"Overtime Shift" Chapter 4 (FINAL) By Thomas Stewart
The bed started rolling again. I let my body relax. There wasn’t a need now to keep up the charade, knowing now that I wasn’t going to be going to the incinerator.
That was the good news: I wouldn’t be barbequeued--hooray.
The Bad news: now I was going to be dissected, dead or alive, probably while that rat bastard watched with the biggest, most caniving, most dementedly gleeful smile on his face.
And worse news: I was going to be more or less responsible for releasing a biohazardous parasite into the world. I would be the man that ended life on earth.
God, I should’ve just stayed in the cell unit…
I was pushed the rest of the way out of the hall and lifted onto the chopper. I don’t know if it was the panic of the situation, determination to remain focused on the assignment at hand, or if they were just as good or better at feigning ignorance as I was at playing opossum-- which is entirely possible, after all. “Dead or alive”, remember? But they didn’t seem to stop or say anything when I started slowly opening my eyes as they went and loaded me onto the chopper.
We lifted off and from there, the ride felt like every rollercoaster ride I had ever been on as a kid, combined into one, while tripping balls on shrooms. Granted, up to that point, I hadn’t ever been on a chopper before, but I had the feeling that whoever the pilot was, probably should’ve been required to do their flying test again before handing them a license to fly. In any case, though, it was about 12-15 minutes later that we finally touched down, and we did so in one piece. Points there, I guess.
It was about 30 seconds after we landed that we began unloading off the chopper. I ended up closing my eyes again from the sunlight. Something to understand is that, working in Monolith, you really don’t get much exposure to natural light. Unless you’re the headmaster yourself, any of the countless government representatives that come in on a semi-regular basis, or possibly one of the lab rats, you were always inside the facility, all the time. The only time you’d be seeing the sun is during your vacation days or if you required extensive medical care.
I was wheeled out through the parking lot and into a new facility I didn’t recognize. Inside the facility was dark again, with soft, aqua blue phosphorescent light lightly brushing over me as I was strolled along. The light felt in a way hypnotic. Soothing.
It was almost enough to put me to sleep. I think I even yawned a bit, though if I did, it went unnoticed completely. I couldn’t tell if we were actually going anywhere or if we were on a treadmill or something because of the fact that this hallway seemed to go on for so long and every part of it looked the exact same. Finally, though, we stopped at one of the doors which had a bright, orangey-red light bleeding through it.
The door was pushed open and I was wheeled into a large room with rows and rows of these tanks, similar to the ones I’d seen that morning in the chem lab, only they glowed red instead of light blue. “Prep a tank. Use a fresh canister, too.” I heard one of them shout. I watched through half-closed lids as two of the men rushed out and back in, carrying with them a huge canister and plugging it in one of the empty tank outlets.
“Alright, the tank’s set!” one of them shouted.
“Warming up now.” shouted another. The two men wheeling me along then left my side. I took this time to lift up my head a little and survey the room. The place was gigantic, able to, I think, fit the main hub back at the facility at least three times, along with the chem labs twice. The room was domed, with the walls curving upward toward the ceiling and every inch of those walls were occupied with one of the tanks.
I couldn’t tell for certain, but I want to say at least a little over half of the million I saw were occupied with… well something. Couldn’t really tell you what though with a lot of em. Some of them were people, men and women, some of which I was pretty sure I’d seen working around the facility (and yeah, most of those were sewer rats), while others I knew I didn’t know at all. Some of them were animals, insects, fish. A couple I saw had plants inside them, although some of those were unrecognizable as well.
But then there were a lot of them which had figures or creatures that resembled people-- rather, the shape of a person-- but were so horribly disfigured in ways I have neither the means or motivation to even try describing. I could feel my skin crawling just looking at them, and no, it wasn’t the creature inside me, either. “We gotta get him in, quick!” I heard one of the men who’d escorted me shout as he came running back.
I was wheeled away once more to the tanks. There, three of the men took me by my arms and dragged me along before dropping me through the hatch in the one designated for me. Almost immediately, I felt my blood and all my muscles just freeze solid. The thing felt like I’d just been dropped into a meat locker that’d been turned all the way down. I couldn’t even shiver because it was so cold.
Looking through the glass, I could see the men conversing amongst each other. I couldn’t very well hear what it was exactly they were saying, though. The only reason I’m able to record any of what was said at all now is because of the tape recorder in my exosuit-- which again, none of the bumblefucks once thought to remove.
“How’re we gonna extract it?”
“Even if he’s dead, the thing’s had too much time to bond, hasn’t it?”
“He’s right. We try to extract now, we’ll only end up tearing the man apart.”
“And what’s the problem there? He’s dead, ain’t he?”
“We don’t know that for certain, do we?”
“And even if we did, sir, don’t you think it would kill the organism if we forced it out of him now?”
“Look, whatever the case, we were given direct orders to separate the organism from his body. The headmaster’s already lost favor in our department, thanks to all the failed breakthroughs. This is his closest score and we need to at least try seeing it through and this man is our closest lead yet. So loosen your tie, pull up your britches, and throw the damn switch already.”
No sooner than he’d said this, I watched the switch on the console in front of him get thrown and a flood of the most frigid air blasted the inside of the tank. The initial bite was enough to make me spring to my feet, where I had been just laying dead on the floor a second before.
My jaw dropped, but I couldn’t make a sound. I could see them all looking back at me, some with surprised looks on their faces while the others remained focused. I went to bang on the glass. I got one hit in, though, before my arm froze up there on the glass.
The rest of my body soon followed suit. I could sense the feeling in my hands, feet, and everywhere else going numb. Soon even my eyes started going blurry.
Not even a second more and my ass was a statue. I couldn’t feel a single part of my body. I couldn’t breathe or even move my eyes. I was lifeless.
My racing mind was the only indicator that I was even alive at all. I saw the blurred outlines of two of the men come running to the tank. One made it and pressed his hands to the class. “Christ, he was alive?” I very faintly heard him cry out in terror.
“And? Did you not hear me? We had our orders: preserve and extract the organism. He’s dead no matter what you or I do here, you know this. Now move so we can—“
“We have to get him out of there!” He rebutted, “We have to do something, we can’t—“
Just then, I felt my heart burst one last time with a deafening bang! The man’s body dropped to the floor and one of the others began walking up to the tank.
“Anyone else like to voice an objection to our objective here?” No one answered. “Good, you all get to stick around a bit longer.”
He approached the tank, looking me dead in my eyes. “Now how’re we supposed to extract?” he asked.
“We have to stimulate the specimen somehow, lure it out of him.”
“Uh huh, and we do that how?”
“Well, considering it’s gestating inside of him because of his body temperature, it stands to reason that if we heat the tank to a sufficient temperature, that it’ll likely come right out all on its own.”
“Well then what the hell are we waiting for?” The two men at the console nodded at the one in front of me and pressed the button. At first, for about three or four minutes following, I didn’t feel anything. Suddenly, I could feel something akin to a bee sting or a sharp pinch coming from the middle of my chest. It stayed there for about another two or three minutes before spreading from there up to my neck and down to my hips.
I could, for the first time since getting thrown into that giant looking glass of a tank, actually feel something when my arms and legs began twitching violently. I wasn’t sure if it really meant anything, other than maybe that whatever was going on with me here was stinging the absolute shit out of me. This made me scared, though. What was gonna happen then if/when this thing did come out of me?
To that extent, the immediate answer was nothing at all. Despite this carrying on for quite a while, about 30 minutes in fact, the only thing this accomplished was causing my body to twitch and convulse violently, feeling like every square inch of it was being pressed with glowing hot embers. It only got hotter and hotter, too. Hell, for a good minute or two, I could swear I was being held against the sun itself.
It did nothing, though, to bring the parasite out of me or whatever it was they were trying to do here. “How long is this supposed to take?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to be responding to the heat.”
“What do you mean? I thought you said the heat would draw it out.”
“That’s what we thought, sir. Please keep in mind that this organism isn’t exactly a familiar one here.”
“I don’t care, the headmaster’s on his way now and I’ve already had to waste one here. I really don’t need him breathing down our necks for lack of results, got it? Get it done!”
“Try elctrical waves. Maybe it possesses vulnerability to electricity.”
“We can try, but how do we know if it won’t just fry the organism at only a couple volts?”
“Well I’d say we’re pretty safe on it not being “fried”, as you can see. Try it. I’m serious; whatever it takes, GET IT OUT!”
Another button was pushed at the console, shutting off the blistering heat. It took almost another ten or so minutes before it went away completely. When it did, my body started spasming when tiny shocks began pulsing all throughout every limb and joint. This, too, only got more and more intense. I started essentially tapdancing inside the thing, with every nerve threatening to sear away in my body.
This time lasted longer than the last, though just how long, I couldn’t tell you. I’ll tell you by the time they figured out this wasn’t working for them any better, my ass was on the ground, flopping like a fish on the sand. My vision came out a lot blurrier after this, so I could only see faint blobs where the men were earlier. My ears were ringing, too, making hearing that much more difficult. Again, thank God for the technology in the exosuit, else I wouldn’t have been able to record much, if any, of what might’ve been said.
“This is hopeless! Goddamn it, what do we pay you for?!”
“Sir, we’re trying everything we can.”
“We don’t even know what this is, how’re we supposed to know what it’s vulnerable to?”
“You think the headmaster’s going to give a damn about what you do or don’t know about this thing? No, he’s going to give a damn about why we haven’t made any results. Damn it all, I won’t be able to keep him from shutting us down this time!”
“Sir, we’ve tried everything we possibly can! I promise we have.”
“Perhaps not everything.”
“What’re you saying, man? If you have some surefire method, spit it out, now!”
“Well, I can’t attest to how “surefire” it may be, but it could be possible, I think, to lure it out with abother host.”
“What?! What are you saying? Are you suggesting one of us…”
“What makes you think it could work?”
“Haven’t you paid attention to the main facility? It’s happening all throughout. Why do you think we were called in for search and rescue? It’s how the creature spreads.”
“A virus, essentially?”
“Not entirely. Viruses cannot manifest without a host. These things can. Not only that, but a virus, once consuming its host, doesn’t remain with it.”
”So you actually believe it will leave him for another vessel? No kind of extraction or anything?”
“Perhaps, although we’d have to move quickly. This creature thrives in warm places, therefore would likely bolt from the one body it’s in now.”
“Well then how’re we supposed to do that?”
“Who are we going to find to volunteer fot this. Especially givem the short notice?!”
“Well I see a tribute right in front of me here…”
“Yeah, since you wanna get all compassionate with me here, why don’t you go see how your little friend in there’s doing. Maybe you’ve got the magic touch or whatnot, eh?”
One of the figures approached the tank. My eyes looked up at him from the floor. As soon as he came up and placed his palm on the glass, my body sprang back to life. I was refreshed, rejuvinated, and perhaps feeling better than ever before.
Yet, I knew I wasn’t, because it wasn’t me, per say. My brain had been switched to autopilot; hijacked, essentially. Everything wasn’t a complete blur to me anymore either. I could see everything ,uch clearer now. Everything.
The guy just stood there for a moment, his back turned to the glass. For a moment, I stood pressed against it, examining his back, every minute detail which I could now see. I’m talking I could actually see the different grooves and threads in his clothes. I could see each and every individual pore in his skin and every single strand of hair. I found myself pressing closer and closer into the glass.
“I don’t think this’s going to work.”
“Well unless you have a better suggestion, I need you to shut up and stand there until he reacts. Now, we’re going to open up the tank and let him out now.” I saw him throw the switch and like something out of a sci-fi movie, the glass sort of slid down.
About two seconds before it could even retract all the way down, I sprang upon the poor bastard, hurling myself like a javelin into his midsection and knocking him to the ground. I was out of my head completely by this point. My muscles were acting against my own will. But again, nothing but my brain was mine anymore.
Now, I was scared, obviously. Actually, no, I was fucking terrified. Nothing about this was making any kind of sense to me at the time and I had no clue what the hell was going to happen to me now. All of that said, though, I couldn’t have been half as scared as the guy I had pinned to the ground. I can’t remember for certain, but I’d be willing to bet money he pissed himself right then, not that I or anyone else could’ve blamed him really.
He thrashed and writhed wildly underneath me, but it didn’t do him a damn bit of good, same as it was with me earlier back in the maintenance tunnels. My mouth started forcing itself open as something like bile, only heavier, came rushing up from the pit of my stomach. I tried using some kind of mental willpower to keep whatever it was locked in, but God knew by that point, anything like that was a pipedream at best. This thing was getting out of me, one way or another.
Part of me felt relieved admittedly-- who wouldn’t be? Who the hell wants one of these things inside of ‘em?
But not like this. Not when it comes at someone else’s expense.
Again, though, not my decision to make, so when I saw it come crawling out of my mouth and start trying to slither down to the terrified man’s face, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do except to silently beg for his forgiveness. It just about made it, too, when my body seized up from an electrical jolt focused square in the middle of my back. The creature hung halfway out of my mouth, wiggling and twisting like some sort of shapeless living putty.
“Grab it, NOW!” shouted a voice from behind me. One of the other two came running up and, using a set of these weird sort of jagged tweezer looking things, took hold of the creature at its midsection. Somehow they actually managed to snag it, but when they began to pull, it anchored itself in both my mandable and roof of my mouth. They yanked and yanked, but the bastard wouldn’t budge for nothing.
I was sure they were going to end up ripping my face off to get this thing. Why not, didn’t they claim no matter what, I was dead anyway? Fortunately for me, though, it didn’t come down to that as, after only a few seconds of prying, the guy took the taser from my back and focused it solely on the organism itself. It started spasming, immediately releasing itself from my mouth and I fell backward. I wheezed and coughed, feeling like I’d just been rescued from drowning.
My vision was back to normal again, just like that, although my arms and legs were still weak. Probably something to do with its assimilation process over my body or something, but my arms and legs were essentially spaghetti noodles with skin over them. I watched the men hold the creature in the air by the tweezers, keeping the taser on it.
“Get me a container.” the guy shouted. The others, including the one I had pinned to the floor, scrambled like mice while he stood there. I just watched all of this in horror and disgust. I couldn’t believe it. This thing came out of me!
But it was out now. I was free. I wasn’t going to be incinerated, quarantined, and best of all, I wasn’t going to end up like Ronnie or Vankowski or any of the other nameless victims who’d been conned into participating in this nightmare.
The men came back, rolling a smaller one of the tanks with them. The one holding the creature slowly walked over and dropped it in the tank. For a second, it looked like it was going to try and jump back out at him, bit the glass was sealed off before it’d have the chance. He told the others to get it the hell out of the room before turning and walking off.
“Hey, what about him?” asked one of them-- the guy I had pinned down earlier, ironically enough. “What’re we supposed to do now?” The man looked at him, then at me, frowning, then back to him.
“We’ll keep him here until the headmaster gets here. Let him decide what needs to be done with him.” He walked away after that while the others went back to carting the creature out of the room. I laid my head back.
Great, I thought to myself. I manage to make it this far, only to once more have my fate decided by headmaster fuckface myself. Wonderful.
I wasn’t naive, here. I knew he’d get one look at me and tell them to just go ahead and wax me. He’d already all but admitted I was a liability, that he didn’t want anyone telling anyone about their “conspiracies of kidnapping and human experimentation”.
It was when I started to wiggle my fingers around, which was then followed by moving my legs, that I realized that I had full control over my limbs again. My reflexes were back to being sharp as ever, too. I stayed on the ground for another two or three minutes, long enough to assess whether or not anyone else was packing heat or if it was just the one who’d walked out of the room, before springing into action.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but let me reiterate to you; I had no real plan here. Every move I made from this point forward was essentially improv. As soon as I was on my feet again, I went for the control panel. The two eggheads standing there had just enough time for their eyes to bug before I clacked their heads together, knocking them out cold. The other two then shouted and started rushing for the panel themselves.
In my panic, I started pressing every button I laid eyes on. And before you ask, no, I didn’t have a damn clue what any of them were for or what they would do once pressed. That is, I didn’t-- until I ended up hitting one that resulted in the room being bathed in red light and a female synth voice coming over the intercom, saying “Emergency alert! Emergency alert! Red wash sequence activated! Repeat, Red wash sequence activated!”
I’m not going to lie here, this was the exact moment that I pissed myself in terror for the first time in my life since I was five years old. No exaggeration, either. I’d fucked up royally here, the price you pay for winging shit all the time.
For those not in the know, “Red washing” is when a cloud of this sinister mix of phosgene, chlorine, and this gaseous form of sulfuric acid (something I’m pretty sure only the lab rats of Monolith here would know how to cook up) is dispersed throughout the facility. Now, if you know anything at all about chemistry, then I’m pretty sure you can imagine already what happens to the poor Joe Schmoe that takes in a deep breath of that shit. For those that aren’t, well then imagine that scene from Total Recall where they’re stuck on the surface of Mars without their helmets. Yeah, bad news all around.
It was used a long time ago as the last resort in the event a contagion outbreak occured that got too out of control or one of the countless, nameless unnatural horrors they cooked up, like the ones I was talking about earlier (including the critter itself), got out and was unable to be reigned back in. Part of me in that moment was confused as, like I said, that was protocal from a long while back. See, we’d started, about four or five years ago, just using the scrubs to deal with situations like this, and therefore I was pretty sure at least all of the main facilities had basically done away with the “Red washing” mechanisms.
Guess this place forgot the memo… Fan-frickin’-tastic!
My mind was torn between this and the question of what the hell I was going to do now. I knew the mechanisms would be set to go off in only about 15 minutes. Given, too, how dark the room was already, as well as the fact that I’d never even set foot in this building to begin with and therefore didn’t know where anything or anywhere was-- like, you know, the exits-- I had no way of knowing how or even if I could escape. The two men came rushing up to me and one of them shouted “What the hell have you done?!”
I remember just looking at him. Actually, I think it’s more accurate to say I was looking in his direction, sort of almost staring through him. My mouth hung open, but I couldn’t get any words to come out. “You’ve killed us all!”
“We have to get out of here!” the other one shouted.
“What about the speci--”
“Forget the specimens!” the other shouted, “Look we have the data still, but not if we get washed with the rest of them!” With this, he jerked out a flashdrive from the console and took off toward the back of the room. “Come on, NOW!”
Me and the other lab rat looked at each other for a moment, mirroring almost perfectly that kind of scene from a cartoon where two buffoons in a panic look at each other and shrug before dashing off after the guy. We hauled ass through the corridor with the blue flourescent lights and was just about to make it to the end before we were stopped dead in our tracks, facing down the barrel of a sig nine.
“I see, so we have what the pirates used to call a “mutiny”.” said the one guy from before, the one who’d shot one of his men. The three of us each took a step back simultaneously. He took a step forward.
“What are you doing, we have to get out of here!”
“I see, and do what exactly?” He took another step forward. The other one spoke up.
“We didn’t do this, he di--” The barrel flash and the sound of the shot managed to sync perfectly with the sound of the last syllable of his statement. In another second, his body hit the floor. Myself and the other man just exchanged horrified looks between the man and the body. That’s two now that he’d just killed, and for what?
“I thought I’d made myself clear, NO ONE leaves until the headmaster says so!”
“The headmaster?” I chimed in. He turned his attention, as well as the gun, onto me now. “The headmaster wants us all dead, don’t you get it? He had me locked in the cell unit and was hoping this thing would’ve killed me before you guys even got your hands on me!” His manic look didn’t waiver. “He wants anyone who knows anything about this out of the picture!”
“No,” he said, chuckling. “No, no, no, see, he wants you gone.” He waved the barrel of the gun between me and the other man, indicating that he was referring to both of us. “Y’all are the loose ends here. He needs me and my department to continue this!”
“Department?!” I exclaimed, “For fuck’s sake, listen to yourself here. “Your department” is about to go up in smoke and if we don’t get moving, we’ll be--”
“Because of you!” he interjected. “If you wouldn’t have poked your nose in our business, none of this would be necessary.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You just had to go poking around, didn’t you?”
“I was sent by the headmaster to track down this thing and bring it back after it got loose! He was gonna use me as a guinnea pig for it until you bozos went and took it out.”
“N-No… No, that’s not what we were told…” He started shaking his head. I chanced a step forward. “No, see, we were told you’d gotten caught after poking around in the tunnels because of your friend or something.”
“Because of his assignment.” I stated again. He continued staring at me in complete shock. Around us, I could hear the synth voice over the intercom state that we had no more than 3 minutes to get the hell out of there before the gas spickets triggered.
“B-But… But…” He looked at his gun and back at me. “But he told me that all we needed was to extract the specimen from you, and then he’d dispose of it.”
“You were lied to, sir. We all were. Have been. All of us, no more than the poor bastards from maintenance that he’d been snagging and testing that… that thing on. He’ll say and do anything it takes to get us to do what he wants, and what he wants is to release a highly dangerous lifeform out into the public!”
I took another slow step forward. “Look, you’re the one with the gun, here. You can’t stop what’s about to happen to throughout the building or what it’s going to do to all the specimens you have here, but you do have the power to decide whether or not we all live to tell about what’s been going on here.” Another step forward and I was within reach of the gun.
It shook in his hand. I could tell that even just a slightly rushed assault would have him disarmed. My right hand slowly outstretched towards it. “You have the power to decide, man. Just put down the gun…”
The hand holding the gun shook much more violently. He began stammering under his breath; “No… No, the headmaster is right… The headmaster isn’t a liar…”
My hand hesitated for a second. His hands started to tighten up again. Shit, he’s about to take aim again, isn’t he?
Just as his arm was about to raise up, I batted it away before driving the bottom of my palm directly into his nose. He staggered backward and just barely managed to catch himself. I rushed him again just as he was about to take another aim at me. The other one just stood there as this was going down, just watching with wide eyes.
I went to grab the gun from his hands when he delivered a swift backhand that both caught me by surprise at just how stiff and hard it was, given the guy’s lanky build (plus the fact that anyone could’ve looked at this dude once and seen very plainly he hadn’t ever been in a fight before), as well as take the wind out of me for a second. In that second, I glimpsed him train the barrel of the gun right in between my eyes.
Just before he’d have the chance to pull the trigger, though, I was jerked out of the way by the other lab rat, causing him to take the bullet to his left shoulder. He cried out in pain but through a burst of adrenaline that, admittedly. impressed the hell out of even me, pushed right through this and rushed the guy with the gun. I watched him attempt pulling the hammer back for another shot, but he was too late. The lab rat was on him, wrestling vigorously for the gun.
“Go on, get out of here!” he shouted through gritted teeth. I froze up again. I couldn’t just leave him there, could I?
I wanted to voice this, until I heard the announcement of the final minute until the “Red Wash” commences. I exchanged a quick glance between the two men struggling and the hallway ahead. The lab rat was putting up a real struggle to keep the man’s arm pinned down, but either due to his wound, or because, like I said, neither men were fighters, I could see the other man starting to overpower him. If he does, I thought, then he’ll gun us both down, or we’ll be caught in the Red Wash.
The power to decide whether or not someone lives to tell about what’s been going on here.
I got one last look at the brave lab rat before taking off past them down the hall. From there, I kept running and running, eyes forward and mind drowning out everything around me. The synth voice began the countdown from the final thirty seconds.
“30… 29… 28…”
I could see the door ahead. It looked so small where I was, so far away. My feet quickened, hammering on the ground with each step.
“26… 25… 24…”
The hallway felt like it was stretching, like the door itself was trying to run away from me. The florouescent lights were a runway to a neverending pathway.
“20… 19… 18… 17…”
My breath felt so heavy in my chest that I started coughing as I continued.
“15… 14… 13… 12… 11”
I’m not gonna make it!
“T-minus ten seconds until commencement of “Red Washing” sequence.”
For just a second, the thought to just stop crossed my mind. Why not? What was the use in running when I clearly wasn’t going to make it out of this?
And even if I did, what good was it going to do for me to?
Even if I could spread word of what’d been happening, who was going to listen? And even more than this, what was gonna keep the headmaster or any of his other little cronies from coming after me? My legs started wobbling as I continued on.
“7… 6… 5…”
The end of the hallway was coming up. I could see the doorway out getting bigger.
The light was stinging my eyes. Closer. Closer.
I leaned my head down, charging for the door at ramming speed. At that same time, my head started going light. My vision blurred as well. My chest felt so tight, so heavy. The very act of breathing became a chore in itself. Just a bit closer…
Gonna. Make. It…
I all but hurled myself through the door, landing facefirst onto the pavement outside. I just faintly heard from behind me the synth voice relaying that the “Red Wash” sequence had commenced before hearing the door seal shut behind me.
Pain shot all through my face the second I’d touched down. From the way the pain was centralized from my nose, I knew it had to be broken. Along with this, my arms and legs were all aching horribly. I was in pain, but it didn’t matter to me.
I was alive!
I’d made it out!
I tried to pick myself up, but that was a vain effort. The pain rendered them essentially useless. Honestly, I thought about just allowing myself to pass out right there. I was just as much exhausted as I was in pain, and rightfully so. Wouldn’t you just love nothing more in the world than to just lie down and take a nap after some shit like that?
In any case, though, no, I didn’t do that. Instead, I slowly picked my face up from the concrete and looked up at the sky. It was just getting to be around sunset at the time. I looked around, trying to see if anyone was around, either to help me or try to kill me. I won’t lie, either one sounded more or less appealing to me at the moment. No one was around, though, and so back to the concrete my eyes went.
I planted my arms by my sides again and pushed. Come on… Get up! My arms wobbled, barely even lifting me half an inch from the ground. If only you could know how embarrasing this felt to me, too. Big tough gorilla, face down on the pavement, can’t even pick his sorry ass back up. Yeah, that’s a rep you want, right?
Well, thankfully, I managed to move my right leg forward and get myself to one knee. From there, I was able to raise up the rest of my upper body and breathe a bit. I looked back at the facility. From just the few windows I could see from the outside, the Red Washing was still in effect. Large bright, crayon red puffs of vapor painted the inside of the windows.
For a moment, I thought of the two men I’d left behind in there. Particularly, of course, the one who’d sacrificed himself so I could get out. I’ll never forget him for that. I never knew his name, but his face will forever be memorialized in my brain, branded as a hero.
The sun slowly went down, ironically, as my energy slowly returned to me. I eventually managed to find myself to my feet again. The entire time, though, one thing had me confused.
Where in the hell was the headmaster?
As much as the psycho from the hallway wanted to kiss his ass behind his back with his gun, it just seems funny that the fucker was nowhere in sight. Then again, this is the headmaster we’re talking about here. You know, just the guy with no qualms when it comes to kidnapping, human experimentation, extortion, and releasing a world breaking infestation out into the general populous. I guess then it seems only fitting he doesn’t actually show up when he said he would.
Still, though, even with that aside, I couldn’t help but wonder. I mean, he himself had more cause than just about anybody to want to come down. That’s where the organism was, plus, he’d said he wanted to see it up close and personal in action, right?
But then again, why’d he still need the facility at all?
I had the sudden urge then to run. At the moment, I couldn’t explain it. I just had one thing on my mind: get back to the Monolith site and figure out what to do from there, if anything.
That was another thing I hadn’t thought out, obviously. What the hell was I really supposed to do now? Tell people what happened, sure, but where would I go to do that?
None of that mattered, though, not then. No, I just had to get back. What I’d do from there, well, that was a bridge I’d just have to cross when I got there. Right then, my mind started cycling through how the hell I was going to even get back to the site. Fortune guided my eyes to the chopper that was still parked just a few feet away from the facility around the back of it. I stumbled over to it, still not having regained much balance yet, and climbed in.
Now before I go any further, let me ask you something. You ever have those moments where you’re so excited to have finally found a solution to a predicament that you forget to factor in the various ways in which you might screw yourself by executing it? Kind of like when you think you’re saved after finding someone willing to give you a ride somewhere, lke a cab or something, only to realize a minute in that you don’t have any money for them? That’s exactly what happened here with me. I had a chopper, but no pilot, nor any flying skills.
Great, if it wasn’t one thing, it was one or two others.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Calm down, Jonah, it ain’t gonna do you, nor anybody else any kind of good to go and panic now--”
Then it hit me.
Somebody else. I looked at the radio. In big bold letters, one of the buttons read “Emergency broadcast”. That was it, I was in the clear again. I started mashing the button as hard as I could. The panel in front of me started making a pinging noise.
About five seconds later, I heard a voice come over the radio, talking about “Give us you location and model number.” I got on the radio then, lowering my voice forn good measure-- remember that I, technically, wasn’t even supposed to be alive here-- and told them I was at the storage facility 36.
I was informed that a retrieval team and a medical team were on their way to my location, about 20 minutes out, before the radio went silent again. I laid back in the cock pit, letting out a cackle of relief. This was it, it was all over.
Finally, all over…
That’s when I started really thinking about what I planned to do when I got back. Particularly, what I planned to do both pertaining to and with the headmaster. My most immediate thoughts involved nabbing him out of that nice, warm. Cozy little office of his, dragging his sorry ass down to chem labs, and performing just about each and every inhumane sort of experiment possible on him.
Only fitting, right?
Of course, that was only a thought. It wasn’t something I’d likely he able to pull off. I mean, ignoring the obvious legal rammifications of doing something like that, that’d also involve having to track him down first. See, it’s kind of a known fact throughout the facility that the headmaster’s aformentioned “cozy little office”, is really just for show there. Sort of a “Ha ha, my office is better than yours” type deal, which he isn’t at all humble about (why would he be?).
So that’s out. Then I thought, of course, since it wouldn’t work out trying to go after him directly, I could instead try to go after his and the comapny’s reputation. It was like I’d said earlier, back in the hallways: I was the one who had to tell the world what’d happened, what’d been happening. Even if I’d be silenced, or even if no one was going to believe me particularly, I had to tell this story, nonetheless.
For my friend, Vankowski. For Roy and the other members of the maintenance crew. For the men who sacrificed their lives on my behalf at the storage facility, having paid the price for daring to speak out themselves. For everyone who’d been swindled by the headmaster into participating in this little “project” and suffering for it, and finally, for myself.
The world needed to know what happened here at Monlith site 556.
About 30 minutes later, I heard the chopper coming, about a mile or two out when I looked out. They touched down, loaded me up, and we were off. They didn’t ask any questions, thankfully enough, not yet. Typical evac procedure: act first, ask questions later.
Ironically, though, I’d actually be the first to ask questions when I heard that we weren’t heading for site 556. I managed to ask the guy keeping watch over me. “You haven’t heard?” he said, raising his eyebrow at me.
“Heard what? What’re you talking about?” My heart already started hammering. His eyes darted over to the side and he inhaled sharply. “What’re you talking about?” I repeated.
“Look, there’s a reason we came for you when we did, after givin’ us the model number of the chopper you were in.” He paused, giving me a nervous look. I gave him a look to continue.
“Aight, look, I don’t know no details or nothin’, but I know that the last I heard about the site, it was currently bein’ cleaned out by a scrub team. My eyes grew.
Scrubs?! What the hell’re they dragging the scrubs in for. Unless…
Then my heart stopped outright. He could see it, too. My mouth dropped open, but trying to make any sounds was a hassle outright. Finally, I managed to croak out: “H-H-How… How long?” He inhaled and exhaled again.
“Last I heard, about an hour ago, they touched down there.” I laid back after that. The medical guy looked forward again. The rest of the trip, neither of us said a word to each other. There weren’t any more words needed here. He’d told me all I needed to know.
Whether the outbreak had completely overtaken the facility, or if the headmaster finally realized he was licked here as far as I was concerned, and therefore was looking to clean house, it was all over now. Either way, I wasn’t going to be able to return to the site, nor was I likely going to be hunted down by him or anybody else. That was the good news.
On the other hand, now I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do or how I was to do it. Again, I’d alaready resolved that, hook or by crook, I was going to somehow go public with my story here. The issue then was, what next?
I could try transferring to the other facility they were looking to relocate me to, sure. It’d be a lengthy process, and I was already kind of missing that promised “Overtime bonus” (ironic as hell, right, all of this and I don’t even get the one thing that got me into this mess in the first place), so there was that. Another thing was, especially if they were at all privvy to what was going on at the site, and knowing that I was from that site as well, they probably were going to make me undergo extensive testing procedures before they’d even give me a unit there.
I closed my eyes and took a breath. I was getting worrried over the wrong things. Everything was going to be okay, one way or another. I was going to make it, and my story was going to be told.
To make an already long story short, we made it back to the site and I, as expected, underwent a series of extensive tests to determine whether or not I was in any way infected, before finally being given a housing unit on the site. After that, I was informed that it’d be a further three months before I’d be assigned to their security team. Thankfully, though, they’re sympathetic enough to let me have most everything complimentary until I can get back on my feet financially.
It’s been during this time that I began writing out all of this. The story of the longest, most thrilling, and most haunting shift of my life. The most important story of my life. Corroborating these events I write here is the unedited footage from my exo suit, which has been uploaded to a flash drive and mailed off to every news and/or media outlet I could think to send it to. That much is in their hands now to show to the world, as my story is now in mine, and your, hands.
For all that gave their lives to a madman’s ambition. You are remembered, and we are not letting him get away with this. And to the headmaster, well…
When the time comes, we’ll meet again in Hell.