The Hannon Institute based in Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, had been abandoned for twenty years this past July. The reasons behind the closing were official and straight forward. There was simply no need for it to be open anymore. The costs for running the place outweighed the good it was doing, and there were better equipped facilities in the neighbouring counties that could do the work that the Institute had been doing for some time now.
From the outside it was an awkwardly angular building, rooms jutting out on the upper floors when you would have expected them to be part of the interior. It was like entire wings had been added on after the fact. The kind of people who visited abandoned places loved the way the shadows danced across the walls when they went inside. The majority of the windows were boarded over, but there were some, high up, that the local kids had shattered with stones and fallen masonry. It was a horrible, abandoned world of its own.
It was a broken down place, and it was closed down because it wasn't needed anymore.
So that's what everyone was told. The general public accepted this and the hospital still stands as a crumbling, dilapidated monument to medicine even now. The government wanted to knock it down, sell the land, but it would cost more money to destroy it--the foundations, the basements, the sub-basements, the dozen plus wards, the private rooms--than let it stand there. Leave it to the next regime. Pass the buck.
But the locals knew that the Hannon Institute was closed for different reasons.
The patients vanished under 'mysterious circumstances'.
In the 1960s Terrence Malloy's wife Shirley went in suffering post natal depression after the birth of their second child. Terrence, a prominent member of a local trade union a few counties over, went to visit her a week after but the duty nurse found no record that she had ever arrived. But Terrence had carried Shirley's bag in for her, met the Doctor, one Benjamin Neal, and signed the appropriate forms. Terrence had sat with her in her private room discussing the children, Shirley had told him, slowly, methodically, what their son and daughter would need while she was away from home. She had made him promise not to tell anyone she was here. That was fine with Terrence. He was a big, proud man, and he didn't want anyone to know that his wife was 'depressed' after having another one of his children. But he was understanding enough to let her seek treatment, to try and get better.
Terrence asked about Doctor Neal but the nurse told him that there had never been a doctor by that name working at the hospital.
Terrence exploded with rage. He started screaming.
'Where is my wife?' he demanded to know. 'Where?'
After ten minutes of that, the nurse asked him to leave because he was causing a scene, but he wasn't going to have any of that. He called some of his friends in the local police force and they ransacked the hospital, checked every nook and cranny, but they found no trace of Shirley. They wanted to believe him. They all knew Shirley, she was a great lady, but the fact of the matter was, Terrence was the last one to see her alive. He was seen driving off with her into the night.
Terrence Malloy was arrested three days later.
The trial went on for a year, but eventually he was found guilty of his wife's murder. The government took his children away. He refused to admit his guilt. He was innocent. He just needed to prove it. After continuing to insist that he had dropped his wife off at the hospital, after he continued to insist that Doctor Neal was real, he was eventually found to be mentally unfit, and sent right back to the Hannon Institute.
He was never seen again.
The doctors claimed he died a few days after his arrival. They claimed he committed suicide. They provided a body--badly damaged from the fall from his room window--and that was that.
Terrence saw his wife again.
Not that it mattered after what the doctors did to him...
But that was then and this is now, and as much as things change...
"Why are we here?"
"Because the place is supposed to be haunted."
"So I ask you again: Why the fuck are we here?"
"Okay, so you wanted to be shown a good time, right? What better time is to be had outside of a haunted hospital?"
Callum looked at his girlfriend disbelievingly. "So you drove us to one?!"
"Don't be such a bitch," said Julia, punching Callum in the arm. "I want some excitement. So here's what I propose, we go find the electro-shock therapy room, and then you fuck me. On the floor. Okay?"
Julia thrived on excitement. She was a trained pilot, loved bungee jumping, and as Callum had started to learn recently, loved to have sex in public, or places that weren't entirely right. Callum on the other hand was a low key kind of guy. Not that he had anything against taking chances or Julia's lifestyle choices, but he had only been up in a plane with her twice. The first time he was drunk and she had tricked him. The second time he had vomited all over himself. He had never left the country, let alone flown abroad. He would get over that some time. Sure.
"What? How is that even a proposition?" Callum paused. "I mean, I realise that is quite literally a proposition, but how is it supposed to be an appealing one?"
Julia feigned shock and then motioned down her svelte body. Against his better judgement Callum looked her up and down, playing along with her outrage, and found himself admiring her yet again. He would never get tired of her figure, curvaceous in all the right places, covered at the moment in a t-shirt she had purchased off some website she adored--the name of which eluded Callum at that moment--and a pair of short shorts. She was wearing a pair of Doc Martens, at the moment half-heartedly tied up.
Callum himself was quite average. He was constantly in awe of Julia's affection toward him. She helped him dress a bit better, care a bit more about his appearance, and he thought--and everyone else agreed--that he was more attractive now than he had been before he met Julia. Good times. Right now he was rocking an old pair of jeans that Julia reluctantly allowed him to keep and a green polo neck that she'd bought him a few weeks before. It worked for him, he thought. And if Julia let him keep it up? Then she must agree with that thought process.
Callum sighed and gave up any form of argument. "Electro-shock therapy?"
"Electro-shock therapy," repeated Julia, nodding.
They were standing in the admissions area of the hospital and when Callum had expressed concern about their actions Julia had rolled her eyes and explained the reasoning. Now that everything was settled she took his hand and the two of them ascended what felt like a hundred stairs that led deeper into the hospital. They didn't know about Terrence Malloy and his wife. They didn't know about the mysteriously non-existent Doctor Benjamin Neal or the fact that the staff had a habit of administering lobotomies well into a time when such procedures were frowned upon. All they knew was that the hospital was purported to be haunted and that was the kind of thing that Julia was interested in. Places that weren't quite right. Places that would get the blood pumping. She didn't believe in ghosts but she believed in weird shit and she believed that if people thought that the place was haunted then maybe she could be convinced of it too. All she had to do was experience it.
"Did you hear that?" asked Callum. He spun around, trying to find the source of the whisper that he had just heard.
Julia shook her head slowly, disbelievingly. "Don't fuck me around, Callum."
"No, I didn't, I--"
"My children... " came the whisper.
The sound shivered through the walls and straight into their spines, causing them to convulse in shock
"There! Did you--?"
"Fucking too right I did," said Julia, hugging herself tightly. "The fuck was that--hey--look!"
In the darkness up ahead the couple saw a young man in a hospital gown pass from one room to another. Before entering he turned to look at them with pale eyes that stared out from the shadows. They could only see the right hand side of the face and nearly as soon as they had seen him he was gone, wandering into another one of the wards.
" ...Please... "
"I thought the hospital was closed," whispered Callum.
Julia punched Callum in the arm again. "It fucking is."
"Then what's that--?"
"My babies... "
"That was... not... right..." whispered Julia. "Come on." She pulled Callum forward, toward the room the man had just walked inside.
"Callum, I love that you're always so apprehensive about everything, but please, don't make me think twice about it."
Callum joined Julia as they approached the room. He wasn't going to lose her to his own cowardice.
The room was empty. It was also a mess of upturned furniture and torn curtains. There was no trace of any man, hospital gowned or otherwise, nor did it look like anyone had been here in years. Callum leaned close to Julia and whispered, "what did we just see?"
Julia turned to face Callum but screamed when she saw the man in the hospital gown again, standing between them, a gaping wound open across his temple that exposed pink, wet brain. Blood congealed down his face, over his left eye and down his cheek. He opened his mouth wide, revealing yellowing teeth, and instead of a scream emerging from his lips he whispered, "LEEEEEAVE"
Callum boyfriend spun haphazardly round the spectral figure and pulled Julia close, the look of horror clear on her face. His momentum caused the couple to collide with the wall, but without missing a beat they turned and faced the ghostly man--who was no longer there...
"We need to get out of here, oh, fuck, we need to leave," said Callum.
"His... his... his face..." muttered Julia, trying to comprehend what she had just seen. "Oh, God, I think it was a ghost."
They ran through the door and toward the staircase that have led them to the upper rooms. Callum skidded to a stop at the top of the stairs, and grabbed Julia by the shoulders to stop her going any further. "What--oh!"
The stairs were gone.
"Did we... did we take a wrong turn?"
"No, it was a straight fucking line!" hissed Julia. "Oh, God, oh God..."
"You there! You need to run! Right now!" The female voice that emerged from the darkness had a hint of an accent that reminded Callum of Katharine Hepburn's upper class New Yorker. Julia saw a red-haired woman sprinting toward them, dressed in a tattered pair of jeans and a shabby grey t-shirt. She looked to be in her mid-thirties by Julia's count but Callum thought she appeared older, the lines on her face and the circles around her eyes counting against her. "Get out of here!"
"We're trying!" shouted Julia. "We're fucking trying!"
The woman was being chased by something--the corridor behind her was shaking, like something was stampeding down the hall straight toward them. She reached the couple and took a deep breath. "You're not supposed to be here. This is a trap. It's a fucking spirit trap. Oh, fuck, how did you even get in?"
"The front doors were open," said Callum.
"They're open?" whispered the woman. "Then I can--we can.--get out!"
"But the stairs aren't there!" said Julia. "They're gone!"
The woman looked down at the chasm and then put her hands out to Callum and Julia. "I need you to trust me."
"Who the fuck are you for us to trust you?" asked Julia, demandingly.
"My name is Scarlett Faraday," said the woman, "and the only way we're going to make it through the night is if you do exactly what I say!"