Start writing here…Chapter 1 - Black Robin
The night was Hallow’s eve. It was the perfect evening for spooks and manic horror lovers alike. A fan favorite for urban explorers like myself. Naturally, it was only fitting for my closest friends and me to finally fulfill our scariest nightmares by joining all together for our first paranormal urban exploration trial of the local insane asylum. It was a dark and looming grand 18th-century structure that stuck out like a sore thumb on the outskirts of our small suburban neighborhood. It had been expertly blocked off by the city’s maintenance crews with all of the funding that they could procure. This reduced it to only a hidden alley that was nestled in a wooded area. However, there must have not been enough money acquired all-in-all to just tear the horrid thing down. As you can probably already tell, I was the paranoid one.
At the end of the harrowing cul-de-sac block where the neighboring houses had long been demolished, it was safe to say that no one ever ventured to this part of the neighborhood anymore... unless they were lost. It virtually couldn’t be seen unless you were unlucky enough to travel down this long road with decaying unkempt brush on either side. It was now well beyond the city limits with one way in and no way out. We could only assume that it possibly became home to drug addicts looking for a private place to get their overdosing fixes or homeless wanderers and nomads with no other place to go. Maybe there were possibly murderers waiting for a group of dumb kids like us. I forbade the negative energy as I took a few quick, deep breaths in attempts of relieving my anxiety. It didn’t work. The rundown place was the eyesore of Ventrille, as described by most of the locals and state officials.
Despite all of this, Virginia always felt that everything that wasn’t of the current century at the time was just too historic to demolish without reason. This could be even if it was something as simple as an expensive statue of a traitorous, murderous terrorist that was now deemed a founder and patriot of this great country. Copy America again. Hell, there were plantations still standing, now hosting bed and breakfast amenities where hundreds of slaves were beaten, tortured, killed, and lynched. For that reason and that reason only was why Robinwood still stood strong and proud even with its questionably dark past.
“Come on, Rai!” Indigo called out from a few feet in front of me, barely seen in the growing blackness that seemed to permeate from Robinwood Manor for the Criminally Insane. It had been decided not to use our cool LED flashlights to avoid detection before entering. Jolted from my empty thoughts, I didn’t even have time to second guess or wonder whether this was a good idea after all or not. It was clearly too late for any deliberation and regret now. We were here. The chilly late October air encircled me, taking my breath away just as the gigantic asylum had when I first laid eyes upon it as a young girl. Grave warnings from my parents, teachers, and adults that I didn’t even really know began to flood my head all at once, weighing it down as I tried to block out the windy whispers around me. I wouldn’t let this contribute to my fears even though the KEEP OUT signs confirmed my increasing biased reservations.
Without responding, I slowly inched toward the building closing in last behind Indigo and his twin sister, Violet... and my crush, Ashton. It wasn’t like a double date or anything, but I wanted to prove to him that I wasn’t terrified of this place like most of our peers. Ashton had overheard Violet jeering me because, initially, I didn’t want to go. As with everything, they suckered me into saying yes so that they wouldn’t have to go alone. Ashton chimed in after overhearing our secret conversation during study hall and it was now a special occasion for our favorite holiday. I would have rather spent it binge-watching gory horror movies over pizza and good conversation, though.
We had all learned over the years to not even mention Robinwood Manor even as a joke around anyone, especially the adults. Except for Ashton, whose parents had tragically passed away in a freak car accident just two years prior. Quickly approaching the madhouse, an unnerving sense of dread overcame us all as the nervous chatter and laughter unequivocally ceased all at once. No one made mention of this to each other even though it was simultaneously felt by everyone.
“How are we going to break through the chained gates?” I inquired of the others, glancing around for any unknown spectators or the police who regularly patrolled the area. I almost asked the question rhetorically, knowing my twin friends very well. I’ve known them since preschool and they were always prepared for anything. Ashton, however, joined our friend group in our final year of elementary school. We were now freshmen in junior high.
“Ta-da!” Violet replied as she squealed, presenting a giant pair of wire cutters from what she liked to call her “investigation bag.” Indigo and Violet had taken the time to pack all of the detective equipment that they would need to find what they were searching for... what I hoped didn’t exist and their aspirations to prove me and the world wrong. They would need a surefire way to document their proof. Indigo and Ashton briefly laughed at my speechless reaction as they moved into place to help each other breach this haunted ground. Growing in anticipation, Violet began to stir and slightly jog in place.
“Hurry or we’ll get caught! It’s cold out here.” Violet spoke between gasps, holding her breath. By her reaction, her excitement seemed to be growing more with each passing second.
“What she said.” I quickly agreed. I hoped that Ashton would notice this and prevent myself from being the butt of the next joke. All black attire did nothing for my physique to stand out to him as we were all dressed the same with matching black beanies, shoes, ski masks, and full jumpsuits all covered underneath sleek fall jackets. For stealth, of course. Honestly, we appeared to be more like inexperienced robbers than teenage paranormal investigators, but this was our first go. It would be better next time, right?
Once the wrought iron gate was inconspicuously cut open, Ashton and Indigo held it wide open for me and Violet to easily slip in. The others followed suit and we were now trespassing, to my utter dismay. This seemed too easy for breaking and entering in combination with trespassing and it was all going entirely too smoothly, in my opinion. Yes, I was the realist pessimist of our friend group as well. But, I was also the smartest one according to our marks...
“See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Indigo inquired. In his mind, he was confirming that they were done with the hardest part of their expedition. Everyone should be able to relax now. They had packed food, water, batteries and everything in case things went south. In addition to this, everyone had their mobile phones fully charged and ready to make an emergency call if necessary, which they all were hopeful that it wouldn’t be. We formed a single-file line and collectively jetted across the overgrown courtyard in record time with Indigo clutching Violet’s heavy “investigation bag.” It weighed a ton but he beat everyone to the front entrance, anyway.
“Wow... here we are!” Ashton breathlessly acknowledged. We were all still trying to catch our breaths from sprinting, quickly inhaling the brisk air about us. I glanced over at his handsomely strong features that were beginning to peak forcing me to take notice of my quiet friend over the past few months. Breaking away from my daydream, I uneasily pondered about how no one had ever seen it up close before except for in pictures. This area was highly restricted and trespassing was punishable by law for all ages. Considered to be dangerous, it was a strong possibility that we could discover a dumped victim’s corpse. Anything. Stop it, Tirai! I had to take control of my racing mind. After a few moments, I was able to yank the reigns on the wild horses that ran rampantly throughout it.
“Too bad we can’t take pictures out here at night or someone may notice the camera flash,” I added stepping beside him, fighting the urge to clutch his hand tightly within my own.
“Let’s not delay any longer. Or, it will seem like we’re stalling!” Indigo said as the self-proclaimed leader of our ghost hunting team. He was shocked to turn the entrance doorknob to find out that it was already unlocked! He just knew that they’d have to use the wire cutters again to gain access to the forbidden yet unforgotten building.
“Good luck shines on us tonight! The dead may favor us.” Ashton grimly noted as he seconded Indigo’s notion to proceed inside. We all collected our flashlights and four bright lights turned on before the door was closed behind us.
“Uhh... shouldn’t we leave that open in case we have to make a fast exit?!” I said as my voice shook a little with the fear of being locked or trapped inside. I felt as if it should be a possibility that’s at the forefront of all of our minds. To reassure me and without responding at all, Indigo retrieved a nearby cinderblock and placed it to keep the heavy door ajar while we traversed the remains.
“We found an old online mapping of the structure and luckily for us, it has more than one way in or out. We won’t be able to explore this entire place anyway. Not tonight.” Violet confirmed, resting a small dainty hand on my shoulder to reassure me. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t go any further in and conduct our experiments right here and now.
With that, Violet and Indigo opened a large map showing the first-floor blueprint and each connecting staircase. The detailed plan had been previously fleshed out in a sleepover meeting they all attended together the week before at the twins’ house.
“Shall we go over the plan again?” Ashton asked carefully, sensing my worry and I truly appreciated his concern for me. I debated in my mind whether I should play out the drama of this moment to buy myself more time to contemplate some way out of this or not.
“No,” I concluded in a hushed voice and didn’t ask or say anything further about the closed door. The quicker they could collect the information that they needed, the quicker they could all leave in one whole piece. Ashton, Violet, and Indigo were insanely brave. Why can’t I be?! I can do this. I can do this! I thought privately to myself. Somehow, I still felt that I was the only voice of reason right now.
Indigo and Violet having decided on their first course of action, shined their beams of battery-powered artificial light down the main hall leading to a large open foyer that housed a wing for admissions, processing, family visitation and security which seemed appropriate. It didn’t seem like anything that any other facility such as this wouldn’t have or out of the ordinary in any way. It almost seemed normal, especially for the time period when it was originally constructed. Once they reached a massive room that had a skylight appearing as if it may have been used for some form of recreation, the twins stopped walking so that Ashton and I who had been lagging behind, could catch up.
“Let’s get started, everyone!” Indigo shouted a little too loudly and his booming adolescent voice eerily echoed down the large hall from whence we came.
“Overkill, bro... but I guess it’s good to let everyone know we’re here,” Ashton joked around a little. My tall, lean crush began to inspect the room before proceeding to help Indigo unload everything. I could barely see his caramel skin in the dim light.
“Everyone like who?” I asked nonchalantly, knowing that they were referring to the spirits that they felt were there versus the homeless that I suspected would be disturbed by our presence.
“The spirits silly!” Violet joined her in laying a tarp blanket over a worn sofa so that they’d have a place to comfortably sit. An out of season bird’s call could be heard coming from the direction of the entrance that we left ajar for a hasty escape plan. No one seemed to notice it at all. It sounded like the call of a Robin.
“Did you guys hear that?” I softly asked. My gaze was unwavering from the corridor that led to the front of the building, toward their homes.
I can’t say that I was looking forward to spending the entire night here at Robinwood.