Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
Bryn was not a squeamish girl, but this was really pushing it.
“Okay, you want me to do what?”
Jasmine smirked. “I want you to go in there and take pictures.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder and continued. “My parents would freak out if they caught me coming home looking like you do every day. But yours wouldn’t give a crap about it.”
“But the old asylum? Really? It was quarantined for a reason,” Bryn said.
“Well, if you don’t want to do it, I can always just tell everyone that you tried to beat me up,” Jasmine said, that annoying twinkle in her eyes. She thought she knew everything.
Bryn sighed. It wasn’t true, of course, but everyone would believe Jasmine. She had been defeated. Jasmine would always do anything to get her way. “So why exactly do you need pictures?”
Jasmine adjusted her flashy red glasses. “Because I want to shoot a video on the occult there, and I need to know if it’s a good set.”
“Then do it yourself!”
Jasmine handed her a cheap digital camera. “I already explained why I can’t. So go there tonight and let that sucker snap, ‘kay?”
“But what about the disease?” Bryn asked.
“Oh, don’t be such a pathetic wimp. The disease will obviously be dead by now.”
Bryn trudged toward the asylum, camera in hand.
Back in whatever year, a patient who came to the asylum carried a deadly disease with them. The doctors and nurses had filed reports about the strange black markings found on the necks of each sick patient. The disease had affected the other patients, and the asylum ended up having to be quarantined because it was so bad. They meant to burn down the asylum once all the patients were dead (things were different back then), but it was never gotten around to. Now everyone in town considered it haunted, although the patients were presumed dead.
Bryn stopped in front of the old asylum. Dust seemed to hang in the air, above the browning grass choked with weeds. A heavy feeling of dread lingered around the building. It was nightfall. The moon shone eerily through a dense mist of wispy clouds.
She scowled at the asylum, took a shuddering breath and entered.
Inside was a thick coating of dust on every surface. There were holes in the roof where the moon shone through; there were no working lights and everything was colored in monochrome.
She struggled not to sneeze. She had a strange feeling that something bad would happen if she did. She brought the camera up and pressed down on the shutter button. A sudden and frightening wave of light swept the room. She continued like this as she made her way through the rooms.
Oh, that’s strange. I thought there would at least be some traces of the patients.
Bryn came to a heavy wooden door, unbolted. She opened it cautiously to find a dusty staircase leading down into the dark. She heard a strange dripping sound.
Jasmine can explore the stupid basement herself. I’m done.
Bryn worked her way back to the door.
She couldn’t open it. She frowned and tried again, but was still unsuccessful. Bryn backed up. The door was locked.
I’m screwed. I’m really, truly screwed.
She heard the dripping sound, louder this time. Something made a crash. Bryn ran to the basement, which she had stupidly left open, and fell down the stairs. She lifted her head, only to see the door close with a finalized thud. She was trapped.
Bryn stood up and spat her hair out of her mouth, trying to stay calm.
It’s probably just a prank – a stupid one, at that. That door will open in the morning and there’ll just be a bunch of obnoxious teenagers laughing at me…right?
Bryn studied her surroundings apprehensively. She could see no more than a few feet in front of her, and like the room above, everything was coated in dust. She took a few steps forward, arms outstretched to feel a cold surface, the opposite wall. Bryn frowned. It was a…mirror? roughly as big as a doorway. She peered at the glassy surface, but saw no reflection.
Something scuttled behind her and Bryn turned, clutching her camera defensively. There was nothing there so she turned back to face the mirror and immediately jumped back, a scream escaping her throat.
A man stood in the mirror, grinning eerily. His blank eyes were sunken into the waxy, translucent skin stretched across his face. Thin purple veins bulged across his bone-white scalp in place of hair, and Bryn could see a small black mark on his neck.
Bryn shrieked and hurled her camera at the mirror. It shattered on contact, shards sailing through the air and landing on the floor in a flurry of clinking noises. Her hand curled around a particularly large piece of the broken mirror and she rose, ready to stab him–it, but it was unnecessary. The man was gone.
Bryn walked shakily backwards to the mirror-less wall behind her and held the shard out from her quivering body.
But she let a small laugh out. It was just a mirror, she thought. I must have been hallucinating. Just because this asylum is unnerving doesn’t mean there is anyone lurking in the shadows or mirrors, for God’s sake. See, look, it’s just a harmless mirror.
Bryn walked over to the shards and examined them in the dim light that seeped in through the cracks in the wooden door that had sealed her in to the basement.
In one moment, she realized the mirror shards were glass. There was not a doorway-sized mirror–there was a glass door–and it was broken. She gasped, and the second she made a sound, a bony, moist hand bulging with thin, protruding veins reached out the doorway.
She screamed as she was dragged into the room beyond.
“Get away from me!” Bryn sprinted down the next hall, the man close behind. He seemed to have never-ending stamina. Then again, he wasn’t necessarily running–she didn’t know what to classify it as. He was simply there in a flash, chasing after her.
Bryn, on the other hand, was starting to slow down against her will. Sweat rolled down her face, despite the cool temperature of the air, and her breaths came in short, choppy bursts. Her eyes widened as she saw something at the end of the hall–a door? She gritted her teeth and pushed herself forward, yanking on the doorknob and throwing herself inside before closing and locking it as fast as she could.
Bryn turned around, leaning on the locked door for support. She breathed a sigh of relief. Today, she thought, she wouldn’t die.
And then she saw it.
From the dark shadows in the corner came what Bryn at first thought was a huge bug. But then she realized it was a patient, with no legs. One eye hung from its socket by a thin tendon, the other socket empty, exposing thin, stretched yellow skin. It dragged itself toward Bryn with its arms, making a grotesque scraping noise. From its mouth issued a terrifying, inhuman screech like nails on a chalkboard.
“No food,” it rasped quietly, “but now there is a feast…”
It came closer to Bryn, exposing four rows of sharp blackening teeth.
Bryn was trapped between two killers.
It came closer and closer, a trail of dark blood behind it. The blood was everywhere–on the walls, the floor, even the ceiling. A heavy stench of death and rotten things permeated the air in the room. Bryn had to restrain herself from screaming bloody murder as the thing’s malformed face stretched into a bone-chilling smile. She backed up slowly, suddenly hitting something solid–the wall.
NO! NONONONONONONONONONO! I’M GOING TO DIE!
Her bag bumped against the wall and something fell out, glinting silver. A small flashlight, the kind a person would put on a keychain. A idea passed through her brain. Light. This thing had probably been living down here in the dark for who-knew-how-long, so light would hurt it, right?
Bryn quickly crouched down, her fingers scrabbling across the floor to find the flashlight. She glanced back and forth nervously, from the floor to the thing, as she searched, the creature growing ever closer with slow, even movements. It wasn’t even trying to hurry, like it knew that Bryn was trapped and doomed to become its prey.
No…where IS it?! Bryn’s panic grew worse with each second. The light. The light. She had to find the light.
She heard a soft hissing sort of noise behind her, and realized that the thing was laughing. Bryn turned to see the legless patient’s face inches from her own. She struggled to hold in her scream as the thing’s eye, dangling down from its face, bobbed up and down. She heard its erratic breathing. Its breath was disgusting.
Bryn backed into the wall as much as she could, knowing that she was going to die no matter what. Something gleamed in the darkness over the thing’s shoulder. The flashlight. If she could get ahold of it somehow…
Stay alive. That was her main priority right now. So she had to do this, for her life.
Bryn winced slightly, gritted her teeth, and yanked on the thin cord of flesh holding the monster’s remaining eye in.
It shrieked like a banshee, hands reaching up to the empty socket and Bryn dashed past it to grab the flashlight. Not caring about whether or not it would still do anything to the creature without its eye, not caring about anything but survival, she flicked it on and pointed it towards the thing.
The reaction was instantaneous. It let out a long, tortured screech as its skin bubbled up and its face seemed to melt. Bryn continued to hold the thing in the deadly glare of the light until it collapsed in a pool of blood and half-melted flesh, letting out a final shriek before going still.
Now she just had to find a way out. Maybe the man was gone from the door. She turned just as a deafening knock rang out. Nope. Another knock came. And another. They grew louder and closer together, until Bryn was withstanding awful pounding noises echoing all around the chamber. She knew that the door wouldn’t last much longer. Bryn had to find a hiding place–fast.
She desperately looked around the room, searching for something, anything that could possibly hide her. The only possible hiding spot was the dark corner of the room that the thing had come from, but that would be far too obvious. She’d be found right away. But she could always…Bryn pursed her lips as the pounding continued.
The man came bursting through the door, grinning madly. The creepy smile melted off of his face, however, when he did not see Bryn. He flashed over to the dark corner, the spindly fingers of his hand curling into a fist and punching the wall, causing the stone to crack. He emitted an inhuman growling noise in rage and passed right through the wall to search for the girl.
Bryn slowly eased herself out of the remains of the thing and stood. There was blood and other things she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the names of dripping from her. Well, camouflage. She had not wanted at all to hide inside the thing’s corpse, but it was all for survival, right?
Bryn fought back hot tears welling up in her eyes. She was alive, and that was all that mattered.
Bryn knew she had to get out of the basement. She opened the door as quietly as she could. There was nothing in the dark hall. The night had gotten darker and there was barely any light. Bryn made her way through the hall based solely on sound. From one side of her came an eerie song. The notes seemed to settle in her mouth and nose and suffocate her. So she covered her ears and felt for the closest door with one hand. Bryn’s hand rested on a door handle and she silently slipped into the room. The music had stopped, but she was in the room it had come from.
There was a beautiful glossy white grand piano in the center of the room. She felt an unearthly pull towards the piano. Bryn had never played one a day in her life, but she had to play it. The minute her hands stroked the keys a beautiful tune started. But soon it morphed into the painful song she had listened to in the hall.
Bryn tried to cover her ears but something was forcing her to continue playing. As the song got worse and Bryn started to panic, a knife was at her throat and something dragged her off the bench, singing the terrible song in her ear. The blade was cold against her throat, and Bryn saw a small hand materialize on the handle from the corner of her eye. The creepy singing in her ear was interrupted by a soft, girlish giggle.
“You shouldn’t touch my piano, you know? It’ll taint it…”
Bryn nervously took in a breath. “Can you take the knife away from my throat? You could hurt me…” She figured by the girl’s voice that she was young.
“Ohhh…I wouldn’t want that…”
Bryn slowly exhaled. The girl probably wouldn’t hurt her…
“I mean, I want you to die, you know?”
No. She was NOT dying now, not after running from a creepy man and hiding in a half-melted corpse. “Maybe we can work this out…”
The knife pressed deeper into her throat.
The knife paused. “Go on…”
“We’ll both play the piano…whoever’s playing is better will win. If I win, I get to leave, but if you win, you…you can kill me.”
The blade came away from her throat. Bryn turned cautiously to see a young girl in a lacy, old-fashioned dress. There was an ethereal quality to her, however, her skin being completely white, and Bryn had the feeling she wasn’t exactly alive. The girl smiled. “I love games! Let’s play! I’ll go first!”
Bryn nodded. Perfect. The girl placed the knife on the edge of the piano and smoothed her skirts, sitting on the bench. She lifted her white hands to the equally white keys and began to play.
The music washed over the room, flowing with a graceful, elegant tune. It sounded happy and light, but Bryn could sense a tinge of melancholy as the girl swayed with the music. At last the song ended, leaving a sense of peace and sadness lingering in the room. The girl turned excitedly back towards Bryn. “So? How was tha-”
She was cut short as Bryn forced her frail form forward, then released the top of the piano to slam down on her head with a sickening crunch. It cut straight through a now apparent black mark on her neck. Bryn lifted the knife from the piano and drove it through the girl’s chest from behind for good measure as sticky blood leaked out from the piano, dripping onto the keys and staining the pure white a deep red.
Bryn left the room, the piano’s sheet music placed on the dead girl’s back with the knife gone and the words “YOU LOST” written in blood over the notes.
Bryn walked calmly down the hall, clutching the knife. Well, it’s way too late to go back now, and this creepy asylum probably won’t even let me. I guess the only thing to do is go further in.
So Bryn continued and the hall seemed to go further down than it had originally appeared. The darkness seemed to be closing in on her as she set her gaze forward to see a door at the end of the hall. She reached out to place her hand on the doorknob, only to hear a sound and whirl around to face…
The small but persuasive girl was standing there in the middle of the hall, red glasses shining in the little light there was. Bryn held her knife in front of her, ready to strike, but Jasmine backed away slightly. Bryn scowled at her.
“What are you doing here?”
Jasmine said, “It’s none of your business. I wanted to come in. You were being too slow.”
“How did you get down here?” Bryn demanded.
Jasmine shifted her weight onto her other foot nervously. “It’s still none of your business. Let’s just go.” Jasmine marched past Bryn, grabbed her wrist, opened the door and pulled Bryn against her will into the room. When they were in, the door disappeared to leave behind a solid concrete wall.
Jasmine squeaked and pressed herself up against the aforementioned wall. “What is that?”
Bryn looked up and saw what was freaking out Jasmine. The entire room was covered in spikes, save for the floor and the wall Jasmine was clinging to like a lifeline. A ways up on the wall, about four feet up, were several bodies skewered on these shining iron spikes. The spikes had reached all the way through their torsos, and their entrails were hanging out, swinging in the slight draft. Every few second a small drop of crimson blood would fall from the bodies and land in a rapidly growing pool in the floor.
Jasmine seemed to be trying to fuse herself with the wall. “W-what do w-we do?”
Bryn didn’t even bother to look at her. “You wanted to come in here, Jasmine.”
Then a strange scraping sound rang through the room. The spiked walls closed in on them slightly, as Jasmine shrieked like a very unhelpful banshee. Bryn’s eyes widened slightly and she got into a defensive stance, knuckles white against clenched knife, as if thinking that would help.
The scraping noise continued as the walls crept up on them, the entrails of the long-dead corpses swinging jerkily. Jasmine was busy having a hysterical meltdown as Bryn examined the pool of blood on the floor. A small wooden corner of something peeked out from underneath it.
Could it be…?
Bryn kicked some of the blood out of the way and her suspicions were confirmed.
A trapdoor! Bryn tugged on the rusty metal ring holding it in place and managed to yank it partly open. Jasmine squealed like a pig and rushed to the trapdoor, pushing Bryn out of the way. Bryn quickly studied the spikes on the wall. There was only enough time for one person to go down the trapdoor before the spikes impaled them, too. So Bryn stabbed her knife through Jasmine’s stomach and hurried down the trapdoor, turning to see black sand rushing out of Jasmine’s wound. Jasmine had not been real.
Bryn fell through the dark and landed in something soft, followed by a spattering of blood and a pair of cracked red glasses. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Bryn could make out a reddish tint all around her. Where was she?
She tested the floor with her foot and found it to be spongy and soft. The chamber was suddenly shaken by what seemed like a pulse. She reached out warily and her fingers met a series of slimy cords reaching from floor to ceiling. Bryn gritted her teeth and brought her knife through them. Whatever this room was, she wanted to get out.
She continued to cut through the slimy cords, searching for a source of light until finally she broke through the last of them and burst out into yet another hallway. A pair of vast double doors stood before her. She cautiously pushed them open and opened. She heard a strange sound from the ceiling. Bryn stopped dead and looked up, only to be smacked backwards by something very solid.
Bryn dusted herself off and stood up. She looked to what had hit her, and tried to choke back a scream. It was her, hanged from the ceiling. The body was swinging back and forth like a morbid unmanned marionette, and that wasn’t all. All down the hall were torture devices of every kind imaginable, each one featuring her as its victim.
Bryn took a deep breath and took one step down the hall, trying her best not to look on either side. She heard no screaming. All of her doppelgangers were eerily silent. Every so often Bryn would be showered with blood or chunks of unknown substances.
Bryn gathered her courage and sprinted down the hall to another door. But it wasn’t a door. It was a mirror. Bryn finally managed to force herself to look back but the door had disappeared. On a whim, Bryn stuck her hand tentatively out to the mirror. It went through, so Bryn tightened her grip on the piano girl’s bloodied knife and walked straight through it.
Inside the mirror, it was completely silent, even more so than the hall of torture devices. Bryn turned in a slow circle and saw herself reflected on every surface. She recoiled slightly as a small black mark on her neck came into view. Bryn closed her eyes. It’s not real, it’s just an illusion.
“It’s not real,” she repeated aloud.
“But it is, isn’t it?”
Her eyes shot open to focus on a small girl, peering over Bryn’s shoulder in the mirror. The piano girl.
Bryn jumped forward, away from the piano girl. “But I…I killed you…”
The girl smiled and chuckled musically. “Funny how that works, isn’t it? But I’m here now to take my knife back. You need to be taught a lesson, you know? You touched my piano,” she took a step forward. “And that’s not okay.”
Bryn tightened her grip on the stolen knife. “I-I saw your head explode! You should be dead!”
The girl pouted slightly. “Boy, didn’t anyone ever teach you to listen? And not to take things? We covered this already. Now, give me my knife!”
Bryn gritted her teeth and sprinted down the mirror hall, the girl’s sing-songy voice echoing after her. “That’s not very nice, you know. You shouldn’t run away from your lessons! It’s such an inconvenience to have to catch you again, you know? But I can do it, sooo…”
Bryn didn’t wait for the girl to prove her claim. She ran even faster, and the mirrors around her seemed to change in blurs of muted, glistening color until she was running down the very first hall in the basement. The hall that had started it all. And there was the door! All she had to do was run up the stairs and open it. She suddenly heard a growl and a bone-chilling scraping noise. She knew without looking that the threats she had evaded earlier were back.
Bryn reached the staircase, but as soon as she saw it, it drew itself back up, leaving a door twenty feet up on the damp wall, unreachable. Instead, a man, a normal man, was standing in front of Bryn.
The monsters stopped. They watched.
“You need to make a decision here,” the man told her. “You can stay here, with us. We won’t hurt you. Not if you don’t resist. You’ll become one of us, living in the darkness, trying to recruit others who are unlucky enough to find us. We were all once like you, but our stories are to be told another time. Or you can take this box of matches, open this door–” a door appeared behind his shoulder, “and we can resume this chase.”
Bryn didn’t hesitate. She grabbed the matchbox, not sure why she needed it, and threw open the door. An identical hall lay before her, a faint light at the end. She sprinted down it, getting a slight head start from the monsters, and reached the light. There was another door she opened, and she found herself in the ugly brown field in the front of the old insane asylum. The monsters stopped in the doorway.
“Very well. You’ve made your choice. Do what you wish with the matches. I suppose your fate is the same. It is all a matter of freedom.”
The monsters retreated. Bryn felt like sitting down in the field and crying, overwhelmed by the events she had just witnessed and survived, but she had a job to finish. She opened the matchbox, grabbed a match, lit it, and threw it towards the asylum. The old wooden building ignited, throwing heat onto her face. Bryn tore through the field until she reached the sidewalk, a line of burning weeds following her. As she made her way down the sidewalk, she heard sirens. Bryn smiled. Now no one would have to experience the terror she just had.
Bryn realized she had been gone for at least one day. Her poor mother must have been freaking out. When Bryn reached her house, less than a mile away from the asylum, police cars were parked in her driveway. She found her mother sobbing in the middle of the living room, being awkwardly comforted by stony-faced policemen.
When her mother spotted her, Bryn was pulled into a bone-crushing hug amid sobs and cries of incredible joy. She shed a few tears herself, glad to be home. Her mother sent her to bed immediately, and Bryn crept into bed, her mother sitting next to her to tuck her in. Her mother spoke a few warming words. But Bryn couldn’t escape the chilling ones that came after.
“Hey, honey, what is that black mark on your neck?”