An eerie fog fills the bay as your rickety boat pulls up at the derelict wooden pier. You mind your step, clinging to the rotted wood railing as you hoist yourself onto the jetty.
Glancing around, you feel a chill shoot straight down your spine. The boat master points towards a dimly lit pathway. “Follow the path. It’ll lead you right to the asylum,” he informs you, before pushing the boat away from the dock and paddling slowly into the fog bank.
You follow the cobblestone path, feeling your way along the stone walls as you come to a sign. Westwood Asylum. You shudder. Just the name is enough to conjure up images of ghosts and ghouls.
The moss tickles under your hand as you squint into the blackness. You can faintly make out shapes in the distance but are unsure of what they are.
As you move forward along the path, you come to a large wrought iron gate. It creaks loudly as you open it. You squeeze through the gap, batting away the spider webs.
A cemetery. That was the shapes you could see from the pathway near the pier. Headstones are neatly lined up in the overgrown grounds. You bend down to read one of them. “Elizabeth Holt. Born November 17th, 1765. Died November 17th 1795. Gone but never forgotten.”
You stand, dusting your hands on your jeans. It was sad that a young woman passes on her 30th birthday. You kick a small rock that sat atop her grave and smile in satisfaction as it bounces off another tombstone.
Through the mist you hear voices. You cock your head to one side and listen. The voices don’t sound other worldly but the goosebumps rising on your arm cause you to think otherwise.
You continue making your way out of the graveyard. You walk into a cobweb. Shrieking in terror, you begin flinging your arms around wildly.
The sticky web clings to your shirt as you dance around the headstones, cursing the existence of spiders. You feel itchy, scratching at your arms, your chest and your head. Even though you can’t see the webs anymore, you feel like they’re still attached to you.
Still slapping at your arms, you exit the cemetery via another iron gate. The voices are getting louder and when you look up you see four people standing in front of a heavy wooden door. They’re arguing about how to get inside.
You approach them, tentatively holding onto the rotted railing that ascended the stairs.
Before you looms a large mansion. Derelict and dilapidated the mansion had seen better days. Back in the early 1600’s it belonged to the Westwood family. A loving family they were. Jonathan Westwood was a physiatrist, his wife was Annabelle was a piano teacher. He had a daughter too. Claire Westwood. It was reported that Claire became her father’s pet project, using his experimental treatments on her. Later reports would suggest she was schizophrenic.
After the death of his wife, Jonathan turned his home into an asylum for the criminally insane. Lobotomies were his specialty and, from all reports, he also introduced electro-shock therapy to the small town of Blackstone.
And now you, along with four other people, were standing on the front step of the old asylum.
“The door is barred,” a tall, dark haired man said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I thought Paranormal Investigations were going to open it all up for us.”
Paranormal Investigations was a popular television show. You became addicted to it after seeing the first episode. Though you are highly skeptical that ghosts really do exist, you couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be involved in the hit show.
You glance around and notice cameras mounted on steal poles and hiding in trees. You smirk and chuckle to yourself. Reality TV at its finest.
You introduce yourself to the others. The man with the glasses shakes your hand. “I’m Neil,” he says, crinkling his nose as a foul stench fills the air.
The young woman with long, dark hair gives you a friendly smile as she politely holds her nose. “I’m Gail,” she says.
The other young woman with short spikey blonde, pink and purple hair gives you a little wave. “Anna,” she says, playing with her nose ring.
You glance over at the remaining man. A massive hulk of muscle and brawn, he’s quite intimidating. “Bric,” he says, shaking your hand with a firm grasp. You gasp. Your hand feels crushed beneath the weight of his.
You grimace as he releases your hand. You give it a quick rub and readjust your jacket. The air is cool. You haven’t seen anyone from the show since you climbed out of the boat. Where is everybody?
You leave the front door of the asylum and make your way around the side of the building. The others follow, asking what you’re looking for.
“Don’t you think it’s strange that no one from the show is here?” you respond, pulling on the wooden boards that are nailed across the windows.
A loud creaking sound grabs your attention. You turn, jogging back towards the door. Your sneakers thud softly over the dirt, kicking stones as you approach the front door.
“What the - ?” Gail says, her finger intertwining with her hair, twisting the dark strand around and around. “That was locked. We tried it before.”
You walk over to the door. The wooden boards that had blockaded it were gone. Not sure of what was going on, you poked your head inside. The walls were decaying, the stench of mold fills your nostrils. It smells like death inside.
You turn back to face the others, informing them that you can’t see anyone. “It also stinks in there,” you say, hoping to deter them from joining you inside. After all, the name of the game for Paranormal Investigations was to be the last one standing in a haunted place.
Anna wrinkled her nose. You could tell she wasn’t the type of person who wanted to spend the entire night in an abandoned asylum, but the thought of the ten million dollar prize money was too good for her to pass up.
You tilt your head to the side, licking your lips are you stare intensely at her. “I think I heard bats in there too,” you say slowly, your eyes locked onto hers, studying her reaction.
Your head snaps up. You had expected Anna to be the first to bow out, but it was Neil who spoke. His face was pale, eyes wide. He looked like he was about to throw up.
Bric laughed. “You’re not scared of a few bats, are you?” he chuckled, banging his hand down on Neil’s back with such force that the sound echoed across the island.
Neil pushed his glasses back up his nose with his middle finger. “It’s not the bats I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s the diseases that they carry.
Sorry, but I’m not stepping foot in there. I’ll stay here and wait for your return in the morning.” He folded his arms across his chest and took a seat on the crumbling steps.
Gail stared at him in disbelief. “You can’t be serious?” she squeaked. “You can’t stay out here all night. Come inside and just sit in the hallway near the door.”
You second that notion. Oh sure, it would have been better if he stayed outside because then he would be ineligible for the prize money. But then again, if he sat in the hallway the whole night you could scare him out of the building with a sudden loud noise. Or maybe even by simply placing a hand on his shoulder.
You feel yourself smiling and quickly force yourself to stop. You’re in this game to win and you will win by any means necessary, but you don’t want the others to catch on to that.
Without waiting for the others, you venture inside. Bric is right behind you, his footsteps pounding on the broken tiles of the foyer. Anna, Gail and Neil lingered in the doorway.
You chuckled to yourself. You expect there to be some scares. After all, it was a reality TV show. You just didn’t think you’d be paired with three cowards and one brute.
You and Bric saunter down the hall, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness. There’s not much to see. Overturned wheelchairs, scattered papers that looked like they were over a hundred years old and a layer of dust that was close to two inches thick.
You reach your hand out, feeling along the wall for a light switch. You find a button and flip it. The lights flicker before burning out.
“Great,” you hear Anna say. “No electricity.”
Rolling your eyes, you continue to feel along the wall until your hand grasps a door handle. You open it. Squinting into the blackness you notice you’re in an office. You begin searching the drawers, looking for anything that could shed some light on the old asylum.
Your hand brushes over a box of matches. You quickly light one. The flickering flame casts an eerie light on the office. Peeling wallpaper, disheveled bookcase filled with old files and the unmistakable smell of dampness.
Bric points out a candle sitting on the very edge of the desk and you quickly light it before you fingers are burned by the flame.
The minimal light does nothing to hide the creepiness of the asylum. It emphasized it.
Holding the candle high to allow it to cast a glow upon the room, something sitting on the rickety bookshelf catches your eye.
It’s a large silver envelope opener. You reach up, feeling the coolness of the metal touch your skin. Something so valuable seems so out of place in this rundown asylum.
A scream shatters your thoughts. You and Bric turn and run out of the office. Anna and Gail are standing by the large door. Neil is trying to pry it open. “It’s locked,” he declares, slamming his palm against the heavy wooden door.
“How can it be locked?” Bric demands.
Neil shrugs, removing his glasses and cleaning them on the hem of his shirt. “I don’t know,” he quips, perching his glasses back on his nose. “It just is.”
A lingering moaning noise comes from the other end of the corridor.
Bric and Neil both froze while Anna and Gail huddled against each other, backing slow up towards the main entrance.
You grasp the candle in your shaking hand. You begin walking, realizing that you’re actually heading to investigate the commotion.
You stop, only a few steps from an open doorway. Your whole body is shaking and your breathing is short and shallow. You can hear Bric moving behind you. His heavy footsteps echo in the background. A chill suddenly races up your spine. Your arms are covered in goosebumps.
“Bric,” you say, your voice hushed. “What do you think that was?”
Silence assaults your ears.
You spin around. You can make out three shadows near the entrance. You race back to the office, hoping Bric was just playing a prank.
He’s not there.
“BRIC!” you scream. Your voice bounces off the walls and you notice how panicked you sound.
You turn to Neil. “Where the hell is he?” you demand, hoping that one of the others saw where he went.
Neil began shaking his head as a loud sob escapes Gail.
“He was right there. Then this-this fog filled the hall. Then he was gone,” Neil stammered, his body pressing up against the asylum walls.
Your heart is pounding. You place your hand on your chest, hoping against all hope that your heart doesn’t make like a cartoon characters and leap out of your chest.
Taking deep breaths, you reach for Gail’s hand. “The only way to survive the night is if we all stay together,” you say. “The wards, which will contain beds, are through that door down there. I say we hold up there for the night.”
“And what is wrong with staying by the front door?” Neil demands.
You can resist rolling your eyes. “If you want to stay here, that’s fine. But as per the contract you signed, you need to ‘explore’ the asylum. If we go the ward, we’ve explored. But then again, if you’re too scared…“ You let your voice trail off, feeling a smirk arising on your lips.
Neil pushed past you. “I am not afraid,” he snarled, marching down the corridor towards the ward door.
You watch in satisfaction as Neil throws open the door before letting out a high-pitched bloodcurdling scream.
Anna takes off down the hall, her boots pounding the slate floor. You and Gail are right behind her.
As you reach the doorway, the pungent odor of death lingers. You gag, your eyes watering as you step into the ward.
Your eyes grow wide as the skin of Neil lay at your feet. You felt your stomach lurch as your eyes followed the blood trail towards one of the ward beds. The trail stopped at the furthest bed from you. Even in the dark you could see that the white sheet was stained. Your stomach lurched again as you took a few tentative steps towards the bed.
A hand grabs you causing you to jump. Anna has sunk her nails deep into your shoulder causing you to wince. Gail squeezed Anna’s free hand. You can tell that they are scared. And even though you don’t want to admit it, your knees are knocking together and you can feel the beads of sweat roll off your brow.
You reach the bed and stick your hand out. It’s shaking uncontrollably as it clutches the sheet. You jerk your hand, ripping the sheet away from the bed. A putrid smell assaults your nose and you gag, your eyes unable to look away from the bloody mess.
Neil’s body is on display, minus its skin. His eyes are wide open, his glasses perched proudly on the edge of his nose. His face was twisted into a horrid mess. Even without his flesh, you could make out the terror he endured.
Anna tightens her grip on you. You turn to face her, feebly attempting to block her view.
Anna’s bright blue eyes shot open as she turned around. Gail was no longer standing behind her.
“She was right there!”
You’re in disbelief. First Bric disappears in a sea of fog that filled a closed off corridor, then Neil is skinned alive by God-knows-what and now Gail has vanished.
You cling tightly to Anna, refusing to release her hand from yours. “From now on, we stick together,” you say, stating the obvious, but trying to reassure her that whatever was going on in Westwood Asylum would not happen to you.
The candle light flickers as a cold breeze blows through the ward. You turn your head to see a shadowy figure disappear though an open door on the other side of the room.
Grabbing Anna and dragging her behind you, you make a run for it, bursting through the door, calling out Gail and Bric’s names. You listen intently. Surely one of them would respond.
You hear a faint scream coming from the elevator. This time it’s Anna who drags you towards the noise.
“Should we use it?” she asks, timidly.
The asylum has been abounded for almost a century. Surely the elevator wouldn’t work. You explain your doubts and turn to look for a staircase.
As soon as you do, a creaking noise comes from behind you. The wrought iron door the guarded the elevator has opened. Anna squeals in fright, burying her head into your shoulder.
A feeling of dread washes over you. Something, or someone, wants you to use it. Sucking in a deep breath, you take a step towards it. The other door slides open. You step inside. Anna follows, shimming past the iron door as it closes.
“Up or down?” you ask Anna.
She shrugs a response and before you can press a button the other door has slammed shut and the elevator begins to move downwards.
“I don’t think Paranormal Investigators are behind this,” you muse, glancing up to the top right hand corner of the elevator. “I haven’t seen one camera since we entered this place. I saw some in the yard out front, but nothing since we got in here.”
Anna bit her lip to prevent from crying. You didn’t blame her. You’re not far off waterworks yourself.
The elevator grinds to a halt and the doors open.
You step out. It’s much colder down here. You mumble something about being in the basement of the asylum. Anna clutches your hand, squeezing with all her might.
You tilt your head to one side. Something doesn’t feel right. You shudder as the silence of the night is broken by a faint banging sound.
“What’s that?” Anna demands, her voice shrill.
You have no idea, but to reassure her that there is no bogeyman lurking in the asylum you tell her it’s probably just the pipes settling. “After all, this place was built in the early 1600’s.” Now if only you could believe your own words.
You turn left in the hallway. The only noise is the sound of Anna’s heels clicking on the tiled floor. You see a door on your right with a window panel.
Pressing your face against the glass you peer inside.
“These must be the treatment rooms,” you say, angling your head to get a better look.
Anna peers into the next room. She steps back. “How did this place cure anyone? It looks medieval.”
Craning your neck, you stare over her head. A metal cage hung above a large pit. You assumed that the pit was filled with water and the person in question was dunked into it.
Your alternative thought was far more sinister.
You move to the next door and gasp. You begin slamming your body into the door, attempting to break it down all the while jiggling the door handle.
“What is it?!”
You glance up at Anna who’s terrified by your sudden actions.
“Bric,” you say, banging your palm repeatedly on the glass panel.
Anna stands beside you. Peering through the dusty glass, she sees him. His muscle bound body is completely naked and there are red welts across his chest.
You take a couple of steps away from the door, hand the candle to Anna before you run your hand through your hair. Your breathing intensifies as you try to figure a way to get into the room. You place your hand in your pocket and feel something cool beneath your sweaty palm. The letter opener.
You grab it and make for the door. Shoving it into the lock you begin twisting and turning it, hoping you can jimmy the lock.
It worked and the door swung open.
You race into the room and up to him. You stop dead in your tracks when you see his face. His lips has been sown together and his eyes have been gouged out. The welts on his body were deep, more like cuts and on some of them leeches were applied. Bric didn’t move. His chest didn’t rise for a breath. You reach out and check his pulse on his wrist.
Slowly, you back out of the room.
Anna stares at you. “Is he dead?”
You nod your head, unable to find your voice.
You turn to face her. You’re shaking and tears are welling up in your eyes.
A shadow appears on the wall behind Anna.
Your eyes lock onto it. Your mouth opens in a silent scream as the figure gets closer. It begins to morph shape. At first you just see a white coat. Then a white hat. Finally a white mask appears over the mouth. The shadow is a doctor.
Anna turns to see what you’re looking at. She screams as a doctor grabs her and jams a syringe into her neck. The lit candle hits the floor and all is dark.
Her body falls to the floor with a thud, her face twisted and contorted in a scream.
It may be pitch black but your eyes adjust quickly. You back up against the wall. The doctor cracks their neck, their demonic red eyes burning holes into your body.
Your outstretched hand lurks across the wall as you back up slowly. The doctor gives you a crazed look, their eyes growing wider.
They lunge at you. With the small ounce of courage you have, you plunge the letter opener into their neck and make a run for it back towards the elevator.
You trip over your own two feet before scrambling into the elevator.
Your hand slams down on the button as the doors shut. You slide to the ground, your head in your hands. Your breathing is rapid and you’re trying to suck air into your lungs. You start laughing out of fear, slamming your palms on the floor.
You stop laughing. Your hand has touched something cold. You glance down. A scream rips from your lips. Gail’s body is curled up on the floor of the elevator. Her limbs have been torn off and stitched back on, just not in the right spots. Her head is on her body backwards and a permanent smile has been carved into her face.
The elevator stops.
You scramble to your feet, banging on the doors, screaming for them to open.
As they do, you stumble out into the hall, blinded by the sudden light. Then all goes black.
* * * * * *
You open your eyes. Your mouth is dry and your head feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. You try to move but can’t. You glance down. Your arms and legs are strapped to a gurney. You tug at your restraints but to no avail.
The sound of a door opening causes your head to snap up. A man in a white coat stands before you.
“My, what an adventure we’ve had today,” he says, adjusting his mask. “A ‘reality TV show’ and five new friends with new personalities. Tell me, dear, what is a ‘reality TV show’?”
You shrug your shoulders, shaking your head from side to side.
The man leans in, placing his file down on the surgical table beside him.
“It’s alright, Claire,” he whispers, running his hand through your hair. “You’re sick. But don’t worry. Daddy will make it all better again.”