Extract - The Unforeseen Children Of Olive Shipley
The room was like a small changing room. Protective suits hung in plastic bags from the hooks in the wall, with more suits folded in the far left corner.
“How did you know that code for the door?” whispered Isabelle to Robert.
“I work here,” he replied, taking Danny back off the Inspector. “This was the room I was talking about, I think it was lucky that this place was on route to the nearest exit.”
“Now what?” asked Tabatha.
Suddenly, the scratching started. It was as if the hands of twenty Hollow began to claw desperately at the locked door. The residents of the room stood in silence, looking at each other, frozen, unable to think, but the cry of little Danny woke them from their frigidity.
“Keep him quiet,” snapped Isabelle, “I don’t care how, but keep him quiet.”
Robert bounced Danny in his arms and whispered calm words into his ear.
“There is no better time to try the suit idea,” said Isabelle, and began to find the suit best fitting to her short, stocky stature. Tabatha copied Isabelle’s actions. “We have ten minutes at most before they’re through that door.”
“Robert, put a suit on and then fashion one for Danny,” said Isabelle. Robert did not want to leave a crying baby but was forced to when Isabelle snapped at him.
Danny cried all through Robert’s attempt to wrap him up in a suit. The baby’s head and shoulders managed to fit in the head space of the suit and Robert tied the arms and legs short. Isabelle walked over and patted Robert on the shoulder. “Nice work,” she said through the plastic visor. Robert turned and looked at both Isabelle and Tabatha dressed in the ill-fitting white protective garb. The legs were fixed onto white rubber boots and the sleeves ended in tight fitting white gloves. A thin hood clung its elastic embrace along the hair line covering the back of the head. A helmet, that was transparent soft plastic at the front and white around the back of the head, attached to the shoulders. From the back, a length of black tubing ran from the back of the helmet down the spine and fixed into the oxygen pack attached to the waist band. As Robert began to secure everyone’s oxygen packs, the sharp talons of the Hollow made their first hole in the door. Robert looked up and then feverishly made sure everyone’s suit was air tight and able to provide oxygen before picking up Danny and holding him close. He continued to rock him in his arms, hoping his cries would cease. Eventually they subsided when the Hollow clawed and splintered away their only obstacle to the room.
The door was open. One of the Hollow entered the room and tasted the air. Isabelle observed the mob of thin gaunt creatures standing still in the corridor. From a delirious swarm of hands wanting to break down the door, they seemed almost calm, passive and silent. Her heart was racing. Passive or not there was still a throng of the Hollow only a couple of metres away from them. The single Hollow walked further into the room, its tongue moving in an almost desperate circular motion as if trying to pick up a scent it had lost. Are the suits working? thought Isabelle as she stood motionless on the right hand side of the room. Her eyes moved right, Tabatha and Robert were also standing steadfast, their eyes fixated on the rogue Hollow. Condensation began to build up on the inside of Isabelle’s suit. Was her oxygen pack working? Through the blurred plastic she could see the figure take another two steps into the room. It was then she felt it, the movement of phlegm in her chest, the hoarseness of her breath, the tickle in her throat. As much as Isabelle tried, she could not contain the cough, a cough that had started to plague her over a week ago and had done nothing about. It was about to kill them all. The Hollow may not be able to taste the human flesh in the air but the sound of her violently emptying her lungs would give them away.
Her cough was more of a stifled splutter sending drops of spit onto the inside of the visor. The Hollow turned its head and extended its tongue which twisted round and round while it murmured monosyllabic utterances. It took several steps towards her, stopping inches away from her face. Withdrawing its tongue, the creature looked at her through the transparent plastic. Isabelle stared back through the spit covered veil, holding her breath as it looked back at her with curiosity, seemingly unable to determine what she was. The Hollow protruded its tongue once more and drew it across the clear plastic, causing droplets of condensation to trickle down the inside of the suit. It drew it back leaving a greasy trail of slime in its wake. The creature lifted its arm and began to explore the plastic surface in front of it. One of its sharp talon-like fingers gently pushed at the visor forcing it back against Isabelle’s face. She felt the moisture of the condensation on her cheek as she watched the creature lick across the plastic once more.
Across the room Tabatha watched the Hollow begin to taste the plastic of Isabelle’s suit. She knew the sharp talons of the Hollow could easily puncture the visor exposing the Inspector to the full wrath of the Hollow both inside the room and the docile swarm in the corridor. She had to help. Her arm moved slowly around her waist. Her silenced pistol was tucked into the waistband of her jeans. Just one shot, she thought, just one bullet could get rid of the intruder. The risk was the reaction of the horde outside, but if the creature caused the tiniest hole in the Inspector’s suit then it would be all over. She felt the gun with her gloved hand but she could not pick it up, something was stopping her from grabbing the firearm. She looked down sharply, and in her haste to don the suit, she had worn it over her normal clothes and as a consequence, her weapon. The only way to retrieve it was to unzip the suit and reach inside which was something she could not do. In an uncontrolled exclamation of disgust with herself, she whispered the word, “shit”.