I woke to scratching in the night.
I turned my face away from the wall to my side and the pillow creasing against my ears as I turned to the noise. Whilst I had been sleeping a silver moon had revealed itself towards the night-time sky. The silver beams of moonlight that were shining through the bars of the window and appearing like four ghosts creeping across the floor and up towards the far wall.
The cell that was illuminated by the silver beams of moonlight so that for the first time I could get a measure of its dimensions. The room a perfect square and slightly larger than my bedroom back home but not half as nice I thought. Where my poster of Ed Sheeran should be hanging were some steel shelves. Upon the shelves a plastic tray had been placed and a bowl and bottle of water. The walls were a mottled grey in colour and constructed of brick. The mortar that ran between the bricks appeared a dull grey in colour so that an intricate tapestry of horizontal and vertical lines appeared to course in all directions.
In the middle of the far wall I could see the steel door I had been led through earlier by Sister Dixon. The door remained closed and around the edges a dull red light was seeping through from the corridor outside. At the centre of the door was a square latch that I assumed could be pulled to one side to reveal the viewing window behind. My spine aching and the vertebrae that seemed to rattle against the cruel springs of the bed’s mattress. The mattress as thin as a slice of bread.
I studied the floor briefly and a slight depression that was revealed at the centre of the concrete slab as though it had been worn smooth by the circling of restless feet. The smell of damp upon the air as though the whole cell were slowly being swallowed by the hungry earth. I turned my neck. The muscles that creased beneath the skin and the sense that they were coiled tight. I turned my face once more towards the little window upon the wall. The window about the size of my body I reckoned and wide enough for me to squeeze through. But the steel bars that prevented any form of escape.
The thought returned of the conversation I had had with my midnight visitor. The warning words that the phantom voice had offered. And part of me knew that it had been my own subconscious calling out to me. But the sense of fear that persisted and rattled against my bones. That evil walked amongst Deadwood Hospital tonight. That three of my friends remained outside in the dormitory and laying in a pool of blood somewhere.
“I need to get out.” I said, peering once more towards the steel door and the window and the four vertical bars. The shafts of silver moonlight that pierced the darkness of my cell. The thought of Mummy out there somewhere in the darkness. And Eddie leaning in towards her with his knife whilst she slept.
“I need to get out.”
And that was when I heard the voice.
But not the voice of the girl that had visited me in the night.
No, another voice. And this voice was old and cruel and the words that rattled against the voice as though every tooth within the mouth was wobbling and about to fall loose.
“There’s no way out.” The voice said, and the scratching that I heard again. The noise that had woken me from my sleep.
“Who’s that?” I asked, lifting my head suddenly from the pancake pillow and peering towards the direction of the wall directly opposite where the steel shelf had been fixed against the mottled grey bricks.
Scratching. A sharp scratching. The scurried sound.
“I can help you. Come see. There’s no way out.” The wretched voice called out.
Slowly I lifted my leg across and out from beneath the covers of the bed. The chains that rattled against my ankles and my wrists as I placed my feet upon the stone slab. The cement that was damp against my toes. A cool shiver that ran up the insides of my leg and across my spine.
“Who’s that?” I asked, calling out. But my voice barely louder than a whisper and the sound of it echoing a little against the brick walls.
“It’s me. Come see. Its me.” The haggard voice called out. The words followed by a wretched cough that seemed to lift from the bowels of hell and finish into a fit of cackling splutters.
Cautiously I found myself shuffling across the cell floor towards the source of the sound. The sound of scratching that was repeated against the wall.
“Who is it? Who’s there?” I hissed once more, turning my ear to the sound and the frenzied scratching and locating a spot upon the wall where one of the bricks appeared to have worked its way loose. The brick shaking and agitating itself from side to side. Flakes of mortar crumbling at each side of the brick and falling to the ground. The sound of scratching on the other side. Like a mouse, I thought. Or a rat.
“It’s me. Come see.” The voice repeated.
A knocking on the other side of the brick wall. A repeated tapping from the other side. The brick wiggling and jiggling from side to side as though whoever was on the other side was pulling and pushing to work the brick loose.
“Help me.” The voice called out. “I’m trapped. I can help you.” It repeated. “Grab hold and push and I’ll pull. And vice versa.”
And I really shouldn’t have grabbed hold of that brick that had animated itself back to life I thought. But part of me that was so intrigued to have woken to this dream and wanting to find out what might be discovered on the other side. And so, I found that I lifted my hands towards the brick and arched my fingers and grabbed hold of the edges. I pushed a little against the brick and discovered that it was quite loose so that it moved against the edges. More of the mortar that crumbled away.
“Yes, it’s me, come see.” The voice said and a laughter that I heard. A cackle from the other side as the brick seemed to move of its own accord as I pushed against it. “You push and I’ll pull and vice versa.” The haggard voice called out. Until finally the brick worked its way completely loose and disappeared on to the other side of the wall in an instant. All that remained where the brick had been was a rectangular hole of nothingness.
The sound of somebody moving on the other side. Their rasping breath. The sense that whoever the person must be, that they were restless and excited. And their breathing all out of kilter it seemed to me. Irregular somehow.
“Who’s there?” I asked, standing a little to one side of the opening in the wall and the moonlight that was swallowed by the darkness where the brick had been. The whole of my skin itching. A buzzing against the insides of my ears. “Who’s in there?” I asked again, inching a little further to the side. But still my eyes that remained fixed upon the rectangular patch of nothingness where the brick had been.
The urgent breaths that blew through from the other side.
The smell of something rotten on the air. Like eggs that had gone off and turned blue.
“It’s me, come see.” The voice said once more, and the words that were clear now, the sense that whoever the words were spoken by on the other side of the wall had brought their face to the opening where the brick had been. That they were peering in towards the cell where I remained. Nervously, I remained standing to one side of the opening and not daring to look.
“No.” I said, my back against the wall now and the rectangular opening where the brick had once been to the side of me. The darkness. The nothingness. “I don’t think I should.”
And then the strangest sound from the other side. A grunting sound. Like a pig. Snuffling in the earth and grubbing for worms. A drawn-out whimpering cry and the sense that the person on the other side must be in terrible pain. And then the snuffling grunting sound that was repeated and the words that were heard between each grunt.
“I. Have. The. Key. Come. See. Its. Me.”
“What key?” I asked, insanely, like why the heck would I think it was anywhere close to normal to be stood here in the middle of the night and talking to a disembodied voice through an opening in the wall. And maybe this hospital was the best place for me after all, because I must have been clean out of my mind to be talking to the person. The sound of laughter that was heard on the other side. The sense that the person knew that they had caught me on their hook.
“The key. Come see.” It said and my gaze that remained fixed upon the opening.
And briefly I lifted my gaze to the window once again and the iron bars.
The moon that was round and full.
The screeching call of an owl in the distance.
And the scent of death upon the air.
And that’s when I realised. That whatever was happening in Deadwood Hospital was about to happen tonight. Something cruel and evil. And the realisation that all else had been leading towards this night. And that’s why I was locked away in here and out of sight I suddenly realised. That’s why I had been locked away tonight. The memory of Sister Dixon as she had kissed me on the lips. The cruel smile that had been hooked against her lips.
“Put your hand through.” The voice said, the wretched voice. “Put your hand through. I promise I won’t bite or punch or cut or pinch.”
I shook my head from left to right and bit down upon my teeth so that they ground from side to side. And surely this was madness because I felt my arm begin to shift a little towards the opening in the wall and my fingers trace a line across the mortar and the bricks until they came to rest upon the edges of the opening where the brick had been. The sense that whoever was hidden on the other side, understood, somehow, that my fingers were close. The sound of their frenzied breathing. The urgent rasps of air.
“That’s good.” The voice said, as my fingers began to inch a little further towards the opening in the wall so that the tips of my fingers carried across the opening and reached out. The cool air that blew in from the other side. “I won’t bite or punch or cut or pinch.”
And my hand carrying over as I bent my arm at the elbow. Seeing with my fingers. My fingertips that pulled my hand cautiously forwards through the opening in the wall as though they were the legs of a spider creeping forwards.
“Yes, yes.” The voice called out from the other side. “Closer Mandy, closer.” The voice called out as I pushed my hand further forwards through the hole in the wall. Until my arm was completely through the wall and on the other side. My hand grasping at the air on the other side. The air that felt damp and icy cold. And that was when I felt the person grab hold of my hand.
Fingernails like claws.
The frenzied urgent squeals and grunts from the side.
Their hand that closed over mine. The skin that was cold and wet. Fingernails like claws. And the strength of the hand. The terrible strength. The fingers pressing down against mine like a vice. Pressing down so hard that I screamed out in pain and the sound of the creature on the other side grunting and squealing and calling out.
“Give me the key!” I screamed, pulling my hand back but the talons grasping down against my skin and piercing the skin as surely as an eagle grabs at a little mouse. “Give me the key!” I screamed again, urgent this time, the fear that I heard against my voice and every bone within my body shaking with fright. The thought that my Goblin had abandoned me for slaughter tonight and that I was alone within my nightmare.
“I have the key. It’s me. Come see.” The voice said, the terrible voice and the fingers that were crooked and the knuckles that were knobbled. And such strength to the creature’s grip. Such terrible strength. So that I was sure that at any moment the creature on the other side would pull against my hand and my arm would be wrenched clean away from my body at the elbow. And how I would fall back against the floor and clutching at my arm and the white bone that would be piercing through flesh where my forearm ought to be.
“Give me the key!” I cried again, and this time my voice became distorted against my ears and the words all stretched out. A power to my voice as the sound of it rumbled and against the confines of the cell. And the thought that I had lost. That whatever dark tale was about to play out tonight in Deadwood Hospital, that it would be told without me. That I was unable to stop this from happening. And that made me angry. Real angry. The thought of my friends out there. Of Zayne and Ariana and even Eminem. And all of them about to die a cruel and terrible death tonight.
And that’s when I felt something cold against the palm of my hand.
Something cold and rectangular and pointed with jaunted angles.
“I have the key, come see, its me.” The voice repeated, but something different about the voice this time. Something defeated.
And before I knew what was happening, the powerful fingers that had been coiled against my little hand were slowly unclasped one by one and the wet cool skin that was pulled away from my hand. So that within a moment or two I was able to pull my hand back through the opening in the wall and fall to the floor in a heap of breathlessness and stunted giggles.
I brought my hand out before me so that my arm fell across a silver moonbeam and my hand that was illuminated as though I had been painted silver.
The silver girl.
My eyes widening as I slowly uncurled my fingers and there, revealed at the centre of my palm was a plastic rectangle like the one that Sister Dixon had used to swipe against the locking mechanism to the side of the door. Against one corner of the plastic was a metal ring with a small set of metal keys hanging to one side.
Quickly, I jumped to my feet and shuffled across the stone slab towards the steel door. And I lowered the assortment of little keys to the clasp at my ankles and found that one of them fit the latch and the padlocks perfectly. I unlocked the little padlocks that had held me shackled to the chains with growing excitement and urgency. One by one the chains began to fall from my wrists and fall from my ankles. As though I were Jacob Marley being freed from the purgatory that he endured. My feet and my hands that felt light, now that the weight of the chains had been released.
I turned towards the steel door and discovered a rectangular box towards the edges of the door frame. And without really expecting that it could possibly be true, I pushed the plastic key towards the raised box. A light that flickered into life and shone green. My heart beating like a trapped moth against my chest. And that’s when I turned from the door and allowed my gaze to settle for the first time upon the opening in the wall on the opposite side of the cell.
The creatures face that was revealed on the other side of the opening. The face that remained shrouded in shadows.
“I had the key.” The voice said, a sadness to the words now. “It’s me Mandy. Come see.”
The silhouette of the creature’s head on the other side of the opening in the wall. The ears that were pointed on either side of its head. The sharp jaw line and the pointed chin. And where the eyes should be were to flaming orbs of red.
“It’s me.” The voice said. “Come see.”
I shook my head.
“No.” I said. “My old friend.”