by Lisa Lightman
(Scheduled for release in 2019)
Pale yellow lights flickered erratically, sending amazing shadow creatures dancing across every cold, unforgiving surface. The steady rhythm of running shoes hit the cold cement floor and ricocheted off the high walls. Seeming to race along the endless corridors ahead and behind him like an invisible swarm of demons, the echoes taunted him, dragging him by the memories into all kinds of places he had no desire to go. Nathaniel growled at the distraction while his grey eyes darted around the wide, dimly lit halls as though his demons might actually find him here.
He ran harder. Sweat beaded across his determined face and raced down his rigid spine. The seemingly miles of empty halls made for effective, if somewhat boring, jogging trails. Boring was good. Gave him time to think—think about work. Focus on the work, Asshat. But then again, there is always that, right? That was interesting.
His breathing sharpened. He shook his head. Tiny drops of frustration flew from his face and smacked into the corridor wall closest to him. His dark, sweat soaked hair stuck to his face and neck. He jerked an arm across his face, clearing the hair and sweat from his eyes. Time for a haircut. I wonder what Stacy is doing later.
He coughed again. The air was thick, as though the ventilation was as distracted as he was. He swallowed a slight acidic taste. The air tasted metallic lately. One more thing. One more mystery. One more distraction.
Taunting him, a cold arrogant voice crept up from the depths of his bruised ego. “Focus on the work, Dr. Mathis. That is what I pay you for. The work is all that matters. We certainly don’t need distractions in here. All we need is the work.”
The work. He snorted which turned into a harsh cough. His pace faltered.
Demons. Everyone here had them—every one of the thirty two scientists and techs sequestered away in this facility. Demons. His heart jack-rabbited around his chest as though it sensed a predator. Samuel Ryan, demon king. So tired of the taste of disillusionment.
He punched the wall as he turned a corner, leaving bloody, sweaty drops sliding down the ugly surface. This place with all its weird problems and weirder projects, topped off with some wild residents and their insane jailer of a boss wasn’t a lab as much a damned zoo. The work was fun, though. Usually.
The now relentless pounding of his insane pace filled his ears like the white noise of the drowning. It filled every molecule of the stale air around him, giving him that uncomfortable feeling of being hunted. Or hunting. Hunting something just beyond his range of vision. He hated it; loved it.
He shook his hands out sharply. Jerking his head side to side, he growled deep in his throat. God damned distractions. Then again, distractions had their place. One rather accommodating distraction crossed his mind before he considered Dr. Deirdre Biggs would probably not appreciate him showing up sweaty and horny at—he checked his modest wrist watch—four AM.
So where the hell did all these corridors go? That question plagued him as much as any of the problems he faced on a daily basis. Power outages, experiments gone missing…. And Jacky said that once an entire lab moved. Okay, so Jacky probably had a bit of a drug problem and usually couldn’t tell reality from whatever fantasies passed through his mind at any given moment. But, still. Mysterious.
He shrugged. At least there wasn’t any real chance for boredom here. There were just too many mysteries of the ‘do not touch’ variety. Still a few hours until start of shift, and he was running out of time. Focus, you baboon’s butt! He should be thinking about the job at hand—not walls and halls and sexy blondes, back stabbing brunettes or…. He cracked his neck with a violence reserved for his demons. Dierdre. Fucking bitch.
Nathaniel clenched his fists again, boxing the air as he tried to gain some semblance of control over his wondering thoughts. He was beginning to see the futility of trying to focus this morning. His lip curled as he forced his thoughts back on track.
With a growl he kicked it up to full throttle, drove into a hard sprint and pushed himself beyond his personal best. He knew better. His breath caught in labored effort as he punished himself. Bitterness mingled with the metallic after-taste and went down with the burn of hard liquor. Demons. Pulling himself in to his very core, he leaned into the impossible pace as though he could break from his humanity and fly.
He powered around another corner and slammed into a wall.