As the pounding on the hard metallic door echoed off the pipes in the room, I quickly assessed that there was no way Oscar had made it to the water pumping station yet. Panic invaded my lungs, causing my breath to become quick and ragged. If it wasn’t Oscar, who, or even, what was on the other side of the door? The door rattled hard against the frame. Suddenly, I was grateful to the habit I had formed at work to cover my ass while I was cutting corners. This morning, after deciding to take a small nap at work, I had locked the outside door to prevent anyone walking in on my violation of protocol. The locked door had become my savior in this moment. Every muscle screamed for me to run from the door, but I needed to know what was on the other side.
Hoarsely, I croaked towards the banging, “Wh… Who’s there?”
The banging stopped, and I caught what sounded like quiet muttering. Slowly, but carefully, I inched towards the door. A loud slam jarred my cautious progress, and I jumped back a foot.
“Ryan, you bastard! Open the door!” Recognition flooded me, and I quickly drew the deadbolt.
Natalie Roberts glared at me as I opened the door. Being the only female in our little group of social misfits had easily made her the primary object of desire among the mechanics. This was almost a reflection of all the animal shows I would see on TV where the males would compete for the female’s attention. For some reason beyond the group comprehension, however, she had chosen me as her mate.
I could almost see tears forming at the edge of her eyes as a car alarm blared in the distance. “I woke up and you weren’t there! And when I saw what was on the news, I…”
I stopped her before she could keep going. “I’m fine! Oscar called me in a panic just a little bit ago, but he didn’t say what was going on.”
“I was going to surprise you when you got home from work. But you weren’t there when I woke up.” She glanced over her shoulder, then continued, “I woke up at your place, but I accidentally left my cell phone back at my apartment, and I couldn’t call you when I saw the news!” She took a deep breath. “Ryan, the city has gone crazy.”
A gurgled cough interrupted our conversation, causing my head to snap towards the sound. In the parking lot behind Natalie was a man with clothing that had been ripped to shreds. His right pant leg was separated at the thigh and coiled at his ankle. Deep gashes and bruises were scattered across what skin I could see. He looked like he had been in a car wreck and my first thought was to rush to help him. My heart seemed to stop beating when I saw his face. I swear he grinned and licked his lips. His arm pointed towards me before leaping forward with what seemed superhuman speed.
The look in the man’s eyes showed no hesitation. Behind the glazed eyes burned a predatory rage. Natalie's scream jarred me from my rigid fear and the protector in me awoke, as I pulled Natalie inside and slammed the door behind her. Seconds later, the man’s body smashed against the door. There was a sickening crunch of bones snapping. It sounded like he hadn’t slowed his approach in spite of the steadfast obstacle in his way. Natalie’s screams were becoming shorter and faster, as she struggled to catch her breath. A slight thumping caused her to jump every time she heard the man’s broken body hit the door.
Jammed up against frame, my mind jumped to the classes I had taken for this job. Thump. I praised an unseeing god of the fire code, exalting him for requiring all exterior doors to open out. Thump. This commandment had saved me, and I would be eternally indebted.
The fear suddenly grew worse when the sounds of crunching body parts became complete and utter silence.