When we made it to the lobby, he said, “This, my new friend, is the Sunniland Psychiatric Hospital, your local loony bin. A place like none other. A place where you are fed the sweetest candy throughout the day, a place where you can sit and dream all day long or burn off energy running around outside. No working is allowed here. A place where you are loved and not treated like you're another kid that everyone is tired of having around. This is a place where your dreams really do come true. This is a place where your fears disappear.” He whispered the last two words and his eyes brightened. “Sugar plums dance in our heads. Literally! This is a place where you really get to know thyself.” He gave a sly grin.
I shuddered at the last part, that reminded me of the sign in the reception area. If his job was to creep me out as much as possible, he was good at it. He seemed mature for his age, and I wondered if he was older than he looked.
“The ladies' wing of the building is laid out the same as the gentlemen, and there is nothing of interest in there.”
Behind the reception office were a couple of doors I hadn't noticed earlier. The one on the left opened to a dining hall where we walked around another obstacle of scattered tables and chairs to a pair of closed double steel doors on the back wall. There seemed to be a theme to this place. Vandals didn't leave any corner empty.
I had to be careful not to bump into the mass of tables and chairs, and quickly fell behind Corey, who seemed to glide through the room with ease. Of course, he lived here and mimicked the way I walked through my home in complete darkness without bruising a shin.
He stopped before the closed doors. “Beyond these doors is a room that every patient wished he or she could have had access to.” He pushed open both doors in a manner that a king would enter his courts. Everyone step aside.
My flashlight played across white tile walls and floors stained with more blood and black sludge. The kitchen resembled a morgue with the scattered cooking utensils and equipment so cold, gray and lifeless. Stainless steel knives that once gleamed shiny chrome were now dull and stained with blood. Ladles, pots and pans littered the counter tops and floor. Shadows danced like restless demons searching for a host.
I didn’t venture into the kitchen but stayed at the threshold to give myself a quick way to escape in case of an attack by one of those psychotic vagabonds. I wanted to be able to escape quickly in case of an attack. I cursed myself for not bringing a weapon, at least a knife. Now before me was a plethora of weapons, but they were of no interest to me. Somehow wielding a knife speckled with an unknown blood source didn't appeal to me.
“The doors to the kitchen were always locked, dead bolted, to prevent patients from getting to any of the potential weapons,” Corey said. “The only people that had keys to it were security officers and chefs. Not even the nurses could get in without their permission. While we ate, security personnel would guard the door from patients that could have used the utensils on someone else or themselves.”
“That’s pretty secure for just a kitchen.”
“It had to be. But even with security as tight as the NSA, one girl managed to slip by. She attacked a guard by stabbing him in the thigh with a ballpoint pen, pushed her way through before he could counteract, and stabbed one of the chefs to death. Guess why she did that?”
“Bad food?” I guessed, half joking.
“How did you know? She hated what they served for breakfast that morning. She was put in isolation where a few days later, she chewed her own wrists and bled to death.”
“That didn’t happen.”
“God’s honest truth. I could tell you countless stories about this place, but not all of them are horror.”
As we walked back out to the lobby, he continued his story.
“My parents admitted me here because I was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic,” he said. “As long as I took my meds, or “candy” as we liked to call them, I appeared to be normal. Or what is considered normal in a mental institution. No matter how sane a person is, spend enough time in a place like this and you will die trying to silence the voices in your head and convince yourself that you're not crazy.”
To the right of the dining hall was a door labeled “Staff”, which led into another passage with offices on either side of it and a metal door at the end. We didn’t enter any of the rooms but I glanced inside them not surprised at the misplaced books, file cabinets, desks, typewriters, old computers and copiers in disarray.
“I befriended a girl, Ivy, who was more stable in the head than I was. We became best friends. She had compassion for me as I did for her. As a schizophrenic, it's hard to care or feel for anyone, but she was different. She seemed so depressed but for some odd reason she liked my silliness and incoherent ramblings. I loved to make her laugh. She was full of life and always made me smile. She was the only one that made me smile and I loved her laugh. Like angels dancing on harp strings. I know it sounds corny, but it was how I felt. Peaceful. No one had that affect on me. To tell you the truth, I don’t think she belonged here. She may have just been depressed, that’s all, but not crazy.”
“You said you had schizophrenia. Are you cured or something?”
“Yes, I do not hear the voices in my head anymore nor do I speak gibberish nonsense that schizos are known for. My paranoia is gone along with suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, anger issues, and social dysfunction. Seemed like I was blessed with all the mental disorders known to doctors. Do I seemed cured to you?”
“You seem pretty normal to me,” I lied.
At the end of the hall was a metal door with an exit sign above it, but he opened the one perpendicular to it on the left wall. The hinges on it creaked like a mocking witch. A coldness rushed up to me, empty and meaningless, lonely and desolate. My flashlight followed steps leading down to a wall and opened to the right. I knew, sensed, death below. Even though deaths occurred throughout the building as he told me earlier, the worst of it happened down here.