STRATAGEM Chapter 10
STRATAGEM by Joshua Graham
SEVEN DAYS EARLIER…
Vanderberg Air Force Base
DEAD BODIES SOMETIMES MOVE. But they don’t climb down from an exam table and stand up! Part intrigued/part terrified, Marcus pointed a penlight in the body’s direction.
It stood still.
Subject Three: Asian Male, Jon Kimura. The shadows obscured his features. But it didn’t move from his place by the exam table. Did the body just happen to fall into a standing position?
Marcus heard the sound.
Could they have been mistaken about the deaths? Not likely.
Was this an unknown side effect of extraplanetary exposure?
A faint flicker of light around Kimura’s head illuminated his face just lone enough to reveal his eyes, open but devoid of expression. Marcus’s pulse raced. He could hardly draw a full breath. A chill ran through his blood even as curiosity drove him forward toward the most bizarre anomaly he’d ever witnessed.
“Hello?” He took a cautious step toward Subject Three. “I’m Doctor Marcus Crowley.”
The breathing remained steady, though.
Marcus reached over to the lamp above Subject Three’s exam table. The switch didn’t activate it.
“Mister Kimura,” he said, now facing him. “I’m going to check your pulse, all right?”
Again, no response.
Marcus placed his fingers over Kimura’s carotid artery. Interesting.
Cold to the touch…
…but pulse normal.
He aimed the penlight at Kimura’s right eye.
“If you can understand me, blink once.”
Whatever had happened to Kimura he was now clearly alive, though physically and verbally impaired. His eyes remained open, pupils dilated and unresponsive to light. Unscientific as it seemed, Marcus couldn’t help but think of this condition as a mixture of dead and alive…or undead?
He harrumphed at the sheer absurdity.
“Don’t worry, Kimura. We’ll figure this out.”
At that, Kimura’s gaze shifted slightly to the right.
Behind Marcus, clipboards fell to the floor.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
A tingling static charge ran up his spine and spread across his face.
He turned around.
Subject One and Subject Four stood by their tables, their sheets fallen to the floor. Rather than standing still, however, they walked over and surrounded him.
Marcus gasped took a step back.
He bumped into Kimura, who grabbed his arms with startling force.
Marcus turned around to meet Kimura’s blank stare, incongruous with the sudden hold he took of him.
Alerted by the sound of uneven breathing, Marcus turned back to find Subject One: Commander Hendricks, and Subject Two: Lucy Washington right in front of him, their vacant eyes gazing into his.
They pushed forward.
One grabbed him by the neck, the other clamped a hand over his mouth.
Marcus tried to scream.
The last thing he saw was a flash of blue light.
Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.
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