The lights were off on the first floor, but it was only gloomy, not dark. There was some kind of light source off to the right. Lloyd looked in that direction, still with just his shoulders out through the stairwell door, and could see the circular guard's desk down there, about forty feet away. To the left of the guard's desk were the back doors. They were glass and daylight was coming in through them. It shocked Lloyd, but then he realized it couldn't be later than six in the evening.
Faintly, Lloyd could hear all kinds of unpleasant sounds – breaking glass, screams, strange smashing, tearing, rending noises. They were distant and muffled but a constant backdrop nonetheless, once you opened the stairwell door. They must be coming from outside the building. The outer wall was just across the hall from them.
Lloyd dropped Megan's hand as soon as they were through the stairwell door and in the corridor. Holding hands was all well and good, but the only weapon he had was another bottle of water from his briefcase. Pointing and squeezing it would be easier with two hands.
Not that Lloyd really thought they had much of a chance of surviving the next hour or so. Unless he was wrong and the fishzards had, for some reason he could not imagine, only invaded this one office building. But that seemed wildly unlikely. And if the city outside was crawling with fishzards, Lloyd didn't think he and Megan were going to live long.
Lloyd had to make an effort to stay focused on the task at hand as he moved quietly up the corridor. His mind kept drifting back to the blowjob Megan had given him in the stairwell. It was the first sex he'd had since his divorce eight years before. It had been hot as hell. Probably the situation had added to that, but still, Megan had been amazingly good. His orgasm had been more intense than any he could remember since he was a kid.
Lloyd hadn't had a great many lovers in his 46 years. And in the ten years his marriage had lasted, he'd never cheated on his wife. It was lack of opportunity more than anything else. Lloyd's wife had been really boring in bed – certainly she'd never sucked him off, not once. He would have cheated, probably, if he'd had the chance, but Lloyd had never been the kind of guy that women went for.
He had had a few flings before he got married, and dated a few women. His girlfriends generally hadn't been great in bed. A couple of the flings had been really good, but both of them had been slutty chicks who were messing around with Lloyd, and probably other guys, behind their husband's or boyfriend's back. Lloyd had no moral issues with slutty chicks cheating on their significant others, but it usually kept the relationship from lasting long.
Lloyd had seen the wedding ring on Megan's hand, and didn't figure whatever they had was going to last any longer than it took for them to get out of this bizarre situation. She sure as shit wasn't going to fall in love with a guy like Lloyd, and that meant he had to be careful not to fall in love with her. Because despite the fact that she was married, obviously kind of slutty, and at least twenty years younger than him, Lloyd knew his own nature. He was actually very romantic. And she really had curled his toes back there on the stairs.
So he was going to have to be really really careful not to get too attached.
Obviously, these were not thoughts he was going to discuss with Megan.
They moved about forty feet down the corridor and emerged near the circular guard desk. The corridor from the front doors, which were off to the right, bent into an L here. Lloyd and Megan had just come up the other leg of the L to reach here. The guard's desk was about ten feet inside the back doors, with a clear view of both sets of doors, and about 15 video monitors they could watch, built into the space under about half of the circular desk.
There was nobody visible within the desk's inner circle right now, but the curved door – actually, it was just a four foot section of the curved desk itself, on hinges – was open. There was a reddish black smear, like a drag mark, leading out of the inner circle and up the hall, towards the elevators.
“Goddamit,” Lloyd whispered. “So much for that.”
“No, wait,” Megan said, moving past him and into the desk's inner circle. As she'd brushed past him Lloyd would almost have sworn she had deliberately pressed against his back, dragging her breasts against him. It had felt delightful... but very distracting.
She went over to one of the steel filing cabinet drawers to the left of the guard's seat. There was a brass key in the lock. She pulled the drawer and it opened. She reached inside and brought out a pistol.
“Charlie was on duty today when I came in,” she said. “He always says the pistol digs into his hip when he sits in the chair. So he puts it in this drawer.”
“You flirt with the security guards?” Lloyd whispered.
Nearly any other woman Lloyd had ever known would have gotten pissed off at him for that. As far as he knew, they all flirted with guys they liked, but none of them ever wanted to admit to it. Megan just looked at him, then gave him a really dirty smile. “I like older men,” she whispered back to him. Then leaned in and licked the tip of his nose, and giggled.
Lloyd's cock immediately stiffened in his pants again. “Hey, we can't...”
Megan rolled her eyes. “I know, I know. Do you want this? Can you shoot it?”
Lloyd looked at the gun in her hand. “I've never fired a gun,” he said. “I mean, it can't be that hard, right?”
Megan did something and the gun's chamber popped out. She held it up into the light coming in through the glass outside doors. “Fully loaded,” she said. She looked at Lloyd. “My dad is big in the NRA,” she said. “My whole family target shoots.”
“You keep it, then,” Lloyd said. “Just don't point it at me.”
“I like all your parts just where they are, sugar,” Megan said, almost absent-mindedly. She kind of shook the gun and the chamber clicked back into place. She pulled the drawer out further and started stirring her other hand around in it. She came up with a small cardboard box, and shoved it at Lloyd. “More rounds,” she said. “Put 'em in your bag.”
Lloyd took them and was putting them in the outside pouch where they could get to them easily when they heard a scream – not muffled this time at all, but clearly coming from somewhere nearby, probably on this floor.
He grabbed Megan's shoulder and pulled her down, going down into a crouch next to her. Both their heads were below the top of the desk.
The scream stopped – then started again. Whoever it was kept screaming for the next minute or so. Finally, whoever it was stopped. And then Lloyd could hear hissing... which was the way fishzards talked.
He looked over at Megan. Her eyes were wide, almost bugging out of her head, and he could tell she was so scared she was nearly pissing herself. He felt the same way. He'd hoped they were all up on the second floor, but no... it sounded like there was a group of them just down the hall... probably in the offices just beyond the elevators. There was cubicle space to the right and the left, behind locked doors, for a couple of the other departments... Field Service was one of them, Lloyd vaguely knew. Credit might have been the other.
Lloyd gestured with his head in the direction of the doors. Megan looked at him for a second... then nodded.
The only problem with the doors was, you could push them open from inside with the crashbars, but once you were outside, they'd lock behind you. Although they could probably prop them open with something... Lloyd grabbed a phone book from the top of the two drawer filing cabinet Megan had gotten the gun out of.
He touched her cheek, and without making a sound, mouthed the word 'Ready?'
She reached up with the hand she didn't have the gun in and pressed his fingers to her cheek. Her fingers were trembling, but his were, too. She lifted the gun in her other hand and nodded.
Lloyd leaned in and kissed her softly on the mouth, and just barely breathed “Luck”.
She kissed him back. Then he moved in a crouch over to the open desk-door and moved on out. She scuttled out after him. Keeping the desk between themselves and the hallway, they stayed in crouches, moving in a kind of sideway crab-scrabble to the doors.
The muffled shrieks and sounds of breakage were louder, here. Lloyd risked a look out through the glass.
He'd been right, it was awful. But he'd been wrong, too... it wasn't fishzards. Or just fishzards, anyway.
Through the glass doors he could see a swatch of downtown Louisville. On the far right he could just make out the MONY Tower. Something that looked like a two headed caterpillar was crawling up the side of it. It had to be as big as a Greyhoud bus, maybe bigger. Each of its heads was smashing in windows as it crawled slowly up the side of the building. There were long, cilia-like tendrils around each head, and Lloyd could only assume it was reaching into the rooms behind the windows and grabbing any people that were in there and yanking them into its two maws. There was a trail of broken windows, empty of glass, behind it, running down the building.
There was smoke pouring out of nearly every building on the skyline, and from places he couldn't see, too. As he watched, two creatures that looked kind of like skinned giraffes with eight legs each and horrible looking bird heads sporting really long, sharp beaks paced by, from the left of the doors to the right. They were walking slowly through the parking lot behind the building, bird heads bobbing down at the end of their long necks to peer in through the windshields of cars on either side of the row they were walking through. Beyond them, there were several cars that had their metal roofs torn open like some giant had taken a can opener to them. Even as he noticed that, one of the giraffe-birds screeched horrifically and brought its long sharp beak down hard, smashing through what must have been the back window of a Mercedes, then ripping up again, shearing straight through the center of the car's metal roof with a screaming, squirming person – a black guy Lloyd had never seen before – in its bill. He must have somehow gotten to his car... or maybe he'd been coming in to work when this happened, and he'd just stayed out there, waiting for a chance to run for shelter which now would never come...
...and if the poor schmuck had managed to get into the building, then what?
Over to the left were the Clarksdale Towers, a housing project high rise full of low income apartments built back in the 60s. The top of the tower was strangely misshapen, as if covered with some kind of tarpaulin that was rippling or moving in the wind. Then a piece of the 'tarpaulin' detached itself and fell down the side of the building... spread out into a sort of manta ray shape, and glided downwards quickly. Lloyd lost sight of it, but he couldn't shake the impression of a bird of prey stooping on something tasty...
“Jesus Christ,” Lloyd said. “We can't go out there. We won't get ten yards.”
As if to underscore that they couldn't stay in the building, either, someone began screaming again behind them. From the voice, it wasn't the same person who had been screaming a few minutes ago.
Lloyd thought frantically. This was kind of like that Stephen King story, “The Mist”. Except there was no mist; it was broad daylight out. In the story, a mist with a lot of horrible, unearthly monsters in it had rolled in one summer day in New England, trapping a bunch of people in a supermarket. Eventually one small group had figured out that the monsters must track their prey by scent. So they'd made a break for one of the cars in the parking lot, and once they'd gotten inside with the doors closed and windows rolled up, they were okay.
Although two or three of the group had died on the short run to the car, Lloyd recollected. And there was no mist here, and these things weren't just horrible monsters. They all seemed to be intelligent... and those giraffe-bird things, at the very least, could see really well. And were smart enough to check each car to see if anyone was hiding inside it, too.
It was like the entire universe was full of horrible aliens and every alien race thought humans tasted delicious. And apparently, a bunch of them had just discovered Earth...
“Gurm-hoons,” a voice said, behind Lloyd and Megan. “I applaud your quick wits and resourcefulness. But you will not live out the day without my help.”
Lloyd spun around on his haunches, to see who was talking...