I pause when I round the corner and admire the picture that’s flashing along every screen and computer. It’s my picture, one I’d always liked, even though it’s a little terrible. “Code Red. Floor 14.” Sounds from the intercom above me, and through the rest of the building as well.
The picture was taken on my first day of enlistment at Oculus. It’d been a lot like getting a driver’s license picture taken; stand there, look here, don’t smile. I hate that my round face makes me look so young, but the dead look in my midnight blue eyes makes up for. I’m usually full of animation, but they don’t care for that kind of thing around Oculus or here. Another reason I like that picture is because it was before they cut my hair here. It was a soft and silky blonde, landing just below my shoulders. Now, it’s buzzed close to my scalp.
Oculus doesn’t like me much anymore, the Heads thought I talked too much. Which is why I’m here at Putnam Medical Center, Floor 14; the Psych Wing. But that’s a story for later. Now, I’m trying to escape. I don’t belong here. You’ll see.
I take one last look at my picture before continuing down the hall. They’ve only just noticed now that I’m not in my room. Hence the alarm. I’ve been out of my room over an hour. You’d think they’d be more on top of things around a psych ward. I had slipped my way through the many halls into their small security room. That was one of their first mistakes- having security on each floor.
I had opened the door quietly, thankful that the man at the desk had his back to me. That made things easier. I eased silently across the floor, and simply touched my fingers to his temple. He fell sideways out of his chair and onto the floor, incapacitated for the time being. I slid into the chair he just vacated and observed the system before me. It’s surprisingly basic, one I’ve used a dozen times before. I unlocked the staircase doors and disabled the security cameras for the entire floor.
I slipped out of the room again and made my way easily to the staircase door I’d just unlocked. I’d always imagined that the place would be crawling with nurses, doctors and security officers all the time, but that’s not the case here. They spend a lot of time in their lounge rooms, only making rounds every few hours or coming when one of us rings our buzzers.
The staircase was the risky part, because I couldn’t disable the cameras from Floor 14. I had to make it to Floor 10, where their main security room is. I knew the layout of Floor 10 well by now because Marcus had been getting me information for a few months, helping me plan my escape. Again, that’s a story for later.
Then, I ran down the stairs quickly and stared out the little window that lead to Floor 10. I didn’t see anyone, so I opened the door and stepped out. Floor 10 is mostly dedicated to security, but there was also a break room-slash-rest area. I wasn’t sure how many people to expect. I eased to the break room and peered inside. Nobody. That meant they were all likely in the security room.
I couldn’t stop then, not that I would’ve. I moved swiftly down the little hall to the security room, only hearing the soft wisping sounds of my slippers against the white tile floor. I looked through the window, but couldn’t see much through the tint. I crouched down, almost on my knees and eased the door open slowly. I stuck my head in first, preparing to be seen. There were several desks and tables, all with computers of varying sizes on them, and there wasn’t an inch of wall that wasn’t covered in TV screens, all broadcasting cameras from different areas of the hospital.
Another mistake of theirs- always facing away from the doors.
There were only eight people inside, in varying areas in the room. I crawled into the room and let the door ease shut silently. There were three men in the back row, all of whom I took out comfortably with taps to the temples. They fell to the floor, but the others weren’t alerted because they all had headsets on. I wasn’t sure what they were listening to, but I didn’t care as long as I got through unscathed.
I resumed my crouch and moved up to the next row, taking out the two women at their computers. I wasted no time from there, moving to the desks along the right wall, taking out the two people there. From there, down went the two guys in the front row. That left one guy at the left side of the room. I walked over quietly. He saw me, but it was seconds too late for him, for my fingers connected with his head seconds later.
I gave myself a few moments to breathe before getting to work. I had to work at multiple of the computers, because that’s how they had it set up. Stations of sorts. After about a quarter of an hour, I had every security camera in the building disabled, and every door unlocked. I hurried out of the room, uncaring if I was seen. I found the back staircase that I needed, and took the steps downward, two at time. I’d just reached the stairs of Floor 3 when the alarm started going off. “Code Red” was code for escapee pretty much, so everyone would be in lockdown. They clearly didn’t see how that helped me. I hurried my steps, knowing they’d have the security up and running soon, and the doors would be locked once more.
So. Here I am now, Floor 1, looking at a picture of my past self- Ava Neil, employee (and I use that word loosely) of Oculus. Now I’m Ava Neil, Putnam’s number one (presumed) mental case. I chuckle softly, then break into a run again, knowing the door I need is right around the corner. The hallway I’m in is empty, all employees hidden away in rooms with the patients because I’m on the loose. I hear guards storming the hallways around me, coming closer.
I bust through the back door before I have to worry much about it. Funny how they put my picture up and sounded the alarm, but didn’t work on locking the doors. That’s another thing I hate about these people; they don’t use their brains, don’t have their priorities straight.
I wish I had the time to savor my first breath of fresh air in eight months, but I don’t. I run to the van that’s just ten yard away, and the door slides open as I get closer, and I dive inside. Marcus barely has time to close the door before Kiki is peeling the van away, her prosthetic leg always a little too heavy on the pedals.
“Ava, you bitch, welcome back!” Kiki grins at me in the rearview mirror, giant sunglasses perched on her nose. Marcus sits across from me on the van’s floor, leaning back lazily as I huff for breath.
“Good to be back.” I return their smiles and settle back against the door, feeling at ease for the first time in a while.
I’m about to be the me I always should’ve been. The me I’m destined to be.
Ava Neil- leader in the downfall of Oculus.