The creative writing club sponsored a contest this Halloween--here is the chilling first place entry.
by Karlin B.
It’s been a year since my twin sister went missing. She had gone to the hospital to see it one last time before the bank repossessed it. My life hasn’t been the same since, crumbling around me like an avalanche. It used to be the two of us against the world. Now it’s just…me. It’s hollow and lonely. I’m broken, half of a whole. She was my best friend, the only person who really understood me, my whole world. I’ve been traumatized since then, and I’ve been steeling myself for when I make the journey up there. I’m going to find my sister.
The rain pours down on my soaking brown hair, pelting me in unforgiving waves. I didn’t grab a coat in my rush to leave home so I wouldn’t change my mind. I hope I don’t catch a cold. That’s the least of my worries. As I wandered down the well-worn path, my feet went into autopilot as I got lost in memories of my sister and me. I can remember how we’d pretend to read each other’s minds in front of our friends and stay up late making each other laugh. She could always cheer me up, no matter what. CRASH! A blast of lightning flashes, tearing me away from memory lane and illuminating a rickety sign with weathered letters. The hospital. I’ve arrived.
The abandoned hospital is scarier at night. Not one of my best decisions, but Mom would have killed me if she saw where I went, so I had to wait until she was asleep. She’s been doing a whole lot of that since my sister went missing. I’ve gotta make it home safe. What with Dad away serving as a military doctor, she’s under a lot of stress. It broke my mother’s heart when my Dad left his steady hospital job to work in the military. His excuse was something about helping the greater good, and I get it, but…what about us? If he hadn’t left, my sister would still be with me and I wouldn’t be standing here in the dark, looming shadow of a dead hospital.
I have to find my sister, but it would crush Mom to lose both of her kids, so I must be careful. I need to get home with my sister so I can see the smile finally return to Mom’s face. There’s no option.
My gaze shifts to the rotting wood of the doorway. I gather all my courage and step inside.
I inhale the familiar scent of cleansing wipes and half-dead flowers. This is the hospital that my Dad ran before he went away. It was abandoned soon after. My sister came here to see it one last time, but never returned.
I take in the eerie hallway lined with rooms for patients in critical care. I go into every single one. My sister isn’t there. I look by the front desk with the fish tank that my sister and I would look at for hours, which now, of course, is empty. She isn’t there.
I find the old staircase to the basement. The stairs creak as my foot hits each step. I take out the flashlight I brought and switch it on. The light reassures me.
I remember this place. The morgue. I always avoided coming down here because it was, by far, the most terrifying place in the whole hospital. I want to turn around, but I know that I’d never forgive myself if I turned around now. My father always taught me: only when you give in to fear are you truly in danger. My sister wasn’t afraid of the morgue. She had always teased me for being a baby. She would come down here all the time. It fascinated her.
I walk across the basement floor quietly. The wallpaper is torn and yellowing. The floorboards are loose or missing. I have to watch my step. There are tables with scales, cabinets with large steel drawers, bags, and bins everywhere. They wouldn’t have scared me so much if I didn’t know what they were for.
Suddenly, the flashlight flickers out, and I am plunged into complete darkness. As I stand there, my imagination takes the reigns. I can hear the screams and wails of dying patients. I see the shapes of bodies under white sheets, stock still. I can feel the cold hands clinging to me, begging me to spare them from death, though I could not help them.
I force myself to snap out of it, regaining control of my consciousness. I‘m on the floor. How did I get here?
I don’t know why I was hoping to find her here. What if Mom was right? What if something dreadful happened to her? I had spent all these months clinging to a dead hope, convincing myself that she was still here. It’s time to go home. The reality crashes in: she’s gone. I’ll go home, comfort Mom in every way I can. I’ll try to be enough.
I stand up and head for the stairs. I am about to turn around to begin ascending when I see a pair of eyes. The eyes are staring right at me. They were like none I’d ever seen before, almost human but not quite. They were bright, glowing. Boring into me, yet unseeing. Haunting. There was an essence about them that struck me as almost…familiar? Then, the face that the eyes belonged to emerged. All the breath left my chest. A being steps forward, out of the shadows saying, “Didn’t I tell you the dead were fascinating?”
An odd sensation comes over me. I try to run but I’m paralyzed. It’s as if those eyes have taken control of me. I feel cold. I can’t think. I feel my chest tighten, gasping for air. Is this what dying feels like? I feel the life drain out of me as I sink back to the floor.