A thunderous crash shook the asylum’s ancient bones. The candles extinguished with a soundless flourish. The tendrils of their dying breath snaked through the air, slithering over the guests’ faces and coiling around their heads.
“Anyone got a lighter?” Someone asked, their voice trembling.
There was a spark and a tiny flame appeared. I could make out the guests’ stricken faces in the meagre orange glow. I approached the candles lining the corridor and they ignited. Someone stifled a scream. I ran my fingers through the flames, not feeling the blazing kisses they sprinkled across my skin. The flames danced and bent to my will. I led the way to the next room. The guests stared at the candles as though they held the answer to the blackout. The half-naked man with wrist bandages stood facing the wall, his head lowered. He was crying. My fingers danced across his back as I passed. Some torments were too powerful to be buried with the body.
Ominous shadows stalked us, accompanied by the sizzling of the lights. A bedside cabinet was overturned and sheets were scattered over the floor. I picked them up and draped them on the bed before righting the cabinet. One of the cabinet doors opened so I kicked it shut. Some guests jumped. Shrieking echoed towards us. A small girl ran in, screaming. The guests looked nervous. She sobbed; a chilling noise that grew louder as a nurse ran in and shut the door. The guests glanced towards it. The nurse picked the kicking child up and laid her on the bed, strapping her down. She writhed and screamed like she was possessed. The guests photographed the room, immortalising the dead on film. Excitement had surrendered to apprehension. They wanted to see ghosts, but they wanted Casper the Friendly Ghost, not the disturbed, dangerous spirits that wandered the old mental asylum.
I let them investigate the other dorms and wards alone.
Thunder boomed as though the gates of Hell were banging shut. Lightning illuminated the darkened room. The group passed me down the stairs. I gripped the banister in case someone pushed me. I led them through the kitchen and wiggled the door handle. I released it, flexing my fingers. The lock clicked and the door swung open. The light fizzed, blinking malevolently. The group edged down the steps. This was the coldest area, as though the heat from the living couldn’t banish the chill of the afterlife. I took them under a large archway. The cold stone floor kissed my bare feet. I stopped outside a door then opened it.
“Welcome to the morgue.”
A slab stood in the centre of the room. A tall fridge with four numbered doors was in the far corner. A lonely sink stood below shelves with various bottles and jars.
“Can you hear whispering?” A woman asked.
“There’s probably a tape recorder.” Mason’s voice was disrespectfully loud in the hush.
I opened the fridge door and pulled out one of the trolleys, revealing a dead woman. Her toe tag identified her as Charlotte. Dried blood matted her hair, her glassy gaze fixed on me.
Shadows lurked in the corner, whispering my name. I pivoted, but could see only darkness – their shroud. I could feel their many eyes, their seeping hatred and iniquitous intentions.
I stepped aside as the mortician appeared beside me. He lifted the woman up and placed her on the slab. Clattering filled the silence as he gathered his wicked implements and moved them to a small table. The group hurried out and rushed to the steps, fear silencing them. I brushed past the guests and felt the iciness of the poltergeist beside me. As the group climbed the stairs, the light bulb exploded. Shards of glass cascaded and the stairway was plunged into darkness. The group’s breaths appeared in silver mists. They clung to each other, terrified of the dark now they knew the dead inhabited it. The shadows could glide unnoticed in the blackness’s arms and strike before I was even aware they lurked. When the lights came back on, all that would be left would be my bloody remains.
Something crawled over my skin. The shadows. I lashed out, loath to touch them, but desperate to be rid of their repulsive touch before they seeped inside me. Mason’s bloody machine buzzed loudly, the red light glowing like a hellacious flame.
A piercing scream punctured the suffocating silence. A thud followed and the scream died. A lighter’s tiny orange flare danced in the darkness. I snatched it from the man and carried it down, my feet crunching on the broken glass. A young brunette woman was sprawled on the bottom step and floor. Blood splattered the step and stained her hair. A large pool of it congealed beneath her head. Her neck was twisted at a suicidal angle. Terror stained her eyes as she glimpsed a world too horrifying for the living to comprehend. I stared into her eyes but I couldn’t even see my own reflection. She’d crossed the veil of mortality and entered the asylum’s second life.
Mason’s fingers touched her neck, his camera pointing straight into her death mask.
I sat at the head of the dining table. The shaken guests were seated. They’d aged. Witnessing somebody’s death takes a part of your soul you’ll never get back. They’d come to see the dead. They got what they desired. Soft crying filled the silence. A young female patient sat on a chair against the far wall, her head in her hands, weeping.
“Is this your first ghost tour?” Mason asked the woman’s companions, placing his recorder on the table.
“Do you come here often?” I mocked. He ignored me.
“Yes. Danielle wanted to do something different for her birthday,” one of the men answered.
“Do you believe in the paranormal?”
“Not until tonight.”
“Did you experience anything supernatural during the evening?”
“I thought I saw someone dressed as a patient, but when I looked again, he’d gone.”
The front door opened then closed. The dining room door opened and two non-uniformed police officers entered. One was older, creased, and jaded. The other was young, alert. Untainted.
“I’m DS Ifans, this is DC Ripley. We’ll need to interview you all separately.”
“I was filming at the bottom of the steps,” Mason said. “You can have the SD card, as long as I can have it back.”
“That would be a great help,” Ifans said. “We’ll talk to you first.”
He’d only been here a couple of hours and he was leading the police investigation. No doubt he’d try to shut this place down. Perhaps he’d watched too many episodes of Murder She Wrote and believed every writer was allowed to solve murders, purely because they wrote about them. I wished the poltergeist had got him. Perhaps the poltergeist pushed the woman, hoping she’d take Mason out with her.
Mason ejected the SD card from his camera and shadowed them from the room. I wondered whether I’d be arrested before the night was out. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d left this place. I couldn’t even be sure the outside world still existed.
“Just because she screamed, doesn’t mean she was pushed,” I said. They ignored me.
I mumbled about making drinks and headed for the kitchen. I stood at the door. Tape cordoned it off. Lights had been erected, revealing the gruesome scene. The corridor looked wrong under so many lights. It was a place of gloomy fear, not the bright welcoming tunnel they were turning it into. Glass littered the steps. Blood stained the bottom. A uniformed officer stood guard while men in white suits collected evidence and someone tended to the body. They didn’t belong here. Nobody noticed me. The dead were more alluring than the living.
I moved away. The fire ignited and the cauldron water bubbled. I wasn’t alone. I was never alone.
“We’re ready for you now,” Ripley said, looking at the kitchen table.
I followed him into the social room and sat before the fire. It ignited. Dr. Lambert sat beside me. I slid sideways.
“How many do you usually have on the tour?” Ifans asked.
“Ten to twenty people. I run them twice a week. Four times a week in October then every day of Halloweek.”
“Have there ever been any accidents? Fatalities?”
“The reporter said on your website people give this place a five-star rating for paranormal activity. Some guests left comments stating they’d been hurt on a tour. Tripped up, pushed into the wall, had objects thrown at them. One guest claimed he received a black eye after being hit in the face with a book.”
I stared at them. “People come here at their own risk. No-one’s holding a gun to their heads. If they get hurt, that’s not my fault.”
“Where were you when she fell?”
“Near the top.”
“Have you met Miss Bailey before tonight?”
“Did you see her fall?”
“No. I heard her scream. And a thud. Then the screaming stopped.”
Lambert spoke. “I think that’s enough questions. It’s been a long night. I will medicate the patients and if you have any more questions, you can come back tomorrow. I’m sure Mr. Soul did not intend for anyone to get hurt.”
He was looking behind the officers but there was no-one there. Maybe it wasn’t just the patients who were crazy. Lambert looked straight at me. I froze.
“That will be all for now,” Ifans said.
Footsteps clumped across the floor. The door opened then closed then Ripley got up and fetched one of the guests.
I headed outside. Wind nipped my feet and danced around me, tugging at my clothes like an insatiable lover. It rippled through my short dark hair. The moon’s silvery light guided me to the graveyard. I walked among the graves, reading the names of the deceased, though I knew them by heart. Reaching the skeletal tree, I traced my fingers along its rough skin. The branches’ gnarled, bony fingers probed my head. The tree always tried to implant memories into my mind, but I refused to surrender to its pressure. Some were good, others were so terrifying they poisoned my blood.
The sky was midnight blue, the stars silver bullets piercing the night’s flesh. The moon was large and full, hanging low like a giant spotlight exposing the evil that lurked below. Its eerie glow cast shadows in the graveyard. My shadow was entwined with the tree’s. A raven flapped its wings in the branch above my head.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” He cawed twice and shook his feathers. Other ravens in the tree stared towards the asylum. I watched the police cars parked outside it. A blue light revolved, spilling its light on the walls. “I hope they won’t be here all night.”
I heard the door opening and moved behind the tree, our bodies pressed together. I inhaled the charred scent lingering in its bark. From the security of its shadow, I watched the tour group climb into their cars and drive towards the gates, escaping from the asylum with their lives. The gates opened then clanged shut behind them.
The front door opened again and I ducked behind the tree. Mason climbed into his Beetle and drove away. This would be reported in all the papers tomorrow. Reporters would camp outside. I’d have to get rid of them. This was his fault. He’d failed to expose me as a fraud so decided to frame me for murder instead. Then I remembered he’d been at the bottom. Maybe he and the poltergeist plotted my downfall between them. Joining forces to create their own little murder club.
I waited, but nobody else left. I sneaked over and peeked in through the dining room windows at the intruders. Ifans and Ripley were seated. Ripley glanced up, looking startled. I hid behind a curtain, counted to one hundred then risked another look. The room was empty. The front door opened and voices filtered through the frigid air.
“We’ll look at this tape tomorrow, Dylan,” Ifans spoke. “It’s been a weird night. Suspicious death in a supposedly haunted asylum during a ghost hunting tour. I need a good night’s sleep before I can face watching the tour on tape.”
“There’s something peculiar about this place,” Ripley replied. “Like we’re trespassing. Somebody doesn’t want us here.”
“You don’t seriously believe in ghosts do you?”
“A woman died here today. Someone said they saw a patient push her. Ghosts or no ghosts, that will haunt everyone who was here for the rest of their lives.”
I hid until the police cars left then returned inside. I glanced at the clock in the hall. The eternal midnight. Upstairs, floorboards creaked and music played. Green Day’s ‘Know Your Enemy.’
He was taunting me.
I locked the front door then crept up the stairs. I entered my bedroom without turning on the light and sat on the bed. I left the music on. I undressed then crawled into bed. The curtains were closed. A sliver of moonlight stole in where the curtains didn’t join. The hall clock ticked, counting off each lifeless second.
I rolled onto my left side, facing the window. The bedroom door closed quietly. I could hear him moving around the room. The bed dipped as he lowered his invisible frame onto it. It grew cold as his body slid in next to mine. I stayed still, my back to him. His breathing was even.
“Sleep somewhere else. You know this is my room.” His crying echoed around the room. Tears for the dead. “Shut up. She’s one of you now. Yet another murdered soul to join your legion against me.”
I’d be the prime suspect. Pushing a woman down the stairs to gain notoriety for my tour. People would flock to see where she died. It would be especially popular each anniversary of her death. My very own museum of death. I should sell postcards of the crime scene. Make a killing.
The bed moved then footsteps padded across the wooden floor. The light flicked on and the window edged open. Cool breeze filtered in and the curtains gently billowed. An owl hooted. Fury knotted my stomach. My fists clenched. I took deep breaths, but anger burned inside me until I crossed to the window and shut it.
The window swung open and a gust of wind rushed in, biting my naked flesh. I wrenched the window shut. It swung out then slammed, shattering the glass. I pushed him. The curtains writhed as he tried saving himself. I stared at the blood staining the broken glass in the window. It glistened in the flickering light. I touched it.
“The dead can bleed.”
Soul Asylum book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKUWT7rr_FU