“I got a phone call from Evelyn at the Clifton Institute, I got offered the job, Evelyn says she is going to email me details including my start date” I eagerly told my boyfriend. It was late evening on Sunday, Andrew and I were in bed when I had received the email from Evelyn.
Andrew nodded. “Babe that’s great, did they give you what you asked”
“Just about” I replied.
“Is this what you want” He said, looking at my face, trying to search for a hint of doubt.
“I have no choice, we have been living together for about a year, that whole time I’ve been looking for jobs and nothing, it’s been frustrating. Then out of nowhere I get asked to interview for this job and well” I paused, it really has been awhile since I started my job search. All I ever got was rejection, no response and a laughing receptionist who thought my desperation in wanting a better job for myself was humorous. I have struggled, with my faith, hope, countless bottles of whiskey. I was tired and really depressed. Andrew saw this, and I just couldn’t put him through the guilt of seeing my everyday battle with myself being at home and doing nothing. There was nothing else being offered to me, I had to take anything I got, I had to try and grab what I can take. God forbid, I should ever have another opportunity again.
Andrew leaned over to give me a comforting kiss on my cheek. He leaned back to stroke my hair while I thought about my decision.
“Do you think you will like it” He says. My only answer was a grin. In reality, I have never worked with mentally ill people, I have no sort of recreational or social work background and I certainly have never showed interest in it. All I know about this place was that it was filled with adolescents, who were crazy and that it was an old former hospital. God knows what went on in there while it was a hospital. I got up from the bed to go and brush my teeth. While in the bathroom I stared at myself in the mirror. In less than a year and I quit my job, moved out of my family’s house and moved in with my boyfriend. While he had a great job, I had nothing but him. He knew I loved him but he also knew that I felt no real accomplishment for myself. Unless achieving a $50,000 loan for a college degree that would do absolutely nothing for me but cause grief. It was getting lonely and boring just staying at home and waiting. So I gladly took this chance.
“As long as your happy, that is all I care about” He gave a supportive grin and then got up from the bed.
“Do you a glass of wine to celebrate your new job”
I laughed and nodded my head.
After Andrew leaves to go to the kitchen, I checked my email on my phone one more time to see if Evelyn provided me with a start date. I didn’t receive anything as of yet.
“Congratulations on your new job babe” Andrew hands me a tall glass of red wine.
I took my glass of wine and swallowed a big gulp.
“Let’s see how this goes” I said before finishing my glass
We fell asleep shortly after. Then My phone starting ringing. I woke up groggy and confused. I check the time of the cable box.
“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, shit” I reach over to my nightstand and looked at my phone and see CLIFTON INSTITUTE on my caller ID. I pick up without hesitation.
All I heard was crackling noises. I glance at my phone again just to make sure that it said the Clifton Institute, I press the phone against my ear and hear further crackling noises.
“Who is it?” Andrew squints his eyes at me.
“I don’t know it says the hospital” I hang up the phone. Not even five seconds later, my phone rings again.
“Are you serious” he grabs my phone to look at it then gives it back.
I press ignore and wait to see if a voicemail is left and sure enough, one is left.
I play the voicemail to see if someone actually says anything.
“I think it may have been a mistake, I hear nothing but maybe a burning sound in my voicemail”
“No like fire” I say.
Andrew shakes his head and lays back down. I place my phone back on the charger confused. How could an office phone accidentally call me? The sound was strange too. Like hearing wood burning in a fireplace. Could this be some sort of sign, a bad omen? I didn’t tell Andrew what happened to me when the elevator accidentally took me to the basement, I felt like I was probably over exaggerating. It was dark, from what Evelyn told me the basement was old and the electricity in the building malfunctioned from time to time. So, I brushed it off after that day. This call was probably a result of Clifton Institute bad electricity too, the phone system must have glitched and called me.
The next day came and an email from Evelyn was in my inbox. I saw it as soon as I woke up. The email indicated that I start on Tuesday October 15th, which is in tomorrow.
Okay so I guess I have some time to prepare
There wasn’t much I knew about my position and since I wasn’t currently working I figured I would call Evelyn to see if I could come in to sit with her today.
“Good Day Clifton Institute” Evelyn picks up the phone
“Hello Evelyn, It is Tina Diaz”
“Hey Tina, how can I help you, Congratulations by the way”
“Good and Thank you, I was actually wondering if I could come sit in with you today, I know that the email you sent me stated Tuesday but I am free today” I waited for her reply.
“Oh well I know you must have thought it was weird to start on a Tuesday but Dr. Clifton isn’t here today and he wanted to be present for your first day, um but if you would like to come in and maybe do some volunteer work, I don’t think it will be an issue.” Evelyn did sound too sure but I decided to go in anyways. After all what could be the big deal.
“Great so I’ll be there in about an hour” I hang up and head to the shower
The building seemed even more strange as I approach it. The statue on the displayed on top of the highest point on the building looked even more rusted. The eyes seem to have heavy stains, most likely from heavy rain that occurred. It made the statue appear as it was crying. The outreach hands also seem to suffer from weather conditions. While walking to the front of the building a large plop of liquid dropped on my forehead.
“Holy shit” I screamed. I admit I scare easily.
The liquid appeared brown, I wiped it off my forehead with a napkin I had.
The security guard stared at me when I came in, I mean he really just stared. He did not greet me, he did ask me who I was or what I was doing. It was not the same person as before.
“Hello I am going to the Clifton Institute My name is Tina” The security guard simply pointed at the elevator.
“You know what floor to go to, it is the only floor with living beings on it” He says, his voice was raspy, I wondered if he was a heavy smoker.
“Um okay thank you” I say, confused as to if he made a joke or not. I guess it didn’t matter since I made no attempt to laugh.
When I get out the elevator, I see Evelyn eating her lunch at the front desk. She turns to the side and signals for a gentleman standing a couple of feet away from her, to come over to her desk. She gets up and the gentleman sits down in her place.
Evelyn swallows her last bite of food and wipes her hands on the side of her dress.
“Good Morning Tina” She shakes my hand
“Dennis this is Tina, she is going to be our recreational coordinator” The gentleman places his head out to shake mine, his handshake is firm and he has a certain look in his eyes. I knew something was up with him and I couldn’t figure it out. Soon, however I would realize.
“Good morning Dennis, what is your position here”
Dennis raises his eyebrow at me and points to his name plate.
The name plate read SECURITY GUARD.
Evelyn chuckled and lightly grabbed my shoulder to lead me away from the desk.
“I am sorry if he acts a little funny, he is a cool person but he can be a little rough around the edges” She says.
“I can tell” I say as I look around the center.
We passed by the lounging area.
“This is one of our recreation rooms. Most of the adolescents we service can watch T.V here and play games during certain hours under supervision. This is also where you would set up events such as game night, holiday dinners, movie night, things like that.” Evelyn then led me toward other part of the floor. This time the kitchen.
It was large and may have been two rooms before. I could tell they broke a wall or two here.
I looked up to the ceiling bordered with Victorian style engraved wallpaper. It felt out of place in an otherwise modern kitchen. The color of the ceiling was also much darker the rest of the walls in the kitchen.
“The ceiling looks outdated, it’s nice but it doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the decor”
Evelyn nodded. “The ceiling is the only thing Dr. Clifton did not change, he restored it but kept its original design, he even wanted the color to remain the same. That’s why they don’t match the rest of the walls.”
The toward the end of the tour Evelyn led to a part of the center with many rooms. It was obvious that they used to be hospital rooms. I saw a couple of teenagers going in and out of the rooms, some with somber expressions, other smiling and laughing while talking among each other.
They did not seem like an aggressive or mentally unstable group of kids, they seemed normal and calm. I guess this isn’t so bad. As soon as I thought this to myself, Evelyn shoved me to the side of the wall slamming my shoulder into it.
“What the hell” I blurted out upon impact into the wall. Then I turned around and saw a very petite young girl screaming with a knife in hand running passed us.
I looked at Evelyn, who looked equally as terrified as I did. The girl had reached the end of the hallway and turned around. Her eyes were beyond wild, her straight red hair was disheveled. The girl raised the large knife she had again and was about to charge at us.
Then, suddenly the girl was harshly side tackled to the floor. I even felt it as the girl was knocked into the ground. More so, I was shocked at the size of the security guard who had knocked her down. The security guard appeared to be about 250 or 300 pounds. He had blond hair and was about 6 feet tall. I could hear his breath hastening as he lifted up the girl from the floor. Evelyn ran over and I followed.
“Is everything alright” Evelyn shouted. The girl that was tackled into the ground was screaming her head off. Her body was completely pinned to the side of the wall by the large security guard. The security guard’s face was red. I could see the sweat dripping out of his blond hair.
“Everything is fine Evelyn” The security card said as he placed a pair of handcuffs on the petite young woman.
He held up the knife that was dropped when he tackled the woman and slammed it hard against the wall. I yelled in fear, but the knife, instead of going through the wall, just flopped.
“Don what the hell” Evelyn shouted at the security guard.
“It’s a rubber Evelyn, this stupid bitch just ran with a fake knife” Don laughed harshly.
He took the girl off the wall and lead her away to a room.
“Where are they going” I asked.
Evelyn took a deep breath. “They go to detention, which is basically just a room for them to chill out for a couple of hours”
“Nobody is going to call the cops” I replied
“No we try not to do that around here, Dr. Clifton doesn’t want to make the teenagers feel like they are in prison” Evelyn says as she wipes the sweat from her forehead.
She looked flustered and annoyed. I’ll admit, I was having second thoughts, the security guard named Don had such a malicious face on when he slammed the teenager to the ground. He eyes were strangely fixated on the young girl’s body. It felt violating to just even watch him handle her, even if she was acting in a threatening manner. The rest of the staff was scrambled all about trying to distract the other onlooking teenagers away from the commotion. Chatter and laughter can be heard as the staff them away. Dennis was still at the front desk. He looked like he didn’t move an inch during the whole thing. Don comes back from placing the young girl in detention and walks up to Dennis to give him pound on the hand. Both men turn to look in my direction, speaking as they stared.
I turn around to catch Evelyn shaking her head. We walked away from the site.
“I apologize for that, she came lunging at us and I didn’t what to think”
I nodded, not sure of what to say. The first hour I am here I’ve already encountered two strangely aggressive security guards, a psychopathic girl with a fake knife and I was slammed into a wall. This probably should have served as another omen, but, what could I do. Quitting was not an option, not even a thought.
“The guards normally do not speak in that way to the patients either” Evelyn whispered, breaking my train of thoughts.
“Don is a little high strung most likely because he has been attacked before” She stated.
“His first week here I saw him get chased around by one of our patients, a football player who was battling an addiction to painkillers, this guy was very tall and very strong looking. I was petrified when I saw him throwing stomping about, the vibration his feet caused were like an earthquake. Poor Don became his main target, Don ran and jumped of the front desk screaming, The patient almost got to him but the other guards and nurses came and were able to restrain him, since then I guess he decided to just become this tough guy” Evelyn sighed.
“Is anyone going to report this incident to Dr. Clifton” I asked.
“Sure one of the nurses will file a report, minus what Don said, I’m sure” She replied.
At that I didn’t think about what Evelyn told me. The nurses must have liked Don and most likely would not want to report him cursing at the teenage girl. Soon enough I would find out however why Don would be one to not cross.
“What is the girls name, that just went crazy”
“Paige, she is one of our youngest at just 13. She’s a bit paranoid and battling a painkiller addiction, pills are the drug of choice here as you soon will find out” Evelyn stated as she led me toward an office. The door said in capital letters RECREATIONAL COORDINATOR.
“Is this my office?”
Evelyn opens the door to a small and dark room. The walls were bare except for a large whiteboard. There was one desk, a chair in front of a large window. Evelyn walked over to the window to lift the blinds up. The sun rays came in and flooded the room, revealing something on the wooden floor next to my desk. It looked like a latch to door that was partially hidden from underneath the desk. It only became visible in the sunlight. Before I could inquire about the latch on the floor the blinds came down fast, turning the room dark again.
“Oh my God I thought they fixed this” Evelyn said as she fiddled with the blinds.
“Is there a light switch anywhere” I looked for one on the walls there didn’t seem to be one.
“Yes there is but unfortunately it is on the outside of your office, the electricity doesn’t work well in the office yet, it should be fixed tonight though” Evelyn got the blinds to lift up again illuminating the room.]
“So your position is basically to plan events and recreational activities for the patients here, you will contact family members regarding updates on their kids and mark the calendar that their family members will come to visit if they tell you. We like to have the patients here involved in many activities just to distract from their cravings. You will also be scheduling the individual therapy sessions” Evelyn walked away from the window and stood in the middle of the room. She observed it as if she had never been in here before.
“Is everything okay” I asked, curious as to why she kept staring at everything.
Evelyn shook her head, her eyes drifted to the floor and she said nothing for a couple of seconds.
“It’s” Evelyn hesitated
“It’s just that this room doesn’t have a good reputation” Evelyn looked serious as she said this to me.
“I swear I could still smell the bleach that they used to sanitize it” She stuck her nose up in the air and sniffed.
“I am not understanding, sanitize?” This whole place was already giving me weird vibes from the start and now Evelyn was mentioning my office being sanitized.
“I’m sorry you haven’t had the best impression so far of this place but I would rather tell you then anyone else tell you, but last month there was a young man, he was about 17, his name was Joey”
“I’m sorry, was?” This was not sounding good to me already.
“Yes, his name was Joey, he was a heroin addict and unfortunately his withdrawal process was not going so well” She paused again.
“I am sorry every time I think about what happened, I get so nauseas, but anyways, one day he got ahold of some bath salts and ingested them without anyone realizing. He then walked into this room, completely high off his ass, and attacked the former Recreational Coordinator”.
“Are you serious”
“Very she replied” Evelyn replied.
“He charged at her and…” Evelyn shut her eyes and rubber her stomach. I didn’t know if she was going to vomit or not.
“What? What did he do?” I couldn’t stand the anticipation.
“He bit her, well he was biting her, at her chest, it was horrible, her screams, the sight of blood and chewed up flesh and look his eyes, it was like he was possessed. Sarah, that was her name, Sarah was holding her breast, what was left of it, when we finally got Joey off her. She stopped screaming and passed out on the floor. Blood was just spread all over.” Evelyn did a cross after saying the story.
Words escaped me. This was just my luck, the only job I could get was in a former mental hospital with a dark history and the sight of a gruesome crime. My gut told me to book it.
But then… Evelyn started to chuckle.
“Oh my God I am so sorry I was just joking with you, oh my god you look so freaked out, are you okay?”
My face changed from petrified to completely annoyed.
“Wow that was some story you made up” I replied dryly.
“I’m so sorry you look pissed” Evelyn was still laughing. If her intention was to genuinely scare me, she succeeded.
“It’s okay I just started experiencing things as soon as I stepped into this place so naturally I am freaked out” The goosebumps started running down my arms.
“Oh, are you still scared about what happened in the basement? I asked Dr. Clifton about that, the basement is old, dust and smells are all over in there. Nothing to worry about”
Evelyn rubbed my shoulder in reassurance. But I still wasn’t convinced.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason, and we all have some purpose to fulfill and trust me when I say, this place has a purpose for everyone, including you”
Evelyn’s words of inspiration for the day.