Chapter 26 by Gayan Ferdinand

I was bleeding, wasn’t I? Bloody hell. What have I gotten myself into now? I mean – thank you to whoever patched me up but, but – gosh I could do with a drink right now..

​Rob heard a clink, as the door to the room was opened and left ajar, allowing a glimmer of a bright light to pierce through the darkness of the poorly-lit room. A blinded, dumbfounded Rob exclaimed shakily “Who’s there? Dorian?"
But there was no response.

Rob picked himself up off the floor, and stumbled towards the door which was suddenly slammed shut firmly, with a bang. A red beacon light immediately illuminated on the ceiling, accompanied by a deafening siren on the lone-speaker in the corner of room, echoing all-around, forcing Rob to cover his ears and plead agonizingly, “Please, please stop! What do you want from me? Gratitude. You’ve got it. I’ll do anything. Just – stoooooop!!!”

A split-second later, the blaring siren was silenced and the red light turned off, in unison. “Rob, you certainly are a funny guy. I promise you’ll get out of here if you just follow my instructions. And hey, you’re most welcome,” replied a cocky, self-satisfied voice.

Gosh. There must be a way out of this room – This really doesn’t feel right. Okay. Calm down, Rob. You’ve got this. If anyone does – you do. 

​ “D-D-Dorian? Erm – yes. I’ll do what you ask just please tell me what's going on” stuttered Rob whilst frantically attempting to survey every inch of the room, still lying on the floor inches from the door.

“I knew you’d co-operate. Good choice. First thing’s first? You’ll have to get off the floor and get back onto your feet, because you’ll need to do some walking. You’ll be escorted to a special room where I’ll tell you all you need to know. Capisce?” replied Dorian, in a friendly yet seemingly-mocking tone.

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to hoist himself up, Rob managed to crawl towards the door, using the door handle as support to eventually get to his feet. As he opened the door he noticed there was no trace of any light as there had been a little while earlier, but an eerie never-ending darkness, which appeared to stretch infinitely is what greeted a wobbly, battered Rob.

“Off to see Dorian, are you?” bellowed a deep voice from a dark, imposing figure of a man that emerged from the darkness. “Just walk ahead of me.” added the mysterious guide, who goaded Rob effortlessly through a series of hallways, lit by the odd emergency light which hopelessly attempted to illuminate their path. A bit like my situation right now, eh? Bleak. The giant escort came to a halt and reached out towards a stainless-steel door with an access card, which resulted in the door sliding open, to reveal a room – with 4 individuals in hazmat suits standing in a line, unwavering.

“Rob, nice to meet you. I’m Dorian. Have a seat”, gestured a man in a red hazmat suit, towards a chair with worn-out leather leg-straps and arm-straps. The cushioning was pilfered with holes, and the protruding discoloured foam covered in stains of crimson.

“I’m not sitting in that! No way. What kind of chair is that!?” retorted Rob, aghast at what lay before him. In an attempt to make a dash for the door, his wobbly legs gave way. Semi-conscious, he awoke to see himself firmly attached to that ominous chair, with a spotlight fixated on his face. Dorian and three other individuals in hazmat suits surrounded him.

“Rob, there’s no need to be afraid. You see, I know your friends – Tara, Nadia and Adi" chirped Dorian, as Rob stared back blankly, but relieved at the mention of his friends. “You know them?”

"I most certainly do. You do know about Budlyt-19? My team of scientists here –  have advised me that you got it. We tested you once you got here” continued Dorian.

“Wh- whaaaaat? No, no no no. I’m sure you’ve got the wrong person.” stammered Rob as he looked to his right to see one of the hazmat suit-clad scientists walked a couple of steps towards him, and directed an infra-red heat gun towards his hand. “39.5’C, sir. Fever has risen since his arrival".

Gosh, I’m burning up? I can barely walk – but that’s for another reason altogether. Damned virus. Did Ken get me?

“So, you see. You’ve been infected. But fear not, we’re here to help you. In fact, Adi and Tara are eager to see you through this.”, said Dorian who appeared to be lost in thought as he made a summoning gesture with his right hand, resulting in a door being unbolted at the far end of the room. “ROBBBBBB!!!!!”

Is that Tara and Adi?! 

“ROBBBBB – We’ve missed you! You’ve looked better but hey, you’re still good!” exclaimed Tara in a slightly muffled voice through her respirator, as she crouched over to hug him tight.

“Let’s go home and play some Street Fight IV, eh?” grinned Adi, as he too leaned in to hug Rob. Was he on our side now? Was he always on our side? So many questions.

“Guys, I’ve missed you so much. But this is a bit cheesy, and everyone’s watching. Ease up on the love, huh?” remarked Rob. Almost instantly, the dark room didn’t feel so lonely anymore.

“Shush. Hugging with a hazmat suit’s the new norm”, laughed Tara. “I can still feel the love!”

“Sorry to cut in, guys – but he doesn’t have much time”, cut in Dorian. “Rob needs the cure – and you know pretty well, who has it”, 

Adi slowly moved forward and knelt by Rob. He reached out his hand and locked eyes with Rob, and whispered, "It's time to make things right. We have to save you and we have to start by saving Nadia".

About the author:
Gayan Ferdinand, 29, lives in Dubai and fixes aircraft for a living. He is an avid music lover and procrastinates by playing the ukulele night and day. He identifies himself as a cat-person and has two cats - a British Shorthair named Scotch and an Arabian Mau named Whiskey.