She stared across the hall, her anticipation peaking. Panting, she tried to hold her breath as she tiptoed her way to the next door followed by a brief knocking.
“Lily, are you there?”
“Bethy, is that you?” A voice inside whispered from behind the door.
“Yes, it is. Open the door and let me in!”
“Quick! We do not have much time. They are on patrol.” She hushed. Her voice was low-pitched.
“I do not have the key. And it is too dark here.”
“Did they give you the vaccine?”
“No. Not yet. My batch number is 9. And they are still on the 5th.”
Bethy turned the lock and the door screeched open to her delight, “Excellent!”, she exclaimed under her breath.
The room now dimly lit with the lobby’s light, looked like a compact cubicle with curtains half-dragged across the opposite wall partially veiling the toilet area. The pungent smell from earlier filled her nostrils.
“Come on. We need to move”, she said, the determination prominent in her voice, “But before that”, she pulled the gas mask, gripped in her right hand, over her face before handing a surgical cone mask to Lily.
“Wear this”, she ordered as she produced a loaded shotgun tucked inside her jeans, “But before everything else”, she said, her eyes darting down the hall, “We have to get you a gas mask!”
Closing the door behind her, she donned the mask securing the elastic cord behind her ears, and asked, her eyes glued to Bethy, “What is it with you? The gun and stuff? What is it?”
Ignoring her question in toto Bathy grasped her wrist with one hand as she strode the way swiftly down the hall clasping the shotgun in another; her neck swivelling, her eyes for any signs of suspicion.
She stopped at the end of the hall only to enter a door that had ‘Utilities’ written on it with black ink. She turned the handle of the lock and the door creaked open. It was the same pitch-dark room as the earlier. She crept in never leaving Lily as she locked the door behind them.
She switched on the lights to her left and strode inside leaving Lily by the door. Taking her gas mask off, she took a long, deep breath for any signs of the pungent odour.
“Perfect and clean”, she murmured under her breath.
Lily followed Bethy as she removed her mask parrot-fashion and hung her surgical cone mask on the lock’s handle. Placing the gas mask on a table beside her, Bethy opened a cabinet overhead. The cabinet was filled with gas masks encased inside a transparent crate. Standing on her toes she stretched to pull the crate towards her and grabbed a gas mask for Lily, reposing the crate.
“Here. Put this on”, she said holding out the gas mask to her.
“But why?!”, Lily interrobanged, perplexity perfectly etched on her pale face.
“Didn’t you smell that pungent odour in the room you were kept waiting for?”
Bethy raised her eyebrows in utter astonishment.
“Which pungent odour?”
Lily squinted as a small “V” settled between her eyebrows.
Bethy exclaimed as she slumped down on the floor.
“You have lost your sense of smell!”
She stared into space, petrified, at loss for words.