Edgar and Mick peered down the blackened hallway. The swelling walls emitted a dainty musk and a chilly feeling was steadily creeping up from the tiles, shimmering from a thick enough layer of water to make ripples.
“Hey—uh, Herald,” Edgar said with a small plea in his voice. “I know we’re in the hospital, but where in the hospital are we?”
An echoing thud bounced from the double doors behind them. Edgar and Mick took a turn in haste, noticing that the doors had been tightly chained. Mick held the locked for a moment, tested it, and saw what Edgar had occupied himself with. A black, visceral substance that had grown around the edges of the door that was staining the water at the bottom of the door, emitting droplets of something that wasn’t water. It looked like ink.
“This place–,” Herald said abruptly, making Mick jump, “is where the hospital ran experimental tests on several different creatures and, sometimes, even people. You see, lots of things were mistreated here.”
“Of course they were,” Edgar said softly, shining the light on his face so Mick could see that he was rolling his eyes, “haunted hospitals always are a place of maltreatment to anything. Oh, Herald,” Edgar began in a courtly way, “be’est an asylum next door, good sir?”
“Don’t be a smartass, and I never said it was haunted,” Herald countered. Edgar held the light back past Mick, hearing another thump that was much louder than the fat drops of water that were falling from the root systems dangling from the ceiling.
“Oh–okay, just monsters then,” Mick mused with sarcasm. He turned his light back to Edgar, “You see Ed, if the monsters bleed we can kill’em.”
“Wrong,” Herald piped in. His voice was all around them, and Edgar could see that Mick was starting to get frustrated with their curator. “Sometimes, Mickey, you have to break curses, defeat a bad omen, or use a special kind of weapon. Think of it like the movies. This may be a horror adventure, but it’s still an adventure. “
“Yeah,” Mick said, “but if we die, I’m guessing the creator won’t give us any amount of resurrection juice to stop it.”
“Only time will tell,” Herald replied. If Edgar and Mick didn’t know any better, they would have assumed the curator probably had his feet propped up, sipping a latte and watching them on a big flat screen in his office.
“Alright Herald, what the long play here,” Edgar asked. Thuds could still be heard in the far distance, but with the echoes, it still sounded too close for comfort.
“Like I said, the creator wants to test you. I’m just here to keep an eye on you. Just remember the biggest thing is to enjoy the process. Now, to break down how this place works, there are ten levels to this impromptu training. When you finish them, we can start you on something else. Until then, you’re stuck here. “
“So, when do we know we’re done,” Mick said, beaming his penlight back down the hallway. The sounds were getting closer.
“Sadly, If I keep helping you, you won’t get anywhere,” Herald said regretfully. “Sorry, but it’s time to get on with it.” His voice spat and crackled like the static on an old television set, and disappeared altogether as if it had lost all power.
“Did he just ditch us,” Mick asked in disbelief, turning his light back to Edgar.
“Unfortunately–,” Edgar started, but was stopped by the pale, blood-drained face that Mick had acquired since looking in his direction. Although he was staring, Mick wasn’t looking at Edgar anymore; he was looking past him. Edgar turned around, backing up so suddenly that he would have tripped had something been in his way. The two young men stared in disbelief.
Along the tiny opening between the chained doors, the visceral substance had not only become solid, but it had formed wriggling, tentacle-like growths that were as long as hands. Writhing back and forth, they suddenly sprang tight on the surface of the door and began to strain.
“Time to go man,” Edgar said, popping Mick on the shoulder. Edgar began sprinting first, but Mick was entranced for a few moments longer to see what would happen before galloping sideways for a trot or two, taking one last glimpse behind him.
The door moaned from stressed, looked as if it were twisting slightly, then ripped to the sides of the wall, lock and chain sent flying. Mick had gotten his wish, and regrettably saw what he had been so curious about.
The black, visceral mass that the smaller tentacles extended from took up the majority of the hallway. A single crease in the center of the mass formed and crept open slowly. It revealed a single, vibrant poison green iris with two dagger pupils like a cat. What had gripped the door were its hands, shifting in size and shape now, appearing more and more like the segmented talons of a hawk.
The mass was still for a moment, looking at the floor. “MICK, RUN,” Edgar shouted.
Mick tripped over his own feet and fell face first into the standing water. The mass looked up, seeing the two young men, and opened its mouth. Rows of serrated, fin-like teeth were pointing outwards, beckoning its new prey.
Mick got back to his feet and started sprinting onward. The mass was lurching forward like a slug, only it was moving at an unthinkable speed for something of its size. Mick and Edgar didn’t dare to look back.
Edgar nearly ran past what looked like a submarine hatch but caught himself before he went too far. Printed above the door were large letters. “Lab eight,” Edgar said to himself, peering inside. Not having time to even think out of fear he yelled, “Mick, over here.”
Edgar peered back down the hall. Mick was several paces behind. The mass looked as if it was directly on his tale, and Edgar saw its eye glowing in the darkness. He felt an instinct for survival, beckoning his best friend closer.
Mick made it just in time and Edgar slammed the door shut. The black mass pounded the door a few times before it was completely silent again.
“Where are we,” Mick grunted, picking himself up.
“Exactly where we should be,” Edgar said. He had already gotten to his feet and was at one of the lab tables. “Check it out,” he said, a large grin painted across his face.