Chapter Five: Going Dark

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If not exactly his plan, the hard landing jolted him awake. Embarrassed and enraged, he rolled out the chair and jumped to his feet, surprised at his sudden lust for violence. He had reached his tipping point, and no longer cared about making a scene. He had already done so, anyway, so why not give the pasty faced audience of assholes in the cafeteria a decent show.

Dmitri had gotten to his feet and stood beside his chair. Wayne straightened himself and squared off in front of the muscled mutant, but his fiery words extinguished when looked at Dmitri's face. The man's smug expression had melted into a slack-jawed, unseeing stare. It was the same expression as the woman in the admin office. What was going on? The chatter of the other patrons ceased, but he didn't care. Let them watch. The air had the same dusty, yet oddly crisp feel that he'd noticed in the admin hall. He felt so keenly aware of everything around him, he was sure he could point at every person in the room without looking them.

"What did you do, Dmitri?" he demanded, pointing his finger an inch from his face. "Is this a chemical weapon? A virus? I know it was you, you bastard!" His voice carried through the dining room's relative silence. No one spoke, sneezed, or coughed. The cacophony of flatware on dishes had ceased, and no one moved. Every other sound was crisp and clear, magnified. Coffee streamed from his table, spattering on the floor. The motor in the soda machine hummed. Food sizzled on the unseen stove, and light sounds of the 90's warbled from the speakers with unfortunate clarity.

Wayne stepped back from Dmitri and risked a quick glance at the room. Everyone sat or stood, silent and motionless like actors in those cheesy off-off-off Broadway plays who freeze in place while the main cheesy actor thinks aloud for the audience. What could this be? He was being filmed for a reality TV series? He was dreaming? The Men in Black zapped everyone. Harry Potter zapped everyone. The zombie apocalypse had finally come. All ridiculous.

He looked at the cash register. A young woman stood there with her hand in the open till, wearing the same droopy expression as everyone else. Sarah must have been relieved from her shift while he was distracted.

The silent, drooping faces creeped him out more than a little bit. He wanted to be far from this place before whatever happened to them happened to him, too.

What would the world outside the hospital be like? How far had this spread? Scenes from a dozen post apocalyptic movies came to him. He grabbed a cellophane-wrapped muffin from the basket by the register and thought about dropping a couple of bucks in the open till. But then another idea came to him.

He took a carry-out bag from beneath the register and filled it with the cash from the drawer. These people would probably never wake up. If they did, they'd be zombies or hosts for aliens. Either way, they wouldn't need their cash.

He had given most of his life in service to these ungrateful slugs, and they had repaid him with their scorn and contempt. What could he do for them, anyway? He was no doctor or scientist. If he tried to help, he could end up making things worse, and then he'd be blamed for that, too. Well, he'd had enough of these people. Fuck them. And fuck Dmitri.

"Alright assholes. I'm calling your bluff," he said. A doctor and a diminutive nurse wearing ridiculously happy scrubs sat at the next table. Wayne dumped their sandwiches and fries in their laps. When they didn't jump up in protest, he took the doctor's steaming mug of coffee, but stopped short of pouring it over the man's head. He saw himself in a moment of clarity and was ashamed.

No matter how angry or disillusioned he felt, there was apparently a line he couldn't cross. He was supposed to protect the so-called innocent, not scald them with hot coffee, even if they were involved in an impossibly complex plot to make him look stupid. He turned back to face Dmitri.

"But you..." he said. Dmitri was a different story. He had gone out of his way not only to be an asshole, but to hurt Wayne without provocation. This was no innocent bystander. This was a legitimate bad guy in need of some justice. "Last chance, douche-bag. No? Suit yourself."

Wayne slung the coffee at him, but the response he expected didn't come. With hot coffee burning his crotch, the man did nothing. That was impressive. There were no shocked gasps from the other zombies, either.

"You're not pretending, are you?" Wayne muttered. Something very wrong was happening here. It was time to go. "You won't be needing this," he said, taking Dmitri's sidearm. He thought for a moment, and took his wallet, too. He was already being falsely punished for theft, and he was certain Dmitri was involved, so he might as well do the crime.

He made a last circuit of the cafe, calling Sarah's name, but she wasn't there.

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