The group walked into the second story hallway and stopped at the broken window. Wooden planks covered parts of it, trapping them inside. Through the gaps of the wood and smears of blood on the broken glass they could see the van in the distance. If they could get back to the van, they could get out of this nightmare asylum. What a fucking joke this assignment was for a group of journalists and detectives.
‘It’s only the second floor, we could just jump and hope for the best,’ Kenneth said.
‘That’s a terrible idea. We don’t know what’s down there. We could jump and end up impaling ourselves on debris or something. If we want to see what’s down there, we need to get a better look,’ Rowan countered.
‘Kid has a point. Let’s see what we have to deal with,’ Vincent said.
He pulled his jacket over his fist and punched the window as hard as he could. Fragments of glass shattered and rained down outside. He poked his head through the gap and peered into the darkness. Rowan illuminated the area with his flashlight as best he could over Vincent’s shoulder. Below them were hedges and a small garden overgrown with weeds. It would be a terrifying experience to jump out the window, but it was better than dealing with whatever they were hearing moving in the shadows. Whatever grabbed at Carolina’s hair and yanked her off the stairs. Whatever tripped Rowan and broke his camera. Whatever Vincent and the missing cop shot at with their handguns.
Creak, creak, creak.
Vincent and Kenneth latched onto the window sill as the floorboards gave way. Rowan, Emil, and Dexter were able to jump to the other side of the room where the floor was stable. Carolina, however, didn’t have time to react; the floor gave way under her feet, causing her to fall into the darkness below. She rubbed her head as she slowly regained consciousness. Her head was pounding and saturated. She reached for her bag but felt nothing. Darkness closed in around her, the only light coming from the hole in the floor above.
‘Carolina! Are you okay?’ Rowan screamed down at her.
“I think so. I don’t know if I can get out,” she said.
She pushed aside fragments of wood and peered into the light at the boys. Emil frantically paced, then screamed incoherently in Russian as he bolted down the stairs. Rowan and Dexter chased after Emil running down the stairs, their footsteps disappearing behind the noise of the water pipes gushing from above. Carolina waited for a moment, listening to the noise around her. Water and creaks and drips. Through the hole, she saw the light bulb hanging from the ceiling by wires. The wires snapped, sending the lightbulb – and her only source of light – crashing into the floor above.
Carolina panicked, thrashing around in the water and fumbling for the floor or the wall or whatever she could touch. She found the wall and pressed herself against it. She moved slowly, kicking water as she tripped over submerged wood and chunks of ceiling. After tripping for the fifth time, she pulled herself from the water and stood in silence, catching her breath. There were no drips, no water running, just silence. She stepped to the side, reaching out to the wall again. Behind her, she heard something move. She stopped, holding her breath as she waited for whatever it was to move again. For a long time, there was nothing.
Is one of the patients down here?
She froze, remembering the being that reached out to her on the second floor. A monstrous version of a human, looking for anything to kill. She scared them off with her flashlight and camera flashes before, but now she was in the darkness. Their territory. She found the wall and moved along as quickly as she could. Her motions were echoed behind her, drawing closer with every step. She took a deep breath and steadied herself, knowing that if she didn’t make a run for it, she would be done for. As she was about to bolt, something grabbed her arm and dragged her back. She screamed, swinging her arm over her head and connecting with whatever it was. The hideous screech of the patient echoed through the hallway. She bolted forward, stumbling and tripping over the debris in the water, shallow breaths burning in her chest.
She slammed into a wall and followed it to the right. She waited, crouching low, feeling in the water. She felt a plank of wood and picked it up in her hands. The patient followed, footsteps drawing closer. When it was close enough, she threw the wood as far as she could down the hallway in front of her. The patient went running, watery footsteps disappearing after a short time. She remained still, listening and waiting to see if any other patients came after her. In the distance of the hall, she could make out a flickering light. She cautiously approached, keeping to the darkness for as long as she could. As she drew closer, she could make out Emil’s Russian rantings. She didn’t want to call out to him, it might not be him. She remembered how one of the patients mimicked the missing cop’s voice after he disappeared on the first floor. The flashlight landed on her and she raised her hand in front of her face.
‘Carolina! We found you!’ Emil shouted.
‘Emil? Is that really you?’ she asked.
She didn’t move from her spot; she wasn’t sure if she should. He came running closer to her, chattering away to himself. He reached out to her, handing her the belongings she dropped before. Her camera and flashlight were untouched. She clutched her things to her chest. Emil led her out, into the light of the stairwell. The steps, even here, were covered in water pouring out of the pipes. At some point, the water would stop running, but when that would happen was a mystery. All Carolina knew was that she was safe with at least one of her friends, with no patients running after her.
For now, at least.
Taralyn is a third-year creative writing student who focuses on the fiction genre. Fantasy, adventure, and science-fiction are her main pieces of writing, but she has been known to write horror, western, and surrealist fiction. She has read for the Vena Cava Literary salon in her first year with a creative nonfiction piece on depression, “Darkness of the Mind”.