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Date Posted: 16:48:59 09/19/22 Mon
Author: Comicality
Subject: (Chapter Eight)
In reply to: Comicality 's message, "(S) "S-K-Y-L-I-G-H-T" (Chapter 8)" on 16:45:38 09/19/22 Mon


Click Thirteen: Walls Close In

It took a few moments of panicked squirming across the lake of bloody syrup that covered the hallway floor before Martin was able to scramble away from the dismembered pieces of human flesh in front of him before he felt his tongue swell until it went numb and an overpowering sense of nausea took him over all at once.

His sneakers were slipping and sliding all over the place as he fought valiantly to get to his feet...the floor littered with torn skin and muscle, shards of broken bone, and what looked like a couple of detached fingers laid out in front of a human eyeball that he accidentally 'kicked’ in his frenzy and sent it rolling back into the mask of the billowing smoke. Martin had to press his bare hands down in the gore beneath him as he scampered up to his feet and ran to a corner of the hall just as he began to experience the dry heaving contractions of his stomach...causing him to nearly fold over as his lunch spilled out in a nearby trashcan. He could barely believe what he had seen, and it was to much for him to turn his head and look at it again...despite the pull of denial along with morbid curiosity compelling him to do so.

Oh Christ...what had happened here???

Still covered in the remnants of rapidly coagulating blood, Martin did his best to wipe his hands off on his shirt, trying not to gag from the sick feeling of practically being covered in death...but he couldn’t help but to notice that this wasn’t a body that was smashed, charred, or punctured by the heated projectiles coming from the sun. This looked more like someone who had been mauld by a ravenous pack of wild animals or something. The kind of horrific visual that even the best of Hollywood’s special effects wish they could reproduce on screen. It was too much for him to handle in that one particular moment. WAY too much!

Martin took a moment to pit a few more times into the trash, making sure that his sickness was completely gone, and then he stood up to push his glass back up on his nose as he wearily went back the way he came, hoping to block the trauma out of his memory for good. Or at least until he was able to find his way out of this place.

Fires blazed and crackled as he did all he could to avoid the heat, coughing a few times as he randomly would inhale some excess smoke without knowing it until it was too late. He was almost dragging the bloodstained extinguisher behind him now, his arms sore from gripping it so tightly to his chest...spraying it at a few of the larger flames that he walked past to see if it would do some good to keep the chaos down to a minimum without using up whatever supply he may have left in that thing. Martin was fifteen years old...he doesn’t really have much of a precedent for disastrous situations and how to effectively deal with them. He figured that he was just going to have to wing it from that point on.

When he got back to the staircase, he noticed that a few of his computer lab classmates had finally found the courage to make their way down to the second level and were all trying to keep themselves from sucking up more polluted fumes than were necessary. They were surprised to see him headed towards them instead of away...and even more shocked to see him covered in frantically splashed blotches of blood from head to toe.

Warren took the opportunity to hug Tina Feckler around the shoulders as he innocently asked what was going on. "We can’t make it out that way." Martin said breathlessly, almost gagging again as flashes of the terror he had just witnessed ran through his mind again. "We should go this way instead. We’ll find some white coats in the chemistry lab, and maybe we can find a few yard sticks or something to tape them to so we can wave them out the window like white flags and let the people on the outside know that we’re still alive in here. I’m assuming that the second it’s safe for any rescue teams to enter the field, they’ll come for us. If nothing else, the news choppers will start flying overhead, looking for a scoop...and they’ll send emergency first responders in to help us get out of here."

"And then what?" Tina Feckler said, her eyes tearing up. "Where do we go? Do we just go home? Do we even have a home to go BACK to after all this?"

Martin, obviously, didn’t have an answer to that question. He was only thinking two steps ahead at that moment. "We can figure that out once we’re about as far away from ground zero as we possibly can be. Right now, our main concern is trying to get out of this building before it falls apart, burns us to death, or chokes us with more smoke than we can handle. K?"

That’s when Warren asked, "Wait...what about Jason? Wasn’t he with you when you guys came out here?"

It hurt Mitch to even hear his name at that moment, but all he could do was hope and pray that his best...and possibly only friend...could make it out of here alive. "Jason’s gonna be fine. He’s...sort of off doing his own thing."

"Doing his own thing? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Warren asked.

"It means that we need to signal for help first, and then get help to save Jason and Jake later. Without help, we’re only going to sink deeper into this quicksand we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in." Martin said. "He’s...he’s gone down to the first floor of the high school. He’ll find Jake and bring him out with us. We’re all going to get out of this hellhole together."

Martin said the words with as much confidence as he possibly could...but as he could feel the drying blood on his hands and clothes...thinking back to that body in the hallway, torn to shreds in the most disgusting of ways...he found himself shivering at the idea of his previous statement being anywhere close to the truth.

It was going to take more than a couple of inexperienced high school sophomores to navigate their way back to civilization. Of that, he was certain.

Mrs. Ruschek was doing her best to put out the burning books in the library, seeing as the sprinkler system had been damaged beyond repair and was only leaking enough water from the broken pipes to offer her and the other students in the room a minimal amount of relief from being trapped in the center of a full blown inferno. Jennifer stepped in to help out, but it was clear that she had never used a fire extinguisher before, and Mrs. Ruschek found herself becoming more concerned with her injuring herself than she was about anything in the room causing her any harm. Still, she fought the urge to tell her to stop or work extra hard to guide her on how to properly use any of the safety precautions needed. Because, right now, her eyes were beginning to run over with tears of worry and despair, and she knew that she needed to get out of that library and back down to the main office where she had left her only son, Giovanni, just a few hours before the Houdini 3 turned the entire area into a warzone.

Was Geo alright? Was he trapped? Was he hurt? The questions were battering her heart and mind with such ferocity that she could barely keep herself from sobbing out loud at the utter horror of their current situation.

She can still remember the day she brought him home from the hospital. So small. So dependent. So defenseless. There’s an instant bond that happens between a mother and her first born son that can’t be put into words. In fact, words can only do the emotion more of an injustice that act as any sort of explanation for the uninitiated. An instinct that puts their lives above your own at all costs. Without question. Without hesitation. And while she was already beginning to feel guilty about her own thoughts, she knew that a choice was going to have to be made. She needed to protect her son. She needed to find him out there in the rubble and the destruction as soon as humanly possible. She loved her students soooo much...but she was going to have to leave them behind if it meant keeping Geo safe. It wasn’t a sacrifice of duty...it was a necessity.

"You guys! Something is in the stairwell!" Came a voice as it burst in through the library doors. They all turned around to see Ren charging in with his slightly bashed video camera in his hand.

"Wait, what? What are you talking about?" Jennifer added.

"I was filming in the staircase, and everything was covered in thick smoke, but...I’m telling you...something was down there." Ren said, still shivering a bit.

"More survivors?" Someone else asked.

But Ren slowly shook his head. "I don’t think so..." Jennifer and Mrs. Ruschek gave him a confused look, and he opened up his camera to show everybody the cracked screen. It was still functional, but you could hardly see anything around the highlighted shards of the broken plastic. "I dropped the damned camera once I ran through the door and now the visible screen is all fucked up. Look at this. It’s TOTALLY fucked!" It was then that Ren looked up at his teacher and politely said, "Sorry, Mrs. Ruschek..."

"Nevermind that." She exclaimed. "What was it that you think you saw?"

"I don’t know! I don’t know anything." He whimpered. "I could hardly see anything at all. But...there were these...these sounds. And scattering noises like something was climbing up the walls in there. Maybe more than one of them. Maybe even a bunch of them. I just...I panicked! I ran back up to the top of the stairs, slammed the door shut, and then I found my way back here." Unable to really see his own footage, he tinkered with his camera and began banging it on the side with his hand. "I need another screen. Doesn’t anybody in here have a cellphone with an adapter cord on it so I can see this clearly?"

Looking around the library all they could see was blank faces. One guy said that his phone was trashed in the impact, and another girl said that her’s was left behind in her backpack when she ran out of the room. As for everybody else, they all pretty much replied the same way. "Our teachers always take our cell phones before class. It might be in a box behind their desks or whatever, but I’m not going back out there."

"What about Tina Feckler?" Ren asked Jennifer. "There’s no way that she’d be caught dead without her little glamour device attached to her hip. Is she close by?"

Jennifer told him, "Tina and Warren both went up to the computer lab on the third floor before everything went to shit. He was trying to impress her or something stupid like that, but they left a while ago. I don’t even know if she survived or not."

"Shit! Well, until I can get a screen to watch this video on...I don’t know if I can get a closer look at what was down there in that smoke. But...whatever it was...I don’t think we’re alone in here, you guys."

Thinking more about it, Mrs. Ruschek said, "There’s an AV club storage down on the first level. I know we’ve got the equipment down there, and probably whatever cords you need to get your camera to work on a TV screen." Naturally, she was trying to help out and was curious as to what had Ren so suddenly rattled that he run, fall, and shatter the one device that he practically had glued to his hand for the entirety of his academic experience in high school...but more than that, it was a way to get everybody together and move the small crew downstairs where she’d be able to see if she could find any signs of Geo left behind...letting her know what happened to him ad where he might have trotted off to.

There was a certain sense of dread that made her think the worst...but she ignored it. Better yet...denied it. There was just this hidden idea that if her son was really hurt, or really 'gone’...she would have felt it. And she didn’t. Not yet. So she wasn’t about to give up now.

"Don’t give up now!" Geo said to his new friend, feeling Darwin slowing down as they worked their way up the steps to the second floor. "We’re almost there. Is your ankle ok?"

"Ugh...still hurts..." Darwin grunted, attempting to bite his bottom lip as he struggled through the pain of his injury. "Can we...can we just rest for a second? I won’t be long, I promise."

"Oh. Ummm...alright. Do you wanna just...ok...just sit here on the steps for a second, or…?"

"Yes. Just for a few seconds…" Darwin answered breathlessly. There were still flames all around them, smoke reaching up as high as it could in an attempt to escape the building and taint the supposedly fresh air above it. But he needed the rest. Every step seemed to be making his ankle worse, and Darwin’s smallish shoulders were bony and narrow, digging into the side of his chest and his underarm as he was forced to put more pressure on them. Darwin never thought of himself being all that heavy, but there’s a difference that quickly becomes evident when you have to depend on a much smaller child to carry your weight and give you a sense of balance. His ribs felt bruised, and it made it hard for him to breathe. But he made sure to hold on to that backpack of his and keep it close. Just in case it might come in handy later.

Both Rusty and Kyle pulled back with all their might a few times in a feeble attempt to try to push that boiler room basement door open. Their arms had been strained to the point of exhaustion, and while they were able to open the door up another inch or two, they kept having to stop and take a breather so they could reach down and do their best to remove as much of the remain rubble and debris out of the way so they could maybe find a way to make a big enough gap for one of them to fit through so they could get out of there.

The basement was already filling up with giant clouds of black smoke, and they were in danger of suffocating down there if they couldn’t solve this problem within the next couple of minutes. They were sure of it. Janitor Foley was still trapped, but they couldn’t really focus on that right now. One problem at a time. It was the only way.

After straining and pulling and digging the heels of their sneakers in as far and as hard as their teenage bodies would allow, trying to get that door open...they eventually had to let go of the handle and lean back against a nearby wall in order to catch their collective breaths.

Eventually, Rusty said, "This isn’t working, dude. We’re better off just trying to ram the door with our shoulders and close it back before it gets to be too toxic to breathe down here."

"I don’t know, Rusty. Nobody is gonna find us down here. Especially, if we’re all closed up and unable to scream for help."

"Help from WHO, Kyle? It looks like everybody is either dead, severely injured, or they ran out of this place at the first sign of trouble." Rusty told him. "Let’s face it...there are no heroes out there looking for a couple of stoners and a high school janitor."

Kyle wasn’t exactly sure why it hurt so much to hear his best friend say that...but he couldn’t turn away from the fact that it might be true. Hurt feelings and all.

Rusty stood up again and he looked at the bottom of the door. Scuff marks and dust...but a clear curve had been made in the debris where both boys knew that it could be closed again.

"What are you two doing up there???" Foley whined, licking some of the remaining droplets of whiskey from around his lips. "Did you get that door open yet? Hurry up!"

The two boys exchanged a knowing glance, but both hesitated to be the first one to say it out loud. That’s when Kyle looked up at the smoke pouring in and rising up to the boiler room ceiling, and he leaned forward to quietly say, "Listen...you know what we’ve got to do. I mean, am I right?"

"Dude..." Rusty replied with a questionable look.

"I know. But...I’m not dying down here. I’m not." And he gently put a hand on Rusty’s shoulder. "Our best bet is to use our combined weight to close off this door and hope for the best. We tried to save Foley, but we can’t do it alone. And that’s just what we are right now...’alone’. I’m sorry, dude...but I’d rather wait twenty four hours for a possible savior...than twenty four minutes just to choke to death on the plumes of this deadly black smoke." Rusty hesitated for a moment, looking down at his feet. "C’mon, man. You know I’m right."

It was at that moment that the boys heard a hacking cough coming from right around the corner in the same hallway. They both perked up immediately and rushed towards the small opening that they were able to get open to press their faces against it.

"HELLO?!?!?! Is somebody out there??? HELP US!!! We’re TRAPPED!!! Hello?!?!?!" They screamed, and found a bit of comfort as the wheezing cough seemed to get closer, approaching their position.

"Hello???" A voice said from the other side of the door, and they both peeked out through the slit in the door to see a rather large boy standing outside. He had a few bruises and a pretty severe gash on his forehead, but he covered his mouth and nose and came close enough for them to talk! "Are you in there? You’re alive?" He said.

"YES!!! I’m Rusty! This is Kyle! We’re stuck down here! The door won’t move! We tried to pull it open but it won’t budge! I don’t know if the basement floor is off level and wedged under it or what?"

"What are you guys doing in the basement?" The boy said.

Kyle said, "A little homework, making out with a couple of hot chicks, catching up on our next math test...what the FUCK do you think we’re doing down here, dude??? We need fucking HELP!!!"

"Ok, wait...hold on..." He said. He was larger in stature than the other two boys, and apparently much stronger. Much to their advantage. He was able to move the door open a few extra inches, but it wasn’t big enough for either one of the to get through without being wedged inside such a tiny space. "Listen, I’m gonna put all of my weight against the door and try to push it in, ok? Back up!"

They did as he asked, and soon they heard the hardcore bumps of a shoulder being thrust against the door with all the might of a football player tackling a dummy on the field. Two...three...four hard thrusts, with his powerful legs pushed out behind him. And, little by little, Kyle and Rusty held their breaths as they saw the door actually be forced inward. And then...totally busted open until it swung to the side as they saw the guy that helped them out.

"Dude...you DID it!!!" Rusty cheered.

"You guys ok?"

"We are NOW, yeah."

"Cool." He said, rubbing his sore shoulder. "The name’s Mitch. Does anybody want to clue me in on what the fuck happened here or what?"

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