Originally Published 05/16/2011 06:02:46 AM
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
“There it is!”
Andrew Bretton and his little brother Anthony had ridden their bikes longer than ever before, maybe two miles, to get here. They had heard lots of scary stories about the old hospital from Andrew’s friend Carl. Carl’s parents said that orphans were taken there by nuns and whipped and beaten. The nuns said the orphans were insane, but they weren’t. And Carl was older and knew a lot about the town, so it had to have happened.
Andrew and Anthony had seen the hospital a few times, riding in the way back of the station wagon on the way to get toys at the mall or go to the arcade. But that was the front of the building, facing the road. They had ridden their bikes through the trails in the woods to get to the back of the building, and they had never gotten this close. Their parents told them to never go into buildings like that, and they didn’t want to go in, because it was scary. But they had to see it.
Andrew, tall and skinny at eight, wore a knit Buffalo Bills hat, a blue, yellow and orange parka, plaid slacks and boots. He had freckles and red hair tufting out from his ski hat to his chin. Anthony, at six, was much smaller, with a Pittsburgh Steelers hat, red parka, orange corduroys and boots, with slight red curls peeking out. They liked to go exploring together, especially when there was a story to investigate.
Andrew and Anthony had matching Huffy bikes with banana seats, which they both laid down at the gates of the old hospital. The gate was just two posts with a rope with red cloth strips sagging into a frozen puddle, so they stepped over and walked a little closer. Nothing moved, and the only sound was the snow crunching under their feet.
“Stop, Andrew, I’m scared!” said Anthony.
Andrew knew that Anthony would probably chicken out, and he was secretly relieved. His voice shook a little bit as he said “come on, just a little closer.”
Anthony didn’t say anything, not wanting to look like a fraidy-cat, but he dragged his feet as they slowly approached the building. They got closer, both feeling their hearts beating heavier and heavier.
As they climbed the steps to the front door, between the massive columns, they shared an unspoken feeling that something was not right. Something in the air felt off, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling. Andrew said to Anthony “let’s just take a quick look through the door, and then we’ll leave.”
Anthony just wanted to run off the porch, jump on his bike and ride back home to momma, but he agreed to take a quick look. They got to the front door, and Andrew wiped a circle in the grime on the window so they could see inside. As he finished clearing his peep-hole, the door pushed open with a gentle creak, and the inside of the hospital, where all the ghosts of their stories lived, lay before them, silent and whispering. Anthony felt like he had swallowed a tennis ball as he and Andrew gently eased inside.
Andrew pulled a small flashlight from his pocket and shined it down the long corridor. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere, and piles of papers, needles, blankets and gowns lay scattered across the floor. A clock, stilled at 12:00, hung above what was the intake desk. The air hung heavy and foreboding, with a feel of ancient sadness and menace.
They walked into a room. A gurney bed stood at an angle against the wall. As they got closer, Anthony noticed that there were leather straps with metal cuffs hanging off the sides of the bed. On the table next to the bed, was an old doll. Was this left over from an orphan? Anthony could feel himself shake as he reached out to pick up the doll.
As he reached out to the bed, a rustling sound came from the hallway. The brothers both yelped and turned to see a pile of dead leaves blowing down the hall, caught in a sudden breeze from the open door. Andrew and Anthony both exhaled, feeling the slightest hint of relief, and decided to leave. It just felt wrong being in there. Whatever had happened all those years ago, if anything, was not something they wanted to explore any further. They exited the room and turned toward the open door.
Anthony felt the light behind him, and froze in his tracks. Standing stock still, feeling more terrified than he ever had in his short life, he could see the reflection of the light on the walls of the corridor. It was behind them, and it was going to get them. Suddenly a deep voice started making ghost noises, leading into a sick, evil cackle. Anthony turned, saw the lit face, screamed at the top of his lungs and ran full bore out of the hospital.
He ran, panic exploding out of his lungs, almost slipping on the ice, but terrified to fall, lest the ghost get him. He got to his bike, jumped on and pedaled like crazy, down the path, crunching over pine needles and crusted snow. Suddenly he realized that Andrew wasn’t there. He must still be back at the hospital! Anthony had to go back and save his brother!
He turned around and pedaled, screaming back through the woods, around the gate and back to the steps. He ran up, screaming “Andrew!!” and feeling the sick thought that he might be too late. As soon as Anthony got to the door, he heard laughter. Two voices laughing hysterically. Standing right in front of the door were Andrew and Carl, laughing like banshees; Carl holding the flashlight up to his face and making ghost noises in between gales of laughter.
Young Anthony Bretton had been set up.
He started crying, backed up off the steps, got back on his bike and started to pedal away back home. But suddenly he turned around again and pedaled back to the hospital.
Andrew and Carl were still on the steps, laughing it up. Anthony bounded the steps, ran up to his brother and kicked him in the balls harder than he had ever kicked anything in his life. Andrew fell in a grunting heap, and Anthony turned his attention to a shocked Carl, who was the next to go down writhing.
Anthony, struggling to contain his terror and his rage at being tricked, stood shaking, watching the two older boys rolling in agony on the cold concrete steps. He felt a wellspring of unimaginable anger, and found himself shouting louder than anything ever “YOU BIG BUTTHEADS!!!!” With that bit of catharsis, Anthony Bretton, shocked at his sudden use of a naughty word but not at all sorry for it, finally pedaled away from the hospital for the last time, thoughts of revenge filling his head.