Ryan moved up to the front of the crowd next to his friend. Theo turned to him. He gave a shrug and then looked back at the door. Mrs. Stewart was watching them. Ryan leaned over and whispered.
“The longer we wait the harder it’ll get. Might as well get it over with.”
“Kinda silly right? Being worried about this?” Theo asked.
Their feet dragged for the first few steps, but by the time they reached the double doors leading deeper in, they had a good imitation of a confident strut going. After the normal looking front office, it was weird to see a medical lab filled with tubes and screens.
Along the walls, large glass cylinders filled with red liquid cast a strange glow over everything. As Ryan watched, a dark shadow moved in one of the cylinders. The red goo was too hazy to see clearly, but it looked like a person. With six limbs. It was one of the aliens.
Ryan swallowed as he saw other shapes swim into focus behind the glass. Five of the cylinders were full. A sixth was open, with a smeared trail of red goop leading off behind a dividing curtain. Ryan looked back, but no one else had gathered the courage to go through the door yet. He and Theo were alone.
“If one of them escaped there’d be some kind of alarm right?” he asked.
“Yeah. Of course,” Theo said. “For sure.”
They moved slowly toward the curtain, skirting the edge of the trail of fluid on the ground. Ryan grabbed one edge of the curtain. It was thick plastic, and crinkled as he pulled it to the side. The noise was unnaturally loud.
Shadows clung to everything on the other side. The light was reluctant to move past Ryan. He thought he saw movement, so he leaned forward to get a better look. His eyes were still adjusting when the darkness exploded.
Hands reached out of the gloom and caught him. Ryan would’ve screamed, but he was too scared to get a breath. A single red eye was glaring at him out of the dark.
“Who am I?” The voice was so unexpected Ryan forgot his terror. It was soft and sweet, like a young girl’s.
Ryan backed up, drawing the hands gripping his face into the light. They had been human once, but a few of the fingers were fused together and they were brown and almost scaly in places. Slowly, more emerged from the darkness. Ryan barely recognized the alien that’d thrown the concrete block at him. She, he could tell it was a she now and not an it, looked more human than when he’d last seen her. Large patches of skin were the right color and her two extra arms were even smaller.
“What am I?” The voice was shifting from confusion to panic.
The grip on Ryan’s face was getting stronger, her fingers digging into his cheeks. It was starting to hurt. Ryan tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let go.