Opened in 1978 on 315 Travis, Treebeards lives within the Baker Travis building, which is the second oldest building in Houston, Texas. Although the reviews mentioned great food and a lively bar atmosphere, reports of cold spots and a bean cooks description of a full body apparition are what caught my teams eye. Making it a perfect lunch stop on my travels through Houston.

The bean cook describes what could’ve been Mr. Danowitz, an elderly tailor that shared the building with Treebeards when it first opened its doors in 1978. Within a building that’s been standing since the 1870s, Treebeards may be hosting more than just customers at their southern cooking cafe.

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Entrance

Gator

Staircase

Above Art

Upstairs Bar

Barkeep

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Constructed in 1926, the Julia Ideson Building located at 500 McKinney stands across from downtowns Main Branch Library in Houston, Texas. Although checking out a book would regularly be on my itinerary while visiting the library, rumors of a past caretaker and his dog’s spirit roaming the grounds are what sparked my team and I’s interest.

Caretaker Jacob Frank Cramer and his German Shephard companion Petey, have been said to be seen roaming the library grounds during their nightly rounds. Sounds of Peteys nails clicking across the tile floor has been enough to keep some believers away from this historical Texas building.

“Unfortunately, we cannot confirm that HPL has a resident ghost – even though we joined Houston Chronicle staff last year in a ghost-hunting exercise. We trekked the halls of the Julia Ideson Building into the wee hours of the night, searching for any sign of Mr. Cramer or Petey. Sadly, we didn’t turn up a single note, click or flash of light. But the legend continues.” – Sandra Fernandez, HPL public relations manager.

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Main Entrance

Side View

Side Door

Front Sign

Texas Historical Mark

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Constructed in 1885 within the heart of Austin, the Texas State Capitol Building stands valiantly atop a hill. Monuments scatter the grounds, with a historical museum and gift shop off to the side. Tours are offered to those seeking a more traditional travel experience. However, rumors of spirits that haunt the grounds and building itself are what brought my team and I to the Texas State Capitol Building.

Murdered in his first-floor office in 1903, Comptroller Robert Marshall Love has been reportedly seen walking up the promenade of the Texas Capitol Building. You may see him wandering the grounds towards the capitol entrance on a misty morning sporting a top hat and coat tails.

An unidentified politician once held secret trysts in a stairwell located on the third floor. His lover, an unknown woman in red, has been spotted by cleaning crews in his third-floor office but vanishes as they turn the corner attempting to approach her. This section of the capitol is not open to the public.

In 1983, despite the heroic efforts of Austin firefighters, a 23-year-old man burned to death in a fire within the capitol walls causing severe damage to the East Wing. Rumor states that however many times you clean the window, handprints appear on the glass when the humidity is high. The very same window firefighters failed to break open in attempts to free the man trapped inside.

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Texas Capitol Building Cover Unedited

Front Yard

Main Lobby

Ceiling

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Against fair warning from locals in 1839, Gideon White decided to build a home in proximity to Shoal Creek. After three years of residency, Gideon was reportedly murdered by passing Native Americans. Once his corpse was discovered, the remains and shallow graves of many more were uncovered in the surrounding area. The majority of the graves were victims of yellow fever and cholera. Reports of unusual noises, cold spots, and vanishing apparitions are common from those who wander through this scenic running and biking route. Authorities claim pedestrians are not permitted on the trail after 10:00PM due to the amount of activity reported.

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Historical Marker

Creek One

Creek Two

Creek Three

Sewer Hole

Boulder Seating

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Once thriving in the early 20th century as a cotton shipping center for the central Texas area, Bartlett now stands mostly baron. Most of the buildings hold some sort of historical significance as the early 1900’s storefront remains on the main road. Approximately 1,600 residents reside in Bartlett scattered around the outskirts only driving into town to pass through. Split between Bell and Williamson counties, Bartlett is known to locals as “the best little town in Texas”.

My team and I were surprised to see some of the aging, vacant storefronts still in search for renters. Although this portion of town seems to be abandoned, Bartlett fights to stay on the map. Many events are still held throughout the year including an Old Town Festival and Antique & Collectible Auctions. If you happen to be passing through, my team and I highly recommend visiting this piece of Texas history!

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Town Entrance

Storefront One

Storefront Two

Storefront Three

Back Alley

Storefront GUNS

Town Exit

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

The Hewitt House in Granger, Texas. As seen on Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). Originally standing on the current grounds of the University of Texas, this architectural piece of horror film history moved to Granger, Texas in the 1930s. Current residents assure visitors and fans of the films that no one was murdered at this house. No Trespassing signs are posted around the gated entrance with a flyer stating they “do not offer tours, nor can you come closer to take photos”, but encourages guests to take photos from the road.

NOTE: “This is a working farm and people do live here.” If you’re a fan of the films and are planning a visit, please be respectful of the grounds and the family that lives there.

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© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

Meet My Ghost is “a podcast of short ghost stories where you’ll hear a collection of quick but spooky encounters. Because a ghost story doesn’t have to be long, to be creepy. I’ll bring you eerie tales recounted by those who experienced them. And maybe some freaky fictional creeps now and then too…”

-Sandy Tufts

Creator and Narrator of Meet My Ghost

Be sure to give Meet My Ghost a listen on Apple Podcasts and all other podcast platforms!

Follow Meet My Ghost on Instagram and Twitter: @meetmyghost

Have your own story? Head over to MeetMyGhost.com to submit!

Around the age of seventeen, I spent the majority of my time with my two best friends Haley and Stan, who also happened to be a couple. We spent many weekends at Stan’s grandfathers’ house chatting about obscure slam bands and how “untraditional” our home life was. One early evening, while Haley and I were chain smoking our poorly rolled cigarettes on the porch, we couldn’t help but overhear Stan arguing with his mother on the phone. Stan’s grandfather is going away for the weekend and he’s supposed to watch his German Shepard, Bear. AKA, we’re all going to drink beers in the basement playing video games and listening to metal music. Of course, Stan’s mother being the manipulative drug addict that she is, attempts to guilt trip Stan into coming home. She was rambling about his dad being drunk again and taking the truck somewhere, but knowing Stan’s father, he probably didn’t make it very far. Broken teenagers from broken homes. Labeled by society as outcasts, losers, deadbeats, I’m sure you understand what I mean. “The spawns of white trash”, I remember our teachers would say referring to our tight-knit clique. Haley and I always thought that White Trash Spawn would make a perfect band name. Stan always voted for more brutal names like “Trailer Park Carcasses” or “Orphanage for Dumpster Fetus”. Who am I kidding? A band wasn’t really in our wheelhouse, but a kid could dream.

“Just make sure Bear gets fed while I’m gone,” Stan’s grandfather said passing us on the porch shaking his head in disappointment.

“We will,” I abruptly replied as my cigarette singed the ends of my fingertips.

Haley laughed under her breath as I shook out my hand. Bear began aggressively barking by the front door as Stan’s grandfather pulls out of the driveway.

“Shut up!” we heard Stan shout at Bear joining us for a smoke.

“You bailing on us tonight, or what?” Haley mockingly asked Stan.

Cracking open a fresh can of beer, he rolled his eyes before chugging its contents.

After a few more cigarettes, a walk to the gas station, and pellet gunshots at some bottles, we made our way inside. Grabbing some snacks and collecting a few more beers, I remember rushing to the basement hoping to grab the game controller before Stan. Stan wasn’t very open about his feelings and either secluded himself from everyone or lashed out with spouts of aggression when uneasy topics arose. Looking back, I feel our friendship only worked because of our obvious sense of wanting in a society that continued to shut us out. Throwing on some tunes in the background, Haley and Stan began to get amorous next to me on the couch. As the music played, Stan’s hands ran up Haley’s legs gently tugging at her already torn fishnets. Uncomfortable, and a little more inebriated than I thought, I paused the game standing to my feet. Stumbling over a few empty bottles, Stan and Haley laughed as I attempted to find my way to the stairs. Grasping the railing on the way up, I eyed the door at the top of the stairs hoping my balance wouldn’t betray me. This was probably the first time I’ve felt the full effect of being drunk without blacking out. Ascending the towering flight of poorly crafted steps, Bear woefully greeted me at the door whimpering as he followed me closely into the kitchen. Opening the fridge door, I shuddered from the brightness of the lights as Bear continued to whine behind me.

“There’s no food in here for you Bear,” I said petting his head.

“Stanley,” an elderly voice called out from the living room.

Immediately closing the fridge door, I glanced towards the dark living room. The television was on, but nothing was playing. Just an annoying low hum as the empty black screen dimly lit the living area. Bear continued to whine lying on the kitchen floor. Shaking my head, I quickly open the fridge once more grabbing as many beers as I could hold shuffling back to the top of the basement steps.

“Stanley, Stanley is that you?” the elderly voice called out from the darkness.

“No, sorry. Not Stan…just a friend,” I nervously answered back.

“Oh, that’s alright. Could I bother you for a cup of tea?” they requested.

“Ummm…sure,” I answered, gently placing my beers on the floor.

Fumbling through an old packaging of tea leaves I somehow managed to prepare a proper cup.

“Three sugars,” they humbly requested from across the room.

Carefully making my way towards the living room, Bear stayed in the kitchen continuing to moan. Placing the tea on a television tray, an aging woman, frail and fading, reached her hand out to mine.

“Thank you,” she graciously stated.

“No problem…anything else you need?” I stammered.

She pulled me in closer and whispered into my ear.

Still intoxicated, and a bit confused, I carefully descended back down into the basement. Stan and Haley playfully wrested upon the couch as I found my seat.

“You get lost up there?” Stan kids with a spirited jab to my abdomen.

“Your grandma’s upstairs in the living room, she asked me to make her some tea,” I explained.

“What?” Stan angrily replied.

“She’s sitting in front of the TV, why didn’t you tell us she was going to be here?” I asked.

Stan’s stunned silence frightened me. I didn’t know what he was thinking or how he might react.

“His grandma’s been dead for a couple of years,” Haley adds.

“No, I just saw her,” I said.

“C’mon you guys, stop messing with me,” I anxiously smiled, hoping they were messing around.

“Did she say anything?” Stan sharply questions.

“Uhhh…” I mumbled as Stan violently towered over me.

“What? What did she say!?,” Stan belligerently eggs me on.

“She said…just tell Stanley I say hello,”.

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

Prior to my trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, I took a quick glance at their riders guide online for accessibility options for photosensitive epilepsy. Usually, these warnings come in the form of a symbol or a phrase such as “this attraction features strobe effects or flashing lights” under the list of the attractions. I was surprised to see only ONE ride that specifically mentioned the use of “strobe lighting” throughout the attraction. Luckily, I had a few close friends alongside me as we wandered through the park. Coasters that have automated flash photography, I feel, should be listed on the riders guide, but I was able to find the location of each camera before boarding, justly preparing myself for that portion of the ride.

With that said, within this blog post, I’ll be listing the attractions that have a strobe effect warning along with the coasters that have automated flash photography (marked with a red “X”), those that do not, and a few tips for those traveling to the park with photosensitive epilepsy. (Like me! Woohoo!) Keep in mind that I’m not your neurologist and you should acquire a professional opinion before placing yourself into potentially dangerous situations. Also, some of the attraction lines are part of the experience and you are more than welcome to wait in line with your friends and family opting out of the rides before boarding. Hoping you find this information to be helpful!

NOTE: This will not include a photosensitive guide to the attractions within White Water Bay, the waterpark section of Six Flags Fiesta Texas nor the holiday and/or Fright Fest Attractions. Additionally, on page six within the riders guide they specifically outline the following warning:

“Theatrical fog effects, areas of low lighting, loud music, sound effects, and theatrical and strobe lighting are used throughout the park during Fright Fest. This includes streets, midways, outdoor scare zones, mazes, and haunted houses both indoor and outdoor, live entertainment venues and children’s attractions. Guests with respiratory sensitivities, history of seizures or epilepsy, or sensitivities to latex, loud music, and sound effects are advised not to participate in these attractions. Please adhere to all posted and verbal warnings and directions.”

Batman: The Ride

Boomerang

Buckarooz

Bugs Bunny White Water Rapids X

Crow’s Nest

Daffy’s Bus Stop

Fender Bender

Fiesta Texas Railroad

Fireball

Foghorn Leghorn’s Barnyard Railway

Goliath X

Grand Carousel

Gully Washer

Hurricane Force 5

Hustler

Iron Rattler X

Kiddee Koaster X

Kinderstein

Krazy Kars

Pandemonium

Pirate Ship Play Zone

Pirates of the Deep Sea X

Poltergeist

Road Runner Express X

Scream

Screamin’ Eagle

SkyScreamer

Spinsanity

Superman Krypton Coaster X

Taz’s Tornado

Texas Gunslinger

Thunder Beach Speedway

Up, Up, and Away

Waverunner

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster X

Yosemite Sam’s Wacky Wagons

Zoomjets

 

Personal Tips & Tricks:

Low Traffic Times and Sunlight:

A calendar listing the current operating hours of Six Flags Fiesta Texas can be found here: Park Operating Schedule

Depending on the time of year, special events, or holidays, their days and hours of operation vary greatly. Foot traffic and wait times at the parks is at its lowest on Sundays between mid-March and late April also, in late August and early November. I recommend booking your vacation during these dates and to avoid Spring Break and holidays if possible. Be sure to check the calendar for exact hours of operation!

 

Bring A Crowd

Gather ‘round, friends! Everything’s bigger in Texas…including the amusement parks. Bring friends or family you’re comfortable spending time with to explore together. It’s quite easy to get distracted and accidentally lose track of your group.

If you’re traveling with photosensitive children set expectations before going to the parks. A majority of the rides are photosensitive friendly, but most of the main attractions have strict height requirements. So, I always recommend making a list of the attractions that your children are able to participate in and plan your trip around them. Everyone deserves a day of adventure!

 

Be Prepared

You’ll be walking quite a bit spending a day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this that two of the biggest triggers for epilepsy can be exhaustion and dehydration. Bring what you need, or may need, into the parks with you. I always carry my backpack while traveling and inside is an extra pair of clothes and emergency meds, alongside a water bottle secured tightly to my side. Also, my medical alert tag proudly strung around my neck. There were at least two water fountains right outside each restroom that I saw. The first aid building is located behind the Grand Carousel ride between the restroom and Sangerfest Halle in Sassburg, the German-themed area of the park. I highly recommend bringing a water bottle with you or purchasing the refillable cup and finding times throughout the day to fill it with water to stay hydrated.

My photosensitive friendly attraction recommendation is Poltergeist!

Once again, these are just a few of my suggestions and you should acquire a professional opinion before making plans. If there’s anything I may have missed feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter and Instagram: @iMarrowsJ. Wishing you the best and I hope your next adventure is full of wonder and excitement!

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

I wanted to preface this blog post by applauding the admirable level of customer service I received from the Guest Communications at Universal Studios Hollywood. After reaching out by email, I had received a phone call from one of their coordinators, who also happens to have epilepsy. They explained their experiences in the park with the understanding that triggers can vary by individual. The information they had provided made me feel more welcome as they overextended their reach from just informative, too personable and genuine.

With that said, within this blog post I’ll be listing the rides that have the strobe effect warning (marked with a red “X”), those that do not, and a few tips for those traveling to the park with photosensitive epilepsy. (Like me! Woohoo!) Keep in mind that I’m not your neurologist and you should acquire a professional opinion before placing yourself into potentially dangerous situations. Also, some of the attraction lines are part of the experience and you are more than welcome to wait in line with your friends and family opting out of the rides before boarding. Hoping you find this information to be helpful!

There are a variety of hotels that have partnered with Universal Hollywood offering early park access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter if you purchase tickets online or with a vacation package. A select few of these hotels offer a shuttle directly from the hotel to the park, otherwise, you will have to Uber or Lyft. I stayed at the Comfort Inn & Suites near Universal in North Hollywood and the Uber ride was around $10 one way, which is great compared to the $25 general lot parking fee. Upon arrival, you’ll enter through City Walk, which has a collection of restaurants, department stores, and gift shops leading to the park entrance.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem X

DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda X

Flight of the Hippogriff™

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ X

Revenge of the Mummy™ – The Ride X

Silly Swirly Fun Ride

The Simpsons Ride™ X

Special Effects Show X

Studio Tour X

Super Silly Fun Land

TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D X

Universal’s Animal Actors

The Walking Dead Attraction X

WaterWorld®

 

Personal Tips & Tricks:

 

Low Traffic Times and Sunlight

Foot traffic and wait times at the parks is at its lowest between mid-January and early February. I recommend booking your vacation during these dates and to avoid weekends and holidays at all costs.

The park hours are listed online as follows:

Monday: 09:00AM-07:00PM

Tuesday: 10:00AM-06:00PM

Wednesday: 10:00AM-06:00PM

Thursday: 10:00AM-07:00PM

Friday: 09:00AM-07:00PM

Saturday: 09:00AM-09:00PM

Sunday: 09:00AM-07:00PM

These times have variations with possible early park access and/or during holiday seasons.

Once the sun begins to set, almost everything is brightly illuminated. Especially City Walk. Which can be beautiful, but also a potential trigger for epilepsy. Seeing as you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the parks and City Walk is the main exit, it’s best to plan your trip around the daylight.

 

Bring A Crowd

Gather ‘round, friends! This park is extraordinarily massive! Bring friends or family you’re comfortable spending time with to explore together. It’s quite easy to get distracted and accidentally lose track of your group.

If you’re traveling with photosensitive children set expectations before going to the parks. A majority of the rides are not photosensitive friendly, so make a list of the ones that are and plan your trip around them. Everyone deserves a day of adventure!

 

Be Prepared

You’ll be walking quite a bit spending a day at Universal Hollywood. As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this that two of the biggest triggers for epilepsy can be exhaustion and dehydration. Bring what you need, or may need, into the parks with you. I always carry my backpack while traveling and inside is an extra pair of clothes and emergency meds, alongside a water bottle secured tightly to my side. Also, my medical alert tag proudly strung around my neck. I was surprised to find that many of the fill stations were only for soda and juice and did not dispense water. When I asked an attendant for a cup of water, they mentioned they were only able to give an eight-ounce disposable cup with a purchase. I highly recommend purchasing the refillable cup and finding times throughout the day to fill it with water to stay hydrated. Some attractions have water fountains and if you ask a food service attendant, they will most likely fill your cup with water or direct you to another that will.

My photosensitive friendly attraction recommendation is WaterWorld®!

Once again, these are just a few of my suggestions and you should acquire a professional opinion before making plans. If there’s anything I may have missed feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Instagram: @iMarrowsJ. Wishing you the best and I hope your next adventure is full of wonder and excitement!

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

 

 

Be sure to check out part one if you haven’t already: All My Friends Are Freaks

Sunlight peaks through the ripped sheets acting as makeshift curtains in this distressing excuse of a mobile home. Crucifixes ironically line the walls with quotes of false hope like “God bless our home and all who enter”. Cigarette ash falls onto my head as my foster father reaches over me extinguishing another butt in a beer can on the coffee table. Sweeping the ash from my journal, I continue to write, scribbling through the obvious grumbles of hunger coming from my stomach. After a quick swig from his flask, he derisively snorts in my direction coughing up a loogie onto my notepad.

“Dinner is served,” he mocks, laughing himself into another coughing spell.

Grasping my skull for balance, he stands then stumbles towards the bathroom. Encasing the forest green ball of mucus, I close my journal listening to his stream hit the toilet bowl. My stomach rumbles once again. Curious if he has left any scraps on the table, I peruse hastily through the bottles, cans, and ashtrays uncovering a few forgotten chicken nuggets. Glancing towards the bathroom while his stream continues, I blow ash from my foraged treat. The toilet flushes as I begin to scarf more down chewing vigorously in anticipation of his return. With a painful swallow, I open my journal jotting down anything that comes to mind seeming busy. Making his way back down the hallway, behind my busy eyes I tremble, swiftly wiping the crumbs from my face. My foot taps anxiously, but I bury my head into what I’m writing.

Approaching me, he looms villainously, sporting a criminal smile. Belt already at hand, he takes a swing hitting the side of my leg. WHIP! Jumping to my feet, I make a break for the door. WHIP! Striking my back, I cry out in pain falling to the floor. Turning to him, I crawl backward shielding my face as he winds up for one more. WHIP! Breaking the skin on my arm, I hold it close to my chest. WHIP! With a backhanded return, he continues to lash until the fact sinks in that I’m an unwelcome guest. WHIP! Swiping the side of my head I fall defeated to the floor. A few moments pass, with some extra beatings to be sure.

“Oh look, the dogs pissing on the carpet again,” he leans over to shout in my face.

His breath reeks of brown liquor and stale cigarettes invading my senses like a toxic fume of discomfort and hatred. My vision gently fades as a light seemingly passes by my eyes. I can see him confidently stumble off dropping the belt by my side, whiskey bottle now at hand. Light passes by my eyes again, brighter than before.

“The convulsing has ceased,” a nurse sporadically states as others gather around me.

“We’re just passing four minutes,” another nurse says grabbing my wrist.

“Son, can you hear me?” he asks as I slowly open my eyes drained of all energy.

“Can you hear me?” he repeats.

Nodding my head, I realize I’ve moved to the floor. Groggily I turn my torso situating myself in my own puddle of piss.

“Do you know where you are?” he asks checking my awareness.

“The hospital,” I mutter flinching from the bright day room lights.

“What’s your name?” he continues.

“Twitch,” I confidently smirk back at them.

“Let’s get him up,” he states pulling me to my feet.

An MHW grabs my other arm as they drag me out of the day room. Picking my head up for a moment I can see Ethan standing by the doorway in tears. Placing me on an examination room table my head hits a pillow and I immediately want to fall asleep, but I can hear Annie screaming down the hall. The only reason I know it’s her is by how confidently she disses the MHW’s. No one compares to the amount of courage she holds within her heart. SLAM! The quiet room door shuts, silencing her cries. In attempts to sit up, my head feels full of concrete immediately touching back down on the pillow. Lowering the lights in the examination room, an MHW slides a chair in the doorway scrolling through their phone as my eyes gradually close.

The gossiping chatter of patients lining the halls of the unit wake me up. Sitting up slowly, I hold my head for moment regrouping my surroundings. Stepping out of the examination room, the remainder of the children’s unit is lined up to head out.

“Twitch!” Ethan excitedly shouts running over to me.

“Hey Ethan, you guys going to lunch?” I ask.

“Dude, it’s almost six o’clock. We’re going to dinner,” Ethan answers.

“What, no piss stains? Someone’s growing up,” he teasingly adds.

“Pretty sure I left it all over the day room floor,” I return.

We both share a laugh.

“Glad to see you’re doing alright. You scared the hell outta everyone,” Ethan states.

“Have you seen Annie?” I inquire after a quick look down the line.

“Not since this morning,” Ethan’s excitement fades.

“Dude, she thought you were dead. We both did,” he continues.

“We talked about this before, it happens all the time,” I try to explain.

“No Twitch, this time was different,” Ethan expresses making his way back in line.

“Eyes forward, silent mouths until we reach the cafeteria,” an MHW declares before waving his access card by the magnetic lock system.

A loud buzzing indicates the doors to the unit have been unlocked. Ethan waves as they make their way to the cafeteria. Dr. Shaundry slips through the open doors as the patients exit. Greeted by the nursing staff, Dr. Shaundry smiles and waves like a cocky pharmaceutical celebrity. The doors lock behind her.

“Mr. Gatto, glad you’re up and about. You’re just the person I wanted to speak to,” she starts.

“My name’s Twitch,” I reply.

“Right. Let’s talk in here, shall we?” she points towards the day room.

Head down, I follow her into the day room. Finding my usual seat, I pull my gown over my legs holding my knees close to my chest. Staring at the floor, even though it’s been scrubbed thoroughly, I can still make out my piss stain, faintly shining under the blinding fluorescents.

“Mason,” she starts.

“Twitch,” I sharply interrupt.

“Yes, Twitch. First, I wanted to commend you on being so mature this morning. The nursing staff mentioned to me that you exuded a bit of growth in cooperation prior to the…your…the emergency,” she continues seemingly suspect.

“With that said. The medication you received earlier today wasn’t intended…it didn’t agree with your system. Do you understand what I’m saying?” she questions in a conflicting tone.

I nod my head in agreement but remain silent and now a bit confused.

“Perfect. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to take you off SP1, and onto SP2. After a few days, we can explore the idea of letting you leave the unit, but for now we want to make sure you’re safe,” she finishes.

“We’ll talk again in a few days. Keep up the good work Mr. Gatto,” she states closing my chart.

“It’s Twitch,” I whisper to myself as Dr. Shaundry hastily exits the day room.

Dr. Shaundry checks her phone before making a stop at the nurse’s station. She seems upset speaking with the head RN. With their hands raised, they seem to be oblivious as to what Dr. Shaundry is upset about. Assertively pointing to my chart, Dr. Shaundry checks her phone once more, then exits the unit bumping the dinner cart on her way out.

Missing lunch, my stomach is prompt to remind me that it’s time to eat. The unfriendly aroma of the cafeteria’s poor interpretation of Salisbury steak lingers into the day room. Annie jokes that if you rinse the congealed gravy from the sides of that rubbery slab of the reconstituted meat product that it resembles the soles of our shoes they’ve conveniently confiscated upon admittance. I usually just smoosh it between two pieces of bread covering it in ketchup hoping to mask the stench. Approaching the steel shelved trolley, I begin to rummage around for a tray with a sizeable helping. One of the nurses turns to me with a false sense of pity.

“How are you feeling Mason?” she asks.

“My name’s Twitch and…alright, I guess,” I gently respond.

“Ah, well then…Twitch, thought you’d like to know that they brought you extra chocolate milk from the cafeteria,” she happily gestures towards a few extra cartons on another tray.

“Don’t they bring those when there’s a new admittance?” I question skeptically of her offering.

“Well, yes. You’re quite observant, aren’t you? Tell you what, you take the extra carton to the day room and it will be our little secret,” she states placing a carton on my tray.

“Sure, thank you,” I finish walking towards the day room puzzled.

“Ah ah ah, forgetting something?” she snidely asks.

“Pull the plastic from your tray here, you know the drill,” she continues pointing the trash can.

Uncovering the meat and potatoes, the rancid steam assaults my nostrils. Throwing the plastic away, the nurse sarcastically smirks as I turn away.

“Let us know if you need anything else, Mason,” she calls out as I enter the day room.

“It’s Twitch,” I say under my breath.

Digging in, I stick my plastic fork into the overcooked and under seasoned thin slice of meat. Using the edge of my spoon, I do my best to cut off a piece, but am unsuccessful. Placing my spoon aside, I lift the entire slab attempting to take a bite chewing forcefully through the tough lump like a vulture pulling the intestines from a rotting corpse of an elk.

“A little barbaric, don’t you think?” Annie mocks from the entrance of the day room.

I laugh a bit, grinning as I place my food back down. Taking her usual seat, Annie releases a deep sigh, then starts eating dinner. There’s an odd feeling between us that I can’t describe. I want to speak, but I feel she wants to say something first. A mutual misunderstanding. After a few bites, Annie just pushes her potatoes around her steak.

“I-“

“Look-“

We both start, interrupting each other. Our uncomfortable, yet calming stillness is accompanied by the steady rainfall outside.

“It’s not very good,” I start.

“Is it ever?” Annie shyly smiles back.

The silence returns as our awkward moment is spotlighted under the bright fluorescents.

“Did you see Ethan, yet?” Annie asks.

“Yeah, he’s alright, I think. Are…are you alright?” I ask.

“Am I alright?” Annie begins.

“You’re the one that almost died,” she returns.

“You spent a whole day in the quiet room,” I retort.

“Ethan thought you were fucking dead Twitch…and so did I,” Annie expresses.

“Look. I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, alright? They gave me the medicine, then I had a seizure, and now everyone’s either kissing my ass or chewing me out. The nurse even gave me an extra chocolate milk because she thought it would make me feel better or something,” I vent.

“Wait, back up,” Annie says.

“I said I got TWO chocolate milks, you want some?” I offer.

“No, you idiot. What do you mean everyone’s kissing your ass?” Annie asks.

“Oh, well Dr. Shaundry came in right before dinner and took me off SP1 and said the medication didn’t agree with me or something,” I explain.

“Then, the nurses were all smiley and nice handing me an extra chocolate milk, it was weird,” I finish.

“They fucked up,” Annie says to herself.

“Yeah, they did. If there’s a new patient, they’re not getting any chocolate milk,” I boast polishing off the first carton.

“No, Twitch. They fucked up. Don’t you see? The medication they gave you is what caused your seizure. That’s why Dr. Shaundry took you off SP1, that’s why the nurses were being so nice to you, and that’s why you got a second chocolate milk,” Annie exclaims.

“They could’ve killed you,” she finishes.

“You’re thinking way too much into this,” I reply.

A sudden flash of lightning followed by a roaring boom of thunder adds to the torrential downpour outside. The unit doors buzz as a mental health worker enters with a new patient. The boy is audibly sobbing dragging a soaked knapsack behind him, his clothes are covered in mud and hair as greasy as it could be. Head down he follows the MHW into the evaluation room. Annie and I continue picking around our trays. After a few minutes, the boy emerges from the evaluation room with the same defeated look we all had after being felt up like we’re magically hiding weapons up our asses. The MHW holds his clothes and shoes directing him towards dinner trays and the day room. Shuffling slowly towards us he grabs a tray and makes his way in continuing to whimper. Annie and I look to each other, then back at the boy. He places the dinner tray in the seat next to him and pulls his knees to his chest.

“First time here?” I ask.

Looking up for a moment, a faint black eye shines back at us. Grasping my second carton of chocolate milk, I look to him again, then walk over to him offering it up.

“Hey, ummm…my name’s Twitch and that’s Annie,” I start.

There’s no response. Looking to Annie I shrug my shoulders.

“So, I think this was really for you, but they gave it to me because they almost killed me,” I continue.

The boy glances up with a concerned expression. Turning to Annie again, she covers her face with her palm.

“I’ll leave it on your tray. They like to take notes on things we do, so try to eat something. Doesn’t have to be much,” I say trying to be supportive.

“Anyway…if you need anything Annie and I have been here for a while and know quite a bit. Our friend Ethan as well,” I finish, taking my seat near Annie.

“Idiot, you scared the shit out of him,” Annie aggressively whispers to me.

“I did not. The last thing I wanted to do after the MHW’s probed me was eat,” I retort.

“My name’s Samuel,” the boy quietly states.

“Right. Like I said, I’m Twitch and this is Annie,” I repeat myself.

“How long do I have to stay here?” he asks wiping snot from his upper lip.

“Uhhh…well probably shorter than us,” I joke.

“Usually three to five days,” Annie jumps in slugging my shoulder.

“Your parents bring you here?” she adds.

Shaking his head, he begins to hold his knees tighter.

The unit door bursts open as the other kids arrive back on the unit rushing into the day room. Ethan sprints in moving my tray aside taking his usual seat.

“Dude! Did you guys get any of that banana cream pie? It was so good,” Ethan exclaims.

Samuel sits up promptly, staring at Ethan with intent in his glare.

“Hi. I’m Ethan, what’s your name?” Ethan extends in a welcoming tone.

Awaiting a response, we all sit awkwardly twiddling our thumbs hoping he might reply.

“Ethan, this is Samuel. He just got here while you guys were at dinner,” Annie affirms unable to look away from Samuels fixated gaze of Ethan.

“Well this sure has been fun,” I interject.

Collecting my scraps of food, Annie and I dump the trash from our plates outside the day room returning our trays to the steel trolley unit. An earsplitting shriek painfully echoes through the halls of the children’s unit. Pushed aside by a nurse, an MHW rushes closely behind into the day room. Through the observation windows, Annie and I observe Samuel pounce violently onto Ethan tackling him to the day room floor. Another MHW blocks the door as we watch Samuel viciously claw at Ethan, tearing into his gown just enough to break the skin on his chest. While the MHW’s attempt to rip Samuel from Ethan, Annie aims to barge her way through the blockheaded bodybuilder obstructing the entrance. Successfully restraining Samuel, Ethan hurriedly crawls backward to the far corner of the day room.

“Code green children’s unit. Code green children’s un-,” the nurse is cut off as lightning strikes nearby cutting off power to the hospital.

Annie shoves her way through hastily making her way to the back of the day room in aid of Ethan. The MHW at the door rushes to assist in wrangling Samuel who cackles wickedly, then willingly surrenders to the power of the MHW’s. Entering the day room, I pass by Samuel who’s sporting a conceited grin with a bit of Ethan’s blood dripping from his chin. He groans in agony as an MHW digs his knee deeper into his back. The fire alarm sounds before the antique backup generator can kick in. Shielding my eyes from the flashing lights, I continue towards the back of the room reaching blindly in front of me. Annie eventually grabs my hand pulling me behind a cluster of chairs as the alarm continues to piercingly wail. She’s screaming, but I can’t make out anything she’s saying. The lights are too overwhelming as I become dizzy. Squinting my eyes, I use one hand to visor my vision slowly raising it hoping to read her lips as she shouts.

“He’s gone,” Annie shouts.

“Ethan’s not here, we have to go,” she says attempting to pull me to my feet.

Unconfidently finding my footing, Annie directs us out of the day room. Afraid to open my eyes I can hear the cries of other patients as MHW’s cluelessly attempt to regain control of this maddening situation. Forcefully grabbing my shoulders, Annie shoves me forward into a closet closing the door behind us.

“Fuck, c’mon Annie that hurt,” I cry out.

“Shhh,” Annie whispers.

“We’ll be alright as long as no one finds us in here,” she continues.

“What do you mean Ethan was gone?” I ask with a low voice.

“He wasn’t there, Twitch. When they pulled Samuel off, he crawled to the back of the room, but he wasn’t there,” Annie quickly attempts to explain.

“You think he got out the day room back door? The power might have cut out the lock systems,” I inquire.

“No, no. Any door leading directly outside is bolt locked, he’d need a key. There’s no way Twitch, there’s no way!” Annie mutters frantically.

“Okay, okay. We’ll figure it out just try and calm down,” I add.

The alarm sound subsides, Annie and I cover our mouths as we hear MHW’s walking about the unit unable to gain control of the other patients. SLAM! Annie and I jump as the unit door bursts open without warning.

“All unit doors have malfunctioned, middle unit patients are attempting to escape,” an MHW shouts onto our unit.

“We need assistance immediately,” he continues.

“Two of us will stay here, the others will head to the middle unit,” another answers.

SLAM! They swiftly exit the unit as the doors crash behind them. We can make out a few pairs of boots from underneath the door. A thick pink substance runs from under my gown. Annie nudges me pointing to it, as I slowly sit up hastily wiping it before it leaks out onto the unit.

“The majority of the kids are back in the day room; how many are we missing?” the MHW’s converse directly outside the closet.

“I don’t know two…three?” the other answers.

“You search the right corridor rooms while I watch the day room. Then we’ll switch. No room goes unturned,” they split.

“Twitch, this is our only chance. We have to go now,” Annie insists almost pushing me out of the door.

“Go where?”

“We have to find Ethan while the unit doors are unlocked,” she persists.

“Fuck alright let’s go,” I muster the courage slowly opening the door.

Staying low Annie and I use the nurse’s station as a barricade. Glancing towards the quiet room, sounds of hissing and snarling echo towards us.

“You hear that?” I ask as Annie sneaks into the nurse’s station.

“Annie, no. C’mon let’s go,” I encourage.

Annie hands me a few pens, then we turn towards the unit doors. Glimpsing at the quiet room monitor on the counter, Samuel can be seen struggling. His limbs are contorted wildly as he gripes towards the wall. Annie and I stare at the screen in awe as we witness his bones bend and crack. Even without sound, it’s terrifying to witness. He stops. We turn to each other, then back to the screen. Samuel is gone.

“Go. Now!” Annie exclaims as we both sprint towards the unit double doors.

“You ready?” she turns to me.

“Let’s do it,” I whisper back.

With a quick look over our shoulders, Annie gently pushes the doors open just enough for us to squeeze through.

To be continued…

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