Page 35

“Was it this fucking cold when you were up here earlier?” I asked, the air hurting my lungs, my breath frozen in a cloud.

Dex shook his head. “No, not at all.” His teeth started chattering. “You know what, you ladies hold tight and I’ll be right back.” He thrust the camera into my hands and started running down the stairs.

“Dex!” I yelled after him. “Where the hell are you going?”

“Getting you guys your jackets,” he yelled back as he rounded the landing on the third floor.

I looked over at Rebecca, expecting her to say she was fine. Instead, she was slightly hunched over, holding her arms close to her, her face like ivory snow.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

She swallowed hard and nodded. “I’m fine. I’m just cold too.” The she straightened up and walked down the hall, peering into the rooms, illuminating them with her light.

“What are you doing?” I asked, following her.

“Taking another look,” she said, her eyes darting from doorway to doorway as she walked. “When I was up here earlier I thought I saw something in one of the rooms.”

Of course only someone who never saw a ghost in her life—only weird lights, abnormal sounds, and strange music—would be brave enough to investigate this.

“What was it?’ I asked, keeping right behind her.

“A painting or a drawing on the wall,” she said. She aimed the light into one of the rooms and said, “Ah hah.” She went in and stood by the missing door, and I watched her as she ran her fingers over the wall. She was right, there was something. It looked like a mess of black and red, like someone was painting with charcoal and blood. Given the fact that the floor was where a lot of the mental patients were, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

“What does it say?” I asked, not wanting to get any closer.

“Help me,” she said grimly. “Help me, they’re going to kill me.” Her words put a block of ice in my chest. She slowly turned to look at me. “Who are they?”

I took a step into the room. “I think they are the nurses.”

She straightened up. “How do you know that?”

“Because,” I said, looking down at my sneakers, “last night, when I was sleeping in the break room, I saw Shawna again. She told me that she was killed, that though she had TB, she didn’t even have a chance to die from it. She said that many were thrown into the incinerator or smothered with pillows to make room.”

I could feel her eyes on me, deciding if I was telling the truth, if I were crazy or not. I finally looked up and saw in the weak light that she was wiping away a tear. “I’m sorry,” she said with a sniff. It took me a moment to understand what she was apologizing for. “I’m sorry for telling you the way I did. I’m sorry for not taking your feelings into consideration…”

My grudge evaporated on impact. “Rebecca,” I started.

“No, Perry, let me say this,” she said. “Please. I’m angry, alright? I was angry before I even got here. And then when I got here, I started feeling sick. Started feeling like this was real, I was actually bloody pregnant. Then I got scared and I got angry all over again. Because there you and Dex go, deciding you aren’t doing the show anymore. You’ve made me jobless.”

I felt like she punched me in the gut. “I’m sorry. It’s not that we weren’t thinking of you…”

“I know,” she said quickly, her eyes flashing, her liner spilled under her eyes in dark pools. “I know. You and Dex are the show, you are each other’s show, and what you say goes. I know that. I also know I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for you. But there you are, in love with each other, about to start a new chapter of your life together, and here I am. I’m pregnant. Joblesss. Alone. I’m bloody alone, Perry.” She started to sob but caught herself quickly. “I am so scared. So, so scared. I’m so good at so many things, so good at pretending. And yet I can’t deal with this imperfection. I am so fucking scared!” she sobbed.

I forgot my fears and immediately went across the room to hug her. I took her in my arms and held her tight as she sobbed into my shoulder. “It’s okay,” I whispered into her hair. “We’re here for you, you know that. You aren’t alone.”

“I feel alone,” she whimpered, “and that’s the scariest feeling of all.”

“You aren’t alone,” I reassured her. “And I’m not even talking about Dex and I. You’re keeping the baby…I can tell.”

She pulled away and looked up at me with glassy eyes. “Yes. I want to. It was the thing that drove me and Emily apart, but god, that’s all I wanted.” She looked down. “I just wish it was with her.”

“I know you do,” I said, holding her tight. “But we have to deal with what we have. This is a blessing, you know that. A challenge, but in the end, it’s a good thing. Maybe the best.”

“Do you ever want kids?” she asked.

I found myself nodding. “Yes. As funny as it seems, I think Dex would make a great dad.”

She smiled. “I think so too. I am happy for you, really I am. I’m just...”

“Scared?” I asked. “You’re allowed to be scared. We all are. And I don’t mean with ghosts. I mean with life.”

She smiled gently and put her head on my arm. That’s when I bit the bullet and asked, “So, who is the baby daddy?”

She stiffened against me before finally looking up. “Promise you won’t tell Dex?”

“No,” I said. “I tell him everything.”

She managed a small smile. “Then…just don’t tell him until I do.”

“I promise.” I held out my pinky finger and she hooked it with hers.

She took in a deep breath and let it out through her nose. “All right. It’s…Dean.”

I’m not sure why my first instinct was to laugh, maybe because Dean was so totally not the person I was expecting. And it had nothing to do with the fact that Dean was black and Rebecca looked like Snow White. It was that Dean was Dex and Rebecca’s friend, not a lesbian and so totally not Rebecca’s type, even when you ignore the non-lesbian thing. Dean was a fucking awesome guy but he seemed really chill whereas Rebecca was well-manicured and slightly uptight.

“What. The. Fuck,” I said slowly, examining her face as if she were lying to me. “Dean?”

Rebecca nodded, wiping her lips with the back of her hand. “Yeah. Dean.”

“Does he know?”

She shook her head and then looked at me with big eyes. “Please don’t tell him.”

I assured her I wouldn’t tell. It really was none of my business.

I sighed and told her, “Rebecca, whatever you and Dex did, it’s in the past. It’s a lot for me to handle but...I’m not mad. Let’s just forget about it and move on.”

“Are you sure? I never wanted to hurt you, Perry. I’m sorry.”

“I know,” I told her. I let go and straightened up, looking around the dimly lit room. “Weird how Dex isn’t back yet.”

She nodded and got up. We walked back into the hallway, looking up and down, but didn’t see anything unusual.

“Maybe he’s in the loo,” Rebecca offered with a shrug.

“Maybe,” I said as we went back the way we came. Suddenly, every single hair on my body was prickling. This wasn’t good. This was very, very bad.

And whatever it was…was right behind us.

“Rebecca,” I said carefully. “I know you’re the wrong person to ask. But. If you look over my shoulder, do you see anything?”

I watched her as she craned her elegant neck around and looked past me down the hall.

A small, breathy sound escaped from her lips. Her eyes grew wider. Her mouth gaped open. The delicate muscles in her neck stood out as every section of her skin grew tighter.

She was seeing something.

Holy fuck.

Rebecca was seeing something. I knew that terror like a second skin.

I slowly turned my head and followed her terrified gaze.

Down the hall, lit faintly by the light that was spilling in the windows, was the bad thing.

It was upside down, crawling on the ceiling, long arms stretching out in front of it, and coming straight for us. The weird crackling, skittering sound filled my ears as its razor-lined mouth snapped open and shut.

Somehow, I managed to tear my eyes away and look at Rebecca. She was paralyzed by the fear. I pushed back on her shoulder and yelled, “Move! Run!” in her face.

It took her a few seconds—terribly long seconds—to realize what I was saying. Then she wasted no time at all. She whipped around, her dark hair flinging in my face, and together we started sprinting down the hall. We ran so fast, so desperate to get away that we ran past the staircase and were halfway down the next wing before we realized our mistake.

We both ducked into a room, trying desperately to catch our breaths, and I poked my head around the doorway.

The bad thing was no longer on the ceiling—I couldn’t see it anywhere.

“I think it’s gone,” I told her, even though I had no idea how that could be. Like fear, it was never really gone, was it?

She cautiously stuck her head around the corner and looked to see for herself. She made a noise that I couldn’t decide was agreeable or not.

“Wait, hold up,” she cried out as I was about to turn away.

I looked back to see Dex running up the hallway at the other end, where we had been before, and start running down the stairs.

“Shit!” I cried out. “What the fuck is he running from?”

I pulled at Rebecca until she was running beside me, heading down the hall. We got to the stairs and I looked over the railing just in time to see him heading off on the third floor.

“Dex! Where the fuck are you going?” I yelled after him as I picked up speed and leaped down sets of stairs until I was on the third floor. I looked to my left and saw him running away, making a sharp left into a room.

I kept running while assuming that Rebecca was hot on my trail and ducked into the room that Dex disappeared into.

All it took was to see the faint metal glint of the operating light before I screeched to a halt.

Dex had led me into the room of blood.

And as the heavy door shut behind me, I realized that it hadn’t been Dex that led me in there.

Oh shit.

I spun around, completely taken over by the dark, and ran forward until I smacked against the door. I felt for the handle, trying desperately to get it to turn, while pounding on the door with my fist and yelling for Dex and Rebecca.

The door wouldn’t open. The thump of my fists died in the air.

I couldn’t hear anything on the other side. No sign of the howling wind. No sign that someone was yelling to me, trying to assure me everything was going to be okay, trying to help me escape, to let me out of that room.

The room of blood.

I breathed in deeply, trying to keep my senses focused, my mind sharp, my heart rate under control. I wasn’t going to cry. I wasn’t going to succumb to the black room that nipped at my back. I was going to hold it together and find a way out.


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