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Expect the Unexpected...

The familiar cranking sound of Claire’s wind-up torch emanated from the darkness and along with the irritating noise came a weird sense of relief and comfort. She flicked the light on as Joe grabbed the prison torch from the top of one of the boxes. “I’ll go check the generator.”

“Shall I come too?” Claire asked.

“It’s okay, I can manage.” She nodded reluctantly but if truth be known Joe was nervous about going down to the pump and generator rooms on his own, but him being him, bravado all the way! He left the others and the low hum of conversation behind him as he made his way down the central staircase.

The coldness hit him half way down, the sudden change was palpable. It wasn’t just cold, like it had been on the upper floor; this was akin to walking into a butchers freezer and having the door closed on you. An instant chill to the bone that made his body ache on the inside as well as out. After stiffening his resolve and rubbing his hands and arms a few times he finally carried on his way to the pump room. After all, the sooner he got there and got it going again, the better it would be.

As he entered the pump room he felt an instant oppression, a feeling that had not been there last time, a feeling swept over him that he shouldn’t be there and if he had been a less curious sort of person he probably would have run for his life right there and then, without hesitation; but being the way he was, he stayed and waited. He found himself rooted to the spot, half expecting one of the others to rush into the room to scare the hell out of him, but no-one came. All was quiet and still, he couldn’t even hear the others on the upper floor.

Joe rubbed his numbing hands together and pushed the buttons on the control panel, then the starter; nothing. He tried again and again; nothing. “Hello there,” a voice came from behind him; Joe spun round so quickly he momentarily lost his bearings.

Standing in the doorway was a scruffy looking man, maybe in his late sixties, early seventies or so, with white hair and holding an old oil lamp; he wiped the sleep from his eyes. “I’m sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” he said taking a step closer.

“I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here. The caretaker never mentioned it. In fact he gave me the impression my friends and I were alone here.”

“Ah, more of you are there? Don’t worry, I’ll stay out of the way,” he yawned.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Scared me out of my bed for sure,” he laughed spiritedly. “Wondered who on earth would be here, the prisons been empty for years you know.” His broad Hampshire accent was pleasantly comforting, its tone mellow and calm.

“Yes, I know.” The curious man grinned at Joe and in the light from the old lamp he noticed one of his premolars was missing; Joe amused himself by thinking if he had a patch over his eye and a tricorn hat he’d make a good pirate. “What do you do here?”

“I’m The Caretaker,” he said proudly; “I’ve been here donkeys years, looking after the ol’ place…” his voice drifted off. He reined in his thoughts and then, “I know this place better than I know my own face,” he gave Joe a wink.

The old fella obviously had nowhere else to go if he preferred to be holed up in such a depressing place and Joe assured him he could rely on him to keep his secret. “Now you know who I am, who are you?” The old caretaker enquired.

“My friends and I are here to investigate the stories of the prison; the ones to do with the hauntings.”



“Who told ya this place were haunted?” The old man scoffed.

“There have been many ghost stories associated with this place throughout the years. We’re hoping that one such tale will fire up our guinea pigs imagination and cause a stir,” Joe joked. “I’m sure you have a few to tell eh?” Then realised he hadn’t actually introduced himself. “I’m Joe by the way; Joe Spencer.” Joe held out his, but the old man simply stared at him.

The mention of the experiments seemed to have generated a serious reaction from him. For the first time the smile disappeared from his face, being replaced by a more doubtful, sombre expression. “You don’t want to stay here over night,” he said, shaking his head. “You don’t know the place like I do…,” he cut himself off as though he’d said too much already.

The old caretaker looked at him closely, for the first time in his company Joe felt slightly unnerved. “You don’t know about this place, do you? About its history; the horrors that took place here? The people who existed here?” He held his lamp aloft as though to inspect his reaction.

Here Joe confessed he thought this prisons history would be no worse than any others throughout the decades. However, before he could answer, a voice shouted down from the stairwell and snapping him out of his thoughts. “Is everything okay down there?” Claire called out. The unexpected voice didn’t seem to startle nor have any effect on the old caretaker whatsoever; he continued to stare at Joe with a fixed gaze, as though still awaiting an answer to his question.

“Just having a spot of bother firing it up. I’m sure I’ll get it going in a mo.”

“Okay; give us a shout if you need any help.”

“Will do.” Joe looked back at the old caretaker, he was still watching him; his grey, milky eyes hadn’t left him at all.

“It sounds like your friends are getting impatient; maybe you should try the generator again,” he announced and with that, he turned to leave the room. Joe was troubled by his sudden change in attitude towards him. Disinterest replaced his former friendly disposition but the reason for it he couldn’t find an explanation for. Had their reasons for being there been so offensive to him?

Deciding to let him go Joe turned his attention back to the generator. He went through the same procedure as before and then pressed the starter. It fired straight away; from upstairs he heard a faint cheer go up as the lights came back on. As he stepped out of the pump room he looked down the curved corridor sweeping away from him just in time to see the back of the old caretaker’s shirt disappear through the kitchen doorway.

Something still bothered Joe, still made him feel like he had caused the old fella some agitation and he knew it would bug him until he made things up with him.

As Joe reached the kitchen doorway he heard the faint chink of metal and peering into the room he saw the old man had put a kettle on a small camping stove and was fetching an old metal mug from the draining board. “You got it started then,” he said without turning round.

“Yes, it came straight on,” Joe tried to keep his voice light and friendly. It was then the old man turned to face him and Joe realised he was now holding two mugs.

“Care to join me?” Joe glanced back out along the corridor, wondering if he should let the others know he’d be up in a while, but decided they wouldn’t hear him anyway. Sitting on an old, upturned crate and the old caretaker likewise, they waited for the kettle to boil. On the rickety table next to them were a small bag of sugar and a box of teabags from which he took two and placed one in each of the mugs. “Sugar?”

“Just the one thanks. I’m sorry if I said anything out of turn. You’re right, I know only a little of the prisons history and obviously nothing in relation to the particular horrors you spoke of. Will you tell me what happened that was so terrible?”

The old man looked at Joe solemnly. There was a sadness in his eyes that was in danger of swallowing up the sparkle he had had in them previously.

The kettle started to whistle and he got up from the crate to retrieve it. Once the mugs had been filled and milked he sat down, sipped his tea and looked at Joe, square in the eye. “Are you sure you want to know?”

“Yes, I’d be very interested.” The mug was gripped firmly in Joe’s hands, the heat keeping them warm.

“Very well then,” he said and paused before beginning his story. “There were many inmates that served time in this prison, some more deadly than others, but none quite so notorious as The Hunter. His strength was undeniable, his temperament sent shivers down the spines of the other prisoners and guards alike. A strange brooding man, big in stature and highly intelligent, but somewhere his personality had drifted onto the wrong path and he was prone to angry seizures that lasted days, sometimes weeks at a time. I’m afraid in a system like this there was little pity for such ‘monsters’ for that is what they called him.

“The Hunter had no friends, but not what you’d call any real enemies either,” the old man scoffed. “None that would try to cause him harm anyway. They were all too scared of him for that. He instilled fear in everyone, everyone, who came across him; he was the type of person who emanated such a sense of hatred and evil, that if you’d come across him in the street you would’ve crossed the road to avoid for fear of being possessed by the same contagion that had cursed him.”

Joe was having a hard time trying to imagine someone who could exude that much anger, “I’m glad I’ve never encountered such a man.”

“Have you not?” The old caretaker replied. “Are you sure?” As Joe sat looking into the old man’s deep-set eyes he was sure somewhere deep within the old fella he knew what had happened to him on the landing and he couldn’t give him an honest reply.

“What happened to The Hunter?” Joe asked in an attempt to steer him away from his own experiences.

“He took one too many punishments out on the guards and there was one who was just as vicious as he was; they called him…The Executioner. He carried just as much hatred in his body as The Hunter did; only his punishments were issued under the guise of authority. Although not legal by any means, his punishments were swift and brutal, unless you were The Hunter. He got special treatment – do you know why?”

Joe shook his head, “No. Why; because he was the most dangerous inmate here?” The Old man shook his head, a half smile spread across his face as he leaned closer towards Joe.

“He hated The Hunter more than anyone because he reminded him of himself; and there was only room in this prison for one devil in a man’s body. The Executioner had to show that he was the strongest, the most feared man in The Fortress so he made an example of The Hunter; a slow and painful example.”

“But didn’t the authorities…?”

“Authorities! Huh!” laughed the old man. “The Executioner was the authority in this hell hole. At every opportunity he got, he had The Hunter in ‘the pit’ quicker than a rat up a drain pipe. Sometimes it took five of them to bring him down and still they had a real struggle,” he giggled to himself; “he even got the better of them a couple of times, but in the end it was too much and down he went.” The old man’s face became serious once more. “The final time they took him down they did things to him that was nothing short of barbaric. By the time they finished butchering his hands, slow, deliberate butchery, his fingers were nothing more than bloody stumps. His legs were broken in so many places if he’d have lived, he never would’ve been able to walk again. His arms suffered a little less, but what was the point? By that time he was so racked with pain he was nearly unconscious with it,” the old caretaker shook the image from his head. “No man deserved to suffer such treatment. It took him days to die; a lesser man would’ve been finished off there and then, but he fought against death to the bitter end. You had to admire his determination if nothing else.”

“And the guard, the Executioner; he got away with it?”

“Yep; like I said, he was the authority around here.” For a moment, sitting there in the light of the old oil lamp, Joe tried to imagine what it must have been like being trapped in such a place and being at the mercy of such callous people. “What happened to the prisoners and the guards when they closed the prison down? Where did they go?”

The old man looked at Joe in despair. “They had no need to go elsewhere when the prison closed.” Confused, Joe was about to ask what he meant when the generator packed up again and the dull lights in the passageway went out. Everyone upstairs was plunged into darkness for the second time that evening and they all called out to Joe.

To have to leave the caretakers story hanging in the air to sort out the generator again was becoming irksome. “I’ll just go and sort it; I’ll be right back and you tell me all about it, okay?” The old caretaker grabbed his lamp and nodded and Joe left the room and headed once again for the pump room.

For the third time that evening Joe tried to get the generator restarted, and on the third attempt it whirred back to life; Joe could hear a cheer, although faint, go up from the stairwell.

Once he was satisfied that it wasn’t going to turn itself off again, he made his way back down the curved corridor and on toward the kitchen. “Sorry about tha...” Joe began, but stopped as he entered the room and found it empty. The kettle stood on the now cold stove and the mugs were still on the table, one empty and Joe’s still half full, but tepid now, no steam emanating from within. The oil lamp was nowhere to be seen and Joe assumed the old fella had got tired and gone back to his bed.

With the story not complete, Joe was eager to know what had happened next. So tempted was he to seek out the old man he strolled down the corridor, checking each room as he passed them, mostly empty spaces, some used for storage and a few old bunk rooms for the guards.

Further on he came across one room in which was a single, iron framed bed, upon it lay a mattress that had long seen better days with a thin sheet and a couple of blankets thrown on top which laid back at one corner as though someone had just hopped out. At the side of the bed was a small cupboard, old cup rings stained its top and, like the mattress, had been there years. An old chair, or rather a ‘marriage’ of chairs, as they call them in the antique world, one chair made up from many, was at the foot of the bed. A coat was hanging over the back and a pair of trousers was folded neatly on its seat. This had to be the old caretaker’s room, but where was he?

“Joe, where are you?” Claire called from down the corridor, her voice echoing about the circular structure.

Joe quickly exited the room and called back, “Down here!” Without hesitation he began to walk along the corridor and they met about half way down.

“What’s taking you so long?” She asked, “We were worried about you.”

“Taking bets on whether I’d fallen into the sea or not more like,” Joe laughed and gently guided her towards the stairwell. If ever there was a time when he longed to be on his own it was right there and then. Selfishly he wanted to continue in his search for the old man without any more interruptions, but also he knew he could no longer neglect the others.

Back upstairs the equipment was all set out and they busied themselves by connecting them with a bunch of wires; but as much as Joe enjoyed the company of his friends he found himself wishing he wasn’t there. The old caretaker had had a profound effect on Joe without him even realizing it and it was his company Joe craved, his conversation he wanted to listen to; he wanted to know about his story.

The Fortress has got to be one of the most bizarre places Marc had been to. He admitted the whole place made him feel uneasy and he had to keep reminding himself it was all in the name of science; all he had to do was keep his head down and log the results; easier said than done when he felt as though he was being watched all the time.

It was also hard for him to keep his head focused when he had just been informed that Claire was getting to go up to the landing as her first area and he wasn’t best pleased about it. Marc was uncomfortable around Claire, as well as not understanding her bizarre sense of humour and arrogant attitude, he hated people who took pleasure from belittling others and it was something she would do only too readily if presented with an opportunity.

He had hoped for a better way of designating areas. They had chosen the best two, the exclusions cells and the landing, and Marc had wanted a more random way of selecting who went where first, even if it meant tossing a coin. He made his displeasure clear, but it only served as entertainment to Claire, she was amused by his annoyance and did nothing to change the situation. Claire went to the landing first and he went to ‘the pit’.

Having failed to get the others to see his point, all Marc wanted to do now was get on with the experiments and see what happened, especially as Joe had become very sombre since his last visit to sort out the generator. Even the short time he had known him he’d noticed a change that he couldn’t quite work out. The agitated state Joe was in when they found him on the landing was especially worrying and his strange behaviour combined with Marc’s own paranoia there was more than enough to deal with.

Claire was already wired up to a box of tricks she had to carry around in a small dispatch bag she wore slung across her chest, the sensors were attached to her skin to monitor her heart rate. Jack studied the instrument panel on the receiver box that would stay in the hub. Now it was Marc’s turn to be wired. Jack raised an eyebrow as he attached the sensors and configured the box. “What’s up?”

“Your pulse is up my friend. Take a few deep breaths.” Marc did as he was told but it still took a while for his heart rate to simmer down. Jack pulled some paperwork from his case and looked through them; he selected a few and separated them into two piles, each containing about four sheets of paper. “When you’re in your areas and lights are out I want you to wait fifteen minutes to take in the atmosphere of your surrounds and give your heart rates time to level off, then you have to read the witness account on the first sheet…

“No peeking at it before the fifteen minutes is up,” Joe interrupted, “that’s vital for us to get normal readings from the equipment, okay?”

“When you’ve finished reading the witness account I want you to both stay in your areas for as long as possible, noting anything down on the blank piece of paper that you experience whether they be physical or mental; please do not turn them into paper aeroplanes due to boredom; got it?” They both nodded. “Good. When your time is up you will swap areas, this time you won’t have the witness statement to read; we want to see if your experiences are similar without any stimulus.' They nodded in agreement again and Jack handed a pile to Claire; “You’re ready to go to your first area Claire.” She took the papers from him and slipped Marc a cocky smile before making her way slowly towards the staircase up to the landing. Once Jack was happy with Marc’s pulse he handed him the other pile of papers, pat him on the back and sent him off to the exclusion cells.

The central staircase curved around and he looked back up a few times as he descended; not being able to shift the feeling he was still being watched but he kept his nerve and proceeded down until he stepped down into the exclusion area.

It was cold, freezing cold, to the bone cold. After turning out the dirty, dull light in the passageway Marc flicked on his torch and walked to the end where he turned right and walked the whole length of the curved passage; reaching the far end Marc picked his cell, it was the one Joe had been in when they did their walk around; he didn’t know why he picked that one, he was simply drawn to it. He made himself comfortable, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, turned off his torch and waited…

Jack and Joe gave it five minutes then they turned the lights off in the hub. The only light they would have from now on were the torches and the light emitting from the monitors. Joe still had the torch belonging to the prison and Jack pulled a Maglite from one of the boxes. “Just in case,” he joked.

Joe seemed preoccupied, there was something not right with him. Jack turned his attention to the monitors, there was only ten more minutes until Claire and Marc read the witness account and he was interested in noting their reaction to it.

In order to clear the air a bit and try to snap Joe out of his strange mood, Jack came up with the idea of betting who would crack first after the reading.

“Claire will crumble first,” Jack said; he thought her bravado would evaporate once her mind had taken in the story, but Joe disagreed. Joe knew her bravery went much deeper than mere bravado and he was sure she’d remain cool, calm and collected all the way through to dawn if she had to.

“Marc’s a gonna before he even starts to read,” laughed Joe; they shook hands and waited to be rewarded.

Something happened on one of the monitors that brought the smile back to Joe’s face; he peered over Jack’s shoulder at the screens. Yep, Marc’s heart rate had jumped up by 10bpm, but wait…Claire’s had too; seems like all is equal so far. “Come on, who’s going to be the first to crumble?” Jack mumbled to himself.

“Fear is a great enemy, Jack. If neither of them had any response at all I’d have been worried.”

“Like I said before, sheer common sense should prevail. Neither is afraid of the dark so their rational side should kick in to calm things down in a while…Claire’s will just take longer; she’s going to freak, I know she is.”

“None of us are afraid of the darkness itself…it’s what could be in the darkness we’re afraid of,” Joe said in a quiet voice.

“Yeah, but your brain should tell you there is nothing in it, just air and what’s around you normally; no spooks, no phantoms, just the room you’re in and nothing else.”

“And you’re supposed to be the open minded one.”

“I am; I was talking scientifically,” Jack argued.

“Ah, but that’s why I say imagination will win; from a scientific point of view, it’s what you imagine there to be in the dark that gets to you.” Jack shook his head, agreeing to disagree once more and they continued to watch the monitors; interestingly both heart rates were increasing steadily.

Despite reading the witness statement Claire didn’t feel any different about the prison, it was still a damp shell with a gruesome history, but then what prison didn’t have either of those qualities. She was aware that her heart was beating a little faster, no doubt bringing great joy to Jack and Joe, but she wasn’t scared to be up there on her own. She knew that the others were only on the floor below her, so unless there was some catastrophe, she was going to be fine - what was to worry about? She took her voice recorder out from the bag, turned it on to record and placed it on the floor to the right of the doorway where there was just enough light from the skylight to see the corner of it in the darkness and the flashing red led at the other end.

“If there’s any spirits in this prison could one of you please come and talk to me? Let me know you’re here,” she kept her voice at a normal level. Although Claire constantly told Joe and Jack that if anything did exist after death, they wouldn’t want to be shouted at, her remark being glib rather than serious. “Or just to prove I’m not talking to myself,” she joked quietly to herself.

It must have been a good half an hour since Claire entered the landing cell and couldn’t help letting her mind stray to Marc and wondering how he was faring in the exclusion cells. She hadn’t heard any racing footsteps or screams so she figured everything was okay. If anything she thought he was probably still peeved at her nabbing the landing from under his nose, she scoffed to herself; bet he didn’t see that coming.

She let her head lay back against the wall and closed her eyes, just briefly, but it was enough to inform her that if she didn’t shift her arse she was going to fall asleep, so up she got and took a stroll around the cell.

As she walked she became aware that her heart was starting to pound; not from the fact that she was walking now instead of sitting, after all she was only taking slow, small steps around a cell, not speed walking around a circuit. Her head was telling her it was probably anxiety, although she’d never suffered from it before, but she couldn’t work out why. She wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or fearful and she certainly wasn’t affected by the story she had read, in fact she had moved that to the back of her mind and only really thought about it again when she noticed her heart rhythm had changed.

Wait a minute - It was the first thing the eye witness had experienced, fluctuations in his heart beat. Nope, she told herself, stop letting your imagination get the better of you. There’s nothing here and nothing to worry about. Claire refocused but it didn’t last long before she was thinking about the story again. What was the second thing he had mentioned? Heat, that was it, he’d felt like someone had turned up the heat (only there wasn’t any in the prison) and he had started to sweat; right before he had his encounter with the supposed spirit of a young inmate. Claire forced the thought from her mind and concentrated on counting her paces around the cell. One…two…three…Something stopped her in her tracks, a noise, close to her ear. No; she was starting to imagine crap and she wasn’t having it! With determination she carried on. Four…five…six…seven…Again a noise, like a low breath close to her ear, this time she could actually feel it as its breath moved her hair.

Without hesitation she spun around quickly feeling out into the darkness. “Come on Joe I know it’s you. I thought this was a professional experiment,” she shouted out, angry that he would joke around when they were supposed to be taking the whole thing seriously.

A faint, whispered voice came back at her from the floor below, “Are you okay Claire?” It was Joe.

“Is Jack with you?”

“Yes.” Her heart started to pound more, she could feel it thumping in her chest. “Claire, your heart rate…”

“Yes, I know,” she still felt angry although she didn’t know why considering it wasn’t Joe playing games after all. So what was it? “I’m fine,” she called down.


It was getting warm in the cell, very warm, but still Claire carried on with her pacing to see if it would happen again. Eight…nine…ten… “Heee,” a breathy whisper in her ear caused her to stop walking again, but this time she didn’t panic, she stood absolutely still and waited. “Is…coming.” Her blood ran so cold she shivered. Keep calm; she kept telling herself, it’s only your imagination. Imagination or not she had to test her theory. What was the worst that could happen? She’d be caught talking to herself; big deal, she thought.

Claire’s voice was calm but her nerves were surprisingly shaky, “Who’s coming?”

Sataaan!!” The full force of the name came screaming through her head so loudly she thought it would explode. She screamed and ran from the cell not even stopping to retrieve the voice recorder or turn on her torch; she ran into the railings and stumbled along it, almost tripping at the top of the stairs she was going so fast. As she got half way down she could see two jiggling spots of torchlight heading towards her; it was then that she realised she had been holding her breath as she’d ran and now tried to gulp too much air into her lungs. Her legs gave out at the bottom of the stairs just as Jack and Joe reached her. Joe picked her up and carried her back to the hub where he sat her down on the floor and propped her up carefully against the wall; it wasn’t until after the faintness had begun to pass that she noticed Jack wasn’t with them.

“Where’s Jack?” She fumbled around for her torch.

“He went up to the landing.”

“No! You have to get him down, Joe. There’s something up there.”

“Calm down, he’ll be fine, he’s just having a look around. What happened to you?” She noticed Joe glance towards the monitor screen; her heart rate was almost off the scale. “You have to relax, deep breaths, okay?”

“But you have to get him down Joe; now!”

“Claire, I’ve never seen you like this. You have to tell me what happened.”

“Someone was there Joe, they’re here, now. They said Satan was coming.” What the hell? Was he smiling? “Joe, there’s someone, something, up there; you have to get Jack down now!

“Okay, I’ll buy it, you got me; very good acting by the way. Are you all in this together? Is it Jack’s turn to play the frightened paranormal investigator next?” His sarcasm irritated the hell out of her.

“I’m not joking!” Claire’s frustration was getting the better of her and she grabbed his collar with both hands. “For the first time in my life I can actually admit I’m scared shitless, but if you’re not going up there to get him, then I will.”

It must have been something to do with the way she looked at him that made him realise she was being absolutely serious. She let go of his collar and tried to get up. “I’ll go,” he said, “you stay here.” Joe passed her her torch before making his way to the staircase and she watched as the light from his got further and further away.

It had become so cold that Marc’s fingers were going numb and his head was starting to hurt. He jumped up and down a few times and tried rubbing his arms to stimulate some warmth, but to no avail.

Despite being drawn to the cell he was standing in, he did consider changing for one around the other side because this area seemed pretty flat. The witness statement was interesting, but wasn’t doing a very good job of scaring him if that’s what it was supposed to do. To see a young, gaunt looking man who speaks of the devil and then apparently having the feeling of pure evil screamed suggestion to him. If you believe someone had told you there is evil in a place, it will make you feel it, whether it’s present or not.

His idle musings dissipated fairly quickly and his thoughts returned to the coldness. As he was about to try another cell he heard something, the distinct sound of a low chuckle. His mind raced momentarily and he felt his heart thud. Shaking it off as imagination he again was about to leave when a big rush of air hit him full force in the face, his hair rippled back as though it was taken by a gust of wind.

For a moment he didn’t know what to do; he merely felt around in the dark for a prankster and then flicked on his torch (the last thing he wanted to do because his eyes would take a while to readjust to the darkness again), but the beam only revealed an empty cell and the door hanging on one hinge.

As Marc pushed the button and the cell was once again plunged into darkness, there was a re-occurrence of the ‘wind’; only this time it came from behind him, blowing his hair forward with some force. He spun around, the torch still in his hand, but too taken by surprise to switch it back on; there he could see a black mass, blacker than the darkness of the cell, a smoke like mass hanging before him. Before he could react to it, it shot forward, entering his body, an intense hatred gripped his senses; he felt himself go rigid, from head to toe and his heart pound in his chest; then his mind went blank…

Out of the corner of her eye she could see a green flash go up on the screen. Claire got up unsteady on her feet, and went to see what it was. It was Marc’s screen; two more spikes of green shot up. Being in the bowels of the prison he was blissfully unaware of what had been going on where the rest of them were; he couldn’t hear a thing down there, but something was starting to affect him.

This night was turning into a nightmare for her in more ways than one. For a person who is usually so in control of her emotions and is very restrained in everything she does, to freak out and totally lose the plot was a scary thing. At that moment she didn’t know if she should go and see him (although that would kind of defeat the purpose of the experiment) or simply keep an eye out and monitor him while Joe and Jack were up top.

It didn’t take long however before a decision was made for her. Joe and Jack came hammering along the landing, their footsteps echoing around the walls. Their feet weren’t making each step as they descended the stairs; they simply went hand over hand down the railing, gripping onto it for dear life, their feet more often than not gliding over the surface of the steps until they reached the bottom and then stumbled their way over to the hub.

“Did you hear it too?” She asked when she saw the horrified expression on Jack’s face.

“I…I…” Jack shook his head in disbelief. “I didn’t just hear it…I saw it.”

Amazed Claire put her hand subconsciously up to cover her mouth. “Did you see it too Joe?” He shook his head as he tried to catch his breath.

“No, but I heard it, as clear as day. It said the same thing it said to you; Satan is coming, but then…” he shook his head again. “Then it said; ‘…too late, he’s here!’ Jack bolted for the cell door and I wasn’t hanging around to see if there was more to come”

“So how come you never saw it too?”

“Jack was in the cell, I was on the landing, the spirit, or whatever the damn thing was, was in the cell with him.”

“What did it or he look like?”

“Young, thin, his eyes sunken into his face; they had a sad quality to them, but his voice was harsh, didn’t seem to match the way he looked,” Jack became annoyed at himself and brought his fist down heavily on one of the boxes. “Damn! Why did I panic like that? He wasn’t doing me any harm, just standing there. How many people have an opportunity to communicate with a ghost? To ask them all the questions that have been gnawing away at scientists all through the centuries? And I run like a frightened kid!”

“There’s no shame in that; I did it too remember.”

“How is Marc doing?” Joe approached the screen and leaned over to study it.

“Signs of early anxiety for a while, then his heart rate leapt, but he seems to have settled again now.”

“Okay, Jack, how long do you think we should give him? I think we should ditch the second round and stick together from now on taking the current situation into account.”

“Why; because that thing said Satan is coming?” Jack sneered. Joe and Claire exchanged a look, a concerned look; a look that asked why the hell is he smiling when he was scared shitless two seconds ago?

“I tell you what we’ll do. I’ll go down and get Marc back up here and then we’ll discuss how we all want to play it then, okay?” Jack simply shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. Claire agreed with Joe, it was the best way to go, but there was no way she was going to stay alone with Jack, his current fickle state had unnerved her.

“I’ll come too,” she announced and without waiting for a reaction from Jack, or a rejection from Joe, she headed for the central staircase.

This time the trip down to the exclusion floor was even less inviting than it had been before. Claire started to crank her torch making Joe jump out of his skin. He’d had enough scares; tonight was turning into a real adventure; or was that a nightmare? Either way he just wanted it all to be over with and get back on the mainland as soon as possible. Now he was wishing Davis had brought along a spare boat so they could leave earlier than planned. He had no desire left in him to stay any longer.

They both took an instant dislike to the atmosphere as soon as they stepped into the exclusion area. The air was thick, almost suffocating, as though it was filled with dust or some other allergen. It made Joe’s sinuses ache and made it hard to breathe. “Marc; are you okay down here?” Claire called out, but the fact he didn’t call out in reply was worrying. “Marc?”

“Do you think he’s fallen asleep?”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Claire’s voice was so quiet it was almost inaudible.

They walked on down the passageway, at the end Joe suggested they split up seeing as they didn’t have a clue what cell he’d picked for his vigil, but Claire uncharacteristically, but understandable after what had happened to her on the landing, was absolute in her answer, “NO…WAY!”

Joe gestured right and they gingerly entered each of the cells, sweeping the torches beams throughout, invading every niche and crevice before moving onto the next one. So it turned out he had chosen the same cell Joe had been drawn to, maybe in hindsight that had been a bad idea for they found Marc slumped on the floor of the cell. Claire rushed over to him and checked his pulse. “He’s alive at least,” she said, trying to turn him over; Joe stepped forward to help her prop him up against the wall.

“Marc,” he said and shook him gently by the shoulders but there was no response. He was about to try again when Claire leaned forward and slapped him across the face, a loud THWACK! Echoing around the cell.

“Marc!” She slapped him again.

“Claire!” Joe shouted, grabbing her arm to stop her from hitting him a third time.

“What? We have to get back up to the second floor. Do you want to carry him up all those steps?” She was right of course, they had to bring him round, there was no way he could carry a dead weight up that staircase. Joe hauled him to his feet and dragged him around the cell. “Come on Marc; wakey, wakey fella!” Claire helped by supporting him under his other arm. A low groan emanated drowsily from deep within him.

“That’s it, come on Marc,” Claire encouraged. It took a while for him to become aware of his surroundings, but when he did, he let out a string of panting type screams as though he couldn’t catch his breath long enough to do a single long one. “It’s okay, calm down,” Claire placed a soothing hand on his chest. “What happened to you?” Marc’s eyes grew wide as the memory came back to him. He shook his head. “You have to tell us Marc. Something made you pass out. What was it?”

Reluctantly he looked at her, a steady but frightened look. “There’s something evil here,” his tone was quiet but agitated. “I felt it; it went right through me.”


“So, so evil. I could feel its thoughts, its badness; I was consumed by it.”

“Did you pass out when it left you?”

“I don’t know if it truly has,” the thought filled him with terror again. He grabbed her arms tightly and stared at her with big fearful eyes. “We have to get out of here.”

“Not an option,” Joe said. They both turned to look at him. “I’m sorry but Davis isn’t due back until 9am. We’re stuck here.” Claire cast her torches beam down and lit up her watch. It was only two thirty. Her expression betrayed the sinking feeling that swept over her.

“I take it there will be no more vigils?” By her raised eyebrow Joe could tell she meant it more as a demand than a question.

“No; that would be a bad idea.” Just then a loud bang in the distance somewhere came ripping through the passages and echoed around the curved walls.

“What the…?” Another bang cut Claire off in mid-sentence.

“Come on,” Joe was still supporting Marc; Claire once again took his other arm and they made their way out of the cell and back down the passageway.

When they reached the end Joe flicked the light switch but the power was off again. “Looks like another trip to the generator room en route,” but he wasn’t looking forward to it one little bit.

The pump room was even colder than it had been before; their breath could be easily seen in the torchlight. They walked through the pump room and stopped dead at the entrance to the generator room. Icy fingers crept up their spines as the torch’s beam found the front of the generator. The control panel was hanging forward and the small digital display screen was dangling by its wires like an eyeball hanging from its socket. “What the hell…?” Claire began but Marc was already trying to back out of the room. They didn’t even attempt to stop him; they all turned tail and hastened back out to the corridor.

Relief replaced the bewilderment and fear as they had the central staircase within sight. The prison torch Joe had been using was dying on him; its beam was so weak by now that it barely lit up the ground a couple of feet ahead of him. Thank God Claire had hers because Marc’s had broken as he hit the floor when he passed out. A few steps more and Joe’s torch was totally spent.

As Joe resorted to slapping his torch against the palm of his hand in a useless effort to get it working again, an odd sound came from above them, a strained but brief cry (in shock, fright or pain; they couldn’t tell which) then some dull thudding noises, each one getting louder as though something was approaching them from above and then something slammed to the floor at the foot of the centre stairwell.

Claire lifted her torch, the beam slowly creeping across the floor until it enveloped Jack’s twisted body, his limbs all laying at peculiar angles; his eyes open wide in horror, staring blankly at them.

The silence was profound at first; the shock had stunned them all senseless. Then Claire screamed. It wasn’t a normal scream; it was the kind that was born from extreme terror, beyond one that simple fear would render.

Joe tried to get the torch away from her, take the spotlight off Jack’s body, but it was tricky from where he was. He was half propping Marc up; he was still not strong on his legs and this new shock had weakened them again. “Claire! Claire!” he shouted. It was so awkward trying to manoeuvre Marc in order to get to her. Joe finally grabbed her arm and tried to shake her, but there was no response. He gave in and, resorting to the same tactic she used on Marc earlier, he slapped her. She looked away from Jack's corpse and directly into Joe’s eyes. “Get a grip.” Still in shock she nodded and put up no resistance as he took the torch from her. He gestured for her to support Marc, which she did without resistance, and left them in the shadows as he edged towards the stairwell. Flashing the torch upwards he could see right up to the courtyard and the skylight above. There were no faces peering back at him over the railing…thank God; but who the hell had done this to Jack?

The thought made him glance down briefly at his friend’s mangled body before returning to the others. “We have to go up there; it’s the only way to get out.”

“But we don’t know what’s up there;” Claire’s voice was small, almost childlike, tears welling in her eyes. Joe had never seen her like this before – she was broken.

“The one thing we can’t do is panic. We have to stay together and move as one, no stragglers. Marc, are you strong enough to run if you have to?”

“Sure,” he answered, trying to stand straight, “what choice would I have anyway?” Marc gave a resigned smile.

“Right then, stay close, we’re going up.” They both nodded reluctantly and began their ascension.

It was a slow climb to the top. Once Joe’s eyes were at floor level he held the torch up beside his face and did a sweep of the area. The screens on the monitors had been smashed and their equipment boxes were strewn all over the floor, their internal packing spilled out like guts from slaughtered animals.

Despite the signs of the former mayhem, a stillness now reigned that Joe was loathed to disturb. Quietly he climbed the last few steps, the others doing likewise, their eyes darting this way and that, searching the darkness for signs of some abhorrent creature, the thing that had murdered poor Jack.

A familiar voice from behind them shattered the silence, “Did you really think it would be fun to come here with your spooky stories and try to frighten the pants off each other?” The old caretaker stood before them, a horrendous, insane grin on his face as he cocked his head slightly to one side and said, “That’s how we deal with troublemakers at The Fortress.”

“You?” Joe was astonished.

Claire leaned towards him and whispered, “Wh…who is that?”

“He’s a former caretaker,” Joe said out of the corner of his mouth.

“Not a caretaker! The Caretaker!” The old man spat out. Joe heard a gasp from Marc and when he looked at him, his eyes were wide, he had a feeling this wasn’t any normal kind of caretaker he had been in the company of.

Starting to panic he turned to Marc and asked, “What have I missed? What have I missed?” Hurrying him along for an answer.

“The Caretaker; one of the world’s most violent criminals…of the 20th century,” he was starting to hyperventilate. “In other words…he’s a d…d…dead man.”

From the shadows behind him another figure emerged. A hugely muscled bald man, his face and body looked like they’d been pounded by a hundred guards; Joe assumed this must be The Hunter for his eyes were full of pure hatred just like The Caretaker had described them. A third figure skulked around on the periphery, a thin, gaunt looking young man, his deep set eyes glanced up at us nervously every now and then like a schoolboy trying to avoid being picked out by a teacher.

“I told you he was coming,” he said looking away quickly.

“You said Satan was coming,” Joe stood his ground, trying to look unshaken; all the time knowing he was failing miserably. The Hunter turned his back to them, revealing a large tattoo of a devils head with high, arched eyebrows and a menacing grin, on the back of his bald head. The Caretaker stepped forward, Joe’s bravado deserting him and he took a step back.

“Enough is enough I think,” his voice was calm as though reprimanding a child, but his movement was swift for an old man as he lunged towards Claire, who was standing nearest Joe, and twisted a garrotte about her neck. The wire began to slice into her flesh as he pulled and twisted it harder, her screams were sporadic as she struggled to free herself.

To Joe’s shame, and Marc’s, it took them several seconds to react, so horrified by what was happening, but react they did. Joe’s fist went smashing into the old man’s face but he barely flinched; he simply looked at him and scowled, then, almost in defiance of Joe’s attempted intervention, he pulled harder in a swift, jerky motion, on the garrotte almost severing her head from her body.

Marc, adrenalin now kicking in, rushed forward letting out a war cry as he ran at the old man; a hand came out of no-where and gripped him by the throat before he could reach him. The muscle-bound hulk squeezed so hard Marc’s eyes were bulging from their sockets before a loud SNAP, ripped through the air. The Hunter held him up triumphantly, like a trophy, as Marc’s body twitched a few times before becoming still. What could Joe do? What should Joe do? He ran, he ran harder than he had ever run before.

The clouds had started to clear outside allowing the moonlight to shine through the centre skylight, illuminating the courtyard with its eerie luminescence. Joe’s legs were weak as he raced around the stairwell in the centre and headed towards the door at the other end of the short corridor, all the while holding onto the hope that if he got to the platform beyond, he would be safe.

Joe’s head was spinning as he glanced back; The Hunter and the thin man simply stood and watched him…why weren’t they coming after him? Not wanting to turn his back on them but knowing he must, he returned his energy to reaching the corridor; his legs were on the verge of collapse as he fumbled in his pockets for the keys Davis had given him; like some teenager in a budget horror movie he found them, fumbled with them, dropped them and retrieved them all in what felt like an age but was in fact probably only a few seconds.

Finding the correct key Joe stabbed it into the lock, turned it and was out of that nightmare place. As he closed the door behind him he caught a glimpse of The Caretaker heading towards the door from the courtyard, his swiftness supernatural, he had entered the corridor in no time and Joe slammed the door closed, an unnatural thud hit it from the other side, followed by a few more and then laughter – mocking, distorted laughter.

Holding onto the door with all his strength, Joe put the key in the lock once more and turned it, leaving it wedged in place.

With clear skies out at sea the temperature plummeted. Davis found him when he returned at precisely 9am; he was unconscious with Claire’s blood splattered on his clothes.

Joe had faint recollections of hearing Davis’ voice and others talking. His vision had been blurred and could only make out the dark, vague shapes of people moving against the lighter background. He had neither the strength to move nor the will to even try to comprehend what was going on at that precise moment; he was just grateful to have made it out with his life – that sentiment wasn’t to last however.

Needless to say he was found to be the lead suspect for his friend’s murders. The whole prison was searched, top to bottom, and no sign of anyone having been there apart from the four of them.

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