by Robert L. Sellers, Jr.
If anything can go wrong, it will.
Slowly regaining consciousness, he listened for anything moving nearby. It was almost ironic that as a vampire for almost a century, he had become good at playing dead.
He tried to figure out where the hell he was and how he had gotten there. At least he was still in his seat. He shuddered considering what might have happened without its protection.
The flight had originated out of Syracuse destined for Los Angeles via Denver. Things had been going well. He had the name and number of the young woman across from him in his pocket fully intending to look her up when they arrived.
She had willingly volunteered that she lived alone and was interested in “hooking up” after they landed. She had been interested in sex while he simply wanted her blood. Getting both and her apartment would be a bonus.
Something had gone terribly wrong as they approached Denver. Several loud bangs from beneath them had made the plane roll violently back and forth before spiraling down toward the ground. Apparently it had come apart along the way and this was where he had landed.
Dinner in Los Angeles would have to wait. With regret he remembered her blond hair, blue eyes and athletic body. It had been too long since he had looked forward to something other than a simple feeding... such a waste.
His whole right side hurt, clearly indicating how he had impacted. He felt no fear though as his body was already healing itself. He had fed before the flight just in case of emergency. He thought about simply unbuckling his belt, getting up and walking away until he sensed movement and heard loud muted voices nearby.
Two men yelled at one another while they worked. Carefully opening his left eye, he saw that they were wearing what appeared to be bulky red biohazard suits.
Protection from the jet fuel, no doubt. No smoking here please.
They carried a body covered with a white tarp toward the open doors of what appeared to be a cooler. Great; not only would he have to wait until they were done, he would have to break out of another cooler.
This was not his first accident, nor probably his last. He knew the drill by now. The coroner would collect and sort the bodies, identifying each as best they could. Then the autopsies would be performed. He would simply relax and patiently wait for the men to leave and then make his getaway. No fuss, no muss and no corpus delicti.
Why they had left him strapped in his chair when they carried him toward the cooler was beyond him. Perhaps they were unused to handling this many bodies or else the National Transportation Safety Board wanted them kept in situ for now. He really didn't care either way.
Being covered with a tarp bothered him the most. How was he going to see what was going on?
Patience! He cursed to himself, all in good time.
They set him back on his left side, clearly uninterested in removing him from his seat. Now that was just plain odd. The first thing they had done the last time was separate the victims from their seats. Oh well, who was he to question regulations or how they had changed?
He waited until the cooler door had closed before unlocking his belt and climbing out from beneath the tarp. Even with only one good eye, he could see tarp-covered bodies surrounding him. He wasn't in a cooler at all! He was in what looked like a large storage room with grooved steel walls and flooring.
Lifting the tarp from a body next to him, he was pleased to find the woman he had planned to dine upon. What the hell, when in Rome, he figured. Picking her up in his arms, he unceremoniously ripped into her neck to replenish his blood. Sex might be out, but dinner was served.
Groaning with pleasure as he fed, his eyes wondered to a plate on the far wall. Licking his lips as he lay the woman back down and covered her with the tarp, he walked over and read it.
Who would name a cooler “The Magma Twenty-Two-Twenty”? That sounded more like something that burned rather than cooled.
Exactly where the hell was he?
Turning toward the main doors he gasped realizing what he was in. If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes he would never have believed it.
He wasn't in a cooler at all! For some reason they were storing the bodies in an incinerator. He clearly saw the word incinerator stenciled across the doors, but that didn't make any sense.
Perhaps it was the largest room they had available.
Carefully he began to look around the room for a way out. He finally had to accept that there wasn't one other than the doors that they had carried him through.
He realized he would simply have to wait until they came for the bodies before making good his escape.
Regulations be damned, he was getting annoyed.
His annoyance evaporated when he heard a female voice begin a countdown.
What the hell was that about furnace activation?
* * *
Two men turned to look over the empty room behind them before shutting and bolting the large cast-iron doors. The Magma Twenty-Two-Twenty was the latest in biohazard destruction incinerators. Built like a walk-in freezer it could just as easily accommodate piles of disposable waste as it could rows of bodies and airline debris that currently covered the sterile floor.
“Adam, are you sure that's all of them?” William Eggers loudly asked his partner, looking over the list they had been given when this had all started.
Twenty-one names checked off with photos and lists of recovered property — twelve men, eight women and one female child. Damn. Three of the bodies from the lab itself had still been wearing their lab coats. Nothing could be left that might be contaminated by the virus. Buggers should have been wearing their Hazmat suits — as if that would have protected them from the falling debris. Damn.
Adam Belford, Senior Technical Specialist for Ashford Labs turned to face his partner. With the exertion from loading and unloading the bodies along with the other debris he was ready to get out of the Level-A Hazmat suit. He had also grown tired of breathing canned air and looking through both his mask and the viewport. The damn suit was just too bulky for his tastes.
“According to the Tactical Response Team, we got them all!” He yelled in reply. “Poor bastards, if they hadn't landed in the middle of McGregor's lab their families might have something left to bury.”
Eggers sighed, stepping back as he watched his partner configure the incinerator controls. “What did they say to set it to?” He yelled.
Belford had to turn to reply. He cursed the radios that had malfunctioned leaving them to yell at one another just to communicate. “They said to cook them long and high! You know what that means, fifteen minutes at five thousand! The ash will be run through the acid bath afterwards!”
Turning back to the control panel he typed in the commands before stepping back to rejoin his partner. A woman's calm voice announced the progress of the program. A pulsing tone indicated that this would not be a drill.
“Warning! Warning! Warning! Furnace activation in five... four... three...”
Although familiar with the incinerator they both jumped as it whooshed to life, the core temperature quickly climbing toward the target temperature.
“What the hell was that?” Eggers suddenly yelled, moving closer to the doors.
“What?” Belford replied grabbing his partner's arm before he got too close.
“I thought I heard a scream and some banging as it activated!” Eggers yelled, shaking his arm loose from his partner as he listened. He couldn't hear anything other than the growing rumble as the temperature broke two thousand degrees Fahrenheit.
“That's just the o-line injection system that boosts oxygen. Screams like a damn banshee when it kicks in, eh?” Belford yelled. “The banging was probably breast implants from one of the women! They explode like grenades at high temperatures!”
Eggers stepped back to rejoin his partner, still troubled by what he had heard. “Sure sounded like a scream to me,” he turned and yelled.
Belford gently pulled him toward the exit. “Come on. I'll buy the first round.”
Reluctantly Eggers turned to follow, still troubled by what he had clearly thought was screaming from the incinerator. The pounding almost sounded like someone desperately banging on the door from the inside.
His partner was probably right. Even he had double-checked each of the bodies for a pulse and found nothing. Had they lived they would eventually have died from the virus they had crashed into anyway.
Only Murphy's Law would have cursed them like that.
Copyright © 2005 by Robert L. Sellers, Jr.