Jake awoke in his bed, but there was little light and he looked toward the curtains; they were in tatters. He sat bolt upright and scoured the room. It was all broken, covered with dust and cobwebs, and the bed beneath him was an old gurney, the metal rusted and the mattress filthy. He rose to his feet, feeling a little light-headed but stable. Walking to the door he peered out and saw a man in blue patient garb, wandering. He was very old and hunched over.
“What happened?” he asked, and the old man turned to face him.
It was Doctor Standish, but so lined and aged. “Doctor?” he slurred, bewildered.
The man laughed ominously, as if the joke was a good one. He then coughed and wandered off down the hall. Jake followed him out onto the floor and stopped at the banister, looking down into the stairwell and bottom floor. Everything was old and broken and dust and cobwebs covered the institution like a blanket of grey.
He then saw them all, patients in blue dotted the floors, the stairs, everywhere, their blank dark expressions and faces so pallid and gaunt. There must have been hundreds of them, all motionless and staring at him. He noticed they were all hairless, each with a bandage on their heads, and he quickly checked himself. There, sure enough, a gauze bandage on the crown of his smooth hairless skull. Like a cold shiver, the truth swept his being.
In the dim light of the stairwell the patients began to walk upward toward him, slowly, effortlessly, their pale faces vacant. And as they gathered, Jake felt his heart stop, their yearning hands outstretched, wanting him, for some ungodly reason. He panicked but couldn’t move a muscle, as heir hands touched him, their bony white lifeless hands consuming his every thought. He screamed in terror, feeling fear rush through his every cell.
Jake sat upright, bleary-eyed and confused. “Ten minutes to breakfast Mr Lewis,” said Sister Wakely, passing by.
Tony DeLorger © 2017
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