NaNoWriMo is now over and I guess I’m able to stop and catch my breath, right? No. I can’t. Now I have to start editing and polishing. In the meantime though, I figured I’d offer an excerpt from this first draft. So, to all who feel like doing a little reading, this is for you.
Jim Williams sat on a tall wooden stool, hunkered over his desk. Squinty eyes glued to the computer screen, one hand sat ready at the keyboard while the other directed the mouse. Perspiration marched steadily across his brow as his heart raced, beating faster with each passing minute. His ragged breath stuttered as he exhaled.All around him, Jim’s coworkers, his colleagues and friends, busied themselves with their daily tasks. Fingers clicked away at keyboards, voices discussed and debated various variables, liquids were mixed, cultures grown and tests were done. Just an average day in the lab and as usual, Jim felt sick to his stomach.
Cursing under his breath at the sluggish speed of his computer, Jim hurried to copy all of his lab notes, personal files and those he recently uncovered to a small flash drive. The computer couldn’t go fast enough for his patience.
Looking up from the screen, Jim surveyed the lab. Everything seemed normal, nothing out of place or unusual but he knew better. He had to hurry otherwise it would be too late.
File after file was loaded onto the flash drive, its storage steadily filling up. Finally it was done and Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Pulling the drive out of the USB slot, he crammed it into his pants pocket. His fingers danced across the keyboard, a symphony of ticks and clicks drummed out as he set about activating a program he’d written only a few days earlier, once he realized what was happening.
As the program began to run he watched for only a moment longer, making sure it was doing its job and then with an unsteady turn he headed for the only exit.
The lab was laid out like a long wide hallway with benches and shelves, work stations and science equipment lining the walls. Tables and workstations were also setup in the middle, leaving two rows as walkways. Doors on each side led to rooms for specialized experiments, specimen storage, a break room and various other necessities. Jim’s workstation was on the far end, the last table in the middle, furthest from the exit.
Each step required every ounce of strength. Legs shaking, his feet felt like ice as he inched his way down one of the aisles. Kenneth Protrowski, a rather obese and sloppy man, stopped him dead in his tracks. Though his appearance indicated a gluttonous and slovenly nature, Kenneth was one hell of a researcher. It was safe to say that Jim liked the man.
“I’ve questions about your most recent results,” the man said matter-of-factly, onion breath hitching a ride with his words. The smell immediately assaulted Jim’s senses. Bile crept up to the edge of his throat, his already nervous stomach quickly turning weak. Jim didn’t know if he could hold back the nausea that had taken root.
“I noticed that some of what you reported initially had been deleted today. I needed that information for reference. “
Vomit jumped from Jim’s mouth, arcing out and splashing down on Kenneth’s shoes. Jim pushed past the man and ran to the men’s restroom. As he crashed through the door, he could hear Kenneth’s startled curses and a few murmurs from various colleagues.
Grasping at the sink, Jim turned the water on and rinsed his mouth out. After splashing cold water on his face, Jim stared into the mirror.
“C’mon Jim, you can do this. Just walk to the door and leave. This is no problem and no time to act like a child. It’s time to go,” Jim gasped out. He stared into the mirror a moment longer, half expecting his reflection to respond.
With the acrid taste of vomit clinging to his tongue, he turned and walked out. Moving swiftly toward the exit, numerous people attempted to see if he was alright but each one received a grunt as he walked steadily past. Resolve was growing strongly in Jim as he approached the door to his salvation. He knew just how important it was for him to escape, not only for his life but for the rest of the world.
The door to the exit, his only way out, opened. Marching in, a group of two dozen armed soldiers crowded through and halted less than ten yards from Jim. The lab erupted into a flurry of questions and exclamations. Were these men cleared to enter the lab? Had they gone through the proper sterilization processes? Are they shutting down someone’s project? Who were they going to arrest? Everyone had questions.
Darting through a side door, Jim found himself in the kitchen that serves the break room. Across from him was a double sink with counter space and cupboards, both above and below that stretched to the adjacent walls. To his left stood two refrigerators, an oven and range, a microwave and an area for preparing food. The right wall was empty.
Oh Jesus I’m fucked, he thought as he scanned the room. He could hear someone giving orders in the lab just behind him and his mind raced, analyzing every inch of the room. Quick as he could, Jim raced toward the sink. Opening the cupboards below the sink, he climbed in. Squishing himself into a small ball and laying on his back, he made himself fit, though barely. He closed the doors and quietly prayed.
“I want everyone out into the main lab, now! We are shutting this down. You will all be sent home and will receive both an email and a letter stating what’s happening next. For now, it’s time to go. Please line up on the left side, single file. Everyone will be checked to make sure you take nothing with you. Do not be alarmed, this won’t take long,” the man said in a loud and commanding voice. It was apparent to Kenneth that this man had been in a position of command for quite some time and was used to people doing as he instructed.
As people lined up, the buzzing murmur died down to a low mumble as people whispered to each other, worried about being let go and what might happen to their research and experiments. A group of soldiers started walking down the lab, checking under tables and searching for anyone hiding while another group went to each of the rooms.
Lying crunched up on his back under the sink; Jim caught his breath as he heard the kitchen door open and heavy boots march in. The boots moved steadily around the room, not stopping to look into the cupboards. Sweat had broken out across Jim’s face as he trembled slightly in his hiding spot. The boots faded out of the room and back to the lab.
It wasn’t long before the soldiers finished their search and lined up along the wall, opposite the scientists and researchers. With a nod from the commander, the soldiers raised their guns and opened fire on the scientists, killing all before a single scream could be let out. A small team of soldiers walked down the line of bodies, shooting those in the head who still breathed. The rest gathered the bodies and loaded them into long black coffin-like bins. Once filled, each bin was sealed and wheeled out.
Hours passed as Jim lay hidden under the sink. The top part of shirt was soaked through from tears, crying as he realized that could’ve been him killed with the others and ashamed that he was the only one to survive. Some of those who died he’d known for years. Some were his friends. The bastards were going to pay for this, Jim knew. He was going to make sure they suffered for this cold blooded atrocity.
The noise had died down and disappeared hours earlier and Jim decided it was safe enough to at least come out of the cupboard. Opening the door slightly, he peered into the kitchen. The light was off but as he opened the door all the way, the motion sensor caught sight of the movement and the fluorescent lights blinked on, bringing with them their all too familiar hum and buzz.
Rolling over and crawling out, Jim pulled himself onto the laminate floor and stretched. Wincing, he attempted to stretch out his cramped muscles and instantly thought that he would need to see a chiropractor once this all was finished.
When he was finally able to stand, Jim searched his pockets. The flash drive was still there. A sigh of relief quietly escaped his lips and he made his way to the main lab. Peering out of the doorway, the labs lights were off but from what he could see, it was completely empty. Opening the door fully and walking out, he realized that the military had taken everything. All the lab equipment, computers, specimens, notes…everything. It was as if no one had even been there. There had been though. A whole team of people working tirelessly for what they thought was for the good of humanity. Instead, they were lied to, used and then murdered. Thrown away with the garbage; Jim would not let their efforts, their lives go unnoticed. He would expose the truth. He would make them pay.
Creeping out of the lab, Jim quickly mixed in with the various technicians and scientists littered throughout the rest of the building, making his way for the parking garage.
“Hello Dr. Williams, where are you heading off to?” A tall military man, an officer of some sort, stepped in front of him and stood with arms crossed, his voice stern and commanding. Alarm bells rang in Jim’s mind as he recognized this man as the one who gave the orders to kill the others.
“You wouldn’t be trying to leave now, would you?”
“I…I-I was just going to th-the bathroom,” Jim stammered.
“Why don’t you and I go have ourselves a little chat first. I’m sure you have a lot you’d like to tell me, don’t you?” The commander asked though it seemed to Jim more of a command. Grabbing Jim by the shoulder, the man’s strong hand spun him around and led him in the opposite direction.
The pair walked in silence as Jim desperately tried to think of a way to escape. With a jerk, the man changed their direction again and opened a door. Leading him in, the man closed the door behind them.
They were in a small maintenance closet. Shelves lined the back wall full of various cleaning supplies. A mop bucket and dust broom huddled together in a corner while a pile of small boxes laid claim to the other corner.
“Now then, let us have that talk,” the man said, spinning Jim around to face him. A hard fist slammed into Jim’s stomach, taking with it his air and ability to breath. Something even harder came across his jaw and this took away the light. Jim Williams, head scientist and researcher for the Artemis Project lay unconscious, nightmares taking shape in his mind as nightmares took shape in reality.