Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Short Story - Sleep Asylum

Sleep Asylum

This story is based on an incredibly vivid nightmare, with a few additions. I needed to write it down to get rid of it. Your feedback is very welcome!

I never should have followed the little boy. He just looked so sad, there was so clearly something wrong. He was rushing into a building, tears pouring down his dirty face, clothes torn, it just didn’t look right. No-one else seemed to notice him, but I did.

When I got inside the building, it turned out to be a bank. Horrible colours, orange walls. People milling around, all seemed normal. The boy rushed across the foyer, people around him ignoring him, as small boys are so often ignored. He charged up the stairs and vanished from view.

Since the Bank only had 2 floors including the ground floor, I decided to take the lift to follow him up. The lift was old and worn, and to my surprise had buttons for 5 floors. I supposed this must be the staff elevator, would explain why it was in such poor condition. On impulse, I pressed for floor 2, guessing that if the boy wanted to hide he’d keep going past the 1st floor where I imagined there would be lots of people.

The lift door opened again on floor 2. Same horrible colours, but this floor was in real disrepair. I saw a flash of movement up ahead, and heard a door slamming. I jogged down the corridor past the peeling walls and flickering lights. I could hear distant voices, women laughing, and I suddenly realised how ridiculous this whole thing was. I was running round some sort of disused maintenance floor of a bank chasing after a little boy I didn’t know and had maybe even imagined. I turned round to leave when I realised I could hear crying.

I turned back towards the noise, which appeared to be coming from the end of the corridor, where I’d seen the movement earlier. As I walked down the corridor, my feet slipped on the thick layer of dirt and damp on the floor. Suddenly, the door at the end of the corridor opened and the little boy from earlier appeared. He was about 6, with an old-fashioned haircut and a grimy, ripped shirt and shorts on.

“Hey! What’s your name? Are you lost?” I asked him. He looked at me blankly, and then coughed into his sleeve, a harsh, hacking sound. The boy took a slow step towards me, then another. Unnerved, I backed off at the same pace, unable to tear myself away from his gaze.

“Who the hell are you?” I flinched at the man’s voice behind me, and span around to see who it was, my heart pounding and bile rising in my throat. A dark-haired man in his 40s stood 3 paces away from me. He was filthy too, and his lumberjack shirt so dirty that the pattern was barely visible. “Are you Peter?” he shouted at me, spit flying from his lips. He seemed agitated and terribly nervous.

I took a step back and bumped into the small boy. I jumped again, and found myself flattened against the wall, utterly terrified without really knowing why.

“Are you Peter?” the man asked, this time more calmly. “No, my name’s Steve” I replied, in what I hoped was a calming voice.

“Well where the fuck’s Peter then?” he yelled back. The man screamed then stormed off down the corridor. The little boy looked at him blankly then turned back to me. I swallowed, trying to compose myself, and asked the boy “who are you? What are you doing here?”

The boy took a step toward me, then another, and reached for my hand. I watched as my hand moved towards his, it seemed as if it wasn’t my hand at all as I felt as if I had no control whatsoever. He took my hand in his, and his fingers were ice cold. He slid his hand up my bare forearm, and as his arm brushed against mine, it was cold too, like meat in a freezer.

Suddenly, everything seemed to clear, as if I had been drunk and was suddenly sober. The boy smelt terrible. Not like he needed a wash, but rotten inside. His lips were blue and bloodless, and I knew deep down that a corpse was holding my hand.

I bolted in panic, yanking my hand away from the boy’s and bursting down the corridor where the man had run off what seemed like an eternity ago. At the end was a red door, and I ran into it at full speed, expecting it to be locked now. To my surprise and relief it flew open, but as I ran through it I realised it was a dead end. The only thing in the room was a mirror and a light hanging from the ceiling.

The door closed behind me, and the little boy stood there, somehow utterly innocent and horribly menacing all at once. A strange idea hit me. If he really was dead, maybe if he saw himself in the mirror, he would realise. I grabbed him and lifted him up in front of the round, cracked mirror.

The boy shut his eyes. I shouted in his ear “you’re dead! Do you hear me? Look at yourself! Look at yourself and see what you are!” He wriggled in my arms, but his eyes popped open and he looked straight into his own eyes.

Nothing happened. I put the ice cold, dead boy down. He stood looking at me blankly again, and behind him the door opened. In walked the man from before, this time with two women in nurse’s uniforms. The nurses were stunningly beautiful, with long black hair and young, firm bodies. Yet they were dead too. The smell drove into me, and the cold icy skin seemed to glisten under the harsh, flickering lights.

“It’s Peter. Look, it’s Peter” said the man to the nurses. “Bill, it’s not Peter, Peter’s gone, you know that”, replied the taller of the two. She turned to me, and her breath seemed to freeze my skin as she spoke. “You’ll have to excuse Bill, he’s not really quite right. He wouldn’t be here otherwise though would he?” At this she cackled, as did her companion, while Bill looked uncomprehending.

“Who are you? Where am I?” I yelled at the nurses.

The second nurse, whose grimy nametag read Claudia, shook her head and said, “It’s always the same. Denial is so wearing.” She moved closer to me and put her hands on my shoulders.

“You’re dead like us Steve. You’ll live here now. It’s not much, but it’s what it is.”

Bill giggled dumbly, a sound like fetid water bubbling up from somewhere deep inside him.

My paralysis broke and I ran like never before. Charging past the group of dead, I ran back down the corridor towards the stairs. I knew that if I could just get back to the bank, this would all stop. A giggle from behind made me gag, and I looked over my shoulder to see Bill running behind me, as if this was some bizarre game.

I shot down the stairs, taking them 3 or 4 at a time, and in no time I was back in the bank with its orange walls and warm people. As I charged through the foyer, no-one paid me any attention at all.

“You can’t stay awake forever you know”, came a woman’s voice from behind me. I looked back to see the first nurse stood a few paces back, and I skidded to a halt.

“What do you mean?” I screamed back at her. “What will happen to me?”

She shook her head. “You know,” she said sadly.

She was right, I do know. I type this in my room with shaking hands, with Bill, the nurses and the little boy watching me. No-one can see me, so I don’t know if anyone can read this.

Maybe if anyone can, it means they’re like me already. I don’t know why this is happening, but my eyes grow heavy, and soon I will fall asleep.

13th October 2010

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