A Very Serious Mistake
I didn’t have to look very hard. There was a set of keys hanging from the lock.
I wondered what could have had happened.
The door swung open.
My heart sank. I realized I had a problem. I had no idea how long the keys had been left there. I only knew that whoever left the keys had made a very serious mistake. I just didn’t know if it had caught up to them yet. I didn’t know if any infected had gotten in. I had no idea who was still there. But at least I knew I could get in and lock the door. Who knows how long it’s going to take to find another open building?
I set my jaw, gently pulled out the keys and entered. As quietly as I could manage, I locked the door, put the keys in my pocket and explored with both hands holding the bat.
The first level was filled with bland cubicles but devoid of life. The stairway only went up, and there was an elevator with only a down arrow. As I passed the bathroom, I could have sworn I heard running water.
I crept up to the door and listened for a good five minutes.
I opened the bathroom door a crack.
It was poorly lit by a small frosted glass window.
My heart pounded. I edged the door open another crack.
No movement inside.
I couldn’t take it any longer. I gave the door a larger shove and lunged in, bat at the ready.
No one here.
I let out a small sigh of relief and relaxed my grip on the bat. Maybe they did leave the keys during the rush home when the crisis broke. I almost had myself convinced, then I heard it again.
It was the sound pipes make when water is running through them. The water ran for about thirty seconds.
My stomach dropped. I froze. I ran through the possibilities in my head. Is it just one person? Are they infected? I figured if they were infected, at least they hadn’t completely lost their mind yet. The glassy-eyed once-humans I had seen didn’t seem like the hand washing type. If I head up there anytime soon, I should be guaranteed a thinking human being.
That was a small consolation. I didn’t and I couldn’t know what was going to happen once they saw me. Will they think I’m infected? Are they dangerous? And what if there are more than one? I quickly decided it would do me no good to stand around. I headed for the stairs.
The stairwell had no windows. It was pitch black and very hot. The air felt thick and unhealthy.
I stumbled as quietly as I could up the stairs to the second floor. Once I found the door I pressed my ear to it and listened as hard as I could.
I slowly opened the door a crack.
I kept my breathing as quiet as I could, but it sounded like a crashing waterfall in the silence of the stairwell. I slipped through the door and helped it close ever so gently. I raised my bat again to batting position and began to work my way around.
This floor was full of offices. The walls were white and stark. There was also a break room with a water cooler, a refrigerator, and a vending machine.
I wondered where the medical research equipment was and decided it was probably only accessible via the elevator downstairs.
A loud crash came from the floor above me. The crash was followed by footsteps. Footsteps that seemed to be pacing.
At that point the thought occurred to me that I was going about my exploration a little wrong. After all, If I was holed up on the top floor, would I want someone sneaking around, or would I want some signs of intelligence? And if they were infected, I wouldn’t be much worse off by saying hello.
I relaxed the bat again and held it only with my left.
The footsteps continued to pace.
I headed for the stairwell and went up. This time I didn’t try to be so sneaky.
The air in the stairwell was hotter and muggier the higher I went.
When I found the door to the third floor, I paused.
I was still too agitated for my own good.
I took three deep breaths of the burning air. I forced my shoulders to relax and rolled them around. I tried to imagine the most non-threatening way I could possibly carry the bat. I took one more breath and pushed on the door handle.
“Hello?” I swung the door open. “Anybody th…”
A small man in a white lab coat looked up from where he had been pacing the floor. His eyes opened as wide as they could and he froze.
I stepped in and raised a hand. “It’s OK, I’m just…”
The man turned down the small hallway and ran into an open door.
“Wait!” I ran after him.
Before I could make it halfway, the man popped back into view holding a gun.
“Stop right there!”
I almost tripped trying to slam on my own breaks. My heart pounded as hard as ever. I dropped the bat and raised my hands. “Look, I’m not infected.”
I edged back a little. “I just want somewhere safe to stay the night.”
The man narrowed his beady eyes.
“I’ll leave in the morning. I promise.”
The man thought for a moment and then lowered his gun a little. “Then take off your clothes.”
next chapter: Confessions of a Mad Scientist