“Quick, this way!” I called urgently as I turned my face briefly from the corridor that the two of us had been racing along for what seemed like hours and Ariana still trailing a little behind. The pig tails that she wore that danced a little from side to side against the side of her head and for all the world appearing as though the two of us were playing chase on the playground, rather than running for our lives. The look of panic that remained contorted against Ariana’s sweet features. The fear that was etched firm against her brow as she craned her neck and peered across her shoulder in the direction of the kitchen and the blood and guts, we had left behind back there.
“We need to get out Mandy!” She called to me, “We need to get away from Deadwood!” She cried, the sound that our feet made as we raced across the corridor. Briefly, I flicked my gaze up towards the corner of the corridor in the distance and noticed, once more, another CCTV camera that was aligned straight along where the two of us were racing. The little red diode that continued to flicker upon the top of the camera. The camera lens that was black. And again, the strangest conviction that we were studied, the two of us, as we raced along the corridor.
But why were we allowed to run free? Why had the alarm not been triggered? Where were the guards?
I lowered my gaze from the CCTV camera and the steel doors that passed by on either side as we raced along. The lights that remained flashing red and the chequered floor tiles that appeared like pools of blood beneath our feet.
It was wrong. All of this. So wrong.
And once more my mind returned to the cell where I had awoken earlier that night and my head that was pounding and the ringing in my ears and the visions that had visited me in the night. The notion returned once again that I had been drugged. And that while I had been sleeping the world beyond my cell door had been turned on its head somehow.
The beating of my heart against my chest. The taste of poison against my tongue.
I turned again and fixed my gaze upon Ariana. Her sweet features. The terror that she had endured tonight.
“Where is everyone Ariana? What’s going on?” I asked and noticed a hesitation against Ariana’s brow and the flicker of something unseen against the corner of her eye. So that she appeared for a moment like that pesky old crow that had hopped from grave to grave in the cemetery yard.
“What do you mean?” Ariana called back, the steel doors that passed by on either side of us. The flashing red lights above the top of each door and the beat of our racing feet against the blood red tiles.
And what kind of a stupid question was that, I thought. What kind of a god-damned stupid question was that? And here we were, just the two of us left alone in this hospital of madness. Zayne dead and hanging by his tongue and Eminem laying lifeless in a pool of blood and not a single soul to be seen. Not a single alarm to be heard. This whole god damned set-up was insane I realised. This evening and this hospital and Sister Dixon and Deadwood manor and the wood-shack and the creepy creature I had seen locked away beyond my cell. The whole of it insane. Or the madness of some broken mind. And here we were now. Just the two of us racing along this corridor as though we had any chance of getting through the night alive. The two of us running from who knew what to who knew where.
“I mean, where are the guards!” I called, as we skidded around a corner in the corridor and a steel door that appeared before us that would lead towards the courtyard and escape. “Why’s the alarm? Where’s Sister Dixon?”
A hesitation that I spied against Ariana’s face. A flicker of some deception that briefly blinked against her eye I was sure. And for the life of me I had no idea what was going on tonight and who could be trusted in here.
“I don’t know?” She said, cried back, her gaze that switched from mine and was now fixed upon the steel door that stood before us and escape. The exit sign that was illuminated a neon red in colour. “There was no one around when I woke up.” Ariana said, her eyes that narrowed a little as we raced towards the steel door that would lead us from the hospital and on to the courtyard. “The dorm was completely deserted!” She said.
The screech of our sneakers as we skidded to a halt at the door that blocked our exit. Ariana brought her hands against the steel door and began to pound against the cool metal again and again and again. Her legs kicking out at the bottom. And all the while she was turning her head behind her and peering along the corridor from where we had just raced from the kitchen. The fear that I spied against her expression. The notion that she half expected to have discovered that Eminem had reanimated himself back to life somehow and staggering towards us like one of those dumb zombies from Return of the Walking Dead. And so, she kicked again and again against the steel door and pounded the palms of her hands against it.
“We’re trapped!” She cried, and the panic that I heard against her voice then. The complete and utter terror against each word. “We’re trapped in here Mandy! We’re trapped!” She screamed. “We’re gonna die!” She cried. And then she turned to me, her face that had been washed a scarlet red by the flashing beacon lights and her eyes that were wide like conkers and her voice all serious like.
“She’s trying to kill us Mandy!” She said. Her eyes that were wide and her face that had been washed red. “Sister Dixon. She’s trying to kill us all!”
And all that we needed were some sharp violin notes and I reckoned we’d have found ourselves in the middle of some lame horror movie.
A moment of pause as Ariana studied me and I studied her right back.
I had never been standing this close to her before and realised now that she stood almost to my height. Her cheeks that were pronounced and her lips that were thin. Against her brow were a patchwork of freckles that had been coloured red by the flashing red lights so that it appeared as though her skin was dappled with blood. Her eyes that were narrowed. And her eyes that reflected my image right back. The memory of seeing her back in the kitchen with the knife against her hands and tipped with treacle blood. Eminem slumped and twitching and breathing his last against the floor.
“Why are you in here anyway?” I asked. And the question just seemed to pop from who knew where.
“What? What do you mean?” She asked. And I thought that it was strange that she didn’t say pardon or excuse me, or something like that, because usually her manners were exceptional. I leaned in a little closer towards her and noticed that she didn’t step back. And that was strange I thought, real strange. What with the fact that I was a crazy-assed killer and had been locked up in chains the whole time I had been in here? And here I was now all loose and unleashed and our friends dropping like flies.
“What did you do, to end up in a place like Deadwood?” I asked, leaning in to her a little closer so that I could smell the musky scent that had dampened against her skin. Something familiar about the smell that I couldn’t quite place.
“What do you mean?” She asked, turning from me briefly and studying the corridor behind and then returning her face once more towards mine. The two of us that remained standing on the corridor and the steel door that remained closed before us and blocking our path.
“I mean. What crime did you commit?” I asked, and my voice that was barely louder than a whisper I thought.
Ariana blinked. Her eyes that were wide.
“Oh.” She said, her cool gaze that remained fixed upon me, “I got in trouble back home. Gambling and slots. It was a mess. My parents ended up losing the house.” She said. “So they sent me here to sort my head out.” She said.
And that was a down right lie, I thought, Because I was pretty sure that Ariana had mentioned before that she had been brought up by her Aunt Phyllis. Or some other dumb sob-story like that, that the rest of the loony’s in here had fallen for.
“Oh right.” I said, lowering my left hand towards my pocket and my fingers once more closing around the plastic key I had been given. “Nightmare.” I said, removing my hand from my pocket and bringing the plastic key towards the steel door and the flickering locking mechanism to one side.
“Yeah.” She said, studying me and her eyes that were narrow like a hawk I thought, or maybe a crow. “Real nightmare.” She said, as she watched me bring my hand towards the door and the plastic key that was revealed.
“What you got there?” She asked, leaning in a little closer as her eyes settled upon the plastic rectangle that I held against my palm.
“It’s a key.” I said.
“A key?” She asked.
“Hmm. A key. Come see.” I replied, and the memory of the odd little creature that had handed me the key. Ariana’s eyes that remained fixed upon the key as though it were like Frodo’s golden ring or something lame like that. Her eyes that were wide and a look of greed that contorted across her features. And I was sure that given half the chance she would have sprung towards me there and then and wrestled me to the ground and wrenched the plastic key from my hands. But I wasn’t having any of that nonsense. And so instead I curled my fingers tightly across rectangular plastic and pulled my arm back from Ariana.
“Here goes nothing.” I said, as I turned from her and brought the key forwards towards the rectangular locking device. The sound of the mechanism opening within the lock. A sharp cry of metal hinges as the door swung open to reveal the courtyard before us. I pulled the key from the latch and wrapped my fingers tightly around it and pushed the plastic key towards the corners of my pocket where it would be safe and sound.
The night air that was cool against the skin.
The silver moon that shone down from above and illuminated me in silver light.
I turned my face to Ariana where she remained standing hesitantly at the doorway.
“You coming?” I asked, as I stepped forwards and away from the corridor and the hospital where the two of us had remained trapped for so long. My feet moving quickly forwards as I began to jog away from Ariana and across the courtyard. The sound of Ariana’s voice that was heard calling out towards me from behind. The little hairs that prickled against the whole of my skin as she called out to me.
“Wait for me.” She said. “Wait for me Mandy.”