1799 – Same Location, Long Before the Old Hospital
A twisted thing sat on a throne, deep below the ground. The cave was massive and full of darkness. The twisted thing was gigantic, at least fourteen feet tall, perhaps more. Huge chains bound its hands and feet to the floor. For eons, the thing had been chained to its throne, festering, a hatred growing inside of it, waiting to be set free.
When the Cherub appeared before the thing, it was blinded. The sound of the slack in the chains popped as the thing tried to cover its eyes. Since it was unable, it tried to look away, but the fiery angel’s presence filled the cave; every corner, every nook, nowhere could anything hide.
“Why are you here,” the thing howled at the angel.
“You are about to die. You were appointed no more than 500 years.”
The thing again took up the slack in its chains. “This, this is not life!”
“You will soon lack form. The chains will have no more effect on you, and so you will be bound to this place.”
“That isn’t fair. That isn’t fair. I thought you were here to release me.”
“You are granted a radius of fifteen cubits from your throne. To this space you will be confined, and to this space alone.”
“I do not wish to be without form. I demand form. I did not ask to be brought into this world. Why must I be punished?”
“You are nephal; that choice was never yours. And yet your bloodlust placed these chains on you, bound you to this throne. How many times were you warned?”
The thing on the throne merely growled and pulled against its chains.
“What if,” the thing asked, “what if I find a form to inhabit? Am I permitted at least this small thing of which I ask?”
The Cherub’s eyes blazed like white fire. “The Law is as it has always been. The permission is dependent upon His permission, as well as the condition and acceptance of the host. Take this course, however, and your sentence extends to eternity.”
The light was gone from the thing’s dominion. It coughed. The moment it slumped forward, dead, its body turned to dust and a dark spirit walked its territory, again and again, looking for a body to consume.
Present Time – The Hospital
The darkness swirling in the corner had no form, but it had a shape. And its shaped was that of a gigantic, humanoid form, forced to bend over because it was taller than the room. He watched as the shadow spread across the ceiling toward him, stretching its form, until it was directly above him.
He began backing up, but something held him in place. Louis felt his feet pulled out from under him. He landed hard on his back, the little flashlight flew from his hand, rolling away. Louis felt, despite that he couldn’t see, the shadow descending toward him.
It was like air trying to push into his nose, mouth, even his ears. He pushed his eyelids tightly shut, terrified that he might see into Hell itself. Where he lay on the floor, squirming, the room was cold as ice, the thing pulling all the energy from around itself as it tried to get inside Louis.
Louis wasn’t certain what had a hold to him. His mind whirled. A demon? His mind knew that it didn’t matter what he believed at that moment. The simple fact was that the thing wanted inside him, and he damn well did not want the thing to get its wish. Louis held his breath and held his mind together, best he could. The thing could get in his head somehow, show him images. The things it showed him were beyond any violent film he’d seen, beyond his own imagination.
He swung with his fists and hit nothing. Though he could swing his arms, the thing held him to the floor. Louis tried to slide toward his flashlight but could not budge, no matter how much effort he exerted.
The thing was in full rage, Louis could feel it. He held his breath, refusing to let it in. He screamed the word, ‘NO!’ inside his mind, over and again, trying to drown out the horrible sounds being shoved into his mind without his permission.
The older man was beating and kicking on the door. Louis heard it faintly at first, then it got louder in his mind. He had reached a point of panic, needing to breathe, trying to trick his mind into defying the red-line need to inhale so that he could actually survive.
Louis heard the door crack, and then one final kick sent it slamming against the wall of the office. In an instant, the thing was gone, like a gust of wind. He opened his mouth and breathed in air until it hurt. And then he wailed out a scream that scared both himself and the older man.
Louis lay on the floor, trying to calm himself, when the older man nearly blinded him with a flashlight.
“You still yourself,” the man asked Louis.
“The hell was that?” Louis blurted.
“That’s the thing you woke up.”
Louis continued trying to catch his breath. For a few moments, neither man said anything.
‘Is it gone?”
“Hardly likely, because you pissed it off, royal.” The older man held out his hand. “Come on,” he said, “let’s get out of here now.”
Louis took the man’s hand and stood, taking a moment to right himself. His mind was mercifully blocking out what had just occurred. He took a step toward the door.
“This way,” the man said, going to the door leading outside.
“Not that way,” Louis said. “There’s no way out and there are things like giant wasps, bigger than crows.”
“I know about those things. But there is a way out. Just gotta know where to look.”
Louis looked at the man. “Let me guess, you worked here? Janitor or something?”
The man whirled on Louis. “Doctor, thank you much, son. I’m Coleman Wright. Cole.” He stuck out his hand and Louis shook it.
The man pulled back the bolts on the latches locking the door and put his hand on the knob. “I don’t wanna hold your hand, but stay real close. Try not to make any noise at all, and no lights. Like any bug, light gets their attention.”
Louis nodded his head and Cole opened the door.
The first thing he felt was panic. Louis tried to drive it out of his head by focusing on matching his pace to Cole’s. It was awkward following so closely, so he had to concentrate to do this. The panic in his brain became tolerable.
More than once, he heard the loud buzz of one of the wasps pass by. He could feel the breeze of wings. His mind tried to push through the thought of being stung by one of them, how much it would likely hurt before he managed to die. Louis shoved the thought aside, again and again, wondering where they were going, and how long it would be before they reached it.
Cole stopped. Louis backed away, seeing in the moonlight that they were in the middle of a garden of sorts.
“Help me move this bench,” Cole whispered. “Lift, don’t drag. It’s heavy.”
Louis almost grunted as he tried to pick up his side of the bench, but stopped short, imagining the wasps. The damned thing seemed to weigh 200 pounds. He finally got his side lifted and heard Cole whisper to move toward him. Louis took very short, careful steps, matching Cole while trying to keep his screaming fingers from letting go.
“Ok,” Cole whispered, “good enough.”
The two men put the bench down slowly.
Cole took out a pocket knife, knelt down, and stuck it between two of the concrete pavers that gave the bench a solid base. He lifted the paver. Beneath it was a lever, which he turned. He looked up at Louis.
“Unfortunately, this is where it gets tricky. This thing ain’t quiet, so get ready. We’re gonna need to move fast.”
Louis felt his gut sink. Cole pulled on the handle and there was a loud, grinding sound as a two foot by three foot door opened into a hole with a ladder attached to the side. The two men heard them at the same time, the wasps.
Cole dropped into the hole and took a few steps down the ladder.
“NOW!” he yelled. “Drop that door the second you can!”
Louis had to force himself to move. The buzzing was everywhere around him. He finally moved, dropping into the hole, bouncing down several rungs, and yanking the door shut above them. For several moments, he held onto the lever, breathing heavily, trying to calm down. The sound was swallowed by the hole.
“Come on,” Cole said.
Louis followed him down the ladder.
After a time that seemed to go on forever, Louis felt the ladder vibrate as Cole dropped off. He heard the man’s feet hit the ground. Then light flooded up below him.
“Ain’t too far of a drop,” Cole said. Louis jumped from the ladder, the solid ground and quiet a comfort to him, though small.
“Where are we?”
Cole chuckled, shining the light in Louis’s face for a brief second. “You’ve never seen this movie before, son? This was a mental hospital. It ran back during a time when things weren’t quiet as visible as they are now; no internet, no CNN. Things happened.”
Cole started walking while he talked. Louis followed.
They were in a narrow but tall cave tunnel. As Cole shined the flashlight around, Louis saw that high above, attached to the cave ceiling, was old electrical conduit and light fixtures with the bulbs enclosed within wire. The hard floor had been tamped down by many feet before theirs.
“We were mostly ignored, because that’s how we wanted it. So there had to be a way we could escape safely if some kind of riot ever went down.”
“That bad, huh,” Louis asked.
“Rapists, murderers, psychopaths; we had more than once person deemed possessed. Mental mortification, so on and so forth.”
Louis laughed. “‘Mental mortification,” he said, “the hell is that?”
“It’s nothing,” Cole said. “We found that out later, along with several other thousand theories we had about the human mind.”
For a while afterward, the two men walked in silence, Cole’s flashlight flitting and moving around the cave, always alert, always looking.
After many yards, they arrived at a metal door. It had a double-levered locking mechanism. Cole handed Louis the flashlight, turned, and grabbed both levers, turning to the right. There was a loud clanking sound, and then the loud whine of metal grinding against metal. Louis thought that if there was anything down there with them, it knew where they were now.
“This was the place where we put the worst. The ones we couldn’t control with medicine or even electroshock. Probably stinks down here, so brace up.”
“Ok, pop,” Louis said, covering his quivering fear. He handed Cole the flashlight, and finally thought to take out his own, which he clicked on.
It was a large room with a shoddy concrete floor. The walls were the exposed cave wall. They were not padded. Chains with shackles hung from the walls. Tin trays were scattered around the room. There were black stains in places all over the walls. Louis didn’t need to think too hard to know what those stains were. In one corner was some sort of rusty, old cart. Likely full of horrible tools of the trade that he had no interest in looking at any closer.
Then, Louis froze.
“Hey, Cole,” he said.
“What do you mean ‘who’? No one’s been here for 30 years.”
By now, the flashlight in Louis’ hand began to shake. “Why’d you have to say that? Why?”
The thing in the beam of Cole’s light was not shackled. It merely stood against the wall, its malformed head slumped forward. And then, without warning, it twisted its head, making a popping sound like bone breaking that echoed around the room. It looked like a man whose body had been pulled and twisted, made unaturally taller, rendering it completely inhuman. It’s face looked as though someone had melted it, then twisted it around the skull.
He heard Cole. “Oh, hell.” Louis watched as Cole’s flashlight beam trained onto another creature like the one in Louis’ beam. Then another. Then another.
“When I run, you run.”
“You thought you needed to tell me that, Cole?”
Cole ran and Louis followed him. There began a chorus of muffled howls and screams, bones popping and cracking, and then naked feet slapping the shoddy floor, seeming to gain on them. Then Cole yelled out and Louis saw his light bounce on the floor. He shined his beam in Cole’s direction. One of the things had him. Cole fought back fiercely, but the thing was too big, too strong, and too mad.
Louis dropped down and picked up Cole’s light. He clicked off his big, four battery light, flipped it around, and dropped the end of it as hard as he could, right on the twisted thing’s collar bone. It let loose a muffled, gurgling howl and let Cole go.
The old man whirled on the thing, brought his boot down on every single one of its toes, and Louis cracked it on the back of its twisted skull. It dropped to the floor, flopping around. Cole took off again and Louis followed.
They reached the same sort of door that had led them into the room. Since Louis still had Cole’s flashlight, the man ran right up to the door, grabbed the two levers, and slammed them to the right. He yanked the door open, stepped through, and Louis ran through right behind him.
Cole slammed the door shut, threw the levers left, and the two men backed away from the door. The things inside pounded on the door, again and again, for what seemed like half an hour. Then the noise finally subsided.
“Shit,” Cole said, through labored breaths. Louis agreed.
“I don’t even think I want to know what sort of place we might be in right now, though.”
“You really don’t,” Cole replied.
They were in a morgue. One that had a human-sized oven in it. Louis just chuckled. He figured that was better than sobbing convulsively.
Cole looked at Louis. “Look, if there are any locals in here, son, let’s try not to disturb them.”
“Fine by me,” Louis said.
He followed Cole.
They walked through the old morgue, small doors lined the walls, very old, rusted gurneys were all around, scattered haphazardly. Louis forced himself to ignore the sound when he thought he heard one of them move, if only slightly. Instead, he stayed close to Cole, praying to God, if such a Being would listen to him, that it all might end sometime soon.
Cole stopped and Louis felt his hopes dashed.
“Holy hell,” Cole whispered. Louis stepped from behind Cole and shone his own light forward.
The morgue’s ceiling was quite high. And for the next two hundred feet from the door up ahead, a massive spider’s web covered from the floor, fanning inward in a concave shape, to the ceiling above. Louis had never seen webbing that thick. It looked like fishing line.
“No way back,” Louis said, “we got no choice.”
Cole nodded his head and the two men took a step forward. Then another. Louis felt his heart beating, like it wanted to get out of his chest and run away, since he clearly wasn’t going to. Both men knew better than to shine the light toward the ceiling again. Louis tried to push the thought of what sort of spider could have such webbing. It wasn’t possible, he knew. Still, he’d almost been possessed by something already, so the impossible had already been eliminated as suspect.
In front of him, Cole kept walking forward toward the door, keeping his own light focused on the door, then the floor. He was shaky, and Louis realized he was, too. Trying to keep himself from running was almost impossible. But though Cole had said nothing, Louis understood the point: there could be a trap waiting anywhere. A web so large needed some way to communicate trapping prey to the owner.
When Louis heard the faint snap on the air, and Cole stopped in his tracks, he knew what had happened.
The trap had been sprung.
The first one landed on Cole’s back. The spider’s abdomen was big as a light bulb. The spider was bright red with black stripes in a pattern, criss-crossing its body. It darted toward Cole’s neck, and Louis slapped it away with a yelp. The next one landed on Louis, then they were falling like rain.
“RUN,” Cole yelled.
Louis ran, both of them swiping away constantly, trying to keep the damnable things from getting a foothold on their clothes. When they reached the door, Louis tried to swipe them from both himself and Cole, as the man slammed the levers right and yanked the door open. They stepped into a hallway of some sort and Cole again slammed the door.
Cole screamed as one of the spiders that had gotten onto him bit right into his arm. Cole swiped it away, kicked it, then dug out his knife and stuck it into the red spider. It’s legs instantly drew inward, and Cole removed his knife, and wiped it on his pants. Cole thought he saw the blood burning into the material, but realized that it was just hotter than the air around it, and steamed.
Cole took his knife and cut into his arm, right where the spider had bitten him. The old man screamed, then put his mouth on the wound, trying frantically to get at the poison, at that moment trying to course up his arm. Louis ripped a piece of his shirt and tied it as fast as he could, right at the elbow, to slow the poison.
Louis watched as Cole’s face turned white. The old man was sick several times. Then he passed out cold. He tried to keep himself from panicking. Louis checked Cole’s pulse. He was very much alive, and was likely in mild shock.
He picked Cole up and moved them away from the door. He stood for a moment and looked around. A few feet ahead, there was a door on the left. Louis walked to the door with Cole, bent down slightly, and twisted the knob with his right hand, under Cole’s knees. The door opened. Inside was a short sofa. Thank God, Louis thought, a break in this madness.
Louis took Cole inside the room and laid him on the sofa, his head on the cushions, his legs propped up on the arm on the opposite end. Making certain to turn Cole’s head in case he were to be sick while out, Louis stood. He turned and shut the door, locked the very familiar latch bolts, and looked around the room. There was a desk and several filing cabinets, and a small locker. Louis walked to the locker and opened it, hoping for a blanket.
A few things. A dusty coat, full of moth holes. A broom. A bucket. He didn’t see a blanket. But then he saw a survival kit, in a old, musty case. He opened it. Maybe no one had been in the other room for thirty years, but someone had been in that room in recent years. The kit was no more than fifteen years old, and had two Mylar thermal blankets inside. Louis took one, unfoled it, and wrapped Cole within it.
Louis pulled the old, rickety chair from behind the desk. He pulled it close to Cole and tested it by transferring his weight to it very slowly. The chair held him. Louis checked Cole’s pulse again, and, finding it strong, leaned back into his chair.
He wondered what in God’s name might happen next.