03 Jan The Dark Room
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"The Dark Room"Written by Ismael Zuniga
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Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
Alone, he stands in the middle of the room, surrounded by dark walls with nothing but a dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling right above him. A man, with light brown skin and black hair that messily reach his shoulders, blankly stares at the light. His beard, full and untamed, has spots of dirt and grime. He wears glasses that frame his deep blue eyes and short eyelashes. A dirty white labcoat overlaps his tucked-in black shirt and ripped blue jeans. Thinking deeply, he tries to put together the events that had led up to his captivity. He was just a scientist who was trying to find a cure for the outbreak, but the government thought otherwise. They thought that it was he and his team who had spread the disease even further. The government was looking for someone to blame to ease the minds and voices of the quickly depleting population, and who better than the only remaining scientist left who had anything to do with their project?
“..on! …mson! Samson!” The scientist takes his fixed gaze away from the light bulb and looks towards the reinforced door. It was too dark to see on the other side of the room, but he had heard the heavy clank of metal, indicating one of the guards had opened the slot on the door. “Are you ready to talk?” Samson keeps quiet for a moment. They’ve kept him here in this dark room for four days, deprived of food and water. Being a scientist, Samson knows what deprivation of food and water does to the human body. He was dizzy and fatigued; simple everyday tasks became difficult to do.
“What’s the point?” Samson replies calmly with a dry mouth. “I’ve answered all your questions, but you will not even hea-” the door slot slams with that same heavy clank of metal. He sighs deeply and walks towards the wall behind him, slowly, with his hand outreached trying to feel for the wall. He sits down in the darkness and stares back at the dim light. He then closes his eyes and thinks about his wife, for it was the only thing keeping him sane and alive. Her beautiful face and the memories they shared; he must survive.
He had sent his wife, Emily, to France after assembling the team of scientists who were trying to find a cure. He sent her there in fear that his wife would join those who have been infected by the disease, but that was a couple of months ago. He missed her so; she was the only person he had left in his life. Everyone he knew was gone. His neighbors, his parents, and the old couple from flower shop. The flower shop he thought.
Samson remembers buying his wife flowers for their anniversary about a month before the outbreak. He and his wife were very good friends with the old, lovely couple that ran the flower shop. The old couple would tell Samson that he and his wife reminded them so much of themselves when they were younger, and that Samson was taking the right path to a happy life.
Samson holds back tears as he starts to reminisce about the day he had gone in the flower shop for his anniversary.
* * * * * *
“Samson, your wife is a very lucky woman!” a cheery voice cries.
“Thank you for your kind words Mrs. Ramos, but it’s nothing much. Really!” Samson exclaims, blushing.
“Oh, nonsense! You come here every week. You always have something for her to show your love. These aren’t just words, Samson. This is the truth,” insists Mrs. Ramos with a delighted smile. She was wearing her favorite red flower apron and a pink dress under it.
“Look who we have here!” blasts a voice excitedly; powerful, but calming to Samson. “So what will you be getting this time ‘round Samson? Same thing as last week?”
“Good afternoon Mr. Ramos!” answers Samson. “Actually, I was thinking about getting her something a little different today. It’s our anniversary and I wanted to get her something extra special.”
“Ahh. I’ve got just the thing for you, Samson,” Mr. Ramos says. He wore a white polo with khakis and had a smile that never seemed to leave his face. “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back,” Mr. Ramos makes his way to the back of the store. Within a minute, Mr. Ramos comes back out with the most brilliant bouquet Samson has ever seen. The flowers are vivid, exotic, everything he could’ve imagined; Samson was speechless. “We got these a few days ago,” Mr. Ramos continues. “We saved them just for you.”
“W-wow. This is just amazing! It’s perfect, thank you! How much wo-”
“Stop right there,” Mr. Ramos interrupts. “Now who said anything about you having to pay for this?”
“Oh no, please. Let me pay for this, it must be expensive!” Samson pleads. Mr. Ramos looks at his wife with a smile. She smiles back, and Mr. Ramos hands the bouquet to Samson.
“Think of it as our present to you and Emily. Happy anniversary.”
* * * * * *
Samson opens his eyes. He realizes that he let out a few tears after all. What a lovely couple. He hoped that he and his wife would be just as happy as they were when the time came for them to be their age. He closes his eyes again and imagines the old couple being so full of joy. A light smile, serving as a glimmer of happiness, falls within his tired expression. But soon, it fades. He had almost forgotten what happened.
When the outbreak came, Samson checked on the old couple to see if they were okay, but was instead met with an image he will never forget. The vision of the lovely couple was soon replaced with the horrifying picture of their half-eaten bodies and ridiculously angled bones. Memories of that day start to fill Samson’s mind; he remembers everything.
* * * * * *
“Mr. Ramos! Mrs. Ramos! Hello?! Is anyone here?!” Samson paces quickly outside of the flower shop. He hears the piercing sounds of sirens and alarms as he calls out for the couple. The Diseased have reached their city and Samson wanted to bring them with him and his wife to someplace safe. He tries the front door of the flower shop, but it was locked. Hastily, he goes around the building hoping to find another entrance. A few seconds later, he comes upon the back door of the shop. He places his hand on the doorknob and feels relief when it twists open.
Samson enters the back room carefully and starts calling out for the couple again in a calmer tone. “Mrs. Ramos? Are you here? We need to get out of this city,” Samson feels as if he was talking to himself, but he couldn’t assume no one was here. As he walks through the room carefully, a foul stench befalls his sense of smell. He covers his nose and looks around the room for the source. His eyes search around the room and soon meet the sight of a dried bouquet of flowers on a shelf across him. It was the same set of flowers that the old couple had given to Samson and his wife as an anniversary gift. Samson’s motivation for his search grows, remembering everything the old couple has done for them.
Finding nothing else in the room, Samson makes his way towards a door that leads to a small hallway and calls out again, “Mr. Ramos? Mrs. Ramos? It’s Sa-” suddenly, his heart drops. Samson turns the corner and sees the Diseased, three of them to be exact, crouching, feeding at the end of the hallway. Samson goes quiet and feels true fear. He has never seen one before, but he knows that they were the Diseased. Never taking his eyes off of them, Samson starts to walk backwards into the previous room. After a few steps, the fear he feels grows even larger as thoughts race about who the Diseased could’ve been devouring.
Determined to find out, Samson halts his retreat and starts to move forward again. Sweating and shaking, he quietly makes his way towards the creatures. There were two rooms that lay before him: one was a few feet away on his left and the other was near the Diseased on his right. He entered the first room he encountered and put his back against the wall where the door was hinged. He carefully peeked out and calculated how far the next room was. Silently he inched closer and closer to the next door. Suddenly and quickly, one of the Diseased jerks its head up. Samson stops dead in his tracks and holds his breath. The Diseased keeps its posture and sniffs the air while the other two continue with their feast. Not daring to alarm them, Samson stands still and makes no sound. He listens to them eat; the gushing of blood, the breaking of bones, and the tearing of muscles soon fill his ears. Finally the Diseased went back to its meal. Samson keeps his position for a few more seconds before moving again. More cautiously, he slowly makes his way to the other room.
When inside, Samson puts his back against the wall again and sits down on the floor. He takes deep, quiet breaths as he looks down, holding his fore head with both of his hands. He realizes that the foul stench he smelled from before filled this room. Regaining his initial curiosity, he stands up with the intent of searching the room. From first glance, he had already known that this was the storage room. Discreetly, he ruffles through boxes and little trinkets that obscure his path. Using his sense of smell, he attempts to sniff out whatever he was looking for. Shelves, reaching the roof, stand in the middle of the room. A flickering light in the top corner of the room gives momentary visions of the mess scattered around. During the intervals that the light shines, Samson quickly looks around for anything worth looking into. By the sixth time he tries, he spots flies hovering around in the corner of the room across the light bulb.
Samson makes his way towards the flies, making sure he is not making too much noise. Once he reaches the corner, he slowly stands up and looks closely. His expression quickly changes from curios to horrified as he faces the dead bodies of the old couple. He falls to his knees with an awestruck look as he stares at them. Their arms have been broken in many ways and directions. Mr. Ramos, wearing his blue overalls and white shirt, had his neck broken and dangling. His stomach, along with Mrs. Ramos, was robbed of its belongings. What was left of their intestines hung from the holes created by the Diseased. Mrs. Ramos, wearing her red flower apron and white gloves, no longer had a right arm and only had half of her other. A deep color of blood covered their exposed bones. Their legs, once full of fat and muscle, were nothing more but leftovers for the rats.
Samson was stuck in a shocked state. The smell, though stronger, no longer bothers him. The situation was too much for him to comprehend. Suddenly the old couple groans quietly. Both have a quick two-second spasm and groan again, but louder. Snapping out of his trance, Samson shakes his head and gets back up again while backing away. Tears roll down his face as the old couple start to move, having difficulty because of their broken bodies. They look helpless and desperate; Samson feels a heavy sadness in his heart, knowing that he can do nothing for them now. “I’m sorry,” he silently says with regret and walks away.
Only a step away from stepping into the hall, he hears the Diseased around the corner snarl; Samson had completely forgotten about them. Being aware of his surroundings again, he takes precautions for his escape. He peeks out once and takes a quick glance at the Diseased. Sneakily, he walks away from them and into the first room. He heads towards the door and passes by the dried flowers, never seeing them again.
As soon as Samson steps outside, he shuts the door close and falls down on the ground, completely breaking apart. He sobs, cursing the infection and everything religious. He pounds the ground with his fist, causing them to bleed. The echoed noises of shrieks and agony did not phase his sadness. A couple of minutes pass and he pulls himself together. He wipes his face and rips off part of his shirt, using it to cover his bleeding hand, fearing it will leave a trail to his home. He gets up and prepares himself to return to his wife.
Samson ran. He ran nonstop through the city, hearing random screams and cries for help. Why, he thought. Why is this happening? What have we done to deserve something like this?
* * * * * *
Samson woke up to a banging sound coming from the door. He didn’t realize he had fallen asleep, but was thankful for being woken up. He didn’t want to think about the old couple anymore. Still weak and weary, Samson stays seated and waits for the guard to open the slot. To his surprise, it was not just the slot on the door that had opened, but the whole door.
Samson squints his eyes; the brightness from the outside of the room was something his eyes were not used to anymore. Still, he looks towards the door. He sees the silhouette of one of the guards standing right outside of the room. Soon, two more figures join the guard. One of them was another guard, but he could not figure out who the third figure was.
The third silhouette looked quite frail and seems to have a bag over his head. Perhaps another prisoner? Samson asks himself. Then he notices a sort of chain coming from the guard’s belt and into the figure’s neck. The guards push the figure inside the room hard enough to have let him hit the ground. The guards come inside the room and quickly remove the bag from the figure’s head. Samson’s muscles tighten all around his body. This person, or more so, thing on the floor snaps its teeth in the air. It started twisting and writhing, its face contorted with pure hunger and violent rage. Its eyes, once a different color, are nothing but shades of yellow. The guards have brought in one of the Diseased.
The guards then release the creature from its chain and calmly walk out. As the door slams shut, the guards wave at Samson, mocking his situation. Those bastards he thought. Who in the right mind would do something like this? Having no other option, Samson mentally readies himself for the upcoming confrontation. He closes his eyes and quickly counts to three. A deep breath follows after and he opens his eyes.
Samson stands up weakly. He musters everything he has in him to stand up. He was stuck in darkness with a single light bulb that didn’t even illuminate the whole room with one of those creatures. His eyes, moving swiftly, scan the room from left to right nonstop. Though he was exhausted, Samson controls his breathing; it was tiring to stand and he didn’t dare to sit back down. So he stands waiting and listens to the creature sniffing around with its occasional moans and groans. Its scent soon filled the room, smelling like a mixture of vinegar and human waste. The stench makes Samson gag, and the Diseased hears him. The creature snaps its teeth again and gave a quick snarl towards his direction and got louder, hungrier; it knows that there was food in the room. Samson has given away his position. The groans were getting closer and closer, until it gives a fierce growl not more than five feet away from him. Samson frantically runs, dodging blindly from one corner of the room to the next. He could not see it, only hear it, but the creature could smell him; It knew exactly where to go.
Finally, Samson decided to run towards the middle of the room where the only source of light shines. He runs and stops at the edge where the light reaches its end. He turns around and finally sees the creature for the first time walking quickly towards him; it was a no man, but a woman. Light gray skin, an open stomach, a nasty gash from her right eye going down to her lower lip and her whole left cheek missing. Come here you ugly bastard Samson thought. She snarled louder as she was finally able to see her dinner. She reaches violently for Samson. Her hands outreached with fingernails pointed and ready to dig. With all the energy Samson has left, he grabs both of her forearms before she was able to get a hold of him. He almost wanted to let go, he has never actually held one before, and the feeling of this woman’s body was not what he had expected. Her skin feels very soft and cold; it felt as if it could be ripped off at any given moment. She was as soft as a baby’s blanket and as cold as ice, but she was incredibly strong; the Diseased have no threshold for pain, giving them no limit.
Samson struggles with the creature. He was trying to knock her down so he could give her head one big stomp, but she continuously snarls at him and tries to bite him. Samson was losing hope. He couldn’t stop her, and unlike the Diseased, humans get tired. He closes his eyes for what he thinks would be the final time he will, but an image of his wife appears in his mind. Memories flood him. With renewed resolution, Samson tightens his grip on her forearms, lifts his right leg, and gives one final kick to her chest. The skin on the creature’s arms and hands rip and slide off into his own, but he couldn’t be disgusted by this now. She snarls loudly as she looks at him with angry eyes from the ground. With a loud yell and all his might, Samson drives his foot into the creature’s head. One. Two. Three. Four.
Four stomps and it finally stops moving.
He stands there once again under that light, staring down with anger in his eyes and staggered breathing. His whole body shivers as he stands above the creature, making sure it was no longer alive. He keeps his arms tense and flexed, prepared for another conflict. After a few moments, he calms down. It’s over. He wipes his hands on his clothes to get rid of the skin from the creature. As he did, he hears a small sound. A sound that a coin would make if dropped on the ground. He searches the floor and sees a small object reflecting the faint light; it was a ring. It was stuck with the soft skin that was pulled off of the creature’s hands. Samson remembers that these were once people, too. Curious, he picks up the ring, sits right next to the creature, and examines the ring. Inside of the ring, something was engraved. Samson drops his jaw and widens his eyes with disbelief.
“Together forever – Samson & Emily”
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