Soul Asylum Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Soul Asylum C L RavenWeeping echoed around the room. Self-pitying tears for the sanity she’d lost and no longer remembered. I stared out at the rain. I didn’t need to be haunted by their madness.

Mason asked if he could have a tour of the asylum before everyone arrived. No doubt to check I hadn’t rigged anything before the lights died and the macabre performance began. Not even the most brilliantly malevolent mind could create the horrors in this haunted house of nightmares. Reality was far crueller. I didn’t know why he was here. I hadn’t invited him. I hadn’t invited any of them.

Everything that happened here was beyond my control.

I sighed and opened the door to the corridor. He gathered his equipment and followed. He switched on a small black box. It started making strange noises and lighting up.

“What’s that?”

“This is a K2 meter. It measures disturbances in the electrical or magnetic fields. Some say that means there are ghosts.”

“Since when were ghosts comparable to faulty wiring?”

The corridors were endless, with curved arches high in the ceiling. The large, chilly kitchen welcomed us. The bricks at the bottom third of the wall were painted black, with white bricks stretching to the excessively high ceiling. There were windows near the ceiling on one wall. Light could enter but no-one could see out. A large picnic table stood in the centre. An Aga stove was to the left, crouched beneath a single window, beside the large rectangular sink. It was filled with broken plates – disposable victims of a fractured mind. A lot of things had changed here over the years. I wished everything had been left alone. People thought they could improve things by redecorating. It didn’t eradicate the past, just pushed it further into the shadows.

Through the window, I spied two people wandering the grounds. They passed through headstones then vanished.

The stone tiles tormented my bare feet with a cold burn, like Hell was freezing. A fire with a large cauldron was to the right. I passed through a wide arch and opened a door. Stone steps were swallowed by the blackness. Icy air swept up, caressing me. Memories of tortured screams echoed through the realms of the living and the dead. I switched on the light. The bare bulb flickered then died, darkness smothering the passage and concealing its nefarious secrets.

“What do you keep in the cellar? Wine?” Mason asked.

“You can’t bottle what’s down there.”

“The cellar isn’t mentioned in the history books.”

“There are some things history doesn’t want you knowing. It’s not a cellar.”

“What is it then?” Mason edged closer.

“The morgue.”

“This place has a morgue?”

“Even the insane die. They just don’t stay dead.” I switched the light off and closed the door.

The kitchen door swung open. Mason shivered. I edged past him and led him through the corridor into the social room. Mocking voices whispered to me. I moved towards the fire. Out of the corner of my eye I saw three women standing together. They looked in my direction then whispered furtively, giggling. Raspy murmuring tantalised my ears as an icy finger glided down my face. I closed my eyes, shivers stroking my body. The fire ignited and I reached into it, the flames dancing over my fingers before I withdrew my hand and touched my face. My hands remained cold.

“Don’t you have heating?” Mason rubbed his arms, glancing towards the settee. His K2 lit up.

“Have you never heard of the temperature dropping when the dead are near?”

I’d spent so long amongst the dead I’d forgotten what it was like to be around the living. Those who’d tried living here soon discovered the novelty of living in an old asylum was far removed from the horrifying reality.

He opened another door, which led to the psychiatrist’s office. An old desk faced away from the window to the right of the door with a captain’s chair behind it. A chaise longue was in the left corner in front of a bookcase. I read some of the books’ titles. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud, Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing. On Double Consciousness and Alterations of Personality by Alfred Binet. Fact and Fable in Psychology by Joseph Jastrow I picked up a book, flicked through it then replaced it. A tall brown haired man with a moustache selected a book called Multiple Personality: An Experimental Investigation into Human Individuality by Boris Sidis. I shot sideways. Dr. Lambert. He carried the book to the desk and sat down. An uncontrollable urge to grab the book and beat Lambert until he stopped living consumed me.

Sometimes their madness was contagious.

Sometimes I could control it.

Sometimes I chose not to.

“What’s through there?” Mason pointed to a door, nearly walking right through me. His electrical toy buzzed loudly, the lights turning red. It was starting to get on my nerves.

I opened the door and let him pass through, spying goose pimples on his flesh as I closed the door behind us. I edged down the corridor and opened another door. He stared in shock. A stretcher with ankle, wrist, torso and head restraints stood to the right. A table with a crude black box was positioned behind the head of the bed. The rest of the room was barren.

“Is this a music box?” He raised the lid, revealing brass knobs and a cylindrical battery.

“Only if you find the sound of screaming musical.”

He picked up the two wires leading to circular pads. “Early defibrillator?”

“Electroconvulsive therapy. Electric shock treatment. It looks dated now but it was high tech when it was introduced in 1941.” I tightened the straps on the bed. “Initially it was administered without anaesthetic or muscle relaxants. The spasms from the current were so powerful, patients could suffer dislocated limbs or fractured spines and pelvises. The after-effects are…mind-numbing.”

He photographed it then filmed it.

I led him back into the hall and glanced at the large clock positioned beside the stairs. There were no numbers on the clock’s ebony face. The time said midnight. It was always midnight. Even time had died, leaving a ghost to mark its existence. There used to be a receptionist’s desk near the door. One of the “improvements” by a resident was to demolish it. Probably so no more patients could be admitted. That resident fled after two months. It wasn’t new patients he had to worry about. I headed upstairs. Mason hesitated and glanced behind him.

“For someone who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, you’re extremely jumpy.” I stopped halfway up and faced him. Images of him falling to his death invaded my mind. I heard the thud as his skull cracked, saw the blood escaping and the life in his eyes dying.

The stairs creaked near him. I narrowed my eyes before continuing up. Mason followed. The doors were identical—white wood with portholes—and bolt locks on the outside. I showed him the bathroom, the first bedroom, then my bedroom. The only bedroom that had been converted for modern use. He crossed to the window and gazed out over the graveyard. The lights fizzed.

“You need this place rewired. Though I like the authenticity – helps scare the public.”

I picked up my hat and sat it on my head while he took photos. The camera was pointed at me and the flash exploded, blinding me. The room next door was cold. I shut the open window. Mason jumped. The door slammed. I yanked it open and left the room. Mason shadowed me. All the rooms were sombre grey and contained between four and six beds. Dignity and luxury were only allowed to those sane enough to appreciate it.

“These were the patients’ rooms. They were originally converted from wards. Everything is bolted to the floor. The mad can’t be trusted. Throwing things is a hobby of theirs.”

I led him to one of the wards that hadn’t been converted. A row of beds flanked each wall. Some of the beds contained patients. Their vacant eyes tracked me as I moved around the room. I turned my back on them. The K2 buzzed and lit up. He frowned at it.

“These used to be locked at night. You can imagine the terror of an unmarried pregnant woman locked in with a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“I read they would lock unmarried pregnant women in here with the crazies. They didn’t segregate them?”

“Not until the Second World War.”

“That’s like putting someone with a broken leg in the cancer ward.”

No it wasn’t.

“Those with mental illness are cursed by society’s misconceptions. Is it any different today?”

I returned downstairs and sat in the dining room at the head of the table. A large stage dominated the other end of the room. Mason moved around upstairs, investigating the rooms. I heard laughter echoing. Mason and the poltergeist thought they were comedians. I glanced out the window. Darkness was wrapping its funereal cloak around the asylum. A man wearing the standard military-style uniform escorted someone away from the graves. A raven cawed.

Mason returned and asked if there was somewhere he could leave his bag. I carried it to the ECT room and bolted the door. When I returned, Mason was watching the windows as though they contained the answers to the afterlife. He spoke into his voice recorder.

“While investigating the rest of the rooms upstairs, the K2 was finally silent. I’d almost stopped noticing its incessant buzzing. Perhaps the batteries are faulty.”

“Or the ghosts decided reliving their deaths was more entertaining than following you.”

The curtains billowed in my wake. A chair toppled. I stopped and picked it up. Mason looked at his watch.

“Bloody thing’s stopped. Why are the tours at night? Atmosphere? Or so they can’t see the strings?”

“Night is when the screaming starts.”

I drummed my fingers on the polished wood. I could see my reflection in it. I looked away. I hated the way it distorted me. Mason’s gaze shifted towards me. I exhaled deeply, my breath escaping in a silver cloud. The clock in the hall ticked, a heart that thundered towards death with each beat, yet the hands remained frozen. The witching hour.

“How long’s the poltergeist been here?” Mason asked the chair beside me.

“Which one? There have been poltergeists for as long as I can remember. Some are easier to get rid of than others.”

“So, since you moved in. How long ago was that?”

“I don’t remember exactly. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime.”

A knock reverberated around the asylum. I glided to the front door, unbolted it and eased it open. A couple stood between the gargoyles. They looked scared. A bitter breeze rippled past. Footsteps padded behind me then stopped. I heard them walking away. The guests followed them to the dining room. A silver Mercedes was parked beside the green Beetle.

I followed the long driveway down to the imposing gates. The gravel surrendered to cracked tarmac. Beside the house by the gates, HALT was written on the left side of the drive. The porch lanterns either side of the house’s door were lit, offering hope of salvation in the gloom. The stone ravens guarding the gate glared at anyone daring to approach. I gripped the bars and stared down the sepulchral winding road. It ran horizontally past the gates. For now, the road was deserted. The highway to Hell.

I rested my back against the gates. In the distance a lone figure stood beneath the black tree, staring towards where the East Wing once stood. A thick grey shroud concealed the graves. Curtains swished upstairs. The asylum was bathed in darkness except for one light glowing in the hall, an unblinking eye to ward off vampires.

I heard a noise and threw a look over my shoulder. A car drove towards me so I parted the gates and stepped aside allowing them access. An uneasy look passed between the passengers. I could slip out when nobody was looking. Hide in the nearby farm or castle. Maybe I’d make it to town. I took a step. The gates banged shut. The passenger turned around in his seat. I stalked them to the asylum and opened the front door. The two men and a woman entered cautiously so I locked the door behind them before showing them to the dining room. Mason and the couple were seated. I took my place at the head of the table, wondering whether Mason’s sceptical words were poisoning them against me.

“This place is creepy,” the woman who’d just arrived whispered.

“Every old house is creepy in the dark,” Mason replied. “Creaks, bangs, strange noises. It’s the charm of old properties. This place more so because it’s isolated. You’re here for a ghost tour in an old asylum. You’re predisposed to be afraid.”

He’d only been here an hour and already he was plotting to destroy everything I had.

The door opened and more guests entered. They gave their names and I watched a pen mark them off on a sheet.

I slid my chair backwards and everyone turned to look at me. “The electricity needs rewiring, hence the candles.” I closed the curtains to block out the night. “Welcome to Ravens Retreat. Where we are now is the surviving West Wing. The East Wing burned down in 1904. A lot of patients died. Staff, too. This place was a pioneer in the treatment of the mentally ill in Wales.”

I made my way to the kitchen. The fire ignited with an unearthly sigh and the water in the cauldron began bubbling. I tried the door to the morgue. It was locked. I rattled the handle but the door refused to reveal the passage’s dark secrets.

“Patients would be given jobs around the asylum, even in the kitchen.”

I took them to the social room. The fire danced mesmerisingly. Footsteps echoed around the room yet everyone was standing still. I recounted the spooky tales they longed to hear. I didn’t tell them this place was sometimes happy, with the staff trying their best to care for their growing number of patients and always introducing new ways to improve their quality of life. That wasn’t what these people wanted. They craved the terrifying stories that would rival Bedlam in their cruelty, depravity and misery.

Sometimes I wondered whether society locked up the wrong people.

Suddenly the room was crowded with expressionless people. An old man sat in the corner playing chess with someone who didn’t exist. Mason was photographing and filming the room. The guests also took photos, but nobody commented on the scene before them. I was knocked aside as a nurse hurried past, opened the door to the corridor and vanished. One of the young women who’d giggled at me earlier sat alone on the settee.

“She shouldn’t be in here,” I pointed. “Men only.”

She shrank back into the settee, her eyes wide. I stepped forwards. She fled. The door slammed after her. The guests jumped.

“This is the social room, where the staff relaxed when everyone was asleep or sedated. The patients were allowed in here if they behaved themselves. Until the 1940s, male and female patients and staff weren’t allowed to mix.”

The fire died and I led the way into the psychiatrist’s office. I noticed a book lying on the desk and returned it to the bookcase. Lambert watched me suspiciously. I’d lived with these people for so long, fear no longer commanded me. He was the only one who still possessed the power to reduce me to a gibbering wreck. The human mind wasn’t meant to be understood. He probed in the darkest chambers where strangers had no right to pry. A sullen patient sat in the chair opposite Lambert, his head lowered.

“This is the psychiatrist’s office. In the 1800s they were experimenting with new ideas. They didn’t have medication in the early years. They’re experimenting even today. The mind is one of the few places that however well explored, will never be fully conquered. I’m not sure if the poltergeist was a patient, but he’s clearly not happy about being dead. He’s very angry and at times is hard to live with. He’s an eternal teenager.” Nobody laughed. Sometimes they acted like I was invisible.

I led them out to the hall and the clock chimed, its bongs echoing. One person jumped. Finally, something drowned out Mason’s damn machine. The front door crashed open, a rush of cold air sweeping through the asylum and killing the candlelight as four people entered. The guests jumped, a woman stifled a scream. Footsteps thundered up the stairs as the intruders raced each other to the top. I took the group over to them, Mason filming. The tour guests shadowed me quickly up the stairs, ignoring the young nurse carrying a tray of medical equipment. Her name was Estelle. She was too friendly. Thought she could help the patients. She didn’t seem to realise some were beyond helping and some didn’t want to be helped. She wanted a sainthood. Shame she’d have to die to get one. She passed straight through one of the women.

“Someone just walked over my grave.” She laughed nervously, shivering.

“A nurse just moved through you.”

She didn’t hear me. I hurried down the stairs and shoved Estelle. She flew to the bottom, her tray crashing to the floor. Everyone whirled around, frantically scanning the gloom. The lights stayed on long enough for them to see a small blood puddle forming at the bottom of the stairs. Somebody screamed. I ran back up the stairs and stood at the top, watching as Estelle hurriedly wiped her eyes and straightened her uniform. She rose, plucked glass from her hand and collected the spilled equipment. She entered the dining room, kicking the door shut. The asylum shook. I stared in her direction, hearing her muffled sniffles from the other side.

The group cautiously followed me upstairs. I started with my bedroom. The window was open so I yanked it shut. The curtains billowed around the bed.

“This is the master bedroom, where I sleep.” The radio switched on, Meatloaf’s ‘Razor’s Edge’ started. I folded my arms. “He plays music constantly. I think he believes it will silence the voices.” I switched it off as the guests took photos. “Nothing does.” The music played again, the volume increasing. I switched it off. “I’ll show you the patients’ cells.” The radio clicked on and the music grew louder. I laid it face down and removed the batteries.

I stalked the guests and we entered the room next door. A young man sat on a bed, dressed in pyjama bottoms, his torso bare and scarred. White bandages encased his wrists. Silent tears streaked his vacant face. His eyes were hollow, haunted by the things he’d seen. Things no one else would ever understand. They couldn’t contemplate something that wasn’t in their reality.

The guests watched, captivated as the radio dragged itself across the floor then levitated and rested on the bedside cabinet. I watched Mason filming it, then picked the radio up and dropped it back down. The young man’s gaze shifted to me. I stared straight back. The window opened. The poltergeist was antagonising me. Maybe he hoped the nurses would sedate me. I knew all his tricks. I closed the window and locked it. The bed springs creaked as the young man got up and left the room. Faint sounds of screaming filtered in his wake. Outside, the storm raged on.

Soul Asylum’s book trailer


  1. This extract like yesterday’s makes me want to read it all over again. Might curl up on Halloween and take a second tour of Ravens Retreat.

    • thanks 🙂 surprised you’re not bored of reading it yet.

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