We headed through the corridor at a good pace, my eyes twitching to noise I couldn’t tell was really there. Peering through every open door, out into the darkness through every window, snapping back over my shoulder despite Toni’s relentless push forward. We climbed three storeys, still with my hand in hers, winding our way higher each time until we came to the top and a great sliding door which should have barred our way, but lay strewn to the side. Blood streaked across its front and at its side was a guard, not a solider, but a man in a blue shirt, a great bunch of keys hanging by his side. Only as we approached did she let go of my hand to unclip the ring from his belt. She didn’t need to administer the gun to his head, someone had done the job moments earlier, but long enough ago for the pool of liquid to slow its escape.
The carpet felt soft, letting my feet bounce, the sensation so alien, like I’d only experienced hard floors before. Toni lit another cigarette, handing it over before we reached a door with gold letters across its front, words I only recognised as her name as they passed out of sight. Letting go a second time to use the great bunch to unlock, she led me in, turning the thumbwheel in her fingers, slapping on the light. I took in the wide, spacious office, a great oak desk taking over half the space in the centre. Everything ordered, neat and clean, just as I would have expected.
She didn’t draw breath as we entered, instead ushered me to the long sofa filling the right-hand wall. Sitting, I pulled on the glorious cigarette, watching as she raced around the room, pulling open the draws of her desk, rifling through cupboards lining the floor and the wall. On top of the floor standing cupboards was a counter top with a sink in the centre, but there were medical instruments, no laboratory equipment cluttering its surface.
I watched as she seemed to slow, glancing at me, then standing straight, taking her time to look me over.
“You look like a granny,” she said with a smile. I glanced down. She was right. With the white coat spread wide, the tweed skirt and frilled blouse caught my attention for the first time. “She’ll be pissed if she sees you in her clothes,” she said, then burst out laughing. “She’ll be pissed if she see’s you at all.”
Her laughter cut short as the lights went out and a dim haze from the far wall caught my eye. I turned to the great window, stood and walked around the desk, my eyes fixed on the yellow line appearing on the horizon.
“How long’s it been?” I said, my voice dry and throat hoarse. I filled her pause peering through the window, gazing to the light on the horizon, turning down to the rest of the buildings, but with none of the lamps lit, I couldn’t make out any detail.
“I see you every week,” she said in a playful voice. I could tell from the muffle she was looking away, the sound told me she was still searching, but for what I didn’t know. Each moment the sun seemed to rise more and I knew it was true. The roofs of the shorter buildings on the other side of the site highlighting.
“I don’t get it,” I said and turned back into the darkness, taking a moment to let my eyes catch up on her shape moving in the corner.
“That little flared red dress you wore in Istanbul last week. That did it for me,” she said.
“When I interviewed the President?” I replied, stepping away from the window and her shape back in view. The orange jumpsuit lay crumpled at her feet, her hands were at her back tugging at her bra as she stepped from a lace pair of knickers. The feeling was growing too familiar, blood racing around my body, filling me up, urging me on. I took a long drag of the cigarette and turned back to the window, but my thoughts fixed on her curves, the image of her slender body in the dim light raging in my head. No matter how much I pulled from the cigarette it wouldn’t fade.
“Too long. I know. We weren’t meant to be and there’s no escaping from reality,” she said and was right. Together the weeks would pass by like hours, life set aside, blurring past the window. All it took was for one of us to remember we had lives outside, or a call from an editor or her boss and out time ended. Neither of us could ask the other to make the sacrifice it would take to be together.
With the clink of coat-hangers on the rail, I turned back, the light already greater. Her jeans still showed off her amazing form, the jumper hugging tight couldn’t hide away any of her beauty. I turned back through the window, movement catching my eye down below. I saw people and lots of them, soldiers, a rescue party. My shoulders hunched tight as I remembered they weren’t here to rescue me. They were here to rescue survivors. They were here to rescue Toni.
“Your friends are here to help you,” I said.
“Look again,” she said, but I was still watching, my eyes lingered as the light grew. I saw dull forms take shape, watched as civilians and those in lab coats came into focus. I watched their slow movement, their direction without aim. The mass of people seemed to grow in number with the light, their movement stilted, turning only when they bumped into each other, turning as they reached the walls, like maggots writhing in a bowl. As the light grew I saw the mass swelling against a chain link fence, like the ebb and flow of the tide. I saw another fence beyond and rubbed the bite on my arm. A long drag helped the growing pressure slow.
“What is this place?” I said with my view still fixed.
“A research facility,” she replied, her voice getting near.
I remembered back to our conversation as their injuries took shape, dark marked clothes grew clear, each face radiating a blank expression and I knew what I was looking at. I knew what they were trying to do. I knew what had infected me.
“What is it you exactly do?” I said with surprise at my breath still even. Her words were louder than I expected.
“Head of infection control,” she replied and I turned, my eyes catching at first on her bruised face, the cigarette dropping to the floor as my mouth shot open, my hands pushing to the syringe heading for my stomach.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.