“Two weeks off and then I get slammed with this shit,” Dina said as she stepped into the heavily air-conditioned building. The sun was setting, the crickets were chirping in the fall air, and Dina was walking into work for a night shift.
“Why don’t you tell them to shove it?” Joe chimed in. “You stay late virtually every night, you come in early when you need to, and now you’re doing an overnight shift after already doing the day shift all because someone is sick? Come on, dude,” Joe wrinkled his brow at her.
“Well, if I don’t do it, then that means that potential patient treatment gets delayed two days because of the weekend,” Dina replied, stepping onto the elevator and hitting the button for the third floor. They were in the basement parking garage, which also acted as the main entrance; the first floor was heavily guarded due to the research department located there and there were only emergency exit doors and no entry doors.
“That’s your boss’s problem, not yours,” Joe mumbled, hitting the button for the second floor.
“No, that’s on me and I can’t sleep knowing I could be the reason a patient started receiving chemo a day too late,” Dina said. The elevator lights flickered as they ascended. A storm was rolling in but it wasn’t supposed to hit until the early morning hours. Dina hoped they wouldn’t lose power; the building was old.
“Well. You’re a badass. Enjoy that,” Joe scoffed, stepping off to the second floor. The elevator made its way up, and Dina closed her eyes and took a meaningful deep breath. She reached for the pendant on the necklace hugging her throat. The humming of the elevator increased as it went, wheels squeaking the entire way up.
“Damn. I’ll have to cancel that reiki appointment for tomorrow as soon as I leave here,” Dina said to herself. The elevator came to a stop and the light behind “3” lit faintly as the doors opened. Dina stepped off and headed down the long hallway towards the heavily ladened door with red biohazard warning signs and a menagerie of COVID-19 precautions. She used her fob to gain entry into the lab, the light turning from red to green. On the wall to her right hung rows of laboratory safety coats and to the left held lockers.
The laboratory was both deep and wide, the left half with a more open concept, the right side housing rows of medical equipment rarely seen by the average person. There were machines the size of children designed specifically for cutting human tissue, an array of machines for staining various tissues, and counters topped with various tools used to cut and dissect organs for research and study.
Dina adorned her coat and mask and headed towards the back of the lab where her station stood next to a wall of windows. It was unique for a medical lab to house windows, and Dina appreciated the view despite it being mostly city. She could still see the sun and clouds so that was enough. There were even mornings when she came in early and was able to watch the sunrise as she worked. She had to stop long enough to take a few pictures of the pink sun as it poked its head up over the horizon.
“Any bones for today?” Dina asked herself, looking through the trays of work to be done. There were too many placentas to go through, bones that needed to be cut and decalcified prepared for processing, a lip, two toes, plenty of appendix and stomach to go around, and of course, a testicle. These were just the larger pieces she had to perform the gross descriptions on and prepare for the morning technician who had to process the tissues. The tissues would get cut and stained later for microscope evaluation and diagnosis.
For now, Dina had to prepare all of the specimens waiting in formalin for her to gross. Judging by the number of trays before her, she was in for a long night. Aside from the bigger tissues, she also had trays full of endometriums, curettings, and cervical biopsies. Outside, the sky turned dark grey and Dina saw a brief flash of lightening in a faraway cloud.
“Great,” she said, reaching for gloves from the box above her station. “Better get these bones cut first so they can sit in decal for a while to soften up.” To the right of her station, in the center of the long counter lie a machine fitted with a diamond blade and face shield. She uncapped the nearest container of fluid and human bones and set the tissue on the plate near the saw. Turning on the machine, it whirred to life, spinning in circles. She gently pushed the femur through the blade, cutting off a piece the size of a fingertip. She turned the tissue at another angle and cut at it again. She did this with several containers of bones before shutting off the giant, spinning blade.
The ringing of the blade died down, echoing through the otherwise silent laboratory. She was alone. After setting the bone pieces into individual cassettes, she placed them in a cylinder of diluted nitric acid to start the decalcification process. She turned back to her station and began prep for the testicle. The computer on the shelf above her station chimed to life, ready to dictate her gross descriptions as she spoke them aloud.
“Case number two two one dash one one nine, part A received in formalin, labeled left testicle. Tunica vaginalis is intact. After removing the cord, the testicle weighs forty-one grams; vaginalis easily separates. There is a three by five by three-point-seven-centimeter bright yellow area; will submit for evaluation.”
The lights above Dina’s head flickered. She paused and glanced outside to see the rain coming down and the lightning flashing.
“You got to be kidding me,” she sighed. The rain hit the window panes hard enough to echo throughout the lab, and the computer’s microphone picked it up on the reading. Thunder bellowed, further disrupting Dina’s recording. She took off the headset and walked over to the window. Cars on the onramps appeared to be driving through water as the rain sprayed off the sides of them in buckets, water hydroplaning underneath the cars’ bellies.
“I’m telling you: they won’t stay put for long,” said Dr. Morris to his colleague. “They are chewing right through everything; we can barely keep them contained as is. This can’t go on safely.”
Thunder rolled outside.
“Will you listen to yourself? You’re just going to let all those years go to waste? Right when we are so close to mastering these things?”
“Mastering?” Morris scoffed. He folded his arms and shook his head. Dr. Jason wasn’t listening, but then again, he never truly did. “You think you can control them?”
“We already have,” Dr. Jason snorted.
The lights flickered above. Something in a cage rattled against its prison bars in the next room over. It rustled in its bedding, stirring the dirt up into the air, determined to find a way out.
Dr. Morris glanced through the glass wall that separated him and Dr. Jason from the beasts in the other room. There were no windows to see the raging storm outside, but Morris didn’t need windows to see the rage in Dr. Jason.
“They are well contained and we are on the verge of finding the right frequency and you know it,” Jason shouted. He pointed a finger at Morris, a scowl on his face.
“They can escape the distance of any frequency; we have been through this. If they get out there is no way to control them without a guarantee. We need to kill these things here and now.” Morris slammed his hands down on the table. Jason turned his back to him, clenching his fists.
“No,” Jason muttered.
“What did you say?”
“I said no,” Jason said as he turned to face Morris. He had a scalpel in his right hand and a scowl on his face. “I”m afraid I can’t let you do that, Morris.” He took a step towards Morris. The lights flickered again and when they came back on fully, Jason was upon Morris with the scalpel. Morris used all his strength the hold Jason’s arm against him but the blade crept closer to his neck as they struggled. Jason’s hand was shaking; the blade was so close to Morris’s skin. Morris rolled over and threw Jason off of him. He didn’t roll far and soon the man was upon him before Morris could stand. He jabbed the end of the scalpel into Morris’s lower back.
Morris let out a scream in agony as he went down on his knees. The lights flickered again, Jason breathing heavily. With weak knees, he got to his feet, watching as his former colleague lay dying on the floor. Jason walked over to Morris, who was on his knees trying to reach the scalpel in his back but unable to do so. Jason beat him to it.
He pulled the knife out of Dr. Morris’s back and pushed it back in again, and again, and again. Every time he brought the knife down, blood splattered onto his face. From the other room, the rattling of cages could be heard; it outweighed the rumbling of the thunder outside.
Dr. Jason stabbed Dr. Morris another seven times before finally dropping the knife. He looked through the glass wall at the cages on the other side. Glass shattered, something big had been freed from its prison. Jason sat next to the dead body of Morris, taking in rapid, deep breaths. The pool of blood seeped into his clothing but he didn’t care; he let it stick to his skin.
Rattling and chirping could be heard in the next room over. Jason glanced up at the flickering lights, his heart-rate still through the roof. Something was scurrying over the floor tiles and tapping on the glass panes. Jason held his breath and his eyes widened. He eyed the glass wall that protected him from the beast on the other side and then the lights went out for good.