Jane was pleased to note the normal progression of symptoms and scribbled her observations in her notebook.
“Hang in there a little longer,” she said. “Two or three days from now, we’ll initiate treatment.”
The only response was an agonized groan. After injecting the young man with more sedative, Jane headed back. She had what she needed. She wished her monkey sweethearts a pleasant night and found her way to the exit. Just two more hours with Professor Neville, and then her shift would be over.
Jane stepped into the elevator, eager to wrap things up. But when she arrived at her floor, the doors refused to budge. Jane cursed the incompetence of the maintenance crew. Breakdowns occurred often, too often for her liking. She was about to pick up the elevator’s black telephone to tell off the orderly, when the base loudspeakers started blasting an ear-splitting siren.
Jane pressed her hands over her ears to muffle the excruciating noise. Then the wailing stopped. It was replaced by a man’s voice, which Jane identified as that of the duty officer.
“Attention, all personnel. Due to a security breach in sector four, we ask that you calmly make your way toward the emergency exits.”
Jane's eyes widened with surprise. She felt her heartbeat speed up and her scalp tingle with sweat. "This is no time to panic," she said to herself. "Think fast."
She took a deep breath and held it. Jane frantically pushed the button for one floor up, where her designated exit was located. The elevator didn't move, but the doors finally opened.
Then she saw the guards sprawled on the floor. Their dogs were lying all around them, vomiting and
shaking. The virus was already spreading throughout the facility. The alert had been broadcast too late.There was not a moment to lose.
You breathe, you die, she told herself as she rushed toward an open door on her right. She entered the
stairwell and heaved herself up the steps two at a time. An object was rolling toward her. A jar of pencils. She stepped over Phil Neville, who lay dying on the steps. He stretched out a hand in her direction but was unable to grab her ankle. Jane thought of her husband,her son, her flaming lungs and repeated over and over,
“You breathe, you die.”
She found the corridor. A little more effort and she’d be out of this hellhole. Jane grabbed the metal door handle and pushed. It didn’t open. She thrust with both hands, using all the strength she had. Nothing happened. She couldn’t hold out for more than a few seconds. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she pounded and kicked.
Those bastards had locked the exits shut! As soon as the sector had lost its airtight seal, the virus had spread, and then it was lockdown. Now the brick-and-steel building was one big tomb.
Jane Woodridge leaned against the door and slid to the floor. She closed her eyes, visualized Sean’s sweet chubby face, and filled her lungs a final time.