The Resident

The Resident

A Story by Casper Cross
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Truest evil hides in unexpected places

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 The Resident

 

Things of evil are rarely what they seem.  Truest evil hides cloaked in the most mundane and unobtrusive elements of the world.  A hospital may often become such a place.  Shrouded in death and bathed in the chilling waters of sorrow, most conceal an unnoticeable existence flitting about unseen between its walls.  Though it goes unnoticed, it is there, ever seeking the right moment to make its present felt.

Blessed Cross Memorial Hospital first opened its doors to patients in 1901 in the small rural town of Indian Springs, Alabama.  The original hospital was little more than a one-story building built on a land belonging once to a cotton planter in the black belt region of the state.  The structure was now a six-story behemoth with a red brick façade facing west towards a series of undulating grassy hills, the southern most tip of the Appalachian Mountain range.

The sinking sun in the western sky stretched dark shadows across the ground.  A warm summer breeze blew the smell of a nearby cow pasture towards a departing couple as they emerged through the automatic sliding doors.  The couple paid little attention to the foul air pressing into their face.  Aromas such as this were commonplace in country towns across the United States.

Arriving nurses guided their cars into the parking lot reporting for a twelve-hour night shift.  Holly Beale opened the door to her Toyota Camry.  The warning bell dinged and she withdrew the key from the ignition.  Grabbing her purse and bag lunch, she stepped from the car.  The door closed she pressed the lock key on her keyless entry.  The horn honked twice.

Her red ponytail swished from left to right as she made a brisk walk across the paved parking lot and into the hospital through a set of electric doors in the back of the building.  She went to the elevator and punched the up button.  The arrowed button lit up yellow against the force of her finger.

Ding!

The aluminum doors slid aside folding in to the right.  Holly took one-step and she was onboard.  She chose her floor.  The number five lit up yellow.  The door slid shut and the elevator began to rise.

 

Nursing stations come alive at shift change.  Anxious nurses, eager to get home sat down at their paperwork and finished the last of their assessments.  Holly reached her floor and walked down to the break room.  She went to her locker and twisting in the combination, she popped the latch, and the metal door fell open.  An empty locker faced her.  She filled it with her purse and bag lunch.  She pushed the door closed.  Clank.  The latch fit securely in place.

This was all part of a six year evening ritual.  She had worked as a nurse for the Blessed Cross Memorial Hospital for the past two years, but had worked for eight years prior as a Nurses’ Assistant.  She came out of the break room and went over to the station.  She found a wooden clipboard and walked with it over to the assignment board.  She jotted down the patient names. 

Only three patients. 

Unless she got some unexpected admissions, the night would be slow.  She went in search of Christy Tau, an Asian nurse whose patient load she was about to assume for the night.  Nurse Tau gave her a quick update on their shared patients, signed her assessments, stamped holes into the top, and slid it into the patient’s chart.

In about an hour, the doctors would begin making rounds.  They might spend fifteen minutes with the patient then return to write out orders.  For the next four hours, she would do nothing but write and the small patient load meant she would be alone.

 

A couple of doctors came and went before Holly returned to the nurses’ station.  They marked their attendance by placing their chart in the queue.  This was a wire-framed cart standing beside a desktop monitor. 

Holly finished her rounds and emerging from the last patient’s room, walked straight past the desk and into a room, more aptly described as a large closet.  This was the storage unit for most of the stock items used for patients on the floor: Bedpans, toothbrushes, Kleenex boxes, and other accoutrements.  In addition to these stock items, something more important stood on the top of the counter: Coffee…

 She poured some of the black liquid into a Styrofoam cup, a white mist lifting and evaporating into the air.  She added two creams and a Splenda.  She didn’t care much for the taste of coffee; she was after the simulative after effects.  She returned to the nurses’ station her cup of black gold in her hands.  She leaned forward and blew off some of the steam.  Putting the cup down next to the keyboard, she reached for the first chart.

The elevator dinged to announce its arrival to the fifth floor.  The door slid open.  The handsome Dr. Roberts stepped onto the floor emerging from the elevator wearing a white lab coat over bluish green scrubs and sporting a dark golfer’s tan.

“You all alone tonight?”  His azurite eyes fell on her, his bright smile lighting up his face, dimples receding into her cheeks.

“Low patient load tonight.”  She answered and sipped back some of her coffee.

Dr. Roberts had only one patient on the fifth floor but he stopped in here first on his way up to see the rest on the sixth.  He strolled around the edge of the desk and took a seat beside her at the counter.  Selected his patient’s chart he took the seat next to her.  As he flipped through the chart, he reviewed the most recent vital signs, checked the intake and output levels, and took a quick glimpse at out how much the seventy-year old woman ate for breakfast and lunch.  He jotted notes on a small, spiral notebook he pulled from the breast pocket of his lab coat.

Dr. Roberts was a bit of a flirt.  He talked playfully with all the nurses whether he thought they were attractive or not.  He would never involve himself in a relationship with a nurse.  He just used his playful nature to garner special favors from the nursing staff.

In general, she did not hold a high opinion of doctors.  They were pompous, self righteous, and arrogant, but she liked this one.  He gave her hope that Medical School wasn’t a factory building narcissistic a******s one an assembly line.

He ducked into the patient’s room stayed fifteen minutes and when he reemerged, he passed her the chart.  “See you in the morning.”

“I’ll be here with bells on.”  She promised.

The elevator took him down to the bottom level where he climbed into a beige-colored Lexus and drove out of the parking lot.  Holly put his orders into the computer before refilling her coffee cup.

 

When Holly sat down to chart her first assessment, both the hour and minute hands stood straight up on the clock. 

Twelve O’clock. 

The thing she loved most about being a nurse is that there was always something to do and that made time fly by.

  As she checked off box after box on her paper sheet, the call light in one of the patient’s room went off.

  Ding; Ding; Ding; Ding

  It rang incessantly until she answered the call.  Reaching up to hit the intercom button her finger paused just above the call box.  “This can’t be right.”  She said aloud.  The lit up button had no one in the room.  She stood up from the desk and stared down the hallway.

  The large room at the far end of the hallway to her left, though empty, had a flashing call light.  A square box jutting down from the ceiling tiles had lit up yellow, indicating that a patient needed a nurse.

  She hit the intercom.  The sound that came back at her was only growling static.  She turned off the light and went back to charting.

  A few minutes later the light came on again and once more, she pushed the intercom button.  More growling static poured from the speaker.  She turned off the light one more time and returned to her charting.  She would report the problem to maintenance once she completed her charting.

  Ten minutes passed and the light flipped on for the third time.  She reached to turn off the light but something made her try the intercom button one last time.  She listened once more to growling… then… silence.

  She held the intercom button down and listened.

  Was that breathing?

  Her voice shaking she said into the intercom.  “Hello?”

  A grumbling voice like a frozen hand reached out and seized her throat.  “I’m growing impatient… b***h.” 

  She gasped standing so abruptly that her calf muscle hit on the chair knocking it out from beneath her.  Holly turned and looked back down the hall.  The call light was still lit up but a second light, the one from the fluorescent bulbs flickered and then remained on, beads of light peeking between the drawn shades and spilling across the linoleum floor.

Her heart pounded against her chest, echoing in her ears.  She moved around the side of the desk and walked the one hundred feet of linoleum tile towards the room.  She stopped when she reached the door to room 508.  Taking the knob by the handle, she gave it a twist; it turned with ease beneath her shaking hand.

The door clicked and she pushed it open.  Peering around the edge, her head slid inside for a quick look around.

“Hello?”  She said into an empty room.  There was a hospital bed pushed against the adjacent wall.  A second chair that folded out into a sleeper sat in the opposite corner between two dark windows staring out towards the front of the hospital.  A closed door led to a bathroom stall equipped with a shower.  The folding door on the wall facing the door opened into a closet only large enough for a brief stay.

She turned off the light and pulled the door to her.  She turned the handle, released it, heard an audible click, and let go.  The door closed.  She was as sure of this as she was of the ten pounds she wanted to lose before climbing into that new red bikini.

Therefore, why then did she see the handle under it own power… turn…the door opened peeling back from the entrance on its bronze hinges.

Holly retreated.  She thought she might see the face of Jacob Marley rattling his chains the one he formed in life link by cursed link.  The words of Charles Dickens rattled around in her head.  She needed to lay off the coffee, made a mental note of that fact, and turned to leave.

…but a hand seized her by the ponytail. 

*

Dr. Henry DeMint, professor of paranormal psychology at the University of Montevallo answered the phone in his small cubbyhole sized office.

A familiar voice filtered out through the earpiece.  “Henry it’s Julie Proper.”  They dated for a year while he worked on his masters’ degree.  They remained close friends since and the last he knew she had accepted the Director of Nursing position at Blessed Cross.  “I need your help and I don’t know who else to turn to.”

She sounded in a tempered mood, as though she forced the chipper beat of her voice.  “Of course Jules, anything you need.”

“I have quite a situation on my hand over here.”  She explained.  “I have a missing nurse and though, the police are investigating the disappearance, I would feel better if I could get you involved somehow.  I can explain more, later.”

“I’ll get my team together and we will come over.”  He pulled out a pencil and his appointment book.  “When is a good time?”

“The sooner the better.”  She answered him.

“How ‘bout tomorrow night?”  He jotted down a reminder in his book.

“Sounds great.”  She told him. 

They passed along their farewells and the professor hung up the phone.  Searching his rolodex, he found a number.  Grabbing the receiver again, he punched the located number on the key pad.  The line began to ring.

A grumbling voice picked up the other end.  “Hello?”

“Tomorrow night, my office, nine o’clock in the pm.  Call Marty and bring her along with you.  We have a job over at the Blessed Cross.

 

 

Four night vision cameras hung in each corner of room 508.  The long black wires fed down the wall and out towards the door where they connected with a monitor sitting on a pair of television trays pushed side-by-side.  The monitor stored the footage captured by the camera on its encased hard drive.  A second external hard drive mirrored the first in the event of a crash.

With a bowl of curly brown hair, a thick growth of beard and wearing a yellow I’m with Stupid T-Shirt, Joshua Valence set the cameras in place and checked the monitor.  The video image was a split screen of four different images.  Turning off the light, the inanimate objects in the room turned a ghostly white. 

Josh inserted a thermal imaging camera, fixing it to a steel arm he screwed into the wall.  If anything alive moved in front of the camera, it would present a bright red thermal heat signature.  They had spackle to cover up the screw holes when they packed up to leave in the morning.

Marty Newman, a southern belle from the Gulf Coast region of the state, took control of the EVP Recorder and tucked the digital thermometer down the front of her brown cut-off shorts.  She was a graduate student at the University and she joined the team when she found a job opening in the school newspaper.  Ever since she was a little girl, she could see ghosts.  They didn’t talk to her; at least not the way they talked to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character in that Ghost Whisperer show on TV, but she could see glimmers of them all around.

“Would you stop that?”  She said shaking her head.  Wearing a creamed-colored tank top with spaghetti straps over the shoulders and a deep plunging neckline, Josh could not help but steal the occasional glimpse down the front of her shirt from his laddered perch. 

“Stop what?”  He asked innocently.

“Looking at my b***s.”  She told him with a frustrated sigh thrown in.

“What?  I didn’t…  I mean….what?”  He fumbling over the words like a politician caught asking a hooker for a hand job.

“Whatever.”  She had him dangling like a fish on a hook.  “It’s taking twice as long as it normally does, if you would just get the job done you could stare at them all night if you want, but this room is giving me the creeps.”

Marty made the initial temperature readings.  She notated a reading of 72 degrees and checked her watch.  She made a second notation of the time on a paper grid held in place on a plastic clipboard.  She put the EVP recorder in the center of the room and turned off the light.

 

*

 

Dr. DeMint looked like a holdout from last year’s Star Trek convention.  With radar sized ears jutting out from his unusually large cranium dome, he looked like the perfect casting job for a sci-fi movie’s sinister alien villain. 

“I’ve been around spooks my entire career.”  Julie explained to him.  “I’ve never worked in a hospital that didn’t have at least one or two spooks, but I’ve ever seen anything like this.”

“Tell me about the nurse who disappeared.”  DeMint pulled up a chair and settled in.  Something told him this could be quite a long story.

“Her name is Holly.  Pretty, good-natured, her patients adore her, well put together up here.”  She tapped her pointer finger against her temple.  “Quite unlike her to simply vanish.”

“Police have any clues?”

“Just the same usual crap they always say.”  Julie answered.  “I just can’t help but think they are looking in the wrong place.”

“You suspect foul play?”

Julie stared at him with a distant look as she swished a thought around in her brain as she might a fine wine around in her mouth.  “I can’t say for sure.”  She finally answered.  “But all my nurses are scared to death and the last thing I need is trembling hands trying to stick a needle into a patient.”

“There is just something out of sorts at this place.”  Julie continued.  “Ever since Brad.”

“Brad?”  Dr. DeMint asked, encouraging her.

“Dr. Bradley Carrell.”  Julie completed the thought.  “He worked as a psychiatrist here for many years.  “Dr .Carrell was a bit of an eccentric.  He was obsessed with finding the cause of mental illness while most psychiatrists are content with treating the symptoms.  He thought finding a cure justified the means he employed.”

“What sort of means?”

“Electro shock therapies, neuro lobotomies, torturous ordeals that left patients worse off than he found them.  Some even died.”  Her voice trailed off, her eyes glazed over as if she could see beyond the four walls of the room to the torture chambers Dr. Carrell called discovery centers.  Her ears twitched as she imagined the shrill screams of the patients as he dissected large fragments of brain tissue.  “When we discovered his secretive experiments we revoked his admission privileges, reported him to the police, and to the state medical board.  With his license suspended, he became a fugitive from the law then five years ago, police discovered his remains in the Bahamas.  He had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”  She started looking over the walls of her office, her eyes drawing an imaginary line from floor to ceiling then across the ceiling and back down the wall on the other side.  “Ever since he died this place has developed a presence.  More than just a spook here or there, almost as if… as if the hospital has come alive and it’s growing stronger.”

 

 

  Marty explored the fifth floor nurses’ station with the digital thermometer in her hand and recorded the readings on the chart. 

72 degrees.

 Standing outside the walls of room 508 it still seemed as if someone was watching her, studying her every move as if she were a lab rat injected with the latest serum to cure cancer.

  She tried desperately to push the thought from her mind and concentrate on her work, but the feeling kept creeping back, like a cold steel hand running its fingers along her spine.  She felt the prickle of gooseflesh on her arm.  She checked the temperature gauge again. 

52 degrees

 “Josh?”

No answer.  

She called out for him again.

“Josh?”

Again, no answer.

Feeling a hand grab her shoulder, Marty screamed.

 

  

A man appeared in Julie’s doorway and she introduced him to the professor.  “Dr. DeMint this is Frank, he is our maintenance man.”

Dr. DeMint offered his hand.  A spliced claw hook extended forward to receive it.  Dr. DeMint fought through the sudden urge to jump back shake his hand and scream What the F**k is that thing?

 He managed to conceal his revulsion towards the tooled appendage, calmly forced a smile, and graciously shook the offered (whatever you want to call it) thing extending from his right wrist.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Yep, yep nice to meet ‘cha.”  Frank bobbed his head up and down like an apple in a water-filled tub.  His accent wasn’t of the typical southern variety but rather from the Cajun variety born and bred in the southern reaches of Louisiana.  In the professor’s earliest assessment of the man, Frank seemed to be grade A prime coon a*s material.

“Frank will be here all night if you need him.”  Julie said.  “Want you Frank?”

“Yep, yep Frank can fix it.”  He plunged his right hand into his pocket.

Julie patted the man on the shoulder.  “You can get back to your apartment now Frank.  Just wanted you to know about the professor and his team working up on the fifth floor.”

“Yep, yep ok.”  He turned.  His entire body swiveling to his right and back down the hallway he went, vanishing around the corner.

“Interesting character.”  Dr. DeMint smiled, rocking back on his heels.  “How did he lose the hand?”

“Lost it during the war.”

A puzzled look crept across the professor’s face.  “War?  You mean our armed forces are so hard up for enlistees that they are taking guys like that now?”

“Not exactly.  You see, once upon a time he was just like you and me.”  Julie elaborated.  “His body recovered from his injury but his mind stayed behind.  He became depressed, attempted suicide, his wife tried getting him help, and he went to counseling.  A few weeks later, she woke up one morning and found him standing over her with a loaded shotgun.  She managed to get out of the house and call the police.  They arrested Frank and sentenced him to do psychiatric therapy under Dr. Carrell.”  She shifted past the professor and returned to the chair behind her desk.  “The good doctor exorcised Frank’s demons by removing a small part of his frontal lobe.”

 “Jeez,” his nose crumpled up like a Pekinese pup.  “That’s just awful.”

 “We are the only family he has left, so we try our best to keep him busy.  We provide room and board in exchange for his performing some menial tasks around the hospital.”

“Sounds like a fair trade.”

“It’s amicable for both of us.”  Julie admitted.

“Will he cause me any problems?”

 “Naw,” Julie dismissed the notion like a batter laying a bunt down the third base line.  “Frank’s as harmless as a church mouse.  I doubt he’ll cause you any problems at all.” 

 

 

Marty turned and punched Josh in the chest.  “You stupid a*****e.  You scared me to death.”

“Ow!”  Josh rubbed his hand into the deep tissue of his pectoral muscle.  That blow was certain to leave a nice bruise come morning.  “That hurt.”

“I’m glad it hurt, you stupid son-of-a-b***h.”  She was yelling him, her hands balled up into fists that hung at her side.

“That’s not a very nice thing to say about my mother.”

Marty crossed her arms and leered at him, her lips curling into a snarl.  The freckles to the left and right of her nose rising toward the bridge. 

“What did you call me over here for any way?”

Marty sighed and her anger passed.  She showed him the digital thermometer.  The most current reading showed on the viewer: 72 degrees.  “Check the history.” She told him.

With a push of a button, the last five recordings pulled up.  The lowest reading showed 52 degrees.  “This could be an equipment malfunction.”  It was the only plausible explanation beyond paranormal activity.  He ran a calibration check.  “Let’s see if we can get this to happen again.”  His eyebrows jumped up and down behind his wire-rimmed glasses.  “You stay here and I’ll walk over and turn off the lights.”

She put her hand on his shoulder.  “Don’t you leave me.”  She insisted.

“Stop being such a baby.”  He said and passed her the thermometer.  “I’ll be right over here.”

“Just wait until the professor gets back, please.”

“Just stay here.”  He said in the way a circus trainer gives instructions to a tiger about to jump through a hula-hoop.  He ignored all further protests and walked to the light switch about twenty paces to his right.  He flipped the switch and the hall went dark.  Marty felt the goose-pimples ripple the flesh of her arms and shoulders.  She checked the digital thermometer and the readings were rolling off one by one.  When the reading reached 52 degrees, Marty started calling for Josh.

Out the darkness, a hand reached for her, the fingers wafting through her hair as if blown by a gentle breeze.  Marty shrieked, jumped, and turned around.  She stared into complete darkness.  The hand reached for her again.  She felt its cold, icy touch seize her forearm.

 

 

 Ding!

The door to the elevator slid open and Dr. DeMint stepped out into the cool darkness.  He heard Marty screaming.  Hands out in front of him he navigated through the dense shadows, following the sounds of her screams.

 The lights went on and Josh came running.  Marty stood screaming, her entire body shivering in the cold grip of fear.  She held her arms in tight to her body, her knuckles turning white around the handle of the digital thermometer, tears streaming down her face.  Feeling the warmth of the professor’s arms around her she nearly collapsed.  His protective embrace enveloped her and eased her to the floor.  Leaning her against the side of the nurses’ station, her breathing pulsated.

 “Marty, I need you to take slow, deep breaths.”  Dr. DeMint instructed.

 She responded at the sound of his softened voice.  She drew in a long, slow breath, filling her lungs with air and then exhaling out.  Still quivering, the professor held her close.

 “What happened?”  He asked turning his eyes to Josh.

 He shrugged his shoulders.  “The digital thermometer had an unusual reading.  I wanted to see if it was paranormal or an equipment malfunction, so I turned out the lights.  They were only out for a second then she started screaming.”

 “Take the thermometer from her hand and tell me what it says.”

 Josh had to pry each finger free from the handle before he could claim ownership of the device.  He touched the history button below the digital display and read the most recent recording.  “52 degrees.”

  “Help me get her to the couch.”  Josh tucked the thermometer down the back of his pants to help the professor move the frightened girl from the nurses’ station to the waiting room.  It was like moving a marble statue, with Marty remaining frozen in her self-embrace.

  Dr. DeMint examined her.  Pulse rate was a bit high but her respirations had slowed considerably.  “I think she’s going to be all right.”  He leaned down and spoke with a soft assuring voice “Marty, I need you tell me what happened.”

  Her eyelids opened and she looked up at the professor and Josh.  She looked around the room as if to assure herself that whatever frightened her was not included in the audience.  Her lips parted and she started to reply.  “I can still feel it, like ice on my skin, a hand reaching beyond the grave trying to pull me through to the other side.”

   “This is ridiculous.”  Josh protested.

   “I don’t think so.”  Dr. DeMint replied and held up Marty’s right forearm.  “If she’s making it up then how do you explain this?”  The professor showed him the bruises on her forearm.  Five purple dots just below the epidermis layer of the skin put there by force from a hand intent on taking her against her will. 

Josh threw up his hands.  “I swear to God doc, I didn’t touch her.”

“No, Josh, I know you didn’t.”  Dr. DeMint assured him.

  “Then who did?” 

“Stay here, while I run a few tests.”

This wasn’t the first time Dr. DeMint had seen contusions such as this.  Years ago, still early in his career when he was still building a respectable practice, the professor learned of a young child in nearby Troy.  The child’s parents set up a web cam in the boy’s room and when the bruises again appeared on the boy’s neck and shoulders, they played back the tape.  What they saw horrified them beyond anything they anticipated.  The bed sheets pulled back under their own power, the mattress sank beneath the weight of something invisible to the camera, and then the waking boy thrashing about as if fighting off some imaginary foe only he could see.  DeMint’s resulting investigation turned him from a run of the mill shrink to ghost buster overnight.

He gave Josh a two-way radio.  “Call me back in here if she gets too hysterical.”  He turned and left.  The sound of his footprints ticking across the linoleum floor faded into the distance separating them.

Josh knelt on the floor beside her.  He gently shoved a dangling tuft of hair from her forehead.  “I won’t leave you.”  He told her and he meant it, until the lights went out.

“Please tell me the professor turned off the lights.”  She said.

Josh put the radio to his mouth and punched the talk button.  “Professor, this is Josh can you read me?”

Static buzzed when his finger leapt off the button.  He tried again.  “Professor?  Come in Professor.”  His finger again jumped off the talk button but still only the buzz and whine of static. 

“I’ll turn on the lamp.”  Feeling his way through a dense blanket of shadows he found the smooth contours of a lamp base, ran his fingers to the switch, and gave it a quick twist.  Dim yellow light shoved the shadows back across the room. 

The form of a man appeared in the doorway, darkness surrounding him and the outline of an axe rising above his head.  Marty screamed.  “Josh watch out.” 

The blade plunged into the back of Josh’s skull.  From the darkness, a voice spoke to her.  “Now you don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘lil missy.  Nobody ‘bouts to hurt cha.  Yep, yep.”  A spliced hook in the place of a hand reached for her through the dim light.

 

 

Dr. DeMint leaned over the infrared computer monitor.  The room appeared empty except for the usual accoutrements found in a normal hospital room.  The lights flickered and the hallway went dark.  He heard Marty shriek and an uneasy silence followed. 

Something inside of him, an instinct imprinted in his brain from his most ancient of ancestors, forced his feet into a full running gait.  He raced the length of the hallway and when he entered the waiting room, he discovered Josh’s body laying face down in a crimson pool, an axe blade buried up to the hilt in the back of his head.  His eyes turned and his head twisted away from the gory scene to the couch where he expected to find a reddened conclave shaped wound in Marty’s sternum, he instead found the room empty.

The air turned cold and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  He looked around for the digital thermometer and found it tucked in the back of Josh’s belt.  Taking possession of the sensor, he read the temperature:  52 degrees

“Professor?”  His name passed from the hall to the waiting room where it found his ear. 

Turning towards the sound he saw the form of a young woman emerging from the hallway, her figure swirling out of the nothingness that came before her.  She wore a mane of long black hair and her bare feet made only the slightest sound against the linoleum floor as her ambulation brought her forward from the empty void.

Silence passed between them for what seemed like an eternity before the young woman spoke to him.  “Professor DeMint?  He sent me for you.”

“You mean Dr. Carrel?”

Her head drifted from right to left.  “No, him.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will, in time.”

“Can you tell me what happened to my assistant?”

“I can.”

“Can you take me to her?”

“I can.”  She answered, turning to the floor.  “I don’t think you want me to do that.”

“I need to help her.”  The professor insisted.

“Her soul is doomed.”

“I’m a doctor.”  He told her.  “I can still help her.  Just give me the chance.”

 

 

 Marty hung like a pair of slacks over a coat hanger, across the shoulder of a man exhibiting such preternatural strength she could only wonder if there remained within him even the tiniest morsel of humanity.  He moved like a machine, performing his assigned duties like a computer obeying the encoding of its internal software.

“Let me go.”  She insisted and beat on the man’s back with no effect.

“You’ll be all right lil missy.”  He comforted.  “Da good doc, he gonna fix you up good and tight jus, like he don did me.  He tell me you special some way, tell me you gonna help all da people sufferin’ jus like I don suffer.  You help ease the pain, and doc say it don’t hurt none t’all what he gonna do.”

“Please don’t do this.  I’m not ready to die.”

“You taint gonna die, lil missy.  Yep, yep, ole Frank he gonna protect you.  Frank taint gonna let nothin’ bad happen to his lil missy, yep, yep.”

Frank brought her down a small narrow flight of stairs to a tunnel dug out of the ground beneath the floor of the hospital.  Electric fluorescent bulbs lit the passageway from the top.  Cold concrete blocks formed the walls, void of any pleasant decorations.  Where once carpet brought some color to the otherwise drab surroundings, the tunnel floor was now a solid slab of concrete.  A set of four oxygen tanks stood clumped together in the corner.  Steel tubes ran up from the quadruple nozzles to a bronze pipe that shot through the walls on both sides. 

Turning to a pair of aluminum doors, he pushed his way through.  They folded open in his presence bowing in genuflection.  The room was dark, but Frank seemed to know the way without the benefit of a light source.  He put her softly on the floor and wrapped a steel bracelet around her wrist connected to a chain that ran up the wall and secured to a set of plumbing pipes where water pushed through to other areas of the hospital.

Frank turned and left without speaking.  The doors flapped open in his wake and she could here his heavy footprints drift back up the stairs.  He flipped the light switch to the off position, the entire tunnel went dark, and the shadows enclosed around her.

From out of the prevailing blackness, a woman’s voice spoke to her.  “I see he caught someone else.”

 

Dr. DeMint felt an icy hand touch his jacket through the shadows surrounding him.  The coolness of her fingers pushed through the tweed fabric of his coat and linen shirt.  His flesh rose in an endless rippling of gooseflesh.  He wanted to free himself from her touch as soon as possible but in the instant of her touch, the hospital folded away from him as if carried through time and space at the same moment and a lightened passage way folded towards him.  The hand fell off and he stood alone in the basement of the hospital.

His colleagues in the physics department could better explain through a series of complex mathematical formulas what he just experienced.  He felt the urge to take a seat, assume the pose of the thinker, and ponder his racing thoughts, but a stronger urge to seek out his missing assistant compelled him to move.

A schematic diagram of the hospital hung beside him on the wall.  A red check mark labeled “You are here” gave him at least some idea where to start.  The basement corridor formed the shape of an X beneath the main floor of the hospital.  At the end of each tentacle of the “X” stood a heavy metal door.  Dr. DeMint stood at the intersection of the X and according to the schematic diagram on the wall the door directly to his rear lead up to the psychiatric center.

This is how he did it.  Dr. DeMint reasoned.  Dr. Carrell transferred patients on stretchers down to the basement and moved them unseen to his discovery centers where he conducted his sadistic mind experiments.  Straight ahead, if he followed the schematic, the professor would find the crematorium.  In this place Dr. Carrell, could dispose of his failures before any one discovered the misplaced patients.

Before journeying further, Dr. DeMint needed to find a weapon.  He didn’t think an object of this world could have any effect on something out the other, but any source of comfort no matter how insignificant put courage behind his legs.

Coming forward down the hall, he found Frank’s workshop.  Flipping on a light the fluorescent bulbs gathered enough energy from the electrical current to pull back the veil of darkness and allow the professor to search the interior.

A red toolbox with the lid pushed back held a large wrench, a hammer, and some screw drivers.  The professor examined each one, finally selecting the wrench.  He came back through the door and flipped off the light.

Whistling.

Dr. DeMint recognized the tune as Old Susannah.  The composer approached from the other end of the hall.  The professor ducked back into Frank’s workshop and waited.

 

 

Frank, with his good hand tucked inside the pocket of his gray overalls and the other with its spliced tool to suffice as a hand swaying back and forth at his side, moved with a whistling gait.  He didn’t know the words to Old Susannah, but he figured that at one time in his past he knew them and liked the song.

 He felt joy with each step.  Having made his contribution to science, he felt he had finally made his life meaningful.  A turkey sandwich awaited his return to his workshop and his stomach growled with impatience at the impending consumption of his next meal. 

 Reaching for the knob, he dropped his good hand to his side.  The whistling tune ceased.  The silver knob was out of reach.  He didn’t remember leaving the door open but then again, he didn’t remember a great many things.  He ignored the lapse in memory and came through across the threshold closing the door behind him.

 The wrench emerged from the shadows swinging down and landing on his forehead.

 

 

 “Whose there?”  A shaken Marty asked, speaking into the surrounding darkness.

 “Someone in the same pretty pickle as you, apparently.”  The voice returned.

 “I’m…  I’m Marty.”  She stuttered.  “Who are you?”

 “My name is Holly.”  The answer arrived on a single breath.  “I suppose you were looking for me and that’s how you wound up down here?”

  “Something like that.”  Marty answered.  “Are you all right?  Are you hurt?”

  “Nah.”  Holly answered.  “A little scared maybe; nothing that getting out of here wouldn’t fix.”

  “I’m chained to something and I can’t move.”  Marty told her hoping that for some reason the girl next to her would not share the same condition.

  “Me too.”  Holly said and rattled the chain for proof.

  “What do you think they are going to with us?”

  “I don’t know.”  Holly said.  “I can’t even remember how long I’ve been down here, but something tells me that whatever it is, we won’t enjoy it.”

  “Dr. DeMint will come looking for us.”  Marty told her, trying to sound reassuring but failing miserably.

The false assurances did not fool Holly.  “Yeah, I wouldn’t believe that either if I were you.”

  “Then we are on our own?”

  “It would appear that way.”  Holly answered.  “I don’t have a plan yet.  I don’t even know what’s in this room.  How about you?”

  “Still playing it by ear.”  Marty answered.

  The clicking of footprints coming down the stairs interrupted the strategy session.  “Quiet, I think someone is coming.”  Marty whispered to her comrade in chains.

  “I hear it too.”  Holly whispered.

  The footsteps drew closer, the heels of penny loafers beating a steady chiming session on the bare concrete floor.  The double doors swung inward but the entrance remained empty.

 

 

Frank dropped like a barbell weight.  He rolled over on his side and his head made a clucking sound as it collided with the floor.  Dr. DeMint stood hovering over him, legs straddling the unconscious body. 

“Damn!”  He said.  Kneeling down he checked the pulse.  Still strong, at least he hadn’t killed the poor dimwitted b*****d.  He searched the coveralls and located a set of keys.  Might need these.  Dr. DeMint thought and placed them in his pocket.

Leaving the carcass of the handyman in his wake, he closed the door and slipped back into the hallway.

 

The door folded shut again and through the darkness of the room, a figure roamed.  The steady clicking of heel prints on the floor gave all the indication Holly and Marty needed that a visitor remained in their presence.  He moved about unseen, in the room for several minutes.  There seemed to be an organized intent to what deeds the unseen visitor performed.  Marty and Holly held their collective breath.

Click.  

A bright white light shot on and the shadows ducked in fear from the blinding rays that illuminated a steel exam table.  The source of the light came from an overhead spotlight fixed on a steel arm extending out over the table from a bracket on the wall farthest from them.  The figure that entered the room stood along the far wall, his back turned to them, dressed in an operating gown of horrible green.  A pair of latex covered hands reached behind the head and tied on a surgical mask.

Marty squinted as her eyes tried to grow accustomed to the sudden brightness of the room.  She looked at Holly and found fear etched on the poor woman’s face.  She was there the longest; she knew she was first in line for whatever horror awaited them.  Marty found the young woman attractive.  She seemed as exhausted as she was afraid, her right hand uplifted by the steel chain connecting them to a running line of pipe overhead.

Holly turned to face Marty, her cornflower blue eyes pleading for an intervention that both girls realized might never come.  Then the horror of all horrors.

The figure turned and behind the surgical mask and cap was an emptiness where a face should be.  It moved, the steady ticking of the footprints echoing from wall to wall.  Shifting around the side of the table the figure stood suspended on air, the ticking footprints stopped as it allowed the two girls to absorb the floating entity it presented before them.

Extending the hands covered in latex gloves a voice growled from the empty space where once a face would address them.  “It’s time.”

  

Dr. DeMint tried the door at the end of the corridor.  Locked.

He reached for the keys in his pocket, fumbling them out and he tried the first.  No luck.  The key would not go in.

He tried the second key.  Same result.

This was insane.  He held what seemed to be a thousand different keys and it would take him ten lifetimes to go through them one by one.  He had to devise a more intelligent strategy.  Some of the keys were the same, others were different, but all of them had groups of similar keys bundled together.

The key type just tried, he eliminated and tried a different form.  It didn’t open the door either.  He moved to the next group of keys, choosing the first he tried pushing it into the lock.  It slid in.  He gave a turn but the key would not budge.  Retrieving the key, he bundled that key type together and tried them all one by one.  The first three slid in but would not engage the locking mechanism; he inserted the final key from the group.  It went in, as did the previous four.  He gave it a turn, the lock disengaged and the door released off the jam.

Pushing the ring of keys back into his pocket, he crept through the doorway. 

The raven-haired apparition appeared in the corridor standing between his perch above the floor and a door marked crematorium about one hundred yards ahead of him.  She stared at him her face as expressionless as that of a corpse.  “You can’t stop him.” 

Creeping down the concrete steps, he stood in the corridor.  Four doors lined the walls.  Two stood on the right and two more opposite the first two on the left.  Two square beams of light poured from two square portal windows and spilled across the concrete floor.  He moved silently, positioning himself in an inconspicuous position as to look in through the portals.

The voice of the apparition followed him.  “He is willing to make a trade.” 

She persisted.  Remembering that the “he” she previously referred to was not Dr. Carrell, the professor felt the question welling up inside him and he had to ask.  “Who are you talking about?”

The apparition formed a smile.  “The hospital requires a doctor.”  She explained.  “He is most displeased with the current position holder and will make a trade.”

  “A trade?”

  “The girls, for you.”

The offer soured on his ears.  He wasn’t on a suicide mission.  He peered through the square portal.  A woman lay strapped to a steel table her scrubs splayed open.  A heart monitor read her pulse from a pair of leads attached to her chest.  A figure clad in green, crossed the path between them.  Dr. DeMint ducked before the ghost doctor spotted him.  Squeezing his hand around the wrench, he was ready to pulverize the doctor into oblivion but the realization of his opponent made him second-guess his initial impulse.

Pressing his back to the wall, he looked again toward the apparition.  “Tell him I said thanks but no thanks.”

She shook her head.  “I’m afraid he won’t take no for an answer.  If you refuse, I fear it will end very badly for you.”

He pondered his options, he didn’t have many, but suicide wasn’t on the menu.  “The answer is no.”  He went back to the entrance where he remembered the oxygen tanks.  They were heavy but he thought he might be able to lift one.  He left the tank for a moment and in a crouched position moved to the other end of the hall.

The apparition faded into the nothingness of the hall.  The professor tried the door to the crematorium.  When he found the door locked, he fished the keys out of his pocket.  With the same methodology as before, he eliminated the key types one by one.  He tried each one but no key on the ring would open the lock.

“Damn it!”  He cursed the keys in his hand and tossed them on the floor.  They clanked and clattered across the concrete making a most voluminous racket.  The ghost doctor might hear but the professor did not concern himself with looming threats, he had to get the door open and soon.  The woman on the table began to scream, time was running out.

He hurried back to the oxygen tanks.  He tried picking one up, they were heavier than he first imagined.  He rolled it over on its side, the clang of metal to concrete loud enough for the ghost to hear but he pushed the worry from his mind and made haste to complete the task.  With the oxygen tank now resting on the floor, nozzle toward him and the steps, bell bottomed end facing the door to the crematorium.  He unscrewed the valve.

Warning: Contents under pressure.

He read the warning just before he loosened the valve.  The oxygen gas burst through the narrow passage with a whistle and like a rocket fired from the under wing of a fighter jet, the tubular projectile shot across the floor, straight through the door.

Dr. DeMint followed the path of his hell-fire missile.  The metal door hung loose from its hinges.  With a karate style kick, he broke through the barricade like a rioting teenager at a Metallica concert.  The ghost doctor emerged into the hallway but at least the screaming had stopped.

Dr. DeMint looked back at the doctor from the other side of hell and hurried inside.  Lifting the lever for the furnace, he cranked up the heat.  He checked the temperature gauge it took about fifteen minutes to heat up. 

The ghost doctor remained in the hallway trying to summon his mortal combatant but the sand in the hourglass of his patience began to run thin.  “What are you doing Dr. DeMint?”  His voice rolled like a growling thunderstorm.

The professor appeared at the doorway of the crematorium.  “I won’t let you hurt those girls.”

Drawing on adrenaline rich strength, he pushed past the ghost doctor and returned to take possession of a second oxygen tank.  With a grunt, he pushed the heavy tank on his shoulder and carried it back down the hallway like a gladiator competing in the strongest man contest.

Recognition.

Now the ghost doctor realized the plan.  “No.”  He grumbled and wafted toward the professor with a hellish scream like an army of demons released from the lake of fire and brimstone.  Opening the lid, the professor slid the oxygen tank inside the furnace.  He did not know how much of his fifteen minutes remained, but knew that time was running out.

Closing and latching the lid, he faced the coming demon.  The show of force dissipated and the screams vanished like the passing of a breeze.  The ghost drew his power from fear and the professor was too far pissed to be scared.  Dr. DeMint ran to the girls.  Marty still sat chained to the wall, Holly lying on the table the first slice of an incision ran across her forehead, her face covered in a mask of moist crimson; her ankles and wrist held down by leather straps.

He reached for the keys but they remained by the crematorium door where he threw them down. 

“Behind you.”  Marty screamed.

His face bloodied from the wound caused by the metal wrench, Frank came at him an axe following a horizontal swing path intent on decapitating the professor with a single blow.  Dr. DeMint managed to avoid the first blow, the blade coming down on the concrete with a display of bright yellow sparks.

The unwieldy dimwitted axe murdering, mummified shell of a man lost his balance.  Dr. DeMint with agility that a blue chip wide receiver prospect would admire managed to deliver a size nine and a half round house kick to the rib cage.  The axe slid free from Frank’s hands as he landed with a grunt and a moan on the floor.  He rolled up like a pill bug, hands and arms tucked in around his abdomen. 

The professor went for the axe and used it to free Marty from the handcuffs by chopping through the steel chain.  “I’ll get her, you get outside.”

Marty ran into the corridor but the ghost doctor stood in her way.  Dr. DeMint came through the door, the unconscious Holly sinking into his cradled embrace.  “He can’t hurt you if you’re not afraid.  Close your eyes and move.”

“Keep going.”  Dr. DeMint reminded her cradling Holly in his arms.  He pursued Marty up the concrete steps to the door.

Something caught the door and slammed it shut on the professor’s ankle.  The force of the door face crushed bone and nearly severed the entire foot.

Dr. DeMint crumbled in agony, spilling Holly from his arms, leaving a crimson smear across the floor.  He looked up and the raven-haired apparition, faced formed in an expressionless stare, appeared before him.

“He refused to accept your refusal.  You will be his regardless.” 

“Get her and go.”  The professor called out to Marty, groaning through clenched teeth he clutched at his ankle, turned opposite of its proper position.

 “What about you?”  Marty asked.  “You’re hurt.”

 That was an understatement; the professor was in excruciating pain.  “I’ll be all right.”  He told her.  “Get out of here now.”

 The raven-haired apparition offered her hand.  “I will deliver you to safety.”

 The icy hand fell on Marty’s wrist and the corridor folded away as the blast roiled from the crematorium furnace.

 

 

Holly and Marty stood at the entrance to room 508.  The hospital gave a sudden shudder then settled just as quickly.  The shock wave blast knocked the two women off their feet.  Fire alarms blared and a fiery belch ripped out from the underground bowels beneath the facility.

“Are you ok?”  Marty asked rising to her knees.

“Fine, how about you?”  Holly answered wiping a hand across the crimson mask covering her face pulling away a hand stained and dripping with the crimson nectar.  “Head wounds bleed like a mother f****r don’t they?”  She smiled through the mask somehow finding her sense of humor.

Marty breathed a sigh of relief and sank against the patient door.  In that instant, the lights flickered, dimmed, and then a black void enveloped them dousing her momentary lapse of fear with a fresh new helping of the stuff.  She felt her heart leap into her throat.  Holly reached through the shadows and found Marty’s hand the humor found swallowed and lost by a swarming flood of fear.  The temperature began to drop.

The steady ticking of heel prints moved across the floor and out from the darkness a voice spoke to them.  “I have many patients to care for, so I can stay but for a moment.”

“Professor?”  Her voice cracked.

“I want you to carry on my work.”  The voice of Dr. DeMint called out to here from the other side reaching her ears and warming her heart.  “The work I did must not be lost.”  He implored her.  “A new task has found me here, the souls inhabiting these walls need someone to give them care, and comfort.  They have called me to that duty and I have answered their call.  Let the world know that a wonderful life awaits them beyond the grave and I will be here to Sheppard them to the other side.  I am at peace and I hope that your heart finds comfort in that.”

The voice faded into the hallway the light flickered and a new light generated the hallway.  Holly turned to her new friend and asked, “What are we going to do now?”

Marty smiled and closed her eyes.  “I don’t know.”  She said.  “But I don’t want to come back to a hospital, ever again.”

© 2009 Casper Cross


Author's Note

Casper Cross
First off... I apologize for the length. The story got away from me a little bit.
You might find the ending a bit choppy... this is due to the fact that I felt like the story was getting too long winded and I needed to bring it to a close or no one would read it.
The characters are not as lively as I would like to make them but I think if I have the time I will expand this piece into a longer work and delve a little more into the characters.
Anything you won't to add? Suggestions are always helpful, thanks.

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Featured Review

I have seen you write better. This is good but not your best. This is one of the first stories from you that I felt disconnected. That you were just relaying the story.
I like all of your metaphors and descriptions very vivid.

I don't think you should worry about length so much, a well written story with well written characters can make a story seem shorter than a poem because they are so real. Don't be afraid to let the reader get lost in your story. Let us. We crave to get lost... otherwise why do we read?

The pace at which you write the events is well done, the end feels rushed a bit but I think that is because you were worried about length.

What an awesome start to a fantastic horror story you have here I cannot wait to see it grow.
Great Job!

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

this story has some very same details into that give clearity to the reader, and if you wish to color your players now is the time to read this again and dress your story a splash. Just like you did with the pony-tail. Your story is riveting and well told.

Posted 10 Years Ago


I lived in India for a year and you always knew
you where getting near to a hospital by the
screams and crying.

Yick! Coffee in a Styrofoam cup.

I'm scared now as I proceed. 508=13.

"Dr. DeMint looked like a holdout from last year’s Star Trek convention."
All through it's perfect attention to detail and great images.

As a former psychologist I have blurred that line between therapy and curious experimentation. I suffer from guilt to this day, righteously so, and refuse to let it go, especially after a patient strung them self up on my watch.

This is a masterful short story full of suspense and spine-tingles and you have every right to be very proud of this work.
Dr. Callaghan


Posted 13 Years Ago


This is so amazing here. I loved this.
The theme, the plot, the characters are where there and held together.
I think the longer the story the better read it is.
This is amazing.

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Jo
Fantastic story with not too much, but just the right amount of a "chilling" feeling, although you are right. I myself felt the ending was a bit choppy, but still a good story. I noticed one mistake near the top when Dr. Roberts enters the room. You have written: "He strolled around the edge of the desk and took a seat beside her at the counter. Selected his patient's chart he took the seat next to her." That one sentence seemed awkward to me. Just a note. I did really love your metaphors and similes, but you have an excessive amount of them in this story. Tone down on them a little. Don't solely rely on those metaphors and similes to get your picture across. Although they do it exceptionally well, it can get tiring reading metaphor after metaphor. I noticed you had two in the span of a paragraph or two. The occasional simile and metaphor is good, but let your writing speak for itself.

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

cool it was a little scary but it was really good i like it. like i told you before your a natural

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I have seen you write better. This is good but not your best. This is one of the first stories from you that I felt disconnected. That you were just relaying the story.
I like all of your metaphors and descriptions very vivid.

I don't think you should worry about length so much, a well written story with well written characters can make a story seem shorter than a poem because they are so real. Don't be afraid to let the reader get lost in your story. Let us. We crave to get lost... otherwise why do we read?

The pace at which you write the events is well done, the end feels rushed a bit but I think that is because you were worried about length.

What an awesome start to a fantastic horror story you have here I cannot wait to see it grow.
Great Job!

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

wooooow. i never thought u had it in u...... its AMAZING! um i edited my chapter Can They Take Me Away? and its way better. one thing tho im wasnt going to tell about the people in my book till the 2nd chapter cuz it just makes u to find out more and and thaats exactly wat i did lol. k the reason i love your book is in the begainning it sounded like something from a Social Studies book and i love socail studies. so keep up the good writeing!

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wowwy.. ok, this was... not as scary as I would have thought, I mean it was, an dI'll probably have nightmares tonight, but I've read way more scarier things before, lol. Um, the story itself was unbelieveable, and it really got to the point. You said that the end was kind of choppy, and I don't think so, but I think you could add more detail. Speaking of detail, there was an incredable amount of it all thorughout the story. I haven't read somehting with this much detail in a while. Also, don't worry about the length of the story, because you made it so the reader could kinda guess what was going on, but scientific reasons could support this in the begining... so its makeing the reader go, "Is it just a coincidence or what??".. But that only lasts till Marty is captured. THEN, you start asking a milloin more question, lol. So it was very good. thanks for putting it in my contest :)

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on April 28, 2009
Last Updated on December 29, 2009

Author

Casper Cross
Casper Cross

Nashville, TN



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