“Bio-Hazard – Do Not Open”
I can only imagine the resolve of this young woman carving those frightening words into the box that most assuredly was to be her coffin. Visions of her last few hours made me shudder. I keep seeing her in my mind angrily pacing back and forth, her arms tightly crossed over her chest, choking down her welling tears. I wondered how long she waited before giving in, climbing into that box and allowing the automatic locking mechanism to engage when the lid came down.
Once inside there was no hope. She knew her death would be agonizing. When the oxygen dwindled she would gasp for air, go into convulsions and finally die.
I guess it was better than the alternative. She had to have made the decision while her mind was still her own. I asked myself if I would have that kind of courage were I in her place. I honestly didn’t know.
We noticed the strange box when we landed on Triquetta – Station Four. It was large, rectangular, left unattended on a rolling cart in the middle of the transporter room. It was curious but didn’t really set off any alarms. It wasn’t any of our business anyways.
Three different companies from New Earth used this station as a rendezvous point and R&R for crew. Salvage was considered precious cargo and competition was fierce.
Paying no attention to the box, we headed straight for the lounge hoping to see a familiar face or two and enjoy a well-deserved glass of Grenth, a dark amber liquor that was warmly intoxicating and yet rejuvenating; it made you sleep like a baby. We passed through security, palms up for a scan, “entry granted”, by a mechanical voice. Whoosh, the doors opened.
The lounge was hollow and empty; no music, no people, not even a service robot. It was about then that I began to feel a little angst. I heard myself speaking, “Jesus, are we the only three here?”
Josh Stanton, Bull Green and me, Magatha Torin, just transported off the Monroe for our contracted rotation of R&R.
“This is pretty freaking eerie,” said Josh
Bull shrugged his shoulders, walked over to help himself from behind the floating bar. He dusted some blue stuff from the container, looked at his hand and promptly wiped it off on the back of his pants. “I could sleep for three days,” he yawned, as he plodded off down the corridor toward the sleeping tubes.
Josh poured us both a drink and we sat down. I think we half expected someone to burst in with a ridiculous explanation for the abandoned atmosphere. “You know Bull,” said Josh, trying to break the silence with some conversation. “He’s just 3 cards short of a full deck.”
Bull, aptly named, towered over most people. His arms were almost as big as my waist and his mannerisms were grievously threatening unless you knew him. It’s true, I thought. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box.
Josh, with his chiseled features and that space between his two front teeth, was my best friend. Or at least he used to be. We respected each other’s personal space but there wasn’t anything we couldn’t share. Josh married Dot, a machinist stationed on Mars. My love interests were focused on a certain engineer on board the Phoenix, Team 20.
Josh said, “no one’s here, no one’s coming, so what! No reason to do anything but what we came for, ‘eh? Let’s get some rest and leave the recreation for tomorrow. “ The Grenth was beginning to take its effect, so I agreed. We grabbed our stuff and headed down the corridor following after Bull towards the sleeping tubes.
As soon as we entered the corridor my stomach sank. “What is that?” I asked.
“Shit if I know” said Josh.
It looked like a human form stuck to or growing out of the wall. As we crept closer we realized most of the walls ahead were blue. It seemed to be spreading like a plant, on the ceiling, the floors and…
“Where’s Bull?” I asked, in a half choked whisper.
“I don’t know, but let’s find him quick and get the hell out of here.” He answered.
“Where’re we going to go” I said. “The Monroe won’t be back for two days. You go find Bull and I’ll meet you both back in the transporter room.”
Josh quickly moved through the wafting blue dust, calling out for Bull. The stuff was everywhere. It reminded me of mold. I’d seen green and black mold growing under a microscope in the laboratory. It grew everywhere on Earth and black mold was considered to be the deadliest form. Thousands lost their lives towards the end but blue mold, out here? As I passed the door to engineering the mold was growing from the inside out. I could read the letters g, i, n, e, e, r. Great, I thought. I’m not going through that.
Back in the transporter room there was no sign of Josh or Bull., only that strange box on the cart in the middle of the room. I walked over to investigate closer and I could see the words BIO-HAZARD, DO NOT OPEN. I looked through the glass window on the top of the box and saw a young woman. The company name tag on her uniform read Boudica Mornin, O’Roark – Team 8.
She left a manifest. I began to read. “It doesn’t kill you. It takes you over, entering your brain and paralyzing you. You’re alive inside it watching everything you know slip away. If it gets on you or on your clothes it’s too late. No one’s left now. This was my only choice.
My thoughts began to race, fear mounting in my chest. Bull! Was that him stuck to the wall in the corridor? Oh Josh, my Josh, I saw him walking through the stuff as it billowed up from the floor like a cloud.
Here I sit, waiting; hoping one of them will come through that door. I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen and yet, what if it does? Oh my God, I’m all alone.