I stopped with my fingers on the door handle, hesitant to go inside the hold once again. I hated this place. I hated the smell. I hate everything it represented. I hated what it had done to people I worked with.
But I hated most how it reminded me of failure.
The metal was cold against my fingers as I brought up my keycard with the other hand. I had long thought we did not have adequate security but had done nothing because I wanted to preserve a final option.
This final option.
They will kill me. I shook my head. But if I don’t do this, who will?
A lot had happened in just a few days. Much I did not want to think about but had been unable to get out of my mind.
I warned her. She didn’t listen. Now look what’s happened.
I firmed my resolve.
This is the only way.
A zampy cried out, a noise like a sharp bark. The monsters could not know what I was planning but we had made assumptions about them before that proved wrong so even though I knew it irrational to think they could read my mind I was not so sure. We didn’t know how they communicated with their zombie minions so I couldn’t rule out telepathy.
The zampys could sense my presence, even though the dungeon was windowless, of that I was sure.
These lizard monsters that resembled dinosaurs were far more intelligent than any of my co-workers supposed.
My bag was heavy with ammunition and my knockoff Colt .45 was carefully concealed inside my jacket. Nobody had ever thought to install a metal detector, as the remaining team leader I was above suspicion and had passed the guard without question.
The thought I would destroy my own discovery was unthinkable.
Thank you, Sharon.
I had planned every move and needed less than a minute to dispatch the monsters on the other side. They were behind bars so it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Easier really. I have no refraction issues.
It could all be over in a minute.
Yet I hesitated.
I had decided to stop this madness long ago. Each time I had tried, Sharon had foiled me or convinced me to do otherwise.
She cannot stop me now.
And that was part of why I was finally here. Sharon was now sequestered in a windowless padded room. She could only speak with grunts and groans, assuming she still knew what it meant to be human.
She could no longer use her brain. While I had already designated her a zombie, the higher-ups of Genizyz were not yet ready to accept the truth that was right in front of them.
Lurching like a dead woman walking.
“We have invested tens of millions in this program,” Jon Sohn, Head of Research and Development had told me. “We are not going to let an unexpected tropical disease stop us now.”
I had remained silent. He had taken my lack of response as assent.
What he had not known—could not have known—was the planning I had been doing for the better part of six months. His words had been irrelevant by that point. My internal debate ended when Sharon had converted to a zombie.
I should have handled this in the jungle.
Another of the zampys barked and I recognized his call all too well.
He was soon joined by the others.
Their bark was like a dog, but louder and far more menacing than any thing I’d ever heard, save a zombie roar.
The zampys cried in unison, making me think of prisoners chanting for freedom. Their cries sent shivers down my back.
And who’s to say they’re not?
Nobody had tried to understand how they communicated because we had been too busy researching their other unique properties so Genizyz could commercialize their discovery, the pillage of the natural world some might call it.
I understood the zampys better than anybody. Sharon had started to ask her own questions right before the end.
My hand rested on the handle for a long time with my keycard hovering above the reader. Dread rolled through me when I finally disengaged the lock and opened the door.
The barking stopped. The zampys did not move.
I knew I was not the dominant animal as all eyes focused on me.
The hold was kept dark to mimic night.
The only light came from the open door. As I slid my hand into my jacket and wrapped my fingers around the butt of my pistol, I could not help but think of the first time I had encountered these infernal lizards.