Edwin stood staring at the large white dome a hundred feet away, bored senseless. He let out a deep sigh. He knew the people inside were doing fascinating things, and heard rumors about everything from experiments in quantum entanglement with aEdwins on the far side of the universe to attempts to reach other planes of existence. It sounded amazing.
Unfortunately for him, he was a security guard and his job was to check the IDs of people entering and record when people left. His clearance only let him up to the front door that sat just inside a box-like entrance to the spotless white geodesic dome that served as the staging area to a huge underground facility. The people in the town nearby thought it was a radar testing facility, and as far as he knew, it was exactly that mundane.
He hoped it was the other things, though. Life was dull enough without his imagination being murdered by reality. He contemplated going to his terminal and firing a web game where he flung zombies at various implements that mutilated them, but he looked up at the clear night sky and thought better of it. The moon was full, the stars were shining and they were all visible despite the light pollution from the giant halogens pointed at the dome.
His station was a small kiosk in the middle of a large field filled with neatly trimmed grass that looked blue under the moonlight. Fireflies flashed every so often, dancing around looking for mates. They were a mix of colors, not just the usual yellow-green he was used to. He assumed it was a side effect of whatever they did under the dome. Just at the edge of his vision were a thick wood that acted as a border between the facility and a nearby town park.
Wrapping those edges and circling back to his kiosk and the gate was a fence made of three concentric barriers of chainlink, each topped with spools of razorwire. The middle and inner fences were electric and the ground between them was concrete embedded with nails, screws and broken glass. They made sure no one wanted to enter from any direction except the gates he guarded. There were no lights on the perimeter fences, so confident were they in the defenses.
In fact, although he carried a sidearm, it was mostly for show. It was a frosted black Desert Eagle .50 cal, which Edwin called the “wrist breaker.” It was impractical at best, inaccurate as hell, but it was also intimidating. If he was close enough to hit someone with it, he’d blow a canyon through them, although he’d never had cause to even so much as undo the safety. He’d been hired for his appearance as much as anything. At six foot with broad shoulders, his black cap and grey cargo pants/grey jacket uniform was intimidating enough.
He wasn’t in fantastic shape, but not bad shape either. He had some hand to hand training and knew how to fire a gun, so he was at least competent and the average person wasn’t going to try and fight him to get past the gates, and they’d need to get his codes for all three and his card, and know which sequence to enter them all regardless.
As usual, all he could hear is the crickets. The road leading to the gates was several football fields in length and started at a main road into town, but except for an occasional car heading to the nearby coffee shop, it was usually dead after six in the evening.
“Screw it.” he whispered to himself and headed toward the kiosk, then stopped. Something was odd. It was quiet suddenly. The crickets had stopped, the fireflies were nowhere to be seen. He shrugged and started walking again, until he felt something. Something odd. He was suddenly uncomfortable and felt a buzzing in his ears although he couldn’t hear it. The lights around the dome and in his kiosk flickered.
His skin tingled with a sudden, indistinct dread. “That ain’t good…” he mumbled.
Then the lights went out entirely. His hand went to the gun on his hip. “The hell?” After a few tense seconds, they snapped back to life, the halogens around the dome increasing in intensity to the point that Edwin had to hold his hand up to shield his eyes. There was a sharp snapping sound, the buzzing rose to an audible level. Then the lights returned to their normal level.
Edwin was about to say something when a dull sound burst from the dome. It started with a harsh pop then sounded like an engine winding down. He could almost see it pulse out of the building, shaking the short grass like a blast wave then hitting him full on and knocking him to the ground and popping his ears.
“Holy shit!” he shouted. He leapt to his feet and bolted toward the kiosk. He was going to call the main office and report that something had happened, but glanced over his shoulder and stopped in his tracks. A man in a lab coat, wire rim glasses and black pants was banging on the sliding glass doors at the entrance to the dome. He was screaming, Edwin assumed for help but the glass was soundproof so he could only assume.
The man was pounding on the glass, occasionally hitting the button to open the door, which was not responding apparently. He thought maybe he recognized the scientist, but it was hard to tell. At least half the men at the facility fit this one’s description. The emergency lights came on, twirling alarm lights spinning beams of white and red alternately, but oddly the klaxon was not sounding.
Edwin started running. Something was wrong and the man and everyone else was trapped. Maybe he could get the door to open from the outside. If all else failed, he could shoot the glass and let them out. Screw protocols, lives may be in danger. He could see the dome was filled with… What was that? Smoke? Fog?
Whatever it was it was thick like chowder and he could not see the sterile, shiny interior that was kept immaculately clean most of the time. The scientist was pounding on the glass some more, then stopped. Edwin reflexively slowed, and almost started sprinting when the scientist turned, his back up against the glass. Edwin could see his hands go up defensively in front of his face, then the man in the lab coat just disappeared.
He looked as if he’d been yanked by an unseen cable into the swirling mist. The security guard stopped in his tracks, and for the first time in the years he’d guarded the gates, he pulled his gun and released the safety. The heavy weapon was held low, his finger just outside of the trigger guard like anyone with good trigger discipline would, and stared in disbelief. Seconds passed and all he could hear was the blood rushing in his head from the adrenaline and running. The buzzing had stopped, replaced by an eerie silence that made him question if he’d gone deaf.
There was a sound suddenly. He’d swear to it. The dome was soundproof and reflected radar and anything else that one could think of to penetrate it. Once inside the doors, you couldn’t even get a cell signal, not even a weak one, so efficient and thick was the insulation. But he heard something. It sounded like a scream.
He started, physically shuddering in shock as the sliding glass doors suddenly turned red. It was as if the scientist exploded all over them. He raised the gun, and after a few seconds’ pause, the twin doors slid open and the fog poured out onto the ground, slithering forward as if it had a purpose.
He could now hear what was happening inside. There was a smell of sulfur and ozone, the crackling of electricity and shouts, screams and shrieks. Edwin turned and ran. Toward the kiosk as fast as he could, he sprinted. “Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!” he breathed as he raced toward the door to the small building. The guard hit the button that opened the outer door to the small building. Edwin slammed the door to the inner yard, which allowed the outer door to open, then jumped out and kicked it shut. He turned just once to glance back. The fog was waist-level and spreading like a swarm of ants.
Edwin sprinted again, this time to the parking lot half a football field away. He yanked the door open on the closest company vehicle, a humvee painted the same drab grey as his uniform, emblazoned with the logo of the company he worked for, and hit the start button. Luckily he didn’t have to fumble with keys, a chip in his badge was all he needed for the vehicle to start. He backed it up without looking and turned the wheel.
He looked in the rear-view mirror quickly out of habit and saw something… Somethings, it seemed, writhing and snakelike in the dome, like grey, ropey limbs whipping around. “Oh fuck this” he whispered as he floored the gas.
“Hello? Command? We have a problem. A BIG problem at the dome. Come in! Over!”
The voice activated com in the hummer was quiet. “SHIT!” He screamed as the vehicle tore down the long road leading to the facility. If anyone was on the other end, they weren’t responding. Maybe the lines were down. Who knew what they were doing in the dome? Maybe the pulse he’d heard was an EMP and it fried the communications. There was only one thing left for him to do, circle back past the park and go directly to the police station.
He was supposed to head to corporate on the other side of town, but they didn’t pay him nearly enough to stick to the company line of secrecy, he needed actual authorities to help out with this.
He had almost stopped shaking as he navigated the dark forest roads leading past the park. The street lights that normally provided easy visibility were all dark. The waist-high mist roped through the park in the moonlight.
And there were several bonfires lit throughout the wooded park. Edwin yelped as the hummer ran over something heavy and thick. It bounced and veered into the concrete base of one of the lights and stopped completely, smashing his face into the airbag that deployed instantly. It was in that second he realized he’d forgotten his seat belt and would probably be splattered all over the bulletproof windshield like the scientist on the doors without it.
He took several deep breaths to calm himself. He was trembling violently as he reached down to slide his gun out of the holster. Thank god for training, he though. He’d replaced the weapon without even thinking and it gave him some small comfort to feel its weight in his hand.
He stopped breathing.
Something slithered over the hood, backlit by the headlight that hadn’t shattered on impact.
Something tugged on the passenger-side door handle.
He shouted in terror as the passenger window shattered.