It’s with the seventh attempt that I manage, with the help of Danny’s lanky and sweat-ridden hands, to procure a flame just long enough to ignite the end of my cigarette; inhaling with an acute depth and brevity that first hazy drag. That’s the problem with a habit like this. The first one or two doses are ultimately the only ones that ever seem to make a difference, that significant shift in one’s physiological baseline that many refer to as a buzz. What remains is really just consumed out of a mix of an obligation to finish what you’ve paid good money for and a general attitude of “Why the hell not?”
Nicotine is a rather frustrating friend to keep. Though Danny here is giving her a damn good run for her money.
I try to close my eyes as I allow one thousand and one chemicals poison my body into an artificial and fleeting state of Zen…while my new friend, though we’re hardly even Facebook official, chatters away uselessly. One minute he’s bitching about his supposed girlfriend and the imminent danger which threatens her. The next minute he’s getting on to me about ripping his tattered Iron Maiden t-shirt that was handed down to him by his dear half-brother before he was incarcerated for the attempted robbery of a Piggly-Wiggly for which he was framed for, by the way. More than half-way through my smoke and he’s put me to the point where I rescind my previous assessment of him as a nerd; this guy is a class A dumbass.
“What do we do, man? I mean…oh God those things are for real, aren’t they?” he spits out at me with wide, hopeless eyes.
“First off, if you couldn’t already tell, I’m enjoying a cigarette. This is something that I highly suggest you do as well. It’s a more than ample way to burn time. Get it?” I reply wryly, gently whistling a thick, ashen stream of smoke in his direction.
“Enjoying a cigarette? I can’t believe you man! Right now the love of my life is trapped up there with those…”
Danny’s jaw slightly hangs open, “You know what you are?”
“A sick, yet relatively intelligent bastard?”
“No, man. You’re just sick. Come on, zombies? That’s the kind of stuff that only happens in movies. What we are dealing with is, like, some hardcore Resident Evil crap, you know?”
“And that’s what? Not a zombie movie?”
“No, that’s a…”
“A zombie movie, thank you,” I cut him off curtly, satisfied with having shut him up on what would have been a most inane argument over undead semantics, and proceed to mash the still ember-laden butt of my cigarette against the gray grout lining the crimson bricks in the wall upon which we both rest.
I glance over at Danny and notice that his mouth is still quite agape. Now I might be good, but I certainly am not so good as to have used sheer rhetoric to put him in such a state of shock. The sound of his throat drying up, spasms attempting to force saliva down his seemingly constricted larynx, really begin to alarm me. My first thought is that somehow he’s coming down with some severe anaphylaxis in response to the tobacco. And then, as the temporary desensitization of my olfactory faculties dulls down, it hits me…that same pitching of my insides as if my organs themselves were being flung about in the tumultuous ocean, suffering from a sort of seasickness that not even Captain Ahab would have been familiar with.
Call me Ishmael, why don’t you.
Immediately I lace all of my fingers as if fashioning an air tight seal over my nose and mouth, and I violently jerk my head straight ahead of me to see what at this point should be of little surprise; I guess the horror witnessing a nearly literal corpse exercising surreal yet irrefutable animation is just one of those things that never get old.
I have to say this one is by far the worst I have ever seen; to locate its gender is, to put it lightly, well beyond the realm of possibility given the nearly limitless degree of decomposition with which it is so severely afflicted. His (or her) torso is completely exposed, revealing an incredulous degree of anterior tissue degradation; so much so that I would say that at least three fourths of the dermis is completely absent. What skin remains is completely ridden with severe cellulitis, blisters and pus filled cysts comprising the majority of the surface area.
The lower abdominal musculature is deteriorated to the point that the gastrointestinal organs, most especially the large bowel whose color has blackened due to the formation of a pseudomembrane, is in clear view as well. A disgustingly sharp and sour odor cuts at the tongue with such a force that my lips reflexively clamp down the on one another; it must be what remains of the gastric juices. Perforation of the stomach lining due to infection would explain the leaking of hydrochloric acid unto the other tissues, causing the dramatic acidification and subsequent break down of the muscles that would otherwise sheath that abominable mess.
Each and every single one of my hairs across my body stands virtually perpendicular to the surface of my skin, prickling with wave upon wave of goose bumps. It’s funny really, just the other day in human physiology I learned about the evolutionary origin of what most people call the “goose bump.” For starters the official, medical term is cutis anserina. It is defined as the direct result of what is a fairly common mammalian reflex called horripilation. Governed by the sympathetic nervous system, tiny muscles behind each individual hair follicle are signaled to contract simultaneously, often in response to a sharp environmental change (like the cold) or, in our case, the flight-or-flight response. How could this possibly be useful, you might ask?
Well, to be brief, a long time ago when mankind was great deal less civil and shitload more hairy, this biological reflex would confer the rather significant benefit of making one seem much larger, and thus more intimidating to a given threat. However, seeing as body hair over the course of time has become more of an organic vestige than anything, it offers us little practical advantage besides making it a bit more embarrassing to shed one’s top garments at the local pool party.
By that minute fact flashing instantaneously into my mind more sharply and portentously than even the most profound Deja vu, I’m able to shake off my own futile sense of stupefaction and realize the sort of deep shit he and I are in if we don’t move. Grabbing Danny by his pale, freckled, wiry forearm, I violently yank him off of the dew-soaked grass and in the direction of the Physical Sciences building.
As we whisk past the cement staircase and towards the gardened, bench speckled plain of the South Oval, the multitude of rotten human shells seem to take notice of us in a sort of hive-minded unison; each pivots ever so slightly so as to be oriented towards us, trudging at a speed, though not immediately threatening is ghastly nonetheless. About three minutes into our poorly coordinated sprint, seeing as Danny’s efforts against his body’s strong desire to disgorge keep doubling him over, I too am quickly losing my own stamina, my lungs searing as if doused with a half-gallon of gasoline and then set ablaze. Each and every breath I take saturates my shriveling alveoli with an endless barrage of pins and needles. I imagine it would be a far easier time trying to pneumatically inflate two hot water bottles at the same time.
“See,” Danny blurts as few teaspoons of chowder-like bile leak from the hands that frantically cup over his mouth , “I bet you’re enjoying that cigarette a whole lot now, aren’t you?”
In between my arid wheezing I retort bitterly, “Sure am. Though I suggest you shut the fuck up for the time being, lest you drown in your own vomit.”
“I’m just saying if we didn’t waste all that time we could already be there.”
“Jesus, we’re on the way now! What the hell else do you want?”
“I swear, man, if I find that she was hurt by one of those things…” Just then Danny trips over a sodden, indistinguishable heap laying across the pavement in front of the library. I’m so caught up at this point that I don’t take notice until I’ve overtaken him by about fifteen yards, slowing down to a halt with my hands clasping tightly over my knees. Judging by the vibrant streak of scarlet flowing liberally unto the sidewalk, he’s must of fell head first and put a bit of a slice into his forehead. It’s one of those things that looks worse than it really is.
Having caught a bit of my breath, still very much aware of the ever enclosing circle of necrotic fiends surrounding us, I run over to his side and see that Danny’s quite conscious, though a little less than pleased to witness the sight of his own blood.
“Aw man…I’m bleeding real bad man, please help!”
“You’re okay, Danny,” I reassure him as I sling his arm over my shoulder, hoisting him up. “You just cut your forehead a little that’s all.”
“Oh my God. It looks really, really bad, man. I might need a transfusion or something man, I can’t die! Not now, oh God, not now!” His already sickly pale complexion is rapidly fading to a ghostly white. It’s not so much the bleeding, but what it’s doing to feedback into his hysteria.
“You don’t need a transfusion, you dumbass. A brain transplant? Yes, that you could definitely use.”
He snatches his arm away from me, staggering back unto the ground, “God, you are such a bastard! Here I am, gravely injured, and the only thing you do is insult me!” His eyes stare back at me inflamed, watery, and bloodshot. I lower myself upon my haunches, rubbing the tips of my index finger and thumb somewhat sheepishly into the bags hanging under my eyes when suddenly my ears are pierced with a high pitched shriek. Looking forward towards Danny I see his own eyelids pried wide open, as if by mechanical means. I turn to what he slowly, yet desperately crawls away from as the blood from his face forms a slight, yet definite smear on the ground beneath him.
The indiscriminate heap which had caused him to fall just moments earlier is twisted over now, writhing grotesquely like a leech towards him, a lone skeletal hand protruding from the otherwise limbless torso. Danny’s breathing becomes increasingly labored as he clamors up on all fours, a singular vein extruding from the paper white surface of his left temple. I quickly scoop him up as if by dead lift as his legs flop about, seemingly averse to the idea of being in any way useful to him or me.
“Come on, Danny! I’m sorry, I really am, but right now I need you to calm down. You’re beginning to hyperventilate which will cause your blood vessels to constrict, increasing your blood pressure significantly; given that you have an open wound, it would seriously be in our best interest that you pull yourself together, alright? If not for us then for Kiley’s sake.”
At the mention of her name, his feet plant somewhat firmly onto the ground, and within a few minutes I manage to walk him away from the South Oval and around the corner of Nielsen hall to where the Physical Sciences building towers ahead in full view. Its expansive grid of unlit windows offers little to which we can bolster our optimism. In a fit of my own exhaustion, I crumple down against an array corroded aluminum bars, my right hand clutching unto the cracked leather seat of a bicycle that stands tethered to its s-shaped grooves.
Danny looks over to me, a bit of ruddiness flowing into the center of his acne-scarred cheeks, and mumbles, “Thanks, man.”
I ambiguously flutter my free hand about, as if motioning a “Don’t mention it.” I could care less about his moment of weakness and more so about mine. My diaphragm persists in forcefully squeezing the life out of my lungs in order to catch a single, decent breath. Every heave stretches each of my ribs to what feels like their absolute breaking point. For another few minutes, Danny stands silently over me as I struggle to manually slow my respiration to a more practical, less painful rate.
“Not to beat a dead horse or nothing, but you really ought to think of quitting.”
Under ordinary circumstances I would have gotten up to kick his pale ass in a second. However, seeing as I have barely the oxygen to utter his name, I simply flop down on the cool and damp pavement in a supine position. The bleak and fluorescent glare of sunlight-otherwise concealed by the blanket of altostratus clouds that lurk in the sky above-forces my gaze to collapse in a hard squint; the dull ache of pupillary constriction slowly crawls towards the back of my skull.
For a brief moment, a bit of silence seems to fall upon the area around us, interrupted only by the hushed sound of inhuman limbs languidly shuffling along pavement in the distance and Danny’s slight, rhythmic panting. Just then the cement beneath my begins to vibrate subtly, and the gently whir of an engine in the distance perks my ears up.
“You hear that?”
“Yeah. Sounds like we might be in for a sight for sore eyes.” I reply as I sit up and clamor back onto my feet, still leaning on the bike rack for support.
As Danny and I expectantly look on towards the upward curving horizon running across the left side of the library, an off-white, slim, rectangular canopy emerges, its base propped up by four slender, black metal rods. Two large, crimson-colored collegiate typeface letters, superimposed in a staggered fashion upon one another, come into resolution as the vehicle nears.
OU. Never in the entirety of my undergraduate career have I been so relieved to see that overly used insignia.
With renewed zeal we frantically wave our hands as far as our shoulder sockets will allow them, despite the obvious fact that can probably see us just as well as we do to them. At first the golf cart slows once coming into a fifty foot radius of us. They’re probably trying to ascertain whether we’re on their side or not; to be fair even those monsters could be doing what we were…given the proper amount of intact appendages, of course.
Taking the sharper end of my left elbow, I jab Danny in the side with gusto, partly to demonstrate to this newly arrived party a loud, coherent, and linguistically sounding response from him. I would be lying, of course, if I said that I didn’t do it, in part, to exercise a bit of vengeance for his nearly incessant bitching.
“The hell, man!?” He yelps with precisely the effect I was anticipating; the golf cart’s tires squeal as it swiftly resumes its approach.
“Just testing out my weenis is all.”
“That’s not even a word”
“It isn’t?” I exclaim with mock surprise. “I think the ‘Urban Dictionary’ would beg to differ, my friend.”
The chagrin on Danny’s face fades as the cart brakes right next to us. In the driver’s seat is a rather portly man, two hundred and fifty pounds or so, with a size too small cream polo with the breast pocket embroidered with the University of Oklahoma Campus Security badge. At least he isn’t part of the fuzz. His several chins are somewhat disguised with a springy muff off an auburn colored beard ; unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the shiny bald spot that makes up his entire scalp. The pungent odor of chewing tobacco forms a distinct aromatic aura around him, not that I’m in a place to be complaining about that sort of thing.
The man to the security officer’s left is strikes quite the physical contrast. Even in a sitting position, the top of his head overtakes the driver’s by a half foot, the upper ridge of his salt and pepper hair barely grazing the cart’s ceiling. His eyes are such a dark brown that his pupils are virtually inseparable from his iris. His face is clean shaven, though the half circles hanging above his jutting cheekbones contradict his otherwise neat look with a sort of chronic haggardness. A thick, horn-rimmed pair of glasses just barely hangs on to his slender nose, remaining there only because of a prominent deformation of the nasal bridge; due to a past fracture no doubt. Judging by the conservative mustard colored button up and pleated khaki slacks, I would venture to guess that this guy is a professor of some sort.
After a moment of each of sizing up the other, the larger fellow breaks the ice by bleating, “Now what in the world are you boys doing out here? Ain’t you hear of the evacuation notice.” Though he’s clearly relieved to see that we aren’t potential roadkill, he’s certainly not terribly pleased either.
“I wasn’t aware there was one.” I answer in half truth. Explicitly speaking, I was never formally notified of such a thing.
“You’re shitting me, right?” The officer cocks a reddish eyebrow in jaded disbelief.
“Now, now Mr. Randy, I’m quite sure that these boys fully acknowledge the gravity of the current situation. I find it highly dubitable that they would be roaming about this blasted place if not for good reason.” The could-be professor’s voice is nervous and soft, though totally intelligible. His accent rings peculiarly familiar to me from the days of my early youth which were spent upon the green, wet isles of the UK.
“I don’t know, Doc. Can’t be too sure that they ain’t trying to make off with something valuable. Take advantage and what not of this godforsaken hullabaloo.” While it’s evident that Mr. Randy has a fairly significant degree of respect for the anonymous doctor, his beady eyes nevertheless continue to dart back and forth between Danny and I with the utmost suspicion.
“Oh now don’t be asinine. And what exactly is it that you estimate that these young men could possibly ‘make off with’ that could feasibly prove to be any substantial vector of personal profit, hum? A shelf of textbooks perhaps? Not likely seeing as, last I understood it, the library was quite the massacre whence it was shut down about an hour prior. We ourselves just locked up the Physical Sciences…”
“It’s locked?!” Danny and I exclaim in near perfect unison.
“Indeed. About five minutes ago, I would approximate. Why? Did you happen to leave something in there? Ah, see now Mr. Randy, I was positive that there was to be justification proper for their unusual presence.” Upon observing the stricken looks of anxiety on our faces, let alone the persistent assertions of his comparably rational passenger, the officer eases his guard and gives us a subtle nod of apology.
“If that’s so,” Mr. Randy mutters as he turns his engorged neck reluctantly to the Physical Sciences building behind him, “what is it exactly that you guys are needing?”
Danny and I look at each other for a brief moment, exchanging glances of uncertainty. He, reasonably a bit further in the pitch of desperation than I, speaks up with a tremble.
“It’s not exactly what…but who.”
At this the two riders make a synonymous exchange of glances, theirs more so out of skepticism.
“I see. Well boys, the quandary with that is we just finished evacuating the building at which point we put the structure under lock and key.” It’s becoming clear that even the doctor’s support is ironically becoming mired in the skepticism with which he was able to reassure his companion of our decent intentions.
I however have no intentions of having come so far to reach a dead end.
“Are you absolutely sure that you checked each and every floor?”
“No, certainly not. But then again that’s because levels one through five are generally the only ones that happen to be open during holiday.” With our bespectacled acquaintance’s enlightening reply, we clutch onto a faint spark of hope.
“Only one through five, right? See my friend’s girlfriend is, as far as we know, trapped up on the seventh floor along with my roommate and the rest of their lab partners.”
Even Mr. Randy starts up, “Shoot, Doc. We didn’t think damn twice about even going through any of the upper floors. Elevator was out, though.”
“Are you absolutely sure of this? Is there, perhaps, anyway you can telephone your colleague and confirm his or her whereabouts?”
I instinctively smack my rear pockets and then those in the front; however, to my complete dismay I find that I’m only able to make out the malleable frame of my cigarette pack. I must have tossed my cell into the passenger’s seat shortly after Linfan and I parted ways for the second time.
Looking over to Danny I see that he too is pulling on the shorter end of the straw.
“That is rather unfortunate, lads. To be honest and fair, I do not see the utility in allowing you two back into that hellish place. Please do not take any offense when I say this, however, I really do believe that there is little to no chance of anybody’s survival within that building at this point in time. And even if your comrades were very well alive, getting up to them would be a task so inconceivably formidable, it would bridge upon the impossible. I’m quite assured that Mr. Randy is in agreement with me that the incumbent risk is simply too great when juxtaposed to the potential payoff.” Even though there is a superficial air of sympathy in his voice, there is also an irrefutable sting of cold logic that sounds out to the both of us. Where as I begin to feel the weight of resignation, Danny is not having any of it.
“What do you mean you can’t let us in, huh? If you guys were in charge of getting everybody out of that building safely then you are in every way, shape, and fucking form responsible for the life of my Kiley!” The usually harmless and blank complexion of his face immediately flushes with a fierce ruddiness that startles even the burly security officer.
“Now, son. Calm yourself and just listen to what the Doc has to say…”
“No. You listen to me. There is absolutely no way in hell I’m leaving here without her, whether she’s alive or not! Do you both understand me? I mean…goddammit! We aren’t asking you to help us, we just need to get in and save the people we love!”
Well…I wouldn’t quite lump the way I feel about Sealey with the way Danny feels about this girl of his. Then again I was the one who didn’t bother to clarify.
Even I am at a loss for words, gaping at his seething rage. His tears flow down his blood caked jaw, rinsing him clean in a few thin and parallel streams. In reaction to Danny’s unexpected, yet fairly moving outburst, the officer turns to his passenger for an answer to what appears to be a very inflexible impasse. The doctor runs his knotty and venous hands into the raccoon-like circles under his baggy eyes, lifting his glasses up for a brief second and returning them with a long winded sigh.
“Okay. I can empathize with you, really I can. But you have to come to terms with the fact that this ‘risk’ goes beyond the one that threatens your lives as well as theirs. Your asking to breach a designated quarantine zone, do you understand this? Once we reopen the doors then only the Lord knows what may emerge out its depths. It would be gravely unethical to further endanger the lives of the people of this city for the sake of saving a mere half dozen.”
“So then give us the keys.” I interject boldly, not completely cognizant of consequence of what it is that I’m saying.
The doctor raises his thin eyebrows in absolute incredulity to my proposition. “I do beg your pardon.”
“Give us the keys.” I repeat once more.
“I cannot do that.”
“Why not? You give us the keys. Then once we’re inside we’ll lock the doors so that nothing gets out in the time that it takes to find our company. Once we find them, we’ll unlock them so as to exit the building, and lock them for one last time.”
“Quite a foolhardy plan you have there. Only hitch, of course, is that the doors are hardly engineered to be locked from the inside. Am I correct, Mr. Randy?”
“I reckon so, Doc.”
A minute passes in silence. I for one feel as if I’m at the end of my wits. Reaching in for another lovely and carcinogenic smoke, I fit it snugly in the corner of my lip. Just as my lighter flame kisses the end, Danny breaks through for us.
“Then I guess we have no choice but to have you guys lock us in.”
The cigarette drops out of my mouth in astonishment. Not so much because what he’s proposing is a practical deathtrap, but because it’s a flawless counterpoint to which the Doctor will surely have to concede. His broad brow, wrinkling deeply with frustration, swiftly confirms my tentative hypothesis.
The erudite man bores us each long, hard, and discerning look.
“How will you managed to escape, given your venture comes to fruition?”
“We’ll manage.” Danny answers quietly.
“Yes, but how?”
“I said we’ll fucking manage.”
“Well, Mr. Randy, it would appear as though our ‘king’ has fallen into the rather poetic misfortune of being cornered into the inarguable stance of checkmate.”
This rather eloquent expression of concession is a bit lost on his husky sidekick, but only momentarily.
“Checkmate…wait a damn minute, Doc! You ain’t serious now?”
“Quite so. These gentlemen seem to be offering no other recourse nor compromise to us whatsoever. Besides if we were to leave these rather cunning fellows to their own devices, who is to say that they wouldn’t smash in the doors themselves if that is what it took? Come along now. There should be ample room in the rear.”
Having fully processed what seems to be our unlikely triumph, I slap Danny on the shoulder energetically. I cannot lie and say I wasn’t impressed with his conviction. No matter what this girl of Danny’s is, she is, without a doubt, one lucky broad. We both round about the cart, I forgetting totally about the smoldering nearly full cigarette on the ground, and practically body slam ourselves onto the aged plastic seats, grasping on to the cold, black bars that hold up the dulled canopy above.
Though the walk to the building would have only been a matter of ten or fifteen minutes, the ride is beyond appreciated by the both us, and it gives our legs a chance to break down all of the lactic acid it built up from our rather unexpected bout of strenuous activity. In about four minutes time, we arrive at that ever foreboding fortress of science and mathematics; now overruled by things that, as far as I’m concerned, are in direct paradox to each of those philosophies. Mr. Randy screeches the cart to a halt at about several meters from the door at the foot of the disability ramp that slopes gently upward towards the main threshold.
“Alright, folks. This looks like your stop, now don’t it?” The gingery officer turns towards us with an expression of genuine amiability, his eyes gleaming with the hope that we’ll make it alive.
“Much obliged, Mr. Randy. If you will be so kind as to wait on my return as I escort these boys to the entrance. Let us not tarry any longer, shall we?
As we make our way up to the subtle incline towards the threshold of the tower, I can’t help but begin to realize the sheer difficulty of this little rescue mission of ours. We have no deterrent nor any weapon to our disposal. Not to mention that I have little idea as to what room on the seventh floor Sealey and his lab have holed themselves into. Danny, however, strides with no sign of fear or apprehension whatsoever. A slight twinge of remorse tugs at me for what I had said to him about the inability for people to feel anything special for one another. Perhaps this guy will prove me wrong.
Finally we arrive at the face of the building, doors with shiny metal frames lined side by side in three pairs. Peering through their windows, I notice that the interior is a great deal darker than usual. This does nothing to reassure me of the obstacles that lie ahead of us.
“Here we are now. As I am sure you both have observed, it is rather dark inside of the building. This is because the primary electrical feed was cut off from this area of the campus grid about a half hour ago. What this implicates is that your only source of illumination, save if you have a flashlight, will have to come from any windows that lie adjacent to the outside. I’m sure you boys can imagine what an enormous hazard this will pose to you, seeing as you will necessarily have to travel up the fire exit staircase which is totally isolated from any external light. However, all hope is not lost. I shall provide you a key-not the one that may grant you admission to the outside through these gates, mind you-but one that, if you should choose to do so, will be able to activate an emergency auxiliary power source. This secondary system should provide at least a baseline level of visibility for you both.”
“And just where can we accomplish this?” I ask intently, relieved to know that there is some semblance of a solution.
“See now there comes the rub. You must travel to the basement floor, which is only a single level below the one I am providing you access to. It will be dark as a black hole’s singularity going down there as well, but it will be well worth it to travel one flight of stairs in darkness in order to travel seven more in light.”
I take the strange looking key in the palm of my hand, it’s base encapsulated with a reddish cylinder with a small yellow and black hazard icon wrapping the circumference.
“Ah one last thing, before I forget, if by chance you happen to find yourself stuck between a rock and hard place, take this.” The doctor reaches into his rear pocket and pulls out what appears to be an upscale, over-sized snuff box. He unclasps it, revealing a row of neatly arranged hypodermic needles, each containing about two to three cc’s of a piss yellow compound. He hands it over to Danny, who then accepts it without question despite the obvious confusion on his face.
“Alright, then. I suppose I should go about unlocking the door, yeah?”
“Wait,” I nearly shout as if frightened of being left by a parent, “I just want to say thank you. We both do. May I ask your name so that I don’t have to address you as just Doctor this last time?”
“I would, my boy, had it any relevance to you or to me at this present state of time.” He replies dryly with wide smile, revealing an array of fairly white yet substantially crooked teeth. I suppose stereotypes aren’t always so fallacious after all. He takes a well populated key chain from out of his front pocket, automatically fetching for the correct one. Slipping it in with an effortless twist, the door swings open.
“Of you go then, lads. Be swift, be careful, and above all beware of Zed.”
“Who’s Zed?” Danny asks innocently enough.
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”
With a wink the mysterious doctor ushers us into the dank, dimly lit entrance hall of the Physical Sciences building. He locks the door behind us with a definite click, leaving Danny and I to our own devices.