Corey seemed not to be bothered, and at the bottom, he stopped and turned around to face me. “Ivy used to sit there every night, right where you’re standing.”
I stood halfway down the staircase and backed up a step in respect of his beliefs, not because I believed her spirit occupied that space.
He chuckled. “It’s okay, she’s not there now. Everyday after lunch and dinner she sat here and talked to a boy who had disappeared.”
I swallowed hard in preparation for another one of his “horror stories.”
“The nurses would find her here and ask who she was talking to. They tried to convince her that he was gone, but nothing could change her mind. They assumed she was hallucinating or was in doubt of his disappearance. They were just surprised that she even talked at all. The nurses, orderlies and security had checked the basement for his body but couldn’t find it. Let’s keep moving.”
At the bottom the hallway opened to the right. My flashlight was the only source of light and it threw soft shadows off the objects it lit. Pipes dripped and the water fed the growing mold that clung to the walls. I was surprised to see this place still had some water though it wasn't flowing. I smelt a faint odor of a decayed animal mixed with spooring mildew. One area on the floor near the wall pooled a thick yellow sludge. I looked up to find its source, a leak in the pipes.
“What’s this yellow stuff here?" I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows what’s in these pipes. Probably old water."
We walked into a windowless room on the right. Along the back wall unknown rusted metal instruments rested on a table. Against the left wall was a chair with leather arm and leg restraints built into them. Deep scratches in the wooden arm rests from fingernails revealed the anguish of the persons who were tortured there. My heart dropped at this sight.
Next to the chair and attached to the wall were electrical panels that encased dials and switches for the torturer to adjust the electrical current being fed to the victim’s body.
In the middle of the room chains hung from the ceiling and metal rings embedded on the floor allowed a person’s body to be shackled and stretched in the form of an 'X' while they were beaten.
On a table were an assortment of masks and chin straps, gags, whips, rusted handcuffs and shackles. My heart quickened its beating and a numbness flowed through my body.
“So the rumors of patients being tortured in psychiatric wards is true, huh?” I asked.
He was somber. “Most of them, yes. This one for sure. I visited this room a lot, but I’m not going into details of the beatings. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Let’s move on.”
As I walked past the chair, I heard a faint, muffled scream behind me, as if it was buried inside the walls or coming from a distant dream.
I flinched and turned my flashlight in that direction. “Did you hear that?”
At the door he turned to me. “Hear what?”
“That scream or something. You didn't hear it?”
“Like I said before, spend enough time in here and you will go crazy.”
I didn‘t press him further. “How old were the patients living here?”
“As young as any parent would allow them to be admitted up to the age of eighteen. Any older than that, they were either released or moved to the adult hospital across town, depending on their condition. They were released in the wild if they were able to function in society, carry a job and communicate.”
No child deserved that kind of torture, not matter how out of control they got.
He stopped and faced me. “You never told my why you are here.”
I explained my story of accidentally finding the hospital while trying to find inspiration for a new story to write.
“I would rather you not write about this place.”
“For respect. For the ones who suffered and died here. They wouldn't want this place turned into a haunted house for Halloween or be featured on one of those TV shows about ghost hauntings. This place should be left undisturbed.”
“How about letting others know the truth about this place, the abuse.”
He didn't answer me and walked away. Maybe he was thinking about what I said and would change his mind.
Back out in the hall we continued another twenty feet where a room lay ahead then the hall continued to the left. My light fell on a pile of bones on one side of the room and next to it a table with skulls arranged neatly on top.
I stood, unmoving. “What is this?”
“This is the morgue. On the last night this place was in operation something destroyed everyone in this building, part of the massacre you are interested in. Of the victims that have died here, I have collected their skeletons and laid them here to rest. Most of the bodies were ripped apart and scattered so I couldn’t match the skulls to the rest of their bodies. I know it’s not neat and they deserve better, but this is the best I can do right now. Soon I will give them a proper burial in the cemetery.”
He walked away further down the hall and disappeared in the shadows. I lifted my flashlight towards him where it fell on his backside. I wasn’t going to move until he was in my sight. I followed, echoing footsteps the only sound. They haunted me like whispers from the dead. I glanced behind me and swore phantom arms grasped for me. Before I found this place I didn't believe in ghosts or anything in the afterlife. Corey was right. My mind was changing. He stopped at the end of the hall and turned around.
“This looks like the end of the hallway, but it’s not.” He stepped aside.
Near the floor was a three foot wide by two foot high hole covered by a rusted metal grate.
“The boy ended up here. Dead.”
“Who killed him?”
“No one. I died here by accident.”