The corridor bore the horrors of misguided humans for over a century. Long since faded were the screams of patients thrown into the corridor’s antechambers of absolute darkness. Gouges in stone from wrecked hands had been painted over decades ago. The lighting installed to brighten the place now powerless, a tube and its cover hanging solid from webs collecting detritus.
An echo, suddenly, from around the corner, away from this long abandoned hallway. A girl, not yet nineteen, the colours of her clothes and hair too new, neons unimagined when this asylum was functioning. She stumbles into the corridor against her will, her yelp muted as the weight of the space falls on her. Leslie’s eyes widen as she takes the place in. Her friend enters after her, prodding Leslie. Kylie’s colours are brighter still, outshining her friend’s. Kylie ignores Leslie’s stricken pause and pushes her deeper into the hallway.
Leslie turns and slaps her friend’s hands away. It’s a sharp strike that catches Kylie off guard. She pulls her smarting hand away, looks at the scratch along her knuckles. The brighter girl frowns.
“You cut me.”
Leslie looks at the small wound. Her annoyance crumbles and she steps to her friend, apologises. “I just… this place is too creepy.”
Kylie flaps her hand, dismissing the pain and Leslie’s whimpering. She steps past her into the faint moonlight struggling through a filthy window. She takes it all in, standing tall, proud of her lack of fear. This is just a stupid old building that’ll one day make someone a fortune as a redevelopment site. Kylie turns to the doorways, four of them spaced out along the stark old wall.
The first is locked tight, sealed by decades of rust and warp. She runs her hand along the old knob and across the flaking paint to the second door. Behind her, still at the corner, Leslie shuffles. Kylie looks over her shoulder at her cowardly friend. She smiles sweetly, beckons. “Coming?”
Leslie peers back from where they came. Kylie keeps walking. The lonely darkness behind them is worse than the shared unknown ahead, so Leslie rushes to catch up.
She passes the second door, broken and blocked by furniture, to meet Kylie at the wide open third. Kylie’s head is hidden inside the room, just her body and painted fingers holding her against the door way. Leslie slows her pace, reaches out to tap her friend, then gasps and jumps back as Kylie pulls back anyway. Her blonde hair bounces as she laughs at her friend, but Leslie, angry at the taunting, notices her laughter is quieter than it might be outside.
Kylie steps back and motions with both hands, “After you.” Leslie shakes her head, more angry now than afraid. Kylie recognises the emotional shift and snorts her disappointment, then shrugs and steps through the entry, out of sight.
Leslie stands there, frozen, shocked her friend could be so stupid. Straight in, no checking, no thought. Anger boiling up and overtaking sense, she steps towards the door herself, then jumps back a second time when Kylie pops out.
“I need your phone.”
Leslie touches her pocket. “What? Why?”
“It’s too dark in here.”
“Use your own.”
Frustrated, Kylie slaps the door frame. The impact reverberates through the walls, surprising her. They pause a moment, looking at the ceiling as the building settles, then look back at each other, both sets of eyes wide.
They burst into soft giggling, the tension of the moment melting away. “Come on,” Kylie says. “Stay behind me, we’ll explore together.”
Leslie pulls her phone out and turns on the light, right in Kylie’s face. She pulls her face away and grabs the device, then holds up her own. Leslie joins her as they both turn in to the room, Kylie holding both little LED lamps out like headlights in the dust.
They’re met by boxes and cases, packed high, channelling them deeper into the room. Leslie stays close, one hand on the small of Kylie’s back. Both take in sights through their circles of light, mesmerised by the metal tools and arcane instruments of medicine. Kylie spots something and rushes forward, pulling Leslie with her.
Neither of them notice the shifting of shadows beside the door they’d just entered.
Kylie lifts her phone to something Leslie can’t yet make out. Leslie closes the gap, holding her arms as the cool of the room sinks into her exposed flesh. Kylie touches something, pulls back, disgusted.
“Hang on,” Leslie mutters. She steps around Kylie, forces her hand up so one of the torch lights falls on a long thin cord. Leslie walks away, pulls the cord, and a wide lamp clicks on revealing a table covered in the butchered bodies and blood soaked pelts of small animals. A skinned rabbit hangs from a hook, its viscera fallen into a jar on the table. A fox, fur still on, but belly slit open, is the freshest item under the weak light.
Kylie screams and jumps back. Leslie stares, terrified but silent. Kylie keeps backing away, then stops when she hits something, the jolt causing her to drop one of the phones. She spins around. Leslie’s gaze slowly breaks away from the meat and bone on the workstation. Kylie lifts her remaining light up, along a bloodied, filthy smock, up over a hefty man towering over her. Before the light gets to his face, he knocks the phone out of her hand and crushes it under his boot. Kylie screams. The remaining phone’s torch and the lamp light are all that’s left, neither aimed at the pair. Leslie screams to match Kylie’s own, but then Kylie’s voice chokes out.
Leslie rips the lamp off the table and rushes to the gargled noises. Determined despite her fear, the weak light reveals an enormous man lifting Kylie off her feet, crushing her throat. His head is wrapped in a hunter’s cap, his mouth in a dark bandana. Leslie swings the lamp as hard as she can at that covered head, shattering the thin tube, the old metal making a hollow gong. Kylie tumbles to the ground, gasping for air. Leslie grabs her and drags her past the stunned trapper.
They tumble into the corridor, now nowhere near as terrifying as what they left behind. Leslie starts to pull her friend back to the corner end of the hall, but Kylie’s eye bulge and she falls over. On her hands and knees, she coughs and vomits blood. It spatters out across the floor as she struggles to breathe with her damaged throat. Leslie bends to help her when suddenly, the trapper’s meaty hand grabs her by the hair and pulls her back. He throws the girl behind him, back into the room. Leslie crashes into cases in the darkness, seeing glimpses of the trapper as he raises a cleaver in the air and brings it down, hard and fast. Leslie barely registers the sickening thud of steel on bone. She crawls to the small glow of light, the remaining phone. Behind her, slicing thunks. No screams, not even gurgles.
Desperate, on the edge of panic, Leslie swoops up the phone and shines it around, onto the table. She sees what she needs and yanks a long carving knife out of a fox corpse. She turns to the doorway, partially blocked by the collapsed boxes. There’s no sound or obvious sight of the trapper. The stricken girl bends, places the phone on the floor with the light facing up, then slides it away, off next to the door. The huge shadow of the trapper clomps towards the light, his flank exposed to Leslie. She runs, silently as she can, knife out like a joust, and rams it into his side.
The trapper moans, loud, and swings around, whacking Leslie back. She lets her momentum carry her through the door, back into the hallway. There, she slips and falls onto the innards and meat of her former friend. The teenage girl begins crying, unable to process the horror of what’s unfolding, every muscle in her body pulling her to escape. She crawls then lifts herself and runs awkwardly to the corner of the corridor. Leslie barrels into the darkness of the stairwell, her wracked sobs echoing into the distance.
Back in the hall, silence. The body lies in the dirty space. The faintest, softest noise can be heard from inside the preparation room. A muffled moan, drifting into higher pitches, then the clank of metal on metal. The trapper emerges, finishing wrapping his torso with the knife still sticking out of his side, just under the ribcage. In one hand, clattering against his body as he clomps after the girl, a long heavy chain.
Leslie is outside. The asylum is surrounded by bush, and in the brighter moonlight she dashes through branches and undergrowth. She’s not sure where she’s going, but she knows the hulking shadow of the institute is behind her. Despite her panting, the poor girl hears the unmistakable sound of a car speeding past on bitumen. She screams out as she quickens her pace, not paying attention to her footing. A steel snap and Leslie’s cry for help turns into a yell of pain. She collapses to the earth and rolls over to see the damage: a steel fox trap has clamped her ankle, biting deep.
Fevered, adrenalin pumping through her veins, she pulls at the jaws with her fingers, then grasps at a thick stick nearby. She wedges the wood in, crying out again with the pain, but grits her teeth and pushes. Leslie’s groans are hoarse with the pain, but she manages to open the trap and pull her shattered leg out.
The bushes shake, a chain rattles. Leslie hobbles away. The trapper has heard her and moves in, his chain dangling to one side, his other arm holding his wound. He sees her, silhouetted by the street light as she mounts the crest of the road embankment. She makes it to the road’s edge, hears the dangling, turns and sees the trapper stomping up the bank. With the last of her energy she lifts the trap and hurls it. The trapper can’t see through the shadows and the dazzling light, and the trap connects with his skull. He tumbles backwards, into the bush.
Leslie is already limping on the road, waving her arms. A passing car slows, someone inside calls out, scared but offering help.
Back in the bush-line, the trapper stands, watches, breathing heavy, dazed. Another person, too many, he stays back, groaning, almost whimpering as Leslie is helped into the car. The good samaritan looks into the bush, towards the trapper. The trapper backs away further, drops the chain and disappears into the foliage. Leslie calls out, “Please! We have to leave!” and the good samaritan runs back to the car, gets in and drives off.
The asylum, dark, sprawling, sits in the moonlight, looking undisturbed, more secrets added to its dark treasure trove, ready to be discovered.