One Angry Mother

Cyrus’ labored breath and light headiness told him he needed to stop running. The sounds of brush breaking behind him had silenced, but he knew she was back there. He had been a fool to try and approach her children, but he was only trying to take their picture.

The youngsters played in the forest, tackling each other, and running amok amid the underbrush and litter of the forest floor. Their bodies would sometimes crash into the green ferns, bushes, and saplings. Cries of pain and delight echoed about the woods as the two played without fears or cares of any sort.

Cyrus had known it was dangerous. After all, what parent would want a stranger approaching their children with a camera as they romped through the thicket? To him, it had been worth the risk. The two siblings had not even noticed him hidden behind the trunk of an old poplar tree with his head and long lens peeping out around its edge. Cyrus smiled to himself as his camera silently captured dozens of actions shots.

This moment was exactly what Cyrus had dreamed of when he made his way into the woods that morning. According to Cyrus’ GPS, he had only had to hike a little more than a mile before he stumbled upon his prey. The early summer always brought out the families before the Carolina weather heated up even the Appalachian Mountain range. Cyrus knew his photos would be the talk of his tight-knit group on the internet.

He smiled as he thought of Jordon. The smug leader of their purveyors of pictures. Although Cyrus found Jordon self-absorbed and entirely too self-important, he was proficient at finding the right customers for the photographs he, and the other merry band of photographers managed to take. Each person knew the risk associated with the type of pictures they attempted to capture, but the payout was normally worth the effort.

Cyrus listened intently. Only the sound of the breeze blowing gently through the newly leafed trees could be heard. Occasionally, birdsong would gently ride along the waves of the wind. He knew he could not stay where he was. Surely, the children’s mother would wander his direction at some point. He wished he had heard when she broke off the chase, but his heart had been pounding too loudly in his ears for him to hear much of anything.

Pulling up his phone’s GPS, Cyrus tried to determine where he had run. A broad smile spread over his face. As if by instinct, he had managed to arc his way back towards the trailhead where his car was parked. Although he had two small creeks to traverse, it was less than two miles back to the safety of his vehicle. Cyrus prayed that the angry mom was content to take her children and lead them away from his vicinity. Still, there were no guarantees.

The first half mile had been surprisingly easy. The forest’s canopy was so thick that little grew on the forest floor. Although the leaf-strewn ground was still slick from the latest spring storm, walking was not difficult. As Cyrus approached the first creek and was relieved to find the stream barely a trickle. He surmised he must be near the wellspring that fed the water out of the ground and down the mountain. With a simple hop, Cyrus continued his quest for the parking lot.

Most of his trek back had been down a gently sloping hill, but now the ground began to level off. Here the larger trees were spaced further apart. Small bushes, ferns, and rocks poked up out of the ground and lay hidden beneath the forest debris. Cyrus tripped twice in his first fifty yards. He cursed his own clumsiness and slowed to a more deliberate pace.

Cyrus stopped and sighed at the sight in front of him. The second creek was swollen to the very edge of its banks. Sparse rocks barely peeked out above the water’s surface and created a hazardous crossing for only the most confident of hikers. Cyrus sighed, and dropped the camera backpack he had all but forgotten was carrying.

A grin crept across his face once more. There was no need to keep his camera ready as he had found his quarry for the day. Slipping the camera inside the bag, Cyrus once more tossed his light burden on his back and carefully traversed his slick, rocky bridge. Despite his best efforts, he could feel the creek’s water wafting against his hiking boots and his socks turning wet with each passing moment. Cyrus was not worried, however. Soon, he would arrive at his car, and he could drive barefoot if need be.

With a final leap, he landed on the other side with the snap of several twigs. The sound of a large baby rattle caused him to catch his breath. Cyrus stood as still as a post. His eyes darted back and forth. Off to his left, he spied an eastern diamondback coiled to strike. Cyrus stood still and prayed for the serpent to be on his way. The sweat rolling down Cyrus’ brow began to soak into his collar before the snake finally decided it was safe to slither back into the forest.

Cyrus carefully continued towards his car. Each slow step only followed a careful survey of the ground ahead. The pace was arduous, but he made steady progress. Cyrus pumped his fist in the air and let out a yell of triumph as the path near the trailhead came into view. Once he reached the well-worn hiking trail Cyrus quickened his pace. He stopped short at the poster board at the trail’s entrance. A somber ranger stood between him and his car.

The ranger did not say a word but pointed towards Cyrus’ vehicle. There on his car’s hood stood the mother bear that had chased him through the woods. Her two familiar cubs attempted to climb on the Chevy Malibu, leaving their deep claw marks down the sides of his car. The large black bear clawed and scraped the Chevy’s front windshield, determined to find her way inside. The damage to the vehicles trim and weatherproofing was obvious even from fifty yards away.

The ranger stepped closer to Cyrus and whispered, “Is that your car?”

Cyrus let out a muffled sigh and nodded.

The ranger quietly continued, “I have backup coming. We’ll try to chase the family back into the forest. I hope you have roadside service.”

Cyrus dropped his head and shook it.

The ranger put an understanding hand on Cyrus’ shoulder and said, “I’m sorry. I can give you a ride into town. It might be easier to get a hotel and wait for your car to be towed there after we are sure the area is secure. I have a cousin who owns a body shop. He should be able to get you fixed up.”

Cyrus nodded.

The ranger and Cyrus backed up a few yards into the trail’s entrance to keep a safer distance. The ranger noticed Cyrus’ backpack, “How long did you hike today?”

Cyrus shrugged, “I haven’t had time to look. I was taking some wildlife pictures of those two cubs when their momma started chasing me.”

The ranger tried to stifle his smile, “Looks like she found you.”

Interrogation Room

“Come on, Carl. Quit wasting my time.” Sargent Tony Sanchez smacked the corner of the wood laminate desk. Carl Jones jumped in his chair. Tony knew Carl had information about Julie. Tony grabbed the young girl’s photo and slammed it again in front of Carl for effect. Carl startled again, but not as much this time. Tony watched Carl lean down towards the photo.

Carl’s index finger traced the outline of the child’s face. A chill ran down Tony’s spine as Carl ran his finger down the thirteen-year old’s black hair. He raised his hand and resettled it on the girl’s high cheekbone and tan skin.  Suddenly, Carl raised his hand, extended a second finger, and poked out the photo’s two brown eyes. A gasp left Tony’s mouth before he could stop himself. Tony could feel his chest tightened and rage began to build.

Tony jerked the photo away and slapped it down on the far side of the table. Carl’s eyes followed it, and the corner of his lips curled up. Tony stood over Carl, placing himself between the photo and the disturbed, evil man that sat before him. “Tell me, Carl. Tell me who has her.”

Carl shrugged, “How would I know?”

Tony slapped the wall of the interrogation room. “Don’t play dumb with me. Not after that little show.”

Carl crossed his arms and smiled. Tony’s knuckles turned white as his balled-up fist shook to restrain themselves. He cleared his voice and spoke to Carl in what sounded almost like a growl. “I promise you, Carl, if you don’t help me, I will make sure you go down for this.”

Carl lifted an arm and waved off Tony’s threat. “Really,Sargent? How do you propose to do that?”

Tony took two deep breaths, turned his back to Carl and walked over to his chair. The old metal groaned as Tony rested his weight in it. There was a broad smile across his lips by the time he sat down and faced Carl.

Carl frowned, “Why are you so happy all of a sudden?”

Tony crossed his legs and watched himself pat the top of his knee. He looked up at Carl. “Well, I was thinking about how much fun it’s going to be to have you put back in jail. Those boys over in County probably won’t let you make it to the state prison.”

Carl’s voice grew higher. “You can’t do that. I ain’t done nothing wrong. I want a lawyer; you’re bluffing.”

Tony raised his hand, and Carl took a breath.Tony leaned towards Carl. “I was just trying to help you out, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want my help.”

Carl scowled, crossed his arms and legs and glared at Tony. “Don’t play your games with me. You didn’t help nobody but yourself. You had me arrested. I wasn’t doing nobody no harm until you showed up at the halfway house.”

Tony nodded, “I know, and we know you didn’t take this girl.”

Carl nodded his head furiously.

Tony continued, “Now hear me out, we also know who did. Of course, you know we need evidence for the jury. I happen to know that you know who has her, or I should say who had her.”

Carl looked at the floor and said nothing.

Tony continued to press. “See, here is my problem. Because the two of you associate in the same, um, social circles, one might argue that you had something to do with it.”

Carl bristled, “You can’t prove that cause it ain’t true.”

Tony shrugged, “Perhaps, but it’s still a violation of your parole. You know you aren’t supposed to be hanging around your old crowd. I was doing you a favor by letting you return to town to be with your sick mother when she passed away.Now, you need to do me a favor and tell me where to find the man who has Julie.”

Carl pulled his legs up on the edge of the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. His dull brown eyes peeked over the top of his dirty, faded jeans. Tony stared into the angry, dead eyes. There was something about them that seemed to exude evil. Carl spoke from behind his knees, “I ain’t no snitch.”

Tony sighed and said, “Well, Carl. Then I’m going to arrest you. You know what prisoners do to convicted child molesters. You’d be safer being a snitch.”

Carl grabbed the back of the chair, “I won’t go, I can’t go. They’ll kill me,” he screamed.

Tony lifted his hands, “Now calm down, take a breath. All I need to know is where your buddy is keeping the girls. That’s it; I have everything else I need.”

“What buddy?” moaned Carl. “Do you mean Curtis?”

Tony nodded.

“Curtis is staying in that abandoned cabin just outside of town, near the edge of the lake. But he has booby-trapped the woods,so don’t just go walking up and knocking on his door.”

Tony had his lead, but he focused and kept his calm. “Do you mean the cabin right off the road on the south side of the lake?”

Carl shook his head. “No, there’s an old place on the north side. You can only hike to it. It’s about a mile through the woods. Most of the trail is overgrown,that makes it hard for people to find. Curtis told me it was the perfect place.”

Tony pulled out a legal pad from the corner desk and began to write furiously. “Perfect place for what, Carl?”

Carl released his knees, and his feet slapped against the linoleum floor. He leaned forward on his elbows, “You know what for,Sargent.”

Tony felt queasy to his stomach as he nodded his head. “How do you know all of this?”

Carl’s voice was flat, “Curtis and some of his friends told me.”

Tony flipped the page and kept writing. “Friends? Are you on the internet again? You know that’s against your parole.”

Carl shook his head, “No, I’m not violating my parole. We talk in the park some days. The fellas find me out there reading or feeding the squirrels.”

Tony nodded, “Do you know what happened to Julie.”

Carl closed his eyes and nodded, “Yea, she’s gone. Curtis said she tried to get away twice and kicked two of his friends in their groin. They let loose on her, and then buried her in the mud about a foot under the water.”

Tony worked to keep his lunch in his stomach. “Okay, Carl. You helped me. Now I’m going to help you. I’m putting you in protective custody.”

Carl jumped to his feet and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He turned to Tony, “You can’t do this, they’ll kill me if I go back to prison. I ain’t touched a soul, just like I promised. I wanted to, but I’ll kill myself before I do that again.”

Tony grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him away from the door. “Easy, you aren’t going to general lockup. We’re putting you in solitary in a nearby town until all the arrests are made. It won’t take Curtis long to figure out you snitched on him. I want to make sure none of your friends show up at the halfway house.”

Carl crossed his arms and shivered, “Two of the guys live there.”

Tony nodded, “We’re aware. Well, turn around and let me cuff you so we can be on our way.”

Carl took a step back. “Wait. If this is protection, why can’t I go without being handcuffed? Believe me; I’m no flight risk now.”

Tony nodded, “Okay, Carl. I suppose you did do the right thing. Have it your way.”

Carl stepped back to let Tony take the lead, and then he gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and spoke, “You know, Sargent, I know I’m a monster, but even monsters can be redeemed if they really want to be.”

Tony nodded, “I hope so, Carl. I hope so.”

Insanity (Part 5)

The young hooded men rushed towards Delilah and Henry. Henry ran forward and crashed headlong into the first man, and then a blinding flash of light appeared before his vision followed by a sharp pain that emanated from the back of his head.

Henry awoke to find himself in the mud next to the river. He rolled to his side and began to look around. Despite the lingering pain he groped and clawed at the ground to force his way up. There was nobody around. Henry looked at the ground and saw only his footprints. He jerked and looked towards the sound of approaching footsteps.

A man in a white lab coat stepped into view followed by two orderlies.

“Henry, are you okay?” said the man in the lab coat.

Henry sighed, “Doctor Lewis, they took her again. They took her, and I can’t find her.”

Lewis walked over and hugged Henry and stepped back. “Henry, she has been gone for a long time now. Don’t you remember? It was five Halloween’s ago that she disappeared.”

Henry tried to remember. “I don’t know. I remember us breaking into the hospital, but how did we get here?”

Lewis shook his head, took Henry’s hands and looked him in the eye. “Henry, listen to me, you do this every year. We never snuck into the hospital. You’re a patient here, and I am your doctor. Delilah was a volunteer who loved you. Can’t you remember?”

“Do you need any help?” asked one of the orderlies.

Doctor Lewis released Henry and lifted his hand, “No, we’ll be okay, this has happened every year since Delilah’s murder.”

“But she was just here,” Henry began to weep, and Doctor Lewis held him.

“Hello,” a voice seemed to echo across the river, but everyone ignored it. Again, the haunting question rolled over the waters, “Hello, Henry, are you there?”

“Did you hear that?” asked Henry, “somebody said my name.”

Everyone stood there in shock. “Maybe it’s her,” said Henry with his voice raised in excitement. “Hello,” he hollered at the top of his lungs.

“Did you hear that?” asked David as he looked at Ian wide-eyed and swung around the SB11 Spirit Box in his hand. “That was a man’s voice, and he said hello when I asked for Henry.”

“Try again,” said Ian.

“Hello, Henry, are you here with us?” hollered David into the cold, damp air next to the river.

“Do you hear that doctor?” asked Henry.

Doctor Lewis slowly nodded with a scowl upon his face.

“Hello,” hollered Henry once more.

“There it goes again,” said Ian. “I think it’s Henry. Ask him if Delilah is with him.”

David cleared his throat and spoke slowly and deliberately. “Delilah, are you here with Henry?”

Henry heard Delilah’s name waft across the breeze of the New River. He began to weep again and put his head into Doctor Lewis’ shoulder.

Doctor Lewis frown, “That’s just somebody playing a cruel joke somewhere upriver. Everyone knows you come here and mourn on Halloween. That voice is most likely kids. Don’t let them get you down, Henry. Delilah loved you, and she is waiting for you in eternity. Don’t give into the despair because of the cruelty of others.”

Henry released the doctor and wiped his face into his shirt sleeve and nodded his head.

Doctor Lewis face scowled, and his chest rose. He let out a deep, angry yell, “Get out of here, or there’ll be trouble.”

“Whoa,” said David. “Did you hear that?”

“Yeah,” said Ian, “Maybe we should go. We made something mad.”

The two young men began making their way through the muddy and grassy trail back towards the dilapidated hospital.  “What do you think that was?” asked David.

Ian shrugged, “Who knows. It sounded like a demon. Maybe he’s the thing that killed Delilah. Maybe that’s why Henry can’t find peace and leave this place. One thing’s for sure, we got our hands on some good evidence.”

David smiled, “We sure did, and I have it all on video.”

The two nodded, and fist-bumped one another. Ian opened the trunk of his car that was parked at the rear of the hospital. As they put away their equipment David looked over at Ian, “Hey man, do you think this will get us enough views to get monetized on YouTube?”

Ian shook his head and laughed. “No, they’ll probably restrict it. I’m thinking we should start doing a live stream on Twitch and talk about our footage.”

David nodded in excitement, “Yeah, and this video evidence is just the thing to kick it off with.”

“Exactly,” said Ian.

The two men got into the car and drove off into the night, satisfied with the questions, but no answers, they had found at the old hospital.

My freshly released book JOSHUA AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH is now available at multiple locations around the globe in both e-book and paperback. Pick up your copy today and start down the trail of the berserkers with me.


Story Time with Gary: Maria’s Diary

Enjoy story time today as I read from Maria’s Diary. Maria discusses the impact of Richard’s suicide from JOSHUA AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH.

Click here and enjoy the video.

Have you heard? My novel officially released today. It’s available globally, so odds are if you search for “Joshua and the Shadow of Death” you will be able to pick up either an e-book copy or paperback where you live.

Insanity (Part 4)

The clopping of horses hooves was accented by the groan and grind of wood upon the pitted dirt road. Henry noticed a young lady perched upon the rocking box of the old flatbed pulled by two black horses. Steam escaped their nostrils, and each breath sounded like a snort in the cold fall air. The woman’s skin was dark, but her pale eyes glowed in the night. She wore a cream-colored wool coat with a hood that covered her hair. The woman’s eyes seemed to cut through Henry as she stopped the wagon a short distance from where he and Lewis were standing.

“Well, are you boys going to stand there all night, or are you going to help me? Climb up in the back.”

Henry looked over at Lewis and raised his eyebrows. Lewis just shrugged and started for the old horse-drawn wagon. The pair climbed in, and the horses jerked the old flatbed forward. Lewis and Henry nearly tumbled off the back of the cart from the sudden start. Once they regained their balance, Henry looked over his shoulder and hollered, “Where are we going?”

The woman looked back, smiled, and said, “Henry, you ask the same question every Halloween. You know the spot we need to go to. It was our spot, back when you said you cared.”

“Back when I said I cared?” asked Henry. “I think you have me mistaken for somebody else. I don’t even know your name.”

The pretty woman scowled, “How can you forget your Delilah?” Delilah pointed to the dilapidated hospital. “I suppose it’s that place. They can make you forget anything they want.”

Henry smiled and tried to sound convincing. “Oh, come on now. How could anything make me forget someone as beautiful as you? Maybe I’m just having some trouble remembering, that’s all. How long has it been?”

Delilah turned and leaned on the back of the old box seat as the horses slowly trodded in a direction they seemed very familiar. “I guess it has been a year,” said Delilah. “I can forgive you for forgetting. Well, I can forgive you a little bit.” She stretched forth her arm, and Henry let his pale fingers wrap around her cold black hand. She pulled Henry, and he attempted to scoot closer to Delilah. There was something familiar about her beautiful face.

“Hey, you two,” Lewis’ voice broke into the enchanted moment between Henry and his new found love. “Three’s a crowd. I’m not sure how you have my buddy so smitten, but could we save the googly eyes until I’m not around?”

Delilah released Henry’s hand, spun to face the front, grabbed the reigns, let out a laugh that seemed to echo in the night air and slapped the leather straps across the horse’s backs. The horses jolted forward, and Lewis tumbled off the end of the cart. Henry watched in horror as Lewis rolled and bounced over dirt, gravel, and rock. His body finally came to rest. Henry held his breath. He saw his friend slowly begin to push himself off the ground. The smell of jasmine and lavender wafted in the air from next to Henry. He turned and jumped with a start. Delilah sat next to him as the driverless cart rolled up the hill, it’s speed decreasing ever so slightly.

Henry was wide-eyed with fear. “Who is driving this thing?” he asked Delilah.

Her laughter sent a chill through his body, and then warmth and calm replaced it. “Oh, the horses know where we are going, Love.”

Before Henry could ask about Lewis Delilah’s lips were on his own. His heart stuttered in excitement and the cold night air seemed to melt away. Their lips parted, and he opened his eyes. The warm sun was beating down on the two of them, and they were no longer in the back of the cart. Delilah now wore a sheer white dress, and her dark frame was easily deciphered beneath her covering. “Where are we?” asked Henry.

Delilah’s dark, smooth hand gently stroked Henry’s pale, rough face. “Don’t you remember?”

Henry pulled his knees forward and looked around. The two of them were sitting in the grassy meadow by the New River. Its waters sparkled like diamonds against the late spring sun. High bushes surrounded them save a small dirt trail that led from the outside world into their secret hiding place. Here the two could be alone, away from the world beyond. They had to hide from those who hated them for their love of one another and needed protection from the hatred that wanted to do nothing else but destroy the beautiful joy and peace they felt whenever they were together.

The memories began to flood back into Henry’s mind. He was with the love of his life. Henry reached over and kissed her until he was sure her lips would never leave his memory again. Her hands slid around his waist and pulled him close. It felt like an eternity of joy. Jasmine and lavender filled the air. Her smooth skin and soft curly black hair brushed against Henry’s face. Delilah buried her full, glossy lips into his neck and he sank his stubbled cheek and chin into her neck and gave her the softest of kisses.

The birds seemed to grow louder, the sun brighter, and the plants were greener as Henry let go and gazed into her haunting eyes once more. They held hands, and both let out a long, relaxed sigh.

“I don’t understand,” said Henry, “How could I forget?”

Delilah pointed over his shoulder, “Because of them.”

Henry’s mind seemed to lose focus, he lost balance, and his world spun around until it settled on the dirt trail and four large young men in t-shirts and hoods that hid their faces. They had come to take Delilah, but Henry would die before he let that happen.



Henry cleared his throat, “I’m sorry, who did you say you are again?”

The girl laughed, “Oh, Henry, I don’t look that bad. Come on you two.”

Henry gasped, but Lewis pushed Henry’s shoulder playfully with his hand. Henry jerked his shoulder away from Lewis and walked about the strange woman who seemed to know his name. Lewis remained five steps behind the two of them. The name Rachel popped into Henry’s head. He decided to give that a try. “So, Rachel, how many people are we scaring tonight?”

Rachel laughed and looked over her shoulder. Her hallow black eyes sent a chill through Henry, “Oh, we have a packed house tonight. At least seventy people, but we have them broken into groups of twenty. We wanted you and Lewis to lead a group, but you guy broke off to do whatever it is you do.”

“Uh, sorry, we got busy,” came Lewis’s voice from behind Henry.

“Don’t worry about it. Come, check this out and then I have a job for you two.”

“Okay,” both men said in unison.

The old hospital seemed to be in excellent shape the further they went. By the time they had climbed the next two floors and walked down two corridors the lights were even working. Henry looked back into the dark pathway from where they had just come. It seemed strange. It was almost as if a gray line divided the white walls, freshly waxed linoleum, and wooden handrails from the dingy, dirty painted walls and dusty carpet.

The group walked into a room filled with just over twenty people who looked as if they were all dressed to trick or treat. All heads turned towards Henry and Lewis and then back to the table before them. A person dressed in a straight jacket and hospital cotton pants laid strapped to a bed. Their head was held fast by a tan leather strap that kept their head firmly against a pillow. The person attempted to struggle, and Rachel reached over to him. “Don’t struggle; you know it only makes it worse.”

The mouthpiece the stranger bit down on only allowed him to answer in grunts and attempted yells. He wiggled, and two people dressed as orderlies tightened the straps even more against the body. The man screamed. Rachel looked over to Henry and Lewis and smiled, “He’s always such a drama queen. Now, everyone, step back.”

Another orderly pushed a large switch upwards that stuck out of the wall. Static electricity could be felt in the air, and the man on the padded table convulsed so quickly he seemed to vibrate. The lights flickered several times, and then the switch was pulled back down. The motionless body laid still. The orderlies took out the mouthpiece and unstrapped the patient. The white-clad hospital worker put his ear to the man’s mouth and then his chest. He shrugged.

“Okay everyone,” said Rachel, “time to go to the morgue. Henry and Lewis, please follow the stairs all the way down to the exit. Penelope has something she needs you to set up.”

“Okay,” said Henry, “Which stairs?”

“Out the door and to your left. Are you feeling okay?” asked Rachel, “You guys seem disoriented.”

Lewis finally spoke up, “Um, yea. We’re good. Just a little tired.”

“Stay focused boys. Halloween is our biggest night.”

The two men nodded their heads and followed Rachel’s directions to the stairs. They found the exit door four flights down. “I don’t recall there being an exit four stories down,” said Henry.

Lewis replied, “Who cares, let’s get out of this place.” Lewis pushed the bar lock and gave the door a shove. The obstacle swung on its hinges and gave way to the night air. Lewis stumbled forward, carried by his momentum, and Henry followed quickly behind. The door slammed shut behind the two men. Henry turned around, looked at the door, and gasped.

Both men stood in three-feet tall weeds. The door they had just burst through was peeling, rusted, and padlocked shut with a chain running through two eye-hooks that were firmly anchored in the bricks. Henry glanced over at Lewis who was staring wide-eyed back at him. “What in the heck is going on?” whispered Lewis.

Henry tried to take deep breaths and calm himself. Every cell in his body wanted to run in the opposite direction of the old hospital. “I don’t know what’s happening, let’s go get to the truck and get out of here.”

“I’m not even sure where we are,” whined Lewis.

Henry pointed towards the rising hillside. An old dirt road could be seen rising around the hospital. Lewis nodded his head. Both men started to walk towards the pathway when the sound of horses’ hooves broke the still night air.

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Insanity(Part 2)

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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