Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The rain is sharp as the one-armed man pulls his daughter up the gray steps and barges his shoulder to the door and staggers from the dark night and into the old psychiatric hospital’s milky black gloom. Steadying, he listens. He knows the gentle creak of death but all he hears now is the water that gushes in the walls and the wind that scythes as it peels in sheets at the roof.

It is not lost on him just how easily he’s just walked into this flogged-horse, cheese-slice of dog-eared horror fiction. He’d once savored these kinds of frights. Huffing handfuls of popcorn as beautiful young people lost their clothes and their blood and their phone reception and their common sense within gurney strewn halls just as this. But here the bulbs have long since flickered their last.

The air and the wood in the floor and the ceiling is heavy with the weight of the tempest. Such a familiar stink, this rot through which the man now guides the girl. Mounds of saturated things, chairs with books that have sunk down and into themselves – their pages sagging as wax from candles forgotten and long since dead.

The man feels no fear. The girl too knows when bad things are cowering. Nothing is here, but the wet.

It’s OK to cry here, proclaims graffiti hacked into the wall at the base of a great arching staircase. Stairs have a way of drawing people. Blaring arrows to places unknown.

Ascending, the man and the girl enter a corridor lined to the dark pitch of its end with doors with windows of glass. Dr. Samantha Hing once worked here, her name flickering as lightning beats at its back.

The man doesn’t, but the girl wonders just where the doctor is and she squeezes her eyes shut and she hopes that this woman she has never once met has managed to escape from the things.

The door handle is cold in his hand as again he leans and pushes with his shoulder. A shoulder that’s been getting a lot of use since only last week he’d screamed at his daughter to cut away his arm with an axe.

Doctor Hing’s office has gone. Its walls have subsided and it’s gape is a stage to the storm.

The man puts his face to the rain and closes his eyes and it’s not bitter as it runs to his lips. He feels peace in this place where minds once peeled back and fear leeched from the rinds.

These shadows hold no evil. Those who once rocked in these rooms and scratched at their tongues so as to find answers to questions that they could not even begin to ask were not the ones to fear.

Fear lives in the light. When the world fell apart, it streamed from the good and the normal. Normality. The institute of the clinically sane. That’s were evil resides.

He heard the airplanes again today, third time this week. Was it planes? Maybe just the wind through the dead broken trees. No, it was gulls. He feels the sweet rain whip at his eyes and, without knowing, he starts to cry.

“You alright, Dad?”, asks the tiny balled hand at his side.

“Yes”, he says and, for the first time in a very long while, he senses not the slightest hint of a lie.