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Scene 26

1757 words·9 mins
Area 54 - This article is part of a series.
Part 26: This Article

A thunderous roar filled Thomas’ senses. Heat baked his body. Light splashed around him as mountains of rock pushed upwards. A sky thick with dark clouds swirled above, filled with violent weather of a young planet. A vast ocean of water churned. Looking back towards the sky, almost purple with clouds, he felt a sensation of yearning. A need to escape. A desire to return to the stars. A low buzzing caught his attention as it increased in volume. It reminded him of a swarm of insects.

What are insects?

The thought felt like his own, but different, like something from a dream. Another different voice intruded. It was not his own, though was familiar in a way he couldn’t understand.

It’s not safe here. Wake up!

The buzzing continued to grow louder, pushing out all other sounds. A bright light swelled around him, blinding him to all other sights. A sizzle of what sounded like electricity arcing through air seemed to bring a sense of bodily form back to his consciousness. It was an unsettling experience as feeling returned to limbs that just moments before he didn’t remember having.

Opening his eyes, he saw a dusty concrete floor. He was lying in a hallway. A memory, that felt like it had happened eons before, returned. He was walking in a hallway, exactly like the one he was now in. He wasn’t alone. There was someone else. He struggled to remember a name. It came to him, like a bubble of information popping within his mind.

Gus! I was with Gus!

Pulling himself into a seated position, Thomas noticed his clothes were soaked. He rubbed at the fabric of his shirt with thumb and forefinger. There was an oily slickness to the wet cloth. For an instant he thought it felt like a shroud of skin, and fought the urge to pull it off.

It’s just a shirt. A wet shirt.

He repeated the thought over and over until the sensation of disgust passed. Looking up and down the hallway, Thomas struggled to his feet, and started walking.

Memories were returning, but there was something strange about them. It was almost like he was remembering stories told to him, and then inserting himself into those stories.

His water logged shoes made squelching sounds as he walked. The muscles in his legs and arms burned, as if he had been performing hard manual labor for hours. He looked back at his trail wet footprints.

Like the slime trail of a slug, or a …

He felt his skin crawl, and a wave of nausea flowed over him. Forcing himself to take long slow breaths, he resumed walking.

Reaching the end of the hallway, he looked up and down the perpendicular corridor. While he stared, he heard a pair of voices. One of them seemed familiar, but the fog around his mind had returned. Pushing himself away from the wall, he moved towards the the sound of the voices.

As he approached an open doorway, the fog cleared, and he felt a surge of adrenaline as he realized the voice belonged to Gus. Leaning hard against the door frame, he looked about the room.

It looked like it had been hit with a tornado. Stuff was strewn all over. He didn’t immediately see anyone, and then saw a woman digging through a locker, dropping items to the floor after giving them a cursory glance.

“Ah ha!”

Lights on a computer console lit up with a parade of blinking green, amber, and blue lights. Thomas saw movement from the edge of the large desk supporting the equipment, and stared as Gus stood up.

The sound of the woman rustling through the lockers had ceased. Looking towards her, he saw she was staring at him, her face frozen with confusion.

“Thomas!” Gus exclaimed.

Looking back at Gus, Thomas tried to speak. His mouth moved, but no sound emerged. He was hyper aware of needing to shape his tongue, move his throat muscles, and push air from his lungs. All that emerged was a strained croak.

Moving fast, Gus was at his side. Supporting his weight, Gus walked him over to a chair next to the desk, and lowered him into it. Thomas rubbed at his throat. Words were in his mind, but he couldn’t seem to figure out how to form them. He worked his jaw. A nasally sound like when a Doctor says to “say ahhhh” emerged. The effort exhausted him, and Thomas slumped back into the chair.

The woman was now standing beside Gus. Her eyes stayed fixed on him while she spoke to Gus.

“You know him?”

“Yeah! This is Thomas! You know …. the ice cream guy.”

A flash of memory broke through. He was in a car. The air was hot. All around him was desert. The heat waves of the air rippled, and the orange dusty vista flooded with green blueness. The desert was now the bottom of a vast ocean. Giant creatures swam above and around him.

“Hey! Hey! Thomas! Beth, what’s wrong with him?”

Gus’s voice sounded like he was speaking into the end of a long cardboard tube. He felt small stings against his the sides of his face. His vision cleared, and he focussed on Gus, who was holding him steady with one hand, while tapping against his cheeks with the other.

The sensation of goosebumps rippled down his body, and he felt a dull warmth envelop him. It was like a fever had just broken. A calmness settled over him.

“Gus. I’m so glad to see you.”

The words just flowed from him. He hadn’t even thought about it. There was a momentary sensation that the voice belonged to someone else, but his attention was grabbed by the woman, Beth? Did he call her Beth?, who was still staring at him. He felt like she was working out a puzzle in her mind. He wasn’t sure why, but he had the distinct urge to avoid her glance.

Gus scampered across the room, and grabbed a folding chair. Placing it in front of Thomas, he sat down, hands on knees, and started to rattle off a dozen questions. How did you survive the fall? Where were you? How did you get back up here? Did you see any…

With that last one, Gus paused, and looked at Beth. She didn’t return his gaze, her eyes still fixed on Thomas. With a sigh of impatience, Gus returned his attention to him. Thomas thought he almost looked like an excited puppy whose owner had just returned from a long vacation.

“I … I … don’t remember much. And what I do. Well, it doesn’t make … much sense.”

“Do you think he might have a concussion?” Gus asked Beth.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Beth asked.

An image of a shattered glass tank flashed across his mind. Inside was a …

Thomas’ breath caught in his throat. Behind Gus and Beth stood an old man. He held up a crooked finger to cracked lips. Both Gus and Beth turned to look behind them, following his gaze. A visceral sensation of fear clutched at Thomas’ chest. They both looked back to him. Thomas looked to Beth, then to Gus, and then to. The man was gone.

“I … um … hallway. I woke up in a hallway. Everything else is … I don’t know.” Thomas stammered.

The answer seemed to satisfy her, and she said, “Okay. Well, we’re in a bit of a situation here, Thomas. I don’t know you, and things are … complicated. I need you to stay in that chair, while Gus and I try to figure some things out. Can you do that for me, Thomas?”

Thomas nodded.

Beth tugged at Gus’s shoulder, and motioned towards the other side of the room. Gus, visibly annoyed, got up, and followed Beth to the lockers. Their backs were to him, and all he could hear were loud whispers. Occasionally Gus would point back towards him.

Motion at his side caught Thomas’ attention. The old man was standing beside him. Again he motioned for Thomas to remain silent, and then turned his attention to the computer terminal. Thomas watched as he typed a series of commands. An avalanche of text rolled across the screen before it went dark.

“Okay, okay. I get it.” Gus was saying, his voice no longer a whisper.

They both looked towards him. Thomas jumped, and looked to his right. The old man had vanished again.

Gus crossed the room. Beth watched his back for a moment before continuing her locker search.

“Everything okay?” Thomas asked as Gus moved the folding chair out of the way.

“Yeah. Man, you have no idea the crazy stuff that’s been going on. You look like you’re feeling better.”

Thomas nodded.

“Just hang tight. I’m going to see if I can get a communication out.”

“Do you need the chair?” Thomas asked, though as he leaned forward a wave of aches washed over him.

Gus smiled, and said, “No way, you stay put. Let me push you over a little, so I can get at this terminal, though.”

After wheeling him out of the way, Gus leaned over the terminal, and tapped at the keys.


Reaching underneath the console, Thomas heard a series of clicks. The terminal flickered, and small white text appeared at the top of the screen. He couldn’t make all of it out, but the word “Error” appeared more than once.

Gus cursed again, and brought his fist down onto the keyboard.

“What’s the problem?” Beth asked from across the room.

“Freakin’ boot sector is corrupted. Must have gotten scrambled when the system hard crashed.”

“Can you fix it?”

“Maybe, but everything I need for that is up top.”

“You mean…”



Gus stressed laughed at Beth’s reaction, and said, “Pretty much. Look, I need to stretch my legs, and think. I’m going to go see if there’s anything salvageable in the kitchen. You want anything?”

Beth shook her head no, and said, “Take a taser, and if you’re not back in thirty minutes, I’m coming after you.”

“You really think there might be …”

His sentence was cut off as Gus jerked to catch the weapon Beth had chucked across the room.

“Probably not, but can’t be too careful,” she replied.

Nodding, Gus looked to Thomas, and asked, “You hungry?”

“Sure, I could eat,” Thomas said as he thought he heard a sound of distant thunder.

Area 54 - This article is part of a series.
Part 26: This Article