His right forepaw—his hand—strikes the nearest man. The blow snaps the man’s neck, shatters the jawbone and sends teeth rattling across the floor of the cage.
Blood splashes over the second man, paints him red, like the telephone on the wall. This man wears glasses. Now he cannot see because of all the blood on the lenses. He bleats in terror. His arm goes up by instinct to protect his face. Adam’s next blow breaks the man’s arm. Another peels the man’s face from the skull beneath it.
Adam lunges. Two strides and he is outside the cage.
The man on the telephone carries one of the electric sticks they use to shock Adam. But this man does not use it. He screams and turns to run, leaving the receiver dangling. Adam leaps on him, carrying him to the floor. A bite at the base of the skull severs the spinal cord. The man’s legs kick as his bowels empty.
The first hot blood Adam has tasted for thirty-seven days.
Less than ten seconds have passed.
The black man carries his plastic card with him, around his neck on a plastic string. Adam takes it. He has seen this card open the door from the lab on several occasions. The card, along with the numerical code, will open the door. Adam has watched the men and women come and go from the lab for thirty-seven days. They all press the same buttons on the console. The same numbers. Twenty-three numbers. Adam has watched. He could see the console from his cage, see the numbers as they were pressed. He remembers all of them.
It is not easy to hold the card, but he manages. Then with the tip of one claw, a claw still dripping warm blood, Adam taps on the console.
The door opens.
Fifteen seconds. No alarms.
He runs down the hallway. Another door. This one does not require all the numbers. The card opens it.
He rounds a corner. A man sits behind a desk on the left side of the hallway. The man is looking at a magazine. He has not heard the other men’s screams. He looks up just as Adam charges. Adam sees the man’s eyes go wide, but this man does not have time to scream. Adam tears open the man’s throat with his hand even as he bites down on the man’s head. His teeth go through the skull into the brain.
Adam takes the man’s plastic card, in case the other man’s might not work on the next door. The new card works at the elevator.
Adam enters the elevator, presses the button marked G with a claw, leaving a bloody smear on the slick plastic. G for GROUND. The elevator doors close. Another cage. A box. He doesn’t like it. The elevator is too slow.
The doors slide open with a chirp.
Now he is in a large room. Some furniture, lamps, small tables with magazines. (A lobby, his mind says.) Another guard behind another desk, this one female, older and fat. He ignores her. He runs for the glass.
And stops. He grabs a chair. Leather, his mind says. The chair is covered with the skin of a dead animal. He lifts it and hurls it at the far wall of the lobby, the wall separating him from the darkness outside. A wall made of glass.
The glass shatters.
Now an alarm shrieks. The woman screams. But none of it matters. He is free. Free!
And not one them saw it coming.