This is the first couple chapters with more coming as I have the time.
(This story is most certainly rated R due to descriptive violence, language and horror)
In the distance lit by glistening lightning bolts the ruins of the asylum lay outlined, bright in contrast to the now dead forest surrounding it’s perimeter.
In between the flashes of lightning and peals of thunder billowy wisps of wind blew the first falling flakes of snow about in a swirl of color, caught by the beams my trucks headlights before descending down to the quickly freezing ground.
Despite the growing intensity of the storm I could still make out distant tortured screams of the people lurking with in the walls, the mostly abandoned structure wailing with a life of its own as the wind battered against it.
Up above in the darkness the sky glowed a deep blood red, the clouds, dark patches of smoke against its faintly glowing depth, which faded to a deep violet near the horizon.
"This place reeks of death." I whispered softly, loosening my pistol in its shoulder rig, it’s grip offering me a small amount of comfort.
"Please, cut the melo drama Rachel." Luther ordered, my nose wrinkling at the faint bittersweet odor of a damp graveyard wafting toward me as thunder rumbled in the distance, muffled by the fog that was quickly gathering in the valley below.
"It’s the damn truth Luther." I responded, heading around to the tailgate of the truck and grabbing my duffle bag, the thick canvas slick under the misty slush that drizzled from the sky. "Whatever we find in there, I’m telling you you’re gonna wish we hadn’t."
"Yeah yeah whatever, Luther muttered, "It’s not your old man that got committed there and then turned up on an morgue slab six months later his jaw clenched so tight his teeth were cracked from the pressure, his skin disfigured like-"
"Enough!" I yelled, turning on him and jabbing a finger at his chest. "I don’t know what the hell they did to him before he escaped and died in these woods; but if you think we’re going to find something now it’s officially abandoned and some kind of sanctuary drug pit for burn outs and runaways you’re outta your god damn mind."
He stared at my finger for a long moment, the silence deepening between us while he fumbled for a cigarette and struggled to strike a spark to his Zippo in the dampening air. "Maybe, but I want to know the truth." His words were uttered with a conviction I could feel, reminding me of my own reasons for coming out here.
"Yeah you find the truth behind your old man and I get the scoop on Bridgewater’s history of neglect and abuse of patients." And a front page story that will make that uptight bitch Molly eat her g string. I added silently to myself, checking to make sure my digital camera’s batteries were fully charged.
"I’m tellin ya with how quickly they shut this place down and transferred patients to Clear Water Asylum they were trying to cover something up." He declared, puffing on his cigarette hurriedly, the end glowing a cherry red and reflecting off of his glasses like a distant fire light.
"You about ready?" I asked him, my eyes widening as he reached into the back of the truck and pulled out a 12 gauge shotgun, chambering a round with an almost manic glee.
"What the hell are doing with that thing? We’re here to get a story, not commit a felony!" I yelled, shaking my head and wondering at his sanity, choosing to ignore the weight of my own side arm.
"Relax, it’s only rock salt, in case some of the low life’s in there get a little to friendly." He reassured me, placing several fist fulls of shells in his coat pockets.
"Whatever, let’s just get this over with." I sighed, brushing past him and flicking on the flashlight I had clipped to my trench coat and turning the collar up against the icy drizzle that clawed it’s way down the back of my neck…
The wet forest floor squished underneath my boot heels with a soft sucking sound, the thick carpet of leaves only partially frozen this early in the winter.
"Couldn’t you have parked a little closer?" Luther asked me, shivering against the sudden breeze and staring at the large low slung concrete building crouching in the darkness ahead of us.
"Not unless you want whatever scum’s taken up residence there to strip it clean and leave us to walk the dozen miles back to town." I replied noticing there seemed to be some lights on inside, the pale yellow incandescence filtering through the naked tree branches. "They’ve still got power."
"Probably running a back up generator or something, or the electric co. is late on cutting the power." Luther pondered, as we closed on the asylum, dodging among trees and islands of shrubs, I noticed the grounds were in even worse shape than had been apparent our earlier vantage point.
Vast invasions of morning glory and thistle had laid waste to the rolling lawn. The once graceful madronas had become twisted skeletons, and the towering native pines spires of yellow death, punky with rot.
The breeze moaned forlornly through the lifeless shrubbery and rattled the dead trees as though to mourn their passing. Even the weeds were dead, and not a single bird flitted overhead. Striking evidence of the evil that lurked within I thought ominously to myself as I crouched against the shadowed foundation of the building, feeling the coarse bite of granite through my trench coat.
"Going in through the front door seems ill-advised, it’s probably where the damn bums are waiting anyway." Luther offered as I cast a meaningful glance at the front door. "Let’s try the rear door."
With a nod we cautiously drifted towards the rear of the spacious building, noticing the other doors leading out appeared to be fire safety doors, only operable from the inside.
"Damn," I cursed creeping around the side again, and ducking down in some dead shrubbery, needing a few moments to ponder my next move, Luther fumbling for a smoke beside me.
Under an overhang along the side I noticed a dark square grate, The ventilation! While it wasn’t exactly the best entrance in the world, it would have to do. Gesturing for Luther to wait here I snuck forward and pulled on the rusted metal, the ancient bolts ripping free with a minimal amount of noise revealing a dark and narrow three foot square tunnel.
"Where did you learn how to do that?" Luther asked me, his voice so sudden in my ear I nearly screamed in fright. "I-I used to be a very inquisitive person when I was younger." I stammered to reply, quelling my momentary panic under a thinly veiled anger. "You want to go first you damn chimney?" I growled, ripping the cigarette from his lips and flicking it into a near by slush puddle.
"Ladies first." He said staring longingly at the half spent smoke as it hissed in protest to the frigid water. With a nod I crawled into the vent, hearing his sly remark about a nice view echo past me. "Bastard." I swore under my breath, resisting the urge to accent his leering grin with an imprint of boot.
Within the metal throat of the asylum progress was slow, painful, my legs beginning to cramp, and the thought of becoming stuck within these narrow confines making my heart beat rapidly. As I inched forward I noticed I was crawling over a ceiling ventilation grate, and it was squealing in protest to my weight.
No sooner did I open my mouth to yell a warning to Luther than I felt the grate buckle suddenly, dropping me nearly a dozen feet to collide with the tiled floor with bone jarring force, the sound echoing throughout the bare white hall. If the residents inside didn’t know we were here before, they did now…
Crap Rachel, you alright?" Luther called down worriedly, his light spiking into my eyes and blinding me with its white haze.
"I’m fine, just winded and a little bruised I replied, breathing a sigh of relief as I noticed my camera was undamaged. With a series of grunts and bang Luther managed to maneuver himself around and drop nimbly to his feet next to me doing a slight bow at his alleged expertise. "Rats in air ducts everywhere are jealous I’m sure." I said bitterly, nursing a bruise on my arm just above the elbow.
Smiling at his dour expression I took a moment to take in our surroundings, noticing it was indeed a hallway of some sort, the scuffed tiles worn and cracked in multiple places, the walls a sickly off yellow color that reminded me of dried bile.
Suppressing my nausea I moved silently along the hallway, pausing when I came to what was left of a cell door. The metal slab was shredded like a piece of cardboard, with what seemed to be bits of flesh hanging in the tear marks.
Luther locked his gaze with mine for a long moment, staring meaningfully at the cell door. "Maybe a fire axe, or a saw blade?" He offered doubtfully, shielding his eyes from my camera’s flash as I snapped off three perfect shots of the door.
Cautiously I poked my head inside the cell, braced against what I might find, relieved to see only a rusted metal bed frame and shredded mattress within, leather restraints laying busted to either side of it, a dark urine stain covering the far wall in the leering parody of a smiley face that looked somehow horrific and twisted.
A sudden hollow boom in the distance behind me made my muscles tense and I reflexively drew my pistol, whirling around and nearly striking Luther a blow to his temple, the metal sight of my gun cutting a sharp gash across his forehead instead, a bright rivulet of crimson gushing forth to cover his glasses and make him drop the shotgun with a cry of pain.
"You bitch!" He screamed, yanking off the lenses and curling one hand into a tight fist, pausing as he saw the barrel of my pistol level with his face. With an apologetic look I began to back away into the room slowly lowering the pistol.
"Luther I’m so sorry! I’m just a little high strung-" I began, before the heel of my boot caught against a hard chunk of metal and sent me crashing backwards, my finger squeezing involuntarily on the trigger, the explosion of the .40 caliber pistol deafening in the confined space, Luther’s yell of torment even louder as I banged my head painfully against hard metal behind me, the world dimming to a haze of agony.
Placing the pistol on the ground I shook my head for several moments trying to clear the tendrils of mist from my mind, relived by the steady flow of cursing erupting from Luther that he wasn’t in serious danger of dying just yet.
"You fucking shot me! I can’t believe it! You fucking shot me you bitch!" He repeated as I struggled to me feet and returned my handgun to it’s holster, looking up to see him clutching at a bloody furrow along the side of his leg where my bullet had grazed him.
"It was an accident, I tripped." I offered apologetically reaching into one of my inner pocket and removing a maxi pad to press against the wound on his forehead. "Here use firm pressure, head wounds bleed severely because of all the blood vessels so close to the surface." I said soothingly, being careful not to step on his glasses where they’d landed near my feet.
Luther only nodded painfully and slumped to the ground, his back against the ichor yellow wall. "What is this?" he questioned, reaching up to grasp the maxi pad pressed against his forehead as I applied another one to his leg wound. "A freaking maxi pad?" he asked incredulously, his eyes widening.
"What of it? A girl needs to be prepared." I said softly, a wave of guilt washing over me and mixing with my new found migraine to make me doubly miserable. "Here take these," I offered passing him his glasses after wiping off as much of the blood as I could with the corner of my blouse. In the distance the hollow booming sounded again, this time closer and more insistent.
"Can you stand?" I asked him urgently, a jolt of adrenaline dimming the pounding of my head some.
"I-I think so." He said weakly, standing shakily and leaning on the shotgun for support. "I don’t know what’s more dangerous, you or this place." He quipped, chuckling painfully at the lame joke.
"Depends on if I’ve got pms." I answered with a soft laugh, the tension easing from my muscles ever so little. "Come on there’s bound to be a nurse’s station around here somewhere." I whispered, the hairs on the back of my neck prickling, the urine smiley face on the wall seeming to move out of the corner of my eye.
At a slower more pained pace we advanced along the corridor, coming to the orderlies desk at the intersection, a solid wooden door closed securely behind it, a bright red fire axe embedded in the center of it’s worn oaken surface.
"Maybe in there?" Luther suggested, peeling away the pad from his for head and wincing as he probed the wound with his fingers. "It stings like a son of a bitch."
I nodded to him grim faced, unsure of what to say and afraid any attempt at further apology would only make things worse. Stepping over to the door I turned the handle hard to the right, surprised when it spun freely in my grasp on well oiled hinges.
With a nod to my injured colleague I pried the axe free from the door and laid it upon the counter with a dull thud, before nudging the door open with the toe of my boot.
Inside the room was dim, thanks to the flickering of the one florescent light still mounted to the ceiling, the rest having been ripped out and strewn over the floor. I blinked several times at the wildly flickering light when the stench hit me , all of a sudden like a fist in the middle of my forehead. It was a thick, almost touchable smell. That of rotting flesh, decaying corpses, the reek of hell itself.
Drawing my pistol once more I cautiously stepped inside feeling my foot fall upon something that seemed fleshy and soft, yet somehow brittle. Hesitantly I Lowered my gaze to see I’d crushed the skull of a rabbit, or what looked like one anyway.
It’s was hard to discern the actual shape, for much of its flesh was gone, its white hide splayed open, ripped to shreds. "Ugh!" I gasped swallowing a clot of spit and kicked the lifeless animal aside, Luther speaking up next to me, "I hope you’ve found the source of that reek, though I doubt it."
I gestured him to silence with the wave of my hand, spotting movement. to my right, barely a ripple in the blackness at the fringe of my light. Quickly I swept the circle of illumination across the far wall and recoiled at what I saw.
A small dark dog like animal, leaning against the musty wall, lacking its eyes and much of its snout. For that matter, a good share of its body. The hide had apparently been ripped backward from its neck, or so suggested the rag like train of bloody fur that hung from its hind quarter onto the floor. Gaping holes stared from the muscle tissue of its shoulders and torso, through which hang tatters of arteries and veins. Incredibly, it was still alive and whined piteously as my light flashed across it..
Quickly I slammed the door shut and proceeded to retch across the floor, the hot taste of vomit bitter in my mouth and burning my nostrils, Luther only grimacing in disgust and turning his head away before speaking. His words making me momentarily freeze in fear. "Hey where the hell did that fire axe disappear to?"
Wiping at my lips with the back of my hand I spun around and swayed dizzily, bracing myself against the aged computer chair behind the desk, it wheels squeaking in protest as it slid from under my grasp, the sudden shift in wait sending me staggering drunkenly sideways into Luther’s arms the musky scent of his leather jacket a welcome relief from the miasma that still clung to my body.
"You gonna be okay?" He asked me softly, pushing me back to arms length and staring into my eyes, his weapon propped against the wall to the side of him.
"I-I’ll be okay." I stammered, looking over at the empty section of counter where I’d laid the fire axe minutes ago. "I left the axe right there." I whispered, gesturing to the vacant area.
"Well it’s not there now." He stated matter of factly, his declaration of the obvious irking my temper as I glared at him and shook my tangled blonde hair from my face.
"Damn it Luther I can see that! Why-" My angered retort was cut short as the shadows cast along the wall by my flashlight seemed to twist and move of their own volition churning in the wake of my beam to caress the shotgun ever so gently. I paused and stared transfixed as it slid from a stable position leaning against the wall in slow motion outwards where it clattered to the floor with uncanny speed, the sound echoing and reechoing in the near vacant corridor.
Tensing at the unexpected sound Luther whirled about, snatching up the fallen rifle with a near panicked urgency before laughing nervously. "Heh, that scared the Crap out of me."
Quietly wondering if it was my imagination that made the shadows seem to spring to life I only nodded and offered a weak, "Me too." As I backed up a few hesitant steps, my misgivings about this expedition deepening.
"Luther maybe be we should re think this, I’m not so sure we can handle what is lurking here." I said, the sinister booming resounding in the distance again closer than ever as if to punctuate my statement.
"What? I thought you were dying to get the story of your career!" He snapped back incredulously, shining his light further down the hall way where it was swallowed by the shroud of darkness.
"Dying is exactly what I’m worried about., this place feels tainted, like it’s rotting from within." My words seemed swallowed up by the damp clammy air, a quick search around the orderlies station revealing no hint of the missing axe.
"Fine, leave if you want to, but there’s no way I’m letting a few deranged sociopaths keep me from getting to the bottom of my fathers murder." He said contemptuously.
I sighed, half tempted to ask him for one of his cigarettes to ease my nerves, but knew I’d never hear the end of it. "Have it your way, we’ll poke around some more and see if we can find any actual evidence and some bandages for your wounds."
As if reading my mind Luther slung the Remington and quickly lit another of his nauseating cancer sticks, ignoring my frown of disapproval. "I think they keep the records in the basement in places like this." He offered hurriedly, glancing over his shoulder as the booming in the distance was replaced by a sound even more ominous, that of floor tiles cracking beneath some terrible, tremendous weight.
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