Lewis and Henry stared at each other for several seconds, both afraid to breathe. Henry finally whispered, “What do we do?”
Lewis slowly shook his head, “I don’t know, it’s a dead end.”
Ten feet beyond the four closed doors the hallway ended at a graffiti-strewn wall. The two men walked a few steps backward and leaned their heads around the corner. The long hallway was silent and empty. Both breathed a sigh of relief. “Wind?” asked Henry
Lewis let out a quiet chuckle. “Yea, probably the wind. It’s an old building.”
Both men turned and started down the long corridor. They passed the morgue without turning to look inside. Henry hoped Lewis was as determined to leave as he was. Both men breathed easier as they reached the end of the hall. The next hallway veered off to the left and right. Lewis pointed to his left, in the direction both assumed they would find the exit door. Henry stepped in front of Lewis when Lewis suddenly grabbed his bicep and squeezed, “What?” asked Henry as he jerked his arm free.
“The wheelchair. That broken wheelchair. It wasn’t in the hall.” said Lewis with a slight quiver in his voice.
“I bet we just missed it,” Henry said in a somewhat convincing tone.
“Do you want to go back and check?” asked Lewis.
“No,” said Henry. Henry pointed his cell phone’s flashlight directly ahead and began a slow, steady pace forward. The hallway looked gray, dirty, and stained. As the men passed by an open door something caught Henry’s eye. Before he could think about his options he instinctively looked inside. A large clown head filled the opposite wall. Its eyes seemed to be looking down at the two men. Vandals had darkened some of the teeth in the carnival’s jovial mascot. Henry shuddered, “Do you think an inmate painted that?”
Lewis cleared his throat, “It looks crazy enough, but too many people have marked this place up, so it’s hard to say.”
“I guess we’re in some sort of patient wing? I wonder if these rooms were for the regular crazies,” pondered Henry.
Lewis shook his head, “I doubt it. We’re still in the basement. You don’t normally put the good people underground.”
Henry nodded, and the two men walked a little faster down the dirty hallway. They slowed their pace as they came to the end of the hall. Instead of finding an exit sign they found the hall turned to the right. Their only other option was a door directly in front of them that led up the stairwell.
“What do you think?” asked Lewis.
“I think I want to go up.”
Lewis nodded. The door’s latch opened much more smoothly than either man thought would have been possible in such an old building. They exited on to the next floor. “The main entrance has to be around here somewhere,” said Henry.
Both men scanned the space before them. The empty nurses’ station stood well intact. Beige carpet replaced the worn white linoleum of the basement below. Their flashlights scanned the flooring. Lewis turned to Henry, “I don’t get it. This place looks like its still in use. Check out the walls, they’re all clean, no graffiti or faded paint. If there were people here I’d swear the hospital was still open.”
Henry had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when a figure seemed to float by in the dark distance behind Lewis. Henry’s eyes grew wide and he stopped talking and pointed. Lewis turned around, but the figure had vanished to the left. Both men heard voices off in the blackness.
“I’m telling you, we’re not alone. Maybe they’re just squatters,” whispered Henry.
“Maybe they know the way out,” answered Lewis.
Henry took a step forward and then stopped, “What if they aren’t bums?”
Lewis rolled his eyes, “Come on, I want to get out of here.”
Henry let Lewis take the lead and set the pace. Neither man wanted to look around. Voices seemed to float through the air and never grew closer. After walking a hundred feet Lewis stopped. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe they aren’t bums. The voices should be getting louder or something. I can’t figure out where they’re coming from”.
Henry scanned where they were. Another stairwell was barely visible forty feet in front of them. They had just passed an intersecting hallway without even realizing it. Henry pointed to his right. “Should we try going down that way? I think it will take us to the front of the building.”
“No,” said Lewis. “We’re already lost. Changing directions again won’t help us find our way around here. Look,” Henry pointed his light in the direction of Lewis’ finger. “Let’s go inside that room and look out the window, maybe we can figure out where we are.”
Both Henry and Lewis slowly entered the room. An old wire bedframe sat empty on one side of the small space. A desk and small dresser sat on the intersecting wall under the window. The two men peered out the dirty glass. They could see the hill on the side of the hospital sloping down towards the large river that laid below. “I know where we are,” said Henry.
“Me too,” responded Lewis.
“The front has to be down the hallway just like I said.”
Lewis nodded, “Yea, that would a good guess, assuming we’re on the right level. Look down, we are two flights up.”
Henry nodded, “That’s only because we’re on the low side. The front slopes back up.”
Henry leaned against the dusty wall. He took a slow look around and wondered what sort of patients did live on the main floor. Suddenly, a light pierced the darkness from the doorway and blinded Henry. Both men tried to shield their eyes as they heard a woman say, “What are you two doing here? The group is down this way.”
As Henry’s eyes tried to readjust he gasped. The voice came from a woman in a white patient gown. Her eyes had dark circles and she looked like she had not slept in years. He passed his light across her figure and saw streaks of blood lining her gown.
Lewis spoke up, “Who are you?”
The woman smiled through her stringy black hair, “Come on, the rest of the group is waiting on us. You don’t want to miss electroshock therapy.”
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I am a writer of fiction. My favorite genre is thriller, but I have been known to break into satire.