I awoke naked on a bench in a depressurization tank.
The tank had rusty steel bulkheads bearing old dripping pipes and weathered ventilation ductwork. Someone had cranked the AC to an uncomfortable level, raising goosepimples on my bare flesh. The chamber deadened most sound, save for the blower, the dripping water, and Sportscenter. The plasma TV had been fastened to the wall in such a way that I couldn't get at the controls, and I found no remote...or clothing, for that matter.
The floor had chevron patterned plating like the running board of a truck, but dirty and gray. The place smelled faintly of vomit, old cheese, and something like skunk...maybe a hint of Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers. Something in the air made me sneeze , but I didn't even have the luxury of Kleenex.
My only exit appeared to be a large submarine door, but the cold, rough textured wheel didn't turn. Someone had locked me in.
How did I get here? When Covid happened, I'd gone up to the Sprint building wearing my mask, expecting to get a new laptop and headset so I could work from home, but someone attacked me in the parking lot before I could make it to the door. I think...drugs were involved.
Difficult to tell if those same people put me here, or if something else had transpired.
"Hello?" I called, but the chamber dampened the sound, so I tried shouting.
Nobody answered me.
Spotting a couple bubble cameras on the ceiling, I waved in hopes that maybe that would get someone's attention, but the door remained closed.
I banged on the hatch with my fists, but the only thing I got in return were sore hands. The metal was thick and scratched, perhaps due to others' previous futile attempts.
No toilet, no sink, no food. I sincerely hoped nobody wanted me to stay in this thing long term.
Uttering a sigh of resignation, I plopped down on the rubbery bench pad, trying not to think of where the stains on its ugly cracked surface derived from, or what regions of other people's anatomy touched the same parts my exposed ones currently had contact with. I much preferred to focus on sportscaster Jim Rome's mangled ear, and force myself to be interested in the activities of the Denver Broncos' new head coach. I mean, I'm assuming - the TV had been muted.
I guess it wasn't so interesting, because I ended up waking up on the pad. I cast a bored eye at the basketball highlights, then, noticing a strange increase in temperature, took a glance backwards and found the submarine door had somehow been left ajar.
I crept out.
I now stood on the slick concrete floor of some office complex. Cinder block walls, rows of wooden doors with gold plastic number plates. The only thing not so ordinary, other than the chamber I'd just left, appeared to be the giant sweating water tank situated adjacent. Clean, antiseptic smells - someone had used a floor buffer. I caught the faintest whiff of burnt popcorn. No sounds but the air conditioning and my bare feet slapping on concrete.
The well varnished doors did not open. Most of them had badge scanners. A turnstile led down a corridor, but you needed a badge for that too. Typical corporate setting.
It got less and less typical the further my chilly feet slapped along the hallway. The building had its own laundromat, internet cafe, reading room and a fully equipped restaurant style cafeteria. Admittedly, not too shocking for a place like, say, Google, but what I saw next left me scratching my head.
Next to a room filled with bunk beds, I came across a long hallway ending in a huge sort of domed indoor farm. The area was humid, earthen smelling. I couldn't open the security door, but through the window I could see everything, tall corn stalks, cucumber frames, reflectors and fluorescents providing the light.
Was this some sort of biomedical facility? Did someone kidnap me to shoot me full of experimental Covid vaccines? What was all this?
I shouted hello a few times, returned to the main hallway, called out again. Again, like in the tank, my voice didn't carry that well.
A search of the bedrooms ( I found a second one, jasmine scented, probably `females only' I'm assuming) and other rooms yielded no clothing, well, except pantyhose. Even the musty smelling laundromat had been tidied up - they had signs saying stuff left unattended ends up in the trash, but I didn't find anything in the waste bins but filthy mismatched socks, a stained pair of Y-fronts (two sizes too big - and wearing someone else's dirty drawers? Gross!) and a wash cloth.
The bathroom looked a bit strange, only a couple urinals and stalls, but a lot of vacuum hoses. I suppose it fit with the 'biodome in space' theme. I detected some faint odors, but it seemed no one but myself had used the facilities recently.
I found a hallway with a stairwell, climbed up a floor. The moment I pushed the door open and stepped out, the door swung shut and locked behind me. I'd need a card key to get back down again. I looked around nervously, hoping nobody would notice me or my unclothed state.
My feet settled on a ceramic faux marble tiled floor, surrounded by gleaming tan wood, a massive chrome emblem on the wall declaring this to be the home of U-Bank. I saw elevators, a lobby, and a tall spiral staircase. It would take me awhile to get my bearings...and find a living human being.
More security locked doors. Few sounds but my footsteps and the air conditioning, though now it sounded like breathing. Still not very warm. I could hear faint noises of birds, crickets, perhaps, but the air system mostly drowned it out.
I found a side room with a sort of unmanned grocery store. You paid with a credit card at a kiosk, and Big Brother was watching via camera, to make sure nothing got stolen.
Not sure what Big Brother and his electric eye thought about me walking in bare assed naked, but I supposed he was getting his jollies. That being said, I contemplated stealing something just to see another human being.
I waved to the camera, shouted hello, then moved on to a carpeted room containing banks of microwaves. It seemed to be a lot of wattage for a space simulation, but I figured they only did that experiment in the basement. Again I smelled burnt popcorn, like someone from the lower level cafeteria had carried their microwavable fun upstairs.
The lights flickered and went out, leaving me in darkness for a few moments. I stumbled blindly through the room, stubbing my toe on a table. There seemed to be faint light coming from outside, but my eyes hadn't adjusted.
When the power came back on, I found myself in for a shock.
Beyond the rows of long cafeteria tables, through the partially fogged ceiling to floor windows, I saw an honest to God jungle. Vines, creepers, leafy plants, some of them glowing and seeming to move on their own accord.
Bewildered, I crept up to the glass, wiping it off to get a better look. The window felt warm to the touch, and I detected a faint animal odor, mixed with the smell of what I'd compare to freshly cut grass.
All of a sudden, a giant horned head emerged from the thick foliage, a dark eight eyed triceratops thing with a lion's mouth, suckering tentacles flailing all about its hideous body.
Upon seeing me, The beast roared and rammed its head against the window, a spiderweb crack spreading across the glass.