"The great banana peel of Fate is always on the floor somewhere."
- Victor Standish
"Hey, that was my floor!"
The Jock, who I mentally called 'Biff,' was comforted by a cheerleader type I thought of as Barbie.
"Oh, we'll just catch it on the way down."
"There's 12 damn floors to this hospital."
13 actually, but no reason to tell them the top floor was long abandoned. It was where they performed lobotomies,
electro-shock, forced feedings (through the nose yet!), and those other procedures that had gotten the mental hospital closed.
It had just been re-opened as a general hospital.
But 4 years on the streets had shown me why cats yowl at midnight and
why dogs sometimes whimper at the darkness.
So I knew that terrible acts leave a mark on a place
and that some evil does not die with the body.
To get my mind off this uplifting train of thought, I started my mental elevator game:
I add up the combined weight of my fellow passengers, subtract it from what Otis said was the Max Load, and see if I am in any danger.
Once I had gotten on with a football team and thought my goose was cooked.
Wedged in the back right corner, I had a good spot to size them up:
The plain-clothed detective with murder in his eye, booze on his breath, and a gun on his hip: a sucky combo if there ever was one.
The nun with a face that could have belonged to the Mother Superior for Satan's Little Convent for Sociopaths.
The harried nurse trying to avoid being groped by Dr. Long Fingers.
The middle-aged Chinese businessman who I could picture saying: "Kill him ... slowly."
His expressionless aide whose flat eyes were windows into a cold nothing.
Then, there was ten year old me:
Victor Standish, looking for a way to that 13th floor and a corner to hole up on this cold All Hallows' Eve.
The detective pounded on the floor panel. "Damn it! It's passed up my floor, too."
The nurse clutched the doctor's arm. "It's never done this before, Mitchell."
The businessman snapped at his aide. The pale man turned to the doctor.
"Sir, my employer wishes to know ..."
Mitchell smirked, "Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor not a mechanic."
The Star Trek allusion flew at warp speed over the aide's head, so I cleared my throat to speak,
but the businessman snapped, "Izo needs no words from gutter trash."
I snapped back, "Oh, go climb your thumb!"
Turning target red, he glowered, "You speak Mandarin? (Actually he said Pu tong hua.)"
"I speak any language spoken to me, Tough Guy."
He turned to Izo. "Hurt him ... badly."
Before Izo could move, Mitchell exploded. "Hell, it passed my floor, too!"
"This is ridiculous," growled the doctor and opened the small door marked TELEPHONE.
No phone was inside - only a blood smeared skull still covered in wet sinews. Its bulging eyes rolled to us.
Barbie and the nurse tried to out-scream one another.
I wanted to join them. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sister Blair Witch softly smile.
Every Halloween weird shit sought me out.
I had tried to load the dice in my favor this time by going where ghosts would be and came prepared.
But I hadn't factored in Sister Satan.
I jumped a foot when the skull screamed in Mandarin and then English. "Murderers! Murderers all!"
As one, the others turned their heads towards me. I shrugged. "Hey, you had to have been there."
Sister Satan smiled wider, and then, I noticed the wooden cross hanging from her rope belt was upside down.
The elevator abruptly jolted to a stop. The floor button marked "13" was glowing.
There had been no button for Floor 13 before.
The doors hissed open. All was dark beyond the opening. Oh, yeah, like I was going out there now.
Then, the lights inside the elevator began to flicker. Double crap. The strobe light from Hell effect went on as the two girls went from screaming to whimpering.
The metal walls of the elevator changed to padding. A bloody skeletal figure clung impossibly above Izo.
One flashing grasping hand lashed out, and Izo was minus his head. Blood jutted from his severed neck in high spurts.
I could take a hint.
I did a Parkour roll out the doors, jerking the flashlight from under my belt. I flicked it on. Jeez.
Withhold my compliments to the clean-up crew.
The elevator began to rock and the other passengers ran out -- minus Sister Blair Witch. Metal sang as thick cables snapped. The elevator shot down like it couldn't get away from floor 13 fast enough.
"We're trapped," whined Barbie. "Ted, we're being punished for ...."
Ted shook her. "Shut up, Bitch!"
My shivers got goose bumps when I seemed to see flickers of blurred bodies moving within the very stone of the walls.
I strained my eyes, but I couldn't make out any details.
And there were faint sounds of sobbing coming from all around us.
The ceiling tile got an imprint of the top of my head as the nurse decided to take up the screaming again.
I flicked the light to her. Aw, jeez. The Tong businessman lay choking at her feet.
His mouth was filled with yellow bills. His neck was three times its normal size so many bills had been shoved down his throat.
I bent down and studied the bills. There was no way to save the man. He gurgled as if his larynx had been crushed.
He wiggled on the floor like a worm on a hook.
The bills were Hell Bank Notes. They were a form of joss paper printed to resemble legal tender bank notes.
Their sole purpose was to serve as burnt offerings to the deceased.
Maybe the ghosts here were saying the Tong leader's whole life was as false as the money that had killed him.
The detective growled, "Give me the light, kid."
He went for the gun I held up before him. "Looking for this? It wouldn't do you any good against what's in the dark."
He looked about to jump me; I spun the gun to point at him. "You heard the skull. I've killed before."
The squirt gun filled with Holy Water in the small of my back would be more help against the supernatural.
But I didn't trust that cop to have his gun. Hell, with my frazzeled nerves, I didn't trust me with his gun.
I edged along the wall, looking for some corner to pour the salt I had swiped from the cafeteria and now bulged out my left front jeans pocket.
My Baptized ball bearings bulged my right jeans pocket.
The flashlight flickered. I frowned. I had new batteries in this thing.
Maybe ghosts drew power from batteries?
As the light dimmed more and more, we made our way slowly down the hallway. We passed an open surgical bay.
The doctor stammered, "Gr-Grandfather?"
The patient was screaming. The ghostly nurses were taking moving pictures of the terrible scene. The surgeon looked up.
The doctor smiled, his teeth bloody, his eyes bulging. He motioned to Mitchell and his nurse with a dripping scalpel.
The ghostly nurses were feet away one second.
The next, one had absorbed Mitchell's nurse. The other was dragging Mitchell to the operating table.
Grandfather pushed his former "patient" to the dirty tiles.
Mitchell was strapped screaming to the thing. Barbie yelled, "Shoot them, kid!"
I shook my head. Hating to waste the salt, I reached into my left pocket and flung a fistful of it over the surgery team from Hell.
With real and ghostly screams, both doctors and the three nurses disappeared, leaving only bloody stains on the dusty tiles.
"That ain't possible," whispered the detective.
I threw him his gun. "Save the last bullet for yourself."
He frowned, "Where's the jock?"
Barbie screamed so shrill I thought my gums would bleed. I started regretting giving the cop his gun.
I could have shot the cheerleader.
The hallway behind us was receding like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
And cinched up in a straitjacket was Ted, shooting away from us screaming silently.
In nightmare moments, he was gone, and the hallway was back to "normal."
Barbie grew silent. She started to walk in the direction Ted had zoomed to. I walked after her to pull her back. That could not be a good way to go.
The detective took my arm. "Forget it, kid. Her mind's toast."
Despite what I had thought earlier about shooting her, I couldn't let her just walk to her doom.
I shook my head and started after her.
The detective swore and walked beside me. We walked for maybe a half hour.
"Damn, kid. She was just stumbling along. We should have come across her by now."
I made a face. "Considering this floor shouldn't be this long, I don't think physics works here, sir."
"Oh, it's 'Sir' now."
I flashed a smile. "You've got the gun now."
Turning the corner cautiously, he gave me back my wolf smile. "Yeah ...."
My skin almost jumped off my bones and hugged them in fright as Barbie seemed to scream in my right ear.
The gun dropped from the detective's fingers.
Mitchell, his face gone all crazy Cyrano,
was carving up the poor cheerleader as she sat struggling against her bloody bonds.
I jerked out my squirt gun and sprayed a steady stream of Holy Water in the face of the deformed Mitchell.
He howled, clutching his steaming face. I hit his whole body with Holy Water.
He went up in smoke that stank of burnt flesh.
The detective felt for a neck pulse on the now silent Barbie. He slowly, grimly shook his head.
"Just us now, kid."
"The original Odd Couple," I tried to joke, but it came out all thin.
I nodded to the corner to our left. "There. I can ward us off with what salt I have left."
He looked hard at me. "You came prepared for this nightmare?"
I shook my head. "Halloween has always been a fun time for me, sir."
I just had enough to box us in that corner. The detective looked gloomily at his gun.
"This is pretty much useless here, isn't it, kid?"
"I put a lot of punks in the morgue here with this."
And no sooner had he said that than a dozen skeletal hands grabbed him from the wall behind us.
I twisted about in fear and fell on my butt, wiping out the salt circle.
I looked back to the wall and went sick cold.
The detective was sprawled against the wall in a cocoon of plaster. No mummy ever looked deader than he did.
My scalp seemed to shrink as a low mutter rasped from the mummified head:
"kill me. oh, god, kill me!"
I tried to swallow but couldn't.
I picked up his gun with trembling fingers, drew in a deep breath to steel myself, and shot him once in the forehead.
Behind me came a voice of razors: "Mercy for a murderer?"
I turned and sighed. Why the hell not?
To say she hadn't improved with age would have been an understatement.
"Sister, leave me alone, and I will leave you alone."
All right. I had warned her. She had dealt herself into a hard game. As she rushed impossibly fast towards me,
I reached into my right pocket and grabbed a fistful of ball bearings that I had baptized in Holy Water while I had filled the squirt gun.
I flung two of the biggest into the empty sockets of her black eye holes. She jerked up straight, clutching her face.
Her screams didn't bring back the dead, but it was something.
I looked down at the meager remains of the scattered salt, and a voice behind me laughed coldly.
"There just is no give to you, is there, Victor Standish?"
I turned. An evil looking young man in a black Armani suit.
"I could kill you now, of course, Standish. But where would be the fun in that? You have nothing now. Soon you will have all of which you dreamed."
He smiled a thing of nightmares. "Then, I shall come for you."
"Pride goes before the fall, Smart Guy."
"It is not the Fall which hurts, Standish. But the having survived it."
And with that, he was gone.
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