Containment Breach. Short Story.

Andy sat in the corner, huddled against the wall, eyes closed and fingers covering his ears. The red lights lazily spinning, the alarms blaring. It was so loud, so difficult to think. A dull throb started in the back of his head, overpowering his feelings of fear, he was fucked, completely and utterly. There was nothing he could do, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t think, he couldn’t even-silence. Blessed quiet. He lowered his fingers slowly, expecting it to start going any second, but it didn’t. He opened his eyes as the red lights flickered once, then turned off. The room was plunged into darkness then the overheads came on, bathing the room in sterile, white light. Shakily, Andy stood and went to his desk, then he started to rifle through the drawers, until he found the small bottle of aspirin he kept for emergencies. He swallowed two, dry, then he sat on the chair. Was it over? Had the emergency passed? He picked up the phone and dialled, feeling hopeful as it started to ring. His heart picked up speed as the phone continued to ring, showing no sign of being answered. He counted out a minute, then hung up slowly, hoping that someone would answer. It wasn’t over.

He stood and moved to the door, it looked simple, just a plain, brown wooden door, but it had a steel core, it was heavy, reinforced, as all the doors were. He should be safe in here until a rescue team could be dispatched. He pulled the handle down lightly, testing it, it didn’t move. Good, the locks had engaged. He let out a little sigh, he was safe. Really, at this point, all he could do was wait it out.

Andy returned to his seat and settled in, slightly pissed he was stuck here. If it had only held off another week or so he could have used the escape route from his new office. But no, he had to be stuck down here still, where escape was impossible during emergencies. The doors all sealed and the speed of an average human wasn’t fast enough to get them to an exit in time. Still, he was safe here, in this little room. Jesus. He had been in the john not five minutes before the alarm started, if he had been in the bathroom he might have been ok, he didn’t know if those doors locked, but if he had been in the hall. He shook his head, how many people milled about out there? Chatting while standing just outside the door? Then those poor bastards who dealt with the mail and the interns who were eternally fetching coffee. Probably all gone. Damn. That would be a nightmare for H.R. He picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip, it was cold. If only he knew the place was going to shut down he’d have gotten himself a fresh cup and some snacks. Well, realistically, he’d have gotten the hell out of the building. He took another sip of coffee, then paused, probably best not to drink it until there was no other options. He opened a drawer and found a bottle of water, left there sometime last week, but sealed and still good. He placed it on the desk, resolving to only sip it occasionally.

After a few minutes of staring aimlessly at the walls, Andy realised he should probably do some work, it would help pass the time and he wouldn’t get in trouble for the down time. It wasn’t like he could really do much of anything else. He clicked around the computer for a few minutes, but gave up, the systems had either been shut down or destroyed at some point. He had a vague hope that the office instant message system would be still active, but that was down too. It would have been nice to talk to some people, even if it was just complaining that they were all stuck here. Besides, if what ever it was started to get into offices, he’d have some kind of advanced warning for where it was.

Andy sat up, straining to listen, there had been a noise. There it was again. Faint and almost too low to hear, but it was definitely something. Did that mean the rescue teams were in the building? He had been trapped for almost two hours now, he’d like to get out into some fresh air. He moved to the door and pressed his ear against it, but there was no other noise. The fear had been replaced by apathy, he knew he was safe in the office and that there was no point in getting all worked up about it. They’d be in soon and he’d be rescued. Still, there were doubts there. What if he was the only one left? They wouldn’t see any point in a rush, after all at that point, what’s one more body? What if what ever it was had stopped the alarm going out, or even stopped the rescue teams? What if they decided it would be better to just seal up the facility? What if more than one got out? There were so many, if what ever escaped started to let others out they’d seal up the place for ever. No. It was just his imagination, that was all. There was nothing else to do in this damn room but sit and think.

There was a faint buzz, then a click. Andy smiled and stood against the back wall, hands up and out. Finally they had gotten around to rescuing him. They’d clear the room and bring him out. After a moment the smile faltered and turned into a frown. They should have come in by now. Did he dare go and open it himself? They could open fire. He counted to ten, then twenty. When he reached seventy, he decided he’d look out. He would open the door slowly, stay away from the gap and call out. He rested his hand on the door handle, trying to build up the courage to pull it open. Heart thudding, he leaned down, then pulled ever so slightly. A smell entered the room, caustic but with a hint of something else. The sprinkler system must have decontaminated the hall. “Hello?”
There was no response.

“I’m human, my name is Andy Jones, number 2584.”

Nothing.

He eased the door open a little more, “Don’t shoot, I’m coming out.” He eased his head slowly around the door, then stopped. The floor in front of him was a pale pink colour, scattered around were chunks of dark meat, some still covered in the clothes the people had once worn. There was no one standing in the hall, no one living. The rescue team would have opened the doors one at a time. Something was wrong, his door must have malfunctioned. The air started to burn his nostrils, the fumes were too thick. He peered down the corridor, heart thudding heavily. He could see no one else peeking out, all the other doors were closed. He looked both ways, then quickly entered the hall and pulled down the handle of the door across from him. He hadn’t expected it to open, but it did with ease. The other office was empty. Andy turned to the door beside it and opened it. A woman was standing against the wall, arms up and out. She frowned when she saw him, “Andy? What are you doing? Is the rescue team with you?”
“No, the hall is empty, my door just unlocked a minute ago.”
“Mine too. There’s no one out there?”
“No.”
“Shit. The doors must have malfunctioned. Quick, get in or get out, don’t stand in the hall.”
Andy stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
“Did you leave your door open?”
“I don’t know, maybe?”
“Go check. Make sure it’s closed. If it already decided it can’t get into the offices it probably won’t try, but if it sees a door open…”
“Shit.”

Andy opened the door and peered into the hall, his door had been left open. Stupid. He strode across the hall and pulled the door shut, he turned and went back to Mindy’s office, he pushed the door but it didn’t move. He felt sick, did it relock? He pulled the handle down, it moved freely. She must have blocked it off. He pushed again then stopped. What a bitch. He was thankful to have someone to talk to, but apparently she was not. He banged the door once with his hand, then winced as the noise echoed down the corridor. He scurried back to his own office berating himself for making such a mistake over something so petty.

Back in his office, Andy moved his chair against the door, then sat down. At least he knew there were others still here. Though surely if their doors opened, then everyone’s must have and he couldn’t be the only one that looked outside. He stood and started to heave the desk across the floor to block the door. It wouldn’t be long until it figured out the doors were unlocked. As he pushed the desk against the door Andy wondered if the emergency doors were still locked, after all they were on the same system. He could escape. Hell, the creature may not even be in the building anymore, it could have slipped out as soon as the locks were disengaged. He sat against the desk, wondering about his options. He could stay here and hopefully someone would come soon enough to let him out, before the creature got to him, or he could try and escape. Escape seemed like it had better odds, particularly as the rescue teams should have already cleared the building. Besides once the creature realised that the doors opened, it would check every room and if only half of the workers were in their offices, that was still a lot. And he’d have plenty of warning as to if it was ahead by their screams. Surely at that point, if he needed to take cover, he’d be able to recruit a few people to team up and move some furniture into one room to create a sturdier barricade. Andy stood, then moved the desk part way away from the door, enough for him to squeeze out of, but it would still give someone pause if they were trying to break in. He felt exposed standing in the corridor, there was nothing to hide behind. He ignored the gore that splattered the walls, ceilings and floor, stepping over the chunks and broken bits of furniture. Not even the office plants out here had survived. It must have been happening when the alarms were going off. Which meant either the creature was incredibly fast, or it was incredibly close by. The containment units weren’t supposed to be that close to the workers, but he knew that in the past that rule had been bent. After a moments indecision he decided that it must be fast. It was safer to assume that.

He was about halfway to the exit when he decided it had been a stupid plan. What ever had escaped was vicious and violent, he had yet to come across a clean part of hallway. His heart thudded heavily in his chest making it hard to hear. His feet squished and squelched with each step and he was feeling light headed from the fumes. A few times he had considered just stopping and hiding in a different office, but then there would be a crash or bang, sometimes followed by screaming and the sound of things being ripped and torn. During those moments he moved a little faster, relying on the sound to drown out the noise he was making.

Finally, there it was, that unassuming brown door that would lead to freedom. He paused, listening intently, there was no noise and there hadn’t been for the last few minutes. He hoped that the harsh chemicals would block out his scent and so far it seemed to have worked. He approached the door and pulled at the handle, there was a faint click as it swung open, fresh air started to flow in, almost sweet against the harsh air around him, a slight breeze blowing at his hair. Freedom. He stepped through the door hand already reaching out to close it behind him when something slammed him into the wall. Pain, bright and burning from the centre of his back, he tried to breathe, but it felt as though no air was going into his lungs. His body crumpled backwards, what ever it was had already left, not bothering to stay to finish the job. Warmth pooled around him, he couldn’t move his legs, each breath was agony. Above he could hear noises, screams and bangs, he just needed to hang on and someone would save him. Just…a…little……

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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