In this story, Ian Richards is on vacation when he discovers an abandoned psychiatric hospital in the ghost town of Shadow Bay. There he meets Corey, an ex-patient, who gives Ian a tour and reveals the secret underground rooms where abuse took place. Ian realizes Corey has another agenda and wonders if their meeting was more than coincidence.
Dear reader, this manuscript is an apology from me to you. By now you should know that the world is in such a chaotic mess, you might be wondering if life is still worth living. Trust me, it is. There is hope. However you feel, I believe my actions may have contributed to these devastating times. By now I am probably dead, most likely hunted down by people who seek revenge, but I cannot blame them. My hope is that this will help you understand why you are dealing with this pain but also help you find relief.
It started when I drove to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to rekindle my writing passion. I had a few hours to kill before checking in at the hotel, so I decided to explore the small town. The main road, South Atlantic Avenue, led me between hotels, condos and houses, but after a few miles, they were replaced with low growing coastal scrubs and palm trees in the dune line where I was able to get a few glimpses of the blue ocean on the left. Soon the houses on the right side of the road disappeared and I was all alone. The road rose a little to where I could see over the dunes and get a perfect view of the low rising sun peeking between clouds and reflecting its golden light on the calm waves. I slowed my SUV to get out, but then noticed the road ahead dead-ended at a thicket of trees.
As I turned my vehicle around in the cul-de-sac, something in the distance caught my eye. I stopped and peered at a “No Trespassing” sign hanging on a fence covered in vines. Another sign hung below this one, yellow and stained with rust, but I could still read the warning to keep out of the quarantined area.
I got out of the vehicle and walked to the fence. Behind it on a hill sat a worn out two-story building with cracked and crumbled skin from years of abuse and neglect. In an imitation of life swallowing death, healthy vines wrapped its leafy tendrils around the abandoned structure. Curiosity nipped at me to find out why the area was blocked from the public, so I returned to my SUV and grabbed a flashlight from the glove compartment.
I walked through the trees, thinking twice about what I was doing. What if there were military officers guarding the place? How would I explain ignoring the warnings? Sorry officer, I didn't see the “No Trespassing” sign as I climbed the fence. My bad. I doubted that a government official would take it lightly and only give me a slap on my wrist. I was looking at jail time with this offense, but the craving to break free from my writer's block and have an idea for a new book made it worthwhile. If I was careful. Worse yet was the notion of catching a deadly virus from this area. My inquiring mind wanted to know more and I hoped it wasn't making a stupid mistake.
I climbed the fence and crouched low, waiting for the sound of voices and gunfire. Besides the slight breeze rustling the tree leaves, the area was quiet. Still crouching low, I headed toward the front of the building that faced the ocean, and waded through weeds growing up from the cracks in the parking lot, some as tall as small trees.
As I looked up at the lifeless windows that were coated with a blueish-gray film that reminded me of my grandmother’s cataracts, a slight movement caught my eye. Was someone watching me from behind the window? Then there was movement in all the windows and I soon realized it was the reflection of shifting clouds and swaying tree branches. My wild imagination was kicking in. I smiled.
At the entrance I pulled one of these vines away from a marble sign next to the front door with the words Sunniland Mental Hospital engraved in it. My smile faded. From the movies I've seen, nothing good has come out of a mental hospital. Abuse, neglect and hopelessness seemed to be recurring themes from a place that promises well being. Then again, I based my knowledge on the fictional world and not from my own real life experiences. That alone gave me enough reason to press on in my journey.
I was surprised that the front door wasn’t locked and yanked it open. The hinges groaned. Once inside I expected to be greeted by a pack of hungry zombies, a thirsty vampire or even a friendly ghost. Of course that didn’t happen because none of those creatures or supernatural beings existed. Instead the only presence felt here was the thick, stagnant air pressing against my chest.
I walked up to a small room in the middle of the waiting area, that was separated with a thick glass partition above three foot high walls to protect the workers from a possible attack. A metal grate in the glass had allowed the receptionist to communicate with the patients. In one place the glass had a round, spiderweb pattern the size of a soccer ball with a rust colored stain in the middle of it. I shuddered to think that a person's head was beaten against that part of the glass, but hoped my suspicions were wrong. Hanging from a chain attached to the ceiling was a wooden sign with Know thyself burnt into it.
On either side of the lobby was a door and a sign above them indicating which side was the male and female wing of the building. Without thinking I chose to venture to the male side of the building, possibly Maybe it was a subliminal sense that I somehow connected with myself being part of the sex.
My feet clacked on the cracked and peeling vinyl floor as I dodged overturned chairs and tables. The walls resembled a decomposed corpse that was spotted with mold spores, and a pale green skin that blistered and peeled from the Florida humidity. The rising sun filtered through filmy windows on the left wall and casted visible rays that cut through the dusty air. My breathing became labored, my lungs ached and my face poured sweat. I wondered if the mold spores were part of the virus that caused this place to be quarantined, and covered my face with my t-shirt.
I tucked the flashlight under my arm holding the shirt and opened the door leading to the male wing of the hospital. The hall was so dim so I flicked on the flashlight, and the only other source of light streamed in from the open doors that flanked both sides of the hallway. These doors were either open or closed but in no particular sequence.
A tailless, black and gray striped cat ran in front of me and disappeared in the shadowy corner. I gasped, then let out a nervous chuckle. Rodent control. That cat would never go hungry here and he was the only wildlife I might have to worry about. I wondered if the virus caused him to lose his tail.
The hallway faded into an eternal dark void as my flashlight could not illuminate the end of it. The air felt cooler but still smelled musty. The decayed look continued on the walls here, as if the hospital staff had hired an interior decorator with a fondness for the macabre. Water pipes stained with rust at the seams attached to the ceiling and ran along the length of the hall.
As I approached the doors, I noticed they had a wire mesh embedded in a thick glass plate that allowed the staff to watch their patients without the risk of being attacked by them. I didn't bother opening any of the closed doors in fear of creatures jumping out at me. Instead I glanced inside the open rooms, which were bedrooms with strewn furniture and ghostly hazed windows. Each one appeared to be the same except the furniture was arranged in a different manner. A bed flipped over here, a dresser smashed there. Large holes in the walls had blood spattered next to them, and more blood had dried in pools on the floor. What caused this massacre?
My heartbeat sped up as I imagined a psychotic patient going out of control and slashing everyone to death. My breath rasped through the shirt covering my mouth. I wanted to leave, but the newly found mystery piqued my interest enough to endure the uneasiness.