Chapter 16: Below

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Awake again.

His consciousness was mired in a wasteland of black pain.

Greg groaned and flicked his eyes open, trying to think through the fog of misery that gripped him. Everything was dark and reeked of death and rotting meat. When the world slid fully into focus, Greg screamed. It was a hoarse and pitiful thing, but it seemed to jump-start his brain.

He stared into the dead black eyes of a zombie. Panic ignited him and he tried to slide away. That was impossible, or at least it felt that way because the ground kept shifting beneath him. He couldn't get a good hold on anything and all at once Greg realized he was lying on a bed of corpses. A new horror began creeping through him.

He ceased struggling and instead surveyed his surroundings. Now that he was aware of what made up the floor, the awful smell of death seemed nigh overwhelming. First order of business was to find a way out, and then he could think.

Greg clambered across the pile of bodies toward a pair of slightly ajar elevator doors. In a flash, he remembered what had happened. Glancing up, Greg saw a thin gray light.

"Kyra?" he called.

His scared, lonely voice echoed up the elevator shaft. There was no response. Maybe they'd been forced to retreat or maybe they thought he'd died. He reached the crack in the doors. Greg peered through, his hope spiking. The same gray light awaited his inspection on the other side. He sensed nothing moving and, after a moment, shoved his fingers through and pried. The physical effort sent a lance of pain stabbing through his bruised skull, but he managed to work the doors open wide enough to get through.

His rifle clinked against the frame while he slid through and then he remembered he had a rifle. That was a testament to how hard he'd hit his head. At this rate, he would end up with serious brain damage. After slipping through the door and giving the room a quick once-over, Greg checked the weapon.

The flashlight had broken and somehow he'd managed to fuck up the barrel. Something inside him said that this weapon wasn't firing anytime soon. He salvaged the mostly depleted magazine, pocketed it and found his pistol still in its holster. A quick inspection revealed that the pistol was still intact, and even came with a tiny but powerful flashlight of its own. He checked the magazine, found it adequate, flipped the safety off and turned on the flashlight.

The room he'd come to was empty, the walls made of bare concrete, and reeked of true isolation. There was only one door, but he left that alone. Top priority was establishing contact. He stood beneath the sole strip of light in the room and attempted to reach the others. His earpiece radio had managed to stay attached, but when he called out into the gloomy desolation, he received no reply. In fact, he heard nothing at all.

He slipped it carefully out of his ear and looked it over. Nothing looked wrong, but radios were made of up small, delicate pieces. Jostle it too much and something gets knocked loose or broken. Unwilling to abandon the radio, he slipped it back into place, left it on, and hoped that he was transmitting.

"In case anyone is hearing this, I'm underground. I'm alive. My head hurts like hell, but otherwise I'm all right. There didn't seem to be a way to get back up in the elevator shaft so I'm going to try to find another way up."

Hoping someone could hear him and he hadn't been left for dead, Greg made his way over to the door. It was closed, but opened when he hit the activation button. He wondered if the power was still in emergency reserve, if Powell had been successful in his attempts, or if any of them were even still alive. The possibility that everyone else was dead and he was truly alone down here struck him, but he shoved the notion aside.

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