Second Section: Abandoned
Chapter Six: Frigid Halls
The group returned, shivering, to the bloodstained room. It wasn’t clear whether they were shivering from the cold, their own fear, or a combination of both. No matter the reason, they ignored it and pressed on. They moved through a passage near the broken reception desk that led deeper into the facility; the only path available to them.
The halls past the reception room were similar to the two they had experienced before. From here, there were many different paths for them to choose from. It was like a labyrinth of nearly identical hallways. Once again, Cara was the one who decided the path for everyone.
As they walked through these familiar halls, they unintentionally separated into groups similar to the ones from before. Adam and Tracy walked a fair distance behind Cara and Martha. John walked alone in between the others.
“Thanks again,” Tracy said.
“It’s fine. We’re best friends, right?”
“Yes, but I’ve never needed a best friend as much as I do now. Even though I felt so alone, you were able to pull me back to my senses and save me.”
“I wasn’t going to let you suffer like that.”
“You really care about me though. I hope I can fall in love with a person as caring as you.”
“I’m sure you’ll find him.”
“Well, I already found you. Finding another person who cares about me that much will probably be difficult.”
“It isn’t like you have a choice though,” Adam said with a smile. “You and I aren’t really compatible.”
Tracy smiled as well. She was feeling much better now. So she decided to reach out to John who was all alone. Even though he had frightened her while she was having her panic attack, there was no point in isolating him and causing him pain.
“Hey, John! Why don’t you walk with us?”
“Uh, I guess,” he replied. He was surprised that anyone wanted to speak to him after what had happened. In fact, he almost hadn’t heard Tracy. His thoughts were filled with regret over his actions. Tracy’s kind voice snapped him out of that type of thinking and he did his best to start acting like his true self.
“I’m not slowing down. You two walk faster.”
Tracy and Adam were happy as they caught up with him. Now the group of five didn’t look so divided anymore. Martha and Cara were still clearly in the front, but the gaps between all of them were lessened.
“What do you think this place is?” Adam asked.
“Some sort of research facility, I think,” John guessed. “I saw something that looked like a research lab through a window. Actually, a lot of rooms look like that.”
“Oh, I didn’t notice any of that,” Tracy said.
“That’s good news though,” Adam said. “If that’s true, what Cara said about there being an emergency exit has to be right as well. You can’t build research labs underground and have only one exit. That has to be against the law or something.”
As they were having this conversation, Martha and Cara had walked around a corner up ahead. Martha sighed. As Adam, Tracy, and John caught up with them they saw the problem. There was a huge metal barrier sealing off the hallway.
“It looks like a blast door. It probably sealed shut automatically,” Martha commented.
“We’ll have to go back and find another way,” Cara replied.
Cara was about to turn around when she heard footsteps. She was facing everyone so she knew that the sound of footsteps wasn’t coming from any of them. Someone was approaching.
“That won’t be necessary,” said a female voice. “I’ll have them open this passage.”
Everyone turned around to see a blonde woman standing not too far away from them. She looked like she hadn’t seen sunlight in many years. Her clothing was worn, but her attitude seemed fairly upbeat in contrast to her slightly ragged appearance.
“Who are you?” Cara asked.
“You can call me Ella. Welcome to the home of the Abandoned.”
She reached into her pocket and took out a radio transceiver.
“Foster to Base. Foster to Base.”
After just a moment of waiting, “This is Base. Go ahead.”
“I’ve found them. We’re at the south passage. Can you open it up?”
“That’s a negative. Come around to the northern entrance.”
Ella put the transceiver away. “Sorry about that. I guess we’ll have to turn back.”
“Wait, just who are you?” John asked.
“Yes, I should explain. I haven’t talked to someone unfamiliar with our situation in a very, very long time. I’m with a group of people called the Abandoned. We’re stuck down here in the science sector of this structure.”
“How long have you been trapped down here?” John asked.
“I’d say fifteen to seventeen years. Tracking time down here is a bit difficult.”
The group became tense. They were traveling under the assumption that they would be able to find a way out of the facility. They didn’t really understand who Ella and the Abandoned were, but why would someone lie about being trapped underground for so long?
Cara spoke up. “There aren’t any exits you can use?”
Ella shook her head. “The exits are in enemy territory. Speaking of which, we better start moving. I’ll explain more as we walk so follow me. We should get going right now.”
John looked toward Cara. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was willing to follow this woman. John wasn’t sure that it was a good idea but he didn’t speak up. The last time he had spoken to her…
“Okay, we’ll follow you,” Cara decided. No one objected.
“You’re much more cooperative than I imagined you would be,” she said as they started walking. “That’s good though. If you want to stay alive you can’t linger in these halls too much.”
“What type of enemy do you have down here?”
“We call them Ravagers. They’re… ” she paused while she thought of an appropriate response. “Let’s just say they’re like cannibals. You don’t want to meet them.”
“Cannibals?” Martha asked. “Just what is this place?”
“There’s so much for me to tell,” Ella thought aloud. “Seeing all of you really is a blessing. To see fresh faces who have no idea of the horrors we’ve seen down here. That’ll really give us a lot of hope. Oh, but I shouldn’t say that.”
“What do you mean?” Tracy asked.
“Fresh faces who will give us hope. It makes you sound like objects that exist to benefit us. That’s a horrible way to treat people you’ve just met. I’ve been down here a long time but I haven’t forgotten my manners.”
Cara knew that her apology was simply a means to avoid answering the question. Even though Cara believed this, she still perceived Ella as a nice person. She just hoped Ella wasn’t a Ravager in disguise leading them into a trap.
“How many ‘Abandoned’ are there?” she asked.
“27 last time I checked. We’ve lost a few people to the Ravagers over the years. I try not to think about it. You really need to keep a positive attitude down here. Focus on the people who are alive.”
Cara quickly changed the topic.
“That’s a nice necklace you’re wearing.”
The others suddenly noticed that, despite her ragged appearance, Ella was wearing an ornate necklace. It was fairly small but it looked like something that once belonged to royalty and it was in pristine condition.
“It’s something we found down here,” she said. “I need to get permission to talk about what we were doing down here so I can’t say anymore at the moment. I promise we’ll keep you safe though. Maybe we can finally escape.”
The rest of the journey didn’t take long and they soon arrived at the northern entrance of the Abandoned’s base.
There was a sort of comfort with having someone like Ella nearby. It was proof that survival down here was possible and Ella leading them made them feel like they had proper guidance. This was especially helpful to Cara as it alleviated some of the burden of being in charge of the well-being of her friends.
Cara was afraid of making another mistake. She knew that she still had to be cautious, but for now it was okay to let her guard down. Ella was likely a trustworthy person.
“Open up,” Ella said into the transceiver.
The metal doors slowly opened toward them. The sound was loud enough to obscure all others, but Ella noticed a sound that the children could not. She ran behind the group and yelled at them.
“Get inside, now!”
Instinctively, they turned around to see what Ella was so afraid of. There was the faint sound of running as if a herd of clawed animals were approaching. The hallways were too dark for them to see anything other than vague humanoid shapes.
Ella quickly drew a pistol from her belt and shot into the darkness. When the children heard these shots, their curiosity vanished and they ran through the gap into the base. They all ran inside and Ella soon followed after firing a few more times.
With her left hand she grabbed the radio transceiver and spoke into it.
“Close the door, we’ve got company!”
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Ella fired three more times. The door slowly slid back. The children began to worry about the creatures making it inside before the door could close. However, their fear had obscured reality. In reality, the door was closing much faster than they thought it was.
When it slammed shut, they all felt a bit relieved and safe.
It didn’t take long for them to imagine being surrounded by horrible creatures called Ravagers. The large metal doors made them feel safe, but they also knew they were now completely trapped within this unknown base.