Abe reached the top of the stairs then feeling too tried, he sat down. The coldness of the stone sink into his all ready cold and wet skin, he needed to get out of here and into the warmth again. The torch shook in his hand which felt gnarled as a wizard tree trunk. The light beam shone wobbly over the stairs and walls.
Shutting his eyes and taking deep breaths, Abe took a few minutes out. The abandoned asylum creaked and groaned in the background as the wind whistled and howled though any gaps it could get in. Rain pattered against the window, a relaxing note bringing the other sounds together. Then though new noises started; footsteps on a stone staircase, a whispering voice calling, the rolling wheels of a trolley.
The candle on the window sill came to life again. The flame flicking yellow and orange before coming a steady glow. Slowly, other candles above and on the walls came to life. Lighting up as if by a magic hand that could cast flames. Shadows faded, fleeing into the deep corners were the candles couldn’t reach.
The voices grew louder, becoming a constant sound like the rain. Footsteps running or pacing echoed off the hallways and rooms. The stink of candle wax, cleaning fluids and long unwashed human bodies swept away what had become the normal scents of mould, damp and rot. A woman’s scream rose and fell.
Abe snapped open his eyes and looked around. The sudden many candle flames burnt his eyes and he blinked away quickly. He dropped his head then rose it again and trying to convince himself he was only seeing things. The candles were still there and now he could here the voices more clearly. Abe caught snatches of words;
‘It’s not true. It’s not true!’ a male voice was mumbling.
‘I have seen the Devil! He’s coming for us all!’ a woman was shouting.
‘I don’t want it! Nurse! Nurse! Get ‘im away from me!’ a man’s voice rose above everything else.
Abe turned his head around and tried to see if anyone was there.
‘What an earth is going on?’ he muttered.
Abe looked down at his hands but instead of the torch and ring of keys that he had been clutching, there was nothing. He gasped and felt around for them, thinking he had put them down next to him. All he felt was cold stone.
‘Mr Fletcher? Did you fall?’ a female voice spoke from close behind him.
Abe turned and saw a young woman wearing a full black dress with puffy sleeves and a long white apron. She was carrying an empty grey tray. Her face was pretty with a small nose and eyes, her cheeks flushed with running about and her hair was hidden under a white cap.
‘I…’ Abe began.
‘Here,’ the nurse said.
She put the tray down and went to help him up.
‘What happened? Where am I?’ Abe questioned as she got him to his feet.
‘You are at the hospital,’ the nurse said.
‘The asylum?’ Abe gasped.
He looked around taking it all in and seeing everything so different to what he had known these last few years.
‘Let me help you to your room. The Doctor should be along to see you shortly,’ the nurse said softly.
‘Doctor Denty?’ Abe asked.
‘Yes. He’s such a good Doctor. He’s helped so many poor people.’
‘No!’ Abe shouted and snatched his arm back, ‘he removed their brains! He killed them!’
The nurse looked at him in shock. She stepped away from him, the tray she had left balanced against the banister clattered to the floor as he heels caught it. She turned to it but didn’t bend down to get it.
‘Stay away from me!’ Abe screamed, ‘Got to get out…got to…’
Abe turned and hobbled down the stairs. Behind him, he heard the nurse shouting for a porter and a doctor. He reached the top of the main staircase and cursed the coldness that had stiffed his bones. Going as fast as he could, Abe went down the stairs. Around him, he could hear people crying, screaming and saying words he could not make out.
He reached out for the banister but it was too far away. Forgetting that, he hurried on. His mind whirling as he tried to figure out what was going on. This was more then someone playing tricks and breaking into the asylum. This was real. But how could it be?
Abe felt hands touching his back. He let out a cry, lost his balance an fell down the last few steps. Tumbling to the floor, he lay there winded and hurting all over. Slowly, he rose his head and got up. The candle light was still flicking against the wall. Voices pressed through the darkness and running feet echoed off the stone.
He got up, ignoring the flaring pain in his leg and arm. He went to the front door and pushed against the wood. It was locked. He turned, shuffled away and towards a handful of doors lining the far wall. He made it to the side door and slipped though. Slamming it shut behind him, he weaved down the short hallway like a drunk old homeless man.
Reaching the side door, he opened it with easy and stepped out into a tall figure. Screaming, Abe stumbled back, throwing his arms up to his face. A voice was saying something, but he could hardly here above the wind and his scream. Hands grabbed him and stopped him from falling backwards. Then the spoken words began to make sense.
‘Police. You’re all right now.’
Abe blinked away the rain and looked up. Cutting though the night were flashing lights and torch beams.
‘I’m the night guard,’ Abe mumbled, ‘there’s something not natural going on in there…’
‘Come with us, sir,’ the policeman said and led him away, a female officer tailed them.
Looking back as they walked to the security cabin, Abe saw police officers enter the asylum. Torches lit up the darkened windows. Above the asylum, thunder rumbled and lightening forked across the sky.
The police took Abe inside and he sat down into his chair. He looked down and saw his torch and ring of keys in his hands. Puzzled he held them up and placed them on the desk.
”Did you see the intrudes?’ the officer asked.
‘Yes…but they weren’t…it was like back then…a nurse…’ Abe mumbled.
‘Your head and arm are bleeding. Did you fall?’ the female officer asked.
Abe touched his head, ‘the stairs. They were chasing me…they were going to take my brain! he shouted suddenly.
‘It’s all right, sir, you are safe now,’ the policewoman said, ‘you need to go to the hospital. That cut looks big.’
Abe looked at her and took her fully in. Her face was pretty, her nose and eyes small, her cheeks flushed with the cold and her hair was tied back under her police cap.
‘It’s you….’ Abe gasped, ‘I’m not going to any hospital! I need to go home!’
‘Yes, of course you can. I shall take you,’ the policewoman spoke out.
‘No. I can take myself!’ Abe rose then fell back into his chair, dizziness hitting him hard.
‘You could be seriously injured,’ she snapped back.
‘I’m fine. Keep away from me,’ Abe spoke loudly and waved his hands at her.
‘Please leave us,’ the policeman said.
She nodded and left, closing the door firmly behind her.
‘Now, sir. Let me take a look at you,’ the policeman commanded.
Abe looked at him. There was something familiar about that face but he could not place it.
‘The cut does look very bad. It might be affecting you…How does your head feel?’
‘It’s okay. I’ll be fine,’ Abe said, ‘do I know you?’
‘I don’t think so…Can you tell me what happened?’ the policeman asked.
Abe turned, looked out of his window and up at the asylum. Torch beams were still flashing past the windows. He tried to piece everything together in his mind but nothing seemed to make sense.
‘There was someone in the main building. They started a fire. I chased them but they came after me and I fell downstairs,’ Abe spoke softly.
‘No. I’m sorry for all the trouble,’ Abe said, ‘I still would like to go home now.’
‘Of course, sir. I shall get someone to take you.’