Chapter Nine

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Today

The door handle to the first aid room turned.  First left, then right. Something, most likely a shoulder, bumped up against the door. But it was locked, and wasn’t going to budge.

Scott raised a single finger and placed it vertically against his pursed lips.

Gary shook his head, the look on his face saying, Are you nuts? Do you think I’d be stupid enough to make any sort of noise?

The door handle turned, one more time.

The vent immediately above the door suddenly came on, sending down a stifling blast of head right onto Scott’s forehead, the noise and warmth startling him so much that he almost let out an audible yelp.

As he watched the doorknob turn, he flashed back to one of many scenes from The Walking Dead, an AMC television program that he had gotten hooked on a few years back.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been over-run with some sort of zombie virus, a few remaining survivors do their best to stay alive, trying to stay one step ahead of the mindless flesh-eating resurrected dead, known by the main characters as “walkers” but also trying not to get killed by the other survivors.

It was in one of the very first episodes that the main character, Rick, who had been in a coma while the world had been going to hell, was taken in by a pair of strangers, a father and son team. In the night, the time when the zombies were most active, they had stood near the front door to their house, panicked looks in their eyes as a zombie on the other side of the door tried their door.

As Scott watched the knob turn, he couldn’t help but flash back to that episode.  Although, admittedly, thought there were no zombies outside the door, there was something much worse.  One of the two men who had been trying to kill him.

That was far worse than any imagined creature on a network television program.

Sweat leaked down Scott’s brow and into his eyes.  He couldn’t be bothered to try to wipe it away.

Damn heating in this building, Scott thought, realizing that being closed in with another person and having the heat pumped in like that was extremely uncomfortable. Of course, the fact Scott had been running didn’t help matters; not to mention the danger he had been running from.

No, not running.

Evading.

The words of both Herb and the security guard echoed in his head. You cannot evade us.

The knob stopped turning and the footsteps shuffled away.

Scott reached up, wiped the sweat from his eyes, and looked back at Gary, who was quietly staring back. He hadn’t bothered to wipe the sweat from his own eyes.

The footsteps moved to the second door down this short hallway, to the supply closet, a room the same size as the first aid room; a six by twelve foot room, this one filled with various office supplies – paper, pens, folders, whiteboard markers, and other office paraphernalia.  Scott knew the office was kept locked before nine and after five in order to maintain tighter control on what Digi-Life termed “unnecessary shrink” – employees taking additional office supplies for use, not in the office, but in their homes, as part of their children’s school supplies or for other non-work related needs.

Scott and Gary remained quiet as they listened, imagining the person was trying the supply room door; it too being locked. 

Then the footsteps shuffled off back towards the kitchen area.

Seconds later, a second pair of footsteps could be heard approaching to join the first pair. No voices, just the footsteps moving in unison.

Eerie, Scott bemused. How very much like zombies. He shook his head.

He had imagined that Herb and the security guard, if that’s who these two were outside the door, had split up and each taken a different path on the second floor.  With one of them taking the hallway to the left, and the other to the right, they would end up coming at Scott either of the two ways he might have run.

He figured that they likely had checked every single room on the second floor, including the bathrooms. There were at least eight offices and meeting rooms, mostly on the far side of this floor. The kitchen, the first aid room, and the supply closet beside the first aid room would be the last three places to check.

The question is, why weren’t they communicating with one another, and, more importantly, what would they do, where would they go now?

Without speaking a word, the footsteps could be heard heading back down the hall by the first aid room and supply closet.  One pair then clomped down the stairs on the other side of the hallway, while the others, obviously not on the stairs, must have headed back to the front of the second floor in order for them to sweep the first floor, its offices and meeting rooms, and likely rendezvous somewhere in the middle.

Waiting until the footsteps had receded far enough away that he couldn’t hear them any longer, Scott let out a sigh of relief and then turned to Gary.

“Okay,” he whispered. “They’re gone. We have to figure out the best way to get past them and out of here.”

Gary didn’t respond.

He stood there, quietly blinking.

“Gary?”

A vacant, glassy-eyed look started to slowly come over his friend’s face and his eyes temporarily rolled back in their sockets.

“Gary?” Scott said again, waving a hand in the air between them. “Gary, speak to me.”

After a couple of seconds, Gary’s eyes rolled back to normal. He blinked, shook his head a bit. Blinked again. Then he looked directly at Scott again, as if waking up from some sort of foggy state. But the glazed look – that same glazed look he had seen in Herb and the security guard  Became evident on Gary’s face.

“You won’t get away. You cannot evade us,” Gary uttered in a monotone robotic voice.

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