There was something in the air. It felt thick and windy. Amara's chest tightened and she coughed as she tried to breathe.
Rayan held her hands and looked into her eyes, worried.
"It's okay," he said, "I feel it too."
He quickly glanced round the visiting room. No one was paying much attention to them.
His eyes returned to Amara's pale and drawn face. She'd lost a lot of weight being in here. She wasn't allowed to work out like she used to and she wasn't eating properly.
Mental hospitals just seem to send people more crazy. They don't fix anything. People just pretend everything's better so they can get the hell out thought Rayan, his lips pressed tightly together. For the past few weeks since Amara had been admitted to the mental health unit he'd been racking his brains for a way of getting her out. So far he'd come up with nothing. Sure, he could help her escape but there were definitely laws against such things and he didn't fancy being on the run. Running from the Shadow Man was enough.
Don't kid yourself, you can't run from him. You're in his grasp. You're always in his grasp. He's just toying with you, messing with your mind like a child messes with his food, pushing you around the plate. But he will eat you. After you've been compacted into a mushy, unrecognisable form. He'll have you.
Rayan blinked once forcefully. It helped him clear his head. He'd been doing it a lot recently.
"He's coming," said Amara quietly, but she couldn't hide the hysteria from her voice, "Oh God what do we do?"
"Relax," said Rayan, trying to calm her by massaging his hands. It didn't help that his own were shaking.
The lights flickered twice. Then they went off.
Except, they didn't. Because no one around them seemed to react. It was like they were enveloped in a cocoon of blackness that was totally undetectable to anyone else.
"Come on then," muttered Rayan, feigning apathy but not convincingly.
Amara started moving jerkily, like she was having a fit. Rayan didn't know what else to do so he bear hugged her, holding her down with his weight.
"They won't remember," a voice said; if it could be described as a voice. It ripped through them like deep thunder and shocked them like lightning. The call of the Shadow Man, no doubt.
"What are you doing?!" exclaimed Amara, "Can't you see?!"
Rayan kept swivelling his head around the room in a desperate attempt to spot the Shadow Man but he didn't seem to be anywhere.
"They won't remember you. Go. You wanted to escape didn't you?"
"Wha..." Rayan trailed off. He heard several clicks and realised all the doors leading out of the secure unit were now open, however there was no reaction from the staff or the other patients. In fact, they hadn't moved much at all since the Shadow Man had started talking.
He stood up. The shadowy cloud that surrounded them dispersed but did not completely disappear. They saw that everyone in the room had stopped moving, like they were frozen in time. Some were paused mid-sentence, their mouths hanging open like they were in shock. Others were holding impossible positions as they had chosen that precise moment to get up, or adjust the way they were sitting. One or two had been caught in embarrassing acts - Rayan saw one patient with his finger up his nose and a nurse scratching herself in a personal area.
He was still holding Amara's hands like a parent held onto their child when crossing the road. He led her wordlessly around the patients, weaving in and out, over and under, being reminded of the obstacle courses he used to complete when he was in the army.
The army... he thought haven't thought of that in a long time.
He pushed through the three doors that stood between them and freedom. They opened with a complete lack of resistance and made absolutely no sound, even though Rayan knew they usually would've done. The second door in particular was ancient and squeaky, but here it glided in its hinges without a fuss. He didn't let the illogic trouble him too much however, there were bigger things afoot.
The last door was ahead of him now. It was a large arched door, ill-suited to a hospital. This building was very old; the oldest one in the hospital. In the reception room antique wood-panelled walls and oak floorboards gave the place the look of a medieval church. Rayan considered that wooden pews would look more suited to the room than the plastic blue chairs that were lined up along the east wall.
He pushed the door open, filled with apprehension, sure that the Shadow Man would be waiting for them outside. Amara shrank behind him as the door fell open silently, a scream preparing itself in her throat. Rayan bit down on his lips in an attempt to stop himself from crying out when-
The shock seemed to suck all the air out of the both of them.