Chapter Seventeen

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Today

Scott laid inside the air vent for what felt like at least one full minute before he was able to properly catch his breath. The heat blowing through the ventilation shaft didn’t help matters. It filled his throat, making the air he was trying to swallow seem thick and dry. But he did his best to take deep gulps of air.

The throbbing burning sensation in Scott’s leg where he’d been shot intensified. It had all but disappeared during the time he’d been plummeting to his imminent death.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Scott bemused. Who would be worried about a gunshot wound when there was a more immediate life-preserving concern at hand?

He wondered, like he had back before he’d climbed into the vent, if there was something circulating through the air vent that might account for the behavior of Herb, the security guard and Gary.

Given the manner by which Gary had rerouted the air vent near his work area, it did seem to make some sort of sense. After all, it hadn’t been until shortly after Gary had left the cocooned area of his workspace that he had morphed into the hive-mind mentality that had taken over Herb and the guard.

“This is like Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Scott mused aloud, imagining that wonderfully horrific scene from the 1978 remake with Donald Sutherland where Sutherland’s character appears in front of the heroine who momentarily believes all will be okay, before Sutherland stops, raises an arm and thrusts a finger at her and lets out a high pitched scream – the surest indication that this is not the man she knew, but, rather, an alien imposter in his guise.

Only, Scott figured, this wasn’t an alien pod invasion. This was something that affected people, took them over, controlled their behavior. He had witnesses the sudden and disturbing change in Gary right before his eyes.

And the only thing that Scott could figure would have caused the change was some sort of airborne matter.

It was the one decent control Scott could figure.

Gary had been the only normally behaving person Scott had seen. Everyone else that morning, well, all two of them at least, had been out to kill Scott.  The only other person he’d seen had been the person coming up to the second floor from the first floor, likely a new arrival. He hadn’t been sure who that was, just that it was a male and he was wearing blue jeans.

Blue Jeans seemed to be walking normally, not at all behaving like Herb or the guard, or the way Gary had once he had been outside the controlled air vent area, at least.

Perhaps that was because Blue Jeans had just entered the building and perhaps it took the airborne virus or whatever it was, a few minutes to get into a person’s airway and “take them over.”

It all fell into place, and made sense – not that Scott understand any of the hows or the whys or the whos as in who was behind this – except for one small matter.

Why had Scott not been affected by the airborne infecting agent?

It was almost as if everybody was working against Scott, simultaneously working from the same playbook.

He recalled that when Herb and the guard were searching outside the door, they hadn’t even spoken a single word to one another. It was as if they were in contact with one another’s mind – like there was some sort of telepathic connection between the two of them.

Not to mention the fact that they spoke in unison.

You won’t get away. You cannot evade us!

Gary, too, had been following that exact same script.

So, what, then, was different about Scott?

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