“Congratulations on surviving working at the Clifton Institute” I say as Joseph and I raise our water bottles to Evelyn. It’s been three weeks since she handed in her resignation and I decided to take her out to lunch to the café we went to my first day of work. Joseph was even able to tag along and chipped in for Evelyn’s final lunch with us.
“Thank you, Thank you, Graduate school should be fun” Evelyn frowned as she made that statement. She was going back to school to get her Master’s in Psychology and even got a paid internship at another institution close to her graduate school.
“I just would like to say that I won’t miss this place and I am excited for the journey ahead” Evelyn gloats.
“Okay this isn’t the Oscars you don’t have to make a speech” Joseph jokes before diving into his turkey burger. He swallows a big bite and then places it down on his plate. Joseph reaches into his pocket and pulls out two flyers. He hands one to each of us. It is a flyer promoting a Fashion Show in Brooklyn.
“No way you got a runway gig, that’s awesome” I examine the date on the card and sigh in relief that it’s a Friday.
“I’m down” Evelyn puts the flyer in her purse.
“It’s not a major gig, I mean it’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so its more of an underground designer. He isn’t famous or anything but it’s a pretty good start for me, so I’ll appreciate all who can come” Joseph’s face gleamed with enthusiasm. I could tell he was excited about this job.
“Well I can’t get my boyfriend Andrew to come but I’ll be there” This would be my first runway show and I must admit I was looking forward to it.
“You know I am happy you’re going back to school Evelyn but I really hope the next girl that replaces you is just as cool” I was really going to miss Evelyn working with me.
“Now I am left with just Joseph and two other individuals”
“You can say it, Don and Dennis you mean” Evelyn smirked. “I don’t think anyone is ignorant to the fact that those two can be royal assholes”
“Though I have never actually seen them bother you” Joseph turns to Evelyn. I noticed awhile ago that Dennis and Don have never treated Evelyn horribly too, but I never questioned it.
“Please tell us your secret” I asked jokingly.
“It’s not really a secret, I just try to stay out of their way, that’s what they want mostly.”
I guess it was true what she was saying. Their behavior was so strange from the moment I started at this job. Maybe it was something that I was doing.
“So Tina it’s almost the end of November so you’ve been at the Clifton Institute for over a month now, how are you dealing” Evelyn holds her fork like a microphone to my face.
“Besides the two dickless security guards riding you for everything little thing” Joseph interjected.
“I guess okay, it certainly has been interesting” I took another bite of my wrap.
“My first time planning an event a fight breaks out and I get the blame from darling Dennis”
“With Stone and Gary right” Evelyn asked.
“Yea, Dennis totally threw me under the bus, and not to mention Don burst into my office the other day like he owned it. Then there was the basement incident” I looked into their faces to see their expressions as I prepared to tell them my encounter.
“Remember when you and Larry found me in the basement and you guys thought I was having an asthma attack”
“Weren’t you having an asthma attack?” Joseph raised his eyebrow.
“Right I did, but it was because I was locked in there and it got extremely hot” I paused to make sure both Evelyn and Joseph were paying attention.
“But there was smoke everywhere and through that smoke I felt like I saw a girl, who looked horribly disfigured, a young girl.” Joseph and Evelyn stared at me in silence. It got a little uncomfortable and I started to regret saying anything. Joseph tilted his head to the side.
“You saw a girl in the basement” Evelyn asks
“Yes through the smoke” I repeated.
“Through the smoke” Joseph says with uncertainly in his voice.
“Okay look maybe I was mistaken” This conversation was not going anywhere and I just wanted it to end quickly.
“Well, I am not saying that you really did see a girl but, we all know Larry has been working at for like 100 years. He did tell me say that the basement was where that girl Rachel died.
“Yea he did” I remember our conversation in the bar.
“But I think you may have known about this story before you worked here and knew where she died and possible panicked and thought you saw a ghost? Joseph asked.
“I don’t think so” I came off harsher then I wanted.
“I know this job is stressful, it’s not easy working in this type of environment” Evelyn rested her concerned eyes on mine.
“Maybe you should take a day to chill” Evelyn suggested.
“You know take a mental health day” Evelyn smiled.
“Well she isn’t imagining everything, someone has to do something about the things that have been going on. Maybe that’s why she’s seeing shit because it is literally insane what Dr. Clifton ignores especially when it comes to Don and Dennis.” Joseph became a little heated
“Forget I said anything, it’s just that since I’ve been here I’ve seen weird shit” I finished the last bite of my lunch.
“I don’t even want to talk about it” I gulped my water down and stood silent.
Going into Evelyn’s car was awkward. Joseph decided to sit in the back while I sat in the front. None of us spoke but we all had a lot in mind. Once we parked the front of the building Joseph got out of the car because he had to rush back to his shift. Evelyn turned to me and asked if I could stay for a second, which I agreed. We still had five more minutes of lunch time, so I figured there was no harm. Evelyn pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took one long pull.
“I’m not trying to be a smartass or anything, I just wanted to give you one last advice before I leave this place” Evelyn took another pull.
“I was not joking about staying out of Dennis and Don’s way. Yes, I know about the shit Dr. Clifton lets slide, but nothing is going to change that. For whatever reason Don has some sort of power in this place and Dennis takes advantage of Don’s stupidity and plays him like a fiddle.” She taps her cigarette out of the window, looking at the building as she talks.
“Don’t ever mention the fire or that girl Rachel to anyone else either. Somehow shit like that always gets back to them. Especially with the history Don had with that girl” Evelyn looked serious. I nodded in response.
“I heard he couldn’t stand her” I said.
“Well we were not around obviously but I heard the same thing. So it makes sense after her death Don became a suspect. But it was ruled an accident, the girl was a pyromaniac and that’s that.” Evelyn put out her cigarette and tossed it out the window.
“Just don’t forget what I said.” Evelyn’s face said it all. This is a warning I probably should take heed of.
When we entered the building, I headed straight to my office and Evelyn to the front desk.
Upon reaching my office door, there was something odd. My door was slightly opened, and I always lock it after I leave. Praying that none of the patients played a prank on me I slowly open the door and prepared myself. But there was nobody there. I step in and quickly close the door behind me. As soon as I sat down at my desk, I quickly examined it. One drawer in particular looked disturbed. It was the drawer that held my mother’s last letter to me. The letter always tucked under my office supplies and notepad, however this time when I saw it, the letter had been placed on top of everything. I felt light headed. This was my private letter that I kept with me. Granted, I knew it should have not been at my job, but I don’t keep it home for fear that I’ll be reading it all the time and reliving her death. It was not something I could throwaway either.
My fists clenched the letter tightly. My face felt red from the thought that someone could have read my mother’s final words to me. I picked up the phone ready to call Dr. Clifton and see if someone came into my office when there was a knock at the door.
Quickly I shoved the letter back in my drawer and wiped whatever tears emerged on my face.
“Come in” I shouted.
A young red headed girl walks in. She is upset and had obviously been crying. It was Madison, a fourteen-year-old recently admitted to the institute. Madison was known to have suicidal thoughts and was abusing multiple prescription pills prior to being admitted here by her parents. The young girl closed the door being her and sat down.
“Ms. Diaz are you busy” She asked.
“No you can have a seat, and please call me Tina” It felt weird being called Ms. Diaz when your just twenty three. Madison sat down and took a couple of moments to recollect herself.
“What’s the matter Madison” The girl looked like she was going to have a nervous breakdown.
“It’s Stone” She replied.
Stone was discharged from this facility shortly after his blowout with one of the other patients but was readmitted.
“What happened” I asked.
“He’s been well hitting on me” Madison whispered.
“Hitting on you? Like trying to ask you out” The way she looked it appeared he was hitting her not hitting on her.
“He’s not taking no for an answer.” Madison rolled up her sleeve to reveal fresh bruises.
“This happened two days ago when I tried walking away from him.” She rolled her sleeves down. What I saw angered me. Madison was a very petite girl, especially compared to the giant that Stone was.
“I feel like every time I turn a corner he’s there. He constantly knocks on my room door, I told him no three times already and he doesn’t care. You’ve seen how he acts toward other people, he scares them and he scares me” Madison starts to choke up. Immediately I hand her a box of tissues. As she was crying, I began to hear a faint sizzle.
“Do you hear that” I calmly ask her.
“Hear what” She sniffles through her reply
“That sizzle, like something burning” The sounds start to get louder and louder.
“You really don’t hear that” My voice raised a little. Madison looked at me puzzled as I got up from my seat. Frantically I circled my desk as the sound evolved into loud crackles. The sound seemed to be coming from the floor. I knelt and pressed my ear onto the floor. There it was, the sound of sizzle and crackle vibrating between the floor boards. I could even feel it in my hands.
“What’s going on” Madison asked, stunned. Her voice was shaking but I was too focused. Suddenly, I saw it. It was inches away from me. First the tip of a nose, then a face followed by hair. It appeared to be burning as it rose from the floor. My heart pounded with such urgency. I… could not move. There was silence for a second, not even Madison said anything.
Then the face spun in my direction
“Help me” it screamed.
That got me moving.
I quickly jumped up from the floor and crawled backwards. At the same time Madison got up from her seat.
“Is everyone here going crazy” Madison yells and heads for the door. She got halfway out my office before I stood up to grab her.
Madison pushed me away. I didn’t blame her, she was freaked out and so was I.
“Don’t touch me” She cries out.
“I am so sorry, I don’t know what just happened, I thought I heard a sound, it was loud. Did you not hear it too”
“No!” Madison stood in doorway.
“I came to you because I thought you were normal, but it seems like everyone here is fucking insane.” She begins to sob.
I hugged her apologetically.
“Honey just take a seat, I am so sorry I don’t know what happened maybe it was me imagining things. It’s not important, you need help and I am going to try my best to help you”
Madison nodded and walked slowly back to the chair. She took a couple of seconds to recollect herself.
“Now why haven’t you gone to your case manager or a security guard” I asked
“Are you kidding me, I went to that fat fuck Don when Stone grabbed my arm and he laughed in my face and told me that I was probably leading him on” Madison frustratingly said.
Are you fucking kidding me. My heart sank for her. The saddest part is that I believed Don would do that.
“I will talk to Dr. Clifton” I was planning on calling him as soon as Madison left.
But Madison did not look satisfied with my solution. She furiously shook her head no.
“You don’t understand, I see how Stone talks other people. The way he treats people and then gets away with it. He almost never gets in trouble. I just want out of this place” Madison buried her face in her hands.
“Well you know I can’t do anything about that, it’s not in my authorization. I can try and advocate for your early discharge. I know it’s hard-
“Do you, because if you did you would be helping me” Madison interrupted.
Madison abruptly gets up again.
“I appreciate the talk. I’m sorry I bothered you” She sniffled
“It’s not a bother at all and I am going to talk to Dr. Clifton, you should not feel like you’re being harassed here”
“Thanks” Madison wipes the remaining tear on her face.
“And just to let you know you’re not the only person that hears stuff around here. This building is mega old and I heard that other people have seen stuff here”
“Stuff?” I asked, curiously.
“Yea, you know strange sounds. Then again, the people here are also going through withdrawal, depressive disorder, or some other shit. So, I don’t really know if we can trust their judgement. They could be hallucinating” Madison smirked.
“There is a reason why we are here, you know.” And with that statement, Madison left my office.