the most part as she realized just where all these bodies had collaborated. Framed in a long since dull light, the words “SAFE ROOM” beckoned to the woman with outstretched hands. An angel in hell, a light in the dark. The “Safe Room” as it was called was normally used when some chemical spill had accidentally occurred and served as a safe haven until the harmful air had been cleaned.
Something pained her though, despite being this close to at least some sort of savior. These people being so tightly packed and huddled atop each other as if in their dying actions they tried to clump together to keep the bitter nip of death at bay with the remaining heat in their bodies. They were so close to salvation, but the reaper had grasped them at the last second.
And he mangled them for their defiance.
She knew she’d need to stride forward through the calm ocean of bodies to save her own life, but her heels seemed permanently glued to the ground as if her body were punishing her, chanting softly the whole time, “No, you won’t move forward. You’ll remain watching them for eternity. You can’t close your eyes, and can’t run away.” Another small moan of sadness echoed from the woman’s lips while her fingers balled themselves into fists, ready to knock away any of the fallen bodies in the unlikely event they might rise up against her.
It took a while to urge her smooth red heels forward even a step, but suddenly a swift wind blew across the back of the woman’s neck and the fight or flee option was quickly answered and acted upon. Normally, a small breeze would have been brushed off as a co-worker moving at a busy pace behind her, but not today. The air was stale; there was no one alive – that she knew of – other than herself and the beast, and that’s what had alerted her senses. If she hadn’t made the breeze, that left only one thing.
So she ran.
And ran, and ran, and tripped.
The woman let out a cry of pain as she sprawled forward, right onto something spongy and cold. Something wet and icy was now creeping around her wide fingers and she let out a whimper. There was only one thing on the ground in front of her that could be cold and spongy and secrete something equally cold and wet as well. She couldn’t open her eyes, she couldn’t. She’d see what – or who – she was grasping and would most likely go completely insane. So instead she settled for pushing herself to her feet, though the soft squelch of liquid through something she didn’t want to think about made her stomach flip again, her fingers quivering. She could still feel it on her fingers; whatever ‘it’ was, though she could imagine quite well just what it was.
She let out a haggard groan and outstretched her hands, groping at the air to find the smooth door of deliverance beneath her fingertips. The woman grabbed at the space in front of her while feeling around on the ground with her feet, muttering apologies onto deaf ears when a body here and there was gently nudged. She was on edge, but slightly calm, safe behind her lids like a child beneath a bedspread. Her comfort didn’t last long though as she felt the ground below her tremble under the weight of something large. Something very large.
The walls were shaking as well as the ground, a dull vibration of metal on metal reverberating off the hollowed walls with a monotone, continuous foreboding purr. The image that came to mind was of a lion sitting licking its hungry jowls while making the same muted purr. An innocent noise that with the situation became something sick and frightening.
The red head found her feet rooted again as she listened blind and dumb, her lower lip and fingers the only thing moving as they quivered suspended in the air. The beast, the beast. She had spotted it once before, which had sparked this whole escapade aimed at escape, but not up close. She had just seen teeth, claws, and some deformed face that seemed forever frozen in a sneer and had ran. Ran fast.
But she could hear it, slowly lumbering toward her with heavy breathing and dragging steps. If only she could urge herself forward, if only she could open her eyes and find the door and dive in. She could lock it and then brace herself until…
There was a bit of food in the room, she remembered, but not enough to sustain her very long. There was no exit, and even if she could escape from the building it was surrounded by tall electric fencing which was still functioning as far as she knew. Damned if she did, damned if she didn’t. Which was worse, starvation or being snack food for an angry, hungry creature?
The ground groaned again in annoyance to the pressure put on it further down the hall and the woman finally mustered her courage, wanting to give herself a fighting chance before she laid down her body in sacrifice to the demon. The shuffle far off down the hall had stopped as the woman lunged forward, grasped the handle, and pulled.
Panic rose up in a loud babble in her mind and she pulled again, several times, frantically trying to open the door. Behind her, she heard a howl. A devilish, snarl of excitement, she assumed, at finding new prey. Prey, she was prey. It had heard her.
“Open!” She cried desperately, looking over her shoulder into the murky darkness, terror wide in her eyes. “Open, please open! Please!” She was crying now as the quick thumping of large feet in succession grew louder and louder, thundering like a train over rickety tracks. She pulled harder and then remembered something; her keycard.
Barely any of the rooms in the lab opened without a keycard to keep out intruders, and this was one of the doors that needed said card to open it. With blundering hands the woman fiddled in her pocket before yanking out a smooth laminated card with her picture on the front and slid it through the scanner. It took a few moments, so in the meantime the woman looked over her shoulder and noticed that the thundering sound of steps had stopped. Was that breathing? What was that shadow there, just out of her field of view? Was that just a glint of an eye? Fangs? Claws? The realization sunk in slowly and deliberately, even though she didn’t want to think it.
It was right there, watching her.
A panic stricken scream gurgled up out of her mouth, her eyes seeming to scream just as widely as the beast let out a howl and charged forward again, its sights set on the only remaining live being beside itself.
She turned quickly, her entire body on edge. Hurry, hurry, hurry. She thought desperately, pulling the handle on the door which with a satisfying hiss slid open slowly. The woman didn’t even wait for the door to open completely before she slid into the room and pulled hard at the handle. It closed bit by bit, and then stopped. Something was jamming the door.
“Damn it!” She swore loudly, very out of character for her, but in these types of situations, sensible things didn’t always come first. Emerald eyes shot down around the edge of the door before focusing on a gouged, and what looked like gnawed on, arm that had wedged itself between the door and the frame. She couldn’t kick it out or risk letting the creature in with her as well, so instead she bit her tongue and pulled with all her might.
Even through the squishy noise of blood being forced from flesh, and the sickening crack of bones breaking, she continued to pull, determined to save herself. Outside, she heard the beast charge headlong at the door and screamed, “Close!” just as the creature slammed into the door, dislodging the arm inside of the room with the red head who toppled backward, head over heels, and landed with her back pressed against the far wall.
A swell of triumph welled up inside her. She was safe. The beast couldn’t get through that many layers of steel, no matter how long it slammed into it. Letting out a sigh of relief, the woman slumped down and smiled ever so faintly, glad to be alive.
A small click echoed throughout the room and emerald eyes once again flew open, filled with terror.
One small detail she had forgotten. One tiny thing that could have saved her life. In her hurry to slam the door shut, she had forgotten her keycard outside. It couldn’t possibly be that smart though, could it? Could it…?
She was too weak to scream, too tired to move, too tired to fight for her life, so when the metallic door slid open ever so slowly, giving way to the darkened hallways outside and a pair of bright, glowing eyes, the woman merely tossed back her fiery mane of hair and laughed.