It was an evening which I would never forget. The sky was bright crimson red. The slanting sun’s rays were sinking under the clouds. It was about to rain. But the weather forecast had said that it wouldn’t rain .Our University’s Biotechnology Research Department is near the fine garden of Rhododendron trees. Its flaming red flowers adorned our lab window frame. Nikki and I were arguing about the writing style of George R.R Martin. We loved novels, it was practically our fuel. Neha popped her head in and reminded us to record the third hour calculations for the enzyme kinetics experiment.
Nikki and I are roommates. Neha our bestie was rooming with us for the night for completion of the assigned rate prediction experiment. It was thirty minutes past seven in the evening, Neha had a flushed look on her face. She had been shuttling between our lab on the ground floor and Shivanya’s on the second floor .We six of us had the department to ourselves. The watch man guy was apparently sleeping outside as usual. Nikki was the cutest one in our trio with jet black hair, clear unfreckled fair face and a slender body. Neha was the athletic one, champion marathon runner. Her streaked brown hair framed her face and her lovely dimpled smile decorated her face.
The night was perfect…but there was still a throbbing sensation in my heart I could feel something was wrong in the air. “ Nikki, I’ll go out for a stroll and I’ll be back within 20 minutes “.Those were the last words I told Nikki that day. She led me outside and gestured me to take her bike. I kindly refused and went out for a walk. The sleepy head watch man wasn’t there. Probably he had gone out for tea.
The walk was wonderful. Chrysanthemums and white roses waved by me in full bloom. The snoring of little green plants almost stroked my ears. The moon was in full bloom hiding behind the firs and pines. It was a lovely Shimla night. The wind blew smoothly caressing my side curls. I saw my shadow in moonlight, it was quite taller than I really was. With each step of mine the pathway in mid of the campus sprung to life. Our Lab was isolated from the main block by 2.5 km. We enjoyed the privacy and isolation. But still my heart was thrumming wildly……I ran back along the way to my Lab and was shocked to see a crimson flare in the second floor window …..Nikki….Neha…Shivanya…..Shraddha…..Tripti…….they were stuck in that building.
I must have walked a long way, I dragged my feet to my block…the watchman had not returned. My lab in ground floor was empty. I steered myself through the hallway dragging my feet behind. Small wisps of white smoke covered the hallway. I was beginning to feel the world closing around me…..I felt claustrophobic and was asphyxiating …….I covered my nose with a hanky and went upstairs I found Nikki lying unconscious in the hallway near the far end of the lab from where I could see a great white impenetrable smoky mist. I rushed to help her. But I could hear movement along the stairs. I turned back and saw no one. I moved ahead and was looking through the smoke. I could see nothing. To my dismay I found my throat constricted and blinded by the smoke. Someone was dragging me by my throat and literally pushing me. That person shoved me into the room and I felt a door close behind me and the last sound I heard was a croaked voice calling out my name “ Arrrryaaaa”. I couldn’t recognize that voice.
For that moment I heaved a sigh of relief as the asphyxiating smoke was gone .But a new alien sensation travelled through my veins and chilled my bones inside out. I was trapped in THE COLD STORAGE ROOM and when I checked the temperature in the afternoon it was about -2⁰C and it would decrease steeply through the night.