A distant echo of something heavy scraping across the floor roused Gayle Sanders from a bleary-eyed stupor. She blinked several times before lifting her head from its resting spot—the twisted remains of an upturned filing cabinet. “Christopher?” She whispered the word into the gutted chamber of rock that only moments ago had been her sanctum of research, her lucky #13. What the hell happened?
She focused her keen night vision in search of remote sources of light. Slowly the far wall of the cave came into view thanks to a steady, low source of blue light and a flickering yellow. She quickly realized the yellow light must be fire—an immediate threat under the circumstances.
Testing her extremities, she found everything in working order. Her lab coat was gone, her hair pasted to her forehead and her camisole rimmed with sweat. The last observation caused her to wonder two things: How long had she been out, and just how hot had the explosion been?
She took a deep breath. The air tasted metallic, pasty. The texture and taste of it made the fuzz on her arms stand on end, but she couldn’t detect an excess of any known toxins. She also knew that half of the worst killers were undetectable, even to her keen senses. Crawling forward, her hand slipped on a warm fragment of filing cabinet, sending a grating echo throughout the cavern. Wow, it must have been hot…
A dull thud preceded a long dragging sound from somewhere deep in the belly of the underground research facility. “Christopher?” She spoke the word a little louder. “Are you okay?” She suddenly realized her partner must have been at the source of the explosion. She’d been returning from the powder room, and by powder room she meant a bedpan in the corner. But Christopher…
She scuttled on all fours toward the fire. Something metal tumbled to the floor, crashing loudly in the echoing cave. “Hold on, Christopher.” The noise moved away as the yellow light intensified steadily. What could have caused all this? His chemical bath for cleaning coal?
Focusing on the flickering light in the distance, she missed the body until her hand slipped in a warm, viscous puddle. Startled, she rubbed the liquid between two fingers and held it to her nose, tasting the iron on her lips. Blood. Finally, she saw him. “Christopher.”
She slid across the floor, scooping her hands underneath his back to lift his head. “Dear God!” she barked in fright and froze. Above his tattered and scorched collar there was nothing—his head gone. Stomach lurching, she scrambled backwards, slipped in the pool of blood and smacked her head on a cold, metal canister. The blow caused a temporary light show to spider across her field of vision.
How could have… but what… She caught herself breathing too rapidly and endeavored to gain control. The fire. She reached behind her and grabbed the fire extinguisher on which she’d clocked her head. Scrambling around the remains of Christopher’s work station she found a small pile of debris flickering with flame and quickly doused it. As the echo of the extinguisher faded, she swore she heard a hissing laughter coming from the shadows.
Oh dear God. Adam and Eve. Gayle bit her lip and clutched her knees to her chest. If even one of them survived… But how could they have regained consciousness? Slowly she unfurled her legs and shuffled toward Christopher’s decapitated body. And what else have they regained? Sentience? She hadn’t finished mapping their abilities. Had they caused the explosion or merely benefitted from it?
Engaging her rational mind, she knew there wasn’t enough blood. Not nearly enough for a grown man. Despite the heat of the explosion still radiating from the stone walls of the cave, she shivered. They were looking for water, and she now represented the most plentiful source.
Again she heard something dragging across the floor.