I started to shiver and looked at the clock. It was nearly four a.m. I had sat motionless for almost eight hours. Luckily, common sense kicked in and I realised that I had better start finding food and water soon or I was in real trouble. I searched the room but there was nothing, only the other forty-three sleepers. The exit out of the room was a massive steel door set in a heavy-duty rubber gasket. I peered through the thick Perspex window set into it, but all I could see was a small vestibule with a desk and an identical door at the other end. It was obvious that I had no chance if I stayed where I was, so I looked for a way to open the door.
At one side of the door was a large green push-button labelled Emergency Exit Control. Having nothing to lose, I pressed it. The door trembled slightly and with a groaning of pneumatics, slid open.
The outer vestibule was bare, except for a desk with a PC on it and the other door, which appeared to lead to a corridor. Pressing the other exit button, I stepped out.
Apart from the over-engineered doors, the corridor looks like any hospital corridor. There were four other doors like the one I had emerged through and one that looked a little more usual. I went up to the steel door opposite and looked through the window. It was identical to the one I had just left. Wondering if there might be someone inside, I looked for the button to open this door. All that I could see was a slot, edged in purple with a notice above it. The notice informed me that I needed to have Violet Clearance and possess a valid key card. With a slight sense of panic I looked at the other doors. All the steel ones had the same violet-rimmed slot next to them. I was just about to slump to the floor in despair when I noticed that the ordinary door at the end of the corridor had a green button next to it. Almost ecstatically I ran to the door and thumped the button. After the now familiar grinding hiss, the door slid open and the air was filled with a stale unpleasant stench.
The door had revealed an office with a desk and a couch. Laid out on the couch was a body dressed in a university security uniform. From the doorway I could see that it had been there a long time as the dry air had mummified it. Gingerly I approached in and got within three feet before I could see that it was a man. I was surprised that I wasn’t nauseous but it all still felt so unreal. Tucked under the couch was a small rucksack. Wanting to distract myself from my silent companion, I sat down at the desk and rummaged through the bag. It was obviously the personal possessions of my new friend. I found a small silver digital video camera, a palmtop computer, a lighter, a torch, a two-way radio, a bottle of Glenfiddich and two litres of Volvic mineral water. The seals on the water bottles were still intact so I broke one open and drank deeply. The warm flat water was wonderful as it ran down my parched throat. Reaching down into the very bottom of the bag, my hand closed around a cold, hard metal box. Pulling it out I saw that it was a full magazine for a rifle. This was a real surprise, as the university security staff didn’t even have batons or handcuffs when I had gone into the sleep chamber.
As I sat there, trying to come to terms with all that I had found out, I realised how much I didn’t know. Slowly it dawned on me that I had three priorities. To find some food, find some clothes and a way out. If I was brave enough the clothes problem was easily solved. The only way that I would find out if I could do what had to be done was to try. Cautiously I undid the blouson jacket on the corpse. Apart from a dry crackling, it undid without incident. Next came the tricky part. I had to sit the body up and slide the jacket off its arms. Gritting my teeth, I sat it up quickly. There was a noise like lettuce being shredded and I now had an L-shaped corpse. Trying not to look at what I was doing I tugged the jacket off of the body and threw it across the room. I stepped back; feeling quite pleased with myself for having got this far, although I knew that the next stage would be a lot harder. I took a deep breath and went back over to the couch. I grabbed his feet and took his shoes off, throwing them over with the jacket. Keeping my eyes on what I was doing, as I didn’t want to touch the actual body by accident, I undid the trousers and tipped him over so that his feet pointed to the ceiling. Fortunately he was wearing baggy combat trousers and I managed to pull them off without breaking anything off him. As I stepped back, I must have caught him because he toppled over, revealing the side that had been against the back of the couch. Right in the middle of his left temple was what must have been a bullet hole. I’d never seen one in real life before, but it looked how I imagined one would look. A small dark hole surrounded by a ring of what appeared to be burning. It appeared that my friend had shot himself. This meant that the gun should still be in the room, unless someone had tidied up afterwards.
As the bag was still there, this didn’t seem likely to me, so I decided to search for the gun. I didn’t fancy crawling around on the floor naked so I tried the clothes on first. Th trousers were a bit roomy round the waist but the belt took care of that. Once I had got them on I checked the pockets. In the back pocket was a wallet and there was some change in the front one. I assumed that I had got used to the smell, as I was no longer aware of it. The shoes were far too big so I was going to have to go barefoot for a while. The jacket was large but it was better than nothing. The only thing in its pockets was a magazine for a pistol, so I felt that it had to be there somewhere. Pressing my cheek to the floor I could see under the couch and right at the back was the glint of a metal object. Grabbing the couch, I slid it away from the wall and bent down and grabbed the pistol. It was a Walther PPK. I recognised it from the Bond films. As I wasn’t sure if it was loaded, I kept my finger well away from the trigger as I released the magazine. It was half full and I lay it down on the desk. Remembering something else from the films, I pulled back the slide on the top of the gun and a bright cartridge went spinning out of the top. I was pretty sure that it was empty, but to make sure I pointed it at the couch and pulled the trigger. There was a click, and then I knew it was really empty. I slid the magazine back into the gun and put it into the inside pocket of the jacket. Everything else went into the rucksack and I set off to look for food and the way out. I opened the door and stepped through. It hissed shut behind me and I looked at the lock. It was another of the key card type locks, edged in indigo this time. As I didn’t have a card, I had no choice but to move on.