I’d been out cold for a while, but for how long I could only guess. The drugs they’d stabbed in my neck felt like they still swirled around my head. They’d been enough to calm my grief, to close my eyes, to get me behind this unbreakable glass door. With my vision only just becoming clear, I stared out past the glass, watching technicians in white coats hurry around the laboratory as it stretched out, their excitement so clear in their energetic expressions while they busied between the benches. In their hands were long pipettes loading colourful liquids from vial to vial.
I’d woken laying down on a bed to the hum of a generator somewhere close by. With me was Shadow at my feet, the hair around his wound shaven, while a line of stitches kept the wound neat. I pushed my hand to his head, making sure they hadn’t just given me his body back.
Pulling at the long metal door handle, none of the heads on the other side looked up as my fist hammered hard when I found it locked. I stopped only as Shadow woke, lifting his head as if complaining about the noise. The room had nothing I could force against the window. Thick bolts held the metal bed frame to the floor and the blanket was no use, nor was the bucket sat in the corner. I sat close to shadow, letting the pressure in my veins drop, hoping my vision would settle and I stroked across his back, staying clear of the short hair, watching as he nuzzled his head tight against his back legs.
Watching out through the glass I set about planning my next move. They would have to give me food and when the door opened I would stick forward, would take the opportunity, launch my revenge for Andrew’s death. The doctor would be the first. I’d look her in the eye and wait for her to tell me he hadn’t had a chance, so why give him one. I would tell her she had no chance either, count to three, then blow her out of existence. Somehow I would find Cassie and Connor, would find the kids and we’d go. We’d take our chances on the outside, we’d live whatever time we had left hidden away. Hidden from the creatures, hidden from the looters, hidden from the army and those that said they were here on the side of humanity.
With bile rising in my stomach, I stood hoping to make more of the movement in the far corner of the lab, to see who was heading my way behind the tall desks stacked high with clear pipes connecting great bell jars together. The procession was short, just three. A soldier led the way, his handgun holstered, the strap of a rifle over his shoulder. In the middle was Cassie and my breath fell away as I saw her gaunt features and the striking white of her new bandage. Behind her was a man in a white coat I’d not yet seen, but he wore a khaki shirt under his coat.
Before they arrived, a soldier stepped from the side, his eyes fixed on mine and the black of a pistol held in his hand. He slipped the lock to the side and aimed the gun between my eyes. I stopped staring as Cassie swept into the room, the cage, the cell, whatever you care to call it. I stopped watching as she opened her arm, tears rolling down her face and she pulled me in close.
The soldiers and the tech had gone by the time we came up for air and my questions fired.
“Are you okay?” I said and she nodded a reply. “What did they do to you?”
“Tests. Took blood, changed the bandage,” she said, her voice low.
“What did they say?” I asked as I held her good hand in both of mine.
“Not much,” she replied, forcing a smile.
“Your sister, Toby and Tish?”
“Tests too, they have a room set up with toys in. They’re looking after them,” she said wiping her eyes on the bandage.
“Connor,” I said as she leant forward to pat Shadow.
“Don’t know. I think they have him in another room. What about you? Are you okay?”
Sighing, I let a big smile go.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me. I was just figuring out how I’d rescue you,” I replied and she laughed, pulling me close. I wished she hadn’t, her skin was getting so cold. Sitting back, she settled in at my side and I swept the blanket over her, but she pulled it up so it covered us both. With my arm around her shoulders she tucked in close and I pushed my stare out to the lab, listening to her slowing breath as I tried to calm my own.
Waking with a start, Shadow’s head went up too, but Cassie was much slower to react and was only just opening her eyes as my vision settled on the three figures. Doctor Lytham, the soldier that had killed Andrew and another man in a white coat stood the other side of the door holding a piece of paper against the glass. ‘Drink,’ it said and an arrow pointed to the floor. The two of us followed down the glass to the pyrex conical flask sat on the wooden floor. Filled half way with a dark liquid. I looked at Cassie and back to the figures, the sign had turned and it read, ‘It might save your life,’ but I read from their faces, ‘It might equally kill.’
Cassie was lifting from my side, the doctor’s face setting in an awkward smile as she struggled with her balance. I caught her arm before she could fall and helped her back to the bed. Shadow barked as I touched the flask, the thick liquid was purple close up as it sloshed against the glass.
“It’s okay boy,” I said and Shadow tucked his head back in, closing his eyes. The liquid smelt foul, the rotten stink sending my nose shying away as I sat back to Cassie’s side. “You don’t have to,” I said and she struggled to raise her eyebrows.
“What choice do I have?” she replied. I wanted to say something that would brighten her spirits. I wanted to tell her of my great idea about how we would get out of this place and live happily ever after, but I had no words. I couldn’t save the day. We were passengers on a train, our only choice was to jump to our deaths or stay and hope it didn’t smash apart when we came to the end of the line. I shrugged, regretting the weakness of my reply, but she struggled with a smile and pushed the flask out.
“Drink some,” she replied.
I shook my head.
“I don’t need it. I haven’t been bitten.”
“You might need it sometime, maybe it will help,” she said and turned slowly to the door as my head followed. The doctor and the lab coat shrugged their shoulders. I slowly pushed the flask and her hand away.
“You need it, drink it up. I won’t need it. When you’re better, this will all be over.”
Cassie raised her right brow and my heart melted.
“No, only if you drink it with me.”
“Don’t be silly, time is of the essence. Drink it, then we can get on with our lives. When you get better we’ll be out of here. They’ll want to save you, want to take you with them, us, I mean. You’ll be the one that recovered. Right?” I said and turned to the glass. They were a little slow, but eventually the doctor nodded. “Now drink up.”
“No,” she replied and pushed the glass out to her side as if she would let it smash to the tiles.
“No,” I shouted and took it from her hand, tried not to sniff the liquid and took a gulp, pushing it down my throat as I handed it back. She hurried the rest down in one go, with not enough energy to gag, the sickly fluid rolled away. I took the flask and lifted to my feet, my weight seeming to get greater with every step as I bent and placed the glass by the door. Cassie already lay down on the bed, my legs too heavy to leap the gap, to cup her head in my hands. It was all I could do to get my leg up before I could do nothing but close my eyes, hoping the guilt I felt wasn’t my last thought in this fucked up world.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One