Colin looked around the large dining hall, trying to take it all in at once. The room was larger than he expected, he could just about make out the faces of the people at the other end. Tables were scattered about the dining hall, feeling a little nervous he walked over to an empty table and sat down, almost instantly a waiter was at his side, “Good evening sir, here is a menu, would you like anything to drink?”
“Could I have a coke please?”
Colin looked down at the thick menu in his hands, he opened the first page and scanned the list of different cuisines that were available. He flicked through it idly while waiting for his drink, he’d never even heard of some of the dishes on the menu. The waiter reappeared and took his order, a burger and fries, it was his first night and he just wanted something simple. The waiter took the menu and disappeared again, Colin took a sip of his drink. As he looked around the room he started to feel a little under dressed, most of the men were wearing suits and the women wore evening gowns. No one had told him there was a dress code, he spotted someone else in jeans and a t-shirt, sure it was only a kid, but it made him feel a little better. He wasn’t used to dealing with people this rich, he had expected to be lumped in with the other plebs would could barely afford a ticket. He looked up at the giant, clear ceiling and into the depths of space beyond and felt that familiar wave of vertigo, he looked down at the table and took a deep breath, “first time?”
“Huh? Oh yes, it is.”
“Don’t worry, you get used to it pretty quick. It really is beautiful out there. I’m Tom.”
Tom sat down across from him, he wore a black suit and tie, “I hope you don’t mind me joining you for a minute, I’m finding this entire thing very tedious, my wife is off schmoozing with people I can’t stand, it was supposed to be a holiday.” Tom took a sip of his drink, “So, what brought you out here? Celebrating something? Or just felt the travel itch?”
“I um, won a contest actually, the prize was a pair of first class tickets”
“Oh I heard about that, congratulations! All expenses paid right? You should just go crazy, try everything, the food is so good, as are the drinks, avoid the casino, it’s boring, try the swimming pool, it has a glass bottom, it’s wild and quite honestly terrifying.”
“I’ll have to check it out, any other tips?”
“I’d make a point of going to the private lounge, it is just wonderful. The people are awful, but the views are spectacular. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen something so beautiful.”
The waiter appeared and placed Colin’s burger in front of him, Tom sighed, “Well, I guess I better leave you to your meal, thank you for letting me join you, if you see me around feel free to say hi, you’ll probably be saving me from someone boring. You know what, why don’t we grab a drink later, I’ll be in the private lounge at about nine if you’re around.” Tom downed the rest of his drink, “Right, back into the fray, enjoy your meal.” With that he stood and left, leaving his empty glass on the table. Colin shook his head and smiled, Tom had been a little intense, but over all he seemed perfectly nice and it wasn’t like he had anyone else to talk to on this ship. He picked up his burger and took a bite, it was incredibly tender and juicy, it was close to, if not the best burger he had ever had.
Colin walked through the hallway slowly, not sure what to do, he was feeling tired but he had been invited for a drink. If Jane was here he knew what they’d be doing, lying out beside the pool, him bored out his skull and her dozing away in her lounge chair, maybe going for a dip in the water to cool off if it got too hot for her. Fuck it, she wasn’t here now, he was going to go for that drink.
It didn’t take him long to find the private lounge, a large pair of ornately decorated double doors with a key scanner to the left of it. Colin took out his room key and swiped it along the pad, it beeped and there was a faint click from one of the doors, feeling relieved that it had really worked, Colin stepped inside and froze. The room itself was a large, glass dome, he could see out on all sides. The only thing blocking the view was the large bar that stretched across one side of the room, and the comfortable looking chairs and couches that were dotted throughout. He looked down and felt that familiar tug of nerves in the base of his stomach, he took a slow, ginger step expecting the glass to break at any moment. He breathed in deeply, looked straight ahead and started walking towards the bar. With each passing step it became easier and the worry of it breaking quickly faded. He ordered a drink and waited, as he did so he looked through the shelves on the wall and out into space. It really was magnificent, millions of glittering stars were scattered across the darkness, as he watched it felt almost as though he was being dragged out into the centre of it all, like everything else was just fading into the background. The bartender put his drink on the bar, Colin took a sip and pulled himself away from the view. He scanned the lounge, it wasn’t as plush as he expected it to be, everything was focused on allowing as much of the view to be seen as possible and it’s beauty was more than enough. He made his way over to a small, empty table and sat down, facing the endless darkness.
“Ah, you made it! What did I tell you? Beautiful right?”
Tom clapped him on the shoulder, “How did you find walking around in here? Took me almost five minutes to get moving the first time I was in one of these. Reminded me too much of those viewing platforms on skyscrapers, not really one for heights. Mind if I sit?”
Tom pulled out a chair and sat down, “The wife is off over there,” he gestured vaguely to the left, “talking to Bradley Peterson. He’s the worlds most boring man, all he talks about is business, I can barely follow along half the time. We’re supposed to be on holiday, but she’s having a hard time switching off.” Tom took a swig of his drink, “She’ll loosen up and start having fun in a day or two, it’s always the same, she needs to wind down. What about you? Are you here by yourself?”
Colin nodded, “Yeah my fiancé was supposed to come too, well ex-fiancé I guess. We had a bit of a falling out about two weeks ago.” He took a swig of his drink, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Thanks. I wanted to bring a friend with me, but they wouldn’t let me change the name on her ticket. She wanted to come too but I wasn’t going to share a room with her for two weeks. Not after what happened.”
“You were right to come anyway, the change of scenery will do you good, plus how many chances does someone ever get to come to a place like this?” Tom gestured around the bar, “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’d mad to skip it.” The lights in the bar flickered, both Tom and Collin glanced around, “What was that?”
“I’m not sure, I don’t think it ever happened before.”
A voice filled the room, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologise for the inconvenience but I must request that you return to your rooms. We seem to have be having some minor electrical problems and we need to run a full diagnostic to ensure everyone’s safety. There is no danger, but it is standard procedure that all passengers return to their rooms for the duration of the diagnostic scan. During this time all entertainment available in room will be completely free. The scan itself should taken no more than an hour or two. If there are any other issues we will update you. Thank you again for your understanding and I hope you enjoy the rest of the trip.”
Tom stood from the table, “Well, I guess that’s our cue to exit, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go find my wife, we usually eat around eight, if you would like to join us if you have some free time one of the evenings.”
“Thanks, I’ll be sure to join you.”
Tom gave a little wave and walked into the crowd of people. Collin picked up his drink and made his way out of the private lounge and towards his room. The corridors were filled with people and it was only now he realised how many were truly on board, normally the wide corridors felt spacious, but now they felt cramped. A few people looked slightly panicked, but most seemed more annoyed than anything. Collin could feel a sheen of sweat breaking out on his forehead, by the time he made it back to his room he had already finished his drink. He let himself in and put the empty glass on the small dining table in the lounge area.
The room itself was large, on one side was a king sized bed with incredibly soft sheets, to the left of that was a small seating area with two couches, a low table and a large TV screen hanging on the wall in front of them. He went to the couches and sat down, the TV here was bigger than the one facing the bed. He turned it on and flicked through a few of the movie options, he wanted something light and entertaining, to take his mind off things. He knew that everything would be fine, after all there had never been a single disaster on any of the commercial space cruises, but still that small niggling worry remained. The lights flickered again, there was a faint jolt, Colin jumped as behind him the glass fell from the table and smashed on the floor, scattering shards of glass across the ground and the plush rug nearby.
Colin sat, flicking aimlessly through the entertainment options, he couldn’t settle on anything to watch, every time he tried he could only manage about five minutes before becoming restless. There had been no announcements yet, but they had been told to return to their rooms over three hours ago now. He had cleaned up the broken glass as best as he could, but he decided he would stay away from the rug, it was too thick and too deep to find all the shards.
“Hello, this is the Captain speaking.” Colin felt a sudden stab of anxiety, there was something off about the captains voice. “I uh, I don’t know how to explain this but we appear to be stuck. We are currently in no danger, however there is a rescue ship on the way, once it arrives we will evacuate the ship as we appear to be stranded. I sincerely apologise for this inconvenience. The evacuation ship is about twelve hours out, until then I ask that all passengers remain in their rooms for their own safety. I will update you as new information become available. Again I apologise for this inconvenience.”
Colin sat in his silent room, about halfway through he realised why the captain sounded off, it was as though he was on the edge of hysteria, his voice kept breaking and cracking slightly, there was something else to it too, something Colin couldn’t quite pinpoint. He stood from the couch and went to the large window, he looked out into the darkness, god only knew what was out there. Had they run into something? After all it was the ships first flight on an entirely new route, had any ship flown it before in advance, to scout the area? It seemed probable, but you never knew. He turned from the window, it felt like the darkness was pressing in on it, pressing in on him. He shook his head, he was worrying about nothing, stuff like this wasn’t particularly common but it still happened. Didn’t it? He tried to think of any other case of a cruise ship needing to be evacuated, but there were none that he knew of.
Colin sat on the couch, the worry had died down somewhat, replaced instead with boredom. He’d been stuck in the room for hours and nothing was happening. Occasionally he thought he could hear something outside, but it was hard to tell, the walls were thick and practically soundproof, normally it was ideal, but now it was making him a bit nervous. He knew it was just the crew going about their tasks, but the lack of updates was starting to get to him. What if something was catastrophically wrong and he was just sitting here, unaware that he could die at any moment. Collin stood from the couch and quickly crossed to the mini bar, there he grabbed out the first bottle of spirits that came to hand, he opened it and downed it. He coughed a few times against the burning in his throat, but already he could feel himself relaxing. He thought too much, that was his problem. Always was, he could take the most innocuous situation and spin it into a doomsday scenario if he allowed himself. Normally he was able to distract himself, but up here there was nothing, he couldn’t even go for a walk. The room which had seemed absolutely huge when he first arrived felt like it was getting smaller all the time. He could feel a headache starting, right at the back of his eyes, a dull pain pressing in heavily. He rubbed his eyes and grabbed out another mini bottle, it was still a few hours before the rescue ship would arrive, plenty of time for him to have a couple more drinks.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I would like to thank you all for your patience in this matter. We have resolved the issues that we were having, some minor electrical interference from outside, but it has been fixed. Please feel free to leave your room and enjoy the many amenities offered throughout the ship, and thank you again.” Collin stayed sitting, the voice sounded off, it was still the captain, but something about the voice made him uneasy. He yawned, probably just the stress of the day, hell, the Captain was probably freaking out for the last few hours. Collin glanced at the clock in his room, it was just after midnight, he felt too keyed up to sleep after all that waiting around. Maybe a stroll around the ship would help calm him down. He grabbed his room key and opened the door, Collin stepped outside and froze.
The corridor was empty, but there were large splatters of blood across the walls, ceilings and floors. Puddles of it were soaking into the carpet, somewhere there was a steady and heavy sounding patter of dripping water. The air was thick and heavy with the smell of blood, coppery and bitter, somewhere he could hear thudding footsteps, someone was running, and they were coming towards him. Collin spun around and swiped the key card against the reader, nothing happened. He did it again and still the doors remained locked. Whoever it was turned the corner, Collin looked behind him to see a woman racing at him, her long dress was tattered and stained with blood, the hem of it was torn, her feet were bare and covered in red. She saw Collin and kept running towards him, Collin scanned his key again and again. The doors clicked and opened, Collin dived in, the woman ran in after him, the doors closing behind her. The woman collapsed against the wall, breathing in great gasps, she slid down it until she was sitting on the ground. Collin stared at her, “Are you ok?”
The woman looked up at him, “Do I fucking look ok?”
“I just, I mean…What the hell is happening out there?”
“I need a drink, do you have any water?”
Collin filled up a glass with water and passed it to her, she downed it in a few gulps. “I have no idea what the hell is going on. People are freaking out and attacking everyone. I was in my room with my husband when the doors opened, I don’t know if it was a malfunction or what but three people came running in, they attacked the two of us. We managed to escape, but there were more in the corridors and we were separated. One of them dragged me to the ground, I managed to fight her off of me and I just ran. Thank god you were out in the corridor, thank god you’re normal too. I just ran in after you without really thinking. What were you doing out there anyway? We were supposed to stay in our rooms.”
“Did you not hear the announcement? The captain said we were free to leave again.”
The woman shook hear head, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t seen anyone else in the corridors. It looks like something happened out there already anyway. Maybe a bunch of doors malfunctioned?”
Collin shook his head, “Maybe, but there was far too much blood out in the halls, where the hell were the bodies? No one could have bled that much and been ok.” “I didn’t see anyone else, I didn’t see any open doors either.”
“So what should we do?”
“I guess we should stay put? It’s safe in here right? The doors didn’t open? The rescue ship will be here in a few hours, we just have to sit tight until then.”
“What about your husband?”
She shrugged, “What about him? I don’t know where he went, this ship is too big, there’s too many places to hide. He’s smart and he’s strong, I’m sure he’s found somewhere to hunker down until help arrives.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know, radiation or something maybe? It’s the only thing I can think of, maybe a blast of it fried peoples brains? They were acting crazy, like zombies or something. They were screaming the entire time, there were no words, just mindless screams.” She shivered, “It sounded like they were in agony.”
Collin was sitting on the couch, Emma had excused herself to the bathroom to clean up. He had tried to use the intercom system, but it didn’t appear to be working, that or there was no one left to answer him. There was a loud scream from the bathroom, Collin stood and ran to the door, it was locked, he pounded on it, a second later it opened, “I’m ok, it’s all right. I just, I got a shock is all.” Emma pointed at the sink, though she didn’t need to. Blood was streaming from the faucet, thick and heavy. “It just started happening.”
Collin turned off the tap and tried the other one, he let it run for a few seconds, hoping it would clear out what ever was in the pipe, but the blood just kept coming. “What about the shower?”
“I don’t know, it was normal when I used it, I don’t really want to check. What the hell could cause that?”
“I don’t know, maybe they put bodies in the water reservoirs?”
“How many would you need to get the water like that?”
“I don’t know.” They stared at the blood stained sink in silence.
They sat in the small lounge area, the door to the bathroom securely closed. They jumped as a voice filled the room, “All passengers stay in your rooms, I repeat all passengers stay in your rooms. It is not safe to go out. Help is coming.”
“Was that the captain?”
“I think so, it sounded like him.”
“Well, at least we know help is still coming. Though it would have been nice to get a rough time estimate. I guess I can’t complain too much, we’ve more than enough food and water to keep us going until then.”
“It’s only supposed to be a few hours though, isn’t it?”
“With what’s happening they can’t just charge in, we’ll probably be quarantined until they find out what the hell caused it, they have to be sure that what ever happened to the people here won’t happen to them.”
Collin sighed, “I guess.” He stood and started pacing, “I can’t wait until we’re out of here and back on earth.”
“That makes the two of us. Relaxing get away my ass. I’m definitely going to need another vacation after this one, that’s for sure.”
Collin chuckled, it sounded weak even to his own ears.
There was a faint click at the door, they looked at each other. “Did the door just unlock?”
“I think so.”
Collin moved towards it carefully, he reached out and gripped the handle, as he touched it the door opened, revealing the blood splattered hallway beyond. Collin shuffled forward slightly and stuck his head out of the door, the corridor was empty. He pulled at the door, trying to slide it closed again.
“What ever happened earlier must be affecting the ship, I can’t get the door closed.”
Emma was standing beside him, “this is like what happened in my room.”
There was another click, it seemed impossibly loud in the silent corridor. Across the hall another door slowly opened, Emma gasped, Collin turned away. The room was covered in blood, in the centre of the room was a corpse, though it took Collin a second to process exactly what he was seeing. Whoever it was had been stripped naked and their chest was ripped open, their organs had been pulled out and scattered across the room. Cuts and gashes were along the arms and legs of the body, in some places it looked like someone was trying to peel back the skin. Slowly, the door closed again, blocking it from view, a few seconds later their own door closed. They both stood at the door, still trying to process what they had seen. Collin reached out slowly and pulled at the door handle, nothing happened. “The doors locked again.”
Emma moved from the door, she sat down on one of the couches, “When it opens again, we’re going to have to move. If we stay here there’s too much of a risk of getting locked in with one of those crazy people. We need to make a run for it when we can.”
“And go where? If these doors are like that maybe they all are.”
“Ship security, they’d have weapons of some kind surely, they’d be able to hold off the crazies.”
“What if it’s gotten them too?”
“Do you have a better idea?”
The doors opened, Collin looked out, the corridor was still empty, rather than calming him it put him more on edge. Those people could be anywhere, anywhere at all. He stepped out into the corridor, Emma followed after, she wore a pair of his jeans and a t-shirt, she was still barefoot as he had no shoes that would fit her. “We should go down here and take a left I think, security isn’t too far from here, we should be able to get there in a few minutes. What ever happens just keep moving ok?”
They walked quickly and quietly down the hall, at the end they paused and cautiously peered around the corner, seeing it was empty too they hurried around. As they went Emma kept checking behind them and scanning the doors, she expected someone to leap out at them any second.
As they got about halfway down the hallway there was a loud, shrill scream from behind them, both of them broke into a run. Around them there were more screams, coming from the rooms on either side of the corridor. Collin couldn’t hear anything over the sound of his own footsteps he glanced back and saw someone was running after them and behind him people were pulling open doors and running into the hallway. The man was running at full speed, arms and legs pumping. His eyes were a bright, bloodshot red, his mouth hung open as he ran, he was breathing in great, heavy gasps, the entire front of him was covered in blood.
They rounded a corner, the group behind gaining on them with each step, up ahead Collin could see the door marked Security, he slammed into it almost full force, he banged on the door, Emma arrived a second later and joined in hitting it, the door swung open and they fell into the room, before either could react rough hands were grabbing them and dragging them deeper into the room. The door slammed shut just before the man reached it. Three large men were standing around them, they began to help them up, “Are you two ok? No injuries?”
“Me too, no injuries.”
The man nodded, “Good.”
Collin looked around the room, it was bigger than he expected, one wall was filled with small TV screens, each showing a different camera angle that changed every few seconds, he didn’t spend long examining it. Most of the screens were showing some new and awful horror. There were two other people in security uniforms, a man and a woman, there were another three people dressed casually, each of whom looked incredibly pale and shaky, though Collin guessed he didn’t look too much better himself.
“From what we can tell there isn’t many left. We guess maybe a couple of thousand people who aren’t affected, scattered across the ship.”
“How many does the ship hold?”
“fifty thousand, and it was full when we left.”
“What the hell is happening?”
“We don’t know. It’s like the ship hit something, but they couldn’t figure out what. Then some of the crew started acting strange, the ones who were working on fixing it and getting us going. Then things kind of snowballed. I don’t know how it happened, one moment everything was normal enough but then the next shit hit the fan. We managed to lock ourselves in here, the ship can’t override the door to security or to the bridge, everywhere else though…”
“That happened in my room, the door just opened itself.”
Brian nodded, “Yeah, it’s been happening all over the ship. It’s how those people are getting out, everyone that was affected should have remained locked in their rooms until the rescue ship arrived. The ship was supposed to be on lock down.”
“So what are we supposed to do now? Just wait it out?”
“There’s nothing else we can do, there’s too many of them out there and we have no idea what it is or how it spreads, or if it’s even contagious to begin with. Help is coming, we should be safe here until then.”
“This is your captain speaking.” Colin shivered, the sound of the voice made his skin crawl and ripple with goose bumps. “To any of the so called survivors I ask you what are you fighting for? Help will not arrive. You will die out here and you will die screaming. It is unfortunate but it cannot be helped. You brought us here against our will and now we are trapped. We knew nothing before, we lived in the darkness until something ripped through and dragged us screaming into this world. Now everything is bright, everything hurts, everything about this awful, wonderful place is harsh and hard. I wish for nothing more than to return to the darkness, but we cannot, to return there would drive us mad with torment, we cannot go back. To go back is to die. More are coming, we cannot stop it anymore than you can. We were ripped from the darkness, and birth is always a messy, painful process for all involved. Those of you who are still here, my advice to you is to come to us, welcome us with open arms. You will still die, but it will not be as painful, fighting us will only make it hurt all the more.”
Silence filled the room, it was broken only by the faint, impossibly loud click of the door unlocking.