Friday, November 17, 2017

Poetry: The Decline

The Decline
by, Melissa R. Mendelson

PART I
I never thought that I could kill
anyone.
I still feel the knife
sliding softly into her body
with a gentle push.
Her eyes shined with fear,
despair.
She didn’t fight back.
She was weak.
I knew she was weak,
and she fell away.
I stood there
with the blood dripping off my hand.
I never thought that killing a person
would make me feel happy.
I never thought that taking a life
would give me life,
and I was glad
that she was dead.
I didn’t need her.
The world did not need her.
They don’t remember her.
I remember her,
but why?
Why can’t I forget her?
Why when every time I shut my eyes,
there she is,
and that damn knife remains
pierced through her heart.
I don’t want to see you.
You’re dead.
Stay dead.
I will kill you again,
but how do you kill a ghost?
I was so alive,
and now it’s gone.
And I am running deep within the cave,
but she is the hound of hell
biting at my feet.
Will she kill me,
but how could she
kill herself?

PART II
I don’t believe in love.
Love is for fools.
It’s a sickness.
It’s a lie,
a cruel lie,
and I have given my heart to so many.
And they have crushed me into dirt.
I have been torn to shreds and left for dead,
and now I am stone.
And maybe that is why he guards me.
He watches me every night.
I used to think that he watched over me,
but who am I fooling?
This is a prison,
and I am his prisoner,
one to torment and haunt.
And he haunts me with those gray eyes.
He is always watching,
but he never smiles.
I only saw his smile once,
and that was when I finally allowed myself to cry,
when I allowed myself to feel human.
He remains perched on top of this castle,
always outside my window,
always listening,
but I don’t want to talk to him.
I don’t want to leave,
but I do.
But the world does not know me.
They forgot me,
and I have nowhere else to go.
And he knows this.
I tried to escape once,
and he was quick,
locking all the doors and windows.
But I got one window open.
I reached outside,
and that’s when he scratched me,
warning me
to stay inside.
That was the last time I felt the sun on my skin.
Did he do this out of love?
I will never be his.
I have no more heart to give,
but it’s as heavy and cold as the wings upon his back.
And still, he watches me.
He remains close,
hoping and waiting for me
to talk to him,
but I have nothing left to say.
Love is a wicked storm,
one that has left me in ruin. 

PART III
When she sleeps, I can dream.
I can run free.
This castle is my garden,
my sanctuary.
No harm will find me here,
but it did.
It ended in screams,
but I don’t want to think about that now.
I want to fly instead.
I want to chase my dreams.
I want to imagine the
white knight upon his steed,
who will carry me off
into a happy ending.
If only,
there were happy endings,
but not for me.
When she wakes,
I must return.
I disappear.
I suffocate.
She doesn’t want to remember,
but I wish she did.
I can still feel the knife piercing my heart.
Why does she hate me so?
This world could be our oyster,
but instead, this castle is our cage.
If only I knew where the key was,
but it didn’t matter.
The sun is rising now,
and she has begun to stir.
I must go back,
slip into the corners of her mind,
where she has not found me yet.
I dread the day that she does.
Then, I will truly disappear,
but when the ghost of me is erased,
who will remain?
Or she will be nothing
but an empty shell?

Finale
It’s a bad storm outside.
The rains are coming down hard.
Lightning breaks the dark.
The thunder rattles my bones.
I was never one
to fear the storm,
but this storm is one
that I fear.
And he’s close now.
His shadow kisses the wall behind me,
and I dare not look.
Another flash.
Another boom.
It’s a rollercoaster ride of heaven and hell outside.
Which one will claim me?
I shudder in thought.
I rather just remain in this chair,
but why must I get a front row seat
to this raging battle?
At least, the thunder drowns out her screams.
Did he just touch my shoulder?
I think he did.
He’s looking at me again,
begging for me to talk to him,
but I have not spoken in such a long time.
Instead, the ghost of her clings close to my heart.
I am cold.
I am always cold,
and his kiss is that
of a reaper that whispers gently,
“It is time.”
I nod,
and he cries.
How beautiful those tears run
across his stone,
and they fall on my hand.
And for a moment there,
I see red.
If only I could disappear,
and a bright flash lights up the room.
A piece of paper falls to my feet.
Words meet my gaze,
words I do not understand.
This is my castle,
my stronghold,
my fortress,
my prison.
Why am I disappearing?
Why is he signing that paper?
Where is he going?
“Come back,” I want to scream,
but I am caught in a monstrous cave,
carried away by the current
that slips over jagged stone and edge,
falling further and further away
from this old nursing home.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Short Story: Welcome to Willow Grove

Welcome to Willow Grove
by, Melissa R. Mendelson

Willow Grove was located in the old part of town.  Abandoned buildings decorated the land before arriving there, and the road narrowed, becoming more rock than pavement.  That didn’t stop the speedsters from cutting around those in front of them and risking a near head on collision with the drivers in the opposite lane, and then the trees invaded, brushing over and across the road.  If a bad storm blew through here, the road would certainly be blocked, and this was the only way to Willow Grove, a place that used to generate bad vibes, and now a place that might offer some hope.

Faith could no longer make a living working in retail.  She had sacrificed ten years of her life working in a variety of stores and trying to make ends meet.  She never wanted to work for the state.  Why would she when retail offered both paychecks and health insurance, but that later changed.  Stores now were not offering medical, and she needed it.  And she couldn’t afford it working in retail, and the rent had gone up as well.  She had no choice but to surrender and take the state exams, which she aced.  Shortly after taking those exams, the phone rang, and she was offered a position at Willow Grove, which was strange to her.  What kind of job was she being offered there, but the kind woman on the other end of the phone explained that one of the buildings was being converted into a satellite office and that it was completely safe.  That reassurance died as Faith drove up into a long, jagged parking lot, where she left her car.

A large, barb-wired fence wrapped its arms around Willow Grove.  The barb wire decorated both top and bottom as if the patients had tried both ways to escape.  The entrance gate was also large and menacing with an ugly, tan panel attached to one side, and with a shaky finger, Faith pushed the red button.  She glanced up at the white, rectangular camera perched on top of the entrance gate, which stared down at her, and then she noticed that more of those cameras were stationed in various spots around the large, barb-wired fence.  Then, a loud creak made her jump as the entrance gate slowly moved back, allowing her inside.

The security hub looked like a large, white shack.  Inside was a metal detector, which Faith gingerly stepped through, and of course, she set it off.  There were four security guards standing nearby, and they were all dressed in black uniforms.  One motioned for her pocketbook, which she handed over, and another told her to empty her pockets, which she did.  Then, again, she stepped through the metal detector, and still, it went off.  Faith realized that it was the locket around her neck, and she slowly removed it, handing it to another security guard.  And luckily for the third time, she did not set the metal detector off, but as she breathed a sigh of relief, she realized that the security guard that had her pocketbook was removing items from it.  He removed her cell phone, car keys, nail file and took the locket from the other guard, and he began to drop all items into what looked like a freezer bag.

“My locket,” Faith said.

“No jewelry,” the guard replied curtly.

“Please.  It’s very important to me,” Faith begged him.

“Bill, she’s in the other building,” another guard spoke up.  “Let her keep it.”

“Fine,” and Bill handed Faith back her locket.  “The rest we’re keeping here.  Just ask for it when you’re leaving,” and he neatly wrote her name on top of the bag.

“Here’s your keys,” another guard said, pushing three keys on a metal ring into Faith’s hand.  “I’ll buzz you in.”

“Buzz me in,” Faith asked as she put her locket back on.  “I thought I was in.”

“No.  Go out that door,” and the guard that gave her the keys turned around to point at a white door in the back.  “There’s another gate, and I’ll buzz you in.”

“Okay,” and Faith was handed back her pocketbook, which was a joke.  All that was left in it was a bottle of water and tissues.  “What did I get myself into,” she mumbled as she stepped through the white door and nearly walked into the second fence.

As the second fence moved back to let her into the yard, Faith looked at the three white, stone buildings surrounding her.  She remembered the kind woman on the phone saying that two of the buildings were for patient use.  The third building would be where she was located, but which one was the third building?  The buildings were identical, but as she wandered closer to them, Faith spied ugly, red painted numbers above the double doors.  Building one and two were stationed next to each other, and her building was across the yard facing the other two.  For some reason, she felt relief at that for at least, there was some distance between her and the patients, but that relief did not last too long.  She then noticed a basketball hoop, a volleyball net, and a couple of benches decorating the yard.  That only meant one thing.  During the good weather, the patients would be released into the yard, but would they still be out there when it was time to go home?

Faith was given three keys.  She tried two out of the three to unlock the double, white doors.  The third key worked, and she had to remember that it was the third key that would let her in and out of here.  She stepped inside into a dimly lit hallway and turned to lock the door.  As the lock clicked into place, she removed her keys and turned around, nearly stepping into a tall, thin woman that was waiting behind her.

“Hello,” the woman said.  “You’re…”

“Faith,” and she held her hand out toward the woman.  The woman did not shake her hand.  “I’m sorry, if I’m late.  I know it’s almost seven, and my shift is seven to three.  I just got held up with security, and…”

The woman held her hand up.  “Call me, Lynn, and follow me.”  She turned around and moved up a long, narrow staircase, also painted white.  “The third key also unlocks the stairwell doors,” and she gestured toward the door that waited for them at the top of the stairs.  “Don’t forget to lock it behind you,” she said as Faith unlocked the door, and Lynn stepped in front of her.

“Is my office here,” Faith asked, looking around another dimly lit hallway.

“No.  We are on the second floor.  The floor below us is for clinic, infirmary, rehab, anything medical.  This floor was redone, but it is for Human Resources and Business Office.  There will be two women in each office, all working eight to four.  You are on the third floor.  Come on.  We got one more stairwell to go,” and she moved down the hall, followed by Faith. 

“Who’s up there with me,” Faith asked as she unlocked the other stairwell door and followed Lynn into the stairwell.

“No one,” Lynn replied, almost coldly.  “Did anyone explain to you the job that you would be doing?”

“Kind of,” Faith replied as she unlocked the door at the top of the stairs.  She waited for Lynn to walk in front of her, and then she locked the stairwell door behind them.  “I think that it’s data entry for services provided here.”

“Yes.  Here’s your office,” and Lynn stood outside a closed, white door.

“Who else is up here?”

“No one.  This is where all the storage is kept.  If you need human contact, you can visit the women on the second floor.  Would you like to unlock the door?  It’s the second key.”

“What’s the first key for?”

“The bathroom.  It’s over here,” and Lynn moved down the hall toward another white door.  “Unlock the door to get in.  Unlock the door to get out.  Do you need to use it?”

“No,” Faith replied nervously.  “So, I’m up here by myself?”

“Yes.”

“What about you?”

“It’s almost seven,” Lynn replied curtly.

“Yes.  Two minutes to seven,” and Faith check her watch.  She felt silly wearing a purple Minnie Mouse watch around her wrist, but her niece had given it to her for her birthday.  Funny enough, it didn’t set the metal detector off, probably because it was made of plastic, and at some point, she would buy herself a real watch.  This way, she could give her niece back her watch.

“At seven a.m., the state will call you to make sure that you are at your desk.  You have a fifteen minute window.  If you miss their call and do not call them back within fifteen minutes, you will be marked absent, and you will have to go home.  Where are you going, Faith?”

“To the office,” Faith replied as she quickly unlocked the office door.

Faith’s office was small.  There was one barred window with an air conditioner in it.  There was a large, square filing cabinet against the wall next to it.  In front of the cabinet was a large, metal desk with a black phone and computer desktop.  A desk chair was pushed against the wall, and just then, the phone rang.

“I’m here.  I’m here,” Faith nearly yelled into the phone.  “I’m reporting for duty,” and Lynn laughed at that.  “Okay.  Okay.  I’ll be here,” and Faith hung up the phone.

“Well, what did your boss say?”

“He will call back in ten minutes for me to start working, but I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You’ll be fine, Faith.  Just like the girls before you,” and Lynn smiled.  “First things first, turn on the computer.  Did you get a username and password?”

“Yes.  During training, I was given everything that I needed,” and Faith wished that she could have stayed at that office, which was located closer to town.  She felt safe there.  Here, she didn’t feel safe at all.  “I’ll just log on and access my email.  As I was trained, I will be emailed all the stats for the services, and my job is to put them into that system…  It’s called…”

“ATBS,” Lynn replied.  “You’ll get it,” and she moved away from her.

“What’s that sound?”

“Oh, that’s static from the radio.”

“Radio,” Faith asked, and she watched Lynn point over to a small, gray radio on top of the filing cabinet.

“The thing’s broken.  You get more static on it than music, but you could always unplug it.  I’ll see you later, Faith.”

“Wait,” but when Faith looked away from the radio, Lynn was already gone.  “Shit,” she muttered especially when she realized that she did have to go to the bathroom.

Faith only had a few minutes left, so she quickly closed and locked her office door.  Then, she moved down the hall toward the bathroom and unlocked the door.  She thought the bathroom would be a normal bathroom.  Instead when the door opened, she found herself staring at three stalls, and further back were two shower stalls.  The lights overhead flickered, and Faith cringed.  She opened one stall and looked at the toilet seat, grimacing at the way it was left.  The second toilet was decent, and the third was horrid.  If she didn’t have to sit down, she would be fine, but if she had to sit, it would be in the second stall.  Luckily now wasn’t the case, and just as she arrived back into her office, the phone was ringing.  She was able to catch it on the last ring.

Five hours dragged by, slowly.  The state system was old and glitchy, and a couple of times, she had to save her data twice.  The emails continued to flow in with stats, which she did not need to print.  She could either write it down on a notepad and pen she found in a drawer, or she could leave the screen up and switch between that and the data system.  However, at noon, things seemed to come to a stop, and Faith realized that it was lunch time.  She had forgotten about lunch, and there was no place around here, where she could go.  Also, she was not told about a kitchen or cafeteria unless she wanted to eat where the patients were, and she did not want that.  Instead, since she got a half hour, she locked up and ventured to the second floor.

Once on the second floor, Faith was disappointed that all but one door was shut.  To her surprise, she heard music coming from the open room.  The lights overhead flickered, but she was getting used to that now.  She would be fine as long as the lights did not go off, and finally, she was at the open door.  At first, she did not see anyone, but then a blonde, heavy-set woman appeared with a yogurt in her hand.

“Hello,” the woman said to her, which seemed like a blend of suspicion and surprise.  “Can I help you?”

“I’m sorry, if I startled you,” Faith said.  “I’m Faith.”

“Oh, you’re the new girl.  The one upstairs.  I’m sorry.  Where’s my manners?  I’m Jodi,” and she shook Faith’s hand.  “Did you bring lunch?”

“No.  I actually forgot about lunch,” Faith said, trying not to eye the woman’s yogurt, but she already took notice of that.

“I have more in the fridge.”

“You have a fridge?”

“We’re not supposed to, but the kitchen was nice enough to hook us up with a small one.  You can bring lunches in and leave it in here with us until lunch time, if you want.”  Jodi moved over to a small, black fridge, which was almost hidden by tall, black file cabinets.  “What kind of yogurt do you like?  I have blueberry, banana, cherry…”

“Cherry’s good.  Thank you,” and Faith took the yogurt from her.

“So, do you like it?”

“Like it,” Faith asked as Jodi got her a plastic spoon.  “Thank you.  The work’s okay.”

“It’s tedious, and so are the phone calls.  Can’t even slip out early, if you wanted to.”

“What do you mean,” Faith asked.

“They will call you exactly at the end of your shift, and if you miss that call and don’t respond in fifteen minutes, they will think that you left, and then they will double check with security.  And sometimes, security doesn’t back you up.  Just fair warning.”

“Good to know.  Lynn seems nice,” Faith said as she started to eat her yogurt.

Just then, the little radio by Jodi’s desk erupted into static.  Both women jumped, and then Jodi hurried over to the radio.  She snapped the black dial back, and the radio fell silent.  She was about to say something when another woman entered the room.

“Hello,” she said to Faith.

“Hi.  I’m Faith.”

“Ann,” and she shook Faith’s hand.  “Yogurt, huh?”

“The poor girl forgot her lunch,” Jodi said.

“Well, security had pizza,” Ann said as she grinned.

“Oh, so that’s why they called you.  Ann likes to flirt with the security guards,” Jodi said.
“I do not,” Ann snapped at Jodi.  “Okay, girls.  Twelve-thirty.  Back to work.  At least, one of us gets out of here early,” and she looked over at Faith.

“Thank you for the yogurt, Jodi.  See you two tomorrow.”

“Nice meeting you, Faith,” Jodi said.

“Bye, Faith,” and Ann waited for her to leave the room.  “You didn’t say anything to her.  Did you?”

“She mentioned Lynn.”

“Well, I would leave that alone.  Maybe out of the other two, she’ll work out.”

“Maybe, if I was her, I would run for the door,” and Jodi stuck a spoonful of yogurt into her mouth.

“Either way, we can’t help her, so let’s get back to work,” Ann said.

Faith moved away from the office, wondering what the two women were talking about.  If she wasn’t afraid of her boss calling her, she might have asked them, and where was Lynn?  Where did she disappear to, but just then, she could have sworn that she saw Lynn walking down the stairs.  When she looked again, she heard a door slam shut.  Lynn must be a fast walker, and something told Faith that she would be seeing Lynn again.

The rest of the day went by fairly quickly.  Faith only used that horrible bathroom two more times, and exactly at three p.m., her phone rang.  She quickly answered it, and the conversation was brief.  “You can go home now,” her boss said to her.  “Thank you, and speak to you tomorrow.”  Faith thanked him and hung up.  She couldn’t imagine another day here, but before she left, she had to make sure of one thing.  She peered outside the window and saw that the yard was clear.  Now was the time to go, and she hurried outside, nearly sprinting across the yard toward the second fence.  She didn’t realize that she was even holding her breath until she got inside the security hub, and then she remembered to breathe.

“Long day,” a guard asked her.

“Yeah.  Long day,” and Faith took the plastic freezer bag that he held out toward her.  “Thank you,” and she nearly ran to her car.

Once inside her car, Faith turned to look back at Willow Grove.  Every bone in her body screamed for her to just go.  Turn the car on, and drive away as fast as she could.  The sad truth was that she couldn’t.  The money here was good.  The health insurance was good.  If she could just make this work for a little while, then maybe she could walk away from here, and there was no interaction with the patients, which was good.  But what would she do, if she came outside one day and found them all out in the yard?  Faith couldn’t think about that.  Instead, she revved up her car and drove away, knowing that she would return here tomorrow.

A week passed.  Faith promptly arrived every day at a quarter to seven, and she was settled in her office before the first call came.  That call would kick off the day, and then the emails would arrive.  And the data entry was tedious, but as Faith focused on it, ignoring the annoying static in the background from the radio, time melted away.  Then, it was time for lunch with Jodi, who really didn’t say much.  Was that because of Ann, Faith wondered, and what happened to Lynn?  She had only seen her that Monday when she first started working here.  Where did she go, and then Faith remembered that she wanted to ask Jodi something, something that kept slipping from her mind.  Today, she remembered.

“There’s some glass missing from the window,” Faith said.  “Do you know anything about that?”

“No,” Jodi said after almost choking on a spoonful of yogurt.

“Why?  You getting a breeze?”  Ann had her feet propped up on her desk, and she was filing her long, pink nails.  “Have you noticed yet that one of the shower stalls in your bathroom is missing a shower curtain?”

“Ann,” Jodie snapped at her.  “I thought we were being quiet,” and she gave her a stern look.

“Why do you keep asking about Lynn,” Ann asked.

“I haven’t seen her since I started working here,” Faith replied, and she watched the two women exchange looks.  “What?”

“Who exactly showed you around on your first day here?  Security was supposed to have you wait for one of us.  Jodi actually came in early that day to show you around, but you were already all settled in here.  But hey, at least, Jodi got to go home early.  Right, Jodi,” and Jodi stuck another spoonful of yogurt into her mouth.

“Lynn showed me around,” Faith replied, looking from Ann to Jodi.  “She was waiting for me inside, and she showed me around.”

“You can’t possibly know Lynn,” Ann exclaimed.  “There’s no way.”

“Yes, I know her.  Nice woman.  Tall.  Thin.”

“She’s dead!”

“Ann,” Jodi snapped at her.  “Enough.”

“What do you mean by dead?  I saw her.  She was here, and she helped me.  And…”

“And lunch time is over, Faith.  Can you please get out?  I have work to do.”  Ann noticed the sharp look that Jodi gave her.  “What?  I don’t have time for this.”

“Faith…”

“Forget it, Jodi.  Thank you again for another yogurt.”

“And you need to stop taking her yogurt, or buy Jodi more,” Ann said.  “We don’t run a charity here.”

“I’ll get you more yogurt,” but Faith only looked at Jodi.

Faith took a few steps outside of the office, but then she backed up against the wall.  As always the two women inside started talking to each other.  At first, Jodi scolded Ann for being mean to Faith, and then Ann snapped at Jodi for being too kind.  Then, a silence fell into the room for a long moment.  Then, Ann broke the silence.

“She needs to leave before it happens to her,” Ann said.  “Especially if she saw Lynn.”

“So, you believe me now?”

“Come on, Jodi.  You never take your cross off here.  You’re always checking the chain to make sure it’s there.  I get out of this building whenever I can.  I think that’s what protects me.  That and being with you and your protection.  What protects her?”

“I don’t know.  She wears a nice locket,” Jodi said.

“It’s jewelry.  How many people have turned down the position in HR here?  Almost everyone except Beth, who jumped out the window.  It was a miracle that she didn’t die.”

“I don’t even know how she got that window open.  It’s so heavy, and the bars on the window just fell away?  I don’t believe that.  They need to condemn this place not remodel it.”

“Are you listening to us?”  Ann stuck her head into the hallway.  “They might be calling you,” she said to Faith.

“Sorry,” and Faith hurried away.  But as she did, she found herself holding her locket against her chest.

“Watch your ass,” Ann yelled after her.

Another week passed.  Pay week.  Once the paycheck was electronically deposited into Faith’s bank account, she would buy Jodi a case of yogurt.  In the meantime, she spent lunches now either in her car or in her office.  She really had not seen Ann or Jodi since that day, but ever since that day, Faith had a cold feeling at the pit of her gut.  Something wasn’t right, but the four security guards outside didn’t really talk to her.  That left Ann and Jodi, and Faith was almost afraid to visit them and get into another confrontation with Ann.  And their ears must have been burning for Faith now heard them outside her office.

“Stop crying, Jodi.  We’ll find it.  Okay?  We will find it,” Ann said.

“My cross, Ann.  I need my cross.  It was around my neck this morning, but now it’s gone.”

“Come on, Jodi.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  You get another cross.”

Faith stepped out into the hallway.  The lights overheard flickered.  Somewhere in the building, she heard a door slam shut.  Sometimes, when she’s in the bathroom, she heard keys rattling, but hers were left still on top of the toilet paper.  She was just getting used to all that, but now as she looked out into the hallway, she did not see Ann or Jodi.  She heard them, and it sounded like they were right outside her room.  But they were not there.

Faith hurried down to the second floor.  Once again, their office door was left open.  Instead of music, Faith heard angry static.  She cringed at that, not knowing why, and she stuck her head in the room, looking at Jodi’s desk.  Jodi’s computer was off, and so was her lamp.  Her desk was dusty and looked like it had not been touched in a very long time, but Jodi was sitting at that desk a week ago.

“Can I help you,” Ann snapped from behind her, making Faith jump.  “What do you want, Faith?”

Ann looked terrible.  She had such a rosy complexion.  Now, she looked waxen pale.  Her eyes were red, and her lips were broken.  An awful stench escaped her mouth.  Had she been drinking?  Faith didn’t like the stare that Ann fixed her with, and she backed away.  That made Ann smile.

“Where’s Jodi,” Faith forced herself to ask.  “Is she here?”

“She’s gone.  She got out.  Lucky her,” Ann snarled.

“What do you mean by gone, got out?  Ann, are you okay?”

“She’s gone, Faith.  She’s been gone a long time now.”

“What are you talking about?  We had lunch here last week.  You got mad about the yogurt.  Remember?”

“The yogurt,” Ann giggled, and then she broke out into a hideous laughter.  “Did you even check the expiration date?”

Faith ran over to the small, black fridge.  She threw it open, and an awful smell struck her in the face.  She slammed the fridge closed and then noticed a dried, brown pool on the floor near the tall, black file cabinets, and her stomach dropped.  She started to stand up when Ann slammed hard, cold hands against her back.

“This is where I died,” she spat into Faith’s ear.  “Jodi lost her precious cross, and she went nuts.  She ran out of this place, leaving me here alone, and about a week later…  BOOM,” Ann screamed into Faith’s ear. 

Faith jumped and spun around, but Ann was gone.  Static blared from the radio nearby, and Faith grabbed it up into her hands.  And when she did, she realized that there was no plug.  She turned it around, where the batteries should have been, but there were no batteries.  And she dropped the radio to the ground, and the radio shattered into a million pieces.  The static continued.

Faith ran back to her office.  She was about to go inside, but the thought of that yogurt made her stomach turn.  She hurried into the bathroom and nearly fell into the second stall, spilling out her soda and peanut-butter and jelly sandwich out into the toilet.  She wretched a few more times, and her skin was ice cold.  What the hell was going on?

Faith slowly moved out of the stall and toward the sink.  She couldn’t bring herself to look into the mirror.  She felt that she would see something else instead of her, and just then, the lights went out.  Faith gripped the sink, and her hand tightened around her keys.  Just then, she heard something.  It reminded her of that scene from Psycho when the shower curtain was pushed back, and that made Faith run toward the door.  But she fumbled with the keys, trying to unlock the door as something moved closer to her.

Just as a hand landed on her shoulder, Faith got the right key into the lock and threw the door open.  She fell out into the hallway and turned around.  A pale, young girl stared back.  A shower curtain was wrapped tightly around her neck.  She screamed.  The door slammed shut.

“You’re such an idiot, Faith.”  Lynn was back.  Tall and thin, and pale.  She was very pale, and then Faith noticed the angry, open gashes running down both of her arms.  The missing glass.  Lynn had killed herself with it.  “You kept returning.  I gave you a chance, but you kept coming back.  How desperate are you,” and she laughed at that.

Faith ran toward the stairwell door.  She fumbled with the keys.  The keys disappeared from her hand, and she grabbed at nothing but air.  How was that possible, and she yanked on the door.  But the door was locked, and Lynn was right behind her.

“You know, nobody’s ever falling down the stairs here,” and the door behind Faith unlocked and swung open, and Faith nearly fell down the stairs.  “Come on, Faith.  One push, and you’re out of your misery.  And then you’ll be like the rest of us.  Trapped.  Stuck here until they tear this place down, and then we’ll go wherever this place takes us.”

“What the hell are you talking about,” Faith screamed at her as she stumbled down the stairs.  “The state remodeled this place.  They’re not tearing it down.”

“They did remodel this place, this building, but shortly afterward, the riot happened.  And people died, and now the state wants nothing to do with us.  But instead of leaving us alone, they’ve decided to sell the land and tear this place down.”  Lynn moved closer down the stairs toward Faith.  “Jodi got away.  She could have been with us, but she left Ann, poor Ann all alone here.”

Faith paused by the stairwell door leading out onto the second floor.  She felt eyes on her.  She slowly moved her head and met Ann’s gaze.  Ann struggled to open the door, screaming at Faith as she tried to get at her, and Faith hurried down more stairs, remembering that she had once seen an EXIT door further down the stairwell.  But that door was also locked.

“I don’t get it,” Faith said as she tried to open the door.  “Why did the state offer me a job here, if they were going to tear this place down?”

“Hi, Faith Andrews?  This is Becky calling about a position over at Willow Grove,” and Faith’s blood ran cold.  “The state should really have turned off the electricity here, but they didn’t, giving us access to anything, anyone we wanted.”

“But the voice on the phone…”

“Good Morning, Faith.  This is Bill….”

“The emails,” Faith nearly screamed at Lynn.

“All manipulated, Faith.  All for you,” and Lynn stepped in front of her.

“Why,” Faith screamed at her, and Lynn’s face flickered into a twisted, maggot filled pile of flesh.  “Why,” Faith screamed again.

“Because you’re the last, Faith.  You’re the last soul that this place will take.  You should be honored,” and Lynn grabbed her locket.  But as she tried to snap it off Faith’s neck, she burned her hand and screamed.  “It’s a piece of jewelry,” she spat into Faith’s face, and Faith’s skin burned.  “What is this?”

“Unlock the door,” Faith slowly said, and her fear melted away into anger.  “Unlock the EXIT door.  Now!”

“No.  You had your chance.  I’m not letting you go.  You’re not leaving here,” and Lynn lunged toward her.  But Faith held up her locket, which glowed a soft glow.

“Unlock the door.  Now,” Faith repeated.

“What is so special about that locket,” and Faith moved the locket closer to her.  “Get it away.  Get it away,” Lynn screamed, and the EXIT door snapped open.

Faith bolted outside.  She heard Lynn scream, but she continued to run.  The yard looked like it had aged.  The ground was broken, dead.  The basketball hoop was lying on its side.  The volleyball net was torn to shreds.  The benches were broken, and some were stained red, brown.  And Faith moved quickly to the second fence, finding it hanging open, and she pushed against it.  And she hurried into the security hub.

Four skeletons dressed in black uniforms turned toward Faith.  Their jaws fell open into ugly, gaping grins.  Their eye sockets focused on the locket still around Faith’s neck.  They inched toward her, but Faith raised the locket up into the air.  And the skeletons backed away, allowing Faith to walk past them and outside.

Once inside her car, Faith hit the gas and flew down the road.  She didn’t stop for several miles, and then she pulled over.  And she screamed.  When she was done screaming, she fell back against her seat and touched her locket.  Slowly, she opened it and looked at a baby’s face.

“I guess I didn’t lose you after all,” she cried.  “Thank you.  Thank you.  It’s time to go back home,” and she pulled the car onto the road and drove away.