Trapped. Short Story.

Tom sat at his desk, there was no point in running, no real point in leaving at all. Already he was feeling sleepy. That was how it was supposed to start, wasn’t it? Others around him were moving towards the door, some were yelling, but most were calm. That wasn’t right at all. Everyone should have been screaming, running, trampling one another. No, they were just kidding themselves. They were already dead. Tom knew better, so why would he stress himself out? Right now the thing to do was sit tight and hope for the best. Maybe one or two would survive. He wasn’t sure if the buildings protocols kicked in properly, everything should have shut down. Lifts, doors, everything. Though of course something somewhere had probably screwed up. He looked at the message again. He wondered when it was written and how long it was before they sent it. Would have been easy, after all the phones were down and who knew how long ago that happened. They probably gave themselves a few minutes to get everything secured before sending it out. The message was brief and to the point.

“There has been a containment breach on level 5, it has entered the air vents. Building security has been activated. Please wait at your desk until a quarantine has been put in place and medical personnel can be dispatched to your area.”

Tom knew there were no medical personnel coming. There wouldn’t be a quarantine. The entire building was the quarantine. No one was getting out until everyone else was dead and the incubation period had passed. Even at that any one who survived would probably die soon after anyway. Contract some disease from the rotting bodies or starve to death. How long would someone be able to survive on vending machine food? That seems like something he should have known.

Tom took a moment to gather his energy and stood, then he stumbled towards the window, he leaned against it and looked down. There were no flashing lights, no emergency services, no news crews. Not yet at least. People were streaming past the building, unaware of what was going on. There was no sign of people leaving the building though, that was reassuring. Sure, he might die but Alice and Gina would be safe. They’d get a good payout from the company and from his life insurance. They’d be all right. They’d make it. It would be nice to talk to them, but the phone system was down. His breath started to fog up the glass until he couldn’t see anything anymore. He moved his head back, his forehead was slightly sore from the pressure and the cold of the window. He had his own phone with him. Tom checked his pockets, patting them down, but it wasn’t there. Did he put it in his bag? He turned back to his desk, people were still crowding around the lifts and the door to the stairs, only one or two were still banging, it was slow though, rhythmic. Others had sat on the ground, tired from their brief panic. A few people seemed to have barricaded themselves into the small kitchen. He wasn’t sure if they were sick or not, maybe they were just optimistic about their chances. Tom went to his desk, a short walk that felt far, far too long. When he got there he sat down into his chair and let out a sigh of relief. He was supposed to be doing something. He wanted to get something from here. Phone. He looked around for his bag, then spotted it under his desk. He dragged it out and opened it, it took him a moment to find his phone, when he did he turned it on. No signal. None at all. He tried to ring anyway, just in case, but it didn’t work. They must be jamming the signal.

Someone started retching, the noise was quickly covered by screams and shouts as people tried to scramble away. The sickly sour stench of vomit quickly started to fill the room. Tom wasn’t feeling sick yet, but he knew he would be soon. Others started throwing up, one or two collapsing. He couldn’t see much of those who had remained sitting, they were blocked out by the partitions between the desks. Maybe they were already dead. If they were it was quite lucky. The chances of survival were slim. Tom would prefer to be one of the ones taken out early rather than suffer for a few hours. Vomiting, cramps, shooting pains, fevers, swelling. It wasn’t pretty.

Tom was sick. He was certain of it now. Sweat was coating his body, he had stripped out of his suit entirely, down to his underwear. He was cycling between too hot and too cold. Around him people were lying on the ground, no one cared that he was almost naked. He didn’t care either. There were more important things to worry about. He had a bottle of water in his bag, now it was almost empty. He had been sipping it steadily. He knew once the water was gone he wouldn’t be able to get more. The kitchen was still blocked off despite attempts to get in, there was a water fountain but it was on the other side of the room and Tom wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it that far. He hadn’t soiled himself yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time. He thought he heard some sirens a short while ago, but they might have just been passing by. It was still early enough, no one would be missed for another few hours. By the stage the story broke and people started turning up most of them would probably be dead. He had tried to write a note, there was no guarantee it would actually make it to anyone, but he had tried. It hadn’t gone very well. Eventually he had just decided on writing that he loved them both on his phone and sent the message to the outbox. It would hold its charge for a while, it wasn’t a fancy smart phone or anything, once it went outside it would send. He thought it would make it that long. He didn’t think they’d give any personal effects back. They’d probably just incinerate everything.

Tom lay his head on his desk, he was too tired, far too tired to keep his head up. It was hard to stay awake, very hard. He wanted to surrender to the darkness but he was afraid that if he did he wouldn’t wake up. No one was really making much noise anymore. Occasionally there was a small moan from somewhere. He took a deep breath then allowed his eyes to close. He thought of Alice and Gina, he wanted his family to be the last thing he thought of. He released his breath and the darkness closed in.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 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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