By: Terrell Lawson
“Three… two...one. Okay. My name is Henric McCathey, son of David McCathey, the Head scientist of the aquatic division of Lavaunzier Labs. This auditory recording hereby grants me access to...level C? B? Damn it.” Henric stops the tape recorder and throws it down. He walks over to his drawer, opens it, and shuffles through until he finds an old map of the laboratory with section D circled. “Wow, I was way off.” He looked at his watch, checking the date. August 12th. It’s been eleven days since Hurricane Taylor hit the coast. It’s been eleven days since he last talked to his dad. “Wait out the storm, make an audio recording of yourself detailing who you are, and then come to the lab. Don’t say anything when you meet the guards, just play the recording. I’ll be in section D. Tell them and they’ll take you right to me. David circled section D and folded it up, passing it to Henric. “Be good kid.”
Weeks later, the storm had finally passed. The city had been completely evacuated besides Henric himself, and the scientists at Lavaunzier Labs. According to his dad, their work was too important to abandon. Henric grabbed an empty backpack and picked up the tape recorder again. “My name, dad’s name, age, section. It’s simple.” Henric took a deep breath before recording again. His dad had left him alone before, but this was different. No messages, no calls, no type of contact in over a week. His dad told him to expect it, but that doesn’t make the isolation any easier.
Walking to his bedroom door, he put in the four-digit code to unlock his room. The rest of the house was cold compared to his room. Grabbing the key fob hanging by the door, Henric left the kitchen and stepped outside. Looking at the neighbor’s houses, you couldn’t even tell a hurricane had hit the town. Henric opened the garage and pushed a button on the fob and his dad’s truck instantly powered on. He hopped in the passenger side even though it was driverless. He was used to this side, and he didn’t feel like he was ready for the driver's seat, anyway. After putting the address into the touchscreen monitor, he turned on the radio to hear what the news reports were about the storm. “Recovery efforts are underway in North and South Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Taylor. The Hurricane dumped about three trillion tons of gallons of rainwater on North Carolina. It’s nowhere near a record breaker but it has done serious damage nonetheless. We’ll have more today, at ten.”
Everything he drove past showed no signs of a hurricane. There were no fallen trees, no destroyed houses, or floods. It only looked like a little rain had passed. He didn’t know what the radio speaker was referring to. Henric tried other radio stations, searching for music, but only got static. From both FM and AM. Maybe the storm did do something. To the radio towers at least. Turning it off, Henric sat in silence as the truck took him to the lab. It was bright outside, bright but cold. The truck’s monitor told him it was 48 degrees Fahrenheit. No clouds in the sky No cars on the road. Just Henric in a big truck, in an empty town.
“Your destination is on the left.”
A big glass sign with black letters spelled out Lavaunzier Labs. Past that was a massive dark grey and black building almost completely rectangular, with a huge garden in the front. In the middle of the fountain was a big fountain the same color as the building with several statues spitting out water. The truck stopped itself and Henric got out, slowly approaching the building. Dad said security took their job seriously. There could be a sniper watching me right now.
Henric made it all the way to the front entrance, but nobody came. Nobody greeted him and he couldn’t see inside, the windows were tinted. Henric buzzed the intercom and put his tape recorder up to the speaker. After a moment of waiting, he knocked on the glass.
“Hello?!” He called out, trying to peer into the glass. “Is anyone here?” He tapped the button repeatedly before finally giving up. Pulling out a map of the headquarters, he found another entrance on the side. The door was also locked, but it had an ID scanner on the wall next to it. His dad had an old ID in the truck, Henric was sure of it. He ran back to the truck and checked the dashboard. Nothing. The glove compartment had nothing inside it, neither did the sun visor. Finally, reaching between the seat. He found an ID from last year, a couple pennies, and a coupon for a free shake. Henric ran back to the side entrance and held the card up. There was a soft ding, and the door unlocked.
Your ID is out of date. Please seek a replacement at the registrar.
Suddenly, metal blinds shut down over the windows. An alarm blared and a red light flashed on the wall near the security camera. A monotone voice came over the loudspeaker:
DAVID MCCATHEY, LAVAUNZIER LABS IS STILL UNDER LOCKDOWN AND THE MAIN DRAG IS STILL CLOSED. PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR SECTION AND RESUME YOUR DAILY ACTIVITIES UNTIL OTHERWISE NOTED.
Lockdown? Henric thought. It’s really not as bad as everyone thinks out there. Henric headed towards the escalator while looking around. This place felt ghostly when it was empty. Which was another problem. It shouldn’t have been empty. There were always guards at the entrances, even when his dad brought him here on Christmas Day. Always hustle and bustle, the scientists never rested. Even in the wee hours of the night, They were working diligently without end. His father was no exception. The entire lab looked like a mall with offices and testing areas instead of shops. You could barely go to the bathroom without clearance, everything was confidential. Dad used to joke about making Henric sign a nondisclosure agreement at four months old. The older Henric got, the more he believed it.
The entire building was separated into two floors, both twice the size of a football field. The first floor had sections A and B, facing West and East respectively. The second floor had sections C and D, facing North and West. There technically was a third floor, but on the map it says testing area. Henric had never been there. Getting off the escalator, walked forward until he got to his father’s office. Peering inside, the light was off and his desk was a mess. His dad never leaves it like that. He turned the knob but it was locked. “Dad?” he called, knocking on the door. “I’m here!”
After a few moments, Henric gave up and headed towards the cafeteria. Maybe everyone was hiding in there, together.