Blood Legends: Undead – Episode Five
Was I leading her into a death trap?
The print of my palm smudged the slick of grime layering the heavy glass door as I eased it open. Dozens of contorted prints already smeared the surface. Avila’s short breaths pricked the hairs on my neck as I peered into the lobby.
I scanned the dim spacious area. The foyer spread out in a flawless vision as my eyes darted, taking in the oversized couches and mahogany furniture among huge pots of faux greenery and sprawling rugs. On one side of the room, a vivid painting dominated the wall beyond a marbled countertop. On the other, rows of individual workstations lined the internal window-wall. My skin went cold as I spotted the solitary office chair lying overturned near the workstations.
My tongue suddenly felt like sandpaper as I inspected the black leather chair, which was the only evidence of the annihilated city beyond the heavy doors.
How had this building managed to escape the apocalypse?
It was an unsettling revelation. Other than that, I detected no movement in the lobby, but that didn’t mean shit considering the vast space and dozens of upper floors I couldn’t see from this viewpoint. My gaze trailed to the door leading to the building’s stairwell which loomed unburnished and gray at the foot of the elevator corridor about fifteen meters away. I gripped the machete in one hand and a stake in the other, stealing myself to race to the door.
I glanced at Avila and gestured toward the stairwell. My voice was barely audible when I spoke. “Move fast and don’t make a sound.”
Her grim eyes nodded a reply. My heart lurched. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her against my chest like I had when she was child. I wanted to make everything alright for her again. But it was a futile wish and wishes were yesterday’s dreams. There were no words enough to take away the reality. She had become a child of devastation.
Our boots hardly touched the floor as we dashed through the lobby, keeping to the shadowed sections of the room before stopping short of the stairwell door. My chest constricted as I glanced down the darkened corridor where metal elevator doors glinted dully in the muted light offered by the grubby windows skirting the lobby. The unscathed appearance of the place heightened the mood of eeriness.
Something doesn’t feel right.
I tried to suppress the thought and the accompanying shudder as I grabbed the door handle before slipping into the gloomy stairwell. The narrow shaft immediately seemed to close in all around me as an inkiness infected my bones. I paused to allow my eyes to adjust to the diminished light while Avila slinked in beside me.
She gagged. “Argh!” She clutched at my elbow. Her was voice low and shaky. “Death is here.”
She was right. The stench was unmistakable. It was distinctive and sickly-sweet and as familiar as the rising sun. I reached for the flashlight stowed in the side pocket of my rucksack, flicking it on to illuminate an endless flight of concrete stairs broken by short landings as far as the light stretched. A frigid draft filled the stark shaft. There were four flights of stairs between us and the lab. Four flights. I prayed that death lingered in the opposite direction as I reached for Avila’s trembling hand.
Her skin was cold against mine. She clutched the stake in her other hand as if it were an extension of herself as she clung close to me through the dark. I gave her a squeeze.
“I’m okay, dad.”
Her words tore into me as I wondered if bringing her along had been the right decision. Was I leading her into a death trap? Would my choice forever change her destiny?
There was no way for me to know and no time to second guess my decision. The alternative was to leave her alone at the cottage. Now that the hawkers knew where to find us, she would have been a sitting duck. I told myself that she was safer with me as I released her hand, ignoring the tension in every nerve of my body as I eased down the stairs toward the lab.
The building groaned and the shadows seemed to deepen with each step downwards. Like contorting, dark limbs, they writhed and expanded against the shaft of light from my flashlight before disappearing into the blackness we left behind. Avila’s nails sunk into my waist as we crept along walls, her breath jagged in my ear while my senses went in overdrive. I pushed forward, progressing cautiously and with as much speed as I could, stopping when we reached the bottom of the stairwell to shine the light on the heavy metal door of the lab.
An odd sense of relief flashed through me as I skimmed the light around the bottom landing, seeing nothing but the gray slabs of concrete that enclosed the small area. The coast was clear but my fingers still tingled as they clutched the machete handle. I glanced at Avila and motioned toward the door.
I moved away from the wall as the sound of Avila’s stake clanked against the floor as it slipped from her hand. My body froze as the sound reverberated along the steel balustrades, echoing up the lengthy shaft in a climatic staccato.
“Shit!” Avila cringed and scooped up the stake. She looked up.
I followed her gaze, catching sight of the balustrades glinting through the darkness as goosebumps covered my arms. My breath hitched at the faint sound of footsteps from above. Avila’s gasp was followed by a sudden pinging noise at our feet. I looked down at a silver coin rattling against the concrete before coming to an abrupt stop.
Silence. I could barely breathe. Utter dread pulsed through me as I grabbed Avila’s arm and dashed toward the door, gripping the handle at the same time that it opened an inch to reveal Michal’s pasty face peering at me.
His dark eyes appeared spidery and wide beneath his glasses. His voice quivered.
“Michal.” I pushed on the door and ushered Avila into the lab, crossing the threshold as the cold draft carried the hideous sound of laughter. Two words clung in my mind.
Dead Air is an urban fantasy set in a post apocalyptic world, and is part of Kim Petersen’s Blood Legends. Episodes set to publish weekly for 12 Weeks. Catch up on previous episodes here.
Blood Legends: Undead Episode Six – Rare Blood Available in:
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