No Signal

no_signal

The correspondence operations of the underground compound was unattended. All workstations were logged out, but left on. The overhead and ambient lighting were all off. Emergency strip lighting along the floor was a muted orange-yellow and illuminated the undersides of work stations on either side. Two lanes of dual monitor work stations pushed apart by a wide alley that led to a giant screen that spanned all three, filling out the entire wall, with nothing but large white letters in the center of the screen which the smaller screens reiterated – “No Signal.”

The room, carved out of dolomite and sandstone, was arranged as if a nave directed at the chancel and to the right of it a vestry. The comp controllers office all glass outlined in steel, butted up on all sides by the subterranean rock frame. There were no emergency lights visible within. The strip lights down the aisle stuttered as a generator ran out of fuel and another kicked in. When the power fully returned the strips were a bit brighter and the very bottom of the office’s insides were illuminated, the carpet looked shiny with dampness. The rest swallowed up by darkness.

1st Lt, Philipp Stallworth’s eyes were locked on the 10 foot stretch of lit up glass and wet floor. He couldn’t be sure from here, but the carpet just didn’t seem right. He made himself look away, over to his personal station that he swapped with 2nd Lt, Mancuso, twelve hours on, twelve off. He would have never believed while performing his duties under a high level of stress and rigorous expectations, that he would someday find it simpler, almost comforting.

He remembered to breath.

He looked down the endless hallway of rectangularly bored stone and strip lights on his right, then to the left where the strips only made it about 15 yards before their illumination was diffused, fading to pitch black. His heart skipped a beat and he was stuck on his breathing again struggling to maintain balanced timing. Behind he heard the propped open elevator attempting to close, re-positioning to open, waiting patiently only to be rejected upon each consecutive attempt.

Stallworth let in a deep, deep breath and held on to it. Now he was staring at the long vertical handle on the door a yards reach away. He was talking himself into it, or was he talking himself out of it? He closed his eyes and breathed outward, extending his arm along with it. He opened his eyes and as his hand stretched and his grip made initial contact there was a sudden loud pop and the back-up lightening failed.

Blackout.

After the explosion echoed away down the hallway he was there in the dark, the elevator giving up it’s futile battle fell silent; he only heard his breath and the smack of his lips as he swallowed hard. His finger tips were barely on the cold metal, he could feel the weight of the door and electricity tingling through his body pushing up the hair on his arms and the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and wondered what the point of it was there in the void of blackness, but it calmed him down.

He hesitated a bit longer then swung the door open and began feeling his way through the room. There was only one way out of this facility and it was in that vestry, but first he needed to fumble his way past the pews and up to the pulpit.

“Forward is progress,” he thought to himself sliding a foot forward, and colliding with a rolling chair. A breath out… progress.

Just then a clicking, whispering nightmarish cadence fluttered from the front of the room to the rear and the Lieutenant froze in his progress, third workstation down.

He was holding his breath again.

 

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2 Responses to “No Signal”

  1. Christina Bourgeois Says:

    Tigers are great exercises! Definitely piquing the readers interest. I found myself drawn in with this one and unsettled when I realized that’s all your going to give us.

    Nice work👍

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