Raven’s Hold has erupted with howls and screams as its residents are driven into a maddening frenzy. The darkness masks much of the destructive, but the hallways are still littered with body parts. Blood seeps out from under doorways and horrific shrieks can be heard from the gardens. The building shudders under pounding blows against its outer walls, the occasional shadowy giant wandering by the windows. Most of the staff try to hide in the office, but they know it is only a matter of time before the door is broken down. They can hear the whimpers of those trapped among the residents, but the sound is cut off by a glass-cracking laugh that rolls from every corner.
Terrified and desperate to find a place to hide, Ian sprints through the halls that have become a winding maze. With a drooling woman on his heels, he skids around a corner and dives away from another patient. The pair collide and tear into each other with sharpened fingernails, neither remembering their original prey. Their dying howls and curses ricochet off the walls to chase the sweating man through the shadows. As he trips over a mangled wheelchair, the approaching noises become gnarled claws that rip down his back. Instead of agony, a pulse of pleasure runs through Ian’s body and he curls into a ball.
“No. Don’t stop running,” he growls as several pairs of footsteps get closer. “Get on your damn feet and move, Connors.”
Ian uses a door to stand and pauses when it opens with a creak that reminds him of the ravens. Through the growing crack, he can see an abyssal darkness that chills his marrow. Still clutching the handle, he is knocked into the room by a charging man who is covered in crayon-made tattoos. Ian swings over open air while the other patient tumbles into the void, the sounds of crunching bones rising from the darkness. When a woman appears in the doorway, the shadows sprout four-fingered hands that catch her by the throat. Yanking her into the endless room, a jaunty whistle joins the popping that occurs when one of her body parts is bloodlessly remove and tossed into a hovering casket. Her head squeals with glee when it is punted into the coffin and her remains are loudly flushed into the abyss. A gust of wind shoves the door closed and Ian immediately sprints toward a flight of stairs.
After a while, he realizes that the steps are never ending and the sounds of chaos are becoming muted by an incredible distance. Turning around, Ian sees a churning pool of pristine water that beckons to him with the promise of serenity. The scent of lilacs hits his nose and he is about to descend the stairs until he remembers all of the previous threats. With a more cautious eye, he peers at the gentle waves and barely makes out the form of a body beneath the enticing surface. Earning a snarl from the building, the exhausted man takes a seat on the steps and quietly runs his finger along his scars.
“I don’t want to play games any more,” Ian announces, his voice surprisingly calm. The splashing from below draws his attention to a naked form, but he refuses to let his vision focus on the figure. “Let me guess. That’s going to be my wife since I admitted to Dawn that I’m still loyal. You know, I vividly remember the creation of every scar on my body. This one on my wrist was a pocketknife in a movie theater because I sat next to a father and his son. This one on my ankle was a fork that I slipped into my sock during the first Thanksgiving after I lost my family. I wasn’t very good at hiding it back then, so Carla caught me and flipped out.” Ian removes his shirt to make figure eights over his chest. “I kept getting more and more creative with my cutting. The pain wasn’t really pleasure and I never really felt a true release. In all honesty, my goal was to build up my courage. One day, I’d give myself a scar that was more horrific than the one on my heart. Sounds pathetic, but maybe something like that would make the loss more tolerable. People have no idea how broken I really am. Yet someone here figured me out. Have I jumped through enough hoops to meet the real ghost?”
Ian glances over his shoulder when he hears a ding and finds that an elevator has appeared a few steps above him. The doors open to reveal a padded interior, the cushions having been torn apart and the stuffing strewn across the floor. A fluorescent light flickers above and occasionally spits sparks across the ceiling. With his hands in his pockets, Ian steps onto the waiting elevator and leaves his back to the closing doors.