After much discussion and few nips of brandy from John’s hip flask, we have decided to go on. We’ve been standing here in the hall for over fifteen minutes and there’s been no sound from overhead. At times we’ve imagined faint footsteps scurrying along the corridor, but put it down to the rats and mice, that are bound to be plentiful in a place like this. We’re going down into the basement. Remember I told you that this is where the treatment rooms and the mortuary are located and I find these to be the saddest and scariest place in the asylum. You will see things that will make your heart ache. Mental illness was considered a curse in those dark days and the treatment was barbaric. Yet, when you think about it, it was only twenty years ago. Let us hope things have changed dramatically for those who suffer from it these days. It’s freezing down here, but that’s to be expected of basements; they’re always cold, even in summer. Did you see those light; what were they? Oh, its rats, their eyes really blaze in the darkness. Let’s go in here. This was one of the treatment rooms. Follow the beam of my torch on the wall, as I move it slowly up. Can you see the chains and the leather restraints? They used to tie the violent patients up to the walls, shackled like prisoners. Is it any wonder they went mad? Let’s go next door; I want to show you the baths. They filled these with ice water and submerged hysterical patients in this for hours, because they believed it calmed them. Oh, my god, listen. That’s a woman’s voice, it’s faint, but you can make out the words.
“No, don’t, please no.”
That made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, come on. The dust in the corridor is really bad. It rises in clouds under our running feet. It had to come from in here. It’s a ward, with one bed, but this time the restraints are on the bedposts. Someone was strapped down here.
“Hello, did you call out just now?”
We wait in the deepening silence, until a shuffling in the corridor outside draws us out. It sounds like footsteps, dragging this time. They’re coming closer. Aim your flashlights down the corridor. What is that? It looks like a scarecrow wearing a lab coat. Is it someone’s idea of a sick joke, except…it’s moving? It’s a man or what once was a man. Tendrils of lank hair hang from a head that’s nothing more than a skull. The cheeks are sunken, the eyes dark, sightless hollows.
“Back away,” I whisper, but find you have already done so.
I’m doing the same, not taking my eyes off the advancing figure until I reach the stairs and then I’m running.
“Thanks for waiting for me. It’s no use looking shamefaced now. I was alone with that thing. Still, never mind, we’ve survived, though some of you look a little pale.”
We shouldn’t have been surprised by what we saw. The very air within warns that it’s a place of unrest. It surrounds you with a feeling of pain and hopelessness that can never be exorcised. We won’t be coming back here again.
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