In a single moment, what was…was no more.
Within a heartbeat of time, the ground opened up. Like swollen lips parting in a grotesque grin, the world around her came undone. Pristine, reflective walls stretched, pulled further and further away. Vast emptiness, a world apart from the restraints biting into her pulse, threatened to drag her under. In the murky shadows, disembodied voices whispered in her ears. They told her stories, damning secrets that tainted and killed.
Lies, everything was a lie.
Their words were the spark of desolation, a flame that burned her singular belief. She told herself she wasn’t crazy, that everything happening around her was a mistake. She was sane, a woman who worked well and hard. How could she be insane?
‘I’m not crazy,’ She told herself. ‘I’m not!’
No one heard her mental plea. No one turned, the doctors passing by with clipboards in hand and white robes fluttering around them. She twisted her wrists, tugged against the metal cords binding her wrists to the arms of her chair. They were as cold and unfeeling as the world around her, lacking pity and silently mocking.
Lank hair clung to her neck, the ends curling loosely. A sheen of sweat glistened on her forehead. A doctor walked past, humming under his breath. She wanted to scream out at him, to demand to be released.
An old man hobbled by, slow on crooked feet. His coat hung loose, belt dragging across the ground on either side of him. He swayed as he moved between the nurses, sightless eyes staring at something only he, himself, could see. She wanted to curse him for leaving her there.
She wanted to scream, to cry, to shout.
She yanked on her wrists, instead.
She clenched her teeth as pain lanced through her arms, locked her jaw as pale skin broke and red bubbled over the bruised, puffy skin. She glanced towards the doctors as she pulled on the restraints, a tint of blue starting to bloom across her lips. She was cold, suddenly.
Her heartbeat was sluggish, a sensation that made her think of being submerged in ice and water. Blue tints spread across the hallway, each layer wavering and flickering like sunlight piercing the calm surface of a lake. It was as if she was underwater, distorted voices echoing.
A naked woman with a swollen middle was wheeled down the hallway. This woman screamed, her voice bouncing off the walls as she lurched upward. Restrained to the bed, ankles locked at the edges, this woman bled and cried. Crimson pooled between parted legs, a crown of dark hair peeking out of a nest of blonde. She was pregnant.
The girl watched, eyes wide. She felt a wave of dizziness, head hanging as it washed over her. She peered through her lashes as doctors vanished with the pregnant, screaming soon-to-be-mother. A trail of red cut through the middle of the hallway, an arrow pointing to some other place.
“I’m not crazy,” The girl whispered to herself as she slumped in her chair, limbs heavy. “I’m not crazy…”
There was a flicker, then. An overhead light, caught between light and darkness, left the hallway around her in a fluctuating state of white-black-white. Lights on. Lights off. The staff in the hospital didn’t seem to notice. They ambled about, their voices a distant memory.
The girl felt a sense of unease cut through her, swallowing hard as the end of the hallway turned into a watery, mist-like wall of nothing. “I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy. I’m not!”
She yanked on her restraints with renewed vigor, desperate to get out of the chair. Her gaze darted back to the shifting, mist-like wall. It was closer, now. Smoke was creeping across the floor, thick and dark and ominous. Closer it came, steady and slow as she pulled and yanked and thrashed in her seat.
Then a hand closed around the back of her neck, so cold her blood froze. Lips brushed the shell of her ear, teeth bit into the soft lobe and tugged. She cried out, and the once-silent heaves that fought for control of her vocals awakened. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
A hand ghosted over her shoulder, gentle compared to the tight grasp on her neck, and then there was a voice.
“You’re it,” it whispered.
The restraints fell, clattering loudly against the floor.
The girl threw herself forward. She did not hesitate, did not turn to confront whoever had stood behind her moments before. She ran, hospital gown fluttering over her skin with each sharp movement. Laughter followed her down the hallway, followed as she barreled to the right and shouldered her way through a door. It echoed as she raced down the stairs, nothing more than a river of fog that billowed after her.
She did not stop until she threw herself through the front doors of the hospital, warm light washing over her cold, shaking body. She hit the ground, hands clutched to her gut. Blood seeped between her fingers, impossibly there. Behind her, the ruin of a building mocked her.
Dead memories watched, silent as they stood behind broken windows.
In the doorway stood a dark figure, seemingly made of shadow.