My investigation is no longer official. I have been away from work for days. I am not living at my apartment any more but instead in the floor above. I have heard them searching for me. I know Mandlebrot would be particularly interested in where I have been. My problem is that I know they are connected with what has been happening to this city. All of the ones that are wearing shades. I see more of them everyday. I know they will outnumber us at some point, so I need to know how to stop this plague and escape from this terrible place.
Sneaking out at night, I have been making a new map of a safe path through the city. There are more cameras now, forcing me to use more canals and water drains. I avoid as many of these tunnels as I can, because of the denizens they live in there. I’ve heard things about them, all kinds of urban legends, and it would be best just to steer clear of them. Despite this, there are a series of sewers and drainage tunnels beneath the hospital that should allow me to access the lower levels with minimal detection. I managed to get plans to the hospital before disappearing from work. I have made maps of everything. My memory is going and I’m losing important details. I’m not sure about my own name anymore.
I look outside the peep hole of my current hideout and see the street lights come on. There are still enough lights in the city, that you can see the clouds clearly. Tonight they look like cancerous. They have become like bloated and misshapen organs with this dark veins running through them. It looks like a storm is coming.
I pick up a backpack and begin to head down the stairs. Inside the pack are my carefully folded maps, three torches, two bottles of water, three cans of fluorescent spraypaint, my shotgun and a box of shells.
I reach the bottom of the stairs and go out the back door. From the shadows of the alley, I can see a patrol car making a steady predatory prowl through the empty streets. There has been a curfew in the city for sometime now. People caught at the time, are arrested immediately. I don’t know what happens to them after that. I wait for the car to pass, listening for the engine to fade in the distance before making my move out into the street. I’m only out there for seconds and into the darkness of a nearby park. There is a flood mitigation canal and a bridge, where I can check my map. Under the bridge, I lean against the wall, take a map out of my bag and begin to unfold part of it. Learning where I have to go next. I put the map in my jacket, the pack on my back and continued down the canal.
Following the canal, I go unnoticed through several blocks and under a dozen or so streets. I stop in one tunnel and check the map again. This is where it going to get confusing. I reach into the pack and pull out a can of spray paint and make a mark to determine the place I started, in case I have to trace my way back. Then making my way through the city, occasionally only stopping to make another mark in paint. I proceed through sparsely lit parks into the backyards and blocks of townhouses and down dank alleys, attempting to keep clear of the streets all the way. Most of this city’s living areas are dark inside now. I’m not sure whether people are occupying them, or they lie empty. Sometimes I think I can hushed talk, whispers or quiet lonely sobbing.
I cannot pause. I look down at a grate that leads into the storm water drains and ahead of me I can see the lights of the hospital. This is the halfway point. I leave a mark on the wall and descend into the canal that leads into the Overlund. The grate is old, rusted and covered in grime, but there is a gate of sorts that opens with some noise. I step into the grate, kneel down and pull the shotgun from my bag, keeping my eyes from the what might be ahead in the tunnel. I proceed into the pitch-black darkness. Despite the absence of rain, there is still water collecting in pools down here. All I can smell is the musty dank and dampness of the rotting matter down here. My steps are slow and deliberate. I make the least amount of noise as I can. The less attention I attract the better. I pause briefly lighting my torch only for short moments, either to check the map or make another mark.
I’m near the hospital, almost right beneath it. Water is knee deep here, and rising… Could it be raining? I’m too far underground to hear. I move further under the hospital. Suddenly, there is a sloshing sound behind me, like someone moving through the water. I spring around, flicking on the torch taped beneath my shotgun. Nothing but empty tunnels and rising, swirling water. Something in the back of my head tells me to run. I make no attempt at stealth, moving as fast as I can through the dark waters. I can hear it clearly now. This is no echo – something is behind me. The torch on the shotgun is still on and ahead is a ladder. I push to move faster, but the thing behind me is gaining speed. I can feel it right on my heels. It grabs for my bag, almost pulling me over, but I twist my body free of it, and continue sprinting down the tunnel I sling the shotgun over my shoulder, once I’m in arms length of the ladder. Grabbing onto the rusting rungs, I scramble to the surface punching open the grate and leaping free of the sewers. Grabbing the shotgun back into my hands I point it down into the hole in the floor, down below is nothing but dark churning waters. The feeling in the back of my head is back.
I look around, it’s dark, but my eyes have adjusted enough to see. I must be in a basement or some kind of maintenance area. Large machines are all around me, sitting silent and still like ominous relics. The main area of the hospital is above me. I need to get out of this place. Despite the maze like structure of this place, I find myself headed upwards into the main body of the hospital. The old raw stone walls, concrete stairs and rusted iron, give way to smoother stone, tiles and wood. This section of the hospital has looked abandoned for decades. I need to memorise places, I can’t afford to get lost here if I am noticed. I see the flash of lightning outside in the window, followed shortly by the crack of thunder. The storm outside is in full swing. I stare at the window for a short while, mesmerised. I do not know when the last storm past through this town. I feel relieved almost, as if things may return to normal. Then I look at the clouds. There they hang, dark and bulbous, covering the sky, almost throbbing with a pulse. I turn away down the hall and continue my search for the Doctor.
I near the end of the hall and I begin to hear the wails and moans of the patients of the asylum. I sling the shotgun, back on my shoulder. I can’t use it right now, it’ll make too much noise. I open the heavy door just a crack, hoping it doesn’t make too much protest. Looking through the crack I can see a hall of the asylum wing. There are cameras scanning every inch of the hallway. There’s no way I can make it through th…
Suddenly, there is the sound of an explosion, everything is bright and then instantly everything is drowned in darkness. Even the cries of agony of the patients’ stop for a moment leaving stunned silence. I duck behind the door for a short moment. The lightning has taken out the power. I look through the crack in the door. The red lights on the cameras are dead. This is my chance. I open the door as quietly as I can and then quickly move into the hallway. It’s dark now, the only available light coming from the emergency lights. I begin to move down the hall. However, the patients sense my presence, somehow and one by one, they begin howling their litanies of agony. I make it to the end of the hall and hide behind the door just as it opens. Two hospital staff stroll in, obviously brought by the noise of the patients. As they walk some way down the hall, they pause, like strange sentinels, trying to sense the cause of the patients’ howls. I don’t stick around. While the pair have their backs to me I sneak through the doors they entered through.
I sneak down a corridor and follow the signs to the high security wing. This is where he will be. I turn to the door and peek through the small window. There are two guards standing with their backs to the walls. They are wearing dark shades. Just like Mandelbrot… I need something to distract them. Reaching into my pocket, I find a sizeable coin. Freshly minted, I take it in my hand, open the door slightly and then flick it, so that it rolls down the corridor.
The coin made a loud, dense sound against the tiled floor, as it rolled across the silent hall. The two guards looked down in strange fascination as it flawlessly rolled past their feet. They don’t see me burst through the door until the last moment. The first one went down quickly, as the butt of the shotgun slams into the side of his face, making a heavy cracking sound. The second guard is ready for action, but he steps too far with his baton out too wide. Taking a step in, I swing the shotgun around like a club, connecting near the temple, smashing the shades off his face.
I run down the hall to the door at the end, normally you would need a pass key, but the lightning must have shorted out most of the security system, like the cameras. I enter through the heavy doors. The room is dark almost pitch black. From the available light I can see a cell, instead of bars there are panels of thick glass. It seems empty, but then there is a voice.
“Ah, there you are.” A man steps forward to the glass where I can see him. He has a lean and wiry build covered in hospital whites. His thin face shows the sharp angles of his cheekbones. Brown hair has receded giving him a more pronounced widow’s peak. This is Doctor Aurelius.
For a moment I look at him, trying to gauge him. It’s like looking into a black mirror. Why would they put him in a cell like this? Is he really that dangerous?
“Don’t just stand there, my boy,” the Doctor coolly says, “We need to get out of here.”
“Not until I get some answers,”
“You cannot make demands with me,” the Doctor sneers, “You don’t have the time. If you get me out of this cell, I will give you anything, provided our time together permits.”
He looked at me with a knowing coldness, like he could see my trek through the tunnels, through the hospital up to this point. He seems to know everything around him, even if he hasn’t see it with his own eyes. He needed out and I needed answers. The virus had to be stopped. I tightened my grip on the shotgun. A terrible mistake is about to be made.
“How do I get you out?” I say with great reluctance.
“There is a lever to release this door,” the Doctor points, his finger nearly touching the glass, “Unfortunately the lightning strike shorted out the system that controls the hydraulics to the doors. The lever is an emergency release, but I could not reach it from here.”
What did he mean by that? I move over to the panel on the wall, open it and turn the lever down. There is the sound of liquid gushing. I turn to see the Doctor’s cell door shift open, under it’s open power. The Doctor stands there smiling.
“Good,” he says, “Now time to get out of here.”
Doctor Aurelius takes two steps and then he pauses, “Damn”
The all of the lights come on, and an alarm begins to sound.
Doctor Aurelius looks at me and smiles, “Looks like our time together just got shorter”