“We can see Marion now!” Donovan called out as he entered apartment 1203. “She’s feeling better and Dr. Kent said she’s allowed to have visitors!” Although he was excited to check on his friend, he was more intrigued about the opportunity to take a look at the infirmary. He still didn’t know what had caused the doctor to burst in on dinner like he had, frightened and splattered with blood.
“Can I come too?” Cynthia asked politely. One of the neighbours had given her some crayons and she was coloring happily at the dining room table.
“Of course you can come,” Donovan said, smiling. “I bet Marion would love to see you.”
“I made hew a pictuwe,” Cynthia held up a piece of paper. She had drawn a house with four people sitting on the roof. One was small, evidently a self-portrait, while the others were much taller. One figure had a brown line sticking out of her leg, another held what looked like money in his hand while the fourth’s skin was coloured gray. The gray figure had a disturbing face with a bleeding mouth and claws instead of hands.
“What’s that?” Donovan asked, pointing to the gray person. He assumed it was a zombie, but there was never a zombie on the roof with them.
Confused, Cynthia looked at Donovan and nervously giggled.
“Cynthia, who is this in your drawing?”
“That’s you,” Cynthia finally said, scribbling absentmindedly on a different sheet of paper.
“Why would you draw me like this?” Donovan asked. Ache and shame brewed within him like his soul was twisting around broken glass.
“She’s just a kid, Donovan,” Noah said, “she’s got a wild imagination, and from the sound of it, she wasn’t introduced to you guys on the best of terms.”
Donovan nodded, but couldn’t take his mind off the drawing. He smiled at Cynthia and held out his hand for her. The girl grabbed her picture and followed Donovan as they let Noah lead them to the infirmary.
“Noah,” Donovan said as they pulled the door closed and moved to the stairs, “what happened the other night? Why was the doctor so frazzled?”
Noah remained silent for a moment. He turned and Donovan could see in his eyes he was debating how to answer the question. “Nothing happened.”
Donovan let out an annoyed gush of breath. “Don’t tell me nothing happened,” Donovan said, fed-up with the lack of answers all around him.
“I can’t tell you. There are rules about confidentiality in the medical profession for a reason.”
“Oh come on! Confidentiality?” Donovan held open the door for the stairs as Noah pulled a flashlight from his back pocket to light the way. Cynthia hesitated before stepping into the darkness. She looked up to Donovan and tightened her grip on his hand. “Let’s think for a second about what’s going on around us. Do we really have time for confidentiality?”
“Dr. Kent has trusted me with an important job and I take that very seriously. He’s teaching me a lot and I don’t want to slap him in the face by telling you things you shouldn’t know.”
“Well--” Donovan struggled for words. “I’ll find out eventually,” he finally said, realizing Noah wouldn’t budge no matter how long he was pestered. They descended at an agonizing pace down two flights of dark stairs. Cynthia whimpered with fear the whole time and it echoed along the deep stair well.
“If you are able to find out what happened,” Noah said, turning back to look at his friend, “then kudos, man. Secrets are very closely guarded in this place.”
“You don’t say.” Donovan pouted, although nobody noticed in the dark. “But what about your family? Your nephew? The reason you were so quick to leave my attic?”
Noah hesitated. “My nephew? What I’m doing here has everything to do with my nephew.”
It was basically the same thing Vicky had claimed to be doing. For some reason both of his friends had come to believe that the best thing they could do for their families was to stay away from them. Donovan was about to question him further when Noah pushed open the heavy door to the tenth floor and ushered Donovan and Cynthia inside.
This floor didn’t have the long hallway with doors on either side that characterized the other levels of the building. It was almost completely open. Beds lined each side of the massive space with curtains separating them from each other. It looked to be in a state of construction, or more likely demolition--what ever happened the night before must have been big.
“How do they even have this place set up like this?” Donovan asked as he surveyed the impressive infirmary. “I mean, it’s only been a couple days since everything started. What, exactly, were they planning for? A war?”
“What did I say about secrets?” Noah asked, agitation creeping into his voice.
“Donovan?” a voice called from the other side of the room. He turned and saw Marion lying in a bed talking to Jasper.
Jasper? What was he doing here? Donovan had thought he was upstairs napping. Cynthia giggled and let go of Donovan’s hand, running to the bed.
“Mawion, Mawion, I made you a pictuwe!”
“Wow,” Marion said as she studied the drawing, “this is nice.”
“That’s you,” Cynthia said, “and that’s me, and that’s Donovan!” She squealed with delight as she explained the picture. Marion and Jasper both looked down at the drawing and Donovan felt a wave of anxiety come off of them when they saw the bloody depiction of him. They both turned their gaze to Cynthia and Donovan got the distinct feeling that they were plotting something--and he was coming to trust his feelings.
“That’s a great drawing.” Marion smiled and then glanced up at Jasper who remained stoic and still. Cynthia, having the attention span of the young child she was, then jumped to the floor and started to run around the huge open space. She was giggling as she did, her curly hair trailing behind her.
“Don’t worry, I got her,” Noah said. He tipped his head to the others and chased after the girl.
“Jasper, what are you doing here?” Donovan said. “I thought you were sleeping.”
“No, I just came down to talk to Marion.”
When Jasper spoke, it was so thick with lies that Donovan could almost see them hanging in the air around him. “I just wanted to ask her about what happened the other night,” he said.
Marion’s face twisted up, then she turned to look up at Jasper.
“Dr. Kent said there was an incident,” Donovan explained. “He had blood on his face and pulled Charles out of the room.”
“The doctor did seem a little nervous when I saw him, but I just assumed it was part of his general creepiness,” Marion said with a shrug.
“Oh.” Donovan was disappointed as he felt like Marion was his last chance to figure out what had happened. “Well, did you see where they put Felicia?” Donovan asked despite the old man’s embargo.
“She’s in the room in the back,” Marion said, motioning with her head. Donovan stood up to get a better look. He could see a long window along the wall and wondered if it looked in on Felicia.
“I’m going to check it out,” he said and he walked towards the back of the infirmary. He raised a hand to his mouth as he reached the window. Felicia was unconscious, dressed in a hospital gown and restrained securely to the bed. He felt his eyes fill with tears of relief and pity. What happened to her?
“Donovan, you should leave that window alone,” Noah said from the other side of the room. He had stopped chasing Cynthia around and was favouring Donovan with an angry look of warning. The girl took advantage of Noah’s distraction and broke away from him, coming to stand by Donovan’s side.
“I wanna see! I wanna see!” she said, holding her arms in the air. Donovan bent to pick her up and he instantly felt as though he was doing the wrong thing.
“Such power... such anger.” The voice in Donovan’s head came from Felicia’s direction and he felt like he knew it, like he had heard it before. It seemed to be associated somewhere in his memory with his attic, but why? Felicia’s hand twitched and her eyes sprang open. “I could never let that go to waste.” Her head rolled over onto its side and she stared at Donovan with cold, dead eyes. Donovan could feel his body heat draining and his legs growing weak. It was almost as if time slowed to a crawl. As Cynthia’s head raised high enough to see through the window she peered curiously into the room at Felicia. She began to shake in Donovan’s grasp and placed a hand firmly against the thick glass.
“Who’s she?” Cynthia asked, not taking her eyes off the woman.
“That’s Felicia, she’s only a little older than me but she’s my aunt, believe it or not. My mother’s sister.”
Cynthia’s head cocked to one side as she stared. “Is she okay?”
“You have a new job, beast,” the voice intoned through Donovan’s skull but he knew it wasn’t speaking to him, it was speaking to Felicia. “Get the girl!”
Donovan suddenly leapt back from the glass. Felicia’s green eyes flashed as she stared at Cynthia.
“You two should leave now,” Noah said, coming up to Donovan’s side and looking in at Felicia as well. “This portion of the infirmary is off limits to anybody but Dr. Kent and those he allows in. It’s a containment area for people who might be, well, dangerous.”
Donovan turned to look at Noah, still holding Cynthia in his arms. He understood why Felicia would be kept in such a place. He turned to look back at his aunt and noticed that she was now grabbing toward him with one of her tied hands. Her mouth had dropped open and he imagined a zombie’s moan escaping her lips.
“What does she want?” Cynthia asked, as Donovan put her back on the floor, not tearing his eyes off his aunt as he tried to push aside the memory of that voice.
“We’ll let the doctor figure that one out. For now, it’d be best to leave her alone.” Noah put a hand on Cynthia’s shoulder and escorted her back to Marion’s bed.
Donovan lingered for a moment to watch Felicia as her movements became more dramatic. He wanted to help her, to be in that room with her, but he knew for some reason that she was no longer his aunt. She was a monster. A beast. As Donovan turned to abandon his post at the window he heard a new sound coming from Felicia’s medical cell. He turned and watched, listening closely as the metallic growl amplified. As Felicia struggled to gain control over her voice, the grating rumble grew deeper, angrier. Her face twisted into a look of hunger and pain as her body started shaking and she frothed at the mouth.
“Noah, I think she’s having a seizure!”
Noah raced to the window and left Cynthia cowering behind Marion. He swore as he watched Felicia’s body start to grow. The surface of her skin bubbled and her restraints groaned under the pressure. One of her deformed arms broke free as her hand began to shift into a black, vicious looking claw.
“Get out of here!” Noah yelled.
Felicia snapped the thick straps that held her down as if they were mere paper. She climbed to her feet, still half way through her transformation, and rammed into the glass window, leaving a smear of black blood. Her mouth elongated and her teeth were replaced by dangerous looking fangs. She backed up a few steps and leapt through the air, smashing into the glass. It shuttered and she breathed hastily against it, fogging the glass as she gnashed her mutating jaws. Noah started pulling Donovan, but he was mesmerized by the sight of his aunt. As Felicia’s legs twisted and stretched into the super powered limbs of the beast, she threw herself up against the glass one more time and it shattered, showering down on Donovan.
She landed hard against Donovan’s chest and the two of them rolled onto the floor. She stared down at him while her eyes began to melt away, replaced by two glowing green voids. After snapping her teeth, she lowered her head to her prey and sniffed. A deep growl rumbled in her throat and Donovan closed his eyes to her. He didn’t struggle against her weight, allowing her to smell his hair and his neck. She sounded less agitated than before, as if Donovan’s presence calmed her. But as Cynthia screamed out in terror Donovan noticed Felicia’s attention was easily diverted from him. Her weight lifted off of his body as she moved on all fours towards the girl. Felicia’s mouth opened wide as she flew through the air towards Marion’s bed. Marion hastily tried to get Cynthia to hide as Felicia landed hard on the foot of the mattress. Jasper pulled the girl away, covering her eyes as she wailed.
Marion whimpered as Felicia slowly crawled on top of her, the transformation almost finished. Donovan scanned the room for something he could use as a weapon, anything sharp or heavy. As Felicia opened her huge mouth Donovan grabbed a scalpel from a nearby surgical tray. He dashed across the room as Felicia brought her teeth down on Marion’s face and snapped her jaws shut. Halting in shock, Donovan marvelled at how effortlessly the beast popped open Marion’s skull. Blood poured down the rest of her twitching body and splattered the bed, floor, and walls as Felicia hungrily took another bite, pulling the remainder of Marion’s head clean off her neck. Donovan partially regained his focus and he leapt towards his monstrous aunt. He landed on the beast, plunging the scalpel in its back and Felicia screamed again. Cynthia screamed along with Felicia and slipped from Jasper’s hands, bolting for the stairs. Donovan chased after her, Felicia not far behind, but Cynthia pushed open the door to the dark stairwell and disappeared followed by Donovan, and as the beast joined them the door swung closed behind it and every trace of light melted away.
Donovan could hear Cynthia crying somewhere. He groped around in the darkness as he tried to get to her. He could also hear the heavy breathing of Felicia, and his knees trembled with fright. Felicia screamed out again and Donovan felt her body spring past him. She was tearing the metal staircase with her huge claws as she moved and the sound of twisting metal rang out against the concrete walls.
The creature made a sound similar to the purring of a cat, only much more frightening. Cynthia was crying, pleading to be let go. The sound of shopping carts crashing against each other echoed up to Donovan and he knew the creature had leapt down nearly seven floors with Cynthia in hand. Donovan held tight onto a handrail and looked down into the darkness. He could see two bright green dots staring back up at him.
“What’s going on?” Vicky’s voice came to him as the door to the ninth floor shooting range opened, draping a section of the stairs in light.
“Cynthia! Felicia’s got Cynthia!” Donovan called and Vicky moved like lightning. She dropped into the stairwell, a light on the barrel of her gun leading the way. It was too late though, Felicia had already torn her way through the door to the third floor, the lowest floor accessible from the stairwell. As Donovan watched Vicky chase after her, he knew she wouldn’t succeed.