Furniture scraped across the cement floor for a second, then stopped. I froze, held my breath. My heart sped up. The noise seemed to come from the next room up ahead on the right, ten feet away.
I let out a slow breath. Hugging the wall, I dared to take a step. Then another. At a turtle's pace, I advanced to five feet from the door and heard a whispering voice. The voice of the psychotic killer. If it wasn't for my determination to solving the mystery of the abandoned hospital, I would have ran screaming like a five-years old who had a frog thrown on her by her older brother.
My senses sharpened, as though I had obtained temporary super powers. A faint hum pulsed in the walls that I hadn't noticed before. The voice in the room grew louder, as if the whispering mouth was next to my ear. The hair on my neck and arms stood at attention.
Okay, this was it. Building up enough courage, I peeked around the corner, ready to confront death.
My eyes focused on an ominous word crudely carved into the bedroom wall next to a dirty window.
The word itself didn't have an ominous meaning to it, but the way it was put there and the reason why a child write that in the midst of a blood bath, made my skin crawl. As I backed away, I noticed this particular room lacked any markings of blood and wondered if that word acted like some sort of guardian, sparing this patient's life when the murderer saw it.
“Help me,” the voice whispered from inside the room.
I turned to run, tripped on my own feet, and fell down. It was nice how my clumsiness kicked in at the right time. Before I could get back on my feet, a boy of about ten or eleven years old walked out of the room.
The shock of being frightened passed. I laughed, and got up.
“What's so funny?” he asked.
“God, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you were a crazy person.”
“You're not the only one who's said that.” He grinned, which brightened his blue eyes, and his fair skin seemed to glow like an angel. He wore a plain yellow t-shirt and blue jeans, clean and spotless.
“You don't look like you belong here. Are you by yourself?”
“Yes, who needs anyone else when I have enough friends up here?” He tapped the side of his head.
“Okay.” Great, I met a demented kid in a demented place. “Isn't this place a little much for you to be in all alone?”
“Not at all. I belong here. This is my home, and I'm glad you finally came.”
Not me. I should have left a long time ago, but now with this young boy lurking around this place alone, I felt responsible for getting him to a safe place. “Where are your parents?”
“They’re around somewhere, who knows, who cares? Ladies and gentlemen,” he clapped his hands twice, “let the tour begin!" He walked back towards the lobby.
The housing market crashed hard here in Florida and left many homeless, so it didn’t surprise me to see squatters call a place like this place home. I felt bad for his situation but he seemed not to be bothered by it. After all, he appeared to be happy, he looked healthy, and he wore new clothes, so maybe living a simple life might not have been so bad. Then again, maybe he wasn't a vagabond. He was probably one of those adventurous kids who liked to explore, which I was like at his age.
“How long have you lived here?” I asked.
“A long time. As long as I can remember. I know this place looks creepy, but there's no reason to be afraid. It's all cosmetic. It's a wreck, but It used to be nice. None of it looked like this when I stayed here.”
“'Stayed here?' I'm not quite following you.”
“Sorry, I meant when I was admitted to this hospital when it was still in operation.”
“You actually stayed here as a patient, and still live here? How long has this place been shut down?”
“Since early 2000.”
The kid had done a lot of research or was fed stories told of this place as he was too young to have lived through this. “I'm sorry, but this doesn't sound right. I find it hard to believe you, to be honest.”
“Honesty never hurt anyone. I understand that it's hard for you to believe, and you don't have to. Just entertain me by pretending to be on a tour of the facility.”
I sighed. “Okay, I'll play along.”
“Thank you. You won't be disappointed.”
“I didn’t get your name back there." My plan was to look this boy up when I left the hospital to check the validity of his story.
“Forgive me of my rudeness. It's Corey. And yours?"
He bowed. “Welcome, Ian."
“What happened to this place? It looks like a mass murder scene.”
“I will get to that, but in order for you to understand, I must start from the beginning.”