I could see the full moon shining through the slits in my wall, giving me an idea of how late it was, but I couldn't bring myself to close my eyes. Loud bangs and various other noises echoed down the hall, sending shivers of annoyance down my spine as the sounds grew louder by the second. I attempted to plug my ears with my forefingers but to no prevail.
What frightened me the most wasn't the sounds themselves, but the shouts and gasps of the scientists that came with them. I had decided that they had hardly any idea what they were doing for their reactions to each bang seemed completely composed of shock. I buried my face into the thin mattress of my cot, praying silently that no serious damage would be conflicted because of the carelessness of the scientists.
I had not seen or spoken with anyone since before the presentation to the President and it gave me chills. Wouldn't Michael and Josh be curious to her visit? Josh of all people should've been ready to bombard me with the questions the second I got back, but his blonde head hadn't entered my cell since earlier today. Michael had probably known more than me even before Dr. Frent's explanation, yet he hadn't said a word. Call it what you will but something felt out of place to me.
An unusually loud crash awoke me from my thoughts and jolted me to a sitting position. I listened intently, waiting to hear an explanation. Over the frantic screams and running feet I heard something else, a sort of roaring sound.
I stepped forward and pressed my ear against the crack in the door, trying to tune out the shouts and concentrate on the roaring. I listened silently for a few moments, trying to disfigure the meaning of the roars, and then I heard a crack. My brow furrowed in confusion for a moment as the cracks and pops were added to the other sounds and then I gasped. My eyes widened as I stepped back, watching gray fog drift through the cracks in the door. Fire.
Having no desire to be trapped inside my cell room I jumped onto my cot, reaching up and working my fingers into the cracks that surrounded the grate in the ceiling. With much tugging I eventually managed to pry it loose, meeting a shower of dust as I set the grate on the floor. Placing a hand on each side of the vent I hoisted myself through the small opening and into the air-conditioning system with much pain on my part. I crawled through the vent on all fours, looking through each grate that I passed for a safe place to exit, but none arose. I picked up my pace, coughing and wheezing as smoke began to pour into the system. Below me I could still hear frantic cries as everyone rushed toward an exit and somehow managed to pick out Josh's voice amongst them. I relaxed slightly, glad that one of my friends would make it out alive.
I was right over the middle of the hallway, searching for a grate to drop down from. None was in sight and I started to back-track when a soft creaking reached my ears. I froze and squeezed my eyes shut tightly and never got to see the scientist's faces as I crashed through the ceiling.
I landed among dust and debris, coughing as I pushed myself to me feet. The swarm of people hurrying to the exit curved around me like a wave and I was forced to push through them as I made my way to my friend's cell rooms and to the source of the fire.
"Michael!" I called, coughing into my palms as I breathed in the smoke. "Adam!" Even with my sensitive ears the voice I heard was very distant. I strained to hear it better and managed to pick up what was being said.
"I'm in my cell!"
I pushed aside a rather hysterical looking scientist, knocking her to the ground in my desperate rush to reach the end of the hall. The crowd was dwindling down and the fire was spreading, I could see the tips of the flames licking the labs door. Adam's cell was directly across from it and I endured the furious heat to bang my fist against his door.
His face appeared in the small glass window that sat in the center of the door. He looked ferociously angry as he pointed behind him the grate in his ceiling and the wide amounts of smoke that was pouring through it. There was no possible way he was getting out trough that.
"Get the key!" He nodded toward the door knob.
"Where is it?" I shouted back as I clasped the knob in my hand. He pointed to the lab and my eyes widened.
"Find Josh!" he shouted. I nodded and spun on my heel, my feet flying as I raced back to the exit, calling for Josh as I went.
I rushed through the heavy metal doors, only pausing for a moment to allow the clean air to fill my lungs. I could hear Josh before I saw him; fighting against the grip of several scientists, demanding to go back into the lab. I shouted his name and as he turned his head relief filled his eyes.
"Thank God," he said as I ran toward him. "I thought you were all dead!"
"Where's Michael?" I questioned, resting my hands on knees in order to catch my breath.
"No idea. Adam?"
"Trapped in his cell room." I felt hands reach out to grab my arms but I slapped them away. "I need you to get the key."
He didn't answer. Instead his hands flew up in one lighting fast motion, causing the scientists to drop the grasps. We took off across the lawn before any of them had time to thin, weaving our way between hands trying to stop us. I could vaguely hear sirens in the distance and picked up my pace. I could hear my heart pumping faster and faster in my chest and my panting had grown heavier, my legs were screaming but I pushed them on. We were almost to the doors, only a few more steps, when a powerful hand reached out a clasped my wrist.
"No!" Dr. Frent shouted, his eyes wild with rage. "I will not lose my specimens!"
Josh skidded to a halt but I shook my head furiously. "Go! I got this!" He looked hesitant but finally ran straight through the smoke filled doors. I turned back to face Dr. Frent and with all the force I had I swung the flat of my palm against the opening of his ear. He howled with pain and released me. I kept running, calling over my shoulder as I did so, "Now you know how I feel!"
The lab was brimming with smoke and I sank to my knees, crawling along the floor to seek the cleaner oxygen below. I heard the roar of the flames and felt their intense heat as I crept closer to Adam's cell, listening for a sign that he was alright. I heard him a second later, pounding on his door and turning the door knob uselessly. I pressed my face against the window, straining my eyes against the smoke until I caught sight of him.
Hurry Josh, I thought desperately, coughing into my fist as the smoke grew thicker still. The fire was in the hall, its tips nearly reaching the ceiling. I dodged a flame as it reached toward me, landing on the hard linoleum floor. I felt sweat dripping down my neck and heard a deafening roar. Looking up I saw the ceiling begin to shake and hastily scooted away until my back was pressed against the wall, getting a clear view as the ceiling collapsed into the hall.
"I got it!" Josh's voice called from behind the pile of ceiling. I edged my way as close as possible to the lab doors.
"Toss it to me!" I shouted and a piece of shining metal sailed over the flames. I caught it but let it fall when the hot metal blistered my skin. Tearing off a piece of my hospital gown I wrapped it around the key and pushed it through the lock in Adam's door. It clicked and the door swung inward as Adam waved his way through the smoke and into the hall.
"Alright, let's get out of here," he coughed, wiping tears from his eyes as the smoke stung them. Josh had fought his way out of the ceiling debris and we ran toward the exit, dodging the flames. Passing by Michael's door I quickly glanced in through the window but didn't spot him amongst the smoke.
I cursed in frustration when I saw that the front doors where blocked by flames. We each skidded to a halt before the fiery mass and spun around, searching for another means of exit. I spotted a small window, barley wide enough for Adam to fit through, only a few feet away. We rushed towards it, me and Adam having to scoot around flames while Josh ran straight through them, burning his already tattered clothing even more. It took all three of us to push the glass upward, but finally we had it open. Adam cupped his hands and stepping into them I hoisted myself onto the windowsill, falling onto the hard concrete below. Josh and Adam soon followed.
We ran to the chain link fence that surrounded the lab grounds, attempting to stay out of sight of the front lawn, and Josh began to climb it.
"Wait," I said, and they looked at me in bewilderment. "We can't leave Michael."
Josh released an exaggerated sigh and jumped back to ground. "I'll go find him. We can't leave Maria's lover behind."
I elbowed him hard in the gut and he moved as if to hit me back but Adam stepped between us. "I'll find Michael. You two get over the fence and as far from the lab as possible. We'll find you when we can."
I opened my mouth to protest but the glare Adam singled on me closed my mouth. Josh and I turned on the fence and started climbing, staying as silent as possible. I held the barbed-wire at the top open for Josh and he did the same for me. We jumped to the ground in time to see Adam sneaking around the corner of the building and disappearing from our sight.
We turned to face a wide forest with tall trees that stretched into darkness. The sun was beginning to rise and it cast shadows on the ground, giving it an even eerier look. "This is going to be interesting," Josh said and I nodded my agreement. We rushed into the trees, crashing through underbrush and ducking under over hanging branches.
As we ran I filtered through my thoughts, trying to understand the strange events that had happened in the last couple of hours. Michael was missing, we had almost been burned alive, and the lab was destroyed. I smiled, realizing what the last one meant.
"Hey Josh, guess what?"
"What?" he questioned turning toward me.