“Good morning!” Cheryl called out to her colleagues that were in the room.
Four of them called out in unison of varying degrees of pep and happiness. Of the five, there were many more that worked at this place, but here in Lab 4B, only these five were ever entering and exiting. Of course, they had their bosses, but most just called them to their offices, they didn’t enter the laboratories themselves.
Cheryl walked past Franklin and Libbie as the pair were hunched over a microscope, each took turns over one specimen. Cheryl paid them no mind as she stopped by Donnie and Arusha’s area. The pair were gently urging a small parasitic worm into a petri dish. Once it dropped down from its writhing group of other worms, they closed the lid and set the dish off into a chamber within the chamber so that they could retrieve it safely. The chamber had a door close, and Arusha, gloved, retrieved the dish and placed it down upon a table with other specimens awaiting their demise.
These parasitic worms came off the coast of South Africa after a particularly bad storm. Within a bloated shark was the mass of worms that had never been seen before. They were immediately harvested and transported to various laboratories before finally finding a home in Lab 4B. These blue worms had orange spikes that you could see under a microscope, and the scientists had to wonder if they were used to inject anything or to use as movement aides. Today was their day to watch the spikes in action by involving the worms in different challenges to see how the spikes worked and reacted.
Libbie was first to let out a loud sigh hours later, and five petri dishes down. “The spikes do nothing!”
Franklin shook his head. “I disagree. They clearly sway when faced with potential dangers, so it is reacting, but nothing interesting after that.”
Cheryl leaned up from her microscope. “You’re right. They react, but then they seem to stay dormant. As if they are unafraid of what we place in the dishes with them. As if they know nothing is going to cause them harm.”
Donnie stretched his arms, his protective suit he worn strained from the movement. “Then let’s add a destructive element to one of these dishes and see what happens when they are faced with real danger.”
“Like what?” Cheryl questioned.
“Like a larger bug or parasite.” Arusha answered.
Cheryl nodded. “I like this idea. Add in a centipede and things should get interesting.”
“I believe Lab 6F has a vast amount of bugs to choose from. I’ll call them and see if we could have some centipede specimens.” Arusha said before she walked away to the phone line.
“So we’re making a bug thunderdome?” Donnie questioned.
“Oh, don’t act like you don’t like it.” Franklin chuckled.
“They have a few centipedes and are willing to give us some. They say Gerry will be down shortly with them, so I’m going to decontaminate and meet him at the door.”
The group nodded and Arusha left to do as she said.
Cheryl looked down at an empty petri dish and furrowed her brow. “Hey, where’s this specimen at?”
“I’m sure it’s the one we have splayed out under Arusha’s microscope.” Donnie answered her, while the others silently agreed.
Cheryl looked under Arusha’s microscope, seeing the parasite she felt relief, only for it to dissipate quickly as she saw another empty petri dish by the microscope. “No. Here’s its petri dish here.”
Donnie and Franklin looked at each other.
Libbie leaned up from her microscope. “We can’t have a missing parasite. We’re always meticulous. Look under all the scopes and I’m sure you’ll find the parasite.”
“Libbie’s right.” Franklin pipped up. “I’ll look the microscopes over.” He even volunteered.
Cheryl helped him, glancing down into each one herself with him. Once they had finished, the pair looked at each other with worry.
“We’re missing a parasite.” Franklin said.
Donnie and Libbie both looked Franklin and Cheryl’s way.
Arusha screamed out from the decontamination room. Cheryl was the first to the door, the others right behind her before she pulled the door open. Arusha was on the floor as she writhed in pain, holding her face. Another scream rang out as Cheryl slammed the door closed behind her.
Donnie banged on the door. “What’s going on in there?!” He screamed out.
Cheryl paid him no mind as she aided Arusha. Her nude form Cheryl ignored as she rolled her to her back only to gasp out and let go of the woman.
Arusha looked up at Cheryl. “Help me.” She pleaded softly.
Cheryl shook her head as she scooted further away. The sight of Arusha’s right eye that hung against her cheek as the parasite seemed to have grown as it feasted on the skin around the eye socket. Cheryl couldn’t logically form reason behind what she saw, but once she was against the door, she lunged upward and opened it as she joined the group again. She didn’t even realize she had screamed when Franklin grasped her by her arms.
“What’s going on in there?” Franklin asked calmly.
Arusha screamed out once more as it caused everyone to wince.
“Cheryl!” Donnie yelled. His voice snapped her out of her daze.
“Her eye! It’s out of its socket and the worm is bigger! It’s in her eye socket!” Cheryl felt hot tears in her eyes.
“We need to call the medics!” Donnie demanded.
“It’s a quarantine issue, we can’t bring the medics in. Libbie! Go help her!” Cheryl pleaded.
“My medical expertise doesn’t include eyeballs out of their sockets with unknown parasites inside!” Libbie exclaimed.
The group grew quiet before Donnie shook his head. “We have to quarantine the area, these things are clearly more dangerous than anyone thought. One’s out and on Arusha. We need to call a higher up on what to do. I say Mr. Mota.”
“Go. Hurry.” Cheryl said just as Arusha screamed out in agonizing pain once more. Cheryl moved to look into the small window that was available to see into the decontamination room. The worm hung from the eye socket, and seemed to have grown even more. Cheryl couldn't understand how it was possible, and yet she was seeing it grow with her own two eyes. What was once a small parasite, maybe two inches in length, now hung nearly six inches down Arusha's face!
Red lights began to flash in the lab, a siren screeched loudly in long pulls. Cheryl and Franklin covered their ears until the siren subsided, but the red lights continued their flashes.
“What do we do now?” Libbie questioned Donnie.
“They told us we are under quarantine, and now the line is disconnected. We're on our own.” Donnie explained.
Arusha's screams suddenly stopped. Cheryl quickly turned back to the window to only gasp at the sight she saw.
“What is it, Cheryl?” Franklin questioned with worry in his tone.
Cheryl only looked away and shook her head with a hand over her mouth and tears streamed down her face.
Donnie pushed the woman out of the way, Cheryl collided into Franklin who held her up. Donnie slowly looked away, shell shocked. “She's-”
Libbie moved to look herself, Cheryl watched Libbie examine as best she could through the small window. “That is the parasite now?” She questioned, as she looked to Cheryl, who merely nodded.
“It's nearly four feet long! It ate her head!”
Franklin's grip loosened on Cheryl. “What?”
“The parasite seems to grow exponentially, after being able to feed on human. We have given it all sorts of food types, but until now, never human!”
“What do we do now?”
As if on command the room went dark, causing Libbie to shriek out. Dim, white lighting emerged from the once flashing red lights. The four looked to each other with worry in all their eyes.
“Lab 4B will be decontaminated in five minutes. Repeat, Lab 4B will be decontaminated in five minutes. Please find the nearest exit in the event of the decontamination becoming uncontrollable.”
The monotone voice over the intercom finished speaking and Donnie was the first to pipe up.
“Surely they aren't thinking of decontamination before getting us out of here!”
“There has to be laws in place to protect us from this.” Libbie spoke.
Franklin ran across the room where a monitoring camera stayed perfectly still instead of its usual slow, sweeping motion. “They're watching.” He said before he waved his arms wildly. “We're still here!” He yelled. “We're still here!”
“We have to get passed the parasite and out of the decontamination room.” Cheryl said as he placed her hand on the handle, but when it wouldn't budge she began to frantically yank on it.
“Cheryl! Stop! It's been locked!” Donnie said before he looked around the room.
There were no windows, and the only way in or out was now locked down. The dim lighting caused a shiver to run down Cheryl's spine. “Where are the air ducts? We can possibly climb into them!”
“They are too small-” Libbie pointed to the small circular vents with protective netting. “We couldn't even fit a infant through those!”
“Decontamination of Lab 4B will commence in ten, nine, eight-”
“Then what do we do?” Cheryl asked frantic, while Franklin continued his screams to the camera.
“There's nothing we can do. They're sealing us in with the rest of the parasites and disposing of us as precaution.” Libbie said dully.
“They can't do that!” Donnie screamed.
“Four, three, two-”
Cheryl was about to speak before smokey gas began to fill the room from the very vents they had been examining moments earlier.
Franklin was closest to the vents and began to cough violently before he fell to the ground, blood sprayed from his mouth on his suit face shield, as the materials it was made from began to melt onto his body as he screamed in pain. It did not take long for the screams to be silenced as the toxins flooded his system.
Libbie, Cheryl, and Donnie all huddled as far as they could together, but it was no use. The smokey gas was moving closer with each passing moment. Cheryl watched in horror as the toxins engulfed the three. The screams from Libbie and Donnie filled the room, Cheryl hadn't even realized her own screams had joined their own as she laid on the floor writhing in pain until the room faded to black and she took her last, struggled breath.