APROXM: POETRY

THROUGH A NIGHTMARE, DARKLY

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PREFACE: I don't know what's worse: shamelessly reusing this old stolen title, or actually visiting a professor during their office hours with this dreck in hand. Yeah, it's probably the title.



Chalky, coarsed breaths intertwined with the crackling of fire were the only sounds echoing from within what could now be classified as ruins, half of which belonging to the almost quite lifeless body of Georgiana, whose eyes slowly wandered the facility's ceiling above. Small, sudden thoughts whacked up against her brain with the intensity of a concussion, consisting of this hurts, can't feel my leg, is my left eye working?, and pain. She lowered her gaze from the above flickering fluorescent lights down to the fractured wall opposite of her, its surface being recently outfitted with large fissures, a gaping hole, and fire. Did I do this? Her gaze lowered once more, this time catching the attention of a particularly large piece of scrap metal gouged into her thigh. It took a moment to recognize what the sight before her represented until she suddenly found the strength to scream out in agony, wallowing around in a puddle of crimson.


But she could move, Georgiana realized—after swallowing in her tears, she dragged herself towards the massive hole recaptured within her vision as she began to understand the flames and shrapnel, the plaster and blackened metal: this was her own doing, and it was done for a reason. She desperately needed what lied behind the other side, even if she did not quite understand what exactly awaited her. Raising her gnawed right arm just slightly forward—followed by her left—Georgiana pitifully dragged her lame figure ahead, smearing the dirtied ground behind with a trail of blood while making what little use of her working leg she could. I am almost there. I need what is there. I can't stop now. Can I really not see through my left eye? Any thoughts she could muster up to distract her from the pain crawling throughout her body were good thoughts, she decided.


And now came the most difficult challenge yet—crawling up over the hole. At first, Georgiana attempted to grip a piece of reinforced tubing jutting out of the wall. She then yelped at the intense heat contained within, searing her hand and allowing the momentum of it all to send her face flat onto the rubble below. More labored breathing. Georgiana began to yell at no one in particular, but her voice gave out just past seven words. Why, she thought. Why? Why? Why?


Frustration did not transfer over into defeat, however. Her spirit filled with a renewed sense of rage towards the unfairness of it all, and Georgiana pushed herself back up towards the opening. Mounting her palms onto the bottom of the hole, she forced her right leg down hard and leveraged the other upwards—now she felt herself very nearly standing as she rested up against the maw before her. Georgiana took a moment to catch her breath, then pushed up hard against the hole to force her pained leg up and over, careful to not bend, and rested her thigh against the bottom. Using her hands to then drag herself forward, she slowly situated herself halfway over the hole. Now came time for the right leg, which rose with a certain dull gentleness until, and perhaps reflexively without thinking, she tried bending her left leg. A shockwave coursed throughout her frame, and she collapsed over onto the other side into a pathetic, pained heap.


Georgiana laid crumpled and broken, wordlessly. Crackling fire faced her, warming Georgiana's face and reminding her that she still breathed and could—and should—continue onwards. Gritting her teeth, she flipped herself around to view the rest of the room—the fruits of her labor. Unlike the rest of the facility, this area had remained unscathed from any harm save for Georgiana's own actions. Crates of varying sizes adorned the room, all surrounding a single device dead center emanating a faint blue light, inviting Georgiana closer. Mustering what little strength remained, she, a disabled moth, began to drag herself towards the beacon. It's there. I can see it. I don't know what it is, but this is it.


Her vision blurred as she arrived at her destination, yet Georgiana focused attentively at the strange device before her—jutting out from the ground at just four feet was a glass encased button with insertions on its sides. She expected this, and thumbed her pockets for the treasures she had secured. Producing two keycards of differing photo identifications, her breathing slowed as she pushed them both in, one after the other. Just a little more. Please. A clicking sound reverberated throughout the room followed by the glass rising, exposing its core to Georgiana—and for the first time that night, a smile weakly crept up on her face. I don't know what happens from here. But it has to happen. Georgiana's hand rose and landed on its mark—a firm push followed, and then she collapsed. The crackling of fire was the only sound that echoed.


🢁


He wasn't even recognizable anymore, she thought to herself. Dr. Madden's corpse was sprawled across his desk with various bits of him having been chewed off—eaten. The dark oak of his desk absorbed and overflowed with his own crimson, which dripped rhythmically onto the stained carpet below. Before him were two more corpses, but they shared little in common with humanity. Five legged, three toed, adorned with varying appendages and a sizable maw, these creatures had lunged themselves at her just moments before receiving several rounds of ammunition which successfully quieted their assault. She tread slowly and carefully up to the late doctor's body and shared with him a moment of silence before searching through his coat and retrieving her goal. Exiting the office, Georgiana passed the doctor's keycard into her pocket and loaded a fresh clip into her pistol.


Several more inexplicable creatures found themselves crossing Georgiana's path and were disposed of accordingly—but not all cleanly. As she navigated the blown out hallways and demolished chambers, the environment proved itself as dangerous a foe as did the monsters that inhabited it. Pieces of ceiling could come down at any moment and, indeed, they did—Georgiana thanked herself quietly for her fast reflexes, but even that could not save her from the occasional scraping into jagged edges that cut cleanly through her skin. And even then, not all creatures were so aggressively dumb as to immediately lunge at Georgiana within seconds of inhaling her scent—instead, some would hide beneath rubble in wait until suddenly springing outward. They were fast, but—for the most part—Georgiana was faster, save for the monster that leapt from an autoclave and latched itself onto her arm. Instead of shooting, she beat the beast with the brunt of her gun until it loosened itself with an otherworldly yelp, dashing off. Yet despite the hazards that exhibited themselves, Georgiana arrived at her destination—but instead of relief, she only found disappointment.


When informed of where to proceed to, Georgiana was told the following: three lefts, two rights, down through the chemistry lab on C3 and forward until arriving at a set of double doors marked "E5 - PROHIBITED"—and while she dutifully followed these directions, the last bit proved itself troubling: the double doors were completely masked by heavy wreckage of the ceiling above, blocking off any possible entering whatsoever. Georgiana stood silent, as did the area she inhabited. What now?, she thought to herself. She had spent the entire journey here driven, ignoring the horrific reality that had unfolded around her. Her coworkers, both adored or hated, were gone. Some lay slaughtered against work desks and incubators. Others left very few of themselves remaining after having served as willing flesh for the creatures haunting these halls. And what of her? She had been informed very little of what exactly her goal was—only that it would save everything. As vague and unhelpful as Georgiana considered this, a barrier of sheet metal, plaster, rubble, and steel completely blocked the realization of her goal.


Surveying the area around her, however, sparked a flicker of hope within Georgiana's chest. She had been here before, and recently. She and Dr. Bertha walked these very halls earlier on their way to the testing chamber. She recalled bumping into an attitude equipped chemist and his lackeys, a security guard who offered a polite "Good morning, Dr. Welles", and… three workers transporting large canisters of propane gas. Where did I see them go? They excused themselves past us and… Georgiana turned around and spotted the same supply room she had observed the workers entering.


Shooting the lock off the door, she pulled out several tanks and laid them up against the wall of her destination. Taking more than what she considered a few cautionary steps backward, she readied her handgun and eyed where her bullet would follow. I'm so close. There isn't much left. This nightmare will end. Georgiana let out a heavy sigh, regained her composure, and squeezed the trigger.


🢁


Initially, it was wild, inescapable panic. The walls began to vibrate and laboratories completely collapsed upon themselves as chained lightning arched throughout the facility—there would be no better way to describe the event than the world itself reaching its final conclusion. Amidst the chaos, Georgiana had ducked behind several shipping containers left behind in the elevator that had brought them all into this infernal chamber. She felt like a coward. She was a coward. The screams of her co-workers ricocheted off of the chamber's walls as they were massacred by whatever ghoulish beings had spawned into their lab, and so she dropped to the ground and hugged her knees, sobbing.. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. Everything is okay. Everything will be okay. Everything is—



Georgiana awoke amidst a pile of boxes and papers with only thin streaks of light illuminating the elevator, albeit dimly. Her mind was scrambled, but her body was otherwise unharmed save for a few bruises. She rubbed her eyes and blinked several times attempting to adjust to her new environment as she began to shove off the light debris encasing her. Did the cable snap? Are my coworkers okay? She knew, obviously, that those in the chamber with her had almost certainly perished—thank God Dr. Bertha was not among them—but what of the rest of the facility? Georgiana considered staying put, but dually considered that she could be trapped in this elevator for days—and what if one of those horrific creatures she glimpsed found their way into her shaft? Georgiana felt the cold embrace of fear rest upon her arms, but quickly shook them off. She was made of sterner material. She would escape and get help. She stood motionless, and only the sound of her unsteady breathing echoed around the elevator. Then, she got to work—piling up the boxes around her, she squeezed through the emergency exit located within the ceiling and popped out of the elevator where the air felt less stale. Pulling the rest of herself out, Georgiana squinted and attempted to make out wherever the shaft's ladder would be—upon locating, she climbed without hesitation. I don't understand what happened. I don't know what will happen next. But I'm leaving.


Emerging from an ajar elevator doorway, Georgiana found herself facing the nightmares only previously conjured up within her head as she reflected upon the blood curdling screams from earlier—corpses littered the third floor's lobby with as much presence as there were shattered lights above. She took no more than three steps before collapsing onto the ground and vomiting from the sheer smell of it all. None of them deserved this. I don't deserve this. She wiped at her mouth and stood straight up, though found herself wobbling right after. Keep moving, she commanded herself. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving. And as she ambled towards a random direction, a security guard resting up against overturned equipment groaned.


Hurrying over to his position, Georgiana kneeled down and spilled a series of sentences one after the other— "Are you okay?" "What happened here?" "Can you move?"—but the tired figure refused to respond save for a once over of Georgiana and an offering of his handgun. "What are you…?" but she already knew what the officer implied. She accepted the gift, checked the clip, pulled the slide back, and pressed on further after the security guard slumped forward. She had not a single inkling of where to go—but she knew the facility's layout well and understood a certain memorized set of directions would release her from this hell, and then… what, exactly? Who do I even tell? The police? The government? But she persisted.


Beginning down a hall, Georgiana took notice of fluorescent lights dangling from the ceiling—slowly spinning in place—but what ultimately grabbed her attention was the corpse dead ahead of her having its flesh ripped apart by some sort of amalgamation. Its features were utterly remarkable—it possessed the regular appearance of a bipedal animal save for its head being a massively engorged, reddened feature unlike any creature on earth. Georgiana froze as the being continued to tear at the body before it, consuming whatever delighted its unnatural tastes. And then, it stopped. It turned. A cold sweat perspired across her neck as the creature turned to face Georgiana, snarling and ready. It then began its dash all at once, and there existed little time to hesitate—raising her weapon, Georgiana fired off exactly two rounds—missing. The beast readied its maw, understanding that it was to soon acquiesce fresh flesh—but a third bullet ended its assault, and Georgiana collapsed to her knees.


What is this? What are you? Where did you come from? and yet, all of these thoughts were very quickly overshadowed by Georgiana's most dominant thought of all—What have I just done? Despite her frequent visitations to the facility's shooting range, she had never once aimed and fired at a living, breathing thing—and despite its otherworldly appearance, this thing was just that. But this waxing of philosophical quandaries found itself pushed back, however, as Georgiana decided to focus on the most important aspect of her current situation—survival. If it came down to her and these things, then the choice was obvious. Rising off her knees and back up to stance, Georgiana started forward. There wasn't going to be a single creature in this facility that could stop her exodus, she decided.



Bertha!


Rounding the corner, her pace quickened at once as she recognized the limp doctor laying up against a fractured reactor, her leg being ripped to shreds by a spider-like creature with twice as many eyes as there existed legs—Georgiana screamed and readied her weapon, exacting swift vengeance onto the monster five consecutive times. Her momentum unstopped, she dashed forward and kicked the wretched beast's corpse off of Bertha, who she then bent down to observe. Georgiana felt a disgusting mix of pity and fear at the sight of her closest friend, whose mangled form and matted hair obfuscated the gentleness once found in her features. Georgiana did not hesitate to embrace her immediately, tears dribbling onto Bertha's lab coat—but to her surprise, a hoarse voice escaped.


"An… Anna?" she asked, spiraling into a coughing fit immediately afterward. Georgiana pulled herself back and faced her friend, a semblance of a broken smile still present on Bertha's face.


"Don't push yourself. It's okay. I'm here."


"Anna… Look at me. What was that… thing?"


"I don't know. I'm sorry."


"On any other day would I have loved to examine that creature…"


"Can you stand?" Georgiana asked. The bruised scientist in front of her softly laughed.


"You've always been so strong, Anna… Can you take this?" Bertha said, offering a keycard produced from her pocket. "And you'll need Dr. Madden's…"


"I don't understand. Why are you giving me this? We need to leave, okay?"


"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. When you leave Madden's office, you'll take… God. Three lefts… two rights and…" Bertha trailed off, then erupting into more coughs. "You'll go through the chem lab on C3 and… Just keep going, Anna. There's a room there—E5 PROHIBITED—You've got to get there. Please."


"But I don't… Won't you come with me?"


"No, Anna. Listen. There's something behind those doors that'll fix all of this. Madden and I are the only ones in the facility authorized to access it… I've never had to use it myself. But you're going to have to."


"What's… in there?"


"I don't know. I'm so sorry. But you have to go there. But first… Anna." she said, her eyes lowering to look at Georgiana's handgun.


"... No."


"Please, Anna."


🢁


With a stack of papers folded under Georgiana's arm and an outfitted clipboard held by Bertha, the two doctor's made their way down one of several hundred hallways flowing throughout the facility. Bertha chatted away at her co-worker while Georgiana would return her words with quiet laughs here and there. Topics consisted of Georgiana's consistent training in the firing range, the rudeness of the chemists they had just bumped into, and the excitement and wonder of the new sample they had collected for today's examination. A guard,friendlier than most, offered a "Good morning, Dr. Welles," but did not offer the same to her partner, which immediately spurned an "Ooh, I bet he likes you. He never says good morning to me." Georgiana paid little attention to the gesture, however, with her focus instead shifted to the maintenance workers peddling a pallet of large, red canisters. She watched as they brushed past the duo and into a supply room. It took three "Anna?"s to regain her attention, and then the conversation continued.


Arriving at the service elevator, Bertha suddenly gave Georgiana a tight hug and wished her luck on today's examination. Waving goodbye, Georgiana descended into the testing chamber.


🢁



Parking her vehicle at her designed spot, Georgiana stepped out along with a bundle of important documents and sheets and began walking towards the facility to check in and begin the day. She scanned her keycard at the front desk, nodded politely towards the receptionist, and started down a hallway enroute to the breakroom, where her and Bertha met every morning for coffee—and then she froze. The papers slipped from her hands and spilled out onto the floor, and her breath chilled. Georgiana looked down, paying attention not to the escaped documents, but to her legs. And then she ran. She dashed past bewildered coworkers and security guards until arriving at the breakroom, in which she lunged herself at Bertha who very nearly spilled her coffee at the sudden motion.


"W-well it's certainly nice to see you, too, Anna. Is everything okay?"


Georgiana stared hard at Bertha's visage, not daring to blink for she considered that the next moment her eyes would close, her friend would not be sitting before her. But her eyes did close and reopen, and Bertha returned the weird silence with a soft smile.


"What's gotten into you? And weren't you supposed to have some papers approved by Dr. Madden? Or did you already have that taken care of?"


Dr. Madden. Georgiana could not bring herself to utter a word to her friend as she ran her fingers through Bertha's hair. She pulled herself away, and, finally speaking, assured her that she would be right back for coffee.



"Good morning, Dr. Welles. I was informed you needed my signature on some forms, but… I spy none on you. Is everything well?"


"Sir."


"Yes, Dr. Welles. Go on."


"... I pushed a button. A blue one."


"I'm not sure I follow--"


"The one in E5 PROHIBITED. I used you and Bertha's keycards."


"..."


Dr. Madden leaned backwards in his chair, carefully sucking in air and blowing it back out.


"As a result of the big experiment set for later today, correct?"


"Yes."


"I see."


Now he wracked his jaw, pausing, considering what should be said next.


"Well. That is what the button's for, of course. I've had to use it several times myself."


After stating as such, he rose from his seat.


"I suppose we'll be retrofitting your keycard, then, since you're now… aware, and such. You know, it never really made sense to have Bertha's card necessary considering she's never actually pressed it. I'm sure, of course, you want to speak to her about it or perhaps the press, an agency—something of that sort. Well, Dr. Welles, I'm sure you understand how crazy you'll sound to anyone and not be taken seriously as a result."


He rapped his fingers against the dark oak of his desk.


"But you have done everyone in this facility a great service through your actions, I'm sure. And you will be rightfully promoted because of it, as you should be. Perhaps we can discuss raises, too."


A pause.


"... Well. I'm sure you're quite frazzled. I'll speak to Bertha privately and be sure to cancel today's experiment, no worries. I think it best you take the rest of the week off, hm? Yes, we'll discuss everything come next Wednesday—everything. Go on, now. Get some rest."


"I will, sir. So will you."


A silence hung in the air.