The sharp tap that Sister Dixon’s footsteps made as she led me along the corridor.
Tip, tap, tip tap.
The rattle of the steel chain that snaked between my ankles as my sneakers scuffed against the black and white chequered floor tiles. The pinch of the steel cuffs against my wrists now that they had been fastened once more. The flapping sound of fabric between my legs where the white overalls that I wore didn’t quite fit.
The coarse crumple of material against the navy uniform that Sister Dixon wore as she led me down the corridor. The nun’s slender legs that appeared like two wax candles from the bottom of the hem line. A black line that traced across her calf and down to her heel and hidden beneath the polished brogues that she wore. The heels that were made of cork and capped with metal and the sharp sound that her footsteps made as she led me further along that white and black chequers.
Tip, tap, tip, tap.
The rage that burned so fiercely within my belly that I was sure at any moment would burst out from my tummy and my guts that would wriggle and flap before me and my intestines coiling over and under like a nest of snakes. The memory of Mummy as she had been led away by Eddie and the terrible vision of the scar I had seen against her neck. And I needed to get out of this place and save Mummy before it was too late. And I needed to free myself from these shackles and Sister Dixon and leave this madhouse behind.
Tip tap tip tap tip tap.
Onwards we continued through a labyrinthine world of passages and corridors and iron clasped doors that opened on to darkness and then light. The shimmering fluorescent tubes that flickered and crackled overhead and the sound of the hornets wings I could hear humming somewhere beyond the centre of my ear but not too close I thought. The hidden swarm that buzzed about the folds of my brains and the maggots that burrowed away in there. And a taste upon my tongue like death. And the sense that the goblin willed me to blink and see his wretched face once more.
But I resisted him, for now. So that all I could hear was the buzzing of the distant swarm of hornets and a cruel laughter that hollered from the darkness of my mind and echoed around my soul.
You’ve left your Mummy to die out there! The goblin’s voice called out.
Tip, tap, tip, tap.
The iron clasp that was biting against the skin at my ankle and a searing pain that raced up towards my tummy as though a hound was biting down and grinding its teeth against the bone. The pain of it that was almost too much to bear, so that I lowered my eyes to my calf and the steel clasp that bit down upon me. The coiling tail that snaked out from one metal clasp to the other. My mouth opened and I my lips creased, and I let out a silent scream as I pulled against the chains that held me captive in this place. I pulled with all my might. But the metal clasp bit down with growing anger against my ankle and my shins and the bone and the skin that was red raw and beginning to bleed. I was defeated for now.
Tip, tap, tip, tap.
I hobbled behind Sister Dixon as I followed her this way and that along the subterranean maze. The black and white squares that passed beneath our feet with each move that I made. The flickering of the florescent tubes overhead reflecting against whitewashed walls to either side and an army of slate grey steel doors that passed by on either side. Each door that was bolted shut with a huge metal clasp and pock marked with rivets that were three inches wide. Thick hinges that were fastened firm against the wall. At the centre of each steel door was a small portico window of wired glass. The glass smudged with brown stains and spatters of red. And I wondered what type of monsters must exist beyond the steel doors. So that I found myself standing on my tip toes and jumping and hopping here and there to see. But the portico windows were too high, so that all I was able to see beyond the glass was a terrible darkness.
“I wouldn’t do that Mandy.” A voice said. Her voice. The nun. The soft vowels. A strange musical quality to her voice that I found hypnotic somehow. I stopped my hopping for now and turned to Sister Dixon who continued leading me along the corridor. Her slight frame and the slate-grey seam that ran down each of her waxy legs and towards the steel capped shoes that she wore.
“Who’s in there?” I asked, my voice rattling against the hard surfaces that surrounded me on all sides. “Behind the doors?”
Mrs Dixon’s feet tapping ahead of me, the corridor endless it seemed.
“Bad people.” She replied, and a hint of laughter that was heard upon her words I was sure. The sudden urge to race towards her as fast as my little feet could carry me and throw my little body against her back so that Sister Dixon would come tumbling towards the black and white floor. And then I could have some fun with her I thought. And then I could have some fun.
“What kind of bad people?” I asked. The sound of the steel chain that rattled between each of my ankles and held me captive here. “Why are they locked away like that?”
And it was then that Sister Dixon finally paused ahead of me for a moment. Her back that remained turned to me and the blue cotton uniform that was neatly creased against her shoulders. Her delicate neck that appeared above the starched collar and a shiny hue to the skin so that the flesh appeared fake. The sense that she had been dipped from head to toe in wax and that the flesh that was revealed wasn’t her flesh at all, but something false and flawless. The strands of red copper that fluttered here and there against the back of her head where her hair had been fastened back by the steel needle. The skin against her neck that creased a little as she turned her head to face me. Her eyes that were dark and challenging me somehow.
“Come and take a look Mandy.” She said. That strange musical chime to her words. And a smile that was stretched against her face so that the lipstick that she wore began to flake away a little more. The mottled grey skin that was revealed beneath. “Let me show you.”
And before I had chance to stop myself, I found that I had lost control of my little feet somehow so that my legs carried me forwards of their own accord. The rattling of my chains. I cautiously shuffled towards my captor and her cruel smile and her hand that was now extended out towards me so that her red painted fingernails appeared like talons against alabaster skin.
“Come here Mandy, don’t be scared.” She said as her hand fell upon my arm. The shock of static electricity that passed from her hands and burned against my skin. Her talon-nails that folded across my wrist and bit down. And my body shaking from head to toe as I watched Sister Dixon remove a little plastic card from her gown and lean in towards the edges of the door. She swiped the card against a square fixing on the wall and an LED light that had been blinking red in colour. Her fingernails that pinched against my skin and holding me firm so that I was unable to move away.
The little light that turned green.
A sharp sound of metal against metal and the thick metal flange that secured the door began to slowly inch from left to right. The drone of an electric motor straining against the weight of the door. Above the door, a light I hadn’t noticed previously began to flash an urgent red in colour and making me dizzy. So that I was forced to lean in a little towards the side of Sister Dixon to steady myself. The woman’s slight body that was as unmoving as a block of stone against my shoulder. And the metal door that slowly inched open before us. A scream of metal as the hinges protested but eventually gave way. The darkness that was revealed within. A cool breath that swept out from the confines of the dark little cell and the taste of something foul and fetid upon the air.
The hairs that were standing to attention upon my arm and my tummy that wriggled and turned and flipped as though I had swallowed a fish.
The cool weight of Sister Dixon’s body against mine where I leaned in towards her. Her fingernails that bit down upon my hand and holding me firm so that I couldn’t move. My face that remained lifted towards the darkness of the cell and the sense that the universe had collapsed in there somehow so that all that remained was the dark that existed before the light.
Get out Mandy. Run! Leave this place of death.
I shook my head from left to right and the goblin words that were not mine.
This evil is more than we can fight.
The voice said. The goblin’s voice. Not mine. And the urge to blink and see his wretched face once more where he resided beyond the other side of my eye lids. His face that was crumpled and the skin that was armoured with scales of slate and his eyes that were two shining orbs of lava.
Slowly, I edged away from the side of Sister Dixon and shook my head from left to right.
“No.” I said. “I don’t want to look.”
The world that seemed to end at the edges of the doorway and the darkness that remained within. And then a movement to it I noticed. The darkness folding over somehow as though it had been animated to life. And the air breathing out and a whistling chime that was repeated over and over. And then a shape that was revealed towards the centre of the darkness. A monstrous shape of bulging proportions. A scuttling sound that could be heard and a sibilant hiss as though whatever creature resided within the darkness was preparing to spring forwards and pounce at any moment.
“No!” I screamed, as I lunged forwards and wrapped my fingers against the bolt of the metal door. The darkness that swept over me like black a wave so that for a moment I couldn’t breathe. My eyes watering and the sound of the hornets that buzzed urgently against my brain. I pulled with all my might against the bolt and the door and sound of the creature that had woken within its lair.
The beast racing towards me and the knowledge that I would be ripped limb from limb if I were too slow. And so, I pulled with all my might against the steel door and the hinges that screamed in protest as the door swung to. A sudden crack of thunder as the iron door slammed close and I fell back against the corridor and away from Sister Dixon’s clutch. My body went skidding against the chequered tiles and my head clattered against the whitewashed walls.
An explosion of noise that drummed against the other side of the metal door and the metal buckling beneath the blows. My eyes that were lifted towards the little portico windows and a face that was revealed for the briefest of moments.
Sister Dixon turned from the door and lowered her head to me.
Her skin that was flawless as though she had been dipped in wax from head to toe.
“There are things in Deadwood Hospital Mandy that are not meant to be discovered.” She said.