Case, Armitage

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Chapter Six

Ava anticipated another long drive as she climbed into her car and left the suburbs of Detroit once again. The roads were particularly empty for peak hour traffic, and this cheered Ava up a little bit as she was still extremely tired from the eventful night before. She thought about her nightmare, and how real it felt, so real she could even feel the breeze on her skin as she dreamt, in the same way as she experienced her other nightmare from just a few nights ago. Ava snapped out of these thoughts, and distracted herself by turning on the radio, skipping stations until she reached a weather channel. “Today’s forecast is mostly sunny with a chance of rain south of Detroit. Up north reaching past East Tawas there is a high chance of a storm with heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. We recommend that those who are up that area stay inside if lightning and thunder is seen and heard,” the weatherman informed his listeners. Ava sighed as she heard this; What could be more terrifying than an abandoned hospital, let alone an abandoned hospital in a storm? she thought. Ava drove down the near empty highway, before she made a sharp left turn, then continued her route along numerous dirt roads. As she drove, she looked through her windshield and clearly saw dark clouds approaching. The sun disappeared behind Ava’s car and a harsh wind wailed as the dark clouds quickly started to form. Rain began to trickle on the vehicle’s windshield, but quickly developed into a torrential waterfall. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed in the sky and Ava was trapped in the storm, her windshield wipers barely able to manage. She considered turning around and going home, but decided there was no point in that now, as she was only a little more than an hour away. She pressed on but drove slowly, lengthening the driving time to her destination. The sky was blanketed with a dark black cloud, as though it was the middle of the night. The thunder roared in the sky and the rain crashed down on every surface. Ava carefully kept to her route and drove down all the now-familiar roads until she finally reached the gates of the asylum. The large rusty letters, Armitage As-lum passed over the car’s roof as Ava continued along the driveway. She parked her car and reached into the backseat to collect her things. She took a deep breath before she braved the storm that screamed outside. Thunder shrieked as Ava quickly opened the car door, leapt out then slammed it shut as she turned and sprinted to the front doors of the building, clutching her bag to her chest in an attempt to protect it from the hail that was pelting the ground.

Ava fiddled around with the key before making it fit into the hole, twisting it and running inside. Ava slammed the doors behind her before she turned around to see the dark interior of the building. It was even more uninviting than usual; it was too dark. The shadowy hallway that lay just over the large open space was so dark that Ava could not see past the first doors on either side. This scared her and her imagination ran wild, at the thought of a huge scary monster, lurking on the other side of the blackness. She turned right and headed to the temporary office space she had set up the previous day. She reached into her bag to find her thermos; she pulled out the large mental container and took a short swig of coffee before nearly choking on it. It was freezing cold. So much for insulation, she thought to herself. Ava considered how the days’ dramatic weather could be a fantastic advertisement opportunity; she grabbed her recording device from her pocket. “Building is terrifying when stormy. Really terrifying,” she said quietly, as if to shield her words from somebody. The young woman reached into her bag again and pulled out her camera; a small pink Canon that her mother gave her for Christmas several years ago. Ava walked quietly and slowly back down the hallway until she reached the front doors again, and faced the large open area, staring down the black hallway. Shapes seemed to form in the dark abyss, but the journalist ignored it as she told herself sternly it was just a trick of the mind in the darkness. Ava held up her camera, adjusted the lens to an appropriate angle, and clicked the button at the top. Unsatisfied with the picture, Ava held it up again, and snapped another photo. She looked at the image and froze. All color left her face as she was stunned at what she was seeing. A young girl stood in the photo, standing by the corner of the hallway, staring directly at Ava. The journalist looked up at the spot and screamed in pure terror. A girl stood there, staring at Ava. She did not move, did not react. “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to scare you!” the young girl said as she walked forward towards Ava, who took a deep breath in relief. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to scream I just um - a bit shocked.” Ava blinked quickly, as if to gather herself up from her fright. “Who are you?” Ava questioned. “Forgive my bad manners, I’m Lillian,” the young girl introduced herself. “Of course! Caleb told me about you, Lillian. I’m Ava.” The investigative journalist smiled. “I know. Wow, it’s … it’s really finally you.” Ava gave a confused look at the girls’ comment. “What I mean is um… I-I’m finally meeting you. Caleb had told me a bit about you,” she explained herself. “Really? We’ve only met once,” Ava said. “Yeah, I mean he’s a really, really good judge of character. It’s like he knows everything about you with one short conversation,” Lillian giggled. “Yeah, I … I guess so. How long have you been here?” Ava asked. “What, today? I’ve been here for… a few hours I guess.” Lillian gently rubbed her hands together. “Oh, I thought there were only two keys to this place,” Ava said. “Yeah, there are, I come in a different way,” Lillian said vaguely. “Oh, which way do you come in?” Ava asked. “That’s a secret,” Lillian giggled again. Ava was confused but intrigued by this young girl. Why would anyone, let alone a child, want to be in a place like this? How was she not terrified? “You’re a journalist, is that right?” Lillian asked. “Yes, I am an investigative journalist,” Ava responded. “Right, and um, you can’t have been working here long, I’ve only seen you a few times.” Lillian said. “Wait, you’ve seen me?” Ava asked, slightly taken aback. Lillian looked worried, as if she had said the wrong thing; her mouth opened trying to get words out. “No, no, no I’m not angry or anything. It kind of makes sense actually. You’re the figure I keep seeing on the fourth floor, right?” Ava smiled. “Uh, yeah, yes that’s me. I should have come out to sit with you and Caleb yesterday, but I get a little shy sometimes. And I figured Caleb should make some new friends and -” “Please, honey, you don’t need to explain anything to me, it’s fine,” Ava consoled the girl, who had clearly become uncomfortable by the conversation.

The pair walked back down to Ava’s workstation where she had set up her books for the day. They both sat in silence as Ava wrote down advertisement ideas for her column, while Lillian stared out the window. Ava decided to break the ice. “Hey, Lillian, it’s a school day - do you go to school in town?” Lillian turned around. “I’m home-schooled,” the young girl blankly answered. “Oh right. And I know that you and Caleb must hang out a lot; how long have you been friends?” Ava asked. “Well … let’s see. He’s been working here for -” “One year and three weeks?” Ava laughingly interrupted. Lillian smiled at her accuracy. “So, we’ve been friends for one year and three weeks I guess,” she laughed. “Are there many other kids around here? There aren’t many houses,” Ava pressed. “No, I’m the only one,” the young girl answered. “Do you live in the cottage that’s just down the road a little bit?” Ava asked. “No, I live in a house that’s deep in the woods over there,” Lillian nodded vaguely to the outside. “It sounds scary but it’s actually really nice. You get the fresh air and there are plenty of trees to climb,” Lillian happily described. “You live with your parents? Do you have any siblings?” Ava asked. “I can tell you’re a journalist, you ask lots of questions,” Lillian remarked. “Oh, I’m sorry, I tend to do that a lot,” Ava said embarrassed. “No, no, it’s a good thing. It’s nice to have someone to talk to. Other than Caleb of course, but he’s only here once a week,” she said. The pair smiled at each other and Ava went back to writing while Lillian continued staring blindly out the window. Ava took note of Lillian’s clothes, a long red and white striped skirt with a vintage white polo shirt. Her straight blonde hair fell down either side of her shoulders, and her ocean blue eyes stayed fixed on the pouring rain outside. As Ava continued her work, she focused heavily on the wording of each sentence, trying to make it sound as professional as possible, circling certain phrases with a red pen where she wanted to later make adjustments. She looked over at her watch and realised it was one o’clock. “Hey, I’m gonna have some lunch, did you want to -” Ava looked up, but realised she was the only person in the room. She looked around and called Lillian’s name out loud. She must have been so deeply focused on her work she did not notice the young girl had gone. Ava opened her bag and retrieved her packed lunch, consisting of ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes between two slices of wholegrain bread. She stared outside into the blank distance, just as Lillian did earlier. Ava slowly chewed her food when a thought came back into her head; did she need to see her doctor again about prescription medication? Ava had not suffered from nightmares like this since she was seventeen, until her first nightmare, recollecting her dad just several nights back. Ava made a note to herself to call the doctor later.

It was time to head home; there was no longer a need to stay in the hospital anymore for that day. The rain had cleared up to a light drizzle. This encouraged Ava to take advantage of the break in the storm and begin her long journey home. She collected her things and walked down the hallways to the open area. She was about to walk out the door when she heard something. There was a gentle thud which came from down the dark hallways, which were still as dark as they were this morning when she arrived. Ava slowly turned around but saw nothing, no Lillian, no scary monsters, just the dark hallway. But this reminded her; I need to see the basement. She reluctantly started to walk straight down to the hallway. As she reached the corner, she flicked the light switch, but it did not turn on - Mr and Mrs. Chester must have shut off the electricity when they left to avoid accruing bills. Bravely, Ava continued down the hallway until she saw the brown painted door. She stood for a moment, contemplating her next move as she was quite scared of the dark, especially in a place like this. She reached for the handle and turned it. As she did, a voice spoke from out of the darkness; “Do you really want to go down there on a day like today?” Ava jumped in horror. “Lillian, where did you come from?” Ava asked the small girl next to her. “I was just down there,” the little girl pointed along the hallway. “What do you mean a day like today?” Ava asked. “Have you seen outside? It’s cold and rainy, it makes it terrifying down there,” Lillian insisted. “Oh, well, I think it’s dark and scary anyway,” Ava laughed, trying to make light of the strange situation. “Wait, have you been down here before?” Ava asked. “Um, a few times. I don’t like it down there, but -” the young girl cut herself short. Ava smiled at Lillian but ignored her suggestion to turn back and opened the door anyway. It creaked open to reveal complete pitch blackness, and the familiar sight of the old wooden staircase stretching before her. “Look, I’ll come down with you. It’s terrifying in itself let alone being by yourself,” Lillian suggested. Ava was about to decline out of politeness, but on second thought, she responded, “If you’d like to come down with me, you certainly can.” The pair walked down the stairs. They feel steeper than last time, Ava noticed. Ava pulled out her phone and used its torch. She took each step slowly until she hit the bottom, a wet, cold concrete surface. “I don’t know where to start,” Ava said as she gazed upon the infinite shelves of dusty, forgotten paperwork. “Start with the patients, then go to the staff,” Lillian suggested. “The patient’s stories are more important than the pathetic so-called caretakers,” Lillian hissed. Ava whipped her head around at Lillian’s tone. “I just mean, I’ve heard a few stories about the doctors and nurses here, and what they did should have put them in prison for life,” the child said. “Right, of course.” Ava scanned the shelves before she picked out a file at random from one of the closest shelving units. As Ava opened the manila folder to examine its contents, thunder roared outside the building. Shit, she thought, knowing she would have to drive home in this weather. She opened up the folder and read the brief description of the former patient.

Name: Jeremy Alister (Patient No. 47574)

DoB: 9/4/1934

Date of Admission: 6/7/1970

Diagnosis: schizophrenia, pedophilia

Doctors Notes:

Patient often shows aggression towards staff members and other patients. He hides in any spot. He will not be found easily. When he is found, he often is talking to himself. Patient frequently self-harms by repeatedly banging head on walls and doors. Patient was brought in by younger brother, heavily intoxicated. Is unlikely he will be discharged in the near future. Morphine is often used during fits of rage. Lobotomy performed; patient died several days post-procedure.

Ava gasped in shock. “I thought the lobotomy was banned around the 60’s.” She briefly looked up at Lillian, who sat with her chin resting on her hands on the staircase. “Do you think that stopped them?” Lillian scoffed. Ava put the file back as neatly as possible before selecting another one off the shelf just above.

Name: Casey Lehin (Patient No. 85857)

DoB: 16/1/1956

Date of Admission: 26/5/1972

Diagnosis: Mania

Doctor’s Notes:

Patient speaks to herself and refuses to consume food or medication unless physically forced. Has dramatic episodes and must be restrained for up to twenty-four hours to allow herself to settle. Uses clothes to make the shape of a baby which she calls Magda. She claims her father forced her to self-abort the fetus before she arrived at the AA. Patient passed away from unknown causes two years after being admitted.

Ava began to get emotional. “They would let a pedophile be in the same building as a minor?” Ava whispered in disgust. “Yes. However, most of the patients were so medicated they couldn’t move. Straightjackets were used when the staff didn’t want to calm them down,” Lillian described. “You like to read a lot, don’t you?” Ava said, impressed - but at the same time concerned - by the child’s knowledge of such a horrendous subject. “Unknown causes,” the journalist mumbled to herself. “It’s practically code for put to sleep, like an animal. Sometimes an overdose of medication; or possibly choked on her own vomit, and that was the supposed natural cause,” Lillian said bitterly. Ava neatly put the file back on the shelf and decided to leave for the day. “How are you getting home, Lillian? Surely you won’t walk in this rain,” Ava said. “Oh, I’m just going to stay here for a while before I head home, just to wait for the rain to calm down. My house is only a short walk.” While they talked about the weather, Ava and Lillian walked down towards the front door. Lillian stopped at the edge of the hallway while Ava continued to the door. Just before she opened the door to leave, she thought about how broad the young girl’s vocabulary was, how mature her manner was, and how polite she was for a child her age. “Hey Lillian, how old -” Ava turned around only to find that Lillian wasn’t there anymore. That girl is quick on her feet, I’ll give her that, Ava thought to herself. She hurried outside, braving the storm to jump in her car as quickly as possible. She reversed her car and looked over the back seat. She stared for a long moment at the old building, as if trying to see something. But what went through her mind were the stories those two patients she’d just read about. How many other patients had endured such horrors? A sudden sadness seemed to fill the atmosphere from the earth to the sky. If the building’s windows had eyes, they would be flooding, watering black roses on the ground.

The storm continued as Ava drove home, clearing up slightly by the time Ava was ten minutes out of Detroit. She steered her car around the familiar route to her home, and as she pulled into her driveway, a familiar car was waiting for her. “Hi!” a voice called out as Ava entered her house. “Kate! Hi!” The friends embraced each other before sitting on the couch with a glass of red wine each. “Well! What’s it like? Is it terrifying?” Kate asked her friend eagerly. “It really is actually! You constantly feel like someone’s watching you,” Ava responded. “Jesus, it must be just how the Kardashians feel.” Kate giggled. “It’s just … the building is four stories high, and I went up to the fourth floor on the tour that first day. It’s way too scary to go on your own otherwise,” Ava sipped her wine. “I wouldn’t be able to go into a building like that alone. I don’t know how you do it to be honest,” Kate said. “Yeah well, it’s funny you should say that actually,” Ava prepared herself to tell her friend of the day’s happenings. “I met a young girl there today. She told me she’s home-schooled and lives near the hospital. I think she comes often, and I think she’s been there for the whole time without me actually knowing.” Kate was scared by this. “Are you sure she didn’t have a twin? Where they both stood in the hallway saying Come play with us Danny,” Kate said again. “Shut up, it’s not funny! She’s ... different,” Ava defended Lillian. “How?” Kate asked, still not taking her friend’s story seriously. “Well, the way she talks. She can’t be any older than about thirteen, but it’s like she’s an adult. She’s so calm and speaks so properly, and … oh, I don’t know,” Ava tried to describe her new-found acquaintance to her friend. “What’s her name?” Kate asked. “Lillian. Her name’s Lillian,” Ava said as the name rolled off her tongue. “Did you get her last name?” Kate asked. “No, all I know about her is her name and the fact that she’s home-schooled. But she knows a lot about the asylum itself; I mean, strange details. She must have stolen the log-book or something,” Ava suggested.

“So, I was just thinking about this today. How long has it been since you saw um … Kiara?” Kate asked hesitantly, knowing the sensitivity of the topic. “Um. It’s been a really long time. Three years, maybe?” Kate was clearly surprised by this. She gave her friend a look. “Come on, don’t look at me like that,” Ava said to her friend. “Ava, three years?” Kate leaned in. “We had a falling out, to say the least, and I just … I had to work really hard for this internship, and I was studying. And work and life just got in the way,” Ava explained herself. “I’m really sorry, but that’s not good enough. You and I have had a million girls’ days in the past three years and I’m sure you could have spared one to see Kiara,” Kate said with compassion. “Okay, first of all, you need to get your math straight. And second of all, the last time I saw her she threw a kitchen knife at my head,” Ava said, justifying her situation. “Oh, yeah, I forgot that minor detail,” Kate guiltily looked away. “But was she taking her meds at that time?” Ava was aware of her friend’s logic; she knew that she was in the wrong. “Look, I don’t know why I don’t want to see her, but I send birthday and Christmas cards, and tell mom to give her my love,” Ava said in an attempt to deflect Kate’s questions. “Everybody knows that birthday cards are the world’s most insincere gesture. Something tells me you know it too.” Ava nodded, knowing her friend was completely correct. “Now, are you staying here tonight or what?” Ava patted Kate on the arm. “Yeah, I’ve three large glasses of red wine, probably unsafe to drive home now!” Kate answered. “I’ve seen you drive around town for two hours after three beers and six shots,” Ava laughed. “Yeah, but your spare bed is comfier than mine!” The two women clear up the lounge-room up before heading to bed. Ava took a melatonin remedy, in an attempt to prevent another nightmare.

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