The Catalyst: Part V

"Patient Alpha seems to be responding well to the first phase of treatment.  The coma was an unexpected side-effect, but we are pleased to  see the helix reconfiguration underway, and optimistic that once we move on to phase two, the patient will again be fully lucid." ~The Memoirs of Doctor Earnest P. Mallory

“Patient Gamma seems to be responding well to the first phase of treatment. The coma was an unexpected side-effect, but we are pleased to see the helix reconfiguration underway, and optimistic that once we move on to phase two, the patient will again be fully lucid.” ~The Memoirs of Doctor Earnest P. Mallory

Abra-Cadaver

This had been, hands down, one of the worst days of my life. One moment I’m off the coast of Canada in the Boundary Waters of the North Atlantic working for the most state-of-the-art, off-shore research facility in history. The place was practically it’s own little nation. A massive rig complex nearly the size of the landmass of Manhattan standing on steel and concrete beams above the Laurentian Abyss. It even looked like a small city in it’s own right. The various wards and wings were each several stories high, and connected via these enclosed, glass skyways.  I was doing what I loved. I was successful. I had thought, up till that morning, I had been helping man kind evolve. Become better. I was under the impression we had been seeking to solve problems – to enrich life – to invoke change for good through science.

Now I was trapped 2 miles below the surface of the ocean with no plan for escape and questioning my own sanity. Maybe it was oxygen deprivation. I took a deep breath – filling my lungs to their utmost capacity. My head slightly buzzed from the sudden rush of oxygen to the blood stream. For now, the air seemed to be stable and rich with oxygen. Maybe even too rich. Did they really equip this facility with its own back-up air supply? That would seem to be counter-productive considering the apparent purpose of a self-destruct switch. Whatever the case, there seemed to be enough for now.

I left the room. I don’t know why I kept it, but I had placed the anniversary card in my back pocket. Maybe I thought I might find Gregory on the way. After all, if it was a warning, it was clearly meant for him and not me. Then again, maybe I should have left it in case he came back to that room. I thought about the woman I thought I had perceived. If she even was real, what could have caused her to go insane? The science ward was off-limits to patients – unless they were high-priority research candidates. And even they each got the highest accommodations, and to qualify, they would have to had demonstrated their total stability.

Once again I turned my thoughts to escape and survival. I could certainly tell I was still in the science ward, and though I was still disoriented, I knew there were access points to the exterior beneath the rig and also on the launch pads on the roofs of each structure. Not that I had any idea how I would open a pressure-sealed door with the added pressure of 2 miles of ocean. And even if I did manage to open it – the pressure would likely kill me. If that didn’t, then I had two miles of ocean to navigate to the surface. However, if these were the only ways outside of the rig, it seemed that if there was a way, it would have to involve them at some point. I would come up with a plan on the way.

I stumbled out into the dark hallway. The flickering fluorescents behind me cast my shadow against the opposite wall. I took a right. With a renewed sense of purpose I decided to soldier on. If I was to get to the roof, then I had a ways to go. I must first find an elevator shaft or stairwell. I had thought I was on the 4th floor of the science ward, so there must have been 3 more stories between me and the roof. As I continued down this hallway, there were several rooms identical to the one I found Gregory’s card in. I explored a few of them, scavenging for things that might be useful. A few energy bars from a desk. A couple of nitroglycerin syringes. A hammer I found in a tool box. A torch flashlight. It seemed most of the rooms didn’t have working light bulbs. The hard beam of the torch cut through the darkness I had become accustomed to. Every room had experienced the same destruction as the first. Then it happened. It was inevitable, I suppose. A body. An older gentleman wrapped in a white lab coat splattered in blood. It looked as though he had been tossed against the wall like a doll – as if a child was expressing her rage and threw her toy in a violent tantrum. He was crumpled up in a corner, his head hanging limp from his shoulders over his twisted limbs. I choked back vomit, for the stench was terrible. An overwhelming aura of death dominated the room. As far as I knew, this had been a colleague of mine, so I felt obligated to investigate further.

I immediately noticed his hands. They were purple, and looked incredibly rigid. His finger nails were rather long, I noticed. As I knelt down, I covered my nose and mouth in the crook of my left arm. Taking a deep breath, and doing my best to hold it, I tried to find his lanyard to identify him. I reached out and gently attempted to move his head so as to catch a glimpse of his face. As the light from my torch caught his profile, I instinctively fell backward in horror, swearing as I lurched away. The old man’s face was severely gaunt. His skin was a leathery black and blue, and most disturbing was the left eye dangling from it’s socket. This time, no amount of swallowing and choking would do. I rolled over and retched onto an office chair, tasting the bitter bile as it launched from my esophagus. I gasped for air as I clamored like a drunken fool in my attempt to leave the room.

I ran for all I was worth. The beam from my torch bounced and jerked about with every panicked step I made in my terrified retreat. Why was the body so far decayed? What had happened to him? Was that Gregory? My mind desperately tried to make sense of it all. I mean, it was a medical lab – maybe a jug of hydrochloric acid or something burst open and splashed across the man during the plunge… There could be some other explanation than the obvious. . . I didn’t know how to explain the nails though. They were uncharacteristically long. Maybe the old lab technician just wasn’t very hygienic – but they seemed too long for that explanation to work…  Whatever the case, in my rush I suddenly found myself outside of a large – pressure sealed door. A broken sign above read “Causeway to Citadel”

 

~j.d.schofield

 

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