“I need to get out!” Jason cried. “Someone please open the door.”
Michelle walked calmly to Jason and swiped her card to open the door leading out of the orientation room. It wasn’t the same door Jason had come in through but it was the closest one to him now and he needed to get out of that enclosed space.
As soon as the door clicked open, he pulled the door wide and sprinted through it’s exit, desperate to close out the crying and general despair coming from the people behind him. He slammed the door shut behind him just as Michelle slipped through and tried to focus on the silence that then brought. He leant against a wall, trying to organise his thoughts but it didn’t work, instead his head just continued to spin. Over and over in an endless circle until he couldn’t take it anymore. He bent over and threw up the entire contents of his breakfast. It didn’t end there however, once his stomach had started heaving, it didn’t want to stop. On and on it continued to heave and convulse, until there was nothing left to throw up but bile.
Michelle placed her hand on Jason’s back and rubbed it soothingly. Once the heaving finally stopped, she handed him a glass of water. Jason took it eagerly, his throat now feeling like sandpaper. He took a few sips and crashed to his knees, dropping the glass on the floor.
“Ssssh, easy now.” Michelle soothed into his ear as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “It’s okay, just let it all process.”
Jason tried. He tried to process what he had been told, but it was so ridiculous and horrific that he just couldn’t get his head around it. Suddenly his thoughts went to his family and friends.
“Mark,” he said, “And my mum and dad and sisters. My friends, my nan. All of them, I need to tell all of them.”
Michelle smiled sadly at him. “It wouldn’t help, there’s no way escaping it. This is going to happen.”
“But they could come here!!”
“I’m sorry, but that’s not possible, we are fully booked.”
Jason stared at her incredulously. “You’re fully booked? How? Have you seen how much space is here?”
“It’s about quality, not quantity I’m afraid. They were the rules put in place.”
Jason felt his panic rise. “I can’t do this.”
“You have to. People must feel safe here Jason, it is our responsibility to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”
“How the hell am I going to do that?” Jason shouted, “You want me to carry on as if nothing is going to happen while – I can’t, I have to get out of here, I have to tell my family. I have to tell them to get to safety.”
“There’s nowhere safe that they can go to, this is the only safe haven in the area.” Michelle said. “I can’t save your family, however, I might be able to do something about Mark."
Michelle sighed heavily and threw Jason an uncomfortable look. “This is the part that I really didn’t want to have to do.” She said, “We need you here to manage your staff and keep your area safe and content. We realise that this is not something that is realistic to ask of you however,” she took a deep breath, “unless you had something to work for.”
“To work for?”
“We have Mark.” Michelle said. “He’s safe and in another facility just like this on the other side of London. If you do what we ask, do your job, keep the mood as peaceful as possible and try and prevent the mass panic that will inevitably threaten us today, we will make sure that Mark is transferred to this facility instead and kept safe with you.”
Jason felt the hope in her words, it was a horrible ultimatum but he would get to see Mark again, suddenly this was all he could think about.
“Providing you do your job and keep the staff and clientele calm, following the strict rules that we laid out in that room, Mark will be with you by this time tomorrow.”
“And if I don’t?”
“He stays where he is. You will spend your lifetime here and he will spend his there. You will never see each other again.” Michelle leaned forward so she was nose to nose to Jason, tears were swimming in her eyes. “I’d take it Jason, as horrible as this ultimatum might seem, there are some of us who weren’t even lucky enough to receive one.”
Jason nodded slowly. “Do you promise he will come to no harm?”
“I will make it my personal responsibility that his transfer is a painless and easy one.”
Jason took a massive deep breath. “Okay. Where’s the bar?”