A Pale, Cold Night
by Melissa R. Mendelson
It was 7:30 in the morning. The small office was just stirring. Some corners were still dark. The coffee machine rumbled off in the distance. The cleaner hummed to himself as he mopped the tiled floors, and I typed away on my reports. It was just another morning, and the sun was starting to rise. And it was time for my first cup of coffee.
I walked through the hallway, trying not to slip on the floor. I was a short distance away from the break room, and the dark corridors chased me like shadows. I passed by the windows. Most of them faced the back of the building, and all you saw were trees, so many damn trees. Then, I noticed that the trees were all bare, which was strange, but then again, it was December.
There was one window right by the break room that faced the other way, and I saw headlights. My coworkers were arriving, and the parking lot was starting to fill up. And the sky was an amazing pink color. I thought the sun would have risen by now, but the sky was beautiful. And my coworkers stood outside, captivated by its beauty.
Suddenly, a gentle rain fell from the sky. It was like pink mist, settling over their skin, and my coworkers looked at it in wonder. Then, their smiles turned into screams, and they started to smack at their hands, their faces. They looked up at me in horror, screaming louder, and their skin began to melt. Their eyes turned into white goo, and bone stuck out from smooshed, pale spots. And they dropped to the ground. Their screams stopped.
A moment later, they stood and turned toward the building. Their skeletal structures shined against the pink mist. Their jaws locked in smile. Their phalanges waved at me in the air. Then, they stepped closer, and I knew that they were coming in. And I ran to the office door, getting there just in time to lock it. As the lock clicked into place, I looked up and stared into the eye sockets of what used to be my coworker.
Someone screamed from behind me. I spun around, facing five coworkers. They had made it inside just before the pink mist had fallen, and now they were staring out the door at the horror that waited for us. Most of us were women, but there were two men including the cleaner. Their faces were stricken with panic, and one woman screamed and screamed. Her screams were grating on my nerves, but it was distracting me from what stood on the other side of the door.
“I can’t be here,” the other man declared. “I can’t be here,” and he tore down the hallway.
With horror, I realized where he was going. There was another door in the break room. It couldn’t be open from the outside, but if he opened it, they would come in. And they couldn’t come in. If they came in, then we were all dead, and I pounded the floor, chasing after him, nearly slipping on my ass. But I made it just in time to see him open the door.
“See? They’re not out here.” He turned toward me, still holding the door open. “It’s safe. We can leave,” and then one of those skeletal creatures stepped into sight, grabbed hold of him and yanked him outside.
I ran toward the door and tried to close it. Skeletal hands wrapped along the side, trying to keep it open, but I pulled it harder. Finally, the door slammed shut, and skeletal fingers dropped at my feet. I looked up through the little glass window in the door and stared at a skeletal face, and the skeletal face leaned closer, daring me to open the door. But I refused.
I turned my focus on my coworker. He was surrounded by what used to be our peers, our friends. They didn’t attack him. They just surrounded him, and then he stared up into the sky. And he screamed. He screamed as he touched his face, and his skin peeled away from his hands. It reminded me of that Indiana Jones movie, and now he looked at me. And he stopped screaming. He began to grin, and he continued to grin as his face turned into mush. His eyes were white pudding mixing into the pale lumps, and his lips fell away like dead leaves. But his skeletal face was still grinning, but what was even more horrifying was that we couldn’t leave here. If we left the building, we would become like him.
I turned around and faced the people that were trapped inside with me. We were the lucky ones. We had some food and water. There was a bathroom and lights and heat, and no one knew what to say. At least that woman stopped screaming, but now she was crying. And I hurried past her and out into the corridor, where I looked through the window and into the parking lot, and I realized that there were people trapped in their cars. We couldn’t get to them. They were going to die out there, and they knew it. Some of the drivers took off, running over skeletal coworkers, and others just sat there, looking at me for help. But I couldn’t help them. There was nothing that I or anyone else could do to save them. All I could do was stare up at the pink skies.