[Author’s note: Wow. 60 Chapters. Can you believe it? And only one left to go… If this is the first time you’ve seen Oasis, you’re probably better off starting with Chapter 1: The Last Shift.]
It’s just natural to just take something when someone else hands it out to you. Sales people use this tactic to get you holding a pen, thus making it more likely you’ll sign a contract.
I had just grabbed the stupid canister without thinking. The doctor had distracted me for one second, which was all the time he needed to pull the gun.
I scolded myself for not being more careful around a man that I knew couldn’t be trusted.
The doctor motioned down the hall. “Let’s go.”
I turned and walked.
His footsteps trailed several feet behind me. “You should be grateful. At least with me you have a chance.”
“Well, what do you think the military is going to do when they see your friends, whom they think are infected, wandering across the desert?”
I knew the answer, but I didn’t want to think about it.
He doctor gave a disturbing chuckle. “They will remove the threat. They will be swift, and they will show no mercy. And why would they? They know what this virus can do.”
“But we have the cure.” I held up my canister. “That’s what we have in here, right?”
“They don’t know that.”
I thought of Beth, Kevin, Linda, and all the others who were now racing through the streets and heading for the desert. If the zombies didn’t get them before they got out, the military would get them soon after.
I glanced at the cannister.
Beth, Linda, Kevin, Dale, all of them only have one shot. The military has to know about what’s in this container.
The doctor put the gun down. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re trying to figure out a way to contact the military. That’s precisely why you’re going to cooperate with me. I know how, and that’s where we’re going.”
The building shook again. The bombs would keep dropping until Oasis had burned to the ground.
I motioned down the hall. “So let’s go.”
He put the gun in his pocket and we headed for a different staircase than the one everyone else had used.
I couldn’t hear anything going on downstairs, so hopefully that meant the other group had not run into any problems getting out of the building.
We walked down the stairs.
The door at the bottom had been barricaded with pieces of bed frame, IV stands, and a couch.
The short doctor just sat on the stairs and watched me clear the mess enough to open the door.
Once it was clear, he pulled out his gun and told me to throw open the door so he could get a good shot if there were any of the infected waiting on the other side.
I gave it a solid push and stepped away.
We went out into the hall.
I listened for any signs of the group, or even any movement at all.
Nothing. The hospital was empty.
The deads were gone. I didn’t even know if they ever were down here.
A smashed picture window and smeared blood answered the question for me. They had been here, all right. And then they had left. Gone after the fires, the bombs, or maybe the other fleeing survivors.
The big glass front doors had been broken out.
I stepped through the shards onto the front walk.
The doctor was right behind me.
The grocery store across the way was burnt out. The trailers were in smoldering piles.
The doctor stepped by and grunted at the ashes.
Something half in a bush next to the building caught my eye. It was almost under the windows that had made my escape and sealed Samson’s fate. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it looked like a big metal pipe.
The doctor pointed to the object. “Go pick that up. We’ll probably need it.”
I jogged over and my heart leaped. It was Samson’s big hunting gun.
But where’s Samson?
He might have hobbled off and flat lined while trying to escape. Or maybe he was turned into…
I didn’t want to think about it.
The thought that I might run into to an infected Samson made me physically ill. I couldn’t bear it.
“Come on, boy.” The doctor motioned back to me. “Or would you prefer to not try and save your friends.”
I grabbed the rifle and pulled it from the shrub.
There was dried blood on the stock.
I tried not to think about it as I pulled open the bolt.
The rifle was a single shot beast. The bullet inside was bigger around than my thumb. There was the one live round in the chamber and no more ammunition to be seen.
The rifle had a strap, so I slung it over my shoulder. “What happens if you inject the bacteria after the virus has already taken command?”
“The virus is eventually overwhelmed, and the infected host merely collapses like a regular corpse.”
Another jet streaked by overhead. The ground shook and the giant columns of smoke widened. It wouldn’t take too long for the entire city of Oasis to be pounded into rubble.
As we walked the streets, we could see the occasional dead man or woman shuffling in the direction of the smoke.
After many blocks, we found ourselves near the edge of the city.
I could see the old fort wall that marked the edge of Oasis down at the end of the street.
The doctor stopped in front of a rather small warehouse. On the door was the hospital’s logo. A plaque next to the door read “Oasis Medical Center Research Annex Three.”
The doctor was sweating up a storm. He reached a hand into his pocket and pulled out a key.
He put it in the lock and looked up at me.
Something had changed during our walk. In his eyes I could see a growing fear. He was reaching his breaking point, and becoming desperate. His hands trembled as he twisted the key.
I couldn’t let his cowardice affect me. Someone had to stay strong if anybody was to survive this ordeal. If I was the only one who could keep it together, so be it. I was ready.
The warehouse was empty, except for a little office built into one corner and a forklift next to that.
The office had double doors, which looked odd for such a small room.
We entered the warehouse.
The door slammed shut and echoed in the empty space. It was sweltering inside.
The doctor took smaller steps now and crossed the room toward the little office.
I clenched my jaw and followed.
The doctor reached out to grab the office door handle. “We did the live tests downstairs. We had several test subjects… The holding cell doors were powered by electromagnetic locks. No power… no locks.”
I nodded. I couldn’t let it get to me. Just one more problem to deal with. I pictured Beth’s face then Linda’s. I wouldn’t let them down. They would only be seen as infected threats by the military. Threats that needed to be neutralized. I couldn’t let that happen.
The doctor pulled open the door. The room was mostly filled with a large freight elevator. It was kept closed only by a metal grate that folded itself to the side.
“This elevator was the general’s failsafe… back when this was a base. The actual lab is, you know, down.”
We opened the double doors as wide as they would go, hoping to let a little more light in.
The elevator car must be somewhere below.
I looked over the edge of the elevator shaft, and couldn’t quite tell how far down it went.
The doctor jittered the grate open and pointed to a recess in the side wall. “There’s a ladder.”
His nerves were hanging on a thread.
I knew it and for a moment I wondered if it would be possible to leave him at the top. The problem was I still didn’t know how this expedition was going to place us in touch with the military, or really where I would go once I got down. I still needed him.
I didn’t think he’d be able to work up the guts, so I would go first. I crammed the cannister into my pocket as far as it would go and reached out for a rung.
Down and down I climbed. With each rung my surroundings got darker and cooler. After I had climbed down what I thought was about two stories, I reached the elevator car.
The elevator car had an open top, but in the dim light it was still difficult to climb down onto the floor without falling.
Through the metal grate door, I could only see a few feet into the darkness.
Out in that darkness were test subjects. I didn’t know how many, but I could almost feel them just beyond the edge of my sight.
I helped the doctor down. He reached into one of his lab coat pockets and pulled out a lighter and a candle.
I almost smiled. “You thought of everything.”
The doctor started at my comment, his eyes widened, and he raised a finger to his lips.
I realized what I had done. I needed to be quiet as possible while we were down here. The echoes carried, and I didn’t want to get cornered.
I lowered my voice to a whisper. “How many are here?”
The doctor held up four fingers, and then lit the candle. He held it in one hand and his pistol in the other.
I eased the door open as quietly as I could.
The flickering light in the cement hall played tricks on my mind.
Every shadow hid a zombie. Every door was a trap. Around every corner was death.
My heart pounded.
Echoing down the hallway I was sure I heard noises. Movement. Deads.
I pulled the rifle off my shoulder.
The doctor caught my attention and mouthed the words “Not yet.”
We reached the room at the far end of the hall.
I opened the door and squinted at the darkness inside.
The doctor stepped in.
The little light of the candle was barely enough to make the room’s contents visible.
There was an open door on the right. On the wall opposite the doorway we used was a brushed metal door with a keypad on the wall.
In the room there was also a desk, several chairs, and a TV mounted to the wall.
The doctor’s breathing was shallow.
Somewhere in the distance I could have sworn I heard more movement.
The doctor approached the door.
“This is why I had you bring the gun.”
He was getting more and more excited, and as he did he was raising his voice.
“I knew this door was locked. We can’t unlock it without the keypad, but you can unlock it. It has a single bolt right here.”
The doctor pointed to a place on the wall. “Right here.”
“You can see it. Just trust me.”
I checked the door and was pretty sure I could see the bolt, too.
The doctor stepped behind me.
I removed the strap from around my shoulder and raised the gun. I put the muzzle right up next to the crack between door and wall. Maybe two inches from the bolt. I couldn’t miss. I prepared for the kick this beast was sure to produce.
I put my finger on the trigger. “Ready?”
I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.
The thunderous sound tore at my eardrums. The gun kicked like a speeding Mack truck and it tore off my shoulder- at least that’s what it felt like. The rifle leaped from my hands. I fell back into the doctor and we both went sprawling to the floor.
The candle flew and snuffed out.
The end is near. You’d better be here next Friday. That’s right. On Independence day, you’ll find out if Corbin and the rest of the crew survive. You’ll also learn the big, giant, why behind it all. Or maybe he’ll just die alone in the dark. You never know. That’s why you have to come back…
Thanks for reading, everyone. This has been quite a ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. Don’t worry, though. When it is over, you can still tell a friend about Oasis or post a link somewhere. Really. I won’t mind.