Artwork by Nathan
With only minutes to live, Charles Grevillea lounged on one of the form-fitting leather settees in the break room, trying to relax a bit before he headed back to the labs. Well-decorated and comfortable, the room was nearly full of Cantrell employees on their dinner breaks. Sipping carefully from a hot cup of tea, he looked around at his co-workers and colleagues. Why was it that the most intelligent people really did look like classic nerds from the sitcoms and tele-movies? Sure, there were exceptions, but more often than not looks and intellect didn’t seem to be able to co-exist. Such philosophical waxing was not uncommon for Charles, who considered himself a romantic at heart and often wondered about the human conundrum. Was the lower intellect so often found in beautiful people a result of a subconscious awareness on their part of not having to study to be successful, or was there a definite genetic link? The best looking girls in the entire facility were office workers and bureaucrats; there were three women on the science staff, but all of them were dogs. The only thing he knew from this line of thought was to never marry a scientist.
He’d have a biscuit while his tea cooled, he decided. Leave the abstract thought for his down-time. This was only a short break in what was proving to be a marathon of clinical trials. For now, he needed to work out a way to make sure that after infection, the virion went untroubled by antibodies while travelling to the target cells of the host organism. Charles knew it was just a matter of time and he’d work it out. He was good at his job. That was why Cantrell paid him so much.
What was that racket outside the room?
Muffled thuds and raised voices were barely discernible from out in the corridor. Probably some guys from the security team performing their macho male-bonding routines.
As he reached for the plate of shortbreads on the table, the door to the room flew open with a crash, revealing his worst nightmare come to life. Test subjects, three of them, rushed into the room, grabbing at researchers and admin staff with vicious swipes of their clawed hands. Dry and shrivelled looking, they appeared almost like mummies sans bandages, but moved with devilish speed and aggression. Standing as tall as a man, there was no other resemblance between these horrors and what they had been before the infection had mutated their bodies and removed all sensation except hunger and blood-lust.
How did they escape from the containment area?
As one, the three entities attacked the nearest employees; a few had tried to back away but the majority stood and stared, transfixed as though convincing themselves that their senses were lying and the damned things weren’t even there.
Fat Franny, the haematologist from Brisbane, was seized by rough, clawed hands, killed, and then tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage, internal organs hanging freely from a huge tear right across her abdomen and her blood pumping freely, turning her white lab coat into a scarlet horror; Wenzel Baker, one of the virologists on loan from England, had his right arm torn from his body and tossed across the room, spraying more blood over the walls; Peter Georgiou, the security chief who hosted late night poker parties – he had invited Charles to many of them – was missing his head: the only way Charles knew him was by the fancy magnum pistol holstered at his right side, untouched before the unfortunate guy was eviscerated by claws too sharp and terrible to be natural.
Leaping to his feet, Grevillea turned and moved towards the door at the back of the break room, fast but hopefully not so fast as to attract the attention of the entities. Sweat formed on his brow as fear ate away at him, causing him to tremble from the adrenaline his body was pumping into his system.
As he reached for the keypad to open the portal, a great weight slammed onto his back, propelling him forward to smash his head against the door. As darkness and terrible pain claimed him, Charles’ last thoughts were that this was so unfair. He shouldn’t die like this!
The stink of death hung heavy in the air of the break-room, the smell of evacuated bowels and pools of urine mixed with offal. The screams and cries of agony that filled the air moments ago had ended, abruptly in a few cases, and all that remained to be heard was the crunch of bones and the tearing of flesh as the creatures attempted to sate their hunger. No-one remained to bear witness to the feast, at least not in person. The closed circuit TV cameras high on the walls continued to whirr, transmitting the devastation to horrified eyes not too far away.
The entities finished tearing meat free from the carcasses; all the flesh had been eaten, along with soft tissue and internal organs. All that remained of the victims were piles of clothes and shoes that had been torn away and mixed with inedible body parts, such as skulls that had been cracked open to reach the gooey bits inside. The creatures lost interest in the room after that, creeping slowly back out into the hallway, searching for more prey. Outside in the corridor they skulked away, senses alert and questing as they shuffled out of sight. The cameras continued to pan the room as though nothing had happened, while unbelieving eyes stared in horror at the visceral mess shown on the screens half a kilometre to the north of the labs.
Hell had descended on the facility, and no-one could hear the screams.