I Felt Numb
rating: +39+x

There was a containment breach at 9AM at Site-51.

I was told about it at 11AM that same day. Came through the usual channel of the inter-site emergency response system. It sat in my inbox for about twenty minutes before I stopped working on my most recent report to open it up.

"Thirteen dead. Four in critical condition. Anomaly recontained."

It took me a while to close the email and get back to work. Couldn’t tell you why. I’d gotten emails like this dozens of times. I don’t know though. Something about the numbers stuck with me for a bit.

I cracked open a window to let some fresh air in. The entire sky was grey, but it refused to rain even a drop. Maybe it was out of respect. Maybe the clouds were sapient. I’d never know. I stared at them for a long time.

At around 1PM I got lunch with my colleagues. The first thing they asked me was if I had heard the news, which of course I had. Then they asked if I knew anyone over at the site. I shook my head.

"Not unless someone got transferred. Janice is at 81 and Gabriel has been stuck at 33 for three years."

The others nodded, and then we ate in silence for a little bit.

"Didn’t Richard Wethers get transferred to 51 a few months ago?" Dr. Tennison asked.

"Yeah, he did," Dr. Gerdinel replied, "I called him a few hours ago, but he didn’t pick up."

"Probably lost his phone in the breach," I said.

"Or maybe something locked up there messes with cell lines," someone else added.

We ate in silence for a little longer before someone changed the subject.

At 3PM someone knocked on the door to my office. It was Tennison. His face was blank, but I could hear some quiet weeping down the hall.

"We’re having a small gathering for Richard," he said. I nodded and followed him to the cafeteria. Thirteen others stood in a circle. Some of them were crying. Others just looked down and shook their heads. I didn’t really know Richard all that well. We sometimes complained about the commute together, and we had a nice conversation during the site-wide Christmas party last year about the pros and cons of using he/she/they pronouns for humanoid anomalies.

Someone said a few words, and then we all stood in silence for a little while. I don’t remember if we had done this before, or if this was the first time someone from our site had been killed in a breach since I transferred here. I bowed my head with everyone else and tried to say a few words. They felt hollow. But then again, I didn’t really know the guy.

I got home at 5PM. I was tired, so I collapsed onto the couch and turned on the news.

"Eleven dead in Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. Multiple injured. Suspect in custody."

I turned off the TV, and just sat there in the dark.

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