So, it’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I might be a little rusty, feel free to comment and/or reprimand me. Okay, as always, it’s unedited and I’m not sure how long I’ll stretch this story… so, enjoy while it runs.
Sunlight shone on my face, disturbing my sleep. I slowly opened my eyes as the window darkened. The constant hum of the vehicle was as seductive as the comfy bed I had left behind. Grabbing a hold of the seat, I pushed myself in an upright position. The radio was low, humming a few tunes I could barely recognize. Janet looked back and smiled, holding a small plastic cup in her hands.
“Take this, it’s pretty strong,” she leaned to a side and took out another cup.
As the warmth of the small black cup seeped into my skin, I took a small sip. “How long was I out?”
“For about an hour or so, I wasn’t expecting for traffic to be this troublesome.”
The coffee lacked sugar but it was good. We had stalled at the very entrance, right after the Belize Bridge; traffic was terrible. Monday mornings were the worst time for anybody to be stuck in traffic. The street drowned in grey smog with echoes of car horns and paperboys going from window to window, in an attempt to make a sale.
I looked at my cellphone; it was ten in the morning. “Aren’t we running a little late?”
“You start at twelve, Richard and I need to be there by eleven,” Janet didn’t seem the least bit worried. “But, we’ve got a pretty good excuse and Richard is in-charge of the project.”
“So, you’ve got more liberties than what you should really have.” I lay back on the seat. It was soft, smooth, with slight warmth still lingering on its surface. “By the way, is it the same smart polymer you’ve been working on?”
Janet glanced at Richard. Richard smiled, “don’t worry honey; the information had already been leaked. At this very moment, there is nothing more we can do, besides, he’s going to be a part of the research staff.”
I stretched my arms and sat upright, “I swear I didn’t leak any information.”
“We know you didn’t,” Janet smiled back at me. “We are being cautious about who we trust. Oh, I almost forgot to ask you, how’s Carol?”
“Carol’s fine. I didn’t want to leave her but I needed the money to finish my studies.” Gazing at the walls on the horizon, the highway was surprisingly empty. “I can’t have her worrying about me.”
“So, what are you studying?” Richard looked over from the real-view mirror.
“I’m trying to get a degree in Pharmacogenomics.”
“That’s great; I have a degree in genetics and evolutionary genetics, among other degrees I’ve picked up along the way.” Richard had this strong assertive voice, as if he was in command and would always be in command. It bugged me a little.
Taking a left turn, we parted ways with the highway and entered an enclosed region. The narrow road was wide enough for trucks to go through, with both sides surrounded by tall light-grey walls with the company logo. Ahead in the distance, a large gate came into view. Q3corp, the three was inverted, all in red, with three hexagonal structures in the background. The doors were a few inches thick, possibly concrete and steel; it’s a pretty well secured research lab.
The slow creaking of the bolts rotating and locking in place, the sound of the air being pushed out of the structure and the wall being shut tight behind us; it was scary, I had a really bad feeling about this.
“This place is really uptight about their security, aren’t they? What exactly do you guys do?” I looked back at the guards standing in front of the gate – they were not unlike soldiers or a riot squad.
“Here we research anything of importance to the human race – from polymers to tissue, from medications to biodegradable glass, we have it all,” Janet took out her identification card from the small black purse, “we are not bound by limits since we have so much to offer the outside world.”
“Let me put it this way, Mike: we do the stuff that makes the world go round – we are pioneers on the brink of new discoveries.” Taking a sip from this coffee, Richard continued, “those phagocytes that we announced, that’s a medical discovery. To use a virus that eats bacteria to eliminate infections? That’s a masterpiece in itself. That is who we are.”
“But we aren’t expecting the other companies to come rushing in with battle tanks and mortars, are we? These security measures seem a little excessive don’t you—“I was promptly interrupted by Janet.
“We’re here! Grab your identification card and come with me… we need to disinfect you, thoroughly.”
Disinfection? What was she talking about? We were still in what appeared to be the outer courtyard. I opened the door and as I stepped outside of the vehicle, the ground crackled beneath my shoe. The gravel, like a harsh coarse pillow, scrapped and rocked with each step. The sun was high on the blue sky, an ocean above our heads with not a cloud in sight – a gentle breeze flooded the ground as Richard parted ways and into the first building. The structured were all plane white, with big black numbers and letters to identify them. The T-8 building stood before us, as the car reversed and drove past us. Janet led me to a small parking lot where small vehicles, similar to golf-carts, were parked.
“Where are we headed? I see these buildings are all marked but why is the T-8 building the first one beyond the gate?” I leaned forward, as Janet slowly drove the cart. “Is there an order to these labs or are they even labs?”
“The first letter defines what exactly goes on inside: T for Testing, R for Research, E for Experiments and P for production. You’re headed over to the P-3 building.” Janet made a few turns and moved into through two other gates. “The whole facility is divided by four different walls, with the first wall being the outside wall and the other three dividing the inside… like a mitochondria.”
“Or a eukaryotic cell…” Correcting her made me feel as if I wasn’t so useless after all. She was a research scientist; I was here just to help with production.
We stopped on the first gate: G-2. We parked next to a few other carts, similar in shape but differently colored. Taking a step inside, the door locked behind us, a red light shone on us as the room became flooded with a gas. “This is for disinfection, it might not be much since we’re stepping outside again but we want to ensure that the only pathogens that you have are ours.”
“That sounds pretty ominous.” I whispered.
“Did you say something?” She replied, swiping her card. The door opened.
“No, nothing, just admiring how strict the security is around here.”
“A few things can come in but nothing comes out without our approval,” her eyes twinkled as she said that.
The P-3 building was a five story building, white and non-characteristic on the outside, but on the inside it was brimming with activity. Everyone covered from head to toe: masks, goggles, gloves, and what appeared to be light blue surgical bonnets that covered everything except their face. As I stepped inside a room lit with ultraviolet light, a soft muffled voice asked me to step over to a small metallic plate.
“Please look up at the sensor, it’s that small red light directly in front of you,” his voice was so soft; I could swear he was whispering.
A laser beam scanned my body. “I’m not going to turn into the hulk or am I?” I snickered; he didn’t.
“Brace yourself, gas treatment in 3, 2, 1-“his voice was interrupted by the outburst of gas jets battering my body. “Disinfection complete, step outside.”
A door opened to my left.
“Please follow me; we’ll get you everything you need.” A young lady, much younger than me, guided my through the maze. She was just as tall as I was, feeling a bit intimidated myself, and her eyes were perfect blue, like the deepest part of the ocean; strong and piercing, she grabbed a coat and a few other items. “Put these on, you’ll be briefed in a while. Please ensure that everything fits and is secure.”
Everything fit, everything was secure but what’s with the extreme measures? What exactly are we dealing with? The lady came back, portfolio in hand; she grabbed a test tube and hung it next to the light.
“Phagocytes, Mr. Guerra, these are tiny bacteria-eaters that will revolutionize the world. In this lab we denature them and keep them in a “dormant” state, if you want to call it that,” she fixed her glasses, pushing them closer to her eyes, “these are active… once spill could put your life in grave danger.”
“Intestinal flora, right?” I examined the test tube.
“That’s just the start…”
The day had been pretty rough, transferring phages from vacuum sealed tubes and “inactivating” them. It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be but the risk and danger of it all kept me on my toes. After the final checkup, I walked out of the G-2 and into the night. It was around eight thirty pm. The shadows of the buildings cast upon the small paved sidewalks, dispelled by tiny led lights, hung solemnly over the ground. It wasn’t uncommon to see a guard patrolling but it seemed that security grew tighter in the late hours of the day.
I became lost amidst the maze. Everywhere I went, not a sign of the G-1. To my dismay, there were no guards here. Everything was so empty, abandoned… it was creepy and a perfect setting for one of those serial killer movies. The gravel cracked beneath my shoe, I had abandoned the sidewalk, crossing over to the wall. Maybe if I follow the wall, it’ll lead me to the gate? It was worth a shot. Small shrubbery neatly planted in a row, one after the other, cut in tiny cubes; they were my only companions. Finally, after half an hour of walking, a gate game into view – G-5. G-5? I don’t remember hearing about a G-5. The front gate was G-1, with the inside being divided into three sectors, G-2 through 4, where does that leave 5? I took out my phone; it was nearly out of battery. Searching through the virtual map, it was directly connected to the network yet there were no signs of a G-5. That was pretty strange. Had I been following the wrong map?
Upon reaching the gate, the door was lit. I pressed the button and the door slid open. The inside was active but nobody was there at the control panel. A red light engulfed the room, that wasn’t normal. Was it malfunctioning? As I was about to step inside, a guard spotted me and walked towards me; he didn’t look to happy.
“Sir, did you know that’s a restricted zone?” He was well on his fifties, a shaggy beard and bags under his eyes. “You’re not authorized to enter this place.”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know there was a G-5, I was looking for G-1. I’m lost,” as I quickly took a step back, the door slid shut. “It’s my first day of work.”
He inspected my ID and my phone. After confirming what I had said, he escorted me to G-1. Along the way he told me stories about how that place had been abandoned after an accident.
“There was a spill or something, people died!” His voice grew darker. “They say that every night, you can hear the cries of the people who died in there… their souls never parted from that place.”
“You can’t believe that… I’m not much of a believer myself but I don’t believe in ghosts.” I looked away, staring at the bioluminescent plants.
“No son, I have a few friends who patron on the other side of the gate. They say that sometimes the screaming becomes so unbearable and just as quickly as it started, it ends,” he whispered. “They lose three guards by the end of the month… three out of the five that usually patrol.”
“Three out of five? That means that two of them are veterans.”
“Old man Patrick and a youngster by the name of Jeffry. They’ve outlasted everyone.”
Leaving the place seemed like the best idea. Ghosts? Not really… Or was it? That night, I could barely sleep, their voices echoing in my head. Were there really ghosts on the other side of G-5?