NOTE: This is part THREE of the All My Friends Are Freaks short story series! If you haven’t already and would like to check out part one and two I will link them here:
PART ONE: All My Friends Are Freaks
PART TWO: All My Friends Are Freaks: Part Two
Stealthily exiting the unit, Twitch and I can see the rain flood the hospital parking lot.
“Fuck,” Twitch jumps as lightning strikes nearby followed by another boisterous clap of thunder.
“You alright?” I stop.
“I’m fine. Can we please just get away from the windows?” Twitch replies holding his hand over his right eye.
Grabbing Twitch’s arm, I pull him forward. Picking up our pace, we reach a questionable junction. The double doors in front of us lead to intake and the main lobby, whereas the hallway to our left routes towards the day program classrooms, gymnasium, and cafeteria.
“Annie, why are we stopping?” Twitch fervently questions holding his head to the ground.
Before I can answer, I notice the silhouettes of two MHW’s behind the double doors. Blindly dragging Twitch behind me, we dash down the hallway.
BAM! The double doors blow open followed by the hefty footsteps of the MHW’s about to turn the corner.
“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit,” I continuously ramble to myself scrambling to open any door within reach.
Finally finding one that’s unlocked, I whip the door open throwing Twitch in front of me gently closing it behind us.
“You don’t have to keep tossing-,” Twitch starts before I forcefully place my hand over his mouth.
Keeping a finger over my lips I raise my hand from Twitch’s mouth. I cringe silently, cutting the lights as I attempt to lock the door behind me without making a sound. The steel from the deadbolt scrapes harshly against the inside casing of the strike plate as the MHW’s make their way down the hallway.
“No patients in here,” one calls out opening the door adjacent from us as Twitch and I hold our breath.
Twitch holds onto me tight as we hear the MHW’s keychain dangle right outside the door. Giving the handle a try, the MHW then rotates through a couple of keys. My jaw moves nervously as the teeth of his keys grind coarsely against the locking mechanism.
WHOMP! An echoing thump comes from above as if a tree has fallen on to the roof. I look to Twitch.
“What was that?” the MHW asks pulling away from the door.
“You. Stay right there!” the other shouts back down the hall.
WHAM! Twitch and I jolt up as an MHW’s body strikes the door. Moving towards the back of the room, I begin to feel around for anything in the form of a weapon to defend us. Grasping nothing but bendy straws, broken crayons, and paper cups I now realize why they had left the arts and crafts room unlocked.
“Here,” Twitch whispers handing me one of the pens we swiped from the nurse’s station.
I can feel my heart attempt to race out of my chest while Twitch and I eye the door. There’s a silence.
“Twitch,” I quietly murmur at Twitch as he starts tiptoeing towards the door.
He stops. Turning slowly to me, we both sport a puzzled expression while an indistinguishable snarl creeps through the cracks in the door.
“What the fuck is that?” I mouth inching closer to Twitch.
A gentle, repetitive knock hits the door accompanied by the sound of someone gasping for air. Sprinting for the door, I immediately reach for the bolt lock.
“What are you doing?” Twitch fretfully demands, pulling my hand away from the door.
“They might have Ethan,” I assertively reply.
“Just be ready,” I caution gripping the end of a ballpoint pen as if it’s a dagger.
Twitch nods as I unbolt the door.
“On three,” Twitch states.
“One, two, THREE!” we shout yanking the door open swinging our pens blindly in front of us.
Anchoring my pen, I gradually open my eyes as blood begins to run down my arm.
“Holy shit,” Twitch utters in awe, dropping the pen to his side.
Both MHW’s hang before us by bedsheets like some sort of fucked-up flesh pinatas.
Releasing my grip, I wipe the blood off on his pant leg.
“Let’s go!” I holler at Twitch progressing towards the cafeteria.
“Wait,” he anxiously calls back gesturing under their suspended corpses.
“Look,” he nervously shakes pointing to a chocolate milk carton.
Reaching for the carton, I examine it closely with Twitch.
“You don’t think,” Twitch starts.
“Samuel,” I finish.
A childish chuckle carries through the hallway from the children’s unit shifting our attention. Standing at the ready, Twitch and I cautiously follow the laughter backtracking towards the unit.
“Ethan!” I call out.
“Samuel?” Twitch apprehensively adds.
The laughter subsides and lights begin to flicker as the generator motor finally kicks in. Twitch drops his focus to the floor, shielding his vision.
“Guess the power’s back on. Bully for us,” he jokingly responds.
“Yeah, bully for us. Except all the double doors are locked again which means we’re stuck here,” I add helping Twitch up.
“Unless…” Twitch begins.
“…we borrow some keys-,“ Twitch turns back to the hanging MHW’s in shock to find one is missing.
“Where’d he go?” I ask.
“I don’t fucking know!” Twitch replies.
“Did you hear anything?” I persist.
“No! I was busy trying to not to fuckin’ zombie out,” Twitch answers.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” I yammer on frantically searching the area.
“Even if he fell, we’d have to hear that. We would hear it. His body would hit the floor,” I chat to myself trying to make some sense of the situation.
“Blood,” an elderly voice eccentrically responds turning the corner from the cafeteria.
Immobilized by the menacing tone, Twitch and I stare petrified down the hallway.
A stripped, shriveled, skeletonesque man saunters sinisterly in our direction holding out a spoon.
“I told your friend,” he starts giggling to himself.
“Blood is the key to freedom. Yes. Yes, it is! We just need to bleed, and we’ll be free. Free. FREE!”
The man cackles wildly, then jabs the blunt-edged spoon into his eye socket twisting and digging deeper eventually pulling forth his own eyeball followed by a bit of what could be brain matter attached to his optic nerve. Profusely leaking from his freshly shoveled orifice, he limply collapses forward to the floor; his eye rolls from the palm of his hand across the carpeted hallway meeting the ends of my hospital socks. As if quicksand suddenly formed underneath him, the mans bare and bloodied corpse sinks into the floor.
“Twitch…did you see that?” I stammer running towards the renewed carpet floor.
“Where’d he go? Where the fuck did he go!?” I scream in frustration as panicked tears start rolling down my face.
“Twitch! Twitch? Twitch, where are you?” I call out down both ends of the empty hallway.
“ANNIE!” Twitch cries back.
“Twitch! Twitch, I’m coming!” I shout out grabbing his pen and the keys from the belt loop of the remaining MHW.
Sprinting back towards the children’s unit, I turn the corner to see the parking lot continue to flood and winds tear branches into the roads. The lightning has seemed to subside, but the thunder lingers in the form of a constant rumble. Reaching the double doors at the entrance of the unit I swipe the electronic key fob disengaging the magnetic locking strip. Lightly pushing the doors open, I warily slide my body through. The unit is still. Abandoned it seems. Hurriedly making rounds of the children’s unit I’m surprised to find no one in the day room and all of the patient rooms open and empty.
“Code blue children’s unit. Code blue children’s unit,” an unknown voice states over the hospital intercom.
BAM! The unit doors fly open. Hoisting myself over the service desk of the nurse’s station, I hide as the intimidating steps quickly pass towards the quiet room. Staying low, I crawl towards the edge of the station checking to see if the coast is clear. No sign of any MHW’s, I pop my head up staring closely at the surveillance feed from the quiet room. A few nurses and MHW’s stand calmly in unison around the patient restrained to the table. Unable to make out who the patient is through a greyish blur on the monitor, I wipe the screen with my hand. The blur persists and begins to spread around the quiet room like smoke. Arms by their sides, heads bowed towards the patient, the fumes trail up their chests into their nostrils.
“TWITCH!” I exclaim as the smoke clears his body.
“AHHHH!” an earsplitting shriek carries through the unit over the hospital intercom.
Placing my hands over my ears, I wince and cower under the desk until the shrilling screech eventually halts. Once again, my eye line meets the edge of the nurse’s station taking a quick look around. Skimming back over the surveillance camera, Twitch struggles alone against the restraints. Hastily making my way towards the quiet room, the handle singes my skin. Glimpsing through the square observation window I can see Twitch continue to writhe as the floor around him becomes engulfed in flames. Grabbing a washcloth from a patient’s room, I wrap it tightly around my hand approaching the quiet room door. Samuel stands guard defending the chaos he has produced.
“It’s over Annie,” he calmly starts.
“Move Samuel,” I state, readying my stance.
“Soon, all will be clear,” he continues.
“Just bleed. Just bleed and you too will be free,” he finishes chuckling madly to himself.
“You first,” I spring forward pulling Twitch’s pen from behind me.
Stabbing mercilessly, I continuously dig the pen into his lower abdomen until my arm grows weak. Releasing my grip, his body falls lifeless over mine. Shoving his corpse to the floor, I shudder at what I’ve done.
“Ethan,” I murmur through my immediate grief.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Ethan,” I whimper kneeling to his side.
“Annie,” he faintly returns.
“Bleed. Bleed and you’ll be free,” he demonically snickers unveiling his rotted teeth and uninviting eyes.
I begin crawling backward as he continues to snigger gradually descending into the floor. The flames inside the quiet room cease.
“Twitch,” I jump to my feet pulling the door open running to his side.
Releasing each restraint one by one, Twitch lays unresponsive on the bed.
“Twitch. Twitch, c’mon get up,” I shout unlatching the final restraint.
“You’ve never walked away from anything in your life. Get up!” my tears pile onto his chest.
Goddamnit Twitch! Please! Please, get up. Please,” I lay over him continuing to sob.
In this moment. I feel it’s only us. In this room. In this moment. In this life. Together. Collectively as close and as far apart as we can be. I can hear his heart hang on by a thread and his lungs attempt to fill with air. The rise and fall in his chest keeps me hopeful as I continue to lay there beside him.
Groggily awakening, Twitch turns his body towards me rubbing his eyes with one hand. My remaining tears fall off my cheeks around my grateful smile.
“I know, Twitch. I know, but you gotta get up. Let’s go, I’ll help you up,” I encourage helping him up.
Carefully roaming the children’s unit, I gather some items from the nurse’s station while Twitch uses the bathroom. Noticing our charts behind me, I decide to peruse through while we have a moment to rest. Our charts hold all the information about us during our stay here, or in Ethan, Twitch and I’s case, stays. From admittance evaluation to medications, to outbursts and sedations, what time we fall asleep, how much we ate for breakfast, heck there’s even a number of bathroom visits on here. Little overkill if you ask me. The most important thing listed, however, is the patient’s potential discharge date. That’s all people care about when they’re leaving. For us, the veterans, that’s not something we tend to look forward too. This is our home, for now. And we all seem to be alright with that.
Pulling Ethan’s chart from the shelf, I can’t help but feel upset. Out of the three of us, Ethan was the least happy to be here. He didn’t feel he belonged anywhere. You know how when you’re upset and you tell people “you wouldn’t understand,” well the only person I genuinely believed was Ethan. His feelings seemed so complex and genuine in the most extreme ways.
“Patient has shown willingness to participate in their treatment plan and has voluntarily complied with prescribed medications. Recommended for discharge within the next week,” I read to myself.
“Where to now?” Twitch asks.
“Nowhere,” I blow Twitch off, hiding some tears with a sniffle.
“Well…we can’t just stay here, can we? Whose chart is that?” he returns.
“No one’s, alright!?” I snidely snap back tossing Ethan’s chart aside.
“You saw him too, didn’t you?” Twitch sympathetically expresses to my back.
“I thought I was just seeing things. Or…I don’t know, that I might have died,” he tries to explain getting a bit emotional.
“He was trying to help me in the quiet room. But he just…it wasn’t him. I think. I think I just really wanted it to be,” he finishes.
“It wasn’t,” I snap again.
“Ethan’s gone. So, let’s just focus on getting outta here alive,” I end continuing towards the unit doors.
“Since when are we trying to get out?” Twitch calls back.
“Where would we go?” he follows.
“What are you even talking about?” I step back.
“Even if the weather was on our side, which it’s not, where would we go if we get out?” he persists.
“I haven’t gotten that far ye-,” I try to reply.
“Home, right? You would go home, and I would just wander the road until the police pick me up,”
“Twitch, that’s not what we’re going to do-,”
“I’m tired, Annie. Tired of just hopping home to home only to get placed back here to rot. I’m tired of everyone telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m going to be something awful, just another product of abuse and neglect, a loser, a statistic,” Twitch begins to vent.
“What if they’re right? Then what am I fighting for? Why am I trying so hard to fit into a world that clearly doesn’t want me?” he asks turning away from me.
“Twitch, you don’t fight for them…you fight for you. You fight just like every other statistic so that when you come out alright on the other side you can look back and say ‘Fuck You! I did make it. I’m still here and everything you told me I’d be was a lie’,”
“Annie. There are times I look at the patients on the middle unit and I see me. It feels…right? Like that’s where I’m supposed to end up,”
“Twitch, I might not have the answers you’re looking for, but neither do the people working here. People spend their whole lives searching for reason and purpose forgetting just to live and be the person they are. Statistic or not, your struggle is what makes you who you are,” I continue grabbing Ethan’s chart once more.
“And if you won’t fight for you, fight for Ethan. He loved us, dude. He cared more about how we were doing more than himself any time of the day. So, when you’re ready, let’s plan our next move,” I finish handing Ethan’s chart over to Twitch.
Twitch takes a minute to browse through Ethan’s chart while I proceed to search the unit for any extra items. Digging through every cabinet and drawer, besides a few more pens, almost nothing seems viable. Pulling out the pockets of the nurse’s extra scrubs hanging by their station, I hear a jingling come from behind. Tossing the scrubs aside, the most prized item I could ask for presents itself; teasing me with its golden teeth hanging by a thin, blue threaded lanyard, a master key, a skeleton key. Only a handful of head RN’s and psychologists access to some parts of the hospital.
Gripping the lanyard grinning ear to ear, I turn to Twitch presenting the key like a newly awarded gold medal at the Olympics. My smile swiftly fades as I witness a knotted sheet fly over Twitch’s head wrapping securely around his neck. As if he were cattle being wrangled to the ground, his body jerks back as he’s violently dragged across the unit floor.
“Twitch!” I hurdle over the counter watching Twitch reach for the sheet, he clutches the ends attempting to loosen the deadly hold it has on his airway.
The unit doors whip open unveiling the impossibly endless string of bedsheets continuing down the hallway between units.
Running past Twitch, I place the master key into the manual port.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…,” the doors begin to slowly shut as I brace myself to catch Twitch.
OOMPH! Twitch crashes into me as the doors shut behind us. Fumbling with the sheet around his neck, he struggles as I hastily untie the knots.
Gasping for air, Twitch sits up coughing and gagging.
“Holy shit,” I take a breath in exhaling as I lay my head against the double doors grateful that Twitch is alright.
We take a moment to rest on the firm carpeted unit floor.
“We have to get outta here,” Twitch states.
Chuckling aloud, I jokingly shake my head standing to my feet offering my hand out to him with a smile.
Turning the master key, we both wearily eye the hallway as the doors open once more. Twitch grabs a few of the sheets tying a noose of his own fastening one end to his waist and carrying the other like a lasso. Retrieving the master key, we make way down the hallway where one MHW still hangs.
“What’s the plan?” Twitch asks as we turn the corner towards the cafeteria.
“We’re going to pick up our prescription,” I cheekily voice gesturing towards the pharmacy door with the master key.
Crouching outside the pharmacy window, I reach up inserting the key. I beam with glee turning the key as I hear the steel bolt exit the locking mechanism. I turn to Twitch with a boastful smirk. The door faintly creaks as I gently push it open just enough for Twitch and I to squeeze through.
“What exactly are we looking for again?” Twitch apprehensively jumps in keeping watch of the door.
“Anything really,” I answer opening every drawer and cabinet.
“Yeah, but…do we even know what we’re fighting?” Twitch adds.
“Nope,” I effortlessly reply.
“Jackpot!” I shout carefully unveiling a handful of syringes to Twitch.
“What are we supposed to do with those?” he returns.
“Improvise,” I say taping a few together into one badass shiv.
Opening the pharmacy door, we both continue down the hallway passing by the cafeteria. The harsh lighting from the parking lot on the other side illuminates through onto the empty tables and chairs.
“Thought I’d be more excited to see the cafeteria,” Twitch states staring at the menu board outside the entrance.
“Holy shit! Congrats on leaving the unit Twitch. What’s it been, a week?” I nudge Twitch playfully.
“Try two. Dr. Shaundry’s had a firm grip on my nuts for a while now,” he chuckles to himself.
“You hungry?” he adds.
“More tired, but I could go in for some fuel,” I answer.
“If there’s only Salisbury steak, I’d rather stick these needles in my own neck,” I add pointing at the poorly written menu board.
Twitch and I laugh entering the cafeteria hoping to scavenge something substantial. Working our way towards the line, I glance into the parking lot where rainfall has submerged the few remaining cars tires and telephone poles have fallen. A searchlight shines from above through the shatterproof panel passing right by my face.
“Twitch! It’s a helicopter,”
“Help! We’re in here! Help us!” I shout waving my arms, then banging on the window.
BAM! I jump back as a manic patient’s hand smacks back on the other side of the glass.
I can’t hear him, but I can tell he’s pleased even though the torrential downpour drenches his gown accompanied by the forceful winds. He runs off opportunely towards the entrance road.
Before I stand, I can hear a slight trickle hit the floor behind me.
Twitch stares blankly towards the parking lot as water drips from his cup onto the floor.
Running to his side, I fumble for a moment, then begin to count.
“…1, 2, 3…”
BOOM! A gunshot echoes in the distance outside.
Continuing my count to myself I run to the cafeteria entrance locking us in with the master key checking over my shoulder at Twitch.
BAM! The double doors leading from the center of the hospital whip open.
“Middle unit,” I whisper to myself terrified.
Knowing the lock won’t be enough I frantically pull a few tables hoping to barricade the entrance.
“…36, 37, 38…”
I continue to count throwing chairs on top of the tables as patients line up in the hallway viciously slamming on the glass.
My attention instantly switches towards the kitchen as I can hear the clanging of some pots and pans.
“…49, 50, 51…”
I clench my dagger of syringes circling Twitch readying myself to defend.
A middle unit patient approaches mockingly hitting a pot with a wooden spoon.
“…66, 67, 68…”
“Fuck off psycho!” I scream.
Gloatingly snickering his glance cheekily shifts to the left.
“…71, 72, 73…”
As I turn another patient grasps my throat lifting me off my feet.
“…77, 78, 79…”
The patients in the hallway erupt barreling anything they can find against the window in attempts to breakthrough.
With one swift motion, I swing my dagger directly into his jugular, twisting and digging until he releases his grip from my neck.
“…85, 86, 87…”
CRASH! Before the other patient can approach, the window breaks as a dozen more patients stampede in slicing themselves all over the wire within the safety glass.
I sprint towards Twitch tackling him to the ground continuing to count.
“…91, 92, 93…”
Holding him tight, I feel this is our end. Even though with seconds to spare, each moment lasts longer than the last. My tears pile beside us in a puddle. A puddle that reflects not only our fight but our resilience and courage to belong in a world that so clearly tries to define our worth.
Bullets pass over our heads as the bodies of patients begin to collapse beside ours.
A few police officers’ flashlights direct their attention over us. I weep gratefully in their direction continuing to count.
“…105, 106, 107…”
Refusing to let go of Twitch, I feel blood pour out of his back from a new wound.
I stop counting and place my ear against his chest. His heartbeat gradually fades as other officers make their way in.
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