I stumble upon an abandoned psychiatric hospital where it appears something sinister caused its closing.
“Know Thyself”, read the wooden sign above the glass partition that separated the reception area from the lobby. A section of the glass had spiderwebbed in a round shape the size of a person’s head where something was thrown against it. A small rust colored stain had dried in the middle of it. Embedded in the glass were metal grates that allowed guests and workers to communicate, and I would have used one of them if there was someone to talk to. The desk behind the partition was unoccupied. On the wall hung an analog clock with the hands stopped at 9:43.
Chairs and wooden benches were tossed around the room. By the appearance of the room and the thick coat of dust on the furniture, the disorder happened a while ago and I had nothing to worry about. Except for creatures. Being alone in an abandoned building, even during the day, stirred unease in me.
The reception area was a round room set in the center of the lobby. On either side of this room were two doors with signs above them, but neither of them gave me a proverbial verse or an omen. These signs simply read, MALE and FEMALE. I walked around the to the back of the reception office to a third metal door with a sign on it that read STAFF. I stood for a moment trying to decide which side I should go, like the man in The Lady Or The Tiger?. For some unknown reason I chose to venture to the male side of the building, maybe a subliminal sense that I somehow connected with being a male myself. Sorry lady, maybe some other time you will get lucky. My footsteps clacked on the linoleum floor which was surprisingly still in good condition besides some staining and scuff marks. I walked by drab green walls that resembled a decomposed corpse with blistered and peeled skin. Mold spores flourished in various places.
I pulled the scarred and rusted metal door toward me. It let out a harsh squeak that echoed. I cringed. The hall was so dim that I had to use my flashlight and the only other source of light streamed in from the open doors that flanked both sides of the hallway. Some were closed but in no particular sequence. As I approached the doors, I noticed they had a wire mesh embedded in a thick glass plate that allowed the staff to keep an eye on their patients without being attacked by them.
The hallway faded into an eternal dark void as my flashlight couldn’t reach the end of it. 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 ran the length of the hall along the ceiling.
Footsteps followed me and I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to be ambushed by a creature with blood dripping from its foot-long fangs and talons reaching out to pull me into its mouth. But I remained alone. The delayed patter of footsteps were mocking my own. I kept reminding myself that there was nothing to be afraid of. There was no one else here. So far.
I didn’t bother opening any doors for fear of the creature jumping out at me. Instead I glanced inside the open rooms, which were bedrooms with strewn furniture and ghostly hazed windows. Each one appeared the same except the furniture was arranged in a different manner. A bed flipped over here, a dresser smashed there. Blood spattered the walls and some rooms had dried pools of it on the floor. What caused this massacre?
Fear, despair and pain seeped into my pores as I imagined a psychotic patient going out of control and slashing everyone to death. My heart felt heavy and my legs weak. Though I am in decent shape and have only been here for a few minutes, I felt exhausted. My lungs hurt. It was amazing the affect this place had on me. I wanted to leave.
I heard a tap and froze. My heart pulsed faster. I wasn’t alone. Probably just rats.
The sound came from inside a room ahead on the right. The door to this room was open while the others near me were closed. I listened closely to the faint sounds and tried to decipher its source. Tap, tap. Then I heard someone talking. I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t tell what they were saying as the voice sounded muffled.
Hugging the wall, I dared to take a step. Then another. So light that they didn’t betray me this time by making any sounds. At a turtle’s pace I advanced to five feet away from the open door and I could make out a boy’s voice saying a prayer. Great, this was just what I needed. A cult occupying an abandoned hospital.
“Amen,” he said.
I didn’t move or breathe, thinking about how to approach him.
“You made it.”
A boy of about ten eleven years old jumped out of the room and slid across the floor. “Heeere’s Johnny!” His black hair was clean cut, laid perfectly in place, and his blue eyes were gentle. He wore a dark red velvet robe lined in white fur over a black shirt and pants. His hand carried a scepter. The only thing he lacked in his king costume was a crown. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be freaked out. I was speechless.
His smile dropped. “What’s wrong? Did I come on too strong?”
“Well, I’m glad you finally made it. I’ve been waiting for you.” He twirled a full three-hundred and sixty degrees with his arms outstretched. I expected dust to fly out of his fingertips and transform this hellhole into a magical forest of fairies, unicorns and dragons. I was glad he didn’t.
“Welcome to Sunniland Psychiatric Hospital” he proclaimed, arms above his head. “This is a place where your dreams really do come true. Where you are fed candy throughout the day like a grandmother spoils her grandchild. A place where you can dream all day long or play outside. No working allowed here. A place where you are loved and not just another kid that everyone is tired of having around. Here the water fountains flow with chocolate from Willy Wonka’s factory, Mickey Mouse visits weekly to take a busload of kids to Disney World. You can have all the alone time you want here. This is a place where your fears disappear.” 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, but didn’t let him notice. “Where are your parents?”
“What? Here I am at your service,” he bowed, “to give you a tour of the place, and you mock me with that question?”
“I’m sorry. I just-”
“They’re around somewhere, who knows, who cares. Ladies and gentlemen, let the tour begin!"