After the computer screen goes blank I sit for a moment. I am trying to gather myself. Honestly, I am so scared I don’t know if I can go back. But then do I have a choice. As I sit I can hear a scream in the distance. It is identical to the one I heard in the hospital.
“Oh no,” I whisper and flinch because I hadn’t realised I was going to say it out loud. Now fear has me in her grasp, but I am more scared about waiting here than moving. I wonder if I ought to go quietly and sneak or if an all-out run would be better.
Another scream echoes through the building. It is getting closer. I glance out of the window and see the rapidly retreating light. I’m going to make a run for it. Pushing back the chair I barrel out of the office and into the lobby. As I reach it I look up and one of those things stands at the end of the corridor right in front of me. Abstractly I notice that it is dressed in a suit, but the shirt is stained red and one leg of the trousers is ripped. It lifts its head and seems to scent the air. I pause briefly and it screams. Then I’m pumping my legs as fast as I can. I run for the door and push it open, heading for the sun. As I leave the shadow I feel the brush of a hand along my back. The creature screams and it sounds like it is right behind me, as if I am in some morbid game of tag I twist my body and shrug off the hand.
I feel relief at the gentle warmth of the sun but I don’t stop, I carry on running. I know that the late sun will be on the front of the dining area, but I need to get somewhere safe.
A small part of me argues that there is nowhere safe, but I ignore it. Instead I run flat out. I can hear a whimpering sound and I realise that it is me. In the distance I see the glass façade and I hit the door with arms outstretched. Inside I can see Dee watching me. Behind her I notice that Max is awake, but he appears to be tied to the chair.
“Let me in,” I cry.
She stands there and looks at me, calculating. “Are you bit?”
I sigh in frustration. “No.”
“I’m not sure I believe you.”
I don’t believe it. She is standing just in front of me and is staring through the glass. “You want me to strip?” I say angrily.
Oh, you are shitting me. Somehow I wasn’t expecting her to say yes. Not only that but she has moved so that Max can see me. His eyes are frantic and I can hear he is pleading with her to let me in. Dee seems to get angry and she walks over to him and backhands him across the face. His head snaps to one side and I see a small amount of blood trickle from one corner of his mouth.
“Don’t hurt him!” I cry. “I’ll strip.”
Dee turns to me and smiles. She folds her arms and just raises an eyebrow. I turn and look around me. I don’t see any of those things, but I can imagine they are watching me. The trouble is that I am standing in light at the moment, though soon I will become surrounded by shadow. If I do this I might be cut off as effectively as being caught on a rock with the tide coming in. Really though I don’t have a choice.
I look back and see that Dee has crossed to just in front of the glass. Max is looking at me with fear in his eyes and I wonder what has happened in my absence.
“If you don’t want to you can just tell me what you found out.”
I don’t. It is my only bargaining chip. Instead I unbutton my blouse. I keep my eyes on Dee the whole time. Once I am down to my underwear I turn in a slow circle.
“Everything,” she says.
This has nothing to do with whether I have been bitten or scratched and has everything to do with dominance; I can see it in her eyes. She wants to humiliate me. The only problem is that I think she is hoping to break me; all she is doing though is making me mad. So mad that I don’t care about my nakedness. I just strip and turn, resisting the urge to flip her off. As I finish I hear the door opening and Dee is there. She looks strangely deflated.
“I need to know,” she starts.
I push past her with my clothes in a bundle under my arm and go to Max. “You okay?”
He smiles. “Untie me?”
I do and then I start to dress. Oddly I find putting on the clothes more distressing than taking them off. Max is in front of me, watching Dee. She is looking at the ground.
“I had to know.”
“You said that,” Max says.