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Get Out Alive

Robert Van DusenApr 12, 2020, 7:23:32 PM
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Hello, all you awesome people of Internetland! I hope you're all doing well and staying safe. I just had a new book published on Amazon a little bit ago and I thought I'd share the first chapter with you as a sort of teaser. It's not a 100% accurate representation of the final product because I had to make a few changes while formatting the manuscript for publication. Still, I hope you all enjoy it.
If you'd like to purchase the full book, Get Out Alive is available for purchase through this link right here. I also have a SubscribeStar (check it out here) wherein I'm currently working on the first in a series of Choose Your Own Adventure stories set in the same universe as Get Out Alive. Paid tier members will get access to those along with other little goodies and extras as ideas occur to me. 
Anyways...enough boring admin stuff, right? On with the show!

One

She sat in the corner of the janitor's closet quietly thumping the back of her head against the drywall as if trying to knock the jumble of information floating around in her brain into some sort of sense.

It was quiet as a tomb, the air thick with the sharp tang of disinfectants and some vaguely piney sort of scent she could not quite place. The only light in the closet came from the dull sliver filtering through the crack under the door that reflected off the floor which filled the space with a sort of haze. At least once it seemed like somebody walked by outside... Something wet sounding thumped against the other side of the door. The sound made her cower like a frightened rabbit, tongue glued to the roof of her mouth, as she huddled in the corner until the sound of the footsteps faded. Her back and legs ached from being huddled in the corner and her mouth was dry...

The woman frowned as she pondered how long she had been hiding. The face of the watch on her wrist glowed green when she pushed a button on its side then blinked at the numbers on the display. 07:25. She made a face. How long had she been in here? She shrugged to herself, unsure since she could not really remember when or how exactly she came to be shut up in here... Her clothes were vaguely stiff and abrasive against her skin with the salt of dried sweat...

The stiff muscles in her back and legs screeched in protest when the woman took a deep breath and forced herself to stand. She winced when her right knee popped like a pine knot in a fireplace, the sound deafeningly loud in the deathly silence. She held her breath not daring to even move for some reason she could not quite recall... Her jaw clenched as she groped in the dark reaching for the door handle. The woman winced involuntarily at the noise the door made as the latch clicked open and the hinges squeaked when she pushed it open.

She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the light as she stepped out her heart banging away on the inside of her sternum. There was a row of light blue lockers in front of her with more lining the walls on either hand and a pale gray tile floor, the light coming from wide windows about eight feet off the ground as well as some conical emergency lights set along the walls. When she peeked around the center row of lockers she could see what looked like bathroom stalls in the corner. A glance over her shoulder revealed what seemed to be a large communal shower of something like that.

Where the hell am I? she wondered running a palm over her face as she looked around the room. Rows of pale blue lockers lined the walls with two more rows in the center of the room. Laminated wooden benches ran along the floor in front of them with spaces between for people to walk through and there was another room through the open doorway ahead just a bit off to her left. The brick walls behind the banks of lockers were coated with a sort of pale green dully gleaming enamel that made her vaguely queasy for some reason she could not quite put her finger on when she looked at it for too long. 

The woman's nose wrinkled as she caught a whiff of something odd on the air like the acrid scent of something burning...and...something else... The smell put a skittish feeling in the pit of her stomach as she looked this way and that, expecting some unknown thing to leap out and attack. Whatever the source of the smell was it seemed to be coming from the hall because it did not look like anything had been burning in here which struck her as a good thing at any rate.

"Huh..." she cocked her head, raising her eyebrow in a quizzical expression as she looked down and realized how she was dressed. Black leather boots, olive drab pants with big pockets on each thigh and a snug fitting khaki tee shirt... There was a wide nylon belt around her waist with a gun in a holster on her right hip and an olive drab nylon pouch opposite too. The pouch contained a pair of pistol magazines, the rectangular metal boxes weighty in the palm of her hand as she studied them a moment before stuffing them back into the green pouch on her left hip.

The woman grunted in surprise when her right thumb tugged down on the rubber loop on the flap on the holster and pulled out some sort of large black handgun. Her long dexterous fingers seemed to know what to do with the weapon of their own volition: they retracted the slide just enough to see the dully gleaming brass of a cartridge case in the weapon's chamber. Keeping the weapon pointed toward the floor, she thumbed back the hammer the rest of the way then lowered it with the little lever on the weapon's slide and put it back in the holster. That was weird... she thought, sort of unsettled by the whole incident for some reason she could not quite put her finger on as she secured the flap back into place and looked around the locker room.

Suddenly keenly aware of the thirst burning dryness in her throat she crossed quickly to the arched doorway and found herself standing in a room that was the same nauseating green with a handful of stainless steel shower heads jutting from the opposite wall. Sinks with mirrors lined the wall on her right with a couple small stalls in the corner. 

She hurried to the nearest sink and twisted the handle, a grimace crossing her face as the faucet groaned and protested and seemed to shake a little bit before spitting up a gout of water. The woman cupped her hands and slurped the sluggish lukewarm liquid that dribbled out of the spout. She paused to splash a double handful of the warmish water on her face then stretched, leaning back to run her damp fingers through her short hair. Something metallic tinkled under her shirt as she scrubbed her face for the third time and shook her head, feeling herself coming back to life. The woman frowned as her slender hand went fishing around inside the collar of her shirt groping around in search of the source of the noise.

The woman made a little grunt of surprise when she discovered a thin metal chain around her neck and tugged it out revealing a pair of slightly oval shaped metal disks that tinkled in her palm. She squinted in the gloomy semi dark, straining her eyes to make out the words stamped into the metal in tiny block letter font then grunted again once she managed to make sense of the letters. It read:

WILSON
GRACE K.
2*1-70-37*9
A NEG
NO PREF

She studied her reflection in the mirror above the sink for a moment or two. Hazel eyes, stylish black hair cut short with bangs hanging down almost in her eyes. Full lips and a straight roman nose. A pretty nice face. Which is good 'cause it's the only one I got. She snickered at the little internal joke, slightly taken aback when she caught her reflection smiling back at her. 

The woman touched her face as if seeing herself for the first time then stuffed the chain around her neck back under her shirt. She frowned at the necklace thing hanging between her sizable breasts. Is that me? she wondered, mulling the information over as she felt around in the various pockets of her olive drab trousers. “Grace...Kay...Wilson...” she said, quietly enunciating each of the words slowly and carefully almost as if she were tasting each and every syllable. It felt right but... She scowled at her reflection in the mirror and shrugged again then leaned against the sink with a heavy sigh letting her head hang forward. There was a dull thudding pain in her head behind her eyes so she dampened her hands again and ran her palms slowly over her face.

Something clattered against the floor nearby and she practically threw herself away from the sink, her hands shaking at her sides. Where did that come from? she wondered as she cautiously took a step or two toward the locker room. The woman leaned out into the larger room her breath catching in the back of her throat as she squinted into the gloomy dark to try and find the source of the noise. Her eyes went wide when she realized that the faucet was still running and dove to turn it off, the handle squeaking loudly as she hurriedly tried to shut the damned water off.

The woman stood there for perhaps a minute or so, scarcely daring to even breath too loudly lest whatever made the noise find her. Her hand closed on the cool white porcelain of the sink as she eased back into the doorway and stared into the locker room, waiting to see if she could hear what made the noise. She gulped air, licked her lips and cleared her throat. "H-Hello?" she asked, feeling foolish for some reason she could not quite understand as she gripped the door frame so hard the muscles in her arms and shoulders felt like they were vibrating under her skin.

The tiny hairs on the back of her neck bristled as she cautiously stepped into the locker room peering around the lockers in the center of the room. Somehow she noticed a door hiding in the gloomy corner off on her left for the first time and carefully picked her way toward it. Her hand settled on the door handle, her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to figure out where the noise came from. After a few deep breaths she opened her eyes, grit her teeth and eased the door open.

"Ohhh...oh jeez..." she hissed when she stuck her head out into the hall. The walls were painted what looked like a light institutional shade of green though it was hard to make out in the gloom. The banks of florescent lights in the ceiling were dark though more emergency lights shone on the wall a little ways down the hall in either direction. Maybe ten or so feet away there was a blank monitor mounted to the opposite wall... She rubbed her eyes with a knuckle and blinked, straining to try and make out more details in the darkened passageway. Okay...calm down...you're hyperventilating... the woman told herself as she forced herself to stop and take deep slow breaths when she realized she was trembling and getting vaguely dizzy. How the hell do I know that?

She held her breath and listened for a few moments, shaking like a leaf as she slowly backed into the locker room. The woman pressed a palm against her forehead as she tried to think... A lump formed in her throat and she tried to swallow it, her breath coming in shaky little gasps. She was tempted to call out to whoever was moving around somewhere down the hall but the words strangled in the back of her throat. Some gut instinct seemed to tell her that would be a bad idea as she returned to the door and looked up and down the hall outside. Finally, after what felt like a mild eternity, she glanced back into the locker room then stepped out into the hall and headed down the hall to her left.

It was dark as pitch save where she tiptoed through the islands of pale yellow light thrown from the emergency lights spaced along the wall on her right. She groaned when the hall came to a dead end with wooden doors on both sides. The woman licked her lips then glanced over her shoulder and crept up to the nearest room on her left. She tentatively stole a glance through the slit of reinforced glass in the door, trying to get a look at what was on the other side through the tiny window. Once her heart started to climb down out of her throat just a little bit she put a hand on the door handle and pushed, arching an eyebrow and skittishly licking her upper lip again. The door easily swung open with barely a sound at her touch as she stepped through it.

"Huh..." she muttered as she looked pensively at the bed with plastic handrails in the corner. There was a TV on a metal mount on the wall across from it with a little dresser thing under the window... Two words floated to the surface out of the muddled mass of pictures and ideas that swirled around in her head. "Hospital room." she whispered the hint of a smile playing across her features as the words made something click into place.

The woman nodded to herself, inexplicably pleased as she crossed to the dresser and pulled open the top drawer. She spared a glance over her shoulder as if she expected someone to burst in and yell at her, furious at her intrusion. She frowned when the drawer was revealed to be empty and tried the one below it with the same result. Something thumped nearby and she stood so quickly that she reeled momentarily and groped blindly for the nearby wall to steady herself. Whatever was making the noise it was closer probably in the next room from the sound of it. The tips of her fingers considered the pistol snug in its holster on her hip. She bit her lip and gave serious thought to pulling it out as she went back to the door.

She slipped back out into the hall and stood there the only sound she could hear the blood pulsing in her temples. Probably still dehydrated... she thought her brow furrowing when she wondered how she might know that. The woman absently rubbed the back of her neck as she glanced up and down the hall...and then she heard it again.

A shuffling noise in the room a few doors down.

Barely daring to breathe, she crept down the hall her hand considering the pistol in its holster again as she strained her ears trying to pin down the source of the noise... The door in question swung open when she turned the handle and she tentatively eased inside. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth as she stared at the hairy back of a flabby, sallow skinned bald man wearing this pastel green ill fitting robe thing who stood there looking out the window. 

There was something about the way he was just standing there in the corner eerily, perfectly still like he was carved from wax that made the little hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. "Hello? Mister?" she asked starting when the man's head turned abruptly at the sound of her voice. Her bowels involuntarily clenched when the man turned like an automaton to stare stone faced at the woman across the narrow room. The man's milky grayish eyes regarding the woman standing a few feet away for a split second and her heart launched into her throat. His lips curled into a ferine snarl as he took a staggering drunken step toward her with his hands outstretched before running into the hand rails of narrow bed between them.

Her mouth worked like a landed fish she backed toward the doorway. "...oh...oh..." she muttered, stumbling when her shoulder hit the door frame, losing her balance and landing hard on her side in the hall. Her chest burned when the impact with the tile floor knocked the air out of her lungs in a huge gusty whoosh. The woman scrabbled backward on her butt trying desperately to get air back into her lungs as the man lurched after her, his flabby arms outstretched and fingers grasping. She screamed as the soles of her boots slipped on the smooth tile and the man got closer. Her boots got some purchase then she rolled onto her side and scrabbled to her knees, slipped and landed clumsily on her stomach then shoved herself to her feet.

Dizzy with fear, she stood there hands shaking as she backed slowly down the hall unable to tear her gaze away from the waxy yellow skinned man. She glanced over her shoulder panting as she tried to keep her distance. The man stumbled after her as if he were having trouble controlling his limbs and the movement made his loose jaundiced flesh slosh around in his skin. “Heh...hello...” she half whispered, the words stumbling drunkenly on their way out of her mouth. “A...are...are you okay? Mister?” The woman's hand started frantically tugging at the flap of the holster trying to loose the handgun, her breath coming in rapid panicked gasps. “Mah...Mister?”

Chest heaving she finally managed to get the holster open. She yelped and half turned, momentarily distracted by the thunderclap of fists pounding on the door of the room across the hall. More pounding filled the air as she looked around confused and terrified by the raging monkey house noise assaulting her ears from what seemed like every direction. Her eyes went wide when she saw the old man now less than five feet away, his pudgy hands out in front of him as his lips peeled back to reveal several broken teeth. She looked down and found the pistol in her hand. “Stop...stop, mister!” she shouted as she raised the weapon in both hands, shoulders hunched slightly as she leveled the handgun at the center of the man's sternum. Her eyes flitted over her shoulder again as she continued moving backward down the hall with the man stumbling closer...

The pistol bucked in her hand, the flash and concussion of the muzzle blast in the dimly lit corridor only adding to her disorientation. The bullet blew a hole the size of her pinkie through the man's sternum right where she somehow knew the heart should be making the man stumble backward a half step...then he kept coming.

The blood in her veins turned to ice water.

The pistol fell to her side and she found that she could only stare in shock at the tarry black liquid oozing out of the hole in the man's chest. Her feet still propelled her backward keeping her out of reach of the wriggling black sausage links attached to the man's hands. She blinked in surprise, the little detail somehow snapping her idling brain back into gear as she took a few quick steps backward then turned to run. The woman cringed as the man's fingers raked down her back as he snarled and lunged nearly catching hold of her shirt collar. She screamed and pitched forward when the man managed to reach out and catch her ankle sending her sprawling to the floor, the pistol spinning from her grasp across the smooth tile floor.

She rolled onto her side as the man crawled toward her on his hands and knees, slimy ropes of saliva dribbling out of the corners of his mouth as his lips peeled back from yellowed teeth in a doglike snarl. The woman brought a knee up to her chest and sent the sole of her boot rocketing into the man's face with all the strength fear and her leg muscles could muster. His head rocked back as the little bones in his cheeks and nose cracked beneath her heel. 

The man growled, blackish gelatinous stuff oozing out of a badly broken nose and down his face as she scrambled toward the handgun a few feet away then brought the pistol to bear. The muzzle blast slapped her thigh singing her trouser leg as the pistol spat fire and the man's head snapped back, one of his eyes disappearing as a thin trail of blackish stuff leaked out of the now vacant socket. What was left of his head slapped against the smooth tile with a strange flat smack and something gray with the consistency of old oatmeal dribbled out.

She crab walked backward a few feet then lay there sprawled on the cool tile floor, chest heaving, with her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to catch her breath. “Goddamn...god...godfuckingdamn...” she panted, pressing her palms against her eyes for a moment or two before propping herself up on her elbows. The woman half expected the man to come after her again even if she had just blown the back of his skull all over the floor behind him. The pistol's hammer snapped down when she thumbed the pistol's safety/decocker lever and pushed it back up.

The howls and groans of the people pounding on the doors assaulted her from all sides as she stared at the twitching sallow skinned man lying on the floor a few feet away. “Shit...fuckin' shit fuck...” she panted, running a hand through her hair shaking her head as she turned in a slow circle. What the hell was happening? Her head snapped up as one of the reinforced windows cracked in the door on her left. A door was splintering on her right under the sustained onslaught of the men and women banging away on it from the other side like enraged primates. She reeled then turned and started running down the hallway away from the noise.

She skidded to a halt when she came to an intersection in the hallway. Panting, she staggered and put a hand against the wall to steady herself as she tried to catch her breath again. A tremendous crash echoed down the hall from the direction she had come and she was aware of something or several somethings moving in the gloom... “Oh shit...oh shit...oh shit...” she gasped pushing away from the wall and pressing the palm of her hand against her sternum as if trying to still the thudding in her chest. Low hungry almost animalistic growls echoed down the hall.

She licked her lips and looked over her shoulder. A few people slouched into view at the edge of the emergency lighting three lights down from her. “Fuuuck...” she whispered then strained her eyes trying to decide which hall to take. She stood there paralyzed with indecision for a moment, looking to the right and left for any sign of movement. The ringing in her ears prevented her from really hearing if there were more of these strange people down there... A glance over her shoulder informed her that the people that had busted down the door were still coming... The woman bit her lower lip then started quickly down the left hand hallway.

After a few dozen yards she spotted what looked like an open door on the right hand side of the hallway. She glanced over her shoulder, unsure if the people had seen her then put a shoulder against the wall and peeked into the room. The woman scowled at the strange white plastic machines against the walls inside. Her lips peeled back from her teeth in a grimace of disgust and revulsion at the puddle of what looked like dried blood on the floor. “What the fuck...” she whispered unintentionally taking a step away from the door.

She moved quickly past the open door, her teeth clenched so hard a dull ache was forming in her jaw muscles. She paused at the next patch of light thrown off by the emergency light above her head and looked back hoping that she had somehow managed to lose her pursuers. The woman leaned against the wall as she attempted to catch her breath then wiped at the sweat running down her brow with her forearm. She rolled her eyes when she realized that a thin black man was shuffling toward her, his shoulders slumped and arms swaying side to side with each shambling step. Her shoulders sagged and a low moan escaped her lips when she spotted a half dozen or so other forms hissing and snarling behind him.

The most beautiful thing she had ever seen appeared down the hall as she came around the corner of an L shaped hallway. The word EXIT in big dimly lit red letters hung in the dark a little ways down the hall. She ran toward the sign the soles of her boots smacking on the tile then skidded to a halt and nearly fell on her ass when she passed a gray metal door. Relief flooded her system as she pulled open the door and ducked inside...only to find herself standing in a darkness so deep she could not see her hand in front of her face. She could not even see the door after it had clicked shut...

“Oh great.” she groaned then yelped in surprise when a hand pounded on the other side of the door. The woman stumbled, the small of her back finding the railing then a brief moment of vertigo as she scrambled to keep from falling into the inky blackness behind her. “...fuck...fuck...fuck...” she sighed heavily once she had a hold on the railing, taking big gulps of air between loosing short bursts of obscenities under her breath.

She stood there gulping air for a moment and staring at the door. More hands pounded on the sturdy metal, the noise echoing down the pitch black stairwell. An idea struck her out of the blue making her shove away from the railing. Her hands snaked around her pants digging around in the various pockets hoping to find...something... She discovered something made of fabric and plastic in the left hip pocket...a thin rectangle in her left thigh pocket and something vaguely cylindrical along with a thicker rectangle... Her eyes went wide in the dark when she found a smaller plastic rectangle with rounded sides and a box of some sort in her right thigh pocket. Her shoulders sagged slightly, a relieved grin spreading across her features when her thumb flicked the cigarette lighter's wheel and after a few tries a pinkie nail sized flame sprang to life.

The pitifully small yellow light did what it could against the pitchy blackness around her. She held the lighter out in front of her and carefully stepped toward the stairs a few feet away. About halfway down the first flight of stairs she hissed and let go of the lighter when it started getting really hot against the pad of her thumb. The woman switched the lighter to her other hand and blew on her thumb then reignited the Bic and carried on down the stairs. She paused to switch hands every so often though she was reasonably certain there were sizable blisters on her thumbs...

Disaster struck about half way past the next floor down from where she entered the stairwell. She went to switch hands again as the lighter started to sear the pad of her thumb when disaster struck. The lighter slipped from her grasp and she thought it landed on the riser next to her left foot... A blind feral panic threatened to envelop her as she crouched and tried desperately to find the lighter. “Oh goddamnit!” she hissed when the side of her finger hit something and sent it skittering toward the edge of the stair. Her heart launched into her throat when she lunged after it and almost lost her balance, only stopping herself from taking a nasty fall by somehow catching the railing in the dark.

She ran the palm of her hand over her face in the dark then stood and took a deep breath. The woman rested her hands on her hips as she let it out in a heavy sigh as she leaned against the wall. What the hell am I gonna do now? A noise somewhere above her set a panicked rat to scurrying around in the pit of her stomach. “Well...okay...” the woman grumbled to herself as she put a hand on the railing and started walking carefully down the stairs. She wracked her brain trying to remember how far it was to the next floor down. Twenty steps? Thirty? The woman swallowed the lump in her throat as she tentatively worked her way down the stairwell.

Her shoulders sagged with relief when she finally reached the landing for the next floor. A cool sweat coated her arms and the back of her neck as she groped blindly for the door. “Ha! Phew!” she exclaimed as she emerged into a bright hallway and bent slightly at the waist to rest her hands on her knees. The woman straightened, uttering a tiny nervous laugh as she wiped her brow with the back of her wrist then looked around the area she found herself in.

A vague sense of unease started crawling around in the pit of her stomach as she looked up and down the wide hall. Everywhere she looked there was dully gleaming wood and twinkling glass with light streaming in through the floor to ceiling windows. She could sort of see that there were rooms on the other side of the weirdly defective glass in the hall... There was some sort of strange scent in the air that she could not place but for some reason she found it oddly pleasant smelling. Still, the sense that she was not supposed to be in here kept playing with the edges of her mind.

She passed a few doors then came to a largish room with a long rectangular table and chairs in the middle. There was a large stylish looking refrigerator next to the microwave on the counter top next to the sink... The woman glanced over her shoulder as she slipped into the room and tiptoed toward the refrigerator, her stomach growling in anticipation as she crouched and pulled open the door. After a quick glance over her shoulder she helped herself to a bottle of some sort of green sports drink and a rather vaguely sad and sort of wilted looking prepackaged salad. She tossed the bag of greens and bottle on the table then also grabbed a sizable plastic container with what looked like some kind of pasta in a thick white sauce before sitting down.

Shoveling the cold pasta into her mouth with the fingers of one hand while sipping the sports drink with the other she quickly made short work of the food. After rinsing her hands off in the sink she washed her face and ran her damp fingers through her hair before sitting down to tear open the plastic bag of salad. A startled look came over the woman's face as she munched on handfuls of greens, a few slices of carrot crunching satisfactorily between her teeth. Oddly she could almost swear that she could actually feel her dehydrated tissues absorbing the sports drink as the liquid radiated from her stomach then moved through her system.

She took out the stuff in her pockets out and spread the articles on the table. A slow smile spread across her face as she carefully examined the artifacts. There was a small notepad and a black ballpoint pen. A navy blue plastic case made of hard plastic that opened like a clamshell containing a pair of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses with thin steel frames. A pack of menthol cigarettes. The watch on her left wrist seemed like it might be pretty pricey as well. She did not know what brand it was but it was weighty and made of black plastic and steel. The tiny writing on its face proclaimed that the watch was waterproof to five hundred feet which she found mildly intriguing for some reason. I wonder if I ever put that to the test?

Most importantly there was a small green and black nylon pouch that contained a handful of crisply folded ten and twenty dollar bills, a Visa card as well as a Commonwealth of Virginia driver's license with a picture that matched the face she had seen in the mirror. Behind that she discovered a green identification card with that same face on it. “Armed Forces of the United States.” she said, reading the black block lettering on the top of the card aloud. “Huh.” Next to the black and white picture was some sort of emblem with the words 'US Army National Guard' written above it. The rest of the information on the card made little to no sense to her no matter how hard she glowered at it.

More importantly each of them had that same name on them: Grace K. Wilson.

She stuffed a fistful of wilted lettuce into her mouth with one hand while putting her things away with the other. Her eye flitted toward movement in the hall and she suddenly realized that she was trapped. If more of those people from upstairs had found her... A tall thin dark skinned man in a rumpled collared shirt stepped cautiously around the corner with a bright orange fire ax in his hands, the weapon raised over his shoulder. He slowly dropping to his waist while she stared at him with eyes as big as saucers. “Holy shit.” the man muttered, his prominent Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed and glanced over his shoulder as a second man peeked around the corner. “You're alive.”
 

Just a reminder that if you liked what you've read you can get the full story through the link here: Get Out Alive by Robert Van Dusen Thanks and have a nice day!

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