Paul, Susan, Debbie: If any of you see this, please, leave me a comment; let me know that you’re okay. I have my minivan, and I can come get you if I have to, but I need to know exactly where you are. Come on, guys. Just keep me posted.
It’s not like this is the end of the world, right? :)
—From Daily Thoughts, the blog of Stacy Mason, July 18, 2014. Taken from the archives of The Wall.
The sound of alarms screaming in the hall outside my room slammed me from a sound sleep straight into adrenaline-laced consciousness. I was on my feet with my hands over my ears before I was aware I was awake, every muscle tight with the need to move, move, move. I didn’t know whether I wanted to run away from the danger or toward it. In a more lucid moment, I would have embraced that confusion, because it was what my journalistic training told me I should be feeling—the need to get the story warring with the need to not die in the process.
Funny thing about dying, coming back from the dead, and finding out you’re not actually the woman you think you are: Anything that goes the way it’s supposed to becomes reassuring as hell.
The alarms were still going, making it hard to hold any single thought for more than a second. Curiosity and years of working the front-page news beat won out over the shreds of my common sense. I ran to the one-way mirror, uncovering my ears and cupping my hands around my eyes as I tried to squint through the opaque glass. All I could see were blurry outlines of people rushing past, none holding still long enough for me to get an idea of who they were.
None of them were turning toward my door. And the alarm was still going.
“Hey!” I shouted, stepping back from the mirror. “Monitor people! What’s going on?” There was no response. A thin worm of fear began working its way through my guts, twisting and biting as it gnawed toward my center. I was alone in here. I had a little gun, but that wasn’t going to be enough if things were going really wrong. If they didn’t let me out… “Hey!”
A group ran by in the hall, making so much noise that I could actually hear them through the window and over the alarm, even if I couldn’t quite make sense of what they were doing. Were they screaming? Singing? Laughing? Or—worst of all, and looking increasingly possible as the seconds slipped by with the alarm still screaming—were they moaning?
I shrank back from the mirror, putting another useless foot between me and the glass. If we were in an outbreak situation, a few feet weren’t going to make a difference one way or the other. Either the infected would realize I was there, or they wouldn’t. Either the people outside the building would decide it needed to be sterilized, or they wouldn’t. Where I was standing wasn’t going to do a damn thing to change the outcome.
I wonder if the clone lab is zombie-proof, I thought, almost nonsensically. A titter of laughter escaped from my lips, the sound bright and ice-pick sharp under the shriek of the alarm.
Somehow, that little sound was what I needed to snap me out of my nascent panic and back into the problem at hand. There was something going on outside the room; whatever it was, it wasn’t a good thing. I wasn’t unarmed, but I might as well have been, for all the good my little gun would do me if this was an outbreak. I was, however, observing Michael Mason’s first rule of dealing with the living dead: I had enough bullets that they wouldn’t take me alive.
Feeling suddenly calmer, I looked up toward the speaker and said, “This is Georgia Mason. I don’t know what’s going on outside my room, but I am uninfected. I repeat, I am uninfected. Please advise if there’s anything I should be doing. In the meanwhile, I’m going to assume none of you people have time for me, and I’m going to go sit down.”
I walked back to the bed, keeping my shoulders squared and my chin up. It would have been a lot easier without the alarm wailing in my ears. I was going to have one hell of a headache later, assuming we lived that long. Putting my hands back over my ears, I waited.
All sense of time dropped away, blurred into nothingness by the steady blare of the alarm. Occasional sounds drifted through the mirror—once there was a burst of machine-gun fire that lasted long enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end; shortly after that there was a piercing scream that rose, buzz saw–sharp, before tapering off and vanishing back into the din—but for the most part, it was just me and the alarm. Not the best company I’d ever kept.
The sudden cessation of the noise was almost shocking. I jerked upright, suddenly aware that I had managed to sink so deep into semi-meditation that I was almost dozing. Wide-eyed, I unfolded my legs and slid into a standing position, keeping my eyes fixed on the door. It didn’t open. I took a cautious step forward. It didn’t open.
“Well, isn’t that just fantastic,” I muttered.
The sound of the intercom clicking on sent a wave of relief washing through me, so powerful that my knees felt weak for a few seconds. “Hello, Georgia,” said Dr. Thomas, in his customary mild tone. “How are you feeling?”
I stared at the wall for a long moment, mouth falling open. Finally, slowly, I said, “Did you just ask me how I was feeling? Seriously? What’s going on? Is there an outbreak? Are we alone in the building?” A new thought struck me, horrifying in its reasonableness. “Am I alone in the building?” He could be using an outside connection to reach the intercom, giving me the opportunity to say good-bye before the sterilization of the facility began.
Dr. Thomas actually laughed. In that moment, any good feeling I might have held toward him died. “Oh, no, Georgia! I’m sorry, you were reacting so calmly, I thought you’d realized.”
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